28 September 2009

Being Your Own Best Friend

Abe dared us all to write about The Big M. Okay, I'll rise to the occasion. I'm not a jack of all trades but this topic I think I know a little bit about.

I first discovered it completely on my own when I was about 13. I was sitting on the sofa reading a book. When I shifted positions, hmmm. What just happened? Bit of a zing there. Curious. Nobody had ever told me anything about this. I tried it again. Zing, again. Hey what was that? I sat still and tried to solve the mystery, and realized something else was going on in a particular locale where I'd never noticed anything before. Gee, I didn't know I had a pressure cooker built in there. This was weird. To this day I have no idea how, but I just knew instinctively that something had to get out. So I went into the bathroom, and 30 minutes later emerged wide-eyed and giggling.

[excuse me, I have a quick staff meeting]

Okay, I'm back. Where was I? Oh yeah, getting in touch with myself. Well, as any normal boy would, I quickly became an expert. And soon ran into the full barrage of guilt from on high in Salt Lake, filtered through well-meaning, obedient but (I've since concluded) innocently clueless local leaders. So I did my best to refrain from hand to gland combat and went without for long stretches sometimes, but I never pulled it off completely. And the Church-sponsored guilt was incredible. Kimball's Mirage of Forgiveness set me back years in terms of spiritual confidence. Sometimes I still want to go buy a copy of that book just so I can burn one particular chapter atop a big pile of crumpled Kleenexes. Most Mormons don't know about Kip Eliason who killed himself out of Church-imposed guilt that he couldn't stop. Horrific. The Church deserved to pay every penny Eliason's dad sued it for.

[excuse me again, now I have to go walk the dog]

Okay, back again. So the mission comes (oops) and goes, I make it through without a single "slip up" except for that one time when my MTC companion remarked the next morning about the little earthquake he thought he felt during the night (slight bunkbed tremor). I'm thinking wow, I must be Superman. Can I sustain this? Answer: LOL! Finally I get married and experience "the real thing", but guess what. I also discover that spouses of the Mormon female persuasion often grow up with even more unnecessary Church-sponsored guilt and hang-ups than the boys do. Fortunately I have coping skills. Said spouse's sanity eventually goes kablooey, and your humble correspondent finds himself single once again. And this time re-examining lots of things in light of little son who will someday be sitting on a sofa when something suddenly goes zing, and by that time I'd bloody well better be more equipped to deal with the issue (oops) than my dad and church leaders were.

[sorry for the interruption, I have to go rope the pony]

So I start reading and researching. What is really the basis for all this autoerotophobia? I'll spare you the details of the process, but the climax was finding a lengthy, thoroughly researched scholarly article about the entire history of official LDS treatment of The Big M. I learned that "official" pronouncements about it had been all over the map since the first mention in the 1870's which was right in line with the hysterical and hysterically false Victorian notions of the time, through the 1920's when Church publications were a lot less stiff about it and merely counseled parents to discuss it with their kids so it didn't get out of hand, and then the pendulum swung back again with the advent of Spencer Kimball, Mark Peterson, and Boyd Packer's seminal Little Factory speech which re-ignited a firestorm of new guilt in new generations of otherwise normal fine upstanding Peter Priesthoods, and now it seems that Church publications are going softer again. My hero-worshiping nephew says he's never heard a word about it in his incredibly conservative ward.

[sorry for another interruption, I have to clean a rifle]

OK, back again. My conclusions from all this? Real true gospel truth doesn't fluctuate like that. Only possible logical conclusion? I had the bad luck to come along at a time when a handful of church leaders were force-feeding us all a diet of personal prejudice cloaked in the mantle of authority, masquerading as gospel truth despite the total absence of any Scriptural basis for it.

Result for me? I won't beat around the bush. More loss of trust in LDS leaders and increased attention to identifying the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. The loss isn't complete, but the trust is now much more narrowly focused and placed. Outside that shrinking circle, I take full responsibility for my own judgments and conclusions, based on the best reasoning, study, and inspiration I can find. Oh, and while I am of course decorous, I have completely lost all that old paranoia and become the most laid-back, tolerant, open, frank, unshockable, unprudish person you will ever meet. SO much healthier.

And my final judgment now tells me that, as long as it doesn't become an obsessive addictive behavior, The Big M is a delightful part of being a boy. God's way of keeping us chaste until we're married (and after). Honestly, it seems to me a demonstration of the staggering creative genius of God; imagine how much He must love us, to give us the capacity to feel like that! And the intelligence to conceive of such a thing and then create it. Are there words to describe it? No! But what an incredible celebration! And it's portable, too! Not to mention heart-healthy and good for warding off prostate cancer. And how can we love others unless we love ourselves first, right?

[excuse me, but darn it, that monkey just won't behave, I'm gonna have to spank it]

When I was a kid I was so frightened of even the mention of The Big M that I learned to lie to the bishop when he asked about it. You might say I learned to beat the bishop at his own game. Now, complete about face. Aforementioned little son is now not quite so little, he knows all about it, knows what to expect (well, theoretically), and knows he is in for a rollicking good time. Like tasting every flavor in a banana split in every cell of your body, a million times magnified. But warmer. He has none of the hang-ups or prudery I had, he is going to grow up happy and healthy and well-adjusted and confident in himself and delighted with this gift God gave him. He also knows that if any prying bishop asks him anything about this topic, he is to tell said bishop to butt out, he doesn't discuss it with anyone but his dad, and if said bishop has any more questions he's to talk to dad. And God help that bishop if he actually follows up with me.

So that's the long & short of it from here. And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go change the oil. And then practice the organ. And then the flute . . .


Original Mohomie said...

Wow, you win the euphemisms and references award, hands down. My favorite is "I never pulled it off completely."

Chedner said...

Heh, I would say that your son's lucky...

... but with all those puns... ;)

Ned said...

Love it. I'd write more, but first I've got to...

Adjust the antenna

Caulk the cracks in the bathroom tile

Debug the harddrive

Get out some maps of the Hawaiian Islands

Help put Mr. Kleenex's kids through college

Let the cat out of the bag

Liquidate the inventory

Paint the ceiling

Sample the secret sauce

Use the Force

Wax the Buick

and then see if I can work things out.

Beck said...

Scrum... loved your humor adding needed lubrication to a pretty stiff subject matter.

Urban Koda said...

That was quite possibly, the most entertaining post I've ever read on LDS Culture!! Thanks

I am Landmark said...

Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Captain Midnight said...

Well done. I've never seen so much innuendo interlaced in a piece of writing. Highly satisfying.

AmbiguouS One said...

Alan, that was the one of the best posts I've ever had the privilege to read. Way to go!

TGD said...

Loved it! I regret being on vacation most of September when Abe mad the challenge but I don't think I could have written anything as awesome as this anyway.

Emily Pearson said...

The Big M was never discussed in my Ward because girls don't do that. I once snuck into Gospel Doctrine to get my mom and they were watching Pres Kimball on some video talk about the evils of masterbation. I remember freezing and thinking "Oh, shit..."

I would expound more on your fabulous post but BOB is calling my name...

Gay Mormon said...

After reading the book "Masturbation: The history of a great terror. (by jean Stengers and Anne Van Neck) I finally began to understand the source of revelation from whence Elder Packer and President Kimball got their Masturbatory views. The origin of Elder Packers discriminatory council to "fill our stage. . .in order to drive away the imps. . .may possibly have come from Dr Crommelinck's Teachings. (As late as the mid 1800's Crommelinck was giving the following advice: "Keep a collection of the best poets at hand, and as soon as the desire to masturbate overcomes you, give yourself fifty or a hundred verses to learn by heart, giving preference to selection on morals, philosophy or history, the more difficult the piece the better.") "Sin Against Nature" a favorite phrase of President Kimball, can trace to it's roots to the Thirteenth Century as used by Thomas Aguinas, then in the fifthteenth century by Saint Auntonius(De vicio contra naturum: mollicies) and again in the sixteenth century by Cajetan (unum de peccatis contra naturam) As Alan mentioned, I too have come to the conclusion that these men were most likely preaching their own agenda, literally taking much of what was taught during the dark and Victorian era’s, and preaching it as divine doctrine.

These are just a few of the archaic idealisms which found their origins during the dark ages. It is interesting to note that the modern day science and religion of the time taught that masturbation was the cause of medical conditions such as: cephalalgias, vertigo, cerebral congestion, and in general "all the illnesses of the brain and the spinal column." Nervous Troubles: asthenis, melancholia, hysteria, convulsions, stupidity, imbecility, and insanity. Sense organs and phonation: weakening or total loss of sight and hearing (this is where the "you'll go blind philosophy originated) progressive loss of smell and taste. Skeletal system: Rachiotis, gibbosities, stunting of growth, articular rheumatism, and gout. And so many more I do not have the time or space to include. I would also like to point out that the final prognosis, for the incurable masturbator, was often thought to be death. (Dictionnaire des sciences medicales) In 1860 Dr DeBourge expressed the idea that: This abominable practice has put to death more individuals than all the great wars, joined to the most depopulating epidemics."

It was during this period that religious leaders of the time began using “Guilt” and fear as motivators to keep youth from falling to this abhorrent practice of “self pollution”. We no longer believe that the above mentioned ails are caused by masturbation yet for some reason we cling to the idea that it is a “sin against nature”. Why it is that society, in particular the LDS church for the purposes of this conversation, have progressed and moved forward in regards to the idea that masturbation causes said mentioned ails, yet due to the result of their personal beliefs many modern Prophetic leaders continue to preach archaic “personal” agenda’s in regards to many sexual issues which have no canonized support of any value? Seriously Folks can anyone site even one scripturally canonized command that mankind not “self pollute”? (ie masturbate, jack off, whack the willy, yank the chain, lube the tube, beat the meat, etc. etc. etc.)

P.S. I heartily agree with Chedner, Your son is lucky to have a father with the your particular insight. Your son will have the advantage of not having to experience the "Guilt" of our era.

jen said...

I have nothing smart to say, just wanted to say I really appreciated this. I am currently trying to figure out sexuality... as a 32 year old woman who has been married for a grand total of nine years, and I have NO clue...