New Missionary Handbook

Last week, the church announced the publication of a new handbook for missionaries, Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ. Gone is the “White Bible” of yore. I kept one in my shirt pocket for my entire mission. I’m not exactly sure why. The new one is too big (and too blue) for that, so that is at least one change. Substantively, though, this is a really great update, and includes skads of advice I want my kids to take to heart. Also the art is pretty good.

The First Presidency open the volume with a nice message, and note near the end:

If you have questions about a standard, prayerfully ask the Lord to help you understand its importance, and then if needed, ask your companion, your young missionary leaders, or either of your mission leaders for help.

“Either of your mission leaders.” That seemed interesting and important, and later in section 2.1.1 it is made clear: “Your mission president and his wife,” “serve together as your mission leaders.” Now EmJen has posted on the silly situation of having a woman with an ecclesiastical position but no name for that position. This seems like something that will be rectified sooner rather than later.

On interviews, “You may invite the mission president’s wife, a senior missionary, or your missionary companion to join any interview with the mission president. Your decision to invite someone to join you should not diminish your mission leaders’ love, concern, or admiration for you.” The idea that missionaries will be reading this over, and over again bodes well for cultural shifts regarding interviews of all sorts. This is also reflected in the counsel on baptismal interviews: “If the baptismal candidate desires, he or she may invite a parent, spouse, or other adult to join the baptismal interview. Be sensitive to a person’s feelings about his or her spouse or minor child being interviewed.” Yeah.

Missionaries have often been tempted to “covenant” or “commit” with the Lord to get specific productivity metrics. Sometimes Mission Presidents have gotten in on the act, though General Authorities have generally (see what I did there) discouraged it. The new handbook is unqualified, however: “Do not try to make deals with the Lord and expect specific blessings by adjusting what is required of you. The requirements you are expected to uphold are approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and are found in these standards. For example, don’t try to bargain with the Lord by getting up earlier, going without food or drink (beyond the monthly fast), or skipping a preparation day.”

Missionaries are now allowed to use technology to teach people outside their areas, and even outside their missions. With permission you can teach family and friends at home. With referrals or others, “you can also invite your own family and friends to help teach them, with permission.” There is a heavy emphasis on relationality in this handbook, and minimizing the social awkwardness and cognitive dissonance between loving people and teaching people in principle and practice.

I’m a huge fan of healthy diet and minimizing foodborne illness, so I welcome the set of savvy advice. This is universally wise, though the rule to “not eat or drink anything you have left unattended while traveling,” seemed somewhat peculiar. Not sure where that came from. Otherwise, drinking clean water, eating “balanced meals that include vegetables, fruits, grains, healthy fats, and protein,” and maintaining safe food handling procedures at home for the win.

When getting a referral, “be thoughtful of each person’s situation, asking yourself questions such as these:”

  • Is it too late or early to contact this person? Would this inappropriately interrupt family or personal time?
  • Is there a way I can be helpful in this situation?
  • Could this action or comment embarrass, intimidate, or offend someone?
  • What is appropriate for this culture?

It is almost as if they want the missionaries to be self aware!

The list of sexual activities to avoid seemed self-evident, for the most part, and surprisingly explicit. Avoid “adultery; fornication; same-sex activity; oral sex; arousing sexual feelings; inappropriate touching; sending or receiving messages, images, or videos that are immoral or sexual in nature; masturbation; and viewing or using pornography.” The efforts of church leaders to empathize with young people that have grown up in a very culture is admirable. E.g., there is a lot of great advice about dealing with the fallout of sexting: “For example, be especially careful of those who may demand financial payment in return for not revealing compromising or inappropriate images and messages that you may have sent them. If you are struggling to keep these standards or if someone is threatening you, ask the Lord for help and talk with your mission president immediately.”

There is a clear emphasis on mental health. “Missionary work is demanding, and feeling stress from time to time is normal.” “If you have been prescribed medication for stress, follow the prescription and your doctor’s directions.” I wonder if “stress” is a euphemism for anxiety and/or depression. Later the handbook encourages: “Understand that there is no shame in recognizing and treating any health problem, including emotional or mental concerns.”

After being recently codified in Preach My Gospel President Oaks’ 2014 priesthood and gender framework is getting further documentary traction:

When a woman is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she acts under priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. Anyone with a calling received from someone holding priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.

Sidenote: I won’t lie, one of the first things I thought during Elder Gong’s Q&A last Sunday was, why don’t they give the oil vials to both eighteen-year-old men and women? I’ve got accounts of Sister missionaries anointing and blessing, back when that was still a thing. This also seems inevitable.

Also in counsel that seems directed at sisters, but is great advice to everyone, on the topic of sexual assault: “if you freeze or choose to comply, which can be normal responses, please do not blame yourself later.” Furthermore, highlighting agency:

Understand that if you are assaulted, no matter what you were doing, the assault is not your fault. You always have the choice to counsel with someone you trust and feel comfortable with, such as your mission president, his wife, civil authorities, or people at home. It is your decision whether to involve the police.

I do miss Elder Uchdorf in the First Presidency. I’ve liked him since he was in the Area Presidency when I served my mission. But I’m comforted in this type of work that he is doing now. This is good.

Comments

  1. Don’t leave your drunk unintended so nobody slips date rape drugs in it. Every woman I know has that deeply ingrained in her.

  2. My son is currently serving. He told us that his mission will be implementing the changes over time, but no later than February. I didn’t see much that would require “implementation,” but I guess that’s how these things tend to roll out.

    I thought the section on mental health was excellent. Overall, the general tone of the guidelines and rules seems to be framed from a more positive viewpoint than the old white bible.

  3. ‘the rule to “not eat or drink anything you have left unattended while traveling,” seemed somewhat peculiar. Not sure where that came from.’

    This is a role my parents taught me (male) since I was a child, especially regarding parties: you bring your own drink and always keep it with you, so that no one tampers with or spikes it with drugs while you’re not looking.

  4. “If you have questions about a standard… ask … either of your mission leaders for help.”

    “If you are struggling to keep these standards … talk with your mission president immediately.”

    The difference in these statements on whom to consult jumped out at me.

  5. I assumed the rule on unattended food was a shout out to Pres. Monson’s egg salad story. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2009/04/be-your-best-self?lang=eng

  6. Just raising my hand to register that I too know where the rule about unattended food or drink comes from and why they’d include it.

  7. Just raising my hand to register than I too know where the rule about unattended food or drink comes from and why they’d include it.

  8. Explicitly prohibiting masturbation ensures that a great many missionaries either spend their time of service wrestling with guilt/repentance/confession or, worse, settle into a comfortable hypocrisy. Neither of those outcomes are good for the mental health or character of missionaries.

  9. Eric Facer says:

    Obviously, the new handbook is an improvement, but when I served my mission in Chile in the early 1970s, my mission president’s response to anyone who had a question about standards, or any other mission rule for that matter, was: “God gave you a brain. Use it!” Sadly, “Teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves” has become a quaint notion in our church.

    I, too, miss Elder Uchdorf in the First Presidency, but you’re right—this is good work on his part.

    One minor quibble: Jonathan, I love your work, but when I saw the word “relationality,” I winced. Even my browser’s auto-spellchecker doesn’t recognize it. Apparently neither it nor I have much tolerance for academic jargon. :-)

  10. The one issue with “God gave you a brain. Use it!” in the mission context is, well, brains don’t come to correct conclusions without correct raw information, and missionaries, as young people, are often missing the necessary context to know why rules are in place. Providing reasons also helps the missionaries understand the “correct principles” so that they don’t go haywire trying to be obedient!

    I’d rather have rules with explanations than teenagers trying to read the minds of General Authorities and coming up with bad/incorrect principles that undergird the rules, haha.

  11. J. Stapley says:

    Excellent points about not drinking things you haven’t seen prepared and to never leave them alone. It was just curious to me as it was eating as well, and specifically when someone is travelling. But perhaps they have data indicating that is a high risk period?

    Wondering, the handbook indicates elsewhere that the mission president is clearly the official Mission confessor.

    Eric, guilty as charged!

  12. Jack Hughes says:

    I hope we get past the culture of treating the Missionary Handbook as a volume of scripture. I’m sure many of us here have memories of carrying our White Bible close to the heart, studying it, quoting passages from memory, and generally treating it as though the Prophet himself received it directly from God on stone tablets, which he then carried down from a mountain and ordered it mass produced for the missionary force. It had the effect of turning otherwise good, level-headed people in to narrow-minded rule Nazis (myself included), while inducing anxiety disorders and scrupulosity in others (also me). This handbook version is a vast improvement in many ways, but the real difference will be in the implementation on the street, with the rank and file.

  13. That bit about not leaving food or liquids unattended makes perfect sense. In this day and age when many people have a very skewed sense of humor and/or are malicious deliberately, such folks might think it funny to put something in the missionary’s food and/or drink. Alternatively with such things as date rape drugs easily available, that’s a another potential hazard, not necessarily with a sexual intent, but to incapacitate in order to cause bodily harm outcome. Perhaps I look at things too pessimistically, but with a nephew almost ready to go on his mission, I’m glad common sense guidelines are being applied.

  14. Thanks for the review, J. This is the first I’ve known about the new handbook. I think it’s important. From a cultural, sociological, point of view, I watch four non-scripture texts have a wildly disproportionate influence on LDS life: For the Strength of Youth, the BYU Honor Code, the Missionary Handbook, and the Temple Recommend questions.

  15. I know of a case when missionaries were feed cookies containing drugs by investigators when they were teaching a discussion. It seems like in this case the investigators did this because they thought it would be funny.

    It made me reflect on how often as a missionary I accepted food or drink from people I barely knew. I cannot come up with a reasonable rule that would have stopped the particular incident to which I am referring.

  16. If they want to relieve the “stress” missionaries feel, maybe they should give a sedative to the person who’s causing that stress.

  17. Masturbation is not a sin and we can only hope that one day the church as an institution and its appointed leaders evolve to teach a more healthy approach to human sexuality.

  18. Ryan Mullen says:

    I remember being served “hard” lemonade by one man we knocked into and iced tea by another—a former Mormon at that. The first guy watched closely for our reactions and then laughed hysterically at us afterward. The second apologized profusely; she had genuinely forgotten about the Word of Wisdom.

  19. I love the section on mental health counsel and was especially impressed that the section on assault was so explicit. When we use the word “assault” it tends to conjure up images of a violent attack, but it can also include must more subtle forms that look nothing like being dragged into the bushes. People use a variety of strategies to survive the moment of abuse: fight, flight, freeze, comply. I work as a mental health therapist and my experience is that those who are able to fight or flee have the least complicated recoveries…but those responses are not always possible or safe. Those who freeze and those who comply are employing a very sophisticated strategy to survive the moment (or to endure ongoing abuse), but it comes at a soul-crushing cost and usually requires a lot more unraveling in the aftermath. Very grateful this section was included.

  20. I think the best thing about this new handbook might be the general approach it suggests taking to the rules. I would have benefited from these passages as a missionary:

    ==

    You will be most safe when you follow the commandments and missionary standards and use common sense. But realize that even when you keep the commandments, you may experience trouble, sickness, or harm (see John 16:33). The Savior experienced all of these things (see Alma 7:11–12; Doctrine and Covenants 122:8), and He promises, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).

    God loves you. Choose to keep the commandments because you love God. Do not try to make deals with the Lord and expect specific blessings by adjusting what is required of you. The requirements you are expected to uphold are approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and are found in these standards. For example, don’t try to bargain with the Lord by getting up earlier, going without food or drink (beyond the monthly fast), or skipping a preparation day.

    ==

    In my mission, the constant emphasis on perfect obedience made it hard to understand why we ran into harm even when we were obedient. Also, there was this “covenant-making” idea that was rampant in my mission. Only in retrospect did I realize it was harmful. I appreciate seeing it specifically addressed here.

  21. One point that I don’t like is 2.4.5 where it says that you have to bring another person, or another person of your same gender must be present, if you eat with someone of the opposite gender. So, basically if 2 sisters ate with a single man another female must be present-which makes sense if it’s just a single male and 2 sisters. In my situation every month we invite the 2 sisters and 2 elders over and it’s me and my brother. No problems at all,no issues and we’ve been doing so for years now and it’s always a blast. Now, we have to get a female and frankly almost all of the women we know are married and that wouldn’t be appropriate to just invite a married woman over and not the husband but if we invited the two we don’t have space for 2 others. I feel like it’s kicking single people to the curb and dinners are now for married folks, if the invite both sets over and not just one. So, we had planned for friday to have both sets over and now we had to cancel it and frankly if rule gets upheld you don’t know the missionaries and you won’t know them to pass on referrals to. If they can’t be trusted at dinner appointments why would you trust them to teach your friends and other referrals? I sometimes wish decisions like that could be made local.
    I think the overall scope is that for years now the leaders have been trying to get members and missionaries together and be unified but just overtime they implement policies that divorce the two. So, now missionaries aren’t in ward council, the WML isn’t either , somehow missionary work is the EQ and RS responsibility and the WML does what exactly beyond hold a correlation mtg maybe? and plan a baptism. Our ward’s baptismal numbers have tanked over the years and retention has also. It seems all that effort to be unified is being eroded and soon the missionaries will just be another two people you see at church, don’t know them, don’t care

  22. Dark Traveler says:

    No More, Thanks for your comment on masturbation. I served in the early 70s and had issues with this. I eventually told my mission president, hoping to get some guidance. He told me it was a sin and I needed to stop. If it happened again I would be sent home. I did not expect this response. So, the practice continued and I never said anything more to the president. So much for the miracle of forgiveness. Thanks SWK.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Sounds like some good stuff. I agree with several others here that retaining the idea of masturbation as some great sin was a real missed opportunity.

  24. Not a president of anything says:

    adano…

    You addressed the covenant making/hyper obedience topic, and thankfully the new handbook points out how it doesn’t always keep you from harm or guarantee a certain outcome. I would love to see this addressed to all members. The current obsession with “staying on the covenant path” really reinforces the idea of God as a vending machine.

    Wendy Nelson’s retelling of the “pay tithing on the income you want to make” story is exactly the kind of stuff (prosperity gospel) missionaries and members should not be taught.

  25. Avoid “adultery; fornication; same-sex activity; oral sex; arousing sexual feelings; inappropriate touching; sending or receiving messages, images, or videos that are immoral or sexual in nature; masturbation; and viewing or using pornography.”

    So much to say here, but I’ll leave it as positive as I know how: we need a sex positive approach rather than a shame-based approach to chastity.

    Specifically calling out oral sex leaves the door wide open for marital problems down the road if one has been conditioned that this to be avoided. Is oral sex really a big moral problem that needs church leader intervention? Why wouldn’t they put the qualifier, “as a young missionary, avoid…..”

    As far as arousing sexual feelings: Young adults should be reassured that having sexual feelings and desires are very normal and very God-given. Are they trying to make sure nearly every missionary feels broken, unworthy, guilty, or sinful? If you masturbate you aren’t keeping the law of chastity? Yikes, no missionary should be discussing that with a mission president (or the mission president’s husband)!

    Don’t shame their behavior; redirect. Rewrite the law of chastity segment and encourage missionaries to live the law of chastity by refraining from sexual intercourse until marriage. Choose to see men and women as complex multifaceted human beings who are not objects for your sexual gratification. If you see an image which conjures up arousal, remind yourself that this response is normal and has no bearing on your “worthiness.” Choose to keep the law of chastity by examining how you interact with, treat, and see others. Seek for a Christ-like charity in all areas of the law of chastity.

    Honestly, who wrote this segment?

    Wait, that wasn’t very positive of me.

  26. Thanks for reviewing this, J. These all seem like good improvements.

  27. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks, all.

    Christian, I agree that these non-canonical texts are underappreciated in the work they do.

    I also just realized I forgot to add something from my notes, so I just updated the post, and will include it here:

    Missionaries have often been tempted to “covenant” or “commit” with the Lord to get specific productivity metrics. Sometimes Mission Presidents have gotten in on the act, though General Authorities have generally (see what I did there) discouraged it. The new handbook is unqualified, however: “Do not try to make deals with the Lord and expect specific blessings by adjusting what is required of you. The requirements you are expected to uphold are approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and are found in these standards. For example, don’t try to bargain with the Lord by getting up earlier, going without food or drink (beyond the monthly fast), or skipping a preparation day.”

  28. Becca – My guess is that the piece about oral sex is because many young people believe oral sex isn’t actually sex. This makes it explicit.

  29. I was a missionary when President Uchtdorf was in the Area Presidency. My interaction with him and Sister Uchtdorf remains a favorite memory from my mission. They are good people.

  30. Love what Becca said.

  31. I hope it’s inevitable-but why do you think it’s inevitable that women will be giving blessings?

  32. Oh my goodness, the part about “covenants” and bargaining and P-days brings back so many memories of my early 1990’s mission. All of those things were done in my mission. I had one companion in particular who was really into that sort of thing. We had the “10-minute prayer”, which was exactly that. In an effort to sacrifice more, my senior comp instituted a practice of us being on our knees praying for 10 full minutes at night. Same comp was really big on us skipping P-day, which was always presented as a form of sacrifice and a way to call down more blessings upon ourselves. Sometimes we went without a P-day for several weeks in a row. All I got out of that was a journey into exhaustion and depression. P-day is there for a very good reason. The other thing this comp did was insist that we set huge baptismal goals, like that we would baptize 10 people in a given month (this was an extreme goal for a U.S. mission).

  33. J. Stapley says:

    Kari, its probably because I spend so much time with the historic sources. I’m just so used to it, that it seems weird that we don’t do it.

  34. it's a series of tubes says:

    Oh my goodness, the part about “covenants” and bargaining and P-days brings back so many memories of my early 1990’s mission. All of those things were done in my mission.

    Sounds like your mission took the Grant Von Harrison approach, like mine. Can’t say how glad I am to see this guidance in the new handbook.

  35. Grateful for improvements and that I have no recollection of a missionary handbook playing any role in my mid-to-late 60s mission, though I understand one was first published in 1937. We were aware at least from the week in the SLC mission “home” that preceded the LTM experience that there were mission rules. Somehow we became aware of what at least some of them were.

    Some of the best teaching experiences of my mission were in violation of some rules — some in ignorance of rules, some intentional with the explicit to me blessing of ETB. ETB’s approach was that rules were a compilation of good advice from more than 100 years of missionary experience and that, when they got in the way of teaching the gospel, they were to be ignored. Of course, much of the advice and instruction in the current handbook is not the kind that could get in the way.

  36. I knew several in my mission (Stapley may have known them as well) who dedicated themselves/made covenants in strange ways. One guy slept on the floor for six months. And my trainer had Grant Von Harrison, as did a bunch of others, but I never bought in to it. My reading went the other direction. https://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive/2013/11/on-missions-books-and-seriously-going-off-the-deep-end-plus-a-paean-to-my-second-mp/

  37. It is a fundamental problem in Mormon theology, if not explicit then at least assumed by too many members, that there is a personal god who hands out blessings and curses based on measured performances (There is a law irrevocably decreed…). (This is not unique to Mormonism). Emphasis on commandments, sacraments, rituals, and covenants both exaggerates and perpetuates the belief/behavior. Wear the garment night and day = blessing. Pay tithing = blessing. Fast = blessing. FHE = blessing. Abstain from tea = blessing. Attend the temple = blessing. Bear your testimony = blessing. Pray = blessing. Pray more = more blessings. Pray excessively = even more blessings. Wear your church clothes all day = blessings. Mormonism also emphasizes personal revelation. This fosters an attitude that you can have a personal relationship with God, and call down blessings from heaven if you are worthy enough, dedicated enough, and work hard enough. If you simply had enough faith you could literally move mountains. That is actually taught. So members/missionaries are forced to examine their own faith and worthiness. In an attempt to please God, and boost their own personal profile of self-esteem, they have to convince themselves that they are good enough (I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, God likes me!). But unfortunately we humans convince ourselves we are good enough by the wrong criteria (fame, fortune, power). In the religious realm we measure our obedience and observances. Sadly mission presidents feed into this emotional abuse if they demand obedience and promise blessings.

    The church needs to promote a healthier approach to spiritual well-being. We can help people develop Christ-like attributes, love one another, serve one another, and make good personal choices in their lives without the infantile carrot-stick approach.

  38. Yeah, Ben. I don’t remember the chronology (though I still have the various materials), but our mission went through a phase of formalized top-down implementation of this type of thing.

  39. No More, in fairness, that kind of thing is taught pretty directly in scripture, though implementation and understanding varies, of course. Check out the blessings and cursing for keeping and violating the Sinai covenant in Deuteronomy 28, and Deu 11:25-28 as well. Blessings and cursings are an inherent part of covenant-making.

  40. Big improvement on the white bible except for specifically calling out masturbation. It really only serves to punish the hypersensitive who feel the need to confess.

  41. Lisa, that seems like an extreme goal in any mission, although exceptions do happen.

    It’s a fantastic update. I like that some things are laid out very clearly, and the overall tone is much more instructive.

    I’m glad to see a note to “be sensitive” about an investigators feelings in the baptismal interview. Preach my gospel says (although I’m not sure for how recently it was added) that a second person can be invited to the baptismal interview, but the note here really drives home the point. Anyhow, that was an issue I was aware of recently, and common sense eventually prevailed there.

  42. I’m a bit surprised by the comments about masturbation. Hasn’t it been explicitly condemned in other Chuch handbooks for a while? I know it was enough to get a temple recommend taken away back when I was trying. I keenly understand wishing the Church would take a more realistic approach, but why would anyone expect that to change?

  43. Ben S, yeah, that’s the problem. I have to reject that kind of god and dogmatic theology. We can each approach our religion differently, good thing. My criticism is of checklist religion which just doesn’t work well for me, and for many.
    RobL – Yes, and Kimball and Packer famously were obsessed with condemning it. I don’t care how many times it has been written and condemned, I just wish real prophets would rise and move on to more important things and stop condemning humans for being human and perpetuating a culture of shame. You have a good point, perhaps we shouldn’t expect any real change. But, they did throw out polygamy and institutional racism, so maybe they can figure out a few other truth gems too.

  44. Kevin Barney says:

    I was amused to see you’re not supposed to ride horses. I rode one once on my mish (Colorado, late seventies). The horse got spooked and took off, and eventually I got bucked off. I didn’t break anything, but yeah, that’s probably a good rule.

    I found it odd that you’re supposed to pay fast offerings from your allowance. You don’t need to tithe those funds, which makes sense to me, so why do you have to pay fast offerings? I never paid tithing or fast offerings on my mish; it seemed to me those funds were already consecrated. But if your family sends you some money, you’re supposed to tithe that, although presumably your family already tithed the funds. If Sam sees this I would be interested in his take on whether all of this tithing stuff is coherent.

    RobL, for me the disappointment concerning masturbation was not so much based on an expectation they would change that rule, but lamenting the missed opportunity. Masturbation is a normal part of psychosexual development as a young body prepares itself for actual sexual relationships. Masturbation is perfectly natural and normal. It is almost impossible for a healthy 19-year old to go two years without masturbating, which means we’re either teaching our youth to perceive themselves as great sinners for no good reason or we’re messing up their psychusexual development or we’re teaching them how to be really good liars.

  45. Fact police says:

    “It is almost impossible for a healthy 19-year old to go two years without masturbating”

    Do you have any evidence supporting this? I made it just fine without masturbating, I don’t remember ever even considering it on my mission, and I suffered no adverse psychological effects. So forgive me if I don’t buy your hyperbole.

  46. “I suffered no adverse psychological effects”

    Do you have any evidence supporting this?

  47. Fact Police says:

    “ Do you have any evidence supporting this?”

    Lol. As a matter of fact, I do. I have several certifications stating that I am of healthy disposition both physiologically and psychologically. Thanks for checking, though.

  48. Kevin Barney says:

    Yes, my statement was hyperbolic, along the lines of the old joke that 98% masturbate and the other two percent are lying. I freely acknowledge that there are missionaries like you who survive the gauntlet. But my own belief is we’re not talking about a 10% outlier group, but at least 50%.

    Who knew that there is actually a Wikipedia article about the church’s attitudes towards masturbation over time? I simply disagree with the Church on this subject.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints_and_masturbation

  49. No More, I don’t think it necessarily translates into “checklist religion.”

  50. After reading the website Kevin Barney refers to, the question is if masturbation “dulls sensitivity to the guidance of the Holy Ghost”

  51. Purpose of sex? Procreation and unity with spouse to create real physical commitment.
    Purpose of masturbation? Response to strong biological desire that our bodies experience to push us to procreate.

    Are you a monkey that is fully subject to impulsive responses to stimulants and no self control? Or do you just share since traits and instincts in this fallen world, but are fully capable of choosing otherwise.

    Do you think as a species we’d exist in the way we do if you went back in time and gave the pill to people 10,000 years ago? The sexual desire is nature’s way of getting mankind to do what almost no one wants to do, given the choice, have lots of children. You keep having more and more because your desires push you there. Except we’ve hotwired and hacked nature’s reproductive cycle…

    Masturbation is a reflection of that natural desire that’s supposed to draw man and woman together. It’s a seemingly overwhelming urge for simulation because nature put this overwhelming urge in everyone, because what man would otherwise choose to burden himself with caring for half dozen or more children his entire productive life otherwise. And especially, what woman would wear out her body and life to the grave doing the same without those strong, frequent desires? We know exactly what man and woman would do it. Look around and count the number on your hand… (this isn’t child shaming… I’m just pointing out that given the choice, we want lots of sex and would ironically prefer to tell “mother” nature to shove it, when it comes to the very reason we’re given the sexual desire in the first place)

    Marriage channels in a loving relationship and can magnify it across generations of life that brings infinite happiness. Masturbation begins and ends with self stimulation that has no greater purpose and truly can risk upsetting that above infinite greatest gift across generations and descend into compulsive behavior. There is a greater risk of permissive attitudes about sex and masturbation than the risk of harsh avoidance council on those topics.

    Don’t hate yourself if the natural man wins over your desires and ability for self control and restraint. But don’t excuse that ever present forgiveness and remind yourself God intends you to be worth more and of greater purpose than short term stimulation. Jesus fasting and resisting the temptation of satan is a great example to help receive strength if you struggle with this issue. Remember Christ on the cross. If he forgave those who put nails into his hands, won’t he equally forgive you and I, considering we’re the reasons he let those nails be driven in the first place?

  52. How it is implemented in the field is the key.

    My first companion, back in the 1970’s, had a rather novel approach to the “white bible”. He pointed out there was no rule listed against pushing purple elephants out of airplanes, since nobody ever tried that. He saw every rule as a reaction to a previous event. In fact, he thought of the rules as usually over-reactions to potentially good ideas. He mined the “white bible” and the rules specific to our mission every day for innovative ideas of things to do. Don’t stay out past 9:30 pm became stay up until 3:30 am doing Elvis impersonations in karaoke bars, for one example.

    A nearby city with many hot springs and an economy/history devoted to prostitution for businessmen was strictly off limits to us missionaries. My companion was determined to go there often and convert someone. He gathered dozens of referrals every day to send to other missionaries all over Japan to visit these cheaters when they returned home. The sick, not the well, have need of a physician and the worst sinners need the gospel of repentance.

    I like to think the new handbook would have been most interesting in his hands.

  53. Not really sure what Lcn’s word salad is trying to say, suffice it to say that I think it is one paragraph away from warning about hairy palms and blindness.

  54. All children are worthy says:

    I have the strongest impression that Heavenly Parents care about how we encourage people to be more Christlike and don’t endorse when we use shame and excessive guilt to control someone else.
    In shaming masturbation and other private sexual behaviors in consenting couples the one issuing the rebuke controls and belittles someone else while elevating oneself.
    Judge not, and be not judged. Don’t pry. It may not be your struggle, so be happy for you. Maybe you struggle with making people believe they are of little worth because they masturbate. But those same scriptures can be used against you who harshly judge someone to not be worthy in God’s eye, when maybe God has a far less shallow love. I know for a fact that my love is not contingent on my child’s refraining from masturbation. I’m concerned about much more interesting facets of their life and development.

  55. Lcn – Do you think there is a negative correlation between instances of masturbation and childbirths?

    Oh, and by the way, suggesting a person is a monkey is not an effective strategy in making a compelling argument.

  56. No More, you didn’t follow the argument. The urge to reproduce is strong. It’s natural. It’s there to encourage us to do what logic and reason says we would not do. If people didn’t immensely enjoy sex, they wouldn’t have children. The inverse reflects this a bit through a mirror, albeit darkly apparently — people go to great lengths and cost to invent ways to enjoy sex without children being created. The urge to reproduce is strong — that urge is reflected in the desire for masturbation. The point being, that urge is strong for a reason — procreation and family unity.

    If you have a problem with shared traits between humans and other species in the natural world, that we would presumably like to rise above take it up with your local evolutionary biologist.

    Jason, I said nothing of the sort, but it’s tragic how little you understand of your own body and it’s purpose. Justify your own desires and past behavior by mocking others though — time honored tradition.

  57. I understand evolutionary biology quite well and understand how all living things are related. To that end I understand and appreciate that many species share some physical and behavioral traits. But please don’t be disingenuous with your monkey comment. Everyone reading this thread knows it was made to be an insult.

    Honest people can disagree about the morality of masturbation. I conclude that it is not a sin and does not require repentance or forgiveness. You or anyone else may conclude the opposite. That is fine.

    There may be numerous benefits of masturbation.
    1. It helps an individual explore and understand his/her own body as a sexual being and may lead to a healthier partnered sexual experience. There is actually some extensive research in this area. Rather that make a person a deviant or compulsive pervert, it quite often leads to a healthier marriage. Contrary to what SWK said, it does not make boys gay.
    2. Because the sexual desire and impulses are natural and regular, masturbation can be an effective tool to manage tension and stress, in both women and men.
    3. Physical pleasure in general relieves stress and contributes to emotional health. If we can view our sexual selves and impulses more in line with other biological and physical impulses and appetites we might see masturbation as simply another bodily function and response which serves a positive purpose. For example, you don’t need to scratch an itch but it sure feels good and relieves acute anguish. You don’t need a muscle rub or massage, but it sure feels good and relieves stress.

    In the face of modern birth control millions of people still proactively choose to have multiple children, which will still result in human species promulgation. Birth control is not resulting in the end of our species, and masturbation will not result in the end of our species. People will still choose to procreate. Humans do not only desire sex, humans also desire to have children. In fact, plenty of people pursue having children even when natural sex for them does not result in children.

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