After writing my article on https://gospelperspective.wordpress.com/2016/01/16/a-lie-of-masturbatory-proportions/ I felt that I needed to be honest and up front with my Bishop on this matter rather than simply state my feelings on this blog and go about my merry way. My children are at risk from the harm that the LDS church’s position on this issue has and does cause. Millions of members around the world and prospective members are also affected by this position that the church has taken. This matter is important to me, and many others I have discussed it with as well, regardless of what side of the issue they are on. I e-mailed my Bishop and laid it all out on the table. I could not, not tell him as it would weigh on my conscious if I did not.
His response to me was the following
1. The Church declared it so, therefore it is sin.
2. Church leaders have spoken on it.
3. It is part of the law of chastity.
4. How we personally feel should not stop us from obeying church leadership.
5. Church leaders may not be perfect but they speak for God, therefore God has spoken it.
6. One must obey to sustain.
7. It makes no sense that I would receive personal revelation contrary to God’s revealed word to the prophets.
1. The Church declared it so in mid 20th century while before 1920’s era had very different view, thus this is only a recent “revelation” and was either a non-issue before, or it is not a sin, why the change now, so recently in the history of prophets? Did God change his mind?
2. Church leaders have declared it sin in conjunction with false statements about it being preached through the ages, thus perpetuating a lie about whether it has been revealed by God previously. This brings into question validity of it’s sinful nature to begin with.
3. While it has been in incorporated into the law of chastity, it status of sin is another question all together.
4. To obey despite our feelings is to reject our convictions and to live contrary to them. We must seek the truth for ourselves and consider the words spoken by church leaders, then after much study, pondering and prayer, which I have done, we can learn the truth for ourselves. This is how God intended it, to do otherwise is to open ourselves to false doctrine and to be led from God’s word on the whims of man, who may have good intentions, Is not necessarily preaching what God actually has said but rather how they interpret it or feel on any given manner.
5. The assumption that every word spoken by imperfect men is by default the word of God simply by virtue of their position in the church is a fallacy and dangerous assumption that leads us open to being led away from God and true doctrine.
6. One can strongly disagree with someone while still supporting that person within that role. The problem here is that words of church leaders have been canonized as scripture because of cultural dogma within the church to accept everything without question that the church leadership has declared. Because of this tendency within the church, it is very easy for church leader’s personal feelings to become enshrined as sacred words of God whether they are or are not. This is what I believe has happened with this issue.
7. To say it does not make sense that I would receive revelation contrary to what God has spoken is to assume that the prophets and apostles statements on the issue (largely just in the 1980-2000 era) was in no way influenced by their own personal feelings and because of their position and therefore was God’s word. It also implies that any personal revelation I have received could not have been from God because it is not in line with LDS church thinking. Essentially one must agree with the church or you’re being deceived. That is the implication at least.
I do not pretend or claim to speak for the church, and I hope I had made that clear during our conversation. My feelings on the matter which I had stated numerous times were my own and the result of my own study, pondering and prayer on the matter, not intended as revelation for the church as a whole.
I had explained to my Bishop that if this was and is truly sin it does not make sense that God would have waited till mid 20th century to declare or reveal it so. It is only in this time that the issues has ever been addressed. It does not make sense that it would have been left out of the record or that God would only reveal its sinful nature now. Ultimately the issue comes down to not so much it status, but how it has been dealt with and preached within the church. As with all things that have the potential to be habit forming, and life controlling, they only become an issue of worthiness when they become problematic on one’s life. At least my Bishop and I can agree on one thing, that habitual masturbation in an unhealthy way is sinful and must be dealt with by church clergy to seek help in overcoming this problem, however where we differ is that this only requires church authority when it becomes sinful and problematic. The occasional masturbation session in no way falls under this idea any more so than a fast food meal, which taken to extreme and levels of addiction is also unhealthy.
Because of my stance my position in the church is at risk and by extension my families as well. My Bishop does not know how to deal with this. Because I have spoken publicly what I have done falls under the apostasy section of the Bishops handbook, and yet because of my testimony of church, my declaration of support of current church leaders and testimony of the book of Mormon my Bishop can’t reconcile my actions and otherwise supportive and faithful position as apostasy. The apparent conflict is not one he can easily recommend a course of action on and he has stated he must take time to pray about it himself.
The effect on my life personally this has had, has been very direct and measurable. Similar to how breaking through the barriers of nudity has changed how I look at things like porn. Because of how I have changed my views on nudity from my upbringing to what it is now, porn no longer has any hold on me. It is easily ignored and no longer provides temptation to me like it has so often in the past. The issue of masturbation was a source of consistent stress and anxiety in my life for almost as long as I can remember. Breaking through the conditioning that was placed upon me has changed everything. It is no longer something that controls me. I no longer feel as though I have a need for it as I no longer have a need to release stress and anxiety due to the constant battle. It is amazing what can change when something is no longer taboo.
I have been asked by my Bishop if I am living the law of chastity as declared by the church. I have told him that while I have masturbated in the past, and I would also be foolish to believe that it could never happen again, I am doing the best I can to live so that I may enter the temple and worship there. Despite my statements that I feel no need for such things, as I no longer have stress, anxiety and guilt over it as a result of the conclusions that I have come to, my worthiness has still be called into question and I had been asked to not attend the temple for myself or my wife. However once I pointed out that it is unjust, unfair and not right to take my wife’s temple privileges on the basis of my comments and statements is wrong. I declared to him that to take her privilege away is to judge her without merit and that she should never be held back from the temple on the basis of my issues. She may agree with my position but she is not the one who has acted, I have. Thankfully he quickly backtracked on that and conceded the point.
There are many things that are requirements for the temple that are not inherently wrong if not done or meeting such requirements. Paying of tithes, being at least 12, attending church meetings, being baptized, membership for minimum of one year, having access to a temple etc… I view abstaining from masturbation as one of those requirements that is not inherently wrong, but a minimum standard that must be met. Not meeting one of these requirements is not in and of itself sinful.
What is difficult for me is knowing that putting my feelings on this issue out there puts my status in the church at risk. This is an organization that I have grown to love and cherish. Ultimately however, doing what is right, was never easy. I could very well have made this easier for myself and family simply by keeping my mouth shut and not saying anything. That however would not have been the right thing to do and ultimately would be worse for myself and family. I have no regrets and feel as if a large burden has been lifted off my shoulders by sharing my story with you and my Bishop. I can go forward with faith knowing that whatever happens, happens. I can go on knowing that regardless of the outcome I am doing right by myself, my family and my God. And that is ultimately what this life is all about, becoming the best people we can so that when we stand before the judgement bar of God to be judged for the kind of life we live we can do so with confidence and a clean conscience knowing we did everything we could to be the best people we can be.
The Irony in all of this is that if I had said nothing online, nothing to my bishop and just kept quiet, my worthiness for the temple never would have been called in to question. I know that I am worthy to attend and ultimately, however, I will have to accept the Bishops judgement, or Stake President in the event of disciplinary council, whether I agree with it or not. Word on that however is still pending.
And that is the Gospel According to Andrew