“Sexual Intimacy Is Sacred and Beautiful,” Help for Parents (2019)
“Sexual Intimacy Is Sacred and Beautiful,” Help for Parents
“Human intimacy is reserved for a married couple because it is the ultimate symbol of total union, a totality and a union ordained and defined by God” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 76).
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).
Many parents avoid addressing the topic of sexual relations and sexuality with their children. Some parents incorrectly assume that talking about sex will encourage their children to act out sexually or that their children are too young to have questions. Many did not talk openly about these topics with their own parents and feel uncomfortable talking about them in their families. They may also feel ill-qualified to teach about something they are currently struggling with. Whatever your hesitations or fears, it is vital that you discuss sexual intimacy with your children on an ongoing basis. Children and teenagers are regularly bombarded with damaging ideas about sex, and you have the opportunity to help them create a positive, gospel-driven understanding of sexual intimacy. As you study these resources, counsel with the Lord to determine the approach that will allow you to have a meaningful discussion with your children about sex.
Heavenly Father created the plan of salvation so that we can experience life, return to His presence, and have joy. Central to this plan are the spiritual, emotional, and physical unity developed in marriage and family life. He gave us the capacity for physical intimacy so that we could strengthen and grow our eternal families. He intends for sex to be a beautiful, powerful, and joyful part of our lives—not something evil or corrupt. Sex enables a husband and a wife to have children, express love, and strengthen their spiritual, emotional, and physical bonds. Sexual intimacy is an important part of marriage, and when it is used in the way that God has commanded, it brings great blessings and joy. While many in the world portray sex as casual or crude, the gospel teaches that sexuality is a powerful gift from Heavenly Father and that it should be used within the bounds He has set, with wisdom and reverence.
The following scriptures and resources can help you deepen your knowledge of the doctrine related to this topic. As you study, consider ways to share this doctrine with your children.
Matthew 19:5–6 (Cleave to your spouse, and be one flesh)
1 Corinthians 6:13–20 (Our bodies and sexuality are sacred)
Doctrine and Covenants 49:16 (Sexual intimacy in marriage helps us answer the end of earth’s creation)
Conference talks and magazine articles:
Brent Barlow, “‘They Twain Shall Be One’: Thoughts on Intimacy in Marriage,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 49–53
Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 75–78
Matthew O. Richardson, “Three Principles of Marriage,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 20–24
Russell M. Nelson, “Nurturing Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 36–38
Family Conversations: Talking about Healthy Sexuality, Mormon Channel, mormonchannel.org
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 145
Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts (pamphlet, 2006)
A Parent’s Guide (1985)
“Sexual Purity,” For the Strength of Youth (booklet, 2011), 35–37
Choose from these ideas or think of your own to introduce the principle that sexual intimacy is sacred. A Parent’s Guide might be a good place to start as you decide what will be most beneficial to share with your own children (see chapters 3–5: “Teaching Infants and Toddlers: from Birth to Approximately Three Years,” “Teaching Children: from Four to Eleven Years,” and “Teaching Adolescents: from Twelve to Eighteen Years”).
Use Ephesians 5:31 and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to teach about the doctrine of marriage. Ask your children why they think God wants us to marry and have a family. Teach that sex is an important part of strengthening marriage and bringing children into the world. It is something that Heavenly Father gave husbands and wives to share and enjoy. God has asked us to use the sacred gift of sexuality within specific bounds. When we obey this commandment, we can experience great unity and joy within our family.
Display pictures of your children when they were infants or other family pictures. Share with your children your feelings about when they were born. Express your feelings about being able to create life and bringing children into the world. Explain that sex is meant to be an expression of love that enables children to be born.
When we often focus on the negative consequences of breaking the law of chastity, it can sometimes be challenging for children to understand that sexual feelings are good. It is important to teach that these feelings are wonderful and can help us develop healthy relationships when they are expressed appropriately. Help your children understand the relationship between the sexual feelings they have or will develop and the sexual behavior that should be reserved for married couples. Teach that sexual feelings are a gift from our Heavenly Father and should be treated with respect.
Find out what your children know about sex. Discuss the differences between how the world talks about or portrays sex and what Heavenly Father teaches us about sex. Ask your children how they feel when they hear someone talk about sex or see inappropriate images. Discuss what they have learned about sexuality in the home. Discuss ways to respond to situations—both inside and outside the home—where sex and sexuality are not represented in a respectful or uplifting way. You may want to use the home evening lesson “What should I do if I see pornography?” for additional ideas.
Following the guidance of the Spirit, select one or more of the following activities that will work best for your family.
It is important to use accurate terms when talking about sexual intimacy with your children. Parents should be sensitive to the readiness of each child as they determine when it is appropriate to introduce certain concepts to their children; often the child’s readiness will correlate with his or her natural curiosity and interest. In conjunction with the home evening lesson “My Body Is from God,” teach your children the correct words for their body parts and for sexual terminology that is appropriate for their maturity and curiosity. Talk about how their body and sexual feelings are a gift from Heavenly Father. Emphasize that these words should be used in the correct setting and with respect.
Explain the difference between sexual feelings—which are normal and good—and sexual behavior before marriage, which is damaging. To illustrate this principle, draw or create a picture of someone dressed for a fun or important activity, such as scuba diving or construction work. Teach that these are great activities and that the attire is an important preparation. Then draw or create an image of someone wearing attire that does not fit the context, such as a scuba diver at a shopping mall or a construction worker in a swimming pool. Just as the attire is a tool to help the scuba diver explore the world, our sexual feelings are vital parts of our life. However, there is a time and place for certain attire, and there is a time and place for sexual behaviors. Teach that in marital relationships, sexual behavior is appropriate and good. When displayed in public or in media or when stimulated prior to marriage, sexual behavior can be damaging.
Read together as a family the section on “Sexual Purity” in For the Strength of Youth. Invite your family members to underline the blessings of sexual purity in one color. Invite them to underline the consequences of breaking the laws of chastity in another color. Circle references to the Spirit. Together, create a list of rules that will help your children stay sexually pure. Use this activity to review the guidance about sexual intimacy and marriage, as well as the Lord’s standards for sexual purity. Rely on the Spirit as you discuss with your children how to practice sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage. Understand their perspective and concerns. Help them understand the blessings the Lord intends for them as they follow His commandments.
Help your teenagers understand that sacred things have an appropriate time and place. Because of sexual intimacy’s sacred nature, sexual behavior should take place only between a husband and a wife. You might draw a comparison to temple covenants: just as members look forward to and prepare for temple ordinances, youth can prepare for healthy intimate relationships after marriage. Discuss how to prepare in appropriate ways for a healthy sexual relationship. Ideas may include:
Showing respect to people of the opposite sex.
Learning to show love and forgiveness in all relationships.
Observing ways that happily married couples respect and treat each other.
Following the dating standards in For the Strength of Youth.
Discussing with parents any questions the youth have about sexual intimacy.
Making wise media choices and avoiding pornography or sexualized media.
Read together Doctrine and Covenants 88:15: “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” Discuss the relationship between the spirit, body, and soul. Talk about how sexual intimacy affects both our spirits and our physical bodies. When both physical and spiritual union take place in a marriage, the souls of both individuals can experience great joy. However, when physical union takes place outside the spiritual union of marriage, it can have damaging effects on the soul. Pornography is particularly dangerous because it creates a false feeling of intimacy without connecting the user to real relationships. Use of pornography will ultimately lead to emotional distance and isolation from others.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught: “As [your children] share with you what’s going on, you will have to listen very carefully and without being judgmental in order to understand what they are thinking and experiencing. … You need to have frequent, open discussions during which you teach your daughters [and sons] the truth about these issues” (“Parents and Children: Listening, Learning, and Loving,” New Era, Feb. 2011, 4, 6).
Your ability to have these discussions with your children will have a long-lasting effect on their lives. Help your children recognize that much of what the world teaches about sex is incorrect and that Father in Heaven has given them these powerful feelings to bring them unity and joy in their marriages. Acknowledge that they will probably have more questions, and invite them to come to you whenever they have questions. They should not only feel welcome to discuss their questions and concerns with you, but they should also expect you to follow up regularly with them. When you discuss these topics, be sure to create an environment where your children can be honest and receive clear, direct answers.