How can I go to the temple if I’m still masturbating?

How can I go to the temple if I’m still masturbating? August 21, 2012

So, I just made a donation and am really only looking for an answer via e-mail, unless you think it isn’t beating a dead horse to keep talking about it. 

I am a single, LDS woman, age 31, and I have had issues with…well, I am too embarrassed to even type it. You can imagine how relieved I was to see your blog post and what a weight I feel is lifted from my shoulders. I know your view isn’t the official view of the Church but to hear someone who believes the same things as me say I am okay and normal makes me feel so much better. This is my question, and maybe you’ve heard from others in my position and could help to advise me. I am hoping to get endowed soon. I have put it off because growing up I always understood it as something you do when you go on a mission or get married so I felt I was a failure if I wasn’t going to be married. I have gotten over that nonsense and have bought my own house and done a lot of “grown up” things I had put a hold on because I wasn’t married. So, all of my life I have been interested in and curious about sexuality.  I started experimenting physically at a fairly young age (with masturbation) and continued until about a year ago. I have felt terrible about myself and, too humiliated to talk to my Bishop about the problem, decided it was something I would work on myself. But the desire hasn’t gone away and the thoughts haven’t gone away. I didn’t really expect them to, but I have continued to postpone the endowment process because of the interview and feelings that I am unworthy. I am afraid to tell my Bishop. I am afraid to get the interview and tell the truth about my history and my desires for fear of what might be said or done and I am afraid to get the interview and lie about the above for fear of eternal repercussions, obviously. I am also afraid to get endowed because if I “slip up” then I am afraid the spiritual consequences would be even worse. Help! I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to miss out on the blessings of the Temple because of something like this. I want to do the right thing spiritually and to be honest with myself but how can I do both?

How wonderful you’ve moved on to fill your life in positive, satisfying ways regardless of marital status!! Congratulations on buying your home!

I’m going to give you my opinion on your question – and as you said, I do not speak directly for the church.

After speaking to many Priesthood and Relief Society authorities, studying these matters for myself and carefully reviewing church handbooks – this is what I have come to understand:  the temple recommend questions are simple, specific and are to be repeated just as they are written.  The bishop or counselor who is interviewing you is not supposed to deviate from these questions.  The one question which deals with sexuality goes something like this: “do you live the law of chastity?”  That is it.  No questions on how you follow it, whether or not you are masturbating, etc.   Furthermore, in the temple, “the law of chastity” is clearly stated as covenanting to only have sexual relations with one’s spouse.  In my mind, “sexual relations” is clearly stated in terms of relationship.  Masturbation is an individual practice – not a relational one.  It only becomes relational once you’re married and need to establish sexual boundaries with your spouse in which you both find yourselves comfortable.

So, I’ll repeat and expound on what I stated in my previous post – I do not believe any priesthood authority figure has the right to ask you specifically about masturbatory practice without due cause (i.e. someone who has an unhealthy relationship with masturbation where it’s interfering with their daily routine or relational goals and has brought this issue up to the bishop themselves).  And since I do not agree with masturbation being a sin or transgression in of itself, I see no need for you to bring it up to begin with.  In fact, as a parent, I will not allow priesthood leaders to question my children in such specific ways and will be open with them regarding my stance.  From your brief history, it seems no priesthood leader has directly asked you about this so far – in my book, a very good thing.

It is my position that you can use masturbation to help you actually keep the law of chastity – understanding sexual release and fantasy are normal parts of being a sexual human being.  Through masturbation you can get these legitimate needs met while comfortably staying within the religious sexual parameters you want to adhere to.   If you’re looking forward to the possibility of marriage, you can keep a future spouse in mind as you also use masturbation to prepare yourself for relational sexuality by knowing your body and its responses well.  This will be important information you can share with the person you marry to aid in a mutually satisfying, sexual experience.

I agree going to the temple feeling like you have lied or are somehow unworthy to enter is not a choice in your best interest.  The process of facing these fears can include either reframing your thoughts about masturbation being sinful or following whatever process will help you feel worthy of going.  It is my firm opinion and stance that masturbation should not keep you from temple covenants and worship (keeping in mind my use of “healthy” vs “unhealthy” masturbatory practice).  Even for those who still believe masturbation is a transgression, no one expects temple attendants to be perfect in their behavioral goals.  I know there are many priesthood leaders who would agree with me and sign your temple recommend even if you told them about this.  In fact I have had clients where their bishops have encouraged temple attendance as a means of changing this very behavior.  I also know there are priesthood leaders who would not sign the recommend and would expect you to be “clean” of this practice for a period of time before going.

Taking this discrepancy into account, the gospel principles and doctrine really kick in for me with the following question – where is YOUR authority in all of this?  Where is YOUR divine heritage and right for personal revelation?  Where do you stand on this issue while simultaneously feeling God by your side?  When you speak to me of relief after reading my blog post, where is your trust in YOUR feelings and ability to discern truth which is applicable to YOUR situation?  Where does the good fruit of the tree lie for YOU?  I’m glad you wrote and asked me your question.  I understand why an LDS person in your position would feel the need to ask.  Most religious organizations spend a lot of focus on behavioral adherence related to their doctrines.  Most of us want answers and are looking for guidance.  Most of us want to know we are on the right path.  At the same time – we have this wonderful gem of individual relationship with God nestled deep within our Mormonism.  And this possibility is infinitely powerful for each of us to claim – staking our own path which may vary somewhat from those walking alongside us.  This process requires trust in self – trust in unconditionally loving Heavenly Parents – trust in a brother who died and offered atonement – trust ultimately in transcendence.  I believe in your capacity to decide for yourself.  I can feel your deep desire to be a righteous daughter of God from your words.  This is what I find so painful to witness time and time again.  Good women and men like yourself – wanting to be the very best they can be – allowing any deviation from what is deemed or has been deemed “appropriate behavior” to stand in the way of a deeper relationship with the divine.

Feelings of unworthiness, in my opinion, come from two different sources:

1. the appropriate pricks of guilt due to behavior or thoughts which are harmful to self or others (i.e. cheating, stealing, gossip, abuse, uncontrolled anger, drug abuse, etc., etc., etc.), or

2. the inappropriate shame tied to either a) taboo cultural subjects we may or may not agree are “sinful” (i.e. an Amish woman not wearing what is considered appropriate religious garb in her tradition) or b) past sinful behavior one has repented for, yet can’t achieve self forgiveness on.

Just because one feels guilt does not mean it comes from a healthy source.  This is our personal responsibility to ourselves – to figure out what is worth feeling healthy guilt about (the type which motivates us forward, propels positive lifestyle change, and draws us closer to God) and what one needs to abandon in order to move towards more productive thought process.

Back to the temple recommend questions: you are expected to answer these questions with personal integrity within the mandates of your own conscience.  Ultimately, it is not the relationship with the bishop which is primary  – as mentioned earlier, it is the relationship with divinity.  If you can feel good about yourself from a standpoint of eternal progression – understanding this means you fall within a spectrum of imperfection while striving to move forward -; and if using masturbation as a healthy, balanced means to a more eternal goal within the presence of prayer, meditation and divine connection to your God helps you keep the very law you are striving to honor; then these are the principles which will propel you forward toward the advancement of religious temple worship you seek.

In the end, the decision is yours – you can agree with my position or disagree.  But the journey of making your decisions, and accepting yourself along the way, is a wonderful stretch towards some place higher than where you previously stood.  This is what is so enriching about the gospel for me.  I wish you the best dear sister.

Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org. She authors the Mormon Therapist Blog, hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex InfoPodcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.

"If you can't control them... then what?"

Honor Code at BYU
"So you think people should be able to behave any way they like and not ..."

Plea to President Nelson about Families
"No. Most Christian churches affirmatively teach that family relationships end at death. That is the ..."

Plea to President Nelson about Families
"Who are you quoting? The words you put in quotes do not resemble any authentic ..."

Plea to President Nelson about Families

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Mormon
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment