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Sins of a "Good Mormon Boy"

Each year, the church asked me the same question: "Do you touch yourself?" Each year I lied, and hated myself more.

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The Church has changed since my days. It has tried to update and soften its teachings on masturbation, issuing new versions of its literature for youth with slightly less condemning language, but it cannot help the culture of shame and denial embedded inside the faith (for instance, Packer’s pamphlet about little factories and release valves is still distributed on the Church’s website.)

Blogs like  The Mormon Therapist offer regular challenges to these aspects of the Church’s doctrine, which I watch from the sidelines, glad that there are still people with the patience, faith and resolve to change it from within.

But all of that is in my rear-view mirror now.

While making my way to my own private Zion, I heard a song by Michelle Shocked, another Mormon who walked away, but whose lyrics I think my Mormon ancestors would have appreciated:

What the hell’d you let them break your spirit for?
You know, their lives ran in circles so small.
Ah, they thought they’d seen it all.
And they could not make a place for a girl who’d seen the ocean.

I had seen the ocean, and I wasn’t going back to the desert ever again.


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