Masturbation

From Sean's Gospel Topical Guide
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Children should be taught not to masturbate at the first signs of puberty.
Masturbation can be described as manipulating one’s own sexual organs to produce sexual excitement.
"Sometimes masturbation is the introduction to the more serious sins of exhibitionism and the gross sin of homosexuality."
Nocturnal emission is not masturbation.
Prophets have condemned masturbation throughout the ages.
The sin of masturbation occurs when a person stimulates his or her own sex organs for the purpose of sexual arousal.
Claims that leaders are instructed not to hold disciplinary councils for masturbation.
A long set of quotes.
Academic article, pro-masturbation, covering relevant Mormon history of attitudes regarding masturbation.
No known coverage of the topic by Joseph Smith, Jr., or Brigham Young.
Early discussion of the topic was clearly a reflection of dominant cultural attitudes informed by bad science.
Early Judeo/Christian tradition looked down on masturbation.
Some excerpts of C. S. Lewis's thoughts on masturbation. (Always very thoughtful.)
Masturbation plays a role in developing and maintaining paraphilias. (eg. Necrophilia, Pedophilia)
Study found that ejaculation depressed serum testosterone levels for a period of 4 days. I found this article cited in a video about how to raise testosterone levels, and the assertion was made that the study was about masturbation in particular. I have not been able to find anything but the summary, but it is not clear that this study separated out different types of ejaculation, or what the methodology of the study was.
This study seems to partially agree and partially contradict "Periodic changes in serum testosterone levels after ejaculation in men". The study seems to agree that abstaining from masturbation increases testosterone, but since it did not find a decrease in testosterone after masturbation, it seems to contradict the other findings, and beg the question of how they can reach the conclusion they did when they could not provide both parts of that relationship. (If masturbation was the thing bringing down T-levels, and not some other correlated behavior, then it should have been obvious.) Getting access to the full study might be helpful.

Notes

I have a suspicion that many teachings regarding masturbation are based more on cultural taboos than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am unaware of any real scriptural basis for what we (though, really, almost exclusively the youth) are often taught. I also see many surprising parallels with other false notions that spread throughout the church.

  1. Modern prohibition against bishops addressing this matter in certain ways.
  2. Lack of clear communication on the matter in official church teachings.
  3. Lack of scriptural underpinning.

When I was initially studying the matter of the Right Hand Rule I was impressed with the solid lack of scriptural basis for the rule. I fully expected to find at least some mention of what hand people were using during the sacrament. Right hands are often prominently mentioned, so I believed that at least this much might be notable. However, there was nothing to be found. I then asked my mission president, and he couldn't cite a source, instead referring to the "unwritten order of things". That was pure lunacy. If it was a part of the basic ordinance, it wouldn't be unwritten. Ordinances do not get communicated in the rumor mills, or by any other indirect and hazy method. They are revealed, and all essential details are clearly communicated to anyone who needs to know them. In particular, since new members need to be taught the commandments before they are baptized, it seemed particularly damning to this doctrine, that it was not included in any discussion.

The suggestion that masturbation is not a serious sin might have some merit. Some prophets have asserted otherwise, (ie. they have asserted that it is serious) but they have done so amidst other patently false assertions regarding the dangers of masturbation.

When put in the position of determining what to teach, I am honestly disinclined to teach that the church has position X, if my belief in that assertion is based on nothing but individual statements that the church does not even bother to document in teaching material, scripture, or policy. It certainly is something I was taught and believed but the body of teaching that convinced me of this was largely no more authoritative and meaningful than my mission president asserting that the sacrament must be taken with the right hand. The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet has dropped the assertion.

It is certainly true, that masturbation increases the sexual appetite, as has been well documented. Therein lies a certain danger. Too frequent masturbation can also have other physically harmful effects.

Masturbation is often conflated with pornography, even in supposedly serious research. Masturbation paired with pornography is certainly a problem.

I am also inclined to think that masturbation, undertaken for the intent of pleasing one's self so that sexual intimacy can more easily be denied to one's spouse, is also sinful.

Overall, according to my current thinking, the evidence would suggest that avoiding masturbation can be beneficial, but that the fear of the practice is largely based on exaggeration and rumor. ie. Maybe not completely a false doctrine, but one which has been exaggerated.

Cross-References