Joseph Smith's Struggle With Masturbation
Smith refers several times to his teen years and mentions some kind of moral "weakness" that he struggled with. the 1838 version of the "first vision" includes a similar reference. His earlier "first vision" accounts suggest that he went into a grove to ask forgiveness for a sin that he was struggling with.
We all know what Smith's libido was like later in his life. From the scriptures he wrote we also see an author very uncomfortable with sexual guilt.
Masturbation - especially for teen males - is very natural and common. It would certainly be normal if Smith experimented with masturbation, and wouldn't it be likely that his religious fervor would give him guilt?
Smith's mentions of early teen guilt and struggle with moral sin could be vauge references to masturbation.
Smith's original statements said that he "gratified many appetites.” In JOSEPH SMITH HISTORY 28:27 he confessed. But I think Willard Richards edited his confession. The ALL CAPS is the stuff Richards edited out.
“28 During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three–having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me–I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God TO THE GRATIFICATION OF MANY APPETITES."
(This can be read in its original form in Times and Seasons, v. 3 pp. 748 749. The next verse, verse 29, was added later after Smith's death, which says he was merely guilty of "levity".)
Smith started having extramarital affairs as early as 1830. In 1831 he told a group of married men that they could take the virgin Lamanite women for child-bearing. In 1835 he had an illicit affair with a 16 year-old girl that boarded at his house. In D&C 132 Smith "revealed" the Lord's command that he take virgins "a hundredfold" in this life for bearing his offspring. By the time of his death, he had over 32 wives including teenagers and his own adopted daughters.
Yet Smith originated the doctrine that sexual sin was next in severity to murder. He taught the Mormon mantra that chastity and virtue are "most dear and previous above all things."
As the founder of Mormonism, Smith's own sexual issues made a tremendous and lasting mark on Mormonism.