Years ago I had a few questions regarding the topic at hand. I was particularly specific in my outpouring to heavenly father and needed answers to guide and enlighten me. I was frustrated as there had been tension between Mr. Napes and myself. I had been in the bible and had searched the topical guide for help. I found a chapter in Corinthians that seemed to make a bit of sense but I wasn't sure I knew what it meant in it's entirety. As I continued to pray...a miracle happened (well... a miracle for me.)
I attended a ward of a relative the following Sunday for a baby's blessing and decided to stay for the remaining hours of Sunday school and relief society. As I settled into my seat for gospel doctrine, the man that stood to teach began with these words, "Hello everyone. I am not the usual teacher for this class, I am substituting and am glad to be here. My name is brother Robinson and we will be studying chapter 7 in first Corinthians."
CHAPTER 7? This was the chapter I had been led to in my study. I leaned over to my relative and asked about the substitute. "He looks vaguely familiar. Who is he?" "His name is Steven E. Robinson. He is the author of the book "Believing Christ". (I had read this book. It had powerful insight.) He has also been a BYU professor. He teaches "ancient scripture" classes. This man has more knowledge about these books than anyone I know- we are in for a treat!"
Was it a coincidence that a professor with abstract information and DEEP insight to this chapter just happen to be a substitute? In a ward I was visiting?? It was a tender mercy. Truly an answer from God, and one that provided clear truth for my husband and I. Since this experience, I have been blessed to teach and study as a seminary teacher and have had my own insight and understanding to add to that of this brother. My relative was right though...it was a treat.
Some background to this chapter- This is the apostle Paul speaking. As a missionary he had gone to a place called Corinth. He found wonderful people there to teach and taught them the gospel. They were baptized and he established the church there. After his mission to Corinth was over, he left them to carry on in their church service. Later, he found that some of them were returning to their old ways for lack of understanding as it was so new. They began writing him letters with questions and he began writing back with clarifications on the gospel and how the church should continue to be run, with specifics to their lives (and ours) as a mouthpiece from the Lord. The entire book are letters written to the people of Corinth- hence- the Corinthians. At this time Paul was divorced- interesting huh- and he was giving council about sexual intimacy to those that were going to serve missions, married and unmarried. I truly LOVE his words. (I'll place the verses in purple and some thoughts in black.)
vs. 1: Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. To "have", back in the day, or to "know" someone was to be sexually intimate with them. He teaches us one benefit of being intimate, we avoid fornication. There is much to ponder in this statement alone. I think about the world we live in and the hundreds of ways this is presented. To be intimate is a protection!
3. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. What does this mean- due benevolence? In the footnotes by the word benevolence it states: Family, love within marriage, Continuing Courtship in. This is huge! As we learn about the intimate side of things, this is one of the most important factors- to continue courting, or dating, our spouses. If we approach our marriages as we did when we were engaged we would more thoroughly serve each other. More thoroughly recognize each strength and respect the others desires. If husbands did the dishes for their wives, or randomly brought flowers home, or sent a text telling them how much they were loved...this may open greater trust in the intimate side of the relationship.
If wives took the time to notice the hard work their husbands put into their jobs, if they supported them, and went and did things their husbands really like to do, if they continued to appreciate their efforts (or whatever was expressed during the dating scene) chances are, the compassion from the husband just may grow.
4. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. This is a verse that can be highly misinterpreted. Some people may use this to their advantage claiming proof that they have power over the other in an intimate setting. First I will add a quote about the misinterpretation and then explain what the apostles have helped us to understand about this short verse. President Howard W. Hunter (a prophet of God) has said,
"Keep yourselves above any domineering or unworthy behavior in the tender, intimate relationship between husband and wife. Because marriage is ordained of God, the intimate relationship between husbands and wives is good and honorable in the eyes of God. He has commanded that they be one flesh and that they multiply and replenish the earth. You are to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it (see Ephesians 5:25-31).
"Tenderness and respect-never selfishness- must be the guiding principles in the intimate relationship between husband and wife. Each partner must be considerate and sensitive to the other's needs and desires. Any domineering, indecent, or uncontrolled behavior in the intimate relationship between husband and wife is condemned by the Lord." (in conference report, Oct. 1994, 68; or Ensign, Nov.1994, 51)
Now we read this verse again: the wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. What this verse is actually talking about is self abuse. A more specific term used in The For Strength of Youth booklet is -masturbation. We are not to have control over our own bodies. Isn't it amazing that these topics were covered back then? If we are married, we have the beautiful gift of a spouse. This verse teaches us great things. It is a clear reminder that self abuse is not approved by our father in heaven. This "power" is not ours to justify. There are many great talks about this and if you get onto lds.org you have fantastic counsel at your fingertips. I must say that everything, yet again, for our day, lies in this book.
5. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. This verse starts out talking about fraud. I found this interesting. As Paul speaks openly he reminds the saints that marriage is a contract. A sexual contract in fact, amongst other things. When we marry we promise to remain loyal to our spouses and not to be physical with anyone else. This contract enables us to express our love to our husbands and wives in the most sacred of ways. We not only promise that we won't be with anyone else...we are also promising that we WILL be with each other. When Paul tells us not to defraud one the other, he is telling us NOT to withhold intimacy. NOT to avoid it. Not to pass it by or break the contract, EXCEPT- it be with "consent" for a time.
It is essential that we communicate with our spouces- discussing the reasons that we aren't intimate in our marriage. To consent is to both agree that for a time it is ok to refrain. What that "time" is depends on the marriage and the circumstances. One spouse may be working out of town, health issues may arise, we may be exhausted, what ever the case... both come together and communicate to agree on how often they share this kind of love. Selflessness is critical. Understanding is critical and fasting and prayer follow in Paul's counsel -letting us know that this will help. For those who feel that praying about sex is a strange concept, it may be, but please remember that our father is the very source that created it. It's his design, and because he made it up, he is more familiar with our hearts, bodies, and minds than we are, and can bless in time of need.
Paul is then very clear that we "come together again". As soon and as often as possible! In an earlier post I mentioned that Satan uses LACK of intimacy as his drive between families. Paul confirms this as he explains why we should come together sexually in the next few words which are words to drive it home: that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. The pure truth is that sex in marriage is provided to strengthen and protect. It is designed to connect a couple together in a way that NOTHING else can. It is solid cement and binding when shared in love. When this amazing expression isn't revisited and renewed, Satan begins to enter the marriage, and this can look like many things. We may get irritated with each other more often- impatient and bothered by simple and insignificant things. We may begin to disagree, or even loose our loyalty to one another. We begin to fill our hearts with pride and slowly the relationship dies. Our relationships are then in a vulnerable spot and sin creeps in to destroy.
To keep our sexual lives pleasant and new does more than just create joy. It is literally a defence for our families. It plays a key part in our happiness here on earth. Thus, knowledge and patience remain ours to master on this topic. It builds safety from evil and cleanses our relationships. It unites, solidifies, and strengthens our commitment to our marriages. A talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland titled "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments" brings to light the importance of consistent marital intimate relations. Read it. It is insightful as he compares the renewing of our baptismal covenants each week, to renewing our intimate marital covenants as well. More fantastic counsel...
I haven't found a couple that these five verses in Corinthians can't help in one way or another. It is astounding what "feasting on the words of Christ" can really offer. No matter what challenges any of us may have- hope and love are available through the Savior- whom I love with all of my soul.