Don’t Miss: Jacob Baker’s “Discovering Who We Are”

8 Jun

Excerpts from Jacob Baker’s Discovering Who We Are: Sexuality, Temptation, and Talking about Sex and Sexuality. Jacob is a doctoral student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology from Claremont Graduate University.  This address was originally given to the young single adults of the East Los Angeles Stake on November 21, 2010. If you appreciate the quotes, please be sure to read the full article, which is excellent.

How do we talk truthfully about sex and sexuality? The answer to this question is important because it will help decide how we orient ourselves to our sexual natures, and that orientation will determine our sexual behavior. Are you terrified of sexuality? Don’t ever want to go near it or talk about it or learn more about it? Are you obsessed with your sexual nature, not ever seeming able to fulfill it completely, unable to get enough of what you think sex is? Are you promiscuous, never able to stay with just one person (whether you are sexually active or not)? Are you a person who can’t get enough of the sexual power you hold over the opposite sex and thrill to how you can get them to do, think, and say whatever you want with that power? Can you only deal with your sexual nature alone in the bedroom with the door locked, where you are in control and no one but you tells you what to think, say, or do about sexuality?  Is pornography the only real contact or understanding you have of sexuality, the only place you feel safe with sexuality? Or maybe you have a “healthy” orientation toward sexuality and understand it on multiple levels, and have found a peaceful balance of your sexuality with other positive aspects of your life.  If any of this describes you, whether now or in the past, this is in large part due to how you were taught (most of the time indirectly) to talk and think about sex and sexuality.
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Sexuality is not just vulgar, not just biological, not just an ordinary thing or activity, not just beautiful and wonderful, and not just sacred.  It is fully capable of being all these things and more without being reduced to just one of them.  The full ramifications of sexuality are probably beyond us. But the way we often have learned to talk or think about it reduces sexuality to a single concept into which not all of our experiences fit.  We need to be able to talk about sexuality in its many dimensions, not as if it exists in only one dimension.
***
We should learn how to speak about sex and our sexual natures in more positive, affirming ways.  True, for teenagers in particular, who may have not yet had the negative consequences of engaging in sexual behavior, they must be taught what those consequences could be, and in turn how sacred and wonderful sexuality expressed through a worthy relationship with a spouse can be.  But too much of a focus on what should not be done can have equally damaging results.
***
We all know that we are dealing with serious issues in the Church when it comes to sexuality and honoring the law of chastity. These are problems that affect all of us, whether we are the cause or the victim.  Why are sexual problems so rampant among us? Because, more than any other problem we deal with in the church, we deal with problems of sexuality alone.  Perhaps our bishop is involved, perhaps not. Maybe parents are involved, maybe not. Even where this is the case we often feel isolated and forsaken, because we have committed a sin that is considered, essentially, to be unbearable by our family and church community. The ways we have been taught to think and act about sexuality have created walls of humiliation and shame between us and other people.
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Alma tells us that because of the law of justice when we sin we feel estranged.  We feel estranged from God, from other people, and ourselves.  So before anyone else in our family or in our ward knows about our sin we feel already that we are cut off from everyone.  The atonement is meant to provide us this space by which we can stop being cut off from everyone, from God, from my community and family, and myself.  But the atonement is also meant for those of us in our church community or in a family who might feel the need to judge, to be unsympathetic, to be uncompassionate.  The tendency to not being compassionate is so strong that Jesus Christ himself had to come to earth and live life as a human being in order to learn how to do it.
***
[W]e are  brothers and sisters who are bound to one another not only by our covenants but also by our sins and our need to actualize the atonement through repentance again and again, day after day.  We need one another in every moment. We are beings who are in constant need of practicing forgiveness of ourselves and others, who unfortunately often heap shame and guilt on others because we do not understand, and so are afraid of sins and transgressions of a sexual nature.  We need to learn better how to talk with one another about these problems, so that we do not contribute to the loneliness and forsakenness of those who already find themselves hurt and bleeding from something they’ve done or someone they’ve hurt.
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One Response to “Don’t Miss: Jacob Baker’s “Discovering Who We Are””

  1. augusta a June 10, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    It seems to me that the OP makes a rather important categorical error in the first paragraph of this post, and then proceeds to prove it. Here’s the problematic section:

    “How do we talk truthfully about sex and sexuality? The answer to this question is important because it will help decide how we orient ourselves to our sexual natures, and that orientation will determine our sexual behavior. ”

    Surely the mismatch between “how we orient ourselves to our sexual natures” and “our sexual behavior” is the crux of “the problem,” otherwise, in the words of the OP, “Why are sexual problems so rampant among us?” If orienting ourselves–if pointing ourselves in the correct way–were all it took, then why all the seriously disrupted lives? Why would anyone screw up? Sexual sin is an abomination in the sight of the lord, after all. http://lds.org/manual/book-of-mormon-teacher-manual/chapter-31-alma-36-39?lang=eng

    Rather, it’s the difference betwixt sexual behavior–which, as far as I can tell is pretty much hardwired in–and the prevailing cultures attitude towards that behavior, (in this case, EXTREMELY HARSH) that creates the problem.

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