We have a big problem on our hands–and it involves pornography. We’re not alone. It is afflicting men, women and marriages across North America without concern for faith, family structure or financial status. It is clear that Mormons are not immune. While this problem is way bigger than most of us realize, there is also a solution that is way better than most of us realize. If you are LDS and think you might have a “pornography problem,” I hope you’ll read this entire letter with an open mind. It may very well make the difference you need to save your sanity, your marriage and your soul.
At the outset, please know that there are Mormon men out there who have stopped. They have stopped consuming pornography. They have stopped engaging in masturbation. They are working to eliminate lust-driven behavior in their lives and they are succeeding. They are now ready and willing to share their message of hope and success with you. In fact, their continuing recovery from addiction requires them to share what they have with others. In addition, they are happier now than they have ever been! But in the fraternity of Latter-day Saints who struggle with sex and pornography problems, they are sadly in the minority.
Too Many Voices Confuse the Issue of Sexual Behavior
Too many voices out there these days are telling us that masturbation and porn consumption are merely two of the things that go along with being a healthy American male. They even tell us now that there’s something wrong with us is we’re not masturbating as often as we can–and then having sex with someone else as often as we can–and then looking at porn as often as it’s presented to us.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of Melchizedek (and Aaronic) Priesthood holders have come to accept this lie. Yet most of them haven’t accepted it simply because they were just duped one day. They have grown to accept it because they have tried and tried and tried for years, decades and lifetimes to stop masturbating and stop consuming porn–and they have failed repeatedly. After the hundreds and thousands of failures, they now believe that overcoming masturbation and porn consumption simply isn’t possible–if it was, they would have done it by now, right? Masturbation and porn consumption must just be what all normal, healthy American men do, right? Wrong–not all of them!
So why do some Mormon men succeed in overcoming a “porn problem” where so many more fail? Those who succeed have learned and applied some important truths, standards and practices that are necessary to overcome the compulsive and addictive power of pornography, masturbation and lust-driven behavior. Let’s take a look at them–truths, standards and practices that can make a difference:
1. You Can’t Spot It Especially If You’ve Got It
What do snoring, bad breath and an unsightly mole on the back of your head have to do with addiction? The answer is that the guy with the problem usually can’t spot the problem on his own. If you snore, it’s often someone else who tells you that you snore. If your breath smells, it’s probably someone else who gives you the bad news. And if that crazy mole on the back of your head is starting to look like melanoma, it’s frequently someone else who has to tell you there’s a problem.
The same goes for addiction. Addicts are almost never able to spot their addiction on their own. Quite the opposite, they go to great lengths to avoid any consideration of addiction. When the topic of addiction comes up, their brains book passage on the first super sonic jet their minds can conjure up and they check out from reality until the conversation returns to a more benign subject. That kind of behavior is a bedrock component of addiction. And it is wreaking havoc in LDS families these days.
Here’s an example of the problem of tweaked perspective when it comes to addiction: Three LDS men are engaged in some reflection about the role of pornography in their lives. The first guy has no real porn problem at all. He saw some internet porn at one point, its utter vulgarity (including the mistreatment of women) made him want to vomit, and he will never look again. The second has a growing and compulsive attraction to pornography that is making him (and his wife) miserable. The third is massively addicted and his life is falling apart around his ears.
- First Guy thinks things over and concludes: I don’t have a porn addiction.
- Second Guy thinks things over and concludes: I don’t have a porn addiction.
- Third Guy thinks things over and concludes: I don’t have a porn addiction.
Can you see the problem? Whether you have a porn addiction or not, you’ll tell yourself you don’t–and you’ll believe it. The addict can’t spot his own addiction on his own. He can’t see the problem. That’s one of the huge difficulties of dealing with addiction.
Remember what the Savior taught about the motes and the beams? Why do we focus so much on the motes in others’ eyes when there are beams in our own? Well, the answer in the case of addicts is that those beams are invisible to us. We need someone else who knows something about addiction to tell us they’re there. It’s weird, I know, but this is one reason why addiction is killing us as a people.
So how does this truth apply to you? Well, if you think about the role of pornography in your life and you conclude that you don’t have a porn addiction, you’re stuck in a weird place. Maybe you really don’t have a problem. On the other hand, maybe you do. You can’t tell because if you are addicted and you’re like most addicts, you will tell yourself convincingly that you have no problem at all–or at least nothing you can’t handle on your own. That’s the topic of the next part of this letter.
To be clear, I’m obviously not saying that everyone’s an addict. I’m just saying that addicts tell themselves so convincingly that they’re not addicts, that they shouldn’t rely on their own self-diagnosis of “No addiction here! Nope! Uh-uh! No way! All’s good! Move along!” No addict will admit addiction if there is any way to avoid it.
So what should you do? Talk to someone who knows something about addiction and addiction recovery. Get an outside opinion about what’s going on in your brain. If you have a repeated problem with pornography, talk with a therapist who is trained and has experience dealing with sexual addiction. Commit to attending six meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous. (If there’s no local meeting, consider starting one.) Get the SA White Book and read it as fast as you can. It’s completely consistent with the principles of the Restored Gospel and it will open your eyes to the problem of lust addiction.
Next up: When Given the Choice, Addicts Always Opt for Secrecy and Isolation.