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{Poll} Public Displays of Affection at Church

Kate Ensign-Lewis - April 26, 2012

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Some of my friends' religion professors have said church is absolutely not the place for PDA, but I've also seen plenty of leaders show affection for their wives in public settings. Where is the line?

I like to show affection for my husband. Whenever I can, I try to hold his hand. When we say goodbye, we give a quick kiss to let the other person know he/she is in our thoughts while we're apart. Sometimes, I'll rest my head on his shoulder and move in close next to him for some mild cuddling. We even do these things at church.

Now, I really don't think any of these are inappropriate. But some might. And I know some people definitely think back rubs or scratches are completely inappropriate in a church setting.

While I think it's pretty safe to say that making out is not acceptable at church (or in any public setting, really), what about more innocent forms of affection? We'd like to get a general survey of church membership, so let us know what you think . . .

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Do you think public displays of affection at Church are appropriate?





Which of the following do you think are inappropriate in a Church setting?









Have you ever seen inappropriate affection at church, according to your standards?




What's your general guideline for public affection? Leave a comment below.


© LDS Living, 2012.
Comments 36 comments

teahlayne said...

04:42 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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I have been divorced for nearly 30 years and a member of the Church for 10. I do not mind seeing couples with their heads together and arms around each other during sacrament meeting. I do not mind hugging, kissing, or back rubs between meetings. However, roaming and caressing hands during sacrament meeting by either gender is extremely distracting for me. I once watched a man a couple pews ahead of me at Stake Conference almost sexually caressing his wife's neck and ear. It was distracting and uncomfortable for me, although it didn't seem to bother anyone else. Perhaps an article about how to nicely let couples know they are being distracting would be helpful.

jfd said...

05:33 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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Newlyweds spoke at our branch last Sunday, and they brushed their lips together briefly between their talks. Great for newlyweds -- after 40 years of togetherness my wife and I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that on the stand. It's all a matter of perspective. Love is what drives the Church to grow!

bgtaylor4 said...

07:27 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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Keep your clothes on. Seriously, though, none of the things discussed in this article are a problem in sacrament meeting between parents and kids, let alone between spouses. But yeah, you're not going to make out during church. jfd makes a great observation.

karenchallis said...

07:48 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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Keep hands off all erogenous zones! Even some old folks seem to think it's Okay to keep their hand on the inside of their spouse's thigh or hold hands on the pubic area in church meetings. That's inappropriate in my book.

mamdu said...

08:18 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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I like to see affection between spouses--it genuinely makes me happy to see that couples are enjoying each other. With that said, teahlayne has a good point about the neck and ear caressing...uncomfortable!

baxdrum said...

08:49 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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We are a family oriented Church. Kids need to see that adults love and care for each other. My boys act like it's gross when their Mom and I fawn over each other, but do they really think it's gross or do they actually think it's kind of cool. So many kids come from homes filled with anger and hatred. I have no problem at all with public displays of affection between loving people.

dadof6 said...

08:50 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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My wife and I are the parents of six. We always sit close to each other, rather than as bookends around our kids. We've worked hard with our kids to train them to sit still during the meetings. Being able to hold hands with my wife for over an hour and enjoy the spirit of the meetings is one of the highlights of my week.

carolamee said...

10:53 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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Is Church the only time people can show affection??? What is going on in the home? Sacrament Meeting is for worship. In the other two hours there is so much work that needs to be done for teaching children, youth, new converts, investigators, and yes even the long term members, etc., I don't see where there is all this free time for whatever. (I am not talking about the discreet hand holding or quick hug as you go off to your assignments.) And, what does all this affection say for the many that are praying for that 'eternal companion' and do not have one yet. I am sure they are grateful that you have one, but it still reminds them that they do not. I like to see affection, but during Church it is inappropriate. Can't you wait until you get to the parking lot?

imgramma said...

11:52 AM
on Apr 26, 2012

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Descreet hand holding, quick kiss as you go off to your assignments. Anymore is not what I would consider right in a public setting, nevermind at church!

kireos said...

01:45 PM
on Apr 26, 2012

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I've been married for 3 years with no children - so I'm still considered a "newlywed". My husband and I hold hands during meetings occasionally. I will sometimes scratch his back - not to "show affection", but as a small gesture (his back hurts alot, especially while sitting during meetings). I was always taught to keep affections between husband and wife at church the same as you would if you were dating. Which would be, no groping, heavy petting, inapproriate kissing, etc. But holding hands, small kisses, hugs, etc are okay - in small doses.

grannyshrink said...

02:25 PM
on Apr 26, 2012

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I agree with the parameters most comments suggest. I do think young people need to see that married couples can keep the love alive. Creating a marriage with lasting love is an important part of the gospel. Why call that bad or inappropriate as long as it does not involve overtly sexual behavior that is private.

mjduley said...

07:01 PM
on Apr 26, 2012

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I have a genuine question for those who are opposed to "sexually caressing" a spouse's neck: what do you define as "sexually caressing"? My husband often rubs my neck and shoulder during church (and often outside of church as well) because I have chronic pain from a car accident over 20 years ago. I wouldn't call it sexual in any way, but someone who doesn't know my situation might see it as such.

momnine said...

08:54 PM
on Apr 26, 2012

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The question is--does this kind of action make anyone in the congregation feel uncomfortable? If it does, it is inappropriate. Sacrament meeting it a time for spiritual uplift and quiet reflection, not unnecessary distractions. Our children know that we, their parents, love each other and we do not have to show this in sacrament meeting. A quick hug or even a quick kiss upon parting for another meeting in the block is not offensive. Perhaps a guideline would be to watch what a general authority and his wife might do when attending a church meeting together.

jodoerr said...

09:00 PM
on Apr 26, 2012

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There should be no question what is appropriate or inappropriate. Has anyone read the "For the Strength of Youth" lately? If the youth are expected to live these standards, we as adults should be setting the examples. Married couples sitting cuddly and a husband giving his wife a quick kiss is appropriate. Laying all over each other and overly petting during church is inappropriate. Save it for your home in private. Unmarried couples should not be participating in any inappropriate displays of affection public or private. It is as simple as that.

mjduley said...

10:01 PM
on Apr 26, 2012

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How do you know if something is making others uncomfortable unless they say so (and most people don't)? And what if you feel that someone else's comfort level is lower than yours? Some people don't even want to see a peck on the cheek. At what point do you draw the line and at what point are others being overly sensitive?

mamabear said...

08:52 AM
on Apr 27, 2012

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I have no problem with couples holding hands in church, but often it seems some members think their public displays somehow communicate to the rest of the ward how great their marriage is. My husband and I have a great marriage, yet we are uncomfortable with showing affection in church. In fact, we usually sit spread out on the bench among our several children. We've actually had people imply that because we are not sitting together holding hands, there must be something wrong. Last week in stake conference I sat behind a couple who were sitting so close to each other she was practically in his lap. He kept leaning over to whisper in her ear, kiss her all over her face, and otherwise cause a big distracion. If stake conference is the only time you get out together without the kids, then maybe you need to work out something else! There are times that those types of displays of affection just aren't appropriate! I think it is also insensitive to the many members who are single, especially those who wish they weren't.

tumauni said...

12:14 PM
on Apr 27, 2012

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Okay people....I am a grandma, been married 34yrs and think this whole discussion is laughable!!! Of coures NO ONE is gonna make-out in church (either quick or erotically)...SERIOUSLY!!!! IF (big IF) they are...there is a WAY bigger issue happening then offending other and that is for the Bishop to jump on...duh!! As for what has been discribed above...get a grip people...the Gospel is one of family and love. There are many examples of General Authorities showing affection to their spouse...if that doesn't work for ya....what about right from the top....didn;t the Savior let others touch him and didn't he touch them back (both in love) and then the affection he has shown to the sinners and the children and those who have been lost and returned?!?!?! Take it down a notch...REALLY!! Oh...as for the unmarried sisters....I had one for over 40yrs and she looked forward to finding that kind of love and respect for her self one day ...NEVER "woe is me...I can't watch this" Oh Ya...BTW....she found it and they do hold hand too

jerijordan said...

07:47 AM
on Apr 28, 2012

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Showing affection in church is wonderful to see. I have been married twice, my first husband passed away. We never held hands in Church. He was always busy with callings. My second husbnd, we married later in life, we are both sealed to our first spouses. We hold hand and occasionally I will rub his back. He is a hard worker and I see nothing wrong with it. I had a Sister tell me, "We know you love each other, you don't need to rub his back." I didn't have a clue what she was talking about until I read this article. Duh! I am not making sexual advances to him and I feel most of the other people talked about here are not either. It is great to see older people who love each other, holding hands. Maybe that is why they are still together and not divorced.

jjaabb said...

08:49 AM
on Apr 28, 2012

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I do not think you need to make a public display of your affections for each other in any church setting. I have seen a husband sitting in the temple waiting for a session to begin get up and walk across the room and kiss his wife when she entered. It is not like they haven't seen each other for a long time. I feel thoose who show PDA are just trying to impress others with those actions. Mt husband will hold my hand during Sacrament but we save the hugs and kisses for our private times. Everyone knows we love each other by our actions of kindness and not PDA!

worldtraveler said...

09:21 AM
on Apr 28, 2012

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My guess is that all of the people who have cheered for PDA have never sat behind a man caressing a woman's back and tangling his fingers in her hair while her leg is slipped across his thigh during the passing of the sacrament. Simple shows of affection are fine but I think we should always remember that we are in Sacrament Meeting to worship the Lord.

petragalazio said...

09:43 AM
on Apr 28, 2012

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We once tried to shield our young children from a college-aged couple literally making out quite heavily, rolling around on a blanket in Temple Square. We were all there to listen to General Conference, the Tabernacle being full. It was as close to an obscene public display of affection as it gets.

maryp said...

10:34 AM
on Apr 28, 2012

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I think if what you're doing may make other people uncomfortable, then don't do it! Would you do it if the Lord were sitting on the stand? Or Pres. Monson? It all boils down to decorum. Some things belong in private.

gramjud said...

02:11 PM
on Apr 28, 2012

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They should be satisfied sitting next to each at Church. Seeing those things makes me ill at ease.

jkcook said...

03:42 PM
on Apr 28, 2012

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Hand holding and/or a brief kiss is fine, but back rubbing and more is not. Good grief, in our temple, it's common for couples to sit together to hold hands. The other thing is chit-chatting during meetings.

melodie said...

09:32 PM
on Apr 28, 2012

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I say leave the back rubs at home. It's a distraction. Holding hands is fine. Like the many comments made, going to church is for spiritual uplift & having PDA can take away the spirit. Save the PDA for when u get home!

sharilee10 said...

10:13 AM
on Apr 29, 2012

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I am with tumauni and jerijordan and others. I like seeing a happy couple holding hands and showing affection for each other. I don't believe it's done 'for show' and I believe that a meeting is a great time to bless our families with small back rubs or neck rubs-- not major go at it-- but small and inconspicious. Most people are so busy blessing the lives of everyone else around them (including family through work at home and at careers) that the opportunities for families to sit still together may only happen on Sundays. Also- just for the record- I was a single mother for 11 years and I chose to view the couples around me who loved each other as a wonderful beacon of hope for what I hoped to have in this life- and if not in this life in the life after. Again- the basic 'pda' (not making out) is not sexual to me but a sign of love and adoration. We choose our perspective, and I choose to be happy for those who have found someone to love who loves them. We could sit and discuss whether it's appropriate to wear a favorite dress to church when we know that some women don't have a dress they really like to wear; or if we should do our hair up all cute and attractive when we know that some women (me!) don't know how to make their hair look cute and attractive; or if we should play the piano or organ or give a great lesson or be a really extraordinary youth leader when we know that some people just don't have that ability or blessing--- but I think it's called 'coveting', and I chose not to covet when I saw women who had what I didn't, but rather to view it as something I wanted to seek after. Now that I have found the love of my life I love holding his hand, not to show off but because I enjoy being with him and I love him, and I'm glad I took advantage of the time I had since he now sits up on the stand and I am once again sitting alone on the bench. It is what it is and I'm grateful for a new blessing in our lives.

batesmotel6 said...

10:12 AM
on Apr 30, 2012

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I didn't read ALL the posts, but the first one really spoke to me. My husband caresses my neck and sometimes even touches my ears during meetings. I don't feel like this is an inappropriate sign of affection. We don't share long kisses, or long hugs, but when we're sitting together, we hold hands, put our arms around each other, give back scratches and rubs and I'll occasionally lay my head on his shoulder. To be honest though, I don't notice anybody else in the congregation whether in sacrament or classes. I try to pay attention to the Spirit, and learn from what is being taught. Who really has time to be concerned about someone else's affectionate moments with their spouse when they are focused on the Spirit? To me, this is one of the most serious problems in the Church today. We should be far more concerned about our own behavior, than of anyone else's. Ever. Period.

aes78lds said...

10:19 AM
on May 02, 2012

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Sacrament Meeting is not the place to be all over each other. It's bad enough when married couples are that way, but at BYU people who are dating do it, and with absolutely no sense of decorum. By the way, Sacrament Meeting is not the place to give backrubs ... I don't care if it's to your spouse or to your children. My parents never acted like that and I don't understand where people get the idea that it's okay. It shows disrespect for the Lord. My parents taught me to think of the Lord and his sacrifice for us, especially during the passing of the Sacrament. Leave affectionate displays for each other for another time and place. For that matter, the temple is not the place to show affection, either, other than possibly discreetly holding hands, and that, obviously, only for married couples ... preferably ones who are not on their second or third marriage. (It's just offensive to see how self-centered people are when they should be thinking about the Lord. Can't they get their minds off of themselves long enough to show humility in the house of the Lord?)

capitolia said...

11:44 PM
on May 05, 2012

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I am a great-gramma with everything that entails. Worldtraveler- I think most of us have seen the type of behavior you described and it is definitely not the norm! Most people who give a quick kiss or hug or sit close with an arm around one or the other do it out of affection not for attention. And aes78lds, as for back rubbing or scratching, I am willing to bet that at LEAST 7 out of 10 times it is done for comfort or support rather than affection. ie. One brother I am fond of has recently been diagnosed with ADHD and his wife discovered quite awhile ago that rubbing or scratching his back, gently, helped him through the meeting. He is one of the most humble, Christlike people I know! He loves the gospel and the church! It boggles my mind how judgemental and harsh people can be! My second husband takes me to the Temple and it is a beautiful thing when he lovingly holds my hand. Made all the more beautiful because my first husband refused to take me. Would you deny me that gift? Thankfully our Heavenly Father doesn't! I wish I were more eloquent but I do hope you understand my point.

cattewoman said...

10:52 AM
on May 07, 2012

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PDA at church, is not my style, but I have never really seen anything that would be completely innapropriate. I wouldn't want my back rubbed at church, but to each his own. My husband and I do actually sit like bookends next to our children, and I love it. When I was a teenager, I loved to watch young families who sat with the children in between the parents. I always thought it looked so sweet. And sitting this way with my family, and stealing glances with my husband while we both think about how blessed we are to have our little family that we both adore, is one of the things I look forward to the most about Sundays.

peachlas said...

03:30 PM
on May 07, 2012

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I am a grandmother of 10, married for 33 years, and haven't seen any inappropriate PDA's at church in my membership of 35 years in several units. My husband & I do hold hands and he might give me a quick kiss hello when I first see him on Sunday (he is in the bishopric) but we don't really do back rubs, etc... (he might enjoy them, as he has a bad back:-) We raised several children and enjoy being able to sit together when we can now. I am sure we used to sit more like bookends when our children were younger as we raised six sons. As for the temple, they do have you kiss across the altar when you are married, but I'm not sure about any affection in the temple but hand holding... I don't think we would do that. Maybe a quick hug when greeting a close friend or one of our family though...

norm99 said...

12:37 PM
on May 31, 2012

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I once walked in a church classroom to find a couple in the middle of a heavy make out session. I'm talking hand up her skirt make out. It was embarrassing for them but I just chuckled, shut the door and went about my business. Good for them.

idagal said...

11:43 AM
on Aug 12, 2012

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Greeting one another with mild affection is one thing and holding hands discreetly cannot hurt anything. I have not problem with a husband with arm around his wife. The point is that we are there to worship the savior and anything that distracts from that is disrespectful. It is very distracting to have someone in from of you scratching and rubbing. One reason why it is uncomfortable is that it is sexually stimulating in many instances and should be reserved for a part of foreplay. We do not teach our young women enough about sexual stimulation to a man. I taught my girls to keep their hands to themselves because rubbing necks, backs, scratching backs, rubbing thighs are all sexually stimulating to most men and many women. Mother's actions to sons can be stimulating as well, no matter how innocently applied by the mother, and women need to be very aware and careful in this regard. As to our meetings, how can your mind be on the savior with needed reflection on your life and how to improve, and also receive revelation that you so need during the meetings with someone sitting there rubbing and scratching another person and how can their minds be on spirituality? We go to church to get away from the world and into the spiritual realm so that we get spiritual sustenance for the upcoming week and answers to our prayers and needs. I often will receive much needed answers during sacrament meeting which experience has been totally ruined by someone scratching and rubbing and nestling in, etc. sitting in front of me. I am happy for couples loving each other and showing affection and I think sex is a great invention but let's be thoughtful of others during our meetings and do all we can to not disturb the spiritual experiences of others. Preparing lessons, texting, and any other distracting behavior included.

nairb1960 said...

11:16 PM
on Oct 27, 2012

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I regularly rub my wife's neck, and also my son's or daughter's during sacrament meeting. Although I consider this a demonstration of my affection, I do not think it is inappropriate nor offends the spirit. I did not realize that it is distracting to others, so I may reconsider doing it because I would not want effect the spiritual experience of another.

mercysummer said...

07:41 PM
on May 21, 2013

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It's great that people love each other. Light backrubs, hand holding and pecks are great, in moderation. In terms of children, do what you have to to calm the little ones. But I have several points of contention. 1) Please consider the singles, widowed, divorced who currently are not with that someone special. Its awkward for them to watch. No, they probably are not jealous of you. But none the less, there is a twinge of sadness. Please be cognizant of the people around you. That is truly being Kind, when you put other's feelings and needs before you own. 2) hands on thighs, butts, breasts are never okay. Neither is caressing the back of heads. I promise you that there is a time and place to do it. If Sacrament meeting is the only time and place you have to do such lovely things, I would revamp my schedule if I were you. 3) There are other times and places to do PDA that is not during the Sacrament meeting. Its one hour out of your week. You have 167 hours to do whatever you like. And feel free to go crazy behind close doors.

jackmormon71 said...

09:46 AM
on Aug 16, 2013

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If you don't mind seeing it between the same gender, then go right ahead. Otherwise, yuck. Gay mormons do attend church you know. It's distracting. You don't see them doing it except when they're in activist mode like at a kiss in.
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