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PROBLEMS OF THE AGE
Dealing with Religious, Social and Economic Questions and Their Solution.
A Study for the Quorums and Classes of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1917-1918.
By Dr. Joseph M. Tanner
XXII. – Sexual Life
Its Importance in Life. – One of the burning questions of the age, and at the same time one of the consuming evils, is the life-long story of man’s sexual life. It protrudes in all the great historical events of the world, and now that there are in that life such alarming dangers to the happiness and continuity of the race, men and women have thrown off all disguise of modesty, and speak on the subject with a frankness that would have seemed shocking a generation back.
Sexual life is fundamental in our family and social existence. One of the difficulties respecting it arises from the fact that we have come to view it from an entirely false point of view. We speak of it sometimes as a “carnal life,” as a sort of necessary evil, as a fallen condition of which we ought to be ashamed and for which we apologize, and as a sin which we lay at the door of Adam and Eve. And why this shame, this apology? It is no doubt because that life has been the most shamefully abused and most ignorantly approached of all the conditions of our worldly existence.
Duty. – God implanted in all life the powers of procreation, and all life has a three-fold duty: of birth, reproduction, and death. These are the general laws of our existence. Concerning the duty of reproduction, he made to Adam and Eve the announcement of the law that man should not live alone, that he should multiply and replenish the earth.
Man, then, in his mortal condition, became a creator by reason of the sexual powers with which God had endowed him. He became in turn like his Creator – finite, it is true, yet he made a beginning to the powers of his creation, which must grow in perfection as man grows in attainments.
Blessings. – God called Abraham forth from the valley of the Mesopotamia. The great object of that call was to make him the progenitor of a chosen people through whom the Messiah was to come. With that call there came a promise, which Abraham held choice above all other promises: that his children should be as numerous as the stars of the heaven or the sands of the seashore. Love is the first fruits of man’s creative powers. I hardly need point to the Old Testament for evidence respecting the law of purity and the purposes of God. God taught it to Moses on the Tables of the Law; Christ preached it to his followers; he denounced his enemies because of their adulterous lives. Their fall from purity made it impossible for them to comprehend or follow him.
Relationship of Sexual Life and the Spirit of God. – Let us come down to conditions and experiences of our own times; men go forth into the world as missionaries to expound divine laws, to preach repentance, and to warn. From their words, faith is implanted in the hearts of men. Those who are seeking divine truth are susceptible to the influences of these missionaries. The purity of their lives gives effectiveness to their testimonies. On the other hand, digression from the law of purity robs them of their spiritual life, and often severs the relationship in them between the human and the divine. Men who digress from the higher mission of sexual life lost faith, grow in profanity, until it suits their conscience best to believe that there is no God, except the laws of nature, towards which they feel no very great responsibility. When the law of sexual life has been transgressed through sin, men and women suffer the loss of divine love. The sexual life is God-ordained, in the animal, vegetable, and human world. Its mission is the mission of life and progress. It carries with it joy and blessings, within its legitimate exercise. The exalted nature of this life, however, makes it a source of temptation, and the depravity of its sinful course is as debasing as its legitimate exercise is exalting.
Exercise. – It is a hidden life, and therefore susceptible to all the greater dangers. It is a universal life, and therefore within universal requirements; but it is said that many of the failures of that life are not the result of man’s preference or decision; they belong rather to the misfortunes of life, to disappointments, and impossibilities. But what is the attitude of all men toward such a life? Is it one of humble acknowledgment, or one of indifference and pronounced contempt? Into every man’s and woman’s life God has implanted sexual desires which have a legitimate mission that may be faithfully performed, rejected, or abused. It is a life that God intended should be filled in a legitimate manner, which he has pointed out to his children.
The Fall. – We do not regret the Fall, for through it came the opportunities of Christ’s redemption, which means immortality through the resurrection, and eternal life through the gift of God. The question of our sexual life is the burning question of the age, but with it there comes the further question as to how the oncoming generation shall be taught to view and appreciate it. Shall fathers, mothers, and friends speak with frankness? Too much frankness may be harmful. Shall we make its teaching more general, and shall the knowledge of our sexual life be made more familiar to the rising generation? There is such a thin veil between its exalting and its sinful effects that the thoughts of those whom we may teach may dwell upon the evil side of it. “The knowledge of evil tempteth to its commission,” says Canon Farrar. The great war has revealed to us evil conditions in sexual life of which we have never dreamed. The revelations of what has been the secret lives of those in service and those unfit for service is but one phase of the evils of that life. They may be as poignant and as afflicting in the home as they are in the army. There can be little doubt that the evils of divorce, and the hatreds which spring up between men and women in the home are due in a large measure to the evil relationships there which are after all indirect revelations of excessive and perhaps debasing sexual lives. God alone knows; he must be, therefore, the Judge of our universe, and now that he is speaking in the thunderous tones of war, famine and pestilence, shall we not stand awed in the presence of those calamities which are rapidly spreading over the world?
Duty to Teach. – We often leave our children to gain their first impressions of sexual life from street urchins and those whose vulgarities make them bold in presenting that life more from a debasing than an uplifting point of view. The first knowledge of sexual life should come from parents who may create in their children exalting views about it.
Desires, thoughts and feelings may be carnal. If man “follows after his carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him” (Doc. and Cov. 3:4).