Apr 28, 2011
John Larsen is joined by Zilpha, Glenn, Robyn and Rich to discuss Mark E. Petersen’s Steps in Overcoming Masturbation.
Podcast: Play in new window
By John Larsen
Tags: Details Magazine, Female, habit, Homosexuality, Male, marriage, Miracle of Forgiveness, missionary, Missions, Murder, sex, sexuality, Spencer Kimball, suicide, temptation
Apr 28, 2011 @ 13:05:00
As Woody Allen said, “Don’t criticize me for masturbating. It’s sex with someone I love.”
Apr 28, 2011 @ 13:22:00
I was trying to track this pamphlet down, but so far the only pre-Internet existence of it I could find was in a 1996 issue of Spy magazine: http://books.google.com/books?id=jHgqOP7QtSEC&lpg=PA8&ots=4X4SzStNPs&dq=spy%20september%201996&pg=PA10#v=onepage&q&f=false
Apr 28, 2011 @ 15:12:00
Perfect. A “10-step guide” attributed to Mark E. Peterson in a magazine that also talks about Richard Gere and gerbils. I think we’re onto something!
Apr 29, 2011 @ 16:45:00
Don’t knock gerbils until you tried them.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 20:50:00
What makes you think I haven’t tried them?
(P.S. With a little ranch dressing, they taste just like chicken. That was what you were talking about, right Joe? A delicacy in the Bul Sh’yet province of China. I swear I had no idea…)
Apr 28, 2011 @ 13:30:00
The picture of the kitten? Perfect.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 15:11:00
Haha. I do agree. The innocent kitten frolicking in the grass is priceless.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 15:19:00
Google: “Every time you masturbate God kills a kitten.” (It was a meme years ago.)
Apr 29, 2011 @ 05:57:00
At the risk of having this banned, I thought it was an euphamism for something else. We’ll go with your interpetation.
But on a side note, the Firefox theme on my computer is that of “Ceiling Cat” which watches you masturbate. http://icanhascheezburger.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/ceilingcat9xd.jpg
Apr 28, 2011 @ 16:36:00
That was my first thought too. It’ll be a couple hours before I get a chance to listen to the podcast, but the memories of that meme have already made me smile.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 15:09:00
Speaking of bias, balance, and objectivity, this supposed “Mark E. Peterson” pamphlet is bogus. Don’t get me wrong, I realize (and believe) that he said some bogus stuff (tying hands to the bed and such), but I really agree with Glenn on this. A lot of this sounds like Mormon folklore (especially the “during normal toilet processes” part). Whatever John was reading from sounds like it came from a satirical source.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 15:54:00
This issue was address (several times) in the podcast. However, I feel that I might clarify a little. The importance of these ideas is not whether or not they came from Petersen, but that they are taken seriously as Mormons today. In that sense, it is like scriptures (although obviously not give the same weight). Whether or not Moses actually wrote the Pentateuch himself is irrelevant to the fact that billions of people take it seriously.
There is an actual name for this phenomenon. It is called the Thomas Theorem. It states “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” So the consequences of Petersen’s alleged talk are as real as if the talk was real, because people assume it is. This is why folklore and legend can be so important to understand. Even if it is completely fictional people react to it in a real way.
These points somewhat humorously point to the dangerous views that most Mormons have about Masturbation today. Don’t lose the forest for the trees.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 17:24:00
Thanks, John. I do need to clarify my skepticism as well: this podcast was hilarious (largely because we do have these repressive hang-ups and attitudes as a Church). Thanks for the podcast. I listened to it at work and I found myself laughing out loud multiple times. P.S., I’m also trying to cut down on my vain mirror-looking
Apr 28, 2011 @ 17:29:00
John — you seem to think that the use of the word “folklore” attempts to erase the Thomas Theorem. It doesn’t. Not when I use it, at least. It underscores and exemplifies it. A trained folklorist will tell you that Moses is a legendary character, whether there was an actual moses or not, and will frame those scriptures you alluded to in terms of folklore and mythology, comparing them to the Koran, the epic of Gilgamesh, the Bhagavad Gita, the Nihonshoki, etc. Bottom line: We’re saying the same thing.
But there is more going on with this Petersen thing than simply “billions (billions?) of people taking it seriously.” When such a strong emphasis is placed on Petersen as the author, you get this top-down idea, as if this is something that The Church, or The Brethren, are endorsing. So when we ridicule the list for how intentional ridiculous it was constructed to be, we are essentially taking upon us license to ridicule those church leaders as well. If this list really does come from Petersen, then it is fair game. But if it’s not really from him, then shouldn’t we call it out here on Mormon Expression where we call out so many other things with a similar methodoligical approach?
And at the same time, for as fun as it is to ridicule the ridiculous list, isn’t it much more interesting to recognize that these attitudes reflected here are really more about a “bottom up” creation from a grassroots level than a “top down” manifesto imposed from on high? That’s why it matters to me if it is folklore — because I am more interested in an anonymous communal “folk” authorship and what that suggests than I am about Mark E Petersen authorship.
And yes, there is a circular flow between bottom and top with ideas that are certainly in harmony with McConkie and Kimball and Petersen himself, but this list of recommendations is not being preserved and maintained on LDS.org. And sure, you have middle-management mission presidents coming across things like this and passing it along to their missionaries from time to time, giving it the feel of top-down authority. But my mission president spent an entire zone conference teaching us that the Japanese were the Lost Tribes of Israel and that we should keep that in the back of our minds and incorporate it into our prayers and our discussions as prompted by the spirit. Did that make it officially real and any less folklore?
But for whatever reason John, whenever I use the word “folklore” you react like I am trying to discount something. Maybe you have read too many apologetics and are stuck reacting to that. But I am no apologist. So let’s also not lose sight of the planet for the forest where the trees are and the squirrels scamper to collect and gather their nuts for the winter — or something like that.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 17:45:00
Glenn — how are ANY religious stories any less folklore than this? The flood? Sodom and Gomorrah? It’s ALL folklore. That IS religion.
It seems to me that if the church membership is using this information as valid advice, then it doesn’t matter who said it or where it came from. Just like it doesn’t matter whether or not Moses actually wrote the bible. They’re all parts of the religious mythos regardless of how long ago or how recently they were mis-attributed to a specific author.
Isn’t this a moot point?
Apr 29, 2011 @ 03:54:00
What does it mean to “matter?” Doesn’t that depend on the questions that you are asking?
And yes, I agree — religion, culture, custom, ritual — it’s ALL folklore. But you break down who are the “folk” and what is the “lore” and you ask different questions about why it is important to this group, how it functions among them, why it is passed down, how and why it changes, yada yada. It’s goes WAY beyond authorship. So no, I don’t think it is a moot point.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 04:10:00
OK. Fair enough.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 00:18:00
Glenn, Glenn, Glenn
A few points.
1. Billions refers to the people who accept the Pentateuch not the people who accept the Petersen talk.
2. If you listen back to the podcast, I make all of these points in the first 5 minutes that you keep bringing up over and over again. Go listen again. I am not exactly sure what point you are trying to make.
3. The fact that the talk might be folklore is irrelevant to the discussion. You know from our pre-recording discussions that we were using the talk merely as a vessel to discuss Mormon attitudes about Masturbation. The podcast was not focused on the provenance of the talk (which, again, I addressed in the first 5 minutes). If we had a discussion on the 10 commandments would you feel compelled to keep pointing out that it is folklore?
4. Whenever you use the word folklore, my reaction should be interpreted as “oh no, another pedantic talk on folklore”.
5. Your idea that the teachings on masturbation come from Church middle management and not the top was contradicted in the record in which we quoted 2 prophet seers and revelators on the topic. I completely disagree with your idea that these are somehow “bottom up.”
6. lds.org is not a reliable source on LDS teaching, practice or doctrine–and especially culture. You know better than that.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 01:24:00
John — thanks for the three-pattern — you’ve been paying pedantic attention.
1. You’re right. My mistake. I conceed the point.
2. I conceed that you are not sure of the point I am trying to make. But that does not mean that I do not have a point. You did an excellent job not only in the first 5 minutes, but also in the wrap-up, and other times throughout the discussion expressing the point that regardless of the dubious authorship, these attitudes are a part of the culture. But then what? If Petersen didn’t write it, what does it mean? You don’t seem interested in that question. I am.
3. If we are talking about Mormon attitudes towards masturbation, then Mormons are the “folk” and both the attitudes towards masterbation and the artistic form in which those attitidues are expressed is the “lore.” It is absolutely relevent to the discussion.
4. Yeah, I know. I wish it were different. But I know you think it is pedantic. It’s OK. You don’t have to like Twilight, either.
5. Who wrote this guide, John? I don’t think I ever asserted it was middle management. You did a great job showing what legitimate church authorities have stated about the seriousness of masterbation in McConkie and Kimball. Then you showed an excellent example of a parody of those sentiments in the “Petersen” guide — which, again, you acknowledged was probably not written by Petersen. So are you saying that wasn’t a bottom-up production? I think it was. I think it’s interesting to look at the way that the mormon belief machine works as a whole — the give and take — the interaction between the parts. Especially if a parody is written as a hoax and then re-introduced as an actual guide by a mission president or a bishop and the reniforced by the culture. That is fascinating. Why is that pedantic?
6. lds.org is a reliable source for current officially endorsed top-down LDS teachings, and my point was that if this were a document that one of the 12 apostles had written to counsel the youth of the church — if this was really a top-down edict — then it would be maintained and preserved there. Instead, it is maintained and preserved (and created and re-created, in minor variations) on various websites among…. who? why? for what purpose? how is it used? what is its function today?
7. If a tradition loses its function, it dies. And yet people continue this Petersen thing because it means something to them — so who are the people maintaining this and why are they continuing it? And if it is not relevent whether or not Petersen is the author, why is his name so prominently associated with it? We even put it here on the website with his picture and a picture of a cute kitten.
8. My real assertion is that the answer to the function question is that this is a means of ridicule, and by associating these ridiculous steps with Petersen, we are giving ourselves license to criticize the church by association. But if Petersen is not really the author, and we are taking a false license, we are sort of undermining our own credibility critizing the church about a document that they didn’t author, even if the attitudes reflected in that document are also reflected in the culture. Why take that risk when there are so many other legitimate areas to be critical of?
That said, it was a fun discussion and I’m glad we did it.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 04:15:00
I think you two need to sit all of the listeners down and explain that sometimes mommies and daddies…. I mean podcast hosts…. disagree but that you still love each other and that later, after we’ve all gone to bed, you two will kiss and make up and everything will be OK in the morning.
Richard of Norway
Apr 29, 2011 @ 06:37:00
May 02, 2011 @ 00:46:00
Really? Then they’re not going to leave us? Proimise?
May 05, 2011 @ 01:48:00
I received the following from a very reliable source:
I just wanted to verify that the Peterson “steps” are real. I found the “Peterson steps” (I don’t know what else to call them) in pamphlet form in my mission office one day when we were cleaning out the mission commissary. I was a mighty AP for the last four months of my mission. One day my mission president asked the office elders (me, my comp, the mission commisarian, and the mission secretary) to clean out the mission commissary to make room for a bunch of new materials he wanted us to order. While we were cleaning out all of the old stuff, we found a big stack of the Boyd K. “To Young Men Only” pamphlets, and a smaller stack of the Mark E. Peterson pamphlets. I can’t remember what the actual title of the Peterson pamphlet was, but it definitely contained the phrase, “overcoming masturbation.” (I’m pretty sure it was not called, “keeping your hands to yourself”). I also remember the pamphlet was blue. I don’t remember any pictures on the front cover. (In contrast, the Boyd K. “little factory” pamphlet had a drawing of a young man on the front cover). I also remember that the pamphlet was clearly credited to Mark E. Peterson.
I was a missionary from 1987-1989, which was obviously before the internet. Before finding this pamphlet, I had never heard of the pamphlet or these “steps,” or anything regarding something Mark E. Peterson had written involving masturbation. Again, this is in contrast to the Boyd K. pamphlet on this subject. Most of the missionary apartments in my mission had a copy of the “little factory” pamphlet lying around somewhere, and it was common topic of discussion amoungst the elders. (A common parting salutation on my mission was “don’t tamper with your factory”). But, none of the four of us had ever heard of the Mark E. Peterson pamphlet before we found it in the mission office. As you can imagine, upon discovering this gem, all four of us immediately read and discussed Peterson’s words of wisdom. The contents of the pamphlet were so weird and extreme that they were permanently etched in my memory. If Peterson’s steps have been added to since appearing on the internet, they haven’t been altered much. I definitely remember the “tight pajamas,” “don’t admire yourself in the mirror,” “get a snack” “go to sleep with a Book of Mormon in your hand,” and “tie your hand to the bedpost” steps.
To summarize, I offer these points for the pamphlet’s legitimacy:
1. It was indeed a pamphlet. It was not just a sheet of paper. So either this was published by the Church, or some over zealous mission president of the XXXXXX mission decided to write this stuff up, attribute it to Elder Peterson, and take it to a printer. Of course, the former explanation is the most plausible. Although I will say that as of today, I do not specifically remember seeing a Church logo on the pamphlet. It was, however, stored with all of the other pamphlets in our mission commissary, so I just assumed it was published by the Church, along with all of the other pamphlets.
2. I found this pamphlet sometime in the summer of 1989. Again, this was long before the internet, so I know that I didn’t read this on the internet somewhere and then later imagine that I found the pamphlet.
3. I discovered this pamphlet first hand (ha ha), and I had never heard of anything like this prior to discovering the pamphlet in my mission office. In other words, I had never “heard about” Mark E. Peterson saying that you should tie your hand to the bedpost if you can’t stop wanking it, or anything along those lines before I found the pamphlet and read this stuff myself. So this was not a piece of missionary folklore in my mission — at least not before four of us discovered and read the pamphlet. I had never heard of this before finding it myself, so it was not a folklore type story that I had “heard about from a guy who knew a guy who once saw this pamphlet by Mark E. Peterson.” I was the guy who saw the pamphlet.
I now wish I would have kept a copy of the pamphlet. I guess I probably didn’t because I didn’t want to be known as the guy who carried around an “overcoming masturbation” pamphlet with me.
May 05, 2011 @ 01:59:00
(so… fighting… the urge… )
Not THAT urge!
May 05, 2011 @ 16:54:00
I think I saw one of the three Nephites abscond these pamphlets. I specifically remember an unidentified man carrying these out of my mission commissary in a burlap sack.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 18:14:00
Not to beat a dead horse, and in favor of simplification: I know a few LDS men who in the past (maybe still) have painfully completed several of these steps in trying to overcome masturbation. This came into their world from this source.
How, then, is this talk not real?
Apr 28, 2011 @ 20:05:00
Sorry Rich, I couldn’t open your link, but I’ll comment anyway. I’m not denying that nearly all of the “recommendations” on the list that John read have probably been taught (or written down) in some form or another by multiple leaders within the Church (I specifically remember reading the “pocket calendar” suggestion somewhere though I can’t place the source). I’m not denying that they are not real, I just think more reputable source material can be found. I think the author of John’s list probably took some liberties in writing his or her list. I’ll be interested in how the book “Virtue Makes Sense” compares with the list that John was using. I think this is what Glenn means by “folklore.” It doesn’t mean that the information or story is false or even inaccurate, it just means that someone probably wrote down their version of the teachings in their own way without tracking down the source material.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 20:36:00
Apr 28, 2011 @ 18:03:00
Just finished listening and my abs are in pain. Hilarious. Thanks for another good one.
I wish you guys were having an East coast conference, I’d love to attend.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 18:23:00
I interviewed a woman for baptism, on my mission, who was fond of calling the missionaries “masters.” I was called “Elder Master Rasmussen” by her and this was the format by which she called all elders. I was there when she met Elder Bates…I don’t know who was more embarrassed the elder or her upon realizing her slip of the tongue.
That ain’t no folklore, Glenn, I was in actuality there :).
Apr 29, 2011 @ 03:47:00
It’s called a personal narrative, Rich. And it is, in fact, a genre of folklore (you brought it up).
Apr 29, 2011 @ 20:25:00
I can’t escape it!
Apr 28, 2011 @ 18:49:00
Shawn McCraney hosted a show where he went through the points here:
He says he found them in a book published by Deseret Book, written by Petersen, called “Virtue Makes Sense.” The book is listed on Google books but no copy was available for download to verify McCraney’s source. The book is mentioned on the video at around the 1 minute mark.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 19:16:00
I looked it up on Amazon and I’m buying a copy after I hit the post button.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 21:49:00
Wonderful, Heather! Please bring it to the next powwow in the Den of Iniquity. I recently inherited Mark E. Petersen’s “For Time or Eternity?” It’s a peach, but not nearly as interesting as the other may turn out to be.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 23:04:00
Around the 1:45 mark, McCraney states the specific Petersen “mastication” material came from a “1970 mormon missionary guide”. Dang. Double-dang, that ever-elusive, taunting source! Heather, please return and report.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 00:23:00
Dammit! Bait and switch! I should have listened more closely. Well, hopefully the book has other entertaining virtues.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 07:09:00
I’m sure it will be entertaining. Thanks for turning us on to it
May 11, 2011 @ 18:25:00
Book finally arrived. Robin guessed it. But it does have some awesome stuff — propaganda about disease and the dangers of birth control, etc.
Fred W. Anson
May 11, 2011 @ 18:52:00
I’m on pins and needles you have indeed found the elusive “source”?
If so, you’re the Indiana Jones of Mormons Studies Heather!
May 12, 2011 @ 15:23:00
No dice, Fred. Artful speaking on the part of Shaun McCraney. I don’t think the book contains a single reference to masturbation. I could be wrong, I haven’t read it yet. But I’ve flipped through / skimmed it and it seems to be about resisting sexual temptation with your boyfriend. The royal “your” of course.
Fred W. Anson
May 12, 2011 @ 16:21:00
Bummer. And so the search continues.
I’ll tell my boyfriend . . .
Apr 29, 2011 @ 03:38:00
I haven’t yet heard the podcast, but I found a long paper somewhere (which I haven’t read yet, either), that has a paragraph on the Peterson pamphlet. The citation is: Malan and Bullough, Historical development of new masturbation attitudes in Mormon culture: silence, secular conformity, counterrevolution, and emerging reform. Sexuality & Culture, Fall 2005, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 80-127.
…apostle Mark Peterson authored an unofficial church handout distributed to youth missionaries in the 1980s titled Steps to Overcoming Masturbation. It emphasized thought control and psychological aversion techniques. It stated in part, [tub of worms, tie hand to bedframe]. Peterson’s handout was not well received by many of the youth. It used principles of aversion therapy and practices typically advocated by nineteenth-century physicians who believed in degeneracy theory; methods still popular during the time of Peterson’s own youth. In recent years it has been labeled spiritually abusive by some members and has become a subject of public ridicule of the church.
Mar 13, 2012 @ 13:25:00
I realize that I am responding months beyond this post. But let me jump in and suggest this article for the reading. Bullough is one of the foremost authors on sexuality and religion. And it gives great context to the historical perspectives to masturbation becoming an issue in the Church (as those in the podcast well assume, it has NOT always been an issue). I believe this really became an issue at the turn of the century when Mormons, desperate to step away from polygamy and become more mainstream, adopted common mainstream beliefs (which included that masturbation was bad for your health, circumcision was a way to limit masturbation, etc, etc).
I’m happy to pass along a copy to anyone directly.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 21:17:00
It’s probably worth noting that the Handbook of Instructions does reference masturbation, albeit in a veiled way by referring to it as “self-abuse”:
Section 6.7.1 (Book 1) – “When a Disciplinary Council is Not Necessary
Failure to Comply with Some Church Standards
A disciplinary council should not be held to discipline or threaten members who do not comply with the Word of Wisdom, who are struggling with pornography or self-abuse, or whose transgressions consist of omissions, such as failure to pay tithing, inactivity in the Church, or inattention to Church duties.”
Apr 28, 2011 @ 21:46:00
thumbs down: calling it self abuse
thumbs up: no disciplinary council required
Apr 28, 2011 @ 22:17:00
Couldn’t agree with you more!
Apr 29, 2011 @ 05:24:00
They must be doing it wrong.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 06:04:00
But not all Church discipline requires a council. I’ve know people who have been on infromal probation that was nearly as bad as disfellowshipment or excommunication. Informal or formal probation do not require councils.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 22:00:00
One problem with forbidding masturbation is that it led to me doing it way more often than I would have otherwise. If I masturbated once during the week I figured I had already ruined myself and couldn’t really repent of it until I took the sacrament the coming sunday, so leading up to that day I would masturbate many times over, thinking it was both a free ride (because I was already ‘fallen’) and that it was my last chance to get in as much as I could because once Sunday came I would never do it again(which of course never happened) . Since leaving the Church I do it less 4 times a month.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 03:44:00
Isn’t it kind of funny how we felt like eating that bread and water would give us some kind of a reset that would be valid until the next time we would mess up? But never fear — there’s always another tray coming around next Sunday! And then they try to get you by saying that when you mess up the next time, all your previous sins come back as well. That was the one the tripped me up for a while. Guilt is stupid. It makes the devil happy.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 22:02:00
As a teenager I felt SO guilty about masturbating to the point where I only blessed the Sacrament twice because if I had masturbated within a month I felt too unworthy. This made it awkward for me in terms of having to dodge being asked to bless the sacrament so I ended up showing up late for church every week for years. Since all my friends were blessing the sacrament each week I figured that I was the only one masturbating. Later, I learned all my friends were also regularly masturbating but they blessed the sacrament regularly either because the didn’t feel guilty about it or were being deceptive. If I had known at that time that I wasn’t alone it would have saved me an ENORMOUS amount of heartache. I experienced a great deal of depression in high school and in retrospect I attribute 80% of that to guilt over masturbation.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 22:15:00
This problem could be solved completely by recontextualizing what actions like this mean in the church. Put it in its proper place within society. Masturbation belongs in the confessional to the same degree that your local high school jock should confess to ‘being an asshole’ four times this past week when he was just too full of himself to be nice to one of the wimpy kids. Is it a sin? Sure. Do you need to talk to your bishop about it? Nah. That jock is probably going to be an asshole next week several times too. For that matter, same goes for the bishop.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 16:04:00
I agree with you, Elder Vader, that masturbating should be re-contextualized. But I disagree that it’s a sin. It should be viewed only as a normal, healthy bodily function. The end. There should be NO guilt associated with it at all. I am really disturbed by stories like those told by chrisalmond because so much guilt and pain was and is still associated with masturbation unnecessarily.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 18:06:00
I agree with you totally. It should not be a point of shame for anyone. But how do you get there from here? Recontextualization is a process. Look at how long it has taken for the church to not quite repudiate polygamy. Change a few lines in the CHI. Send a memo out to the mission presidents, bishops, and stake presidents about it. Make a joke or two now and then at the MTC about not confessing it to your mission president, and put in its rightful place as ‘the sin next to not cleaning your mission apartment’, or better yet compare it to changing the oil on a mission car — something you should do for proper maintenance.
And if the church does what it always does, and dials down the rhetoric over 20 years, and pretends like the damaging, embarassing stuff never happened… well, that would just be par for the course, wouldn’t it?
Apr 29, 2011 @ 18:38:00
Within the context of a believing member, I think re-contextualizing masturbation would be extremely challenging. I was able to view this issue differently once I lost my belief in the church. The church will never come out and say it’s ok to masturbate. But, even if the leaders said that it shouldn’t be discussed, either negatively or otherwise, the views and attitudes that currently exist will continue to be perpetuated by those who do subscribe to the perspective described in this talk. Within the church I think that only those who are able to have a more nuanced belief (as Glen described) will be able brush off these kinds of damaging views. Those who have a more literal belief will continue to feel pointless guilt and shame.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 18:52:00
I’ve been really, really, ridiculously stuck on the project of recontextualization. My brother is currently living with me, getting ready to go on his mission (he’s like 14 years younger than the rest of the kids – the family surprise). Its been extremely interesting talking to him, and watching the pre-mission interview process take place, and also seeing all the different angles to which he thinks I’m totally off the rails in relation to the church. He hasn’t received his mission call yet, so I don’t know where he’s going, and all the different flavors of potential damage keep going through my mind. How do I prepare him if he goes to Europe? How about if he goes to South America? I went to phoenix, had a totally reasonable mission president, and pretty much hit the mission lottery in every way possible. But still I wish somebody had tried to recontextualize certain things for me.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 20:09:00
That’s a tough situation Elder Vader. TBM’s are usually distrusting of us apostates so anything you say might make him cling to the church even more. Just make sure he knows he can always talk to you if he has any problems, then you can start from there. Good luck!
Apr 29, 2011 @ 19:21:00
Also, you may be spot on here. I’ve only been open to seeing things very differently since my disaffection (we totally need a better word for that). The true believers may be basically locked in, in random ways here.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 22:04:00
The crazy thing (to me) about the ‘second only to murder’ thing, is that I feel certain that even those who taught it did not actually believe it. If they had two individuals come into their office for a confession of sin, one who beat his wife and kids, the other a chronic masturbator, I can’t imagine they would see the masturbator as the one who is less moral, righteous or ethical.
Apr 28, 2011 @ 22:13:00
One more thing (sorry). I once had a bishop who, after my second time confessing masturbation in a 6 month period, referred me to a sex addict anonymous group!
Apr 29, 2011 @ 06:01:00
After my mission I went to talk to the Bishop and ask for help. I wasn’t a habitual masturbator, just a couple times a month. (is it interesting that as an anonymous poster I still feel the need to hedge?) Anyway, he threatened to disfellowship me if I did it again. Said something about how I would die a lonely old man with out friends and family if I didn’t stop masturbating.
Never went to a Bishop after that. Last time I ever confessed anything.
Richard of Norway
Apr 29, 2011 @ 06:29:00
“anonymous poster”? Wait a minute! Are you telling me your real name is not Alastor Moody? Man, here I was bragging to my kids that I had met the real Mad-Eye. :-/
Apr 29, 2011 @ 06:57:00
Now who’s being cute? ;^)
Apr 28, 2011 @ 23:55:00
I usually really like Glenn’s thoughts, but he hade yelling out loud at one point. I don’t care what sort of expert someone is, it just seems like bad form to insist that those not in your field use your field’s jargon. Because of this, it seemed that you were talking past each other at a few points.
I also don’t know what sort of bizzarro church Glenn grew up in, but I was convinced that the first time I masturbated at 12 that I had committed the sin next to murder. For that matter, I was certain that every sexual thought I had was the sin next to murder, since “he who looketh on a woman…”. I never had the balls to confess to anyone, and basically gave up on myself for a while as lost. This, for me, has been the most damaging teaching in the church.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 03:39:00
I honestly did not know what masturbation was until I was maybe 16 or 17. If it was discussed in priesthood meetings, then it went completely over my head. I knew about wet dreams, but that was it. I felt guilty, like I wasn’t pure enough to get as good a patriarchal blessing as I could get if I were more pure. But I didn’t feel like I had committed a sin next to murder. I didn’t think it was as bad as actual sex.
As for the jargon — point taken. Thanks for the feedback.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 04:09:00
I’m actually right there with you, Glenn. I didn’t think of masturbation as the sin next to murder either. I thought that was reserved for actual intercourse.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 07:11:00
I have to agree with Glenn and Heather, I didn’t think of masturbation as the sin closest to murder, but the sin closest to me.
Richard of Norway
Apr 29, 2011 @ 07:38:00
I so totally dig you. Always reliable for a humorous sexually-charged comment.
May 26, 2011 @ 15:00:00
I linked it like this…
Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
When I masturbated, I most certainly thought about women and lusted after them.
Adultery is the sin next to murder.
Fred W. Anson
May 26, 2011 @ 16:38:00
Scottie, please show us from the Bible where it says that “Adultery is the sin next to murder”
Fred W. Anson
May 26, 2011 @ 16:57:00
And then show us where Christ said that lust IS adultery. Read it again IN CONTEXT:
Matthew 5 (KJV)
20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
Teaching about Anger
21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. 23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.
Teaching about Adultery
27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
When read in context, what Christ was saying was essentially that God’s law is about not just about just outward behavior but inward attitude and behavior as well. That you can’t just stop at outward appearance and ignore your inner thought life – as legalists like the Pharisees say you can – God’s after your heart too.
This is in accord with the famous “new heart” passage of Ezekiel 36 which says:
Ezekiel 36 (KJV)25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
However, if you would prefer to stick with the errant General Authority . . . I mean Pharisaical . . . interpretation be my guest. Just say the word: I’ll go get a chainsaw so we can start hacking your limbs off lest you commit “the sin next to murder” by masturbating while lusting at a pretty girl in your mind.
Jun 02, 2011 @ 14:29:00
Of course I was wrong in my thinking. My thought process was ridiculous. I’m just expressing how I came to my errant conclusion that masturbation was the sin next to murder.
Fred W. Anson
Jun 02, 2011 @ 16:56:00
Yep, yet why is it that when you try to point out the fallacies in that thinking – as I modeled – you get such strident push back from TBMs?
It’s really, really weird.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 09:52:00
I’m with Ryan here. I was told by my Bishop it was punishable by death in the bible. I absolutely believe our then Bishop had never masturbated. We all learned early not to tell him because of how he treated one of the older priests who did confess. (No passing or taking the sacrament, no leadership positions) This priest would be in tears regularly. He was a sweet honest super cool guy and the girls avoided him like the plague.
It’s all about who’s in charge, isn’t it?
Apr 29, 2011 @ 06:19:00
On my mission, this guide was included in every new missionaries binder. I remember flipping through the pages and see all sort of how-to’s and doctrinal basis and then “bam!” there was this talk about how not to masturbate. I remember thinking what my companion would think if I tied my hand to the bed. Or went to bed wearing 8 layers of clothing in the heat of the south.
On my mission I went nearly 8 months with out masturbating a single time. One night I couldn’t sleep and my hormone had gone wild and then…well, you get the idea. I felt so bad about it that I called the mission president and was sure that I was going home. Instead the mission president sent his councilor to come and chat with me. We had a pleasent chat and then he asked what was up. I kind of stuttered and he said, let me guess, “you masturbated?” Shame-faced and tearing up I confessed. To which the councilor said, “yup, figured as much. Don’t worry about it.” He then proceeded to tell me that my companion at the time was caught masturbating while looking out the windows at passing teenagers just a few months early and he was the one that got sent out to clear it up. I got the feeling that he was the hit man for dealing with missionaries playing with their joy-sticks.
He then procuded a manilla envelope and gave it to me. The contents had a note from the mission president prefacing the Steps in Overcoming Masturbation talk. The mission president, unlike the copy in my missionary binder was highlighted, with notes in the margins. Over the next two years, I saw every one of my companions (except one), had it or got it sent.
Richard of Norway
Apr 29, 2011 @ 06:35:00
Man, that is crazy! Jerking off while looking at teens through the window? Scary stuff. I guess we all have our vices. I did some stupid stuff too I suppose, but that makes me feel a lot better about myself.
I remember going to our Bishop (or what ever the equiv is) in the MTC and confessing I struggles with masturbation. He was very understanding about it. I was surprised. I think the counsil was to treat it sort of like AA – take one day at a time. So I think I made it through about 5 or 6 months on the mish before slipping up. After that it was pretty much monthly and I didn’t let it bother me except for one time confessing it to my mish pres towards the end of my mission. He said he was going to call me as Zone Leader but now he couldn’t. Instead, he ended up sending me to an unpopular small town in Northern Norway for my last 2 months. I was pretty miffed. (But ended up loving it there in the end.)
Luckily I never got (or even hear of) this “Overcoming Masturbation” talk. So glad for that!
Apr 29, 2011 @ 17:33:00
How does the pussy picture stop you thinking about sex?
May 01, 2011 @ 04:41:00
Because every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten.
Fred W. Anson
May 06, 2011 @ 07:02:00
Apr 29, 2011 @ 18:01:00
I think I understand what both John and Glenn are saying, but in my mind the bottom line is that Mormonism teaches and approves of harmful, unhealthy attitudes about human sexuality. Sure, the Peterson thing may be satire, but if it is, it’s satire based on things that have come from the very top of LDS Leadership. What may or may not be on the official COJCOLDS web site doesn’t really matter. What matters is that these ideas originated from the highest Mormon authorities and thus they are believed by its members. The only way this stuff ever has even the slightest chance of being rejected on a large scale within Mormonism, is for those in authority to come out and officially renounce things like The Miracle of Forgiveness or anything else that has been taught from the top. Until that time, nothing will change and people will continue to be harmed as a result.
Apr 29, 2011 @ 18:35:00
Hold to the rod, brethren. Hold to the rod.
Apr 30, 2011 @ 03:32:00
THIS POLICY IS DESTROYING GOOD PEOPLE
Around the 27:00 mark (although John touches on this throughout), John suggests this issue is doing serious harm to the LDS Church. I completely agree.
I had this conversation with someone one week before you posted this podcast. We came to the same conclusion about the LDS Church. On one side, you have crazy, wacked-out fundamentalist (probably asexual individuals) who don’t have issues. On the other side you have sociopaths who don’t really care. Ironically, these people fill the leadership roles.
Then you have a HUGE segment in the middle that is comprised of individuals with a strong sense of honesty and integrity. But many of the people are so full of guilt and shame that they become emotionally useless to the LDS Church. It is sad because these are often the best people.
Why can’t people in the LDS Church come to this conclusion… If masturbation is bad/wrong (and I am using a big IF there), then masturbation is a minor transgression at very worst. It is like speeding. Speeding itself isn’t necessarily bad. But reckless speeding could have devastating impacts. You could crash into someone/something, damage property, etc.
As a side note, I think these types of issues and policies (whether actual or simply perceived) are contribute significantly to the exodus from the LDS Church. That huge middle group of people place such a high standard on honesty and integrity (a standard inflated to absurd levels) that when they see the LDS Church being less than honest by hiding Church history… well the contradiction becomes too much.
Apr 30, 2011 @ 03:42:00
Exactly what I am talking about. If you wouldn’t have felt so guilty about going a few miles over (the speed limit), you wouldn’t have guilted yourself into driving wrecklessly.
Apr 30, 2011 @ 03:47:00
Not to say that you were wrecklessly speeding… however. Just trying to clarify my original point (since I can’t edit it now).
Apr 30, 2011 @ 03:35:00
THE BRETHREN ARE PRETTY JOLLY
So when you all got to number six, I couldn’t help but think about how jolly many of the brethren are. Is this a result of late night snacks?
May 01, 2011 @ 19:40:00
Excellent and funny podcast the Petersen steps are crazy.
May 01, 2011 @ 20:14:00
Outstanding podcast. I especially like Glen’s approach to viewing this as folklore. – Mormoreeno, IU ’81
May 02, 2011 @ 17:56:00
I work with the young women and in my experience, the young men get lectured about porn/masturbation and the YW get lectured on modesty. I’ve never heard a talk about masturbation directed at the YW, from when I was a girl up until now.
May 02, 2011 @ 20:00:00
I just heard John Larsen say “full-on sodomy.” WINNING!
May 02, 2011 @ 21:07:00
I feel like I’m the only one who never masturbated during my mission. Before and after, sure.
May 03, 2011 @ 05:20:00
Not the only one. I didn’t do it ever. Not once. Never.
May 02, 2011 @ 22:16:00
This was probably the most hilarious ME episode yet, thanks!
To be serious though, I think there is a decent chance that If I had not thought masturbation was a serious sin that I could still be an active Mormon. I never felt comfortable or happy in the church because I never felt like I was being honest. I always felt like I was living a lie. Like some discerning leader would know that I wasn’t worthy to hold, the priesthood, serve a mission, bless my kids, etc. I can’t think of a single priesthood ordinance I ever performed or participated in where I actually felt at the time like I was worthy to be there. Add to that the “be ye therefore perfect” stuff, and I was never, ever happy in the church. Even though I tried really hard to be.
Of course that doesn’t mean that if they relaxed their stance on masturbation that I would return. Now that I know what I know about the church there is just no going back anymore.
May 02, 2011 @ 23:36:00
I really liked this podcast. It was funny and informative. I really need to read more of SWK’s stuff. Asexual huh?
I want to agree with John regarding the build up of sex drive. If I go too long I begin to feel physically ill – hot, sort of stuffed up – difficult to describe. I also get short with people, flying off the handle, agitated, angry at everything. I can’t think straight, and think about sex all the time. If I get intensely aroused and don’t “follow through” I get pain internally between and including both hips.
All of this goes away after ejaculation. There is no way jumping jacks in the middle of the night would help. An arm tied to the bed head? I’d rip through the rope hulk style.
I really can’t understand how making 19yo kids feel this way can help them do what they have to do on a mission. If they take care of business, they can concentrate for a while. That story about the kids with blue-b@lls unable to walk – horrific and cruel. Why not force them to not urinate for two days and call it a sin if the do. It’s just as crazy.
Oh, and the not drinking before bed thing – I wake up often with wood that could cut glass, and busting for a pee. There is no sexual arousal whatsoever, it just happens that way. Once I urinate the erection goes. The trick is to not urinate all over the wall. You have to bow at the toilet sort of like it’s Toilet San.
There is no way you could possibly take advantage of such an erection. You are in no way sexually aroused, and you are about to wet yourself. If Peterson did write this he hasn’t got a clue about the male anatomy, and can’t distinguish between these two different types of erections.
May 04, 2011 @ 09:03:00
oh good hell you guys hooked me again. Well I tried all this anti-masturbation stuff and I just became a bigger masterbater. I know God hates it for me but he gave me this unordinarily large appendage so I think he shares the shame. Okay, I made the large part up.
May 04, 2011 @ 17:34:00
I know Glenn thinks this was made up — maybe it was. But I know I received it as a teenager — around age 13 or 14. It was on a mimeographed sheet. I wish I had kept it.
This kind of teaching is one of the key examples how the church isn’t just “not true” but is damaging.
May 05, 2011 @ 03:07:00
When my mother in law told me that Gladys Knight joined the church, I didn’t believe that either. I thought it was one of those Steve Martin stories. I’ve been wrong before, brother.
But regardless of it’s original authorship, it has clearly undergone communal recreation as evidenced by its existence in multiple variation. And regardless of all of that, it still reflects all of the attitudes that we talked about on the podcast and supports what you are saying here about damaging the self esteem of kids who think their natural urges are unclean and will lead to terrible things. And that is what a folklorist would call a folk belief, reflected very strongly here in these steps. I wasn’t trying to sweep this thing away as “made up” and not important — that’s not what I was trying to say at all.
May 05, 2011 @ 11:51:00
Yes, I understand what you mean by it being some kind of folk belief.
And to add to John’s comment earlier about its age and to clarify my comment above — I was 13/14 in the mid-80s when I received it. So it was certainly around at least by 1984 or so. I may have to venture into the basement and see if I still have that bad boy among my teenage memorabilia.
May 05, 2011 @ 17:46:00
Wow really? You guys delete constructive comments you don’t like? Wow, how very Mormon of you. You should do a podcast on censorship. Glenn, Courage of conviction buddy, you know the corporation your supporting is a fraud, what are you going to do? Are you going to keep on the payroll or are you going to have integrity and leave before the FBI investigation and let those around you sink with you? You can’t have it both ways. If you know something is false and pretend along with others it isn’t, your part of the problem not the solution. End story. Hope Mormon expressions does amazing and helps lots of misled Mormons out…also hope that ALL grow beyond the cult recovery step 4 and are able to move on to something more fulfilling because life is to short to make yourself about continual grieving your loss. Amen. Hope to see you all out skiing, boating, camping, living real soon. On to step 5 for me. Glenn the smiling bishop is doing a fine job on you. Reminds me of working for a nice boss who asks you to lie for him or her.
May 05, 2011 @ 18:13:00
What comment was deleted? I’ve been on Mormon Expression since its inception and have never seen comments deleted from threads. Not saying one of yours wasn’t deleted, but explain what you’re talking about, por favor.
May 05, 2011 @ 20:35:00
LSK, I checked the logs. There has been nothing deleted
May 05, 2011 @ 22:06:00
I dated a Mormon girl once who had a wooden eye. Well, we didn’t really date so much as just make out. NCMO she called it. It was the first time I had ever heard the phrase. She told me about it over the phone, and I just ran down stairs, brushed my teeth, and rushed over to her house. She worked at Wendy’s. I first met her when I was going through the drive thru, junior year in high school. So I stopped the car, went inside, and got her number. That was a very long time ago. I wonder what she’s doing today, don’t you?
May 05, 2011 @ 18:28:00
2 Funny, censorship at a podcast accusing the LDS church of censorship. Cracks me right up!
Okay guys you will delete this like the others but here goes again: Glenn if you worked for a corporation and it was involved in fraud would you stay and expose you and your family not to mention your reputation to what might come. “Chose the right when the …” It was never “Chose what is easier…”
Mormon Expressions if the church was your ex it could have you committed for stalking. Yep we all know all religion is false, that takes a partial brain and the Internet so what are you going to do with the rest of your life? Move on! Life is good!
May 05, 2011 @ 21:07:00
You made your corporation comment and your stalking a former spouse comment on the Feedback episode, not this one. As John said, nothing has been deleted.
Fred W. Anson
May 06, 2011 @ 07:00:00
Well since no one has shared, or talked about this classic article from Deconstructor’s website please allow me to be the first:
Masturbation as a Spiritual Celebration
(source http://www.i4m.com/think/sexuality/masturbation_help.htm )
Note: The following article was written by a faithful LDS Physician. In fear of reprisal from church leaders, the doctor asked that his name be witheld.
I feel it is essential to youth for us to speak out truthfully about masturbation. I am grateful for the internet and this website so I can speak truthfully as a latter-day saint on a subject that I would otherwise receive social sanctioning for speaking out on. Perhaps in this forum members can truly “bear testimony” without fear or feeling a need for social conformity. The following is a sincere and truthful account of my masturbation experience in the church.
I am an LDS member who faithfully followed church teachings all during my youth. My parents were very loving and I had an excellent home. I always wanted to “do what was right” and had a hard time understanding why some other kids didn’t. In my teens, when my buddies from church experimented with alcohol etc. I just wasn’t interested. I had fun being the designated driver and felt I was doing my part protecting them from harm.
I wasn’t self righteous or judgemental, or stuffy about it. I just genuinely liked being a caring and healthy person and my friends knew I was there for them no matter which path they chose. I got good grades, didn’t smoke, drink, or swear, and was not unpopular. I was fairly popular at school and exemplified church standards. I went through the scouting program, served a mission, finished college and was married in the temple to a lovely LDS girl and now have a beautiful family and a new grandson. In short, I could have been a poster child for the church, inside and out. No, I wasn’t perfect, but by both American and church standards my life genuinely reflected successful living of healthy social ideals.
It is important for me to state the above, because I want readers to know I am a dedicated, highly self-disciplined, and spiritually dedicated person who will follow authority in faith. Leaders have my faith and trust until they obviously and repeatedly abuse it unrightiously. I am now in my 50’s and I have learned that the church teaches many helpful things, but I have also learned by experience that in some areas it has adopted American cultural values and unfortunately some leaders speak as men who promote their own personal ideals as truths that are frankly damaging to members. I believe when this happens it is unintentional.
Christ taught “by their fruits ye shall know them”. This is a simple test. It teaches us to follow the words of the church leaders in faith and see where they lead. Many times their words have steered me right, but sometimes their doctrine has hurt me and my loved ones. A wise church member will not ask “if the church is true” but rather “when are the leaders teachings true”. The concept of inner voice or conscience is our way to confirm when church leaders are human and fallible. As a missionary, I showed the film “Man’s Search for Happiness” hundreds of times. It states, “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good. Only if you are unafraid of the truth can you find it”. I take that as wise counsel.
I have tested the words of church leaders about masturbation by following their advice to the letter by being abstinent and “worthy”. I have the capacity to be highly self disciplined and have lived for periods in my life sexually abstinent as taught by the general authorities of the church. After using the spiritual tests taught by Christ and comparing the spiritual fruits of masturbation abstinence to my experience masturbating, my personal experience bears testimony that the well meaning advice of LDS prophets on masturbation is false and damaging to physical, mental, and spiritual health.
I do not state this casually, but with serious and sobering experience. I have followed the words of Christ to see the fruits of church teachings on masturbation. Masturbation abstinence as taught by church leaders only has brought me suffering, and feelings of shame.
When I was a little boy I was innocent and had not heard the word masturbation. I discovered the joy of having a body. I delighted in running, playing, eating yummy food, and feeling the warmth of the summer sun on my skin. I loved all the wonderful feelings of my body including the beautiful ones in my penis. My penis magically got hard all by itself. I had no choice but to feel wonderful. Of course I felt joyful washing, discovering and touching it.
As I grew and I was attracted to girls, I noticed my penis would feel good in response. I naturally associated my delicious genital feelings with being in love. I remember at age five falling in love with a movie star on TV lamenting that I was just a little boy. I wanted to be grown up so I could marry her. I had no idea about sexual intercourse, but the pleasure of my sexual feelings in my genitals instinctively were associated to marriage and love.
I went through all the normal developmental stages of being a boy. I had crushes on girls, experimented with shy kissing games, and dreamed of becoming a man like my dad. I occasionally touched my beautiful penis all through my childhood. I had no reason to feel any shame. I loved the wonderful feelings I felt. Although I learned to be modest, I associated them with being in love and everything good. At eight I would dream of girls I liked as I caressed my penis in bed at night and drifted off to sleep. I had heavenly dreams of love and marriage. When I neared puberty, I learned about intercourse, and dreamed of marrying a beautiful girl in the temple one day.
Being in love, kissing, intercourse, temple marriage, loving kindness were all daydreams I had while lovingly celebrating my sexual feelings touching my penis in bed at night. I was experiencing a healthy integration of my sexual awareness with my spiritual and family values as I masturbated. Medicine and psychiatry recognize this as a healthy developmental stage toward maturity that young men experience in order to prepare for healthy bonding with their wife and future family. It is rightly called by some professionals “marriage preparation” or “marriage rehearsal play”. The term masturbation is popular but is an old one that predates developmental psychology.
Today, as a physician, I know the history of masturbation. It is no wonder that it has suffered such a bad reputation in the past. Prior to 1900, Western medicine believed that loss of semen damaged the nervous system and caused insanity. Many diseases such as tuberculosis and STD’s were falsely attributed to masturbation. By the 1940’s we had scientific data that proved all these ideas false. This data showed that almost 100% of males report masturbation during puberty. This demonstrates that it does not lead to a change of sexual orientation, or disease, or anything negative, but that it is developmentally appropriate and leads primarily to a healthy marriage bond in the majority of cases.
Jesus Christ never said anything about masturbation. It was not an issue. It is significant that church leaders have not claimed or stated they received any “thus saith the Lord” revelations on masturbation from God. This is obvious since Joseph Smith and scriptures have said nothing about it. Church leaders only began talking about it in the very late 1800’s when they told youth the same false medical information that was popular at the time – that it caused insanity.
A few decades later, when that was obviously not the case anymore, and everyone knew that the masturbation insanity and disease story was false, church leaders adopted the new popular socially conservative American moral view (the “worldly” view). The church has a continual history of mimicking popular conservative public opinion when it comes to masturbation.
This behavior should make it pretty obvious that the Lord has not revealed the truth of the matter through the church leaders otherwise they would have not fallen for any of the false tales of “the world” and would have revealed the truth. Not only have LDS youth not received the truth about masturbation, they have suffered from extremely damaged self-worth. They are taught to fight against the Lord’s healthy developmental process that is only designed to drive them toward healthy marital bonding and family life.
I will never forget when a young inexperienced bishop’s counselor took it upon himself to come into our Deacons Quorum and “warn” us against the horrors of masturbation. This lesson was not in the manual. To this day, I have no idea why he felt compelled or authorized to give us such a lesson.
I was an innocent boy of 12 and president of the quorum. I had not fully reached puberty yet and had never ejaculated. I did not know what the word “masturbation” meant. I soon found out. I sat frozen as he graphically described what masturbation was and how it made boys “evil”. He told us that sexual sins ranked right next to murder. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Of course I knew that it was not alright to be sexual with someone besides your wife, but what he was telling me about my penis was just the opposite of my own beautiful experiences. To me, my penis and the pleasure I derived from stroking it while daydreaming of girls I loved and temple marriage was holy and special.
In fact it was so holy that the bishop’s counselor’s words seemed sacrilegious and completely inappropriate. To me masturbation had no negative associations. It was a prayer of celebration for love and marriage. My own spiritual experiences with masturbation told me that he was lying. I knew inside my inner self could not lie to my heart and spirit.
The problem was that I was just a 12 year old boy. I was a deacon. What did I know compared to the bishopric? He was in the bishopric. He was Jesus’ mouthpiece. I was Jesus’ servant who held his holy priesthood. I loved Jesus and loved to obey him. My own tender testimony of love for my masculinity and my desire to marry and share love with my wife and family were totally crushed beneath the weight of authority. I was now an “evil” boy, who had been committing a sin next to murder in seriousness all though my innocent childhood. It was horrifying to realize I was so evil.
Today I recognize this action by my priesthood leader as spiritual and sexual abuse of an innocent child. His authoritarian position invalidated my authentic inner spiritual voice. In that moment my priesthood leader created clinical neurosis in me that I struggled to heal far into my adult life. It was unquestionably abusive and damaging.
The tragic irony of this whole situation is that the top leaders of the LDS church sincerely want to help the youth be sexually healthy and have good marriages. Their failure to meet their responsibility to become medically educated about masturbation has resulted in one of the great social tragedies of Mormonism – unintentional and covert sexual and spiritual abuse of the youth.
Masturbation was a hot topic for all us neurotic unintentionally abused Mormon boys. We talked amongst ourselves about our struggles with abstinence; our successes and ultimate failures. We repented over and over in an effort to feel worthy through high school, missions, college and into marriage. Our self-worth was seriously damaged.
One serious boy I knew told me he “knew he was naturally evil” because he tried and tried repenting many times over but could not remain totally abstinent. He begged God to take away his sexual desire or bless him with “wet dreams” like other boys (Even after months of abstinence he never had a nocturnal emission – his spiritual leaders were ignorant of the medical fact that a sizable percentage of males are completely incapable of having nocturnal emissions). Since he was “naturally evil” he accepted that drinking was no worse than masturbation and sadly found some solace for his internalized shame in alcohol.
Another close friend once in a moment of purging his guilt before leaving on his mission confided to me his own unique strategy. We lived in a farm community and he decided that since he had never heard that sex with animals was sinful he was safer to place a stool behind a cow to stand on and have sex with it than he was to masturbate. His dad, by the way, was our stake president and his uncle was a notable apostle. We had never heard of bestiality. He too was trying to cope. Today he is a respectable judge, family man and priesthood leader in his community.
As church leaders ignore the medical data of science about the psychological damage that masturbation abstinence causes, they ignorantly perpetuate some of the very things they seek to prevent. Youth turn to damaging psychological coping strategies to cope with the unbearable internalized shame that Mormon leaders create by labeling the healthy developmental process of masturbation as “evil” and associating it to the concept that “sexual sin is next to murder” (Such generalization without qualification is irresponsible by church leaders. There is an obvious difference in the social impact of various sexual behaviors, for example the extreme difference between masturbation and rape).
A tragic wake up call to the General Authorities of the church came in 1982 when an Idaho priest Kip Eliason committed suicide after deciding he was “unworthy” to live because he could be 100% abstinent all the time. His Bishop promised him he could. In his suicide note to his dad he said he hated himself for not being able to conquer this “sin” and could not stand to live any longer. Kip was a 4.0 student, Eagle Scout candidate, school track star and held up by his teachers at church and school as an ideal youth.
He was the consummate Mormon boy who was dedicated to Christ far beyond the commitment of most boys. His innocent blood cries out as a testimony against the false Mormon teachings about masturbation. Unbelievably, even as one of Mormondom’s finest priesthood youth lay dead before their own eyes, church leaders have not ended the abusive masturbation “worthiness” interviews that were unquestionably the direct cause of this innocent 16 year old priest’s death. I suggest you read the case report, examine the evidence yourself, and then put the question to Christ’s test:”By their fruits ye shall know them”. You can find the article published online on several websites by searching under Kip Eliason’s name.
After serving many years in the church in various callings, today I have healed from most of the spiritual abuse caused by my priesthood leaders being influenced by false masturbation ideas of “the world”. It took a lot of personal spiritual growth, prayer and study to separate out what were healthy true principles that are mixed with the false social concepts in the church. My medical schooling has shown me empirical proof that masturbation is not an “evil” behavior.
There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that masturbation results in any physical, psychological, spiritual damage or unhealthiness. Some Mormons leaders falsely equate feelings of guilt with “loss of the spirit”. These feelings actually are psychological responses that result from leaders “promising” individuals they will feel guilty. This is not the “loss of spirit” it merely is a psychological self-fulfilling prophecy caused by internalized shame. I have treated numerous individuals suffering from church caused masturbation shame. Their spiritual feelings return when their neurotic shame is healed. These patents report they masturbate and feel more psychologically and spiritually healthy than they did before.
I want to tell anyone struggling with this issue to remember your joyful innocent God given feelings that you knew while masturbating as a child, before you were told it was “bad”. Why would God give you the natural desire to masturbate if it were not good for your development and serve to prepare you for marriage? It is part of his plan to prepare you for bonding with the one you love. As a missionary I had many investigators, members, and priesthood leaders tell me they felt the spirit of God in me on days I had masturbated. I struggled like most Elders to be abstinent, and was most of the time, but my priesthood leaders acknowledged God’s spirit the same on “masturbation days” as “abstinent days.” The same held true in all my church callings. Since my priesthood leaders acknowledged that the spirit was with me, this was a further witness to me that masturbation did not cause spiritual damage.
Today we also know that masturbation is vital to health. New medical studies verify the importance of masturbation to health. Masturbation prevents prostate cancer, and keeps the reproductive system strong and healthy. There is an overwhelming body of data that demonstrates that individuals who are abstinent from masturbation are at greater risk for cancer, youth suicide, depression, psychological dysfunction, and marital problems.
A final word, I suggest to you that masturbation can be a spiritual celebration, and that God absolutely approves of masturbation. I testify that I have experienced some of my most spiritual moments while masturbating as a child and also as a man. I have felt God’s presence and spirit with me as I have thanked him for the great gift of sexuality while masturbating, and while daydreaming of how much I love and am attracted to my beautiful wife.
Masturbation helped my wife learn how her body can experience orgasm. Women do not have an automatic orgasmic response like men do. Many women who have marital problems solve them through masturbation as a therapeutic exercise. My wife’s ability to orgasm has increased our bond and capacity to love one another. In this way masturbation contributes to LDS family values by enriching marriage (LDS leaders have acknowledged repeatedly that a large percentage of LDS divorces are based on sexual unhappiness).
I have felt God’s spirit with me more, while masturbating with love, than in any church or temple. I was experiencing God dwelling in my temple, and approving of my sexuality. Masturbating with loving intention is a prayer of gratitude and celebration of life.
Fred W. Anson
May 06, 2011 @ 11:33:00
And if you don’t want to read the full article (it is long!) here’s the “Reader’s Digest Version”:
“A wise church member will not ask “if the church is true” but rather “when are the leaders teachings true”. I have tested the words of church leaders about masturbation by following their advice to the letter by being abstinent and “worthy”. I have the capacity to be highly self disciplined and have lived for periods in my life sexually abstinent as taught by the general authorities of the church. After using the spiritual tests taught by Christ and comparing the spiritual fruits of masturbation abstinence to my experience masturbating, my personal experience bears testimony that the well meaning advice of LDS prophets on masturbation is false and damaging to physical, mental, and spiritual health.
I do not state this casually, but with serious and sobering experience. I have followed the words of Christ to see the fruits of church teachings on masturbation. Masturbation abstinence as taught by church leaders only has brought me suffering, and feelings of shame. A final word, I suggest to you that masturbation can be a spiritual celebration, and that God absolutely approves of masturbation. I testify that I have experienced some of my most spiritual moments while masturbating as a child and also as a man. I have felt God’s presence and spirit with me as I have thanked him for the great gift of sexuality while masturbating, and while daydreaming of how much I love and am attracted to my beautiful wife.I have felt God’s spirit with me more, while masturbating with love, than in any church or temple. I was experiencing God dwelling in my temple, and approving of my sexuality. Masturbating with loving intention is a prayer of gratitude and celebration of life.”
May 06, 2011 @ 15:47:00
I love Rich’s made-up words, like “biaism” and “serial masturbatist”. I had to turn off the podcast to laugh for a bit.
May 13, 2011 @ 17:35:00
One challenge for a faithful members of the Church to not feel guilty about masturbation (or other similar sexual acts) lies with comments such as those in the Miracle of Forgiveness where Spencer W. Kimball provides a list of prohibited sexual acts and then concludes with the prohibition of doing “anything like unto it”. Not only is “anything” vague and all-encompassing, but this implies that to be considered most righteous, one should stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as possible, even if it means that the driver must get off the stagecoach, curl up on a ball and cower against the wall–never reaching his destination. I have met women (more often than men) in the Church who grew up somehow not getting the masturbation lesson. Don’t know how they avoided it, but they did. And they are very healthy, sexual, married adults. When they learned about it as adults, they were very glad that they missed those Sundays as a youth or that their leaders chose not to teach that topic.
Melissa Jones, Ph.D.
San Antonio, TX
May 26, 2011 @ 14:49:00
I have to take issue with your bell curve comments. You said that the people in positions of power are those that are either liars or the weird Mark E Peterson types. I have to disagree with this.
Men in authority positions are most likely married, and if they have a normal sex life, there is no reason to masturbate. It’s quite possible for a healthy, married couple to go an entire marriage without masturbating if they are pleasing each other with normal intercourse.
Not only this, but I know many couples who feel that masturbation is allowed after you get married. I don’t know that the question is even asked for married men or women.
Fred W. Anson
May 26, 2011 @ 17:07:00
Spoken like someone who’s probably never been married – or whose married friends have lied to him.
Jun 02, 2011 @ 14:30:00
Uhh… I’ve been married twice now.
Fred W. Anson
Jun 02, 2011 @ 16:57:00
Wink! Wink! Say no more!
Sep 13, 2011 @ 19:45:00
I just found your podcast. This was very interesting. When I was a little girl I remember a man getting up and bearing his testimony and telling everyone he’s struggling with masterbation and the bishop is helping him. I didn’t even know what that meant.
I appreciate the woman on the podcast speaking openly about masterbation. I felt so ashamed that I masterbated as a woman. I married a non-member who had no problem with masterbation, which really opened my eyes. Looking back I feel disgusted that I talked to a bishop about what I do in my bedroom. There was a time where I couldn’t have sex for a few months because of a high risk pregnancy. I hope my husband masterbated during that time. I don’t feel at all threatened by that. There is no way I am going to allow my bishop to sit alone with my daughters and ask them if they masterbate. Also, I think the law of chasity would have been a lot easier for me if I would have been allowed to release some sexual tension now and then.
Oct 25, 2011 @ 01:26:00
Very nice post. I know it is sexist, but it is nice to hear a woman be rational about the short time we exist in the eternities. All of the women in my life are the ones clinging to Mormonism for fear of death or some imagined punishment thereafter.
Mar 13, 2012 @ 13:36:00
I think the shame piece is definitely part of religious teaching. However I also think that the shame piece comes in when parents freak out (and don’t think only religious parents freak out on this issue) when they find their kids masturbating. Somehow as a culture we assume that childhood genital touching is masturbation. It’s not (at least in my definition of masturbation). More than likely it has no sexual connotation for the child. Most of the time it just feels damn good. When a kid discovers that part of their body they are going to want to continue to touch it. How parents (and other adults and peers) respond to it will greatly affect the child’s perspective on whether it is okay or shameful. For those of us trying to move past the religious shame, we need to help our kids understand there is a healthy time and space for this kind of touching and self-soothing.
Mark E. Petersen’s Steps in Overcoming Masturbation | Trudging Toward the Telestial Kingdom
Sep 06, 2013 @ 19:36:59
[...] Notes on Mormon Expression Episode 132: Mark E. Petersen’s Steps in Overcoming Masturbation. [...]
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