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Why Elder Holland Called Sexual Intimacy a Sacrament

While President of BYU, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a devotional entitled, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.” Within this address, he talks about the sanctity of physical intimacy. More specifically, he tells Latter-day Saints three reasons why sexual purity is so crucial to our salvation: it affects our souls, it is a sacred symbol, and it is a sacrament.

It affects our souls.

Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? . . .
But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.
A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.
[Proverbs 6:27-33]

Elder Holland cites this scripture as well as popular poetic references to show how passion and sexual desire are like a fire—unimaginably powerful and enabling when controlled, but searing, even deadly when unrestrained. He continues:

Setting aside sins against the Holy Ghost for a moment as a special category unto themselves, it is LDS doctrine that sexual transgression is second only to murder in the Lord's list of life's most serious sins. By assigning such rank to a physical appetite so conspicuously evident in all of us, what is God trying to tell us about its place in his plan for all men and women in mortality? I submit to you he is doing precisely that—commenting about the very plan of life itself. Clearly God's greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it. These two most important issues in our very personal and carefully supervised progress are the two issues that he as our Creator and Father and Guide wishes most to reserve to himself. These are the two matters that he has repeatedly told us he wants us never to take illegally, illicitly, unfaithfully, without sanction. . . .

[But] what would in the case of taking life bring absolute horror and demand grim justice, in the case of giving life brings dirty jokes and four-letter lyrics and crass carnality on the silver screen, home-owned or downtown. . . .

May I quote a 1913 sermon by Elder James E. Talmage on this doctrinal point:

We have been taught . . . to look upon these bodies of ours as gifts from God. We Latter-day Saints do not regard the body as something to be condemned, something to be abhorred. . . . We regard [the body] as the sign of our royal birthright [. . . .]

It is peculiar to the theology of the Latter-day Saints that we regard the body as an essential part of the soul.[. . .]
[CR, October 1913, p. 117]

So partly in answer to why such seriousness, we answer that one toying with the God-given—and satanically coveted—body of another, toys with the very soul of that individual, toys with the central purpose and product of life, 'the very key' to life, as Elder Boyd K. Packer once called it. In trivializing the soul of another (please include the word body there), we trivialize the Atonement that saved that soul and guaranteed its continued existence. . . . .
The purchase price for our fullness of joy—body and spirit eternally united—is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, 'Well, it's my life,' or worse yet, 'It's my body.' It is not. 'Ye are not your own,' Paul said. 'Ye are bought with a price.' So in answer to the question, 'Why does God care so much about sexual transgression?' it is partly because of the precious gift offered by and through his Only Begotten Son to redeem the souls—bodies and spirits—we too often share and abuse in cheap and tawdry ways. Christ restored the very seeds of eternal lives (see D&C132:19, 24), and we desecrate them at our peril. The first key reason for personal purity? Our very souls are involved and at stake.

Why Elder Holland Called Sexual Intimacy a Sacrament

To own a copy of this powerful talk for yourself, check out Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments at deseretbook.com. Or, for additional reading on sexual intimacy in marriage that is in-depth, frank, open, and uplifting, check out And They Were Not Ashamed and The Act of Marriage