Mormons, Sex & Heaven, or An After-Valentine Love Symposium

broken-heart1As Valentine’s Day nears and passes, we each respond differently to the holiday that celebrates romantic love. Some of us will trade mass-produced Valentine cards with classmates, others will long for that someone special to deliver a card, flowers or chocolates to them and yet others will declare love for the first time to someone they care for. Some of us will be obliged to go on a date with someone we care for only platonically, some of us will gather our children and indulge in something sugary-sweet to celebrate family… yet still others filled with apathy, will count the moments until the March remnants of after-Valentine’s sale items have utterly disappeared—bringing the peace associated with a sense of relief.

 

Valentine’s Day, like love itself, is expressed through, and represents many different kinds of human, mortal, love. As church members, we are well familiar with the term, “love” and it’s many complications—we are told that we should love one another as Christ loves, that we are to love our familiesthat we are love the Relief Society, love our spouses and even love those who really don’t even like us a little bit. Oh, and what the heck—even to have sex *because* it results in children.

 

These numerous admonitions are nothing short of the variety of love that was discussed in Plato’s Symposium. The Symposium is a philosophical look at the origin, purpose and explanation of the complicated emotion of love. Written between 370-385 BC, it is a Greek play wherein the characters, known philosophers of the day, each offer a speech that is in celebration, or a possible explanation– of love. Socrates asserts that the highest purpose of love is to become a lover of wisdom, whilst Pausanias argues that sex is the highest form of love. Eryximachus discusses how love is both good and bad (addiction), while Agathon describes love as youth itself. Alcibiades is drunk and relays a kind of love that is a hot mess of admiration, infatuation and even rejection. And then, there is Aristophanes.

 
AristophanesAristophanes’ speech comes someplace in the middle of the play. Known mostly as a comic writer, this Symposium speech of Aristophanes has been lauded by many scholars as Plato’s greatest literary achievement (a child-friendly, fun reworking of the classic can be found here). In it, Aristophanes’ goal is to explain why we, and mortals and humans, desire so intensely to not be alone. He begins by telling a tale about the first inhabitants of the earth: these mortals consist of three different beings—male, female and a combination of both male and female. Each being had two heads, four arms and four legs. Having so many limbs, these beings were exceptionally strong, so strong, that they tried to gain access to heaven. Zeus, the king of Greek mythology would have none of that—so he cut each being in half. This increased the numbers of the beings, but weakening them to a stifling mortal state. Now, each being only had one head, two arms and two legs. Those who were male became 2 men, and those who were female became 2 women. The androgynous beings became a male, and a female. This resulted in what we know as humans—males and females, once united, but then cut off — and thus, longed for and sought to embrace each other. In the embrace of companionship, each couple would grow together and therefore, would feel whole.

 

 

Mormon theology teaches something similar to this in its concept of marriage. The Old Testament teaches that Eve, the first wife and mother, came from the rib of the first husband and father, Adam. Hence, they were once physically connected, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”, thus creating an equal companion. The New Testament refers to two becoming “one flesh” in regard to marriage (Mark 10:8 and Matthew 19:6), and that in the highest degrees of glory (the highest part of heaven), one must be married. That is to say, two beings, rather than one, must be connected to each other through the act and action of marriage in order to receive the highest level of exaltation. Because of the sometimes simplistic and literal doctrine of the Celestial Kingdom as “an elevated form of the human sphere,” the existence of Mother God is necessary to complete the sexual power dynamic in Mormon theology. As argued by Heeren, Lindsey and Mason,”Mother in Heaven is properly seen as elevating the conjugal relationship into the eternal realm.” Just as Aristophanes’ 2-headed beings were powerful enough to challenge the position of the Gods, married Mormons are promised that we can become exalted as Gods, having sexual intercourse just like God the Father and God the Mother.

 

Sex in heaven is not an unknown concept for Mormons. Even as a youth, I was taught that one of the main reasons I should remain chaste was that if I did, and one day married in the temple, I would be able to have sex for eternity. If I did not, my eternity would be sexless as a punishment for “misuse” of my mortal body. Sex, rather than intimacy or companionship, was the prize for those who would strive for heaven. We might all be exalted in heaven, but sex would yet be reserved as the prize for those most righteous. This idea is supported in Joseph Smith’s teachings wherein virgin females are given to males who are deemed righteous enough to be awarded sex for their religious devotion (Doctrine and Covenants 132:62). This means that Mormon theology’s highest characteristic of love and heavenly exaltation is to engage in sex eternally, rather than to live eternally in a sexless “outer darkness.”

 

Thus, to Mormons, sex is important because it is the primary motivation to gain eternal life. Mormon culture reflects this concept: it teaches us to cover the shoulders of 2 year old girls to teach them that they are intended to be, if not already- sexual objects. Mormon culture also teaches that young men cannot control their sexual desires any more than they can control the priesthood that is laid upon them. Mormons give sex the same procreative, unyielding power of God. Thus, the power of God within a Mormon context is conceptually the same as sex itself: priesthood power is to be used properly, and not for unrighteous dominion, just as sex is to be used for procreation within marriage. Sex then is a symbol of the highest level of the Celestial kingdom, and ultimately means power.

 

What then, if heaven does not involve the act of sex? Aristophanes’ speech was intended only to explain the nature of mortal love and sexual attraction; the intention was not to define the heavens. Even Joseph Smith’s introduction of plural marriage was based on his query to God to explain the relationship of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, rather than to define the status of sex in heaven. In fact, in the scriptures, God is not described in terms of sexual love, but as the epitome and characteristic of companion love. This spiritual companionship is described in the book of John wherein it teaches that “he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)” For Christians, this means that perfect love is found in companionship with God. Yet this companionship is not limited to being with God. We must seek this non-sexual communion with each other as well, “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also (1 John 4:21).”

 

Godly love is absent of sexual love and explains our desire to develop a relationship with God. It also explains our non-sexual desire for marriage, and even our desire for friendship. Indeed, the Doctrine and Covenants claims that Christ was received in fullness, meaning that even He had to enter into the “everlasting covenant” of eternal marriage. Likewise, we believe that His own conception was sexless, as Mary was told by an angel that she would give birth to the son of God (The Catholics teach that Mary was inseminated through her ear.) But this means that heavenly love is not reflected in sex, which suggests that the concept of procreation is not something that is sexual in nature. Spiritual procreation is something greater than sex, and perhaps akin to the transcendence we attribute to perfect Christlike love.

 

So what then is spiritual, “eternal” love? Real love, particularly within Mormon theology, when we remove the Mormon emphasis on sex? Perhaps in the highest level of heaven there is no desire for sex. Instead, our desire is to become co-creators of brilliance and perfect goodness. Rather than eros (erotic love), heavenly love means something more along the lines of Socrates’ definition of love as the characteristic of perfect  knowledge.  If this is the case, then procreation becomes the highest form of knowledge because omniscience, rather than sex, is the only means to create worlds without end, to create offspring without sex, and create ecosystems without pollution, among other things.
elohim_0Should this be the case, that God and heaven are not sexual being or places, then the Mormon sexualised separation of genders is unnecessary. It also can mean that gender is not eternal, even though it is declared as such in the Family Proclamation. But it really means more than just that. At its essence, it means there is no Heavenly Father, and ….there is no Heavenly Mother. There is simply Elohim, the plural term that describes God as the ultimate, yet singularly powerful creator. Thus, I wonder…. Is gender truly eternal?

 

More importantly, can Mormon doctrine survive without its emphasis on sex?

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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46 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    You seem to have been taught a few things in a different way to me – maybe that’s a gender thing. Although I believe that a healthy sexual relationship in marriage can be a benefit, I also believe that any relationship built solely on sex is probably doomed. I also have no reason to believe that sexual intimacy is not possible, and even desirable, in the eternities I do not believe that it is the means by which Spirit children are brought into being from intelligences.

    I do believe that those Spirit children can only be brought into being by a male and female god. How, I do not know, and one day hope to know.

    I believe that gender is eternal, and that marriage on earth together with having children is a shadow of the Eternal. Being ordained (whatever that means in an Eternal sense) gods and goddesses provides us with what we need to accomplish this. And because gender is eternal it requires one of each.

    That is what I believe from what I have been taught. I certainly do not expect to be spending eternity engaged in physical intimacy with my wife (although as I said above, I would welcome a bit for fun).

    • Spunky says:

      Andrew R., thank you for your comment. I also believe relationships based solely on sex are likely doomed, hence why I sour when sex is described as the epitome of love, and why it seems so uncomfortable and odd to me to be a heavenly construct.

  2. A Happy Hubby says:

    I wish we could have conversations on topics like this at church. I might actually WANT to go.

    And on this general topic, it seems to me that as of late the church leaders are not giving us new doctrine, but instead are over and over retracting what was considered doctrine by most members a few decades ago and now focusing on follow the brethren and family (read anti-gay).

    • Spunky says:

      Yes and yes! If (wo)mankind are created in the image of God– then perhaps even intersexed beings have a model (or models), suggesting an androgynous God that is plural (simultaneously male and female) or two separate Gods (male, and female,) and intrasexed humans are a reflection of both of the individual Gods. I like the later idea; seems like God might have loved the intrasexed spirits, come humans so much that they were given both male and female characteristics to encourage a greater sense of connection to Godliness rather than only mortal sex and gender concepts. But that suggests a lack of agency, so perhaps not.

  3. Rob Osborn says:

    If one pays attention to the endowment ceremony, the promise to have sexual relations with only your legally and lawful spouse is not just for mortality but in eternity also. We are created in the image of our heavenly parents. This thus means that our sexual organs are not just unique to mortality but is an eternal characteristic of who we are in eternity. Perhaps some have been taught that sex is bad but in truth, sexual relations are an eternal part of our creation to fill the measure of our creation. Sexual relations between man and wife is a sacred and personal type of emotion that allows a true bond of love to form. It is holy and sanctifying and a needed part of fulfilling our creation. As you have duly noted, if there is no sex in heaven then there is no need for gender, no need for marriage and no real purpose to separate the genders in society. If that be the case we don’t really need laws nor moral principles or even religion for that matter. In fact, we could just do away with God too.

    As one can plainly see, the Proclamation declares eternal truths, there is gender in heaven, we do have sex organs in the resurrection, couples are together, and covenants of sexual relations are eternally recognized.

    • Spunky says:

      Sexual relations between man and wife is a sacred and personal type of emotion that allows a true bond of love to form.

      This is the only way in which you believe a “true bond of love” can form? I feel very sad for your children.

  4. nrc42 says:

    I love this, Spunky. Sex is awesome, but the more I think about it the less eternal sex and gender make sense as a component of Heaven. I know my idea of paradise is not eternal pregnancy. But the idea of eternal love and creation – non-sexualized – is truly beautiful.

  5. PieFace says:

    I have noticed lately just how un-imaginative Mormons are with the next life. Instead of thinking that this life is preparing us for greater things in the next, and that our experiences are just the first phase of something greater (like a seed in relation to a tree), we are SO LITERAL. We don’t ask for more insight into heaven or a new perspective on eternity, instead we project our own experience and culture into eternity and declare that it is so.
    And Mormon eternity as many describe it, and as D&C 132 describes it does not sound fun or pleasant. I’m really not looking forward to watching my exalted husband bang tons of virgins like party favors for being righteous while I get….what? To be the first among a collection of women who doesn’t get to have sex with any else? It may surprise a lot of Mormons, but many women are also just as likely to want multiple partners as men. And not just for lust reasons. So I’m sorry, but the current model we’ve created on earth (either literally or in our minds), and keep trying to upload into heaven just doesn’t cut it for me.

    One other thing I often think of is how if gender IS eternal, then how many spirits got assigned the wrong body? If we believe in a fallen world where things like injury and birth abnormalities can happen, but aren’t a part of our eternal bodies in the next life, there seems to be no reason why gender will not get just as mixed-up.

    However at its core, the idea of eternal gender has little to support itself scripturally. The family proc is not scripture, and if gender was so essential, why is there not ONE mention of its eternal significance in all of the sacred works?

    One other thing is that if we’re going to make this huge thing about eternal gender, we need to stop teaching YW and RS to be more like their Heavenly Father. He’s a dude apparently, and unless we start teaching that all beings are turned male in the next life, telling women they can be like their Heavenly Father is going to confuse them from an eternal gender perspective, because gender is SO important…until it’s not

    • Spunky says:

      Yes, PieFace and thank you! I confess that I have wondered much about Joseph Smith and this overtly sexualized concept of heaven. I believe that Smith was a prophet, but I also know he was mortal, and subject to mortal issues. I suspect that he had sexual issues, possibly because he was threatened with castration by the mobs. And I suspect he had reproductive issues, possibly because Emma miscarried and lost so many babies. Hence, I wonder if God allowed Smith to introduce plural marriage in order to stop the church from failing due to Smith’s increased sexual and reproductive-inspired mental health issues. In gratitude, Smith may have sexualized God — with the fact that so many died in childbirth before the advent of the birth control pill, there may have been conjecture regarding what heaven might be like. In the end, I don’t know that anyone would have a sound mind going through all that he was subjected to in his life. Alas, for me, that does not detract from my mind the idea that he was a prophet. It just means he was imperfect. Like me.

  6. Quimby says:

    I get tied up in knots thinking about this. If gender is essential, what about gender is essential? What makes me a woman? Obviously there are biological differences; but what else? I like being a woman, although I couldn’t tell you why. If you take biology out of it I couldn’t tell you why it’s any different being a woman than being a man. I have a daughter and a son; apart from their physiological differences, what makes my son different from my daughter that couldn’t also be explained by the fact that they are just two different people? At the same time, reducing my gender down to only its biology seems awfully demeaning – Because surely there is more to being a woman than just having breasts (a damned fine pair I might add) and a vagina? Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly fond of my breasts and vagina, but I’d like to think my experience as a woman is more than that too. What about women who are born without vaginas? They aren’t any less women, even though their biology is different.

    My understanding is that most people who transition don’t have bottom surgery. So for them, there is something essential about being a woman or a man that has nothing to do with biology. But what is it? What is that quintessential “otherness” that makes us want to present to the world as a man, or a woman, or an other? My husband is different to me in any number of ways; but how many of those differences are related to his gender, and how many are just ‘him’? Would I love him any more or any less if he decided he wanted to transition? (My husband, for the record, is not trans and would make a very bad woman. It’s purely a hypothetical question, for which I don’t really have an answer, because I think I’d love him just the same if he was a she, but I don’t think I’d be attracted to him if he was a she.)

    I’d like to think there’s more to it than sex. I know quite a few women who were taught that the eternities would be one endless cycle of pregnancy and childbirth. How boring! Surely there’s more for me to look forward to than that!

    But – As you say, if gender isn’t essential, why do we need Heavenly Mother? Wouldn’t Heavenly Father suffice? But if gender is essential, then why, and what? Now I’m getting a headache.

    • Andrew R. says:

      ” (My husband, for the record, is not trans and would make a very bad woman”

      Why? What about him would make him a “very bad woman”?

      Seems that there is something about gender that you do see as different that is not about physical attributes.

      • nrc42 says:

        …that’s literally what her whole post was saying, but that she couldn’t pinpoint what it is.

        No one can.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Then it is not right to sat categorically that he would make a very bad woman, how can she know?

        That was my point.

        I realise, after some time posting here, that pretty much anything written by a male, especially one who is obviously a believing member, following the current Church leadership, is seen as being controversial. However, she seemed, to me at least, to be saying she didn’t know what made a person male or female but knew her husband could only be male (whatever that is).

        Well that implies she has some idea of the differences.

      • Quimby says:

        Andrew, would you make a good woman? Would I make a good man? I can only answer for myself – I’d make a lousy man. And I don’t know why. There is just nothing in me that ‘feels’ male. And there’s nothing about my husband that ‘feels’ female. The entire point of my post, as nrc42 stated, was that I can’t pinpoint what I mean by that.

        I think gender is important. Otherwise, there’d be no point in having a Heavenly Mother. But, if you remove sexual organs from the equation (and I really think you must), what IS gender? My children are awesome, amazing people; but they aren’t your stereotypical girl and boy – the only time my daughter plays with dolls is if they’re getting eaten by her toy snakes (and then she doesn’t rescue them, she gleefully feeds them to the snake) and my son has absolutely no interest in cars and trucks. But if you ask them, they will happily tell you that their gender (they are both cis-gendered) and that they’re happy with their gender and they can’t imagine not being that gender. Gender is so much deeper than “I like Barbies and wear dresses” or “I like Batman and have short hair.” But what it is? What makes you a boy and me a girl, other than physiology?

      • Quimby says:

        If you want me to be any more specific than that, all I can say for certain is that my husband has a great beard that would look very funny on a woman. Also, that I’m rather fond of his penis – which isn’t to say I want one of my own (how do you guys even walk with that thing down there?) but I’d miss his if it wasn’t around.

  7. Liz says:

    Yes. This. I love it, and you’ve so eloquently expressed things I’ve been thinking about for a while now but haven’t been able to put into words. I love this idea of a God that is both male and female, but yet neither at the same time – just made of what is good, with pure love for all. Thank you!

  8. Rob Osborn says:

    Some of the comments here are just “wow”. Let me just say-
    I have two children born 12 years apart. A boy, and a girl. My boy was always a boy. I remember when he was 2 years old and we told him we were going to get him a doll for Christmas. He literally started to cry when we told him that. His favorite toy he had was this plastic multi-tool that actually worked. Before he could even walk he would pull himself around (never crawled) and try to “fix” stuff. Now grown up, he played sports and did all the usual boy stuff and is engaged to be married to a very lovely gal.

    Now, my daughter on the other hand, immediately (literally days after birth) took ahold of pink and purple things and gravitated directly towards dolls before she even was smart enough to know what they were. She is now 8 and is as girly as girly gets. This wasn’t anything I really taught either of my children. Sure, there might of been some cultural conditioning, but their behaviors from birth showed to me they knew their gender without looking or knowing what was between their legs. It’s somehow in their spirit is all that I could tell. Gender is more than just our sexual organs. Our bodies work different, have different amounts of chemicals, etc. I believe our spirits in like fashion are the same way where a female spirit is different than a male spirit and even upon birth they know what gender they themselves are. It’s our duty to help them progress into their respective roles as their gender requires. It’s sad that we are living in a society that is questioning gender and even trying to teach children to be things other than their gender declares. I have seen this great gender bender philosophy where boys can be girls and girls can be boys. It goes so far as to protect anyone who chooses they don’t want to be their biological gender anymore and should have the same rights and abilities as the opposite gender. This is leading to laws changing to allow biological males to go into females private places like public bathrooms, etc..

    I think it’s blasphemy to suggest that God our Father is some kind of “it”. God is a man with male parts which include male sex organs. God’s wife is female with female parts which include female sex organs. How else could our heavenly parents create Adam and Eve in their image?

    • Spunky says:

      Rob Osborn, I think you are just trying to pick a fight. And I think it is sad that you are using your children as examples and throwing in context that really makes no sense.

      Your determination to ensure mortal-style sexual relations in heaven is creepy to me. I find that individuals who are so sure of this are most often male, and usually expect to have several wives for the purpose of sex (or as some say, procreation). That in itself makes for an interesting point of discussion. For me to be assigned as an eternal sex slave does not sound like heaven, it sounds like hell. Then is Celestial Glory a reward for men, but punishment for women? It is under this scenario, but more importantly isn’t really the core of this post.

      And I quite frankly chuckled about your bathroom scenario. One of the church branches I attended once had just one bathroom. Never seemed to be an issue, but I guess that is because we gathered to partake of the sacrament and worship, rather than to obsess about each others’ toileting habits.

      In the end, I do not suggest that God is an “it.” I question true unity and connection, and I question mortal biological characteristics as being necessary for the eternities.

      • nrc42 says:

        “Then is Celestial Glory a reward for men, but punishment for women?”

        Well, according to some, yes. According to some early Church leaders, women’s righteousness was irrelevant in terms of getting to the Celestial Kingdom; the only requirement was that her husband wanted her there. Why? Because the Celestial Kingdom is not a reward for women – women ARE the reward for men in the Celestial Kingdom.

      • Spunky says:

        I know. And it does my head in…..

      • Quimby says:

        I prefer that quote I read by Brigham Young, I can’t remember the exact quote but it was along the lines of, Women are too dumb to know right from wrong, so women will automatically be granted entry into the celestial kingdom. Awesome! Who wants to go rob a bank with me?

      • Spunky says:

        *sigh* Brigham Young.

        I wonder what he would have thought of intrasexed individuals? Are they too dumb to know right from wrong, or are they only capable of knowing either right…. or wrong, but not both? We might need to check each others’ sex organs before we go robbing banks to make sure we’ll still be dumb enough to get into heaven if we rob that bank….. I can see it now: “Naked bank-robbing! The only sure-fire way to still get into heaven for women!”

      • Rob Osborn says:

        Spunky, do you believe we were created in God’s image?

      • spunky says:

        Rob Osbourne, I do believe we are made in God’s image, but I am uncertain as to the degree in which we are reflected. If God female or male? Am I, as female reflective of the female side of an androgynous God, whilst you are reflective of God’s male side? Mortals are flesh and blood, yet God is flesh and bone. So we can’t be a perfect reflection. Do I have God’s eyes, yet free from blood? Do the hormones that pulse through my body, distributed by my blood make hair under my arms, but God’s underarms are bare? Surely even you can see how complicated it becomes to comprehend what is meant by “God’s image.”

    • nrc42 says:

      The thing is, Rob, female-ness isn’t a love of pink and dolls and male-ness isn’t an interest in sports and fixing things. So those are traits your kids had? Awesome. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But there’s also nothing wrong with not happening to have gender-stereotypical interests, either.

      I am the oldest of five children, three of whom still live at home. When I was a child, my parents tried to buy me Barbie dolls and princess dress-up, but I had no interest in them. My favorite toys were Legos, trucks, pirates, and dinosaurs. I hated pink and refused to wear it.

      My next sister loved dolls, princesses, and dress-up. Also sharks. That one was a little random, but she was pretty stereotypically girly. She is now working on her PhD in bio-mathematics.

      My baby sister is now 10. My favorite picture of her is from when she was 4. In it, she was wearing a pink tutu and brandishing a lightsaber. That about sums it up. She wants to be a mathematician when she grows up.

      I also have two brothers. They’re 17 and 14 now. The older one is and always was really into sports and cars. He also loves baking. Always has, ever since he was little.

      The younger detests sports but loves programming. When he was little, his favorite color was pink and he wanted to be a mermaid when he grew up. It was adorable. Now he wants to be a robotics engineer.

      There is so much variation. There are no universal gendered traits. And that’s okay.

      • Rob Osborn says:

        Generally, boys and girls are different from birth in their desires. That all I am saying. Why is that?

      • Quimby says:

        Every child is different from birth. My parents had five daughters; we were all different from birth. It’s oversimplistic to say that boys and girls are different from birth; how do you know that has anything at all to do with gender?

      • nrc42 says:

        What Quimby said. I am much more confident in the assertion that every child is unique and had different interests and attributes than I am in the assertion that you can predict a child’s interests based on their sex.

        If anything, I’m pretty confident in the assertion that whatever you think a kid’s going to be interested in (and spend money on), they won’t be interested in. Because heaven forbid they have any interest in what you expect and spend all your money on.

      • Quimby says:

        Soooo true nrc42! That’s the way I feel every time I declutter the kids’ toy room. What was I thinking spending my money on that stuff??? There’s nothing wrong with my kids for not liking stereotypical toys and there’s nothing wrong with kids who do like stereotypical toys. Kids are just different. At the end of the day, kids need to know they’re loved and protected. It doesn’t really matter then if they curl up to sleep with a teddy bear, a doll, or a toy chainsaw. If kids know they are loved and protected, they can take on the world.

    • Quimby says:

      But gender is more than just liking dolls or trucks. My daughter isn’t less of a girl because she doesn’t like Barbie, and my son isn’t less of a boy because he doesn’t care about Hot Wheels. My daughter will happily tell you she’s a girl, and my son will happily tell you he’s a boy – they aren’t conflicted about it; they don’t wish they were the “other.” What it the essential “it” of gender? I don’t know. But it’s deeper than liking pink or blue (which is after all entirely a social construct – 100 years ago pink was considered more acceptable for boys and blue was considered more acceptable for girls), it’s deeper than liking superheroes or doll houses. I agree with you that it’s something innate in their spirits; but I don’t know what it is.

      FWIW we aren’t hippy-dippy parents who dressed our son in dresses or insisted our daughter play with trucks. From birth we’ve made an effort to have a wide assortment of “boy toys” and “girl toys” available to them and we’ve let them gravitate to what they wanted. They just don’t want traditional gendered toys. It’s not who they are. But just because my daughter hates Frozen and my son has no use for Superman, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still, very clearly, a girl and a boy. That’s kind of my point – I don’t know what gender is, but I know what it isn’t, and it’s not fitting into a box that says “must like pink and Barbies” or “must like blue and Tonka trucks.”

      When it comes to public toilets I say do away with the current model (one for boys, one for girls, with lots of stalls) and make multiple separate rooms, each with one sink and toilet, that are open to anyone. It’s a lot more family friendly (there’s no way I’d send my kids to a big traditional toilet on their own; but if it’s a separate room I’m happy to stand outside and wait for them), it’s safer, more private, and it does away with the whole issue you mentioned.

  9. Rachel says:

    I love that old Plato and that old love symposium. You did such a good job describing it, and brought in so many interesting Mormon things, that I am left with a whole lot to think about. Thank you!

  10. Aimee says:

    When I was an adolescent, one of the first pieces of Mormon theology that really resonated with me was the idea that our physical bodies were not a distraction to our spiritual life, but essential *for* a spiritual life. Combined with the idea that the act of sex was not just a base human necessity, but a means of communion among divine beings, I believed Mormonism had the potential to radically transform religious teachings that often view the act of sex as merely carnal into something that can be sanctifying now and in the eternities. To my adolescent and now middle aged brain, this still appeals to me.

    But as with so many things, Mormon teachings and culture have ultimately failed to tap into radical ways of thinking on this subject by focusing sex entirely on its role in procreation and enforcement of gender roles. The patriarchal aspects of Mormonism have always stymied more radical ideas about mortal and immortal sexuality, particularly for those who don’t fit biological, cisgender, or heteronormative roles, but unshackled by patriarchy, I think the embodied-ness of immortality Mormonism espouses could help us do a better job of embracing and celebrating the unique and varied bodies we have and their capacity to express love in a multitude of forms now. Too bad that unshackling patriarchy part is proving so difficult.

    • spunky says:

      Well stated, Aimee. As another friend wrote me in a private message, it is odd how men seem to focus on a mortal, heterosexual afterlife, whereas women become unsettled with the idea of eternity without birth control, yet seek a heavenly experience with sexual connection.

      I’d like to imagine heaven as a place where individuals can enjoy a sexual connection with their (singular) spouse, where patriarchal procreation is not involved in sex, but is something else altogether.

      • Aimee says:

        Yes. This is much more appealing to me as well, Spunky. Thank you for this really thoughtful post and initiating this conversation.

    • Melissa says:

      “When I was an adolescent, one of the first pieces of Mormon theology that really resonated with me was the idea that our physical bodies were not a distraction to our spiritual life, but essential *for* a spiritual life. Combined with the idea that the act of sex was not just a base human necessity, but a means of communion among divine beings, I believed Mormonism had the potential to radically transform religious teachings that often view the act of sex as merely carnal into something that can be sanctifying now and in the eternities. To my adolescent and now middle aged brain, this still appeals to me.”

      This is stunning. Beautifully put.

  11. Melissa says:

    This is an interesting read. Even in the face of all the things I learned in my life about feeling shameful about feeling sexual as a woman, I say this unabashedly: I love sex, and I do hope I can keep having it in the eternities. It’s fun. Sometimes spiritual, sometimes not. I like it.

    Also, I have had a lot of issues with section 132. Can’t lie about that. Thanks for the article.

  12. Joe says:

    I’m a happy man in a happy life. I’m happy because my wife and I complete each other’s existence and forever will, and our happiness is of course exponentiated for us in the lives of our perfect three little boys and our animals, and we all together do our best to live in a way any kind Elohim would consider honorable. If there is any credence to be found in Mormon theology and its facets (and for me, a chest-thumping Mormon feminist, there is), I have right to the same expectation of happiness for myself and my family in any existence beyond this one. And that is a comforting thought.

    (May I say, remarkable are the moments when God decides to affirm to us truths we cling to, while we’re “randomly” writing about them in a comments section on the internet. That too is a comforting thought.)

  13. Quimby says:

    a blow against gender essentialism – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-19/gender-on-the-brain-male-and-female-brains-study/7179088 Short summary: Men’s brains and women’s brains are mostly the same. “Sex affects the brain, but how it affects the brain depends on other factors.”

    • spunky says:

      This is very interesting, Quimby! I read a dissertation once that debunked the concept that women are “better” at multi-taking, etc. The dissertation put it down to focusing on multiple entities in repetition– a characteristic necessary for many occupations, but not something that is inherent, but rather something that is developed. That was something important for me to learn, as I am TERRIBLE at multi-tasking, so often thought I wasn’t a “good” woman. Thank you for sharing this!

      • Quimby says:

        Oh, I’m great at multi-tasking, just as long as nothing has to be done properly. If it’s half-assed you’re after, I’m your woman!

  14. Coriander says:

    I’m glad to see other people considering this question with such insight. It’s interesting to compare these thoughts with Jennifer Finlayson-Fife’s ideas of our heavenly parents as sexual beings, with the implication that eternal marriage includes a sexual element. I’m glad to see others question that, because I question it.

    Sex is an inescapable biological reality, and I have come to understand this as the way that gender is eternal: we humans are biologically (evolutionarily – is that a word?) linked to the animal kingdom, and we’re the evolutionary heirs of a long, long history of sexual relations between mammals. That shapes our psychology, and so whatever the individual characteristics and exigencies of each individual body and spirit with genitals and personality and everything matching or mismatching, we inherit archetypes of gender that form foundations to our psychic life.

    I remember talking to a member of the Assembly of God church who said she believes that every conception is a creative act of God. I can’t really get behind that: I think there’s a reason we get such stern warnings against misusing the sacred power of procreation. To start a new human life should not be undertaken lightly, but it’s part of the terrifying reality of life here that this can be done so easily, so casually, so callously. I can’t accept that God designs and ordains the conception and development of children of rape and incest. And so I don’t buy the concept of God creating intersex bodies for special androgynous spirits as some master plan. I think we give far too little consideration to all the ways that random chance and the complex webs of human action and consequence shape the conception and gestation of our mortal bodies.

    I recently watched an Alain de Botton talk about sex (I liked it so much I posted it on my blog). At one point he said something like: we could be such sensible and rational beings if we didn’t have this absurd sex drive. I agree with him: the sex drive is absurd. I’m willing to entertain the idea that exaltation entails a final transformation of our absurdities (our inheritances from human evolution and relation to the animal kingdom) into something useful and appropriate, but I have lost faith in the idea of eternal sex that so excited me as a young man.

    • Spunky says:

      Thank you for your comment, Coriander. I think the idea of eternal sex is used to manipulate teens into keeping the law of chastity, rather than obeying the law of chastity because of testimony.

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  16. Jared says:

    The Bible says that with God, All things are possible. Does that just mean that all things that are, are made possible by God. Or does that mean that all things are possible with God? Didn’t God make Brigham Young look like Joseph Smith one day? If so then when I have all power as God what’s to stop me from making myself look like any guy or even girl that my wife wants me to look like when ever she wants? Think about it? Why would God want to deny one couple anything any other couple could experience? WHY??? Why would God want to hold any thing back from himself or anyone else? Especially for eternity! I understand that no joy could be greater than making new spirits and helping them be worthy and deserving of eternal life. And we all need to become human sacrifices in this world makes sense to me. But is eternal life better with more or less limitations? I think that if we can get there we will find that under those conditions possibilities will increase infinitely. Imagine a paradise where on our vacation time we can be under any kind of veil we want, and under that experience any kind of adventure we like. And if we are shooting people with guns in simulated world war 2, the people who die are only human bodies with artificial intelligence. Or maybe have the spirits of outer darkness dudes inside. This would is very limiting. It’s hard for me to imagine heaven that way. What say you?

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