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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 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.

  • 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. :)

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.