marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MASTURBATION: What Is The Correct Definition?

One of my favorite apostles, Elder Richard G. Scott, passed away today. In my youth, his words guided me through many challenges with morality. As a missionary in Washington D.C., I had the opportunity to thank him for that. I’d like to dedicate this article to him.

While studying for my next test in my marriage and family textbook, I received some new insights on masturbation. I felt it might be helpful to share what I found.

Definitions mean a lot to me as an adult, because as a youth in the church, we were fed a lot of terminology. Words such as ‘wholesome’, ‘worthy’, ‘morality’, ‘impure’, ‘unholy’, ‘unnatural’, ‘masturbation’, etc… were thrown around as though we (the youth) would just know what they meant.

From an LDS cultural perspective, it was pretty unclear to me what exactly constituted masturbation and why we needed to avoid it outside of marriage. It was treated as such a taboo topic  that discussing it aloud was inappropriate. In my household, the topic was something to be breathed in hushed tones and behind closed doors.

It was stressed on us to avoid it, but never discussed if it was ever appropriate in marriage. Even though in marriage, it can play an acceptable role in a husband and wife’s sacred intimate relationship.

What also mystified me were those people, both in and out of the Church, that felt a need to justify masturbation as a ‘natural’ and harmless practice. This grew more puzzling after I had a chance to read and learn from marriage counselors and therapists about the harmful long-term mental, emotional, spiritual, and relationship effects created by solo masturbation and autoeroticism exercised by the unmarried. See my article "Solo Masturbation, A Sexual Relationship?"

In this discussion, to hopefully shed some light on where some of these cultural perspectives come from, I’d like to share with you some of the definitions I found and allow you to decide which definition will best help you in your marriage and your parental tasks of teaching your children about the law of chastity.

In 1987, Dr. Israel Meizner made the claim in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that he observed fetus’ masturbating with ultrasound. After closer examination, I learned that he observed a fetus gripping its penis or randomly touching the vulva.

I thought about that and questioned “How can you justify that as “masturbation” and then also use this to justify children, teens and singles masturbating?”  

Relying on science as the source of “truth”, many others – including members of the Church – have found themselves frustrated by this, especially when it came time to address it with their children.

While I was studying this week, I came across a passage in my textbook that helped me realize the answer may lie in our definitions.

I have a strong testimony that God the Father and His son Jesus Christ are the only source of truth. A truth with a solid and eternal foundation that I know I can rely on. Whatever I study in college, I purposefully run through the filter and scrutinizing lens of the gospel.

What I discovered was what was currently taught as scientific truth only remains truth until another degree seeker disproves it or alters the definition. For this reason, if it conflicts with the teachings of the gospel, it’s sifted as chaff and the remaining kernels of knowledge that build and edify eternal families remain.

One justification for masturbation not being a sin is that the word ‘masturbation’ is not found in the Bible. That is true. Masturbation is not found in the Bible or any of our standard works.

The closest we come is the suggestion of it in the word “lasciviousness” and ‘licentiousness’. Both pertain to the pre-occupation with sex and immoral sexual behavior. Our understanding of masturbation comes from modern-day revelation and teachings, which other churches do not have.

So a common justification for masturbation being a “sin” is the story of Onan . With closer examination of the account, it’s discovered that the sin of Onan had nothing to do with masturbation (as we define it) but rather with breaking his marital covenants and obligations by denying children to his wife and deceased brother.

So when it came to masturbation, this is what I did find.

The term masturbation originated in the nineteenth century. It’s believed to have come from the Latin word masturbari, as a conjugation of the word manus, meaning hand, and the word stuprare, meaning to defile. The word ‘masturbate’ therefore means to “defile the hand” as its first definition. [i]

While I was studying my textbook, I came across this definition:

“Sexual self-pleasuring that involves some form of direct physical stimulation. It may or may not result in orgasm. Masturbation typically includes rubbing, stroking, fondling, squeezing, or otherwise stimulating the genitals. It can also be self-stimulation of other body parts, such as the breasts, the inner thighs, or the anus.”[ii]

I finally understood where Dr. Meizner (mentioned above) obtained his broadened justification for calling his fetus observations ‘masturbation’, because of this definition.

I found this ironic since both the Merriam Webster and Oxford dictionaries do not give this definition.

They define masturbation as:

 Erotic stimulation especially of one's own genital organs commonly resulting in orgasm and achieved by manual or other bodily contact exclusive of sexual intercourse, by instrumental manipulation, occasionally by sexual fantasies, or by various combinations of these agencies”[iii]


Stimulate one’s own genitals for sexual pleasure.” From the Oxford dictionary.[iv]

This led me to wonder what definition I could find at the Church website. This is the definition I found:

“…When the fluid and sperm fill the tubules and testes, they are automatically released or ejaculated. This usually happens during sleep and is called nocturnal emissions or “wet dreams.” Sexual dreams are not always present, but they can trigger a nocturnal emission or ejaculation. In either case this is not masturbation…

…masturbation is considered by many in the world to be the harmless expression of an instinctive sex drive…the prophets have condemned it as a sin throughout the ages and that they can choose not to do it.

Throughout childhood, boys and girls have touched their own genitals frequently to wash and to dress. This is a behavior that usually has the same meaning as keeping one’s feet warm in the winter, enjoying a swim on a hot day, or scratching an itch.

We ought to be friendly to our bodies and appreciate the body’s marvelous range of senses. This innocent touching is not the kind of behavior warned against by prophets through the ages.

The sin of masturbation occurs when a person stimulates his or her own sex organs for the purpose of sexual arousal. It is a perversion of the body’s passions. When we pervert these passions and intentionally use them for selfish, immoral purposes, we become carnal.”[v]

This definition is much narrower than Dr. Meizner’s or the definition found in my textbook.  This makes a spirit of the law allowance for washing, stroking, touching, gripping, or scratching our genitals (whether single or married) as not masturbation.

I also understand that when the Church leaders refer to self-stimulation for the purpose of arousing sexual feelings, they are speaking in the context of those who are unmarried. They have not referred to masturbation as being a sin when engaged in as part of the sacred sexual relationship between a husband and wife.

President Kimball, in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness, said this about masturbation:

“Most youth come into contact early with masturbation. Many would-be authorities declare that it is natural and acceptable, and frequently young men I interview cite these advocates to justify their practice of it.

To this we must respond that he world’s norms in many area – drinking, smoking, and sex experience generally to mention only a few – depart increasingly from God’s law. The Church has a different, higher norm.

Thus prophets anciently and today condemn masturbation. It induces feelings of guilt and shame. It is detrimental to spirituality. It indicates slavery to the flesh, not that mastery of it and the growth toward godhood which is the object of our mortal life.

Our modern prophet has indicated that no young man should be called on a mission who is not free from this practice…”[vi]

Boyd K. Packer, in his last talk in 2015, stated, “The only legitimate, authorized expression of the powers of procreation is between husband and wife, a man and a woman, who have been legally and lawfully married. Anything other than this violates the commandments of God. Do not yield to the awful temptations of the adversary, for every debt of transgression must be paid “till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing” (Matthew 5:26).” [vii]

I hope you will find the opportunity to discuss this issue as husband and wife. Hopefully it will help to put each other’s minds at ease about our bodies, and how to discuss this issue with our children when the opportunity arises.

[ii] Benokraitis, Nijoke V., Marriages and Families, Pearson Education Inc., 2005, 182
[iii] Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, 2015, 1,

[iv] Oxford Online Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2015,1,

[v] LDS.ORG., A Parent’s Guide, 1985, 34-43 (emphasis added)
[vi] Kimball, Spencer W., The Miracle of Forgiveness, Bookcraft,1969, 77
 [vii]  Packer, Boyd K. The Plan of Happiness. Ensign. May 2015.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When Sex Hurts

What can a married couple do when they have sex for the first time (or for many years) and find that it hurts?

This seems more of an issue with women than it is with men. With that in mind, I’d like to focus mostly on what the causes (and solutions) of painful sex are for women, to help the wives understand themselves better and the husbands to know better how to help their wives.

Painful sex can feel devastating to a new bride and groom. This is especially true if it leads to a sexless marriage. Fortunately, the issue is addressed by many professionals today, and painful sex is a challenge that can be remedied. Painful sex doesn’t have to damn an eternal marriage to failure.

In my research, three aspects of painful sex - the physical, the spiritual, and the psychological – were apparent. They interconnect with each other in different ways depending on the couple’s individual circumstances.

Physical and Psychological   

Anytime a marital conflict arises that concerns a couple’s inability to have sexual intimacy, the first thing I look for is an underlying medical issue.

Dr. Christiane Northrup says, “…there can be physiological reasons for sexual desire waning, one of which is pain during sex. If sex is painful, it may simply be because of vaginal dryness – which is easily addressed with lubricants. But it can also be due to repressed anger or trauma manifesting as scarring or vaginal adhesions. These can form after inflammation, infection, and surgery.

In the late 1980s, it finally dawned on gynecologists that women with chronic pelvic pain very often had experienced rape or other sexual abuse. Given that every year one in three women on this planet is raped or abused, it’s not surprising that so many women experience pelvic pain and painful sex.”

She recommends for women who are experiencing symptoms such as “pelvic pain, urinary problems, and sexual pain” that they look into manual therapy, in case there are fascial lesions or any kind of internal scarring.   

“You can learn more at or [Others include] women’s health physical therapist Tami Lynn Kent ( and Belinda Wurn ( and Jennifer Mercier, M.D. (” (2015, 176-77)[i] 

These are physical therapists trained in how to do manual therapy and massage for pelvic scarring.

It’s important to note here that lubrication is very important for husbands as well. Vaginal dryness occurs for multiple reasons. Such reasons include hormonal changes, not allowing enough time for the wife to warm up sexually, stress, or even having too much sex. 

Using lubrication can be very important at these times. I usually recommend Astroglide, but there are lots of different kinds to try. Not having enough lubrication can cause painful lesions on a husband’s penis from friction as well.

While it is true that most men can orgasm within two to seven minutes, sometimes it can take longer. This can be especially true as a husband gets older and is satiated more often over time or distracted by stress. It wouldn’t be unusual under these circumstances for a husband to take 20 minutes to ejaculate. This can wear on both the husband and wife’s genitals if there is not sufficient lubrication and/or they have intercourse frequently.

Long bouts of sex can cause friction lesions, so this is where keeping a bottle of lube nearby can come in handy. For your sexual health, if you feel things are getting too dry, apply some lube.

Lack of natural lubrication doesn’t necessarily mean that the wife is not sufficiently turned on. Each woman is different in the amount of natural lubrication she secretes when excited. Some women secrete a lot of natural lubrication, and others not so much. If you find you need more lubrication, use more.

Another physical cause of painful sex is vaginismus.

WebMD gives this description for this disorder:

"When a woman has vaginismus, her vagina's muscles squeeze or spasm when something is entering her, like a tampon or a penis. It can be mildly uncomfortable, or it can be painful.
Painful sex is often a woman's first sign that she has vaginismus. The pain happens only with penetration. It usually goes away after withdrawal, but not always.
Women have described the pain as a tearing sensation or a feeling like the man is "hitting a wall."
Many women who have vaginismus also feel discomfort when inserting a tampon or during a doctor's internal pelvic exam.”
The story of one newlywed couple was relayed to me of the wife having vaginismus. She experienced no discomfort before, but after she was married, her husband was not able to sexually penetrate her.

In a closer examination, her vaginal muscles had squeezed so tight that a pinky finger couldn’t even be inserted. It was a tremendous frustration for both the husband and wife.

After visiting a specialist, a series of special rods (differing in width) were prescribed. Through loving patience, the couple used the rods and were able to help the wife’s vagina expand and relax.

WebMD also explained what some of the causes and solutions could be:

“Doctors don't know exactly why vaginismus happens. It's usually linked to anxiety and fear of having sex. But it's unclear which came first, the vaginismus or the anxiety.
Some women have vaginismus in all situations and with any object. Others have it only in certain circumstances, like ...with sexual intercourse but not with tampons or during medical exams.
Other medical problems like infections can also cause painful intercourse. So it's important to see a doctor to determine the underlying cause of pain during sex.
Women with vaginismus can do exercises, in the privacy of their own home, to learn to control and relax the muscles around the vagina.
The approach is called progressive desensitization, and the idea is to get comfortable with insertion.
First, do Kegel exercises by squeezing the same muscles you use to stop the flow of urine when urinating:
  • Squeeze the muscles.
  • Hold for 2 seconds.
  • Relax the muscles.
Do about 20 Kegels at a time. You can do them as many times a day as you want.
After a few days, insert one finger, up to about the first knuckle joint, inside the vagina while doing the exercises. It's a good idea to clip your fingernails first and use a lubricating jelly. Or do the exercises in a bathtub, where water is a natural lubricant.
Start with one finger and work your way up to three. You'll feel the vagina's muscles contracting around your finger, and you can always take your finger out if you're not comfortable.
For women whose vaginismus is related to fear or anxiety, therapy helps” (2014,1)[ii]
Spiritual and Psychological

From a spiritual perspective, many Latter-Day Saints have a tremendous sexual adjustment period entering into marriage.

It’s a big jump with little to no transition preparation of going from the abstinence-only single state of the law of chastity, to the actively sexual state of the law of chastity (avoiding all sexual relations except with your husband or wife, in a male-female relationship, married legally and lawfully).

For many of us, as we sort out what is okay and what is not okay to do sexually in marriage, this can be a cause of great spiritual anxiety that can lead to the physical manifestations of sexual pain such as those addressed above.

Laura M. Brotherson, in her book And They Were Not Ashamed addresses some of spiritual and societal causes of this sexual pain. One point that stood out to me was how we’re culturally taught in our youth and young adulthood that first-time sex is a painful experience.

This is a myth, not based in any kind of fact. Despite what others’ experiences may tell us, there are many, many others that are able to have sex without any discomfort at all. Pain and discomfort is not a normal result of sex.

Laura shared a similar concern. 
“Another pervasive message about sex is that sex is a painful experience. While there can be some initial discomfort for some brides, the suggestion of pain itself can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ability to relax during sexual relations is critical. Sexual consummation and climax require that a woman be at ease mentally and relaxed physically. If a woman is fearful and concerned about possible pain, her vaginal muscles may constrict making penetration difficult. It’s pretty hard for a young bride to relax when her internal programming tells her she is doing something sinful. The concept of sexual pain simply intensifies the fear, shame and guilt already being experienced.

Stories of sexual pain, without medical, physiological and psychological information do little to instill confidence and eager anticipation of the sex act, especially in young people who are uneducated about sexual functioning…”[iii]

I wanted to share these with you in the hopes that, if any LDS couples are finding their marital intimacy to be a painful experience, they can find some hope and some possibilities to explore. Please use and share these tips to help you and others remove the roadblocks that are preventing them from having a happy, lasting and eternal intimate relationship.

[i] Northrup, Christiane, M.D., Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well Being: Hay House, Inc., 2015
[ii] WebMD, Reviewed by Dr. Nivin Todd M.D. Aug. 28,2014,

[iii] Brotherson, Laura M, LMFT. And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage Through Sexual Fulfillment, Inspire Book: Boise, ID. 2004. pg 11-12.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

CTC Night (At Home) -- Discreet Moonlit Dip

Summer is starting to wind down, but there's still time to do some outdoor activities for your date night.

For this one you'll need:

* An inexpensive blow up kiddie pool - big enough to fit the both of you
* Towels
*Apple Cider and ice or fresh made lemonade
* Citron Candle(s)
* A starry night
* Your spouse
*Baby monitor

Fill up the pool and both of you soak together under a starry sky while enjoying a cool drink. The baby monitor will help you keep an ear on the kids so you can enjoy a couple of hours together. And you can do it all in your back yard or patio.

The candles will help keep any bugs away. Depending on how much privacy your yard gives you - swimsuits are optional.

Try not to talk about work or family problems or chores. As a conversation starter, ask each other "If you were your parents and had total control over the outcome of your childhood, what would you have done differently? What would you have kept the same?"

Happy dating!