Healing from pornography addiction

One of the best things I like about my church is that we don’t hide from the difficult issues. In fact, in my opinion, the LDS Church excels at helping individuals change. That’s what the gospel is all about. Of course, the Savior is the source of healing, but our church is doing so much to reach out and help individuals and families heal from the effects of pornography addiction.

Because the majority of pornography is delivered via the Internet, and those who struggle with it are usually men alone in their own home, I hope this essay reaches you in the same way. I have had enough experience blogging now that I know there will be some who will rip apart what I am about to share. That’s OK. I’m not writing to them. I writing to you who care about the Lord.

Exposure to Internet pornography

I am a computer support professional. I was first exposed to Internet pornography in 1995 when I was called by a co-worker to take a look at his computer and figure out what was wrong with it. He stepped out to take a smoke break and I began my investigation. The first thing I usually do is to close open browser windows. I maximized the browser and was shocked.

I quickly closed the browser, or at least I tried to. Additional windows of pornography kept popping up faster than I could close them. Finally I had to shut the computer down to get it to stop. “I think I found your problem,” I said when he came back into the office. A conversation ensued about the many reasons why he shouldn’t visit porn sites on our company computers.

Pornography can destroy

I immediately investigated and installed web monitoring and blocking software. In getting the expense approved, I was instructed not to block any web access on the executive computers. Because I prepared the monitoring reports for my boss, I soon received an education that the worst kind of pornography reached even to the highest levels of executive management.

I submitted my report to my boss who was shocked to discover that the CEO of the company was deeply involved in viewing pornography, including homosexual porn, especially young boys. It wasn’t long before the board of directors had relieved the CEO of his duties. The man went from pulling down a $250,000 annual salary to unemployed because of his porn viewing habits.

Pornography is everywhere

Now I had seen pornography before. You can’t grow up in today’s world and not be exposed to it. In my case, it came as early as eight years old at a neighbor’s home in the form of discarded magazines. I soon learned that I did not feel right when viewing such material. The Lord was helping me even at that early age to recognize that such material was not conducive to the Spirit.

It has been many years since I was first exposed to Internet porn. It has become much more blatant over the years. Even with pop-up blockers and filtering I have to be very, very careful about what sites I visit both at home and at work. I also deal with spam filtering in my work. We are constantly adding filters and tweaking existing ones to block porn and other email spam.

Pornography and the priesthood

I had just been called as a counselor in a Bishopric a few weeks earlier. The memory of what I saw in that split second before I shut the computer down remained burned in my mind and popped up at the most inappropriate times. I found it difficult to concentrate on my scripture reading. I struggled to feel worthy in the temple or in conducting sacrament meetings.

The effect of viewing that pornography was the same even at this point in my life. I was happily married and had been for many years. I had served a mission and went to the temple often. I wonder if it was because I had just been ordained a High Priest that this temptation came back into my life at that time. Pornography and power in the priesthood are simply incompatible.

Addiction can be overcome

What I am about to share would be more effective if we were being instructed together in a stake priesthood meeting or if we were sitting in a counseling scenario in a Bishop’s office. I will include a number of links to additional material at the end of this essay, but I have read them all over the years and would like to summarize what I have found most helpful in a few paragraphs.

First, you are not alone. This is a common problem. Life is a test so we’re going to be tested. Some have to deal with same-sex attraction. Others have to deal with powerful addictions to food or drugs, and others to pornography. The Lord knew that addiction would be a part of the mortal experience for some. If you are addicted to porn, don’t feel like you are the only one.

Healing from addiction is real

Second, I promise you there is a way out. I have seen it over and over. Men who once felt hopeless and powerless are today stalwart and confident priesthood bearers, humble and reliant on the Lord. When they speak or teach, you can feel their love for the Lord. Their appreciation for their deliverance is evident in the way they tenderly bear witness of his atonement.

Third, I have found that the Lord requires the passion that was going into the porn addiction to be used in His service. By so doing, He upholds and sustains you. The temptation will always be there. It is just something you have to live with as long as you are mortal, but with the Lord’s help, it can be mastered. I have seen this happen in the lives of many good brethren. It is real.

Summary and Conclusion

Don’t ever let anyone say to you that there is nothing you can do about it because that’s just the way you are. Don’t believe it. That’s a lie of the adversary. I know this. We can be clean. We can overcome an addiction to pornography and masturbation. The Savior’s power is real but it is dependent upon our faith. Don’t ever give up. He will work with you as long as you are willing.

This life is a test. The Lord knows your weaknesses. So does the adversary. You will be tested in the areas that hurt the most. Pornography is a real problem in the world today. Because of the Internet it reaches into the homes of our faithful Latter-day Saint priesthood holders. You are not alone. It can be overcome. The Lord can heal you. He requires your heart in return.

A personal invitation

Although the best thing to do is to talk to the bishop or to a loving family member, I know it can be difficult to do. Many stakes in the church offer the Addiction Recovery Program, but because of the embarrassing nature of this addiction, perhaps the first step would be to find a helpful yet anonymous friend who understands the problem and is willing to help where possible.

As part of my personal outreach, I offer my support in dialoging about this issue on a private basis. My email address is prominently available on this blog in my profile. I’m serious. We seem to discuss everything on the Internet these days, but if you would rather not post your comments for everyone to see, just shoot me an email. I know this addiction can be mastered.

Additional Information

1. LDS Family Services
2. Addiction Recovery Program
3. Lighted Candle Society
4. Pornography Statistics
5. Family Fragments
6. LifeSTAR Network
7. Covenant Eyes
8. Deseret News Anti-Porn series
9. BYU Cyber Secrets
10. Candeo – Overcoming Porn

And of course, the new official LDS page on Combating Pornography.

27 thoughts on “Healing from pornography addiction”

  1. Hi Tim,The struggle with sin is real. None of us are free from this struggle while in mortality. My favorite scripture about the Lord’s love for those who are in the thick of the struggle is:BEHOLD, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted. D&C 62:1In this scripture we see the tenderness of the Savior as He invites us to understand that he is our advocate. He uses the word “succor”. I looked this word up in the American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828. It means:Literally, to run to, or run to support; hence, to help or relieve when in difficulty, want or distress; to assist and deliver from suffering; as, to succor a besieged city; to succor prisoners.I have been the recipient of this kind of blessing many times in my life and I know that it is real and powerful. If any who read my words are struggling with any kind of sin, addiction, or doubt I hope you can find succor in this scripture. If your struggling with pornography I hope you will take Tim’s invitation and contact him via email. It’s great to have a man like Tim available on-line to deal with this sensitive subject.

  2. Tim, This is a very important post, and I very much appreciate the personal stories you shared. Some have the impression that Church is only for the righteous. Instead, the Church is a kind of hospital containing a community of patients, all sick, but some more than others. You are so correct that the Church is a great healing center.It is a fine offer that you have made to be a source of support to others by email.

  3. Tim,I don’t want to derail or minimize the thrust of your post, which centers us in the healing arms of the Savior. But your post make me want to ask about areas wherein Mormonism may have a very real synergy in the dynamics of pornography addiction.There are two issues. The first has to do with sexual repression. Now Mormons are certainly not as sexually repressed as some other religious groups. I am of the impression that Islam is far more repressive of sexuality.I’m not an expert in these matters, but I believe there is a connection between sexual repression and some dysfunctional behaviors. If a religion, whose leaders can only rarely use the word sex publicly, tends to push sexual issues into realms unspeakable, could it’s members be especially susceptible to living double lives?Certainly it happens with gay people, who learn very early to be dishonest because they have a secret aspect of themselves which cannot be uttered. It is very common for gay mormons to struggle with sexual addiction because they have already built a secret world wherein they feel they must hide their true sexuality.But something else is interesting. Google has a little feature called Google Trends, which allows you to view geographically where searches are coming from. Google Trends is a fun place to research internet search patterns and trends. A few years ago, I compared searches within the United States, typing in the word “sex. ” Google Trends indicated that Salt Lake City was at that time number 4 in the nation for searches for the word sex. With “sexy” it moved up to number 3. Also interesting was to check out the “Regions” tab, where I noted that the majority of searches for “sexy” came from Muslim regions. At least, those are the results I received 2 years ago.So I have often wondered if the tendency to avoid discussions about sex in the church might lead to an unusual dynamic whereby members might develop hidden spaces in their lives where they seek inappropriate sexual interests in secret, but appear perfectly holy in other respects. The Google data suggests that such might be the case.The other matter for Latter-day Saints is the issue of shame. Because sexual transgression is considered to be so horrendous in the LDS tradition, there seems to be an inordinate amount of shame that members experience with even the slightest infraction.Combine shame with sexual repression and you have a recipe for sexual addiction or pornography addiction. At least in theory.Patrick Carnes, who wrote the definitive book dealing with sexual addiction, Out of the Shadows, describes the cycle of addiction, and points out that it is fed by shame. The shame perpetuates the next sexual experience, which results in more shame, creating an endless cycle.I am not trying to say the church is necessarily wrong in its teachings. Rather I am wondering if the position and attitudes of Mormonism might unintentionally exacerbate or set some members up for pornography addiction.

  4. Hi Steven B,Thanks for stopping by. I very much appreciate your insightful comments. I felt they deserved an immediate response, and thus will offer these few comments before church today. In the meantime, I hope to dialog more if you respond again. You have obviously studied this subject out in great detail. I do not feel repressed in my faith. Repression has such a negative connotation, like restriction, suppression, subjugation or constraint, as if it were an outside force, over which I have no control. I prefer the word restraint which has a sense of self-control, self-possession, self-discipline and self-conquest.The boundaries and limits are self-imposed and self-maintained. It’s like fasting, which I am doing today. When I was a child, I did not enjoy the feeling of hunger. As an adult, I have learned to look past the hunger and rejoice in the sense of spiritual openness and closeness to my Savior that fasting brings.We believe in standards and boundaries which are set by the Lord through his servants the prophets and apostles. In the area of sexual purity, the standards are clearly taught. For example, as applicable to the subject of this essay, we read in D&C 42:22-23“Thou shalt love thy wife with all they heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit…” This is revelation from the Lord to us through the prophet Joseph Smith.This is further amplified in D&C 63:16 – “And verily I say unto you, as I have said before, he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear.”Those who have once enjoyed the spirit of the Lord in their lives and then lose it through sexual impurity are unable to exercise faith because faith and fear cannot exist in a person at the same time. Lust invites the unclean spirits of the unseen world to use your body for a time. As they are fearful by nature, those who lust soon become fearful themselves.As far as shame, I believe that shame comes from guilt. I also believe that guilt is a good thing. I do not like the feelings of shame or guilt. I want to get rid of them. Thus I am motivated to repent and to turn to the Savior for strength to control myself and to live up to the standards he has set.I disagree that the church is not open about the teachings or moral purity. We are taught from our youth what the standards are. I also disagree that the leaders of the church rarely use the word sex publicly. What about all the general conference addresses from Elder Scott, Elder Oaks and Elder Holland who have dealt specifically with this topic in a public setting?I wish I had some actual numbers that identify members of the church that actually suffer from sexual addiction. I suspect that the problem of occasional viewing of pornography is high, but actual sexual addiction is not so high. My anecdotal evidence from having served in leadership positions over the past twelve to fifteen years is that it is a very small number. In fact, I am only aware of a handful over all these years.

  5. Tim, thanks for your timely response to my comment. I appreciate your thoughts and spirit. I’m not sure what to make about your ideas about faith and fear. I’ll have to think more on that.I thought that the porn stats site you linked to (lighted candle site) was fascinating, if sometimes unbelievable (Largest consumer of Internet pornography: 12 – 17 year-old age group).Thanks again for your reply.

  6. Luke Gilkerson

    Thanks for passing along the Addiction Recovery Manual. It is packed with information.Step 5 is a convicting step: “Admit to yourself, to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthoodauthority, and to another person the exact nature of your wrongs.” I work for a ministry called Covenant Eyes. We made accountability software specifically for people who are trying to avoid the temptation of Internet pornography. Tens of thousands of people use our software to help them stay vulnerable and accountable to the people who can help them with their addictive behaviors.Have you heard of Covenant Eyes before? I’d love to send you some free pamphlets so you can give them out to people who may benefit from the software. Just let me know if that interests you.Luke GilkersonCovenantEyes.comJob 31:1More Reading:1. Myths About Pornography – http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2008/06/10/myths-about-pornography/2. Is Filtering All There Is? – http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2008/06/12/is-filtering-all-there-is-introducing-accountability-software/

  7. Hi Luke,Thanks for stopping by and adding your comments. No, I was not aware of your site but I am now. Thanks for leaving the link. I reviewed it and was favorably impressed. I like the concept of accountability to another. I would hope that the spouse would be the best person to fulfill that role but for those who are single, what you offer seems like a good alternative.

  8. Luke Gilkerson

    You are right. The ideal marital relationship would include a level of transparency and accountability that would include how we use the Internet. Many single people do use our software, but also many married men also use with their trusted male friends in addition to talking with their wives. Men sometimes find it is easier to “unpack” the hidden motives of their heart with other men.If you know anyone who might benefit from this kind of software I’d be happy to send you some free brochures to make available to others.

  9. Hi Tim, I have been reading several of your posts, and I am happy that you have put so much time and effort into discussing such challenging topics, and that you have offered yourself as a help to those struggling with temptations. You might be interested in a book by a couple of Mormon psychologists:”Willpower Is Not Enough: Why We Don’t Succeed at Change” by A. Dean Byrd and Mark D. ChamberlainThe book is fascinating and insightful, and offers techniques and methods to overcome all sorts of addictions, and it has helped me personally. A. Dean Byrd also has published books on other issues such as homosexuality and divorce, but I don’t know much about them. I hope this helps! Sorry if this is old news to you.

  10. Hi Slimpickins,Thanks for visiting my blog and reading the essays. I have that book in my library. I reviewed and did some light browsing but did not read it in depth. I’ll take another look based on your recommendation. The thing I remember most from my reading was the process described for full expression of needs in appropriate and effective outlets (Chapter 7: Disciplining your heart).One of my favorite books in dealing with behaviors that are not conducive to spiritual growth is “Eliminate your Self-Defeating Behaviors” by Jonathan M. Chamberlain. I was first introduced to it in 1974 at Ricks College in my Psychology class. It is a simple seven-step program that logically and clearly steps you through the process of change. Unfortunately, change is not always a logical process, is it? In my experience, it is more emotional and spiritual.

  11. I just had a very difficult experience with a friend of mine confessing to me that he has been addicted to porn for as long as he can remember. It has cost him very dearly and I’ll admit it has “bruised” our friendship severely. We are, I think, very close friends, and he has been lying to me about himself since the beginning. now I don’t even know who it is I thought I knew. I can’t even imagine what this has done to his wife and marriage. I have been reading all I can about this kind of problem in hopes of gaining some insights that will help me to better help my friend if possible. I found a book called “Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior” by John C. Beck, Martha Nibley Beck (yes there is an unfortunate history with the authors but it is a great book). I highly recommend it to people caught in this problematic cycle and to their loved ones. Its available on Gospel Link (if you’re a member) or book stores…Thanks for posting about this, I appreciate your candor and hope the dialog will shed some light on this thing.

  12. Hi Rich,You are well versed in the books that were written to help. I also have in my library and have tried to read several times, Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior. It is well marked up through chapter three and most of chapter 8 – The Joy Cycle. I confess I simply did not like it and this was before I knew more about Martha’s bad feelings towards the church and her father. I have personal theories about repressed memories that she has written about but that’s a different story.That is sad to hear about your friend. As I intimated in my post, I am familiar with the case histories of many who have overcome the addiction. For some, it’s more like they are on the AA program – confessing that they are addicted, occasionally falling off the wagon, but each time getting up after they fall. It bothers them tremendously that they are still tempted by this problem.At the suggestion of slimpickens I have been re-reading Willpower is not enough. I have been re-educating myself about the what I feel is a big cause of men turning again and again to pornography. The book can help in other addictive behaviors such as compulsive gambling or overeating but I have more experience over the years in counseling those who struggle with pornography.I am convinced that there is some need not being met and they are trying to meet in in viewing pornography. The need is not sexual. It is something deeper and more spiritual. I have not yet put my finger on it. Perhaps I will write about it when I get it figured out. I know it involves change and rising to a higher level of faith in the Lord.Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing. Good luck in your search for finding understanding in how to help your fiend to deal with his confessed problem. That took lot of courage on his part. He must trust you and needs your friendship now more than ever. Be a true representative of Christ and reach out with healing in your heart, motivated by pure love.

  13. I totally agree (about a need not being met), there always has been, according to what he tells me, an “overwhelming loneliness”. This pain needs treatment, pornography numbs the pain, guilt follows and more self-hatred, something needs to be done to numb that pain and pornography is turned to again! Seems so simple that I almost understand where hes coming from. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the “need not being met” might be as varied and complex as the men who have these needs. In the case of my friend, it seemed he was seriously neglected by a father who was also into pornography. It seems hes trying to fill a void left by a less than ideal earthly father, but this is pure speculation on my part.What I don’t understand is the almost unimaginable network of lies hes had to create and live by in order to continue in this destructive cycle. Its almost beyond comprehension and has had an incredibly negative effect on every major phase/achievement in his life; mission, education, marriage, employment…it boggles the mind. Sorry to run on, I’m desperate for some sort of understanding, I’ll look into the book you mentioned and again thank you for the insightful post and prompt response, your blog has been very helpful!

  14. Here’s one more resource that might be helpful: The Deseret News seven part anti-pornography series published in March and April of 2007. See especially part 5. It refers to the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program, which is available in many stakes.I know from experience that there are many who will read this who could benefit from participation in the Addiction Recovery Program but just simply cannot bring themselves to approach their bishop or their spouse. I appreciate those who have emailed me privately. I hope I have been helpful. To those who are seeking help, the offer still stands. Shoot me an email and let’s begin a dialog. It can be overcome.

  15. I appreciate this dialog. The addiction recovery program in the church is a great one. BYU also hosted a conference two different years called, “Cybersecrets”. I don’t know how to make links work in blogs, but here is the web address to access it: http://www.byub.org/secrets/Dean Byrd (author of Willpower is Not Enough) is also the president of an organization called the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. Anyway, he has an article about overcoming sexual addiction that I have found to be quite helpful. I recognize that the Savior is the key to healing. . . I also know there are things we can do to be anxiously engaged. This article helped me know what some of the steps were, mainly because they addressed pretty specifically how I experience the addiction. Other things I’ve read about don’t. . . Anyway, it is late and I’m beginning to babble a little. Here is the link: http://www.narth.com/docs/coll-byrd.htmlThanks for this post.

  16. I finally got around to reviewing the 2003 version of Cyber Secrets. I especially enjoyed the address from Dr. Rick Moody about supporting those who struggle. Perhaps a summary of his six main points would be helpful. I very much recommend it. I both listened to the audio and read along as I listened.1. We can help those struggling with this addiction to reduce shame. Sexuality is a God-given power. Porn addiction is a symptom of an underlying problem. Most addicts already know the consequences. They are very familiar with shame. Shame is the fuel that keeps the porn struggle going. Perhaps what they need help with is coming to know, accept and understand better the power of Godly sorrow, not shame.2. Building on the idea that porn addiction isn’t the real problem, it may be helpful to investigate and discover what the real problem is. Viewing porn is a coping mechanism. Perhaps the real problem is depression or anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed or out of control. Many addicts feel disconnected from people, particularly females. Porn keeps the addict distracted from the real problem – connecting and building healthy relationships.3. Sexual impulses are part of being human and are not sin. Having a desire for sex is not a sin. Taking those impulses into fantasy or sexual compulsion is another thing. It does no good to obsess over the fact that you have sexual impulses. Everybody does. Don’t be anxious or panic when they show up. You haven’t crossed any mystical line just because you feel attracted to someone or feel aroused. That’s perfectly normal.4. Avoidant behaviors are not the answer. Running away from sexual impulses is not the answer. There is simply no way to avoid the bombardment of sexual images in today’s world. The idea of singing a hymn or quoting a scripture can be paradoxical to those who soon come to equate that hymn or scripture with the image or thought. Yes, I know that goes against what Boyd K. Packer suggested, but we’re talking about someone who is addicted here.Think of the metaphor of tug-of war. On the other end of the rope is the monster and there is a pit in between you – a bottomless pit. The secret is not to pull harder but to learn how to drop the rope. That won’t make the monster go away but it will allow you to go about the business of living without getting caught up in a never-ending battle. The “cease and desist” approach gives the porn addiction too much power.So instead of moving away, move toward whatever things in life get you excited and motivated. Drop the rope and move toward things that you value and want. Spend your energy in a positive effort to build good experiences instead of a constant battle and struggle in fighting the porn addiction. Drop the rope and move towards connecting positively with others.Setbacks are going to surface as one moves in a valued direction. Cravings, depression and anxiety are going to reappear to hinder progress. These struggles may seem overwhelming, but remember to drop the rope – don’t engage the monster. Put your energy into something that will bring results. This means change and for most people, that is fearful. It means risk as you try new behaviors and reach out to others. Rejection is a real possibility but so is acceptance.5. Keep perspective. View your setbacks as just that – small setbacks and not terrible, horrible mistakes that must never be repeated. That viewpoint is engaging the monster and will only drag you closer to the pit. We all engage in behavior that distances us spiritually and interferes with goals that we value. Success is not in never falling but in getting up each and every time you fall. Porn addicts have a stigma that should be dropped – it is just a spiritually distancing behavior.6. Then journey to recovery is just that – a journey and not a destination. Recovery is a process, not an outcome to be reached. Is does no good to compare ourselves with others. Our comparison is with our own past behavior and is reflected back to us by our relationship with the Savior. There is no schedule in this journey. It is simply a time to draw closer to the Lord and to the Spirit.On a mountain hike we encounter switchbacks and, on some parts of the trail it may look as if we are going backwards or downhill. But we are on the trail and we are making progress. Someone looking at us from afar can see that very clearly, but we may not have that vision when we are on the part of the trail that dips into a valley or seems to go back and forth forever. This crazy, winding trail eventually leads to the top.That’s why we need to engage and connect with others along the trail and especially with those who have been on the trail before us. Of course, coming to know the master who designed the trail is the best connection we can make. He can help us make those changes and manage the setbacks that we just can’t do alone. A good bishop can help but nobody can take the place of the Savior.

  17. “Admit to yourself, to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthoodauthority, and to another person the exact nature of your wrongs.” My question is: If pornography has been viewed on a few rare occasions years ago and is not an addiction… is true personal repentance sufficient or is a confession to the proper priesthood authority required?

  18. Hi anonymous,Thanks for visiting my blog, reading the essay and comments and leaving a wonderful question. The short answer is no. I do not feel that what you have described merits confession to a bishop. But then, I’m not a priesthood leader in your quorum or ward, so take that into consideration. I’ll also add this from step 5 of the recovery manual:”Use great care and wisdom when selecting someone other than a priesthood leader to whom to disclose your wrongs. Do not share such sensitive information with individuals you suspect might extend improper guidance, provide misinformation, or have difficulty maintaining confidences. Those with whom you share your inventory must be extremely trustworthy in both word and deed.”If your conscious bugs you and you feel that it should be confessed to a bishop, then do so. If you are a prospective missionary, that’s not going to keep you from getting a temple recommend or from serving worthily. You noted that it is not an addiction and that it only occurred a few times years ago. Forsaking is part of repentance. In my view, you have forsaken the sin.The best answer is to ask the Lord in prayer and listen closely to your heart. Do what you feel the Lord would have you do. If I were your Bishop I would feel to congratulate you for not having been involved in more serious stuff. From Brigham Young: “…if you have sinned against your God, or against yourselves, confess to God, and keep the matter to yourselves, for I do not want to know anything about it.”

  19. Tim, I am a bit slow to picking up this post on your blog, but I wanted to mention how much I appreciate the detailed thoughts you shared.As a recovering addict from pornography and other sexual sins, let me just add my witness that the Church Addiction Recovery Program is powerful. It helps reduce the devastating shame you mention, because you can learn from others who have the same weakness.Just as a not, one does not have to confess to a bishop. They are open to all, and are a safe place to learn about the process of repentance and change from addiction.Thanks for bringing a realistic look to a topic that affects so many lives.

  20. Brother Malone, I thank you sincerely for your insight and advice on this subject. I myself am recovering from this…disease (of my own making) I am 17 and hoping to go on a mission soon. I have yet to speak to my bishop about it but have spoken to my father. I want to lead a normal, productive life. I despise pornography and what it continues to do to society. What should I expect at a bishop’s interview?

  21. Hi Sean,Thanks for visiting my blog and adding your comment to the dialog on this essay. You asked what you could expect from a Bishop's interview. I would hope that your Bishop has been holding regular interviews with you over the years, especially since he is required to interview young men to receive the office of priest at age 16. In the ideal world, a youth is being interviewed regularly to go to the temple and participate in Baptisms for the Dead. I commend you for speaking to your father about your concern.Worthiness interviews in the church are conducted by Bishops and Stake Presidents who are ordained as common judges in Israel (D&C 107:72). They are authorized by virtue of their ordination to represent the Lord in conducting these interviews. The purpose of the worthiness interview is to bless the lives of the members and to help them live the gospel of Jesus Christ.A bishop is counseled to prepare spiritually to conduct the worthiness interview so that he may be guided by the spirit during the interview. He should also pray for and seek the spirit of discernment. This is a spiritual gift that will help him discern the truth, as well as the member's needs (see D&C 46:27-28).Besides asking inspired questions and listening carefully, the Bishop has the opportunity to instruct, encourage and inspire members in their efforts to live the gospel. It would be well if your bishop expresses gratitude for your sincerity and willingness to confess and forsake your sins.However, we are a church with a lay ministry and not all bishops live up to this ideal. Some are gifted in their ability to say just the right thing that will help the youth feel empowered and committed to live the gospel. If you are concerned that you do not have a close relationship with your bishop, then pray for him. Ask the Lord to bless him that he may know what to say that will help you in your struggles.As a counselor in a Bishopric I conducted many youth interviews over the years. My biggest difficulty was in getting the youth to talk. Even when asking open ended questions that should have solicited more than a yes or no response, the details were sparse and less than helpful. It was a rare youth that exhibited a lot of confidence and ease in sharing details of their life with a member of the Bishopric.Of course, the interviews I conducted were not worthiness interviews. They were more focused on testimony, prayer, honoring parents, paying tithing, gospel study, seminary, school, church callings, family life and peer association. Only the Bishop has the authority to represent the Lord in a worthiness interview. One should only confess their sins to a Bishop and not to a counselor.When discussing moral cleanliness, the bishop should adapt the discussion to the understanding of the youth. Not all young men need to be asked the details about how or when they view pornography or participate in masturbation. If the bishop feels that it is a problem beyond experimentation or curiosity and has advanced to a serious addiction, he can turn to LDS Family Services for additional counseling. However, this is rare in youth interviews and can be overly traumatic to the youth.To a youth who has confessed a weakness to pornography, the wise bishop will help the youth focus on repentance, including faith in Jesus Christ, having a broken heart and contrite spirit, recognizing and forsaking sin and demonstrating a renewed commitment and determination to keep the Lord's commandments. The youth can help the Bishop in this process by being forthright about steps being taken to ensure that the repentance is sincere.In my experiencing in dealing with addiction, both in my own family and in what I have learned over the years while serving in various priesthood leadership positions, the percentage of people who are truly addicted is rather low. I am aware of many youth who felt they were addicted, when in reality, they were simply feeling the effects of raging hormones more strongly in their life for a period of a few years. They were able to put off the weakness, serve a faithful mission, marry in the temple and live normal productive lives as Latter-day Saints, not perfect but happy.I hope this answers your question, Sean, about what to expect at a bishop's interview. Knowing what I know now some 35 years down the road from you, but remembering my youth interviews at your age, I commend you for your efforts to prepare for the interview and do things the Lord's way – with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I promise you that the Lord will bless you for your humility as you prepare to enter the temple and to serve a mission worthily, representing the Lord as a priesthood holder in his kingdom.

  22. Danyelle Ferguson

    I just wanted to say thank you for this excellent article. Pornography is so prevalent today. I grew up in another faith and looking back, I can’t think of one friend’s garage that didn’t have a nudity calendar displayed in it. And that was over twenty years ago. Today, it so much worse with how easy it is to access on the internet. Even if you aren’t searching for it, you stumble across unsavory stuff. While this article is written for men, there are certainly plenty of women out there with pornography issues as well. I think this information will be just as helpful for them. Once again, thank you for the great information!

  23. Tristi Pinkston

    I echo the others when I say, thank you for this article.I would like to ask a question in regards to the statement that leaders of the LDS Church rarely use the word “sex.” Can you name me other churches in which the word “sex” is frequently spoken over the pulpit? I haven’t visited a lot of other churches, but I’ve certainly never heard it in the churches I have attended. Leaders of the LDS Church do use the word, but they tend to use it in private consultation and not over the pulpit. I can’t imagine what it would do to the spirit of any church meeting to have the word “sex” spoken over the pulpit. It’s just not one of those words we want to hear bouncing off the walls of our cathedrals, synagogues, or other buildings of worship.I would also postulate that Mormons are not sexually repressed. We are taught to save ourselves for marriage and to view chastity as being of great worth, but once married, we can and do enjoy fulfilling sexual relationships. If you’d have us not be repressed, would you have us having premarital sex without any regard to possible consequences? That’s not freedom – that’s irresponsibility.

  24. Thank you Danyelle and Tristi. I appreciate both your visit to my blog and your supportive comments. This essay is fast becoming one of the most popular of the hundreds I have written over the past few years. For me, the most rewarding benefit of this essay is in the last paragraph.Since I first published this essay I have received dozens of emails for private dialog about the problem in the lives of men and women, both LDS and not. Some of those dialogs are still ongoing. We go over the twelve steps of the Addiction Recovery Program one by one, sometimes discussing each step for several weeks before continuing.I can’t tell you how helpful that is to reinforce my own feelings of appreciation for what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for me in rescuing me from sin and sorrow. I know that without Him I would still be a slave to the natural man within me.With Christ as my Savior and Redeemer, I have hope and am empowered to overcome and to eventually control myself perfectly. I don’t think anyone is there yet, not will we be until this life is over. I am so very grateful for the atonement and for repentance. We can be healed!

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