A newly leaked guidebook from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints claims masturbation is prohibited because it can lead to homosexuality and criminal behavior.
“Early masturbation experiences introduce the individual to sexual thoughts which may become habit-forming and reinforcing to homosexual interests,” it reads in part. “Self-masturbation is almost universal among those who engage in homosexual behavior, and is a very difficult habit for most to overcome.”
Originally published 1981, the manual was posted this week by MormonLeaks, a group dedicated to more transparency within the LDS church.
The guide also claims homosexuality is “learned behavior” caused by dominant mothers and absentee fathers, and warns unrepentant homosexuals will be banned from church activities, organizations and employment.
It’s not the first time the church’s odd views on homosexuality have come to light: In August, MormonLeaks posted the minutes of a 2014 LDS conference where an elder was asked how to counsel a young man who thinks he’s gay.
“Give them association with manly things,” Elder Tom Perry responded. “Strong men that represent the ideal of relationships, a man who is vigorous and knows the power he holds.”
LDS leaders were major backers of California’s Prop 8 and, in 2015, the Church declared people in same-sex relationships were apostates and their children could not be baptized without denouncing their parents.
But there has been something of an evolution among the flock: A Pew Research poll found that 36% of Mormons believe “homosexuality should be accepted by society,” up from increased acceptance of LGBT people among Mormons: In 2007 only 24% of church members believed 24% in 2007.
And the website Mormon and Gay offers advice and information on LDS’s official view toward “same-sex attraction.” Launched last year, it makes clear its not accepted by the church, but urges compassion and respect towards LGBT-identified individuals. It also steps away from earlier doctine like the one posted on MormonLeaks.
“The church has never come out and said, ‘Throw away this manual; it is no longer relevant,’” MormonLeaks founder Ryan McKnight told Newsweek. “That being said, if you were to track the rhetoric coming from the top leadership you will see somewhat of a shift in their views on the subject.”
McKnight says the real change has been from actively preaching against homosexuality to “simply not talking about the issue as much.”
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