My Official Stance on Masturbation

What about masturbation if you are endowed and unmarried? I am 29 and have my endowments and have this problem.  I am trying to stop the guilt and tell myself it is ok but is it?

The following post is extremely important for me personally and the opinions I will share have been 7-10 years in the making.   I know I have alluded to my stances on masturbation in the past – but largely within the context of marriage and/or parenting small children.  This has largely been due to my not wanting to take a stance against church policy, culture, and/or perceived doctrine.  However, this approach has left me largely silent when it comes to our adolescents and single members of the church – and I can no longer stay silent and consider myself to be an ethical mental health practitioner.  In fact, I want to offer an official apology for not having spoken up in a more direct way sooner.

So here goes my position:  Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression.  God has created us as emotional, spiritual, intellectual and sexual beings.  He has created these capacities in the context of both relational purpose and self-suffiiciency.  Meaning we are social creatures – meant to thrive in relationship with others.  At the same time, we are also individual creatures – and when not able to be in relationship have capacity to meet our own needs for certain periods of time depending on age and developmental stage.

Through the studies of pediatrics and human sexuality we now know that stimulating our genitalia is something we start doing in the womb.  Males experience erections and females experience vaginal lubrication as fetuses.  Taking our LDS position on children being innocent, and yet having the capacity for sexual feeling and exploration – we are challenged to look at some of our ideas about sin in regards to masturbation.

We know we are born and die sexual beings.  The capacity for marital sexuality only occurs through a set period of adult life – if it happens at all.  Therefore, isn’t it wonderful that God would create a self-regulatory system where we can count on ourselves to experience the benefits of sexual release when it is not appropriate for us to be in sexual relationship with another person?  Isn’t it wonderful that we would have a natural drive to self-explore – getting to know ourselves – as we prepare to share a sexual life with another person?  If approached within this context, masturbation can be used to help our teens and single adults keep the law of chastity in ways that empower themselves regarding knowing and controlling their sexual drives/cycles and owning their sexuality in non-shaming and normative ways.  Orgasm has been shown to help with relieving stress, aiding with pain (especially helpful for menstrual cramping), regulation of hormones and prevention of certain cancers.  For our single adults who are not married, masturbation provides this release and its healthy ramifications.  It can help with loneliness when single and it can help nonorgasmic women find their sexual capacity.  It can help married couples manage libido differences and add variety to sexual monogamy.  These are just some of the positive results that come from the healthy use of masturbation.

I understand that like any normal human tendency, masturbation can become an unhealthy behavior.   This is also true for eating – yet we don’t couch our physical desire to nourish ourselves with food as sinful.  I believe it is unhealthy for masturbation to be done in a way which interferes with your daily functioning or quality of relationships.  I do not want to minimize this for those who have struggled or who have suffered in a marriage where their spouse has withdrawn sexually in part because of an unhealthy masturbation habit.  At the same time, I believe unnecessary masturbatory shame and unmet attachment needs are at the core of most compulsive masturbatory behavior – becoming an unhealthy coping skill used in times of stress and discontent (topic for another post).

I understand there are many who might comment with old quotes in our church’s history which will attempt to show my position is incorrect.  I am sure I have read the quotes and I am uninterested in them – just as I am uninterested in the quotes that have to do with racism or other forms of bigotry from our past.  If you are one who would disagree with me, I would encourage the following reading:

Historical Development of  New Masturbation Attitudes in Mormon Culture

Masturbation Timeline in LDS History

In short, the church itself has moved away from its positions on masturbation which were largely promulgated during the early to mid 20th century – a time when culture at large had incorrect and inaccurate ideas about sexuality.  For example the word “masturbation” has been taken out of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and it no longer shows up in the Bishop’s handbook (leading me to believe that bishops should not even be asking about masturbation in their interviews – and one has a right to refuse to answer such questions).  Through the past 15 years, I have spoken to numerous bishops, stake presidents, relief society presidents, and high councilmen attempting to understand an official stance on this matter.  What I have come to understand is the answers I received largely depended on which leader you approach and what their past experience has been with leaders of their own.  This type of non-directive nuance on such an important matter is not okay with me.  Especially when within the last 6 months I’ve known of two LDS adolescent boys referred to the addictions program offered by the church because they masturbate 1-3 times a week and three LDS adolescent clients tell me they believe their masturbatory behavior to be a sin next to murder!!!  If this is what we are teaching our youth – then we are emotionally abusing them.  And it needs to stop.  I will no longer be a compliant witness to this type of psychological assault.  I know my language is strong and I intend it to be.  The numerous stories I could share about masturbatory shame run in the thousands and I find it unnecessary, harmful and life altering.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and am proud to stand by the teachings I have been taught since Primary: stand for truth and righteousness, dare to do right, choose the right and let the consequence follow, abandon unrighteous traditions, personal revelation is part of my divine heritage, not all has yet been revealed, etc.  Sometimes, sadly, this means doing so even within my own cultural framework of Mormonism.  Sexual shaming has had a long history within religious paradigms – with disastrous results for many.  I am no longer willing to participate in any way, shape or form with such shaming.

I am sorry if this stance alienates some of you from wanting to be associated with me or my blog.  I am sorry if I unintentionally offend.  I am sorry if my opinions would keep you from wanting to see me on a professional level or referring to me – because I truly love working with members of the church.  I am doing the best I can with the knowledge I have both from a spiritual and professional perspective.  I cannot go against my professional ethics and stand silent when I witness harmful behavior or belief.  I believe in the plan of happiness and see my role as a therapist being to promote physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health.  It is incredibly sad for me when biases and/or outdated ideas, not substantiated by doctrine, within our own culture get in the way of the true joy which can be found within the gospel teachings of Jesus Christ.

So in answer to this woman’s question:   Yes, it is ok that you are single, endowed and masturbating.  This is not a “problem.”  You are a woman with sexual needs and drives – your marital status does not change this.  Be willing to trust your sexual self so you can masturbate in a healthy way, enjoy and stop shaming yourself!

  • http://apronappeal.com Apron Appeal

    I’m trying to figure out how to pin this and not get flagged for inappropriate pins on pinterest. I don’t want to lose this link! I find your view on this to be thoughtful, careful and helpful. thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Crossfitdan?ref=tn_tnmn Daniel

    Wow. What a breath of fresh air. Well said, well written.

    In general, as a church we have come far within our culture in teaching sexuality. But we have much, much, much room to grow. My wife and I are shocked at the methods/approaches we hear others use to “teach” and prepare our youth for marriage. We had to question our daughters BYU MFT professor for his poor choice in using one of these old quotes and letters from the church. Needless to say he back peddled when questioned by us. But the confusion, emotional fear and damage is already done. Unfortunately, many of the students in all the classes he taught falsely to don’t have as proactive parents as we were for our daughter. The damage and fear and misconception will probably linger for many years and be perpetuated in their own teaching. Its so unfortunate.
    Thank you for being bold, but sensitive and respectful with such an important and sacred topic.

    • smithscars

      I was taught about masturbation by a Bishop when I was 12 in an interview.
      then I was taught it was sinful before I ever did it.

      Part of that interview included him teaching me D&C 86:7:
      “go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the bformer sins return, saith the Lord your God”

      So he taught what masturbation was, that it was sinful, and if i did it and repeated it I would have all the previous sins on my head also

      Overwhelming for a child, to say the least

      NOT Good

      • HappyMan

        If Masturbation is wrong, is it better to:
        Expect/demand your wife to have sex at anytime in order to keep your desires in check?
        Struggle with sexual intensity and be unproductive during the day or lose sleep at night until you can have sex with your spouse?
        On business trips or several days apart resist all thoughts of sex with your wife?
        Get married as soon as possible after your mission so that you will no longer burn with desire, even if she is not the ideal you sought–but hey at least you held out from masturbating.
        If your spouse passes away, do you get married as quick as possible so you are not tempted with this ‘evil’?
        If your sex organs physically hurt without a release at least every 2-3 days you just have to deal with it?
        If she is going through her period and needs 4-5 days off to feel comfortable for sex again?
        If she needs 6 weeks off from childbirth, can she not stimulate you or have you take care of it?
        If she is tired and wants to sleep through your sudden middle-of-the-night urge, is she duty-bound to help you so you avoid masturbation?
        If she has a hard time with orgasm and would like to occasionally experiment with rubbing herself to orgasm?
        If you are a teen and you experiment with masturbation before even finding out what it is, or that you need to privately release your sexual feelings?
        Is it really better as a youth to date and kiss–are not those things equally if not more stimulating? Isn’t the point of dating and kissing sexual attraction and preparing to find the right spouse? Is masturbation more or less the same kind of purpose?
        Can we not be proud of our sexual identities and love the idea of having sex with our spouse and feeling sexual as we desire?
        **I’m so glad that after refraining from masturbation in my marriage for 12 years that I opened up and talked to my wife about all of this. She is so MUCH HAPPIER that a) I always come to her first for sex and that she has the real option to choose. b) That she wants me to masturbate if it’s deep in the night or early morning as long as I communicate it with her the next day. c) That we can coordinate our desires so that 80% of my sexual releases are with her and that she is getting the “perfect amount for her”. This comes out to about 10 times of intercourse per month with my spouse and about 2-3 times with masturbation each month. (Neither of us feel any resentment or impatience about sex anymore, and we enjoy it far more than ever. Typically the day after masturbation, I crave even more to have sex with my wife and she is extra willing and able to reciprocate. It’s been a great blessing, bond, relief and source of joy to supplement our wonderful sex life together and I would never want to be with another woman in any other conditions.

        • Kena Kump

          amen on that. You said it perfectly.

  • Kimberly Brinkerhoff Baptista

    Thank you for this important post, Natasha. I am a born-and-raised Mormon woman with two currently-serving bishops in my immediate family, and I could not agree with you more. The psychological damage that has been done to both men and women with regard to this issue is unconscionable, and it has to stop. I really appreciate a prominent person such as yourself in the Mormon community taking a clear, public stand against the unnecessary shame surrounding masturbation. You did a great thing today.

  • Martine

    Amen!

  • http://jewelfox.dreamwidth.org Taryn Fox

    I grew up Mormon, and was kept from a mission, kept out of the temple, and nearly killed myself due mostly to the shame that I felt from this. Every time I try to explain how bad I felt, LDS church members tell me I just didn’t understand the doctrine of the atonement correctly or something.

    Thank you so much. Please don’t let others forget the damage that has been done. Please help the ones who’ve been injured to heal.

    • Kyle

      You’ve said it, Taryn. I agree with you 100%.

    • Anonymous

      This is silly. You wanted to kill yourself over masturbation, so you demonize the Church? Are you telling me that the Word of Wisdom is to blame for an alcoholic trying to kill themselves out of shame? Or a man who has committed adultery, then tried to kill themselves can blame the Church for having a view that Adultery is a sin? Should every sin be excluded because someone might kill themselves over the shame of it???? Does anyone really get how this tosses the basic concept of personal responsibility out the window?

      • Anom

        Nowhere did Taryn “demonize” the Church. That is a poor choice of words which undermines the rest of your argument (which, as a matter of fact, reflects a semblance of reasonable logic).

        Did Church sanctioned racism also abrogate the agency of those who practiced it (to one degree or another) prior to the official declaration that included all worthy men into the body of the priesthood? Do you get how that tossed the basic concept of personal responsibility out of the window in some respects (“I’m not responsible for my racism, the Church is!”)? Now what if a person were to commit suicide on account of the shame they felt because they perceived themselves to be a member of a race of people marked by the Lord as wicked etc.? (I realize how inflammatory that may sound–but this is what the Church has taught and continues to teach about the Lamanites, for example.) Would it be fair to put the blame exclusively on their shoulders? I don’t think so–see, most things aren’t really so black and white, after all.

        Some shame is appropriate for certain transgressions of behavior. Other shame, however, is false and destructive (guilt that purifies as fire is of a different kind altogether). Should I feel shame because I’m not as talented as Sister So-and-so, for example (a common source of shame and self-abuse for many women in the Church–not that self abuse!)? I don’t think so. That is a cultural phenomena that should be curtailed. Perhaps the shame of masturbation fits under this umbrella as well. Just some of my thoughts about the issue…

      • ashel

        Thank you for the comment about personal responsibility. I don’t agree that people should just toss out whatever is inconvenient because they don’t want to feel bad. I’m 30, single, endowed, and am very sympathetic to the difficulties associated with this, but I’m not using it as an excuse to give in to a weakness. Scriptures are clear about overcoming the natural man and lusts of the flesh. It’s a weakness, and no, it’s nothing akin to murder and people don’t need to be shamed to suicide over it, but that doesn’t mean the ability to masturbate is a gift from God. We’re given weaknesses to overcome, not to give into. Our society is entirely oversexed, which is why people have started to take this idea of ‘it’s okay, it’s natural, we have needs’…that reduces us to being like animals. The world doesn’t get to define right and wrong because they don’t want to overcome or sacrifice a guilty pleasure. And just because it’s more socially acceptable to gorge ourselves on unhealthy food doesn’t make that a good idea either. Satisfying your ‘needs’ before marriage may undermine your motivation to get married. Who wants to deal with all the difficulties in marriage when you can get off without a partner? The chemicals released in your brain due to sexual release are meant to bond you to your partner in an intimate way, so you’re actually messing with your ability to form healthy, intimate relationships by focusing on yourself sexually. I feel like people are just not connecting the dots of what’s increasing in society while healthy relationships, marriages, and families pay the price. I had these haunting ideas of shame and sexuality as a kid, but that’s because kids have a hard time understanding what they’re experiencing, not because my parents told me I was evil for experiencing it. And then I grew up. The more you indulge and push your sexual limits with yourself or even in dating, the harder it is to control. As I’m not married and have not sought information on this issue within a marriage, I have nothing to say about the concerns of masturbation there, but as far as making enabling masturbation by trying to take the shame out it…that doesn’t work with my 30 years of personal experience. The solution to a problem is rarely to just tell yourself it’s not a problem.

        • Dixie

          Wow ashel. This was so well said! I agree with every word you wrote. Thank you for articulating that so well.

        • grizzlygrizzlygrizz

          Ashel,
          I found this particularly disturbing: “Satisfying your ‘needs’ before marriage may undermine your motivation to get married. Who wants to deal with all the difficulties in marriage when you can get off without a partner?” you don’t actually think this do you? Is that why people get married in your head? People get married for more reasons than we could accurately describe in a comment section over a lifetime, so saying that they all get married to have intercourse is absurd. Words cannot begin to express how wholly and abhorrently, false your all of your sentiments are. The world doesn’t set right or wrong, those terms are absurd. What is right today is wrong tomorrow and yes, even inside of the church those terms are elastic (blacks and the priesthood, woman and shorts, etc.). It is the individual that must challenge and scrutinize whether something is agreeable to her constitution. If it is agreeable then, at least to her, it must be right. How could an organization begin to pretend to understand how an individual thinks? There is so much nuance and complexity aboriginal to every single individual, how can anyone claim to know what’s best for them? No one else can, the individual is solely in charge mapping their life. If people have any chance of true happiness they must step out of the cozy womb of the institutions of men and become in tune with themselves. I digress, the fact of the matter is everyone needs to decide for themselves whether masturbation is agreeable to them, but not on the words of a conglomeration of men, on the genius of their on conscience.

        • Naomi

          Thank you for this wonderful comment. While I think that the author has a point where teaching our children to be ashamed of their sexuality is wrong, it is also important that we are aware that we need to tame and control our natural tendencies. So yes, while it’s okay to feel sexual feelings, and it is natural to have them, it is also appropriate to control them, not to give into them.

          • Bob

            I agree, the pamphlet says do not arouse those emotions in your own body. I think they stayed away from the word ‘masturbation’ not because they are condoning it, but because it may be an unfamiliar word to the 12 year olds and because you know someone is going to do something creative and try to say it is not masturbation to feel better about it. The spirit will not always strive with man. Perhaps if you don’t feel guilty about it…

        • s

          I seem to recall some quote about not condemning the splinter in someone’s eye when you have a log in your own. I hope, given the state of the world, that people don’t sincerely spend their time worrying about masturbating, which can be an utterly healthy thing, Ms./Mr. Ashel ;) Instead of spending your energy and time on the sinfulness of masturbating, take that time and do something constructive. Let’s keep things in perspective. There are a huge number of homeless people here in Salt Lake, which astounds me. I thought for some reason, that in a city with so many religious folk, those unable to care for themselves would be taken care of by their loving neighbors–regardless of their religious status. I think folks should be worrying about loving their neighbor before condemning those who believe masturbation to be a healthy part of life (which I fully affirm it is).

        • justme

          We are asked to overcome the natural man because the ‘natural man’ sleeps around. The lord also prepares a way for us to accomplish the thing we have been commanded. Masturbation is the safe and healthy way for youth to relieve normal sexual tension before marriage. It is the way prepared for us to remain virgins until marriage. It is a useful tool, not a sin. Premarital sex is the sin. It worked like a charm for me and it’s what i’ve taught all five of my kids.

        • Charity

          Ashel, Thank you for writing that. I think that people argue this point in an effort to appease their own shame. I am not sure that the spirit is standing by those whom masturbate ready to prompt them with some insight. I’m not sure that all of heaven is watching with approval when people masturbate.
          What I find interesting is that when one masturbates, they have to think of something or someone arousing. If it isn’t a spouse, then what kind of pure and clean thoughts are going through their minds??

          • Anon

            While I agree with Ashel, that we need to control our natural man, it is possible to relieve ones self without really thinking of anyone or anything other than the feelings you have. However, I still believe it is a sin and I am ashamed for allowing myself to give in. It is an unhealthy habit to have and needs to be curbed.

        • Charity

          To the author of this blog post…I stumbled onto your post quite by accident but read your stance anyway. Interesting thoughts. I am actually quite sad to see the number of comments that you have generated. I cannot help but to feel that you are on the fringes of something bigger than you realize…and not in a good way.
          I am sad that so many are suddenly “on your side” with this. YOUR SIDE?
          Who’s on the Lord’s side, who?

          If we are to do as the Savior would do…do you really (really and honestly) think that he took time for his own sexual desires outside of marriage or without a partner? Do you really think that he masturbated?? Where would he have dropped his seed? On the ground? In a rag? I think you have lost your mind.

          I would sincerely hope that you rethink your stance.
          I would hope that your new “followers” see you for who you are.
          I would hope that your followers understand that YOU are not doctrine. YOUR thoughts are not doctrine. YOU are not a mouthpiece for the gospel teachings. Your readers seem to think that you are. Who are they?? Are they so simple-minded that they will follow you? I suspect we will see a new faction of church started…”The new church of…what is your name again?”

          I hope they (your readers) aren’t thinking that they can ride your coattails all the way to heaven and when they discover that you are wrong…that they are wrong…they cannot then blame YOU for it. I suspect, however, that they will say, “But Heavenly Father, I thought it was okay to masturbate! I know I thought about every man in the ward when I did it, but see…this blog I read…it said that masturbation was okay! So, I’m not really in trouble am I? I mean, I saw it on the internet…and it can’t be a lie if it’s on the internet, right?”

          Here’s a question for you to ignore…we are not hearing much these days about gathering food storage. Hmmm. I guess that means that we don’t need it anymore. The church must have changed its stance on gathering food. I guess science is proving THEM wrong. hee hee. Good old science, huh? Hey, everyone! I have a whole year’s supply of food. Free to a good home. I don’t need it. The leaders of my church aren’t preaching it anymore! Come and get it!

          Seriously? Once a doctrine or principle has been taught to death, it doesn’t need to be repeated so often. It’s still doctrine!!! It’s still true! We have been taught what is right. We know it. We are now being taught deeper doctrine. A thought just occurred to me…the new youth manuals…well, they are not teaching the same lessons that have been taught for years. Um…I guess the youth are now free to toss those old ideas, right?

          I can’t remember the last time I heard a GA teach that we must have FHE each week…and give reasons…and supporting evidence. I guess that means we are off the hook for FHE! Whew! I must say that I’m glad about that. The SHAME I felt when we missed a week of FHE. Boy, oh, boy.

          You need to get real.

          You are tailoring the Savior’s gospel to suit your own needs and thoughts. You are perverting the ways of the Lord and you are on dangerous ground.

          I hope we never meet. I hope you are never in a position of authority over youth and children. I hope I never see your blog again and I do hope I will forget that I even read your smut.

          ….when evil is spoken of as good…and good spoken of as evil….

          I think it is a wonderful thing when people can conquer the natural man.
          I think it is a shame when we can see the wheat and the tares being sifted so openly.

          Such a sad post.

          • Andrew

            Actually I think your post is quite sad. You seem to be spitting a lot of venom. We are genuinely striving to do e best we know how, and I think it is sad you assume some evil intent behind the author of this blog. I don’t “follow” her, or think she is a mouthpiece of God no more then anyone else can be a mouthpiece of a God besides the prophet.

            I’d go into more detail about why the church actually doesn’t have an “official stance” on masturbation as you might think they do. But you don’t seem interested in openly discussing the topic as much as condemning the rest of us who want to have open dialogue about the issue. Just because we talk about it doesn’t mean we all engage in the behavior, nor is it really appropriate to condemn us so blankly without knowing more about what we actually think. I think you are making quite a few large assumptions about the caliber of person that participates in these topics. We aren’t just all trying to cover our sins so we can indulge in our guilty sexual pleasures.

            Finally in regards to your questions posted about what the savior did in regards to his sexual drives. I actually think it’s quite inappropriate to discuss that topic in regards to the savior in such a personal way. If you want a response I would say I am sure he utilized his sexual passions very appropriately and I do not know exactly what that means, and am not going to go into specific sexual acts that he may or may not have participates in. That to me seems irreverent. It is too much speculation, about too sacred of a topic, and I am a bit surprised that you pretty brazenly talked about his sexual desires as if you know what he did.

            I’ll tell you this much, I think the Savior is keenly interested in the healthy exercise of sexual desires not only for procreation, but for the bonding of man and wife, and to help us come closer to him. To me sex is not some dirty secret, or filthy act, but it is part of the sublime part of being human.

            I guess I am just surprised at how much disrespect you can show for the posters here, by condemning them as if it was your place, and at the same time say Natasha is trying to start some kind of new following. Honestly I would expect you to show more love. Regardless of if we are all wrong in our many varying views, or if we down right sinners. You’d think that would all the more encourage you to kindly approach us with why we believe what we do, not just condemn us and wash your hands.

            I’ll tell you this much, while my personal view. On sexuality, and in regards to this post about masturbation may not always be exactly right, if I am genuinely convinced by the spirit, and my good common sense that I am doing something wrong I will put all my effort in to mending my ways. Genuinely I will. So please if you wish to further condemn people for their views at least do us the kindness of genuinely loving us first.

            I apologize if any of this is received in I’ll will. It is not intended as such. And that is why I wanted to make sure you knew that at least my intentions here are not to “follow” Natasha, or bring about some kind of inappropriate church rebellion, or step outside the appropriate bounds of priesthood authority. I think I speak for most here when I say we’re just honestly doing the best we can to figure out very sacred topics in an anonymous setting that allows for what would otherwise be a muted conversation. Thanks for your comments, and I hope this helps you understand where I am coming from better:)

          • Anonymous

            Andrew, I wish you had taken a few minutes to cool down before writing your reply. While I don’t think you would have changed your stance, you may have been a little more respectful. Instead, you have only worsened the repution of yourself and everyone that shares your opinion.

            However, while I do not think that Natasha had evil intentions, I do not share her opinion and I do believe that her language is a little strong. I admit, there was a part of me that wanted to believe what she said, and for a minute I entertained the idea and sort of wished it was true. Wouldn’t life be a little easier? But I do not feel the same way. If I have any “psychological damage” from the shame of my habit, I think it is the same damage that might come from any other unhealthy addiction. The fact that shame can drive someone to suicide does not justify sin. In fact, when someone becomes depressed over masturbation, it is likely not the shame of having done it once, but the shame of not being able to control it: aka addiction. Whether or not occasional masturbation is okay, not even Natasha believes that an addiction to it is healthy. It is tragic that anyone should go through such a trial, but we must always remember that the Lord understands our suffering and will help us through it if we let him.

            I sympathize with those that struggle with depression over such trials. They are still children of God. They are not condemned. However, while I agree that masturbation is not next to murder, I do not think that it is okay. The word masturbation may have been taken out of the For the Strength of the Youth manual, but it was replaced with “Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.” This is even more strict, since masturbation goes well beyond arousing emotions.

            I think that Natasha and any who also feel that many LDS people are causing emotional damage to the youth should realize that these same LDS individuals (most anyway) are happy and healthy non-masturbators that were taught the same thing they are teaching. It is possible to not masturbate and be happy. While I do not have solid scriptural evidence to prove my argument (neither does Natasha, I might add), I have always believed that when unsure about an important issue, it is best to take the safer path. If masturbating “might” be a sin and not masturbating most certainly is “not” a sin, then I think the Lord would be pleased if I decided to take the safer route even if it turns out to be unnecessary.

            My last point concerns the fact that most bishops will not allow anyone that masturbates to attend the temple. There are a few different ways someone might respond to this. Some might fib and tell the bishop they are not masturbating, figuring that a white lie is justified if it means they can enter the house of the Lord. On the contrary, we are commanded to honor the authority of our bishops, which means not doing so, even if our bishop is being unreasonable, is a sin in and of itself (and so is a lie). That is surely not the way the Lord wants us to get to the temple. Still others might maintain their habit and instead be upset with their bishop or the church and either dispute it or sit tight and wait for a new bishop (who will probably feel the same way as the last one). Even if masturbation is okay, it is surely not as important as attending the temple. In other words, if you have to jump through hoops to get to the temple, jump through them. Don’t go around them and don’t wait for them to be removed. Even if masturbation in principle is okay, lying your way to the temple or not attending at all is not.

            Finally, many have mentioned that the church is evolving. This is true in many senses. However, we mustn’t try to read the Lord’s mind and predict future evolution. When the priesthood was given to all worthy males, the church made an official statement. The church has “not” made an official statement that masturbation is okay. This argument cannot be used to prove that masturbation is okay. One can hope, but not assume that the church will evolve to agree with him.

            I think Natasha should ask a higher authority about this issue. It may be enlightening to all of us. If her opinion is confirmed, I would love to know.

          • Anonymous

            Oops, sorry. That was intended for Charity, not Andrew.

          • Andrew

            So just FYI… The whole bishops will not allow you to got to the temple if you are masturbating… I know for a fact that is not true. And I am not speaking of the interviewee lied, or decieved etc… I have also heard from others the same policy, although some bishops do indeed withhold temple recommends from those who masturbate. That is not necesarily church policy. While I appreciate the idea of going the safer path when in doubt. Sometimes I catch myself going a “safer” path not because I really know its safer, but more because the other path is just really scary. And whenever I find myself making choices based on what I am afraid of I find that my faith is diminished. So when in doubt I say ask God, and I assume most do, and if you get no answer, just do the best you can. You can’t accidentally sin. God doesn’t condemn us for accidentally doing the wrong thing. Is when we know in our hearts we are dong the wrong thing, and we do it any way. Anyhow just some more thoughts about what you said in response to Charity.

        • MormonMom

          I agree with everything you’ve said. Thank you!!!!

        • mormongirl

          Thank you. Everyone struggles with sexuality, but reading this article just feels so wrong! It’s a justification for something we’ve been told to TRY to overcome. Maybe we’re not guilty for having some feelings, but I know from personal experience that through the Atonement, it’s absolutely possible to overcome these feelings, or put them off until marriage. For the strength of Youth clearly states “do not do anything to arouse these feelings in yourself.” And here it is from a PROPHET, Spencer W. Kimball:
          “The early apostles and prophets mention numerous sins that were reprehensible to them. Many of them were sexual sins—adultery, being without natural affection, lustfulness, infidelity, incontinence, filthy communications, impurity, inordinate affection, fornication. They included all sexual relations outside marriage—petting, sex perversion, *masturbation*, and preoccupation with sex in one’s thoughts and talking.”
          Those are the words of a prophet! You can’t get around that. We should feel guilt if we participate in any of these things–not the kind of guilt that drives us away from God, but the kind that will motivate us to change for the better. It is possible to be empowered by the Atonement to learn SELF CONTROL… I can only speak about my personal experience; and I felt real shame that motivated me to change, and I felt so at peace and right after I had repented. I know that sexuality is a natural part of our lives, and it feels good and satisfying, but we have to practice self-control in this life, or we will not be as strong in the next.

          • Andrew

            I don’t think anyone here is saying don’t practice self control. I don’t think Natasha is condoning rampant sexual lust. Nor is she saying from my reading of her article that masturbation can’t be used in unhealthy ways to encourage inappropriate behavior. But I do believe it is not far fetched to believe that the practice of masturbation is not inherently evil.

            As far as the strength of youth pamphlet, and president kimball’s quote… First the for strength of you pamphlet, if you interpret it as literally as you have that it means you should never experience sexual arrousal before marriage then we should probably not allow youth dances, dating, or contact with the opposite sex at all until marriage. Because plenty of youth experience sexual arrousal from simply being in the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex. I think you can take that statement to unhealthy, unintended extreme interpretations.

            Secondly president kimball has mostly been alone not only through recent church history, but the bible, Book of Mormon, doctrine covenants, and the Bible as far as condemning masturbation as a sin. So whole I respect his call as prophet, and believe indeed he was a man of God. It doesn’t mean everything out of his mouth is the word of God. There was a recent conference talk that spoke about how not everything spoken by the prophets and apostles is necesarily correct. Even they are allowed to make mistakes in their opinions and teachings. I’ll gladly find you the reference I am referring to if you’d like.

            Finally I think some of the most condemning evidence that masturbation is not inherently sinful in and of itself is the myriad of oppertunities prophets, apostles, the church has had to define it as expressly such and hasn’t. In fact in the new guide to the scriptures that just came out nowhere in the definitions of sexual immorality, lust, fornication, adultery, etc… Is masturbation listed. I mean nowhere. So why is it that if it is so clearly a sin that the church leaders have left it from the list of sexual immorality? Especially with it being such an inherrantly common issue that almost everyone deals with. If it is so clearly a sin why do they just not state it as such? But instead throughout the myriad of church material we have access to president kimball’s statement and the one or two other similarly based statements that are all over thirty years old, and nowhere else to be found are not repeated expressly in new material.

            To me it seems unconscionable that the trusted and inspired leadership of the church would fail to define such a universally difficult issue with a clear answer like they have with homosexuality, pre marital sex, pornography, and other sexual indiscretions.

            I am not saying masturbation can’t be done in a sinful way. Abuse of our sexual faculties any time is a sin, even in marriage. But I think it is difficult to get around the overwhelming evidence that the church has specifically not defined it as a sin for a very good reason. They are leaving it to us as families to guide our children and ourselves in the appropriate use of our sexual faculties in this area.

            Even among local church leadership the position that it is a sin is controversial. With some local leadership who side with president kimball, and from my own personal experiences those who are on the exact opposite side of the spectrum.

            I appreciate it feeling wrong to you, and for you perhaps it is. Obviously that is your choice t be made, and I think it is not strange that you have felt the atonement help you overcome struggles with a behavior that was distancing you from Christ. But that does not mean the physical actions were necesarily the sinful part, nor does it mean that it is universally a sinful physical action.

            I am in no way encouraging you to change your behavior. That is a very personal sacred choice, and right to revelation that is between you and The Lord. But I must question why The Lord would repeatedly leave such a controversial issue from being defined clearly. Especially when it is as common, and dealing with such a serious and important aspect of life.

            If it were clearly doctrine I would expect it to be taut repeatedly through out the entire priesthood structure of the church. But it hasn’t. So i am personally left to conclude that at least for now God has left it to the individual to decide whether or not to engage in such behavior. And that the behavior is neutral, how we use it is not.

            I come from a similair background of having overcomeing the practice of masturabtion. Succesfully controlled efore my mission and marriage, and I felt my savior love in guiding me to be able to overcome lustfull desires, and abusive habits. And now that I am married I have an easy way to express my sexuality in a very beautifull and clearly appropriate manner with my spouse. I have no personal motivation to reason myself around a “sin.” But interestingly enough as the topic has come up with my wife, and she knows everything of my past indiscretions, she has actually sided with Natasha as well, and she actually never struggled with masturbation. I am not pushing this to cover up some personal sin. But rather because both my wife and I have had equally spiritually strong experiences that to us indicate that masturbation in and of itself is not sinful, but how it is practiced on an individual basis can be. And it is a tool we now use as a married couple to express or mutual love, unification, and gratitude for towards each other and God for the sacred gift of sexuality. And the difference is night and day from my youth to my married life. Then it was lustfully used, and as a poor emotional coping habit. Now it is part of a beautifull sexual relationship with my spouse, and the spirit we have felt is amazing.

            Does that mean it is right for every couple, single person? No. But I definitely could not in good conscience exclude masturbation as an appropriate tool for the healthy expression, exploration, in a safe environment of the sacred gift of sexuality. Once again I am not condoning listless, and willfull selfish abuse of a sacred gift. I am saying that despite a few isolated quotes, that are not oft repeated, and or taught in current official church material. Masturbation has been left to the individual to decide. And if it was so clearly evil, and would harm us. God would let us know. He wouldn’t veil such an important aspect of development in such obscure language, and leave out appropriate priesthood channels of defining it if it was in fact so vital for us to get right. That indeed would not be fear, and not inline with his attributes.

            I appreciate our convictions, and hope they serve you well. I guess I am saying , sinful or not, it is not official doctirine, and until it becomes such to teach it as obviously sinful would be harmful to the church as a whole until it is clearly stated as such. Self control? That is great! i believe in self control. But what that means for every individual should be left to the individual and not be assumed to be the same just because of an experience or feeling we have had.

          • Andrew

            I don’t think anyone here is saying don’t practice self control. I don’t think Natasha is condoning rampant sexual lust. Nor is she saying from my reading of her article that masturbation can’t be used in unhealthy ways to encourage inappropriate behavior. But I do believe it is not far fetched to believe that the practice of masturbation is not inherently evil.

            As far as the strength of youth pamphlet, and president kimball’s quote… First the for strength of you pamphlet, if you interpret it as literally as you have that it means you should never experience sexual arrousal before marriage then we should probably not allow youth dances, dating, or contact with the opposite sex at all until marriage. Because plenty of youth experience sexual arrousal from simply being in the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex. I think you can take that statement to unhealthy, unintended extreme interpretations.

            Secondly president kimball has mostly been alone not only through recent church history, but the bible, Book of Mormon, doctrine covenants, and the Bible as far as condemning masturbation as a sin. So whole I respect his call as prophet, and believe indeed he was a man of God. It doesn’t mean everything out of his mouth is the word of God. There was a recent conference talk that spoke about how not everything spoken by the prophets and apostles is necesarily correct. Even they are allowed to make mistakes in their opinions and teachings. I’ll gladly find you the reference I am referring to if you’d like.

            Finally I think some of the most condemning evidence that masturbation is not inherently sinful in and of itself is the myriad of oppertunities prophets, apostles, the church has had to define it as expressly such and hasn’t. In fact in the new guide to the scriptures that just came out nowhere in the definitions of sexual immorality, lust, fornication, adultery, etc… Is masturbation listed. I mean nowhere. So why is it that if it is so clearly a sin that the church leaders have left it from the list of sexual immorality? Especially with it being such an inherrantly common issue that almost everyone deals with. If it is so clearly a sin why do they just not state it as such? But instead throughout the myriad of church material we have access to president kimball’s statement and the one or two other similarly based statements that are all over thirty years old, and nowhere else to be found are not repeated expressly in new material.

            To me it seems unconscionable that the trusted and inspired leadership of the church would fail to define such a universally difficult issue with a clear answer like they have with homosexuality, pre marital sex, pornography, and other sexual indiscretions.

            I am not saying masturbation can’t be done in a sinful way. Abuse of our sexual faculties any time is a sin, even in marriage. But I think it is difficult to get around the overwhelming evidence that the church has specifically not defined it as a sin for a very good reason. They are leaving it to us as families to guide our children and ourselves in the appropriate use of our sexual faculties in this area.

            Even among local church leadership the position that it is a sin is controversial. With some local leadership who side with president kimball, and from my own personal experiences those who are on the exact opposite side of the spectrum.

            I appreciate it feeling wrong to you, and for you perhaps it is. Obviously that is your choice t be made, and I think it is not strange that you have felt the atonement help you overcome struggles with a behavior that was distancing you from Christ. But that does not mean the physical actions were necesarily the sinful part, nor does it mean that it is universally a sinful physical action.

            I am in no way encouraging you to change your behavior. That is a very personal sacred choice, and right to revelation that is between you and The Lord. But I must question why The Lord would repeatedly leave such a controversial issue from being defined clearly. Especially when it is as common, and dealing with such a serious and important aspect of life.

            If it were clearly doctrine I would expect it to be taut repeatedly through out the entire priesthood structure of the church. But it hasn’t. So i am personally left to conclude that at least for now God has left it to the individual to decide whether or not to engage in such behavior. And that the behavior is neutral, how we use it is not.

            I come from a similair background of having overcomeing the practice of masturabtion. Succesfully controlled efore my mission and marriage, and I felt my savior love in guiding me to be able to overcome lustfull desires, and abusive habits. And now that I am married I have an easy way to express my sexuality in a very beautifull and clearly appropriate manner with my spouse. I have no personal motivation to reason myself around a “sin.” But interestingly enough as the topic has come up with my wife, and she knows everything of my past indiscretions, she has actually sided with Natasha as well, and she actually never struggled with masturbation. I am not pushing this to cover up some personal sin. But rather because both my wife and I have had equally spiritually strong experiences that to us indicate that masturbation in and of itself is not sinful, but how it is practiced on an individual basis can be. And it is a tool we now use as a married couple to express or mutual love, unification, and gratitude for towards each other and God for the sacred gift of sexuality. And the difference is night and day from my youth to my married life. Then it was lustfully used, and as a poor emotional coping habit. Now it is part of a beautifull sexual relationship with my spouse, and the spirit we have felt is amazing.

            Does that mean it is right for every couple, single person? No. But I definitely could not in good conscience exclude masturbation as an appropriate tool for the healthy expression, exploration, in a safe environment of the sacred gift of sexuality. Once again I am not condoning listless, and willfull selfish abuse of a sacred gift. I am saying that despite a few isolated quotes, that are not oft repeated, and or taught in current official church material. Masturbation has been left to the individual to decide. And if it was so clearly evil, and would harm us. God would let us know. He wouldn’t veil such an important aspect of development in such obscure language, and leave out appropriate priesthood channels of defining it if it was in fact so vital for us to get right. That indeed would not be fear, and not inline with his attributes.

            I appreciate your convictions, and hope they serve you well. I guess I am saying , sinful or not, it is not official doctirine, and until it becomes such to teach it as obviously sinful would be harmful to the church as a whole until it is clearly stated as such. Self control? That is great! i believe in self control. But what that means for every individual should be left to the individual and not be assumed to be the same just because of an experience or feeling we have had.

  • Tucker

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying what needed to be said. The guilt and shame I have felt from the unintentional “emotional abuse” afflicted upon me by my father, church leaders, and wife because of these cultural policies nearly drove me from the church and into depression. Your approach and the changes the church seem to be making–although slowly–just make all the sense in the world and I intend to incorporate this into my advice to my sons as they grow up. At least on this issue, I expect I can give them a better environment for feeling loved and developing a stronger sense of self-worth than I ever had.

  • Nelson Chung

    Good thing you’re not my bishop.

    • Anon

      Do you care to explain why you are of this opinion? Your response is insufficient and not very constructive (and, I daresay, disrespectful).

      • Steveg

        “Disrespectful of what or whom?

        • Anon

          Natasha, for one, and to her readers. In my opinion, that is… It doesn’t bother me at all, but it simply isn’t a very productive comment and tends towards the inflammatory and unsubstantiated.

      • Anon

        I can explain this opinion. I have 2 friends who have nearly taken their life over this issue. I thank Natasha for being frank and clear in her assessment.

        I also have a Down Syndrome niece who participates in self-pleasure frequently and publicly. Is she sinning or was she created as a sexual being.

        Keep in mind that our stances on what happens in the bedroom has shifted. Birth control, oral sex, and the wearing of the garment during intercourse. To believe that our Prophet is not influenced by his time and culture is naive.

        • http://nickleus.com Nick Humphrey

          during the end of my time as a member i became suicidal because of the issue of masturbation. when i finally realized it was ok and that the church’s teachings about sexuality were what was making me mentally ill, i quit the church and it was like waking up from a nightmare on a warm, sunny day =) i have a completely different, more happy life now that i’ve taken ownership over my own sexuality. i encourage everyone else to do the same =)

          • Lars Lindstad

            Hi Nick, I am very sorry to read about your experiences with the church and how you became suicidal because of the issue regarding masturbation. Sexual transgression is a serious subject in the church because of the consequenses it can lead to, that is why in my belief the Lord through Alma (and other prophets) spoke in such directness. However, this directness needs some deeper thought to understand, and that is important, because it is a BIG difference between masturbation and ex. rape. – In my belief, regarding adultery, the sin regarded next to murder is NOT pointet to masturbation – but the Lord wants us to be clean in his presence and just by thinking about sex with someone that is not our wife is regarded as a sin. That law is more than hard to follow in these times where internet is everywhere… I know! We need for sure help. No question about it. And most likely, most people are not able to follow the law alone. That is why The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a big deal in the church. True? So, what to do if we do not manage to keep the Holy Ghost in our daily lives? Are we doomed? Is it better to take suicide? Of course not!

            From Matthew: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

            I belive Nick, that understand these teachings from Jesus and try and follow them will not lead to suicidal thinking, because you, me and others will be thought to accept each other for our incapasity to live our lives perfect and we will instead try to forgive and help each other – instead of judging each other and ourselves. Like Jesus teaches us to do. Because – in my opinion, it is impossible to love one another if you dont love yourselves. And we need help to love ourselves – Love is a gift, its almost always earned.

            I am very sorry that you have grown to distrust The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints.

            Maybe I see you one day – because we have common friends.

            Lars

  • Reesie

    Thank you so much for this.

  • Joseph McKnight

    Natasha: Thank you very much for your speaking up. But, I think you are going too easy on the church and perhaps you missed the actual For The Strength of Youth pamphlet’s verbiage, “Do not arouse those emotions in your own body” under the “sexual purity” section. This statement is preceded immediately by the paragraph with the ending statement, “The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder . . .” I believe very firmly, like you, that masturbation is not a transgression, but to the youth who read the pamphlet, what are they logically going to assume? Whether or not the word “masturbation” is used or not, I think our youth will make the logical jump that the Church is teaching it is a sin, a serious sin. Hence, we have a big division in the Church community that is causing much discord between parents and leaders.

    • http://apronappeal.com Apron Appeal

      I think the youth will only go there (making a logical jup that it is a sin) if the people they trust that teach them, go there first. If parents and/or leaders take the approach that Natasha has put forward they may read this as a request to set boundaries and not go searching for ways to arouse yourself….but if it happens, it happens, take care of it and move on.

      • A. Reise

        Ofcourse “do not arouse those emotions in your own body” means DO NOT MASTERBATE and they’re perfectly right. Any addictive behavior is enslaving, and being enslaved is against the plan of happiness. We need to teach our children other, healthier, coping behaviors.

        • Kyle

          Eating is addictive too. Anything that invokes some kind of happiness or pleasure can become an addiction that can cause social, mental, physical, and/or spiritual problems. And as for healthier coping behaviors, its been proven, as was stated in the article, that sexual activities are necessary for a healthy life style. This type of narrow-minded thought is exactly why i left the church.

          • Squite

            Eating can be very addictive. I have a serious problem with the copious amounts of food that pass over the social tables of the church. I feel the bulk of it ignores what is taught in the Word of Wisdom, to the point that I often do not attend events that center around food because I choose to distance myself from the practice. I believe this issue is going to be addressed more openly by church leaders as the number of heart attacks, cancer victims and diabetes cases continues to rise in this country. The healthcare disaster has resulted in many people lacking a proper plan and being forced to look to within to assess what they are doing to their bodies. I see more and more saints doing the same. This is what the Word of Wisdom is in place for, to help us take care of our bodies better. When properly applied it helps us omit addictive dangers from our lives.

            There isn’t anything spiritually healthy that can come from masturbation. It is taught to be wrong because it is wrong. It is not, however, akin to murder, or even close. There is no question that the Savior will forgive anyone who masturbates, so long as they recognize and apply the Atonement in their lives. Taryn, I suspect that at least some of the people who have mentioned this to you have done so because they have themselves repented of same and I am no exception. Masturbation is in effect abusing the creative power with which we have all been blessed, and it can especially damage sexual relationships after marriage, when we are to exercise that power. It can also prolong the desire to consider the experience of marriage. It is clear young people today are getting married later and later in life as a whole, and this is likely one reason as to why.

            Bad habits are hard to break – that is the danger in promoting masturbation. It is a lot easier to never be addicted to something (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, processed sugar (junk food), etc.) than it is to try and overcome it. I think about all of the homosexuals in the church and how many of them I see in the Temple. No doubt they need an outlet for their complex desires, and I’m willing to bet that outlet is oftentimes masturbation. I’m also willing to bet that many offenders of this rule seek the Lord’s help to overcome it, and that they are blessed by Him for making such efforts.

            The Atonement is a powerful thing. To be little the seriousness of any of the aforementioned sins is to belittle the Atonement’s divine power, and that is the biggest danger of all.

          • 1question

            “It can also prolong the desire to consider the experience of marriage.”

            Squite:
            If that quote isn’t the biggest recipe for disaster and failed marriage, I don’t know what is.

          • B-Happy

            I think LDS people in general ignore the idea that over eating is actually addictive and contrary to the teachings of the church. Because we love us some cheesy carbs.

          • smithscars

            Squite said “I believe this issue is going to be addressed more openly by church leaders as the number of heart attacks, cancer victims and diabetes cases continues to rise in this country.”

            makes me wonder why they need to wait until after a lot of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes before they get a prophecy. Aren’t prophesies supposed to happen Before the fact?

  • Ryan

    Now if we could just get the First Presidency to put this on letterhead and send it to all the wards and branches…it would be so easy. We would hear a giant, collective sign of relief throughout the Mormon corridor.

    • A. Reise

      When have the prophets ever promoted the “easy” or “popular” or “socially acceptable” thing to do? It’s the STRAIT and narrow path, remember? I wish people would stop second guessing the leaders of the church.

      • Jeff

        When have the prophets ever promoted the “easy” or “popular” or “socially acceptable” thing to do? How about discontinuing polygamy when it became too painful (because of legal action from the US government) to continue? Even if there was a revelation to tell us to take the easy, popular, and socially acceptable path, it was still that path.

        • eman

          Or when people of African decent received the priesthood when the government again threatened to revoke the non-profit status of the church?

        • ashel

          The scriptures have instances of multiple wives, but those were things of a certain time and purpose, and the general teaching in the scriptures is one man and one woman, starting with Adam and Eve and continuing in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. Saying that the church ended polygamy just for the legal issues might not be so black and white as you think. Jesus turned water to wine back in the day, so does that mean we should take alcohol out of the Word of Wisdom. I think God is fully capable of addressing problems that arise due to modern society and advances in technology, etc.

      • Lisa M

        I am sure all of these straight and narrow, non-masturbating, sexually acceptable people who make it to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom (where they will have to share their marriage in the new and everlasting covenant of eternal polygamy) will look around and smugly (but humbly and meekly) and say: “I’m sooooo glad I repented for masturbating!”

        All .08% of them.*

        Too bad Heavenly Father will only get to enjoy such a small percentage of His children in that highest level of the Celestial Kingdom.

        * Basing my numbers on the 7 billion people on the planet today, with 14 million LDS members, only 40% of which are active. I used the 40% number, but I’m sure it’s much smaller than that, because not all 40% active members are temple-worthy, non-masturbating members.

      • Tim

        Why cant the members second guess the leaders? They do it all the time:
        Polygamy
        Adam God
        Temple ceremony changes
        Blacks and the priesthood
        Oral sex in marriage
        Women praying in sacrament meetings

        Should I go on? Its not the changes that bother me, they represent progress. Its the pretending that the leaders are perfect with a direct phone line to God and NEVER leading the church astray. ITS BS and everyone knows it but many live in denial and castigate anyone who has the nerve to refer to inconvenient history and facts.

        • Andrew

          I agree church leaders make mistakes, and there is no promise in my opinion that they won’t have imperfect ideas, teachings. I think there is a promise that the president won’t purposely lead us astray. Bt the point is that the church isn’t perfect yet, or that he can’t make mistakes. He’s just not going to turn evil without The Lord removing him. While it still may be christ’s church. We’re all still learning. That includes church leaders. Any observant student of church history will see church leaders change their interpretation of what certain doctirines mean exactly. Blindly assuming anyone is right without seeking personal confirmation is a bad idea regardless of their church position. And just because something felt right, doesn’t mean that answer will always be the right answer. Eg I shouldn’t have sex as a single… Once married, go for it.

    • A. Reise

      When did the prophets ever promote the “easy” or “popular” or “socially acceptable” thing to do? It’s the STRAIT and narrow, remember? I wish people would stop second guessing the leaders of the church.

      • Dwight Franke

        exactly! Plus what or who does one masturbate about? It is a sin and can lead to greater sin. Self mastery is not a bad goal. Many may fall short but if we are repentant and it is the intent of our heart to do better – then I believe the grace of our Savior will wash us clean via the Atonement.
        28 But I say unto you, That whosoever alooketh on a bwoman to clust after her hath committed dadultery with her already in his heart.
        • Matt. 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
        • D&C 42:23 And he that alooketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the bSpirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.

  • Trent

    My wife of 17 years and 5 kid divorced me due to very occasional masturbation. I agree with your position on the topic but know that trying to change the churches stance is useless. They have to use shame to keep you feeling like you need to repent and need them. Sex is the biggest tool they have in that arsenal. There are many good things in the church like fellowship, forgiveness, love, kindness, family but I love the quote, that which is good in the church is not unique and that which is unique is not good.

    • smithscars

      I agree 100%

      This article is a good idea but it isn’t an honest portrayal of what is actually taught and accepted.

      From WHENCE do you get your authority to come up with this new doctrine

      just kidding

      How come the LDS first presidency won’t come out and make a statement in support of your views Natasha?

      Because they don’t teach masturbation is ok.
      simple as that.
      its a sin to them.

      Now hopefully you wont have the millstone hung around your throat and dropped into an abyss for teaching this to the little ones.

      *** Shhh, don’t worry, it’s not true anyways, you’d find out for yourself if you looked

      Mormons are so trapped by Old customs including Old English talking, Old Tabernacle Choir Music, and Old positions on Sexuality

  • Anonymous

    So how do you reconcile that with the fact that it usually takes either thinking inappropriately of a member of the opposite sex or reading some sort of pornography to make that all work?

    • Gail K

      I do not think it is inappropriate to think of having sex with another person. That is what the human brain is set up to do. I don’t know much about the need to read pornography in order to be aroused. Most people get aroused simply because they are human. The chemicals in the brain cause the thoughts of the having sex. I think you have been taught something that is opposite of being human, a sexual being.

      • Kandee

        Gail, are you LDS?

        • ifrit

          I hope you’re asking sincerely and not in a rude way. It’s hard to tell, this being the internet. I don’t think Gail said anything that would indicate she isn’t LDS.

      • neuropsy

        So if “the chemicals in the brain cause the thoughts of having sex,” what causes those chemicals to activate? And the ones before them?

        People seem misunderstand the role of chemical messengers in the brain (actually, nobody alive has such a COMPLETE understanding as to make an unequivocal statement) and take the individual’s will out of the sex drive. Yes, there is a reward/pleasure system in the brain that is highly involved in sexual response; no, it is not purely the chemicals that cause the thoughts. It’s far more complex than that.

      • Charity

        Really? Govern your thoughts. Remember the scripture…when you lust after another, you are guilty of adultery?

    • David

      Pornography and masturbation do not have to go together. They never did for me as a teenager. I never looked at porn of any kind and I still masturbated a couple times a week. I often was not even thinking about anyone while doing it. It just felt good. It is ridiculous that I had to feel guilty and conflicted about doing something that was completely healthy and natural. I am so glad to see that any mention of masturbation has been removed form the For the Strength of Youth. Maybe this generation will have a less horrible experience growing up in the church.

      • David

        Looks like I was wrong. Another poster has mentioned that the euphemisms referring to masturbation are still in there. Right after a quote from Alma saying that sexual sins are next to murder in seriousness no less! Looks like the kids will be as guilt ridden as ever and will be killing themselves over this issue for years to come.

    • jim bob

      For married guys, pornagraphy is a symptom. Their wives have turn into cows and/or shrews. Pornagraphy is just whisper of a distant memory.

      • Fisher

        Pipes?

      • Craig

        Amen, Brother. We promise in the temple to only have sex with our spouse. Unfortunately this is only stressed in it’s negative form. Wives who refuse to participate in sex are being unfaithful and inadvertently pushing their husbands toward porn and masturbation. We always see the Enisgn articles about the poor women with sex-addict husbands but never the articles about the poor men (and I suspect they are myriad) with frigid wives. The church beats up men all the time about their treatment of women. I asked my Bishop once if they ever talked to women about how they treat their husbands. He basically said “Of course not, are you crazy”.

    • Anom

      I would submit that in any healthy marriage, sexual fantasies and memories of one’s spouse should be sufficient to promote a state of sexual arousal.

      Gail is right–fleeting thoughts about sex with a person other than one’s spouse are natural and unavoidable (and, therefore, not necessarily right, per se, but also not an appropriate target of recrimination). However, what we choose to do with those thoughts defines the level of fidelity we maintain in our mental life to our spouse, in my opinion.

    • Bradley Hintze

      For the record: on DOES NOT need to think of having sex with another person to masturbate. I remember being asked by a psychologist who I was thinking about or what body part I was envisioning when I masturbated. I was utterly confused as I had never had such thoughts during masturbation. So from my experience this notion of thinking of another to masturbate is perplexing as that rarely occurs.

    • Dwight Franke

      It is a sin and can lead to greater sin. Self mastery is not a bad goal. Many may fall short but if we are repentant and it is the intent of our heart to do better – then I believe the grace of our Savior will wash us clean via the Atonement.

      • Matt. 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
      • D&C 42:23 And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.

      • Bradley Hintze

        Those scriptures are off topic. FYI: we’re talking abou masturbation.

  • Pingback: The Mormon Therapist declares her “Official Stance on Masturbation” | Dialogue – A Journal of Mormon Thought

  • LRC

    Thank you for this healthy approach to a subject that’s caused way too many problems for way too many Mormons.

  • http://www.abetterlifecounselingllc.com Dan

    I agree completely. When I was a therapist at LDS Social Services I gave similar opinions to clients. In order to try to balance employer expectations, and my own professional standards, I told clients that it was up to their bishop to give them spiritual advice and that I would give mental health advice on the topic. I told the clients that masturbation is a normal part of being human and described some positive aspects of masturbating.
    I had clients that were well on their way to becoming suicidal over masturbation. I considered it immoral to cause such pain to a person over such things. Other clients were in divorce situations over it, and not from excessive masturbation, just over rare occurrences that kept happening.
    Sometimes what I said held sway, and at other times advice from a Bishop cancelled out anything that I said and progress was slow. None of my clients took their life over masturbation, but there are documented instances of LDS teens taking their own life over masturbation guilt.
    It is all so unnecessary.
    I applaud your professional integrity in speaking the truth boldly. And I wish I had time to type up a proper response.

  • mmmmmam

    Natasha,
    Thanks for sharing your caring experience and statement. May many who are tortured about this subject be set free. I realize this is a stance taken after years of dealings with sadness and sorrow that knows no bounds. I applaud your statement but even more I applaud your efforts to assist those who suffer.
    May God bless you in you continued good works. If by chance you recieve ecclesiastical council concerning this statement and if you can share, please keep us informed………..Keep smiling!

  • Judith Hansen

    As a psychotherapist I absolutely agree with everything said in the article.

  • Michael

    Thank you for publicly taking on this issue. I am someone who has been intensely affected by the church’s Victorian attitude. Because I was honest with my bishop about masturbating 1-3 times per week I sat out from preparing and blessing the sacrament all throughout my years in the Young Men’s program. When it came time to serve a mission I was barred from sending in my papers. Together with my parents, we decided that I should return home from BYU to focus and prepare myself spiritually (i.e. finally “overcome” masturbation)–resulting in a wasted year in which I developed acute, debilitating depression. I was only able to serve the mission after I was placed on an antidepressant with a libido-diminishing side effect.
    It’s hard to fully appreciate the psychological toll these persistent experiences had on me, and it’s hard not to feel somewhat embittered towards central church authorities for pushing such a misinformed policy. I was a good kid surrounded by loving, well-intentioned parents and leaders. The terrible shame, the depression and the wasted time, in retrospect, seem completely unnecessary. I do hope that more people will be vocal on this topic so that future generations won’t have to go through a similar experience.

    • Ashley

      This just makes me so sad. I am so sorry for all that you lost…and I wish that others would hear and feel compassion for your story and recognize that their is another side to church teachings.

  • Blue

    This article is going to make a FANTASTIC family home evening lesson for my two kids (13 & 15). I couldn’t have explained it this well no matter how hard I tried. Can’t wait to read and discuss it together. Thank you!

    • B-Happy

      FHE. That is a great idea. But my oldest is 10. Too young?

  • Traci

    Re: For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. The Church just issued a revised pamphlet this year, and, unless the paper version is different from the website, says nothing about arousing sexual emotions in your own body or masturbation. It is entirely about sex being between married men & women.

    https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth/sexual-purity?lang=eng

    • Kandee

      Click on the word that says “more” and it goes into more detail including homosexual behavior…

    • Anon

      This was the rest, when you click on “More”: It does say not to arouse feelings in your own body:

      The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:5).

      Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression.”

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s still quite Victorian.

      • SomeDude

        I think this paragraph was not written very clearly and has misled many to believe that masturbation in and of itself is a sexual transgression. This paragraph simply counsels that we shouldn’t do anything (ie touching other people’s private parts, passionate kissing, arousing sexual emotions in our own bodies, etc) that could lead to sexual transgression (which is having sex with, or viewing the sacred body parts of, someone that is not your spouse). So I don’t think it means doing those things are transgressions, it just says don’t do them or else they may lead to an actual sexual transgression.

        Also, I don’t think “do not arouse those feeling in yourself” equates to “do not masturbate”. I think it simply means “if you’re perfectly fine, do not attempt to make yourself horny”… For lack of a better way to put it. I have never viewed masturbation as a sexual transgression, nor have I ever been asked by any of my priesthood leaders if I have that habit (I’m 27, an active temple-worthy member, and served a mission). I masturbate because I know it will not lead me to sexual transgression (it might for others, so if you think it might, then don’t do it), but I do not touch other people’s private parts because I know that will definitely lead me to sexual transgression. Although I must admit that I have sometimes “aroused those feelings in myself” out of pure boredom when I was not naturally aroused, and it has led to more frequent bursts of unnecessary arousal. So I don’t do that anymore. But again, that did not make me unworthy, it just made me waste a lot of time.

        Anyway, the Strength of the Youth pamphlet is simpy a booklet containing counsels from prophets to the YM/YW organization of the church (aged 12 to 17) on matters that are most important to them at that age. Failing to adhere to its counsels may led to transgression, but is otherwise not a sin!

        • Andy

          You have a very interestng and enlightening way of interpreting the counsel we have been given. Thank you for the way you have expressed your take on the matter. It is the first time I have seen such a rational approach to self-stimulation.

  • Matt

    I nearly died after a suicide attempt with an air rifle to the side of my head because I could not give up masturbation of which I was denied advancement in the priesthood. It was a miracle that I lived. I was sent to LDS Social Services soon after. The counselor said nothing about masturbation being healthy instead had me read a book about a man Victor Frankl who was a Jewish man trapped in a Nazi concentration camp.

    I feel bad for those who have lost loved ones because they could not give up masturbation etc.

  • branson

    As a teenage girl I always felt like an oversexed freak for (occasional) masturbating and having sexual thoughts. After years of trying to overcome sexual desires as a teenager I almost went so far as self genital mutilation so as not to have a problem with it anymore. Then I got married and the “problem” magically disappeared. SO GLAD I didn’t hurt myself over something that I now view as a non-sin and victimless crime. Being sexual is not a sin. The church REALLY needs to lighten up about this.

    • Andy

      One issue that is rarely discussed in the church is the situation of widowers and widows. Through no fault of their own their partners are snatched away from them leaving them alone and lonely after perhaps having a very healthy and happy sexual life. Their “knowledge” of sexual intimacy does not just disappear with the burial of their spouses. Contrarily, they mourn the loss of companionship and intimacy, and often think about, reconstruct memories of, and fantasize about the gratifying sexual relations they shared with their spouses. A man may one day be happily married, and in top physical and sexual shape, being physically attractive, sexually active, and satisfied in a healthy marital relationship, and the next day he loses his wife in a car accident and not only mourns the loss of the companionship, but also the loss of sexual intimacy. His sexuality is forced to die and be buried along side his wife according to church lore and possibly church doctrine.
      In my opinion, this very important topic needs to be brought out into the open by our Prophet. Too many people are suffering from the guilt and shame of self-stimulation because they do not know what the church’s stance really is. Church members should not have to “guess” if this behavior is a mortal sin or not, and certainly members who practice self-stimulation should not be forced to suicide as their last resort for failure to overcome it. The sexual urge is a powerful urge, which is difficult to overcome; however, if all members of the church who ever participated in self-stimulation were forced to attend addiction therapy, the system would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, and wonder of wonders, there wouldn’t be any counselors there to provide guideance because they too would be patients!
      I believe that once our Prophet addresses the issue facing widowers and widows of the dramatic loss of a spouse and its associated loss of sexual companionship and intimacy, a statement may be made that might blanket all the others whom this issue affects. As widowers and widows try to cope with so many losses, and then fantisize with tears wetting their pillows, they can envision their partnerss back in their arms if only for a few moments, and can self-stimulate as a way to cope for their huge loss. Should this behavior be guilt and shame-filled when it is all they can do to keep their heads above the waters of greif and pain? To me that seems to be cruelty added upon the already tragic loss of life with which they are coping.

  • Michelle

    Thank you. I’ve been trying to figure out how to have this conversation with my son – one’s own private sexual habits, perhaps barring actual obsession and/or addiction, really aren’t anyone’s business but one’s own, and are certainly not sinful.

    When I was a teen, my then-bishop determined that he was going to ferret out sexual transgression among the youth…often, before it was even committed. My conversations with him were wholly inappropriate – I had done nothing, thus shouldn’t have been called in to the bishop’s office to be shamed into confessing. I’ve since kept a healthy distance from the bishop’s office, though I continue to attend (my husband is inactive). For various reasons, I don’t wish to leave the church entirely, but wouldn’t hesitate if another bishop were to take a similar tack with my children.

  • nate

    I’m torn on this personally. I agree that masturbation is not worth committing suicide over, and there is a lot of over-reacting in the church of course. Probably it is a natural part of exploring one’s sexuality, and when it happens as part of that process, it’s not a big deal. But I think inviting youth to overcome it is positive.

    Masturbation is addictive, and it works like any other street drug on the brain. Maybe if it is done in moderation, when sex with a real person is not an option, it does have health benefits, and can perhaps keep you from being so sexually pent-up and frustrated. But I would say that masturbation is difficult to do in moderation when you live in a sex-saturated society, surrounded by a constant stream of porn. If you are a cave man, and the head cave man steals all the cave women for himself, it’s OK for the wimpy cave man to go masturbate in a corner when he gets frustrated. But unlike cavemen, we have a steady stream of visual material that allows us to recreate non-physical sexual experiences that can be even more powerful than physical ones. And unlike cavemen there are plenty of real women we could go marry or have sex with if we wanted to, but fewer and fewer men do that because the masturbation experience seems superior sexually, and comes without all the baggage of a relationship.

    In my experience with masturbation, I’d say that masturbation slides very easily and naturally into porn, and porn into masturbation. You cannot really have one without the other. So any discussion of the positive effects of masturbation must be accompanied by some kind of acceptance of porn. In the case of teens who are exploring their sexuality, we can treat the subject with far greater nuance. But in my opinion I don’t think we can encourage it wholesale in today’s society.

    • A. Reise

      I totally agree! It slides so easily into pornography, homosexuality, addiction. So like you said, Nate, until we accept those things as a normal, sinless part of the human experience why skirt on the edge? Why flirt with disaster?

      • http://natashaparker.org Natasha Helfer Parker

        There is no correlation between masturbation and homosexuality. Just want to be clear on facts.

    • Amy

      I mostly agree with this comment. I am the mother of two boys and I have spent a lot of time pondering and praying over how to teach them about their sexuality. They are both very different. One even as a baby NEVER touched his penis and HATES to have it touched, the other (who is a baby) can’t get enough of the thing. Every time his diaper comes off – it’s like there is NO TOMORROW! I do think it is sad that there have been so many who were caused to feel so guilty over things like masturbation and I am so sorry so many have struggled so much even until suicide. But I do find this blog post a little alarming. Masturbation is such a hard thing to keep healthy and such an easy thing to become an addiction. It would be truly sad for someone to feel like they have an “excuse” now to go crazy and end up with an addiction that they are not happy with and keeps them from future happiness. Although, that would be the fault of the reader not the poster.

      I also have something to say to those who blame church leaders for “making” them feel guilty or for not coming out and saying more on the subject. We are encouraged time and time again through the scriptures and through our modern day prophets and apostles to turn to the Lord. We are meant to go to our Father to answer the questions and desires of our hearts. Heavenly Father did not give us the gift of personal revelation so that we would have to go to our bishop every time we had a question. Now, I understand that we are taught to go and talk with our bishop if we feel like we need guidance on things but that doesn’t mean he has ALL the answers. He is just a man and he’s most likely doing the best he knows how. But do you know who knows better than him or COULD know better than him? YOU! I just encourage everyone to trust the scriptures when they say that God will reveal the mysteries of His kingdom to those who exercise the faith and are willing to be patient and learn from Him in His way.

      • becca

        why do you think “Masturbation is such a hard thing to keep healthy and such an easy thing to become an addiction.” ?

        where did this viewpoint come from?

        do you realize that Mormon’s make up 1% or less of the world’s population and that there are millions and millions and millions of people on this planet that went through normal teenage masturbation frenzies and continued as needed into adulthood, and live fine healthy lives that include masturbation?

        all those nice parents of kids your kids go to school with, all your government leaders, all of everyone practically on this planet earth…..they masturbate. it’s a normal part of life. it’s not hard to keep masturbation healthy or to not be “addicted” to it. the giant majority of every human that ever lived has had no problem keeping masturbation healthy ;)

    • Bradley Hintze

      I am sorry Nate but your view is very very dangerous! I am not going to say your wrong because you seem to be talking of your own experience. At the same time I ask that you not project your view onto others, especially our youth. From what I understand from your comment is that you believe that masturbation ‘slides very easily and naturally into porn’. While that may be your experience you can not generalize that to everyone, it certainly comes no where close to my experience. In fact it is quite the opposite.

      From my own experience, as well as talking to others, it is the guilt and shame that leads one to porn, NOT masturbation. The guilt comes from one who listens to and believes well-intentioned but misguided priesthood leaders who keep iterating that sexual thoughts and desires before marriage are evil and are not part of a ‘good’ person’s life. This is so obviously dangerous, there is no healthy option for a sexual outlet. Suppressing one’s libido adds gasoline to the fire and when the individual finds that they can’t keep their thoughts and desires ‘clean’ the guilt and shame come roaring in. Continued suppression is when the porn comes, the libido will not be denied! And, NO! Righteous living, faith, prayer, fasting, or any other behavior we can tink of will NEVER take away the libido, hormone we have absolutely no control over.

      Natasha is spot on, masturbation is addictive just as much as eating is. The answer is NOT to stop eating, it is to eat a healthy diet as well as exercise and take care of the whole body. Same thing goes with sexuality, the answer is the same. Don’t suppress your libido but learn healthy ways of dealing with it. If we do this porn won’t be a problem at all! I can ‘t express this enough. Masturbation DOES NOT lead to porn, rather guilt from thinking you sinned from masturbating probably will lead to porn.

      As soon as I truly and fully internalized the concept that Natasha is expressing here all problems and even the very temptation to view porn completely disappeared (along with personal anguish). Now I am more sexually clean with this view than I ever was before I adopted Natasha’s healthy view. Thank you SO MUCH Natasha!!

  • Max

    As a Mormon youth, my bishop inflicted the guilt through sexual shaming associated with masturbation during an interview when I was 15 years old. Thirty years later I was standing in a beautiful mountain valley with a gun to my head ready to take my own life over this very issue. It was only due to a very fortuitous phone call that I am here today.

    I’d served a mission without masturbating during the entire time I was out but within weeks of returning home I was right back to it. It is doubtful I ever went longer than a week during the intervening 30 years. Many of those years, I lived in a relatively sexless marriage…which I also think is a result of sexual shaming my (now ex) wife experienced during her formative teenage years.

    I firmly believe that the sexual policies of Mormonism are entirely at odds with reality. The teenage shaming inflicted by well meaning but uneducated and uterly clueless LDS leaders creates emotional and psychological barriers in marriage that have damaged the potential for intimacy of millions of LDS believers. I know that it was central to the eventual destruction of my own marriage.

    For the sake of the lives and happiness of our children, young adults and adults alike, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop the sexual shaming. My second son’s best friend hung himself over this very issue. It was the single most painful funeral I have ever attended and I will go to my grave believing that this fine young man’s church leaders have his blood on their hands.

  • Andy

    I am married to The Mormon Therapist and I am very proud of her tonight for speaking her mind – not that it is a rare event! You should see her do it “live.” Good job Natasha.

    • Chrissy

      I smiled when I read this, yes good job Natasha. You are starting a conversation that needs to be had!

    • B-Happy

      I love this. Your wife is really awesome and has helped me a lot, just from what I read on her blog. You chose well, friend.

  • Dai

    This is so interesting- I haven’t been active in the church for years and did not know there was anything like an evolution in the official position of the church on masturbation. I lied to my bishop about masturbating in order to serve my mission (but I actually ended up not masturbating my entire mission – something that seems a superhuman feat to me now in retrospect). Unlike many people here, I had a bishop who was highly intelligent (an MD/Ph.D at an extremely prestigious medical institution) and while growing up he had discouraged me from masturbating but never really used “shaming”. In any event, I really believed it was a doctrinal issue rather than a cultural one, but now I see that perhaps there wasn’t much “there” there.

    One other thing i’d like to mention: when we think about masturbation, i don’ t think it’s wise or productive to talk about it being “natural”. That’s just falling for the fallacy of naturalism, that somethign that is natural can’t be bad. Being snippy when we’re tired is natural, and so is being lazy, and preferring to spend time with people that look like ourselves, but we try to overcome these things because we recognize that they’re bad and make the world a worse place. I think the notion that masturbation is harmless in moderation is a better idea. Fits Kant’s categorical imperative, for instance.

  • Come on people

    Are we not taught to put off the natural man?

    • Anom

      We are indeed. So stop eating, drinking, and breathing. Those are all natural, too. For that matter, any sexual relations are, by definition, natural, including those within the bonds of marriage–put a stop to those, too! Basically, cease and desist from any impulse that you have, outside of those which are 100% motivated by the Spirit!

      I’m kidding, of course. You are right–we are taught to put off the natural man. And determining what is or isn’t natural to an individual is, I believe, their prerogative. Perhaps this behavior is sufficiently natural to you for you to require putting it off. For others, it might be so incidental that it doesn’t merit this strict personal policy.

      • Anom

        The truth is, some behaviors and impulses reflect both a divine and natural aspect. It makes life so confusing and not so black and white after all…

      • eman

        I’m sorry,
        I’m getting tired of this argument. I understand Natasha used it but that doesn’t make it right. How do you liken the basic “need” of masturbation with the “need” of food. Food is a need. Without it you die. Masturbation is a desire…although a very strong one.

        • Anom

          Masturbation, or more generally sexuality? In any case, the impetus towards reproduction is exceptionally strong. Perhaps for you it doesn’t constitute a need. Maybe for others it does constitute a need. I think there is more room in this conversation for individually specific parameters.

          • Ron

            “REPRODUCTION”.

            And therein lies the difference between sex within the bonds of marriage (when abstaining from birth control, another teaching of the LDS Church), and masturbation. Those urges are to be used temperately. I daresay the power to reproduce sexually is the greatest creative power with which the Lord has blessed us in this life. If we cannot show restraint with the use of this creative power here in this life, then how can we claim to be worthy of omnipotence in the next? After all, anger, hatred, jealousy, rage, sorrow, love, and personal desire — aren’t these passions just the same as sexual desire? Our job here in this life is to learn to keep our passions, desires, and natural inclinations in check. As we perfect ourselves by learning to deny ourselves the things we crave, we become more like God: glorious, dependable, loving, patient, long-suffering, calm, tempered, just, merciful, worthy of unlimited power, wise, and good. In a word — perfect.

            No doubt, seeking to develop in ourselves these incredible attributes comes with great pain, suffering, torment, and even seasons of guilt and remorse. But I’m surprised that someone who calls herself a “therapist” has completely avoided this other side of the discussion on mental and emotional health.

            “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller

            “I believe the sign of maturity is accepting deferred gratification.” – Peggy Cahn

        • Bradley Hintze

          I would argue that if you’re a male who does not experience nocturnal emissions, like myself, if you don’t masturbate you will be in so much pain you’d wish you were dead. :) Actually, no joke, I’ve been there, not a good situation.

  • Josh

    Suicide over masturbation? I have never heard of such a thing, until now. Why would someone feel like killing themselves over masturbation? Is it the church’s fault? Is there a similar rule in the church that leads individuals to suicide? The only other claim I have heard is that homosexuality in the church leads to suicidal thoughts. Is it really the church causing unhealthy attitudes toward sex? And why is it that sexual feelings lead one to despair, depression, and suicide?

    Masturbation is self-induced sex. It is also termed “self-abuse.” I think that is warranted. If sex outside of marriage is a severe sin, then self-sex is like unto it.

    I think the Mormon Therapist is better named the anti-Mormon Therapist, in this case. And all the comments about suicide over masturbation have me wondering if there isn’t more to the story. Mormonism is about doing good, forgetting self, serving others, building, creating, helping, lifting. Masturbation is sexual selfishness. It is highly addictive and very difficult to stop once started. It arouses feelings that are meant to be used to create life and create a healthy, loving marriage. Masturbation misdirects that very real power back to self.

    Imagine I am single. I masturbate frequently. I am less inclined to seek a healthy relationship with another. Or if I do seek someone else, that special feeling is cheapened somewhat because I have been doing it to myself. Then within a marriage, a couple engaged in masturbation in isolation makes for a convenient excuse not to be together. It is selfish, inward, singular, and wasted procreative, godlike power.

    The young man who resists the temptation to masturbate, serves a mission, comes home, is very ready to have sex with his wife. The young woman that waits can’t wait to be with her husband. That is the ideal.

    In an imperfect world, where sex has been cheapened down to this (a blog post from an active Mormon supporting solo-sexuality), where there are many in the church who are inclined to masturbate, there must be a severe consequence in order to maintain the seriousness of sex. I believe it is inspired, and any hope that church leaders cave on this is to be living on another planet. Just because it is difficult to overcome, just because it lies outside of scientific evidence, doesn’t mean it is right.

    One more thing. Church leaders can be misguided on issues, policies, and regulations. But they are the ones sanctioned by God to run the church. We are accountable to listen to them. The Lord said, “be ye therefore perfect, even as I am.” The standards are high. The bar has been raised all the way up to heaven. We are to be a different spiritual class, living on a completely different level than the world. We are to live a celestial law. Masturbating is just plain wrong and you all know it. Does the church cause guilt or does the imperfection in your spirit cause guilt when you sin? Unresolved sin causes guilt which leads, in the most serious of transgressions, to suicidal thoughts. The church does not create guilt. God created guilt to motivate us to change and be better. The devil wants us to kill ourselves. And he wants us to masturbate.

    • JoshAsWell

      Josh,
      These people weren’t contemplating suicide over masturbation – they were brought to that point after years and years of feeling like dirt – because they had been told that they are dirty, unnatural, unworthy. Over and over and over again. Then they would pray and pray to be forgiven, to quit masturbating because it’s a “sin” and they were “unclean.” Then, they would stop. For a week, or maybe two. Then, when they masturbated again, the feeling of guilt would come crashing back down on them. OVER AND OVER FOR YEARS! It was the pressure and the guilt that did this to them, not the completely normal practice of masturbation.

      Not everyone masturbates – my brother claims that he has never once masturbated in his life, and I believe him. But most people do. It is NORMAL. Some people don’t do it as often as others. People have differences in their libido. But you are saying that it is wrong, based on old, Victorian ideals, taught by a Church that encourages sexual repression. What better way is there to make sure that the Young Single Adults keep attending Church, repenting and staying active, then to convince them that they are always in need of repentance? For doing something that is a totally normal part of the human experience.

      If, as you state, guilt is cause by an “imperfection in your spirit” when you sin, then why are billions and billions of people free of the feelings of guilt that would certainly accompany their frequent sin of masturbation? Actually, you are wrong. It is the Church that encourages guilt, because by teaching you that you are “broken,” it can encourage you to come and partake of “medicine” that only it has.

      This is not an anti-mormon blog post, and neither is this message. The post was written by trained professional with years of education and experience. This reply is written by someone who has had those feelings of terrible guilt – guilt so bad that the only recourse appeared to be suicide.

      Here’s what saved me, and I hope it can have some positive effect on you: I’m a father (like we are taught that God is to us). I love my kids, and if one of them comes to me and tells me that they are gay (or that they broke the W.O.W or that they masturbate – WHATEVER), guess what I’m gonna do? Tell them I love them. THAT IS IT! If they have hurt someone else, I’ll teach them to make reparations. If not, then my job is to love, and nothing else. And that is what ANY loving Father should do. Guilt is not an arrow in God’s quiver.

      • Squite

        JoshAsWell,
        The mistake is that so many of us take their problems to other, equally fallible people to make amends with the Lord. We shouldn’t rely on the opinions of others in regards to self-centered behavioral problems. We should rely on the Lord, because through the Atonement, He suffered all that we will ever think or feel – every desire, every unkind thought, every ounce of shame and guilt. He is there to take it all away, but only if we ask HIM to do it for us. not if we ask a bishop to do it for us.

        I’m amazed at how many people go to their bishop for advice on these topics. The bishop’s number-one job for members of the ward is to care for them temporally. He only helps those spiritually who lack the spiritual self-connection with the Lord to do it themselves. This has been addressed in one form or another in every single ward I’ve been in since joining the church 12 years ago. People rely on the the bishop for FAR too much at the expense of their own relationship with the Savior, and it has to stop.

        • Momo

          Many of us were told to go to the bishop for advice on these topics. And in order to do our best to follow the counsel we were given by church leaders, we did. I guess you are saying that the joke was on me.

      • Holly Sue

        @JoshAsWell – you sound like an amazing and Christlike father. Way to be!

        @Josh: I’m confused when people say “wasting our power of creation.” Sexuality is not finite, it doesn’t waste away. ?? It’s not like we’re allotted 100 orgasms in our lifetime, and if you waste them all on yourself you won’t have any to share with your spouse. I can say that before I took the time to figure out exactly how my body responded to sexual stimulus, sex was kinda boring. Masturbation enabled me to engage my partner better, and thus to experience a stronger connection.

        On the guilt level, I was told by leaders I should feel guilt, because “Godly sorrow” is the second stage of repentance. But I kept asking them: “What if I *don’t* feel sorry? I just don’t! I feel fine, I feel the Spirit, and sometimes even masturbating I feel a stronger connection to God. I can stop the practice if you want, and never do it again, fine – but I can’t feel sorry for something I simply don’t feel bad about.” They had no answer, but told me I *should* feel guilty about it, and maybe if I drew closer to God I’d start feeling the appropriate level of guilt. Now that was just silly, and I told them so.

        • amers

          Amen sister! I didn’t think that I’d ever be saying this, but masturbation has brought me closer to God in these last few months. I’m single, 34, and didn’t have a libido until about 2 years ago when my body kicked into overdrive BIG TIME. I never before had “issues” with sexual desires and thoughts in my life, and then all of a sudden it hit me like a mac truck. For months and months I felt like I was going insane with trying to buckle down on these natural feelings/hormones/instincts going on in my body. I would stay up all night sometimes and make myself exhausted trying to take my mind off it–read a book, exercise, watch tv–anything. but. feel. like. that. And yet, these outlets weren’t “outlets” for me, and it was quite painful sometimes, like I’m sure all of you know. I didn’t know what to do and prayed fervently for God to take these desires away until I could get married. but wait–i’m in my mid-thirties, overweight (thyroid problems), and men don’t seem to go for me all that much. I must face the possibility that I might not ever get married. what’s a poor girl to do? Go insane. and that’s pretty much what i did. and I was SO angry at God for a good long while. It was not good for my spirit, let me tell you, even though I was “masturbation-free.” Wasn’t I following the commandments? after a while, wouldn’t you think that God might ease up on this whole hormone thing so I could keep the “commandment of not masturbating?” But, I kept praying, I kept reading the scriptures, I kept at it. Then one night I had a prompting from the spirit that I should look online about this matter, and I feel SO blessed to have been guided to this website and this blog post–it was SUCH A RELIEF to read! Prayerfully, I went about exploring my sexuality like I never had before, and for days after this experience and even now, a month later, I felt a renewed sense of closeness to God and the Spirit–I love God again and I’m not angry at Him. Maybe eventually He will guide me to taper off masturbation, but for now I feel like He has given me permission to masturbate — I’ve never looked at porn, I have no desire to look at porn, and I don’t feel “addicted” to masturbation. I do it occasionally when the urgency comes on. I know everyone is different, and has different opinions on this topic, but I’m going to hold onto this magnificent experience as evidence that God loves me and knows exactly what I needed at the proper time. I desire to get married and have an eternal companion, and I know some day I will! I look forward to that day, and I look forward to sex. But until then, or until the First Presidency comes out with an explicitly worded statement about this topic, I personally believe that abstinence from masturbation is not doctrine, and I thank “The Mormon Therapist” for her inspired words!

      • jaxemer11

        That is ridiculous. If any Bishop is telling people they are dirty worthless individuals because they have a masturbation problem, they should be immediately released. I highly doubt anyone would teach a child that. I don’t know what Church you go to, but it clearly is not the same one I go to. Everyone sins. That is the whole point of the gospel. Your suggestion that telling someone they are a sinner causes suicide is absurd. Are people committing suicide because they are told they can’t drink beer or smoke pot? Don’t be ridiculous.

    • Col. Costanza

      “The devil wants us to kill ourselves. And he wants us to masturbate.” Probably not in that order though.

    • Todd

      Josh, you are completely right. Masturbating is a selfish act that usually accompanies porn or some other stimulating form of entertainment. Abusing your body for you’re own enjoyment is definitely not what the Savior intended. Speaking from one that was addicted while growing up. I felt guilty – I knew it was selfish. It made me look at women in a more objective way. I certainly didn’t feel like being pro-active with meeting girls because, I could take care of that desire myself. In Marriage, I’m sure it doesn’t make your spouse feel very wanted or desired. Masturbation is a very destructive tool that should not be taken lightly. It’s a sin closely related to our eternal procreative powers that cannot be ignored. These powers and feelings are strong and each one of us have them. These energies and powers, up to the point where we get married are meant to be channeled in a different more eternal direction. That is why worthy males go on mission’s at 19, when their libido is the highest – to learn to channel that energy. We need to realize that our actions have consequences and to not just brush them aside as “Natural Feelings” or “Whoa is me.” We need to do what the Lord has commanded us – rise above what the world is telling us is OK.

    • eman

      “Masturbating is just plain wrong and you all know it”

      Apparently not, else there wouldn’t be such a lively discussion going on… :)

    • Dex

      …says the guy who’s no doubt touched himself plenty of times

      • Anom

        No need for any mudslinging, Dex. This isn’t grade school (although you could be forgiven for mistaking some of the other comments with similarly age-inappropriate constructs). Let’s all try to raise the level of discourse, shall we?

    • SomeoneWho’sBeenThere

      @Josh,
      In order for you to understand where and why I am giving this response, I’m going to tell you a little about myself. My first year at a certain church run school, I was sexually assaulted– and would have been fully raped if he had had the time, on a blind date with a returned missionary. After telling my bishop of the experience, my bishop not only told the entire ward, but he said it was my fault for putting the young man in the position where he would want to – again, this had been a blind date; I’d never met the guy in person before but was a friend of a gal friend of mine. I couldn’t go home because my family life was a worse disaster so I stayed on campus and tried to make the best of it. I was required to go make a police report where I was told by the officer that I shouldn’t pursue charges (the same officer who in her official report said I refused to file charges after she asked me many times to be sure- a different issue). Then an old friend came up to support me; an old high school boyfriend who I had been friends with since 8th grade. In the end, he was using the experience to get what he wanted from me to. This whole period of six months was utter hell and the result was that I did attempt suicide. I had no where to go after- I couldn’t go home to an even more abusive situation so the dean of student life allowed me to stay on campus and offered lots of support. My singles ward, on the other hand, told me I was going straight to hell and that I might as well just finish the job. Needless to say, I left the church very soon after. I went to another state, got a new job, and settled into a new lifestyle- I dated and lived with a few men, tried alcohol (something that I was apparently allergic to), and basically tried to regain control of my life. After a while of living that life, I stayed with my sister for a month and became very confused. You see, I missed the Gospel of the Church and the feeling of the Spirit as my constant companion. I was terrified to walk into any church building and just the thought of being in a relief society or sacrament meeting with people like those who had hurt me on so many levels, caused severe panic attacks. Slowly I found my footing with the help of another returned missionary, another friend I had known since middle school. He didn’t care what had happened before, only what was going to happen in the future. He didn’t pressure me to rejoin the Church but it was his acceptance and love, and then the acceptance and love of his home ward Bishop, that convinced me to come back. I have had to deal with off and on guilt from the things that happened to me and those things that I chose to do. I know I have been forgiven, and I know the Spirit is a part of my life, but I don’t know if I will ever be free from that bishop’s unkind, uncaring words. Or from the ostracism I experienced from the one source, my ward, that I could have used most (my family is another cesspit of problems so I can never really rely on them).
      While my ostracism didn’t come from masturbation, I have seen others experience that kind of ostracism from masturbation issues, pornography issues, and sexual orientation issues- even people that didn’t have a recurring history. People that made a mistake once or twice and then were branded forever by uncaring or unempathic leaders and members. It is un-Christlike to shame those individuals who struggle. They are going to be their worst critics as a general rule, they don’t need another one. What they need is for someone to act like Christ would- to be in their corner, to not judge and to love unconditionally. The reactions of people in authority to an individuals problem can lead to feelings of worthlessness and general depression which, when exposed to repeatedly, can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
      While I too feel that masturbation is a slippery slope, it depends on the individuals’ constitution and why they are masturbating. For the 3 year old playing with themselves, it can be straight curiosity and for others, it is a form of self soothing. For some people, they rub themselves in their sleep, others do it without realizing while they shower, and yet others do do it on purpose- to relieve stress, to assuage hurt feelings, to just “feel good”, etc.
      Some people do posses the ability to control their thoughts and bodies more perfectly than the rest of us. But most of us, either as teens, single adults or married individuals, will “slip up” more than once over this issue in our lifetime. Yes, sexual sin is wrong but the reaction of some leaders and parents regarding things like masturbation and going a little to far “making out” as teenagers, is harmful. And can lead to serious psychological damage. I hope you know that I don’t believe that my bishop at the time was evil, or that any members who behave poorly are. It is my sincere believe that we are all imperfect, and that God uses us, imperfect though we are, as His tools on earth. So yes, bishops and leaders will make mistakes. They are not infallible. Only God is. We just need to listen to our leaders, read the Doctrine, and then ask God what we are to do, how we are to approach different things in our lives. That goes for individuals and families and wards. If you disagree with your Bishop, ask to pray about it together or talk to a ward counselor or, if you have to, a Stake President. Be open to the Spirit because only God can give you the right answer.
      We weren’t meant to be “sheeple” but we are supposed to pray with an open heart and find the answers to our problems through careful study. God knows the intents of our hearts and He knows how to help us best. We just need to trust Him, not anyone else, in all things. If I hadn’t made the mistakes and gone through those awful experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And to be very honest, I am happier than I have ever been because I know who I am, I know that I can make mistakes, and I know that there isn’t just one answer to every individuals’ problems. I hope you can find the wisdom in that as well.

    • Foo

      The young woman that waits can’t wait to be with her husband.
      LOLOLOL! Oh man, you had me going with that one.

  • matt

    I like you post (it was recommended by a friend), and I noticed that you said very plainly that old quotes of church leaders about masturbation being a sin don’t interest you. Several others have mentioned the changes in the youth pamplets. All these things indicate progress, but the church still sees masturbation as a sin as explained very plainly on lds.org in their “Parent’s Guide” (link below). Here is an excerpt:

    “The sin of masturbation occurs when a person stimulates his or her own sex organs for the purpose of sexual arousal. It is a perversion of the body’s passions. When we pervert these passions and intentionally use them for selfish, immoral purposes, we become carnal.”

    Now, you may not call this official doctrine, but many active, well-meaning Mormon parents follow it as such. Sounds like there is a long road ahead until the church shares your view.

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=e6737befabc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=198bf4b13819d110VgnVCM1000003a94610aRCRD

    • eman

      Indeed she did mention she wasn’t interested in old material. As we shouldn’t be as there are many things taught in times past we don’t follow anymore in the modern church. The manual you reference is Copyright © 1985. 25 years is not what I call modern. I’m pretty sure birth control was still taught as being wrong during those same years.

  • Guest

    I have mixed feelings on this and other topics.  While I agree that far too much unnecessary guilt has accompanied this issue, I’m still not sure a line shouldn’t be drawn here.  I’m stating I don’t know, but can see both sides.

    The bottom line, is that we are not perfect, nor will we be in this life, and I think that often Masturbation and other things are too often incorrectly placed above or equal to serious sin, and I think there’s a perception often that such perpetrators are doing something as serious as adultery, etc.

    In reality, we should probably pay more attention on the sins of judging our neighbor, gossiping, managing anger, etc and realize that the Lord feels very strongly about such things that we know are wrong – isn’t this where the Lord focused?

    So maybe nothing’s inherently wrong with Masturbation, but then again what’s wrong with a drink or gambling?  Are they similar?  I’m not suggesting that these are equal, only that there are similarities.  They can all lead to addiction and loss of self control.   From my understanding and experience, I think yielding to the body’s needs is a slippery slope, but with proper teaching could it be managed and help one be balanced and avoid other issues?  

    I don’t know.  

    I think there is a third element here…and that is clearly the fact, that society is moving in the direction that we should all just be natural and give in to our instincts.  That we are animals and thus we would simply be denying our “needs.”

    This is a flawed argument to me. Of course we are animals and natural. The Lord says as much, but he’s asked us to rise up, & to rise above it and recognize our divine spiritual heritage and potential.

    Think of what fasting does.  We deny a physical need our body is craving, but in doing so, we are lifted spiritually in lose some of that “natural” man for a moment, thus growing closer to God.  But ultimately as mortals we still must eat.  So should the unmarried 45 yr old man suffer?  I’m not even sure this can be expected from all.  What about the widow or widower, who has lost their companion?  What about the worthy married couple that is separated for months ( as many often are, due to war, work, etc), or what about when a spouse becomes ill and incapable of sharing physical intimacy? There are other examples.

  • anonymous

    I have to disagree that pornography is directly linked to masturbation. As sexual being we all have different level of sex drives some more than others; as it has been stated in other posts; it is women who actually stated they masturbate more in surveys and studies that were done . As someone who is a human being with sexual desires I understand these feelings and having these feelings as a young girl while simply exercising, unaware of what I was feeling. As an older adult it came clear what i was feeling. These sensations can come on rather quickly and without warning. In fact many studies have shown that men and women can experience orgasm while exercising. There are many studies on this and in fact has recently became all the craze to report on the new “core-gasm”. Not that I’m advocating for this new reason to exercise. But simply stating that pornography doesn’t have to be involved. And being made to feel guilty for something that involuntarily happens when you are exercising, actually trying to care for the body and sometimes at the advice or counsel of lay clergy to keep your mind of such matters is concerning, especially when one can’t help it. The following is just one example of an article addressing this issue, that it is real. But google it, you will find men and women alike will have orgasms while exercising although most are women who openly discuss it. http://news.discovery.com/human/women-exercise-orgasm-120319.html

    • anonymous

      I wish there was a way to edit my comment; if so I would take out the statement about (women surveyed and masturbation) not because women don’t but because it isn’t relevant to my point. Which is that porn is not needed to masturbate. Women still can choose to view porn. My point is that their several instances such as exercise that induce orgasm. And as stated in the article most women state they were not fantasizing or thinking of anyone when it occurred. The article also mentions that this can occur pretty much with any exercise although core is the predominant.And also calls the attention to the question of why we orgasm and how come. Since we able to do this merely by activity. While this article can lead to many other tangents of sexual well being and relations with ones partner. My point is that for some individuals masturbation/climax/orgasm does not have to include porn or any toys for that matter.

  • anon

    Pornography does not HAVE to be linked to masturbation. It may for some, but not all. In college when stressed maybe once a month, I would do it for release in seconds with an empty mind right before falling asleep. I never looked at pornography, still don’t, and have no interest. It was not “addictive”. I now have a very healthy sexual relationship in my marriage. I actually now think that it helped me know what I need from my husband.

    • jaxemer11

      But it usually is. You really can’t dispute that (even if it would make you feel better about justifying this sin).

  • Adam

    I can’t claim to know the Church’s stance on this, let alone God’s view of it, but all I do know is that sexual purity, to whit masturbation, was a huge concern for me. Phrases like “sexual sin is second only to murder” made me feel like there was something seriously wrong with me because of my body’s natural behavior. Things I couldn’t control would make me feel horrible guilt, and I hounded my bishop endlessly over the smallest things. I developed severe OCD, my attempts to control my body’s natural impulses was resulting in incredibly unnatural results, and my life was horrible.

    I’d like to say I gained a more realistic perspective and all is well now, but in truth the only way I could cope with my OCD driven guilt over the matter was to come to the conclusion that I was already damned, and it no longer mattered whether the feelings and urges I had were right or wrong. There was no point being worried at all about them and I didn’t care. Needless to say this wasn’t a much better way of living than the previous life, but it was certainly less crippling in every way. It was still fairly miserable, however, and I found myself going down a path where if nothing I did mattered then I could do anything I wanted.

    I’ve now moved still further to the conclusion that there is no god, and the only thing that matters is how well you treat others and loyalty to friends and family. I can stick to a moral compass that is concerned mostly with avoiding actions that will hurt others, and seeking actions that will help others. As for myself personally I have no hope, but that’s all right. At least I haven’t killed myself, right?

    In conclusion, I believe the matter of sex should be very carefully, and very PERSONALLY, handled by parents. The fears and concerns young people have are fairly common, and it takes so little to alleviate those fears. Meanwhile the unforgiving hammering the Church can engage in, pounding people over topics such as masturbation, can literally cripple them.

    • Anom

      Amen, to several of your points. I hope that you find an object or aspiration worthy of your own hope. I’m still searching, too…

  • Rodger

    “…We know we are born and die sexual beings…”

    We are born and die spiritual beings. Sex is a choice. I don’t agree with judging others unrighteously, and I’d never want someone to put another down for their beliefs or practices. It’s healthy to accept others for who they are as long as they’re not leading you down a path to destruction with their behavior. However, the church’s teachings on sex are clear: Sexual actions are for the creation of life and the expression of love between a husband and wife. Until such time as marriage partners include your hand, you need to have a proper spouse for sexual behavior to be justified. The author may choose for herself what she wants to do, but she’s doing a terrible disservice to her fellow LDS by teaching them to justify substituting knowledge gained from the Arm of Flesh rather than from the Arm of God. No, people should not be shamed to the point of believing they’re worthless because they have a sexual weakness, but it’s not okay to justify it as acceptable to freely choose sin rather than to try to choose righteousness. It’s important to remember the power of repentence, the peace of forgiveness, and the stregnth of The atonement.

    • Anom

      Until the Brethren make it clear one way or the other, any opinion regarding this matter (including yours!) constitutes the philosophies of men mingled with you know what. So often we maintain that the ideas held by others are mere philosophy, when our own are likewise unsubstantiated by any clear position from Church leadership. It takes one to know one, I guess…

    • eman

      The main point addressed by the Mormon Therapist is that there is currently no doctrine either prohibiting or encouraging masturbation. There is no argument as to whether it was once taught to be sin. She is saying we are currently in a transition in the church on this “principle.” Since we all grew up being taught masturbation is wrong, there will inevitably be disagreement on the subject as there always is when church practices change. For example, David O. McKay speaking on birth control said, “… it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by.” (First Presidency {David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, N. Eldon Tanner} Letter to presidents of stakes, bishops of wards, and presidents of missions, 14 April 1969) Because of this and many other statements by church leaders the current older generation still sometimes teach that birth control is wrong (if you do please don’t respond. Keep it to yourself.) My mother in law is of this generation and still believes so and would be horrified to know my wife and I use it. However, it is not currently taught as wrong and indeed, statements as early 1989 (in church handbook of instruction) very much state that the choice is for husbands and wives to make.

      My main interest (being married and sexually satisfied) is about what to teach my children when they come of age. I like others remember this issue being very difficult pre-mission. I could echo many of the same feelings of guilt and shame. I went years with out it and then would “slip.” I left late for my mission and suffered much embarrassment. I never had pornography issues. I did go to the point of self mutilation (cutting) as a way of resisting the temptation (see scripture on cutting off limbs if they offend thee). Besides, my parents did it (i.e. needless circumcision or mutilation of the genitals without religious or true medical reason, but this is a topic for another day…perhaps the mormon theripist will take this on if she hasn’t already? wink wink, nudge nudge. I diverge…) Anyways, I believe in truth. I believe in the fallibility of man and even in church leaders. I believe that once you’ve read about the darker sides of our churches history you have to as there are too many blatant examples of this. I absolutely will not propagate this prohibition to my children if the church is not teaching it currently. If it’s important to them, they will be sure to re-teach it. It’s what they do. It’s what general conference is for. However, I agree with Mormon Therapist that this is on it’s way out and you will NOT see masturbation taught as sin by general authorities again. Luckily I have a number of years until my oldest come of age and by then I’m sure this will be pretty much hammered out.

      • SomeDude

        “… it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by.” – David O. McKay

        Unfortunately many church members misunderstood this phrase. President McKay was referring to abortion. He said it was wrong to artificially prevent the BIRTH of a child, not the CONCEPTION of a child.

  • Been There Done That

    You say there is no correlation between masturbation and homosexuality? My experience and observation over 20 years has taught me differently. Homosexuality may not always be the result of excessive masturbation, but it is most definitely like a “gateway drug” for many. Perhaps this is one reason why LDS youth are clearly counseled not to play with fire until they are mature enough to understand their emotions and sexual impulses. The gospel is about self-mastery, not self-indulgence.

    • Anom

      The gospel is also about happiness, not masochism. Or so I have been told… I think that there is room for appropriate masturbation within a practice of self-mastery. Not eating indefinitely would exhibit profound self-mastery. To what end? When you slake your thirst do you feel self-indulgent and recriminate yourself? When you empty your bowels do you suffer a bout of depression for your lack of self-control? I hope not!

    • Michael

      Just to be clear, is this anecdotal experience and observation? Are you a trained professional? What are the details? I’m just asking because the preponderance of real research seems to disagree.

    • Bradley Hintze

      Just to be clear there is no correlation between homosexuality and masturbation. The science is clear, homosexuality is not learned, there is no slipping into it, it is not a choice. Look up Bill Bradshaw, a BYU professor who has talked extensively on the origins of homosexuality. It is blatantly abusive to our homosexual brothers and sisters to even suggest that their sexuality is a result of something the did or did not do.

  • Rachel Hamrick

    Never be sorry about being brilliant and awesome. Haters always gonna hate.

  • Erika Henderson

    Here is a nother link from an lds doctor that agrees with you Natasha. http://www.i4m.com/think/sexuality/masturbation_help.htm
    Even other Christian groups do:
    http://boysunderattack.com/masturbation.html

    It is sad when people in the church don’t think for themselves because they think every word that comes out of a GA’s mouth is from God rather than their personal opinion or cultural upbringing. I know my sister and old missionary companion were told they could not get temple recommends because they had oral sex with their husbands. How interferring can you get! There is a wonderful book out by Rob Bell called ‘Sex God” that makes alot more sense out of being a Christian and sexuality. I remember in RS once a teacher said that everything the prophet says is from God. I raised my hand and said that actually the prophet has said to pray about what he says and get confirmation yourself that it is from God. Otherwise, we become just like the followers of Jeff Warrens FLDS church who abused young girls. Now, the church needs to get real with homosexuality as well. I know my son almost killed himself over thinking he was an abomination and going to hell for having these feelings. He tried so hard to change and couldn’t. Thank goodness for personal revelation where the Holy Spirit told me in the most beautiful and powerful ways that he created my son as he is for his purposes and that masturbation was not wrong.

  • dara

    Natasha, you are wrong. This indicates slavery to the flesh and not mastery of it.

    • Anom

      Another response that reflects profoundly polar perception of a reality in gray scale. Slavery? There are other forms of slavery, too. Slavery to guilt and shame. Slavery to an almost impossible imperative with no room for mercy when mistakes are inevitably made. Slavery to wrong ideas (the earth isn’t flat, you know–similarly, the priesthood is now available to all worthy male members, not just WASPS, as it were).

      I wonder how some of Natasha’s readers who disagree with her so dogmatically (in the absence of clear direction from the Brethren; by the way, have you ever taken it to the Lord? Remember, such instruction would only be for you personally anyway…) on this issue would react if the Brethren came out with a clear statement today embracing appropriate masturbation as a permitted practice. What if they asked the EQ’s and RS’s to participate in peace pipe ceremonies? What if wine replaced the water in Sacrament services at the Brethren’s behest? It is OK to respectfully entertain an idea with which you might disagree without accepting it, or recriminating anyone else for their opinions–it is the mark of an educated mind, after all!

  • Anonymous

    I think the glaringly obvious omission to this article is the seemingly natural connection masturbation has with pornography. There is a connection! No not ever time. But especially for men, this is a serious problem. Under the same line of reasoning above, our natural sexual desires sometimes lead us to submit to the temptation of pornography, something that has been vehemently rebuked as evil and of Satan by the prophets and apostles of our day. To ignore this connection (which I understand isn’t automatic, and not every one who masturbates views pornography) is a huge mistake. The degrading effects of viewing pornography are very real. Masturbation in itself, as mentioned, may not be bad, but the fact that it is so easily a product of pornography, and vice versa, lead me to believe that it is not worth it to toe the line that closely between natural sexual behavior and perverse sin. Maybe I’m wrong, but I know for a fact that this is a very real issue, especially for men. Can we appreciate the physiological/psychological nuances in this argument? Sure. But I know that Satan uses our natural sexual desires, which are good and divinely given, to lead us down to hell. He does this in part through masturbation and pornography in tandem with each other. Is it not better to teach our youth to stay away from both? (I’m not talking about the shame and guilt that comes from engaging in these things, they are real, I have experienced them myself. That is why I know it is better to stay away from both, and engage in those sexual desires in a divinely appointed fashion — i.e. under the bonds of marriage.)

    • eman

      Does masturbation lead to pornography use or does pornography use lead to (more) masturbation? Seems to me like the only danger would be that if someone who masturbates does get into pornography the wierd chemical going-ons would solidify the pornography addiction and make it that much harder to break. That being said, the correlation between two activities doesn’t in itself make something wrong. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the use of the internet in many cases is what get’s boys started on pornography. Without it, many would NEVER take that first look. However, I doubt many here would argue that the internet is wrong even with the correlation. I just don’t think it’s fair to label masturbation as wrong simply because of an association with pornography.

    • Bradley Hintze

      Just to be clear: porn most often leads to masturbation. The Same CANNOT be said when you turn it around; masturbation does not lead to porn. I am only talking of my own experiences and those I’ve talked to. Now if you’re convinced masturbation is a sin and makes you dirty, that will lead to porn; its the shame and guilt not the masturbation.

  • Ryan

    There is definitely a huge cultural issue in the church with shaming those who’ve sinned or have been perceived to have sinned. I do not, however, think that letting loose on this issue is the way to fix the shaming. It may be true that it’s not a big deal, but as long as the church says it is, I’ll stay away from it. I struggled with it for years and the way I got over it was to not be ashamed of it and to accept it, but still not do it. Instead of doing it, I found other ways to balance out my life. Instead of seeking sexual arousal when stressed out, I’d go for a walk, eat something delicious, etc. Not worrying about it when it happens, not being ashamed, and not feeling guilty made all the difference. But I still don’t need to masturbate. And until the church officially states that its policy has changed, I won’t.

    I would also contend that there’s a bigger problem with shame surrounding pornography in the church and that that is leading to a lot more trouble than masturbation is. The answer is not to allow porn, but to get rid of the shame. Understanding why people seek it out, why they get addicted, and how to get past it. Reaching out to those who need help instead of turning our backs on them.

    Stopping the shaming and allowing the thing are two very different things and should not be confused.

    • Anom

      You have an insightful perspective and I think that you are, in some respects, right.

      I would submit that the Church has a very clear position on pornography, but its position on masturbation has softened (and therefore potentially leaves more discretion about it to individual members–some who may reject it and others who may find appropriate uses for it and all correct!).

      Just because a behavior elicits shame does not necessarily indicate whether or not it is appropriate (many young, married couples unnecessarily go through cycles of shame as they explore their sexuality together within the bonds of marriage simply because they have been taught to believe that sexuality outside of marriage is wicked–oftentimes the condition “outside of marriage” doesn’t make as much of an impression on the psyche and they are left with simply “sexuality is wicked”).

  • G

    “Masturbation is sexual selfishness. It is highly addictive and very difficult to stop once started. It arouses feelings that are meant to be used to create life and create a healthy, loving marriage. Masturbation misdirects that very real power back to self.

    Imagine I am single. I masturbate frequently. I am less inclined to seek a healthy relationship with another. Or if I do seek someone else, that special feeling is cheapened somewhat because I have been doing it to myself. Then within a marriage, a couple engaged in masturbation in isolation makes for a convenient excuse not to be together. It is selfish, inward, singular, and wasted procreative, godlike power. ”

    I wanted to comment on the above comment that was made earlier in the thread. It is sad to me to see such a view. Each of us in this life seek out different means to satisify ourselves – be it emotionally, physically, with possessions, sexually, etc. My wife and I have both decided that masturbation in our relationship is a positive thing. We do it by ourselves and we also will masturbate together at times. Several years back we were apart for about an 8 week period of time. At that time in our lives we did not masturbate. After several weeks of being apart my testicles started to hurt to the point that it was often unbearable. I went to the doctor and spoke to her. She asked if I was masturbating to which I said that I wasnt. She informed me that I needed to start masturbating because it would help the body with its natural function. There is nothing selfish, inward and singular about masturbation. If wanting to love myself or allowing my wife to love herself and enjoy in the pleasure of masturbation is a sin, then I will continue to “sin” as some may call it. For us it has enhanced our sex life. It allows my wife to increase her libido throughout the day. It allows for stress relief. It does not take over our lives. We do not masturbate with porn. Can the two go hand in hand? yes. Are the required to go together? no.
    Just because the prophet or a leader of the church has stated something does not make it doctrine. It is time for the guilting, the shaming, and putting masturbation akin to murder aside. As Uchdorf stated…”stop it.”

    • Squite

      “Just because the prophet or a leader of the church has stated something does not make it doctrine. ”
      Most of the Bible and the Book of Mormon are written by and about prophets.
      When a prophet speaks IT IS DOCTRINE. That’s why he’s called a PROPHET.

      • eman

        re: Squite
        Sadly, this is a misinformed, but highly accepted point of view in our church. If it were true, then we would all believe that Adam is God, as Brigham Young taught this while he was prophet (yes I know it was only on one occasion and never ratified by another prophet). However, he was wrong. He was in fact expressing his opinion. There are many other examples of this which are not “faith promoting” so I won’t go into it more. We do need to confirm for ourselves the “truth of all things.”

      • JJ

        Squite, you should read Elder Christofferson’s latest conference talk. He explains that church leaders, even prophets, sometimes make mistaken statements of personal opinion. He says, “Not every statement made by a church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine,” and he uses examples from Brigham Young. You should understand church history and teachers better before making such statements. And making your point in all caps is not persuasive.

  • Anom

    As an aside, isn’t it interesting which particular posts garner big responses?

    A month or so ago there was another post about masturbation–40+ comments.
    A few weeks ago there was a link to an interview about forgiveness in the context of abuse (a very good interview and important topic!)–only four or five comments.
    In the last few days, another post about masturbation–60+ comments.

    What does this say about Natasha’s readers? Internet savvy Mormons? Mormons in general? Are we so sexually repressed (suppressed!)?

  • Daniel Newby

    Your body is your own. It is a natural, beautiful thing, with natural, beautiful urges. You and your body are NOT the property of any man, group of men, organization, or veritable universal dictator. Masturbation is like sneezing or scratching an itch. If you feel like you need to do it, do it. If you don’t, don’t. Let the “guilt” go the way of all of the other silly notions prescribed by men who hid more injustice than you will likely ever be guilty of.

    • Loran

      More Neo-Playboyism dressed up with a bit of retro-sexual revolution rhetoric and a dash of radical (could be second or third wave) feminism thrown in to give it a kick.

      As one non-member of the Church once told me, “Sex is like food. When you’re hungry, you eat.” This is also known as “hedonism” and it is a constituent aspect of what I call Korihorism – the pattern and philosophy – and associated practices – of anti-Christ.

      Another name of a kind of watered down version of this is what is now known as New Order (NOM), Reform, or “Neo-Othodox” Mormonism.

      • Anom

        You seem to have a keen grasp of the terms, but not of people, human nature and needs, Loran.

        Is there something wrong with NOM etc.? Just because it doesn’t coincide perfectly with your truth doesn’t make it any less efficacious for anyone else.

        When you are hungry, don’t you eat? I don’t think that is “hedonism.” Eating solely for pleasure to excess is more properly hedonism. If, when you are hungry, you would rather starve your “temple” than meet its needs,you are probably looking beyond the mark respecting self-discipline etc. It is OK to empty your bowels when you have to–that’s not hedonism. Same goes for slaking your thirst as needed–not hedonism either! Do you put a band-aid on when you sustain a cut sufficient to require one? You guessed it, not hedonism! Needs and wants aren’t so black and white, but exist on a spectrum. And needs and wants aren’t identical for everyone… Maybe some require a little more latitude to meet their needs, as it were. What ever happened to that whole sermon about removing the beam from your own eye etc. etc.? Or are you beam-less, my friend? Motes really aren’t so damning by comparison.

    • jaxemer11

      Complete and utter nonsense (at least if you actually believe in what God teaches). Your body is a gift from God. It is a temple. It is a sacred vessel given to you to become more like God. What you do to it, and how you treat it, is one of the most important things we are on this earth to learn.

  • Chet

    For those who have spoken out against Natasha’s stance on masturbation…
    Ask yourselves:
    “Why does the Church not have one word about masturbation in the General Handbook of Instruction”? Then ask yourselves, “if there is not instruction in the General Handbook, is there any letters that go out to Bishop’s about how to handle masturbation”? I have served in two different Bishoprics, for over 8 years, and not one letter addressed this issue – not even when discussing prospective missionary worthiness!
    “Why has the Church, over the past 30 years, softened their language on masturbation, by not mentioning it in sermons and not having it discussed in the current Priesthood/R.S. manuals”?
    “Why has the Church just recently told to MTC leaders to not ask the missionaries about masturbation – and if they openly confess masturbation, they are not sent home or kept from going to the temple”?
    “Why do Mission Presidents not send missionaries home, or withhold a temple recommend, if they confess to masturbation”?
    Why does the Law of Chastity say, “You are to have not sexual relations, except with your husband or wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded”, but not add, ” and you are not to participate in self stimulation”? Whoever first used the term “self abuse”, and for those who continue to use that term, this is one of the most absurd terms for masturbation that I have ever heard. In what way is bring about an orgasm “self abuse”? If this is the case, then many men whose wives just lay there and do their wifely duty, are participating in allowing their husband to “self abuse”. There is a very fine line between masturbation and when a husband has sex with his wife when she just lays there and makes herself available for her husband’s “needs”.
    If you read the For the Strength of Youth section on Sexual Purity, and read the whole thing in context, it is plainly talking about not doing anything while with another person that will arouse sexual feelings, so that things don’t get out of hand. They are not talking about masturbation (unless it is being done while in the presence of another person).
    I would suggest that parents let their children know that if they ever feel the need to masturbate, that it should always be done in private, and never participated in with another person unless they are married to that person.

  • Brian C. Hales

    This interesting blog was linked by a friend to my FaceBook newsfeed. I usually don’t weigh in with an opinion, but Sunstone recently published an article that seems to have similar recommendations. It quoted a psychologist’s advice “to be moderate about masturbation and pornography usage; don’t have shame and guilt; use good judgment…” (John Dehlin summarizing the recommendations of Dr. Stephanie Buehler, “Pornography, Masturbation, Sex, and Marriage in Mormonism,” Sunstone, October, 2011, 65). Since this blog and Sunstone have connections to “Mormonism,” I sometimes wonder where Joseph Smith and his teachings fit in such discussions? Of course, he did not directly address masturbation, but his revelations caution: “he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit” (D&C 42:23; see also 63:16). Here the penalty for “lusting” (a no-contact behavior), is to lose the Spirit and deny the faith. The question of the spiritual compromise for masturbation is unaddressed; would it be more or less than “lusting”? Apparently if masturbation were to include “lusting” (pornography?), then losing the Spirit and denying the faith would, according to these verses, inevitably result.
    The loss of the Spirit contributes to feelings of guilt, which in these presentations is treated generally as an undesirable emotion. Paul might disagree, saying: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). It seems that one problem with guilt from masturbation comes as Satan enhances it beyond that which facilitates repentance. Lucifer can tempt us to sin and using those same influences, he can magnify our feelings of sorrow creating guilt levels that far exceed those required to prompt repentance. Clinical depression may result that is not from God, but from the Adversary. Notwithstanding, guilt to provoke repentance and change is, according to the scriptures, desirable.
    In view of these observations, I return to my original question. Where do Joseph Smith’s revelations fit in discussions in “Mormon” blogs and publications? And I ask, when the two disagree, has “Mormonism” been jettisoned or improved?

    • Widespread Panic

      Seriously? You’re invoking the name of Joseph Smith as one who is to be looked up to as the standard for sexual purity? Does the name Fanny Alger ring a bell? Helen Mar Kimball? How about his “revelation” about needing a teenage girl to enter into a polygamous marriage with him or an angel with a flaming sword would kill him?

      Maybe he should have tried masturbation instead. He would have done far less damage.

      • Brian C. Hales

        It would be wise to not condemn Joseph Smith based upon assumptions or historical fiction from authors like Fawn Brodie. Check out my website: http://www.JosephSmithsPolygamy.com. We all benefit by following the evidence. If you find credible evidence of sexual impropriety let me know. Thanks! Brian Hales

  • A

    After reading this article last night I haven’t really been able to stop thinking about it. This is all very personal and we don’t all have to agree or have the same opinions. My opinion is this: we are told to save physical intimacies for marriage, I would say this subject qualifies as a physical intimacy even if it is done individually. I think Satan works by small steps, not large jumps or leaps.
    If you look at history, how the world has become more and more corrupt is because of those small steps. To justify actions that could lead you away from the spirit is walking a very fine line.
    We are told to not question how far we can go, but what we need to do to stay safe (I think we can all agree this is true). I’m sure many are able to control their thoughts and actions but many aren’t. Once we tread down that slippery slope of justifying our actions, we step precariously close to that line. I know from the experiences of friends and family who have justified one small action that eventually led to more serious transgressions, some much faster than others. It’s never an easy thing to see friends and family go through such hard times when it very easily could have been avoided (in most of their cases).
    If it is breaking up marriages maybe we need to look at that as a sign that it isn’t something we should be practicing. We do have the power to overcome the natural man, that is our ultimate goal while here on earth.
    I’m a single adult and have never put myself in a situation either with another or myself that would question my morality. Everyone says as humans we are born with certain feelings and desires which is very much true, I just think it is a very sacred thing and we need to do our best to protect the sacredness of it. I think satan wants us to question these fine lines and justify it for one reason or another.

    Overall I’m personally against these practices and I wouldn’t choose to do it. We all have our agency and our own minds, and are free to choose. It is a very personal decision so what’s right for me, might not be right for someone else. I always tell myself if I have to question or justify something I shouldn’t do it.

    I’m not offended by this article or the comments so I hope I’m not offending anyone with my opinions and remarks either. Like anything, seeing both sides of a topic is important in choosing for ourselves what’s right or wrong for us.

    • Julie

      If you “look at history” (really look at it, not just use that phrase as a trope) you will find no possible defense for the idea that the world is becoming more and more corrupt. By every possible statistic for measuring human well-being (lack of violence, lack of corruption, human health, human lifespans, freedom, opportunity, wealth, safety) the world has been becoming a better place to live for all of recorded history. There are occasional lurches back and forth, but the overwhelming trend is progress (and not incremental progress, but mind-blowing, order-of-magnitude progress). The most horrifying events of the 20th/21st century are indeed terrible, but our preoccupation with remembering them sometimes blinds us from appreciating the very real advance from previous centuries when such horrors were proportionally so much more commonplace. I know this might seem far-fetched if you have not seriously studied the past, but the trends are incontrovertible and unanimously accepted. We indeed have much to be grateful for. Sometimes I even wonder if our preconceptions are keeping us (just as people of old) from realizing exactly how the Millennium might unfold.

      • Holly Sue

        Thanks, Julie! Beautifully stated – and a great reminder that Jesus’ message is about OPTIMISM for humankind!!

  • Chelsea

    Natasha, thank you so much for writing this article. Long ago I decided that me masturbating had no affect on my relationship with the Lord and it has made a world of a difference in my life. I know now that I have many guilt-ridden friends that need this article. God would not want us to feel shame about something that is so inherent in us. The first commandment He gave Adam and Eve was to multiply and replenish the earth…we are sexual brings from the beginning. I haven’t noticed what I do has hindered my relations with others and I know that it will make sex in marriage easier to understand and more satisfying because I know how my body works and that I have no shame in it. Thank you again for the post and God bless!

    • Loran

      “I know now that I have many guilt-ridden friends that need this article. God would not want us to feel shame about something that is so inherent in us.”

      Yes, this was Hugh Hefner’s core argument, in a nutshell, made some forty years ago as a major element of his “playboy philosophy.” If its “natural,” and, in some sense, “inherent,” then it must be good. To see this kind of thinking transferred to the gospel, (“it must therefore be good from the Lord’s perspective as well, if its “natural”) is a further rationalization of the same fundamental logical and conceptual fallacies.

      • Rachel Hamrick

        Of all the deliberate and absurd misrepresentations of Natasha’s opinion in this comment thread, which no one has to take as their own btw (in case you were under the impression that no one here has a brain of their own to decide what is or what is not acceptable in their own lives), this one is the most laughable. Hugh Hefner… PUUUU-lease! Methinks you are probably one of those who can’t stop raising his hand in Sunday School to constantly enlighten the unfortunate unenlightened and to hear the sound of his own voice. But thanks for the laugh.

        • Loran

          You’re welcome. Now, at the core of Hugh Hefner’s “playboy philosophy,” and much of the sexual revolution ideology that coincided with it, was the idea that sex is a “natural and normal” aspect of being human, and because of this, is to be accepted as such irrespective of any normative controls, boundaries, or conditions of its expression. It is inherent and innate, and it is “natural,” and hence, positive and healthy in and of itself irregardless of context, purpose, or motive, under almost all conditions.

          The fallacy of this argument should be obvious: just because something is “natural” or “innate” in a human, organismic sense, does not tell us anything about its appropriateness, let alone its ethical relations within the larger context of the meaning and purpose of human existence (especially as understood in the Church as “the plan of salvation).

          • Anom

            There are two extremes here, not just the extreme of sexual exploration etc. without boundaries. The other end of the spectrum is, of course, absurd restrictions on sex up to and including total abstinence (which our youth are required to practice through puberty, reaching sexual maturity before complete brain development, etc.). Eating too much food: hedonistic. Eating too little and/or eating none at all: physically harmful and even deadly.

            Why don’t you recognize room in the conversation for a reexamination of the excessive boundaries placed on our youth etc. who, frankly, have so few workable outlets for sexuality? If sexuality could be so easily displaced by nocturnal emissions, exercise, service and other pursuits, etc., the human population would not have reached its swollen proportions such as they are–on the contrary, the impulse is so strong in order to guarantee that the species is propagated.

            I have known young women who have communicated to them the supreme value of a lithe frame. It is held in such high regard that they go to great lengths, including essentially abstaining from food (not to mention severely emotionally punishing themselves for “infractions” when they do eat or eat the wrong kinds of food or too much of any food), to achieve a state of supreme fitness (in reality, they are extremely sick and their bodies are breaking down around them…). I know youth who have communicated to them the supreme value of sexual purity. However, they are also simultaneously developing sexually just as these messages reach a fever pitch. Any infraction, such as masturbation, is met with severe self-recrimination (even when a Bishop is sensitive and doesn’t exaggerate the outrageous “evil” that they have committed). From the outside, they appear normal. However, they are often spiritually sick from the guilt and shame (even long after the sin has been repented of etc.)–what do you think drives this negative trend in spiritual, mental, and emotional health? I would submit that inappropriately negative conditioning combined with excessively strict boundaries on sexuality. Would you rather have a couple who have practiced total abstinence join on their wedding night in excitement and anticipation of sex together suddenly experience a sick fear at the terrible act they have just committed together, followed by weeks, months, or years of counseling with a sex therapist and talking to the Bishop and Stake President as they try to come to grips, all too late, with their sexuality? Or a couple who as youth were permitted a certain latitude for self-stimulation and sexual release and who on their wedding night were so excited to share their sexuality together and then experienced no unnecessary guilt etc.? I vote for the latter. The boundaries are still there (no sex outside of marriage, no pornography, etc. etc.) with one small change towards the other end of the spectrum. Extremes on either end produce unhealthy sexuality.

            Let’s create a new, better paradigm for our youth so they don’t suffer with the generations who have gone before…

        • jaxemer11

          Notably, you didn’t respond to a single thing that was actually written. The author was exactly right. The same argument that is used here to justify masturbation can be made to justify pornography, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. In fact, you can replace “masturbation” with “homosexual relations” in the original post and it would sound exactly like what gay people have been arguing for decades.

          The argument is false on its face, and it is sad to see so many people be led astray by it.

  • James Jensen

    What an amazing world this is. Is it okay to slice bananas onto my cereal? I guess it depends on church doctrine, perceived doctrine, mental health studies, and whether I have a forgiving Bishop.

  • Older and hopefully wiser

    Are we to be commanded in all things?
    As spiritual beings living a human experience, are we created exactly the same physically, mentally, and emotionally?
    Is every thing really black and white?
    I was a bishop many years ago and I wish I knew then what I now now but I still don’t have all the answers and the Spirit has not always provided the answers.
    I won’t judge your life but can’t we just do the best we can knowing God loves us and look to the atonement when we fall short as we all will?
    All of us need to hang in there because this portion of life will be over before we know it! Have we tried to love our brothers and sister and do good until the end? Thats what is really important.

  • joe

    Most people in our country are introduced to alcohol at some point in their youth. Many find it enjoyable and continue to use it occasionally and have no compunctions about it at all. Others immediately begin a downward spiral of addiction, often ruining their lives and making life miserable for those that care about them. Clearly, the act of ingesting alcohol is not the gravest of sins, and often has few, if any, negative consequences. Still, the Church says the Lord forbids it, and we all accept that, and abstain. The only differences between substance use for pleasure and masturbation for pleasure are the need for others to introduce it to us, and how we feel about the Church’s stance on it. To all of you who agree with The Mormon Therapist, I ask if you would use the same arguments you make here to justify drinking alcohol? Why not?
    All of the arguments about shaming are based in a real problem that is always associated with absolute morals, which is: How do we say that something is very wrong, and motivate the person doing it to change their behavior, and still have them feel like a worthwhile human being? This very shame effected me greatly as a young man, and I have long since given it up. My battle for self-mastery in regards to masturbation is ongoing, and my repentance process is continual. I know that my life is better when masturbation is not a part of it, and I feel the Spirit more when I am able to abstain. I believe that is a pattern that probably applies similarly to most people. I also believe that is why Church leaders actively try to discourage masturbation, and I think they are right to do so.
    Is any single instance of masturbation the end of the world? No. Could masturbation be the end of a person’s happiness until they are able to overcome it? Absolutely. Saying that masturbation is natural and normal and harmless is like saying the same thing about alcohol. It may be true in some cases, but it’s a bad idea to make that your policy.

    • eman

      I learned long ago that anytime our actions are at conflict with our beliefs we don’t “feel the spirit.” However, as soon as either our beliefs OR our actions changes, we can again feel the “spirit.” This is true of things that are actually wrong such as lying as well as misconceived wrongs such as the person who things too much sex in marriage is wrong and should be done in moderation (no more than 1-2 times a month).

    • Dave

      Joe, you state that, “Still, the Church says the Lord forbids it, and we all accept that, and abstain. The only differences between substance use for pleasure and masturbation for pleasure are the need for others to introduce it to us, and how we feel about the Church’s stance on it. To all of you who agree with The Mormon Therapist, I ask if you would use the same arguments you make here to justify drinking alcohol? Why not?”
      I think there is one important distinction between alcohol and masturbation that often gets ignored. If someone in an LDS setting tries to argue for casual alcohol consumption, anyone wishing to provide a counter argument need only open their scriptures to D&C 89 and provide the verses that state that God does not approve of wine and strong drinks. Where in canonized scripture is a similar injunction against masturbation? I know there are a few verses that, with a few leaps of logic, many suggest provide the injuction. From what I can gather, these are not iron clad, irrefutable arguments. The explicit prohibitions against masturbation are all from non-canonized sources, which leaves open the question of whether those statements were “prophetic” or merely “wise counsel.”

  • anonymous

    thanks. finally a bit of sensibility on the topic–in an open forum. i thought i would be sent home from a mission when i admitted to my habit. “is it a problem?” the general authority asked. i was dumbfounded. “i mean, has it become a problem? are you doing this with your companion? is it having a negative impact on your work?”
    “no,” i answered.
    “if it becomes a problem, talk to your president and we’ll chat again…”
    glad to say i’ve never had a problem since. (only with the typical shame slinging)
    proven medically that those males who abstain from emptying their prostates during youth have a much higher incidence of prostate cancer later in life.
    thanks again.

  • JJ

    This is a very useful article and I believe consistent with Church teachings of today. I also believe that both sexual pleasure and sexual discipline are important for happiness, just like pleasure and discipline with what we eat. Discipline is a skill to continually work on as we grow in life, it has many facets, and involves being patient with ourselves and others. But perfectionists suffer as much or more as hedonists do. I do not teach my children that sugar is evil, even though I know that many people today are addicted to sugar and suffer for it. Nor will I teach them such harmful ideas about touching themselves. God gave us desires and pleasures in life, and he gave us the responsibility of keeping those desires within healthy bounds. Those ideas can exist together.

    • Melody

      I like this, JJ.

    • Anom

      +1

  • Fletch

    Thanks for the post!!! Finally, a post on the subject that makes sense. I work with two Bishops(currently serving), and often go to lunch with them. One of the Bishops, spoke about this wonderful program called Sons of Helaman to deal with youth that can’t stop masturbating. He told us of one young man that he referred to the program because he masturbated so much. I asked, how much? He said three times a week. My sandwich almost blew right out of my mouth. Young men referred to this program meet once a week to discuss how well they’ve done during the week. If they’ve masturbated, they get to share the experience with the group(counselor & other young men) and get input and support. As they get their habit under control, they achieve different military ranks. Those that stop altogether become generals!! When this happens you graduate from the program and your Bishop and parents are invited to the graduation ceremony. Mom, dad and the Bishop. Sounds like fun. I have three sons and would go ballistic if one of them were referred to such a program. That fellow saints profit by creating a problem and then offering to provide their services to solve the problem is deplorable. How do they live with themselves???

    • Widespread Panic

      This is classic. On one hand, I am rolling on the floor with laughter. On the other hand, I truly feel sorry for the poor kids that suffer through this “program.” It is absolutely shameful. Abusive idiots.

    • Anom

      Sons of Helaman is a little terrifying. Ever heard of priest craft? It makes me glad I’m not paying tithing or fast offerings anymore… Did you know that some wards use these sources of member donations to send young men to this program (according to their website)? Terrifying. Read some testimonials and you’ll know what I’m saying. Or check out the bios of the counselors… I’m kind of shocked. It is interesting to me that there are those who would condemn Natasha, Sunstone, and other Mormon-related resources but celebrate something so obviously frightening as the Sons of Helaman program. Talk about calling good evil and evil good.

      Sincerely,

      Seriously Horrified

      • Anom

        Correction: the website only indicates that Fast Offerings are used, not necessarily Tithing donations. My bad.

        Sincerely,

        Still Seriously Horrified

  • anders tronsen

    the LDS church has a well-documented history of micro-managing ppls lives under the guise of Religion.
    Much of this conduct has been propped up by Lies regarding its history; indeed, some of the time Mormonism says it’s ‘O.K.’ to lie for ‘higher purposes’, sometimes they Deny lying.

    Our Sun gets its energy (light, heat) from Kolob, instead of nuclear fusion?
    GAME OVER

  • pagansister

    Why would anyone “confess” to any church “leader” that they “pleasured themselves”? It seems from some of the posts above that those that did admit it, were denied advancement or their missions etc. by doing so. Punish someone for being human? Ridiculous! It is absolutely no ones business what happens inside a bedroom when one is alone. I find it sad that the LDS folks teach their kids that masturbation is sinful—when I actually thought that only the RCC had that misguided idea. Having been raised a Christian, I was never taught that and I’m way above 60, so I guess not all Christians set out to ruin their kids lives with lies. I do know that some faiths did and still do mislead their followers on this subject. Natasha, thank you for an intelligent and thoughtful approach to the subject.

  • Aaron

    Thank you for these thoughts. I’m glad you shared them and I think this topic needs to be discussed by church members and the leadership more often. Masturbation is certainly not a sin comparable to murder. The scripture in Alma is speaking of adultery and fornication.

    From my own experience, here’s my 2 cents…

    - I have had my own problems with masturbation. I believe it is a sin, but not as bad as is portrayed by most LDS. Its painful to hear others have had such bad experiences with their church leaders on this subject. Before my mission when I confessed to my Bishop he pretty much just told me to do my best to stop, gave me some advice and church material to read, and then gave me my missionary paperwork and I was on my way. When I had issues later on my mission, my mission president handled it the same way. They were both very loving and helpful.

    - I view masturbation as a ‘gateway drug.’ When I was a teenager, whenever I saw a beautiful woman I would fantasize about her and later masturbate to those fantasies. Eventually fantasies no longer did the trick, my mind needed a better visual and I turned to pornography. I’m sure we can all agree, pornography is NOT okay. There have been many studies that show that pornography leads to fornication, adultery and many forms of spousal abuse. I can testify that those studies are correct. I am now a grown adult married to a beautiful woman with 4 children. If I had one wish, it would be to no longer be addicted to these things. Unfortunately, I still am. I fight it everyday.

    Just like marijuana is the gateway drug to cocaine, heroin, meth, etc.. masturbation is the ‘gateway drug’ to pornography, fornication, and adultery. You can argue that both marijuana and masturbation have their uses that can be used for good. (Marijuana has shown to have numerous health benefits. And as mentioned in the original post by Natasha, masturbation can have some benefits as well. I.e. relieving stress, helping with abstinence, etc..) But in the long run, giving way to these ‘gateway drugs’ just makes it harder to obey the the more important commandments.

    To sum up, masturbation is addictive. It leads to worse things. It started me on a slippery slope of pain and anguish I never would have imagined. And I wish I could stop doing it. I would strongly advise against it. (I would also advise against marijuana :))

    Aaron

    • Bradley Hintze

      I am sorry Arron, I must disabuse your point. If you want to use the gate-way drug analogy it is shame and guilt that is the gate-way drug, not masturbation. I used to have a view, perpetuated by priesthood leaders, in which masturbation was next to murder and denying the Holy Ghost. Five years ago I would have agreed with your post. Now I see your views as very dangerous, especially for single adults struggling with porn. After many years of struggling with porn and overcoming it completely I have learned a lot.

      In male sexual physiology there must be an occasional release of semen which happens via ejaculation. The church teaches that the only righteous way for this to happen, for singles, is nocturnal emissions. However, the natural preference is for the body to expel it sooner than that. This is why we have a libido, hormones, which we DO NOT control, give us sexual desires. For individuals the levels of libido differ.

      The libido level is high enough in most of us that suppressing it becomes impossible. In my experience trying to suppress one’s libido is similar to the dams I built as a child in my sandbox. As the water continues to flow my attempts to dam it up with sand failed no matter how hard I worked. Same thing with trying to suppress the libido. If you try to suppress everything sexual (thoughts and desires) no matter what we do it will find a way out. I can now see that this is exactly how I started in porn. I refused to have a releas and so my body sought to get that releas via porn. The only way I overcame porn was to learn about my body, that it had needs, even sexual needs, that must be met or bad things will happen. A urologist underscored this fact when I went in for extreme, I daresay debilitating, testicular pain. He taught me that the pain stemmed from lack of ejaculation, since I am single and don’t experience nocturnal emissions, and told me to masturbate occasionally to keep the ‘pipes’ clear. This was hard to reconcile with my beliefs.

      In short, I eventually came to accept the concept Natasha conveys in her post here. The internalization of this concept immediately had profound effects. No more testicular pain, no more porn (not even the temptation!), and no more depression. I am so much more happy now, I can’t express it enough. Further, I am more ‘sexually pure’ than I ever was before I internalized Natasha’s view on masturbation.

      To sum up, masturbation IS NOT a ‘gate-way drug’ and is a great help for those singles struggling with porn. But it will only help if you can internalize the healthy view of masturbation presented here.

      • jaxemer11

        D you have anything to back any of that up, or did you just make it all up? It is amazing how many human physiology/sexuality experts there are on this board.

    • James Jensen

      I am really glad you compared masturbation to marijuana. I am a frequent user of both, and have never felt the need to abuse women in any way, shape or form. Likewise, I have never felt the need to explore the use of other drugs (save alcohol, and that dreaded monster, caffeine). Let it be known that I also eat fruit out of season, and enjoy mixing pork, beef and cheese onto one delicious sandwich. So, there’s my testimony for you, I suppose. It is possible to use some drugs and practices without any of the unproved attendant evils coming around to bite you in the garments.

  • http://www.candywarehouse.com/candy-type/lollipops-and-suckers/ Mr Bates

    I a man withholds it too much, it will push hm to marry for the wrong reasons because of the pressure.
    Same goes for women. What are single people supposed to do? Or married people where the spouse is not interested in sex or has low sex drive? RMs will come home so desperate that they will marry anyone wearing a skirt. (No offense to Scottish men). But masterubation can have its negatives effects too: material to fantasize to can turn into porn addiction. Porn will consequently create expectations before or after marriage which in turn can cause divorce and unhappiness. While I am not all pro 100% masturbation, I can’t say it’s a hermless habit either. In some cases, couples are so in tune that neither need to use this artifice to satisfy themselves but not all marriages are 100% perfect and not all single people, especially youth, have the will to not engage into occasional self-pleasure. What’s needed in most Mormonism is some serious divine intervention to show us the way. Most of what we know is handed down from men and modified and sanitized from time to time so it makes it very difficult to know what the true thing to do is. If Jesus said that just lookign upon a woman an lusting after her is a sin, then what person is going to masturbate without mentally looking at a woman or man? Most masturbatory activities include fantasy and visualizations and I believe the mind becomes filled with images which could be sinful in nature such as a single man fantansizing about a nude woman and vice-versa. In instances where the person is married, he or she might be commiting mental adultery.
    So, I am not 100% pro and not 100% against because there is no real divine information on the issue. Just opinions.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for taking the risk to take a clear stand, and explain it cogently and concisely. Mistaken ideas about masturbation cause great suffering in our unfortunately sexually repressive religious culture. I have a feeling that this post will have a widespread positive and beneficial effect.

  • Gary Swenson

    I had to endure the every-six-month masturbation question during bishop’s interviews throughout my adolescent career. So every six months, I would be placed in an impossible position: lie and live with the guilt, or tell the truth and have my family pester me as to why I was foregoing the sacrament on Sunday. I lied and lived with the guilt. I instructed my sons that since the bishop asking them if they masturbate was probably going home and masturbating himself, that they should just tell him what he wanted to hear and then whatever they did in the privacy of their own bedroom or shower was their own business. The look of relief in their eyes was worth every moment of that discussion.

    I was discussing the “great masturbation inquisition” with my parents and asked them why they thought masturbation was prohibited by the church. My father’s best conclusion was, “Well, if you’re masturbating, I doubt you can be thinking about Jesus.” My 80 year-old mother quickly quipped, “Honey, when we were having sex, I don’t think I was thinking about Jesus either…”

    End of discussion.

  • J-Sin

    Aaaaaamen. I wish you were my Bishop. In my youth I had an affinity for the evaluation of masturbation shared by Father Guido Sarducci (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbSZlqKxAE4). I think he would have smiled at this article. I know I am. Well said and well said.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Natasha, I have a question I’d like to ask, that has also been alluded to somewhat in some of the comments on this post. I always appreciate your advice and would like to hear your thoughts, and the thoughts of your readers, if you would consider doing a post on this topic.

    I was born and raised in the church, and therefore got the standard teachings in regards to sexuality and marriage. I was raised to have a temple marriage and an eternal family as my goal, and as the pinnacle of life’s achievements. In my late 20s I finally left the church (for reasons that are common – concerns over institutional bigotry, financial secrecy, and finally allowing myself to admit that I don’t believe there is only one path to happiness).

    I got married to a non-member a couple of years after leaving the church, but now am finding myself wondering what the purpose of marriage is. I love my husband and we have a beautiful relationship, but I’m not sure it would be any different if we weren’t actually married.

    If I am being honest with myself, I think that the main reason I am feeling this way is because I fear that I’m losing a large amount of my identity and independence in our relationship. I’m trying to work on that by maintaining friendships and activities on my own. But I find myself wondering if we had not moved in together and not gotten married, but maintained a romantic relationship, if I would feel satisfaction in our relationship AND feel like my whole self still. Also, I wonder if I just don’t have anything to fill the hole that eternal procreation has left in my understanding of what marriage is for.

    What are your thoughts on the purpose of marriage when it comes to emotional health? Can marriage be purposeful without religion? If you know of any good books or articles on the topic, I would be interested in reading them.

    Thanks, KL

  • Todd

    Masturbating is a selfish act that usually accompanies porn or some other stimulating form of entertainment. Abusing your body for you’re own enjoyment is definitely not what the Savior intended. Speaking from one that was addicted while growing up. I felt guilty – I knew it was selfish. It made me look at women in a more objective way. I certainly didn’t feel like being pro-active with meeting girls because, I could take care of that desire myself. In Marriage, I’m sure it doesn’t make your spouse feel very wanted or desired. Masturbation is a very destructive tool that should not be taken lightly. It’s a sin closely related to our eternal procreative powers that cannot be ignored. These powers and feelings are strong and each one of us have them. These energies and powers, up to the point where we get married are meant to be channeled in a different more eternal direction. That is why worthy males go on mission’s at 19, when their libido is the highest – to learn to channel that energy. We need to realize that our actions have consequences and to not just brush them aside as “Natural Feelings” or “Whoa is me.” We need to do what the Lord has commanded us – rise above what the world is telling us is OK.

    • Anom

      Did you mean, “Woe is me.”?

      Maybe young men should learn to “channel that energy” before their “libido is the highest,” instead of being sent on missions to figure it all out. That’s a little bit like going from riding your bike to learning to race cars at NASCAR speeds. No middle ground?

    • eman

      “That is why worthy males go on mission’s at 19, when their libido is the highest – to learn to channel that energy.”
      Well, that about sums up the whole of your argument. That’s a pretty bold statement to make seeing as the “bretheren” have never given a reason for the age of missionaries. But that makes sense…way more than the fact that it is the time when men are finished with high school, but most aren’t’ yet in college. But the statement show’s how your opinion and understanding shapes what is obviously true and not true. You also make an assumption that because masturbation causes you to objectify women, the same is true of all people. But then, women masturbate as well (gasp!). I wonder if that makes them objectify women…er men?

      I also find it peculiar that your reason for meeting/interacting with girls as a teenager was to find sexual relief (Making that jump based on the fact that you didn’t need them to take care of you when you could do it yourself). I find that based solely on the argument you presented the masturbation didn’t make you selfish…you already were. Speaking as one with experience (I know there’s a logical fallacy in that statement somewhere but I just can’t put my finger on it…) masturbation doesn’t replace sex or the desire for physical intimacy with someone you love, at least not in most normal people. Anyways, I’m done ranting. Just thought your arguments were kind of weak.

      • Anom

        +1, eman.

        I guess it all boils down to: in the absence of unequivocal statements, we are left to make decisions for ourselves. If some of us find it acceptable and helpful, so be it. If others find it repugnant and distracting, so be it. We don’t need to browbeat each other over it…

        Others have raised this issue, but overeating and general lack of caring for the physical tabernacle is rampant in the Church.

        Moving beyond purely physical issues, gossiping, backbiting, and murmuring are also plentiful. Why don’t we devote as much time to these spiritual cancers (they are, after all, behaviors that are explicitly condemned!)?

  • Jason

    This article obviously struck a chord with members and believers who have felt there are some imbalances or issues surrounding masturbation and it’s place in the Church. It has also done a disservice and harm to those the author wants to help.
    Let me first say that I am an LDS Therapist and work mostly with men and sexual obsessive compulsive issues. I find myself advocating for a 14 year-old mild autism spectrum client who isn’t allowed to pass the sacrament due to masturbation issues. I don’t think they are accountable for the act and they certainly don’t have the ability to choose to stop in their current state. I give the Leader my assessment and let them decide who is to pass the sacrament or not; that is their role. I’m the first to help those who have a masturbation habit get rid of destructive shame and help them find a healthy identity so that they can stop masturbation. I believe that pornography is way more destructive than masturbation, and that smoking is way less destructive than petting, though you wouldn’t know it the way our youth judge those who smoke. I have known very worthy young women who have masturbated for years without knowing it wasn’t appropriate, and who I truly believe didn’t lose the spirit from it because they were like Eve in the garden, innocent. But as soon as they realize that it is wrong and why, we work through and separate the shame which is great and destructive, from the sorrow, which was low but present because she wants to save sexuality to share with her husband and she wants to be obedient. Good for her for wanting those things and learning to deal with emotions healthily.
    In, ”Some Thoughts on the Gospel and the Behavioral Sciences” By Elder Neal A. Maxwell, an address delivered at a Brigham Young University symposium on the behavioral sciences, February 26, 1976, he saw this type of thinking in this blog coming from a mile away, or 30 years away as the case may be.
    “This leads me to the second reason I am here—to suggest that the LDS behavioral scientists become more of a link and bridge between revealed truth and the world of scholarship. The LDS scholar has his citizenship in the kingdom, but carries his passport into the professional world—not the other way around.”
    This author has made it clear that she is a therapist first, and then a Mormon, “I cannot go against my professional ethics and stand silent” and hence should have the integrity to change her blog name to Therapist Mormon, in that order, so as to not generalize or make it any harder than it already is for me as a practicing LDS therapist to shed the “counseling is leaning on the arm of the flesh” fear many members rightly hold about mental health workers.
    Elder Neal A. Maxwell again. “The two responses to be avoided when discussing the challenges of such bridge-building are, first, disinterest in even trying; and second, assuming a posture in which LDS behavioral scientists are, at every point, indistinguishable from those whose approach is purely secular.”
    I like the discussion on emotions and effects of masturbation, but not taking stances against the Church. She is now indistinguishable compared to other world views.
    The author has made her opinion as a mental health worker, and it flatly denies current doctrines and teachings. This oversteps her role as a Mormon believer to go against the Brethren and so she is in danger. I have struggled with the balance of what is helpful and isn’t as a therapist. I see the human side of the Church cause harm time and again. Not to say there isn’t room for discussion, but this stance is a far over-reach of her role and will have real damages to her and those she has given “permission” to lessen their self-expectations and those who want to rationalize their behaviors and wants. Sexuality isn’t a need or a right; it is a gift when the circumstances are right. It isn’t a relaxation tool. It is sacred, only to be shared and not alone. Our “wants” in our society have moved to entitlement “needs”. Do you think those who are masturbating aren’t thinking sexual thoughts? How does that fit with doctrine? My guess is that this push by a well meaning mental health “helper” for more balance and a healthier understanding in regards to this difficult area went from “masturbation shouldn’t be so criminalized because the feelings about masturbation are often more harmful than the act”, to “let’s make the act OK so that we can feel good.” This is liberalism and leftist world view at its’ best.
    She is likely advocating lowering the bar and giving permission to be less than Godly because she rightly believes that the shame response (to be general) has been one of Satan’s most effective tools. It also undermines several of Christ’s most effective tools- denying the natural man for more happiness and progression, saving sexuality for marriage for more intimacy once married and joy in the act of marriage to only name a few.
    To advocate masturbation as almost a gift that God gave us is shallow and naive at best, very destructive and evil sophistry at its’ worst because it negates the standard set by our God in an effort to comfort those who are ashamed and “guilted” by some in the Church. It could be likened to the pain of singles, which is very real, being so destructive causing depression that we acquiesce and claim that one parent is just as effective as two, to lessen the single parents’ own anxiety or depression. Or that since it isn’t the person’s fault they are single, they should be able to access the sexual blessings saved for marriage. The law of chastity is about saving sexual relationships for couples (opposite gender couples to be exact). Anything less sells sexuality and its gifts short.
    There are also many flaws with her thinking from even a therapist’s stand point that makes me embarrassed for our profession. Clients who don’t agree with their religion need to find one they can believe in, not attempt to undermine the one they belong to. Obedience, faith, doing hard things, and sacrifice are tenets of the LDS religion that if you water it down, the client has the burden of thinking they determine the doctrines as a member. They can only decide if they want to follow the teachings, not dictate them. Undermine those things for your client and you have undermined their testimony and turned it into the arm of the flesh. This ultimately leads to depression and more confusion. Remove doing hard things for your client and you remove real self-esteem and replace it with feel-good fluff that is temporary- which ironically usually breeds more addictive behaviors… This article is a sign of the times from well-meaning people who take advocating for right to far, ironically making it wrong.

    • Rachel Hamrick

      Wow. You don’t really sound like a therapist to me. Is it standard operating procedure as a therapist to share confidential information to church priesthood leaders about a client’s perceived worthiness to pass the Sacrament? Very bizarre. I wouldn’t trust you with my secrets.

      • Anom

        + 1

      • Jason

        Only if the client asks me to on their behalf and usually when the Bishop is paying for it… Secrets? Confidentiality and secrets are not synonymous.

        • Rachel Hamrick

          Let’s not get into semantics over confidentiality vs secrets. My meaning was very clear. And now I am further appalled for several reasons on this particular point (I’m not even going to start with the rest of your post).

          That you have even one single client (or his parents) who would agree to you sharing information with priesthood leaders about his masturbation habit is weird, in and of itself, but that you have several, it sounds like, is alarming to me. I mean this is SICK!!! To begin with, as a therapist, you have taught your clients to rely on you, instead of their own intelligence, judgement and spiritual inspiration, to have another person determine their worthiness in preforming priesthood ordinances, for something that isn’t even in the Bishop’s Handbook! This flies in the face of the purpose of therapy… encouraging clients to be reliant on you for something they could very well do themselves. I mean, I kind of want to throw up over this.

          Then, it’s even more common if the Bishop is paying for their therapy? What??? I cannot believe that you are a therapist. You have a therapy racket going with your Bishop! I am just seriously hoping you are an internet troll looking for some cheap attention. If not, please give your full name and business information so the good people in your area can avoid seeking your help.

          • Anom

            +1 it is a little, ahem, peculiar, isn’t it?

          • Citizen

            In danger in deed.
            You don’t want your name in a Strengthening Church Members Committee dossier.
            For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SCMC, please Google it.

    • Anom

      You offer additional interesting perspective. Thank you.

      To be honest, I struggled to read your comment for its grammatical and other errors. They undermine your credibility, frankly speaking (not your apparent sincerity, though!).

      With that said, how do you resolve your Church membership with the fact that your professional license is not granted by the Church, but by secular institutions? I’m not sure how to treat Elder Maxwell’s illustration of the problem… It doesn’t seem to hold water for me. The social sciences aren’t alone in apparent conflicts between belief and widely accepted scientific principles, theories, and/or facts (consider the issues surrounding the origins of life, for one). Is a biology professor who teaches that man is not the literal creation of God but the sum total of billions of years of natural selection guilty of the same egregious sins that you attribute to Natasha?

      Do you care to explicate the danger in which Natasha is? Or some of her errors in thinking that cause you professional embarrassment? These are not sarcastic questions on my part.

      To suggest that sexuality isn’t a need seems to ignore the hormonal realities that are part and parcel of human sexuality. While their functions may not be absolutely spontaneous, it isn’t fair or accurate, in my opinion, to suggest that sex hormones don’t contribute to feelings of need respecting this act. Consider the animal kingdom and the rash of sexual behaviors common to many different species that the Church identifies as abnormal and repugnant (at least with respect to Homo sapiens): the practices of keeping multiple sexual partners, incest, and homosexuality (including manual and oral stimulation of the genitals). This is to say nothing of masturbation, about which the Church has not issued a definitive statement (the animal kingdom is ripe with instances of masturbation including self-stimulation with hands, flippers, paws, etc. as well as tool-use associated with this kind of sexual release). Of course, none of these animals needs sexuality–it is a gift that should be reserved for when circumstances are right! Just because we are self-aware animals and can label our inherent sexual desire with different names (right, gift, need, etc.) doesn’t change its essential nature–a compulsion towards reproduction (which we are told is God-given and fundamental to the Plan of Salvation and without which men and women wouldn’t be inclined to marriage, families, etc.).

      Of course masturbation is simultaneous with sexual thoughts. But if those thoughts are about one’s spouse, does this change the nature of masturbation? What if one’s sexual thoughts during intercourse with one’s spouse are about someone else? Are sexual thoughts about one’s spouse to be reserved only for intercourse together (as you indicate)? What if, for example, I have a sexual thought about my spouse when she is not present without masturbation? Is that permitted? You are going to have to do better than that, sir, to convince me on this particular point.

      Smoking is less destructive than petting? Petting doesn’t cause cancer, to my knowledge (I’m not suggesting that petting is correct behavior, only illustrating that it is more destructive than petting, at least with respect to physical health).

      In any case, I found your post challenging and personally helpful, in so far as it is going to require me to research this issue more carefully and reassess my nascent acceptance of this practice under certain conditions (I do not think that masturbation should occur without one’s spouse knowing about it; I’m also adamant that pornography is unquestionably bad and that self-stimulation shouldn’t happen with so much frequency that it displaces intimacy with one’s spouse).

      Thank you again for your comment.

      • Jason

        Anon-
        I did write it quickly, I have a full day and I’m not an editor by any means… Once about every 6 months something like this blog pushes me enough to get involved. I saw this pinned/liked by many who I love, and I felt the need to respond because I care about them and the subject matter too much to not respond.
        Petting is destructive spiritually, which I would argue is more destructive than cigarettes overall and for the long haul. The Word of Wisdom was originally a recommendation, but chastity has always been.

        The danger lies in “I know better” statements, even if she believes she does. There is safety and protection in willingly submitting to key-holding chosen Leaders, even if antiquated or out of touch. I believe the danger is in her own membership. Not that The Church will respond, although they have at times, but that those who take a world view find themselves often drifting away and not valuing their membership over time.

        If sex were a need, not a want, then animals and humans would die without it. We need human interaction if we are to have joy, but we don’t have to have joy, and are not entitled to it. If hormones determined needs, it would be acceptable for any number of destructive sexual practices based on the individual’s hormonal state. The Church has been clear that those with homosexual attractions are expected to act morally, regardless of their physical hormonal needs.

        It is embarrassing to me as a professional to have an LDS therapist openly become outspoken against the practices of the Church organization due to experiences from her profession and education. That is the essence of leaning on the arm of the flesh. If I sound too black and white, I am aware of it but I don’t have another outlet or time to discuss it since I’m late for Young Men’s:)

        • Anom

          Thank you for addressing my reply to your comment. I appreciate your taking the time for it. I’m not sure I agree with you but you have caused me to think differently about this in some respects, and that is worth something!

    • Aaron

      Thank you for this, Jason. Very well put.

    • Anom

      I have a serious question regarding the following from your comment: “I have known very worthy young women who have masturbated for years without knowing it wasn’t appropriate, and who I truly believe didn’t lose the spirit from it because they were like Eve in the garden, innocent.” Help me understand why the light of Christ (or conscience) and/or Holy Ghost didn’t interfere on the first occasion to help each of these good, spiritually aware sisters understand how inappropriate this behavior is?

      If sexual sins are second in seriousness only to murder and denying the Holy Ghost, don’t you think that the Spirit would interfere to correct misbehavior in these presumably accountable/of-age sisters (sorry, no one who has accepted the gospel is innocent after the age of accountability in so far as I understand)? If one of these good sisters were about to inadvertently commit murder (and for whatever reason didn’t realize its inherent wrongness), do you think that the Spirit would have given them a nudge in the right direction? So why not in the case of masturbation (a sin, according to some, second only to murder and denying the Holy Ghost)? Your estimation of these instances does not reflect my understanding of the gospel (on even a purely logical level).

      If sexual sins are a

      • Anom

        Sorry for the hanging “If sexual sins are a”–I’m not sure why that posted with the rest of my comment.

    • Chrissy

      Jason I would like to reply to one line of your comment. You said “Clients who don’t agree with their religion need to find one they can believe in”. I will be honest this very line is something I have struggled with for a long time, should I stay or should I go now? I would be lying if I said I believed every doctrine that the church has put forth.
      Like many LDS I have a problem with the expectation that I belong to a church that may or may not believe we are going to have multiple partners in the here after. Joseph Smith marrying YOUNG girls, hiding marriages from his first wife and marrying women who were married to other men who were still living, the doctrine of polygamy is a part of our church. Should all that do not want a part of this pull up stakes now and go?
      I ask this question because there are many LDS doctrine that do not sit well in my moral soul. The LDS church is also my lifelong faith, the cultural I was born into. It is something that connects my family. It is the neighborhood I live in, the people I associate with daily. This religion is very much the fiber of my life. Finding a new religion would not simplify my life, or make me happy.
      The God I believe in wants me to ask questions, pray, think and figure this and many other questions out for myself. Living a set of values that is not my own is not a path that leads to happiness. Maybe the real answer is not that we should leave but that those who stay should be given the space to find a way to make this religion work for them.

    • James Jensen

      Thanks for this. When people ask me why I left the church, I can point to this post and say, “I was dealing with stuff like this all the time. So many misguided people thought they were helping me and my family when it was painfully obvious I would be better off on my own.”

    • jaxemer11

      Thank you for your sanity.

  • Nate

    Justification is like masturbation… You are only screwing yourself.

    • Anom

      It is interesting to me that the activity level of responders appears to be all over the spectrum (including some who are disaffected with the Church to others who appear to be fairly orthodox and very active). I didn’t find this blog until long after I started navigating my own disaffection… I think that I would have been interested in this kind of content even in a state of higher Church activity (although perhaps I would have felt assailed like some appear to do who have commented on this post).

  • Patsi

    The for strength of youth pamphlet is from the prophet, who is a man of god. It states as said above to not raise these sexual feelings in your self. Clearly stating that Masturbation is wrong. I will not accept that because times have changed that this law has as well. I know that the prophets are lead by God and if it is said by them then it is coming from God. In recommend interviews we are asked if we sustain our leaders, and down talking their official statements like this clearly means that you do not. sexuality is a blessing from God. I had to wait to experience those wonderful things, now I am married and I am so happy I never experimented, and never abused my sexuality that way. I have a happy family and a happy home and I will always do what the prophet asks, what ever it may be. If he came out and said eating animals was wrong I would stop. If he came out and said don’t watch another movie above G I would do it. It is a simple testimony that helps me do this. Masturbation is wrong in the eyes of God and wrong for me as well.

    • Ronny

      Hmmmm, so masturbation (which is wrong in the eyes of God) is a very prolific sin that’s been committed by the majority of men for thousands of years. However, despite how common and serious the sin is, God has never made a point of specifically condeming it in the Bible, the BoM, the D&C or the PofGP. Why do you suppose that is? If the Lord will give counsel to Joseph Smith about eating meat in winter season, surely the Doctrine and Covenants would also include some warning against masturbation, no?

      • Anom

        Interesting point.

    • eman

      While I agree with your stance (see next post), I don’t agree with your arguments. In fact, I believe statements such as this, “I never abused my sexuality that way.” are not only not helpful, but add to the shame that those who are “weaker” feel. You come off sounding very high and mighty and not at all sensitive to those with other opinions.

      Moreover, the statement “Clearly stating that Masturbation is wrong” in regards to the counsel against arousing sexual feeling in your own body is not actually clearly stating it at all. Clearly stating it was how it used to be when it used the word masturbation. Now it’s a little off white.

      Continuing, “I know that the prophets are lead by God and if it is said by them then it is coming from God.” Oh how this statement irks on me! I too beleive that the prophets are led by God. However, I believe them when they teach us to never take what they say on blind faith, but to rather seek confirmation ourselves. Granted, in 99% of situations confirmation is what it will be. But prophets are still human and still sometimes make mistakes. One need look no further than…well, actually you do need to look far since we obviously don’t talk about our leaders mistakes at church. but mistakes they make and the sooner we come to understand that, the firmer will be our testimony when we first learn that a divinely appointed leader did something or said something completely off the walls (such as the racisim Natasha alluded to).

      All done now. I just like to argue and my wife won’t let me do it with her (argue that is).

      • Anom

        Agreed, eman. The phrase “self-abuse” needs to be eliminated. We talk of charity, we preach of charity, but so rarely do we actually practice it… On a side note, I’m delighted that the gospel program has brought you so much happiness, Patsi. There are others for whom it isn’t so fruitful in that regard. With all due respect, you should be more grateful, more charitable, and less prideful.

    • Jastin

      Baahhhhhhhhh! <— the sound of a sheep.

  • Loran

    (Spell corrected version. The first can be deleted)

    “So here goes my position: Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression. God has created us as emotional, spiritual, intellectual and sexual beings. He has created these capacities in the context of both relational purpose and self-sufficiency. Meaning we are social creatures – meant to thrive in relationship with others. At the same time, we are also individual creatures – and when not able to be in relationship have capacity to meet our own needs for certain periods of time depending on age and developmental stage.”

    This is in utter, open, and distinctive opposition and rebellion against the settled and established core doctrines and teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ regarding the conditions, boundaries, and appropriate exercise of human sexual powers, and the consistent and unvarying counsel of the Lord’s present servants, the prophets. Let me be the bearer of bad news for those LDS “liberals” among the flock for whom the settled teachings of the gospel are in a plastic, malleable state: psychologists and other mental health professionals, bathed and simmered in the widely variant theories, freewheeling speculations, trendy philosophies, and wishful thinking that has long been the hallmark (especially since the sixties) of counseling and clinical psychology, in all of its proliferating vegetative splendor, have no authority, no mantel, no insight, and no fundamental basis upon which to contradict and overturn the core principles of the law of Chastity as it has traditionally and consistently been taught through revelation to the present generation.
    That the author’s position here is a strictly personal and, perhaps, ideologically driven one, one need only look closely at her primary argument. Let’s take a look at it premise by premise:

    “God has created us as emotional, spiritual, intellectual and sexual beings. ”

    Fine. We can assume this to be true.

    ‘He has created these capacities in the context of both relational purpose and self-sufficiency. ‘

    This already is presenting problems, philosophically speaking. What does she mean by “self sufficiency” and by what process of reasoning, or upon what basis did she come to the conclusion that human sexuality exists within, in some sense, a context of “self sufficiency?”

    “Meaning we are social creatures – meant to thrive in relationship with others. At the same time, we are also individual creatures – and when not able to be in relationship have capacity to meet our own needs for certain periods of time depending on age and developmental stage.”

    This is apparently meant to be a third premise, the conclusion of the argument is then the first proposition in the argument, “Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression.”

    If so, the conclusion is in no way implied by the claims made in the body of the argument. Terms and context are undefined and fuzzy, and the leap of logic necessary to get to her primary claim is so apparently vast that it isn’t even present, as an implication or inference, as a logical connection between her major assertions and the conclusions she draws from them. Further, contrary to what she’s claimed here, that “In short, the church itself has moved away from its positions on masturbation which were largely promulgated during the early to mid 20th century – a time when culture at large had incorrect and inaccurate ideas about sexuality”, the Church has done no such thing.

    https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth/sexual-purity?lang=eng

    “Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression.”

    This is from the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet the author claims no longer mentions masturbation as a transgression of the Lord’s standards of human sexuality.

    The wolves keep trying to look like lambs, but my, those big teeth you have Grandma…

    • Anom

      “Spell corrected version.” If only that were true. Mantle, in this case (presumably you are referring to a mantle of authority, as it were), is spelled just so–you have used another word entirely (mantel). These kinds of errors destroy credibility, in my opinion. There is room, of course, for incidental mistakes, but after repeatedly posting the same comment and then re-posting a third, supposedly “[s]pell corrected version” with the same error, you begin to fall below my radar. This may seem stringent. It is.

      • Bill

        actually that just seems a little snarky. More likely you just don’t agree with Loran.

      • Glenn Thigpen

        Those types of error, i.e. mantel for mantle can just as easily be the case of a poor typist like myself hitting the “e” key with the left hand before the “l” key with the right hand. I do it a lot. That is something a spell checker would not catch.

        Now, what abo0out the substance of Loran’s post.

    • Dwight Franke

      thank you. Agreed.

      • Dwight Franke

        that is thank you to Loran

  • eman

    This has been a lively debate. I appreciate all the insightful comments on here. I admit that when I first read this article I was on the fence about the issue. I had pretty much decided that masturbation for married folk is for them to decide and can be okay (though not always, and my wife and I don’t do it solo) as long as both partners are okay with it AND it strengthens their marriage relationship. However, I mostly believed masturbation outside of marriage was wrong, at least according to the teachings of the church. But I also saw how things have been changing and wondered if we as a church might not just be at that transition point, where masturbation becomes like birth control, sex only for procreation, and other previously popular and widely taught ideas in the church. But I wasn’t there yet. Then I read a comment where someone mentioned the wording in the strength for youth pamphlet counseling “Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.” had been taken out. I followed the link and saw it was true. So I figured maybe we had finally made the transition. So I briefly accepted that it was at least not against current church doctrine. Then I saw a follow up that showed how the rest was simply hidden until you clicked the “more” link.

    So, I back peddle. While I certainly do NOT believe all the negative things people say about masturbation I cannot accept that it is no longer counseled against by the church. Yes it is being given a place of less emphasis (where it should be imo), but as long as there is currently any “current” publication on the matter, I will not teach my kids that it is acceptable behavior. Besides, Josh made some good points above. 

    I can’t help but feel that much of the arguments we have are about whether we can do it not whether we should. Not all things from which we are counseled to abstain bring about poor social or physical consequences. Rather, obedience to the principle brings about desired traits. Take for example coveting. In and of itself seemingly does no harm. Of course if react to it you could do stupid things that do cause harm (like get into massive credit card debt  ). But by obeying this commandment we tend t be more content with what we have and therefore happy. I wonder if masturbation, while it might not cause harm in and of itself (but could if it leads to life hindering addiction, pornography use, etc), brings positive blessings when abstained from before marriage. Temperance would certainly be a trait I developed. Perhaps our love for the Lord is increased as we give up something our body desires in order to please him through obedience to church principles (kind of like with fasting). I’m sure we could list many other positive things that come from abstaining.

    I wanted it to be okay. I wanted to believe natasha because I, like many of you, had bad experiences with this as a teen. I was hoping beyond hope that my kids would not have to go through what I went through with the shame and feelings of worthlessness. But as I thought about my experience, much of the shame I felt was over being so alone and weaker than everyone else. I remember my own father making jokes about it before I had ever done it that portrayed anyone who would do such a thing as so dirty and unclean. So of course when I first did it (which was an accident, I swear!) I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I instantly felt like the worse kind of sinner. Add to this the continual bad messages I received in church and of course I felt so dirty and shammed! My kids don’t have to feel this way if I talk to them about this subject in a sensitive way! One that portrays it as a “normal” activity that most everyone engages in at some point in their adolescence, but at the same time that the Lord has taught we should avoid so that we might be blessed in other ways(such as I mentioned above and more). I figure if we can get the point across that it’s not akin to murder we can relieve some of the enormous shame that can be felt. After all, most of don’t have life debilitating shame if we lie, cheat at monopoly or use a four letter word. To borrow from a previous commenter but in a different context, if it happens, it happens, take care of it (repent of it) and move on (try not to do it again).

    So my final opinion is that masturbation outside of married life, is still taught as wrong by the church and therefore all faithful single members should try to abstain. Despite the benefits that masturbation may bring, I believe that man does not always comprehend all that the Lord does and as long as it is counseled against by the church, then the benefits of abstaining out weight the benefits of partaking. But for sure, let’s not make a big deal about it. In fact, since the church has chosen to omit the word masturbation, maybe we should do the same. Thus we’re covered because we teach our kids the gospel. They can make choices according to their understanding and personal revelation as to what “arousing sexual feeling in their own body” means. Then everyone’s happy!

    • Anom

      I agree, for the most pat. It seems that the Church is teaching that masturbation is inappropriate (https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth/sexual-purity?lang=eng). However, they do not specifically use that word, which is interesting (although it is present in older material, in which Natasha expressed no interest, including here: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=e6737befabc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=198bf4b13819d110VgnVCM1000003a94610aRCRD). I think you are right to suggest that it would behoove faithful members to teach principles of chastity to their children according to the language used most recently in official publications (which do not use the word “masturbation”).

      I would also agree that some of these behaviors fall under the decision paradigm defined by what is good, better, and best. Perhaps masturbation is merely good (but not in all cases…). What is better? What is best?

      However, it would seem that the Church’s teachings on this subject (whatever they might be–it seems that there is still plenty of room for interpretation because specific language has been obfuscated with more demure innuendo as of late) are restricted to the youth.

      If I were to riff on some of your implicit conclusions, eman, I would submit that you mean to say that masturbation is therefore permitted within the marriage relationship. What gives you this impression? Why is it something to be abstained from before marriage and not after? Sexual intercourse is, of course, under the same restrictions provided that after marriage it happens solely with one’s spouse. Are you suggesting that because marriage gives you a focal point for sexual desire that masturbation within the marriage relationship is permitted provided that one’s spouse is the focal point of this desire? This would prevent one from lusting after someone other than one’s own spouse within one’s heart before and after marriage…

      “Then everyone’s happy!” This feels naive to me… In any case, I am in agreement that individuals should be guided by their own understanding and personal revelation.

      Thanks to everyone for a very interesting discussion.

      • eman

        I agree that the teachings of the church about Masturbation are restricted to youth. Thus one could make an argument for it being no longer valid when one becomes and adult. However, missionaries (age 19+) are no longer youth and are still counseled (even if not disciplined any longer as one commenter above stated) to not do it. Furthermore, I am unable to think of another commandment that is age specific. For these reasons, I believe it applies to all singles regardless of age. I do concied however, that in the light of more definitive counsel it is up to one’s personal interpretation/revelation to decide how to best act.

        As for masturbation in marriage… I don’t feel strongly one way or another. But my belief comes from my understanding that in marriage our sexuality can be expressed how we as a couple feel it should as long as it increases our love and intimacy one for another. As I stated, I don’t personally engage as between my wife and myself we don’t feel it would add to our relationship as she is always willing (if not necessarily enthusiastic) to engage in sexual relations. But for some couples I could see how one partner with very low libido could become annoyed with the other with high, such that the constant attention became a contention point in their relationship. If they both agree well, then in light of no official statements on the matter, I don’t see it as sin. Besides, I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes feeling like I”m alone even while having sex with my wife. Sometimes I wonder what the actual difference is if on partner is merely available but not engaged between sex and maturation. Anyways, I just want to emphasize that I don’t feel strongly about this and really just believe that it’s between a man and his wife what they do in their marriage.

        Oh, and the every one’s happy statement was sarcasm. Were I serious, it would be naive.

  • Seriously?

    Man, I can’t wait for Natasha to start her own church. I hear that wine and coffee is healthy now too. Let’s change that policy. And while we are at it, 50% of Mormon’s get divorced so let’s forget temple marriages. I’m so grateful for “Mormon Therapist modern day revelation”.
    Ps…your articles lack credibility. And Mormons aren’t the only religious people who don’t believe in masturbation

    • Anom

      Actually, wine appears to be healthy for you in moderation: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/red-wine/HB00089/ (If you don’t think that the Mayo Clinic website, which is HONcode compliant, is credible, than please ignore this link.)

      There are also compounds in hot drinks, such as coffee and some teas, that may be healthy for you (many contain antioxidants, for example–caffeine also has its medicinal purposes). What is it in coffee that makes it against the Word of Wisdom? If you believe that it is caffeine than you had better stop drinking other caffeinated beverages (many sodas, for example) and eating chocolate, too…

      PS There are plenty of other religious groups who believe conflicting things–should we start believing and or disbelieving so as to be in agreement with all other religious people (which is impossible, needles to say)? Since when does it matter to this Church what other religious groups believe?

  • Anom

    I’m re-posting this here so it doesn’t get buried…:
    @ Jason (8/8/12, 5:37pm), I have a serious question regarding the following from your comment: “I have known very worthy young women who have masturbated for years without knowing it wasn’t appropriate, and who I truly believe didn’t lose the spirit from it because they were like Eve in the garden, innocent.” Help me understand why the light of Christ (or conscience) and/or Holy Ghost didn’t interfere on the first occasion to help each of these good, spiritually aware sisters understand how inappropriate this behavior is?

    If sexual sins are second in seriousness only to murder and denying the Holy Ghost, don’t you think that the Spirit would interfere to correct misbehavior in these presumably accountable/of-age sisters (sorry, no one who has accepted the gospel is innocent after the age of accountability in so far as I understand)? If one of these good sisters were about to inadvertently commit murder (and for whatever reason didn’t realize its inherent wrongness), do you think that the Spirit would have given them a nudge in the right direction? So why not in the case of masturbation (a sin, according to some, second only to murder and denying the Holy Ghost)? Your estimation of these instances does not reflect my understanding of the gospel (on even a purely logical level).

  • Loran

    Yes, fixating upon absent-minded typos and a few common types of grammatical errors, which were just caught after the first post (which I stopped as it was posting, which is why there are two original posts, and not one) and then corrected, as a long established and well worn tradition among those who bring nothing to the table of debate and discussion but their own internal psychological material and emotional commitment. I’ve long been used to this approach and so it doesn’t bother me much. I’d say my spelling, without proofreading, is near 100%; better than most but not perfect – as with most. Every now and then I actually put “your” when I mean the possessive “you’re” in blog or message board commentary. Yup, its true. And when it gets by me, certain types of people who want to avoid intellectually substantive debate of contrary perspectives because they are not confident in their own arguments will home in on that kind of thing and create a red herring, as Anon has done here.

    You wrote an entire post on my absent-minded use of the wrong word (mantel) while never so much as attempting a counter-argument or critically substantive rebuttal to anything I said.

    That’s what’s interesting here, not mantel/mantle.

  • Loran

    Oops! I did it again. I see its “Anom,” not “Anon.” Notwithstanding, I do trust that “Anom” will concentrate henceforth upon my arguments, and not upon syllabic misperceptions or inadvertent strokes of the keyboard.

    • Anom

      Agreed, Loran. I’ll get back to you soon with something more substantive. However, I maintain that if you are going to try to communicate about something so nuanced you have to be careful about the words you choose because they have a dramatic impact on the meaning you ultimately convey. One example of this is the deliberate redaction of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, which used to employ the word masturbation. Now it doesn’t… Why did the Church make the change and what does it mean for our youth (and the rest of us)?

      • Loran

        Yes…uh…I understand all that. I’ve been writing since I was about 9 years old.

        As to the term “masturbation,” I suspect that the reason the Church removed the term itself was simply so as not to be overly explicit in its use of language with the youth, including those in the 14 and 15 year old area. Packer’s crystal clear warming not to provoke sexual feelings and desires in one’s own body really doesn’t leave any room for doubt as to the implied meaning. There’s no need, at all, to twist in the wind over this or to attempt to torture Packer’s use of language until it confesses a liberalized or “progressive” interpretation.

        This is the “NOM” or Neo-Orthodox manner of a “long march” through the Church: slowly, incrementally, and subtly.

        • Loran

          Hey, watch out, Anom, I typed “warming” instead of “warning” in my last post. That was a typo, so don’t let it bother you too much. This is only a blog, after all.

          Should I do a “spell corrected” version, just to be on the safe side?

        • Loran

          Yes…uh…I understand all that. I’ve been writing since I was about 9 years old.
          Spell Corrected Version (and a little grammar change). The first can be deleted.

          As to the term “masturbation,” I suspect that the reason the Church removed the term itself was simply so as not to be overly explicit in its use of language with youth, including those in the 14 and 15 year old area. Packer’s crystal clear warning not to provoke sexual feelings and desires in one’s own body really doesn’t leave any room for doubt as to the implied meaning. There’s no need, at all, to twist in the wind over this or to attempt to torture Packer’s use of language until it confesses a liberalized or “progressive” interpretation.

          This is the “NOM” or Neo-Orthodox manner of a “long march” through the Church: slowly, incrementally, and subtly.

          • Loran

            It would actually be nice if Patheos allowed editing of posts. Not a message board though, I guess.

          • Loran

            Final spell corrected version (with small grammar change, and without the inadvertent posting of a sentence that was cut and pasted and wasn’t supposed to be there). Now, both original posts, including the first spell corrected post, which was spell corrected but contained a sentence that wasn’t supposed to be there that had to be deleted (but not spell corrected) and so then it was corrected but, uh, and then…oh well, never mind.

            Drum roll…

            As to the term “masturbation,” I suspect that the reason the Church removed the term itself was simply so as not to be overly explicit in its use of language with youth, including those in the 14 and 15 year old area. Packer’s crystal clear warning not to provoke sexual feelings and desires in one’s own body really doesn’t leave any room for doubt as to the implied meaning. There’s no need, at all, to twist in the wind over this or to attempt to torture Packer’s use of language until it confesses a liberalized or “progressive” interpretation.

            This is the “NOM” or Neo-Orthodox manner of a “long march” through the Church: slowly, incrementally, and subtly.

  • http://masturbationandaddiction.blogspot.com PRECIOUS

    I used to be hooked on the habit of masturbation myself and i felt guilty whenever i indulged in it. I never saw it as woman thing though and i have since fought the habit because of my religious views. I was taught to understand that God loves holiness and that it is his integral nature making the habit of masturbation a infringement on his temple. I have been practicing things like deep meditation of the word of God, Prayers and Bible Studies at Night to help me deal with the habit. I am not a Mormon , so i beg to differ on the subject. Thank You.

  • Anom

    “This is in utter, open, and distinctive opposition and rebellion against the settled and established core doctrines and teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ regarding the conditions, boundaries, and appropriate exercise of human sexual powers, and the consistent and unvarying counsel of the Lord’s present servants, the prophets.”

    I’m not so sure—while the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet does indicate that the youth should refrain from stimulating sexual feelings in their bodies it does not specifically employ the word masturbation (it did, formerly—why do you think that this change was made?). The word masturbation does not appear anywhere in the scriptures. It isn’t specifically included in questions respecting temple worthiness or other language employed at specific instances in the Church, either.

    She’s right, you know. We were created with the capacity for sexual fulfillment by ourselves and in relationships (whether or not we should employ that capacity in masturbation is not necessarily her point respecting this particular remark). We have the physical capacity for self-stimulation–it is as simple as that.

    “Let me be the bearer of bad news for those LDS “liberals” among the flock for whom the settled teachings of the gospel are in a plastic, malleable state: psychologists and other mental health professionals, bathed and simmered in the widely variant theories, freewheeling speculations, trendy philosophies, and wishful thinking that has long been the hallmark (especially since the sixties) of counseling and clinical psychology, in all of its proliferating vegetative splendor, have no authority, no mantel, no insight, and no fundamental basis upon which to contradict and overturn the core principles of the law of Chastity as it has traditionally and consistently been taught through revelation to the present generation.”

    Respecting your comments about prophetic responsibility not falling within the prerogative of mental health professionals etc.—fair enough. However, the Church has exhibited certain malleability in specific instances (I’m thinking of polygamy and changes that culminated with ultimately qualifying all worthy males for the priesthood). Cultural trends (in and out of the Church) have also exerted their influence and helped make the widespread use of contraceptives essentially a non-issue in our day. I would add that whenever I have been taught the Law of Chastity, or whenever it has been reiterated to me, not once has masturbation been addressed one way or the other. Where do you find evidence that forbidding masturbation has been a longstanding core principle of the Law of Chastity? Do you think that we should consider adults in a consenting relationship differently or the same as the youth with respect to this issue? By the way, do you have an axe to grind respecting mental health professionals? This paragraph was a little inimical!

    “That the author’s position here is a strictly personal and, perhaps, ideologically driven one, one need only look closely at her primary argument. Let’s take a look at it premise by premise:
    “God has created us as emotional, spiritual, intellectual and sexual beings. ”
    Fine. We can assume this to be true.”

    Agreed as to the second point. So what if her position is personal—if this is working for her and she has sought revelation concerning the matter then it doesn’t really concern me, or you, at all. Have you prayed about this or experimented upon the word?

    “‘He has created these capacities in the context of both relational purpose and self-sufficiency. ‘
    This already is presenting problems, philosophically speaking. What does she mean by “self sufficiency” and by what process of reasoning, or upon what basis did she come to the conclusion that human sexuality exists within, in some sense, a context of “self sufficiency?”

    I think her meaning is clear: self-sufficiency is equivalent to meeting sexual needs with masturbation. Or she is referring to nocturnal emissions. In either case, self-sufficiency! (Of course, the gospel sanctions nocturnal emissions but not masturbation, according to your perspective… What is the difference?) Animal sexuality certainly exists within a context of some self-sufficiency (masturbation is widespread in the animal kingdom). Perhaps Natasha recognizes this and assumes that the same latitude has been given to mankind.

    ““Meaning we are social creatures – meant to thrive in relationship with others. At the same time, we are also individual creatures – and when not able to be in relationship have capacity to meet our own needs for certain periods of time depending on age and developmental stage.”
    This is apparently meant to be a third premise, the conclusion of the argument is then the first proposition in the argument, “Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression.””

    According to the Book of Mormon, murder is not a transgression as long as the Holy Ghost prompts and sanctions it. Other instances in the scriptures imply as much with respect to incest etc. Perhaps the same latitude applies to masturbation on an individual basis. Things are never so black and white as they first appear.

    “If so, the conclusion is in no way implied by the claims made in the body of the argument. Terms and context are undefined and fuzzy, and the leap of logic necessary to get to her primary claim is so apparently vast that it isn’t even present, as an implication or inference, as a logical connection between her major assertions and the conclusions she draws from them.”

    I agree—there is a certain leap of faith required to arrive at Natasha’s conclusion. However, I think you are doing a disservice to Natasha and her readers in your characterization of her arguments—they aren’t so poorly constructed as that, in my opinion. In fact, a similar leap of faith is required to accept the opposite conclusion that masturbation is forbidden and end of story. Why? This is because we have been created for the physical capacity for self-stimulation but haven’t received any definitive instructions about it (excepting, possibly, the youth–see below). Do the same proscriptions apply to adults? I would submit that the gospel is unclear on this point and after being taught correct principles we are left to govern ourselves according to our understanding after consulting with the Spirit.

    “Further, contrary to what she’s claimed here, that “In short, the church itself has moved away from its positions on masturbation which were largely promulgated during the early to mid 20th century – a time when culture at large had incorrect and inaccurate ideas about sexuality”, the Church has done no such thing.
    https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth/sexual-purity?lang=eng
    “Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression.”
    This is from the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet the author claims no longer mentions masturbation as a transgression of the Lord’s standards of human sexuality.”

    I think there is plenty of evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, that the Church may be more malleable on this particular point than some would like to believe. Exhibit A is the linguistic change in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet from “masturbation” to the much more vague “arouse those emotions in your own body.” Anecdotal evidence in recent posts on this blog and elsewhere about the same subject indicate that bishops are instructed to refrain from asking about this as are mission presidents etc. Why might this be? I suggest the link she included in her post that talks about changing attitudes about masturbation throughout the Church’s history: Historical Development of New Masturbation Attitudes in Mormon Culture (see above)

    “The wolves keep trying to look like lambs, but my, those big teeth you have Grandma…”

    Your parting shot is a little silly, don’t you think? It would be much more effective to state it plainly—you think that Natasha is deliberately deceiving Church members in order to prey upon them as a food source. For my part, I’m not sufficiently marbled to attract much attention (the same cannot be said for many Church members who overindulge at breakfast, lunch, and dinner—at least these good people are spending too much time at the trough to roll around in the hay by themselves!).

    OK, I’m being a little tongue in cheek, sorry! But seriously, there are other sins perhaps more physically and spiritually destructive than masturbation that deserve attention too!

    Thanks for challenging me to think about this seriously, Loran.

    • jaxemer11

      We were also created with the capability of murdering other human beings. Is murder a right that we have been given as a gift from God?

  • Loran

    “It would be wise to not condemn Joseph Smith based upon assumptions or historical fiction from authors like Fawn Brodie. Check out my website: http://www.JosephSmithsPolygamy.com. We all benefit by following the evidence. If you find credible evidence of sexual impropriety let me know. Thanks! Brian Hales”

    Hi Brian. I don’t know if you remember me, but we talked at length at the 2010 FAIR conference after your presentation there. Good to see you here with the historical evidence and facts as they stand. All of this rises and falls upon its evidential and logical merits, and the Spirit has never left me to founder on these stickier subjects and historical quandaries.

    Loran

  • Phil

    “Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord nor of his church, regardless of what may have been said by others whose “norms” are lower. Latter-day Saints are urged to avoid this practice. Anyone fettered by this weakness should abandon the habit before he goes on a mission or receives the holy priesthood or goes in the temple for his blessings.”
    -Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, November 1980
    I was almost relieved, and almost happy to think of the idea that masturbation might be ok. I *love* psychology and brain science. On of my favorite books, which actually supports a lot of the statements made here, is “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, in which chapter 4 explains a lot about how sexual preferences and habits affect our brain. It was exciting to read this article, after reading many other books and chapters and articles about sexual psychology. Because it’s interesting how society has paired pornography and masturbation as one, and they’re not.
    One analogy that I used was the consumption of alcohol. Malcolm Gladwell, in one of his New Yorker articles, talks about how different cultures drink, and he even talks about Mormons and the fact that we don’t drink. But most people consume alcohol in their lifetime. There are small percentages in orange juice and even non-alcoholic beer, so it could be argued that the problem with drinking is the intention to loosen up, let the alcohol lower your inhibitions and take the edge off. Surely, that’s what is mentioned when church leaders warn against drinking. And likewise, when speaking of masturbation, it is always the effects of pornography that are spoken of. But is it possible to masturbate without those effects, if porn isn’t used, and if the person isn’t using their imagination on some wild fantasy? Is it possible–and pardon the candor here–to just be “massaging” your private parts to climax, while not thinking about sex with another particular person at all? If that was the case, and it was paired with the medical evidence that masturbation is somehow healthy, I’d be intrigued. And it seems that this article is suggesting that to be the case.
    However, the arguments that “the church has spoken less of it, or stopped mentioning masturbation by name” don’t really hold up, because the church has spoken less of political activity too, and that’s more important now than ever. I don’t know why the church has changed the manner in which it instructs, but the article I referenced was specific to say that masturbation is wrong. Maybe Spencer W. Kimball was a fallible man who, like everyone else, paired masturbation with pornography, or was just old fashioned enough to think that it is wrong. But that’s the instruction that I have to go with. As a church counselor, I’d love to trust your advice, but unless you can get some official church support for the stance, I have to go with the authoritative figure on this.
    It might be helpful, when someone has a habit of using porn to masturbate, if they could try to undo the psychological process and backpedal out of the sin by masturbating less frequently with videos, then “downgrading” to pictures, and then masturbating less frequently without pornography at all, and trying to avoid masturbation when it is prompted by thoughts of sex with a friend or acquaintance or even (especially) a stranger, and–pardon the candor again–just masturbating when a random erection occurs, or in the case of women, whenever that urge might be, so long as it is unprompted and unassisted by specific sexual thought. However, even if that can be a useful method of quitting, it apparently isn’t an acceptable pattern of behavior.

    • Chet

      Phil,
      I have come to understand that Church doctrine is consistantly taught by it’s leaders and in the standard works: see the Church’s official press release @ http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine
      Included in this release:
      •Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.”
      The way I understand this statement, doctrine is consistently proclaimed in Church publications, and resides in the standard works. I do not see that being the case with masturbation. Do you?
      So, when it comes to statements made by President Kimball, show me where those statements (most of which were made when he was an Apostle, not the Prophet) are being taught consistently in our Church publications. The For the Strength of Youth statement is seriously vague, and as I have stated previously, when taken in context, it is really talking about not doing anything with “someone else” that will arouse those feelings in ourselves or others – so we don’t start down that path towards intercourse, which is when we tamper with the laws of procreation. Furthermore, the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet also says that they should not partake in “passionate kissing”. Why not the sanctions on our youth for this indescretion, since it (IMO and from my experience in counseling countless young single adults) is more likely to become the beginning of the slippery slope that leads to more serious sins, i.e. petting, oral sex and intercourse? Why don’t our Bishop’s withhold partaking of the sacrament, or passing the sacrament, when a young man has made out with a girl. Probably because the Bishop didn’t ask about it, but why? Why not this, but masturbation? President Spencer W. Kimball taught:
      ‘Kissing has been prostituted and has degenerated to develop and express lust instead of affection, honor, and admiration. To kiss in casual dating is asking for trouble. What do kisses mean when given out like pretzels and robbed of sacredness? What is miscalled the “soul kiss” is an abomination and stirs passions to the eventual loss of virtue. Even if timely courtship justifies the kiss it should be a clean, decent, sexless one like the kiss between mother and son, or father and daughter.
      As a former Bishop, I was left to come to my own understanding on the issue of masturbation. There was no official stance on it, nothing in the General Handbook, nothing regarding the interviewing of prospective missionaries, the Church Missionary Department had no official stance on it… I too was familiar with SWK’s statement that you quoted:
      “Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord nor of his church, regardless of what may have been said by others whose “norms” are lower. Latter-day Saints are urged to avoid this practice. Anyone fettered by this weakness should abandon the habit before he goes on a mission or receives the holy priesthood or goes in the temple for his blessings.”
      When I looked at his statement closely and broke it down I came to some of my prayerful conclusions. He admitted that masturbation is a rather common indiscretion. He didn’t say “sin next to murder”, but indescretion. He probably realized that statistically, at least 90% of all boys/men have masturbated and for the girls/women, the numbers vary from 40-65%. Why did he not say “Latter-day Saints are commanded to obstain from this practice”, but he said, “Latter-day Saints are urged to avoid… “? And when you look at the words “fettered by this weakness” and “abandon the habit”, to be fettered is to be in chains and shakled – enslaved. A habit is something that is out of control – a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition; An addiction. When someone is at this point in their life it can be all consumming and spiritually destructive. I know that one of President Kimball’s concerns was not allowing a prospective missionary, with a habit of masturbation, to enter the mission field. He had dealt with situations where two missionaries with the same problem/habit were put together and eventually one thing led to another and talk led to mutual masturbation, which lead to…. He wanted to prevent that from happening, so in order to minimize those instances he felt that by having the person overcome the “habit” before serving a mission would help alieviate those instances. This is what I have gleaned from my studies.
      In my years of counseling young adults, generally I determined that masturbation had become a coping mechanism for emotional distress – stress, loneliness, low self esteem, depression, etc… I saw it as more of an emotional issue than a sin to be punished. By making masturbation a sin to be punished only increased the above feelings of low self worth and perpetuated the masturbation. I did not withhold the sacrament or temple recommends from those who were struggling with this problem. I saw many GOOD members of the Church who had been scarred from past dealings with Bishops who thought that the answer was to place restrictions on them, making them feel like they were sinners in the category of those who were guilty of petting, intercourse, alcohol use, drug use …. This, for many, led them to give up, thinking that they would never be in good standing with the Church. Some of them justified that since their circumstance is hopeless, why not give in to having sex, or drinking, etc….
      I am not opening promoting masturbation as a way of life for members of the Church. I think that this is an individual issue between the member and God. I do believe, just like many things in life, those with compulsive/addictive personalities will be more likely to curtail masturbation, should that be their desire. Hence, the counsel to avoid the practice will be good counsel. But, for those who succum to the temptation, don’t make a big deal out of it. If it becomes successive and they need help, professional counseling will help, if that counselor can help them to find alternative coping mechanisms – not shaming them into giving it up.

      • Anom

        Chet–
        Thank you for your thoughtful treatment of the oft-quoted statement from President Kimball. My ideas about masturbation continue to crystallize as I learn more about it and as I am exposed to more and more (different) opinions about it. I think that the evidence on hand suggests that this issue is primarily being left to individual members to make personal decisions respecting its place in their lives.

        I’m not sure I agree about your interpretation of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet’s comments about what seems to be masturbation respecting the youth, although upon rereading I can see where you are coming from. I will say that in my understanding of the Law of Chastity, particularly for married persons who have an appropriate focus of sexual desire (their spouse) and thus for whom lusting after someone in their heart can be displaced with appropriate sexual feelings directed at their spouse, there isn’t anything that would seem to indicate against this practice within consenting marriage relationships if used appropriately.

      • Eric

        I left the church. I was a return missionary and went to BYU.

        Some of the most negative experiences I can attribute to the church are my dating experiences.

        I followed these rules closely. The rule that makes me the most upset is “no passionate kissing.” I lost the girl of my dreams because of this rule. I didn’t find love until I was over 30 years old. In my experience, 99.9% of Mormons do NOT follow this rule (at BYU and elsewhere), and when you do, say goodbye to getting married. It’s like the scripture in D&C about lust destroying faith – HELLO? IS ANYBODY MARRIED? I guess the Prophet doesn’t have the spirit, then.

        I found love once I started engaging with the opposite sex passionately. Truthfully, I don’t see how it is possible to get married without these passionate feelings. Anybody who says it is is a liar.

        Robot I am no more.

        (And Mormon no more as well because of the PAINFULLY terrible advice I was given in my youth)

  • Jonathan Bentz

    I have to applaud the therapist for taking this strong stance. Not many people, even those with the knowledge of the ethics included in their practice, would do such a thing when faced with how the Church perceives attacks on its policies. I hope that this therapist does not face ex-communication simply for speaking their mind, but the way the church has handled internal disputes in the past suggests otherwise, the most recent example I can think of (that’s widely known) being the tabernacle choir member who spoke out on Prop 8 because they believed the Church shouldn’t get involved in politically-charged topics and the political process itself.
    I wish the Mormon Therapist the best, especially when history is stacked against them.

  • Erick

    I’m shocked that a “good” member of the church would post such an article. And even more shocked that so many people would agree with it.

    Just because the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet doesn’t use the word “masturbation” in it, and just because the church hasn’t mentioned masturbation as much lately doesn’t mean that it’s all of a sudden acceptable to God. Even if President Kimball was president of the church a whole 30 years ago, I still stand by what he said mentioning over the pulpit in a General Conference that, “Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord nor of his church, regardless of what may have been said by others whose “norms” are lower.” I don’t think a Prophet of God could be any clearer. Sure, there have been times in early church history, where church leaders have been known to make mistakes, speaking as themselves and not as God’s prophets, but when anything that clear is said in a General Conference, we can all be assured that the President of the church, even 30 years ago, prayed long and hard over the message. When something like that is said from a Church President over the pulpit at a General Conference it is God’s word, and anyone professing to be loyal to God and his Church should agree with that as well as President Kimball’s remark without question regardless of what “research” or “science” or “Mormon Therapist with a Master’s degree” says.

    It is also alarming to me to see the general attitude of people who agree with the article that local church leaders aren’t credible at all. I think this attitude toward local leaders is extremely dangerous. We are constantly taught in the church to support and sustain our local church leaders, and trying to discredit them seems to me just another way Satan would have people think that some things are acceptable before God, when they most definitely aren’t.

    Satan would always try and make loopholes, and that is exactly what this article looks like to me, trying to make Masturbation seem acceptable to God. Masturbation isn’t acceptable in the eyes of God, and we know that from what a Prophet of God has said. Stop waiting for church leaders to say it’s okay. It’ll never happen.

    • Anom

      You appear to be right–President Kimball did mention this over the pulpit. Interesting… I’m not sure what to make of it in light of everything else that I’ve read (on this blog and other relevant sources) and the nascent conclusions I have been reaching respecting this issue.

      On the one hand, it would seem that the question is black and white, given this statement: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1980/10/president-kimball-speaks-out-on-morality?lang=eng

      I’m also not sure what to make of Natasha’s refusal to entertain resources she deems out of date (such as this one), although I think that she makes a good point about certain positions changing over time in response to a range of factors including widespread cultural and other trends.

      What is right? Perhaps I will ask a Bishop and see what the official response is (I will emphasize that I only want to hear strictly what he has been instructed to communicate). Outside of that, I think we have to make our own decisions prayerfully etc. It would seem that the issue is treated somewhat differently by the Church for married couples (and possibly some older singles etc.) than it is for the youth.

      Ultimately, I think that quibbling over the specific language used in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is a little absurd and probably looking beyond the mark. I also think that masturbation should be treated as an indiscretion (as President Kimball calls it) and not a grievous sin, if it is going to be treated negatively at all. The shame associated with covert masturbation appears to be far more damaging…

      Here’s hoping that everyone finds a resolution to this issue that works for them and contributes to spiritual, mental, and physical health! I would add that the resolution may not be the same for everyone and that we shouldn’t feel the need to censure others over something so trivial (assuming that masturbation is used appropriately as a tool and is not an addiction catalyzed by pornography etc.).

      To all those who condemn Natasha and those who agree with her: will you recriminate with equal censure your own children and or spouse if you discover that they are indulging in occasional masturbation (provided that it isn’t associated with pornography etc.)? What would Christ’s response be?

  • head of shiz

    Good for you Natasha!
    I’ve been reading your blog since the beginning and am glad you’ve made your position clear on this issue. Thank you for all the thoughtful work you’ve done and all the help you’ve been to to many anonymous readers that come here looking for answers from a professional. Great stuff, and your opinion is shared with many of us who are less vocal and of a lower profile. Let the zealots on both ends of the spectrum scream their righteous indignation, it is nothing more than noise to the vast majority who will read this and be better equipped to make healthy choices for themselves.

  • Joni S.

    I thank you for your courage and willingness to be frank and take a stand on this matter. May you never stop doing this blog because I have referred so many people here. I respect you now more than ever!

  • Cactus

    I think this is an excellent topic but the habit of masturbation is so personal and the reasons people do it are so broad that it can not be covered and decided by a single brushstroke of discussion. We all have different motives and secondary gain that we seek from our actions. I do feel that masturbation can be a sin… or done innocently. Overuse of energy drinks can be a sin too. It all depends on motivation and reasons behind it. Obviously if someone is masturbating but avoiding intimacy with a spouse, it is wrong and damages a relationship. But what about if a spouse is ill… or injured… and unable to fulfill that need for physical intimacy? Wouldn’t masturbation in moderation be much more tolerable that making demands on a spouse, or seeking other sexual outlets? Not everyone has the ability to completely abstain… (Remember that the word od wisdom is for the weakest of the saints.)

    I have no problem with a single person using masturbation as a tool to help avoid petting and fornication. I would think a wise single person would masturbate if needed rather that act out sexually with another person on a date or in whatever situation. I take the position that it is the lesser of two evils but nothing to be ashamed of. It is a very personal thing and only God truly knows the motivations of the heart.

    As far as sex addiction goes… it is my personal belief that we are all programmed to be sex addicts and “addicted” to our spouse. I love to be with my wife and the intimacy we share brings us closer. I think the bond of physical intimacy with her keeps us together and strong. I hate to be away from her. Pornography hijacks this bond so I avoid it to the best of my ability. Masturbation used as a tool to avoid being over demanding or resenting her when she is unable to be physically intimate is helpful to us. We are closer than ever. I think life is a growing process… I am working on not swearing and feel the spirit leave when I do… I have felt the spirit leave when my mind was lusting so I do my best to avoid it… I do feel that there are times that masturbation is ok and doesn’t need to be a big deal.

    It is certainly not worth the pressure and shame we put on our youth. They are so much better than we were and can recognize the spirit. If we teach them to follow it, they will be guided to make decisions that are right for their individual growth.

    This is my 2 cents worth.

    • edwardgibbon

      The most important element in this controversial subject is LDS young people. That we should in any shape or form inculcate a sense of unworthiness & possibly moral despair in their fragile minds is not only misguided but sanctimonious. In today’s vacuous celebrity culture where youth are sold empty forms LDS kids should be given resect & admiration not troubled sleep.

  • fwbSeeker

    Natasha,
    Thank you so much for posting this. My wife and I have come to very similar conclusions about Masturbation as we’ve opened up about our own childhood experiences with church and parental shaming. While the church appears to be moving away from the past teachings on this, I absolutely agree the leadership needs to unambiguously state an official position – and my hope is that it mirrors yours.

    Having had my own ‘struggles’ with Masterbation as a youth and single adult, I am glad to have made it to a fulfilling marriage without lasting damage. As I look back, the struggles were centered around the shame and guilt of not being able to stop doing something that was pleasurable, and it turns out, quite normal. That and facing the lie/confess conundrum with Branch Presidents in a tiny branch. I try to imagine how life might have been different had the message been a positive one of self discovery, moderation, and normalcy. It would have helped smooth some of the awkwardness of growing up at the very least.

    Masterbation has played a helpful role in my marriage also. It took a few years to fully open up to my wife in terms of talking about sex. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t very good at fulfilling her early in the marriage, but she was managing her unmet needs via self-pleasure which helped keep us together until we were able to mutually get better with each other. During that time, she had assumed that surely I was doing the same with myself when needed – though that was rare due to guilt.

    She had her own shame struggles with church and family growing up, but had never internalized the negative messages. As a YW, she was much less likely to get asked about it. Opening up to each other about our past practices really strengthened the marriage relationship and has helped me let go of a lot of the prior pain and it’s one more physical expression we can use together or apart within the relationship.

    Best wishes for lighting this torch and know that many stand with you.

  • Amy

    I can’t believe that in the year 2012 there are still people ignorant enough to think that masturbation causes homosexuality. Both are fine and they are not connected.

  • Rob

    I am open to the possibility that the sinfulness of masturbation was not a matter of revelation. But, the counsel to avoid it is still current – particularly for youth – and I think there are sound reasons for it. Perhaps the biggest is that it almost always involves lustful thoughts about a person you’re not married to. Jesus himself taught about that being wrong, so it’s awfully hard to dismiss as some cultural artifact. Yeah, it’s physically possible to masturbate without entertaining a sexual fantasy, but let’s not pretend that’s how it usually goes down.

    So, frankly, the “there’s nothing wrong with it” line just doesn’t fly.

    Having said that, I think Natasha’s point that we can all agree on is that masturbation isn’t a sin akin to murder and we need to make sure we’re administering to people correctly. Some sexual sins are horrendous in terms of their spiritual costs – rape and adultery come to mind – but to lump masturbation into that is just bizarre and has caused immense heartache. Give people the counsel (e.g. “don’t do it”) and encourage people with challenges to overcome it but it shouldn’t be a matter of church discipline unless it gets out of control.

    • jaxemer11

      100% agree. Obviously masturbation isn’t a “sin next to murder,” and despite some people’s confusion (some of which can be blamed on inartful use of the English language) I have seen no evidence that the Church has ever taught that it is a sin next to murder. Alma was clearly talking about extra-marital sex, not masturbation.

      With that said, it is pretty close to impossible to be a student of the scriptures and to honestly believe that masturbation is not a sin. Sins come in all shapes and sizes, and we all commit hundreds of them on a daily basis. Sin is not something to be ashamed of. Shame is destructive and evil and of the devil. Anyone that would shame someone, or would teach someone that they should be ashamed of themselves, doesn’t understand the gospel. But we should feel sorry for our sins in order to overcome them. There is a big difference between shame and constructive sorrow, and it seems that a lot of people miss this too often in the Church. People need to read Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson.

  • Amy

    I masturbated a bit in my early 20s. It was “problematic” in the sense that LDS are taught to view any masturbation as problematic. Also, the guilt was a problem. I was experiencing the two worst years of my life and trying to hold off a nervous breakdown and frankly, I needed an occasional outlet. What I didn’t need, in addition to my many other problems, was an intensely personal and humiliating conversation with my bishop. So I did myself a kindness and didn’t tell him.
    Fast forward 13 years: I am married and wouldn’t go back to that outlet for the world. For me and eveyone I know, lovemaking with a partner is far superior to maturbation. People who speak of maturbation becoming a substitute for intimacy don’t know what they’re talking about. This is rarely the case. People who know their own bodies have better sex. I deeply regret waiting until after marriage to have sex with my husband. That was beautiful time I foolishly forfeited. It is gone forever.
    When people have to make a lifetime commitment in order to be “allowed” to be sexual, is it any wonder that so many young people are rushing into marriage with people they barely know, often locked into a lifetime of poverty and ill equipped to make it? As far as I’m concerned, this is the unforgiveable behavior: manipulating people into submission by way of their sexuality; not sexuality itself. If anybody is going to have some ‘splaining to do, I predict it will be those who control and manipulate and spiritually abuse by way of a person’s sexuality.

  • Anonymous

    I have a testimony of the Church and the restored Gospel, and I also have a testimony that the Church has been very mistaken in its approach to the issue of masturbation over the years. How much needless shame and suffering have occurred because Church leaders have treated this issue in unhealthy and damaging ways. It’s really sad, and it reminds me that even leaders who I love and revere are fallible and have limited light and understanding.

  • Agkcrbs

    I’m sure the author wasn’t trying to create a fissure in the Church she herself believes in. But, my goodness, how successful she has been in doing so, by elevating her professional opinion, developed through years of surrounding herself with worldly expertise, to the level of revelation through the super-worldly Spirit of God.

    Her main argument, now very common in psychology, was this: if people feel badly about doing bad things, then those things must not be bad after all.

    Is that true? Of course not. The opposite is true: feeling badly, or having “guilt” or “shame”, is generally the most obvious, reliable marker of the sinfulness of a given behaviour. To dull and silence the conscience with pleasure is certainly no novel approach, though therapists may see it as progressive. If we are “sexual beings” (meaning, spiritual beings melded to the physical, with a fractional sexual component), then we are also beings of conscience. Every healthy human soul will always feel guilt in consequence of wrong behaviour.

    A sub-argument: if people come to believe they should detest or even physically harm themselves because of difficulty controlling some aspect of their behaviour, this results from imbalanced Church doctrine, which is only rectified by ceasing attempts to control such behaviour. Again, the author certainly learned this from her peers. It too is clearly false, and further, encourages ecclesiastical estrangement. Resorting to self-harm itself is a tremendous doctrinal failure. Self-hatred is as much a sin as masturbation ever was; the “chaste” young person who believes the self-abuse of depression is justified while the self-abuse of lustfulness is still wrong has a very shallow understanding of what sin is, or what the gospel is. Peace and happiness — not bodily pleasure — are the pinnacle of true religion, and all things departing from them are to be studiously avoided. Happiness is achieved by aligning oneself with right conduct. Guilt is not a holy state — guilt is a departure from holiness. Guilt simply means, stop doing something; it’s very comparable to physical pain. It doesn’t mean hurt yourself even more, hate yourself, punish yourself, murder yourself, throw away your life and happy destiny because you think you’re irrecoverably broken, or that God hates you. The recognition of guilt is evidence that a person is not yet ruined; the “guilty” are actually still good people, and will be until they lose their ability for the emotion. Doing a wrong thing and feeling no remorse for it is an infinitely more dangerous condition than feeling remorse for it.

    Another minor argument of the author: fluctuations in phrasing or frequency of a teaching, along with some secularly trained, independent LDS therapists departing from the teaching, actually means that the Church is “changing its doctrine”. True? Self-evidently not; that only means that the therapists are changing their doctrine. And related: because I do not understand or agree with a historical quotation or misquotation, and because God speaks afresh, Church doctrine is therefore malleable, and the mere passage of a few years means that an unrepeated prophetic warning is no longer valid. True? You decide. LDS don’t believe that.

    Whether desires are necessary to our present survival or not, this body was made subject to myriad fleshly cravings that all must be managed to avoid spiritual suffocation; and like a student skipping class and ultimately dropping out of school because studying is hard and makes him unhappy, and the bad grades bring him “guilt” and “shame”, the more we give ourselves over to moral luxury and ease, the slower our progress will be. The Spirit speaks now, as always, that the compulsion of the flesh binds our spirit to our body rather than lifting the body to the spirit. One young man mentioned here that he was free of compulsion while a missionary, but that such a condition seems super-human to him now. Why should that be the case? Let him analyse and duplicate that environment to the extent possible, and take back his surrendered freedom while he’s still in this world of clear moral autonomy. Physiological compulsions can be overcome with much patience and continual forgiveness, but not by diminishment of their importance or denial of their hindering effects. May the author have the humility to reconsider her views, even after shouting them from the rooftops, and causing such a cheer and so much chest-puffing from those who prefer the governance of bodily laws.

    • jaxemer11

      My question is about how Natasha is even qualified to give the opinion she gives, which is couched in an air of authority and expertise. She is not a physiologist (at least to my knowledge). How does she know what the body “needs” in terms of sexual satisfaction? I know it is a popular meme to say that 75% of men admit that the masturbate, and the other 25% lie about it … but that is simply not true. I know for a fact that many, many people go through life without masturbating. Are they unhealthy? Are they starving themselves?

      I will readily admit that there may be some health benefits to regular ejaculation … but that doesn’t mean that masturbation is a human need that people must participate in to be healthy. There are health benefits to drinking wine, and marijuana can relieve stress. Does this mean that consuming these things is not sinful? Is drinking wine and smoking pot a human “need”? Of course not … that is ridiculous.

      • Andrew

        Umm I’m pretty sure she isn’t stating this as absolutely undeniably authoratative in a church priesthood sense. She is stating her strong opinion of as stated by her “The following post is extremely important for me personally and the opinions I will share have been 7-10 years in the making.” She states these are her opinions. Not official church policy. And she does run a therapy practice. I don’t know her exact credentials, but I am assuming she is as qualified as any other professional in the therapist profession. Maybe you don’t think so, but why so much animosity for an honest discussion about the issue? I don’t know everybody’s heart here. But I for one am definitly not trying to start a church revolution or step outside of the priesthood authority of the church. There is a difference between rebellion, and a huge amount of ambiguity in regards to the topic of masturbation in the church. And if you study the history of it you will see it has been a mixed bag, and that not just once they said nothing, and now they are more strict, it has fluctuated back and fourth. I am not saying it is definitly right. But people should have a healthy forum to discuss their concerns, doubts, and confusion about the topic of masturbation in both directions. Just have read a lot of your posts now and you seem to be quite negatively engaged towards anyone who expresses an opinion that is different from your own. I hope this isn’t the case, and just a misunderstanding. But you say you understand the struggle, it seems you would be more generous in your beliefe that people are doing there best with what they have. But that is not what I get from reading your posts. I don’t think anyone on her would really claim they are the perfect authority on anything, but that being said in the end what we believe and act upon falls to our own choices and conscience, and I am not sure it encourages people to explore there faith when they are ridiculed for there opinions.

  • Garrett

    Question for Natasha (all others–please feel free to chime in):

    Does repressing nascent sexuality and framing it in what amounts to negative context within the Church contribute to physical, mental, and other problems in developing youth?

    Consider severe and/or chronic malnutrition during pregnancy, which has tremendous negative implications for the fetus (which can never recover if the malnutrition coincides with critical periods of development, leading to lifelong conditions). Or infants, which thrive on human touch (but when the warmth of human touch is restricted or removed suffer developmental problems possibly throughout childhood and into adulthood).

    It would seem to me that unnaturally stifling a behavior such as occasional masturbation would lead to potential problems for some people (outside of the issues related to shame etc.). Does the developing body and mind benefit from or require the benefits of sexual release etc.? I wonder…

    • Bradley Hintze

      Hey Garrett, I only can speak from my own male personal experience but here it goes. Suppressing the libido by not masturbating, or the attempt thereof, can lead to a pornography problem. When I say pornography here I am taking it out of the LDS context, neither good nor bad, it just is. The real effects, not the conceived effects we hear from the church, of viewing porn over and over can truly isolate the individual making intimate relationships very difficult indeed. I think this is analogous to the infant and human touch phenomenon you cited. Whereas if one sees their bodies as they really are, magnificent creations that need to be managed, they will learn proper managing thereof.

      This is the crux of the argument we have seen in the comments as it relates to your point: is sexuality throughout ones ENTIRE life part of the healthy management of the body? Those still prescribing to older ideas insist that the answer to this is no; sexuality should only be expressed between a man and a woman within a marriage relationship. From my experience, being single all my life, I would argue that in order to keep healthy both physically and emotionally one should express proper sexuality regardless of age or marital status. The ‘proper sexuality’ here is dependent on age and relationship status. For a single person I would argue the sleeping around is not conducive to promoting health relationships. However, for a sexually mature person sexual expression, the obvious manifestation being masturbation, is a necessity as outlined by Natasha. Suppressing sexual expression is not heathy as it can lead to pornography issues very easily as the body tries desperately to get the release it requires (this has been my experience, and no, I don’t experience nocturnal emissions. As soon as I adopted Natasha’s view ALL porn went out the window!). Suppressing sexuality, even in the absence of pornography, can lead to improper attitudes about real sexual relationships; sex becomes dirty, scary, and not to be desired. I think that attitude is extremely dangerous. Perhaps the church’s continued position of sexual suppression is contributing to lower marriage rates in the church’s young adults? Thoughts?

    • jaxemer11

      Well … then should we allow premarital sex too? Demanding abstinence is starving our children’s sexual appetites. How inhumane!

      (And yes, this post is tongue in cheek).

      • Andrew

        No that is taking it too far. There is a difference between sexual interactions between others (pre-marital sex) and masturbation. If you want to really discuss the topics with people that’s great, but it seems like you are just ridiculing them for doing the best they can to understand. Maybe some are sinning, maybe some are ignorant. But once again, it’s not a great way to help people see truth by just arguing.

  • Anom

    It is interesting to me that sins are assigned degrees of severity. We are taught that no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of heaven–so any sin is sufficient to prevent eternal companionship with God. That would coincide with a very black and white understanding of the world. Even the Church understands that this isn’t the case, else why would some sins be the subject of intense disdain while others exist on the periphery.

    With that said, it would seem that many responders agree that overindulging at the dinner table is a sin (presumably against the tabernacle of flesh, so to speak), although perhaps one not so reviled as fornication or even masturbation. Why do we tolerate this sin so much in the Church?

    What if other sins yielded such dramatic visual impressions (for example, excessive lying resulted in an increasingly long nose)? Take masturbation, for instances–what if masturbating left one’s hand or forehead with a stubborn red mark in the shape of an ‘M’, which could only be removed by permanent abstinence from masturbation. Would we be just as willing to take spiritual direction from our leaders who had such marks? Why are we so willing to take spiritual direction from leaders who are obese and demonstrate what could be construed as poor self-discipline (and, consequently, impaired spirituality)?

    I realize that this could be construed as inflammatory and even prejudiced. These are not my intentions. I’m merely trying to illustrate something I’ve been thinking about with respect to masturbation and the Church’s cultural treatment of it… Have at it, folks!

  • Wayne Larsen

    Natasha, I agree with you. I know I may be wrong, but after seven decades of experience I think you are correct.

  • Pingback: LDS Blog: Stance on Masturbation - Religious Education Forum

  • Jake

    You just got a new subscriber.

  • Loran

    “Why are we so willing to take spiritual direction from leaders who are obese and demonstrate what could be construed as poor self-discipline (and, consequently, impaired spirituality)?”

    Indeed. Just think, all this time we’ve been listening to the counsel of these old, fat, red meat-eating, root beer guzzling men when we could have been taking our counsel on matters of human sexuality from the slender, lithe, shapely Helen Gurley Brown.

    Isn’t it just a shame the degree to which the faithful, valiant members of the Church missed out on all the fun in the sixties and seventies? Just think of the thousands of new and eclectic sex positions (see Cosmopolitan over the last twenty years or so) we paid no attention to while we ate our Chili Mac and drank our Hires root beer at our countless sinful Sunday ward pot lucks.

    If one has to grasp this far, at straws this distant, to make one’s point, that point is probably not worth making, and the argument has probably already been lost.

    • Rachel Hamrick

      Your comments are fascinating! This time you’ve made it sound as if ‘thousands of new and eclectic sex positions’ are a bad thing. Show me one single reference to even one single sex position made by any prominent church leader at anytime in our church’s history, or any reference to the number of sex positions married couples are allowed to have. Just one. Maybe we all missed the general conference talk which specifically listed the church approved positions. And by the way, people like Hugh Hefner and Helen Gurley Brown seem to invasively occupy a lot of your thoughts. Just sayin’…

      • James Jensen

        Sorry to interrupt, but you may want to read this:
        http://www.i4m.com/think/sexuality/mormon_oral_sex.htm

        • Chet

          James,

          Thanks for the link to an anti-mormon site. :(
          Pulling out isolated statements, some that are not even GA’s, doesn’t cut mustard. The Church has stated that Church doctrine is found in the scriptures and official proclomations and declarations and comes from the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles, and is consistently taught in Church publications. Some of the statements that were used on that site were not talking about sex in a marriage, but were directed to single members of the Church. I think that you need to do better than this. Regarding the letter that addressed oral sex… too bad that this anti-mormon site didn’t share the letter that came out about six months later, which basically resinded that letter, telling leaders to just stay out of the bedrooms of its members.

          • James Jensen

            I didn’t mean to offend with quotes out of context or blatantly anti-mormon websites. I followed the first link to quotes that I remember hearing. Further, I know that I’ve heard far too many members of the church suggest that the brethren (and sisters, for that matter) have been clear on certain sex acts. For example, my ex-wife regularly reminded me that as much as she enjoyed receiving oral sex, she always felt she was sinning somehow and could not relax. Thus, the “perceived doctrine” (this is my new favorite term) that leaders have not corrected remains: the Eternal Lord once announced very emphatically (if you’ve read Miracle of Forgiveness, you must agree with that term) that certain sexual positions are abominable. Members of the church can’t deny this as vociferously as I just saw it denied.

          • James Jensen

            Chet,
            I should also share that my Mission President felt it was important to teach us that “filthy dreamers” would be cast down. He suggested that those of us suffering from nocturnal emissions would not be saved by the grace of God.

            Years afterward, my own LDS therapist told me that he was, of course, out of line. She acted like I never should have been concerned about such things. Okay. Sure. So, when should I know that my anointed Priesthood leaders are completely insane and obviously wrong?

          • Rachel Hamrick

            Score!!!

        • Rachel Hamrick

          Fail :)

          • James Jensen

            Score Fail indeed. Score Fail indeed.

          • Chet

            James, I agree that it is tough for most members to know when a leader (Bishop, Stake President or Mission President) is teaching doctrine, when they make isolated, opinions. Fortunately, today we have many more resources available to us. Bottom line, official Church doctrine is found in the scriptures and the official proclamations and declarations, and is consistently taught in the Church manuals. I am sorry that you were exposed to such a rediculous comment by your Mission President. The Miracle of Forgiveness is not an official publication of the Church, and there are statements in there that are likely not doctrinal. When I served as a Bishop, I never requested any of my members to read it.

          • Rachel Hamrick

            This reply format makes it difficult to always see clearly which replies are attached to which comment, but if you follow the lines, you’ll notice the ‘fail’ is attached to your comment, James Jensen. When I issued that challenge, I was going to add a parenthetical comment saying that lame worn out and discredited oral sex letter doesn’t count. But then I decided not to, just to see if people are actually still quoting it.

            The reason I was confident enough to issue such a challenge, even though I’ve certainly never come close to reading a tiny portion of all the word’s of prominent church leaders through our church’s history, is because the bogus oral sex letter is the only thing out there that has ever made the rounds on the topic of specific sex practices in LDS marriages. If any church leader at any time had ever made any reference to any sex positions, or suggested there are only a certain number of sex positions allowed, etc., those statements would be as worn out and ridiculed as the infamous oral sex letter has been.

  • Loran

    “I’m not so sure—while the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet does indicate that the youth should refrain from stimulating sexual feelings in their bodies it does not specifically employ the word masturbation”…

    Should it really have to, given the long and completely consistent tradition of General Authority teaching on the matter?

    ” (it did, formerly—why do you think that this change was made?). ”

    As mentioned before, simply to avoid explicit technical language with young adolescents. Contemporary childhood is dangerously brief as it is without encouraging its further truncation.

    “The word masturbation does not appear anywhere in the scriptures. It isn’t specifically included in questions respecting temple worthiness or other language employed at specific instances in the Church, either.”

    A number of things are not mentioned in the scriptures or in the TR interviews that we are supposed to be cognizant and have a clear understanding of. The very temple ceremonies you indirectly point to are nowhere mentioned in the scriptures.

    “She’s right, you know. We were created with the capacity for sexual fulfillment by ourselves and in relationships (whether or not we should employ that capacity in masturbation is not necessarily her point respecting this particular remark). We have the physical capacity for self-stimulation–it is as simple as that.”

    I’m also created with the capacity to commit adultery, copulate with as many females as possible in as short a time as possible, engage in numerous sexual fetishes and perversions, and kill anyone who disagrees with me. I have the innate and natural capacity to engage in human sacrifice, torture, cannibalism, and mass murder of people I don’t like. I have the innate, natural, and normal capacity to torture puppies in the most horrendous manner conceivable. And?

    “Respecting your comments about prophetic responsibility not falling within the prerogative of mental health professionals etc.—fair enough. However, the Church has exhibited certain malleability in specific instances (I’m thinking of polygamy and changes that culminated with ultimately qualifying all worthy males for the priesthood).”

    Except that plural marriage is still doctrinal and the priesthood ban, as to its own doctrinal origins in limitations based upon ancient lineage relationships, has never been repudiated by the Church, and indeed, still stands as doctrinally sound. In both cases, only a practice was ended (and in the case of the priesthood ban, it has been made quite clear that what happened in 1978 had been long foreseen, and indeed, apparently from ancient times).

    “Cultural trends (in and out of the Church) have also exerted their influence and helped make the widespread use of contraceptives essentially a non-issue in our day.”

    I have never seen or heard the Church amend or repudiate the teaching, as recently as the late seventies, that contraceptives should not be used to artificially limit the size of families or prevent the coming of children into mortal tabernacles that otherwise would have come. True, most LDS woman space their children using such methods, and the Church has had nothing, to my knowledge, to say about it. However, I don”t think that was a part of the original concern.

    “I would add that whenever I have been taught the Law of Chastity, or whenever it has been reiterated to me, not once has masturbation been addressed one way or the other. Where do you find evidence that forbidding masturbation has been a longstanding core principle of the Law of Chastity?”

    Its been taught in numerous official Church venues throughout my lifetime, including Church teaching manuals and Conference talks.

    “Do you think that we should consider adults in a consenting relationship differently or the same as the youth with respect to this issue? By the way, do you have an axe to grind respecting mental health professionals? This paragraph was a little inimical!”

    We covenant to avoid every unholy and impure practice. This is the same for youth as for adults in “consenting” relationships. I do not have an “ax to grind” about mental health professionals. I am, however, very critical of much of the general trajectory and claims of psychology and psychiatry from Freud to the present time, and especially its high mark of sect creation during the sixties and seventies. I also find a great deal of valuable insights and therapeutic approaches in various and sundry schools of thought within the various modalities.

    “Agreed as to the second point. So what if her position is personal—if this is working for her and she has sought revelation concerning the matter then it doesn’t really concern me, or you, at all. Have you prayed about this or experimented upon the word?”

    About masturbation?

    “I think her meaning is clear: self-sufficiency is equivalent to meeting sexual needs with masturbation. Or she is referring to nocturnal emissions. In either case, self-sufficiency! (Of course, the gospel sanctions nocturnal emissions but not masturbation, according to your perspective… What is the difference?) Animal sexuality certainly exists within a context of some self-sufficiency (masturbation is widespread in the animal kingdom). Perhaps Natasha recognizes this and assumes that the same latitude has been given to mankind.”

    It is very, very unwise, in my view, to look to the animal world as a guide human ethics.

    “According to the Book of Mormon, murder is not a transgression as long as the Holy Ghost prompts and sanctions it.”

    I would say this is incorrect. The BofM sanctions killing – not murder – in certain circumstances, as it (and other scriptures) sanction justifiable homicide and organized warfare. All taking of human life is not murder (“murder” is always the taking of innocent life for venal or selfish motives that have no morally justifiable basis).

    ” Things are never so black and white as they first appear.”

    That is, indeed, the modernist, post-sixties relativist view (and indeed, the classic postmodernist discourse respecting ethics and the ground of moral judgement).

    “This is because we have been created for the physical capacity for self-stimulation but haven’t received any definitive instructions about it (excepting, possibly, the youth–see below).”

    Yes we have, for generations, and the For the Strength of Youth manual clearly retains the counsel against erotic self-stimulation. Nothing has changed here but the desire of some members of the Church on its “liberal” fringes to accommodate the Church to the ideological trends of the surrounding secular culture.

    “Do the same proscriptions apply to adults?”

    Yes.

    ” I would submit that the gospel is unclear on this point and after being taught correct principles we are left to govern ourselves according to our understanding after consulting with the Spirit.”

    The Spirit, however, does not give different answers to different people on fundamental questions such as the nature and purpose of human sexuality (or on whether Christ rose from the dead, or any other core points).

    “I think there is plenty of evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, that the Church may be more malleable on this particular point than some would like to believe. Exhibit A is the linguistic change in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet from “masturbation” to the much more vague “arouse those emotions in your own body.”

    I see nothing “vague” about this whatsoever. It is indirect, not vague, and its implied meaning could not possibly be missed by the average 14 year old, let alone by an adult.

    Anecdotal evidence in recent posts on this blog and elsewhere…

    Exactly.

    “Your parting shot is a little silly, don’t you think? It would be much more effective to state it plainly—you think that Natasha is deliberately deceiving Church members in order to prey upon them as a food source.”

    No. I think Natasha is deliberately teaching what she believes to be true in an attempt to circumvent, amend, and override the teachings of the Brethren with her own beliefs. She is teachings “the doctrines and commandments of men” by attempting a domestication of certain contemporary secularist nostrums and concepts into the Church for the purpose of creating a greater convergence of the Church with that secular culture and society.

    This is a process of apostasy, in essence, even if it comes with a compassionate and caring smiley face and wrapped in the holy robes of “social science.”

    “Thanks for challenging me to think about this seriously, Loran.”

    And thank you for that compliment. I do think its probably among the best that I could receive from anyone who disagrees with me in some area but also upholds civil, critical debate and discourse as a core value. Its rare in these kinds of debates, as anyone who’s spent significant time on message boards or blogs well knows.

    I return the same compliment to you as well.

    Loran

  • Jastin

    I think if we took a poll and asked who has experienced failure in overcoming masturbation and who has had an easier time overcoming it, the divide would correlate with who is on what side of the issue.

    I might expect that those who have tried and failed repeatedly to abstain from masturbation are more likely to embrace the argument of the blog post. I would also expect that those who oppose it are those who are currently not having those struggles, have never had them, or had an easy time overcoming them.

    Those who struggle or struggled with masturbation may be thinking, “It is so damn hard to live this doctrine, so maybe it isn’t right.” Or “If I can’t change my habit, despite all of my best efforts, maybe I can change my beliefs.”

    You see, it is an effort to reconcile one’s reality with one’s belief system. Some may call this justification, but whatever it is, it seems necessary for this group. If their reality and belief are not reconciled, it becomes very difficult to be happy and makes one’s mental state worse.

    Those who have overcome masturbation with relative ease may be thinking “Well I did it, so everyone else can/ should do it too.”

    This group may not recognize the position of others who after years and years, are still trying to overcome it. This could lead to a very harsh attitude which may lack compassion.

    And despite the scriptures that say everything is possible, the evidence points to the contrary. For some people, even with the church, prayer, fasting, exercise, scriptures, bishops, and the faith to move a mountain, it still remains virtually impossible to quit masturbation for good. Let’s face it, this habit is wired into us in VARYING degrees. On my mission, I saw people who simply could not overcome their bad habits such as smoking or alcoholism. I understand their plight very well, and despite their failure, I believe Christ’s atonement is infinite and can even cover their ongoing addictions. Sometimes repentance comes after the point of no return on a physical sense, but their is NO point of no return on a spiritual and eternal sense (besides perdition). The atonement can always save us, even if we can’t stop the sinful behavior. Maybe it becomes in effect a sin that we are no longer held accountable for, as long as we just do our BEST and rely on the Savior, and as long as we have repented spiritually.

    I think this consideration might defuse a lot of people’s emotions, because it makes people face the root of their own positions and reconcile with that, rather than arguing about it on a superficial level that does not touch on the root cause. I mean, if masturbation was easy for everyone to overcome, would we be having this conversation? I don’t think so. People would just stop masturbating to error on the safe side and be done with it.

    All this, of course, is going by the teaching that masturbation is a sin. While the root causes are likely the same for the varying arguments, my post does not adequately address that debate. I hope, however, that by defusing the rhetoric and looking at our motivations, applying the atonement where necessary, and thinking rationally and spiritually, we can all come to our own personal conclusion that reconciles our realities with our beliefs, brings happiness, and invites the spirit of The Lord into our lives.

    I personally believe ‘balance’ is the keyword, at least for me. As an aside, i will share the viewpoint I am leaning toward. I personally have a problem with masturbation. I want to be an active member of the church, have talked to my bishop, etc. However, after ten years of trying, I have only been able to overcome masturbation if the social and emotional conditions were right. I believe this is because something else was satisfying emotional and or hormonal demands i.e. I had a girlfriend, kissed her, etc (nothing too serious though so don’t misinterpret).

    Of course my situation will be different than everyone else, but that’s the point. We all have different challenges, and we all must reconcile them with God and our beliefs, while trying to stay inside doctrinal limits, etc. But since we all have differences in situations, context, and interpretation, in this process, “truth” becomes a relative term. That’s where balance comes in. We must all balance our lives between these forces, and that balance will be different for everyone. I believe that even God recognizes that. He will judge us by our works and by the desire of our hearts.

    He is the only truly righteous judge.

    I have been home from my mission for only four months. I am still adjusting and trying to reconcile my own reality with the doctrine I’ve learned and taught. Adjusting after a mission turns out to be extremely difficult and full of stress and uncertainties. I’m in my mid-twenties (served later than most) and I find it impossible to completely abstain from masturbation (the difficulty has increased since I came home). Imagine how that affects my life with all kinds of questions: Can I go to the temple? Can I even take the sacrament? Can I give a blessing? Will the girl I want to date judge me because of this?

    You see, even I got to the point where I couldn’t handle it anymore. I needed to reconcile this in order to be happy. That is what led me here. I’m a lot closer to reconciliation than before, but I still have some concerns I need answers to, such as a few of the questions above. Others include: If I continue to masturbate, even if I try not to, am I trying to serve God and Mammon at the same time? Am I keeping one foot in Babilon? Am I justifying sin?

    One thing I’m sure of. It isn’t as simple as just saying masturbation is a sin and you should stop. We all know that alcoholism is bad, but telling that to an alcoholic won’t help him overcome it.

    Again, I’m not saying that masturbation is or isn’t a sin, although it won’t stop anyone from being baptized into the church. Some might interpret the varying degree by which people feel the urge to masturbate as addiction, others may call it a basic need. Some may call trying to reconcile the behavior with religious belief “justification,” but I think that does not respect the situation of those seeking that reconciliation. I think I could speak for many people when i say, if I could stop masturbating and just be at peace, I would in a heart beat! But that’s like saying, if I could stop eating and not gain weight, I would in a heart beat! It may be nice, especially to manage weight, but in the health industry its called anorexia and is not considered healthy, nor does it bring long-term happiness. The answer to both examples is balance, and that’s where I’m leaning.

    I’m going on personal data only, not by doctrinal things, which you folk have done a fine job of chopping up to fine pieces to the point where nothing is very clear (everything has been put into a subjective status). So I think we really only have personal reasoning and revelation to find our own unique answer, at the risk of becoming a “law unto ourselves.” And that’s why we need an INFINITE atonement, because we are all pretty much hopeless without it.

    • christopher allman

      I was able to ‘overcome’ masturbation and it did not make my life better. My sex drive was raging and I thought about it constantly. It took so much of my spiritual and mental energy to restrain myself and it made me miserable. Later, I realized it didn’t matter so much, began masturbating whenever I wanted and I became much happier and felt much closer to God and the Spirit because I was no longer in a state of either perpetually trying to reign in my healthy desires or, in those occasions when I could not, feeling the agony and depression that comes from guilt and shame.
      I suppose there are many like me who base their support of this woman’s argument not on weakness and justification but on their own experience with what does and does not make their lives better and closer to God/The Spirit/Happiness.

  • B-Happy

    Besides some obscure references in a Judy Blume novel, I had never really heard about masturbation until I was 12 years old. I drove my chubby, pre-pubescent self to my Bishop’s interview where he told me all about it. So, I drove myself right back home and tried it.

    How odd, really, that some middle age man I barely knew told me what masturbation was before I even really knew the facts of life. Frankly, I think that was sexually abusive.

    Now, as a Mother, my daughter is 12 years old. I will meet with each and every Bishop we have and tell them (before they begin interviewing my children) that they do NOT have permission to talk to my children about sex in any way, shape or form. And, if they do, I will consider it to be sexual abuse and will proceed with legal action.

    • B-Happy

      I meant to say I drove my bike. Because I could not drive a car when I was 12. Obv.

  • Vanessa

    Thank you so much for writing this. I remember suffering so much shame over this subject when I was a teen and I am actually shocked and relieved to find out that I’m not a lone but also how much worse it has been for others. I agree with a lot that you have to say, however, I don’t think you have said enough.
    For one thing, we need to keep in mind that the Alma scripture reference in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet needs to be put into contexts. Sexual sin is very serious, and the kind that his son was committing was next to murder in seriousness because he was a missionary taking up with a prostitute. And because of his example, many of the people he was teaching would not believe in the gospel. That kind of sin is NOT the same as masturbation.
    Like you say in the article, I think the sexual exploration of your body is natural and nothing to be ashamed about. However, we need to keep in mind that sexual stimulation can become addicting, and lead to things that are sinful like pornography. We are counseled to keep our thoughts clean and our bodies free from addiction, and so for those reasons, I would say to young people to stay away from masturbation. But unless it gets to that point, it is not a sinful action.

    • jaxemer11

      I think we are missing the real problem here. The problem isn’t with labeling masturbation a sin. The problem is with our failure to teach our youth the gospel. The gospel is not one of shame. Christ never taught shame. Shame is evil and destructive. If someone is living with debilitating shame because of masturbation (or any other sin, for that matter) than they do mot really understand the gospel of Christ.

  • A

    After reading through some of these comments, I have to say that I am appalled by people’s experience with masturbation in the Church. Never in my life have I been made to believe that masturbation was a serious sin, certainly not serious enough for anyone to consider suicide or leaving the Church! I have always been made to believe, through my own experiences and even through my church leaders, that while masturbation is not “good” per se, it isn’t that horrible either. I have always ranked it among the “lesser sins”, i.e. swearing or losing one’s temper. No one is going to go to hell or even be kept from the temple or from holding a calling in the Church for occasionally dropping the f-bomb or from yelling at a family member, I mean the idea is simply ludicrous, and frankly that is the level on which I have always viewed masturbation. I am grateful that I have never had leaders who have felt the necessity to over-interpret my occasional indulgence in masturbation as something that would seriously affect my spiritual advancement. I have personally masturbated occasionally since I was a teenager, and have never felt a significant loss of the Spirit. I have felt it affect me in minor negative ways at times, but nothing life-altering.

    I am saddened by how many people have been affected so adversely by Church leaders’ positions on masturbation–not only because many Church leaders (particularly bishops) have grossly overstepped their bounds, but also because so many members seem to internalize their leaders’ imperfections. The whole reason I love this Church is because it teaches us NOT to be blind sheep, NOT to simply follow tradition, but to seek truth for oneself, to question, to ponder, to search and to study, through PERSONAL revelation. Perhaps if the commenters here had sought out the Lord’s opinion when they struggled with their bishop’s, so much of this heartache would have been avoided. I am not passing blame back on those who have clearly suffered because of their leaders’ imperfections, but am simply suggesting that perhaps we as a church body need to ensure that we are focusing as much (if not more!) on the process of personal revelation as on priesthood authority.

    My feelings about masturbation all come from my own personal revelation from God. Even if others were to criticize me and tell me I’m damned because I masturbate, it wouldn’t beat me down emotionally because I know that God still loves me when I masturbate and that He still considers me temple-worthy. It is my hope that others will allow the Lord to give them that same reassurance.

    • Bradley Hintze

      In my experience (being told that masturbation was next to murder and denying the Holy Ghost, being denied the endowment for this, and all the cultural consequences of being an unendowed adult) a revelation indicating that priesthood leaders, that every one of my bishops have been wrong on this issue, simply can not fit in the Mormon paradigm. You’re experience sound sounds like an immensely healthier and an immensely different experience compared to my own. I love your suggestion that we concentrate more on personal revelation than priesthood authority; however, sadly that is not the way things are set up. It is true that the church teaches and encourages personal revelation but certainty not unto a revelation that says “My bishop was wrong on the issue of masturbation, I am worthy in God’s eyes and therefore I can go to the temple.” There is no room to say a priesthood leader is wrong in such a situation; in the current paradigm we are taught that such contrary revelation can’t be trusted as coming from God.

  • Tom

    Those “old quotes”? You must misunderstand how doctrine works. The “proof” posted that the Church has changed it’s stance relies heavily on the fact that the word “masturbation” isn’t used much anymore. However, even in ‘old quotes’ from authorities like President Spencer W. Kimball, from 1980 (one of those ‘old’ articles), the topic of masturbation is exclusively addressed, as the sole topic, under the topic heading “Self-abuse”. Regardless of your personal feelings towards the term “self-abuse”, or the mental or physical benefits of masturbation, the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints clearly relate that masturbation is a violation of The Law of Chastity. Any other interpretation is a wanton misinterpretation.

    http://www.lds.org/hf/library/1,16866,4266-1,00.html?LibraryURL=/Curriculum/home%20and%20family.htm/family%20home%20evening%20resource%20book.htm/building%20a%20strong%20family.htm/teaching%20about%20procreation%20and%20chastity.htm

  • Amen

    Wow! This article is everything I have come to understand for myself, but unable to discuss with others, not close to me, because I know they have been indoctrinated with so much with fear that they can’t see how wrong the teachings in the church against masturbation are. Because they fear sexuality instead of trying to learn, embrace and teach healthy sexuality to the members of the church. That is why the church has an epidemic of porn watching men and women and sexually repressed individuals, I believe.

    I do believe that our sexuality is just one part of our physical selves, along with our emotional, spiritual, mental, social aspects and there are appetites associated with that, normal healthy appetites, but just as if you starve yourself you are going to become malnourished, starving yourself sexually has effects on our phsycy. And just as if you feed yourself in unhealthy food or over induldge it will make you sick so it is with our sexuality. Within the church and out teaching that healthy development of our own individual sexuality is wrong is damaging and stunts our growth spiritually. The feelings associated with our sexuality are very strong and powerful and unless indiviuals learn to harness them for themselves they are left at the mercy of them. So often the media and the world portray sexual feeling as uncontrollable and as though they can’t help but act upon them, but a person that understands their body and the feelings they have can come to understand and differentiate the excitement from arroused sexual feelings and logical decision making that can effect them.

    When we get married we are supposed to share ourselves with our companion. How can you possibly share something that you don’t even understand or have been kept from understanding and be able to express that comfortably. Instead you are left with two immature indviduals that ususally in the church rush into a relationship because ‘now’ they will get to experience what they have been repressing for so many years, causing many to enter relationships prematurely and not forming healthy relationships. President Packers admonishement in a old address on the subject that you shouldn’t even look at or touch your body in order to avoid arousing powerful feelings. To me that is just crazy. How can you possibly come to understand the amazing power and GIFT that God has givin us if you are taught to be affraid of it, instead of being taught how to cherish it for the gift that it is and reserving that sacred power to share with the one you love.

    I was so happy to read your article and your frank, honest and healthy perspective. Thank you for your bravery and courage. Because I know what courage that takes to speak out on this subject, My prayer is that the leaders of the church will come to understand what is healthy and what is not.

    I understand the harmful effects of unhealthy sexuality that is perpetualted through families and relationships and the media, because I have lived it. It was only when I had to find my own healing and understanding from God and through much study that I was able to learn these things for myself and be willing to stand alone in my beliefs. I don’t teach them at church, but I will express them to my children and allow them to study it out, counsel with the Lord and choose for themselves.

  • http://www.todrobbins.com Tod Robbins

    Natasha,

    I really appreciate your thoughts on this subject as it is such a taboo in our culture to mention it. Though I’m really curious how what you’ve presented, including the statement, “the church itself has moved away from its positions on masturbation” competes with the official stance: “Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.” (https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth/sexual-purity?lang=eng) I agree with you and others that our discourse has evolved from worrying so much about masturbation in priesthood talks, etc., but wouldn’t you say this is still an official stance against masturbation? I don’t know.

  • Tony

    While I disagree with your stance, you are free to have your own opinion. However, to state that the church has moved from their stance against masturbation is erroneous in my opinion. It clearly says on the For the Strength of the Youth website that it is wrong to arouse sexual feelings in your own body. Any educated adult should be able to understand that this includes masturbation, in my opinion. Just because they took out the word “masturbation” doesn’t mean they now condone it.

  • SomeoneWho’sBeenThere

    I’m reposting down here now that I’ve made it to the end. I apologize for how long this is.
    @Josh and others who believe the world is black and white:
    In order for you to understand where and why I am giving this response, I’m going to tell you a little about myself. My first year at a certain church run school, I was sexually assaulted– and would have been fully raped if he had had the time, on a blind date with a returned missionary. After telling my bishop of the experience, my bishop not only told the entire ward, but he said it was my fault for putting the young man in the position where he would want to – again, this had been a blind date; I’d never met the guy in person before but was a friend of a gal friend of mine. I couldn’t go home because my family life was a worse disaster so I stayed on campus and tried to make the best of it. I was required to go make a police report where I was told by the officer that I shouldn’t pursue charges (the same officer who in her official report said I refused to file charges after she asked me many times to be sure- a different issue). Then an old friend came up to support me; an old high school boyfriend who I had been friends with since 8th grade. In the end, he was using the experience to get what he wanted from me to. This whole period of six months was utter hell and the result was that I did attempt suicide. I had no where to go after- I couldn’t go home to an even more abusive situation so the dean of student life allowed me to stay on campus and offered lots of support. My singles ward, on the other hand, told me I was going straight to hell and that I might as well just finish the job. Needless to say, I left the church very soon after. I went to another state, got a new job, and settled into a new lifestyle- I dated and lived with a few men, tried alcohol (something that I was apparently allergic to), and basically tried to regain control of my life. After a while of living that life, I stayed with my sister for a month and became very confused. You see, I missed the Gospel of the Church and the feeling of the Spirit as my constant companion. I was terrified to walk into any church building and just the thought of being in a relief society or sacrament meeting with people like those who had hurt me on so many levels, caused severe panic attacks. Slowly I found my footing with the help of another returned missionary, another friend I had known since middle school. He didn’t care what had happened before, only what was going to happen in the future. He didn’t pressure me to rejoin the Church but it was his acceptance and love, and then the acceptance and love of his home ward Bishop, that convinced me to come back. I have had to deal with off and on guilt from the things that happened to me and those things that I chose to do. I know I have been forgiven, and I know the Spirit is a part of my life, but I don’t know if I will ever be free from that bishop’s unkind, uncaring words. Or from the ostracism I experienced from the one source, my ward, that I could have used most (my family is another cesspit of problems so I can never really rely on them).
    While my ostracism didn’t come from masturbation, I have seen others experience that kind of ostracism from masturbation issues, pornography issues, and sexual orientation issues- even people that didn’t have a recurring history. People that made a mistake once or twice and then were branded forever by uncaring or unempathic leaders and members. It is un-Christlike to shame those individuals who struggle. They are going to be their worst critics as a general rule, they don’t need another one. What they need is for someone to act like Christ would- to be in their corner, to not judge and to love unconditionally. The reactions of people in authority to an individuals problem can lead to feelings of worthlessness and general depression which, when exposed to repeatedly, can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
    While I too feel that masturbation is a slippery slope, it depends on the individuals’ constitution and why they are masturbating. For the 3 year old playing with themselves, it can be straight curiosity and for others, it is a form of self soothing. For some people, they rub themselves in their sleep, others do it without realizing while they shower, and yet others do do it on purpose- to relieve stress, to assuage hurt feelings, to just “feel good”, etc.
    Some people do posses the ability to control their thoughts and bodies more perfectly than the rest of us. But most of us, either as teens, single adults or married individuals, will “slip up” more than once over this issue in our lifetime. Yes, sexual sin is wrong but the reaction of some leaders and parents regarding things like masturbation and going a little to far “making out” as teenagers, is harmful. And can lead to serious psychological damage. I hope you know that I don’t believe that my bishop at the time was evil, or that any members who behave poorly are. It is my sincere believe that we are all imperfect, and that God uses us, imperfect though we are, as His tools on earth. So yes, bishops and leaders will make mistakes. They are not infallible. Only God is. We just need to listen to our leaders, read the Doctrine, and then ask God what we are to do, how we are to approach different things in our lives. That goes for individuals and families and wards. If you disagree with your Bishop, ask to pray about it together or talk to a ward counselor or, if you have to, a Stake President. Be open to the Spirit because only God can give you the right answer.
    We weren’t meant to be “sheeple” but we are supposed to pray with an open heart and find the answers to our problems through careful study. God knows the intents of our hearts and He knows how to help us best. We just need to trust Him, not anyone else, in all things. If I hadn’t made the mistakes and gone through those awful experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And to be very honest, I am happier than I have ever been because I know who I am, I know that I can make mistakes, and I know that there isn’t just one answer to every individuals’ problems. I hope you can find the wisdom in that as well.

    • Chet

      SomeoneWho’sBeenThere,
      Thank you for sharing your story with us. It pains me to hear stories like yours, but I was elated to hear of your current situation! As a former Bishop to young adults, I met with many members who had emotional scars, like yours, due to past meetings with Bishops. It is a sobering experience, being a Bishop. We receive little, to no, training. We do have the General Handbook of Instructions, but it does not address the issue of masturbation. So, I would wonder why some bishops took such a hard stand on the issue, thus generating more emotional and spiritual harm than the act itself. From my experience and research, I would counsel my ward members who confessed to masturbation like this: “I am not promoting masturbation, but I want you to know that it is much more common among Church members than you probably realize. President Kimball referred to it as ‘a rather common indescretion’. I would have you focus more on your spiritual growth, than beating yourself up everytime you slip. Keep positive. Know that God loves you. Don’t let yourself get discourgaged to the point that it drags you down and keeps you from your prayers, scripture study and your temple attendance.”

      I was saddened when I met with one young man who hadn’t partaken of the sacrament for over 2 years, largely because of his continual occassional “slip ups” with masturbation. It got to the point that it was easier to avoid Church, where all the “perfect people” were, who would look at him and wonder why he isn’t taking the Sacrament, to the point that he had all but given up on himself. What a blessing it was to ask him if he would come to Church the next Sunday and partake of the Sacrament, then see him break down in tears, knowing that he was loved, that he was okay in God’s eyes. He eventually married one of our ward members, in the temple. That one experience made my years of serving as a Bishop worth all the sacrafice.

      I am so glad that you found someone who you could trust, and who helped you back into the Church. I am sure that you will make a great parent and leader if you take your life experiences to help others who are struggling emotionally and spiritually. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of love, not a Gospel of guilt and condemnation. I believe that your journey has brought you to a good place, to where you have a realistic understanding of how all of God’s children are unique, with unique challenges. May God bless you!

  • christopher allman

    Based on what I’ve read, and I’m not certain it is correct but the sources seemed good, the original position on Masturbation came from ancient Jews who believed that semen, the source of life and that to ‘spill’ it was akin to murder. If this is indeed to original origins of Christianity’s issue with Masturbation, then it is truly outdated, as the above comments allude to, and needs to be re examined.

  • christopher allman

    I think that the only argument that can be made against Masturbation is a spiritual one, but I think that even that is mistaken. In my early twenties, while still an active Mormon, I was able to overcome my having been taught that masturbation was wrong and I did not suffer spiritually. In fact, I felt MORE in tune with the spirit and spiritual feelings than ever before because I was no longer in a state of constant turmoil of either intense guilt or the difficulty and even painful state of trying to suppress one’s sex drive.

  • christopher allman

    If one considers the downsides of masturbation (it is hard for me to think of any. I was going to say that it may lead people to be over sexualized or to think of others as sex objects, but I think the opposite is true, that when one does NOT masturbate it leads them to be over-sexualized and thinking of others as sex objects. Masturbation calms the sex drive. PERHAPS it could lead to addiction, but I think one is WAY more likely to become addicted to such a thing if they are constantly trying not to do it then failing and giving up vs. doing it and not letting it be a big deal) versus the pros (decreases stress, is the safest form of sexual gratification possible, it boosts the immune system, it helps you feel better, it can help prevent erectile dysfunction and incontinence) Versus the cons of forbidding masturbation (people will do it anyway because the desire is so overwhelming, people will feel awful about themselves, not having a sexual release can lead to people being obsessed with sex and thinking about it all the time).
    Considering those things (and if someone knows of any benefits to NOT masturbating, I’d be interested in knowing it), it seems the negative effects of not masturbating and the positive effects of masturbating are so overwhelming that one would need a pretty strong defense of why it is wrong even on a spiritual level and I’ve yet to see one (though such a defense may exist)

  • anonymous

    Honestly, why not just send an inquiry to the apostles or the first presidency? The prophet is the mouthpiece for the Lord, and his response should be pretty definitive on what is acceptable and what is not.

  • JJ

    I think you misread the new For the Strength of Youth. Grant Von Harrison was involved in the writing of it, and I think the new wording is very destructive for youth, especially for young men.

    “Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.”

    As a young man, I would have read that and wandered, “So, I can’t go to sleep then? Can’t dance with a girl at a dance?” and any number of other normal, everyday things that cause erections in a young man.

    “Do not participate in discussions or any media that arouse sexual feelings.”

    Okay, that pretty much leave our even reading the word “sex” for most young men. I don’t think Grant Von Harrison and others remember at all what it was like to be a normal young man going through puberty.

    This new version of the pamphlet will lead to even more guilt in young men than the old one ever did.

  • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

    Thank you so much for this. I am a former Mormon. I cannot express the depth of pain and frustration I experienced during my membership because of this issue. I was moved to tears when I read your post. Thank you for having the courage to take this stand.

    • Bitherwack

      Yes, it really is an issue that torments young men. I want to shout, “I want my youth back!” What kind of sick sadism motivates a bunch of octogenarians to be so cruel?

  • Bitherwack

    Have you noticed how the people who have a hard time really understanding how painful the demonization of masturbation is, all tend to be women?
    If you are a woman, you most likely will never understand what it is like…

    • Anom

      I’m going to wax (crudely) humorous for a moment: perhaps a better handle would have been “Betterwhack” for this post :)

      In any case, I think that such a trend may be evident, but I’m not certain–and I’m not interested enough to read every post to find out. I remember several such posts from men, too, in the comments section on this page. Take a look at Natasha’s past polls regarding this issue for more information about the gender biases in play (they may not be what you think…).

      In reality, I think that you will find representatives from both genders on both sides of the issue, and while men are generally regarded as having a higher libido, some women do, too. It isn’t necessarily helpful to always generalize in this way, though.

  • Jenny Crandall

    When people compare masturbation to out-dated ideas like before African Americans could get the Priesthood, it’s comparing apples and oranges. First of all, this is of sexual nature, not poltical. Second of all, the First Presidency will never come out and say that masturbation is okay. Never. Just like how they will never say whether or not it’s okay to watch porn as a married couple. It’s a personal choice and personally, I don’t think it’s okay to masturbate before marriage. The point of masturbation is to increase libido, teach your body how to orgasm mulitple times, learn new positions, figure out what you like/don’t like to name a few. This all for the benefit of you and your spouse’s intimate relationship. Yes, we are sexual creatures. But that sexuality is to be shared with your spouse, not just yourself. And one thing about the eating comment in the article… food is quickly becoming and LDS’s drug. It is addicting and we are told to be moderate in our diets and to exercise. It is becoming an issue in our church because that is one of the “safe” ways people try to drown their sorrows. So to compare masturbating single to eating, it can get out of hand.

    • anom

      The problem is that it is in hand!

      More seriously, racism is a political issue and not a moral one?

      Finally, I will bet that the early Church said the same kinds of things about polygamy: “The prophet will never say that we should practice it!” I’m not suggesting that they will encourage masturbation, only that you don’t necessarily know with such certainty what they will instruct.

  • samantha

    I just love to play with myself i feel a real person and just love it

  • Glenn Thigpen

    Natasha, I wonder if you would explain your take on the spiritual and logical difference between self masturbation and masturbating someone else, that one is not married to.
    After all, self masturbation is an inherently selfish act while masturbating someone else is for the other person’s gratification.

    Thanks,
    Glenn

  • Mary Callister

    Our last Bishop, who now appears to be a nerd to me, kept hashing masturbation to me and to my son. He called each of us in weekly for a year until we were fed up and left the ward for a summer. He once called us both in and had my son explain to me that he was masturbating! I was mortified as was my son. First of all, neither of us EVER went to him to confess this sin. He asked us about it and then decided to harass us for a year! When we came back he continued to want to interview each of us. So, finally we left for a year and didn’t even attend church. Our new bishop is wonderful and fun to be around. He totally has a good vision of a Zion people. I told him what the last bishop did to us. I told him that all of my friends who have a temple recommend masturbate. He slapped his hand on his desk and laughed out loud. It was then, that I felt a moment of relief from being “punished” to death. Whew! The previous bishop was hell bent on telling me and repeatedly asking me if I was into pornography. I told him no and I never have been. I told him that it only happened once a month during my menstrual period. It was simply a release of pressure. I will never let anyone tell me again to feel guilt for something that I don’t naturally feel guilt for.

  • Lost

    Thank you Mormon Therapist, thank you.

    I am male, 43 years old and finally dealing with the emotional damage brought on by the teachings of the LDS church concerning sexual issues. Something I could never do before because as a priesthood holder, I was told and believed that I had to “toe the line”. The line of policy being taught as god given doctrine.

     I can’t do that anymore.

    No child should ever be subjected to a Bishop, or any other church leader, offering any counsel on, or, demanding accountability for any sexual issue. The lay ministry is not competent enough, educated enough, or prejudice free enough to address these issues.

    The same rule applies for adults as well.

    The church needs to stay out of our bedrooms. None of these leaders have masters  psych degrees. GA’s and prophets haven’t been able to keep their personal prejudice from being taught as doctrine. Nobody underneath them can either. Sexual issues belong to parents and licensed professionals. I don’t expect parents to remain bias free, mine sure weren’t, but at least it’s appropriate for them to speak to their own children.

     I look back at my young men’s interviews with my bishops asking me about sexual intercourse and masturbation and, not only do I cry for my own shame but I sorrow that I allowed my two eldest to endure that as well. I can’t imagine what a young woman must feel like being subjected to this. Wildly reckless and inappropriate practice with respect to psychological health. “Creepy” looks down at that and cringes….

    My younger two will not. My youngest will remain unbaptized until he demands to be. I will not consent until I believe he’s old enough to truly grasp what he is participating in. They will not have to endure year after year of “squashed cupcake”, “ABC gum”, “nailed 2×4″, “used shoes”, “tape your hands to your bedposts”, “tape BoM’s to your hands”, “I was so impressed that he never showed physical need before marriage” ( yes, I’ve heard them all, and I don’t know about YW’s but in priesthood, we are also told that if it happens we hold the greater share of fault and blame because we are priesthood holders) lessons.

    I am inactive now, because I am unable to reconcile church teachings and practices with my own moral compass.  I cant reconcile what they say or what they do. I cant reconcile fear and shame based teachings with Christs example in the N.T. Or with Joseph’s declaration that ” I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” 

    I cannot believe in a man claiming to be a prophet, yet promoting his own personal prejudice and fears as revelation and doctrine. The repetition with which this has occurred with our prophets an ga’s is too alarming to be ignored or blindly followed. I know that some or many will say that words spoken or written in opinion or a privately published book are not the church’s official stance…but we (as a culture, and as a religious organization) do use these references as teaching tools and in the expression of doctrine. This occurs from prophet to primary… Top to bottom. The leaders either know this and continue anyway ( meaning they don’t care or do intend to create this result) or don’t have a clue which means this doctrine is…. Well you decide.

    I have.

    It’s a different topic, but prop 8 killed me. The final toll in a bell that had been ringing for a very long time. 

  • Sabrina

    Thank you! I am so pleased to hear your thoughts, prayerful considerations, and professional opinion. I have counseled so many wounded souls all who have been wounded primarily by shame. Our LDS culture has too much shaming in it’s individual’s teachings. I have also experienced the same about what “stance” I would receive. It depends on what bishop we ask. Because they all have their own opinion based on what their puritan upbringing was, and it’s not okay for it to be presented as “doctrine”. President Brigham Young also once said that a person only needs to have sex once a year. Really? Well, I guess when you have 50 wives, that gives you sex once a week. Too bad for the wives. But that doesn’t make it church doctrine. Too many “quotes” have been extended by others as doctrine. I’m with you. Christ is not about shame. We are sexual beings. Let’s take the shame out of sex and be able to discuss it like it’s not akin to murder. Thank you for speaking up!!!!!

  • Ed Izatt

    Natasha, thank you so much for your balanced and compassionate take on a sensitive subject. I am 49 years old and have lived my entire life in the shadow of the church’s wrong-headed teachings about sexual matters. Boyd K. Packer’s “For Young Men Only” pamphlet has haunted me for years with his absolutely misrepresented understanding of human sexuality and physiology. I had hoped that the message was slowly changing and that my children would not be subjected to the same horrible “doctrine” that I had endured. But as my children have grown, I find that it is still the same. Previous posters have noted how the wording has change but the message has not. Fortunately, my wife and I have raised our children with a perspective that sexual matter are NOT a sin next to murder and that it is inappropriate for church leaders to be asking children about sexual practices. Our children have been given the freedom to incorporate masturbation into their lives in whatever fashion they please. All of them have or are currently masturbating, including my wife and myself and none are addicted to it.

    With two boys that have served missions, one that is currently serving a mission and one that is only a year away, they all have had the masturbation question asked by Bishops, Stake Presidents and Mission Presidents. At least one of our children is confident enough to challenge the Bishop and Stake President when he was asked about masturbation, noting that it is not in the Church Handbook of Instructions. The Stake President agreed that it is not in the book but he still asks anyway. (Talk about abuse!)

    For us as parents, we are most worried about the effects of the church’s teaching of sexual matters on our daughter. The sexual teachings that our children get during these formative years will be the attitudes that they carry into their marriages. As a parent I am far more concerned about helping my child to have a good positive attitude toward sexual matters and intimacy then I am about whether they masturbate. I have endured messed up teachings about sex throughout my youth and early married life, my wife and I will not carry those same wrong teaching into the next generation of our family.

    As a note, your article linked to a timeline of events where masturbation attitudes have changed in the church. One of the last events was a book written by Laura Botherson called “And They Were Not Ashamed”. In this book the author advocated “self learning” for woman to better understand the female sexual response. But according to Laura Brotherson’s blog, http://www.strengtheningmarriage.com/qa.php#QA28 the self learning section was removed from her book in order to place the focus of learning on the couple, something to be explored together. I am assuming that the real reason that the section was removed was so that the book could achieve a sort of quasi church approval now that it is sold in Deseret Book. If this is true, then Laura Brotherson has “sold out” to the pressure of the church in an attempt to stay within in lines and sell more books.

    So thank you again Natasha for taking a stance that other health professionals in the church are unwilling to take. Please know that there are many others “common folk” that stand firmly beside you.

  • http://www.addictioninsite.com Bmoney

    Very interesting point of view. I was very shamed and ashamed by those strict rules and thoughts of masturbation being next to murder. I have plenty of other trauma from my childhood and had very view tools emotionally. I became addicted to pornography in my early teens and it became a devastating piece of my marriage. I was too ashamed and afraid to tell the truth. Eventually the truth came out, as it always does and we found help. Me for addiction and my wife for her trauma. We have created a new marriage on truth. It was an incredibly difficult thing to talk about, and work through, and to remain sober from. I now have gained that freedom and have new skills and language around it. I created a website @ http://www.addictioninsite.com for those seeking information on addiction.

    I like your point, I’m not sure what my own opinion is yet but the language you use and the point you make about not shaming our youth and giving them deep emotional trauma at a difficult stage of life is not needed or helpful. In fact it is emotional abuse. Call it sin if you want, but sin is just sin, not eternal damnation, not evil for life, a young person who masturbates hasn’t ruined the rest of their life or failed. Experience of any kind can be a catalyst to more learning and understanding. It’s actually the main concept of the plan of salvation. Learning and growing through doing. Thanks for the argument.

  • kevin d.

    Bottom line: God sucks for both having created our bodies to function as they do and then telling us that Satan is to blame for all the confusion of sexuality-homosexuality, bisexuality, masturbation, pornography, etc., and then we are to suffer mortal, spiritual, and eternal condemnation, guilt, remorse, confusion, and the whole lake of fire and brimstone for it. No one has said it because you’re all afraid to say it, but it’s God you’re angry with and God needs to take some damn responsibility of his world he created, the bodies and their functions as he created them, and for sending Satan to Earth and allowing him so much power to f#@% everything up. Don’t try and tell me anything about free agency when children younger than eight can have sexual urges and masturbate. So what the hell did God expect would happn when he not only created our bodies to physiologically function sexually as they do with such power, but that he would also permit satan to have such great powers to influence its use or “misuse.” Stop wasting your time, energy, and emotions on arguments against bishops, therapists, young mens/womens leaders, parents, general authorities, apostles, prophets, or churches. If you’re LDS and reading this, then you believe God speaks to a living prophet. I don’t care how falliable a prophet can be because you may argue he’s still just an imperfect human being like the rest of us, then couldn’t God take some responsibility here, step up to the plate, show forth some power in its tiniest form and make the subject damn well clear for us his creation and children? And allowing a teenage boy to take his life over the guilt-however you guys have argued its origin-was just a great way, God, of showing us another great example of your power and use of an opportunity to clear up the matter on masterbation and sexuality for all of us. So God is real, he lives, and nobody here is arguing that, nor am I, but what the hell, God?

  • Naigari

    So I was just curious. What is your stance on being in love with someone and giving into being with them physically? What is both partners have masturbated separately but find that when they are together regularly, that the mastubation curves itself. Is this a problem? Couldn’t that be considered trading one addiction for another? And not truly loving the other person? Basically using another’s body as a scratching post for unmet desires? Because that isn’t true for me or for him. We love each other and plan on someday being married in the temple but we know that we have been taught that we are not supposed to have any relations before marriage, and now I’m beginning to do my search as to why, and I LOVE your article on masturbation. Something I’ve been needing to hear. And though some have rebuked your thoughts, it’s just because they are either ashamed, or don’t know what it’s like to have been addicted to masturbation. You’e awesome and I hope I can get some insight from you Thank you.

  • Randall Stevens

    The whole argument appears to be justification for your actions. You want so desperately for your actions to be considered “ok” in the eyes of the Lord. However, I think you’re missing the whole point – how well we can keep, obey the commandments. And those commandments don’t always come from the Lord himself, but our leaders as well. If you’re specific bishop and/or stake president has asked you to obey a particular commandment, I’m fairly certain the Lord will expect us to obey it (notable exceptions of course). I believe this life is a test to see how able we are to follow and obey commandments. If you disagree with a particular one of them, all the justification in the world as to whether its right or wrong … is irrelevant. Look at a court of law – how many different variables go into the decision that someone is guilty or not guilty. I suspect it will be similar in the Lord’s court as well. Different situations call for different actions and the Lord understands and knows that. If your situation involves a church leader felt inspired in asking you not to do a particular thing, the Lord will most likely hold you accountable, on the grounds of obedience. But there is no “right for everyone” or “wrong for everyone”.

    • Craig

      I have to disagree with you Randall. If a Catholic said what you said we would find him ridiculous. If my bishop tells me not to eat lentils I don’t believe God will condemn me if I do. Obedience is not the first law of heaven, love is.

  • Anonymous

    So i just joined the church and during my interview before i got baptized the elder asked me if i would obey the law of chastity i’m a 38 yr old divorced male he said within that will i obey this and including masturbation. UM so am i suppose to refrain from this act i don’t quit understand this as i was taught in school in sex ed classes and from my family who is not mormon that masturbation is health. even my own doctor says it is good?. so now since i joined the church i cant do this if i wanted to. not saying i do it but this just seams wired to me. So can someone shed some light on this is it ok practice if i chose to do this or will i loose my gift of the holy ghost for doing such acts as that is what they told me.

    • Andrew

      I’m not sure that the missionary was correct to interpret the law of chastity to include masturbation. I’ve been in the church my whole life, well since 8, and I know that members, and I have even heard of priesthood leaders having different views about this topic. The best advice I can give you is to do what you feel is best. God will not condemn you for accidentally doing what is wrong. Study it out in your mind, pray if you feel so inspired, and practice listening for that still small voice, and I think you will be just fine. I think the key here is to not be overly alarmed about what one or two people say. Even priesthood leaders, eg missionaries can make mistakes in council they give. I once had a bishop tell me I should read the miracle of forgiveness in an interview because he thought it would help me understand the love Christ has for us better. By the end of the interview he asked for the book back, and told me it was a bad idea for me to read. Important to remember people regardless of position are still all just people, hopefully trying to do their best, but still people. Of course some are set apart to lead, but that doesn’t make them infallible. It just means they are authorized. A really good conference talk in my opinion about the matter is the doctirine of Christ by elder Todd d christofferson from April 2012 general conference, or this quote :

      “A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.

      The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men. Remember the words of Moroni: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father … ; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.”21

      Joseph Smith said, “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations.”22 The miracle of God’s hand in the history and destiny of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is understood only through the lens of spiritual inquiry. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Every [person] eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there … must make his stand.”23 Don’t be surprised when it happens to you!”(Neil l Anderson April general conference 2012)

      Anyway point is as far as masturbation I have heard a lot of different opinions from church members, and even priesthood leaders on the local level. Many would like to interpret the law of chastity for you, and tell you that masturbation is or is not part of it. Bt of course in the end if you just do our best you will be making the best choice you can regardless of if you are right or wrong in the end because it was your best.

      Sorry if this doesn’t make sense or isn’t clear, but that’s life in a lot of areas right? ;) feel free to ask me as many questions as you want to explain my thoughts. And of course they are just my thoughts as a regular joe average church member. Nothing is necesarily authoratative other then it’s given from my testimony, my best knowledge on the matter.

      Human sexuality has always been a tricky topic for many members. We’re all still learning I suppose. Best of luck. Life long members struggle with the same question you ask:)

  • Anon2

    Thanks Natasha!

    I just found this site and I’m so glad I did. I am in the middle of a divorce. My ex was my bishop for 5 years. In our marriage, he would either withhold sex for months at a time or he would rape me (sometimes we would have normal sex as well). I was completely messed up. I started masterbating. When I went to explain this to my new bishop he asked me to not attend the temple as long as I had this problem with masterbation. I was the problem! I was sinful! It was crazy! After 6 months of therapy I am a really happy, practicing mormon, who is healthier than ever before! I also happen to own and frequently use a vibrator and don’t feel an ounce of guilt! My ex thinks that he is the most righteous guy in the world and is very proud of the fact that he NEVER masterbates. I think that I know how God will judge us!

  • FRANCOIS MORIN

    Hi everyone,

    On June 12th 2012, I have deposited a civil lawsuit against the LDS Church AND my parents due the psychological trauma caused by the anti-masturbation propaganda.

    Here is my story. I was raised by my parents in the mormon faith. At the age of 12 (1992), I went throught the worthiness interview in order for me to be submitted to the baptism of the Dead.

    When it came to the Law of CHastity, the 1st counselor has asked me if I masturbated. Intimitated, and believing it was very wrong as I have been taught, I lied about it.

    The consequence were brutal. When I did participated to the Baptism of the 46 dead people (my own ancestors) few weeks after the actual worthiness interview, I felt I had betrayed all my ancestors and that because of my unworthyness, their souls would remain in hell for eternity.

    The guilt just grew up with the years while I was considering myself evil and a imposture.

    After having trying to quit this bad habit without succes. I attempted suicide at age 16.

    I developped a severe mental condition with extreme sexual dysfonction.

    After leaving the CHurch because of the overwhelme feelings of guilt (psychosexual shame), I was lucky enough to receive professionnal help which has brought me to the deposition of the actual civil lawsuit.

    My story is very similar to Kip Eliason’s story :

    http://www.affirmation.org/suicide_info/sin_and_death_in_mormon_country.shtml

    Many thanks to Dr Mark Kim Malan for his precious study on the subject which I obviously put as evidence to my legal complaint file :

    http://fr.scribd.com/doc/25111987/Historical-Development-of-New-Masturbation-Attitudes-in-Mormon-Culture

    To all the youth in the LDS CHurch that has and continu to suffer due to the false teachings of the Church about masturbation.

    For more detail on my story, go to : http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/35633/

    P.S. : Message for the author of this article Natasha Helfer Parker : You are saying that you are no longer able to stay silent about the masturbation issu. Well, considering your duty to defend human health, I hope you don’t mind saying that you are 40 years late : The AMA has stated in 1972 that masturbation is normal. The rationalisation that one therapist would do in order to justify him/herself to stay quiet about an issu they know first hand that harm people (psychosexual shame due to the false teaching of The So Called Church about masturbation) so they don’t offend their Church is so lame. By your silence, you have played a role in letting children being hurt during such a long period. That is unacceptable. Shame on you. By deciding to speak now doesn’t make you clean, it has simply become the least you could do.

    François Morin
    Montreal, Canada

    • Christian Farmer

      dude – seriously – she’s trying to do some good here and you’re just wanting to bash on her?

  • ashley

    I am a youth member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints. I have struggled with this issue for five years and have talked to my parents and my bishop about it. I have also done a lot of personal thinking and praying on it as well. Like many other people I have felt the guilt and weight of thinking that masturbation was a sin as serious as murderer. I still believe that it is a sin based off of what the new for strenght youth pamphlet says. (Page 35 third and forth paragraph)

    “The Lord’s standard regarding sexual purity is clear and unchanging. Do not have any sexual relations before marriage, be comletley faithful to your spouse after marriage. Do not allow the media, your peers, or others to persuade you that sexual intamacy before marriage is acceptable. It is not. In Gods sight, sexual sins are extreamly serious. They defile the sacred power that God has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious then any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:5) Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish besiers. Before marriage, do not perticipate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression.”

    So the church has come right out and said that masterbation isn’t okay and is a sin and that we should not do it. Where most people get confused is where it says the part about sexual sins being just as serious as murderer it is only talking about having sex before marriage and having sex with someone who isn’t your spleen after marriage. The matter of masterbation isn’t even brought up until after. I never noticed that because no one ever showed the difference between the two. I, as a youth memberof this church, believe that we, as a church, need to talk about this more openly. We need teachers to be shown the difference and to have them teach it to us openly and not be afraid or nervous to talk about it and answers our questions.

    • jaxemer11

      Its amazing that this young woman can read better than 75% of the other adult commenters on this site.

      • Andrew

        I think that is a bit rude of you to say. If you really want to help people realize that they are doing something wrong, insulting there intelligence, and or inferring that you know they aren’t trying there best, to the best of their abilities is pretty presumptuous. Maybe they are wrong to interpret the Gospel to condone masturbation. But I don’t think it’s really your place to mock them for it.

  • John

    Because I masturbate, I haven’t been allowed to go on a mission. It is impossible to feel worthy. It is humiliating to speak with the bishop every week and tell him all about how I masturbate. Every man in my immediate and extended family has gone on a mission at 19 years old. At 20 I am a disappointment to my family who doesn’t know what to say when their friends ask them “So why hasn’t he gone on a mission yet?” The church’s vague stance (or lack of stance) on this issue is downright unfair. From a PR standpoint, what the church is doing is perfect. If the 1st Presidency says masturbation is okay, people will get hot and upset and leave the church and stop paying tithing. If the 1st Presidency says masturbation is not okay, people will still leave the church and stop contributing. The church leadership probably feels that if they let time and culture work out the issue, that the least amount of people will get offended and leave the church. This issue, however, is more than a PR issue. As we simply wait for Mormon culture and opinion to change regarding masturbation (like it has changed regarding modesty), people like me get thrown to the wolves. If you ask me, the church won’t come forward with a clean answer until they are pressured into it. We should form a petition (simply a petition for information) and get thousands of people to sign it, asking the church what the current stance is on masturbation.

    • Alison Udall

      I agree with your assessment that the church tries to appear neutral and yet it’s pretty apparent in the new Strength for Youth pamphlet page 36 – “Do not arouse these emotions in your own body” that they are saying it’s a “sexual transgression”. Prophets and apostles in the past have boldly stated this and now the church tries to make it vague to avoid media/public criticism. As a result what our youth and adults are being told varies depending on: who your leader is that you are being interviewed by, the opinion of your teacher teaching the lesson and your parents viewpoint which is based on their age and upbringing. We are leaving far too many people hanging out there without real guidance and direction because the church doesn’t want to come out and say that earlier statements by prophets and apostles were wrong. The church is so afraid of admitting that it’s a healthy part of being alive and human because it will reflect badly on past statements. The damage that this causes is wrong.

    • http://goodstrongmen.blogspot.com Strong Man

      John–Your situation is very sad. Shame on your bishop.

      I’m a very active, committed RM latter-day saint, but I agree with Natasha above.

      It took me quite a few years to overcome the shock and more fully understand of the wisdom of my bishop’s response after I confessed masturbation as a returned missionary college student. He smiled and said, “We all do. Was there anything else you want to talk about?”

      If you go to Natasha’s section: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mormontherapist/polls

      You’ll find that well over half of returned missionaries lied to their bishops–about a question that isn’t part of the temple recommend questions and I don’t think should be asked.

      I’m absolutely not advocating that you lie. But, perhaps your parents might help? Or they might make it worse? Maybe a stake president would help? I don’t know–it does seem it could be escalated or appealed appropriately somehow?

      I suspect there is a bad misunderstanding about missionaries and this habit. Usually, frequency and extent is not even discussed. Is it 4-5 times/day, every day? That’s excessive and interferes with everyday life, and won’t work for a missionary. Is it a couple of times a week? Very normal and probably nothing to be concerned about.

  • Craig

    I grew up believing that masturbation was a great sin. When I now look back on my life I have some regrets, but they are all related to how I treated other people, unkind things I said or did. I don’t consider my experiments with self-pleasure to have been a sin at all. I wish I had masturbated with joy and thanksgiving when I was younger instead of the vast amount of guilt I wasted on it. I believe that church leaders who teach otherwise are just wrong. Some prejudices run deep (like blacks and the priesthood). How you treat other people is infinitely more important than how you touch yourself when you are alone.

  • NoMore

    Great article. I’m glad you found the courage to speak truth to power. I still remember the shame, horror, embarrassment, etc. of feeling like I had done something horribly wrong and then having to confess it to the bishop. Over and over again. I think I missed out on a lot of normal fun as a teenager because I didn’t feel “worthy.” I felt like I wasn’t good enough to ask certain girls out because of this. It’s total nonsense. This is a healthy and natural release. It’s not selfish like some nutjobs have claimed. Is eating selfish?

    Sexuality is such a fundamental part of being human. We evolved as highly sexual creatures, just like all other living things that reproduce sexually. If we weren’t sexual, we would die out. It’s that simple. The key is to learn to approach sexuality in a healthy and life-affirming way. Shame, guilt, and trying to completely shut it down before marriage is a mistake. It is a fool’s errand and will never happen. It’s a recipie for dysfunction. But if hard-core mormons are more committed to ideology than reality, good luck with that. Hope it works out for you.

  • Jordan

    So I am active in the church, my wife (3 years) turns me down for sex all the time. We have had discussions but she doesn’t feel its a big deal to her. I would be fine if I could just masturbate the times she didn’t want sex but I feel so guilty and shameful if I do. This sucks I am not getting the sexual intimacy I desire and I can’t masturbate because since a child I was told I would be unworthy… What to do? and no way am I speaking to a bishop I barely know or someone about my bedroom.

    • Andrew

      Plus one on not talking to your bishop about sexual intimacy issues in marriage.

    • Anonymous

      @Jordan: Your post is absolutely tragic! Dear brother, if your wife of three years is refusing to make sexual intimacy a central component of your marriage, then you have a VERY serious problem. Sexual intimacy is absolutely essential to a happy, successful marriage — for both men and women! If your young wife is refusing to make satisfying sexual relations an integral part of your marriage, then you must — immediately — begin counseling with a qualified professional. And, although it is no doubt horrifying to consider the possibility, if your wife refuses to work on and resolve this issue in your marriage, then I personally believe you need to come to grips with the realization that you may need to “cut your losses,” as it were, and terminate your marital contract with this woman and immediately start a search for a woman with whom you can find the happiness and sexual fulfillment you so much deserve. In the meantime, you should not feel guilty at all for using masturbation to relieve what must be horrible sexual tension brought on by your wife’s refusal to participate with you in normal, healthy marital intimacy.

  • mandy

    Awesome

  • Lyla

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I couldn’t agree with you more. At fourteen years old I was shamed into telling my bishop that I masturbated and then began the painfully long repentance process. It was degrading and humiliating to have to have a balding man tell me that what I was doing was wrong. He had no right to violate my personal life like that, and no bishops should have that right at all. Your post was comforting and encouraging. Thanks for your honest opinion.

  • chet

    Regarding the For the Strength of Youth quotes, regarding Sexual Purity, which were mentioned above…

    “Before marriage, do not perticipate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.”

    You need to look at the broader context and other statements that they Church has made recently on The Law of Chastity and sexual purity. The general premise is that we are not to have any sexual “relations” outside of marriage. They are counseling the youth to not become sexually involved, to not particpate in passionate kissing, petting, laying on top of one another, or “doing anything else with another person that would arouse those sexual feelings” – we are counseled to avoid these things. If we heed this counsel then we are not going to find ourselves heading down that very slippery slope to the point that we cannot stop, thus leading to sexual relations outside of marriage. The point/counsel of the FSOY is to not put ourselves into the position that we find that our actions (i.e. passionate kissing, laying on top of one another, etc…) lead to sexual arousal, which in too many intances leads to sexual relations outside of marriage.

    I do not read into this anything about masturbation, unless the masturbation is done in the presence of another person.

    • jaxemer11

      How can you read “Do not arouse those emotions in your own body” and not realize that it is referring to masturbation. Any other understanding of that language is illogical. You can disagree with it all you want, but the language is pretty straight forward.

  • MormonMom

    What do you think, “Do not arouse those emotions in your own body” means? The Church’s stance on masturbation is very clear. It is made clear to our youth in the For Strength of Youth. DON’T DO IT! “Do not do ANYTHING else that arouses sexual feelings” Last time I checked, masturbation arouses sexual feelings. The message is black and white and in my opinion not up for debate.

    And this is a side rant, just because:
    To all the married men who have posted sad, teary, “feel sorry for me because my wife just had a baby and won’t sleep with me” posts. Get over it. Yes, sex is important in a marriage. Is it the most important thing? No. Can you wait for your wife’s body to get back to normal after birthing you child? Yes.

    To the youth in the church. Teaching them about sexuality needs to be done sensitively, not shamefully. I would never shame my child who confesses to masturbating. It is to be handled with love and care.

    • Andrew

      Mormonmom… I think you are taking some liberties interpreting the for strength of youth pamphlet. While for you it feels very clear, I agree with the comment above your last that the wording, spirit, intent in my mind actually leans more towards referring to extramarital affairs of a sexual nature, eg petting, sex, etc… However I think it important that you can make hard line interpretations with many of the scriptures that prophets that its not the intended conclusion to draw. For example hot cocoa does not constitute a “hot drink” according to the word of wisdom. Just one example, I think there are numerous others.

      As far as your comments about married men… A little surprised that you would be so insensitive in your comments to them when you espoused always handling matters of sexuality sensitively…. Also having children with my wife a time or two… While I can wait the rest of eternity and not have sex because I love her that much,doesn’t mean it is pleasant. Nor does it mean we should receive no sympathy for dealing with bodily passions that are part of mortality. Ironically I find it genuinely odd you can be so harsh with a man struggling to deal with the physical appetites of his body, and yet so kind towards a woman struggling to deal with the physical pains of her body. Wile I would find it completely insensitive of me to demean or belittle my precious wife’s sacrifice in the birthing process, likewise men are equally yoked tin this life to sacrifice and love just as much as woman who sacrifices and loves enough to give birth. It’s culturally popular to assume there is no greater sacrifice then a woman willing to endure the pains of child birth, lor at least retry high, I think it is important to remember men must equally sacrifice to obtain there heavenly reward.

      So I guess what I am saying is I hope you would be a little more compassionate on men who may or may not be doing thre best, but regardless need an understanding voice.

      Not meant to deter you from your great comments, just a bit confused by some of the more ironic points of your arguments. Although its not like I expect perfection, especially on a Internet blog forum;)

      But really the church is officially, not official about there stance on masturbation from all the studying and reading I have done on the matter. Including plenty of church material. It can seem smile, black and white at first… But if you really dig in, and get a wide range of opinions including priesthood leadership… I think you will find a huge variance from its okay, to not okay. I don’t espouse either stance as being “the definite answer” except at it seems the leadership is unwilling to make an official decleration of what their interpretation is. And until that is done through official channels my response is…. It’s up to you and The Lord. Maybe that sounds wispy washy, but genuinely if we believe in modern revelation… Then I think that is not a stretch…. Anyhow my point may be a bit overdone, I just think both sides of an argument are worthy of a carefull study. And at one time I too thought the answer was as black and white as you… Untill I really started studying it (with my wife) I might add. The church throughout history does its best to interpret gods will in regards to his commandments, but it has been known to make major policy changes in regards to what is deemed appropriate and what is not. I for one am not okay with a bishop questioning my children about masturbatory habits, especially my daughter. I feel as a parent it is the domain of husband and wife to teach their children. I then e lord tells me to change my mind… All that is another matter… But until then it seems unwise to have our youth engaged by church clergy in one on one settings about such sexually specific topics such as masturbation… I don’t mind them being asked “do you keep the law of chastity?” But going into specific sexual practices just seems like bad form. The person has a conscience and the fit of the Holy Ghost, and if they are willing to go against that and do the wrong thing and lie to a representative of god…. Well I think it’s safe to let God sort that one out. There are some costs that are too much to pay for assuring no one ever lies. That’s my two cents, or couple hundred dollars s I look at the length of my post. I do want to say I really do like open discussion about these tough, down to earth topics. So I hope you don’t see this as aggressive on my part. And I don’t mind if you see it differently. Perhaps just a reminder then that intelligent, well meaning, trying to do the best they can people may legitimately interpret counsel 180 degrees different. I mean in Joseph smith’s day many of his teachings flew in the face of the Christian norms, and seemed quite blasphemous by their understanding. And I am sure not all were of mob mentality or even evil, they just didn’t know better. I just hope no matter what side I am on as far as being eight or wrong about the practice. That I am open to what somebody says even when it seems at face value to be so horrifically wrong. You may be surprised to discover there was a godly idea that the devil tried to hide from us with the cry of blasphemy.

    • Chet

      MormonMom,

      I don’t think that you read my post clearly. If you had, you would have understood my comments about reading the whole context of the Sexual Purity section.

      I encourage all memebers to listen/watch/read Pres. Uchtdorf’s CES Fireside in January, titled “What is Truth?” He points out that we often base truth on our limited learning and our own experiences. We may be taught by our parents, or local leaders, about something and think that what they said is the “Truth”. It may be partially true, or it may even be false, but because this is what we know and have been taught, we think it is the whole truth.

      He counsels:

      “I believe that our Father in Heaven is pleased with His children when they use their talents and mental faculties to earnestly discover truth. Over the centuries many wise men and women—through logic, reason, scientific inquiry, and, yes, through inspiration—have discovered truth. These discoveries have enriched mankind, improved our lives, and inspired joy, wonder, and awe.

      Even so, the things we once thought we knew are continually being enhanced, modified, or even contradicted by enterprising scholars who seek to understand truth.

      The invitation to trust the Lord does not relieve us from the responsibility to know for ourselves. This is more than an opportunity; it is an obligation—and it is one of the reasons we were sent to this earth.

      Latter-day Saints are not asked to blindly accept everything they hear. We are encouraged to think and discover truth for ourselves. We are expected to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to a personal knowledge of the truth.

      My young friends, as you accept the responsibility to seek after truth with an open mind and a humble heart, you will become more tolerant of others, more open to listen, more prepared to understand, more inclined to build up instead of tearing down, and more willing to go where the Lord wants you to go.”

      Have you done any studying/research to back your opinions – your truth? I have done a lot on this topic. Having served as a Bishop to YA’s I was needing to know how to deal with this topic, to know how I could best counsel my ward members who have suffered emotional pains from prior Bishop’s harsh dealings/teachings, and how I could help them heal from the low self worth they struggled with because of years of trying to overcome masturbation (after all, there is no information or directives in the General Handbook of Instructions for Bishops/Stake Presidents on the Church’s stance on masturbation). Fortunately, these were the ones who have hung in there and have not yet fallen away from the Church. I think that we lose a lot of our youth because of the way welling-meaning Bishops have taken a hard line on youth who struggle with masturbation, and have not been able to become 100% free of it. IMO, I think it unfair that when our young men get hit with puberty and such high doses of testosterone, and they find that the temptation for the physical release becomes too great for them to deal with, that members will label them as having a “real problem” and treating them like they are the only person with this problem. The fact is, whether we want to admit it, or not, that 90% of our young men have masturbated, and many of them have a continual battle with it. I think that some are emotionally better able to deal with these strong urges than others. Some, emotionally, will use masturbation as a coping mechanism, like some women will use chocolate. Which brings me to women and their hormones… When women are dealing with their hormonal challenges, they may get moody and even ornery – often saying mean, spiteful things (is there any harm in this? Is it against the teachings of the Saviour, to “love one another”?). But we are to be understanding because it is the hormones that are making them be “un Christ like”. Men don’t get any “understanding” because of their hormones, they just get looked at as carnal, weak and pathetic.

      Women don’t have a clue what it is like to have such strong levels of testosterone that a boy/young man will get spontaneous erections, in the most inopportune times, regardless of the situation or the thoughts going through his head; to start having unsolicited erotic dreams and to wake up in the middle of a wet dream. Or to have such a build up of semen that his testicles are physically painful – some doctors will prescribe masturbation for the physical relief from this (imagine the dilemma here). How about having a spontaneous orgasm the first time he passionately kisses a girl? The line between manual stimulation and real life gets really blurred for some young men.

      Are there dangers from the practice of masturbation? Yes, for a small percentage of people, who have highly addicted personalities, there can be the danger of developing a habit, even excess (multiple times a day) masturbation. Some may even find that it will affect their ability to orgasm via intercourse when they get married, but these instances are small. And certainly, if the masturbation is always tied to pornography, then there may be the inability to orgasm without the visual images of pornography – for some.

      And to address your rant… I feel sorry for men whose wives take your approach. Sex for most men is not just about the sexual release, although once having sex frequently with your wife, then being cut of, can be physically painful, but it is like being emotionally detached from her. My sweet wife was very sensitive to making sure my desire for the emotional bonding and physical release were taken care of during those times – where we were not allowed to have intercourse. I feel blessed that she didn’t take the approach of “get over it”. All this would have done was separate me emotionally from her, and truthfully, probably caused me to seek my own release(s).

      • jaxemer11

        How does masturbation make you feel closer to your wife?

      • DL

        Chet,
        Your opinions and biases regarding women’s sexuality and women in general, are naive, stereotyped and uninformed. If you would like empathy and compassion for your experience as a male you may want to examine your sexist attitudes.

        DL

    • http://www.facebook.com/maria.rowse Maria Rowse

      You go Sister! I am a Catholic mom and couldn’t say it better myself…the earlier the better!

    • BJ64

      MormonMom, your post clearly shows that you have no concept of what it is like being a married man either psychologically or physiologically. I’m certainly glad you aren’t my wife. I think with women like you it’s all about your needs with no concern for the husbands needs.

  • Anonymous

    Ok Hello I am 19 and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints this is really important. I haven’t masturbated since I started talking with the missionaries about 8 months ago and I joined the Church this fall. I used to do it all the time lustfully. I really love the church I have a strong testimony but I have been having the urge to ejaculate for like a month now and I don’t know if I should do it my stomach is starting to hurt and I can’t get it out of my head. I am afraid if I do it then I might feel guilty and un-worthy to bless the sacrament, get my patriarchal blessing, and eventually go on a mission. What should I do? Help me please.

    • Andrew

      My encouragement for you…. First you can do it. I mean you can find out what God wants you to do in the matter, secondly I sincere mistake is a sin… I has consequences, but becoming evil is not one of them. I’m not so sure I would be as concerned with accidentally becoming unworthy. I’d be more concerned with letting fear scare you from being confident that you can get an answer, and if the answer is wait, or make the best choice you can. Is not a trick. God will guide you, even through your best efforts at times. Even when at first you make the wrong choice. Joseph didn’t lose his reward because he made a poor choice in trusting Martin Harris with the 116 page manuscript. Granted he had serious repenting to do, because in that. Care he DID know better. By my point is that if Joseph Smith could repent from a purposeful sin, and The Lord had a recovery plan already in place before he made that choice. I think you will be just fine in doing your best to trust in your ability to hear the spirit, and your dire to do what is right. The fact that you are worried about doing the wrong thing sure seems like a strong sign of how awesome you are. I am not telling you that it is right or wrong to do it. Personally I don’t think there is a one answer for everyone in the matter…. But more importantly you need to be convinced in your heart sincerely that whatever choice you make…. Whether it is to engage in masturbation, serve a mission, choose a career path etc…. Tat it’s what you truly believe god wants you to do, or that if you haven’t been able to figure that out. That in the mean time you are doing your best find it out, and just doing your best with what you already have. Anyway my point is listen to the calm voice in your head that encourages you to love and then do the thing that satan will do his best to make you panic about , look scary, evil etc…. When it isn’t. And let me restate I am not pushing in one direction or the other. I am just giving you a friendly reminder that you can do this:) and I appreciate it can be a big deal, also to remember that sex is not a bad thing, and sexual thoughts about Cowan are GREAT! Just make sure they are the right time, place,etc… That God approves of, and what that all is is partially spelled out by prophets, and then partially just up to you and God…. Best of luck:) I hope that helps calm your fears and encourages your confidence in your godliness, and desires to do the best. We all struggle with sin, that’s what life is about, overcoming it. And it’s okay in the mean time while we aren’t there. Although I appreciate the fact that sometimes it feels tremendously intimidating and scary. But what good reward wouldn’t require that.

      • Andrew

        Edit ” a sincere mistake is [ not] a sin”

        My iPads auto correct wreaks havoc on my posts.

  • Tracy

    My stance is fairly simple and should make for a short post. We have the blessing of personal revelation for questions like this. Not to absolute revelation for everyone, only our prophet can do that. And sometimes we get different answers! Because The Lord knows more about our individual circumstances than we do. He knew to tell Nephi it was okay to kill someone. To tell Abraham to let one of his wives wander off to her possible death.

    As for our men, I think we can be too harsh on them in our church culture. My experience with men is that they are as interested in emotionally connecting as women. They use physical bonds to make it even better. Yay for them. I plan on teaching my children that sex is fun and they shouldn’t treat it with fear. They should be excited about it. Especially my daughter. As my mom told me, women who dislike sex often use it to manipulate their husbands. Forget that. Connecting with my husband in every way possible is too important to me to get into that mess. We will decide together what goes on in our bedroom using revelation. Including this matter of masturbation. And I encourage others to do the same without attacking others if they don’t get the same answers. Isn’t that what our savior would have us do? P.s. the answer is of course yes.

    • Chet

      Tracy,

      Nice post!

  • Lasvegasrichard

    Basically when it comes to masturbation, there are 2 types of people. There are those who do it , and then there are those who lie about it !

    • http://www.facebook.com/maria.rowse Maria Rowse

      Wrong! you are kidding yourself! There is a third classification!
      There are those who realize the God is in charge and ask for His complete help to eliminate any and all sinful desires from you!
      if the sexual drives become a sinful addiction (Similar to porn) and is done with full knowledge…..it is another form of the devil’s deception.
      Yes, I was addicted to it, too! I found that my shame was beyond tolerable and asked God to relieve me of this plague, perilidiction…this sin of sensuality…whatever you want to call it, it is what it is! masterbation.
      The truth is in your conscience! Listen to it and rely on God to help you not abuse the wondrous body He created for His purpose!
      Masterbation is an addictive bodily pleasure….which God can extinguish iif you Pray and ask His intercession! It is not a way to conceive a child..the ultimate purpose of sexual union between husband and wife.

      Pray for His intercession with trust and desperation! He will hear you!

      • Dan Oprac

        too many exclamation points. Makes be doubt your advocacy:)

  • Moate

    I have masterbated for years. I learned about it on a Scout camp with our Ward’s troop. I think that’s where a lot of young men are introduced to the practice. The shame and guilt kept me from revealing it to anyone, even my Bishop unfortunately my father) before my mission. I did talk to my mission president and was told I’d be sent home from my mission if I did it again. The shame and disappoint I would have brought to my family would have been devestating. Ours was always the perfect Mormon family, no visible cracks to the outside world. Unfortunately unrealistic expectations, shame, control, emotional dishonesty were ever present inside where it couldn’t be seen. I didn’t stop masturbating after the visit with the mission president, but never mentioned it again to anyone. I thought getting married would help. It didn’t. Particularly when my wife had little interest in sex. I’ve been married for over 25 years. I have not had sex with my wife for at least two years because she has no interest. I continually try to get her interest, but without success. It is impossible for me to consider sex outside my marriage, so I masturbate. Please excuse my ramblings. I have lived every day of my life feeling that the only future for me lies in Hell. Particularly when I consider the scripture that all our sins return if we sin again. Thank you for your thoughts and writings on this issue.

    • Andrew

      @Moate I’m so sorry to hear about the burden of guilt you live under. I hope for what it is worth I personally imagine a much more living a forgiving saviour then may have been communicated to you by others… Perhaps masturbation is a sin, maybe it is not. But one thing I am sure is that you are no more bound for hell than any apostle or prophet if you try your best, and best doesn’t mean flawless, it means a since desire in your heart that expresses itself through a life time of striving no matter how little progress we feel we are making. People can be much better than they believe they are, in fact that is the plan of god in my opinion, that no matter who you think you are, God knows your potential, and invites you to just try, and makes up the rest. You should feel righteous as the prophet and as worthy as him. No one defines your relationship with the saviour more than you, and I just hope you feel a lot of love from him that he is not waiting to damn you, or. Ht. you are necesarily bound for hell. Your post reminds me of the good side of people in the world, the side of people that must endure the pain of imperfection even when brought on by our own weakness. But for you I just wish you could see how awesome it is that you want. I do the right thing. Once again I think you very well could already be there, but it doesn’t matter what I think, what a mission president thinks, or anyone else for that matter except for you and your personal connection to God. I am not saying priesthood authority is non existent or doesn’t matter, but in the end it comes down to our actions, heart, etc…. Not our leaders, friends, family, etc. best of luck. You have my sympathy.

      • Moate

        Andrew,
        Thank you so much for your comments. Your words have helped ease some of the guilt I feel. I know we are just striving for perfection in this world and not going to acheive for eternities, but I still feel like the Church expects it now. I just have to remember that it is the Savior who has paid the price.

        • Andrew

          Glad it helped a little.its hard to seperate church culture, imperfections, etc… From the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s easy to look at the church as an all or nothing package where you either believe the church is true. And if you believe it’s true then many assume all that comes with it is justified. When in fact we’ve been told not just by Prophets and apostles, but by god himself that his church is not perfect. You can find these scriptures in the D&C. Although maybe you knew that already, I wouldn’t have. ;) but even with that all said I still struggle often myself separating the imperfect actions of members, leaders, and the imperfect (but slowly evolving towards perfect) interpretations of the gospel in how it should be in acted through policy. My last ward I struggled to enjoy my time at church because the above said things kept on being difficult for me to deal with. In my. New ward gladly for whatever reason I joe much better with the other ward members. But man sometimes people say the craziest stuff, or are so mean, and then use some old quote as this perfect justification for why they are allowed to not be kind, decent people. Anyway got carried a way. I just hope you can keep on keepin’ on. Mostly because I feel like I have been in similair places, and it just doesn’t seem right that God would want his children feeling that way. I know the church is God’s church but the members and leadership included are far off from perfection. FYI I love how you ended your last comment. Amen.

          • Moate

            Andrew,
            Again, thank you for your comments. I agree that there are many in the Church who say many hurtful and judegemental things in trying to “help”. I am afflicted with some anxiety and depression which is being treated with medication. Some have told me I woldn’t have these problems if I just prayed more. It is a real challenge for me to remember that the Gospel is true, but the Church and it’s members are imperfect.

  • jaxemer11

    Natasha

    As someone that experiences same-sex attraction, I would be very interested in your thoughts about gay members of the Church. Your justification of masturbation sounds almost identical to the arguments several of my gay friends have made about why they left the Church or why they think it is just a matter of time before the Church accepts gay marriage. It is all built around the idea that sex is a human need that people MUST have.

    The church has clearly taught that heterosexual marriage is not a solution to same-sex attraction (something I believe most therapists like yourself would agree with) and has strongly implied that there are some gay men that may never marry in this life as a result. What are these men to do to satisfy their sexual “needs”? Should I, as a gay man, just realize the gospel is not compatible with my life and find another man to have sex with? Is masturbation enough to satisfy my “needs”? And if masturbation is a need (one that I have been created with the capability of doing), then why not anal sex with another man (I am physically capable of doing that too)? What is the difference? Is it just because the Church is more clear on homosexual acts than it has been on masturbation? Because if that is the difference, I don’t think it is really a difference because I think the Church’s position on masturbation is quite clear, if you don’t try to look for a loophole.

    The bottom line for me is that sin is sin. I may not like some of the commandments I have been asked to keep (my life would sure be easier if I didn’t believe the Church was true), but that doesn’t change the fact that sin is sin. I sin hourly. In fact, masturbation and porn addiction are two sins that have plagued me most of my adult life. Do I think I am almost a murderer? Of course not … and I have never been taught that once in all my years of being in the Church. Am I ashamed of myself? At times I am, but I recognize that these feelings don’t come from God. They are from Satan for the purposes of keeping us away from God. Sins come in all shapes and sizes, but the bottom line is that sin is sin. We are here to overcome it and to learn from it. That is the purpose of life, and the purpose of the atonement.

    Sweeping sin under the rug and pretending like it doesn’t exist will only make things worse. I understand your concern about shame … but the answer is not to sweep sin under the rug. The answer is to teach people that shame is evil and destructive and not from God. People need to have a better understanding of the gospel and repentance, not a more liberal interpretation if the commandments of God.

    • Chet

      Jax,
      I think those who make the same arguments about homosexual relations and masturbation are way off base. The scriptures have spoken out about homosexual relations, and our Church leaders have consistently taught that sex is to be reserved for marriage, and only between a man and his wife. This has become doctrine, because it is in the scriptures and the Proclamation on the Family (which as defined by the Church is doctrine). It is also clearly stated in the General Handbook of Instruction that homosexual relations are sinful.
      Now compare that with masturbation…. no mention in the scriptures, some mention by Church leaders (although this was primarily by Pres. Kimball), and no mention in the General Handbook. And, if you do a thorough review of the current Church curriculum, I don’t know if you will find it specifically mentioned. It was mentioned in the past (quotes from SWK), but has worked it’s way out of current manuals. There are some local leaders (Bishops/SP’s) who may hold onto old attitudes about masturbation, but that is not coming from leadership training from our leaders, nor is it coming from the General Handbook.

    • IDIAT

      I agree – masturbation has been described by SWK as an “indiscretion” as opposed to outright sin, in stark contrast with homosexual sexual relations. I think most hard line thinkers on masturbation are dying off and many don’t even remember the quotes from SWK. Like Andrew, Chet and others, I have to believe that if masturbation was a “big” sin, we would have plenty of language in church publications addressing it as such. I believe it is something to be avoided as much as is reasonably possible, but don’t view occasional masturbation as some kind of act that merits a discussion with the Bishop or other PH leader, especially in context of marital relationship. In rare instances it can lead to obsessive/complusive behavior and other issues, but usually does not. You have to figure there are millions and milions of non-member young men and men who masturbate on a fairly regular basis, and relatively few of them develop problems as a result. Still, we are a peculiar people, and to the extent possible, should strive to be masters of our domain.

    • Dan Oprac

      The scriptures also say “It is not good for a man to be alone.” and yet we are told my the church that gay men need to be alone. The homosexual issue is far from resolved. and sin is not sin. Are you trying to say that it’s just as ok for me to say and unkind word as to murder my children? Some things are clearly worse than others. Yes, all sin and are separated from God. But to call something sin, that may not be sin is what is being discussed here. I would think that you, as a gay man, should have more of an allowance for masturbation that straight members. It seems unnatural in every respect for you to remain celibate like a Priest in the Catholic Church (and look where that has led!). Denying your sexual life may not be healthy and may not be the will of God.

  • Andrew

    Was curious so I used the search feature on lds.org. I searched for the term masturbation. I got a whopping 2 general conference results back, and a small handful of manual references, ensign articles, etc… Most requoting the infamous president kimball quote on the matter. Then I used the search term “pornography” and I got over 200 general conference results back, and equally similair manual, and ensign article numbers. Regardless of your personal opinion, I think it’s safe to say the church is purposely not addressing the issue.

    • Jay

      The lack of search results are probably because church leaders don’t like to use dirty words like “masturbation,” but like to talk about nice things like “factories” instead.

  • Craig

    Heres my favorite masturbation scripture:

    Romans 14:22 – Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

    I condemned myself for many years about occasional masturbation, confessed to several Bishops, still felt horribly guilty, obsessed about sex and did outlandish and dangerous things to release sexual energy because they weren’t technically masturbation (and so I rationalized they were OK).

    Now I follow the scripture above. I allow it, I don’t condemn myself, I have faith in God and am much happier for it.

    I still suffer from guilty feelings but they are almost always related to how I have treated other people, unkind things I have said or done.

  • TAB

    As an LDS man and a marriage and family therapist, I really am grateful for the Author’s post. I agree with her personal opinion that masturbation is not in itself a sin and the encouragement she has fostered to so many church members impacted by this issue.
    Given that most teens masturbate at some point in childhood and adolescence, the issue is faced by many LDS youth once they realize what they have been doing since childhood is “masturbation.” I am glad there is an apparent softening in recent LDS publications on masturbation and I welcome the comments of the therapist writing this blog as an important opinion.
    As a marriage and family therapist, I have experience working with children, teens, adults, and couples. Masturbation can be an important part of a person’s development, a couple’s work toward intimacy and mutual caring, a child or teen’s understanding of their body and how it works, a teen’s or adult’s management of their own sexual self. Guilt over genital self-stimulation is a learned behavior. It is not present in young children.
    I am concerned by LDS culture around masturbation and the concept that sexual inexperience is equated to virtue and is proposed as the most valuable of gifts. Given that most teens masturbate at some time and so many children, teens, and adults have been abused sexually, both concepts cause great emotional and spiritual turmoil for many LDS youth and adults. Neither are part of my view of a loving God nor are part of the covenants I make personally with the God I worship. Virtue is based on current choices and current interactions with others and is not related to virginity nor having been the victim of rape, or having used self-stimulation as part of managing ones sexuality. One truth I believe we can glean from the 12 step tradition is make commitments to God as we understand God.
    Helping empower individuals to understand and accept their sexuality in a responsible manner is very important. Irresponsible use of sexual drives resulting in rape, child sexual abuse, abandonment, adultery are very harmful.
    I am grateful for this lively discussion. We need to be able to talk about these important issues. Communication is a key.
    TAB

  • http://www.professional-mothering.com Tamsyn

    I have little to add, but I think it is worth mentioning that Planned Parenthood deliberately teaches children to masturbate because they know it gets them more customers.
    I think they changed the wording in The Strength of Youth pamphlet because many of the youth do not know what it means. I didn’t until I was 20! Call me naive, I’m not alone.

  • Anon

    Natasha’s stance is very interesting. I agree with her, at least in part. My gut feeling has been that it’s something to be indulged in moderation… To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens~Ecclesiastes 3:1. Furthermore, my doctor literally prescribed me to as away of preventing the reoccurrence of a prostate infection I had.

  • Jacob Frieden

    Your first bishop was more inspired, whereas the second one was simply reiterating the old school stance that has been quietly laid to rest. A friend of mine is gay, I helped reactivate him. He was interviewed for the Melchizedek Priesthood and eventually the Temple. My friend was honest and admitted that he masturbates. He asked his bishop and our stake president if masturbation was okay. The answer surprised and inspired me: The General Priesthood manual of instructions says nothing against or even about masturbation, so as long as we members masturbate without porn and without conceiving the kind of fantasies that could lead us to sexual sins, masturbation is okay and is no obstacle to temple worthiness and attendance! Think of it. Contrary to Elder Packer’s unscientific assertion, not all men have wet dreams, but all men build up sperm. Our sperm has to come out, and if not via sex or wet dreams, then the mechanism for the release is manual stimulation. We men cannot be blamed because the manual stimulation is extremely pleasurable. The analogy is peeing. Some people consider pee to be dirty and vulgar. A good Priesthood holder could pray, fast, study scriptures and serve all he could pleading with Heavenly Father to remove the urge to pee, but God ordained peeing a natural mechanism, and holding pee in is unhealthy. When we eventually release our pent up pee, we are physically relieved. So it is with our sperm. It is no sin that the release is pleasurable. The Holy Spirit is THE Testator, and masturbating keeps us healthy and receptive to the Spirit, so we should trust the witness from God; brother, you have the answer. Let’s not be hard on ourselves and enjoy having a healthy body. Peace out, brother!

    • Dan Oprac

      I sort of like what you said, but the “without conceiving the kind of fantasies” thing…not sure what that means. The article and most articles on the subject misses that one point and I wish it could have more discussion here. The point is “fantasies.” I don’t know about you, but how does one masturbate without a fantasy of some sort? If you are married but think of anything but your wife while you masturbate, is it a sin then? What about the scripture that says, in essence, “if you do it in your heart it is the same as if you did it with a human” from the Sermon on the Mount? Lust = Adultery? or not? This is where the difficulty comes in. What causes you to come to orgasm? Can you think of any fantasy and it’s ok as longs as its only a fantasy? Or do you have to make masturbation difficult?

  • Annon 13

    I would like to offer a different look at the subjects discussed above. First let me say that I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints all my life. I have been a Bishop for more than 6 years in the 1980s. I have been in a stake presidency and on several Stake High Councils. Now, I do not believe that the above discussions are about “the doctrine of the Church”. The “Doctrine of the Church” is 1. The law of Chastity, Which is that there are no sexual relations except with our husband or wife to whom we are legally married. That is NO SEX outside of marriage. And 2. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Those things that are discussed above are procedural items. That is those things done within the outline of the doctrine. The Church has over the last 55+ years that I have been an adult holding leadership positions and attending the Temple, changed the procedures, or the way things are accomplished while holding to the doctrine with no changes. The temple endowment presentation has been changed several times that I know of without changing the doctrine taught. The temple recommend interview questions have been changed without changing the worthiness goal. Yes I will agree that there was a time when we were asked to ask a procedural question about the law of chastity but that was quickly withdrawn. The Church is moving away from defining how we do things to an emphasis on the doctrine and the love and forgiving nature of our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ. In the Doctrine and Covenants section 58 verse 26 we read “For behold it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness. For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.” We do not have to be told whether masturbation or oral sex or any other sexual procedure is against the doctrine of the law of chastity or not. We can find out for ourselves, we have been given our own agency or freedom of choice. We with our spouse and in prayer to God can find out if they or any other activity is ok for us. If we can answer the temple questions in the affirmative and feel good about the answers that we give we are ok with whatever we are doing in our marriage. We do not need to discuss the activities or procedures that we do in our homes and in our bedrooms that is between our spouse and the Lord.
    Let me say also that my wife and I started doing oral sexual contact about 3 years ago and it has deepened our love and commitment to each other beyond belief. I am a firm believer in the “if it feels good do it” saying. It works in sex as well as letting us know the answers to our prayers.
    Thank you and good luck and happiness in all you do together.

  • John Howard

    Thank you. This needed to be said, and hopefully will have some effect on those who still inflict sexual shaming on innocent children.

  • ALK

    I wish we would stop trying to categorize every behavior as black and
    white, sin or no sin. There are different levels of “sinful” behavior
    that yield different consequences. Furthermore, the Lord judges us all
    individually, not comparatively. In my personal experience with
    masturbation, I don’t feel that it is a sin worthy of losing privileges
    in the church, but I also don’t feel that it’s something that brings me
    closer to God. I try to refrain from it, but I feel that the Lord
    understands when I just need a release at times. I have never felt
    compelled to disclose my occasional masturbation habits to priesthood
    leaders, even when I have asked the Lord. I have always felt that the
    Lord does not consider masturbation a serious sin, and typically haven’t
    felt a significant loss of the Spirit after indulging. I feel that the
    level of “wrongness” varies from individual to individual, and is
    something that every member of the Church needs to discuss with God.
    Ultimately the gospel is about our relationship with God. Priesthood
    leaders are simply there to help us with the journey, but personal
    revelation should be our main source for answers on questions of
    morality such as this. I’m grateful to Natasha for her courage in
    speaking out on what is clearly still a controversial topic for many in
    the church. However, I think each of us needs to find our own answer
    from God.

    • Guest

      Hmmm…….

  • Bob Smith

    I appreciate your perspective.

    To give you my background (which I think is important in understanding my perspective):
    I’m an active and believing (most the time, heh) Mormon (return missionary, temple married) who has always struggled with this issue. Even so, I have abstained from masturbation practically all of my life (almost 28 yo male), been married over 4 years (happily, most the time :). A couple years ago began questioning the LDS stance on masturbation. I’ve talked to my wife about it quite a bit. However, my wife doesn’t want me to do it so I still abstain from it because I respect her feelings. I bet I’ve masturbated less than 20 times in my life, almost all of which after beginning to question it. Even so, I have struggled with the “temptation” all my life, and shameful feelings–even for anything remotely close to masturbation–due to what I was taught at about age 12.

    What bothers me the most (which sounds like the same issue for you) is that this is an issue that REALLY affects a lot of people. I mean REALLY. I personally suffered serious shame from even my very small experience with masturbation due to what I was taught about it, and I’m confused/bothered by the fact that every bishop has a different thought on it and its spiritual seriousness and not much word from the general authorities to give clear direction. It’s not even mentioned in the church handbook of instructions (which blows my mind). For such an important issue in terms of anxiety and shame that can be induced based on its association with worthiness and the seemingly still-in-force (albeit I pretty much believe it is simply a cultural, not doctrinal) “requirement” of confession for complete forgiveness, I think more direct guidance from the general authorities is long overdue. Growing up as a teenager I would occasionally tip-toe around masturbating in various ways (not reaching orgasm) and even that would have me constantly worried that maybe I needed to talk to the bishop about it. The lack of clear direction was/is extremely frustrating for me.

    I recognize also that the general authorities are human and may not always convey something that is God’s will. We each need to gain a confirmation as to what is true and right for ourselves. I fasted and prayed about whether masturbation was sinful, and felt a very strong feeling during sacrament meeting that it was not inherently a sin (and this was before I even tried masturbating under those pretenses). However, as I said, my wife doesn’t want me to do it so I still abstain from it because I respect her feelings (though it can be a struggle and I’m not sure this is the right approach as it can cause some tension between us when we are not both on the same page in terms of libido).

    Case-in-point (and personal experience) regarding 1st presidency direction on sexual matters:
    about 30 years ago the first presidency issued a letter to all the units stating that they (the First Presidency) interpreted oral sex as “an unnatural, impure, or unholy practice” and in the temple recommend interview questions, members were asked if they participated in any “unnatural, impure, or unholy practice”. Having been married only these last 4 years, my wife and I had never heard of this letter or any stance on the morality of oral sex between married couples whatsoever. We discovered through our own self discovery that oral sex added a lot to our sexual relationship (especially in that it was pretty much the only way that she is able to reach orgasm, though we have since just last year decided to try a vibrator–sex toys: another issue that the church is silent upon as far as I know), and after finding that letter while researching mormon views on masturbation, I can say that I just don’t feel right about that stance. If one partner is seriously uncomfortable with it, that’s one thing… but to be “unholy” is quite another.

    Obviously that specific teaching against oral sex has “gone away” (I can only imagine the awkward interviews it caused) and as far as I know, bishops are now counseled to basically stay out of the married couple’s bedroom. BUT it’s not that the first presidency sent a letter out saying “nevermind about oral sex being unnatural, impure, and unholy”… I can understand why this is the case, however, as a lot of members would flip because they are operating (much to Brigham Young despair, as he very directly told the members not to act this way) under the pretense that the first presidency can’t make mistakes. Based on this, I can understand how much gall it took for the first presidency to send out the proclamation ending the practice of polygamy.

    So is that what is happening to masturbation? Is it simply an issue that previous leaders hard-lined about, but now are basically ignoring / leaving it up to individuals to feel out? It kind of seems that way to me. If you search masturbation on lds.org, it hasn’t been mentioned in conference talks since the 80′s (and specifically removing it from the For the Strength of Youth and replacing it with the single line “do not arouse these feelings in your own body”– that being the only direction there is on the subject, it seems). Very unfortunate, considering how for me (and others no doubt) my struggle with shameful feelings related to masturbation have severely distracted me from focusing on other things related to worthiness that I could be improving upon.

    The unfortunate side effect of the “ignore it” or (without specifically saying so to the members) the “leave it up to them” stance (if I’m not mistaken in guessing that is truly what’s happening here) is that we now have many many many local priesthood leaders who, without specific direction, continue to probe members and deal with masturbation the way it has generally been dealt with in the past (based on their own personal experience): it seems to me that the standard result in is “don’t take the sacrament for a week”… this in spite of the fact that it is not even mentioned in the handbook.

    Years ago when I took Bro. Bott’s Doctrine and Covenants class at BYU, he said that he believes (and I hope I don’t misrepresent what he said) that while it’s not right to masturbate, you shouldn’t hesitate to take the sacrament and move on (and he is a former bishop and stake president), and not bother with confessing unless it is really an addiction / dragging you down in some way. He even said he’s written the first presidency about this issue, begging them to give more direction to local priesthood leaders (as he, in his experience, has seen some priesthood leaders go to the extreme and tell members not to take the sacrament for extended periods of time due to some masturbation).

    No doubt the fact that no official direction on oral sex has been forthcoming has resulted in many couples who may have benefited from incorporating it into their sexual relationship still probably refraining from it due to 30 year old counsel that has not been directly refuted by general authorities.

    Just my 2 cents. I hope my perspective is helpful to somebody.

    Should you answer “yes” to the “are you keeping the law of chastity” question of the temple recommend interview if you masturbate? That’s between you and God. You should probably take the time to find out.

    • Jeff Tranter

      “I’m an [...] Mormon [...] who has always struggled with this issue. Even so, I have abstained from masturbation practically all of my life”

      What you said, what does that even mean? You (try to) score, and then destroy, credibility (with us mormon left overs) in a single sentence??

      Men with low(er) libidos climb the ranks of the mormon hierarchy, which will only make it harder for the church to understand whats its like to be left over. I internalized shame starting at 13. I left the church in my late 30s, but have yet to reclaim what could have been if it wasn’t for so many years of trying and failing.

      “However, my wife doesn’t want me to do it so I still abstain from it because I respect her feelings.”

      • Heather McCallon Guymon

        What are you talking about? I thought his entire comment was brilliant and TRUE.

        • Jeff Tranter

          Heather. If I give you an honest answer about who I am, will you take it seriously?

          • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

            Does it matter if she does? Your comment was pretty aggressive, and a personal attack. I think Heather is objecting to your derogatory way in which you go after Bob. Regardless of bob’s views name calling does not show respect or concern. Especially if you view him as in error I think you’d want to show a concerned tone. But your comment sounds quite the opposite. I think you’ll find most people on here will react negatively to name calling. Obviously you feel strongly, but there are kinder ways to show extreme disagreement.

          • Heather McCallon Guymon

            Only if you tell me you are Darth Vader. Anything else…then no.

    • Peter Boling

      Please don’t take your near non-existent libido out on the rest of us with higher libidos, or on those who ARE NOT MARRIED, who are the intended audience of this post in the first place.

    • Dan Oprac

      Oh dear. The letter that was sent about oral sex 30 years ago was read by my Stake President in our Married ward at BYU. One week later, he returned and told all of us that 1. The letter had gone out without being seen by the Quorum of the 12 (not that that matters much–but could have saved some trouble) 2. Sex therapists immediately called the prophet, sat down with him and explained that oral sex is the only way may can come to orgasm, and 3. that the First Presidency was “quietly rescinding” the letter. In my wife’s stake, her Stake President never even read it to the stake, but threw it in the garbage can… Today, most have never even heard of the letter peering in detail into our bedrooms. The question in the temple recommend interview that used to ask if we engaged in any “unnatural sexual practices” was also quietly taken out of the questions. And yes, as one who was in a Bishopric and read the new Church handbook back to back, the “M” word is completely taken out. However, it is still in the Youth booklets.

      • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

        Wow Dan, thanks for sharing. That really exposes a lot more on the subject. I had always wondered the more in depth story about that letter. I assumed it was something along those lines. At least vaguely.

  • Sean

    Thank you so much for this post. I cannot express how grateful I am that you wrote this but know there have been many tears of pain over this issue and tears of joy for those willing to take a stand. Thank you.

  • Whopaldi Bananapants

    Oh gosh… a friend of mine had this “problem” and she talked to the bishop about it. I do it too, but havent been doing it for a long time. Now Im starting again and I was wondering whether to stop or not. I stiil am not sure, but I dont have will to stop. Im really, really confused.
    Im a member for a year (almost), I love the church, I love the Gospel and everything, but sometimes Im not sure about the doctrine.

  • Greg

    I have been fascinated by this topic these last few days, and wanted to post my own experience. Not sure if anyone is still watching this, hope so because it needs to be talked about. I am a 30 year old male, still single and very active in the church. The church is incredibly important to me and I intend it to always be that way.

    Being single however is tough. I have never completely masturbated, though I must admit to “tip toeing” around the line so to speak where I get a little curious and each time that happens, it ends up with some pretty extreme guilt. There was however, one time, where I was “tip toeing” and things ended up with a “whoops” (pardon my euphemism hahah) where I ended up having a mild orgasm. I noticed though however, that after this “whoops” there was a residual effect on the rest of my body. Things just felt good and right in a way….the chemicals were flowing in my brain and all that….and I can only guess that that is one of the physiological benefits of actual sex. Being starved of that for so long, combined with the occasional bouts of guilt I bring upon myself has led to the point where I feel like I have some pretty strong complexes about anything sexual that are probably contributing to my still being single! I worry if I’m still single and sabotage my relationships because I’m terrified of sex or something….not impossible given the “sex is bad” upbringing I have. It almost only makes sense to “allow” masturbation as a healthy practice within the church. If the church wants us to get married so badly, teach us to become aware of who we are and to not run from it. We are sexual beings, but as a single adult within the church, you are NOT ALLOWED to have a sexual identity. I have been taught that ANY sexual feelings outside of marriage are bad. But I feel like if I wasn’t so sexually starved, my perspective on a marriage partner would be greatly impacted, and this for the better! When considering girls to date, I probably focus on looks way to much (a common thing for LDS guys I’d say)… just because I want to have sex so badly! I would be so much more in tune with my own sexuality that I would have a better idea of what truly and genuinely makes me happy, not just in a sexual context, but emotional as well.

    The only thing that’s really stopping me from embracing this side of me is I don’t want to finally meet someone, get close to marriage, only to tell her that I think masturbation is ok and have that be a deal breaker with her. That would absolutely break my heart. I want to be the best person I can be for whoever I marry. I’m an attractive guy who has things going well for him, but I don’t feel like I could stand up very well to a bishop who’s telling me I can’t go to the temple because I masturbate, or to a sweet girl whos heartbroken by my nontraditional practices. I don’t want that to happen. I too wish the General Authorities would provide a little more clarification to us. The church is true, and full of good members who would do exactly what they say. If they were to come out and say masturbation is ok, but be prayerful about it or something like that, that’s exactly what the members would do. Simply posting two or three talks from ages ago on lds.org to sit there and haunt us I feel is incredibly insufficient. Especially for such an important issue that so many people struggle with. Yes we are agents unto ourselves like the scriptures say and can work through things on our own with the Lord, but not when your bishop steps in and puts everything to a screeching halt by taking away your temple recommend. I feel like that’s kind of contradictory…

    Thank you for reading this for anyone that has. I would love to hear feedback.

    • MrShorty

      “We are sexual beings, but as a single adult within the church, you are
      NOT ALLOWED to have a sexual identity. I have been taught that ANY
      sexual feelings outside of marriage are bad.”

      I don’t believe that this the message that the church intends to teach us. However, I do believe that this is a message that many of us perceive we are being taught (and perception is 9/10′s of reality). I agree that we need to do a better job at teaching about sexuality and chastity in a way that will allow us (even singles) to embrace our sexuality while striving to keep sexual expression between husband and wife.

      How masturbation fits into that, I don’t know. I agree with a lot of what Natasha says here. If masturbation is a sin, it is not a serious sin.

      As for how a future spouse might feel about your more liberal attitude toward it? I would hope that you find a way past the internal gridlock over this part of the problem. Become comfortable with your sexual self and let the chips fall where they may. I think that part of preparing for marriage is accepting and embracing your sexuality. If she does not like your views and opinions on your sexuality, then you can revisit your attitudes at that time and see if any changes need to be made. If you feel confident in your sexual ideas and she is not, better to find that out before marriage than after marriage.

  • faithbond777

    Do what works best for you… There will always be people telling you that this or that is good / bad for you, but for you to live to their words, will always make you unhappy.

    Some of what you have written is echoed in my blog post (on abstinence) which you can find on faithbond777.wordpress.com

  • HS

    I’m not sure if I completely agree with this article but there are some good points. I’m 28 and female. And it’s really hard to even talk about this topic because I feel like leaders are so surprised. That this is “only a guy problem”. For me personally, it has been a major struggle and when it happens, I feel the guilt and shame. I blame my circumstance (not being blessed with marriage) on this. And afraid that any worthy guy would see right through my countenance. I’m endowed but haven’t really attended the temple for three years. Have had different bishops tell me different things and even went to counseling. For me personally, I’d rather be free from it so I can enjoy confidence and self worth. I feel like its not right and partly because of it feel very separated from the Spirit. But on the same page it has helped me understand people who deal with similar things. Something I found helpful is pretend you’re talking to God. What do you think he’ll say to you? I don’t think he will be too harsh and would be understanding. But also think it would be best to rid myself of such mischief. I don’t know if I’ll be able to overcome this before marriage. I have tried so many different things.

    • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

      Perhaps one of the reasons it is so hard is because you assume your separation from the Spirit is because of masturbation. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. But I think you may find yourself surprised that much of what may bring these negative feelings is presumed guilt. I struggled with OCPD. During that time I felt that everything I did in regards to sexuality, Even getting aroused by just being around a beautiful woman would cause all sorts of intense feelings of guilt etc… I obviously don’t know everything. But I know that guilt, negative emotions don’t always equal not having the Spirit. In the Book of Mormon it even talks about the Lamanites “…because of their faith in me at the time of their
      conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they
      knew it not.” (3 Ne 9:20)

      I am not so sure I would be so quick to judge yourself.

      Especially since you obviously want so badly to do the right thing. That in and of itself shows how amazing you already are, and very much inline with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Which is above all else doing your best. There is no one check list of righteousness. Points you must make in this life to ensure a full reward. You simply ensure that by striving to be your best. Which if I were to guess you do WAAAAY more then you are aware of.

      Another thought I have for you is that perhaps consider that you have framed yourself in a context of “animal passions” or “dirty thoughts” etc… Or in other words you view your sexuality as a single LDS women as something to be ashamed of, or the fact that you have such a strong desire to explore/utilize the beautiful gift of sexuality as inherently evil.

      I am positive that even as a single LDS person your sexuality is a beautiful gift from God, and that your “struggle” with masturbation may not be the one you think it is. Perhaps God has given it to you as a healthy safe tool to fulfill that measure of yourself without being unchaste. In my opinion you have done nothing to dishonor your temple covenants by masturbating, and I think it is a beautiful part of being a daughter of Heavenly Father. But of course that does not mean much since it is a) my opinion, and b) more important that whatever you decide you feel at peace with.

      I will say I have struggled with sexuality in the past, and even as a married man it is a topic that doesn’t disappear. In fact I think you will find with most people, if they are being honest…. will admit sexuality, especially in the context of being mormon is a rough topic to deal with.

      Have you honestly entertained that your answer may be not what you assume it is? Perhaps opening yourself to being more ok with whatever the answer God gives you may be the solution. Perhaps he is trying to teach you something that you haven’t thought of yet. And that may not mean to necessarily abstain from masturbation.

      These are just thoughts for you to mull over… but with your statement above the most thing I would be concerned about having spoken with a number of people now about the issue of masturbation is that you allow yourself to feel devalued, and dissconnected from God when really he is there with you the whole time. And that is the biggest problem, not the masturbation even if it is a problem. Wanting sexual fufillment, is healthy, natural, not evil… Sure it needs to be rightly controled, but control doesnt necessarily mean no involvement at all, it might just mean used in the right ways. Eg fornication… probably not a great coping tool. masturbation… that is not nearly as defined as many would have you believe in the church, and there is plenty of supporting evidence for that.

      I hope this helps, and I apologize for any stupid things I may have said. My intentions are to help you find comfort, because I am 100% sure that God wants you to love yourself as much as he loves you. Especially considering how hard you appear to be trying, especially regardless of your struggles to learn to deal with the natural, good, positive appetites of our body. Even if at times it is difficult. It is a struggle you are not alone in. If there is anything more I can offer. I gladly will.

      • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

        Also any husband who is good enough for you… he definitely ought to love you enough to compassionately understand your struggles. You are definitely not damaged goods in any sense because you struggle with your sexual feelings and habits. Even if you had pre-marital sex. Your value is in no way shape or form degraded one ounce, and does not pre-clude you from all the blessings that God has for you. Even if you don’t see that right now.

      • HS

        Thank you for your comments. They really helped!

        • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

          I’m so glad:) Sex and our sexual identity is a key part to understanding God. He did in fact give us sex after all;) Not to shame us, but to lift us up:D

  • Frank

    I’m a 31 married lds man. I have a wonderful wife and kids. Unfortunately my job requires that I travel out of town several nights a week. I have tried everything I can think of to overcome the desire to masturbate, but “letting virtue garnish my thoughts” just isn’t enough most weeks. I’ve broached the subject of Skype sex with my wife but she feels it inappropriate.

    I’ve always been taught growing up in the church that masturbation is wrong. I’ve tried many times to quit permanently, ultimately ending up in the bishops office. Recently, I discovered that there isn’t anything against masturbation in the church handbook.

    Now I’m at a crossroads. Part of me feels that masturbation is fine. That it’s a natural part of life and a good way of not getting in bigger trouble (pornography) while I’m on the road. The other part of me feels crushed under guilt and depression to the point of despair.

    So I don’t know what to do. I can’t quit my job right this minute and I can’t just shut off my sex drive either. If anyone has any thoughts I’d love to hear them.

    • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

      I’m lds, married and 31 as well. While I don’t go out of town all the time for work, I’ve felt a small slice of your pain when I or my wife leave on a trip for a few days. We both have high sex drives, and besides that we just love our sex life.

      We personally feel fine about it within our marriage. There were quite a few years early on when we both felt like it would be wrong. We also thought the same thing about internet sex.

      But as we progressed through life, and I would like to think our gospel understanding, intimate understanding of the purpose of sexual intimacy in a marriage our views changed significantly.

      Our biggest caveat has always been that any “special alone time” would be authorized by our spouse. Because we wanted the purpose of it to be to help us come closer, not simply to just gratify some desire.

      However our standing agreement that was mutually concluded is that essentially whenever the other one wants, wherever, etc… they can.

      For us it actually took gigantic amounts of tension out of our sexual life, and actually increased the emotional bonding we experienced.

      if the other was having a problem with frequency, trust issues, it was understood that we would discuss it more, and that at any time either one of us could say we don’t want to engage in it as part of our marital intimacy.

      That helped, to recognize we were doing it togeather, and that sex was not just for one or the other. But by me allowing my wife to take care of herself when for whatever reason I couldn’t or me the same privlidge it actually developed this really strong sense of “they love me so much, they want me to be sexually pleased even if they get nothing out of it” To us it was romantic.

      We’ve also felt internet sex was more then ok. Mostly because what difference is there between a married couple stimulating each other via audio, and video connections and self stimulation? How is that really different then normal sex.

      I think a lot of the issues you are experiencing are what we experienced. We had alot of similair concerns. So we took it before the Lord, and said here is what we want to do, let us know if we are doing something wrong. otherwise we are moving forward.

      Anyhow my biggest suggestion is to have lots of honest dialogue with the wife. I mean regardless of what you both choose… unresolved sexual conflict is rough. And I would assume the focus would be figuring out a way to show the most amount of love towards each other.

      There are a lot of people who will tell you how to lead your sex life in the church… my opinion is I wouldn’t listen to any of them. that includes me. It’s all interesting information. But in the end you and your wife are the best decision makers. I found when we were looking to others to tell us what we could and couldn’t do it stemmed for us from a lack of trust and confidence that we could discover our own answers with the Lord. For marital intimacy I think that is the highest court.

      I only share our thoughts on specifics as an example of what works for us… but it is an evolving thing to. We never say what works today will work tomorrow. And that helps keep us flexible to learn how to better nurture our marriage, and not stick to some arcane or overly liberal application.

      I hope this helps. Feel free to ask me anymore questions. I am no therapist by any means. But after lots of years growing up in the church married and unmarried. I feel like its a small thing I can offer to others. Ya know, so they don’t feel alone. Because we don’t talk about this anywhere else. So at least I can provide just another example of somebody else struggling to define sexuality in their marriage.

      I think it’s better to not start a sexual conversation in marriage with what we will and wont do. I think that sets up boundaries to a healthy discussion. Even if you desire to do something that is wrong, better to talk it out with a caring spouse, then to let it fester. I’d rather talk to my wife that I am having adulterous thoughts about her friend, then to pretend they don’t exist. But that is just us. That may not work for everyone.

      For us the total transparency was key, and from there we discussed things in terms of how to fufill the others sexual needs, as opposed to why something was dirty, wrong, or inappropriate. And if we disagreed we kept praying, pondering, fasting, etc… until we came to the same conclusion. I mean we are told we don’t need to be one in everything in our marriage. but I think sex is one of the few things we really need to be identically united on as best we can.

      Best of luck!

      • Frank

        Hey Past,

        Thank you for your comments and support. I haven’t yet found the courage to discuss this issue with my espouse but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

        • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

          No problem man. It’s a tough area to deal with. Especially I think for church members. And I understand the not having courage thing. Best wishes for you.

  • Nathan

    The truth about masturbation is, that you don’t need to use pornography to do so. I think a lot of the conservative study about pornography is very extreme though. I don’t think someone looking at porn is going to become violent or criminal, but I generally do disagree with it even though I’m guilty of having done it. Pornography has been a problem in the past, but now with the internet people have access to porn like never before with google images and other sites when all people had was access to magazines before. This has caused a lot of people to see counselors saying they can’t stop thinking about sex or compulsively masturbating. That is when they are advised to stop viewing porn or visiting chat rooms and social networking sites where sexual content is discussed.

    However, masturbation within itself is not an attempt to arouse your sexual feelings, but more of an attempt to release them. I’d rather a teenage boy take out a girl after he has already released his tensions instead of constantly thinking more and more about sex.

    Those who don’t masturbate will either have more nocturnal emissions, and if they can’t produce those can develop an unhealthy hypertension where medical doctors might even advise young men to masturbate if they are in too much pain for not releasing their tension.

    I would strongly advise those not to stress so much over what some church leaders have said about masturbation and do what you believe is right and not addicting. Masturbation is actually not even a question on the temple recommend interview and is something they have no business asking you. They elaborate and go into graphic detail on the chastity question and that is none of their business.

    If you feel you have some trouble with masturbation and it is depressing you, what you can try is seeing your doctor about clinical depression and SSRIs can reduce libido a bit, and take some fish oil tables and do some more increased exercise. These aren’t necessarily for the purpose of lowering libido, but if masturbation serves as a stress reliever for you, than it can help you to find some ways to reduce stress and you won’t feel a need to do it except for when the tension is built up too high.

    • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

      I really appreciate your down to earth attitude hear. I hope more people can focus on figuring out what they personally feel about the issue as opposed to parroting the assumed popular conservative opinion, or a few very old quotes that seem to have been purposely left out of recent church materials…

  • Muscogean

    Nastasha, I use to have a problem with you. Now I embrace you completely. You are absolutely correct in this issue. I am an elder (over seventy years of age). I am still a sexual human being. This revealed stance, I assume toward men and women, lifts self esteem and self hatred from members of the church (including 80,000 LDS missionaries currently serving). God bless!

    • http://natashaparker.org Natasha Helfer Parker

      Thanks for your comments.

  • Arizona12

    I agree with most of what Natasha has to say. When I serve my
    mission, my mission president was a family therapist and sex therapist too. I
    do recall him saying that masturbation is health and normal. Many elders would come back from their leadership
    meeting and they would say that the mission president told them more about sex.
    He was open to discuss these things.

    I do believe is a normal and healthy thing. I do believe
    what Natasha said about masturbation, “Masturbation
    is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression.” I do believe if one going masturbation it is
    their choice not their bishop. Like many in the church I was taught that masturbation
    was wrong. My first time I felt guilty, but did not felt awful, nor I felt it
    was a sin. One should not feel shame or guilty for a normal health part of
    being human.

  • Dan Oprac

    Usually I just ignore vitriol like that coming from Vickie. But really? Whether you agree or not Vickie, there is no need to speak to another human this way. Say that you disagree, and explain why. Don’t name call and call people dishonest. I am sure the author is making the most honest assessment she knows how based on the evidence as she reads it. Your argument of “Literally anything” reeks of hyperbole. Sex with dogs, really? From what studies? Anything? From what studies? According to you, all studies are human and evil and shouldn’t be done, quoted, footnoted or referred to. Truth comes from many sources, and begins with “studying it out in your own mind” before praying. Many have struggled, studied, and prayed about this issue without prejudice. Have you? If so, and you still disagree, GREAT! Share your feelings and studies, but don’t put down others for having a different opinion.

  • disqus_xKVEPSYzFz

    I am very Religious and God has saved me from dieing when I had cansor at a young age. Here is my stand on this topic. First off masturbation is a commen act and everyone does it. 99% of men do it and the other 1% are lieing. Life is a hard jurny and our jurny ends in heaven. As long as you are kind to your neighbor a good person and believe in the Lord I believe that you will get in to heaven. I also have fantacys and there is nothing wrong with that either. God made us, the fetishs and fantacys we have the Lord knows of. And although I wouldn’t want to live with out my fantacys I am not controlled by them. I also think its ironic that the first things they teach you in Cathlic school is not to judge others and yet people are judging each other. Is this wrong, should same sex marriage be leagle that is judging. Judging a person is the job of our Lord God and when we die we shall go before him. As long as you are a good person and do the best you can to help others, I believe you will make it. The Lord is kind and merciful believe in him. You can’t just full on believe everything the church and bible says 110% the Church and bible are there to guide us, keep us from straying from the path, but God gave us free will. Which means we have to work things out on our own. If you ever have dout about what you are doing block out everyone else, and look into your heart. For it is in our hearts that we will find God. God Bless!

  • Alex Rogan

    “I understand there are many who might comment with old quotes in our
    church’s history which will attempt to show my position is incorrect. I
    am sure I have read the quotes and I am uninterested in them”

    It is not intellectually honest to dismiss evidence contrary to your position because you personally find it ‘uninteresting’.

    Here are the facts: President Spender W Kimball couseled the Saints to not do it, he specifically warned that it could lead to ‘more serious sins’ indicating that it is a sin (although not as serious as some others sins). He did this in General Conference speaking to the church as the Prophet and President of the Church and no prophet since him has provided any new direction on this. Other GA’s have also condemned this in General Conference sessions. No where, and no time has any other direction been given. There is no situation or status or circumstances where they church has ever given any degree of approval to it.

    Currently, For the Strength of Youth warns against doing anything that would create sexual arousal, and that clearly would include masturbation. The pamphlet ‘To the Young Men’ which is exclusively about forbidding masturbation is still on lds.org as a resource for the Aaronic Priesthood. The Family Relations course currently in use also quotes SWK condemning it, and this is a course directed at married couples. The relatively new Institute manual for the Eternal Marriage course quotes SWK condemning masturbation as a sexual relationship outside of marriage giving that ‘old quote’ a current day stamp of approval and again indicating that it is not acceptable within marriage.

    You can choose to follow the world or follow the Prophet. Condoning masturbation is not following the Prophet. Please reconsider your views.

    • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

      Wow Alex, you really need to research more on this topic bud. I could restate what has been said throughout all the different quotes. but honestly I think you need to take the time to honestly consider the teachings about what comes over the pulpit. I can point to at least two general conference talks that warn us to not assume that anything spoken over the pulpit at general conference is necessarily doctrine of the church.

      Secondly another important test of official church teachings is that it is repeated, and repeated often. Also please find the general authority talks in relation to this subject. Sir Iask you to please reconsider your views, and also assuming that she is not following the prophet because she interprets teachings of the church differntly then you is a bit self righteous. I am genuinely glad you are concerned with those who read this material. However a few prophetic quotes does not make something doctrine, or the word of God. Even in the Book of Mormon they recognize that there would be imperfections in it, and asked us to not condemn them for it. If the Book of Mormon, one of the most pure books we have, can contain imperfections… then it seems that no prophet would be above them.

      In regards to those manuals you site. Please realize that most of that material contain copyright dates… from around the time of Spencer W Kimball… I have done intensive research on teachings regarding masturbation, picked over church literature, etc…

      While there are a tiny handful of quotes relating to it. They are almost exclusively under the leadership of President Kimball. He was a prophet of God, he was not infallible.

      And if this teaching is definitely doctrine… why do we not hear it so emphatically repeated like do not look at pornography? If it really is to lead to such serious sins, and given the fact that a GIGANTIC percentage of people church members not excluded. I believe it’s in the 60-70% (higher then pornography rates in the church) Why do we hear nothing in general conference? Why does the general handbook not mention the word masturbation once! I mean if it is as serious a sin as you claim… and seeing as it is so extremely wide spread an issue… why has the Church stayed so quiet on the matter, yet on pornography they have clearly stated there stance.

      While I admit it is possible that it is a sin, this is by no means an official church stance, and to insinuate such is harmful. This is not some confession that I regularly masturbate and desperately need to justify myself. Rather that spreading things to be doctirine that aren’t is dangerous ground. And Natasha is simply stating her professional, and spiritual opinion on the matter after much study. She does not discount the quotes, she simply infers that she has read through them and has been convinced now that they are not a stance on doctrine.

      • http://www.pastprimitive.com Past Primitive™

        Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present,
        necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single
        leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though
        well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for
        the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency…and
        the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles…counsel together to establish
        doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church
        publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of
        scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and
        Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and
        proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often
        taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.
        —LDS Newsroom, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine,” lds.org (4 May 2007)

        • Alex Rogan

          Using the word ‘doctrine’ is a bit of a red herring. When the prophet and president of the church gets up in General Conference and counsels the membership saying the Lord wants them to do this or forbids them to do that, pointing at the standard works and saying there aren’t any verses in there giving them that same counsel doesn’t get you off the hook. We are not sola scriptura protestants.

          And if you are going to hang your hat on that word, where is the doctrine that something has to be repeated often to be doctrine? How much repetition does there have to be for it to count as doctrine, and what precisely counts as a repetition? A press release from the LDS Newsroom isn’t doctrine either.

          But the press release does say “the First Presidency…and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles…counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications” so lets run with that for the heck of it.

          I can go to lds.org right now, today, and find multiple instances of masturbation being condemned in official publications. For example: General Conference Ensigns, For the Strength of Youth, the Family Relations course, the Institute Eternal Marriage course, and the ‘To the Young Men’ pamphlet. All of them are official church publications on lds.org and in current use that consistently condemn masturbation.

          Several prophets and other GA’s before SWK have also taught this, he didn’t come up with it out of the blue, but he did say pretty much everything that needs to be said about it and he is the one that tends to be quoted when it comes up in those materials (giving a current day stamp of approval to what he said) rather than leaders from back in the 50′s or the 1870′s or 1880′s but this is far from being ‘a single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion’.

          I agree that they don’t often talk specifically about it. It seems to come in waves followed by periods where they focus on other things. I think the most you can read into that is that often there are bigger issues to address, not that is is somehow OK now. The standard set by that press release establishes the position of the church today is that it is a sin.

          I’m sure that Sis Parker is well trained in her field, but her credentials don’t give her any authority to declare what is moral, and what is and is not a sin. That is not her area of expertise. She has to look to the leaders of the church for that, and they are saying it is not OK.

          • tansyragwort

            Dear Alex,

            You my brother, seem very, very smart. You know how to debate. Even so well as to remove the ability of others to argue or disagree. But this is not a debate. This never was. This is an discussion in search of truth by those who are unsure. Who feel differently than you do. And no matter who you quote or what you say, you’re wrong. As my husband once taught me, even if you’re right, you’re wrong. Because you’re trying to debate them into believing. It will never work.

            I applaud your commitment to what you feel is right, but I wonder and worry that perhaps you might be missing the real doctrine here. The only one that matters.

            Christ of course. Not prophets. Not General Authorities. Who are they? Men. Good, honest men. Who are called of God in a divine mission. But still men. And some, like Past Primitive there, are looking for Christ’s truth, not just what men say.

            From 2012:
            “At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.” -D. Todd Christofferson

            So maybe it is fair to them to say, look this is one opinion under one prophet who then affected all these pamphlets. But I don’t feel it is binding to me. Especially when I look at past statements about masturbation that say it leads to homosexuality or even insanity (some in the same talk). And these seekers of truth, not merely evil people seeking as you say to condone sin.

            And to quote SWK: “The early apostles and prophets mention numerous sins that were reprehensible to them… They included all sexual relations outside marriage—petting, sex perversion, masturbation, and preoccupation with sex in one’s thoughts and talking.”

            You could debate from that quote that masturbation is only wrong outside marriage. But what is that but more debate? No, please don’t. This is not a debate. I beg you to not turn the Gospel into that. What is Christ and what would he have us do, if not show love? And invite the Spirit. What Spirit is there in quoting and arguing? What truth can be found there? None.

            Even if you’re right, you’re wrong. Why? Because there is no love or looking to Christ and his Spirit. Only appeals to authority, which works for you. But not for everyone. It isn’t the Gospel Of President Kimball, or Paul, or Moses, or any man. It’s Christ’s gospel and he is what matters.

            There are too many ways to sin to list them all. To find them all in the bible or quotes or any scripture. Is that not why we have the Holy Ghost? And if these good seekers of truth, who are HUNGERING after righteousness feel differently than you in their hearts, then how dare you treat that lightly. That is their testimony and they have to answer to God for it. Not you. Just like I can’t answer for you and your strong testimony of the leaders. That’s great. You will be held accountable for it and judged by it. That is the glimmer of truth you have. But not everyone has that spiritual gift. To some is given one, to others another. If you really want to help someone find truth, you can’t quote at them. You have to speak by the spirit. You have to do so with love, with their best interest at heart, rather than the goal of being right and picking apart their statements. The truth never has been and never will be a debate.

            Please, please, please consider again. Do you seek to help others find truth or do you seek to show others they are wrong? There is a big difference. And I can’t say I see anywhere in your statements anything but condemnation and contention and blank demands without any openness to truth. You have your truth and you won’t listen to any more. “A bible, a bible, we have a bible.” I sincerely hope this is not the case. Please, let me be wrong. Thank you for listening dear brother. I wish you the best.

  • Ross Wilcox

    I wish everyone on here and in the world would stop freaking out about whether or not this is “doctrine” or “not doctrine.” I mean, do we really need a manual to dictate our actions in every minute detail, when we are given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, prayer, and our own reason to determine our course.

    “And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, o man, remember, and perish not” (Mosiah 4:29-39).

    Again, “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:26-28).

    THAT is the doctrine. God expects us to be committed to Him. To keep our thoughts, words, and deeds clean and holy, and to strive for perfection, despite our shortcomings, relying on His grace.

    I understand the confusion on this subject. It’s natural to want to know where we stand in relation to the truth. But as far as it has not been clearly and deliberately revealed to us, let’s be responsible Christians, make a decision, and strive for holiness.

    If you ask me, I personally feel that masturbation is wrong. But I don’t believe I need to beat myself up about it or feel terrible if I occasionally struggle to avoid it, because I know I’m a work in progress. I’d like to shoot for purity in all forms, but I’m not there yet, and that’s okay.

    And I’m not saying my view is right. Maybe it isn’t. But it’s what works for me, and it’s the kind of person I want to be. If someone disagrees, great, if you feel comfortable with it. I don’t doubt you’re also a great person who strives for holiness.

    So I think the issue is more personal, and we shouldn’t seek a universal answer until God provides one. And maybe He never will, because maybe it’s just not that important! Or maybe it is, but that’s for us to discern.

    • Ross Wilcox

      Addendum: I understand that some church leaders have quite clearly and adamantly spoken out against masturbation. I feel that anybody can take that as a cue or not. My reason for not condoning masturbation is based largely on the passage on sexual purity from For the Strength of Youth. That’s enough for me. But as long as THIS particular act is not CLEARLY defined in Church doctrine, I have no right to judge someone who supports it. Nor does anyone who supports it have the right to judge me for opposing it. It is best to just leave it alone. See Romans 14.

  • B Daniels

    A very well-written article if I ever read one concerning what can be a sensitive topic. Men and women (myself included, a young single adult who’s struggled with this issue and pornography) would definitely benefit in reading and considering the information here.

    I guess the question I have now is this: Can high-quality photographs of nudes in non-abstract poses (i.e. nothing is censored) be non-pornographic in nature and actually have artistic value, regardless if the nude subject is male or female?

    • MrShorty

      Interesting question. I doubt I have a solid answer. At the heart of your question is trying to understand and define exactly what makes something pornographic. I have not yet seen a solid definition that holds true for all scenarios.

      IMO, nude photos can be non-pornographic. For something to be pornographic, I think there should be “sexualization” of the subject matter. Is the sexualization of a photo to be determined by the creator/photographer/artist’s intent? Or should it be determined by the attitude of the consumer/viewer?

      In many respects, I think it is a tough question for a conservative church like ours to consider — especially when one gets into the real world examples trying to determine which ones are pornographic and which ones aren’t.

  • becky

    Most humans have some level of sexual desire. Also, not all humans have a sex drive. This is another topic. Back to masturbation. Masturbation is the only way for a human to successfully release the buildup of sexual tension in their body. Some males experience what is called “blue balls” if semen is not released. This is a proven medical issue. You can Google it. Not all men have “wet dreams” which helps release the semen. So, you can’t argue that blue balls will be treated automatically with wet dreams. Humans are biological creatures that have needs. There have been scientifically proven research to show the negative psychological side effects when humans do not release sexual tension in their bodies. Google this if you need to check my argument. Doctors have found that masturbation in women can help relieve and prevent menstrual migraines due to the hormones released in women after reaching orgasm from masturbation. This is a better solution than taking migraine medicines like Imitrex which can cause heart attacks and death. I will agree that watching porn and masturbation are not synonymous. Some people watch porn to help them masturbate and others don’t need any outside images to masturbate. The LDS church’s stance on sex outside marriage is due to their belief that sex is a form of procreation, which is essentially acting as God. Their belief is also that it brings couples closer together emotionally. As long as masturbation is not causing problems in a relationship, there should be no doctrine against it. Masturbation doesn’t result in any act of procreation. Some say that masturbation will lead LDS members, who are not married, to have a greater desire to go out and have sex with someone or that it will cause one partner to have a sexual affair if their spouse is away from them or doesn’t have as high as a sex drive as them. This is a broad assumption. If people really want to go and have sex, they will go do it, whether or not masturbation is happening. Another question is, why is the topic of masturbation taking precedence over another overeating and not exercising? If God is so concerned with what we do with our bodies, then this last issue is killing more people than masturbation is doing harm. At every church function, there is food, and most of it is unhealthy. Where are church pamphlets, conference talks and Ensign articles on food, nutrition, and exercise? Where are the Bishop interview questions about what people are eating and drinking? (soda pop, which causes all sorts of health problems)

  • lisa jester

    they should not be going to you for counsel on a spiritual matter, you do not represent Christ, and you’re not their bishop or spiritual leader, and you’re confused about some of his teachings. I don’t think masturbation is next to murder in it’s seriousness, but when the Lord and his leaders counseled us to be self sufficient masturbation is not what they are referring to.

  • becky

    I forgot to mention: BYU-Idaho is a a church school. The head of this school is the prophet. At BYU-Idaho, in Early Childhood Development major courses, it is taught that it is normal for young children to explore their body and in doing so they touch their genital and orgasms can and do follow. When does masturbation become “normal” and okay for young children and wrong for adults? Perhaps this instructor at BYU-Idaho was counceled not to teach this in the future. Who knows, I don’t. All I know is that I find it very curious that we accept this part of human development and behavior, but only when a certain age is assigned to it.

  • Barak Fisher

    I am sorry, but you are very confused. You do not stand for Christ. The sin is next to murder. Would Christ do such a thing? No! He wouldn’t. One day, before God, you will know that you were wrong for what you said. And you will repent. To all those that are reading this article, be strong, and stand against evil.

    • Arizona12

      I am a bit confuse, are you talking about masturbation? Let be honest, Masturbation is not the third greatest sin. Third greatest sin will child molestation and four is rape. If you made a list of the top 20 sins, you wouldn’t add masturbation in that list. That if masturbation is a sin. I would say most of that list would be sexual but not add.

      • Barak Fisher

        Your confused on what’s right and what’s wrong. You may just blow this over and think I don’t know what I’m talking about, but one day you will realize what is right. Does masturbation bring you closer to Christ? No.


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