I am a Non-Believer?

hiding-catOver the past many months, some members of the LDS Church have called me a non-believer.  Mostly it happens on social media or behind my back as gossip.  Not much opportunity to engage in a heart-to-heart as to what I believe.

Then, yesterday, I had a conversation with a very close friend who is also a member.  As we rambled, he casually referred to me as a non-believer.   It caught me off guard.  It took me aback.  I questioned myself, “I am a non-believer?  How can I possibly be viewed as a non-believer?”

After this friendly interchange, I got in my car to drive away.  I contemplated how others look at me.  Tears began welling.  How can it be that I have faith in Jesus Christ, but am considered a non-believer in the Church of Jesus Christ?  How has it come to this, that faith in Jesus is not enough?  How is it possible that good church members could make this kind of judgment?  It does not feel right.

Jesus Christ.  I believe in His gospel.  I absolutely adore his teachings and example.  They reach into the core of my heart.  So much so, that I’ve decided to place my faith in Him and only in Him.  His way is a true and wonderful way to live a good and fulfilling life.  My goal is to emulate the Savior in word and deed.  Not always an easy task.  ……..So, I am a Non-believer?

The Book of Mormon.  This is a tremendous book of scripture.  It contains teachings of Christ.  It elaborates and elucidates the doctrines of Christ.   It’s another witness of Christ.  It beckons me to follow Him.  The Book of Mormon has blessed my life, my family and the lives of many others.  ….So I’m really just a non-believer?

The Apostolic Leaders of the Church.   I recognize and sustain them as prophets, seers and revelators.  They are good men.  I listen and pay attention to their loving direction.  However, I view them as men, fallible men.  Modern day prophets and apostles can and have led us astray.  That does not invalidate their calling or station.  It validates that they are men.      ….Is it this that makes me a non-believer?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.    I have been a member all my life.  It has served me well.  I have served it diligently and for tens of thousands of hours.  My callings have been full of many treasured experiences.   The church was a vital part of the upbringing of my children.  I love the church.  I am happy that my children and grandchildren still embrace it.   …..Thus, I am a non-believer?

Isolation

Over the past year, I have become acquainted with many active Mormons whose faith has transitioned.  They presently serve in various ward and stake callings.  Yet, they are in hiding.  They suffer or stew in silence.  Some say they are “hanging on by their fingernails.”  Others express that they don’t know how much longer they can take it.  Some have decided to leave when a certain life event occurs.  Still others simply continue in support of a spouse or parent.

So, why don’t these good people broach their concerns and conclusions within their own wards among their own friends?  Why:   IT….IS….NOT….SAFE.

I have been very open about my faith and beliefs.  By many, I have been judged as a non-believer.   That does not make me feel safe.

Some of my active & secretive church friends only believe parts of the LDS gospel.  Some have moved all the way to being atheist.  I can only imagine how unsafe they must feel if someone like me is deemed a non-believer.

Why can’t we come out of isolation, hiding and hurt?  Why can’t we all just be members who are attempting to follow the teachings of Christ?  Without the constant, nagging worry that we will bear a judgmental blot of stigma for our beliefs?

Do YOU view me as a non-believer?  Feel free to comment with a yea or nay.

Jesus PLEADS His Case for Common Consent

imageFive short months ago, I decided to start living, in earnest, the Law of Common Consent.  Since then, I have discussed this commandment with many members.  I have been shocked at how few are familiar with it.  Many have never even heard of it. It’s never taught or discussed in church. Yet, it’s one of the most plainly stated laws of the restored gospel.

So, I’m going to write a few posts on common consent.  In this one, I’ll simply quote Jesus Christ.  This is His church.  Certainly, the words that come directly from Him should take precedence over those flowing from the mouths of men.

Mormonism is my religion. We consider Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. We also view Him as the God of the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and of the Doctrine and Covenants. Here’s what Jesus has to say about the governance of His religious organization.

Old Testament

“Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee.” Jesus Christ, speaking to the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 8:7)

Commentary:  It’s hard to get more clear than this.  Hearken means to listen carefully, to listen with respectful attention.  And in this case, to follow the will of the people, even though it may not be what Jesus would have chosen.  As It turns out, God had already selected Israel’s first king.

Book of Mormon

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law–to do your business by the voice of the people. –Jesus Christ , through His prophet Mosiah (Mosiah 29:26)

Commentary:  God knows that wisdom resides in the majority.  He plainly stated exactly that, here.  Error and the danger of unrighteous dominion lie in the minority.

Doctrine & Covenants

“And a commandment I give unto you, that you should fill all these offices and approve of those names which I have mentioned, or else disapprove of them at my general conference.” –Jesus Christ, speaking to Joseph Smith (D&C 124:144)

Commentary:  The Lord had just revealed who he wanted called to various positions in the church.  Even though these names had come directly from Jesus, He still wanted them presented for approval or disapproval.  God values & trusts the opinion of the general membership of the church.

“And all things SHALL be done by common consent in the church.” –Jesus Christ. (D&C 26:2)

Commentary:  Revelation given to Joseph Smith in July 1830.  Only 3 months after the official organization of the church, the Law of Common Consent was affirmed.  This principle of governance was established well before the apostolic leadership was added.  They are both vital components in the administration of the restored church.

“For all things MUST be done in order, and by common consent in the church.” –Jesus Christ (D&C 28:13)

Commentary:  Here, Jesus reaffirms this essential principle of how His church is to be governed.  This time, He leaves NO wiggle room.  His words have changed from the polite “SHALL be done” to the imperative “MUST be done.”  In His words, this is to be the “order” of the His church.

“It is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” –Jesus Christ, through Joseph Smith (D&C 121:39)

Commentary:  Of course, God knows the nature of men.  The great danger to those entrusted with authority is the temptation of “unrighteous dominion.”  Even mere  mortals recognize this principle.  We proclaim it in these terms, “Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Jesus has organized His church to provide accountability to His leadership.  Thus, helping to avoid unrighteous dominion and the corruption of power.  That accountability is to the general membership in the form of common consent.

Going Forward

Oh, what a glorious thing!  Our Savior, Lord and King has established His church in these latter-days.  He is pleading with His flock to follow him.  Pleading that his flock stand up, as adult fellowcitizens, and actively participate in the governance of His sacred organization. The very first revealed principle for administering the kingdom is the Law of Common Consent.

It’s time for the membership to respond to the pleas of Jesus.  It’s time that we plead Jesus’ case of common consent before the leaders of the church.

I have pled with my upraised hand in sincere and loving opposition.  Opposition to the continued disregard for the Law of God—the commandment of Common Consent.

The Only True Hope for the Only True Church

imageRating the performance of Our Apostles

Good in many areas.
Frightening in others.

Good
Membership at 15 million

Frightening
Two thirds have left the church
More are leaving EVERY DAY

Good
We have a vast missionary force
Annual baptisms in the hundreds of thousands.

Frightening
Baptisms per missionary has plummeted
Church growth rate has plummeted

Good
I’m still in the church and active

Frightening
My mother and all 5 siblings are out or very limited in activity
Many cherished friends have left

Disobedience

Here’s my take on why the church is in trouble. We are taught that obedience is the first law of heaven. When we openly disregard a plain and precious truth, given by Jesus in a very clear manner, what would we expect?  Choose the wrong and the consequences will follow.  And, they won’t be good ones.

Common Consent(CC)

One of the most beautiful parts of the restoration is the structure for the governance of the church.  Unlike many other rules and standards, the Law of Common Consent is plainly taught in our scriptures.  It is mentioned with clarity and frequency in the D&C. The purpose of this post is not to expound on CC.  That will come soon.

This vital and important law establishes a counter-balance to the power, and the temptations of power, that surround the apostles.  Today, the high leaders, as well as the general membership have relegated this Law & Commandment into irrelevancy.

The Blunt Edge

Sometimes bluntness is offensive or downright rude. But, I love my church and it’s founder, Jesus Christ, enough to be blunt. We as the membership as well as the apostles are thumbing our noses at an indispensable commandment.  We are thumbing our noses at obedience. As a result, nobody really knows if we are following God’s will or not.  We don’t know what policies or doctrines are of Christ.

Divine Plan of Church Governance

The Savior has specified how doctrine, policy, scripture, callings, and every other matter that affects the members, are to be established. Encapsulated in four simple steps, Christ’s plan bears witness of His great trust and love for EVERY member of His church.

1. The prophet is to listen to the people in all things.
2. The prophet and apostles present proposals to the people.
3. Whatever is accepted by the people is accepted by God.
4. Whatever is rejected by the people is rejected by God.

This is only happening with regards to callings.  I recognize and sustain President Monson because he was confirmed by common consent.  I accept the inclusion of the blacks in the priesthood, as it was confirmed by common consent. The exclusion of blacks was never confirmed by common consent. It was never the will of God.

Without common consent, we are left with a dictatorship.  That is not in any way, shape, or form God’s plan. We are left to the inevitability of the errors of men, subject to being led astray, justifying doing things that are wrong just because a prophet said so.

It also leaves our prophets completely open to the temptations so common to men in authority.  Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely. According to our scriptures “unrighteous dominion” almost always results when just a little authority is given. If the apostles have unfettered & unaccountable authority, what kind of risk does this pose to these very leaders?  Let alone to the church?

Jesus knew His apostles and prophets would be imperfect men. His solution was to establish the Law of Common Consent.  Disobedience to God’s law by the entire church is wreaking it’s havoc already.  More havoc is to come.

Solution or Destruction

The solution to the problems in The Church of Jesus Christ is in plain view. We as members should demand that “all things MUST be done by common consent.” We as members must consider the policies & doctrines that have not been confirmed as God’s will and weigh-in on them.

This morning, I discussed this with my wife.  She said that the challenge is that we are all so busy that we just let the apostles handle everything.  Of course, she’s right. There’s the problem.  We are so busy that we don’t care about our important place in the governance of God’s earthly kingdom.

This will ultimately result in the destruction of the LDS church.  Maybe not complete destruction.  But, the church has already been destroyed in the lives of two-thirds of the membership.  The vast majority have already fled.  More took flight during the time it took to write this article.

Where are the Good Men?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

Where are the good men who will do something?
Where are the good men who will demand that we follow Jesus?
Where are the good men who will demand that the church obey the law of common consent?
Where are the good men who love the church enough to stay the course, so that His church changes course?

Emotions

As I write, my eyes fill with tears.  I try to hold back the sobs.  The words I type are blurred as I cry.  Can the church of my youth, the church of my adult years be saved?  Can it be redeemed before it’s destroyed in my life and the lives of so many others?

 

Mr. Cubit’s Shocking Gay Interview

Anonimity

Mr. Cubit

I met Mr. Cubit about 2 years ago.  It was around the time that my church questions started to coalesce.  He has witnessed my entire journey and has been a great support.  In fact, he has been very influential in the path I’ve chosen.  For the time being, he’s asked me to maintain his anonymity.  After reading this, I think you’ll understand his quest to remain obscure.

The Gay Interview

Sam:  Could you describe your current status within the LDS church?

Mr. Cubit:  I’m an active, believing, heterosexual member.  My life has revolved around the church my entire life.  It’s a wonderful organization.  But, it is not perfect.  Changes should and will be made.

Sam:   You are aware that I strongly disapprove of the church’s exclusionary policy toward children of gay parents.  But, you recently told me something that takes LGBT concerns to a new level.  I was a bit shocked with what you had to say.  Can you elaborate here?

Mr. Cubit:  I’ll just blurt it out.  GAY SEX IS NOT A SIN.  Heterosexual sex is not a sin within marriage.  Neither is gay sex.

Sam:  How did you come to that conclusion?

Mr. Cubit:  The apostles recently disavowed and condemned our past racist beliefs, doctrine and policies.  This is a courageous game changer.  We are finally admitting that prophets can and do get important matters wrong.  This condemnation covers official practices that spanned over 125 years and during the tenure of most presidents of the latter-day church.  The apostles explain that there is no known revelation that implemented the discrimination towards blacks of African decent.  They speculate that church leaders simply fell victim to the prevailing culture of the time.  In other words, it wasn’t God who implemented racism, it was the leadership. 

Sam:  What does that have to do with gay sex?

Mr Cubit:  For a long, long time, we have had a homophobic society.  Just as God is not racist, he is not homophobic.  Rather, I believe that we, as a church, as well as our leadership, have simply fallen victim to the the culture of our time. 

Sam:  How can you possibly say that?

Book of Mormon

Mr. Cubit:  First, I love our LDS scriptures.  The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel.  Yet, not one homophobic peep.  It’s a book of scripture that was prepared for our day.  An ancient document preserved to direct us in the last dispensation.  Homosexuality is a major issue in the modern era.  Yet, no mention whatsoever.  This book is the Keystone of our religion.  How can we make anti-gay sex a keystone of our doctrine if the Keystone containing the fullness doesn’t condemn it?

What’s more, we have the Doctrine and Covenants.  This is actual modern day revelation from God.  It supports our Keystone.  Just like the Book of Mormon, nary a mention of this supposedly horrendous sin.  God warns of wine, tobacco, and to use meat sparingly.  But, where is the warning of the “far worse” sin of homosexuality.  It’s completely absent.

There is a pattern here, comparable to race and the priesthood.  There was no formal or canonized revelation to exclude blacks.  There is no formal or canonized revelation to exclude homosexuals.  It simply reflects societal views.  God is not racist or homophobic.  He created blacks, black.  He created homosexuals, homosexual.  

Sam:  OK.  What about the bible?

Mr. Cubit:  The Book of Mormon and Doctrine of Covenants witness of Jesus Christ.  They also witness of his teachings.  Here’s what Jesus had to say about homosexuals and gay sex:  NOTHING.  No warning, no condemnation, no exclusion.  For me, that’s one of those powerful confirmations that our LDS scriptures come from God.

Sam:  Aren’t there biblical references that condemn gay sex?

Mr Cubit:  This topic could be a whole interview, by itself.  I’ll try to be short.  The bible does not address sexual orientation or same-sex marriage.  We believe in the bible “as far as it’s translated correctly.”  Many believe these passages are incorrectly interpreted or poorly translated.  Mormons are very selective on what we literally take from the bible.  For example, Paul says that women should not speak in church.  Long hair for men is unnatural.  This revered apostle seemed to sanction slavery, instructing slaves to obey their masters with deep respect.  And, the Old Testament…tons of weird and immoral laws and practices. 

Sam:  The church’s position is that “same sex attraction” is not a sin.  Acting on it is.  Gay people are instructed to refrain from romantic relations for their entire life.

Mr Cubit:  I’m going to use some harsh words here.  There is no way that I could look a gay man in the eyes and say, “The most fulfilling & joyous aspect of my life is a lifelong, romantic & intimate relationship with a person whom I deeply love.  Now, listen up, my homosexual friend, you can never have this.  If you do, you are doomed to hell.”  I find this doctrine arrogant & insensitive, hypocritical and harmful.  There are reports of suicides among our gay youth.  How could there not be, when we offer such a hopeless and damning message.

Sam:  Have you ever brought this up at church or with the leaders?

Mr. Cubit:  No.

Sam:  Why not?

Mr. Cubit:  I value my membership.  Sharing this opinion could result in excommunication.

Sam:  That sounds highly unlikely.

Mr. Cubit:  Not long ago, a couple posted their objection to the teachings about polygamy in D&C 132.  Their stake president demanded that they take down the post.  They refused.  Church discipline was threatened.  They are now disaffected.

Sam:  That’s hard to believe.  So, you have never talked with anybody about this before?

Mr. Cubit:  I’ve talked to 4 members.  But, I have to be super careful.  Discuss with the wrong person…judgment, gossip and possible reports to my bishop.  Here is what these 4 told me.  1) Active, former bishop, not you, Sam.  He said it’s not a sin.  Huge surprise.  2)  Gay friend who left the church after November’s policy…not a sin.  Not a surprise.  3) Semi-active, believing member…not a sin, but doesn’t like to think about it.  A surprise.  4) Active, semi-believing member…of course it’s a sin.  #4 reacted so strongly and judgmentally, that I’m really gun-shy to discuss…unless I know it’s totally safe. 

Sam:  #3 said he doesn’t like to think about it.  How do you feel about that?

Mr. Cubit:  Last year I asked my stake president about a particular sexual practice.  I wanted to know if it was sinful within marriage.  He spoke with wisdom. “I don’t ask any questions about what happens in the bedroom.  That’s between the couple.”  Wow!  I feel the same way about a married gay couple.  I don’t want to know about their bedroom.  Nor, do I want to share with anyone what goes on in mine.

Sam:  Do you think the church will ever change it’s doctrine about homosexuality?

Mr. Cubit:  They will be forced to.  Society is changing all around them.  The pace of change is quickening.  Eventually, corrections will be made to mirror the culture.  Today, we don’t tolerate racism.  Tomorrow, the rising generation will not tolerate homophobia.  Thank heavens.

Sam:  Anything else you would like to share?

Mr. Cubit:  At a recent stake conference, a general authority seventy, said this to LGBT members: “We love you, we understand you, we respect you, we need you. You bring a richer sense of understanding and spirit. Please stay with us.”  

That’s a step in the right direction.  I’d add.  “If you can’t stay with us, I can totally understand.  God loves you just the way you are.  He is going to reverse the current policies and doctrine, but it may take awhile.  In the meantime, I love you whether you leave or stay, remain single or marry.  I support and love you either way.  And so does God!

Sam:  Thanks for being honest and open.  And…thanks for trusting me enough to share what could elicit strong judgmental thinking towards you.

You’re Not Broken—I’m Sorry

Budapest Shoes

Children’s Apology

Last year, my wife and I traveled to the congenial country of Hungary.  We toured The Great Synagogue of Budapest, the largest in Europe.  Hungary is still struggling to come to terms with its treatment of their Jewish population during WWII.  By war’s end, at least 70% had been murdered.

Our tour guide told us of a recent concert she had attended.  It was a singing & dancing group of German high schoolers.  At the beginning of the program, a couple of the children stepped forward.  They apologized for crimes their country had perpetrated during that long-ago war.

The story touched me.  Born years after this horror, these children had had no part in it.  They were not official spokespersons for their country.  Yet, they were willing to apologize to a people who had been wronged.

Here’s my attempt to follow their poignant example.  An official spokesperson for the LDS Church, I’m not.  But, I am the church.  At least part of the church.  At least a single part of the church.  And this little part of the church, along with any who will join in my cry say,  I am Sorry!  We are sorry!

Rainbow Ribbon

To My Gay Friends, Both Known and Un

For all the ways we’ve been wrong—I’m Sorry.

  • When I was young, church & culture tutored that gay was foul and perverted. I wish the prophet had spoken.  You weren’t broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • You chose to be gay.  So the leaders say.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  You’re not broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • chairTo some, they tried to shock your gay away.  At the Lord’s college, you were strapped in a chair, electrodes placed down there.  Movies of naked men were turned on.  If you were turned on, an electric shock in turn was turned on.  You wanted the strongest current to be cured.  But, gay doesn’t work in those ways.  You were simply tortured in those days.  An elder from my mission endured this, in submission.  Today, he’s still gay.  From the church, he’s parted ways.  Oh, how I wish the prophet had spoken.  You were not broken.  I went along, although I didn’t know.  Now, I’m so, so, sorry.  Tears blur my eyes.  I just want to cry….I’m sorry. I’m sorry
  • You were told to pray and pray and soon the gay would just go away.  Of course it didn’t.  You became depressed.  Maybe next time pray and pray ALL of the day.  Still gay and more depression came your way.  With no cure, some couldn’t endure.  By their own hand they sent themselves to the heavenly land.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  These precious people were not broken. We were dead wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • “Get married,” your respected leaders said!  You faithfully followed, while full of dread.  Your gay didn’t magically go away.  Now, with children and spouse, heartache and shame, you finally came out, and all suffered pain.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  Now a family’s broken. We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • Finally, something sure, that would result in a cure. You agree to participate in reparative therapy.  Humiliated, disgraced, and degraded again.  You cry because no matter what you can’t win. Now, this procedure is discredited & thrown in the trash bin.  Why couldn’t the prophet have spoken?  You were not broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • With Prop 8, we tried to legislate away, the rights to marry if you were gay.  I don’t know if the prophet had spoken.  What I know is, you are not broken.  This was wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • Last November the edict came.  Out of love was the claim.  If the gay marry, throw them away.  Really?  It just sounds wrong.  These are my friends.  I don’t want to follow along.  I’m sorry.
  • November’s policy also contains what I consider to be a stain. Children of parents who are gay, will have God’s choicest blessings taken away.  No baptism at 8, no holy spirit to guide, no priesthood at any rate.  With shame, the policy will make  kids want to run & hide.  Has a prophet really spoken?  The rules are broken.  We are wrong.  This time I will not go along.  I’m sorry.

I wish the prophet had spoken.  You are not broken.  We were wrong.  Next time, I will not just go along.  I love who you are, just as you are.  Of that, I feel very strong.

I’m Sorry.

Joseph Smith IS My Hero

image.jpeg

Born & raised in the Mormon Church, I was taught that Joseph Smith has done more for the salvation of mankind, except for Jesus Christ.  Joseph was highly respected and revered.  Sixty-two years of my life transpired before I heard the proverbial “rest of the story.”

Over the past 2 years, I have studied, pondered, discussed & prayed……a ton. Joseph Smith had big problems. The narrative taught in the church has huge holes. At this point, I DO NOT dismiss the historical and doctrinal issues. However, the topic of this blog posting is not the challenges. Rather, the subject is just one quote from Joseph. One that I love.  I wish it were taught in the LDS Church, the very church that he founded.

My Favorite Scripture

We are taught that words from the prophets that are spoken under the direction of the Holy Spirit are scripture. To me, the following paragraph is so gorgeous that I’m taking it as inspired by the Spirit. That makes it scripture.

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them — even if they knew it was wrong. But such obedience as this is worse than folly to us. It is slavery in the extreme. The man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise this idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.” — Joseph Smith, Jr. in the Millennial Star, volume 14, number 38, pages 593-595.*

Why Do I Like This So Much?

Let me count the ways.

  1. LDS culture–follow the prophets, even when they are wrong.  JS–that is “slavery in the extreme.”
  2. If we follow leaders even when they are wrong–JS:  We “should not claim a rank among intelligent beings.”
  3. When LDS leaders say follow “no matter what” and “without any questions” they (the leaders) generally “have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.”

Wow!  Just Wow!  Joseph Smith, you are my hero!!!  Can we print those words in the sacrament meeting program?  Every week?  Can we discuss this prophetic pronouncement out in the open in priesthood meeting?

It appears that Joseph was warning of and condemning the very culture that seems to be prevalent, today.  No wishy-washy words.  Spoken with perfect clarity.  I embrace them.  So special are these words that I’ve decided to go even further.  To obey when I know it’s wrong or to obey without question….I now classify as an unholy practice…for me.  I won’t “willingly degrade” myself.  My desire is to claim a “rank among intelligent beings.”

Of course, this is only my interpretation. I recognize that many of my friends and family believe in following without question, even if it’s wrong.  That’s OK.  It’s a path that I followed for 62 years. It’s a fine approach and consistent with our culture. I hope my friends and family will be equally non-judgmental of my approach.

THANK YOU

Even with all your problems, thank you, Joseph. You are my hero.

* There are questions about the authorship of the quote. Some have attributed it to Joseph Smith.  Some, say it was likely composed by someone else. All questions aside, there are 2 things that I “know.” 1) It was printed in a church publication, sanctioned by church authorities. 2) This quote has huge appeal to me. So, I’ve embraced an official view straight from an official church journal. I’m glad to err on the side of Joseph Smith and refer to him as my hero.

This is somewhat of a pattern for me. For example, there are some who say Jesus didn’t really exist. That the gospels were written decades after Christ’s death. That they don’t contain first hand accounts. Contradictions and other problems are easy to identify.  To me, if He is real or not doesn’t much matter. I love the teachings and example that are attributed to Jesus.  So, I’ve embraced His gospel. I’m glad to err on the side of Christ and refer to him as my Savior.

Taboo

***Warning–Adult Topic***

If offended by mature matters, pause your perusal NOW!!!   I mean it.

Quiet. Young woman with her finger on lips.

Masturbation

There you go. I’ve said it. I’ve said it out loud and in print. Whew!  When I became a man, at 62, I finally gained the courage to make this hitherto verboten verbalization. So, if you are under 62, or not adult yet…please pause your perusal, NOW.

In order to not overuse this provocative term, I will also refer to the subject as SS (self-satisfaction).

Background

In my religion, the youth are generally taught that masturbation is a sin.  Some bishops and their counsellors regularly pose the question, to young girls and boys, “Do you touch yourself down there?”  This starts at age 12 and continues until 18.  Queries regarding this sexual practice are made behind closed doors by an older adult male. The man and the child are alone.  No parent is present.  Usually, the parents are unaware that SS is being discussed with their child.  Almost universally, the adult leader asking the question is untrained in how to discuss sexual matters with a child. Often, a twelve year old’s first introduction to the term ‘masturbation’ is when he/she is questioned by their ecclesiastical leader.

Fortunately, at least I consider it fortunate, when I was growing up, no adult leader ever brought this subject up in a private interview.  For over 5 years, I served as a Mormon bishop.  During that time I never once asked anyone, adult or child, about SS.  It simply never entered my mind.  No direction or training was ever given by my ecclesiastical leaders that I should delve into such matters with the kids.

The purpose of this blog post is not to explore whether or not masturbation is a sin for young people.  But, I do have BIG concerns about the practice of adult men questioning 12 year old girls, behind closed doors, without a parent’s knowledge, permission, or presence. Frankly, it sounds creepy and inappropriate. But, again, that’s not the point of this treatise.

Adults

My real question is this: “For married people, is masturbation a sin?”  During my entire adulthood, which now spans 4 decades, I have never once heard this issue addressed.  You may be wondering, “Why do I care?”  Patience, my reasons are detailed further on.

Attempt #1:  My first attempt to find the answer was last summer. In priesthood, a men’s meeting held on Sunday, the topic of chastity came up. I said, “I have some questions about what the law of chastity entails.” Immediately, this response was given, “We don’t talk about details of forbidden activities relating to chastity. It can unnecessarily give people ideas.” OK.

Attempt #2:  Since, I’d been stopped in my tracks at church, I decided to ask for opinions in private.  To eleven friends and family, I posed this question, “For a married person, is masturbation a sin?  I was shocked at the results.  Remember, these eleven are all members of the LDS church.  Perhaps my friends and family are more liberal than most.

Results:
1 = Yes. It’s a sin.
5 = No. Some discomfort, not knowing exactly where the church stood.
5 = No. Categorically, not a sin.

Attempt #3:  A couple of weeks later, the lesson for the men’s meeting was going to focus on chastity.  After my prior experience, I wasn’t taking any chances. Once the teacher introduced the topic, I blurted out my question, “Is masturbation a sin if you are married?”  The instructor’s response, “I’m so glad you asked that.  I wanted to talk about it, but didn’t know how to bring it up.”  Amazingly, an open and frank discussion ensued.  I’m sure it was uncomfortable for many.  A semblance of a consensus was reached.  “Masturbation is not a sin, as long as you discuss it with your wife first.”  S…H…O…C…K…I…N…G   Only one person voiced an opposing opinion, “Like abortion is next to murder, I consider masturbation next to adultery.”   In attempts #2 & #3, the vast majority of LDS members believed SS was not a sin if married.

Attempt #4:  So far, I had only posed my query to rank-n-file church goers. Certainly, the leadership could give a definitive answer. NOPE.

Leader A:  “Why do you even care, Sam?”
Leader B:  Unwilling to give any answer to the question.
Leader C:  “I never ask about what goes on in a couple’s bedroom.”
Leader D:  “It doesn’t say anything in the manual.”
So, what the heck does that mean? Clear direction?  No way.  Sin or not sin?  It appears that nobody really knows.

Out of the eleven who I individually interviewed, 4 had been asked by a bishop or stake president if they engaged in SS. Wouldn’t that alone indicate that it’s a sin? Otherwise, it sounds perverse to ask about such a personal practice in a personal interview.

Why Do I Care?

Consider the following scenarios.

  1. It IS a sin. However, many members view SS as not a sin. Isn’t it important that we warn them? Sin has consequences. In this life and the next. Ultimately, we could lose our salvation. Big reason for the prophets to send a clear and unmistakable message…..It’s sinful.
  2. It is NOT a sin. In that case, it’s unfortunate that some members view masturbation as a SERIOUS sin.  A person engaged in a practice he views as sinful is subject to guilt, shame & depression. Why would we let a person suffer in silence when their behavior is not sinful?  That seems SUPER cruel.  Gigantic reason for the prophets to send a clear and unmistakable message…..It’s NOT sinful.
  3. It’s up to each individual to determine if it’s sinful or not. Yes, I have been told that.  Not sure that I understand it.  But, I kind of like the concept of God giving me agency to decide for myself.  Whatever I decide, He won’t hold it against me.  But, again, it seems like the message should be clearly stated by the leadership rather than speculated by the members.

Conclusion

We have made masturbation a Taboo topic.  Yet, it’s consequences are ambiguous. Balmy for some, brutal for others. So, why do I care?  It brings a little anger and a little teardrop, thinking that someone in my congregation is needlessly suffering guilt, shame & depression.