Thursday, June 30, 2005

Living in sin

As I mentioned in passing on the Millennial Star marriage statistic thread, my wife and I lived together for four years before we got married. This was one reason I didn't bother going to church during my seven-year dry spell. Not because I felt particularly guilty, but because I knew I was pretty much a persona non grata until I got married.

If I ever go back to church seriously, I suppose I'd have to clear this up with the Bishop. The only problem is that I don't think I did anything horribly wrong. I don't want to be TMI guy here, so let's just say that my wife is and was the only woman for me. Ever. And now we're married, so what's the big deal? The only difference between us and a Temple-attending celestial couple is the date the marriage ceremony was performed.

Don't get me wrong, I don't advocate sex before marriage, but I find it hard to condemn if it occurs in a serious, long-term relationship (with proper precautions). Mormons generally can't have serious, long-term relationships that aren't marriages. I honestly can't say if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

It just seems a little silly to me that unlimited NCMOs are a-ok, but my wife and I are guilty of the 3rd worst sin possible.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

REPENT!! Ye heathen! You're looking at Telestial Glory (sans wife) unless you repent!

Pris said...

I've never understood why many LDS seem to have a hard time with grey areas, with the middle ground. All or nothing, seems to be the mantra.

And the fascination with sex--that's probably why. Remember that M* thread on sleeping with someone else? I guess if you're living with your bf/gf then sex is more likely.

If it turns out that anonymous is right, we should look each other up in the telestial kingdom and throw back a few. Or go bowling in one of those smoke-free ones they got up there.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ned. It's kind of crazy, isn't it? NCMO is perfectly fine, but sleeping with one's fiance one hour before the temple sealing is almost as bad as murder.

I also see no reason why someone should "repent" of something for which they feel no sorrow or remorse. Why, exactly, is sex on the wrong date with the right person such a damnable offense? Doesn't make sense.

m said...

if this is really the way you view the situation then you're never going to fit in w/ mormonism. most of them/us can't deal w/ the gray areas of life, but rather want to have what is right and wrong specifically spelled out for them. and unfortunately for you, it has been clearly spelled out that for what you did YOU'RE ON THE HIGHWAY TO HELL. and i believe it's been taught that people in the lower kingdoms will be assexual, so have fun in the eternities w/ no nads.

Rusty said...

I don't think those who have posted here are giving the Church a fair shake. If it makes you feel good to say "REPENT!" like a preacher and exaggerate the difference between NCMO and fornication, by all means, please continue. But I would imagine a much more interesting conversation could ensue if we discussed the actual issue.

HP said...

Ned,
To be honest, I don't think that you are in a lot of "trouble" for all of that "sinning". At least, unless you consider it sinning.
By this, I don't mean that people can get out of the destructive effects of sin by just redefining it in their head, but rather I think that, at this point, there is nothing to repent of. For that matter, if you were a non-member looking to be baptized, all they would say to you is to get married so that you could get baptized. I don't exactly know why the policy would be different with less-active members (you don't have to be rebaptized, but I also doubt that you have to endure a church court).

Anonymous said...

Everybody makes different mistakes, but don't try and rationalize your way out of it. One of the ten commandments, right? I don't see much wiggle room there. The Lord will not justify what he has specifically commanded against, even if you can find plenty of other people to tell you that you did nothing wrong.

KB

Anonymous said...

INteresting. If what John says is accurate, they should post a note on all the bulletin boards of the singles' wards:

NOTICE: If you marry the person you are now sleeping with (if you are) and wait a few years, you will be under no condemnation whatsoever. If you are not currently sleeping with someone--try it, you'll like it! Just make sure to eventually marry the person and all will be forgiven. No confession or repentance necessary.

Your brethren,
Gordon B. Hinckley et al

Anonymous said...

It's all about covenants people. If you are a MEMBER when you fornicate with someone, you've violated a pretty serious covenant. You may say you didn't know what you were agreeing to when you were 8. Tough s***.

NONMEMBERS who are fornicating can be forgiven easily before baptism mostly because they did not fornicate in violation of an explicit promise to obey God's commandments. If you say that's unfair, again, tough s***. Where much is given, much is required.

Steve (FSF) said...

Ned,
As an endowed RM serial fornicator who went through a stake court before marriage by a bishop to an active LDS gal I'd been sleeping w/ for about a year, I know from my own experience that church courts are just doing paper work that has almost nothing to do with the private metaphysical phenomenon of forgiveness by the grace of JC. My confession to a Bishop and a Stake court did help us because the whole church leadership was then geared to help us prepare for temple marriage after the church marriage. This was a major surprise to me because I was expecting to get ex’d and have to get married by a judge.

In your case, you’re already married and your wife isn’t LDS. What is talking to your Bishop suppose to accomplish? Just get your ass back to church were it belongs. Drag your wife along too. The Bishop and SP have more important stuff to worry about than something you already repented of long ago.

HP said...

It's rare that I agree with SFSF, but he summed up my point better than I did. I just don't think that God is terribly angry with you about this point at this point. You seem to have gone through whatever repentance process was necessary.

Now, obviously, I am no judge. I don't know you terribly well and I don't know a darn thing about your situation. If you are worried about it, you should probably talk to your bishop about it. And there is a case to be made that you should be worried about it. But I just have my doubts that you are going to be excommunicated over this at this point (I am not sure what that would accomplish; especially when they will likely be happy enough to have you in the seats).

To the various anons, I am not treating Ned's "sin" lightly (even if I put it in quotes). Ned's salvation is something that he has to work out between himself, God, his wife, and the church in something probably like that order. I don't know the circumstances or Ned's thoughts/beliefs during the process (nor do I really know them today) so I am reluctant to tell him to REPENT!!

Regarding the likelihood of my advice swaying the brethren to loosen the boundaries of pre-marital sex, I doubt it. I don't think that sign accurately reflects my point nor do I think that sign would make good policy. I was speaking to my understanding of a specific case, I was not talking to the church at large. In any case, my experience is that God is very forgiving and I don't see the need to add extra condemnation on anyone where it isn't warranted.

Ned, do what you gotta. Don't be afraid of the bishop, generally speaking they are good people doing an incredibly tough job as best they can and generally speaking they are compassionate folk. I don't know why I am saying this, because I actually think you know it. Maybe it is to appease the anons before they arrange som sort of church court for me.

Benjamin said...

I've been reading for the past couple of weeks, and it seems like a lot of the time, all the doctrine chat just serves to get Ned down and make everyone else feel supremely righteous for having an opinion.

Religion shouldn't be a tool you use to feel ashamed of yourself or anything you do. If something you do is bad, you'll feel bad; if not, you won't. Old men in Utah will tell you what they think you should be feeling about it, but if you're at peace, it's pointless. A connection with God is to be inner peace, or a sense of self and right and wrong, not some checklist of what you can and can't do.

If you had premarital sex... big deal. It worked out that you got married, but even if you hadn't, it's not like you were giving God the finger. You have a body, you used it, and it wasn't a cheap experience. Isn't the act of being alive what we're supposed to be here for? I'm not saying it's time to quit the day job and go score some heroin, but still. Endless self-denial is just as bad as Hell.

My advice is just as meaningless as everyone else's in this particular comment section. Find your own way, and don't let the rest of the church members try to shove you into finding theirs.

Anonymous said...

I'm the "anonymous" who suggested the bulletin board notice for singles ward, and I wasn't kidding, either.

Since this is a loophole in the sin/repentance area, we should make all singles in the Church aware of it. There are hundreds of singles for every Ned Flanders--hundreds, thousands of single LDS who can no longer abide the hell of enforced celibacy, sleep with or live with their significant others, and if they marry them, where's the sin????????????????

It seems that the Church wants people to repent of stupid things--drinking coffee, paying nine percent instead of ten, and sleeping with one's spouse before the actual wedding ceremony. All are equally trivial activities.

If the fornicator doesn't marry the spouse, what's the big deal if s/he is a grown adult who has protected sex? What is so sinful about that?

The Church infantilizes its members to an alarming degree. It expects its unmarried adults--from age 18 to death--to run snotnosed and crying to the bishop if they ever have a sexual experience up until the marriage date. Well, what if marriage never happens?

It's cruel and implausible to expect that healthy adult men and women are going to remain completely abstinent for the rest of their lives unless they find someone to get sealed to in the temple.

Singles should be told up front that there's "no harm, no foul" if they play around for a while and then return to full fellowship after a few years.

...Or does that exception only apply to Ned (and Steve FSF)? If so, why?

HP said...

Anon,
The rule is that there are no loopholes in sin/repentance. That is the only rule. Of all my babbling, I never implied that and still don't. There are no loopholes in sin/repentance.

Stephanie said...

Jesus recognized we're all sinners. Who is to say someone who does not keep the Sabbath Day holy is better off than someone who has sex with her boyfriend?
The Church, that's who. Not God or Jesus.

If we are Christian, we need to focus on CHRIST not on the rules of the Church.

More importantly, I feel bad for my Mormon friends who never had the opportunity to have a serious relationship before marriage. You don't necessarily have to have sex with someone before you're married, but many Mormons can't control themselves sexually in order to have a long term relationship before marriage.

Marriage is so much more than sex, but to many Mormons, sex is all that matters. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah, but there *is* that loophole.

If repentance involves regret, remorse, restitution, confession,etc.--

1. What reason would anyone have to regret having slept with one's spouse prior to marriage?

2. Why would anyone show remorse for it?

3. Restitution?

4. What's there to confess? That the timing was wrong?

I've never heard of anyone undergoing Church discipline for sleeping with someone before the marriage. As long as one is now married, "all is forgiven".

Anonymous said...

And furthermore, if one sleeps around and then goes inactive for a while, the Church welcomes you back with open arms. If someone felt bad about it and if it's a private matter between him/her and God, why would this even need to be discussed with a bishop? Why should an adult talk to another adult (most likely a stranger) about his/her sex life?

The Church is more concerned about getting people on missions and avoiding teen pregnancy. It really couldn't care less about 20-, 30-, 40- something singles and what they do behind closed doors.

It's nobody's business.

Anonymous said...

Sucks if they break the engagement, though! Then what?!

Anonymous said...

The Church doesn't hound people who fornicate and then disappear for a while before coming back to activity. They don't require a confession to the bishop after a long hiatus away.

At this point, the church is just happy to see people in the pews. I wouldn't be surprised if they did away with bishops' interviews and kangaroo courts in the very near future (except for outgoing missionaries, that is--they want to make sure the elders can stay away from girls (or boys) for two whole years, heeheee)

kodos said...

We might say that we think ANY sex outside of marriage is a sin "next to murder," but in practice I think people recognize that some violations are much more "sinful" than others.

For example, there are many couples who live as man and wife though unmarried. Often they are unable to marry because one is already married and can't obtain a legal divorce (for example, their legal spouse might be in Mexico and not locatable.) In these cases, the person may or may not be able to get baptized (depending on local policy), but in any case they are not shunned or told to separate from their families. The idea that what they are doing is almost as bad as actually murdering someone is so silly that, fortunately, few people take it seriously.

Dave said...

The truth is that most Bishops are pretty reasonable men who, while they feel constrained by Mormon doctrine from actually granting forgiveness of sins, nevertheless exercise a good deal of compassion. The biggest problems we encounter are our fellow Saints (many of whom slavishly obey the first commandment of Mormonism, 'Judge thy neighbor') and ourselves. We are often our own worst critic.

Steve (FSF) said...

Guys,
For background, I do often wonder if the LDS church going over board on the sex thing as our backlash against polygamy. In other words, so that members wouldn’t get the idea that “ok, legal polygamy is out, but that means adultery is now just underground polygamy and ok”. I also question our taking a biblical standard that came from a time of pre-pubescent arranged marriages where people were already married before their libidos kicked in and the way we apply it to today when most people marry out of love in their twenties. Now that’s just dumb.

But to clarify, there is no free ride here and, as I’ve commented elsewhere in the Bloggernacle, my church court didn’t consider me unpunished. When I was ready for marriage and first returned to church, I expected to be ex'd and have to get married by a judge because I was temple endowed, had served a mission, was a serial fornicator and my wife to be was active LDS (unendowed) and we had been sleeping together for about a year. But the church leaders said no, that was not to be the plan for my recovery; I was told that by my actions I had already suffered excommunication long ago and there was no need for the church to formally repeat the process. They added my confession and request for a church marriage showed sincere repentance. An immediate marriage by the Bishop would get us out the sinful situation and activity as husband and wife in the church would prepare us for temple marriage down the road.

In other words, I was ex’d, just not officially.

steve (fsf) said...

Oh, the sin next to murder thing is obvious hyperbole. Even an adulterous affair isn’t as bad as rape, child molestation, armed robbery, mugging, etc. There are plenty of horrible sins between adultery and murder. And fornication, isn’t on the same level as adultery. And what are our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters supposed to do, be celibate their whole lives? I really blow a gasket when someone says masturbation is the sin next to murder; imagine putting that kind of sick guilt trip on some poor kid who doesn’t know any better.

Crew Koos said...

i like that !! congratulations

Anonymous said...

But once again, what kind of contrition should someone show if s/he is not repentant? Why should someone who's been married for years repent for having slept with the person who's now his/her spouse on the wrong day (i.e. before marriage)?

It makes absolutely no sense to call this a "sin"--what's sinful about it?

Any God who'd demand excommunication (even if the person "excommunicated himself" is a royal a--hole if you ask me!).

Steve (FSF) said...

anon,
That was my point in my first comment. Ned's already repented. It's now a private matter between he, his wife and JC.

When my wife to be dragged me back to church after I'd proposed, I had a lot of baggage that needed to be cleaned up. No court was held for her (she was unendowed). Had we come back to church post marriage, I'm not sure I/we would have had anything to confess that church authorities could have help us with.

Anonymous said...

But I'm wondering why repentance is even a question--whether or not they ever got married. If they don't regret it, but just feel it's something they "need to do"--why do it? Why talk to a bishop or even feel sorry at all?!

People "repent" of things in this Church that they have no business feeling "sorry" for. Repentance implies regret and contrition.

What's to regret?

NFlanders said...

First, I want to thank all of you who commented. I wasn't expecting such a large response.

I think I agree with John C. and S(FSF) that it isn't really necessary to go to the bishop unless I am planning a return to full activity. The poor guy probably has enough on his plate without worrying about my old sins. Avoiding a Church court was one of the reasons I stayed away during my inactive years; I guess I didn't realize that it was still a possibility. I wouldn't dredge all this up unless I wanted to start over again at church.

Part of the problem is that I really haven't resolved my own feelings about this. Obviously, I don't think shacking up was a great thing to do, but I've certainly done a lot worse things in my life (that don't require confession to the bishop).

I think I am still realizing that I have to take a lot more responsibility in my life. I can't just rely on someone else to tell me what is right and wrong and what to do to fix it. I have to figure out a lot of stuff on my own and start living my life accordingly.

Maybe someday I will come to the conclusion that I've committed a serious sin and will want to do something about it. Maybe I'll write it off as no big deal and forget about it.

I guess it doesn't matter what kingdom you're aimed for as long as you good about what you're doing.

NFlanders said...

Err, I meant to write, "[b]feel[/b] good about what you're doing."

Pris-- As long as there is bowling, it will be heaven enough for me.

Steve (FSF) said...

anon,
I'm not sure if you're LDS or not, and either way that's cool. There may be some merit to your position, but the temple endowed LDS member has covenanted to a certain standard of sexual conduct (which was raised somewhat ~1990), which if violated, and not repented of, really does preclude full fellowship in the church, be it a self imposed exile or a church imposed one. Many have gone through this and know what I’m talking about. There was no way I was going back to church until I was married, just couldn’t do it. No way!

Also, in my case, before I was married, some of my romantic relationships may have fallen into the category you're talking about, but many of my relationships were casual and some were downright awful. The casual/awful ones were definitely unholy.

Steve (FSF) said...

Ned,
If you think you need to confess to return to full activity, by all means do. My point was that I don't see confession as necessary for something you already have repented of. That doesn't mean I'm right in your case. In any event, I didn't mean to imply you shouldn't get your ass back to church -- you should. And forgiveness? JC does that, not his earthly organization.

Scarlett said...

Hi, Ned - I think you shouldn't give this a second thought. Don't get caught up in all this religious mumbo jumbo. You sound like you're a great guy - you love your wife and are trying to live your life and be happy.

Go out there and have a wonderful Fourth of July. Seriously, all this talk about murder and eternal damnation is way out of line. The older I get, the more I agree with Freud that religious belief is a neurosis. Get some therapy and get out. (please don't attack me personally, this is what I believe).

NFlanders said...

Don't worry, Scarlett, all viewpoints are welcome here. I definitely think that a religion is only good as long as it helps you to be happy.

While there are certain facets of Mormonism that have made me unnecessarily unhappy, I don't think I'm ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Rebekah said...

Hey, I like your blog and noticed you commenting on mine quite a bit. Thanks for doing so, by the way! I'm writing in hope that you'll place approachingzion.blogspot.com as a link b/c we need more people like you commenting! Seriously! That's just a harmless suggestion and I'll understand if we don't make the cut!

And, I've got to say I find your postings very thought-provoking. Keep on keepin' on! :)

NFlanders said...

Thanks, Rebekah. I think you are the voice of reason over there at AZ. I have added it to my blogroll.

Anonymous said...

Ned,

Without going into details, I can tell you that I was in a roughly similar situation some years ago. In my experience, and in talking to several other people, it seems that a disciplinary court is quite unlikely in your case. My bishop at the time didn't make me reread The Miracle of Forgiveness or show massive amounts of sorrow/contrition. I didn't take the sacrament for a little while, and didn't go to the temple for a year. That was about it. Then I just moved on. I'm now an active, pillar-of-the-ward type... If you want, it can happen to you, too...

Anonymous said...

Also, I'm fascinated by the castration obsession some of the other anonymous commenters seem to have.

mellancollyeyes said...

Ned,

I don't think you have as much to worry about as you think. In my experiences, going to talk to the Bishop is a lot less freaky than I imagine it to be.

That being said, sure, the "rules" say that you could run the risk of being ex'd. I've gone to the Bishop a few times, pretty fricking sure I'd get ex'd since I was a repeat offender on the same issues. But, what my experience has been is that if you are honestly making an effort to come back to church (as was the case in my examples), then the Bishop will acknowledge that and that's what's most important. Old sins, while important to deal with, are not the focus of church.

That being said, I'd say there is nothing inherently wrong with any action that the church comes down on, in my opinion (with a few exceptions. Obviously, rape, murder, etc are evil. I'm referring to more usual sins--drinking, sex, etc). Sex between two consenting, responsible adults isn't evil. Drinking wine with an Italian dinner isn't evil. The reason these things are "sins" is not due to their inherent evilness. The sin is in disobedience. No matter what your action is, the sin itself isn't so much the action, but the willful disobedience of a promise made to the Lord. As members, we commit to doing certain things--tithing, abstinence, WoW, etc. No violation of these things strikes me as particularly evil and/or horrendous. We've just promised HF to do our best to follow the things he says to do or not do. It's similar to the parent-child relationship--some of the things they told us not to do weren't terrible. I wasn't allowed to wear makeup until I was 16. Is it evil or horrible to wear it before 16? Obviously not. But, had I worn it before 16 (which, I did, secretly! Oops!) I would be violating something that my mother told me not to do and I would have to deal with the consequences.

So it is with sin, in my opinion. Barring some of the obviously horrible things, child abuse, etc, sinning isn't the action, it's the disobedience. The guilt shouldn't come from the act itself (in your case, sleeping with your wife who you married and love) but rather, if you feel guilt it should be due to disobedience. That's what you repent of.

I wouldn't worry too much about it. Usually, people who have premarital sex are urged to marry their sexual partner in order to keep them with one partner and whatnot. Therefore, you've already taken care of that. If you want to go back to church ever, I'd say don't focus so much on this aspect of it. You slept with your wife...eh...whatev. All that matters is how you feel about your relationship with HF and if you feel that the years you were disobedient are ones that cause you to feel remorseful or not and if it affects your relationship with HF.

NFlanders said...

adrianne--

Interesting analysis. I guess I've always thought of sins as inherently evil, and I become confused when confronted with things that obviously aren't.

My question is why we have these rules if they aren't all that important. Is it to protect people who would abuse them?

I think the biggest crises in my testimony occur when the church clamps down on something I don't consider a sin. Some things I just don't think God cares about.

mellancollyeyes said...

Well, for example, we were talking about drinking and the WoW in relief society one day and we talked about how it ISN'T awful to drink a glass of wine or a beer every now and then. But, as the old saying goes, no one knows they will be an alcholic on the first drink. There is no way of predicting (not any sure way) of who will be an alcoholic and who won't, etc.

I think it's the same with all the "sins" that don't seem that serious. It's more of a protection from ourselves rather than an inherent evilness in any of the actions themselves. All things in moderation, right? But, the problem is (and I think that HF most likely foresaw this problem, hence the crackdown so extreme on things that aren't that bad) is that we live in a consumption society and there is no such thing as moderation.

Take my non-member friends for example. To them, sure, it's no bigs to go on a date or two and then start sleeping with the person. That adds up to a lot of people slept with, which obviously is risky in a physical sense (STDs, etc.). And we know that MOST people are not the best about using birth control or protection against diseases. Now, of course, some people will be 100% diligent, use protection, get tested, and never once have a problem with STDs or unwanted pregnancy. Unfortunately, this is not the case with everyone. Or, sadly, most people.

Same for drinking. My friends can go out, have a beer or two, and have a healthy respect for alcohol. There are those, however, who drink and get trashed, throw up on themselves, blah, blah, blah.

The argument, then, is why don't we just say you can do these things in moderation? In my opinion, the church sets the bar so high as a protection, rather than a limitation (I know that's what they say, too, but, in my mind, it makes sense...). Since there's no way of telling who's the next binge drinker, crack addict, sexaholic, it's best if we just dont' find out at all. So we promise to not do those things. That's where my other idea comes in. These things AREN'T terrible. We COULD do them in moderation if that was the rules. But, the rules are there to ensure I never have to know just what kind of drunk I am (my bet's on "Trashy Girl Dancing On The Bar"), I never have to help my best friend go through the difficult decision of pregnancy and what to do with it, etc. We aren't protected from the badness of the action itself, but the badness within ourselves that we don't know exists.