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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Tuesday
Aug292006

Mormon Masturbation Manifesto

I've been reading a book called 'Leaving The Saints' by Martha Beck. Like me, Martha was born and raised in Provo, Utah. Her father was high up in Mormon heirarchy. The book is blowing my mind. I know it came out nearly a year ago.. I've been avoiding reading it because I just didn't want to deal.. Specifically because I haven't resolved my Mormon messiness. Additionally, I didn't really want her book to influence anything I write as our experiences within the Mormon church were, for the most part, extremely different.

One thing that caught my eye I will share for you. It might help explain my fucked-upness when it comes to sex. Not that I've shared that little bit of fun with you all in any great detail, but fuck it. I have sexual issues. Issues. Such a general word for some shit that can destroy a marriage. Anyway.. to give you a taste of what would cause such issues in a young Mormon woman I will quote an excerpt from Beck's book.

"The Latter-day Saint (Mormon) attitude toward physical desire is more what you'd imagine hearing from Queen Victoria if she'd lived in the 1950's and joined the John Birch Society. Mormon leaders rarely speak out about sex except to state that it is direly forbidden to anyone who isn't sealed in the covenant to that one special man (or forty-eight special woman). When they do tackle some sex-related issue, these leaders spare no effort in encouraging Mormons, young and old, to repress their physical urges.

Let me show you what I mean by quoting a tract that was once widely disseminated among the Saints. It was written by one of Mormonism's twelve apostles to help flawed but well-meaning Church members avoid the insidious sin of autoeroticism. This selection is mild, compared to the whole document, but it will give you the general tenor of Mormon attitudes toward sex. The following is printed just as it was in the origingal document, capital letters and all.

-If you are associated with other persons having this same problem (masturbation), you must break off their friendship. Never associate with outher people having the same weakness...You must get away from people of that kind.

-When you bathe, do not admire yourself in a mirror. Never stay in the bath more than five or six minutes. Then GET OUT OF THE BATHROOM AND GO INTO ANOTHER ROOM WHERE YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

If the temptation seems overpowering while you are in bed, GET OUT OF BED AND GO INTO THE KITCHEN AND FIX YOURSELF A SNACK, even if it is in the middle of the night, and even if you are not hungry, and despite your fears of gaining weight.

KEEP THE PROBLEM OUT OF YOUR MIND BY NOT MENTIONING IT EVER - NOT IN CONVERSATION WITH OTHERS, NOT IN YOUR PRAYERS, KEEP IT OUT of your mind!...

-A Book Of Mormon, firmly held in hand, even in bed at night has proven helpful...

-In very severe cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to the bed frame with a tie in order that the habit of masturbating in a semi-sleep condition can be broken..."

Duuuude... Is it any wonder I'm in dire need of serious counseling? But enough about this.. I'm unemployed, The Surge isn't home and I've got a vibrator in my bedroom that's calling my name. Maybe I should follow that last rule and tie my hand to the bed frame.. Kinda kinky, no?

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Reader Comments (30)

That is real Mormon literature? Good god almighty. I am emailing this to everyone I know.
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJib
Speaking of Mormon sexuality, they finally caught Warren Jeffs dispicable ass:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060829/ap_on_re_us/polygamist_arrested

Truly, one unsavory SOB.

Otherwise, have a good afternoon with The Rabbit.
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterereiberg
I went to a "Leaving the Saints" book signing and poor Martha had private security in the bookstore, along with local police in the parking lot. Way to go, stupid, righteous Mormons, sending death threats because someone dare to release a book against your beliefs. If you haven't already, you might want to check out the book website, especially the "response" section.

http://www.leavingthesaints.com/mail.html
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPants
I honestly cannot imagine what makes someone think in that way. Then the nerve of them to make young people believe it...
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRocky Raccoon
Is that for real? I am totally and utterly speechless. WTF? That is insane. Those poor, poor young Mormons.
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
I am amazed by the lack of humanity when dealing with sexuality! I know so many people who have been screwed up by Religion telling them how they're supposed to be... they never seem to really get out from under the early teachings they learned.

I was chased by The Mormons when I was in college. The missionaries were trying to convert me, and I literally ran down the hallway of my dorm to escape the boys in ties.
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
At some point we will all be in hell together having a great time...THE RABBIT, you, me, people we know, people we hate and the tub of Ben and Jerry's ice cream I consumed last night...all of us. It is going to be a great party. Hope your 'counseling session' with yourself went well Monica...you definitely could use some release I think...
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
I grew up embarrassed at the fact that my Mom ran around the house naked flopping her titties all over the place. She was not bashful in anyway whatsoever. I also grew up Baptist that mentioned the hell, fire and brimstone of fornication in every sermon. Although the Baptist did not have their views spelled out as clearly as the Mormons... I grew up with the same fears as you. I am now 37 years old and thanks to the help of my husband of one year we have slowly worked through these issues. I have become comfortable with my sexuality and it has been such a relief.
You can break out of it but it takes time AND patience. I'm still no "Samantha" but it sure is a hell of a lot more fun than ever before!!!
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJustified
if you want a good laugh check out: www.feministmormonhousewives.com
these women think they are such feminist!
August 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah
Condemning masturbation but promoting bondage. I see.

;)

August 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTab
I read Leaving the Saints about 2 months ago. Since I was raised in a devout household and my mother had *so many* Nibley books, I thought Beck's book was mind-blowing, even though I haven't been active in years and had sort of shelved some feelings for a while.

Like you, I also avoided reading her book for a while. Once I read it, I was surprised at the sense of relief I felt about my current life. I'd always wondered if I'd ever be okay with leaving the religion behind. I hadn't thought about it in a couple of years. Reading the book got me to the point where I realized I was a lot more okay as an "apostate" than I ever expected. I felt so much better that my hopes were confirmed...like another puzzle piece was in place. Also, it was great to have her more-coherent thoughts on life in Provo in the mid90s. She put into words what I felt there (...mostly alienation).

I've done some poking around here and there, reading excerpts of comments by siblings and her now ex-husband (who sounds like a goddamn saint, if you ask me). I was disheartened afterwards, reading about how she'd omitted some (what I consider) important details in LtS, so I'm on the fence as to whether or not I buy her story fully or not. Not that the details necessarily invalidate her claims, but they would have changed my perspective a little bit -- in such a way, that some doubts have crept in. But regardless of 100% accuracy, it resonated so strongly with me that I can't deny that.
August 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersally simpleton
Yeah.. She completely leaves out the fact that she recovered her memory using self-hypnosis etc.. I also feel like she went a bit overboard describing Provo.. Although most of it rings true I have trouble believing a neighbor knocked on her door and tried to convince her daughter (in front of Martha) to come down the street and get baptized. Also, I don't know if I buy the fact a hairdresser made her call her husband to ask for permission to cut her hair. Aside from that, my reaction to the book pretty much mirrors yours.
August 30, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko
Dude, you wanna talk issues, we could talk issues. I'm right there with you in that department.

I waited a long time to read "Under the Banner of Heaven" even though I love Jon Krauker's books for the same reason. I was scared of what I might have to deal with in regards to my religious upbringing. But in the end, I felt much like sally said in her comments. I felt better and more sure about my decision. I don't know if I will read "Leaving the Saints", I guess I'm still not ready to completely deal...

I do think falling asleep with a BoM in your hand is hilarious though. Nice one.
August 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnother Monica
As a Mormon teenager, I remember getting my hands on this pamphlet and laughing my ass off. Thank God, I had enough sense to know that this was totally asinine. Reading it again, I'm getting kinda hot just thinking about tying my hand to the bedframe.
August 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramy
Unhappily for me, I bought into the Mormon Masturbation Manifesto and thought masturbation was a one-way ticket to hell well into my twenties. All that talk of fire and brimstone etc.. Thank God my boyfriend bought me a back massager or I'd never have discovered myself.
August 30, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko
I ache for you. Honey, this isn't they way most mormons feel. If it was written a billion years ago by A member that's their misguided misfortune. I certainly would never counsel someone to not talk about it. And I would never, ever ditch a friend who has something they WANT to overcome. If they don't want to, I don't judge them. Friends are precious. And I know I've never been taught to abandon friendships because of the standards. Yes, I do believe in waiting till you're sealed, even though I didn't make it (Got my own issues) But I was never told not to talk about it or acknowledge it. It has been useful to me. I want my daughter to wait just because I want her heart protected by someone under covenant to do so. My heart was shredded a million different directions, and I don't want that for her.

I am not going to preach to you. Just know I'm sorry for your experience. No one should ever feel shunned by their religious family. That's where a person is most vulnerable. I truly am sorry you were treated with such disrespect.
August 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSurrenderDorothy
In my culture the woman can do this to a man but when she fingers 'the pink satan' it is very possible that the village elders cut of hand or even a nose.

I am kind of upset to read a thing like this cuz i liked this blog. But i know it is to give the audients what it wants.
August 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHamad A. Kh.
This is strange... I find myself in the rare position of "defender" of the Mormon Church.

Like Monica and Martha, I am no longer a believer in Mormonism. The transition from believer to non-believer was accompanied by much pain, sorrow, and depression, both for myself and for my family and friends. I disagree with many Church policies/teachings (masturbation being but one of them) and I frequently speak out on these points of disagreement. I am affiliated with communities within and without the Church that are either openly critical or are trying to effect change from within.

Having said all that, I'd be very careful about accepting much of Leaving the Saints at face value. I've been surprised at the near universal reaction of the communities critical of the Church, and the way they've tried to distance themselves from Beck's book. It seems much of her story just doesn't hold up.

I've met and/or heard many of Martha's family/relatives speak and find them very credible. Some of them are non-believers and critics of the Church.

For those interested in this debate, the Sunstone Foundation held a fascinating panel discussion about Beck's book last year, a panel that included some of Beck's siblings. Unfortunately, it costs $3 I think to download, but I think its worth it. I was in attendance and found it riveting. It is called: SL05162, How Reliable Are Our Memories? Memory Creation and Retrieval in Relation to Martha Beck's 'Leaving the Saints' You can download it here: http://www.sunstoneonline.com/symposium/symp-mp3s.asp Click on 2005 Salt Lake Symposium and scroll half way down.

Martha Beck is a great writer and she tells a whopper of a good story... I just wonder how much of it really happened, and how much of it is in her head? (Not unlike Joseph Smith).
August 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJim N. E. Cricket
deborah... don't be harshin' on my sistas at Feminist Mormon Housewives. :) Those are some cool chicks. Like Monica, every one of them is engaged in a search for self, a search for truth/meaning/etc, and are attempting to reconcile their personal beliefs with Mormon institutional beliefs. They might not choose to break completely away from Mormonism the way Monica has, but they are just as fierce in their determination to define their feminist self in the face of a sometimes overbearing patriarchal tradition.

The irony is that, as a long-time fan of "the girl who", I've posted a link at FMH to TGW in the past because I thought some would find Monica's journey fascinating, to say nothing of her writing . I realized of course that some wouldn't be able to related to the girl who, but I believe there are many who would.

Cut them some slack...
August 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJim N. E. Cricket
just to add, after all your teenage years I'm happy that you could find you, true and real you and you enjoy it :)
and now you can judge and chooce whatever you want without blame yourself about issues staff:) anyway I've got the same issues problem sometimes as well (i'm from catholic familly, and all that issues staff was kinda taboo when I was teenager as well) and... the worst thing about religion is when it enjoin and manipulate (the easiest young people) right, I know that it's all about it, right, but the worst worst thing is that priests are also a human being and for sure they have their needs...it's kinda iniquity and trick and after that teenage religion teach we struggle with ourselves for a long time, asking ourselves to blame or not to blame...
August 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
It's this idea about sex and about the 'self' that basically led to me giving up on myself at a very early age.

I was born into the mormon church and stopped going when I was about 16 or 17. I tried to go after I was no longer being made to, but eventually stopped because I came to the realization I only went because I was never given a choice.

There are plenty of other things I could never resolve, but it was the idea -- from a very early age -- that everything I was thinking, everything I said, thought or did was evil that made me hate going to church and finally made me go (probably from elementary school on) 'I'm damned to hell anyway -- what's the point?'

I am not saying anything against the church and if that's what 'does it' for people then more power to them, but I was only ever unhappy and that can't be right: to be unhappy because of church. Religion is supposed to be a comfort & a strength.

I owe a lot to a screwed up mormon upbringing: lots of guilt and issues still, but for me, I think, not going anymore was the choice for me. I'm happy now.
September 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Wow, ya'll twisted the original message and then started twisting all of the other twisted "doctrine" I think that means it must be false! and, I even found a typo in the BOM, it is of the Devil
October 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersinner
haven't read becks book, but have read the anti-masturbation pamphlet, and i'm semi-active lds. i've had a few different bishops tell me a different thing everytime the subject comes up, and, i am pretty confidant no one knows exactly what they're talking about.the only good advice i've had on the subject was a leader who simply said "just don't let it get out of hand". the pamphlet by petersen was widely spread largely as a result of bishops being scared to talk to youth about masturbation. its not really an issue with me. its a healthy thing to do emotionally, physically and mentally, but it can get out of hand.
November 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeadcityrebel

Hey guys and gals out there,

I read over the Mormon philosophy on why and how a person should abstain from masturbating. It's some pretty interesting and amusing content. All I can say is that Mormonism, like everyone else, is entitled to his or her own opinion. I believe their philosophical reasoning is quite off base, and I must say, their rationale and approach to the subject is some what convoluted, to say the least.

Now, I am definitely of the opinion that, according to a strictly medical and psychological perspective, masturbation is healthful. But, even though something may be convenient, it may not be, appropriate and masturbation is not. Allow me to expound.

Doctors, both medical and mental health, approach the subject strictly on a physical and emotional level. However, if you claim to be a Christian (Christ like) you must not ignore the spiritual aspect of this, or any act. Jesus is the great physician who came to unshackle us from the bonds and vises that enslave us to them. One of the greatest bonds of enslavement that he spoke against is the sin of the flesh, that is the desire to fulfill ones own selfish lusts.

First of all, masturbation is a self-ish act. A self-ish act is an act that profits no other person except the one committing the act. When a person commits an immature act he/she is said to be child-ish. When a person commits an act that is unwise he/she is said to be fool-ish. When a person commits an act of personal indulgence that benefits no one else he/she is said to be self-ish. Some one that does not share his/her experiences with another or others is self-ish. Are you self-ish? The only venue for sharing these emotional highs, and orgasmic thrills is in tender sensual love making with our partners in marriage. This sharing can be the most mind tingling exhilaration that anyone can even imagine.

Now, eating can be misconstrued as a self-ish act. For it benefits no one beside the person that indulges, maybe except for the little Italian mother that just wants you to eat. But the fact is, feeding on physical food is needful to our survival. Masturbation is not, in any stretch of the imagination, needful. So, you see the need overrides the self-ish act.

Jesus said in Matthew's gospel "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart". The act of adultry is enjoying the pleasures of sexual gratification outside the bonds of holy matrimony. Masturbating before a picture of a person, for sexual arousal, with the intent and conception of having sexual relations with this person is lust of the heart, which Jesus so explicitly translates into adultry. Adultry is a sin of the heart and mind that separates us (Christians) from the perfect love of a holy God.

No, I'm not saying that I do not masturbate, it is something that I struggle with every day, and we know that everyone has sexual desires and tensions. What I am saying here is that if a person does not experience feelings of remorse and guilt after having followed through with the act of masturbation than that person is one of two things. Either that person is misinformed and immature in his/her Christian relationship or that person is not a Christian at all but simply going through the motions.

As I stated previously, I believe entirely that masturbation is physically and emotionally healthy. Speaking as a man, as only I can, routine ejaculation is healthful to the prostate. Ejaculation washes the urethra of bacteria. Ejaculation releases built up sexual tensions, which is emotionally healthful. But the act of mentally lusting, and burning with sexual tension, to arouse oneself to sexual climax is tantamount to adultery, and adultery is sin.

Now, if one can reach sexual arousal without lusting after the flesh, there is no harm, mental, physical or spiritual, whatsoever in the act. But I cannot get my self sexually aroused to climax in a 10 megaton ejaculation by envisioning the love and splendor of God, it just does not work. So, unless a person can achieve such tremendous sexual mind control, masturbation can only result in one thing and one thing only, a broken relationship within the perfect love of God.

There is only one way to stop masturbating, and that is to stay in the divine will of God. Don't allow yourself to get to the literal boiling point of sexual arousal. I have had no desire to masturbate until I start thinking lustful thoughts. I can try to dismiss the thoughts, but they only reappear moments later. Why? Because we are human beings with sexual desire. But, along with our tongues, sexual desire must be bridled, and it can only be tamed by the Spirit of God. Jesus said that we must shun evil, resist the devil and he will flee from you. My point is, you and I can not do it on our own, no man or woman can. Jesus was tempted in all areas as we are. That is why Jesus made his life a prayer vigil before his Father in Heaven. If you are not on your toes before God at all times, this world and the lust of the flesh will consume you alive.

Now, If you are a true believer in God's word and are one that is concerned with the love, power and guidence of the almighty, you will see the logic and sense in this arguement and rethink your understandings and beliefs on masturbation. God wants you totally submitted in accord with his righteousness. Masturbation is self-ish, unrighteous, adultrey, which is SIN and rebellion against God's mandates.

For those of you who desire to continue in your vise of self-ish sexual gratification, I can only leave you with one parting thought. God, in Jesus Christ, has instituted a love to this world that transcends any emotional aspect that we can even imagine as love. That is the true climax that is actually being sought by the multitudes. But, sadly, instead of recognizing this, they continue to substitute a cheap, emotional, fleshly lust for the perfect love of God in Christ Jesus. I pray earnestly, that you too, will discover this inner strength of the Holy Spirit of God, and that the mind of Christ may renew you in such a way as to break the bonds of self-ish carnality. I leave you with this scripture:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not perfect in love.

Jesus Christ
I John 4:18

March 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMyself Alone

A SENSITIVE CONSCIENCE IS A SIGN OF A HEALTHY SPIRIT. REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS RENEW YOUR PEACE OF CONSCIENCE. LEARN TO FOLLOW YOUR CONSCIENCE. FAITH, HUMILITY, AND DILIGENCE. ASK, AND YE SHALL RECEIVE; KNOCK, AND IT SHALL BE OPENED UNTO YOU, AMEN.

March 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterELDER JOHN M. ANDERSON

I only saw your copy of the pamphlet - there was no reference to it other than your document, it cannot be independently verified. Also if it WAS real, considering the psychology of the age on such a subject that sounds like something someone would say - but that doesn't mean it comes from where you're alluding that it came from. It's just academically irresponsible trash to publish something like that without those pieces of information. You know better...or ought to, and the people reading it ought to as well. That or it wouldn't matter if it existed or not, they just believe what they want to believe.

Forget the church, the article is academcially unsubstantiated.

February 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermatt

"Academically unsubstantiated"? This is a blog, not a thesis. Also, both my parents remember the pamphlet. I don't give a good God damn about your academic bullshit. I grew up in the church, experienced this behavior first-hand and owe all my sexual dysfuntion to it - I don't need independent verification so take your self-righteous LDS or die attitude elsewhere, douchebag.

http://www.utahgothic.com/rants/mo%20masturbation.html

http://inkaboutit.homestead.com/mahealthdevil.html

http://www.affirmation.org/suicide_info/sin_and_death_in_mormon_country.shtml

http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_davidomckay.html

http://mormontruth.blogspot.com/2005/09/more-on-mormon-church-and-their.html


That enough documentation for you or do you want to talk about how the beloved Spencer W. Kimball believed that masturbation often led to homesexuality?

"Sometimes masturbation is the introduction to the more serious sins of exhibitionism and the gross sin of homosexuality."

http://mentalhealthlibrary.info/library/same/samelds/samelds2001/links/kimball/kimball.htm

Don't you have a sunday school class to prepare for?

February 24, 2008 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko

Oh, man. Of course that thing is real. Anyone who grew up in that era knew about it. More important, it is simply an accurate representation of the way sexuality was taught by the church, at least at that time. I know you wrote this a long time ago, but I just came across it and I want to thank you for it, for acknowledging the potentially marriage-destroying shit that they gave us growing up. I'm 47, and I'm still dealing with it. And so is my marriage. Sorry that it draws more of the same fucked up idiocy toward you in the form of these comments, but what can you expect.

I just read "Foreskin's Lament" by Shalom Auslander, about his experience growing up in a conservative Jewish world, and it's a whole lot of similar shit. More boy focused than girl, but still you might appreciate it.

April 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJust me

This Mormon manifesto was so logical, the masturbation should be permitted across all the world, is like when there was a rumor about the viagra without prescription was be not permitted, the people reaction was violent.

August 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

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