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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Sex Covenants » Sex Covenants

Sex Covenants

Don - July 15, 2005

The endowment has been changed several times over the past 150 years. When I got my endowment I covenanted – “to have no sexual intercourse” with anyone I wasn’t legally married to. The covenant now says – “no sexual relations”.

There is a big difference between the two. (Not considering Bill Clinton’s definition). There are a lot of sexual relations someone can have without actually having intercourse. A minor question that comes to my mind is where is the line for what would be considered sexual relations?

My major question is “What difference does it make?” Under the old covenant a married man could have sexual relations with another woman (the definition of adultery) and still not be breaking the covenant. I don’t think that makes it ok, or makes him worthy to go to the Celestial Kingdom. I don’t think he could get away with the excuse “I didn’t break my covenant”. Is he under less condemnation? Maybe but what difference does that make either?

So did we really need this change? Are the other changes really necessary either?


  1. Well, I am just guessing, but it seems likely that whoever wrote that incarnation of the ceremony probably didn’t consider any legalistic loopholes. Now that these kinds of activities are more common (and open) the Church probably wanted to prevent any confusion.

    I am very interested in the changes to the ceremony. I am too young to have lived through any, and I think it’s a shame that it’s so hard to find anything out.

    Comment by NFlanders — July 15, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

  2. It would be fun if there was a temple library where endowed members could read all the various versions of the ceremony.

    As for this particular change, I don’t think that the meaning has changed, but that society has changed, and so the wording has changed to cover the perception that there are loopholes.

    Comment by a random John — July 15, 2005 @ 3:42 pm

  3. I testify that it is inappropriate to discuss the particulars of the Endowment anywhere but within the temple. All these things may be investigated on the Internet, but such publishing is a grave sin against God and a violation of sacred temple covenants. Those who don’t repent will incur the wrath of God.

    Comment by John W. Redelfs — July 15, 2005 @ 4:12 pm

  4. John, you are way out of line! Where does it say you cannot talk about the covenants of the temple outside the temple?

    You promise in the temple not to reveal the signs and tokens. There is no promise made about other covenants or doctrines.

    Secondly, the covenant of sacrifice, the covenant of chasity, and the covenant of consecration are all discussed and revealed in several other places besides the temple.

    I suppose next you’ll tell me I can’t talk about Adam and Eve, the Garden or the fall.

    A warning to be careful of discussing those sacred things and the signs and tokens revealed in the temple would have been appropriate. Your comment was way out of line and way over the top.

    Comment by don — July 15, 2005 @ 4:57 pm

  5. JWR,

    Do you mean to condemn this discussion in particular?

    Also, what do you mean that it is OK to inestigate these things on the internet but not publish them? How can you investigate something on the internet unless it has been published?

    Comment by a random John — July 15, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

  6. Ned:

    Try reading “The Mysteries of Godliness”; info at the following link:

    Comment by Capt Jack — July 15, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  7. While I think John phrased things a little harshly, his view does come close to the policy enforced by LDS leaders, which doesn’t really make the kind of distinctions you’re relying on, Don. I’m thinking of the media articles I read following the 1990 temple changes, which reported that LDS members who commented on the changes to the media were subject to LDS discipline and even excommunication if they could be identified.

    On the other hand, there does seem to be more public talk now about temples and what goes on inside them by leadership, members, and the media than there was even a few years ago. Building so many new temples and holding them out publicly as such important symbols of LDS membership can only lead to more discussion of what goes on inside them, and leaders must know this. Sooner or later, they’ll probably just publish the liturgy. It’s not like it’s secret anymore.

    Comment by Dave — July 15, 2005 @ 6:37 pm

  8. OK, I’ll try to steer the comments back to the subject at hand. When I think of sexual relations, it brings to my mind Jesus’ teaching from the sermon on the mount that if you lust, you have already committed adultery in your heart. The spirit of the law would seem to cover any loopholes that people may have looked for in previous covenant languague.

    On another note, it seems interesting to me that the sermon on the mount seems to be under-used in church teachings/meetings. I rarely hear anyone quote from it in talks or lessons. It seems to me that it is the most important teaching in the NT and BOM. Have others had similar impressions about the lack of interest in the sermon on the mount?

    Comment by Dallas Robbins — July 16, 2005 @ 1:11 am

  9. I think both Don and Dave are right. We do only make covenants to never reveal the signs and tokens but I presonally would only talk about temple things with certian people in certian environments. I heartily agree that we should not be discussing the things in the temple with the media and should be careful with what we talk to nonmembers and/or unendowed members about as it may scew their perceptions and/or damage thier own experience of eventually recieveing their endownment.
    Don’t be so harsh to John. I think he means well.
    You steer it back but then steer it somewhere else!:) To answer your question, I agree. In fact I think much of the Bible is under-used by members of the church(perhaps a whole post could be done or has been done on that issue?)though that can be somewhat understood as we have 2-3 times as much canon as the rest of Christianity to deal with.

    Comment by Bret — July 16, 2005 @ 3:12 am

  10. Don,
    Though I agree with you that there is a lot of the temple in many other sources, Bret’s right, you probably shouldn’t be so harsh on John, he surely means well. We just need to be prudent in what we are talking about and who we are discussing it with.

    I think you’re right, the SOM is under-utilized. I say that because it basically sets the bar for where we should be, we know where to aim. It’s easy to get caught up on technicalities of what’s appropriate and what’s innappropriate conduct between a man and a woman, but Christ’s teachings of lust clears most of it up. And it injects the need for honesty with yourself above all.

    Comment by Rusty — July 16, 2005 @ 1:18 pm

  11. Speaking of the temple and under-utilized sections of scripture, I’d add the first five chapters of Mosiah to the list. It contains references to almost every aspect of temple worship.

    I once taught an EQ lesson in which I distributed a list of terms that were clearly a list of things that are mentioned in the temple. I passed it out and asked people what it was and they responded, “Things from the temple.”

    I replied, “Nope, it is a list of things we’re going to learn about from King Benjamin.” I then divided everybody up into about 5 groups and passed out printouts of those chapters, divided amongst the groups. I did the first chapter with everybody, showing how you could find element of the temple ceremony right before your eyes. We started with the fact that King Benjamin was calling people together for a ceremony in which someone would be made King, we even looked at how messengers were sent.

    From there I let them do it on their own. By the end of the lesson they had found every item on the list.

    I think it is amazing what you can learn about the temple from certain sections of scripture that on the surface seem to not be related to it.

    Comment by a random John — July 16, 2005 @ 5:27 pm

  12. I have a close friend that was divorced durring this change. He found that the new language was more constricting in his dating practices as he is a very serious covenant keeper. His definition of sexual was probably not much broader than one many Bishops use with Young Men and Women.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 16, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

  13. I’m in the category of “too young to have known what words were said before” and therefore, my comments may be a little uninformed. Please take what I have to say with a proverbial grain of salt.

    I feel that too many people focus too much on the exact wording of some temple phrases. While some of this is critical (signs, tokens, names…) it is important to remember that the temple changes for a reason. It’s not that what was given to the bretheren years ago was incomplete, and now President Hinckley is finally getting it right for us. The temple is a state of mind and spirit, and should not be viewed as a play with a specific script that will tell us exactly what’s going on in the universe.

    In direct reference to the change of phrasing from “sexual intercourse” to “sexual relations”: my guess is that whoever made that change felt that it carried the meaning of the law better for our ears and hearts today. I have attended the temple in a number of languages. As anybody who speaks a different language knows, translations often inherently carry a different feeling than the English original. One can’t get too hung up on words, because the feeling and intent is what needs to be communicated.

    The bottom line: let’s not get too caught up with wording, when in the end, its all symbolic and personal anyway.

    Comment by Joe — July 18, 2005 @ 11:44 am

  14. Will someone please send John W. Redelfs a box of 100% All Bran and a gallon of milk?

    Comment by Ann Nonymous — July 18, 2005 @ 3:54 pm

  15. Hmmm… I’ve been exploring/investigating the church for years now (5 or 6), and it’s hard to imagine anyone that would be a member getting upset or sidetracked by the covenants and other temple related things.

    Anyway, all of this reminds me of when I was 12 or so and I’d get restricted and my friends would come to the window and say “your parents didn’t say your head couldn’t come out, did they?”

    And the next thing you know I’d be outside playing in the rain and laughing it up.

    And after that would be the yelling and the “I can’t believe…” speech. Usually wrapped in the “didn’t we teach you better” speech.

    Which usually ended in me being sent to my room, grounded for longer.

    But without TV. Or books. Or Music.

    I think I folded clothes for 2 weeks solid once. Blech.

    Comment by Charlie — July 18, 2005 @ 11:52 pm

  16. Don,
    Darn, you beat me to it; I was gonna tackle this one (http://mormonopenforum.blogsome.com/2005/07/05/temple-fashion/#comment-110).

    Yes, to answer your question, the sexual conduct standard was definitely (and I have to believe intentionally) raised circa 1990. In my generation, unmarried endowed members would generally get a free pass at giving or receiving climax by means short of intercourse if the relationship had terminated or there was a commitment of marriage. And, even in the case of completely unrepentant and ongoing oral sex in a casual relationship, disciple would have been short of excommunication.

    However, to those who might speculate if the present standard might have prevented someone like myself completely falling off the LofC cliff before marriage, I sincerely doubt it.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 19, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

  17. In my East Coast singles ward in 2003, the bishop told a mixed group of 25-35 year olds that “anything that arouses sexual feelings is wrong and you should discontinue it. Most of you have been through the temple and you are breaking temple covenants if you [and here he listed masturbation, "necking", "petting" and looking at (I kid you not) Sports Illustrated.]

    He distinctly said, further, “anyone who masturbates should make an appointment to see me.”

    I haven’t been back to church since.

    Comment by Laura — July 21, 2005 @ 3:09 pm

  18. Laura,
    Sorry to hear your sad report about your Bishop abusing his authority and your resulting inactivity. It’s sad, but understandable. Beyond the stupidity of a Bishop equating masturbation, making out and SI w/ a sexual relationship, it’s most ironic because my kids say Bishops don’t ask about self pleasure anymore and your Bishop was saying this to mature adults. Two of my kids are grown now, a daughter and a son (he’s on a mission); neither have ever been asked about masturbation, not Bishops, SPs, MP’s, nobody. When I was growing up Bishops obsessed about it. Obviously, some still do.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 21, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

  19. What the h does “necking” mean? (Laura, this question is not directed at you) Is it making out? Or is it just rubbing your neck against hers? Or is there some other thing they did BACK IN THE 50′s when they came up with these stupid terms? “Petting”? Come on folks. Can’t we say “making out”, “fondling genitalia”, and “masturbation”? The less frank we are about it the less they are going to understand what’s wrong and what’s okay. Not until I was in 10th grade was I taught that there are things outside of sex that were wrong.

    Comment by Rusty — July 21, 2005 @ 7:14 pm

  20. Laura,
    That is a lamentable situation. If the bishop indeed said “anything that arouses sexual feelings is wrong and you should discontinue it.” he was out of line. Sexual feelings are healthy for both married and non-married people. If you are not attracted to a mate, why would you ever get involved with one?

    However, I imagine there were other issues keeping you from returning to church, which is truly sad (as dumb as some bishops are, I hope you would be able to overlook a stray comment by a well-meaning bishop, knowing that he’s not the Church). Hopefully you can see, by reading all these blogs, that we’re all just people trying to do what’s right and we screw up and say dumb things sometimes. Some of us more than others.

    Comment by Rusty — July 21, 2005 @ 7:27 pm

  21. Was the bishop wrong in saying what he did? Funny; I’ve heard the prophet and apoltles say the exact same words. If you kinow a loophole for singles in the Church, I am millions of others would love to hear it. It really would be great if there were a Law of Chastity exemption for married. What’s okay for singles these days: prolonged makeouts? oral sex? showers?

    Singles are not stupid. When the change was made from “sexual intercourse” to “sexual relations” it was obviously a way to prohibit anything in the “gray areas”, often at a bishop’s discretion. If the bishop of a (single’s) ward said that a ward member should confess to masturbation, and the member disrespects his position despite belief in his authority, that causes major dissonance, or at very least undermines the bishop’s role.

    Obviously, even kissing can be sexual (i.e. a “sexual relation”. We who grew up under President Kimball’s insistence that kisses between unmarried people should be like that of a “mother to a son” have a lot of anger and sexual issues engendered by the dear of Church itself.

    Are Rusty and Steve admitting that everything up until intercourse is okay for singles? If that’s what you’re saying, nominate yourselves for prophet and first counselor, because no one else is telling the singles these things. Every singles ward I’ve been a member of has had these “chastity talks” years or twice a year–UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE STAKE PRESIDENCY–in which the leadership insists that older singles are under the same rules as teenagers except for the group dating part. The only way to tell the bishop he’s full of it and to take back self respect is to stop being treated like a child and stop going going to church since that’s where the juvenile treatment occurs.

    no, it’s not some “rogue bishop” that made me “inactive.” It’s the refusal of the church to acksnowledge that it creates difficulties for those who don’t fit the Mormon norm, including singles of all ages who are expected to be asexual.

    Comment by Laura — July 22, 2005 @ 8:54 am

  22. I meant “an exemption for the UNmarried”

    Comment by Laura — July 22, 2005 @ 8:55 am

  23. Laura,
    First of all a clarification: I’m not (nor do I think Steve EM is, but you never know with Steve EM) admitting everything up until intercourse is okay for singles. What I was complaining about was that we use words like “petting” and “necking” that don’t mean anything to Austin Powers-watching teenagers. The terms are stupid and outdated. That’s not to say that I think those actions are permissible, just that they don’t communicate well. Hence, the fact that I wasn’t taught that “petting” was wrong until high school.

    I would never claim to fully understand the Law of Chastity and its ancillary rules. However, I believe that Christ’s admonission in the Sermon on the Mount that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” is the source of our ideas of what is wrong and what is right. The reason I suggested the bishop was out of line was because he said “anything that arouses sexual feelings” That’s quite different than lust. You can kiss without lust, but it’s hard to imagine breast fondling without lust.

    Either way, it’s a difficult thing to ask of a single adult. You should know, however, that the Church creates difficulties for those who DO fit the Mormon norm. We all have things we struggle with.

    Comment by Rusty — July 22, 2005 @ 10:10 am

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