FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief and practice.
Mormonism and the nature of God/"Celestial sex"
Do Latter-day Saints believe in a practice called "Celestial sex"?
Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe in a practice called "celestial sex," and that this is the manner in which "spirit children" are formed?
It is the critics of the Church that invented and use the offensive term "celestial sex"
This is not a term used by Latter-day Saints. It has, in fact, never been used by Latter-day Saints. The use of the term "celestial sex" by critics is intended to be demeaning and shocking to Latter-day Saints or interested readers. The use of such tactics may say much about the mainstream culture's preoccupation with sexual behavior. However, it says nothing about the actual beliefs of Church members.
Critics of the Church twist LDS beliefs into a form that makes them look ridiculous. Quotes made by early LDS leaders are often used to support the claim that Latter-day Saints believe in “Celestial sex.” It should be noted, however, that LDS leaders have never used the term "Celestial sex." This phrase was coined by critics of the Church, likely for its “shock value” in portraying the following concepts in LDS belief:
- The belief that God the Father has a physical body.
- The belief that there exists a Heavenly Mother who also possesses a physical body.
- The belief that our Heavenly Father and Mother together are capable of creating “spirit children.”
Critics take these ideas and combine them, leading to a declaration that Latter-day Saints therefore believe in “Celestial sex.” Various anti-Mormon works then use this idea to mock LDS beliefs or shock their readers—though this claim does not describe LDS beliefs, but the critics' caricature of them.
One of the earliest uses of the term "celestial sex" was in the anti-Mormon film The God Makers
For example, the 1982 anti-Mormon film The God Makers makes reference to “engaging in celestial sex with their goddess wives." One woman in the film, who is claimed to have once been a Latter-day Saint, expresses the idea that the primary goal of women in the Church is to "become a goddess in heaven" in order to "multiply an earth" and be "eternally pregnant." The claim that Latter-day Saints expect to have "endless Celestial sex" in order to populate their own planet is very popular among critics of the Church, though members themselves would not explain their beliefs in that way.
The critics' assumptions simply take what we know about our physical world and naively apply it to the afterlife. When one examines the critics’ point further, a key question ought to be raised: How does the union of two immortal beings in a physical manner produce spirit offspring? Latter-day Saint belief is that “spirit children” only receive a physical body upon being born on earth.
This question, of course, cannot be answered. It is pointless to speculate on the exact manner in which “spirit children” are produced, and to assume that this occurs through “Celestial sex” and being "eternally pregnant" is to apply a worldly mindset to a spiritual process. The bottom line: Latter-day Saints do not know the mechanism by which “spirit children” are produced, and no LDS doctrine claims that "celestial sex" and being "eternally pregnant" are the means.
Question: What have Latter-day Saint leaders actually said about the method of procreation in the afterlife?
Church leaders have said very little about this, because little is known about the process
The fact that we do not know the exact process by which “spirit children” are created does not mean that LDS leaders have not speculated on the process. There are a few quotes that are often used to support the critics’ concept of “Celestial sex," which we will now examine:
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 387
"[I]ntelligence or spirit element became intelligences after the spirits were born as individual [spirit] entities."
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 750
"Our spirit bodies had their beginning in pre-existence when we were born as the spirit children of God our Father. Through that birth process spirit element was organized into intelligent entities."
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, 122
"[God] created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be."
— Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:122..
John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, p. 69
The author of the anti-Mormon book Becoming Gods says the following:
"As for the sexual aspect of this event, LDS apostle John A. Widtsoe explained, 'Sex Among the Gods. Sex, which is indispensable on this earth for the perpetuation of the human race, is an eternal quality which has its equivalent everywhere.'" (p. 392, n14)
Upon reading the quote above, it does indeed sound as if Widtsoe is talking about a “sex act” among gods. It must be noted, however, that Widtsoe referred to "sex" as a "quality" rather than a "practice." Of course, the fact that two genders exist at all implies that it somehow takes both to accomplish the creation of spirit children. Looking at Widtsoe’s quote in context, we learn that he is not speaking about the sex act, but about gender:
Sex Among the Gods.
Sex, which is indispensable on this earth for the perpetuation of the human race, is an eternal quality which has its equivalent everywhere. It is indestructible. The relationship between men and women is eternal and must continue eternally. In accordance with Gospel philosophy there are males and females in heaven. Since we have a Father, who is our God, we must also have a mother, who possesses the attributes of Godhood. This simply carries onward the logic of things earthly, and conforms with the doctrine that whatever is on this earth is simply a representation of spiritual conditions of deeper meaning than we can here fathom.
Would a “sex act” be considered a “quality” that was “indestructible?” Critics rely on contextual presentism by quoting the term "sex" without the context that makes its meaning clear. It is more reasonable to consider “gender” a “quality” that is “indestructible.” Consider the following quote from James E. Talmage.
“We affirm as reasonable, scriptural, and true, the eternity of sex among the children of God. The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life. It was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent condition, even as it shall continue after death, in both disembodied and resurrected states .... [The] scriptures attest a state of existence preceding mortality, in which the spirit children of God lived, doubtless with distinguishing characteristics, including the distinction of sex, "before they were [created] naturally upon the face of the earth." ("The Eternity of Sex," Millennial Star (24 August 1922): 530.)"
Note the phrase “the distinction of sex.” Talmage is not talking about a “sex act,” but rather the distinction between the two sexes or genders.
Question: Did Bruce R. McConkie claim that our heavenly parents created our spirits "through some kind of sexual union"?
Elder McConkie never talks about a sexual union between our heavenly parents
It has been claimed that Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine talks of a "sexual union" between heavenly parents. However, nothing in Elder McConkie's statements say anything about spirit creation via "some kind of sexual union."
Relevant passages include:
Entry Spirit Birth: "1. In the literal sense, the expression spirit birth has reference to the birth of the spirit in pre-existence. Spirits are actually born as the offspring of a Heavenly Father, a glorified and exalted Man. They will be born in a future eternity to future exalted beings for whom the family unit continues."
Entry Spirit Bodies: "Our spirit bodies had their beginning in pre-existence when we were born as the spirit children of God our Father. Through that birth process spirit element was organized into intelligent entities. The bodies so created have all the parts of mortal bodies."
Entry Spirit Children:"1. All men in pre-existence were the spirit children of God our Father, an exalted, glorified, and perfected Man. "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's" (D. & C. 130:22); the offspring born to him in that primeval sphere had bodies of spirit element....In a future eternity, spirit children will be born to exalted, perfected glorified couples for whom the family unit continues. The very glory of exalted beings is to have "a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever."
Elder McConkie emphasizes that spirit children are the literal offspring of God, but the means of their creation is not specified. The Heavenly Mother is not even mentioned.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
- Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods, 154. Abanes uses as his reference Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 750. GL direct link