The Mormon Therapist on Sexual Education

August 11, 2010
By

We have reached the point where we need to begin having discussions with our child about sex. Our child is 9. One of the major issues is what to teach them on this particular issue- masturbation.

I don’t want to condone the practice but I also don’t want them to feel completely terrible about themselves and their value as a person if they slip sometimes. My view of this practice is not as hard-line as the Church’s view.

How is the best way to go about opening up discussions with children about this issue?

I would not bring up teachings of not participating in masturbation until the child is at least 12 years of age. Usually any self stimulation or masturbation that occurs before this age is still innocent in nature since children do not possess the sexual maturity that starts taking place with the onset of puberty.  And I share your concern that we not inadvertently contribute to any unnecessary shame in the sexual education of our children.

A Parent’s Guide has a chapter on the appropriate things to be teaching Primary-age children. Restraining from masturbation is not brought up until the later chapter geared towards adolescents.
I wholeheartedly agree that having discussions regarding sex at this age is important, especially since our children are growing up in a world where sexual messages are commonplace and vary widely in their content and values. The best way to do this is to keep an open dialogue and look for regular teaching opportunities. Sex education should not be looked at as a one-time event. Usually children first approach their parents with sex/body questions (i.e. Where do babies come from?  Why do I have a penis?  What is that for?, etc.). How we respond to these innocent questions will greatly influence whether or not they come back to us or go elsewhere for further information. It is OK when taken aback or legitimately stumped to say things like “let me get back with you on that,” “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you,” “that’s a great question – give me some time to think about how I want to explain that to you,” etc. But make sure you do get back to your child and give an open and truthful answer ASAP (ideally the same day). This is how you will gain credibility and trust with your child. It is also a great strategy to first ask a child, “well, what do you think the answer to that is?” This tactic will give you a better idea of where the child is coming from, how they formulated the question to begin with and where they are at developmentally as far as being able to understand the complexity the answer may involve.  It is not beneficial to cop out and say, “I’ll tell you that when you’re older.”  Any sexual question can be addressed in an age-appropriate way.  And if they’re asking, they’re old enough for some response.
As far as how to talk about masturbation in particular, it is important to let our adolescents know at least the following concepts (please incorporate the following into your own personal parenting style and change as you see fit):
  • Having sexual urges are normal.
  • Sexuality is part of the plan of happiness.
  • One of the main reasons why we are here on earth is to create a family. Sexuality is very much a part of this process.
  • It is normal for our genital areas to feel good when touched.
  • Because of this, people sometimes self-stimulate or masturbate. This means touching your genitals in a way that feels sexually good. You can do this to the point that you reach a climax, or orgasm. An orgasm feels very good and offers a physical release. There is nothing weird, wrong or bad that your body is able to do this.  It is a natural body process.
  • At the same time it is important to understand what the purpose of our sexuality is: to be able to have children and to have a deep emotional bond with our husband or wife. We are expected at times in our lives to put aside our own personal wants and desires for a bigger and better reward. It is not because God does not want us to be happy or sexually satisfied. In fact, it is exactly because God DOES want those things for us.  This is why the church has guidelines for the youth and for single adults to not masturbate.  However, masturbation is not anywhere as serious of a sin as premarital sex and it is not something we want you feeling overly guilty about.  Many kids your age masturbate – it is not considered abnormal.  We just aim for a higher expectation on things of a sexual nature as part of our religious commitment.
  • At the right time, with the right person – the fact that your genitals feel good when touched should bring much pleasure and happiness. This is what I want for you as your parent and this is what God wants for all of us.
  • It is important to know that we all make mistakes in life and that is why we have the wonderful gift of the atonement. I know it can be embarrassing to talk about these kinds of things with your parents but we are willing to listen or give advice on any concerns you may have about this issue. I want you to feel good and confident about your body.
It is refreshing to see you taking this precious role as sexual educator of your child seriously and with the righteous desire of doing it in a loving and respectful way.
A good article:
Where do kids learn about sex?
MM readers:
What advice do you have regarding when and what to teach your children re sexual education?
Where do you agree or disagree with the advice I have given?
What is your personal position on masturbation when it comes to teaching your children?
How do you feel about the For the Strength of Youth guidelines directing the youth to abstain from masturbation?
What were your own experiences around being taught about masturbation?
Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist.  She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com.

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  • Annon

    My eight farthings: I never discussed with any of my kids anything about masturbation, just as my TBM parents never discussed anything about it with me.

    I did have discussions, though, about premarital sex, drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, swearing and using the Lord’s name as an explicative, pornography and wasting time on mindless things like excessive video gaming. I taught them about personal hygiene and grooming. I taught them about being courteous and tolerant of others. I taught them about being disciplined and about “moderation in all things” for indeed there are a plethora of things that we can become addicted to, which can end up being harmful (like masturbation, although I never used that as an example). I taught them about all these things, just like Robert Fulghum taught that all you really need to know you learn in kindergarten.

    The result: They all ended up being honorable and productive citizens — all seven of them, with some currently active in the church, some not, (and what does being active or inactive in the church have anything to do with being an honorable and productive citizen or not, anyway?). And I don’t think whether any of them masturbated or not (both males and females) made one whit of a difference in their lives.

    I might also add I think teaching kids that masturbation “is normal for our genital areas to feel good when touched.” but still refer to it as being a “sin” is confusing and contradictory, or perhaps something like a “catch 22.” If it’s “natural” and “offers a physical release.” and “There is nothing weird, wrong or bad that your body is able to do this.” then what’s the problem (other than taking it to excess like taking any ‘good’ and ‘natural’ thing to excess)? Masturbation is not fornication. Masturbation is not adultery. You can get a temple recommend if you masturbate.

    Also, inferring that masturbation is intrinsically related to “put(ting) aside our own personal wants and desires for a bigger and better reward.” is a ridiculous and absurd concept in reference to masturbation. And most certainly, relegating and casting the Lord’s atonement into the arena of opinion about masturbation is a degradation of that sacred concept and sacrifice of my Savior (“we all make mistakes in life and that is why we have the wonderful gift of the atonement.”).

    Okay, my eight farthings have been spent (or perhaps it‘s two dollars now, adjusting for inflation).

  • http://Mormontherapist.blogspot.com Natasha Helfer Parkerr

    I actually agree with you more than I disagree. The problem, IMO, is that the church literature still mentions masturbation as a no-no. And whether you spoke to your kids about it or not, there’s a good chance that your kids were told not to do it at some point of their religious experience (if they went to church, especially if they were male, and as part of most mission worthiness interviews I have heard of). My catch 22 as a therapist (especially a Mormon one treating Mormon clients) is that I am not going to trump For the Strength of Youth and other current publications that mention masturbation. And if I try to, I will lose credibility. Therefore, I
    choose to help people normalize sexuality with
    their children as much as possible and put a
    great emphasis on the atonement because these are two areas I see many Mormon parents not talking about in regards to sexuality in general.
    And I do not refer to masturbation as a “sin” either.

    Now playing devils advocate:
    There are many other sexual/sensual activities that I would also not call “sins” in a marital setting (ie fondling of genitals or breasts, etc) but that are considered inappropriate in a non-marital setting. I don’t see this as confusing information for our children I’d taught in a non-shaming approach. So, why would it be so when it comes to masturbation?

  • http://Mormontherapist.blogspot.com Natasha Helfer Parkerr

    I meant “if taught”.
    Thanks for your comments!!

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    In the Miracle of Forgiveness, Spencer Kimball quoted Joseph Fielding Smith regarding masturbation: “No young man should be called on a mission who is not free from this practice.”

    The standard seems to be, therefore, that by the time young men serve missions they should have sorted this out, even if as youth they have experimented with masturbation.

    I think this attitude allows for a non-shaming experience that you describe in your OP, including the opportunity to take advantage of the blessings of the atonement.

    I heard Elder Joe Christensen speaks to a group of youth in Venezula and he spoke of the benifits in a marriage of a husband’s learning to control his sexual desire, and suggested that teaching our young people to avoid masturbation (and other premarital sexual activity) is a means to that end.

    Clearly the world takes a different view regarding masturbation, but they also take a different view regarding premarital sex.

  • smallvoice

    Where do you agree or disagree with the advice I have given?

    I agree with most of the advice given here. My concern is this sentence, “However, masturbation is not anywhere as serious of a sin as premarital sex and it is not something we want you feeling overly guilty about. Many kids your age masturbate – it is not considered abnormal. We just aim for a higher expectation on things of a sexual nature as part of our religious commitment.”

    I think this is where the contradiction occurs. When you say “not anywhere as serious of a sin” and “not something we want you to feel OVERLY guilty about” you are saying that regardless it is a sin and you should feel a little guilty. At least that is how I would interpret it and how many youth who are embarrassed by their sexuality might also interpret it. After a priesthood lesson on the subject my 14 year old son came home and told us that he learned in class that masturbation was next to murder on the sin scale. Now, whether that was actually stated or if the teacher was talking about adultery, fornication and masturbation all at once I don’t know but that is how his brain interpretted it. I suppose that according to our church it is a sin, but I truly disagree with this. I think the church’s ideas on masturbation are more of a misunderstanding of how our bodies function and also a cultural hangover from unhealthy thinking about sex. I want masturbation to be taken off the table at semi-annual interviews and out of lessons for our youth. Masturbation is a personal matter and one that I feel should be handled differently in our church. I have seen too many young people boys especially wracked with guilt over something that is instinctual and healthy. Their self-worth is compromised and some contemplate harming themselves because of their inability to perfectly avoid masturbating. As with anything, I teach my children that masturbating to the point of excess is something to avoid but I tell them that in our family masturbation is personal, private and we considerate it a healthy way to learn about our sexuality.

  • Rigel Hawthorne

    My 8 year-old daughter just brought home a children’s book from the libraray called, “Mommy Laid an Egg.” I was sitting down to a leisurely supper when she got a chair and got a book down from the top shelf, where apparently my wife had stashed it until she could warn me.

    So, suddenly my leisurely supper was evaluating a sex education book for my daughter…something I had planned to do in a few months anyway. It shows cartoon figures of couples in somewhat humorous close contact positions to represent the joining of the cartoon style anatomy that had been pictured on previous pages.

    My approach is, well, if she knows where to find the book and wants to know what’s inside, I might as well read it with her. Being the medical person in the family, my wife feels I’m the one to do it.

    My question for you…and this would apply to the topic of masturbation education as well…how do you teach children to keep what you teach them on the topics “sacred” and not discuss it with their peers or younger brothers and sisters? My daughter is very bright and not afraid of taking initiative. This is a talent we encourage, but in this case, I need to teach her reserve…partly because, of course, what she learns at this age isn’t enough for her to have the perspective necessary to take on discussions with her peers. I’m sure she will hear her peers talking about sex, but I would like her to understand that its a subject that, for now, she should simply acknowledge that she is aware and change the conversation. She is also very close and maternal to her younger brother and sister; they change into swim wear and dry off after baths in the hallways. It will be difficult for her to refrain from “educating” her sibs on the additional functions she has learned for those body parts.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    To me it seems the no masturbating comes from this scripture:

    Matt. 5: 27-28:
    27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
    28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

    I think the savior was pretty clear. When masturbating the imagination goes wild. Of course, you don’t need masturbate to have you mind go wild. This is just one of those things that one needs to learn to control, it’s difficult and a life long challenge but the standard was set and we need to try to reach that standard. None of us are perfect and yes, actual adultery is worse but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to lust, it is a sin. None of us may understand why this standard was set but look at who set it and pray for confirmation from the spirit that it is true or not. Personally I think it’s true but will definitely not cast the first stone.

  • Thomas

    #7 — Strictly speaking, then, you’re fine as long as your fantasies don’t involve married women, or situations involving your married self and a woman not your wife.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    Let’s look at this again.

    28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

    I don’t see anything that says you have to be married in order to violate this commandment (if you cheat on your future spouse whom you have not yet married I would call this a violation of the commandment). As for the second part of your argument (saying it’s OK if you imagine your wife) I would just say spirit of the law vs the letter of the law. The spirit of the law seems to say that sexual relations should remain only with your spouse, which would mean not with your hand or some other person. This subject can also be related to our bodies being the temples of God.

    We could argue this all day but that is my interpretation and it seems pretty clear. Let me know if you have a “better” interpretation. In the end all that matters is how the spirit guides you and to be willing to be corrected when you find that you are not correct. This includes me, of course. It just seems pretty clear to me but I try to be always willing to listen to better arguments.

  • hmmmkay

    Natasha, I have a question: what do you tell your kids if they are gay? Do the first seven bullets on your list still apply?

    Do you just tell your kids that if they are gay, they have no hope of a sex life and no outlet, either?

  • Thomas

    “I don’t see anything that says you have to be married in order to violate this commandment…”

    Well, except the bit about having to be married in order to commit adultery. By definition, an unmarried person cannot commit adultery with an unmarried person. The equivalency the Lord was drawing, was between the completed act of adultery (which, again, has a precise definition), and forming the mental intent or desire to commit “adultery.”

    If the Lord had wanted to include fantasized fornication within the scope of sexual thought-crime, He could have said so very easily. It’s bordering on sacrilege to argue that the Word himself isn’t capable of as much precision in language as we’d expect of a two-bit state legislator.

    “The spirit of the law seems to say that sexual relations should remain only with your spouse, which would mean not with your hand or some other person”

    And logic seems to say that if it doesn’t involve “some other person,” it’s not “sexual relations.” I recognize we can get into Clintonian logic-chopping here, but I think any bare-minimum definition of “sexual relations” means there has to be some other person to be relating with.

    I understand that the basic issue here is chastity, which I understand further as being a principle calculated to preserve the single most precious earthly prize — a covenant marriage. Thus, anything that tends to diminish the prospects for or endurance of a covenant marriage, is potentially dangerous. However, I also take notice of another temptation, namely, the rabbinical tendency to build fences around the Law, going beyond the actual commandments the Lord has given. That can easily be done for the wrong reasons; at worst, these things can become gospel hobbies, which — when they crumble, as they, being artificial and not divine, often do — take down real faith and fidelity with them. One should not be more royalist than the King.

  • AdamF

    A few thoughts on some of the comments:
    1-masturbation does not necessarily involve fantasy or “lusting after” another woman.
    2-I see nothing wrong with a married couple masturbating themselves in addition to each other as a part of their sexual relationship. What each couple does however is up to them. If one’s hand is out of the question, I guess that leaves out phone sex?
    3-I’m okay with and don’t think it’s necessarily contradictory to say that something is not right but don’t get worked up over it. We would be more effective in preventing addiction, self-mutilation, depression, etc. around this issue if we normailzed it, not just as something the big scary “world” does but something that most boys do, in the church included. The church should stay out of talking about masturbation to kids. I am not in favor of anyone asking my son about masturbation in a way that is inherently shaming (i.e. Putting it on a list of “must-confess” behaviors along with premarital sex). I hope to teach him to respond to those questions with “that’s between me and God, and if I have any concerns I’ll talk to my parents first.” Having addiction/compulsive behavior problems is one thing, but facilitating a culture of shame around occasional masturbation is evil. I’ve seen people who want to literally hurt themselves over this, from an early age. They thought they were alone in this “filthy” practice. They thought they were “in need of the atonement.” the evil part of saying someone is in need of the atonement is that we don’t normally use that phrase for every day sins. We are in need of the atonement and need to continually repent for everything. Masturbation, dependig on one’s views, may be one of these things, but outside of compulsive behavior that may include pornography, I don’t see it as a “serious” problem, if it’s even a problem at all. I have yet to decide how I will approach it with my kids, because I’ve seen the damage done through shame about our bodies, and making people feel alone, and elevating a behavior that almost everyone does to “you’re unworthy and are in dire need of repentance” status. We’re ALL in need of repentence. We all sin.

  • E

    Natasha, I really like your approach and agree with it. I will try and incorporate some of your language into my discussions with my children.

  • Annon

    “There are many other sexual/sensual activities that I would also not call “sins” in a marital setting (ie fondling of genitals or breasts, etc) but that are considered inappropriate in a non-marital setting. I don’t see this as confusing information for our children I’d (if) taught in a non-shaming approach. So, why would it be so when it comes to masturbation?”

    Why? Because the word “masturbation” is defined as: Excitation of one’s own or another’s genital organs, usually to orgasm, by manual contact or means other than sexual intercourse.
    It may be interesting to note here that in the older temple ordinance dialogue it was forbidden to have “sexual intercourse” with anyone other than a lawful spouse, which was changed to “sexual relations.” Since masturbation is not sexual intercourse, and since “relations” involve two or more people, then clearly a person is not in violation of temple covenants if he or she SELF masturbates ALONE. If there is no violation of a temple covenant in this regard of committing an act of moral turpitude, then this is where the line should be drawn for any need or requirement necessitating ecclesiastical confession. It becomes an “issue” only when the actor deems that there are such, and then it’s only between said actor and the Lord. These “issues” would only *actively* involve (as differing from general advice/lecture given, as for example, by a parent) another person (parent, church leader, friend, therapist, etc) because the actor preforming the act of masturbation so wishes to involve other people, usually for the purposes of obtaining advice regarding same. And when advice is given let’s hope it clearly does have anything to do with making anyone feel like a reprobate, sinner, and most certainly “in need of the Atonement of Christ.”
    Too many times I have witnessed the real “sin” of going “beyond the mark” by zealous and fanatical people (within the locus of religion, especially) with regards to things that are clearly none of their business and have nothing to do with personal salvation. To be sure, “No unclean thing can enter the presence of the Lord”, but if someone thinks that it’s okay for a married couple in the sanctity of Holy Matrimony to suck on and lick each others genitals, and “do it doggy style” and “Gertrude’s and Jerry’s 101 Ways” under ceiling mirrors with the video camera running (for their OWN later viewing pleasure, of course) and still be able to declare themselves “clean” before the Lord in a temple recommend interview, while at the same time (well, not exactly “at the same time” in the same room at the same interview) some teenager needs to “repent” because he or she masturbates, then I think that person needs get his logic and other such ducks back in row. (Whew!)
    And even as far as addictions are concerned, I am of the opinion there are those which are far worse than masturbation, but not viewed with any moral stigma, e.g., obesity. You tell me what is worse: a person who goes through a phase of excessive masturbation (and I do believe the literature will back me up here in that addiction to excessive masturbations is usually only temporary in most cases) or someone who is gross or morbid obese due to “unnatural” eating practices? If anyone needs “counseling,” and the Savior’s help it’s certainly not the pimple faced teenager cumming (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) into his own (being a male my bias is to refer more to that gender), but rather the unfortunate over-weight soul who will be immeasurably worse off by being saddled with social stigmas, personal quilt, and a plethora of health problems. Of the two categories, who is doing more harm to the “temple of their spirit,” and not failing to neglect also the notion of damaging the very core of their spiritual being or nature?
    Masturbation. Give it a rest and stop making mountains of quilt out of the mole hills of processes to become a normal, healthy, human being innately hard-wired to perpetuate his and her own species.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    You guys seem to be getting off the point of the conversation of Masturbation. I don’t see how obesity, or other sins relate to this conversation. To tell you the truth I don’t even know how we rate which sins are worse, I don’t recall seeing a list from worst to least worse (not including killing, adultery, and sinning against the holy ghost).

    My main point is just that it appears from the counsel of our leaders that masturbation isn’t good and is not to be done. If you have a guilty conscious about it fine. Just from reading the scripture I quoted it seems that keeping our minds clean is important and you are not keeping your mind clean if you are masturbating unless you are 1 in a million person who doesn’t think about naked women when you masturbate.

    Look, when I get a temple recommend and they say I can’t be drinking alcohol if I want to go to the temple then I don’t drink it or I lie and say I don’t or I just say that’s just between God and me. Sure alcohol in the grand scheme of things really isn’t bad but it’s been asked that we refrain. Likewise we’ve been asked to refrain from masturbation and so I say let’s not do it. Now, if you really want to that’s fine by me but we’ve heard the counsel and we can read the scriptures. Do people need to put the masturbation thing in context, sure, but that doesn’t change the counsel or what the scriptures say. I don’t understand why everyone is so angry over this. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal to learn how to master our bodies.

  • Annon

    “I don’t understand why everyone is so angry over this.  It doesn’t seem like such a big deal to learn how to master our bodies.”

    Angry? I don’t read “anger” in any of these posts. Unfortunately we are at the disadvantage of not being able to converse face-to-face and therefore read body language and interpret voice inflections, etc, but I don’t perceive any anger. Speaking for myself.

    As far a the notion of being “a big deal,” the “big deal” is from what I have read about relating to some peoples’ experiences with masturbation when it involved *some* LDS authorities, and it was these authorities who made a “big deal” over something that need not be. Not all, and hopefully not too many, but I’ve read accounts about how some misinformed and fanatical local authorities (usually LDS bishops) have dealt with this matter in a very inappropriate, hurtful, and even harmful way.

    “My main point is just that it appears from the counsel of our leaders that masturbation isn’t good and is not to be done.  If you have a guilty conscious about it fine.  Just from reading the scripture I quoted it seems that keeping our minds clean is important and you are not keeping your mind clean if you are masturbating unless you are 1 in a million person who doesn’t think about naked women when you masturbate.“

    A lot of church leaders have advocated for a lot of things in the past, which have now gone the way of the hula hoop. Like the edict on oral sex, which for all intents and purposes was rescinded then watered down and reissued as “it’s up to the married couple and the Lord to determine what’s in harmony with the spirit.” IMHO the same goes for masturbation, i.e., it’s between an individual and the Lord. If you don’t feel in tune with the spirit, while engaging in the practice then listen to that prompting and heed it. If you don’t feel in tune with the spirit that’s it’s best not even to do it in the first place (experiment, first time), then listen to *that* prompting and heed that one. If you don’t feel *out of tune* with the spirit, even while thinking about bare naked ladies while masturbating, then maybe, just maybe, that’s a pretty healthy and normal behavior for a sexually developing young man. I was actually in attendance at a stake event for married and soon to be marred couples having flown in this LDS expert in the field of human sexuality, and he told us that the “Brethren” are very concerned with the number of divorces and cancelations of sealing that are taking place in the church, and that a study was commissioned by the church which concluded that the number one cause for all of these marriage break-ups was sexual incompatibility resulting from, a lot of times, unrealistic, even deleterious or just plain wrong outlooks and attitudes about sex (e.g., sex is only for procreation — once the procreating years have ended, so does the sex; you are never suppose to take off your temple garments to engage in sexual intercourse; there is a right way — one, MAYBE two, but many wrong ways to have it, and if you don’t do it that one, right way, then it is not in conformity with the spirit of the Lord and you may be actually inviting the spirit of the Devil into the bedroom, etc). Basically, the message I got was (in reference to marriage relationships, obviously), sex is good. Sex is healthy. Sex is ordained of God. Sex makes people feel secure and loved. Sex is one of the quintessentials of all human experiences, and hopefully you’ll be able to have lots of sex even as you grow older.

    And so I would add: Discovering your sexuality via masturbation is natural, and not evil just as thinking about and desiring a woman (naked or clothed) isn’t evil as long as those desires are actualized in a loving, legal, civil, consensual, well-meaning, reasonable way. Masturbation, again IMHO, may even be part of the Lord’s plan to prepare and introduce the developing male (again, speaking of my own gender) to having a healthy sexual relationship. I am not attempting to trump what LDS authorities have said on the subject, but let’s be aware of the fact that we only read about what the ‘governing’ authorities say about the subject and what they sanction — don’t be so naïve and think that every GA is on the same page about this, as I highly doubt it, AND that they have changed their views about many issues in the past — about plural marriage, those “darkies” and the priesthood, etc. Nevertheless, I am firm in *my opinion* that in and of itself, in most cases, masturbation is not evil, a sin, nor sinful. And if it is, and the stats are that almost all males have engaged in the practice, then how come it’s still a pretty decent world overall, with a LOT of decent males in a LOT of decent communities all over the world? I highly doubt that any of these good men would be any better for NOT having masturbated. And perhaps, just perhaps they are even healthier and better adjusted in their opposite gender intimacies, affiliations and marriages because they had. IMHO.

  • Latter-day Guy

    “…unless you are 1 in a million person who doesn’t think about naked women when you masturbate…”

    Heh. Sorry but the category you’ve defined occurs at a much, MUCH higher rate than “1 in a million.” Some studies suggest that female masturbation has an incidence as high as 92%. Even if you think that’s an exaggeration, if you add the number of straight women and gay men who masturbate, I’d bet that at least 1/3 of masturbation fantasies don’t revolve around naked ladies.

  • AdamF

    Re: anger – now that you bring it up, there are some things I’m angry about. :)

    I’m angry at a culture that does a great job at creating addicts.

    I’m angry that 7 year-old boys feel dirty and ashamed, and can’t talk to anyone about it.

    I’m angry that men in our culture want to mutilate themselves.

    I’m angry that these same men, who don’t feel that suicide is a good choice (and I don’t either) wish that they could just be “extinct.”

    I’ve seen all of this in the field. I think anger is pretty fair here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that a mere teaching about something as being wrong causes all this, but when people are doing things above we’re, “doin it rong.” :)

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    11 – Thomas, I don’t agree with your assessment of Jon’s comment.

    Clearly in the New Testament, the Savior introduces higher standands than the previous law, and not just in the matter of sexual purity. Taken together with the counsel of modern prophets, it seems clear that we are well schooled to learn to curb and control our sexual appetites.

    That said, I return to what Spencer Kimball and Joseph Fielding Smith taught (see #4 above) — that this is a matter that young men need to sort out before qualilfying for missionary service. To me that suggests that normal youthful self exploration may play a role in sexual development, but that a young man can learn also (as part of that normal sexual development) to control those desires over time.

    I also agree with others who suggest that confession to a bishop of youthful masturbation is not required unless the young man feels it is necessary for himself. My mission president taught us that principle using D&C 42:92, which states that those who offend “in secrect” may also confess “in secret” to whom he’s offended and to God.

    I think there are excellent bishops who do treat this matter gently with young men. Of course, there may be others who don’t do so well, too.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    Yeah, I guess I haven’t read or heard anything on the subject where kids lives get ruined by some bishop because of this so coming from the perspective of it being good to learn self-mastery I can’t truly have empathy. I’m sure I’ll learn as I get older. I just hope I never have to be in a bishopric period, what an awful position to be in. But, I guess we’ll just have to disagree on this subject.

    After having discussed this with you guys my core arguments would just be that we need to learn to keep our minds clean and masturbation is directly contrary to being able to develop pure minds. That we can commit adultery against our future spouse by having these impure thoughts. And that self-mastery is a good thing, although it is a journey for all of us and may take some time to achieve.

    Latter-day Guy: I was referring to those who masturbate, 1 in a million that don’t have bad thoughts while masturbating.

    AdamF: If you never teach that anything is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ then how do we become better people? If we are taught everything is OK and relative how do we progress and become better? Yes, some people will feel overly guilty but isn’t that a problem with teaching the leaders on how to deal with these issues rather than saying that sex before marriage is bad, etc. We cannot say all sin is good in the name of not offending. Yes, doctrine changes with time but does that mean we should not listen and then try to ponder and understand for ourselves what is good and bad? Personally I like to be put in check every once and a while by my leaders so I can remember where the “straight and narrow” path is. For example, some LDS friends and I would play Texas Hold ‘em on the weekends. Even though it’s not a real big deal to play Hinkley came out and reminded of us why the church is against it and what rationalization people use to play it. Although it might not be bad for all people some people are overly affected by the negative consequences of the action.

    Paul: Thanks for the comment. Interesting scripture.

  • http://shenpawarrior.wordpress.com AdamF

    Jon – I wasn’t clear enough in my comments. I do not think that teaching something, e.g. a value or moral is what causes problems. For this post, I don’t think (and I tried to say it above) that teaching that one should abstain from masturbating outside of marriage is necessarily a problem. I’m ALL for self-mastery. With many clients I work with, I work within their values, and try to get across that the actual act of masturbating or looking at porn is not as important to me as HOW it is done–i.e. when it’s a problem it’s usually done from a reactive state–definitely not one of self-mastery. Anyway, we’re all guilty of hyperbole from time to time, but when you said “if we are taught that everything is OK and relative” fits that as well. ;) That’s not at all what I was saying.

    Also, I agree that part of the solution may be to better train leaders in how to approach these issues (in addition to Natasha’s theme of the teaching coming from parents, which is the most important aspect).

    “Yes, some people will feel overly guilty”
    As I said above, for many people this is a much bigger problem than feeling overly guilty.

    “We cannot say all sin is good in the name of not offending.”
    We don’t need to say any sin is good, and offense, imho, has little to do with it. The real issue to me is in the process of it, and the culture. If other than denying the holy ghost, murder, and adultery, sins are pretty much equal, let’s treat them all that way – they all need the atonement. When someone swears, or tries a beer or coffee, or overeats too much, or misses church to watch the superbowl, or plays Texas Hold-em, or whatever else one may feel is a sin, we don’t teach that sinner that they are in dire need of the atonement, or some special confession that feeds into people hating themselves. I’m totally fine with teaching that x behavior is wrong (e.g. masturbation) as long as we don’t put it in the category of “if you’ve done it, then YOU’RE unworthy (read: bad). Telling someone they are unworthy/unclean, etc. is telling them they should be ashamed, and shame is one of the most powerful emotions I know of (other than fear maybe) and causes people to run and hide. We shouldn’t be causing people to hide based on something that almost every does. If as a church we’re going to treat it as a sin, let’s do it in a way that is effective. Guilt is fine (“I’ve done something wrong”) and comes from the spirit and/or the light of Christ I think. Shame (“I am wrong, I am unworthy”) is never effective, and comes from Satan. I have a testimony of that, largely based on what I have studied and worked with LDS clients. Now, if someone commits one of the “big 3″ sins, fine. I’m not arguing that, but let’s KEEP the guilt and REMOVE the shame from the rest of our issues.

    All this being said, I don’t have a problem with the pre-mission interview process. I think it’s useful to find out about any compulsive behaviors or addictions that could really damage the mission experience. I also, again, value “self-mastery.” Also, partner sex produces a LOT more prolactin than does solo masturbation – prolactin serves to shut down the sex-drive temporarily, thus solo masturbation can be less satisfying and more addictive.

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    AdamF, I’m interested in your comment, and agree that we need to separate guilt from shame. As a parent, for too long I shamed my children, and I should not have done it.

    I’m interested in more discussion of how to teach guilt and not shame. I would not have thought that the consequence of unworthiness (to participate in certain ordinances, for instance) was necessarily a source of shame. But I suspect that the presentation is important in that regard.

  • http://shenpawarrior.wordpress.com AdamF

    I think it’s an important discussion. I certainly don’t have answers to it all. While I don’t think that church leaders mean by saying someone is “unworthy” means they are saying that person is “bad” – that’s the message that gets sent. For me, part of teaching guilt and not shame is to teach one’s morals/values/standards etc. right along with unconditional love and acceptance, and that doing something wrong does not make the “person” bad or wrong. I don’t know if it would be necessary to change the words we use (e.g. “unworthy”) but sometimes I wonder if it is. After all, WHO, is ever, realy, “worthy.” No one, in the sense of perfection. Therefore, I believe in emphasizing to my kids and anyone else that they, as people, are “enough” and are nod “bad” or “unworthy.” I also value teaching them my values as well as the rationale behind them. Along with this some normalization is VERY important. For example, if one was going to teach their kids to abstain from masturbation, I don’t have a problem with, “we believe that this is something that should be avoided, for reasons a,b,&c, just like we believe we should control our emotions, not act in anger, take care of our bodies, etc. Most people struggle with things, that’s part of life, and most boys experiment with masturbation. Masturbation does NOT make you bad or unclean or unworthy, any more than swearing (or whatever) does, but we believe it is something that we all need to control, just like everything else in life. For most people this is part of growing up, so don’t worry about it.” I know that’s far from perfect, but I’m just trying to process how someone might teach their kids about it without shaming them.

  • http://standingsittinglying.wordpress.com Katie L.

    I discovered masturbation, as many children do, as a young girl of three or four. My parents immediately tried to “break me” of the habit, which served only to place undue focus on it, thus internalizing and habitualizing the practice. I think it’s important to note that even though they never overtly “shamed” me about it, the focus IN AND OF ITSELF caused me to grow up believing that there was something terribly wrong with me, that I was unworthy and wicked to my core, that sexual feelings of any kind were a dark and evil part of me that must be controlled at all costs. This is the message I had about myself and my sexuality for as far back as I can remember, quite literally stretching back BEFORE I can remember, due to my young age when this first became a focus in my life.

    I don’t want to shock or terrify any parents, but I am now in counseling to deal with severe anxiety and OCD-like symptoms. In fairness, there is some depression in my family, so it’s possible that I was pre-disposed to these sorts of problems; however, the more my therapist and I dig into my root issues, the more we discover that the lion’s share developed through years of guilt and shame related to masturbation, even though I completely stopped around the age of 12.

    Though a HUGE part of me wants to post this anonymously, I am using my usual handle here because this is a serious issue that deserves serious attention, and I don’t want to be written off as “just some crazy on the internet.” Our church culture needs a major upgrade in the way it addresses this issue. It is creating unnecessary agony in the lives of our people, and that simply has to stop. While eventually I’d like for masturbation to never be mentioned anywhere near the vicinity of the word “sin,” even Natasha’s approach here would have spared me 30 years of heartache that I am still working through.

    I genuinely apologize if this is too much personal information for people. But I think it’s important for parents to be aware of stories like mine so that they can prevent it happening in the future.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    I guess we all should read some books about sexuality. Of course, it appears some of you have majored in the field.

    AdamF: I think I’m understanding you better now. Interesting topic I must say. I have a lot to read about!

    So what would be an example of shaming?

    Also, the question about having a bishop talk to a kid about masturbation. Isn’t that just so the bishop can help the child with self-mastery? I thought that was the point. Along with the other things that are talked over with bishops (money problems, adultery, porn addiction, spousal abuse, tithing questions, etc.). Hopefully most people can have an open conversation with their bishop and hopefully the bishop makes it easy for them to approach him. I know it can be difficult for people since they look at him in a position of authority and sometimes “perfection” and don’t realize he’s just like the rest of us except given a certain responsibility.

    Yeah, exploration as a young child is important. We just try and make sure our kid washes her hands before eating, etc. That’s part of the problem with diapers, it makes it hard for that.

  • Conifer

    There have been articles popping up all over the place recently about how they’re finding puberty is beginning much earlier in girls than it used to (maybe it is for boys, too, but the articles I’ve seen lately are about girls). Some girls are starting puberty as early as seven. In that case, wouldn’t you need to be talking about these things earlier, too?

    http://www.google.com/search?q=puberty+starting+earlier&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a#q=puberty+starting+earlier&hl=en&safe=active&client=firefox-a&hs=fSx&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&prmd=n&source=univ&tbs=nws:1&tbo=u&ei=LDdkTIysC8uNjAeT3IGrCQ&sa=X&oi=news_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CDUQsQQwAw&fp=883d493cc5acd3d

  • Thomas

    #15: “Do people need to put the masturbation thing in context, sure, but that doesn’t change the counsel or what the scriptures say.

    The scriptures don’t “say” one thing or the other. Only by seriously wresting the scriptures can you make them say what you want them to say. If you want to argue that a no-masturbation rule is implied by “penumbras and emanations”* of the scriptural Law of Chastity, go ahead, but don’t take the Lord’s revealed word in vain.

    *That’s a phrase from constitutional law, used by liberal judges to find rights in the Constitution that can’t be found in the text. They go beyond what the Constitution actually says, to strike down laws based on the “spirit” of the Constitution. Ironically, when they do what you’re doing, they do it to make abortion legal up to the moment of birth, and other morally questionable things.

  • http://mormontherapist.blogspot.com/ Natasha Helfer Parker

    I SO plan on responding to many of the concerns and wonderful questions that have been raises. I’ve just had some pretty hectic days here lately – haven’t we all?
    But I quickly wanted to thank Katie L for her courage to post this, and to purposely post this non-anonymously. Thank you for your open, frank sharing of your experience!!

  • http://alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com Paul

    #23 AdamF — thanks for the reply. Appreciate your viewpoint, and I thought your suggested words for speaking to children are pretty good.

    FWIW, my experience with bishops in this matter is that I’ve known several bishops to give similar advice: If you want to avoid the issue, here are some things you can do. No condemnation, no discussion of discipline.
    (Hopefully no shame.)

    I think as parents we worry so much that our children will be forever condemned by wrong choices they make so much that we try to overmanage their choices. In fact, the healthiest (emotionally) kids I know are ones who have made mistakes and sorted through them, not the ones who have been “perfect.” But the stakes seem very high for parents, so I understand the desire to micromanage.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    #27. I don’t think I’m stretching the scriptures at all from my point of view. It’s seems pretty clear to me. We can’t be commanded in all things so we need to try and understand what the scriptures say and use the spirit of the law, not the letter. If we used the letter people would find all types of loop holes to the point where they wouldn’t mean anything any more. If you can give me a logical explanation of what the scriptures say you might be able to convince me that it’s not bad to have thoughts of sex with women (not your spouse, which would include women that are single and if you are single yourself) until then we’ll just have to disagree. I can’t give you a better conclusion than that to this conversation.

  • Thomas

    Jon, please see Romans 13:8-10:

    Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    That’s the spirit of the law.

    Can you make a logical case that the activity in question “worketh…ill to [one's] neighbour”?

    We’re under the New Covenant, not the Old, with its admonitions about ritual purity and the like. To the extent the New Testament (usually the parts written by Paul, who definitely had some unidentified sexual struggles) reference generalized “lust” or “sins of the flesh,” it’s in the context of Paul’s quasi-Platonist distaste for the physical world, which Mormonism is supposed to be unique among Christian sects in moving away from. Paul, of course, was so conflicted about sex and the body that he thought celibacy was preferable to marriage.

    To the extent our thoughts, and those of our actions that do not involve others, violate the “spirit of the law,” it is those actions that condition us to desire perishable earthly things, and not things (like authentic life in a covenant marriage) that can last eternally. As far as I can tell, sex as a general category is not one of those solely earthly things. In fact, Mormon prophets have gotten quite specific about the persistence of gender and sexuality into the eternities, occasionally going to extremes of specificity (as with speculations about the process by which the Father begot Jesus) that make platonic-minded traditional Christians, with their discomfort with the physical world, go “ewww.”

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    I guess I go back to the scripture that I originally quoted:

    28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

    I guess the harm would be to your future/current wife by having thoughts of other women that isn’t your wife. Kind of like viewing porn (I don’t know a whole lot of the effects of viewing porn, just that it gives you false ideas when you actually end up having sex, or that it gives you false ideas of your current wife, so I imagine that would be the same for having bad thoughts – giving you unrealistic expectations). Yeah, I still disagree with you. I really don’t think we will ever agree. We’ll just have to do the “agree to disagree” thing.

    BTW the scripture I quote is in Matthew, i.e., it’s not written by Paul.

  • Thomas

    OK, Jon, I see we really are at the agree-to-disagree stage. I know you’re quoting Matthew, not Paul — I just don’t agree with the interpretation of the Matthew passage, that a mental fantasy that does not involve a fantasized violation of marital covenants, is “adultery in the heart.” I still say that you need to be married, or be dealing with a married partner (real or imagined), to commit adultery, actual or “in the heart.”

    “so I imagine that would be the same for having bad thoughts – giving you unrealistic expectations.”

    Would keeping your thoughts “realistic” be OK, then?

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    Thomas: I’ve still being thinking about this subject and had questions for you. So do you believe it’s OK to drink alcohol, for that matter any casual drug (just between you and the Lord)? Do you believe it’s OK to consume alcohol and still go to the temple? Do you believe sexual intercourse before marriage is OK? I was just thinking your logic leads to saying these things are OK. Just trying to understand more from where you are coming from. I know we won’t agree but it’s nice to have a deeper understanding of where you are coming from.

  • Thomas

    1. “So do you believe it’s OK to drink alcohol, for that matter any casual drug (just between you and the Lord)?”

    It is wrong for a Mormon to drink alcohol, because he has promised not to, and because abstinence from alcohol is an express scriptural doctrine of his chosen faith. I do not believe that drinking alcohol is per se immoral, because both Christ and Joseph Smith did. (Drunkenness is another story.) But introducing the inconsistency of Word of Wisdom violation into your religious life, when the Word of Wisdom has been made effectively one of the main aspects of Mormon identity (for better or for worse) creates dissonance in your religious life, potentially to the destruction of your faith. It violates the second half of the “love your neighbor as yourself” law; risking your faith is not consistent with the love you ought to bear towards yourself.

    2. “Do you believe sexual intercourse before marriage is OK?”

    No, because fornication, again, is expressly prohibited by scripture. And people who engage in premarital sex are at a greater risk for divorce. Thus, by engaging in premarital sex, you are effectively weakening your future marriage (possibly by accustoming yourself to sexual variety, or sex without commitment, or other inauthentic sexuality), and thus you are sinning not only against yourself and God, but against your future wife and children, who will likely be damaged by the failure of your marriage.

  • diane

    Natasha

    Since you are a professional can you please provide if ANY the statistics and or studies that might even remotely corroborate on Thomas’ statement that people who engage in Pre-marital sex are more likely to get divorced as a result of engaging in it. I just don’t believe it. In my opinion, I think that is just a statement of Mormon folklore more than anything else used to scare the youth .

  • http://shenpawarrior.wordpress.com AdamF

    diane – I’m not sure how related it is, but couples who cohabitate before marriage have about an 80% divorce rate. HOWEVER, this has more to do with the commitment than the “premarital sex” issue. Couples who move in together with the intention of getting married get divorced at the same rate as everyone else.

  • Thomas

    #36, 37 — I think AdamF may have the stat I was thinking of. So I’ll back off on the broad “premarital sex” association, unless someone else with more time than I have right now can identify what I thought I remembered.

  • http://shenpawarrior.wordpress.com AdamF

    Yeah, that’s what I was thinking when I read your comment. The basic implication – just moving in together without being engaged is a damaging thing you could do to your future marriage – IF you did indeed end up deciding to get married.

  • diane

    I appreciate the response, but I’d just as soon like to hear from Natasha, I think all too often in the Mormon Culture we tend to look at this topic myopically.\I think the divorce rate between people who cohabitate vrs those who don’t are pretty much equal. Its’ just a fact of life now.

  • diane

    And please don’t take my response to you as being dismissive, its’ not intended to be at all. I just think that I would defer to Natasha because I’m sure she has done much more reading and studying on the subject matter than any of us and I rely on her clear, thoughtful, and unbiased opinion.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    An ensign talked about that study. I also had a friend in college say it was in his sociology text book. So it’s not a “mormon” thing, to the contrary I would call it fact since I typically associate sociologists with being fairly liberal in their views (I know they aren’t all like that).

    Here’s a site that goes over the data with a link at the bottom to the actual study:
    http://www.psychpage.com/family/mod_couples_thx/cdc.html

  • http://shenpawarrior.wordpress.com AdamF

    My bad diane – you’re right. She has at least 10 years more professional experience than I do. :) I trust her too.

  • http://Mormontherapist.blogspot.com Natasha Helfer Parkerr

    Off the top of my head I don’t know of any studies linking premarital sex with later divorce. The studies I am aware of relate to stds, unwanted pregnancy, and emotional immaturity to deal with intensity of a sexual relationship (especially with regards to teens). I also have heard of the cohabitation studies previous to marriage that were mentioned. Although, as cohabitation becomes more prevalent I’ll be curious to see if the numbers change.

  • http://Mormontherapist.blogspot.com Natasha Helfer Parkerr

    I believe Adam f is also a therapist – FYI.
    And thanks for trusting my opinions. I try to be as objective and research oriented as possible. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my biases as well – and I appreciate when I’m called out on them. Because many times even I am unaware of what they are.

  • diane

    I read the link and just as I suspected the success rate of those who had successful cohabitation relationships is the about the same as those who are married with more success leaning towards those who have an higher education. More successful if they were white, 2nd more successful if you were black and 3rd successful if you were Hispanic. Those where it wasn’t successful was just at Natasha stated unsuccessful due to age. under twenty five and low maturity level and education level. So, it is just as I suspected, the rates are the same. and failure has to due with immaturity, not weather or not one was sexually active per se.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    Thomas: I was still thinking about this subject and thought of a physical reason of why masturbation is bad. Although, I don’t necessarily think the physical consequences of our actions should necessitate our ascribing to certain requirements or laws of the church or gospel.

    In the sex book that my wife and I read when we first married (written by a sex counselor who is a pastor) he spoke of men that married and had previously masturbated. He gave a step by step guide on how to get excited to be with a woman and how to eventually be able to ejaculate with her because of the negative consequences of his masturbation caused him mentally. He gave the specific example of a man that masturbated with a shower head and he had to have his spouse masturbate him with the shower head (or other object) to get him used to having his wife around then go through some steps before he could have a normal sexual relationship with his spouse. So obviously there is a mental scar put on the male from habits of masturbation.

    It’s interesting to me how people discredit the church so easily and point to science as the source of all truth when science changes just as much, or even more so, than the church. Science has its own prejudices (scientists aren’t perfect just like clergy aren’t perfect) which cause even them (the scientists) not to believe their own science. Take a look at the history of washing the hands with soap by doctors and book “Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine” and this doctor’s quest to show other doctors how a statin drug (approved by the FDA and later banned) was killing their patients and how he was showing them the actual double blind studies but the doctors still wouldn’t believe.

    I know you will probably still disagree with me which is fine, but I just see this type of logic leading to Bethgc’s logic seen in the comments of http://mormonmatters.org/2010/08/15/the-mormon-therapist-on-confession/#comments . If we could all just have wild sex all the time why would any of us even bother to marry until we are on our death beds? I know you don’t believe what she does but the logic to me seems to lead to the same place. And yes, I know, we won’t agree on this matter.

  • AdamF

    Jon – I don’t think your point is off here. The clarification that needs to be made is the difference between someone who compulsively masturbates, or can only achieve orgasm by means not desirable to both partners. I would argue that it’s not masturbation per se that causes problems, but the compulsive nature of it for some. Also, some women cannot achieve orgasm by “natural” means and find self-exploration or even a vibrator to be helpful. If that’s what they need, I don’t see it as “sin.” Anyway, solo masturbation 28x a month and partner sex once a month could be a real problem. The problem is in the process not the content per se, IMHO.

  • Unsure

    Frankly I think people should be more willing to speak in the first person such as Katie. The sentiments expressed about having excessive guilt over masturbation are very accurate based on my own experience, and a number of other TBM friends who I have discussed the issue with.

    Indeed, thinking I was the only filthy kid masturbating and that I would surely be kicked out of the church and go to hell for it was the source of depression which made the masturbation itself compulsive. This led to self medicating with pornography and over-eating etc. I was age 30 when I finally realized that the guilt itself was driving the compulsive behavior, and I just decided I wasn’t going to condemn myself over occasional masturbation anymore. I talked to my wife about still struggling with it, and hopefully some day I will have complete mastery of it. It wasn’t until I quit feeling like I was an evil person all the time that my desire to view porn etc. went away.

    I really think that the porn addictions that so many of our young men struggle with in the church can be partly traced to excessive guilt about occasional masturbation itself. Do I think the act is wrong and should be overcome, yes. Do I think our young men should grow up as I did feeling like they were going to hell over this? Hell no. Occasional masturbation is a minor indiscretion in my opinion, and only compulsive behavior should be addressed in bishop interviews to facilitate helping people break out of the cycle.

    Once you combine masturbation guilt with a crisis of faith related to church history and hypocrisy you have a perfect recipe for a mass exodus of youth out of the church. Hopefully the parents of my generation will address this issue with their children so they don’t grow up with the same visions of damnation that I did.

    As a side note, any of my future bishoprics will be instructed not to discuss masturbation at all with any of my daughters in private/one-on-one interviews so long as they are under my roof. It is simply inappropriate.

  • http://standingsittinglying.wordpress.com Katie L.

    Jon, the reason you feel that Thomas’s logic leads to a place of “free love for everyone” is because you are coming from a paradigm that makes orgasm, or physical release, the primary focus of sexuality. Because of that, any sexual release that isn’t achieved through “authorized” means is sin — so whether it’s masturbation or wild promiscuity, it’s all on the same slippery slope. I understand that within your worldview, this makes sense.

    But what if sex ISN’T about orgasm? What if sex is about love and loyalty and creation and companionship — and the pleasure is beside the point, as opposed to the point itself?

    That might seem like a subtle shift, but the implications are staggering. When chastity is no longer about how orgasms are or are not attained, but is instead about honoring God by expressing deep, genuine love for a person to whom you have committed your life (and with whom you are open to creating new life), everything changes. Suddenly you realize that God isn’t so concerned with whether or not you experience pleasure — which is, after all, a morally neutral physical response that is as natural as breathing — as much as He’s concerned with whether or not you embody His love.

    In this context, it makes sense, then, that fornication and adultery would be on His list of things to avoid. Adultery is a violation of sacred trust. Fornication is an expression of the deep love that sexuality provides WITHOUT the lifetime commitment — and places you at risk for creating new life without a secure place to nurture it.

    Masturbation, on the other hand, neither breaks sacred trust (necessarily), expresses love prematurely or cavalierly, nor risks creating life where there can be no security for a child. Does this mean that masturbation can’t be damaging? Of course not! But again, sex not about the orgasms…it’s about love!

    Masturbation is wrong to the extent that it violates Christ’s call to love. From my perspective, then, I would argue that it is wrong when it is used to objectify others (and this is probably the biggest temptation with masturbation). It is wrong when it is used to escape real intimacy with a spouse. It is wrong when it becomes a compulsion that controls you.

    I also believe it can be used responsibly when practiced out of a place of love — and in that instance, it is NOT sinful. For instance: what if a young single adult uses it mindfully and specifically as a way to periodically release sexual tension in order to avoid desperation and select a spouse carefully? What if a missionary uses it in a prescribed and controlled manner to be able to focus on the work, instead of on his or her hormones? What if spouses use it to maintain a special connection to each other, even during periods of absence or when one or the other is ill for an extended period of time? I believe in these instances, not only is it not wrong, but you can even make an argument that it glorifies God in a very personal and profound way.

    When viewed from this perspective, there is NO logical connection whatsoever between cavalier promiscuity and masturbation. One only leads to the other when sex is about the release, not the love. And then I would argue that the problem is the way you approach sexuality in general, and has little to do with which specific “acts” you indulge in.

    I know this is long, but I hope it helps clarify where some of us might be coming from?

  • Thomas

    Jon — I suspect that most men who engage in small-scale industrial production (“SSIP”); cf. Elder Packer’s “little factory” analogy) have no problem whatsoever having fulfilling sexual relations with their wives.

    Actually, the best scenario is probably a man who (1) SSIP’s, but (2) because of Church teachings, feels at least mildly guilty about it, but yet (3) is an incorrigible rationalizer, who convinces himself that it only “counts” if the little factory actually churns out a finished product. In such a case, such a person might develop superb self-control, to the giddy happiness of his eternal companion. Or so such a person might be told by said companion, not that any particular person would necessarily know personally.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    Katie L.:
    What if a missionary just learned to control themselves (self-mastery) and then didn’t even have to deal with it? For male missionaries the release just comes from a) not thinking about sex and b) wet dreams. For women, I don’t know, I’m not a woman. Really, this all comes down to self-mastery and, especially, controlling ones thoughts, then it’s not such a temptation. From my experience purity of mind makes the issue a non-issue. This is especially easy to do on the mission since one is so focused on helping others come to Christ. But when I wasn’t on a mission it became more difficult because I started thinking, hey it would be nice to be married and have sex, so it was a purity of mind issue, as stated in my initial post, rather than anything else, the one naturally follows the other. Christ gave us the standard, and by golly, I’m going to try to meet the standard. I may fall short but that’s not going to stop me from trying and it’s not going to make me rationalize my actions.

    Sorry, the more I think about it and read everyone’s comments the more entrenched I become. Although I understand where people come from better the more I think about it the more “set in my ways” I’ll become, so I should probably stop thinking about it so I can keep a more moderate opinion. I really don’t think any of us are going to convince the other, we might understand each other better but that’s about it. It seems we’re all pretty “hard headed” even if we don’t want to think that. But thanks everyone for your posts in helping me to understand better. Hopefully you better understand us “conservative” thinkers on masturbation too.

  • dmac

    #50- Great points and it made me consider aspects of this issue in a totally different light.

    Thanks for your open honesty and bravery in giving us an insight to your struggle. It helps put real emphasis on how we approach this issue with our children and how damaging shame can be to a developing mind.

    Thanks for another great post Natasha.

  • smallvoice

    Katie L. I agree.

  • http://standingsittinglying.wordpress.com Katie L.

    Hopefully you better understand us “conservative” thinkers on masturbation too.

    Jon, my friend, if there’s one thing with which I am intimately acquainted, it’s “conservative” thinking on masturbation. :)

    Thanks for the chance to dialogue with you, I wish you the very best.

  • http://shenpawarrior.wordpress.com AdamF

    Jon – actually, that’s to be expected. All the psych research that I’m aware of related to polarization generally suggests that people do not change their minds through discussion or debate, they generally just become more convinced of their own views. I think this happens in part because we spend–quite understandably–or time in our comments spelling out or defending, or explaining our own views, which only serves to entrench us even further…

    Perhaps a “dialogue” is all we can really do, and hopefully understand each other better, as you said.

  • http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/ Jon

    AdamF: Yeah, makes sense. It would be nice if we could be more “open minded” about things. I know we all like to think we are too. Missions are good examples of this too. You can teach, pray the spirit is their, if they listen they listen, if they’re not interested you move on and hope they got the seed.

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