WARNING: Please do not read this post if you are under the age of 18 or are offended by matter-of-fact discussions of a sexual nature.
"If you're not comfortable calling it that then we could call it 'Sam's happy time'"
A line from the movie "Transformers" (paraphrased)
Note: I watched "Transformers" this last weekend with my wife. And, that controversial masturbation scene brought to mind a post which I wrote a few months ago but have been hesitant to publish it as I thought it might be a little too edgy - even for me. But, I've shared it privately with a couple of blogging friends who have both encouraged me to publish it. So, here goes ...
I grew up in a non-LDS home. My parents are devout Christians and taught me many of the same things that LDS parents teach their children. For example, my parents do not smoke. There was never alcohol in my home. However, my mother was a nurse and felt it was important to have open and frank discussions about sex. I was also the youngest of six children, so it was not uncommon to hear my sisters talking about their periods at the dinner table, or my married sisters talking about funny things their husbands did the last time they 'did it'. I can remember my mother telling me that the urge to have sex can be even stronger than hunger. I was taught that, once you are married, you need to be 100% committed to your spouse. (I was also taught that homosexuals are evil perverts - but I'll leave that for another post)
Since joining the church (in college) I've realized that Mormon's, in general, (including my wife) tend to be more uptight about sex than what I grew up with. So, I've learned to refrain from discussing it openly. However, my general attitudes about sex have not changed. In particular, not growing up in the church, I was never taught that masturbation is a sin. Even now, after 30 years in the church, I don't consider masturbation a major sin (on par with adultery, abortion, etc.). For me, it is more a problem of self control rather than a chastity problem. IMOHO, if the worse thing a guy does is masturbate once in a while then he is doing extremely well and should be commended.
In my opinion, masturbation only becomes a problem if done in excess. But, even then it is along the lines of overeating, spending too much time playing computer games, etc. It is a matter of self control.
It may seem unbelievable to some. I've been active in the church for 30 years, I've held leadership callings, attended numerous priesthood leadership and auxiliary training meetings. But, I've never heard any *official* discussion of masturbation preached from the pulpit (so to speak) nor had it discussed in a lesson (priesthood or otherwise). I've never had a Bishop ask me about it (not even as I was preparing to serve a mission). I did talk to my mission president about it once. But, he approached it as a matter of self control rather than as a chastity problem.
Since I've started reading MoHo blogs, I've been fascinated by some of the discussions about masturbation. And, it's not just being discussed in MoHo blogs. It was also discussed on The Cultural Hall blog recently. (See the post titled "Confessions of a Serial Masturbator/Repenter" which had 129 comments last I checked.) Do Bishops really ask young men if they masturbate? Are people put on probation (or other church discipline) if they masturbate? Call me naive, but I had no idea.
Intrigued, I went to www.lds.org and searched "All Church Content" using the term "masturbation" which resulted in 23 hits. By comparison, "pornography" gets 702 hits, "adultery" gets 431 hits, "fornication" gets 168 hits, & "homosexual" gets 173 hits. It doesn't seem to me that masturbation is that big of an issue on the Brethren's radar screen. What is particularly interesting is that there is virtually no mention of masturbation on www.lds.org within the last 15 years (at least, nothing was returned when I did a date search)
In an address given at BYU in February, 1980, President Ezra Taft Benson, Of the Quorum of the Twelve, listed "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet"
- The Prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
- The living Prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
- The living Prophet is more important to us than a dead Prophet.
- The Prophet will never lead the church astray.
- The Prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
- The Prophet does not have to say “Thus Saith the Lord,” to give us scripture.
- The Prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
- The Prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
- The Prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
- The Prophet may advise on civic matters.
- The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the Prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
- The Prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
- The Prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.
- The Prophet and the presidency—the living Prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.
I've highlighted point #3 where it says "The living Prophet is more important to us than a dead Prophet" since that is pertinent to this discussion. The fact of the matter is, the living Prophet's aren't saying much about masturbation these days. Why is that? Is it because all that is needed to be said has already been said? Or is it, perhaps, that it just isn't that big of a deal? Perhaps there are much more pressing problems that need to be addressed than if a person masturbates once in a while. Which is worse, not reading your scriptures, not praying regularly, or masturbating occasionally?
Some might argue that if you masturbate then you probably aren't doing things you should be doing, such as praying and reading your scriptures. And, that may be true, but what is the cause and effect here? If you've been taught all of your life that masturbation is a disgusting sin. Then, if you masturbate, you might consider yourself a disgusting sinner. If you feel like a disgusting sinner, how inclined will you be to pray and read the scriptures? If you aren't praying and reading, is it because you masturbated? Or is it because you feel like you are a worthless disgusting sinner? What if you were to separate those two -that is, allow for the possibility of being able to masturbate without being a disgusting sinner. If you masturbate and still feel good about yourself - then how inclined might you be to pray and read the scriptures?
Others might argue that masturbation goes hand in hand with pornography. Again, there is probably truth to that. I expect that people who indulge in pornography probably masturbate. But, again, what is the cause and effect in play? Are you viewing pornography because you masturbate? Or are you masturbating because you are viewing pornography? What if you were to eliminate pornography from your life? Would you still masturbate as often?
I'm not trying to imply that we should all just start wanking away (please excuse my crude choice of words). I just think we need to put things into perspective. Masturbation isn't necessarily a good thing. But, it's not a horrible thing either, especially if not done in excess. If we're trying to become a better person, to grow closer to the Lord - then maybe there are more important things we need to be focusing on. And, if we start making progress in those other areas, perhaps any masturbation problem will take care of itself.
I don't have any answers. I have my opinions - but they are just that. My opinion and 50¢ will buy you a newspaper.
BTW, I don't consider myself a prude; but, sitting next to my wife in the movie theater watching "Transformers", I was surprisingly uncomfortable and squirming around in my seat a bit during the masturbation scene. And it wasn't just a one liner, it went on for 3 very long minutes. I mean, was it really necessary? I'm just glad I don't have small kids and faced with the decision whether to let them see it or not (I would probably not let them because of that and other sexual innuendo - OK, maybe I am a prude when it comes to children).