The Adultery Svithe


This week in most Mormon adult Sunday Schools worldwide the topic is David and Bathsheba. Which, as a story, I am so over. It's kinda been done to death, imho, so I'm not anxious to dig back in to it.

But it comes at a time when I am becoming increasingly aware that in America generally, probably the world generally, probably history generally, adultery has been constant and common. Given the data I've seen lately, I would suspect that the majority of marriages throughout history have been tainted by adultery at least once.

Now, I'm not saying this to give you permission to find a David or a Bathsheba of your very own, but simply as an observation of likely fact.

I suppose it's not that surprising. Humans are mostly animals after all, and like all animals our ultimate priority is propagation by any means necessary. And so all sorts of seed gets sown in all sorts of fields. C'est la vie.

But what's the lesson to be drawn if you (as, I suspect, is true of the vast majority of married couples both now and historically) desire to remain true?

Here's an obvious one: Don't assume your own unassailable morality. (That's pretty much good advice in any situation.)

Here's another: Don't suppose that the world at large is anxious to help you meet your goals (another generalizable notion).

Or, to state them both positively, With Work You May Be Good and Find Your Resources For Good Within.

And that's without bringing the divine explicitly into the equation.

Any way, have a good week. Don't screw around on your spouse.

Love, Theric.


  1. BTW, when I taught this last week, it involved movie industry statistics and a swamp cooler. Tell me you've heard that version before.

  2. Well, I ended up putting the smackdown on one woman because she was pretty adamant that Bathsheba was entirely to blame, putting herself in David's sight like that, the hussy.


    Hell of an extrapolation from two sentences, sister. Way to let the dude off the hook.

  3. Yeah, I went off (not angrily, but on a long tangent) when a brother said, in our discussion of things that influence chastity after marriage, that basically there is no wholesome media available today.

  4. .

    AKK: I have not. Do tell.

    The lesson went well. Even though I started by proclaiming the normalcy of adultery.

  5. I'm glad it went well. That is quite a note to start out on.

    Well, the movie stats were part of the aforementioned tangent, but the swamp cooler was the central metaphor for avoiding unchastity through right thinking.

    Specifically, the water being pumped into the cooler is that which we intentionally take into our minds: the things we choose to put there. The water is then pumped around in such a way that it saturates the pads on all sides, thus creating, in essence, a cooling membrane that filters all the air (mortal experiences/things we encounter with or without choosing to) coming into the swamp cooler. We then discusses what kinds of good and bad things we could feed through the supply hose and how they impacted chastity after marriage.

    Any questions?

  6. I haven't taught the OT in a long time. I kinda envy you guys who are. It's a wonderful book with some amazing, long-lived stories, though you've got to work for them sometimes.

    I've always had the impression that the David and Bathsheba story, like the Joseph and Judah story (one of my favorites), is long and begins before the rooftop scene and extends well beyond it with many offshoots. The words David utters at news of Absolom's death, "Oh my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom..." seem to me part of the David/Bathsheba narrative. Ripples.

    Anyway, why did David tarry at Jerusalem during the time when kings go forth to battle (2 Sam. 11:1)?

    Love the OT.

  7. .

    Yes, exactly, Patricia. From not going to war, to losing his moral authority over his children, the whole story is an extended disaster. He gains the long view a little too late.

    Adam: So you're saying if I want my house to smell right I should not use actual swamp water in my swamp cooler?

  8. I think that's a valid conclusion, yes. If you're using swamp water then you're probably taking the name of the device just a bit too literally.

  9. In reality, the proper use of a swamp cooler is to cool your drinks on a trip to the swamp.

  10. The whole principle of a swamp cooler mystifies me.

    Freon, people. Central air. Learn it, live it, love it.

    (Verification word: manic. Ya think?)

  11. If you use a swamp cooler, you get more humidity than you do with an air conditioner.

    And we can dall use more humidity ind our dlives.

    Besides, birds, wasps, and other critters that can reach it can drink the runoff water. They can't do that with air conditioners.

  12. Adam,

    I thought a swamp cooler was a drink.

  13. See, around here, humidity is what we're trying to get RID of.

    Trust me, getting out of a shower and walking outside in full sun only to be drenched in under a minute is not all that necessary.

  14. Patricia,

    One comes from the other, really. The device came first, and then the slimy beverage was invented to go inside it. It seemed like a brilliant marketing move, but ended up just confusing people.

  15. Here's my thing, MoJo. A swamp cooler is way cheaper than central air. Short term and long term.

  16. I had never heard the term "swamp cooler" until I was 19 and living in Utah.

    There is NO WAY you would use one here where I live. If you don't have central, you have window units. If you don't have window units, you have fans. Many homes have attic fans.

    Here, a swamp cooler would make a bad situation much, much worse.

  17. Mojo:

    See--that's the problem with climate-zone-specific jokes.

    I do try to make jokes that are appropriate for all weather zones. Sorry if my attempts here came off as anticlimatic in any way.


    My problem with swamp coolers (the drinks) are the little uplifting messages printed on the containers. Stuff like, "Choose that gorgeous lip gloss!" and "A friend is the best thing to make."

    Very confusing, considering the source.

  18. I'm just kidding, MoJo. I wish I had central. I prefer the dry cool. I have a window unit in my studio.

    Oh, Patricia! I don't think I can top that one.

  19. Th.,

    It looks like all you had to do to end your comment dearth was bump up the humidity!

    Tying adultery to the weather seems to have brought on the rain.

    Word verification: blegerta. Definition, what happens on a blog when conversations like this one happen too often.

  20. Patricia, AKK! No, really! I was joking too. Poking actually. My online sense of humor is...erm...kinda dry.

    Probably needs a swamp cooler.

    Re adultery (getting back on topic). I'm thinking about exploring that with one of the characters from my Dunham family. Not sure I have the stomach to push him (or her!) all the way to it, just because of all the emotion that goes along with it.

    EYES WIDE SHUT is a far different movie if you see it on both sides of marriage.

  21. Adam,

    Thanks for being the grownup. Yes, back to the topic. (Although it was fun to be silly for just a little bit.)


    The reason I asked my question back there somewhere about why David didn't go to war when he was s'posed to is that in the past, I've taught that bit as if he was kicking back at a time when he shouldn't be, and, being in a general idle mind-state, that's how he happened to be lounging up on the roof when Bathsheba decided to soap up.

    Recently, I've wondered if he didn't go off to war at the time when kings do because he already knew about Bathsheba, had designs upon her, and was taking advantage of her husband Uriah's being off fighting.

    Have I been slow on the uptake? Has a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie addressed this detail and I missed it?

    I was just wondering if anybody has taught it this way.


    Probably needs a swamp cooler.

    (Sound of pop-top being pulled off.) Here, have one on me. Don't mind the tadpoles. Or the "Live your life with an attitude of gratitude" platitude printed on the side of the container.

  22. Patricia, you didn't spike it, did you?

    Actually re David being home when he shouldn't'a been, I've wondered that myself.

  23. .

    The first time that David-should-not be home was pointed out to me it felt like a light going off.

    I was reading some rabbinical midrashim yesterday about this story and it's fascinating the lengths they will go to to lessen David's sin. I think that's a huge mistake. The whole point of the story is David's fall. Don't try to take that out!

    And, fwiw, I've never heard of a swamp cooler outside Utah either. These days, we're running a dehumidifier all sorts of hours.

  24. Don't worry, Theric, it's worth a lot.

    I understood that the washing in question was a Mikveh (ritual bath at the end of the menstrual period), which is supported 2 Sam 11: 4. The comment about Bath-sheba being purified from her uncleanness. Assuming that to be true, it makes sense that she would be washing in a public place (a Mikveh required immersion in a special bath house, which are still built for communal use) and it also explains how David could see a woman he didn't already know bathing from his roof. Remember the the king's house wasn't the extravagant one that Solomon built, so he probably didn't have a huge palace from which he could see the whole city.

    This also means that perhaps David hung out on the roof on purpose to see the women bathing. That, to me, would explain how he could have gone so far as to send for one. It doesn't seem like the sort of thing one does on the spur of the moment simply because of a purely accidental sighting.

  25. I was reading some rabbinical midrashim yesterday about this story and it's fascinating the lengths they will go to to lessen David's sin.

    I'm interested. How did they attempt to rationalize David's sin? To what purpose?

  26. Adam,

    Interesting info I hadn't picked up on. Thanks for pointing it out.

    I wonder if there were taboos associated with the Mikveh (other than the "uncleanness" aspect of the ritual) that David trespassed along with all the other moral imperatives he violated.

  27. .

    Yeah, I think it's fascinating that adultery with Bathsheba was, apparently in David's mind, less a problem because at least she was clean!

    Some of the midrashy ideas:

    1. David and Bathsheba were a perfect match and it was intended that they would someday be together. Just, sadly, they got the timing wrong.

    2. Bathsheba may have been modestly bathing behind a large vase and David, who was innocently shooting arrows off his roof* (!!!!!) accidentally broke the vase and she was caught naked and, well, one thing leads to another.

    (* this idea comes from a metaphor of shooting arrows in the air found in one of the psalms)

    Those are the two I remember, but there were more. And David has to look as good as possible because he is the Great Hero of Israel and heros must be good, right? right?

  28. Midrash aside I can't believe people are sitting in OT class trying lessen David's sin.
    If this were a case of it being more upon Bathsheba's head it would say so in the D&C. Joseph asked and recieved the answer-its no mystery.

    and for the record there are a lot of swamp coolers in Idaho and Montana too.

  29. I can't believe people are sitting in OT class trying lessen David's sin.

    I can't believe women are sitting on OT class trying to make Bathsheba out to be The Queen Succubus.

    The MOST fault I could put her at is 50% and even that, it's a looooooong stretch, given the gender inequality of the day and David's power position.

    For all we don't believe in Original Sin or the Sin of Eve, we sure do have a lot of cell-deep protestant/Catholic think going around. There are days I can't believe some of the protestant/Catholic crap that comes out of the mouths of lifelong (Utah-born-and-bred!!!) members.

  30. David's case is difficult to a lot of people because it challenges our generalizations about righteousness, judgment, etc.a

    Before his fall, David was highly favored of the Lord. After his fall, he was...highly favored of the Lord.


    It's ironic that one of the only people the Lord has ever told us DIDN"T make it, is still referred to as a man of perfect obedience - except that one thing. Even in the OT lesson manual, David's repentance in Psalm 51 is held up as ideal repentance.

    His case doesn't fit with the overly simplistic view of punishment and reward that a lot of church members are comfortable with.

    We all know that good men still fail to be exalted. But David was a great man, and still is. His heart is still after the Lord's. And his fall wasn't like Lucifer's fall. He didn't fall all the way. But he made the fatal mistake. It's a great tragedy, and one that refuses to let us stay in our little easy judgment bubbles.

  31. Yes! Swamp coolers vindicated! Thank you!

  32. .

    The contrast between the Lord's attitude toward Saul and David is instructive, I think. And figuring out why is probably important.

  33. Bathsheba II7/05/2010 3:17 PM

    I can't believe people are sitting in OT class trying lessen David's sin.

    Having recently come across a surprisingly large number of non-Mormon women in affairs with married Mormon men who still wear garments, baptize their kids and serve as elders quorum president, I can.

  34. .


    I wonder how strong the correlation between class reaction to this lesson and faithfulness may be.

  35. Nothing to do with swamp coolers, but last night FoxyJ and I watched a movie that you should show next time you teach this lesson: Shall We Kiss? (=Un baiser s'il vous plaît). I recommend it.

  36. Bathsheba II7/06/2010 7:42 AM

    I wonder how strong the correlation between class reaction to this lesson and faithfulness may be.

    I doubt it's very obvious. those with something to hide are probably smart enough to try to hide it, and an easy way to do that is to keep their mouths shut. This guy, for instance, probably doesn't comment too often on lessons like the one you just taught:


  37. I think my wife needs one of those outfits. To express her patriotism.

  38. I remember trying to explain swamp coolers to my coworkers in Illinois who had never heard of any such things.

    And I'm sitting in a room with a dehumidifier right now, and I still find myself mystified at the concept of wanting to dehumidify something . . .

  39. .

    We didn't get a dehumidifier until mass patches of black mold had covered all our northern walls. So we were slow to understand as well.



    If I may be so bold (I feel like I may since I can't even determine your geography, let alone anything personal about you), given your name and comments, I wonder if you have been the Other Woman for such a Mormon male. If so or if not, would you please share your story with us?


    [Edit: Added the lds-eros tag to this post.]

  40. I'm curious about Bathsheba as well, but for a really wonky reason.

    So Th. knows, I'm writing this book and in my book, I've written a ward that's...got issues...but (in my mind, at least), it's mostly pretty awesome. (For purposes of space, I can't write all sorts of awesome wardmembers so I had to cut it down to two and an outlier here and there.) There are squabbles and pettiness, but only one really BAD guy.

    Anyway, the ward I'm SUPPOSED to go to has its issues (power issues). The one I DO go to is awesome. Other than micromanaging leadership and power-mad priesthood, I really don't see/hear/know about any such things.

    And...I don't want to.

    So Bathsheba, your post bugged me (not about you), but kind of made me doubt how I see my ward(s) and it's making me second-guess how I wrote the one in my book. I'm re-reading what I wrote and wondering if I'm just this huge apologist.

    It makes me wonder if any of us are any good at all, I guess.

  41. .

    All have fallen short of the glory of God.

  42. Similar to my thought, Theric, which was:

    There is none good but one, that is, God.

  43. .

    That's actually the one I was thinking of.

  44. Yes, I understood that when I wrote my comment. What bugs me is not the sin, but the covering-it-up-and-acting-like-you're-doing-your-best.