No more sex for fun?

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anonyM

No more sex for fun?

Postby anonyM » Sat Sep 17, 2011 10:31 am

According to the Baha'i Teachings is the only legitimate outlet for the sex impulse an act carried out for the sake of procreation? Is this one of those concepts that humanity will grow to understand and accept?

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby brettz9 » Sat Sep 17, 2011 3:13 pm

I don't believe this is accurate. The only quotation I know which might give this impression is the following:

"The recrudescence of religious intolerance, of racial animosity, and of patriotic arrogance; the increasing evidences of selfishness, of suspicion, of fear and of fraud; the spread of terrorism, of lawlessness, of drunkenness and of crime; the unquenchable thirst for, and the feverish pursuit after, earthly vanities, riches and pleasures; the weakening of family solidarity; the laxity in parental control; the lapse into luxurious indulgence; the irresponsible attitude towards marriage and the consequent rising tide of divorce; the degeneracy of art and music, the infection of literature, and the corruption of the press; the extension of the influence and activities of those "prophets of decadence" who advocate companionate marriage, who preach the philosophy of nudism, who call modesty an intellectual fiction, who refuse to regard the procreation of children as the sacred and primary purpose of marriage, who denounce religion as an opiate of the people, who would, if given free rein, lead back the human race to barbarism, chaos, and ultimate extinction--these appear as the outstanding characteristics of a decadent society, a society that must either be reborn or perish."

(World Order of Baha'u'llah, pp. 187-188)


Note that this is talking about "marriage", not sex, and it refers to it as the "primary" purpose, not the only purpose.

Another passage on the same topic (esp. the underlined text) draws our attention to the importance of exact wording (the bolded text):

On page 25 of "The Advent of Divine Justice" the beloved Guardian is describing the requirements not only of chastity, but of "a chaste and holy life" — both the adjectives are important. One of the signs of a decadent society, a sign which is very evident in the world today, is an almost frenetic devotion to pleasure and diversion, an insatiable thirst for amusement, a fanatical devotion to games and sport, a reluctance to treat any matter seriously, and a scornful, derisory attitude towards virtue and solid worth. Abandonment of "a frivolous conduct" does not imply that a Bahá'í must be sour-faced or perpetually solemn. Humour, happiness, joy are characteristics of a true Bahá'í life. Frivolity palls and eventually leads to boredom and emptiness, but true happiness and joy and humour that are parts of a balanced life that includes serious thought, compassion and humble servitude to God, are characteristics that enrich life and add to its radiance.

Shoghi Effendi's choice of words was always significant, and each one is important in understanding his guidance. In this particular passage, he does not forbid "trivial" pleasures, but he does warn against "excessive attachment" to them and indicates that they can often be "misdirected". One is reminded of `Abdu'l-Bahá's caution that we should not let a pastime become a waste of time.

(From a letter dated 8 May 1979 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, in A Chaste and Holy Life, no. 23)


There are other quotations along this line at http://bahai-library.com/compilation_ch ... _life#s2.8 .

Moreover, Shoghi Effendi, also on the same topic of chastity and holiness, concludes his discussion with the following:

It must be remembered, however, that the maintenance of such a high standard of moral conduct is not to be associated or confused with any form of asceticism, or of excessive and bigoted puritanism. The standard inculcated by Bahá'u'lláh seeks, under no circumstances, to deny anyone the legitimate right and privilege to derive the fullest advantage and benefit from the manifold joys, beauties, and pleasures with which the world has been so plentifully enriched by an All-Loving Creator. "Should a man," Bahá'u'lláh Himself reassures us, "wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not yourselves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful."

(Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 33)


Besides being for the sake of producing children, and something which one can enjoy for oneself, the following quotation makes explicit another motive for physical love, namely for the sake of benefiting one's partner:

He was sorry to hear of the inharmony and unhappiness which has arisen in your home, and he assures you he will pray for its removal.

He suggests to you that perhaps you are not giving your husband enough of your love, physically and spiritually, to keep his interest centred in you. Marriage problems are often very involved and subtle, and we Bahá'ís, being enlightened and progressive people, should not hesitate, if it seems necessary or desirable, to turn to science for help in such matters. If you and your husband talked over your problems--together or separately--with a good physician you might find that you can cure your own husband, or at least try to do so. It is a great pity that two believers, united in this glorious Cause, and blessed with a family, should not be able to live together really harmoniously, and he feels you should take constructive action and not allow the situation to get worse. When the shadow of separation hangs over a husband and wife they should leave no stone unturned in their effort to avert its becoming a reality.

He urges you both to devote more of your time to teaching the Cause and to pray together that Bahá'u'lláh may give you a real and lasting love for each other.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 5 July 1949, "Preserving Baha'i Marriages" in Compilation of Compilations. vol. 2, no. 2329)


Best wishes,
Brett

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby brettz9 » Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:36 am

The only legitimate outlet for the sex impulse is within marriage. And as seen above the main purpose of marriage appears to be procreation. What changes? Why is succumbing to the sex impulse within marriage, when it is not for the purpose of procreation, suddenly okay?


Once again, it is a reference to the "primary" purpose of marriage, not the only purpose. The emphasis is to say that couples should not be so selfish as to avoid having children when they are capable of it. Marriage is not exclusively about having fun (though I should add that children, especially spiritually educated ones, can be a source of great joy to their parents, something which a materialistic society leads young people to believe will not be the case). It is about rendering a service to society. That is the reason for the emphasis:

Birth control, however, when exercised in order to deliberately prevent the procreation of any children is against the spirit of the Law of Bahá'u'lláh, which defines the primary purpose of marriage to be the rearing of children and their spiritual training in the Cause. The Universal House of Justice will have to consider this issue and give its verdict upon it.'

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, July 13, 1967, in Lights of Guidance, no. 1162


The quote you have shared from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that refers to physical love could quite easily be referring to hugs, kisses, holding hands etc.


While you are of course correct that "physical" could refer to other intimacies (and indeed these intimacies also can alleviate some sexual impulses), I think both the context of the quotation (which indicates marital problems, something which I think is more likely to be due to a lack of more involved intimacies) as well as other quotations which clearly do use "physical" as a reference to sexual activity (perhaps out of a preference to avoid being overly explicit since I think the Baha'i Writings set an example of moderation and tact in not sensationalizing such discussions), suggest that it is most likely something more.

There is also the following:

“Sensuality” covers a wide range of meanings, all related to the pleasures to be obtained from the physical senses or sensations. Again, it is the extremes of this quality that are reprehensible. To renounce all sensual pleasures, or even to go beyond this and to inflict pain upon oneself falls in the region of asceticism, which the Kitáb-i-Aqdas prohibits. On the other hand, to be self-indulgent in regard to food, drink, and sexual enjoyment, giving oneself up to the gratification of one’s appetites, becomes the licentiousness which is, likewise, forbidden in the Faith. As in the case of passion, individuals vary in the sensuality of their natures; some may need to restrain this quality, others may need to foster a greater warmth of feeling.

…How are a young couple, brought up to behave in the strictly moral ways explained in the Bahá’í teachings, to overcome the reticence which will exist between them, even though they will be free of the old attitude that sex is despicable?

Undoubtedly each couple will approach the matter differently, in accordance with the characters of the two people involved, but it is certainly here that passion and sensuality can play an important role, if accepted as normal qualities of a human being and if properly controlled and balanced by the reason and will.

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Sexuality, Relationships and Spiritual Growth, p. 137)



Moreover, there are the following passages which refer, not only to sex being created for use within marriage and procreation of children, but also marriage being created for expression of the sex impulse, a "natural right of every individual" (and one which no doubt for most people will certainly not be satisfied exclusively by procreative acts):

The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá'ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control.

(From a letter dated 5 September 1938 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, A Chaste and Holy Life, no. 30)


...the Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse and holds that the institution of marriage has been established as the channel of its rightful expression. Bahá'ís do not believe that the sex impulse should be suppressed but that it should be regulated and controlled.

(From a letter dated 8 May 1979 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)


There are also yet more passages which, though not as direct to your point, indicate that a "normal sex life" is possible as a Baha'i, and that marriage is intended as a means of satisfying the sexual impulse, something which might be difficult for many people if it were to be confined exclusively to acts of conceiving a child:

Enter ye into wedlock, that after you someone may fill your place. We have forbidden you perfidious acts, and not that which will demonstrate fidelity.

(Baha'u'llah, cited in Promised Day Is Come, par. 256)


Enter ye into wedlock, that after you another may arise in your stead. We, verily, have forbidden you lechery, and not that which is conducive to fidelity.

(Baha'u'llah, cited in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 49)


"Needless to say this does not preclude the living of a perfectly normal sex life in its legitimate channel of marriage."

(From a letter dated 28 September 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, A Chaste and Holy Life, no. 32)


[T]he life of a married couple should resemble the life of the angels in heaven—a life full of joy and spiritual delight, a life of unity and concord, a friendship both mental and physical.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. I, “Family Life”, p. 397)


Bahá’u’lláh has urged marriage upon all people as the natural and rightful way of life. He has also, however, placed strong emphasis on its spiritual nature, which, while in no way precluding a normal physical life, is the most essential aspect of marriage. That two people should live their lives in love and harmony is of far greater importance than that they should be consumed with passion for each other. The one is a great rock of strength on which to lean in time of need; the other a purely temporary thing which may at any time die out.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi: Lights of Guidance, no. 1268)


Regarding your questions: by holiness in our Bahá'í teachings is meant attachment to God, His Precepts and His Will. We are not ascetics in any sense of the word. On the contrary, Bahá'u'lláh says God has created all the good things in the world for us to enjoy and partake of. But we must not become attached to them and put them before the spiritual things. Chastity in the strict sense means not to have sexual intercourse, or sexual intimacies, before marriage. In the general sense it means not to be licentious. This does not mean we Bahá'ís believe sexual relations to be impure or wrong. On the contrary they are natural and should be considered one of God's many blessings. He does not know anything about whether albumen and delicious food affect sex; this is a medical question. Sex is a very individual matter, some people are more passionate by nature than others, and might consequently suffer more if forced to be continent. But when the world becomes more spiritual there will not be such an exaggerated emphasis on sex, as there is today, and consequently it will be easier for young people to be chaste and control their passions. A man of noble character and strong willpower, could certainly remain faithful to his wife during a long absence!

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance (vol 2), p. 71)


(At the end of a section on a chaste and holy life:)
It must be remembered, however, that the maintenance of such a high standard of moral conduct is not to be associated or confused with any form of asceticism, or of excessive and bigoted puritanism. The standard inculcated by Bahá'u'lláh seeks, under no circumstances, to deny anyone the legitimate right and privilege to derive the fullest advantage and benefit from the manifold joys, beauties, and pleasures with which the world has been so plentifully enriched by an All-Loving Creator. "Should a man," Bahá'u'lláh Himself reassures us, "wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not yourselves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful."

(Advent of Divine Justice, p. 33)


There are also passages which, while not directly indicating their permission, fail to restrict sexual acts within marriage where it seems they could have:

"...according to the Bahá'í Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully married persons."

(From a letter dated 13 December 1940 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, A Chaste and Holy Life, no. 31)


[When asked whether sodomy included oral sex, this was the response from the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.] In seeking clarification of Bahá’u’lláh’s prohibition against sodomy, you should note that whatever the connotations of the word “sodomy” in the English language, the term used in Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings, namely, “lavát”, merely means anal copulation by a male with another male or with a woman.

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, letter to an individual, September 11, 2006, cited at http://www.bahaimarriage.net/MarriageCa ... lation.pdf )


(And as with this above quotation, as to the prohibition of masturbation, though I could be wrong, the context of the prohibition, in referring to acts not within marriage, seems to me that it does not preclude such a sexual act between a couple within marriage.)

There is the fact that a couple incapable of having children may still marry:

A couple who are physically incapable of having children may, of course, marry, since the procreation of children is not the only purpose of marriage. However, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Teachings for a couple to decide voluntarily never to have any children."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, November 3, 1982, in Lights of Guidance, no. 1269)


And in the following passage on birth control--something which of course implies sex for non-procreative purposes, except in the case of abstinence--abstinence is not the only method permitted:

"You and your husband, therefore, should have no feeling that you are obliged to add to your already large family. This is a matter entirely for you to decide, and there are many methods of preventing conception, including self-discipline and restraint, to which you can have recourse. Sterilization, however, would be a more far-reaching action than any of these, with implications and results beyond those necessary for the immediate purpose of limiting the size of your family, and is not permissible in Bahá'í law except in rare instances where it is necessary for a medical reason."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 28, 1977, in Lights of Guidance, no. 1163)


Taken together, I think it is clear from the above, at least to my understanding, that there is nothing to preclude, and indeed we are encouraged to enjoy (within moderation as with all things), the blessings of sex within marriage for purposes beyond only procreation.

Best wishes,
Brett

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby BruceDLimber » Sun Sep 18, 2011 9:45 am

Why is succumbing to the sex impulse within marriage, when it is not for the purpose of procreation, suddenly okay?


It's not "suddenly" OK: it's ALWAYS been OK, as has already been pointed out to you by others!

Peace,

Bruce

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby brettz9 » Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:12 am

Bruce, I think anonyM's question is valid. Some of the quotations I supplied could be interpreted differently, and there a lot of possibilities to be explored to come to the truth (though, imo, the additional quotations I supplied do make the subject more plain). If someone is not open and just accepts interpretations of even the present-day Baha'i community as automatically valid, then we will never improve, so let's not deter people who may simply be trying to be conscientious and trying to avoid making easy justifications for any behavior they would like to engage in. Good research needs proof, so we should all welcome such inquisitiveness.

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby BruceDLimber » Mon Sep 19, 2011 8:59 am

[T]here may be a wisdom in couching the subject in language that allows for divergent interpretations.


That may be generally true, but for Baha'is this question has already been interpreted and explained clearly such that there's no question whatever about what is and is not proper, so for us--at least--, this can't even be a question.

Peace,

Bruce

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby brettz9 » Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:33 am

Hello Bruce,

Can you find the statement which conclusively beyond any doubt answers this? I do believe that is intended, but despite the quotations I supplied, I don't think it is absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever, 100% clear.

Brett

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby BruceDLimber » Tue Sep 20, 2011 7:42 am

brettz9 wrote:Can you find the statement which conclusively beyond any doubt answers this?


I can supply this:

"The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is
precisely for this purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The
Bahá'ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and
control."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 5, 1938; quoted in Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 108

Peace, :-)

Bruce

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby brettz9 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:30 am

I think anonyM's point though is that if the person is using it only with the intention of procreation, whether that could mean it was only intended for that. You and I might interpret such an exclusive use as "suppression" (I sure think that is reasonable), but others might not.

anonyM wrote:The Baha'i Writings discourage masturbation. So it seems there is no need (physiologically, psychologically etc) to engage in such a pastime. Indeed masturbation is deemed detrimental to ones spiritual well-being and growth. The only legitimate outlet for the sex impulse is within marriage. And as seen above the main purpose of marriage appears to be procreation. What changes? Why is succumbing to the sex impulse within marriage, when it is not for the purpose of procreation, suddenly okay?

The quote you have shared from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that refers to physical love could quite easily be referring to hugs, kisses, holding hands etc.

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby Jonah » Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:53 pm

anonyM wrote:1) What is the purpose for which the institution has been established? If your answer is having and raising/educating children then does it not stand to reason that this is also the "proper use of the sex instinct" that is the "natural right of every individual" referred to in the above quote?
2) Not masturbating or having sex outside marriage do not amount to suppression of the sex impulse but by implication must be categorised as "regulation and control". So why should refraining from having sex within marriage - apart from for the purpose of procreation that is - amount to suppression?


anonyM, I must admit I had all your same questions when I first started studying the Baha'i Faith.

But I fear there are few answers; the quotations Brett provided really do cover most of what the Writings say on the matter. You can do a keyword search of this site to see a few other people's takes on the matter: google.com/search?q=site:bahai-library.com+sexuality

I think perhaps this topic has run its course... :-)

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby brettz9 » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:26 pm

If you don't mind, I just like to add that 'Abdu'l-Baha says the following:

...it has become evident that the four criteria or standards of judgment by which the human mind reaches its conclusions are faulty and inaccurate. All of them are liable to mistake and error in conclusions. But a statement presented to the mind accompanied by proofs which the senses can perceive to be correct, which the faculty of reason can accept, which is in accord with traditional authority and sanctioned by the promptings of the heart, can be adjudged and relied upon as perfectly correct, for it has been proved and tested by all the standards of judgment and found to be complete. When we apply but one test, there are possibilities of mistake. This is self-evident and manifest.


While a statement from the House could unequivocally answer this for all of us, besides the traditions I have adduced in support of the idea, and I find nothing which my intuition can find as flawed in such an idea, at least I am left with senses and reason, the other two criteria 'Abdu'l-Baha is discussing.

I think many of us, at least, can find within our senses that the sexual urge would indeed be suppressed were it to be limited to purely procreative acts. I think reason leads us, both to accept the fact that in sexual surveys, people around the world have sex something like three times a week. One would expect a far greater degree of variability, if it were purely cultural. The Writings themselves describe it as an "instinct", so it is for this reason too, highly unlikely to be met by purely reproductive acts, unless people were to keep having children, which the Writings do not at all require:

"There is nothing in the Sacred Writings specifically on the subjects of birth control, abortion or sterilization, but Bahá’u’lláh did state that the primary purpose of marriage was the procreation of children, and it is to this primary purpose that the beloved Guardian alludes in many of the letters which are quoted in the compilation. This does not imply that a couple are obliged to have as many children as they can; the Guardian's secretary clearly stated on his behalf, in answer to an enquiry, that it was for the husband and wife to decide how many children they would have. A decision to have no children at all would vitiate the primary purpose of marriage unless, of course, there were some medical reason why such a decision would be required.

"You and your husband, therefore, should have no feeling that you are obliged to add to your already large family. This is a matter entirely for you to decide, and there are many methods of preventing conception, including self-discipline and restraint, to which you can have recourse. Sterilization, however, would be a more far-reaching action than any of these, with implications and results beyond those necessary for the immediate purpose of limiting the size of your family, and is not permissible in Bahá’í law except in rare instances where it is necessary for a medical reason."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 28, 1977)


The Qur'an even warns about making something unlawful which God has not forbidden (though not to go beyond the bounds of moderation).

"O ye who believe! make not unlawful the good things which God hath made lawful for you, but commit no excess:
for God loveth not those given to excess.

"Eat of the things which God hath provided for you, lawful and good; but fear God, in Whom ye believe."

(Qur'an 5:90-91)


Granted, that wouldn't mean that just because God didn't say not to throw paper at your teacher, that that is ok to do, but I think it does cause some pause about being excessive in restricting things (as is implied by asceticism being forbidden to Baha'is, as with puritanism). Remember this is not just a suggestion, but as much of a command as any other command.

A Baha'i still might be able to leave with their own alternative interpretation, if their reason, senses, intuition, and understanding of scripture lead them to another conclusion, and perhaps this dual possibility is supported by the following:

"Another believer, having read this letter, asked the beloved Guardian whether all birth control methods for any purpose were absolutely prohibited by Bahá'í Teachings. The secretary to the beloved Guardian wrote on his behalf on 4th February, 1937, as follows:

'The Guardian has ... given his careful consideration to your question regarding the Bahá'í view of birth control.

'...there is no reference whatsoever in the Writings on this subject. The utmost we can say is by way of reference from what Bahá'u'lláh has revealed regarding the nature, purpose and character of marriage.

'We, as Bahá'ís, are not therefore in a position either to condemn the practice of birth control or to confirm it.

'Birth control, however, when exercised in order to deliberately prevent the procreation of any children is against the spirit of the Law of Bahá'u'lláh, which defines the primary purpose of marriage to be the rearing of children and their spiritual training in the Cause. The Universal House of Justice will have to consider this issue and give its verdict upon it.'

"The Universal House of Justice feels that the time has not yet arrived for legislation on this matter, and that these instructions provide sufficient guidance for the friends for the time being."

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, July 13, 1967)


However, note that the quote provided earlier about "there are many methods of preventing conception, including self-discipline and restraint, to which you can have recourse." was in 1977, so my view is that this could be the House beginning to legislate about it and to all appearances for me, to allow it. They are explicitly saying here that a couple can use many methods. Since they have already listed the negative ("self-discipline and restraint"), what other methods are there which avoid non-procreative acts? Reason seems to me to imply that it is being allowed.

This might not prevent someone from thinking that the preferred method was abstinence, and that believers were only being permitted in this Dispensation to make use of other birth control methods, but I can hardly see anything stronger than the above-highlighted text to indicate it is definitely allowable for now, and I would personally be hard-pressed to accept another plausible interpretation, though I'm open to ideas.

Best wishes,
Brett

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Re: No more sex for fun?

Postby BruceDLimber » Mon Oct 03, 2011 9:54 am

I think the likelihood of healthy Baha'is at this stage in history practicing abstinence within marriage is virtually nil.


Obviously, given that such is neither asked nor expected of married Baha'is!

Peace,

Bruce


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