Love Verses Lust

I have at home a devotional address, which President Kimball gave to the Young Adults, (18–26 year olds) at Manti, Utah, on July 10th 1974 entitled ‘Love verses Lust.’ It is available on the Internet as a free PDF (that awfully scary place where we may encounter distorted truth, so be careful!) If you are a member of the Church and have read or heard this talk when you were about that age, you will be forgiven for believing that every word was appropriate and all his remarks in keeping with a mouthpiece of God – a man trying to teach us true principles of moral integrity and purity of heart. For myself, I came upon it with utter amazement and astonishment after the wisdom and experience of a long and wonderful marriage.

If I had not known who had written the ‘The Miracle of Forgiveness,’ and had needed a few clues – this awful address would have indeed disclosed the personality and dysfunction of the man who wrote it.

The scene he sets forth is of a young single couple who had come into his office, because they had committed fornication a few times. He started very carefully to remind his audience about the importance of words. Indeed, he takes an inordinate amount of time and attention to emphasize how the “correct” use of words enables a communicator to convey a precise meaning, so that those whom we may be communicating with (in this case, his audience) will not misunderstand the message. He then embarks on a demoralising rant and an unjustified demolition of the character of these two single people. He infers that they too (the audience) would completely understand the “precise” meaning of the words Lust and Love.

Let me take you through his crude and blunt analysis of their character and his incredibly naive and superficial judgement of their feelings for each other. Firstly, this couple – from his description, were in love. He says they were nervous, embarrassed – even a little terrified.

Surprise, surprise… even at their age, these young Mormons would have known full well how strict the Church was and how leaders would sniff out every detail of their unchastity and forgive or punish accordingly. The possibility of their conduct becoming public to the congregation would be really worrying to them. Apparently they came (according to Kimball) with a “defensive” attitude. They loved each other and felt their sexual union was a reflection of that love.

Even before Spencer W. Kimball launches into his bullish attack on these two youngsters, he summarises to the BYU audience his definition of “Love and Lust” by equating each word respectively with “Life and Death.” That was his first fundamental mistake. Always, or at very least, far too frequently, Mormonism swings crudely between two extremes – black or white, good and evil. It rarely ever deals with, acknowledges or appreciates the greys areas where most of us live and struggle. Mormonism is blind and remains in denial of the Real world.

Just for a moment, we can forget about the word Love, because we all agree it is good and desirable, even though it has also been ill used and misunderstood. No, we will look at the word “Lust,” which Kimball defines as “evil” (death). What I found reprehensible about his nasty address was his unforgivable character assassination of this couple. He describes all their motives – all their feelings and all their sentiments to be cheap and selfish. They are to be completely characterised “BY LUST.” That, in itself, is an assault on what they were not. It is what I have said the Church always does to you – it makes you feel like you ARE your sins.

Apparently, they could do nothing right, nor have any justification, because “everything” stemmed from their lust. All black and no white – not even a smidge of grey. Even the colour grey set beside jet black can look so mercifully like “white.” Kimball does not see it. He is totally blinded by his own inner distortions and scrupulosity. He allows nothing to pierce his dull and lifeless generosity, except Black. No couple in their situation are that darkthat loveless and that selfish. Why could not even Kimball acknowledge that love contains complex feelings that will include not only lust (desire) but selfless devotion, sacrifice, commitment, loyalty and profound aspirations – all mixed up together?

Like too many people with his type of disgust and abhorrence of all matters sexual – he is “taken over” by his unassailable scrupulosity. And I do not mean he was screaming and shouting and out of control. No, he was cool and measured, but he manifests a repeatedly dysfunctional failure to see the real picture – the whole picture. How much better it would have been for him to try instead to stand back from the rush and clamour to throw stones—so common in all of us, where we level judgements and criticism based on an “ever so correct” assumption of what we judge to be right or wrong. Kimball’s blindness to the greys – the realities of life (the light within the darkness) is a sad reflection of all Mormons, even within my own family. When you have exacting views about the standards of morality or what God expects and what ultimate salvation demands, then you start to see too much repugnance in those with whom you should see less. Ingrained Mormonism should engender tolerance, understanding and compassion – leading to rapid acceptance. That is what you would hope for, but I’m afraid the prejudice against an ex-member, or in this case, an unrepentant couple, will show itself. This does not mean that the likes of President Kimball had no “kindness,” “compassion,” or “love”…. they do, but it is constrained, or can I say: “hampered” under the influence of indoctrination, which places extraordinary and over-weighted gravity upon the importance of virtue, purity, endurance, and obedience, etc., etc.

Kimball’s attitude and response to this couple reminds me of something the late Reverend Jessop said in his book: ‘Law and Love’…

“Concern for the perfect cleanliness of one’s soul is the bridge that leads from Puritanism at its best to Puritanism at its worst. The righteousness of duty is never further than an inch from self-righteousness.”

Kimball uses a verse from Titus in the bible, to describe the hearts of these two lovers as “defiled”… “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure…”

How stupid. He, himself, fulfils that verse, because he appears ill equipped or incapable of noticing the slightest vision of where their hearts (on a deeper level) resided. He cannot, or will not see them, because he is concerned with precept not people – he just sees their sin… and its repugnance! Apparently, what these two youngsters say and what they feel, is sin. With key figures that have lead the Church and instructed it on how to understand and deal with our own sexuality, no wonder so many got messed up. He was the one who was “defiled” for his utter failure to see them as “whole” people and his utter failure to discern any form of purity, goodness or beauty within their character and love, despite their fornication. He saw only filth and sin and this booklet is a testament to the state of Kimball’s mind and the deficiency of his Church.

Jessop further described a strange contradiction, which he refers to as: the badness of goodness.’ It is the very thing that the Christ hated in the Pharisee’s and is personified in the very mindset and methods inculcated in men like Spencer W Kimball. His kind of “goodness” becomes “badness,” because its harshness goes into hypocritical overkill. This is how Jessop put it:

“Is there anything so implacable as moral rigour? In its secular form it is harsh enough, but when it is part of a religious life, deriving its sanctions from God, it can be inexorable to the point of fiendishness. It was goodness combined with god­liness, construing its absolute moral laws as divine commandments, and thereby rousing the most tremendous emotions we are capable of to sustain obedience, that enabled the Inquisitors to send their victims to the stake with the inhumanly pious formula, “We burn their bodies to save their souls“, and that led Calvin also to procure the execution of fellow-citizens. I do not think that all the Inquisitors and Calvin had no human affections. They found high reasons for suspend­ing them. They had a view of life that made particular affection often wrong and general duty always right. In them moral rigorism showed its perfect fruit, goodness consistently leading to bad­ness.” (Emphasis mine)

Kimball starts with a monumental failure to appreciate the context of Love and how it also contains lust. Church people may not like that word – it will sound uncomfortable in their ears, but we need to be less prosaic and sanctimonious. The Collins dictionary defines Lust as follows: (1) A strong sexual desire (2) A strong desire or drive and (2) To have a passionate desire. I ask the reader a straight forward question… “why you are here? Why are you alive? Why do you exist?” Answer: you are here, because a man had a “strong sexual desire” toward your mother. CS Lewis once expounded the New Testament verse where Jesus said:

“Have you not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them Male and Female, And said, for THIS CAUSE shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cling to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matthew 19:4-5)

He then asks the question: What was “the cause” of a man leaving his parents to become married to a wife? His answer, was sexual attraction. It is the reason the majority leave our home to find a partner. If you say the reason is love, you would also be correct, yet sexual attraction is at the core of it and is part of that love. Sexual attraction is about “strong desire.”

Unfortunately, everywhere the word Lust is used in scripture, it has negative connotations. For instance: “the Lusts of the flesh . . . the Lust of the eyes,” are all made out to be “bad.” Generally speaking, the bible has a negative and unhealthy view of desire when it is related to our carnality or sexual expression. It is disparaged and warned against. It is seen as an opposite to the attainment of spirituality. This obsession in scripture about our carnality is frankly excessive too. That is why the Catholic faith for centuries has believed sexual pleasure to be morally wrong and dirty. That’s the problem of “men” writing scripture and telling us it came from their god. Read the New Testament letters and I defy anyone to not get a sense of this paranoia? If there is a God, it is a distortion of what He or She would have intended. It is also why Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had the exact same attitude or conditioning about sensuality. They too were exposed to the prevailing Christian culture of their day, except hypocritically, both gave full vent to their lusts by pretending to legitimise polygamy with divine approval.

Once again I ask a question: “Is a strong passionate desire for your partner wrong?” By definition (according to the dictionary) a strong passionate desire must be Lust – it is what you experience when you really fancy your partner or spouse. According to CS Lewis, that is why we were made male and female. We can play with words and get deeply into semantics, but the essence of what I am saying should be apparent. If at least once in any given week you have a very strong sexual desire, then you have lust. If you don’t like the word, then call it by another name, but please do not do what Kimball does – call your desire “love” and somebody else’s “lust,” – just because they have found it harder than you to control it, or because yours is felt inside a marriage and theirs is experienced outside a marriage; it is the same desire.

“But hang on a minute,” I hear you say… “this interview was not with a mature married couple who were worthy and respectful of each other’s deep love, but with two young people who did not know the meaning of love and who were committing fornication?” Yes, but how could they be expected to know the deep meaning of love – they had not been through life yet! They would, in time, know so much more. Only a harsh and ruthless person would disparage whatever level of love they were capable of feeling. Right now they knew sure enough that they were crazy about each other and wanted to be together… every contented middle aged couple started off like that – with beautiful dreams and the willingness to give everything to each other – including passionate physical desire (lust).

We are all the same. Even Kimball in his appalling and bigoted remarks, once had such “lust” for his young wife. The fact that he might have managed to “control himself” before he was married, was lucky for him. How fortunate he had the strength (or lack of passion) to keep himself (and her) intact. But did the “passion” he presumably had after he was married (strong sexual desire – lust) become ok because he was married? Does marriage make lust ok? If this desire is really strong, we might be justified in defining it as Lust. Given that you are still attracted to your spouse or partner – if you say you have “desire” in your marriage, but not lust, then why do you differentiate? Is it because you define lust as a force which always functions and proceeds “selfishly,” without regard to another? Ok, have it your own way – I do not like that form of desire either… it will indeed ruin a relationship before long and should be avoided and controlled. Trouble is, Kimball’s accusation is that they were full of this type of selfish desire and nothing else. According to him, they had not a shred of decency. How well Jessop said that Christ attacked the moral aristocracy and protected bad men from good men. “Christianity,” he said, “is less an exposure of obvious badness than an indictment of obvious “goodness.”

The real truth is this: their “desire” at the moment of fornication, was the same as Kimball’s “desire” on his wedding night. It is the same in all of us and Kimball makes an enormous and fundamental error to label theirs’ as evil and lustful. To say that the desire in a couple who have found it very difficult, or even impossible to control themselves to be only lust (an evil selfish desire) and is the very opposite to a couple who did control themselves, is palpable nonsense and cannot be taken seriously. Here we probably have the biggest Church leader in Mormonism’s history, (at least in my lifetime) betraying the very Nature and capacity of a young couple in a blistering attack, and further – in a denial of their deeper integrity. If there exists a sin in their fornication (and I do not believe there is) it did not give him the right to tar every EMOTION, every DESIRE and every MOTIVATION within this couple, with the same brush. His crass inability to sense, celebrate and encourage their innate goodness was totally wiped out in his vicious attack.

Why is that… why would he do that? It is because men like Kimball can only see immorality as “utter defilement,” or “repugnance” (In Mormonism it has always been defined as next to murder) He could only see depravity. His terrible description of all their motives indicates clearly he did notbelieve” in them could not believe one shred in their love… could not see, salvage or acknowledge even a small drop of their vast unknown reservoir of love. Ironically, I remind you of the scripture he quoted them, which seems so much more apt for him… “but unto them that are defiled and UNBELIEVING is nothing pure…” Kimball could not BELIEVE in their love, because he was blinded by the perception of their defilement. It was nothing more than a projection of himself.

Ok, suppose this lust was tempered and controlled with common sense, compassion and sensitivity – does it equate nearer to Love… might it then be called love? If lust was always selfish and indifferent to a partner, I would hate it too. It is absurd for Kimball to accuse this couple of that kind of lust, just because it might have been difficult for them to control that particular desire before marriage. Of course, it may not have been difficult – it might have been a free and willing choice? It makes no difference.

If I powerfully desire my wife or partner the day before we are due to be married – as opposed to the day after… is that lust and therefore bad? Kimball says it is. I can understand a churchman saying their actions were wrong, but he defines their motives and desires as EVIL. So then, we must all be evil – all our sexual desires are bad? Strong or weak, sexual desire is a normal biological urge whether before or after a wedding. If it is to be classified as intrinsically evil and selfish before marriage, then it must be intrinsically evil after marriage. For Kimball to go on about their corrupt desires (lust) is like saying the urge to eat, sleep or drink, is evil. It is not evil – it is normal and healthy.

For some to capitulate before their wedding has nothing to do with “selfishness,” but much more to do with weakness, or indeed, a determined free choice, which contains no weakness at all – and no guilt! Weakness does not make a person evil and it most certainly does not contaminate their entire outlook and character. That is what the Church did to me – it screwed me up inside and made me feel depraved – unloved and unworthy of God. It still does it today to the unlucky souls it is supposed to care for. Unfortunately, Kimball makes himself perfectly clear in this booklet that biological urges and pleasures should not be the substantive reason or justifications for sex. He bangs the drum of procreation like the earlier polygamists of the Church – an old worn out view from the “sex is dirty” generation.

Fundamentally, what is the difference between a strong sexual desire the day before a couple is married and the day after? None. That fornication (sex before marriage) may be inappropriate in a biblical sense, did not sully the motives, intentions and the feelings of that couple. They may, or may not have guilt, but their very real hearts and the love they share, may be no different to the couple who manage (according to Kimball) to have complete selflessness and no lust in their relationship before marriage. Indeed, their level of devotion may, or may not, be greater. Weakness or strength is not a barometer of goodness or depth of love.

Most couples in the church who experience such overwhelming desires, just about manage to keep a lid on it. They do not want to spoil the prospect of their wedding day being postponed because they have confessed some sin to their bishop as they go to him for a temple recommend, without which you cannot enter the temple. If a couple do have some moral problems before their wedding day, does that mean they are “selfish” or “depraved”? According to Kimball – yes it does. In fact the language he uses to describe them and those who do such things and have such feelings are a shuddering disgrace to the Church he represented. His language and attitude alone is an affront to love. It is a paranoid madness. I can barely stomach the defiling words printed in his address! This man has been nowhere and learnt nothing. He was born in the wrong dispensation. I repeat, he would have been a perfect choice for a judge in the medieval courts of the Inquisition – as Jessop said: “goodness consistently leading to bad­ness.”   

I cannot, and would not argue that for members of the Church to have sex before marriage is not to break a biblical commandment and Church law. I would not dispute Present Kimball’s right to inform the couple they had violated Church teaching and one of Gods commandments… they knew that anyway, but what Kimball did was to alienate or separate the qualities of this couple and portray them as individuals devoid of true love, because they were having a sexual relationship. What madness. He describes them as beings of negative and destructive energies – because of their lust. Love was impossible. In his mind, they could not possibly have possessed a deep loving regard for each other, or possessed self control in many other important areas, or selflessness, or appreciation, or tenderness, or respect – because they had too much passion!

They have to be demonised. It is always extremes – black or white – completely pure or utterly depraved – righteous or wicked. On page 14 of this booklet he contrasts their lust with the virtues of love and its many attributes – as if this young couple had never experienced such attributes and feelings. He forces this couple to view their lust as a poison, which has corroded and corrupted all their other virtues, or as if they never had them to start with! He accomplished in this interview and with the BYU audience, what he did in the Miracle of Forgiveness – he makes people feel totally and thoroughly bad about themselves.

I think back to the time when I went with my wife-to-be and had our interview with our Mormon Branch President and subsequently, our stake leaders, in order to obtain our worthiness ‘recommend’ to enter the temple to be sealed. We got through by the skin of our teeth. I could not say “yes” to the question: “Are you morally clean?” yet neither were we guilty of fornication.

I do not genuinely remember what I said, but I do remember the Branch President was new and seemed inept and embarrassed with our confessions. He said it did not matter – we were all human. We got our recommends. Whether I lied to my stake leaders I simple cannot remember. (And that’s the truth) As painful and as awful as it would have been – I would have lied to anyone to protect my fiancée from the devastation of not being able to be sealed on the appointed day, because the whole world knew and were invited to the wedding! As I have already said, being barred from the temple sends a message to everyone ‘you are unworthy’ – ‘you have been naughty.’ Everyone knows. I think I could have hacked it, but the love and regard I felt for my fiancée made me so worried about her and the impact it would have upon her. She did not deserve it. Actually, neither of us did, but I could not see it at the time. The guilt you feel is loaded and magnified by just being a Mormon. Indoctrination always makes you feel that way – makes you feel dirty. We felt guilt out of all proportion to reality.

People like Kimball tell you that this crime is “next to murder,” as did elder Packer at April 2011 conference. They tell you it will eat you up all your life and leave a scar that will never heal. At the time of our temptations I remember thinking with a sense of terrible regret… ‘I just want us to be 6 months ahead of where we are now.’ But mixed with the guilt was tremendous aspirations, hopes, dreams and worthy intentions. Not only was I passionate, I was also selfless, devoted and prepared to sacrifice anything to make her happy. I had lust and genuine love. I KNOW what that couple felt like. Would we live and feel this scar all ours days? Would our conduct haunt our future and bring many tears and bitter regrets? According to everything I have ever read or heard from conferences and from the pulpit, it would. What fools they were!. Now I look back with the advantage of time and experience. Where did these people come from who scared the pants off us and drugged us with obsessions of self loathing and near despair? What idiots they all were! How stupid I was to trust them with my life and soul!

Love is so powerful and life is so wonderful, you don’t stay in one place or any place – you move forward and upward without looking back and enjoy the entire experience ahead of you. Being with my wife was so astounding and so exciting that this past episode seemed like mere teething. If you want scars and bitter regrets you will have them. If you don’t, they just fly away! Those men, who spoke for God at the Salt Lake conferences and at our local chapels, regularly warned us of the regret, the scars, and the burden of guilt we would drag down the years of our lives. They were totally false – the fear-mongers and gloom-merchants, and we were dim-witted enough to believe them!

You don’t have to believe and trust everything they tell you. Your own heart and soul will be a better guidance system for you than the rubbish you will hear at Church. Conscience is not intrinsically pure – it can be twisted and distorted into guilt by anyone at any time – including yourself. Looking into your heart, is not looking for what is evil and shunning it, it is looking for goodness and love – looking for what feels lovely, and choosing it. The fact that it might offend a Church leader, a relative or even scripture, is irrelevant.