Steps In Overcoming Masturbation*
Anonymous author but attributed to Mark E. Petersen
Council of the 12 Apostles
(of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)
NOTE: This article is quoted as a reference in a much longer and more detailed discussion
Masturbation and the Bible. Please see the full article for much more information on this subject.
Be assured that you can be cured of your difficulty. Many have been, both
male and female, and you can be also if you determine that it must be so.
This determination is the first step. That is where we begin. You must decide
that you will end this practice, and when you make that decision, the problem
will be greatly reduced at once.
But it must be more than a hope or a wish, more than knowing that it is
good for you. It must be actually a decision. If you truly make
up your mind that you will be cured, then you will have the strength to
resist any tendencies which you may have and any temptations which may come
to you. After you have made this decision, then observe the following specific guidelines.
A Guide to Self-Control
The attitude of a person toward his problem has an effect on how easy it
is to overcome. It is essential that a firm commitment be made to control
the habit. As a person understands his reasons for the behavior, and is
sensitive to the conditions or situations that may trigger a desire for
the act, he develops the power to control it.
- Never touch the intimate parts of your body except during normal toilet
processes. Avoid being alone as much as possible. Find good company and
stay in this good company.
- If you are associated with other persons having this same problem,
you must break off their friendship. Never associate with other
people having the same weakness. Don't suppose that two of you will quit
together, you never will. You must get away from people of that kind. Just
to be in their presence will keep your problem foremost in your mind. The
problem must be taken out of your mind for that is where it really
exists. Your mind must be on other and more wholesome things.
- When you bathe, do not admire yourself in a mirror. Never stay in
the bath more than five or six minutes -- just long enough to bathe and
dry and dress and then get out of the bathroom into a room where
you will have some member of your family present.
- When in bed, if that is where you have your problem for the most part,
dress yourself for the night so securely that you cannot easily touch your
vital parts, and so that it would be difficult and time consuming for you
to remove those clothes. By the time you started to remove protective clothing
you would have sufficiently controlled your thinking that the temptation
would leave you.
- 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. The purpose behind this suggestion is that
you get your mind on something else. You are the subject of your
thoughts, so to speak.
- Never read pornographic material. Never read about your problem. Keep
it out of mind. Remember -- "First a thought, then an act." The
thought pattern must be changed. You must not allow this problem to remain
in your mind. When you accomplish that, you soon will be free of the act.
- Put wholesome thoughts into your mind at all times. Read good books
-- Church books -- Scriptures -- Sermons of the Brethren. Make a daily habit
of reading at least one chapter of Scripture, preferably from one of the
four Gospels in the New Testament, or the Book of Mormon. The four Gospels
-- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- above anything else in the Bible can
be helpful because of their uplifting qualities.
- Pray. But when you pray, don't pray about this problem, for that will
tend to keep it in your mind more than ever. Pray for faith, pray for understanding
of the Scriptures, pray for the Missionaries, the General Authorities, your
friends, your families, but 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!
We are taught that our bodies are temples of God, and are to be clean so
that the Holy Ghost may dwell within us. Masturbation is a sinful habit
that robs one of the Spirit and creates guilt and emotional stress. It is
not physically harmful unless practiced in the extreme. It is a habit that
is totally self-centered, and secretive, and in no way expresses the proper
use of the procreative power given to man to fulfill eternal purposes. It
therefore separates a person from God and defeats the gospel plan.
This self-gratifying activity will cause one to lose his self-respect and
feel guilty and depressed, which can in the extreme lead to further sinning.
As a person feels spiritually unclean, he loses his interest in prayer,
his testimony becomes weak, and missionary work and other Church callings
become burdensome, offering no joy and limited success.
To help in planning an effective program to overcome the problem a brief
explanation is given of how the reproductive organs in a young man function.
The testes in your body are continually producing hundreds of millions of
reproductive cells call spermatozoa. These are moved up a tube called
the vas deferens to a place called the ampulla where they
are mixed with fluids from two membranous pouches called seminal vesicles
and the prostate gland. The resultant fluid is called semen.
When the seminal vesicles are full a signal is sent to the central nervous
system indicating they are ready to be emptied. The rate at which the filling
takes place varies greatly from one person to another, depending on such
things as diet, exercise, state of health, etc. For some it may be several
times a week, for others twice a month and for others, hardly ever.
It is normal for the vesicles to be emptied occasionally at night during
sleep. This is called a wet dream. The impulses that cause the emptying
come from the central nervous system. Often an erotic dream is experienced
at the same time, and is a part of this normal process. If a young man has
consistently masturbated instead of letting nature take its course, the
reproductive system is operating at a more rapid pace, trying to keep up
with the loss of semen. When he stops the habit, the body will continue
to produce at this increased rate, for an indefinite period of time, creating
sexual tensions and pressure. These are not harmful and are to be endured
until the normal central nervous system pathway of release is once again
During this period of control several things can be done to make the process
easier and more effective.
As one meets with his Priesthood Leader, a program for overcoming masturbation
can be implemented using some of the suggestions which follow. Remember
it is essential that a regular report program be agreed on, so progress
can be recognized and failures understood and eliminated.
- Pray daily, ask for the gifts of the Spirit, that which will strengthen
you against temptation. Pray fervently and out lout when the temptations
are the strongest.
- Follow a program of vigorous daily exercise. The exercises reduce
emotional tension and depression and are absolutely basic to the solution
of this problem. Double your physical activity when you feel stress increasing.
- When the temptation to masturbate is strong, yell STOP to
those thoughts as loudly as you can in your mind and then recite a prechosen
Scripture or sing an inspirational hymn. It is important to turn your thoughts
away from the selfish need to indulge.
- Set goals of abstinence, begin with a day, then a week, month, year
and finally commit to never doing it again. Until you commit yourself to
_never again_ you will always be open to temptation.
- Change in behavior and attitude is most easily achieved through a
changed self-image. Spend time every day imagining yourself strong and in
control, easily overcoming tempting situations.
- Begin to work daily on a self-improvement program. Relate this plan
to improving your Church service, to improving your relationships with your
family, God and others. Strive to enhance your strengths and talents.
- Be outgoing and friendly. Force yourself to be with others and learn
to enjoy working and talking to them. Use principles of developing friendships
found in books such as How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie.
- Be aware of situations that depress you or that cause you to feel
lonely, bored, frustrated or discouraged. These emotional states can trigger
the desire to masturbate as a way of escape. Plan in advance to counter
these low periods through various activities, such as reading a book, visiting
a friend, doing something athletic, etc.
- Make a pocket calendar for a month on a small card. Carry it with
you, but show it to no one. If you have a lapse of self control, color the
day black. Your goal will be to have no black days. The calendar becomes
a strong visual reminder of self control and should be looked at when you
are tempted to add another black day. Keep your calendar up until you have
at least three clear months.
- A careful study will indicate you have had the problem at certain
times and under certain conditions. Try and recall, in detail, what your
particular times and conditions were. Now that you understand how it happens,
plan to break the pattern through counter activities.
- In the field of psychotherapy there is a very effective technique
called aversion therapy. When we associate or think of something
very distasteful with something which has been pleasurable, but undesirable,
the distasteful thought and feeling will begin to cancel out that which
was pleasurable. If you associate something very distasteful with your loss
of self-control it will help you to stop the act. For example, if you are
tempted to masturbate, think of having to bathe in a tub of worms, and eating
several of them as you do the act.
- During your toileting and shower activities leave the bathroom door
or shower curtain partly open, to discourage being alone in total privacy.
Take cool brief showers.
- Arise immediately in the mornings. Do not lie in bed awake, no matter
what time of day it is. Get up and do something. Start each day with an
- Keep your bladder empty. Refrain from drinking large amounts of fluids
- Reduce the amount of spices and condiments in your food. Eat as lightly
as possible at night.
- Wear pajamas that are difficult to open, yet loose and not binding.
- Avoid people, situations, pictures or reading materials that might
create sexual excitement.
- It is sometimes helpful to have a physical object to use in overcoming
this problem. A Book of Mormon, firmly held in hand, even in bed at night
has proven helpful in extreme cases.
- 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. This can also be accomplished by wearing several
layers of clothing which would be difficult to remove while half asleep.
- Set up a reward system for your successes. It does not have to be
a big reward. A quarter in a receptacle each time you overcome or reach
a goal. Spend it on something which delights you and will be a continuing
reminder of your progress.
- Do not let yourself return to any past habit or attitude patterns
which were part of your problem. Satan never gives up. Be calmly
and confidently on guard. Keep a positive mental attitude. You can win this
fight! The joy and strength you will feel when you do will give your whole
life a radiant and spiritual glow of satisfaction and fulfillment.
* Editorial Comments by Lambert Dolphin
1. I am in agreement with the Mormon position that masturbation is not
a neutral moral issue nor in line with God's purposes for our lives. Sexual
expression receives God's approval only within marriage. That rules out
as unacceptable Christian behavior: masturbation, adultery, premarital sex between unmarried
heterosexuals, homosexual conduct, and bestiality. Polygamy is also not God's intention for mankind.
In the Bible marriage is seen as for this life only and not for eternity (Matthew 22:30).
The above article was obviously written primarily for men.
2. This paper strikes me as highly legalistic, at times its guidelines are
amusing. Self Effort doesn't work in the Christian life! See Romans Chapter
7-8, especially the last few verses of Chapter 7:
"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what
I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want,
I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but
sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me,
that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For
I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now
if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which
dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right,
evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost
self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind
and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched
man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to
God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of
God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."
The purpose of the Law is not to produce good moral behavior in us, but
to kill us. The Law's demands (intensified in fact by the Sermon on the
Mount), are designed to drive us to utter despair and to a sense of hopelessness
so that we will call out to God from the depths of our hearts for God's
mercy and grace The verses in Romans 7 preceding the above quotation read,
"...Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through
the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been
raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were
living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work
in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from
the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under
the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. What then shall
we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the
law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to
covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin,
finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness.
Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but
when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; the very commandment
which promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity
in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me. So the law is holy,
and the commandment is holy and just and good. Did that which is good, then,
bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through
what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the
commandment might become sinful beyond measure. We know that the law is
spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. " (5-14)
3. Mormon theology is not consistent with the historic,
orthodox Christian faith. The Mormon view of Jesus Christ is very different
from that found in the New Testament.
Obviously I differ from the Mormon church in many of my beliefs.
"For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I
have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ
who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in
the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the
grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died
to no purpose. O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose
eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you only
this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with
faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending
with the flesh? Did you experience so many things in vain ?--if it really
is in vain. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among
you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" (Galatians
In referring to physical circumcision in the following passage the Apostle is speaking
of external rites and ceremonies such as circumcision, baptism, ceremonial religious
performance and attempts to keep the law by the efforts of the flesh:
But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the
world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision,
but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon
the Israel of God. (Galatian 6:14-16)
In Colossians Paul reminds the believer that God brings about an inner circumcision
of the heart when someone become a Christian. This is appropriated by the Christian by faith,
4. One of the problems with a list of rules such as those listed in this
article---rules and practical formulas such as those listed above, accompanied
by faith, do have their place in the Christian walk---is that the heart
is deceitful and we sin because we want to sin.
As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted
and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught,
abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one makes a prey of you by
philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to
the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For
in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness
of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also
you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting
off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried
with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith
in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead
in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together
with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond
which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing
it to the cross. (2:6-14)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? "I the LORD search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
We sin because it brings temporary pleasure. When we decide to go ahead and sin, we always find some
form of rationalize or to minimize what we are doing. For example, "I
know this is wrong, but I know God will forgive me afterwords." (See
The Scars of Sin, by Ray C. Stedman for the dangers
in this and other attitudes towards sin). The problem is inner cleansing
of the well-springs of Adam,
"Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man
which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of
a man are what defile him." And when he had entered the house, and
left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said
to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that
whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters,
not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus he declared
all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a man is what defiles
a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication,
theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness,
envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within,
and they defile a man." (Luke 7:14-23)
Denying the flesh, delivering it over to death daily and walking in the
Spirit is how the Christian life is to be lived. This is easier said that
done. Paul's guidelines in Colossians are clear:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that
are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds
on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have
died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life
appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore
what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and
covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God
is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put
them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature
with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed
in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there cannot be Greek
and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free
man, but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones,
holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience,
forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another,
forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect
harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed
you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ
dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to
God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of
the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (3:1-17)
God's goal for the Christian life is wholeness (holiness). See articles listed below or go to the
Ray C. Stedman Memorial Library and Search the topics of Wholeness, Biblical Rest, the
Flesh vs. the Spirit, Legalism, etc.
A quote from A. W. Tozer,
The cross is the symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end
of the human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started
down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming
back. He was not going out to have his life redirected. He was going out
to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared
nothing. It slew all of the man completely and for good. It did not try
to keep on good terms with its victim. it struck swift and hard and when
it had finished its work the man was no more. That evangelism which draws
friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of man is false
to the Bible and cruel to the soul of the hearers. The faith of Christ does
not parallel the world. It intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not
bring our life up on to a higher plane. We leave it at a cross. The grain
of wheat must fall into the ground and die. That is the beginning of the
Additional LDS Reference Chastity
April 17, 1996
Revised December 2, 2002. February 19, 2009.