7: The Epic Sex Series – Part 1: The Mixed Messages We Give Our Youth About Sex

Greg hosts the inaugural episode of Mormon Expositors “Epic Sex Series” with panelists Brandt and Amy and special Natasha Helfer Parker. They have a frank discussion about the “mind #%$@” many LDS lessons and doctrines give our youth about sex, morality, modesty and how they view themselves.

The Mormon Therapist

The LDS Church’s “For the Strength of Youth”



  1. Christopher Wiren (@chriccha)

    Standing ovation!
    Looking forward to the continuation of this series…

    Reply Sep 26, 2012 @ 13:29:16
  2. Greg Rockwell

    Here is the link to the study we referrenced on sex, secularism, and religious upbringing.


    Reply Sep 26, 2012 @ 15:30:38
  3. Utahhiker801

    I appreciate this conversation. I have two sons (ages 10 & 12) and I have made sure that I have stayed in the room when the bishop has interviewed them even when he invited me to leave. My wife and I previously talked about this, so I’m happy to say we’re on the same page with letting our kids know that masturbation is normal and not letting church leaders introduce contrary views.

    Recently, I had a temple recommend interview with a member of the stake presidency. He added this statement/question: “The law of chastity is mainly concerned with chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage, but it also encompasses other areas of sexual behavior. Do you inappropriately touch yourself or others?”

    Firstly, it’s my understanding that asking additional questions not on the list is against the Handbook of Instructions; and secondly, with his question couched in such euphemisms, I’m not sure what he was asking. I assume he was trying to ask if I masturbated, but I’m not sure what he meant by asking how I touched others and what would or would not be inappropriate. Was he trying to ask about my relationship with my wife? I really have no idea.

    I lost respect for him, and it confirmed my position that I will never allow my children to be alone with a church leader in an interview.

    Reply Sep 26, 2012 @ 17:37:07
    • brandt

      100% correct. The members of the Bishopric/BP and Stake Presidency are to ask the questions in the temple recommend interview EXACTLY how they are written. That was out of line, and I hope that either you or someone else brought that up the chain. Obviously, that’s a problem that we have within the church is that the appeal to higher-up authority is discouraged, is tossed aside, or looked on as apostasy and not supporting the leadership.

      Basically, your stake president was out of line, but sadly, most of the general membership wouldn’t know that because they either wouldn’t want to escalate for a multitude of reasons, or just don’t know enough to say something reinforcing what the official method of temple recommend questions are because they just don’t know because that information isn’t made public.

      Even as a believer, that’s a problem that we consistently fight against.

      Reply Sep 26, 2012 @ 18:15:06
      • Greg Rockwell

        I am constantly amazed at the number of times I hear about priesthood leaders who explicitly and unambiguously go against the policies of the church in order to attempt to enforce their views on what the commandments really mean.

        Folks, this is true apostasy. I openly reject the leaders of the church so there is no chance of me deceptively leading someone astray. These smug bastards do it acting as if they are supporting the authority that they are actually undermining, while seriously damaging people in the process.

        Thank god my children will never have to be deprogrammed from this type of crap.

        Reply Sep 26, 2012 @ 20:02:48
  4. Gail F. Bartholomew

    It seems that all these issues; whether masturbation wrong, the appropriateness of ecclesiastical leaders asking questions about your sexuality, the sexually skewed definitions we as Mormons have of words suck as modesty and morality, come down to one problem. The problem is that Mormon theology or at least the Mormon institution teaching we the Mormon people that only a subset of our people are aloud to be sexual beings at all. If you are not married any expression or feeling of sexuality is considered sin. Even for those that are married sexuality is only permissible with in a narrowly prescribed margin. And those people that don’t even have sexual desire with in that narrowly defined margin are all but required to force themselves to participate in sexual relationships that they don’t want to if they are going to be accepted as a full adult or even into salvation.
    Why can we not teach our people young and old how to make healthy and moral sexual choices instead of teaching our people to be afraid of our sexuality?

    Reply Sep 26, 2012 @ 20:35:35
    • Greg Rockwell

      Great points, Gail. And let’s not forget that your and your family’s life is exhibit A for how this issue seriously impacts well being.

      I think I summarize the problem in this way.

      There is no place where Church leaders are more blindly confident in their “rightness” than in areas of sexuality.

      There is no place where Church leaders are more demonstrably and completely wrong.

      There is no place where Church teachings have a more lasting and damaging effect on people’s lives.

      Reply Sep 26, 2012 @ 20:53:52
  5. berwood

    Link to a Sunstone presentation that critically examined the For the Strength of Youth manual and attempted to rewrite it from a sex-positive perspective. http://strengthentheyouth.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/sunstone-presentation/

    Reply Sep 27, 2012 @ 00:33:00
  6. Heather

    So much for the church toning down it’s “addiction” rhetoric.


    (from the current issue of the Ensign)

    Reply Sep 27, 2012 @ 19:23:50
  7. Anissa

    I am halfway through this. Great so far. Just wanted to say my 12 year old daughter in her first interview with the bishop he asked he if she has masterbated and when she didn’t know what it was he explained it to her! She didn’t even know about any form of self pleasure yet. I was so furious. It is my job to teach my kids those topics. So I asked the Mia Maids in our ward and they all had the same experience. One girl said the bishop asked her if she had ever kissed anyone when she was 13. These things should be voluntary information not pried out of them. So violating. Ok. Now I will go finish the podcast.

    Reply Sep 28, 2012 @ 04:59:10
    • Anissa

      I wrote that from my phone in a hurry. Sorry for the mess ups. But got the point. I wish I had been alerted to these issues then. Now I have the firm decision to be in the room with my kids as they are interviewed. The act of questioning a young girl about sexuality can be abuse in some cases. My daughter was 12 in a room alone with a middle aged man and he was talking about these inappropriate topics with her?! Not OK! Why did I not know that would happen?!

      Reply Sep 28, 2012 @ 05:37:17
  8. Gail F. Bartholomew

    Would you mind explaining a bit a about what the conflict is over whether sex addiction should be a treated condition or not and why?

    Reply Sep 28, 2012 @ 13:31:00
  9. amy

    just a shameless emote…..i love us :)

    Reply Oct 02, 2012 @ 00:12:25
  10. Jay Bryner

    Just want to point out that Greg Rockwell uses very large words. I had to look up the word normative after listening to this podcast.

    Reply Oct 04, 2012 @ 16:46:56
  11. brandt


    Imagine how it is for those of us on the podcast with him! I’m consistently Googling to try to keep up with Greg!

    Reply Oct 04, 2012 @ 17:33:06
  12. JT

    Thanks for your thoughtful discussion.

    Just before listening, I was reading John Turner’s new biography of Brigham Young where on page 159 he writes:

    “While Young struggled to work out the earthly implications of celestial marriage for his own family, he claimed authority to regulate the practice in the Church… [his] belief in the [unfettered and frequent] sexual access of men to their wives partly followed from the church’s doctrine of plural marriage.”

    This got me thinking about Mormonism’s unique sexual brew starting from the beans picked by Joseph Smith, ground by Brigham Young, and filtered through American culture from its colonial roots to at least the 1950’s, when it had cooled to its current equilibrium. My next thought was a question: Are its most distinguishing elements steeped in an even deeper history – as in our evolutionary social primate history?

    In particular, might the “new and everlasting covenant” be the theological sublimation of the Pleistocene instincts of the two highest-status proto-Mormons? Evolutionary psychology might speak to the tensions and the balance between two levels of psychology that shaped LDS conceptions of chastity and sacred conjugal union. One level includes the alpha-male’s individual drive for in-group dominance by sexual hegemony. The other includes the suite of complementary dispositions among rank-and-file group members, male and female. Stick with me as I try to make this much shorter than it is speculative.

    While D&C 132 may have simply been a desperate act of a guy with too much charisma, creativity, hubris, and libido, Brigham, I believe, latched onto this because it primed his inner alpha-chimp pump. Central to Brigham’s latter-day alpha-male behavior was how his instinctual self-interest complemented the group’s interest. It was all about survival, and mating strategy is central to survival. In other words, the evolutionary yin to Brigham’s alpha-yang were the members’ yearning for security and a share of the best “celestial genes.” Recall how this played out in mob-besieged Nauvoo – how so many women and lower-ranking men anxiously clamored to marry, or be adopted by, Brigham before fleeing into the wilderness. The physical was sublimated into the spiritual and the spiritual into the physical – one strange sexual brew indeed! Joseph and Brigham had their sexual myth ready-made to manage a group’s existential terror, including their own and to their own extraordinary self-aggrandizement. These circumstances amplified Joseph’s original “pet” project into an incredible legacy.

    Reifying instinctual moral emotions to promote and regulate in-group mating (and cooperation generally) is the business of all religions. Theologies codify morals and invent gods to imbue them with ultimate validity and to enforce them. But in the end it boils down to controlling reproduction in the service of a social group. Mating strategies make or break both species and societies. This is almost too obvious to mention. The Mormons got it right – the Shakers got it wrong.

    So, in a sense, the Brethren know what they are talking about when they impose their monogamous heterosexuality in the service of their earthly kingdom. Indeed, they are quite explicit about this – though they lead with rhetoric that makes individual and nuclear family salvation appear as the sole object. On the other hand, they don’t understand that the propositional truths they use as a front this work are evolution-inspired myths that don’t fit the modern world so well.

    The problems stemming from Mormon views on human sexuality arise from this mismatch. I hope that more people will be able to loosen themselves from the patriarchal grip of this and other ancient myth-laden religions that cling to misogynistic mating strategies. The environment of evolutionary adaptation that forged these strategies has passed making them dysfunctional and harmful for many. The flourishing of sexual beings requires reasonable responses based on an up-to-date understandings of human sexuality and gender equality.

    Reply Oct 12, 2012 @ 22:29:24
  13. Devin

    I think it would be more appropriately titled, ‘The Mixed Messages We Give Our Youth About Sex’. What it is currently titled could be offensive to most/all.

    Reply Oct 13, 2012 @ 11:08:05
    • Gail F. Bartholomew

      I love the title of the Epic Sex Series. The fact that it may be offensive really a result of the mix messages we received as youth and adults.

      Reply Oct 13, 2012 @ 11:19:49
    • David

      I’ve been wandering in the desert for 40 years waiting for the Epic Sex Series.

      perhaps Monday Night football is still on my brain… but In my journey… ‘Offensive’ implies the relentless ongoing rushing attempts of church leaders to break down my defenses and maintain the lead. They gain all the inches they can, blitzing me with complicated and brazenly simple ‘plays’. They are constantly switching it up on me… with new leaders, new tactics.. but always the same strategy… to score. ‘Team Suit’ keeps score the only way they were taught – one dimensional 1950 management metrics). talks/temple recommends are 1rst downs, baptisms/marriages are touchdowns) (we don’t mention the fumbles)

      In this crazy game called life, I’ve been learning that Team Human can call timeouts and throw down red challenge flags to demand instant replays on these fouls.

      Fouls of Pride, over reaching, false doctrine, abuse, unrighteous dominion,etc… especially as they relate to sensitive children trying to simple make sense of their humanity. (Serenity Now!)

      So.. the best offense is a good defense… learning how to say NO to the emotional/spiritual abuse that happens weekly… and learning how to creating reasonable boundaries/limits with the sexual powers god has given us.

      the more i play defense.. the more I view church leaders as a resource, another podcast and tune more and more into the wisdom from my fellow humans.. those who actually admit to a sin (just 1) In these ‘huddles’ with 2 or 3 of my buddies who actually know me.. I get the most amazing revelations.

      Reply Oct 16, 2012 @ 03:12:50
  14. JennWestfall

    I am very late to the game here, but I just got done with this episode. The only thing that bothered me was when someone said “How many times do you hear of a unitarian molesting children?” Someone did follow that up by saying that pedophiles run the gamut, but I wanted to add that the only reason we don’t know that a child molester is a unitarian is because no one cares–only if the religion makes it somehow more scandalous is it going to be mentioned.

    Reply Dec 12, 2012 @ 00:25:04
    • Greg Rockwell


      That’s a very good point. Thanks for bringing it up.

      As I reflect on it a little, I think it links to one of the other things I’ve been thinking about and that we touch on in tube discussion. If there is one thing the Church leadership is falsely confident about, it’s sex. That false confidence extends to the notion that the repression of sex in LDS culture has a beneficial effect on behavior. The leaders believe that this cocktail of spirit and doctrine will create a culture of virtue. What it actually does is create a culture of shame and coverup.

      But again, your point is well taken.

      Reply Dec 12, 2012 @ 09:26:24
  15. Cassandra

    I am so ashamed to admit that I swallowed everything the church taught us about masturbation until I was about 27 years old. I am still single (now in my late 30s), and once I decided it was “better to [masturbate] than to burn”, I’ve been having a lovely time. I don’t constantly think about sex, or constantly masturbate, and I’m not addicted to porn; neither did I suddenly become the singles ward slut. But I became more relaxed and certainly less frustrated. I’ve moved on to a family ward now, and one of the hardest things I do is try to keep my mouth shut when parents go on and on about how dangerous masturbation is. If a kid is above the age of 12, I bet they know more about masturbation and sex than some of the parents do…

    Reply Feb 10, 2013 @ 17:07:22
  16. One hot momma

    I almost skipped to part 2 since this had to deal with youth issues, but this is fascinating.
    I want to state that the youth are not the only ones who deal with the ‘sin seeker’ mentality of our ecclesiastical leaders. Just Yesterday I resigned from the church because of the faulty handling of my relationship with my boyfriend. The funny part? I’M 40 YEARS OLD! I am still floored over the fact that a grown man can ASK a grown woman if she is chaste. And when or if I choose to lie about it, how do you repeatedly ask that question? I was immediately told that I would have a disciplinary court and probably be excommunicated since I was not willing to leave my relationship. When I handed in my papers yesterday, the branch president immediately started to back track and say that my personal circumstances would be considered in the court, like my termination of an extremely abusive temple marriage. I told him they should have been considered before I was threatened with excommunication.
    But my point again is that this sin seeker mentality should not be accepted. I am actually debating whether to continue to let my 8 yr old attend, or just sit in on interviews, as expressed by some panelists. This is hard indoctrination to get through with a healthy attitude towards sex, and I worry about my child. Thank you again for your podcasts. I look forward to part 2.

    Reply Mar 11, 2013 @ 14:47:58
    • Greg Rockwell

      Well said.

      Ironically, I have talked with several people recently who are of the opinion that the older you get, the more the Lord is lenient with you as regards sexual behavior.

      I certainly believe that god is not judging sex the way the church does. Then again, my views on that lack of judgment are pretty comprehensive ;)

      Good for you for calling the manipulative bluff.

      Reply Mar 11, 2013 @ 15:44:00

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