12 Things Members of the LDS Church Can Do About the Pornography Epidemic

Miracles will happen once we all get on the same page.

LATTER-DAY SAINTS can make a difference in the struggle against sex and pornography addiction, a battle raging for the souls of God’s children. One big problem we have, however, is a hand-wringing, stomach-churning fear that we have no idea what we’re talking about. The following points can help get us all going in the same direction against a cunning enemy that we must understand and see as it really is.

1. We Need to Quit Speaking in the Future Tense. “If you don’t stop looking at pornography, you are going to become addicted.” We need to quit talking about what’s going to happen—because it has already happened! We should say this instead: “You are unable to stop looking at pornography because you are addicted.” Addiction loves denial. In fact, it depends on it. The longer the addict stays in denial, the longer the addiction gets its drug.

Stop talking about the future…it’s already here!

When well-meaning people around the addict keep encouraging him to stop the “little problem” before it turns into the big A-word(!), they are unwittingly abetting him in his denial. When an addict hears the future tense, his addicted brain rejoices and he says to himself, “See, there’s still a chance for me to fix this thing by myself. I just need more resolve, more determination, more faith and more time—on my own!” He couldn’t quit the last time—or the time before that or the time before that or the time before that—because he was—and remains—addicted. Let’s get ourselves into the present tense. He is not going to become anything because he already is!

2. We Need to Quit Calling It a Pornography Addiction. We should call it a sex addiction. Although this will shock a lot of folks, I’m not trying to be controversial. Like I said, I’m just trying to get people to see the enemy as it really is. Actually, it’s not even really a sex addiction. It’s more of a lust and fantasy addiction. Addicts disappear into lust and fantasy as a means of self-medicating and escaping a painful reality. Sex addicts feed their compulsion for lust and fantasy by acting out with their drug of choice, often pornography because it is so readily available and can be consumed in secret.

When we call it a pornography addiction, we minimize the scope of the crisis and again facilitate the addict in his denial. There were periods of time in my life when I didn’t look at pornography for years. Because I couldn’t see that I was a lust and fantasy addict (most addicts can’t), I thought I was beating my “little problem” and winning the war. I wasn’t. Lust and fantasy were destroying me. The type of addiction we’re dealing with here lives on in the addict’s brain even when no pornography is present. Take a look at the essay “Muck Fires in My Brain.”

“I have a Coors Light addiction.” Say what?

Think about alcoholism for a minute. Why don’t we say, “That guy has a ‘Coors Light in twelve-ounce cans with the lid popped and served very chilled’ addiction”? Sounds nuts, doesn’t it? Why? Because we recognize that the problem is not cold Coors Light. We wouldn’t even say our friend has a beer addiction. The alcoholic is allergic to alcohol in all its forms. It’s the same with pornography. Pornography is the Coors Light of sex addiction. It is just the vehicle by which the sex addict brings lust and fantasy through his eyeballs and into his brain.

I’m not suggesting that we ignore the fight on pornography. I believe quite the opposite. But I’m also saying that we need to understand that the enemy here is much larger in scale than just pornography. The true enemy is addiction to lust and fantasy. All pornography addicts are addicted to lust and fantasy and are therefore sex addicts. If we put filters on the family computer and move it to a high-traffic area, we minimize access to pornography, but don’t really get at the real culprits that are snuffing out lives and destroying marriages: lust and fantasy. This is so much more than a pornography addiction for everyone involved.


12 Things Members of the LDS Church Can Do About the Pornography Epidemic — 28 Comments

  1. [I disagree with what I read here.] You have no idea what you are talking about. Porn is not a sex addiction. If so ask the millions of men how they can have their sex life completely fulfuled by their wifes and then still have a desire to look at Porn. I can tell you have never had the problem. (As a married man) I love my wife to death and we have the happiest sex life i could imagine but i still seem to mess up with my Porn Addiction because it is a habit i have had since i was 8 years old.

    • I’m sorry you didn’t like our take on the “porn problem” in the LDS Church–which is pretty much the same as the “porn problem” in the rest of the world. I’m not sure what you meant when you said, “Porn is not a sex addiction.” If you meant that porn consumption is not necessarily a sex addiction, then I agree with you. If you meant that pornography addiction is not a sex addiction, then you’re wrong and I question whether you read the whole essay. (You did read the part about the Coors Light addiction, right?) One of the things that addicts do is split hairs. They compare their behavior to that of other addicts, make meaningless distinctions and then say, “Hey, at least I’m not as bad off as he is!” It’s a way of convincing themselves that they can still take care of their “little problem” on their own and in secrecy and isolation–without help from anyone else.

      When it comes to sex or lust addiction, the addict takes his lust any way he can get it. If the compulsion can be satisfied with porn, that’s what he consumes. If it can be satisfied with lust-driven sex with the wife, that’s what he consumes. If (when) at some point the wife and the porn no longer satisfy the cravings, the addict will add other behavior that does satisfy (affairs, prostitutes, massage parlors, etc.). But make no mistake: porn addiction is just one subset of sex or lust addiction. To suggest otherwise is just hairsplitting. Appellate court judges would say that it’s “a distinction without a difference.”

    • Jo… I can see it has been a year since you made this post. I sincerely hope you have been able to see things in a different light. Speaking as the wife of a man who kept his problem secret for 20 + years of our marriage, neither you nor your wife has any idea what a true, happy, fulfilling, sex life is because you are both being influenced by the addiction. My husband and I both believed we had a great, healthy sex life. Then he entered sobriety and then worked towards recovery. There is absolutely no comparison between the before and after! None!

      If your wife came into the marriage innocent, you trained her and she knows nothing else. If you have only viewed your intimacy through the lense of addiction, you cannot see it as can be. Looking at love and connection through the lense of recovery can show you what is possible and it is beautiful!!

      • Do you believe that intimacy, lust, or sexuality focused on one’s spouse feeds the lust/fantasy addiction and make it worse? Is there a book on the subject? I am afraid to do or say anything for fear it will just become a catalyst that reinforces his behavior. As you said about being ‘trained to think a particular way’, I know what it is like to battle lustful fantasies. I was sexually abused as a child and my first marriage was to a man with a sex addiction whose fantasies revolved around misogyny. I had to battle my own mental demons for years; I overcame it out of sheer determination and persistence because I chose to focus all my mental energy and devotion on my husband. My current husband knows this and still persists in telling me that I cannot possibly understand a sex addiction or what it is like when I believe, with fair certainty, that I do.

        I keep hoping he will find the will to overcome this addiction. I have been supportive in spite of how much it hurts. I love him; I am just tired. I am tired of everything. I am tired of being alone in my life. I feel, that I have no partner, no trust, no teamwork in our life. The essay says negative feelings are cause for wanting to escape; this is my husband’s case. He says he feels miserable and worthless, feeling sorry for himself perpetually, but will not try to improve his situation to become what and who he says he wants to be. I tell him that I believe in him and know he has the ability to make all his goals and dreams come true but he just won’t DO anything. I do not understand what it is about his life that makes him so miserable that he must constantly escape into fantasy (pornography or otherwise) when hard work will give him everything he says he wants. Why tell me how much he loves me and our family life and how much he wants things to work if all he does is constantly try to escape it and the work entailed in it. That is the part I definitely do not understand in all of this mess. He seems addicted to escapism, pornography being only one outlet of many he uses to achieve it.

        • I think that last part of what you said is very important: “He seems addicted to escapism, pornography being only one outlet of many he uses to achieve it.” I think that’s very perceptive and probably accurate. Addiction is all about escaping reality, whether with alcohol, cocaine, sex, porn, video games or even shopping. If a guy is rooted in his addiction, he will continue to wallow in the misery of it–and then act out because of the misery–unless he gets help from people who know how to help him.

          To answer the question about a book that might shed light on the connection between lust and intimacy, yes, there is one. The White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous does a great job of describing the connection between lust and intimacy for the addict and then talking about the solution.

        • I just found this website a few days ago and it is great! I attended my first SA meeting last night and look forward to the next one. Andrew, thanks for putting all this together.

          As far as this question goes I can attest that lust focused on ones spouse does indeed further the addiction. The scripture doesn’t say “Whosoever looketh upon a women to lust after her (except if it is your spouse, because in that case it is ok). There is no exception or asterisk there.

          One thing that I firmly believe is that part of the process of overcoming lust is replacing it with love. These are opposite things and cannot exist together at the same time. Thus intimacy and sexually coupled with love would not make it worse. Unfortunately for the sex addict that involves work, discipline, and the delaying of sexual pleasure. Which all three of those things are monumentally hard to do. It is possible though and when achieved can be healing.

          Obviously these things are my opinions formed by my experience. As Andrew has suggested encourage him to go to meetings. Last night gave me hope and I can see that throughout all my struggles the sharing, openness, honesty were beneficial.

          • Thanks for reading and commenting. I think it’s fabulous that you’re attending meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous. I feel strongly that the single most important earthly factor in an addict’s successful recovery is his willingness to associate with other recovering addicts who are further along in recovery than he is. When we become willing to accept help from others, we put ourselves in a position also to receive Heavenly Father’s help. He changes hearts. All the best to you!

        • I feel your pain…my husband is very much like this. I am tired too, it’s hard to keep going and being supportive when they won’t DO anything real for help. Contact me if you wish 🙂 support is always great!

        • It is as if you were describing my husband!! I have seen this in him. He is still in denial that this is addiction. He splits hairs and separates each episode as individual and accuses me of not believing in the atonement for connecting them.

  2. Pingback: Addiction Recovery Pornography | LDS View | Overcoming Sex Addiction

  3. Once again, a woman here, and I’m the one with the sex addiction (which I would have never said before), but as I read these articles, it’s almost a breath of fresh air–an understanding as to why my “constant repentance” just isn’t doing the trick. However, I feel all sex therapy is geared towards men? And seeking help embarasses me beyond belief–because this isn’t supposed to be my, a females, problem! But it is?!?

    • More and more women are recognizing the problem so you’re definitely not alone. Have you read the three-part essay here, “The Flip Side of Lust”? I talk a bunch about how men and women tend to lust in different ways.

      Sex therapists like to sugarcoat it by saying men are more visual (so they like porn) and women are more emotional (so they gravitate more towards 50 Shades of Gray fare). I prefer to call it like it is: we live in a lust-obsessed society in which men tend to want to lust and women tend to want to be lusted after.

      As Mormons come to recognize that lust (and not merely porn) is the real problem and then see how lust-driven our lives really are, more of us will see that we’re in trouble. Lust addiction crushes men and women.

  4. Thx for standing up like this Andrew. Helping a lot of folks here. Just an insight from a former drug user – i feel the stated analogy of porn, fantasy, connections, etc., to drugs of choice falls a bit short, having used drugs, and had sex issues. For the drug user, its a one-stage process once the drug is acquired. Ingest and ‘bang’. The sex fix is really a 2-stage process. First, activate the pre-cursor drug in the brain (hormone drivers) that will motivate the sex act which then releases the true drug of choice (the sex version of ‘bang’). Porn/fantasy for purposes of this analogy are not the drug or the addiction, they are the pre-cursor drug delivery methods (catagorized as lusts). No way did I ever feel addicted to the methods or resulting tension (the ‘means’) – just returned to ones that set up well for stage 2 – the ‘end’. Could swap those at will. It’s a sex addiction, not a lust addiction.

    • BBB: Thanks for reading and commenting. The idea you take issue with isn’t my own. Sexaholics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous both assert that the initial problem is not the drug, but rather a mental obsession with the drug. All the 12 Step programs that are based on AA acknowledge that obsession with the drug is the first problem well before the second problem that is the drug. If you can disrupt the obsession, you can stay away from the drug. The problem, however, is that if you can’t readily identify the drug, you sometimes smack right into it repeatedly without realizing it until it’s too late and you act out again.

      With tangible drugs like alcohol, cocaine, heroin, crack and methamphetamine, you consume the drug, but you’re usually aware that your consuming it. With lust, by contrast, you can often consume it without being aware that you are.

      Regardless, researchers and professional observers like Dr. Don Hilton, an LDS neurosurgeon who wrote He Restoreth My Soul, are realizing that the gap between substance addictions (like alcohol and cocaine) and mental addictions (like gambling, sex and porn) is not as wide as originally thought.

      One big common denominator in all addictions is the mental obsession that precedes and eventually leads to the consumption of the drug. I think you’ll find that if you look back on your drug addiction, you’ll agree that your problem didn’t start precisely each time you took the drug; it started well before that, each time you began to obsess, plan, fantasize, wonder, cruise for suppliers, look up phone numbers of past drug friends, and do whatever else you’d do when you obsessed about the drug. The obsession eventually led to the consumption. You have now overcome the addiction by beating not only the drug but also the obsession with the drug.

      It’s similar with lust addiction. The addict obsesses, plans, fantasizes, wonders, engages in euphoric recall of past act outs and basically experiences the consumption of lust in his head well before the “real” consumption ever happens. To overcome the addiction, the lust addict has to overcome not just porn, for instance, but also the obsessive thinking and behavior that lead to consuming porn.

      Like I said, lust addiction is difficult to spot because it is so broad and can be fed by so many different sources. To this day, I still realize every once in a while that something I’m doing is lust-driven and providing me with lust hits. Sometimes the answer is to stop the behavior. At other times, the solution is to change my attitude. Many alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery have to do the same thing. We’re really pretty similar.

      Having said all of this, however, I do agree with you the comparison between substance addiction and lust addiction is not perfect and exact. But I think the similarities are worth considering and discussing.

  5. Thank you for providing a forum for discussion on sexual addictions. As a recovering sex addict for almost 15 years, I needed to re-address the issue of denial. The only way to stay sober is to admit daily that I truly am an addict. Sometimes I just need to write it as we’ll as say it in my prayers.

  6. I am a wife of a husband who looked at porn on his phone ap. He had been acting mean and mad lately and I couldn’t understand why. We have a beautiful life, wonderful sex and children together. I had a feeling to look on his phone safari history and found some porn sites. This past sat. I did look on his phone. I feel sick, betrayed, hurt, suspicious, wonder why he would look at such filth and vulgar ness, especially when he has me. His co-workers and everyone always tell him he has a beautiful wife. I’m so confused on what to do. I wonder if I should leave him, give him another chance since he said he only looked at it some and found it on a funny app and then there were other things you could click on from there. He says that it was a couple months ago and he was going to tell me far down the road when it was way in the past but he’s glad I found out. He’s trying to do all that he can and said to give him the chance to make it up to me. I’m so confused and sickened and don’t know if I can ever forget it. I guess moving forward is the first step and trying to regain trust, but its hard. Do you think he will be tempted to look again even though he says he’s not? Can someone be strong enough not to. I don’t think I could stay with him if he did it again. So hurt.

    • If your husband is an addict, he probably hasn’t been truthful with you about the extent of his pornography consumption and his other sexual acting out. And he will likely never be completely honest with you without first getting himself into an effective addiction recovery program. From your account, it sounds like he’s minimizing the problem, hoping you’ll leave him alone. If he wants to know why you don’t believe him, you can tell him that it’s because a recovering porn addict told you about lying about the exact same things to his wife in the exact same ways. It’s tough for addicts to tell lies that are convincing enough to fool other addicts. We’ve already been there, done that.

      Also, having a beautiful wife isn’t a cure for addiction. Never has been and never will be. Sandra Bullock’s husband was a sex addict. Is it because she wasn’t beautiful enough for him? No, her attractiveness had nothing to do with his addiction and it obviously didn’t fix his problem. Like Sandra, you didn’t cause your husband’s addiction, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it–regardless of how attractive he or you or anyone else thinks you are. Sex addicts don’t look at porn merely because they think their wives aren’t pretty enough. They look at porn regardless of how attractive their wives are. For a better understanding of what you’re dealing with, I encourage you to read “A Letter to LDS Wives About Pornography,” “The ABCs of Addiction” and “The Silent Seventy Percent” on this website, if you haven’t already. You can also download (click here) the free e-book that contains all those essays as chapters plus some other good stuff.

      I encourage you to get in contact with S-Anon and start attending local meetings if you can. If you can’t, try their phone meetings. Get a sponsor, another woman who has experienced the same things, has overcome them and can now help you regain some sanity because she’s done so, too.

      Also, I don’t think you’re at a point where you need to be worrying about regaining or giving trust in your marriage. Clearly he’s not trustworthy and he never will be without some serious work on his part to understand the depth of his dependence on porn and compulsive sexual behavior, and then to get himself into an effective recovery program that involves other recovering addicts who are further along in recovery than he is.

      No man or woman has ever overcome porn addiction on his or her own through sheer willpower. On the other hand, a lot of them have lied about recovering through strength of will. I did. It also appears unlikely that any man or woman has overcome porn addiction on his or her own strictly through prayer and scripture study. A lot of them have, however, lied about it. I did and I know a lot of other Latter-day Saints now in recovery from addiction who nevertheless repeatedly told the same lies before they found and started working on a real recovery solution.

      People who are in recovery from porn addiction understand the source of the problem and are able to talk about it openly, knowledgeably, humbly and in in a way that makes sense to those listening. They are also able to understand and articulate the solution to the problem and through open and outward actions (such as attending 12 Step meetings two or more times a week and spending time with a sponsor working on the steps) demonstrate that they are living in the solution. At that point, Heavenly Father changes their hearts and they become incredibly wonderful people. Is your husband transparent in this way?

      When it comes to porn addiction, promises aren’t worth a hill of beans. In contrast, taking massive action involving other recovering addicts (i.e., Sexaholics Anonymous) is where recovery starts and flourishes.

      Good luck. We’re praying for you and other wives (and husbands) in your situation.

    • I know how you feel. I found out that my husband is a sex 11 years ago. It is hard to find out your husband has been looking at porn. You feel broken upset, numbed inside, be trade by the person you thought would never hurt you, sick, and so confused. Please, don’t think it is your fault. Don’t trust him because addicts don’t tell the truth. I think they mean what they say at the time but than the addiction takes over and they do it again. I stayed with my husband and it has not been easy. It is different for everyone. Some feel leaving is what is better for them. If he really wants to over come porn addiction he will have to work hard and it will be a hard but he can do it but he will need help from meetings etc. You will need help to recover too. This will be hard too because you got hurt and now,you will need time to heal from the pain you are feeling. Good thing we have the Atonement that not only takes our sins away but heals our broken hearts as too.

  7. I think you mean 13 things. Starting with number 1: Assume all people who even happen to GLANCE at pornography and anyone with anything pornographic in their search history on their internet browser as though they are automatically addicts.

    That more fits with the way you address this. There’s no “how to tell if someone is truly an addict or if they just have a habit, or happened to look once” anywhere on your site.

    • You might want to take a closer look at the site then, amigo. I have said repeatedly–and I do mean repeatedly–that this site is for the LDS men and women who have tried and tried and tried for years to stop the porn consumption and the compulsive sexual behavior–and failed time after time.

      This site is for those Mormons who are desperate to stop their behavior because it’s driving them crazy. It’s impairing their ability to function. It’s destroying their marriages. It’s ruining their lives.

      This site is for the desperate and the message is that recovery from addiction is not only possible but is a wonderful experience. Being in recovery from addiction is a great place to be. Those who have found it want to share it with those who are still struggling and fighting a losing battle.

      This site is also for the spouses of addicts who also feel desperate and crazy. They don’t understand the lies and why the person they married has become Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. They don’t understand why the spouse with the problem keeps promising not to consume porn ever again but then seems constitutionally incapable of keeping that promise.

      I’m not sure where in this site you got the idea that I’m preaching to the guy who, as you say, merely glances a porn. That guy doesn’t need this site and it will mean nothing to him. And that’s fine because I have nothing to say to him. My message is for the addict, who by the way has to self-diagnose if he ever wants to get the help he needs to become free of his addiction.

      Don’t minimize and marginalize the pain and suffering that addicts and their spouses and loved ones are suffering through. It is a misery that hurts us to the center of our souls. We want to be rid of lust because lust is destroying us. God bless the porn glancers, but they have little to do with us. We’re so far beyond glancing at porn.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I wish you all the best.

  8. I am addicted to porn to the sexual fantasies spoke of in the ABC’s. why I’m not sure but it is like a cancer that eats from the inside. I become this monster.
    It’s made worse because people give me compliments and say I’m a good husband and father.
    I am tired and weary I never win the battle.
    So to day I will go to my Bishop and if I must pay the price so be it. My son gets the PH soon. I would like to give it to him being worthy.

    • I am there with you brother, my son turns 8 next year and I dont know what to do. How how you been since this post last year?

  9. I often think of how my wife and children would be better off without me. I cannot bring myself to tell her that I have relapsed for over a year now. I stopped praying and reading my scriptures because I feel that God has left me so whats the point, I will just screw up again. I hate living this double life, but I cant break her heart again.

  10. I agree sin doesn’t equal addiction. But how does repentance [not] equal recovery? I do agree recovery is more than repentance, but it is part of it.

    • I had to change a word in your comment to allow it to make sense. If I got it wrong, let me know.

      LDS Family Services and I part ways on this issue. The LDSFS Addiction Recovery Program manual frequently uses recovery and repentance interchangeably. The message you get is that the problem with addicts is that they just haven’t repented like the rest of the spiritually-enlightened Mormons have. Addicts just don’t have enough faith in Jesus like regular Latter-day Saints do. So if addicts would just repent and have faith in Jesus like they’re supposed to, they’d be fixed and will never have to worry about addiction again.

      That is simply not true. Repentance and recovery are not the same thing. To repent, I have to get right with God. Part of getting right with God, however, is forsaking the sin. Without recovery, addicts can never forsake the sin. They keep going back to it. They can repent and repent and repent, but they’ll never be successful if they can’t forsake the sin.

      Recovery allows addicts to break the obsession they have with their drug and eliminates the compulsion to act out with the drug. In other words, they are finally able to forsake the sin. They are finally able to repent. Recovery makes this possible. They’re related but they’re not the same thing.

      The folks at LDS Family Services have tried to suggest that they are same thing and the result is a 12 Step program that most LDS addicts who are actually in a lasting recovery acknowledge is anemic, watered-down and confusing. Most Mormon addicts get sober in a 12 Step program like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Sexaholics Anonymous. In these programs, they learn to forsake the sin. This allows them–if they choose–to experience at the same time repentance as contemplated in the LDS gospel.

      • I have struggled with the terminology that the church has for the same reasons. I also was a missionary in the church’s’ ARP for two years an an addict in the program for about 6 1/2 years.

        I think the ecclesiastical equivalent of “recovery” would be to look at the process of sanctification. Sanctification is the process of coming to God through continuously turning our will to His despite our weakness (Ether 12:27). In other words Sanctification is a daily process of repentance. The problem becomes in that we learn the version of repentance of admit, confess and forsake, and that form or repentance is insufficient for the addict.

        I had once heard the 12 steps as described as the atonement as applied for a spiritual special needs child. That resonates with me, but still terminology in the gospel and the church is not, at times, as precise for the addict, which is why I have always wholly endorsed the usage of the “White Book” for sexaholics, as well as any good book that helps the reviving addict. I personally felt my recovery deepened in working my program with using the SA book, even after working with a sponsor and using the “Big Book” with “12 Steps & 12 Traditions.”

        In short I agree with the sentiment, but still feel there is a lot to be gained from the Church’s program when viewing the Church’s language through a slightly different lense.

  11. When I caught my husband the second time with porn we never talked about addiction. He told me he made a decision to stop and he did. Our relationship improved for a time but lately had been disconnected. I asked about porn and he said he hasnt…and i haven’t found anything incriminating. My question is that if he truly hasn’t looked at porn since then (about 3 years), and he has no idea about addiction to lust (which he would deny anyway), how do I approach him about this? I’m afraid he will get super defensive and angry. I just have that icky feeling about how he views me and treats me below my true value. Since it has been years….it seems like I should have to wait for another obvious incident before setting any boundaries.

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