Taboo

***Warning–Adult Topic***

If offended by mature matters, pause your perusal NOW!!!   I mean it.

Quiet. Young woman with her finger on lips.

Masturbation

There you go. I’ve said it. I’ve said it out loud and in print. Whew!  When I became a man, at 62, I finally gained the courage to make this hitherto verboten verbalization. So, if you are under 62, or not adult yet…please pause your perusal, NOW.

In order to not overuse this provocative term, I will also refer to the subject as SS (self-satisfaction).

Background

In my religion, the youth are generally taught that masturbation is a sin.  Some bishops and their counsellors regularly pose the question, to young girls and boys, “Do you touch yourself down there?”  This starts at age 12 and continues until 18.  Queries regarding this sexual practice are made behind closed doors by an older adult male. The man and the child are alone.  No parent is present.  Usually, the parents are unaware that SS is being discussed with their child.  Almost universally, the adult leader asking the question is untrained in how to discuss sexual matters with a child. Often, a twelve year old’s first introduction to the term ‘masturbation’ is when he/she is questioned by their ecclesiastical leader.

Fortunately, at least I consider it fortunate, when I was growing up, no adult leader ever brought this subject up in a private interview.  For over 5 years, I served as a Mormon bishop.  During that time I never once asked anyone, adult or child, about SS.  It simply never entered my mind.  No direction or training was ever given by my ecclesiastical leaders that I should delve into such matters with the kids.

The purpose of this blog post is not to explore whether or not masturbation is a sin for young people.  But, I do have BIG concerns about the practice of adult men questioning 12 year old girls, behind closed doors, without a parent’s knowledge, permission, or presence. Frankly, it sounds creepy and inappropriate. But, again, that’s not the point of this treatise.

Adults

My real question is this: “For married people, is masturbation a sin?”  During my entire adulthood, which now spans 4 decades, I have never once heard this issue addressed.  You may be wondering, “Why do I care?”  Patience, my reasons are detailed further on.

Attempt #1:  My first attempt to find the answer was last summer. In priesthood, a men’s meeting held on Sunday, the topic of chastity came up. I said, “I have some questions about what the law of chastity entails.” Immediately, this response was given, “We don’t talk about details of forbidden activities relating to chastity. It can unnecessarily give people ideas.” OK.

Attempt #2:  Since, I’d been stopped in my tracks at church, I decided to ask for opinions in private.  To eleven friends and family, I posed this question, “For a married person, is masturbation a sin?  I was shocked at the results.  Remember, these eleven are all members of the LDS church.  Perhaps my friends and family are more liberal than most.

Results:
1 = Yes. It’s a sin.
5 = No. Some discomfort, not knowing exactly where the church stood.
5 = No. Categorically, not a sin.

Attempt #3:  A couple of weeks later, the lesson for the men’s meeting was going to focus on chastity.  After my prior experience, I wasn’t taking any chances. Once the teacher introduced the topic, I blurted out my question, “Is masturbation a sin if you are married?”  The instructor’s response, “I’m so glad you asked that.  I wanted to talk about it, but didn’t know how to bring it up.”  Amazingly, an open and frank discussion ensued.  I’m sure it was uncomfortable for many.  A semblance of a consensus was reached.  “Masturbation is not a sin, as long as you discuss it with your wife first.”  S…H…O…C…K…I…N…G   Only one person voiced an opposing opinion, “Like abortion is next to murder, I consider masturbation next to adultery.”   In attempts #2 & #3, the vast majority of LDS members believed SS was not a sin if married.

Attempt #4:  So far, I had only posed my query to rank-n-file church goers. Certainly, the leadership could give a definitive answer. NOPE.

Leader A:  “Why do you even care, Sam?”
Leader B:  Unwilling to give any answer to the question.
Leader C:  “I never ask about what goes on in a couple’s bedroom.”
Leader D:  “It doesn’t say anything in the manual.”
So, what the heck does that mean? Clear direction?  No way.  Sin or not sin?  It appears that nobody really knows.

Out of the eleven who I individually interviewed, 4 had been asked by a bishop or stake president if they engaged in SS. Wouldn’t that alone indicate that it’s a sin? Otherwise, it sounds perverse to ask about such a personal practice in a personal interview.

Why Do I Care?

Consider the following scenarios.

  1. It IS a sin. However, many members view SS as not a sin. Isn’t it important that we warn them? Sin has consequences. In this life and the next. Ultimately, we could lose our salvation. Big reason for the prophets to send a clear and unmistakable message…..It’s sinful.
  2. It is NOT a sin. In that case, it’s unfortunate that some members view masturbation as a SERIOUS sin.  A person engaged in a practice he views as sinful is subject to guilt, shame & depression. Why would we let a person suffer in silence when their behavior is not sinful?  That seems SUPER cruel.  Gigantic reason for the prophets to send a clear and unmistakable message…..It’s NOT sinful.
  3. It’s up to each individual to determine if it’s sinful or not. Yes, I have been told that.  Not sure that I understand it.  But, I kind of like the concept of God giving me agency to decide for myself.  Whatever I decide, He won’t hold it against me.  But, again, it seems like the message should be clearly stated by the leadership rather than speculated by the members.

Conclusion

We have made masturbation a Taboo topic.  Yet, it’s consequences are ambiguous. Balmy for some, brutal for others. So, why do I care?  It brings a little anger and a little teardrop, thinking that someone in my congregation is needlessly suffering guilt, shame & depression.

20 thoughts on “Taboo

  1. Any discussion that includes any reference to the Law of Chastity outside of the temple walls is forbidden as part of the temple covenants as instructed by the First Presidency concerning these sacred matters. This Law along with the other Laws, even the Law of the Gospel are restricted areas for discussion outside of the temple walls. We are …required to take upon ourselves, “sacred obligations” the violation of which, will bring upon us the judgement of God. These are sacred teachings and discussion of these subjects are reserved for the authorities. Bishops can discuss the Law of Chastity with your children, but you as their parent, cannot. If parents have questions about the Law of Chastity they must have that discussion inside the temple. This Law of Chastity is explained as only concerning sexual relations between legally and lawfully temple married couples and has no reference at all to any sexual activity for non endowed people.

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    1. Where on Kolob are you getting this information?!
      The only things we are instructed to keep inside the temple are the signs, tokens, and symbols. We make no covenant not to reveal the other information presented.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nathan, you are correct. No covenant is made not to discuss covenants outside of the temple. However, there are instances where general authorities have counseled that they should only be discussed within the confines of the sacred buildings. The current LDS culture agrees.

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    2. Larry, are you serious? Doesn’t this approach create even more uneasiness around the sex/porn/masturbation discussion? I believe covenanting to keep the law of chastity and speaking about it with your kids are two very different things. I am hopeful that open honest discussion about it with my kids will open the door for them to be comfortable to come to me with questions or for help if needed instead of promoting shame around these topics.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Larry: While I respect your right to express your opinion, I must say that I could not disagree with you more. I (as a Father – along with my wife, as a Mother) have created open dialogue with our children about sexuality and sexual practices. This is not simply a subject to be whispered about behind closed doors.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Woo Hoo! This means that unendowed folks can engage in masturbation, as they haven’t made those covenants that include the Law of Chastity.

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    5. But a 12 year old hasn’t made any covenants about the law of chassits, and has certainly not made any covenants in the temple…

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  2. Larry, this is so discouraging. I wasted countless hours composing my blog. Next time I’ll consult you first. Your dissertation is perfect.

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  3. The idea that you should only discuss ‘Chastity’ inside the temple walls is totally ridiculous! When did anyone go off to chat about oral sex, masturbation, or any seemingly perverse sexual activity in the temple? Can you imagine it – the highly specialized sexual counsellor/therapist team – the temple president or matron – taking you to a quiet corner to whisper the rules of God (which usually amounts to living in denial and suppression) Any stupid GA that suggest confining questions about sexual matters to the temple, is really saying: ‘Don’t ever talk about it anywhere, because we’re too embarrassed and too stultified in guilt and repression in our brains to give you a proper helpful answer.’

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    1. Robbie, thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. Not sure exactly how to respond. Maybe this works: Wow, I really appreciate the new word–stultified! I had to look it up. Here’s what I found. “Stultify = To cause to appear or be stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical.” It sounds a teeny-tiny bit demeaning. But, I love new words.

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  4. Sam, excellent questions and answers. Especially the part about Bishop interviews with young girls in a closed office. It is a discussion I recently had with friends. My personal feeling on this topic is that a woman (parent or leader should be present. It protects all concerned.
    As for the topic of masturbation..I believe this is a personal decision between the Lord and the person involved. This is a not a cop-out answer. As I have had friends who are paralyzed and have spouses who are not. It would seem to me that this practice would be an excellent way to show affection. How about men / women who have spouses who have MS . Again I don’t see a problem. I know that there are a larger number of LDS Chuch members who would think this practice is sinful, I don’t agree.

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  5. In my opinion the LDS Church’s focus (if not obsession) with masturbation is one of THE MOST damaging practices in our culture. I spent all of my teenage years having Boyd K. Packer’s talk “For Young Men Only” shoved down my throat for over
    5 years. I’m still trying to dump the sexual baggage and guilt this experience did to my young mind. In fact, I’ve developed quite a resentment for the Church’s meddling in people’s private sexual lives. For me and mine….simply BACK OFF!

    Again, my sincere thanks Sam for creating a forum where people can express what’s REALLY on their minds; instead of simply regurgitating what is dictated for us! Warmest regards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It’s kind of strange, or marvelous, depending on your point of view, that most of the people I’ve talked to individually did not think this was a sin. They were all adult members. I didn’t talk to any kids. Nor do I intend to. Poor kids.

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  6. I learned about masturbation (SS) when I was about 15 years old in a young women class (out of the manual) when I lived in Mexico. The lesson was very clear, SS simply wrong. While this is a serious topic, I laughed so much because of Larry’s comment which was the very first one in this blog. His sarcasm was obvious to me, and your comment to consult him first next time is hillarious.

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    1. I had a dear friend….a bit naïve. She was married with 6 kids. She and her husband went to get their Temple recommends renewed with a new Stake President whom neither had met before. She was probably in her early 40’s. The Stake President asked her all the standard questions plus one she had never heard before, but answered it as honestly as she could. When driving the 60 miles home from the interview, she commented to her husband and the other couple in the car that the Stake President had asked her a question she had not heard before. When her husband inquired as to what it was, she answered, ” He asked me if I masturbated. And since I didn’t have a clue what that meant , but thought it sounded like meditation, I answered that Yes, I tried to do that every morning during scripture reading and at night when scripture reading.” The driver of the car almost drove off the road and he pulled over so that they could all have a good laugh. When her husband kindly explained to her what masturbation was, she almost died of embarrassment and swore that she could never look that Stake Pres. in the eye again. She noticed that at conferences, he would break out in a big grin every time she saw him.

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  7. Natasha Helfer posted and excellent blog about masturbation a few years, postulating that it is a god-given gift to help is relieve sexual tension (sorry I dont have a link but u could ask her). I long ago stopped caring what any GA has to say on this subject and have followed my heart (erm…hand???). I watched my eldest son be nearly destroyed by an ignorant bishop’s attitude about masturbation and pron. We take these things WAAAAY to seriously. And we let these attitudes unnecessarily destroy young people. I refuse to do it any more.

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