Sex as a Sacrament
This is the fourth in a 7-part series, A Compound in One.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is phenomenally respectful of the capacities of the very young. Children are revered as models for our spiritual growth; at the tender age of eight one is considered sufficiently aware to be held accountable for sin; and around the age of twelve, boys and girls begin a separated journey in their priesthood roles. Yes, boys and girls.
Aaronic Priesthood, while only separate from Melchizedek Priesthood from the time of Moses forward, is a preparatory priesthood, with unspeakable powers that many only marginally consider. The keys to the ministry of angels. The authority to provide baptism for the remission of sins, to save life. A profound concern for the temporal salvation of all God’s children. These are not light things God has given to young men.
Young women, both before and after they reach the age of maturity, sometimes chafe at the apparent inequality. But men and women were not created with the same divine capacities. With gifts differing, young women stand as mirrors to their growing young male companions, two to their one. Within every girl lies the temple and veil that has the capacity to birth spirits into souls, to create life. These are not light things God has given to young women.
To prepare young men to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and to both baptize into life with water and eventually baptize into eternal life with fire (the gift of the Holy Ghost), they go through a time of regular ritual preparation, primarily focused on provision of the sacrament. This ordinance is tied to baptism by water and fire, and to the blood and body of the Atonement, both focused on saving life, and is provided to others.
To prepare young women to exercise their estate as priestesses, their bodies go through a time of regular ritual preparation, primarily focused on eventually providing birth into life. The birth they will provide is characterized by water and fire (the spirit). The body and blood of young women signifies the sacredness of birthing souls of spirit, also tied to the Atonement, and also a gift provided to others.
Young women prepare to preside over birth, and young men prepare to preside over second birth.
Priesthood is the power to act in the name of God. Both men and women bear powers to act as God, to preside over veils. Young womanhood is a preparatory priesthood every bit as important as the Aaronic Priesthood is for young men. The capacity to preside over veils while in this life is the essence of our Second Estate, and the gift is given to the young before the calling comes so that they may be prepared. When young women are older and take on additional covenants, they will be reminded of the veil over which they preside when they step inside their own veil in true prayer. When they marry, their husbands will be reminded of the veil over which they preside as they bring their brides into celestial glory. The equal partnership of men and women in mortality and eternity is made most clear in the temple, both temples of our Church and of our bodies.
Additionally, girls or women are endowed with the power to act as gods, whether or not they have the opportunity to do so in this life. Eve was called the mother of all living before she gave birth to children. Honoring, protecting, and sanctifying the processes occurring in their bodies is a requirement of the Second Estate for women, as much as honoring the oath and covenant of the priesthood is for men.
It is at this time of fragile, developing understanding (youth) that the adversary releases his most virulent attacks. This gift and estate, which includes a developing sexuality, the drawing together of the complementary essences into a balance that can be maintained for eternity, is under fire. Satan is most successful when he divorces sexuality from its purpose, claiming the separation as an emancipation.
Even our chaste youth are often deceived, referring to each other as “hot” or “sexy,” unwittingly playing into the adversary’s plan to toy with indulgence freed from stewardship. It’s not a terribly original ploy, but it’s been very successful. Our entire society is thoroughly sexualized, and yet scandalized when we speak frankly about sex as creation. As many voices are stepping forward now to affirm, the retooling of sex as entertainment instead of a sacred act of creation or priesthood is purely and thoroughly Satan’s doing. Both young men and young women are deceived, as are often their elders.
And our chaste youth are equally deceived when they are taught nothing of sex as a glorious act of creation, but instead obliquely taught to find it a degrading necessity in the spiritual life of a family. The rampant sexualization of our society has poisoned sex in both directions. Tittering in the back of the Sunday School class when they read Old Testament verses about a man going in unto his wife, most completely miss the sacrament that sex is, the high priest going into the holy of holies for the purpose of the salvation of the people. This repression is also thoroughly Satan’s doing.
Over two decades ago, Jeffery Holland, while President of BYU, gave a stirring address in which he discussed the symbolism and sacrament of sex. He quoted Victor L. Brown, in a discussion of the consequences of fragmenting our associations with one another:
Fragmentation enables its users to counterfeit intimacy….
If we relate to each other in fragments, at best we miss full relationships. At worst, we manipulate and exploit others for our gratification. Sexual fragmentation can be particularly harmful because it gives powerful physiological rewards which, though illusory, can temporarily persuade us to overlook the serious deficits in the overall relationship. Two people may marry for physical gratification and then discover that the illusion of union collapses under the weight of intellectual, social, and spiritual incompatibilities….
Sexual fragmentation is particularly harmful because it is particularly deceptive. The intense human intimacy that should be enjoyed in and symbolized by sexual union is counterfeited by sensual episodes which suggest–but cannot deliver–acceptance, understanding, and love. Such encounters mistake the end for the means as lonely, desperate people seek a common denominator which will permit the easiest, quickest gratification. [Victor L. Brown, Jr., Human Intimacy: Illusion and Reality (Salt Lake City, Utah: Parliament Publishers, 1981), pp. 5-6]
Then Pres. Holland goes on to say:
Sexual intimacy is not only a symbolic union between a man and a woman–the uniting of their very souls–but it is also symbolic of a union between mortals and deity, between otherwise ordinary and fallible humans uniting for a rare and special moment with God himself and all the powers by which he gives life in this wide universe of ours.
In this latter sense, human intimacy is a sacrament, a very special kind of symbol. For our purpose here today, a sacrament could be any one of a number of gestures or acts or ordinances that unite us with God and his limitless powers. We are imperfect and mortal; he is perfect and immortal. But from time to time–indeed, as often as is possible and appropriate–we find ways and go to places and create circumstances where we can unite symbolically with him, and in so doing gain access to his power. Those special moments of union with God are sacramental moments–such as kneeling at a marriage altar, or blessing a newborn baby, or partaking of the emblems of the Lord’s supper. This latter ordinance is the one we in the Church have come to associate most traditionally with the word sacrament, though it is technically only one of many such moments when we formally take the hand of God and feel his divine power.
These are moments when we quite literally unite our will with God’s will, our spirit with his spirit, where communion through the veil becomes very real. At such moments we not only acknowledge his divinity, but we quite literally take something of that divinity to ourselves. Such are the holy sacraments.
In light of this understanding, we diminish boys when we believe they are sexual animals instead of holy priests, and we diminish girls when we make them sexy structures instead of holy temples. And we diminish the entire plan when we fail to teach them the purpose of their priesthoods: to serve others by providing life and saving life. Indeed, without the sealing power turning the hearts of parents to children and children to parents, the Lord reiterated that the earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
Satan’s focus is the attempt to make girls look like boys and women feel like men, diminishing them each in the process to fragments of their divine possibilities. Who will either give or save life then?
That is an utter waste, because the family is the foundation of eternity.