Answer: Cultural Myth
A wet dream is otherwise known in clinical terms as ‘nocturnal emissions’.
A man will have on average about five erections while they sleep at night. These happen during REM state, which is a deeper state of sleep. During this time, a person is normally not conscious of their surroundings. It is also during that state of sleep when a nocturnal emission would most likely occur.
A man’s testicles are an organic factory for creating millions of sperm. The life span of sperm is about 100 days.[i] Once the sperm have reached maturity in the testes, they await to be released through ejaculation. If a husband’s sperm are not released through conscious means (such as sexual intercourse with his wife), after a period of time the body’s autonomic system will naturally evacuate these sperm to make way for new sperm or else absorb them back into the body.[ii] This is what happens when wet dreams occur.
Wet dreams are not harmful physically, mentally or spiritually. They are not any more harmful than the function of your bladder filling with urine. In addition, men can have nocturnal emissions all through their lives, though it’s most likely to happen during puberty.
Is a wet dream then a sin before God, like masturbating to profane erotica?
In the Gospel Principles handbook, it says,
“…Sometimes we sin because of ignorance, sometimes because of our weaknesses, and sometimes because of willful disobedience…What is sin? James said, “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). John described sin as “all unrighteousness” (1 John 5:17) and “the transgression of the law” (1 John 5:17)”[iii]
According to these definitions, it suggests that we sin by making a conscious decision to do something that transgresses the laws of God, such as having sex outside of marriage. Whether or not we’ve been taught the law of chastity, taking the action still leads to consequences, but we are conscious and taking action.
By this definition, it would be impossible for a nocturnal emission to be a sin against God, because the man is not able to consciously take action.
Even if there is a sexual dream in association when the wet dream takes place, no sin has been committed. Again, we would have to knowingly entertain those thoughts for them to enter into the realm of sin, and have the ability to make the conscious decision to change the mental subject.
In REM state, we are in a subconscious condition. We are not conscious enough of reality to make the decision that we are having an unwanted thought and then take steps to mentally change the subject. [iv] REM state is also necessary for our overall mental health.
In the gospel library at www.lds.org, it gives this explanation of how the Church acknowledges wet dreams:
” In the boy, millions of sperm grow in the testicles within spermatic fluid. When the fluid and sperm fill the tubules and testes, they are automatically released or ejaculated. This usually happens during sleep and is called nocturnal emissions or “wet dreams.” Sexual dreams are not always present, but they can trigger a nocturnal emission or ejaculation. In either case this is not masturbation.”[v]
If any of you are concerned that you or your spouse or child are sinning by having a wet dream, I hope you will take comfort in knowing that our natural bodily functions are part of God’s plan. I believe that in no way does a boy or man fall out of favor with the Lord through this biological transaction.
[ii] Royal Health Clinic http://www.royalhealthclinics.com/nocturnal_emission.html
[iii] Gospel Principles, Chapter 19, Repentance, pg. 197, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 2009, emphasis added
[iv] For more information on REM state, you can visit this site: http://alleydog.com/topics/consciousness_sleep.php