Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review of "Every Young Man's Battle:Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation"

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I constantly hear the warning from local and general level leadership that pornography is a bad thing, and for very understandable reasons. However, I have not yet in 6+ years of being a member heard any leader talk about masturbation, how to avoid the practice, whether or not it is always sinful, and how to break the habit, as well how pornography is linked to all of this. Most leaders simply say to avoid it, but there is no clear direction of how, and what other things besides pornography constitute sexual sin. Perhaps in future conferences these things will be addressed more in detail.

This brings me to the book I recently finished: Every Young Man's Battle: Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation. Due to what I mentioned earlier, in many respects this book was a godsend to me because it addressed head on many of the things I deal with a single man trying to live within the framework of Christian standards, even if I fail from time to time. The book showed how this is possible.

Just as a quick overview, the book is co-authored by Fred Stoeker and Stephen Arterburn, two men who go in depth about their past addictions to pornography, masturbation, and pre-marital sex. It was refreshing to have someone talk about these issues from the side of being aware of male impulses rather than someone pretending as though they don't exist, which is how this issue is normally treated in church.

One of the main principles I had realized for awhile but it remained in the back of my mind rather than at the forefront was how men receive sexual gratification through their eyes. While this seems obvious in the realm of pornography where the entire industry is built on it, it may not seem that way when a man is looking lustfully at the women who he passes each day: joggers, classmates, female church patrons, etc. I realized I do that far too much myself, and this has the potential of making women into objects rather than into humans. The book recommends bouncing your eyes, meaning not looking at certain parts of a woman and keeping eye contact at all times. I will have to implement that more in the future.

The one drawback about this book is that while it is refreshing on one hand to have Fred and Stephen talk about their pasts and how they overcame it, it can on the other hand serve as a testament that a person can do whatever they want until they get to the point they want to change, and that in the end there were no consequences for engaging in these behaviors. This book would be of more help if written from the person who didn't engage in these sorts of activities and showed it was possible to be pure without having to sink to the lowest point. This narrative was common in my pre-LDS experience, and not ironically many men in my youth group slid down the same road because they only saw where the person was now rather than what they went through in order to get there. Something to think about at any rate.

I would give this book 4 out of five stars, and recommend that those men who are single and young read it. It is easy to read and can give you more tools to fight with in your battle.


  1. Your concern about this issue reflects what I believe is a widely held misconception in the church. I will get pilloried for this comment but I think our obsession over masturbation is a cultural tradition that unnecessary burdens young men and women with shame. It is important that we understand that virtually every young man and lots of young women do so . Most adult males even if married face the issue periodically. during the almost decade I was bishop I came to understand that if the rule truly was that YM who masturbated couldn't bless or pass the Sacrament there wouldn't be anyone who could .
    As a wise SP said to me once about this issue there are 2 categories and only 2 of YM ,those who confess and those who lie. There is no clinical evidence that supports the proposition that masturbation does any emotional damage . The guilt may but the act doesn't. Search the scriptures Search the canonized teachings of the prophets . No one condemns it. Elderly men may express their own opinions in GC and they are welcome to do so but we should not confuse that with the word of God.

    1. Boo (if I may),

      thanks for your comment. you are right to point out that most if not all young men engage in masturbation, and that it is not something new or unusual.

      Given that pornography is generally linked with masturbation, this is where the sin is commonly linked because you are lusting over someone who is not your spouse as well as participating in the sex trade. This is obviously not Christian behavior, and needs to be rooted out.

      The clinical and scientific evidence is up for debate as you say. But since priesthood leaders have said that one cannot hold a recommend while engaged in this practice, we have to sustain the decision while still being able to have open and serious discussions about it.

      At any rate, thank you for your comment. Made me think.