I know it’s wrong to have sex before marriage, but is it wrong to masturbate? It’s a weird question but you hear about it a lot in the world and I didn’t know if that would be breaking the Law of Chastity? Thanks!
First, I think that a definition of terms is in order. Webster defines chastity as a) the abstention from unlawful sexual intercourse, and b) abstention from all sexual intercourse. In other words, the term could be used in either context. Since masturbation involves only one individual, it does not fall under the context of the definition of chastity. But your question is, is it wrong to masturbate? Let me ask you a question, is it wrong to look at pornographic pictures, or read pornographic literature? If so, why is it wrong? It is simply this, that engaging is such activities is to let ourselves be ruled by our passions, in other words, we become carnal in nature. This path leads to enslavement by our own passions. That is exactly the plan of Satan. The phrase often used in this context is “carnal and devilish.” The prophet Abinadi put it this way—
For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil (Mosiah 16:3).
So, to the extent that we give in to the carnal desires of the flesh, among them masturbation, we allow ourselves to come under the influence of the adversary. The very object of our existence in mortality, where we gain a physical body with all its sensory influences, is to overcome the physical with the spiritual. We gain spiritual strength as we overcome the appetites and passions of the body, and have ourselves under the control of a righteous intellect. Then can we be taught by the Holy Spirit, who enters not into unclean tabernacles. President Joseph Fielding Smith said the following—
“`My spirit,’ says the Christ `will not dwell in unclean tabernacles.’ The corruption that is in the world through lust, as mentioned in one of Peter’s Epistles, has its source in thoughts and schemes harbored in the individual mind. A man who takes advantage of his neighbor in a business deal when the opportunity offers has prepared himself for the occasion by dishonest thinking. Young couples do not lose their chastity, named by the Book of Mormon as `precious above all things’ without their having previously in thought justified the act” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1964).
So the very objective of our mortal lives is to learn to dominate the carnal with the spiritual, to dominate the body with the righteous mind, to keep all physical passions and appetites under control, to be used only in righteousness for holy purposes. We cannot give ourselves to the Lord if we cannot control who or what we are. And if we cannot give ourselves to the Lord, we become subject to the adversary. In the words of President Heber J. Grant,
“Virtue does not consist simply in being prevented from committing evils, but in having temptations presented before us and then governing our passions and appetites. Good and evil are placed before us, no matter by whom, it is for us to resist evil and cleave to the right. We are told that it is to him that overcometh that I will grant to sit down on my throne, as I have overcome and sat down on my Father’s throne” (President Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, April 1933).
Now, if masturbation has become a habit, it is not an easy habit to break. But there is no question that it can be done. It may take time and concerted effort and the help of the Lord, but it certainly can be done. The problem is that if we give in to the temptation one time, the adversary tries to get us to believe that it is useless to try. But that is the great folly that the adversary would have us believe. Here is an example–a football game, the quarterback keeps giving the ball to the running back, who, after making some progress each time he gets the ball, gets tackled. After so much of this, the running back says to himself, “Every time I get the ball and start toward the goal, I get tackled. I’ll never make it to the goal.” So he throws down the ball and walks off the field. That’s what it’s like to give in to temptation. The name of the game is NEVER GIVE UP. If we do our best to live a righteous life, the Lord will be at our side and give us the added strength that we need to fulfill our desires to do His will.