Morality? We can do much better than this…

I was shocked to read the most recent article on sexual morality that was just published in the March 2014 issue of the Ensign by Elder Tad R. Callister regarding a recent fireside he gave at BYU-Idaho, and have spoken with several other LDS professional therapists who were shocked as well.  I do not take the critique of a standing General Authority’s position lightly – but I cannot stand silent on what I see as an extremely harmful approach to the sexual education of our members.  Here are some of the things I take issue with:

  • Callister singlehandedly wipes away all evidence-based “best practice” methods or approaches, as well as any personal revelation for self or child by stating that, “One declaration (from God) trumps all the opinions of the lower courts, whether uttered by psycholo­gists, counselors, politicians, friends, par­ents, or would­ be moralists of the day.”  The problem with this approach, of course (discussed in General Conference by Uchtdorf), is that God’s “declarations” have been communicated and interpreted by fallible men – Callister included.  This is why it is so important to rely not only on prophetic teachings but also such doctrinal principles as personal revelation, intellectual study, spiritual study, and the influence of healthy approaches from therapists, parents, loved ones and others who would have our best interests in mind when coming to conclusions on such an important and sacred topic as sexual morality.

  • Callister refers to masturbation as “self-abuse.”  This is not an appropriate clinical term.  Self-abuse is a term currently used to describe unhealthy coping behaviors people use in order to manage overwhelming depression and anxiety (i.e. ritualistic cutting of the skin, pulling of hair, picking of scabs, burning of skin, etc.).  If you’re going to take a stand either for or against masturbation – please call it masturbation.  Also, to refer to masturbation as self-abuse shames a natural developmental process that begins in the womb and hinders an important relationship with self that needs to be developed in a shame-free environment in order to facilitate the transition into healthy marital sexuality.  He states that the Lord “condemns” masturbation – I have seen no evidence of this in any scriptural resource.  The only “condemning” has come from a religious culture at large (way before Mormonism even existed) and certain LDS prophets of old who have spoken on the subject (particularly President Kimball and Elder Packer).  But even Elder Packer demoted masturbation from “sin” to “transgression” in his address to young men back in the 1970′s.
  • Callister uses fear-based language and overall approach that is inconducive to healthy sexual education.  Although there is correct principle behind understanding the gravity of sexual responsibility towards others and self – using a fear-based approach to get this point across is not effective and usually contributes to problems rather than solving them.  He uses provocative imagery language (such as an Octopus’ tentacles coming to get you) that elicits anxiety, fear and gives Satan more power than he deserves in our daily cognitive existence.  When we teach through fear, we increase anxiety.  And anxiety increases the probability of unhealthy coping strategies: exactly the opposite of what we want when dealing with sexuality.  I cannot stress this enough!!!  For a culture that is obsessed with using an addiction paradigm to deal with pornography viewing, for example, we need to recognize that this fear-based approach contributes to the types of behaviors we are so desperately trying to stop.  As leaders and educators we need to knock it off!
  • Callister allows for no level of arousal or sexual thought outside of a spouse as a natural part of being a mortal human.  He speaks of avoiding material that is “pornographic in ANY way.”  For many of my OCD clients this becomes an impossible feat (because it is defined rigidly) – they cannot enjoy a museum where fine art depicts the human body, they cannot go to work where there exists “walking pornography” through what is considered immodest dress, they cannot develop any tolerance to the sexual nature of the human experience.  This is just not a mature or realistic way to deal with sexuality and it gives sexual imagery more power than it would otherwise have if we could normalize the fact that sexuality has always been and will always be part of the human story – in art, literature, music, science, etc.   Again more fear: “No one can claim to be fooled by the effects of pornography, believing there is any such thing as an innocent glance. It is a poisonous, venomous, unforgiving snake that will strike the moment you take your first look and will continue to strike with a full portion of venom with each look thereafter.”  Goodness grief!  The imagery is just awful and anxiety producing.  If anyone spoke to my children like this about any aspect of sexuality – I would be incensed.  It uses inappropriate addiction-style language and promotes self-fulfilling prophecies which rob individuals of a more nuanced, agency-friendly approach to sexual experiences they may have had in the past or will continue to have in the future.  And even though he uses addiction language, he goes against current addiction treatment (AA approach) by stating “at some point willpower will be an indispensable ingredient—there is not a pill or counseling technique to solve every addiction.”  He is just not qualified to make these types of statements that can wreak havoc for those who are legitimately undergoing addiction treatment.
  • Callister’s statements on modest dress are sexist and offensive to both men and women.  First of all “modesty” is only talked about in the context of clothing and it is only addressed to women.  He participates in classic “rape culture” ideology where the woman is responsible for the man’s sexual thoughts and actions.  This paragraph was truly shocking: “Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self­ respect and to the moral purity of men. In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.”  I am literally left speechless.
  • Callister speaks of “lust” as the reason why many would choose to have premarital or extramarital sexual experience.  First of all, lust need not be demonized as a feeling itself.  Lust is just another word for sexual arousal – and there are many times when it is appropriate to feel lust and especially to lust after your spouse: “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.  Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.”  Proverbs 5:18-19  Now like any other feeling – if it causes behavior that is harmful to self or another, of course, it should be checked and appropriately managed.  Secondly, there are many more complicated issues that contribute to sexual choices than “selfish lust”: past sexual, physical or emotional abuse, personality traits or disorders, mental health diagnoses (i.e. bipolar disorder), trauma of any kind – just to name a few.  A very typical scenario I see is that of young women or men who have been sexually abused in their childhood: they are now dealing with complex and confusing dynamics as they try and navigate their own developing sexuality as teens and young adults.  Many report feeling like sexual decisions are not theirs to make but to be made upon them – after all, this is what sexual abuse teaches.  So they find themselves having “consensual” sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend for reasons that don’t seem genuinely theirs – many report feeling “frozen” or just going along with things until they are over.  Others genuinely enjoy sexual contact and seek after it because it helps them feel validated and loved – since “love” was sexualized at an early age.  Now they decide to go through the repentance process and only share with their bishop the part where they have had sinful sexual experience.  And a well-meaning bishop who has no knowledge of their history inadvertently re-traumatizes them by placing the entire responsibility of their sexual choices on their “lust” or sexual desire – completely bypassing the past trauma’s effects and sexual healing that needs to occur.  And please, bishops, do not make the mistake to think that if you ask if there has been a history of abuse that an honest answer will be forthcoming.  The act of abuse disclosure is extremely difficult and abuse is often kept secret for decades if not a lifetime.  I am deeply concerned as to how many with past sexual trauma might interpret much of this article.
  • Callister speaks to the LGBTQ community where a life of celibacy and singleness is the expectation as a condition to worthy participation in the service of the Lord.  It is my strong position that this is not a healthy stance for any human who naturally craves and needs the communion of partnership.  It sets the Mormon LGBTQ population up for almost guaranteed failure – being put in the position where they are forced to choose between personal/relational health or community acceptance and participation closely tied to their spiritual development and relationship with God (also part of personal health).  Are we at all surprised that our Utah LGBTQ youth lead the nation in suicide?  But this I do not only fault Callister on – it is the current position of our church and material for a different blog post all together.
  • Finally, Callister ends by saying that if we follow the advice given in the talk we will be “eligible for a spouse of like purity.”  I cannot emphasize enough how damaging it is for members of the church who have sexually explored outside the realms of marriage, then gone through the appropriate repentance steps to still consider themselves as “impure” because of their past actions.  And regardless of how many times we tell them that the atonement covers their sins – as long as we are measuring their worth by how “pure” (translation=virginal) they come to the table, they will suffer.  They often express to me their feelings of being ineligible for a “pure” spouse (meaning a virgin) if they themselves are not virgins.  And I cannot begin to number the amount of members who have reported either lying to their prospective spouses about their past sexual experiences out of fear of being rejected or having been honest, and then actually being rejected.  We put such emphasis on this value of purity that it wreaks havoc for our young adults on every level of the spectrum (whether they have only had one impure thought or they are chronically looking at pornography as a way to self soothe or have had premarital sex).  Purity is a principle much grander than behavioral actions we may have taken in the past – and until we start teaching this principle correctly, the honesty potential between couples will suffer and secrecy will thrive. (Side note- Not to mention that tragically many who have been sexually abused, incorrectly perceive themselves or are abusively perceived by others as “impure.”)

The way that sexual standards are presented in this type of talk is unrealistic and sets people up for failure.  Very few will be able to achieve them at the level of rigidity in which they are communicated.  And if they can, there may be other factors at hand – such as having an asexual response (an entirely different topic altogether).  I cannot stress enough how many of these types of rigid, shaming and incorrect sexual teachings are the core reason why so many of our members struggle with healthy sexuality, the ability to claim personal authority and the correct sexual education of the next generation.  Although I enjoy the work I do – I do not enjoy the fact that this type of approach coming from this type of authority guarantees that I will have no shortage of business as an LDS sex therapist for many years to come.  This article successfully sets us back about 35 years.
I fully recognize that my authority will never trump that of a general authority in the eyes of LDS members – nor should it.  I do not hold the priesthood because I am a woman, and my church callings do not include the stewardship over the church membership at large.  Therefore, I understand that my opinions shared on this post will largely be held suspect.  I accept and recognize this.

At the same time, I would hope that we would be more open in the church to exercise the correct principle of “councils”: the ability to invite others within our midst to dialogue and help with the needs of the church.  I would hope that general authorities would be willing to sit down with the many wonderful and faithful mental health professionals we have within our midst, and be open to different ideas and processes that would aid in the healthy sexual education, development and pleasure of our members.  After all, we share the same goals: healthy personal sexual development and appropriate, enjoyable sexual expression within the bounds of sacred commitment.  We value the Law of Chastity; a beautiful directive meant for our protection, enjoyment, relational health and developmental journey  towards becoming Godlike.

Ironically, I agree with Callister’s following quote: “Contrary to much public sentiment, there is nothing negative or restraining about God’s moral standards. Rather, they are positive, uplifting, and liberating. They build relationships of trust, they enhance self ­esteem, they foster a clear conscience, and they invite the Spirit of the Lord to bless individual and married lives. They are the proven standards for happy marriages and stable communities.”  It’s unfortunate his approach didn’t follow suit.

*a few changes to this article were made on 2/16/2014 to integrate some of the thoughts readers have shared

 

A good example of healthy LDS sexual dialogue between a former bishop and an active LDS therapist (what we should be modeling):

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: LDS Sexuality

Another problematic issue:

Strong Religious Beliefs May Drive Self-Perception of Being Addicted to Online Pornography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TLC’s My Husband’s not Gay…
Advocacy against Female Circumcision
How do I teach my kids about pornography?
The Effects of Excommunication on All of Us: Healing Perspectives
  • Bj Atchley

    Thank you.

  • PS Wendel

    This is a wonderful blog. Thank to for your thoughts and eloquent expression of what you believe. I truly wish the church approached sexual issues with more of this mindset.

  • http://www.openbookaudio.com Matt Armstrong

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I was 30 years old before I stopped attending church, and it still holds a very dear place in my heart. As a gay man who had spent the better part of 15 years trying to “cure” myself, I can speak with personal certainty that the methods of moral purity and modesty that are used to talk to the youth of the church can (and often do) have disturbingly unintended consequences. I can’t begin to explain how mentally and emotionally damaged I am as a result of trying and failing to fit into the very narrowly defined mold. Shame and fear are not good teaching methods I have always been an emotionally sensitive individual, and tend to try to follow both the letter and spirit of every law laid down at my feet. My “failure” to live the rigid rules of my childhood faith have resulted in a life so up into knots so tight and tangled that I fear I will forever be incapable of experiencing companionship or healthy relationships of any kind.

    I suspect that your clients are very fortunate to have someone who can help them look upon sexuality in general from a slightly less rigid and fear-based point of view.

  • Jeffrey Thayne

    “Callister speaks to the LGBTQ community where a life of celibacy and singleness is the expectation as a condition to worthy participation in the service of the Lord. It is my strong position that this is not a healthy stance for any human who naturally craves and needs the communion of partnership. It sets the Mormon LGBTQ population up for almost guaranteed failure – being put in the position where they are forced to choose between personal health or community acceptance and participation closely tied to their spiritual development and relationship with God (also part of personal health).”

    This statement here does far more damage than you claim that Elder Callister does. It perpetuates the false myth that sexual activity is an essential part of psychological health, and that those who cannot (or decide not) to engage in sexual activity are psychologically less fit than those that can and do. It also perpetuates the false myth that it is impossible (or impractical) to live the teachings of the Church — you are teaching that celibacy is not a practical option on the table for anyone.

    You should be ashamed of teaching such ludicrously false ideas. It is *these very sorts of statements* that lead people to believe that they only have two options before them: psychological health, or membership in their Church. The fact is, they can have both. But people like YOU are trying to teach them that they cannot. When you engage in blood libel by saying that the Church’s teachings are causing suicide, you are ignoring your own role in that. The Church teaches that people can live the law of chastity *and* be happy. YOU are the one teaching people that they cannot. Guess which leads to the most despair?

    People are experiencing despair because they see only two options: their faith, or their happiness. Guess who is telling them that these are mutually exclusive? Hint: it’s not the Church.

    I have an M.S. in Psych, and I am tired of reading posts from you that claim that people cannot live the law of Chastity and be happy at the same time. I’m tired of hearing these false ideas that celibacy is impossible or impractical. Guess what: it’s bogus. Degree or not, license or not, you are teaching people falsehoods. You are setting people up to be miserable by insisting that they cannot be happy living the teachings of the Church.

    • Brian Heslop

      Can you point towards study that confirm that sexuality is not a natural and integral part of who we are? It seems that denying something so natural can only cause problems in the long run.

    • Shiloh Davidson

      Please use your MS in Psych And counter, I hear anger but not rational thought.

    • Trevor

      Can you point me to the scriptures and teachings backing up our rich Mormon tradition of lifelong celibacy?

      • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

        My guess is polygamy…surely some of those wives are just there for decoration and house cleaning!
        /snark

    • Sister G

      Jeffrey,

      I didn’t understand her to be saying that nobody can live a celibate life and be happy. There are nuns and priests who do this all the time. The key difference here is, however, that the nuns and priests are not being threatened with the loss of their salvation and membership in good standing in their church if they choose otherwise, so this is very different from an LGBT person who is being forced to choose celibacy, or else lose their church membership and eternal salvation. What this means is that an LGBT person meets someone and falls in love, they cannot ever act on it and that is, in my opinion, cruel and to hold their salvation hostage is unconscionable. Yes, I agree that single and chaste people can be happy, but it is a choice, not something that their salvation should be held hostage over. I don’t believe that a loving God would ever do that to human beings and any church authority who does so, I believe, is going to have to some day answer for it.

      And by the way, I’m not sure what you mean by “blood libel” but blood atonement was done away with, thankfully, over a century ago. Hopefully the other fear-based practices will stop soon.

    • Mark Farnsworth

      Clearly, Jeffrey Thayne, what we have here is a definitional problem. Let’s see if we can’t tease this out a bit and understand what’s going on. Blood Libel, according to the well-documented article in Wikipedia, “is a false accusation or claim that Jews kidnapped and murdered the children of Christians to use their blood as part of their religious rituals during Jewish holidays.” By your definition, blood libel is committed when a credentialed professional expresses an evidence-based opinion that disagrees with the doctrine of a church. All teasing aside, I believe what you were shooting for by invoking this infamous term is that old notion of blood atonement, long disavowed by the church, which says that Natasha’s sin of disagreeing with the church doctrine is so serious that she must pay with her own blood in this world in order to lessen the jeopardy of her eternal salvation, also an infamous doctrine.

      You, sir, and people like you, cause much needless trouble in this world with your outrageously judgmental attitudes toward other people. You blindly and doggedly support a doctrine that is decried far and wide by responsible, experienced, faithful therapists. You misrepresent which party in this discussion it is that holds the sternly black and white position. You say the church “teaches that people can live the law of chastity *and* be happy.” It would be nearer the truth to say that the church teaches that people must live the law of chastity or they will be unhappy. And what you additionally fail to mention is that the definitions of the words chastity and morality have gradually been twisted and morphed over time in the church until they are a ridiculous parody of their real meanings. It is this that leads to despair.

      You also put words in Natasha’s mouth. You state: “you are teaching that celibacy is not a practical option on the table for anyone.” But the intent of her meaning clearly and obviously was that it is not a practical option for *everyone*, as evidenced by the following phrase: “It is my strong position that this is not a healthy stance *for any human who naturally craves and needs the communion of partnership*” (emphasis mine). There are people for whom celibacy is their rational, considered choice. And that is fine. Nobody stops them from living in that way.

      But celibacy imposed from without leads to terrible outcomes. Google “Catholic Priest Scandal” if you would like evidence for this statement. I am personally acquainted with several LGBTQ teens and adults whose lives have been greatly harmed, in one case, fatally, by the church’s irresponsible, reprehensible (and, in my opinion, legally culpable) behavior in this regard. Nowhere has any responsible person claimed in this article or elsewhere that “people cannot live the law of Chastity and be happy at the same time.” The church makes the strong claim that NO ONE can be happy unless he or she is living by the current definition of morality and chastity. Therapists make the much weaker claim that not everyone can find mental and physical health within the context of faithfulness as currently defined. So before you accuse other people of teaching falsehoods, you should first cast the beam from your own eye.

    • gilbert gripe

      People who don’t need sex, aren’t going to pass their “happy being celibate gene” on to the next generation. None of us would be here if it weren’t for the sex. Adaptive evolutionary changes don’t get passed on without the sex. Homo sapiens don’t exist without the sex.

      I’d love someone to explain how sex ISN’T necessary, its just a myth that we think we want it.

  • Trevor

    Thanks for speaking out, Natasha. Luckily my daughter still has many years to go before she’d attend a fireside like the one that prompted this response. But even if we as a church improve our understanding and rhetoric by the time she’s older, Callister relied on a model for sexual health that’s decades old anyway, so I still find significant discomfort in the thought of my daughter hearing this kind of message in a devotional setting.

    If church leaders want to counsel on matters like these, they need to either demonstrate competence in speaking about them or leave the in-depth discussion to parents and/or trained professionals.

  • Sister G

    Thank you for your courageous post. The only way things can change is for courageous people to speak out when they see this kind of harm being done, no matter who it comes from. No “authority” should be above being called out when authority is being abused by fear-based ultimatums.

  • Adam Ford

    Powerful article. The negatives might outweigh the positives of raising kids Mormon. Such terrible chastity teachings at such formative stages of development can mess people up for life. Thank you for laying the crazy bare for all to see. Keep up the good work.

  • http://mythinking.net/ Carmen Brooks

    Yes, I agree with your point. We can do better than that. We may have started our way to immorality but we always have a way to find back to build our moral values. I love your article.

    http://mythinking.net/knowledge-truly-is-power/

  • PatsyWassomDesRochers

    As an LDS counselor I agree with your article and have struggled with the same ideals you put forth here. I often feel that I am going against church teachings when I teach the LDS youth who I see that sexuality is good and natural and that their sexual urges and responses are all part of their God given gifts. Sometimes I am just waiting for the lightening bolt to hit me, but I know if we want to have healthy adults come out of our youth they must know that sexuality is healthy and good and God given, and that learning to keep their God given desires under control is also part of part of character building and self esteem. But the whole concept of sinning by committing sexual sin has become so ingrained in our LDS culture that when it happens they feel there in something wrong with them that can’t be fixed. We have created a culture of shame in our church all based on sexuality.

    • TheMogabi

      The lightning bolt should be coming down on Tad Callister not you.

    • Kelly

      Well said

  • E Petey

    THANK YOU for this post! The psychologically and sexually damaging way the Law of Chastity is currently interpreted and taught by LDS leaders and curriculum is, in my opinion and experience, one of the single most damaging perversions of doctrine in the LDS Church. Our doctrine that the spirit and the body together comprise the soul of man has the potential for imparting a surpassingly beautiful meaning and power to all physical experiences in this mortal realm, laying a foundation for the fully physical nature of what we believe the Celestial realm to be. But LDS practical teachings have NOT expanded or emphasized that doctrine, internalizing much more of a traditional Christian view that “the spirit must transcend” all connection with the fallen mortal body and suppress and deny most natural physical desires.

    Therefore, in current LDS practice, we have:
    -Reduction of women’s sum value to their reproductive potential.
    -Demonization of men as little more than hormone-suffused animals who cannot be trusted around women or media, feeding addictive behavior regarding porn. This also perpetuates rape culture, as was mentioned in the post, with the absolute lie that women COULD POSSIBLY EVER behave/dress/act so as to control mens’ thoughts and actions. That is simply a lie to remove responsibility from men.
    -Commodification of virginity as the one and only appropriate currency upon which to base an eternally-intended marriage union, which has the side “benefit” of creating a lightning-fast dating/engagement culture where couples know barely anything substantive about each other but get married after 3 months because they’re so sexually frustrated.
    –Nullification of women’s sex drives, sexuality, and sexual experience by trapping them on pedestals as the targets of mens’ benevolent sexism. Basically, women are to be objects for mens’ sexuality but with no possibility of sexual fulfillment of their own (their “fulfillment” is, of course, to be found in mothering their husband’s children).
    -Overwhelming shaming of any and all natural sexual exploration to the point where married couples have dysfunctional sexual relationships because they know NOTHING about normal human sexual practices, physiology, individual variation in sexual needs, options for compensating for one or both partners’ possible sexual health challenges, etc.
    -Don’t even get me started on the kind of sexual assault breeding ground that is created when sexuality is so hushed and shamed and demonized that people can’t talk about their consensual sex lives, LET ALONE feel safe discussing being victimized. It is a perfect, perfect environment for perpetrators, because the framework of shame and victim-blaming is ideal for keeping victims from feeling safe in reporting what happened. It physically sickens me how often victims of assault are told by bishops that THEY need to “repent.”

    -And finally, having been raised with an obsessive focus on keeping teens and young adults away from sex at all costs, no one can healthily manage a 180-degree paradigm shift on their wedding night. A heartbreaking number of LDS marriages are sexless or sexually dysfunctional, with nowhere NEAR the amazingly deep and connecting power that true, open, honest, unrestricted, unashamed intimacy can bring to a relationship. They honestly don’t have a clue what a sexually healthy marriage looks like, and that is a monumental failing of LDS practices & culture. The stunting, warping, limiting, denial, and shaming of healthy sexuality is a tragedy of epic proportions within this community. I wish this post by Natasha H. Parker were what had been printed in the Ensign and given over the pulpit instead of that horrifically abuse-perpetuating mess (no matter how “well-meant”) by Elder Callister.

    • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

      My husband wasn’t a virgin and I had had sexual experiences before we were married. And guess what? We have a great marriage. It’s based on trust, honesty, communication, and devotion.
      The fact that we were sexually experienced before the wedding night was actually HELPFUL, because we knew what we liked and what worked for us.
      The idea that virginity=happiness for eternity is antiquated and frankly, silly.

      PS. I LOVED your comments. :)

    • Aep

      Wow…thank you. Couldn’t have expressed it like you, but that is exactly how I feel.

  • Susie H

    This needs to be read at the highest levels. I feel like we are crying out in the wilderness and the church refuses to listen…Elder Uchtdorf, do you at least see? Do you hear? We are being crushed by this rhetoric and othering.

  • Ann Excell

    My heartfelt thanks! We need knowledgeable people like you who will weigh in on the side of sanity when it comes to vital subjects like this.

  • crystalkei

    Thank you so much for this piece.

  • http://www.themotherloadhome.blogspot.com Sarah Clark

    As a graduate student and a future counselor, I was so grateful to read this. My group just completed a presentation this week on treatment of sexual disorders, and I focused a lot of my time on how sexual dysfunction in our LDS clients can occur as a result of shame and fear based teachings like the article you critique. Callister’s words make my heart hurt and tell me that once I’m licensed, I’ll be fighting an unnecessary uphill battle with LDS clients who could have been saved this struggle if leaders would listen to what professionals have researched, learned, and experienced in the trenches.

    • Kelly

      I’m in the same boat as you and agree it will be a tough journey.

  • B-Happy

    Reading that article made me not-so-sad that I let our Ensign subscription expire. Toxic and sad.

    Happy that I have stepped away from this narrow shameful teaching and found myself a peaceful place regarding learning and growing as a sexual being.

    Honestly it makes me wonder how people who believe like that every really embrace their sexuality and find joy and progression through sex.

    I feel bad for his wife.

  • B-Happy

    Sadly, I doubt that thoughtful, authentic, research-based dialogue such as this post presented by Natasha will ever reach the Men-in-Suits.

  • Guest

    I agree 100% with this article. I struggled for such a long time as a parent. I want to raise my children to grow into their sexuality in a healthy way. Sadly, talks like this do nothing but Shame and guilt the youth for growing up in their body. I commend you for you courage. This is the real version of what we should be saying to our kids. Lets listen to the experts and do no harm!

  • Sadie Loweh

    I agree 100% with this article. I struggled for such a long time as a parent. I want to raise my children to grow into their sexuality in a healthy way. All that Ensign talk will do is shame the youth for growing up in their body. I commend you for you courage. This is the real version of what we should be saying to our kids. Lets listen to the experts and Do No Harm!

  • Mike

    “Callister allows for no level of arousal or sexual thought as a natural part of being a mortal human.” This statement is false. Sex is endorsed and encouraged within man-woman marriage.

    “This is not an appropriate clinical term.” No worries, he’s not in a clinic.

    “He states that the Lord “condemns” masturbation – I have seen no evidence of this in any scriptural resource” I have seen no evidence that the scriptures condemn drug abuse, should the leaders of the church condone drug abuse now?

    ” No one will be able to achieve them at the level of rigidity in which they are communicated.” Really? No one? That’s a pretty bold assertion without evidence to back it up.

    Rhetoric like that of Elder Callister brings me happiness, while your rhetoric brings me undue stress and sadness. Where’s a therapist for that?

    • TheMogabi

      What level of arousal or sexual thought does the article endorse for all those who are not in a man-woman marriage? Are you suggesting that the first sexual thoughts and sexual arousal a person should experience should happen after they are married?

      • Trev

        That will make it easier for gay people to get married. :D

        • Trev

          (For clarification, that was very heavy sarcasm.)

    • Ryan Stuart

      The natural context of the majority of the actual article and Natasha’s points are premarital and the affects these transgressions have on your marriage and eternal happiness… to say that statement of hers is false shows you just want to disagree because you have been brainwashed to do so.

      Not condemning does not mean condoning. Teens should not be made to feel as though they are going to hell just because they masterbate and think about motorboating the student teacher next door. But yes, the church leaders should start condoning drug USE, not abuse. Be nice to the baggy of weed, and REALLY, you should eat a brownie. Do you even know anything about drugs? As in, done any of your own research? Not government sponsored materials, obviously.

      You’re asking for “evidence” to back up that no one will be able to achieve at the level of rigidity…. You need evidence? Ask a 12 year old, maybe a 9 year old if their balls dropped a little early, how many times they masterbated last week. There is your evidence, they don’t even know the answer because they stopped keeping track on Tuesday.

      If rhetoric like this brings you happiness, awesome. Let it. Keep your blindfold on, your brain shutdown, and happily waving your ignorance flag like 90% of the rest of our Mormon population. Natasha is a professional, studying these things for many years, and counseling people through all these issues. We, as humans, have a much better understanding of the way the brain works now than we ever have before. All she’s trying to do here is say there is a better way to teach these kinds of things that will make us all happier, including God. The stress and sadness you’re feeling… that’s your realization of how brainwashed you might be with the things you have been taught and believe, and trying to deny it. Question things. Think for yourself buddy. I’ll be your therapist, but only if you decide to use your brain and keep an open mind.

  • TheMogabi

    I suffered greatly as a child, youth, and adult because of the messages I received at church along the lines of the message Tad Callister gives in this article. When I have expressed the impact these messages have had on my life, I have had multiple people attempt to assure me that the church is changing and is not dealing with things like masturbation the same way they did when I was growing up. Yeah, right. I weep for all those who will suffer as I did because of this Ensign article when the reality is they are normal. This article will do real damage to people’s lives.

  • Trev

    Are you sure he addressed LGBTQ persons? I only saw the (possibly) related phrase “those with same gender tendencies” and read that as people who have tendencies similar to those of their same gender….

  • bluewater

    I count it as one of the GREAT blessings of my life that I have learned from REAL LDS therapists— and not from your brand of ‘wolf-in-sheeps-clothing’ pretending to be all righteous LDS— and instead poisoning minds on such sacred subjects with your Great and Spacious (specious) Building WORLDLY clap trap.
    Yuck.
    Hope people wise up to you and your kind before damage is done.
    Especailly your LDS clients.
    Again yuck.

    • adam

      Nancy, what damage would be done? Also, you think masturbation should be called “abuse”? I worry that it is views like that do the actual damage. This talk is the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. All is not well in Zion. Our scriptures warn of stuff like this. Nothing against Elder Callister, I’m sure he had the best intentions. We all fall short though, and this is an example of a mortal leader falling short.

    • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

      I’m amused that while Elder Callister can give his opinions on sexuality, and you applaud him, Natasha can give her opinions on sexuality and you name-call.

      Oh, by the way. I’m a client of hers and she helped me understand that my feelings about sex (stemming from childhood sexual abuse) in a way that was nonthreatening and very supportive. How lucky you must be to have experienced perfect Mormon sexuality throughout your whole life, enough so that you can judge anyone that thinks differently than you.

    • http://lastrit.es Konrad
    • mike

      Nancy… there are thousands of negatively impacted members who have suffered on account of bishops who have no clue how to handle this topic correctly
      We all sincerely hope that intolerant un-empathetic church members wise up to a more christ like view of the affected ones. Unbelievable.

      • Kelly

        Agreed.

    • Kelly

      I see you struggle with critical thinking. Perhaps you have not went through struggles in your life that a lot of the people in this blog have. You should really consider thinking more about what she is saying and being objective instead of so one-sided.

  • Nina

    As an adult convert to this church (joined when I was 18) coming from a background of physical and emotional abuse I get so so sad whenever articles like this are written for the general church population, especially in a time when vast numbers of converts are joining the church and seeking compassion and understanding. Not all of us have had the privilege of growing up with an eternal perspective. These sweeping generalizations about sex and the reasons behind it are damaging and unhealthy and do not foster a dialogue where anyone would feel safe approaching repentance. This only breeds shame, confusion and terror. Scare tactics are not the way of Christ and should not be the way of those that meant to teach and guide us. And furthermore, quite frankly I’m ashamed at the negative responses to this article. You are not better than me because you had the privilege and opportunity (YES, OPPORTUNITY) to follow these things so strictly so please do not parade around like you are. We are all children of God and should be treated with compassion, love, understanding and grace. Not condemnation, shame and guilt like Elder Callister’s article causes people to do. This article turns a blind eye to converts who may already be feelings shame and guilt.

    • Kelly

      Thanks for sharing I agree.

  • Marcy

    In your blog post, there are many things I agree with, such as human sexuality is a part of our nature and needs to be understood and embraced, and that Brother Callister’s devotional is very damaging, full of scare tactics, and inappropriate. It greatly saddens me that such words were allowed to be spoken and forced upon the youth once again. We are a much more educated society now and need to stop shaming, scaring, and guilting individuals that do not deserve it.

    But on the other hand, I find it hard to agree with your thoughts concerning the LBGTQ community, but I myself am still coming to grips with just where exactly I stand and how best to present my viewpoint on this matter, so I will not try representing a point I’m still figuring out how to.

    As a member of the Latter-Day Saints, there are many things that frustrate me and concern me in relation to these topics discussed, but what frustrates me the most are not the doctrine, not the words given my our prophets through the years as well as the general authority that are based on the gospel’s doctrines. What I tend to be frustrated with are the fallible natural man segments, such has the sexist modesty talk, calling sexuality a sin outside of marriage as sexuality does not JUST refer to the act of sexual intercourse or other such interactions. The gospel of our church is true, but the men and women are fallible and imperfect, and we’re all trying to figure things out together and learn from one another, and unfortunately it creates such nasty lines in the sand and great divides. We can only hope for future wising-up and mutual love and respect to be better incorporated in this struggle to better understand and mesh secular and religious knowledge, which to be honest, is Heavenly Father’s wish for us all to achieve.

    • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

      I am bisexual. As a teenager, when I told my bishop about my attraction towards women, he told me it was sinful and that I was unworthy to enter the temple until I’ve repented and stopped “lusting” after women.

      I didn’t choose bisexuality any more than people choose being straight or asexual. Yet the reactions of bishops, leaders, and parents to anyone that deviates from Church-approved norms is hurtful.
      Until the church comes out and specifically says how to treat people with differing sexualities, desires, and pasts, it will be left up to the individual. The fallible and imperfect individual, to quote your words.
      So, sure, we can hope for future wising-up. But what about the many people who are being hurt and shamed when (hopefully) good-intentioned members interpret personal biases as doctrine?

      • Marcy

        The many people being hurt and shamed now is wrong and disgusting, as we are all human beings that deserve far better than such bigoted thinking and behavior. The far more frustrating thing is that others tend to allow such behavior to continue without stepping in to stick up for and defend those under such attack. There is no true widespread solution to this that I can offer, and feeling this kind of powerlessness grates on me. Until a better one presents itself, I can only do what I can, and that’s trying to get others to understand and change their narrow-minded, biased ways of thinking, which as we all know, is one hell of an up-hill battle…

  • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

    One of the issues I’ve found with purity culture is that children/teenagers/women are supposed to curttail their natural, sexual thoughts; but men seem to be able to pass the buck for their sexualised thoughts to anyone who isn’t strictly adhering to their conservative view of “modesty”. Rape culture, indeed! Where women are shamed for acting on their sexuality, and are blamed for men’s thoughts as well!

    • Kelly

      Well said.

  • michaeloborn

    God says what our agenda wants God to say. Mormon thinking is most unhealthy.

    • Kelly

      You are making an all-inclusive statement. I’m a Mormon and do not think the same way as everyone else.It has great benefits when taught correctly.

  • Harry

    There are a few things I don’t understand when people speak so literal. For example, why would I want to marry someone if I’m not even sexually attracted to them? I don’t like to get started on my thoughts dealing with modesty or priesthood. But to quickly summarize…the saddest part about elder Callister’s talk, is that it doesn’t really phase me. It is the typical, redundant, opinionated information and quite frankly I tend to clock out because I don’t really want to hear it anymore. Thank you for your insight however. I hope to gain a greater appreciation on this topic and support a better understanding and standpoint within this organization

  • mike

    Thanks, Natasha for putting a voice to my pain out there. So many people affected. I am glad to be out of the self loathing I went through for decades. I love my life and it has only been possible to get here through distancing myself from the church and intolerably insensitive people like Nancy. I have had to get creative with compartmentalization. I had vertigo when I picked up the March Ensign and read Ted Callister’s article. Blech. Hello 1980…. not nice to see you again.

    When will the church finally get it?

    Ted’s article is abusive and damaging. Moreover, the applause he gets from the Nancies of the church drives a deep wedge between us and them.

    What? Where is the christ like love. Oh thats right, it’s just not…really there. Welcome to my Mormonism

  • Michelle

    I feel as if you don’t understand the atonement and you aren’t looking at this in an eternal perspective. When people truly repent of sexual transgressions they are forgiven and Heavenly Father forgets their sins. They are also washed away of their sins when they are baptized. So any convert and anyone who has repented is made clean and pure again. That’s why the sacrament is such an important ordinance too. People are worrying too much about what others in their community are thinking and need to remember to focus on what the Lord thinks of them. You can find lots of sadness trying to impress man and lots of joy trying to focus on what the Lord thinks of you. The doctrine Elder Callister is teaching is not to make everyone feel bad, but to remind of the Lord’s plan and what sex is really for. Satan is the one who brings on the extreme guilt and hopelessness that you see in your patients. Elder Callister is teaching a way of happiness so that we can avoid the sorrow that comes with sin. I know it can seem impossible and everyone sins, but that doesn’t change the truth.

    • Josh

      Idk … I feel pretty happy when I’m masturbating and pretty hopeless when I can’t for a couple of weeks. Just saying …

    • mike

      No, it’s not Satan bringing the guilt. Millions and millions break the law of chastity guilt free every day. It’s the approach taught by institutions and their broadcasting it in such a black/white with zero gray area (like Callisters article) that fosters shame and guilt.

      Shame and guilt are motivators to change behaviors. But not the most effective ones. In fact, they can be quite insidious

  • http://lastrit.es Konrad

    See picture below (expand and start at the top):

    • nickredd

      @disqus_zUFbnGuIyV:disqus this quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. It made me have #LoudLaughter

  • Garrett

    Submitted without further comment: Return & Report: On Scrupulosity and My Disaffection with Mormonism–A Brief, Epistemic Epic of My Journey from Faith to Reason http://diythinking.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/return-report-on-scrupulosity-and-my-disaffection-with-mormonism-a-brief-epistemic-epic-of-my-journey-from-faith-to-reason/

  • esak

    This is a fantastic analysis. As a teenage seminary student in Utah, I can’t wait to see if this comes up in class or something.

  • Mamie Coffey

    As and active member of the LDS church, a survivor of abuse, mother of 2 daughters and advocate for survivors of sexual violence and sex trafficking- I cannot express how important this topic is. Your article hits the nail on the head. Have you written to the First Presidency? The General RS Presidency? The YW Presidency? Your voice needs to be heard at the highest levels of administration so that a constructive conversation can begin and benefit all members of the church.

  • Jenni B

    Speaking as someone who actually did follow ALL those rules, never dressed ‘wrong’ never masturbated never pushed any of the lines on physical intimacy… when I did get married I had HORRIBLE good girl syndrome. It took the better part of a decade to sort my psyche out, and frankly it was very damaging to our marriage. So it’s a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ scenario with this kind of rhetoric.
    Thank you so much Natasha for calling it like it is, and giving some healthier alternatives.

  • Isaac

    Thanks so much for posting this. The way that I was taught about sex and sexuality in the church made me feel like they were bad things. I really wish I had a better perspective on sex and sexuality as a teenager, and I wish that I knew the things that you wrote about much earlier in my life.

  • Claude Charland

    Actually, your statements are inflamatory and accusatory and make things worse. Are you just drubbing up business or purposefully creating conflict? Callister has a lot of useful points worth considering. You decided to put a negative spin on all of it, except for one excerpt which you use to judge him with. I have a different opinion about how youth need to explore and understand their sexual feelings, but not sufficient to condemn the author nor his message. Sure LDS leaders are fallible and older (steeped in a different generational view), but they are not without experience and no less compassionate than you seem to claim for yourself.

    • mirele

      Callister is telling women that we women are responsible for male sexuality. That is *junk*. I feel very comfortable in saying that, and if I had the opportunity to tell Callister that in person, I would. I don’t know what turns you on as a man, as it might be a shapely ankle, trim corseted waist or lovely hat garnished with flowers (going back to 1900 for that). Seriously…if my clothes are too tight, I’m to be blamed because you had lustful thoughts? When Jesus talked about a man having lust in his heart, he didn’t blame the woman, he put the onus squarely where it should be–on the man. (Matthew 5:28)

      I would normally not care about this, as I am no longer a member of the church, but I do live in Mormon country. I can see children, young people and adults badly mistreated by this man’s words. Again, if I had the opportunity to tell Tad Callister that his words are *junk*, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    • adam

      When something starts out negative, no spin is required. Exhibit A) Elder Callister refers to masturbation as “abuse.” Exhibit B) He dismisses all sources of help (e.g. psychotherapy) if they are in conflict with a single church authority (of course not all members will read it that way, but many do! Many will take his words to mean, “well, this is what my bishop/SP/or a GA said, and they speak for God, so…”)

      No argument here that E. Callister isn’t a compassionate man, who has experience. That doesn’t mean some of what he said in his talk is above condemnation though. We, as members of the church, ought to be VERY wary of deifying our leaders, and of not “standing for something” when one of them is saying something that is harmful.

  • B Daniels

    From the perspective of a single adult, I find the whole issue surrounding masturbation very fascinating. On the one hand, historically speaking in the Church, it’s been very much frowned upon in varying degrees (i.e. next to murder in seriousness to being more of a transgression). Reading a number of articles here, it’s something done even before we’re born (if I read correctly). In other forums I’ve read discussing masturbation, it seems that leaders outside the General Authority position handle it very differently from one another (some even seeing it as a non-issue). While I really appreciate and admire what Mrs. Parker was written here (I’ve learned a lot, that’s for sure), I still feel like in the end, it’s a matter between me and the Lord, and if I have the Spirit afterwards (whether or not I masturbated), THAT should be the answer for me.

    TLDR: Until there’s an official statement made by the Church (something I don’t expect to happen any time soon), I believe masturbation is a personal matter to be handled on an individual basis with God and those who actually have knowledge on the matter and aren’t going off of cultural bias/upbringing not in line with God’s doctrine.

    • Garrett

      All well and good, but your putative relationship with the Lord is not in a vacuum. Not only is there a fallible hierarchy communicating poorly in veiled, vague, and ambiguous–even contradictory–terms, there are pervasive Mormon cultural taboos (apropos of no doctrine etc.!) against fundamental facets of the human sexual experience. How is a young mind to develop healthily independent of this intentional and unintentional indoctrination?

      • B Daniels

        I’m no authority figure on this, Garrett. All I know is we do the best with what we’ve got, and let God take care of the rest. I believe the Gospel has core principles and doctrines we must follow willingly, but at the same time, there’s going to be A LOT of issues aside that will require personal discernment via the Spirit to get answers.

  • tweedmeister

    Good article. For many years now, I have considered LDS leaders to be lacking in background knowledge on many subjects about which they speak. This causes good LDS people to take the shaky and tenuous advice from some random leader, and then experience very unfortunate results from it. Once the person has been injured, the leadership then takes no responsibility for their actions, placing all blame on the members. From the earliest days of Mormonism up to our very latest leadership, Mormon “prophets, seers, and revelators” have seldom given any counsel, made any predictions, or said anything of a profound nature that has had lasting relevance, come to pass, has withstood scrutiny, or has even turned out to be true. I am given to believe that if an apostle or prophet has said anything that turns out to be true (that tobacco, for instance, is not good for the body), it has just been pure serendipity.

    Joseph Smith supposedly once said that we were supposed to be taught true principles and then govern ourselves. But this would be true “free agency,” however, a concept that was taught to my generation of Mormons, but a teaching now denied to the current generation of Mormons. So here is the rub of all this: Supposedly, before this world the “hosts of heaven” battled over free agency, and souls were forever lost due to the outcome of this battle. But in the end, the fairly new LDS doctrine of correlation has made it necessary to adopt Satan’s plan of strict obedience. If Mormons don’t do all that the authorities say, no matter how ill-advised, they are not practicing the latest Mormon doctrine of blind obedience. These men need to butt out so that Mormons can be about the business of basic Christianity, standard ethics, and being decent and moral with one another.

  • SterlingK

    This is a well written article that makes great points. However, I think there is room for both Elder Callister and Mrs Parker to be right.

    The way I understand LDS doctrine, General Authorities teach correct gospel doctrines and principles while generally avoiding individual application. They point toward the metaphorical straight and narrow while individuals then choose how to follow by applying their agency. Understandably the very nature of their message delivered to such a large and diverse audience and in their own words is bound to offend some. And that’s why we have Natasha Parkers. Natasha admittedly serves a very different purpose than Elder Callister. She points out that her authority and stewardship is different–which is a good thing. I see people like Mrs Parker searching off the path for would-be followers, grabbing them by the hand, and helping them find their own way back. She, and so many like her, provide much-needed empathy, understanding, guidance, and perspective to those who may feel inadequate, hurt, and misunderstood. Because of this, I can see how it would be frustrating to be carefully navigating someone over rough terrain, and hear a yell from the trail, “Just tell them to grab that iron rod and walk straight!”

    Yes, we can all be reminded to stick to the doctrine and that our own interpretation or application of principles may not be as helpful as we think. But the truth is, we need both messages, we need both types of helpers.

    • HaroldTheCat

      Perhaps talks and publications from church authorities ought to contain information from “both types of helpers.”

  • daveo

    For too long LDS leaders, including bishops and stake presidents, have been attempting to give ‘professional’ advice to individuals with horrifying results. This needs to end.

  • rixa

    Your response is fantastic. I hope you sent it in to the editor of the Ensign.

    I’m so frustrated that I am raising my 4 children in this toxic sexual culture. It’s meant well but done in just about the worst possible way. I worry if what I teach at home will be strong enough to counteract the negative and harmful messages they’re receiving at church.

  • Nathan

    I really disagree with many of the things you talk about in this blog post. As a lifelong active member of the church, I fear that your article will lead others away from much joy and happiness that come from keeping the commandments of our Heavenly Father. Elder Callister’s talk was directed to the church as a whole. I understand that there are a minority who have certain disorders or disabilities and struggle with some of the commandments. These situations should be handled more delicately. These disabilities should not however be used as an excuse for sin. I understand that many will disagree with my stance. But a firm testimony of the truths of the gospel will aid in one’s doubts with the church. If you have a testimony that the brethren were in fact called of God to give us His word, then you will know that the things they teach are from God and not from man.

    • nakhuiblyad

      And yet another white, heterosexual male who can’t possibly understand how people could possibly feel marginalized by the LDS’s harmful rhetoric of sexuality…

    • adam

      “If you have a testimony that the brethren were in fact called of God to give us His word, then you will know that the things they teach are from God and not from man.”

      But you know as well as I do Nathan that they don’t always agree with each other, and that what they say is not always doctrine. *Some* of what they teach may be from God, but they themselves have reminded us numerous times that they are fallible, and sometimes speak with “limited light and knowledge.”

      • Nathan

        I actually can’t think of any instances where they have disagreed. Can you give me some examples? Especially with them disagreeing over doctrine?

        • adam

          Clarifying what is and what isn’t doctrine won’t get this anywhere, but as for disagreements over “big” issues, there is the priesthood ban, for example. Some like Pres. McKay did not agree with others like Elder McConkie (who later told everyone to forget what he had taught on the matter). Also, some have believed in evolution, while others have denounced it as heresy. Two relatively big issues. Both doctrine-related.

          Going back further of course (e.g. to Brigham Young) there were many more disagreements.

          Oh, and President Hinckley disagreed with other church leaders – he didn’t believe that polygamy was doctrinal. And Pres. Kimball believed that the Adam-God “Theory” was false doctrine, while Brigham Young clearly taught it as doctrine, and it was a part of the temple ceremony.

          None of this is really that big of a deal though. My only point was that Elder Callister’s talk, printed in the Ensign, is not necessarily “Truth.” None of it needs to threaten our beliefs. We just need to be aware that just because a leader says something, that doesn’t make it true per se. It’s not that simple.

          (the previous comment was mine as well – something’s buggy with it)

        • Guest

          I think they do try hard (especially nowadays) to present a “united front” like they should, and I’m sure they reach some level of agreement before making any big decisions. That doesn’t mean they are free from error though. Just look at how things have changed with the LGBT population in the church. In the past it was a sin just to be gay. Now it’s not. Things change. The church grows and evolves as it (hopefully) rids itself of the old effects of the apostasy and the “philosophies of men.”

        • gilbert gripe

          Curse of Cain / blacks less valiant in the pre-existance is a glaring example. Taught from Joseph Smith to 1978, by most but not all of the GA’s. It was called a “doctrine” dozens/hundreds of times. A couple of months ago the church got around to a formal disavowal. (Because their usual course of omission didn’t seem to be working.)

          http://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

          So this is a case of disagreeing with past doctrine, saying it wasn’t really doctrine.

          David O. McKay, Mark Petersen and George A. Romney “corrected” Bruce McConkie ‘s book “Mormon Doctrine”; that certainly shows there were disagreements on what was doctrine.

          You could read some books by D. Michael Quinn and Gregory Prince for more information.

  • Kelly

    I absolutely agree with most of your comments. In regards to homosexual behavior, I would need you to explain that further. I have a son who is gay and I have opinions one the way the therapy should be conducted. I also have an opinion on the way a person who is gay should conduct themselves sexually. However, the rest of your comments are spot-on and I appreciate you addressing these issues. I will definitely be following your information that you provide.Many people in the church feel it is so wrong to even talk about sex that the only way for a young person to even learn is through experience. Education needs to be taught more in regards to sex. Thanks for offering your opinion and insight it is helpful to know that I am not alone in some of my thinking.

    • davea0511

      You might also want to read the article she is referencing … you might be surprised what you read. I have a gay family member who’s associated personality has given him such amazing gifts … a blessing to the world, and at the same time faces so many challenges. I think you should definitely seek out other lds family’s with gay children, if you don’t find what you’re looking for keep looking because you are not alone.

      • Matty Jacobson

        I had to leave the LDS church because I wanted what everyone else wants: love and partnership. Sad.

  • davea0511

    Let me strongly encourage anyone who read this piece to also click the link above and read Elder Callister’s remarks in full before posting. I was expecting to hear an article like those that would have been printed in the 70′s. It was nothing of the kind.

    So what I started out saying Natasha before I read that was that I felt the truth was somewhere in the middle between what you said and what he said … the two of you being the wackos on the extreme. Now, well … I don’t think what Elder Callister was saying was extreme. It might be uncomfortable or unpopular and certainly didn’t praise your precious APA and hey there are exceptions to what he said, but I was surprised to learn that in general I found he was more less correct in each bullet-point you railed upon because he added something you left out: context.

    My Dad was an amazing psychologist, God rest his soul. He reportedly help save 100′s of marriages (us kids still get couples telling us how priceless he was to them), and was sought from all over for being the best child psychologist in the treasure valley (Boise). When he was really at the top of his game he also used to get way bent out of shape when the Church disagreed with the APA. That changed as he got older, as he became more intimately acquainted with Christ … but never lost his skills. He moved a little closer to the center … probably about where the church as moved to today. Somewhere in the middle between the APA and the church of the 70′s. It was a good change.

    I remember the 70′s … I remember being recommended to tie the offending hand to a bed post when I went to sleep. I remember the church saying gays should not only deny their appetites but should try to be heterosexual and try to have a healthy heterosexual lifestyle. Say what you may, this article is nowhere near close to those days. Not even remotely. Not even heading that direction. It’s no more stringent than what they’ve said all along and a ton less stringent than things used to be.

  • http://religionandpolitics.org/ religion&politics

    You know, I tried to take this article seriously, these are really important issues. However, one thought just kept coming to me over and over about Ms. Helfer Parker:

    When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. –2 Ne 9:21

    I can’t count the number of times that naysayers like this have criticized the church’s stance on chastity and the word of wisdom. Tell me, does this sound familiar??: “Mormons who drink tend to binge drink more than non-Mormons, because Mormons are not allowed to drink AT ALL.” Both of these are bad arguments IMO.

    The Lord holds us to a high standard, in case you’ve forgotten Ms. Helfer Parker: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. –Matthew 5:48.

    • Matty Jacobson

      I feel like you ignored the parts of this article that would have most benefited you, specifically the parts that refute your argument here.

      • http://religionandpolitics.org/ religion&politics

        Do tell … which parts of the article refute my argument??

        This lady obviously has training in psychology (i.e. she is learned), and is citing her experience in this field in order to deeply criticize a general authority who she feels does not know what he’s talking about (i.e. she feels she is wise), and the Lord has emphatically stated that this is dangerous behavior.

        The rest of her argument aside, her stating that her opinion does’t trump that of a GA, her calling for councils from more learned members, none of this refutes what I have said, unless you can prove me wrong. Go ahead, I’ll try and keep an open mind.

    • 3GrandKeys

      I’m so grateful for the standard of perfection I’ve had the privilege of living as a Mormon. Never shall Christ have to atone for a sin of mine. For even if I did sin and repent fully I know Christ could never truly wash away my shame and restore my purity. Mormonism rules!

  • Mike Hockurtz

    I agree with 99% of your post. You point out the problem in the first bullet: call The Thing by its proper name.

    The problem is, from its very start, the church calls things by the wrong name in order to give them a new and germane flavour. We have been force-fed the word “martyred” when discussing the murder of Joseph Smith. We have had the word “tithe” redefined–not restored, redefined. Then there’s Urim & Thummim, and even Jesus Christ. Making new definitions only serves to alienate people and make them feel inferior unless they join our special Dictionary Club.

    As soon as the church finds its own way to deal with issues without resorting to alienating people and shielding them from actual definitions, it’ll find itself with a lot more friends on the other side of the aisle–and that’s exactly what 22nd Century Mormonism must have a steady diet of, because it’s starving itself here in the 21st.

  • 18MC

    I can break apart nearly every argument made here Natasha. It’s as if you willfully misinterpret what this General Authority is sharing and distort it, just so you can openly disagree with it to get attention. Don’t be so offended simply because the truth hurts

    • 3GrandKeys

      Go ahead and break them apart then. Talk is cheap.

    • Aep

      Honestly, I resonate with many of issues she has addressed in this post. Perhaps you haven’t had the experiences that lend you the perspective that may make these points important to you. The truth isn’t actually meant to hurt. It is mean to uplift and guide us. Integrating compassion and sensitivity into how we talk about truth can prevent heartache. Additionally, I appreciate her willingness to recognize that apostles and prophets are inspired yet fallible individuals and it is our responsibility to question and find answers for ourselves. In my opinion, she is merely identifying some good questions and perhaps how we can improve how we talk about sexuality within the church.

    • adam

      Please, enlighten us then (I mean that sincerely). What does Elder Callister mean when he says women get the men they dress for, or when he calls masturbation “self-abuse,” or when he implies that his words (and those of any church authority) trump any psychologist or therapist or research-based finding? If Natasha (and the 10,000 other people who have shared this post) are willfully misinterpreting it, what exactly did this general authority mean?

  • B Daniels

    Well, not that the comments section isn’t interesting to read and all, but I’ve got other questions on my mind that perhaps Mrs. Parker may be willing to answer…(although I’m not going to hold my breath that she does—that’s entirely up to her)

    From a young, single adult striving to educate himself on sexuality in case he ever becomes marriage-material in this life…

    1. Taking into consideration the usual sources of arousal/libido/orgasms specific for guys and girls, is it possible for a man to naturally possess more of a female-like sexual response (i.e. longer “warmup” for arousal/quicker “cooldown” for orgasm (or orgasms), more sensitive to touch and texture in areas aside from the genitals) than the typical male one (the genitals being the primary sensitive area, shorter “warmup”/longer “cooldown”)?

    2. In one of the previous articles here, it mentioned that genital stimulation and lubrication occurs even when a baby is in the womb. Is there a source where I can read about that?

    3. From my observation, it seems that sexual arousal (even high levels of it) can happen without masturbation. Is there a way to explore those feelings within oneself without reaching orgasm, and is that a sin/transgression?

    Thank you Mrs. Parker, for taking my questions into consideration.

  • MA

    Is it possible that Sex is optional? Can we be happy and healthy without it? I believe so. This pretty much sums it up: http://rowboatandmarbles.org/most-important-secret-about-sex-for-mormons.html

    • MrShorty

      Before I start, let me say that I realize that your link promoting sex as optional is from the point of view of a recovering “porn addict.” Perhaps it is because my life experience is so different from a recovering addict, but I just could not stomach the idea that “sex is optional.” Do you want to tell a guy like this http://strengtheningmarriage.com/involuntary-celibacy/ that “sex is optional”? That he “just needs to get over his addiction to sex”? That he and wife will be happier and his marriage stronger if he just accepts his celibate condition?

      No, I don’t believe for a minute that “sex is optional.” (If recovering porn/sex addicts need to tell themselves that, then that is fine for them). I also do not believe that I am a slave to my sexual passions. I also no longer believe that the ultimate goal in life is to become asexual. I believe that each of us has a sexual self, and part of our test in mortality is how will we relate to that sexual self. We cannot completely ignore our sexual self, and we don’t need to pander to it. But we do need to figure out healthy and appropriate God-fearing ways to relate to it.

  • Aep

    I am very grateful to have read this post for many reasons. I have struggled silently with many of the issues you have spoken of here. I understand that church leaders often feel the need to teach the ideal and make their talks very general so that people can apply them to their lives individually and by the spirit. However, I know that delivering their message with more sensitivity, love and acceptance without the shaming and the anxiety-producing language, would have made THE difference for me in my life. Thank you for allowing people to be human without condemning them for the often slow process of overcoming that we must all undergo in order to change.

  • Antipus

    It is not Callister who “allows for no level of arousal or sexual thought outside of a spouse as a natural part of being a mortal human”; it is, rather, Jesus Christ who set that standard (Matthew 5:27-28):

    ” . . . Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

    That could certainly be seen as “fear-based language”, which is an effective description for much of the latter half of Matthew 5. But the reason that “fear-based language” is used is because it is effective, particularly in accomplishing what Jesus intended to do, specifically to show that the natural way of living was not compatible with the way he wanted his disciples to live, and to bring them to an awareness of their need to rely on God.

    The author may very well be correct, in that a more free expression of sexuality is a “natural part of being a mortal human”. What Jesus and the Apostles and the prophets clearly taught, however, is that the natural way is not acceptable before God. In the words of Paul (1 Corinthians 2:14):

    “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually
    discerned.”

    Yes, the standards that the LDS Church has set and the language it uses in discussing them are “foolishness” to many – and there are certainly those who consider it to be dangerous foolishness at that. But the teachings of the prophets have very often been considered to be such by the general population.

    I accept the LDS Church’s standards because I believe that they have been set by God, and that is enough for me. But that belief has been strengthened by seeing the abject, manifest failure of Western society in the matter of personal relationships. We have come to see ourselves as being experts in relationships and sexuality, when our society has literally the highest rate of broken relationships in all of human history, with sexually transmitted disease at epidemic levels, and with the number of children being raised outside of a stable home at previously unheard-of rates.

    Western society is a miserable failure when it comes to relationships and sexuality, and yet we sit in judgment of other cultures and of previous generations, and give them lectures on how they should talk, think, and act on sexuality. It is breathtaking in its arrogance.

    I am grateful for those who have come before me, and have set for me an example. When I have ignored it or (worse) paid attention to the dangerous lies coming from popular culture, it has been nothing but misery; when I heeded the wise counsel of my family and my church leaders, I have found real peace.

    • adam

      “That could certainly be seen as “fear-based language”, which is an effective description for much of the latter half of Matthew 5″

      No, it isn’t fear-based language. That is Christ telling us the obvious – to not fantasize about adultery. That isn’t fear-based language or teaching. Don’t throw Jesus under the bus there. Take other-sex friendships, for example. You might be attracted to one or more of them – that is totally normal and not necessarily a problem. However, if you’re fantasizing about what it would be like to be *with* that person, you’re stepping into dangerous territory.

      I’m glad the standards of the church have benefited you. They have for me as well. Perhaps we differ though in that I think the church still has room to grow, that leaders make mistakes, and that some of Elder Callister’s talk is is an example of that.

    • adam

      Another example of fear-based language:

      Satan/Lucifer teaches that unless a member of the church (who has been endowed) lives up to every commandment, then they are under his power. *That* is fear-based. Every temple-going member should recognize that one.

    • Jax Williams

      Real peace? Wow.

    • Aep

      Fear-based language is actually the best way to produce shame, self-hatred and loss of self-esteem. It may sometimes be affective in stopping a behavior, but it doesn’t change a person’s heart for the better and nor does it improve the relationship with the person using the language. We are here to become more like God, not be shamed into acting like him. If it doesn’t get to our hearts, it is useless.

  • http://www.gregdenning.com Greg Denning

    As kindly as I can, I want to offer a concern I observe in your perspective and attitude. It seems to be the ‘philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.’ If the Brethren and the correlation department publish it, then I would side with them over all your other training and knowledge. Finding fault with the leaders because they are not sharing the philosophies of men is a really slippery slope. Reach upward.

    • adam

      I would suggest that it is indeed reaching upward to not blindly follow leaders when they themselves are offering the “philosophies of men, mingled with scripture” as Elder Callister is doing here. It need not be “finding fault” with them, but clearly they can make mistakes, and you understand that I’m sure, as well as Natasha Parker does. I understand what you mean by the slippery slope, but is there *no* room for dissent when a leader is wrong? Or are we to just accept harmful teachings because they are coming from our leaders whom we sustain?

      We know they can make mistakes. Are we to follow them in that?

      • http://www.gregdenning.com Greg Denning

        Adam, you are right that we should not follow blindly. Each should know for him/herself. My concern is that we might measure the leader to be ‘wrong’ by measuring his words and actions against the science, learning, teaching, and philosophy of men.

        • adam

          What happens, if as Henry Eyring said, God’s word in the rocks conflicts with his word in the scriptures (or the correlation committee)? I think each of us (and you probably agree) need to decide how we will resolve this situations. I for one, and I suspect many here, sometimes find that God’s word in the rocks (e.g., in science) is the more correct way (not always!!!), and that the leader himself is mistaken.

    • Beardliness Godliness

      Reach upward? As in Brigham Young reaching upward to lecture the Saints
      on the inhabitants of the moon? As in Joseph Fielding Smith reaching
      upward to say that people would never walk on the moon? Church
      leader/membership tends to frame non-members or society or the world
      with the often quoted “when they think they are wise…” or the
      “philosophies of men mingled with scripture…” I think it would be
      prudent to frame these words internally to remove the beam from our own
      eye. What is the New Testament but the zealous philosophies of men put
      to parchment by apostles and ghost writers as they reminisced 70-100
      years afterwards on the words of Jesus. Add to that the translation of
      tone from one language to the next and we really have a difficult task
      understanding what was meant in 21st century English. Would a just and
      loving God fault one for following their heart even though it conflicted
      with the position of Church leaders. I grow weary of the solace that
      grown men seem to find in Elders Quorum discussions that if they obey
      the prophet everything will be OK even if the prophet is wrong. Did such
      a mindset provide solace for the priesthood holders who participated in
      the killing of unarmed men, women and children in the Mountain Meadows
      Massacre? The philosophies of the male-leaders of the Church have
      changed over and over and will continue to do so; Adam-God, polygamy,
      race and the priesthood, homosexuality. As members and leaders we need
      to put truth above our own ego no matter the source. I appreciate the
      peer-reviewed truth that the best qualified minds of our time, such as
      Ms. Parker, are publishing to help us live fuller lives. These
      professional men and women are not minions of Satan- they’re using their
      God given minds to help people damaged by dogma.

      • http://www.gregdenning.com Greg Denning

        ‘Reach upward’ is what I put on all my posts, emails and comments. It comes from this poem. “Chief of all Thy wondrous works, supreme of all Thy plan, Thou hast placed an upward reach, in to the heart of man.”
        Are “the best qualified minds of our time” equivalent to “the arm of the flesh?” The Lord has asked us to follow the prophets, not the best qualified minds. Granted, Elder Callister is not a ‘prophet, seer or revelator.’
        BUT, as I understand it, the Ensign passes through the Correlation Department first, to ensure doctrinal purity. If it made it through that process, I will accept it as good doctrine and question my other beliefs that conflict with it.
        A thorough study of the Bible will help us understand polygamy, race and the priesthood and homosexuality. God has been quite clear about all three.
        Reach Upward.

        • Beardliness Godliness

          A thorough study of the Bible does not lead to clarity, ergo Joseph Smith’s retreat to the woods. God’s intent has been less than clear through His prophetic filters which is why we have a rich history in the Church of dogmatic doctrine made up by leaders to explain racist and socially oppressive policies. Have you had a chance to read the Church’s online published repudiation of doctrine concerning the curse of Cain and pre-existent fence sitters? I use to believe that God speaks to his prophets face to face. I’ve since learned that God speaks to his leaders the same as everyone else- through their biased hearts. If He does speak face to face then why the confusion? Why would God tell Pres. Kimball that it would be better for a homosexual to kill himself to remain pure from the sin of homosexuality and then over 30 years later tell the Correlation Department ghost writers of mormonsandgays.org that homosexuality is not a sin, but acting on it is. If you really can’t see the social progress made between those two, vastly different God-given, church sanctioned stances, then I leave you to keep your head in the sand of certitude.

    • Aep

      I think it is important to remember that seeking knowledge from experts and then using that information prayerfully and through inspiration is an essential element of receiving revelation. Not all knowledge outside of the LDS church should be termed “the philosophies of men” because much of it is inspired of God. We can determine what is and what is not through the help of the HG. While going to college I learned many things that were confirmed by the spirit to be true. “The philosophies of men” are just as likely to be found mingled with church doctrine and culture because the church is guided and lead by imperfect men. I think many of those men are great and inspired, but I cannot deny their humanity and expect them to be perfect.

      • Kindra, MSW

        As a therapist myself, I know that there is a difference between using good science and using men’s philosophy – this blog shares very little in the way of science, and much more in the way of opinion (which is, granted, drawn from the prevailing opinions of the discipline). In reading this I see a lot of statements like “this statement is incorrect, because current therapy approaches say so.” I agree with DiscoverShareInspire that although church leaders certainly are not perfect and do not always phrase things in appropriate or sensitive ways, when there is a conflict between fundamental church teachings and the APA’s position on an issue (LGBTQ relations, maturbation, modesty, etc.), our default position should be to side with those who have the keys of revelation, and start our quest for truth and health from that point.

        • Aep

          I am aware that the author’s thoughts are based on her experiences. Those experiences mirror my own and I am grateful for her giving voice to them. I appreciate her approach and I think my life would have been different if I had been approached in a similar manner as a teenager and as an adult. My default position is actually not to side with any man regardless of priesthood keys, but to pursue knowledge directly from the Source if I have questions regarding what men say or do. Church leaders have done far more than “not be perfect”, they have actually caused deep psychological damage with their approach to mental health concerns to me personally and many people I know. Therefore, I can never default to what they are saying regarding certain issues because that has produced disastrous results. I don’t consider everything that men say from the pulpit to be fundamental church doctrine unless I feel a confirmation that this is the case. Defaulting to the knowledge of men, in my opinion, is doing yourself and your testimony a great disservice.

    • Aep

      Being correct in your terminology and exhibiting sympathy toward those to whom the message is directed makes all the difference in the world (having knowledge of what people are suffering goes a long way in developing empathy and sympathy). For instance, see Elder Holland’s talk about mental illness in the last conference. A perfect example of what Elder Callister’s talk was lacking.

    • JohnH2

      “the correlation department publish it”

      How is that not the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture?

  • charles w

    God / Father that Loves us??
    Intentionally creates us with strong emotions AND variation and then
    Pervasively uses FEAR language to control us, telling us “you have Free Will”
    Sounds awfully manipulative to me…

  • charles rivera

    Long story short, LDS GAs have labeled anything to do with sex as “sin”, “dirty” and to be abhorred except for the purpose or procreation. How Catholic is that? And to those quoting 2 Ne 9:21, we can turn it back on Callister, who clearly knows ZERO about human sexuality, yet thinks he can speak to all on the subject for the Lord. Speaking of the Lord, why did he think polygamy and polyandry was okay “back then” but not now, hmmm? Why did God approve of Lot offering his daughters to a sex-starved crowd to preserve and protect his angels? God loses street cred there.

  • jowchie

    “A great man once said, everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.” – Francis Underwood (House of Cards)…

    It’s all about controlling your followers.

  • Shannon

    THANK YOU! I am so glad to know that there are Mormons out there speaking out against this damaging and dangerous rhetoric!

  • Mike

    Thank you for this perspective! This is a healthy viewpoint that takes logical considerations into account without discounting religion. This is the kind of advice I want to give my daughter as she grows older. Thank you for this rational and well thought out essay!

  • Colleen Coyle

    You really did put this beautifully; speaking as a teen who has both been abused and explored sexuality outside of marriage. Callister’s talk only served to make me feel worse about myself and unable to reach out to my church administration to deal with the issues. The culture I live in does not feel like one that is conducive to a healthy experience with repentance. Thank you for your analysis. I feel less like a sinner and apostasizer, but rather more like a frightened and confused girl that does not feel so alone. Thank you. Keep writing. People need to hear what you have to say.

  • A in Pa

    That is a an awesome and thoughtful article!

    Unfortunately, LDS Inc. in their arrogance will never admit to the spiritual abuse of their members as the steam roll their way through peoples lives in their quest to save them. Better to save yourself from religion and trust your salvation to God.

    I have learned that lay people, lawyers, plumbers, business men, whoever, are called into positions of “authority” in the Mormon Church and as a result of this “calling” are “blessed” by God with spiritual insights and the power of discernment far exceeding their own knowledge and education.

    They then proceed to counsel members in private and from the podium on topics for which they have no formal education or training — like marriage counseling, mental health issues, sexual abuse, or addiction.

    They give stunning bad counsel and advice that additionally harms people whom are seeking help and direction.

    This is not an opinion it’s a fact, abuse survivors have been guilted, shamed and blamed as a result of seeking help from the spiritual authorities in the Mormon Church.

    In fact the Mormon youth are often the victims of sexual and spiritual abuse at the hands of their leaders when called into the office by lay people and questioned about developing sexuality as part of “worthiness” interviews.

    If you are a Mormon please don’t even comment on my post because there is no excuse,explanation or defense for this kind of spiritual abuse and I don’t want to hear your Mormon propaganda.

    • Kindra, MSW

      “don’t even comment”? Are you scared of what I might say?

      • A in Pa

        You called me out, so here we go.

        oh my, full of yourself much? I took the liberty of reading your other posts> I also like how your advertise your qualifications then bait me.

        Go back to drinking to kool-aid and btw, do your actually think your have something new and profound to say in defense of your belief system? You sound like a broken record of sacrament, YW’s or Relief Society meetings and you are parroting all the things you have been taught to say and think and you actually think these are all you own opinions?

        You could just as easily be a Muslim patiently explaining your religion and how correct it is and willing to “teach” me all about it. Does that make Islam true too?

        Your position is just as predictable as I knew it would be, you are right, you KNOW the truth and anyone who thinks different is is just wrong AND a mountain of evidence could fall on your belief system and you would still deny the facts, then proceed to discredit the person who presented the information because you can’t actually discredit the facts or the history.

        Which is why I added the disclaimer because I really didn’t need some Molly to school me today.

        As you were!

    • Victoria Holt

      Just some questions: why are you reading the “Mormon” therapist if you’re not a Mormon? And if you don’t want Mormons to respond to you? Just completely curious. I don’t discount ALL of what you say.

      • Guest

        Member that resigned. I now see the organization as predatory, exploitive and harmful.

        Coming home from my calling in the Stake Primary Presidency, alone at night, have three children at home and I have to be at work at midnight, going through a divorce, car that is questionable, and I realize, there is no consideration for me, my children, my situation, they put me in harms way, put my job at risk, (if that car breaks down and I have no way of calling in it’s grounds for termination) not to mention who may stop to “help” me, and I realize that they are just business men running a business with free labor. There is no inspiration from God, there is a hand book that they follow.

        I woke up, took my life back. Afterward I have only verified with facts that none of what the Church teaches about Joseph Smith, the priesthood authority is true. More true is that these people are perpetrating yet another great religious fraud, right along with Islam or Catholicism. (and the Mormon church will teach your that both of those are corrupted therefor have no authority to administer the priesthood authority) my contention is Mormonism is just as corrupted by man and there is much evidence of that.

        I can not turn my life over to a bunch of business men who’s main goal is running their business and making sure that every member represents their company as prescribed by them, down to your underwear.

        As I said, the evidence of their corruption is apparent once you take off the rose colored glasses and see it for what it really is, emotional manipulation to gain power and influence over anyone willing to give them the benefit of doubt.

        They have no authority from God, their Prophets have no prophetic ability (but the profits are great) and they are abusive as they parade around giving counsel that is neither inspired or healing.

        So, I’m calling road apple on the whole thing.
        See the above article — how many people want to rationalize and defend the abuse to protect their religion, their beliefs and the leaders, so much so that they are unwilling to see the evidence of corruption and allow the abuse to continue.

  • Happy Hubby

    Natasha, this is great. I struggle quite a bit with some talks like this. After decades of searching for some peace leaning only on “reading the scriptures, saying prayers, and keeping the commandments” I am now in counseling and making progress on my spirituality.
    For all the “hard line LDS folks on here that give you such a hard time about even daring to even comment on a GA’s talk.” The first is that this is an HONEST review of what Mrs. Parker can see from her vantage point and it looks to me like she is trying to help point on where some of the words and analogies used have consequences that the speaker may not understand. I don’t see her saying, “hey everyone – go and have sex all over the place.” In fact I think she generally is saying she agrees that sex within marriage is the right place (excluding the GLTG issue). She isn’t trying to go against the church. She is saying that the words and analogies used could be better (note the title).
    I don’t have the time at the moment to look it up, but I read a quote from one of the early church leaders that basically said, “lets put up what we think of as the truth and the truth will be left standing in the end.”
    I certainly feel that much of the LDS church seems to disregard the valuable tool that science of psychology and therapy have to offer. We trust our MD for all things physical (but still pray and get blessings) but when it comes to human behavior we think all psychologists are atheist or something. I just attended a welfare committee meeting for our region. They had 2 professionals from the psychology field talk about marriage and preparing missionaries. One of the themes was for bishops to understand the very real tool that LDS social services (ok – that is their old name I think). They emphasized that it needs to be used in parallel to the spiritual tools.

  • Kindra, MSW

    As a therapist myself, I know that there is a difference between using good science and using men’s philosophy – the problem with this post is that its outrage stems primarily from the contradictions to current terminology and opinions of the discipline about what is “healthy” “dangerous”, “unrealistic”, and not from a contradiction of actual science. In reading this I see a lot of statements like “Callister refers to masturbation as ‘self-abuse.’ This is not an appropriate clinical term,” and being livid about the word “pure” even though SHE is the one who claims that refers to virginity, not him. Callister’s talk was a spiritual, not a clinical treatise, and it shouldn’t be judged as such. Clearly, there is room for disagreement about whether or not masturbation “hinders an important relationship with self” or being a celibate lesbian “is not a healthy stance.” I agree with DiscoverShareInspire that although church leaders certainly are not perfect and do not always phrase things in appropriate or sensitive ways, when there is a conflict between fundamental church teachings and the APA’s position on an issue, our default position should be to side with those who have the keys of revelation, and start our quest for truth and health from that point.

    • Aep

      I am aware that the author’s thoughts are based on her experiences. Those experiences mirror my own and I am grateful for her giving voice to them. I appreciate her approach and I think my life would have been different if I had been approached in a similar manner as a teenager and as an adult. My default position is actually not to side with any man regardless of priesthood keys, but to pursue knowledge directly from the Source if I have questions regarding what men say or do. Church leaders have done far more than “not be perfect”, they have actually caused deep psychological damage with their approach to mental health concerns to me personally and many people I know. Therefore, I can never default to what they are saying regarding certain issues because that has produced disastrous results. I don’t consider everything that men say from the pulpit to be fundamental church doctrine unless I feel a confirmation that this is the case. Defaulting to the knowledge of men, in my opinion, is doing yourself and your testimony a great disservice.

      • Kindra, MSW

        I agree – you should check everything with God. That’s important. And I’m sorry you’ve been hurt. What has been said that’s caused this damage?

        • Aep

          Without getting into too much nitty gritty detail, I had various “moral” issues from when I was very young. The way that church leaders spoke about those issues created so much shame/self-disgust that I could not motivate myself to seek help or talk to my parents (I was very young). My behavior, which I struggled to stop because of some depression/anxiety issues deeply corroded my sense of worth. Therefore, I didn’t get help for the depression either. That is why I worry about these types of talks and the youth. Once I did seek help there were many well-meaning individuals that in retrospect should have referred me to a specialist. Will power just wasn’t going to cut it. I also have several friends who are homosexuals and I can’t even begin to describe the years of suffering they have gone through because of the self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness that resulted from their meetings with bishops and other church leaders. My experience pales in comparison to theirs, but the internalized shame I personally experienced has led to problems throughout my life (and probably always) with intimacy in my marriage and in relationships in general.

          • Hailey Reed

            Thank you Aep. Thank you so much. I had very, VERY similar experiences growing up and cannot stress how important it is that we stop shaming the youth! I blog all about my very own “nitty gritty” at sayitanywayy.blogspot.com :) Thank you again for all of your comments. Loved them.

  • Kindra, MSW

    Isn’t it a scary prospect that we should eliminate any rule or moral standard that is difficult to obey, or that seems to go against what is natural? (her words are “unhealthy”, “unrealistic”, “rigid”) – Potty training is rigid too, and completely unnatural. Christ said “be ye therefore perfect” – also unrealistic! But if we don’t have high expectations for ourselves, what kind of behavior ARE we promoting?

    • adam

      Indeed it is. It is also a scary prospect to default to those who are mortal, who *sometimes* speak for God, and who sometimes are painfully in error.

      And frankly, we (the church, and its leaders) are not doing so well in terms of “actual science” even, not just prevailing clinical opinion. Porn “addiction” is rampant in Utah, teen (especially LGBT) suicide is a major issue there as well. To me that suggests that we may be doing something wrong, and it has something to do with ignoring or dismissing God’s revelations in science and trusting too heavily in the arm of flesh of mortal leaders.

      • Aep

        Exactly Adam :) Thank you.

      • Kindra, MSW

        Porn addiction and LGBT suicides are terrible. I agree that we need to do something. But we can’t pretend that science will give us those answers – science tells us WHAT is going on, but the WHY comes from philosophy, psychology, religion – lots of places. You believe it’s because we trust too much in our church leaders. Valid opinion. My current opinion is that God loves us, and trusting in the words of prophets is a good place to start looking for solutions.

        • adam

          I can appreciate that view, and to some degree of course I share it. Of course, given that we’re both therapists, this conversation might involve too much validation and whatnot for the rest of the folks here. :D

          I *do* think that trusting mortal men to the point of canonizing them (as Elder Maxwell warned against) leads to absolving oneself of responsibility at best, and at worst following council or teachings that may cause harm.

      • Pedro Brando

        “Science” is too strong a word to describe clinical psychology.

  • Jeremy

    You have made some pretty serious allegations towards Elder Callister – i.e. “uses fear based language”, “participates in classic rape culture”, “sexist and offensive”, and more. Coming from a trained professional these very serious indictments seem to be very unjudicious and unfair. I am curious as to why you think he is unqualified to speak on the “spiritual” aspects of the law of chastity as a duly ordained Elder of the church. I’m sure Elder Callister has plenty of weaknesses and makes many mistakes (he would probably be the first one to tell you this) but, he is certainly not guilty of your hasty judgements.
    After reading his Ensign article and your analysis of it, I can’t help but suspect that you come to the table with some pretty rigid and predetermined conclusions. As a result you were unable to feel the great message of love and hope that he communicated. I don’t understand how you think that he is teaching with fear. It is an act of love and concern that we are to warn others of the harmful consequences of sin. Was Lehi teaching with “fear based language” when he told the inhabitants of Jerusalem that they would be destroyed if they didn’t repent, or Alma, or Abinadi, or Jeremiah, or every other prophet? Of course not! The intended audience didn’t like it too much. I’m sure because it caused them anxiety, but the messengers did it out of love and concern so that their brethren could escape the painful consequences of sin. My 4 year old son loved to play in the camp fire, but I had to teach him very clearly the very painful consequence of getting to close. This might have caused him great anxiety because he really like to play in it with sticks, but 3rd degree burns all over his body would have been significantly worse. I don’t understand your commentary on his use of “lust”. Based on the context of his comments I think it is pretty obvious he is referring to it as sexual arousal outside the bonds of marriage. Maybe it is just semantics, but I would not describe the sexual arousal I have for my wife as “lust”. And of course it is natural for humans to experience feelings of lust. He doesn’t deny that. We are “natural men” programmed with all manner of base desires and tendencies. He is teaching us how to rise above them.
    You have also completely mischaracterized his counsel on modesty. He nowhere stated that women are going to be held accountable for a man’s improper thoughts. However, it is naïve to believe that the way a woman dresses has no influence over a man’s thoughts. Men are very visual. Like it or not, that is a fact. We will be responsible for allowing impure thoughts to capture our minds, but if a woman can help to minimize the temptation, why not? Is it not our duty to try to bring out the best in others? I am blessed with 4 beautiful daughters. I will teach them the reality of this. Not because I participate in the “rape culture”, (talk about using fear and intimidation based language!), but because I don’t want some hormone driven teenage boy viewing them as a sex object. They are God’s culminating creation and I will encourage them to act like it.

    • adam

      I agree the points she makes against the talk are serious, although we should acknowledge the serious nature of an ensign article that will reach millions. There is good in talk, for sure, and of course he is trying to communicate love. Clearly though, (and as you also acknowledge) he makes mistakes, and there are some in this talk that Natasha, myself, and many others think could be damaging. Is it possible to both acknowledge the fallibility of our leaders in general (as you have also done), and even suggest specific times when that is the case? Clearly he is wrong on some (not all!) of his points, and those errors might cause harm. Any critical tone in this blog post is just trying to highlight or underline that fact. We need not treat our leaders as kings. Doing so does us and them a disservice. We should show our respect by calling out the *occasional* harmful language like this. If I were a leader I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m sure Elder Callister (although I don’t know him personally) is a good man and leader and would appreciate the feedback.

      • Jeremy

        “We should show respect by calling out the “occasional” harmful language like this”
        Using language like “participating in the classic rape culture” or “sexist” is not my idea of showing respectful disagreement. I have no problem with anyone expressing their opinions about what the brethren teach, but don’t use intimidating language and hastily impugn someone’s motives and then describe it as respectful. That language is only meant to manipulate and intimidate people into adopting your point of view.

        • adam

          Ah, yeah I see what you’re saying Jeremy. Fwiw I don’t think Natasha is attempting to manipulate or intimidate people with her post – I think it’s a clear reaction to what she (and others) see as the major problems in the talk. Anyway, thanks for the response.

        • Aep

          What terms do you propose that she use if something is indeed sexist or participating in rape culture? It is very common for people to do both without actually realizing it because they lack the experiences necessary to raise personal awareness of those issues. Callister is not immune to bias or is simply lacking the experiences I mentioned above.

    • Jeremy

      Adam,

      You are using a straw man argument when you say we shouldn’t treat our leaders as kings. I don’t believe this, nor did I make this argument. However, I do not think it is a virtue to be reflexively cynical. As Elder Uchtdorf said, “doubt your doubts first”. It is important to recognize that in this quest for ultimate truth, we might be the ones in error, or deceived. Remember, we are infallible also, but through humbly seeking the discernment from the Holy Ghost, we can learn the “truth of all things”. What are the “clearly” pernicious and incorrect doctrine do you believe he promulgated? I didn’t pick up on them.

      • adam

        Yes, I can see that now. I stand corrected on that one. Perhaps I just experience many members acting that way – as if a leader is off limits from critique and must be defended.

        Re: “clearly” wrong – It has been addressed already a few times, but for starters, how about calling masturbation, “self-abuse”?

    • Aep

      I don’t believe that she stated that Elder Callister was “unqualified”, but rather advocates the idea that educating oneself about the issues and integrating that knowledge (through use of the spirit) would be helpful in order to approach your audience in a productive, sensitive way. Additionally, the manner in which many church leaders over the years have warned about the consequences of sin has been counterproductive particularly in the area of chastity. If you read his words as loving, I respect that as being your experience. However, for the individual struggling and failing, struggling and failing…these words come across as condemning and deeply lacking empathy. He characterizes all individuals who struggle to confess as rationalizing and that their sins will be shouted from the rooftops. That they will not be able to hide etc. What they need is knowledge that confession is a safe place where they will be loved. He generalizes and is impatient with the often painful, slow-moving and inconsistent route to repentance that most people experience, especially those in the throes of an addiction. Individuals steeped in a sexual sin experience a deep corrosion of self-worth and hope. The anxiety isn’t derived from the reality that not following the law of chastity is a sin, but because they lack hope in their ability to overcome and have simply failed to do so thus far.
      As for his comments on modesty. “Helping” men to control their thoughts and behaviors has been a huge failure in the past. It almost inevitably leads to handing over undue responsibility to women. I can’t tell you how many times I have been taught that women have the responsibility to enforce sexual boundaries in relationships because men simply can’t because of their biology. Until men decide that they have the power through the atonement to control their own thoughts, they will never do it. Having “lustful” thoughts seems to occur regardless of what a woman is wearing so I am not sure how helpful women can be in that regard. Also, “women get the men they dress for”. Strangely I don’t dress for men…my life doesn’t revolve around them and neither should we encourage that in women. I know so many women who just don’t dress modestly and they have terrific husbands. Additionally, the implication that such a surface issue as clothing actually determines marriageability and worth is counterproductive and disparaging.

      • Jeremy

        Okay so she infers that he is uneducated and failed to use the spirit. A distinction without a difference. He does not “characterize all individuals who struggle to confess as rationalizing and that their sins will be shouted from the rooftops.” That is a gross misrepresentation of his statement. He was referring to those whom try to hide without any intention of repenting, clarifying it with this scripture “The rebellious shall be pierced … and their secrets acts shall be revealed.” The message of a forgiving Father who is anxious to free us from our burdens is the most hopeful message that exists. You seem to make more unwarranted assumptions in your critique about his teachings on modesty. He did not place the responsibility of men’s impure thoughts on woman. He did say that the “dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men”, … “it may prompt improper thoughts.” Do you deny this? You might not be happy about it but that doesn’t mean it ain’t so. Charles Barkley famously quipped ” I am not a role-model.” He might not have wanted to be one but that didn’t change the fact that thousands of kids around the world idolized him. Women can be helpful by understanding the male sexual nature and the constant effort that is required to maintain pure thoughts. It might not make a difference for some, but it will for others. I think it is pretty clear that dress and appearance does affect our thoughts and actions. If you disagree try wearing a swimsuit to work or school and see if you have a normal day. And I think it is very inaccurate and careless to label these views as sexist. That is a significant accusation and you lose credibility when you so easily brand people with it.

        • Aep

          I feel like you are really misunderstanding my points so I am not sure it matters if I try to explain them further, but I will try one more time in the case that I did not explain myself well. I was only trying to help you see how this talk could possibly impact someone who has a different perspective than yours, someone who would have reason to be the client of a therapist with a history of certain behaviors/problems. I am not trying to tell you what your perspective is, but to see past your own. I don’t think I have illusions about men’s sexual natures. I just think that it often becomes a slippery slope to consistently and dominantly teach that modesty is about “helping” men (for both men & women). There isn’t a whole lot of evidence that men change when they are “helped” by women wearing modest clothing. Lustful thoughts and even worse behaviors tend to occur regardless of modesty. This tells me that perhaps the approach should change and focus should shift from women wearing modest clothing to helping men control their thoughts and behaviors. The preventative measures in this talk were focused on what the women should not be doing, not the men.
          I hope this clarifies what I think and, side note, I don’t think that pointing out that someone needs education in a particular area is insulting. We all lack knowledge and sometimes fail to understand the spirit (that is a lifetime/eternal endeavor), general authorities included.

  • Amy Williams

    There are two broad issues I have with this post. First and primarily is the morality and attitude towards Church authority it promotes. Second, Parker seems overly sensitive and looks for reasons to misinterpret and exaggerate what Callister was saying. I say this after having read Callister’s original article, none of which was new, either in content, clarity of language, or tone.

    On morality, the post suggests that masturbation may not be wrong and that few leaders have condemned it. The reality is a very clear and long list of leaders that have spoken against it. As well, she suggests that celibacy and singleness for LGBTQ individuals is inappropriate/inferior to some alternative and will set them up for “failure.” Not only is this in direct conflict with scripture and modern leaders, it’s not clear what she means by “failure.” Should heterosexual singles in the church be seen as either failing or needing a different/more lax standard than those consistently promoted by the Church? I think Parker is confused about sexual healing and how (and when) it can be achieved.

    On authority, Church leaders haven’t vacillated/been unclear on this topic. This leaves little room for us to think that they’re making a mistake. If a huge number of Church leaders are as fallible as to repeatedly misunderstand what God wants on a subject as fundamental as morality, it’s not clear to me that we have much basis to trust Church authority. The post suggests individual revelation as a guide, but that too can be fallible. One should be careful when their potential revelations suggest behavior that conflicts with numerous, repeated messages from Church leaders.

    On tone/content, Callister’s article is not fear mongering. And he was not speaking to individuals with OCD: he was speaking to the Church at large, which includes members who may believe that pornography/lust is not a problem. Such individuals, in my view, need clear speaking and reasons for why that behavior is dangerous. And Callister was explicitly talking about pornography, not fine art (something Parker misinterpreted). Callister also defined lust (which Parker then redefined to suit her argument) in a way that is clear and in conflict with the sexuality the Church promotes. As the other commenter pointed out, Callister doesn’t say (or even seem to mean) virginity when it comes to purity. Parker seems to go out of her way to find a reason to be enraged over Callister’s very standard talk on this topic. Finally, Callister spends a lot of time saying how hopeful repentance is and that all can be made clean and worthy. Why is this talk a problem at all? Boggles my mind. Warning of the effects of pornography to those who may be able to avoid its sinister grasp is what prophets and general authorities are for.

    Honestly, this piece reminds me of the Pharisees being offended at Jesus’ clear speaking in condemnation of their faulty and salvation-less traditions. The APA won’t save any of us. (And I say this having done years of therapy that I found quite helpful but not ultimately able to fully address my problems. Therapy is helpful but salvation and deliverance from all challenges comes as a gift form God as we humble ourselves before Him and patiently wait for the Atonement to work — Ether 12:27.)

    Perhaps we should teach individuals struggling with an incorrect view of sexuality about what this talk means (not about fine art, not about subtle arousal, not condemning repentant sinners) rather than deciding the talk is wrong. Callister’s views aren’t extreme but this post is preaching against numerous general authorities in the Church.

    • adam

      “On authority, Church leaders haven’t vacillated/been unclear on this topic. This leaves little room for us to think that they’re making a mistake. If a huge number of Church leaders are as fallible as to repeatedly misunderstand what God wants on a subject as fundamental as morality…”

      Amy, what do you make of all the times many leaders have been wrong on fundamental subjects? Or when they disagree on these major topics? We say our leaders are fallible but it appears a lot of us don’t really believe that. Yet, our history is clear that we can be wrong in major ways, that God allows it, even on a church-wide basis. Let’s not assume that our latter-day church is somehow so much better than any previous dispensation. We have been warned in the Book of Mormon. All is not well in Zion/upon Rameumpton. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any good in the talk, or that Elder Callister had malicious intent. It also doesn’t need to mean that church authority is pointless as you implied.

      • Amy Williams

        Adam, what do you mean by “all the times many leaders have been wrong on fundamental subjects”? When have they disagreed on what constitutes serious sin? I wouldn’t lump me in with the “we” you’re referring to on fallibility: I don’t believe the leaders are near as fallible, either in frequency or degree, as some do.

        If we as Church start believing our judgement trumps the consistent message of the leaders, it will dramatically undermine the unity and authority the Church has. Picking and choosing what we feel is right will be a serious problem since we are all quite fallible people, many of whom have much less experience, wisdom, and dedication to the gospel than the general authorities.

        • adam

          Re: “wrong on fundamental subjects” – those were discussed on this thread quite a bit, but clearly things like the universal/world-wide flood, the priesthood ban (at first it was doctrinal, then it was policy, and leaders disagreed whether or not it would change before the millennium), the treatment of gays and lesbians (which they have *not* changed in some ways, but in other ways they have changed a great deal. It is no longer a sin just to be gay, for example, like it used to be). It used to be a requirement for the celestial kingdom to have plural wives. Now (of course) it is not. President Hinckley even taught that polygamy was not doctrinal. There have been a variety of views. Of course, none of those matter in comparison to the basic principles of the gospel (faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, etc. etc.) but they are not inconsequential issues. I think our Heavenly Parents allow quite a bit of leeway, and they work through flawed people, who are usually trying to do their best.

          Re: one’s judgment vs. a message of a leader – I disagree that that has to undermine the authority of the church. I can see why you said that though. Perhaps it would for some. And I totally agree, we are all quite fallible. I do think though that most of us “pick and choose” – if we’re not picking and choosing to some degree, we’re deceiving ourselves that somehow it all fits together perfectly. It doesn’t. We see through a glass darkly, as it were. There are paradoxes and conflicts. None of that need undermine the authority of the general authorities or the 12 to try to lead us to Christ and the Atonement.

          • Jeremy

            I think you are confusing practices with doctrines. The incorrect “doctrines” that were taught in the past were not doctrines. These were practices. There was never any doctrine denying the priesthood to the blacks. It was certainly the conventional wisdom or practice of the brethren and even taught by some of them, but this does not constitute doctrine. Establishing doctrine requires a much higher standard as prescribed in the Doctrine and Covenants. It must be received by the prophet and be unanimously accepted by the first presidency, quorum of the twelve apostles, seventies, and subject to the common consent of the church membership. None of those examples you cited met this standard and would not be accurately defined as doctrine. Practices have changed and will continue to change for the church as we receive greater light and knowledge but doctrine is eternal. The truths found in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” teaches doctrine.

          • adam

            If that is the standard for doctrine, then we have a lot that wouldn’t be doctrine, such as *some* of the contents (not all!) of Elder Callister’s talk. No argument from me. :)

            Although, I wasn’t intending to bring up “doctrines vs. practices” here per se, perhaps that is also a straw man that you have built up. I was only pointing out that not everything a leader says, even in a talk that is printed in the ensign, is free from error. Of course now it seems that you would agree – it’s not necessarily doctrine.

          • Jeremy

            I totally agree. Anything a church leader says must be weighed according to established doctrines as set forth in the standard works. I don’t see where Elder Callister departs from established doctrine. And just because the talks in conference or the Ensign don’t meet that standard does not mean they are not the mind and will of God. That is what we need personal revelation to determine.

          • adam

            For sure.

    • Aep

      Amy, maybe you don’t have the same experiences as the clients of this therapist and therefore struggle to see the affects of talks like this one and the generally toxic attitude toward sexuality within the church. People who are not struggling with the law of chastity don’t in fact need this talk. It is for people who ARE struggling and it does very little in the way of hope and nor does it express any sort of understanding regarding the very difficult process of repenting. When I read it, I wasn’t offended by the doctrine, but was saddened by how it was expressed. It isn’t about humility on the part of the hearer, it is about the speaker gaining enough empathy for his audience to deliver his message with love. Both those who have hardened hearts and those who are deeply saddened by their mistakes/seeking to repent are not going to respond to the tone of this message. I find this kind of hardline, archaic chastising to be non-productive and unhelpful in changing people’s hearts.

  • Gina

    We’ve been subscribed to the Ensign, New Era, and Friend. There’s been a few reasons why I’ve been thinking about canceling, but Tad’s article was the last straw. I just cancelled them all.

  • brianchales

    Natasha Helfer Parker has provided an interesting critique of Elder Callister’s talk, but she does not seem to understand LDS theology regarding sexuality. Two points are worth reviewing. First, sexual sins are on a spectrum from mild inappropriate thoughts to active physical involvement outside of lawful heterosexual marriage to darker perversions. The question occurs, when do such activities (1) result in a loss of the Holy Spirit? (2) result in a loss of a temple recommend, and (3) result in the loss of Church membership.

    The latter two are at the discretion and inspiration of local Church leaders. Gratefully, Joseph Smith’s revelations give a direct answer to (1). D&C 63:16 states: “And verily I say unto you, as I have said before, he that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear.” Hence, whether viewing porn or in a some other setting, lusting in one’s mind causes a person to “not have the Spirit.” Apparently the threshold is quite low for losing the Spirit. Therapists who recommend a “little” porn or a “little” masturbation are promoting behaviors that will leave the participants without the Holy Spirit, denying the faith, and with “fear.” This is the doctrine. It is not from Elder Callister.

    The second problem for Natasha involves the place of sexuality in the plan of salvation as taught by the scriptures and Church leaders. If she understands it, it would seem she does not believe it. LDS doctrine teaches that we lived for “ages and eons” in the premortal world with gender, but not with sexuality. Here on earth we gain mortal bodies with sexual drives and capabilities. Part of the test of earth life is being able to control them. Individuals who express their sexuality only with the bonds of lawful eternal marriages, will receive a “continuation of the seeds” (whatever that means) in the eternal worlds (D&C 132:19-20). Everyone else will “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity” (D&C 132:17). This is damnation within the context of LDS doctrine.

    Accordingly, any voice that promotes sexual activity outside of those parameters is promoting a course that leads to damnation according to Church teachings.Natasha is free to do so, but it is important for believers to contextualize her counsel within LDS theology or they may be deceived.

    Brian Hales

    • adam

      I don’t know any therapists (although perhaps there are some) who *recommend* porn per se. On the contrary, usually.

      Also, abstinence from masturbation is not doctrinal, according to the standard we’ve discussed on this thread. But that’s beside the point – we’re not even going that far. The point here is that using the term “self-abuse” is wrong and harmful.

      I would also wonder – what does one make of the fact that so many members of the church are both masturbating now and then, *and* feeling the Spirit in their lives, *and* not living in fear?

      I’d hate to throw church “doctrine” under the bus here — but of course anyone is free to do so.

  • brianchales

    There is a story of Joseph and Oliver translating the Book of Mormon, but Joseph was unable to do anything. He left Oliver and went to apologize to Emma for some indiscretion and then he was able to translate again. The idea is that we may transgress but the Spirit will not return in abundance until we repent. Joseph Smith taught: “Repentance Is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression & daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God.” It is a high standard. I can’t judge others so I really can’t answer the question, but I believe that daily sins offend the Spirit and limit its influence in my life. Joseph Smith also taught: “For nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.”

    • adam

      ” I can’t judge others so I really can’t answer the question, but I believe that daily sins offend the Spirit and limit its influence in my life.”

      Actually, I really appreciate this response. We could all use a dose of humility to recognize that what works for the self may not be the case for the next person, especially when it comes to existential concerns.

  • Glen D. Cart

    All of the psychobabel in this article leads to the conclusion that we are all animals in nature, morality cannot be obtained, and therefore no one should be responsible for their behaviors.
    The basis of Elder Calister’s teaching is that we should avoid practices which the Lord has condemmed, and how such practices can lead to the spiritual destruction of individuals and families. The author is contending that the secular teachings of men are far superior to what the Lord has declared.
    when all else fails – trust in the Lord with all your might, and lean not to your own understanding.

    • adam

      “leads to the conclusion… no one should be responsible for their behaviors.” Not at all. Major straw man there. Plus, no one (I think) is criticizing “the basis of Elder Callister’s teaching” here. No one is criticizing chastity or virtue per se. It’s his words, and his approach to it that appear to be harmful. No need to trust in the arm of flesh (a mortal church leader’s mistaken words). I agree, trust in the Lord.

      Also, *some* of these “secular” teachings are NOT only secular. Whatever is true is part of the gospel, from whatever the source.

    • kaylayale

      When one person or organization makes another person responsible for their thoughts, behavior or emotions, that is emotional abuse. Mr. Callister is making women responsible for men’s thoughts, and that is emotional abuse.

    • Aep

      That’s interesting that you took her thoughts so negatively. I thought her approach was very humane and realistic in regards to what the repentance process is for some people. Some people will take a long time to get/repent of whatever weakness ails them. She is not saying that morality cannot be endured, but that sometimes it has to be pursued using small steps. Also, all “secular” ideas are not evil. People within science (and other areas of study) are often inspired through the HG and we would all benefit from integrating those ideas into our belief systems even if they did not originate within the organization of the church. I felt the spirit many times while taking “secular” courses while in college.

  • Austin

    For a while I have had growing concerns about the cultural approach to and unintended consequences of the morality/virtue/purity campaign that is being pursued by many in the church. I agree with the doctrines of the church on sexuality and that heterosexual marriage is the only authorized place for sexual relations to take place. However, I have seen a concerning result of the morality/virtue/purity campaign that needs to be addressed or we will continue to see patterns of unhealthy sexuality being displayed in members’ lives. This article by Elder Callister does contribute to the concerns I have been noticing; that being the practice of shaming sexual desire and the belief that using shame will lead to an individual being more empowered to control their sexual desires and bring them in harmony with the doctrinal standards taught by the church. This has not been my observation. I have found that almost all individuals who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior are well aware of how wrong it is and do not need to be reminded of the way God views it, those reminders do not change the behaviors. Natasha is correct in the assertion that shaming sexuality actually increases the problems it is attempting to resolve. As members of the church there are at least two approaches we can take to life, either that of being obedient and striving live life perfectly, or accepting that we are a fallen species and that means we will make mistakes and it is a necessary part of this life to learn how to correct imperfect actions/decisions/desires (sometimes over and over again regarding even serious sins). We make a huge mistake in believing that all immoral sexual actions are a result of active/conscious defiance to the commandments. Those that are acts of willful/active/conscious defiance perhaps need the condemning responses so often heard in the church, but I would submit that much of the immoral sexual behaviors committed in the the church are a result of one’s ineffective efforts to manage other mental/emotional/social issues that are a natural and normal part of living in this world (sorrows, grief, insecurities, loneliness, discouragement, depression, hopelessness, etc.), using shame and condemnation to address these individuals only causes more of what lead them to seek self-soothing activities such as masturbation and sexual gratification, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle that leads to what some call addiction. On the another note, the current campaign to return to virtue leads many women to repress and deny their sexuality for a seemingly more noble achievement of chastity/virtue/morality/purity and subsequently come into marriage ill equipped to enjoy the sexual relationship between husband and wife and leaving the husband feeling ashamed because he has natural desires towards his wife that he can’t freely express without the condemnation of his wife. Young women are appropriately taught to be modest and virtuous and look forward to the role of becoming a mother, but we need to include in that education the importance of the role of being a wife and how fulfilling that role can be in her life and the part that healthy sexuality will play in her fulfillment as a spouse, rather than telling her it is just something she will have to endure or put up with if she wants to have children or to keep her husband satisfied. It is refreshing to come across women who have a healthy attitude about marital sexuality and it gives me hope that this isn’t a pervasive problem everywhere, but it is a significant enough of a problem that it needs to be addressed differently than what it has been in the past. I recently attended a standards night with my young teenage daughters where the presenter, a respected and popular seminary teacher talked about modesty and he unfortunately used a similar tone as Elder Callister and said that girls who wear immodest dresses to school dances might as well as found their dresses in the trash because that is what their dresses look like, trash. He then bragged about how his wife and daughters have always been able to find modest dresses so don’t give him the excuse that it is so hard to find modest dresses. Needless to say I did not leave that standards night uplifted and edified. It is these tones that are too often taken towards sexuality that perpetuate a culture of shame and condemnation that shuts down opportunities to learn healthy sexuality, freely ask questions and get appropriate answers, and ways to manage sexual desires that all human beings have throughout their lives. And BTW, I have always hated hearing the term “self abuse” used as a substitute for masturbation. Just my thoughts.

    • Aep

      Well said. Thank you for this post.

  • Alexandra Rucinski

    Bravo! I absolutely agree with everything you have to say. Mormon culture is destructive especially in regards to sexuality. There is nothing healthy about the lessons regarding purity and chastity being taught to young people in the church. It’s time things changed because if it does not young people are going to leave the church faster then they already are right now. It’s too unhealthy an environment not to mention the rampant sexism towards woman in general.

  • Nat Harris

    Love the article. However, one thing disappointed me. Whenever Mormons talk about “morality” it seems to always be referring to sex. This makes it seem like they are not interested in…you know, helping the starving and poor and that sort of thing. The only thing that would have improved this article would be to expand the idea of morality far beyond sex. Sex is immoral when it hurts people, for example in situations of abuse, spread of disease, human trafficking,etc. Other times it isn’t immoral at all. But there are tons of behaviors in the world besides sex that can be moral or not.

  • Michael Worley
  • Pedro Brando

    Psychologists have very low average GRE scores. These witch doctors have no business defining the parameters of chastity.

  • LeiAnn Johnson

    I am extremely tired of the word “modesty” referring to women’s hemlines. That is NOT what it is. Around the world, there are all kinds of standards for dress that differ greatly from what we perceive as being inappropriate or appropriate. The way a woman dresses has much more to do with how she perceives herself than it does how others look at her and likely has little to do with her sexual modesty. What I cannot stand is the idea that a woman’s dress is directly responsible for what a man does to her.

  • cathyinscore

    My daughters were both molested by their natural father from age five on. When my youngest daughter joined the church, the topic for young women’s was modesty and chastity; my daughter came home in absolute tears because she was sure that because of her father’s deeds she would never get to the temple-no matter how much I tried to reassure her, it was never enough. Shortly after, she became very sexually active, got pregnant (at 13) and suffered from bi-polar disorder, mania, and PTSD from all she had been through. During this time, her brother was killed and more mental issues ensued. We had one home teacher that openly said during a lesson that if his wife or daughters would be raped, he would kill them as they would never be clean! This is one of the downsides to our culture and “rape culture” Attitudes.Because of my daughter’s mental state at the time myself, her therapist, and psychologist decided the best thing was to terminate the pregnancy. This was not her decision and was all on me spiritually. No one person or circumstance is the same! How does a five year old entice a man?

  • Raymond Carroll

    Hot button Topic. First, I “basically” agree with Natasha Helfer Parker. Second, Elder Tad R. Callisters article in the March 2014 Ensign, first given as a talk in 2013 at BYUI is very far off base in many of his therapeutic recommendations and thoughts. I am a devout member of the LDS faith, and like Sister Parker believe his comments simply don’t jibe with proven facts. Just because I am a widely respected Elder in the LDS Church, and, on matters of faith and doctrine may be inspired, does not mean I have the training or experience in all fields such that I can speak accurately on them. It is hubris to think otherwise. In all fairness to everyone I believe that the therapeutic community needs to arrange a “friendly” discussion with Elder Callister and others so that a more balanced article could come forth. There will be hot opinions on all sides. But we ALL want and deserve truthful dialogue and information on such vastly important issues which touch almost everyone at some point in their life. I believe BOTH sides want that. The only way that can happen is for counselors and therapists, etc. to write to The Ensign, to the General Authorities of The LDS Church as well as all those other local church leaders. Only then can these matters be discussed, and fully correct or “corrected” statements be published. Also, there are literally thousands of good, honest, caring families and individuals who have “walked the walk” whose voice needs to be heard!

    • adam

      Well said Raymond!

    • Aep

      Thank you Raymond! Nailed it :)

  • Nicole B.

    Thank you Natasha, for being willing to speak up against fear-based teachings. As an active member and mother of 3 daughters, I value resources like this to help counter-act the harmful messages my children sometimes receive at church, or from church authorities. And this is reason #86 why I have let my subscription to the Ensign lapse. We need your voice, Natasha. Keep up the great work.

    • Nicole B.

      EDITED TO ADD: the article hasn’t been removed–the link I had to the article wasn’t working, but the one below in Adam’s comment works.

      Also, interesting to note: I was able to read the Ensign article online previously, but now the article has been removed.


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