Anonymous Question Series:
Q: "What would you do if you had a sick spouse you loved but was unable to perform sex due to illness?"
The quick answer: find a way. Consult with medical professionals and spouse (if they are capable of discussing) and explore options. If your spouse is physically or mentally incapable (or both) ... between you and the Lord, you may consider self-stimulation.
(This is a great question and will be a little difficult to answer concisely. This has been a topic of GREAT interest and equal concern for me, so much so that I have taken up the opportunity to write about it. I am over 100 pages into a book I hope to complete by the end of this year that addresses this issue and other related topics and their solutions.)
This is such a valid topic with so many misconceptions and harsh taboos around it. These harsh taboos, unfortunately, block truth and clarity. "Men (and women) are, that they might have joy." You are married and now incapable of having intercourse with your spouse. What doctrine, principle or concept confines you to experiencing the God-given desire and blessings of arousal that are associated with the powers of creation? Because of a biological or medical issue your spouse is experiencing, you are NO longer allowed to experience the JOY and fulfillment of marriage, sexually? I have studied in-depth everything written on the subject within The Church since its restoration in 1830. I'll share my findings in my forthcoming book. There is not one scriptural, solid doctrine that says you cannot experience sexual fulfillment in your marriage, even when your spouse cannot.
As I said, I have read everything written and spoken of on the topic within The Church. I am not exaggerating nor taking my comment lightly. I am fully aware of the harsh and bold declarations President Kimball and Elder McConkie and others have made regarding masturbation. (I will get into far greater detail on this topic in my upcoming book.) In short, their ideas are NOT based on doctrine and more importantly are rooted in BAD medical science. The reason they spoke so harshly against it was because they believed it caused homosexuality and other "diseases."
In fact, and quite interestingly, The Church was very progressive in sexual understanding at its restoration and up through the 1930s. At that time, the world believed having an orgasm literally shortened your life span and caused severe illness. Our leaders were teaching the beauty of desire and sexuality:
Elder Orson Pratt once said,
“God is the Author of sexual or conjugal love, the same as He is of all other kinds of pure … God has ordained that pure and virtuous love should be incorporated with sexual love; that, by the combination of the two, permanent unions in the marriage covenant may be formed, and the species be multiplied in righteousness.”1
In another instance Elder Parley P. Pratt expressed,
"Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are 'carnal, sensual, and devilish,' and therefore out to be resisted, subdued, or overcome as so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life … Such persons have mistaken the source and fountain of happiness altogether."2
Lester E Bush explained the transition:
“The late 1920s and most of the 1930s saw a more explicit “sex education” in church lessons, to a degree not matched before or since. As one invited speaker explained to a general conference of the Relief Society, adults needed to realize that “you and I have been brought up in a generation where we just could not talk about sex. Not so our youngsters. They are talking and thinking about sex as frankly as anything else, and so far as I can discover, as wholesomely. Official church manuals endorsed secular books about sexuality and suggested that sexual interests be guided rather than inhibited. During this time masturbation did not always carry the same onus that it does in the popular Mormon literature of today. Rather than focusing on abstinence supervision as is practiced today with current church youth interviewing policies, lessons instead warned parents that they could create emotional problems in their adolescents by an “unintelligent” over-response to their masturbation (Bush, 1993).”3
Yet, over the last 20 to 30 years, The Church has removed, almost entirely, any mention of masturbation. Additionally President Kimball's book, "Miracle of Forgiveness" has been discontinued, recognizing that many of the opinions in it were neither scientifically accurate nor accurate to Church doctrine. Furthermore, the Brethren have counseled leaders NOT to inquire about the behavior and if brought up, to remind the member asking about it that it's a discussion between the individual/couple and the Lord. Leaders are NOT sex therapists and should not be consulting in such personal matters.
Again, this is such an important topic, which has so many false concepts around it. I am doing all I can to complete my detailed response to this topic in book format. Until that time, four resources I highly recommend:
1) The Lord, seriously. Take it up with the Lord, openly and honestly. Put off all your preconceived notions, ideas, and taboos, and seek the Lord in this regard first and foremost.
3) Read "And They Were Not Ashamed"
1. The Seer 1:155 (1853)
2. Essential Parley P. Pratt Ch 10, p.124
3. Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints: Science, Sense, and Scripture by Lester E. Bush, Jr pg. 144