Masturbation: A Candid Call-Out
Over the last 10 years of my recovery I have been asked numerous times if the church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believes masturbation is a sin. "Of course it does," I reply! Yet, my digging to find an official church source where it specifically declares 'masturbation' a sin has produced very little (nothing from 'official' church resources):
- I found a few references to it in old conference talks, one of which was by Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone, who said: "We shouldn’t have a problem with masturbation" and "If you never masturbate, the time will come in your life when you will be able to sit in front of your bishop . . . and say to him, ‘I have never done that in my life.’" Neither statement is hopeful for anyone trapped in it.
- Masturbation is listed as a sin in The Miracle of Forgiveness, which is a widely published book, but as far as I know it's not considered an official church resource.
- For the Strength of Youth is quoted as listing the term 'masturbation', but the actual pamphlet itself doesn't seem to list it (was it once in there and has since been removed?)
Is 'shameful' too strong a word? Is the church maybe avoiding the word masturbation in an effort to protect the innocent from discovering what it actually is? Well then maybe we shouldn't say guns, or bullying, or racism, or gay bashing or any other dangerous thing that requires awareness to overcome. Besides, the 'innocents' likely already know what the act is, they just haven't learned the term or the dangers of it because no. one. talks. about. it.
Tiptoe'ing round the word and handling it with white gloves is actually perpetuating the problem. So many women have reached out to me questioning whether or not it's even a sin because it's not specifically mentioned anywhere. I've even heard that there are now some bishops saying it's OK to masturbate so long as you do it less than you did it before.
Look, I get it. The very first bishop I told blushed bright red when I slightly mentioned I may have done it a few times. On the flip side, I just about died when I later met with another bishop and confessed I had a pornography problem just to have him follow up with the question: "and masturbation?" It is not an easy topic to talk about, but it does get easier the more it's talked about. In this day and age, the dangers of pornography are taught in our classrooms, from the pulpit and at each General Conference. But very rarely do people view pornography without also culminating the experience with masturbation.
It's time we bring it out into the open, shed the shame and give it to the Light.