I’m about to head off to Columbus, Ohio for an academic conference. (It’s on pedagogical practice in linguistics, if you care about that sort of thing.) As a result, i won’t be posting anything after this here for about a week—so i’ll give you something interesting to talk about.
Let’s talk about lust.
As far as i can tell, the word “lust” is consistently used in a negative sense by church leaders. I didn’t have the time to do an exhaustive search, but if you run a search of general conference addresses, “lust” doesn’t seem to come up in positive contexts.
This makes sense, i suppose—lust can be distracting, to say the least, and we do a lot of counseling teenagers to beware of lust, ’cause lust ups your chances of falling into sexual sins. Fine.
But what about those of us who are married? Is lust always a bad thing, or is it acceptable to feel lust toward your spouse?
True story: In a ward i used to live in, i was in a gospel doctrine class where the topic was the law of chastity. (By definition, not having sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse who you’re legally married to.) This led to discussing how Satan uses sexual urges to tempt us, and how we need to resist them. (Yes, how we need to resist sexual urges, not how we need to resist temptation. I disagree, as you’ll see, but it’s a pretty widespread Mormon cultural meme.) There were a handful of people who talked about how we need to do everything we can to avoid giving in to “unhealthy sexual urges”, and the word “lust” was used a couple of times in a very negative sense. Eventually i raised my hand and, when called on, said that lust is actually a good thing—if we didn’t have them, then people would probably be much less likely to have children to raise, and since part of God’s plan is for people to raise children, then it’s a good thing that lust happens.
Well, a bit of an eruption followed—and i basically got lectured by several people on how healthy sexual urges have nothing to do with lust. But you know what? I think that’s hair-splitting—the difference between “healthy sexual urges” and “lust” isn’t a difference of kind, it’s purely a difference in what you care to call it to keep yourself from shocking your Puritan neighbors.
For my part, i feel lust toward Jeanne regularly and frequently, and i don’t think it’s a sin. In fact, i would probably find it troubling if i didn’t.
But i’m curious what y’all think. Is lust always a Bad Thing? Is there actually a difference between lust and what people call “healthy sexual urges”? (And just to keep things on an even footing, let’s limit ourselves to lust directed toward one’s spouse—we can all agree that extramarital lust is wrong without having to get into those sorts of details.)
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