A friend doesn't go on a diet because you are fat. -Erma Bombeck
Question #23236 posted on 02/24/2006 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

In reference to Board Question #23107. I looked up The Backslider by Levi Peterson because, frankly, it probably caught my eye because of the asterisks, and it was also referenced in Katya's link. I looked it up online and I read the first chapter and I was shocked. I have to admit that I may be naive as far as "things of the world" go - but I don't see the value in reading about the specific sins and thoughts that this guy has. So my questions for you are meant to be honest and non-confrontational: Why did you list this book as one of your favorites? Is the resolution valuable enough to merit the language and material in the beginning chapter?

Sorry for having two questions in one entry - but being an unmarried girl, I find boys to be something of a mystery. So here's my second question - are the sins that the main character Kevin deals with common among Mormon men? I found the references to masturbation especially troubling. I know that nobody's perfect - and maybe the reason why this character has a book about him is because his situation is somewhat unique? ( I'm hoping )
Anyway - your thoughts on this would be great.

- KindOfDisgustedWithTheWorld

A: Dear KODWTW,

Why did you list this book as one of your favorites?

This book is about someone who isn't perfect, who makes a lot of mistakes (and keeps making them), who thinks that he isn't a valuable, lovable or worthwhile person because he keeps making mistakes, and who finds out otherwise.

It's one of my favorites because I know many people who feel the same way, who think that they are beyond forgiveness or repentance because they have made serious mistakes in their past. I haven't necessarily made the same mistakes as the main character of this book, but I've gone though times when I keenly felt myself to be far from adequate, and unworthy of love because of it. So seeing this character come to an understanding of God's love for him helps me, too.

Is the resolution valuable enough to merit the language and material in the beginning chapter?

Umm, maybe not. For you. If you're offended by the beginning chapter, I have to warn you that the rest of the book isn't much better. And you'll probably be offended by the vision of Christ in the last chapter, too.

If you sympathize with the main character and his struggles, this is a great book. If you find the main character and his struggles to be foreign and upsetting, this is probably not the book for you.

- Katya
A: Dear KindOfDisgustedWithTheWorld,

Katya asked me to address your second set of question and filled me in on the basics of the story (I haven't read the book). To be honest, I am unable to find statistics on the prevalence of masturbation among LDS adolescent males. However, let me share what I did find.

In chapter 4 of Worth Waiting For: Sexual Abstinence Before Marriage by Brent Barlow, he quoted Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide in noting that research shows that 95% of males and 50-90% of females had masturbated at some point during their life as well as that "regular church attenders masturbate as much as the nonattenders." While not specific to the LDS population, this shows that the rates are similar regardless of religiosity.

To specifically note the LDS community, he used a quote from President Spencer W. Kimball where he says that the practice of masturbation is actually "a rather common indiscretion." So, even if we say that LDS prevalence is half of the general population, that would still mean a rate of about 47%. So, if you call maybe half of all LDS men engaging in the practice at some point common, then yes, it is sadly common.

Your comment about finding it troubling as well as your signature caught my attention. I am not saying you are, but I am going to take this opportunity to simply remind you and anyone else who is reading who may also be "disgusted" by the topic or the thought that masturbation is so common among members of the church to be careful about passing unrighteous judgment.

Sexual urges are very powerful. President Kimball's notation of this being a common practice should help you see that falling into this practice, even just once, is apparently not difficult.

While you might find the idea of someone struggling with masturbation or even engaging in it once to be "disgusting," remember that we all have weaknesses. If it isn't masturbation, perhaps it is petting, pornography, sexual intercourse, homosexuality, drug abuse, theft (cars, candy bars, or anything in-between), drinking, smoking, gambling, emotional or physical abuse, participating in inappropriate entertainment/media, not paying tithing, failing to keep the Sabbath day holy, not hearkening to the counsel of our leaders, or a host of one or more of any number of sins.

Is it wrong for any one of these practices to be repugnant to us? No. They are all sins and should be repugnant. Just be sure that it is the practice, the sin, that you find repugnant and not the person.

-Pa Grape