‘God is not an enemy of Human Appetite’: The Church, the Lord and the M-Word

Aaron R. aka RicoMormon 61 Comments

Disclaimer: This post, as you might expect, does contain some overtly sexual references to specific parts of the body that are prominent in human sexuality. If you think this might offend you then please do not continue to read.

My title is taken from Levi Peterson, who has famously written about masturbation in his book the ‘Backslider’.  Additionally, in his interview with John Dehlin, he states that ‘I just don’t think God cares that much about it’.  Contrastingly, on January 5th 1965, Elder Spencer W. Kimball said, ‘Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord nor of His Church regardless of what may have been said by others whose “norms” are lower’[1].  Why is masturbation a sin and how should people within the Church respond to it?

A number of reasons for masturbation’s categorisation as a sin have been given.  President Kimball has practically been the only GA to speak repeatedly and publically on this issue.  He has written that masturbation is a minor indiscretion but that it leads to other larger indiscretions.  He said: ‘Nor does immorality begin in adultery or perversion… Little indiscretions are the berries—indiscretions like sex thoughts, sex discussions, passionate kissing, pornography. The leaves and little twigs are masturbation and necking and such, growing with every exercise’[2].  I question whether this is accurate.  It is possible to take the position masturbation may in fact serve to reduce the sexual tension in a relationship that is pre-marriage.

Moreover, President Kimball has also written that the ‘prophets anciently and today condemn masturbation. It induces feelings of guilt and shame. It is detrimental to spirituality. It indicates slavery to the flesh, not that mastery of it and the growth toward godhood which is the object of our mortal life. Our modern prophet has indicated that no young man should be called on a mission who is not free from this practice.’[3]  Clearly things have changed since it seems that some young men are allowed to serve missions who still masturbate.  In addition, it is possible that masturbation creates fear, guilt and shame because we are taught that it is wrong and that this attitude emerges from a Victorian context on morality [4].

Brent Barlow has written that ‘self-stimulation can cause a person to seek sexual satisfaction alone, and, when added to mental fantasies, it can alienate him or her from others, making sexual fulfillment with a marriage partner less attractive’[5].  I can understand more readily that the fear of addiction to pornography may be a pre-emptive strike against masturbation, and also that it may create some sexual difficulties for newly married couples.  However, most newly married couples (and some long-term ones) have difficulties in this area anyway.

Although I can understand the position taken above I can also see that there are counter-arguments which are quite persuasive (although I may not have presented them persuasively).  Therefore, my first question is this: why is masturbation considered to be a sin, and do you think that it is?

The second area I want to focus on, and the area of greater interest for me, is how should parents and church leaders respond to people who masturbate.

My first issue is that I think women (of any age) should not speak to a Bishop about this issue.  I think that it could lead into awkward situations especially among younger women, though I see no reason why it is different for more mature women.

My second issue is how we respond to this issue in the context of repentance.  President Kimball has said: “While we should not regard this weakness [self-stimulation] as the heinous sin which some other sexual practices are, it is of itself bad enough to require sincere repentance.” [6]  My first issue is this, if someone does not feel guilty for engaging in this act, should someone make them feel guilty for doing so.  Is it that serious?  I admit that some people will feel guilty and therefore it is sometimes helpful to speak to a leader/friend in receiving help in moving forward through those feelings.  However, if someone does not feel that it is wrong should this issue be brought into the realm of the serious, which is what seemingly happens when we make it a requirement for a Temple Recommend, or to serve a mission.

The ambiguity of President Kimball’s statement is highlighted by noting that ‘sincere repentance’ is required of someone who is angry, who swears, who does any number of things that are contrary to the commandments.  The question is whether that sincere repentance can be done while holding a temple recommend, a calling, the priesthood (if male) as it is for so many other issues.  Or is this more a matter of frequency and intensity? 

Moreover, because this subject is taboo anyway, I wonder whether there is a different standard on this issue for women? I can imagine that an approach of ‘careful dis-attention’ might be taken by Priesthood leaders.

My second question then is this: how serious is masturbation (assuming it is a sin)?  Should it stop someone from going on a Mission, getting married in the temple and holding a Temple Recommend generally?

[poll id=”139] [poll id=”140″]


1. Spencer W. Kimball, January 5, 1965, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1965 22.

2. Elder Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, April 1967, Afternoon Meeting 67.

3. Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969].

4. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol 1., London: Penguin.

5. Brent A. Barlow, Worth Waiting For: Sexual Abstinence Before Marriage [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 43 – 44.

6. Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 77-78.

Comments 61

  1. It has been asserted by General Authorities that when Adam & Eve partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they did not commit sin, but rather transgressed a commandment. They teach that this transgression, while a violation of God’s instruction, was not of a severe enough nature to constitute sin. I would assert that masturbation is not sin, but rather a transgression of a preference that was articulated to us by prophets. Church leaders in my view, should not respond to people who masturbate. Parents should educate their children of the realities of human sexuality. In a marital relationship, a large percentage of women cannot achieve orgasm during intercourse without supplementing the stimulation with complimentary masturbation. Many a young man has avoided committing fornication by masturbating before the date, and getting that sexual tension out of the way.

    If an individual chooses to feel guilty for engaging in masturbation, in my opinion, it is a matter that should be handled strictly between themselves and the Lord in personal prayer and by forsaking the behavior. Just as one would do for getting angry at someone else, or swearing.

  2. Teenage boys and single men should be given some leeway. I like comparing it to necking (which I interpret as the passionate make out session). It shouldn’t be happening frequently or flippantly, but it’s ok in strict moderation. However, missionaries shouldn’t be kissing and I also think they should be held to a higher standard of abstaining from masturbation.

    I agree with Kim’s description of the ideal repentance process.

  3. Spencer W. Kimball also taught, “”Married persons should understand that if in their marital relations they are guilty of unnatural, impure, or unholy practices, they should not enter the temple unless and until they repent and discontinue any such practices.” Usually this quote is interpreted to refer to oral sex, but in light of your other quotes, I wonder if he also meant mutual masturbation, or even manual stimulation of one’s wife to help her achieve orgasm.

    You also neglected in your third quote to include the next sentences: “What is more, it too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality. For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation-practiced with another person of the same sex and thence into total homosexuality.” Perhaps this erroneous belief is one reason why the church places so much emphasis on masturbation being a sin. I believe that human experience can adequately disprove the theory that masturbation turns a person gay. Although most gay men have probably masturbated, I’m confident so have the straight men.

    I think the emphasis on masturbation as a sin places unnecessary guilt on the youth of the church, warps their view of normal human sexuality, and probably contributes to problems in the bedroom of married couples. I think leaders should respond to people who come to confess masturbation with love and reassurance that it is a completely normal part of human sexuality and that they should not be overly concerned about it. They should also know that God loves them.

  4. I remember having a Mission conference on sex and the most memorable quote was when our Mission President said, “There’s too much masturbation going on in this mission. [sisters snicker] Be quiet sisters, you’re doing it too!”

    That was the first time I ever thought that masturbation might not be some evil sin that I alone struggled with, but was instead a widespread practice. Ironically, the conference made me less concerned about masturbation and less likely to confess it, rather than more.

  5. Our mission president taught that masturbation need not be “confessed” — it was a sin conducted in private and should be repented of in private. (See D&C 42:92)

    Elder Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness indicates that masturbation is an issue that should be resolved before a young man serves a mission (p. 77 in the 1969 edition), suggesting (to me, anyway) the reality that some (many?) young people will engage in masturbation perhaps even before knowing (that is, having been taught) that it is “wrong”. In that instance, they may then learn of the sweet blessing of the atonement in their lives without being made to feel evil or wrong. (Rarely did the Savior condemn an individual sinner, remember.)

    Instructions given to bishops in the temple recommend book make clear that a discussion of sex practices within a marriage are inappropriate topics for discussion in a temple recommend (eg, worthiness) interview.

    Finally, individuals who feel they will benefit from a discussion with their bishops should talk to their bishops. And sensitive, spiritually motivated bishops will listen compassionately and respond as prompted by the spirit. This may be true even if a person does not “need” to speak to the bishop.

  6. Teenage boys and single men should be given some leeway.

    That’s a specific class of people who warrant an exception. How about women and gay saints who are also denied gratification of their sexuality in the pursuit of chastity? How about married people who are otherwise unable to achieve orgasm?

    Why overlook the needs or existence of populations outside the convention of straight males?

  7. There’s and old saw about how 98% of all men masturbate, and the other 2% are lying. I think this sums it up pretty well. I think only a very small margin of people get through life without masturbation being part of it, at least at some point. I belonged to very open group of friends in high school, in Utah of all places, and frankly there wasn’t one of us who did not do this. Some felt guilty and tried to not do it, and managed to do so with relative success, whereas others maintained a steady habit. This trend persisted throughout my mission. It took me about three months to figure out why all of the missionary apartments had lamenated pictures of Jesus in the shower, but finally I caught on. I know that several of my companions did, and then there were the Elders with a little bit of a public reputation for it. I know of two instances where Elders were forced to move because of pornography usage. In one case the Elders lived shared living space with an elderly woman, and while she was out racked up charges on her pay-per view. In another case the elders were caught via the internet search history on their landlords computer. All in all, I wouldn’t say that nobody is capable of refraining from masturbation, but I think very few actually do. Because of this, I think that all the Church policy really accomplishes is the tendency to foster guilt and insecurities surrounding personal worth.

    As per the slippery slope fallacy of President Kimball, that when “…done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation-practiced with another person of the same sex and thence into total homosexuality.” Well this should just be added to the list of stupid things Prophets say. I mean clearly when someone begins masturbating, the natural thing to do is find a club to do it with, right!

    A final item worth addressing is the matter of confession. What consenting adults choose to disclose to their clergy in order to serve their spiritual needs, is their business. I am completely opposed to the notion that it is even appropriate for Mormon bishops to be interviewing youth on these matters, or otherwise determining the sexual “worthiness” of youth. I think is particularly true of Mormons, where the Church is one big neighborhood committee. Only rarely is a Bishop trained on how to deal with such issues, or to understand how what he might say can impact those whom he “shepherds”. Instead, the youth are expected to share a very personal issue with the guy down the street. Frankly, that is unacceptable. My Bishop will understand very well the nature of questions he may ask my children, and more importantly the nature of things he may NOT ask.

  8. What I’d like to be able to communicate to my children,is that this is part of being human,and that we all struggle with it.Masturbation is natural,but I consider that we have been called to a higher law.But,we get to choose,and I don’t get to make that choice for my children.I’d like them to know that ideally we express our sexuality to enhance relatedness.Anything else is distinctly second best.

    I love the idea of being sex positive.

    Having just read a very interesting article on porn by Wendy Maltz (the Porn Trap) I feel these things have to be set within the context of future relatedness.Hey,frankly a guy who can control it is likely to be a far better lay,and I’m all for my kids getting as much good,safe sex as they can-again,preferably within a functional couple. Sexuality is intensely fragile and precious,it needs protecting in order to get a lifetime’s good use out of it.

  9. Also,great post and would love to see some responses around what both parents and adult children have found to be helpful and constructive responses around learning to express our sexuality positively.Don’t hear a lot about that of a Sunday morning.

  10. Once again, the indulgent and hedonistic are given short shrift in a Mormon Matters poll. Although, maybe not, because given the wording of the poll — They can deal with the issue themselves, but with help if they want it?, — giving the congregation help with masturbation may in fact be the most enlightened and progressive statement of the hedonistic yet. Can polygamy be closer than I thought?

    On a more serious note, I guess I’m for gender equality. If girls shouldn’t talk to the bishop about it, then the boys shouldn’t either. The obvious discomfort of having adolescent girls confess to the bishop about their masturbatory activities should produce similar waves of discomfort about adolescent boys. What if the boy’s activities were a bit too titillating for the Bishop? Frankly, demanding confession for normal sexual activity is a form of sexual abuse, imbuing the sex act with guilt and shame that can last a lifetime.

    Porn use, marital incompatibility, adultery, and sexual dysfunction in all its forms grow best in the loamy soil of guilt and shame.

    #1 — The sin/transgression differentiation is a bogus one that is an attempt to mitigate guilt by a different classification of the act. The better response is masturbation is an important and normal part of being human that allows you to begin to understand sexuality before you add the more complex human interaction into the mix, plus it feels really, really good. If our children are told that by their parents, they won’t feel guilt and shame.

    #2 — Ditto on making out/petting.

    #3,4 and 5 — I guess the heretic in me is that Spencer Kimball and Boyd K. Packer (For Young Men Only) were not inspired, but homophobic and possibly even, sex-phobic. It sounds like you had a sex positive mission presidents, but an even more inspired mission president might have said, “There isn’t enough masturbation going on out there — and that includes you, too, sisters. Just don’t flaunt it.”

    #6 — I’m sure the reason for that statement was the mistaken assumption that women aren’t sexual and homosexuals don’t exist.

    #7 — Yee Haw.

    #8-9 — I just got “The Porn Trap” delivered to my Kindle. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to disagree with it somewhat. The problem is that a big part of sexual attraction is objectification. I was a conscientious young Mormon male and always thought that my excessive obsession over the female form was the cause of my inability to connect with a female. It was why I didn’t have a girlfriend. It was an immediate punishment by God for my sins. I was wrong. I was a geeky adolescent, that was my problem. It had nothing to do with sex, masturbation or morality. The biggest problem with porn is that it is boring. A main reason people get hooked on porn is the thrill of the forbidden combines with the charge of sexual pleasure and the only way to get sexual pleasure becomes doing something that is forbidden. The Mormon culture perpetrates this cycle, rather than breaking it by focusing on guilt, shame and abstinence, rather than positive, moral sexuality.

  11. I tend to think that the President Kimball emphasis on it can actually create the guilt inherent in the practice. I confess that when I began the practice at age 14 that there was something about it that distanced me from God before I even knew what it was or before I read the Miracle of Forgiveness. 20 years later, I look at it the same way I look at swearing. It’s wrong but we shouldn’t get all that worked up about it. Striving to refrain from it is admirable and helps one become more holy and closer to God. Aside from the marriage bed, I think any sexual activity including fantasies can be counterproductive. Taken to extremes it can also be destructive, can be addictive, lead to pornography and other sexual perversions. In moderation, it’s probably not that big of a deal. It can even be a marital aid in some instances.

    When I have boys, 1) I’m not going to act alarmed like my mother did when she found out, as if it was a heinous and grievous sin that reflected on her ability to raise a pure son. That led to many other problems in my life. When it comes around or when my boys get “caught” I will tell them that it is normal, but that we should avoid doing it or strive to become free from the practice, but that like other sins like lying, pride, cursing, and selfishness, that is something we have a lifetime to work on. I’m not even sure they should be “free” from it on the mission. Is it something they have to do every day? If so they probably need to work on that before they go. If it is something they do occasionally, I’m not that concerned about them serving a mission. Yes, the more free they are from it, the closer they’re going to be to God, just like if they read their scriptures every day or pray or forgive others or be kind. 2) I’m not going to have locked bathroom doors. I want to make it as difficult as possible for teenage boys to find the privacy to do it. Will they? Of course, but the more difficult I can make it, hopefully it won’t be as frequent.

  12. I would like to thank everyone so far for the thoughtful and careful responses.

    #1 – I imagine you are talking about masturbation in isolation. But would you feel the same about masturbation with pornography. Moreover, the sin/transgression distinction does not really hold water for me. But to maintain your defintion consider this example, under your definition, the WoW is a transgression but still requires help from a P. leader and can restrict someone from holding a TR.

    #2 – Although your moderation principle might be nice in the ideal, but is it possible that this too is similar to the WoW, where for sake of all we are prohibited.

    #3-4 – Your right, I intentionally ignored that part, because it is clearly incorrect, but opens another can of worms. However, I agree that it is pertinence here is perhaps more significant than I gave credit. I think now the masturbation issue has become more significantly linked with pornography. Interesting experiences and thanks for sharing. I agree that an undue emphasis can be unhealthy.

    #5 – Thanks for your perspective. I expect that this is probably a topic that has some variation between leaders, which is why I raised it. The question I have is it that if someone raises it. They obviously feel it is bad, but i wonder whether this is culturally induced, especially if people do it before they it is wrong.

    #7 – What if your kid raised it by themselves?

    #9 – Although I agree that sex should be positive I still wonder how to help people that do feel bad about it regardless of ‘your’ counsel that it is not wrong. Some people do ahve these feelings.

    #10 – So funny.

  13. Seems like guys here are intent on their guilt.What I’m saying is-no worries.It’s what we do.And,ideally,try to do a little less and keep it for our beloved.

    BTW,Maltz has no moralising agenda here.It’s what she has experienced in clinical practise as a sex therapist.

    I think that what’s useful and functional can be discussed without overlaying it with guilt and religious associations which frankly sometimes serve to eroticise a normal part of growing up.

    So,I’m still wondering what others have found useful-but maybe that’s not the point of this post.

  14. Rico, in my opinion it’s wrong for you to claim that Spencer W. Kimball has been the only Church leader to speak repeatedly and publicly about masturbation. It is also wrong to say that God doesn’t care that much about it. Through living prophets God says He does care. 1. A Parent’s Guide is a current publication of the Church. It has been available for 25 years. The text is searchable online at LDS.org and copies are available from LDS Distribution Services. This booklet warns: “Masturbation is considered by many in the world to be the harmless expression of an instinctive sex drive. Teach your children that the prophets have condemned it as a sin throughout the ages…. The sin of masturbation occurs when a person stimulates his or her own sex organs for the purpose of sexual arousal. It is a perversion of the body’s passions.”

    2. For the Strength of Youth has been available in various editions for 45 years. The current edition was approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. The text is searchable online at LDS.org and copies are available from the LDS Distribution Services. This booklet counsels youth: “Do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage…. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.” 3. The First Presidency’s current “doctrinal guidebook,” True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, adds this: “Never do anything outside of marriage to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not arouse those emotions in another person’s body or in your own body.”

  15. No good discussion of masterbation should go without the warning that it is a cause of homosexuality according to President Kimball. In his talk Love vs Lust, he let us all know “Sometimes masturbation is the introduction to….the gross sin of homosexuality.”

    One LDS counselor took this one step farther telling his gay, LDS patient that he should not touch his penis while going to the bathroom.

  16. Rico – nice choice of Valentine’s Day topic, BTW.

    #12 Re: #7 – I’d much prefer that my son were comfortable enough with me to talk to me about masturbation, rather than feeling he needs to go talk to the Bishop.

  17. This post and comments strike me the wrong way as attempts to rationalize or excuse transgressions. Does it really matter if masterbation should be classified as equal to other sexual sins or merely equal to lying? Honesty to your fellow man is also a temple recommnd question in case you have forgotten… You should not engage in either class and speaking about human nature is not convincing to me.

    As someone that grew up outside the church, with masterbation a regular part of life, I have certainly come to feel the spiritual difference in my life strongly. I know that my connection to the spirit is much more potent and intense when I abstain from such actions. If you have been engaing in masterbation regularly I would challange you to abstain for a lengthy period of time and feel the difference. I highly doubt you will want to go back!

    I am sorry if my response Is heated, but since this is a temptation I’ve struggled with, I am particularly compelled to speak out against such half hearted excuses

  18. I think the problem is complicated by the fact that local leaders handle it differently, as some have already expressed mission presidents who talk somewhat openly and publicly about it and some who don’t and some who treat it as a heinous sin. I realize I have only two cases to point to, but I think they may likely prove to be evidence of the complication. A young man I know was prohibited from marrying in the temple for an undefined period of time while the bishop told him he had to stop masturbating before going to the sealing. He didn’t take away his temple recommend, only prohibited the sealing. The young man moved from BYU-I where this occurred and stayed engaged to the same young lady, who also moved. In their new ward, thousands of miles from Idaho, the new bishop promptly issued them the live sealing recommend so they could get married immediately. In another case, a young man confessed masturbation during an interview to get married. The young man’s bishop said it wasn’t something that would be considered making someone unworthy of a temple recommend and issued the live ordinance recommend. The young man’s fiancee also had a problem with masturbation, but lived in a different ward nearby. That bishop refused to issue the young woman a recommend until she had proven she could stop for several months. This inconsistent treatment of the issue seems wrong, but I fear that if the church does something, they will lean towards the wrong side (IMHO) and make young people feel even more guilty about it by officially making it a temple recommend issue.

  19. Life is all about self control, a younth who can learn self control, will have more positive dating experiences and psychological research has shown a link between guilt, masturbation & premature ejaculation in later relationships. Avoiding premarital masturbation = greater marital sexual relations.

  20. Also I think it is funny that the old testament scripture has not been mentioned as yet, so for those of you who have not read it here it is.

    Micah 2:1

    “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand.”

  21. #13 – I wish I could an answer to your question of useful tips, but unfortunately I do not have any which is precisely why I raise the question. I have seen alot of people struggle with this issue but without overcoming it. Unfortunately it seems to be those most afflicted by guilt that struggle to overcome it.

    #14 – R.Gary I recognise that there are other places it has been spoken of. My comment about Pres. Kimball was that he was practically the only person, meaning other people have but not as explicitly, repeatedly or publically as he. I also think that because of that and emerging from that, we have much of the current literature that you cite. In was perhaps a badly worded phrase. My point was emphasis his key role in the development of the Church’s current position.

    #15 – These stories always shock me, but I just hope they are not too common.

    #16 – Self-love is just as important as other-love. Y’know it had not even occurred to me. I agree that this is preferable, however, I can see situations where this is unlikely, for a number of reasons. The culture of confession and the distance of a non-parental authority figure. So hypothetically speaking what would like to happen?

    #17 – Maybe my post gaveb the wrong impression. I current serve in a position where I deal with this issue sometimes and it has been something I have thought about somewhat, and thought that it might be interesting to get other perspectives. My personal position is that it is a sin (i define sin as anything that damages of alienates any relationship – God, others, self). My reason for this is that I sense that it can become, or perhaps is, an unhealthy beginning to sexuality and self-identity. Moreover, I think that such practices could be detrimental to future sexual fulfilment in marriage. I too think arguments relying on ‘human nature’ are fairly unstable. Thank you for your counter-point to a trend which seems to suggest that masturbation is acceptable.

    #18 – I think such differences can be really hurtful, esp. when a Bishop says one thing and a member of the SP says another. It challenges very quickly someone’s experience with the Church and its leadership.

    #19-20 – I agree with this. Although because it is so prevalent, I am very much concerned about how leaders respond to it.

  22. Rico #21 “I am very much concerned about how leaders respond to it.”

    I don’t think I have an adequate answer for this,I guess it depends on the individual and how the spirit dictates.

    I like the JS quote “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” I don’t believe that leadership should petition for confession, Leaders should allow individuals to come forward under there own influence. When they do ask what the individuals feelings are on the confession (they may have an unproductive understanding of the subject). keep the advise clear and direct, emphasis the role of the atonement and offer a blessing of council and comfort toward the end.

  23. #22 – I think what you have said is very sound. The problem arises when there is a deep disparity between what a) a person believes about the role of a leader/bishop and b) what a person feels about a particular issue. Reconciling these can take a different form of work that most people confessing are not prepared to undertake. Thank you for your response.

  24. 19 MrQandA – ‘Avoiding premarital masturbation = greater marital sexual relations’ Thats quite a claim, I’d be interested to see your sources.

    21 Rico – ‘unhealthy beginning to sexuality and self-identity’, interesting idea, could you elaborate?

  25. I’d like to chime in on this issue to present a different side of the coin.

    I actually abstained from masturbation. Yep, all through my youth, all through the mission, etc. When I got married, I had never done it. And no, I’m not lying!! I mention that just to say that it is possible. In fact, I was so naive, I figured all the other missionaries were just as diligent. It never even occurred to me, until much later, that missionaries engaged in this. Quite honestly, I bought into Kimball’s logic hook, line, and sinker!

    Having said that, I actually agree with Cowboy, and Ulysses. I believe that as Rico suggested

    In addition, it is possible that masturbation creates fear, guilt and shame because we are taught that it is wrong and that this attitude emerges from a Victorian context on morality.

    But here’s the point I’d like to make. Cultures the world over have things they revere as sacred. Keeping things sacred serves a purpose in our lives – whether they make sense or not. Namely, as Haidt suggests in “The Happiness Hypothesis” when we keep things sacred they can increase our happiness. Moreover, each in-group has built in logic which makes sense to those in the group. To outsiders various traditions may appear foolish, and the logic is faulty, but again – that’s not the issue.

    I think sex, in Mormonism, is one of those things we keep sacred. Prophets have given all kinds of reasons why sex, masturbation, etc. are “evil” or “pernicious.” Whether they are or not in reality is not the issue. The issue is about keeping sex sacred. In that vein, I have respect for those who try to see sex in that light and abstain. For those individuals, perhaps it does make them happier to follow the rules. OTOH, I also have respect for those who decide to indulge, especially if they are free from the associate guilt and shame. It is those who feel the guilt and shame, and still indulge for whom I have the most pity. I would love to see us accept reality that these things are normal physical urges, stop applying large doses of guilt, yet still urge a healthy belief that sex is sacred. After all, the world in “Brave New World” is no place to live!!

  26. #18 – I agree that this is a troubling concern; apparent inconsistency among bishops is difficult to explain and can be potentially harmful to members just trying to find their way.

    Ideally, of course, each bishop is guided by the spirit, and one would assume that if everyone had the same spiritual guidance that outcomes would be more uniform. But I suspect in reality, each bishop is also guided by whatever counsel he has received throughout his life, including whatever might have been stated in the last bishopric training meeting.

    It’s easy to imagine, for instance, that a stake president who has been confronted with a number of members presenting with problems with pornography might encourage bishops to probe this issue more in a worthiness interview, and so one bishop therefore might embellish the law of chastity question in the temple recommend interview with a specific query about pornography use.

    I heard Elder Joe Christensen speak in a youth fireside in Venezuela a number of years ago and he spoke of the blessing of teaching young people the self control associated with refraining from masturbation vs. the world’s view of seeking instant gratification. He said so more eloquently than I have, and his suggestion was that the blessings of striving to follow this counsel (and other counsel of the prophets) were significant, and were worth striving for.

    A caring parent or bishop may have opportunities to help young people with this particular issue, and one hopes they do so with care and compassion rather than with condemnation.-

  27. I don’t have conclusive answers, either, but I have some suggestions.

    Masturbation can be addictive, and it should be regarded as an indulgence, perhaps, rather than a sin, but it is easy, especially for teenager boys, to get so immersed they start living in a world of their own (experience speaking here). It’s something that should be practiced with strict moderation.
    Masturbation could be beneficial in a relationship where you are preparing to get married; it could provide some release so you don’t get too excited?
    If I were a bishop, I would not really ask young men (or women!) if they masturbate, rather I would encourage them to look for spiritual insights and find productive hobbies.
    As for married couples, it is totally between them, nobody else should be involved as long as there is no violence (psychological or otherwise).

    I am no bishop or any other authority. Just suggestions. The take-home message should be that you need not feel overly guilty about masturbation, but also be very moderate with it, since it can be seductive…

  28. #24 – I am not proclaiming to be an expert but I have read similar to research to MrQandA that links masturbation with feelings of guilt and shame. It could create a self-centered approach to sexuality and self-gratification which I see to not be a healthy basis for future relationships. I am not saying that this is only way that this can happen, but I do not think that this exlcudes it from being a contributing factor in (possibly) negativ relationships.

    #25 – I have sympathy for this view as an individual. However thinking from an institutional point of view I can see how this kind of moral relativism or ego-based ethic might be potentially disastrous. I central like your idea about sex being sacred. However, i think this is part of the problem. Sex = sacred can lead also to illegitimate sex=not sacred i.e. sinful. As E. Holland discusses, sex is a sacrament, but this also means that sex can be the opposite. I would whether it is possible to retain the high embodied form of deity and sexuality without auotmatically bringing large amounts of guilt for what is perceived to be outside that norm.

  29. #26-7 – I think there is something good in both your suggestions. Thank you.

    On another note, I mentioned above that I think masturbation can lead to unhealthy relationships, but perhaps the opposite is also true. Why might people like jmb275 (and me as well, I confess) never do it when they were in their teens? Maybe there is something unhealthy about that?

  30. I central like your idea about sex being sacred. However, i think this is part of the problem. Sex = sacred can lead also to illegitimate sex=not sacred i.e. sinful. As E. Holland discusses, sex is a sacrament, but this also means that sex can be the opposite. I would whether it is possible to retain the high embodied form of deity and sexuality without auotmatically bringing large amounts of guilt for what is perceived to be outside that norm.

    Yep, you’re exactly right. I suppose at least a place to start might be to remove questions about sex that determine one’s standing in the church. In other words, it is preached how important, and sacred sex is, but it is not used determine your standing. However, I would be the first to admit that this would have problems as well (like driving out those who like rigid standards, etc.). And this would go against the grain of Mormonism which is certainly known for its strict standards, and limits on morality.

  31. I do not believe that solo masturbation per se is a sin (read: anything that affects our personal and spiritual progression). It can become a problem in need of repentance (read: change) when it is combined with pornography or thoughts about the neighbor’s wife, or is done compulsively. There is also a good reason why solo masturbation is not as satisfying – when we don’t share hormones with a partner, we have no emotional bonding, and less prolactin, which serves to temporarily shut down the sex drive. I think for this reason it can lead to more compulsivity than sex with a partner could.

    I am glad church leaders stay out of the specifics in interviews with adults in the church. They should do the same with the youth. I plan on teaching my kids to protect themselves from what can be, often unintentionally, emotional abuse on the part of some church leaders and the culture. The unnecessary torment that many go through (suicidal ideation, self-hatred, thoughts of hurting themselves, isolation, etc.) over this issue absolutely sickens me. Those are not the fruits of the Spirit, they are the result of false and harmful teachings.

    In sum, I think masturbation by itself is not something to be worried about. Masturbation with or related to pornography or thoughts of people other than one’s spouse, or compulsive masturbation can definitely be a problem.

    Re: symphonyofdissent’s comment on it doesn’t matter what kind of sin it is, I totally disagree. I don’t think it being classified as a sin or not is the real problem. Correct me if I’m wrong, but people don’t get suicidal over a swearing habit. They don’t loath themselves because they can’t give up a weekly cup of coffee. If it’s a sin, fine, but let’s not put it in the “need to be confessed because it’s that horrible” category. That construct is what really contributes to the shame, and forgive my use of the word, exacerbates the problem.

  32. I’m sort of with Levi, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. I’d go with “don’t ask, don’t tell” all the way around. If you feel you’re obsessing there, maybe you do have a problem. It’s between you and God and there are a lot worse things you can do. Like molest a child.

  33. #30 – Although I do think that the general law of chastity question is appropriate because I do think some sexual behaviour almost invariably damaging (i.e. adultery). Outside if this is the SS or P. teachings that we get on this issue which place it in the realm of the confessional.

    #31 – I was hoping that you would comment. I know your expertise is in these areas somewhat, so I appreciate your perspective. If it can lead to compuslive behaviour, pornography and the neighbours wife, and it seems to be the case that it does (am I wrong about this?) then does this not make it a risky position for the Church to take. I suppose that in general perhaps the Church’s position should be aimed at one of two approaches. Reducing frequency of sin or helping people deal with it effectviely. If this emphasis on not doing it is having no effect on the overall level of masturbation (that is compulsive, pornographic and about someone else’s wife) then we should definitely focus on the second part of the equation.

  34. I agree – we should focus on effectively helping people with this issue – and in my view the best way is to educate parents and put the responsibility on them to be open about sexuality and help them educate their kids. Don’t send bishops into youth meetings reading off long lists of “if you’ve done this you need to see me” which put masturbation right next to intercourse… Teach members the potential dangers of compulsive sexual behaviors, pornography, etc., and for things like masturbation, keep it between the parents and their kids, or between spouses. Imho there is a lot of potential in that TR question about “is there anything in your conduct at home…” etc. If the answer is “yes” then the bishop should not ask for any specifics but rather encourage the person to talk with their spouse or a professional about it. Openness, tolerance, love, and respect will always win out.

  35. #33 – Henry. As I am sure you are aware the Church has been known to change its policies and doctrines and even the emphasis that it places upon certain issues. I suspect then that this gives us all the room to try and find out for ourselves what we believe and what God wants us to do. I feel comfortable to do that, while also retaining my faith in and respect for the leaders of this Church. I am sorry if you feel like this discussion is detracting from that faith and hope you will feel able to comment more fully either in this post or on others in the future.

    #35 – I think that is interesting about nto discussing it at all. Do you think this applies to all issues? Moreover, what about people that can’t afford professional help. Should a Bihsop be involved then?

  36. No, not to all issues, and I’m not suggesting that it should be off the table. I think the problem occurs when the member has a mindset of “If I don’t discuss this with my bishop then I’m damned” (that’s what I thought when I was 16. I remember reading Alma 5 and thinking that I was doomed to suffer for wet dreams. I didn’t even know what “masturbation” meant.) and etc.

    For people who can’t afford therapy, and have no access to any kind of reduced fees, no decent therapists, or there are no fast offering funds to help them out, then the bishop would have to make the best and most ethical decision they could to help the person.

    Overall, I think bishops should send the message of (and many bishops do this well, some don’t) “we are here to help you on your path, and if you are concerned or want help working through issues related to masturbation, you can see the bishop and he will help you understand your worth and God’s love for you, but by all means it is not a deal breaker for a temple recommend, and it is not something that you need to castrate yourself over.”

  37. Perhaps my view is that masturbation, if it is a sin, is a “process” problem rather than a “content” problem. The problem lies in the HOW it is done (e.g. compulsively, or to avoid one’s spouse sexually, etc.), HOW it is approached by leaders, HOW many young people (and some adults) feel so much unnecessary shame over it, HOW that leads to an even bigger problem, etc. When we approach it as a content problem, i.e. “IS it being done or not” and “stop doing it because you’re sinning” I think it will for many people only make the problem worse.

  38. I don’t have children, but I think my focus would be on teaching them to recognize when they feel the companionship of the Spirt, and when they feel the loss of the Spirit, so that they would know for themselves when they are doing something at odds with God’s will. Although, I would probably teach them pretty actively during puberty to avoid masturbation – at least until the hormonal tidal wave ebbs to something more manageable.

    For adults, I put masturbation in the “personal” category – you know your feelings and your motives. If it makes you feel guilty and sinful, something needs to be addressed, and that something is likely not the act of masturbation itself. If you are still living close to the Spirit and not becoming compulsive and secretive, you’re fine.

  39. I am a female member of the church who has struggled with masturbation from an early age, from long before I found out it was wrong. I confessed to my bishop(s) many times; even though it was always horribly embarrassing I felt that I needed to in order to repent and be clean again. I used to have nightmares that the Second Coming happened and I was left behind in the destruction because I hadn’t confessed. At the age of 14 my bishop informed me that if I wasn’t able to get things under control, my membership in the church would be in jeopardy. Looking back I think he was overstating things to give me motivation to stop (like I needed more!) but at the time I honestly believed him that I could be excommunicated if I touched myself too much. It makes me sick to think about it now. At the time I was masturbating a couple times a month – certainly nothing excessive or addictive. A different bishop told me that since I had masturbated I knew what sex felt like and so it would be much more difficult to abstain with boyfriends. Overall I was made to feel like a deviant because I was a female who had this problem that apparently NO other women struggled with. The church pamphlet about masturbation was called “To Young Men Only” – what else was I supposed to think??

    Now looking back on that time I just laugh at how serious it all seemed to me. But I felt that way because it was explicitly taught to me. I felt guilty because I was TOLD to feel guilty. My friends outside of the church (mostly devout evangelical Christians) did not experience all the guilt and shame I did – it just wasn’t a big deal. In hindsight I actually think my knowledge of how my body works has been an asset to my sexuality and my marriage. I still occasionally masturbate (so does my husband) and we have both agreed that it just is not a big deal in our marriage. We have plenty of sex together too, by the way; alienation and isolation has not been our experience.

    It’s hard to overstate the damage that these teachings caused me throughout my young life. I felt constant shame and guilt, which morphed into an eating disorder and major depression. My husband reports similar experiences and still struggles with issues of self-worth today. I finally decided after my mission that it wasn’t the heinous sin I had imagined it to be, and I made a conscious decision to stop beating myself up about it and, above all, stop confessing. And guess what? I realized that masturbating or refraining made absolutely no difference in my ability to serve in the church, be a good person, or feel the Spirit. I received explicit answers to prayer that Heavenly Father still loved me, I was worthy to be his daughter and attend the temple. I decided that was good enough for me.

    Now that I am a mother I worry about what to teach my kids about this sensitive topic. I feel like no matter what I tell them, they will be getting messages from church that will make them feel unworthy and evil for doing something that from any rational standard is completely developmentally normal. I haven’t figured out what to do about that yet.

  40. Like in most things, I think a middle path approach makes the most sense. Outside the LDS Church realm, masturbation here and there is ok, letting it get out-of-control (in all the ways delineated above) is not ok. A glass of wine eat evening with dinner is ok (and probably good for you), being an alcoholic is not ok. Watching an occasional R-rated movie that has a good message is ok, filling your mind with degrading movies (whether PG or R) is not ok.

    Unfortunately, we are a Church of lists, of dos and don’ts. Don’t EVER masturbate. Not a DROP of alcohol. Don’t EVER see an R-rated movie. This emphasis on don’t evers necessarily leads to guilt and reduced feelings of self-worth. A middle path makes muuch more sense.

  41. I’m with Cowboy in suspecting that President Kimball’s “rather common indiscretion” should be rephrased as “darn near universal practice.”

    So what if small-scale industrial production (to engage in some Elder Packerish euphemism) is something like an Unavoidable Sin? What are the implications of there being commandments, complete obedience to is functionally impossible — or at least so difficult that even the most conscientious people are functionally certain to fall off the wagon?

    Maybe this is supposed to be something like what the apostle Paul wrote about, in 2 Corinthians 12:17:

    ” 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
    8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
    9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

    As they say, a man’s reach should exceed his…er, grasp, else what’s a heaven for.

  42. Also, re: 19, and maybe TMI here, but I am informed by a close relative by marriage (she being the only one in a position to know) that maybe there are advantages of being married to a person who (1) grew up guilt-ridden about small-scale industrial production, and (2) foreshadowing his future hair-splitting profession, rationalized that it only counted if the small-scale industrial production generated a finished product. Evidently it does wonders for one’s control. Yea verily, I fear I fear that this doth carry me away unto boasting, but — “premature,” my eye.

  43. I don’t think its a sin. We do not teach our children that its a sin. We have let our BP know that our children are never to be interviewed without one of us in the room. There will be no questions regarding masturbation.

    FWIW, how can you tell your spouse how to please you if you don’t even know yourself?

  44. I’d like to throw in some perspectives from other traditions for consideration:

    1. From a yoga teacher: ‘Any sexual activity that is for lust or purely physical reasons draws energy downward through the chakras. Sexual activity for love or spiritual reasons draws energy upward toward the crown chakra.’

    2. From “The Joy of No Sex” (Yoga-related): You can take sexual energy and raise it up to the crown chakra to experience a higher pleasure and enlightenment.

    3. From “The Tao of Sex” (Chinese Tradition): (According to my limited understanding.) All make ejaculation is harmful physiologically. It makes you loose your “chi” (life energy). Teaching is to learn to reach orgasm without ejaculation within marriage.

    4. “Sex Transmutation” (Various traditions): Sex is a powerful mover of energy, and our energy bodies are powerful manifesters. Orgasm with thoughts of things you want to manifest (money, big house, relationship, career, health, etc.) will manifest. Likewise, thoughts of the neighbor’s spouse, other things you wouldn’t want to actually happen, are really bad to do.

    5. My views: The thoughts are the issue. The physical act can be good or bad. If you really pay attention to how you feel, you can tell when your energy has been drained. Lust always drains your energy.

    6. My views on Mormon sexual culture: As an atheist teen going to Mormon family reunions, we would laugh about our “sexually repressed” Mormon cousins, who would play very physically and talk and laugh about sex in a very different way than other teens we knew. As an adult in the “over 30 LDS Provo singles” crowd, I dated several Mormon men and went to dances, singles choir, singles firesides, and singles family home evening events every week. I’ve never in my (very social) life, experienced so many men using physical force to get hugs, kisses, dances, etc. I’ve also never before experienced men who would get so passionate and forceful sexually with so little provocation. Like, a switch was flipped and it was crazed, out of control. When I began to see a pattern, I became VERY CONCERNED.

    “Crazed and out of control” is something we do when we feel guilty. It’s like plugging your ears and saying “la la la la” so you drown out the thoughts of guilt. “Crazed and out of control” is also perhaps something we do when we are taught to believe that once we cross a certain line we may not be able to handle temptation. When I stepped back and talked about it with these men, they would pretty much say as much. They believed that they were not capable of withstanding the temptation of passionate kissing. Thus, they were not.

    I’m actually very much in favor of pre-marital chastity. I have so many reasons why that I’ve outlined a book to write about it. But this experience living in Provo culture made me question that. I never had these kinds of problems as a “free love hippie chick”. Men who get all the sex they want are perfectly willing to “just snuggle”, “just make out” or even sleep together non-sexually. It’s just not a big deal. That doesn’t mean I can feel good about pre-marital sex, either. Sex has life-altering consequences and modern society seems to be in total denial about that. That is to say nothing of the profundity of what is happening to the physical, energy and spiritual bodies during sex.

    It is an unresolved issue in my mind, now that I’ve seen up close and personal that a culture of pre-marital chastity can be just as problematic as a culture of promiscuity. But, back to the topic at hand, I suspect that masterbation used as a personal spiritual practice and treated as sacred, could be a helpful part of the “middle way”.

  45. #46: Similar experience

    I was in a fraternity in college. About 1/2 were LDS. About 1/2 weren’t. The non-LDS folks, in general (this is college here), knew how to have a drink or two socially. The LDS folks who decided to drink were actually the worst drunks, as they would always get very, very drunk, or “crazed and out of control”. They just never learned how to manage things in a context of moderation. It was all or nothing, and with the focus being on “nothing” for so long, they only knew all. I think this is similar to what you were saying. We focus on “nothing” for so long with regards to sex, that the only alternative is “all”. The middle way makes a lot of sense.

  46. Put me in the category that doesn’t think it’s a sin. I totally agree with the statement that “I just don’t think God cares that much about it.” We’re talking about masturbation itself. Sure, it could be compulsive, lead to pornography use, etc… (homosexuality!!!?!?!?… but it need not. Eating can also be compulsive, but we’re not told it is bad. About a third of american kids and teenagers are obese. That’s a problem. There’s a place for due concern. But teenagers, single adults, or anyone else masturbating to relieve sexual tension? Where is the harm?

    #19 – I think there’s a good argument to be made that the causative link between guit, masturbation, and premature ejaculation is the guilt, not the mastubation. i.e. A teenage boy who has been masturbating without a clue gets told what he’s doing is making him unworthy, and could result in serious consequences like excommunication (rare, but sad) or failure to advance in the PH, so in comes the guilt. Guilt leads to isolation, which leads to more opportunity for and unmet emotional needs calling for soothing through masturbation. Continue guilt masturbation cycle ad infinitum. Now, becuase of the guilt, he keeps his masturbation not just private (like while showering, etc) but secret (very quickly in the shower so no one suspects anything) he conditions himself to orgasm as quickly as possible. This, I think, is more likely to lead to problems with premature ejaculation than masturbation itself.

    #41 – Great points. Though a man, my experience was similar to yours, in that once I finally stopped self-imposing guilt, I discovered that there wasn’t actually any “inherent” to masturbation itsself. It’s all culturall induced shame, which really does just make everything worse in countless ways.

    Finally, I don’t think a “middle of the road” approach is really going to work. Honestly, I think that’s kind of what the church is trying to do right now. Not much has really been said about it since Pres Kimball, except in conjunction with pornography use. Most pamphlets/manuals just recycle the same old quotes. But, there’s a problem with changes to policy/doctrines within mormonism. It’s particularly present when the change isn’t made publicly, but rather slipped in slowly (think Blacks & the priesthood vs Oral sex being part of the temple recommend questions). The challenge we have, with older members of the church serving in leadership positions, generally speaking, is that they come into their positions with years of experience being taught one thing, so that even if it’s no longer taught, they still remember when Joseph F. Smith taught X in conference, and it makes introducing changes thiss way brutally slow, painful, and unequally applied. I think the church would need to actually take a positive, active roll in encouraging parents to talk to their kids about it, in telling bishops to back off about it, etc.

  47. I’m not exactly sure what “middle of the road” even means in the context of this subject. Does it mean micromanaging the frequency of occurence? Or would it get back into the unpleasant specificity of mode and manner, where priesthood leaders would attempt to dictate appropriate and innappropriate methods? Several years ago this was an issue in some instances where local priesthood leaders, feeling licensed by President Kimball’s comments regarding “unnatural” intercourse, began prying into the nitty gritty of ward members marital sexual practices. Following a small trend of this, Church leaders issued a statement or policy suggesting that 1) Priesthood leaders need not do this, except perhaps in the case of abuse or infidelity, etc; 2) Sexual sins need only to be confessed in general terms, not focusing attention on the details of the sex act, except to acknowledge whether sexual intercours occured (they used to specify penetration).

    Lately I find myself cringing anytime I hear some advocate “moderation”, “middle of the road”, or any other version give and take. It’s not that I don’t agree that in many/most cases moderation isn’t the most reasonable position. It’s just that it comes across as also being cliche`, particularly when it’s application isn’t intuitive or obvious, such as advocating middle of the road masturbation. Sometimes it comes across like a disinterested or baffled parent trying to quickly resolve a dispute between two children, so that they can all quickly move on.

  48. Kim #1 has convinced me that its not a sin but rather transgression. Just yesterday I would’ve voted for ‘sin’.

    And as an ex bishop I can say that I for one got sick of people taking this too seriously. We know that all boys and many men do this as well as most women at times. When I had a YM admit to ‘M’ during a limited temple recommend interview I’d just tell him to go home and repent as well as repent before entering the Temple to do baptisms. I would have been counterproductive to stop him attending the Temple because of ‘M’ , and the shame of not being able to go may have sent YM inactive.

  49. ‘I just don’t think God cares that much about it’. Contrastingly…Elder Spencer W. Kimball said, ‘Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord nor of His Church regardless of what may’

    These statements aren’t mutually exclusive. God may not care about it that much, because its a minor thing, even if it is classified a sin or transgression and in needs of repentance. God looks to the intentions of the heart and knows that we are mortal bodies with hormones that influences our behaviour (if he didn’t all PMS nagging would be sinful 🙂 ). He also knows that most of his Saints will overcome these minor matters given the right set of conditions ie happy marriage, immortal body that has no hormonal imbalances etc

    Re: My first issue is that I think women (of any age) should not speak to a Bishop about this issue

    Agreed. I’d say that men also should not go to the Bishop over ‘M’. Although if its a mission interview then I’d say that its right to ask them to make sure that there isn’t an addiction -which for me is the only real problem with masturbation, and addictive would be a daily thing I suppose.

    However, if I ran the church, I’d give all relief society presidents the authority to judge women (as men who are branch presidents have even though they aren’t ordained Bishops). They could do it after consulting with the Bishop just as Bishops do after they consult with and gain permission from Stake Presidents to hold a council. But, alas, I don’t run the church so this is all just wishful thinking.

  50. ‘I just don’t think God cares that much about it’. Contrastingly…Elder Spencer W. Kimball said, ‘Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord nor of His Church regardless of what may’

    These statements aren’t mutually exclusive. God may not care about it that much, because its a minor thing, even if it is classified a sin or transgression and in needs of repentance. God looks to the intentions of the heart and knows that we are mortal bodies with hormones that influences our behaviour (if he didn’t all PMS nagging would be sinful 🙂 ). He also knows that most of his Saints will overcome these minor matters given the right set of conditions ie happy marriage, immortal body that has no hormonal imbalances etc

    Re: My first issue is that I think women (of any age) should not speak to a Bishop about this issue

    Agreed. I’d say that men also should not go to the Bishop over ‘M’. Although if its a mission interview then I’d say that its right to ask them to make sure that there isn’t an addiction -which for me is the only real problem with masturbation, and addictive would be a daily thing I suppose.

    However, if I ran the church, I’d give all relief society presidents the authority to judge women (as men who are branch presidents have even though they aren’t ordained Bishops). They could do it after consulting with the Bishop just as Bishops do after they consult with and gain permission from Stake Presidents to hold a council. But, alas, I don’t run the church so this is all just wishful thinking.

  51. #37 Andrew Ainsworth

    Henry – can you illuminate us as to when and where “Prophets anciently . . . condemn[ed] this practice”? I’m familiar with the modern quotes, but not the “ancient” ones.

    The death of Onan in Genesis was widely interpreted as being due to excessive masturbation. Also the ‘abuse of mankind’ was seen as code for masturbation, 1Cor 6:9 “nor abusers of themselves with mankind,” was interpreted as masturbation by Martin Luther although today we see it more as referring to homosexuality.

    But ‘M’ isn’t specifically mentioned in any scriptural text -I think- so maybe we should just consider the words ‘M’ and ‘H’ as 20th century terms.

  52. #37,

    Oh, and I forgot Leviticus 15:16,17 which mentions the “seed of copulation go out from him” making the man unclean until sundown but then differentiates the case where if the man is with a woman and his “seed goes out from him” then both are unclean until sundown! ie in a dry humping case?

    It shows that, if we accept this “seed of copulation go out from him” as masturbation, then this transgression isn’t that bad since he was unclean only until sundown whilst sins like adultery carried the death penalty; nor was it called ‘abomination’ as homosexuality was ie “lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”

  53. #49. I know what you mean, Cowboy. “Well, all things in moderation” so often means “Shut up and stop trying to shine a light on my addictions.” It’s a way to wrap up a conversation and reassure ourselves that we’re doing fine.

    But, in reality all things are both good and bad. Sun is necessary for survival yet will burn you or give you skin cancer. Masterbation can be helpful or harmful, addictive or tension-releasing, make it harder or easier to be chaste. It all depends. “The middle way” is acknowledging that it all depends.

    I think the main component that gets people into trouble are the thoughts. Bishops could counsel people on that. Thoughts may seem even more personal, and less appropriate for an authority to try to “control”. But, the subtle aspect of things is usually what decides if it is harmful or helpful.

    I don’t know, maybe it can never be healthy to have your “counselor” have the authority to administer negative consequences. How can you really do honest self inquiry with a counselor who can ex-communicate you or remove your temple recommend?

  54. “maybe it can never be healthy to have your “counselor” have the authority to administer negative consequences”

    I think bishops are put in a real bind with this, as from a systemic view you are creating a situation where people are much more likely to lie or at least to be fully truthful. In my mind, church discipline should NEVER be an option, unless the person’s actions are hurting others, especially their family, or the member in question feels that it would be helpful.

  55. Cori #48

    Sorry I didn’t respond to your comment earlier (I had my hand’s full). Yes I completely agree with you, Guilt & Shame are the key source to PE, however the Church is a natural breeding ground for guilt, it can’t be avoided. We are then faced with a choice either seek to resolve the guilt through condoning the act or teaching to avoid the act.

  56. Honestly, I have to tell you all how disappointed I am that not one of you mentioned the tragic nature of “going blind” if you masturbate too much.

  57. jenjen:

    It much not have been “too much” then, as everyone here can obviously see their computer screens. Unless they have one of those text-reader things.

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