I was talking with a friend today and she mentioned that the Church Handbook was recently updated. As she told me the changes she said that they took out masturbating or self gratification being a sin. After talking to her I went to look and couldn’t find anything about this topic in the handbook. I am wondering why this isn’t in there and if I may have missed something. All growing up we were taught that this is a sin and I have taught my teens that it is too. Now I am confused if it is?
In doing some research on this subject you are right. There is no mention in the new handbook just released. Nor is there any mention in the handbook that came out in 2010. Nor is there any mention in the Bishop and Stake Presidents handbook that came out in 2006.
Sometimes I think we get so caught up with the idea that if it’s not in the Church handbooks or not specifically mentioned in any guidelines then it must not be a sin and okay to do. We, at Ask Gramps, get asked so often, “How far can I go sexually without it being a sin?” Believe it or not, there are guidelines specifically outlined and addressed to our youth. These guidelines can also apply to all adults as well. They happen to be in For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.
Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression. (emphasis mine) For the Strength of Youth
Let’s go back to one of those sentences in bold above. “Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.” Doesn’t masturbation arouse those feelings in your body? Whether it’s mentioned in the handbook or not, it definitely falls under that counsel that our leaders have given the youth. So if you are doing something intentionally to arouse sexual feelings, it’s my personal opinion that it is considered sinful. I don’t need a handbook to tell me that.
Just for some past references, this is some guidelines in the Priesthood section on the Church Handbook of Instructions II: (This is the handbook that just became obsolete when the new one came out this year).
Standards provide sure direction to strengthen and guide members of the Church. As young men keep gospel standards, they will be of great service in the Church and the world. They will also be worthy to receive the ordinances of the temple. In the booklet For the Strength of Youth, the First Presidency outlines gospel standards and teaches youth how to apply them. Every young man should have a copy of For the Strength of Youth. He should review the standards often and consider how well he is living them. Quorum advisers and assistant advisers should study the standards in the booklet and exemplify them. They should find ways to teach and reinforce these standards often in lessons and at Mutual activities, camps, youth conference, and other activities. Bishopric members and quorum advisers can encourage parents to study gospel standards, exemplify them, and discuss them with their sons. They can also encourage young men to use For the Strength of Youth as a resource for family home evening lessons and talks.
21.4.5 Chastity and Fidelity
The Lord’s law of chastity is abstinence from sexual relations outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Adultery, fornication, homosexual or lesbian relations, and every other unholy, unnatural, or impure practice are sinful. Members who violate the Lord’s law of chastity or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline.
In the current missionary handbook it has this to say about the law of chastity:
You are expected to obey strictly the law of chastity, which forbids sexual conduct of any kind outside of marriage between husband and wife. (bold mine)
Now as I said earlier, even if masturbation is not listed specifically, it’s pretty clear in the For Strength of Youth pamphlet. That would be the counsel to go by.