Hearing Elder Holland’s Talk on Lust and Pornography Again for the First Time

Have you ever had that experience when you’re reading along in the Book of Mormon or maybe one of Paul’s epistles and you suddenly come across a passage you’d never really noticed before? You ask yourself, “Where did this verse come from?” or “Wow, I’ve never considered this passage in the way I see it now.” I’ve heard a number of talks where the speaker says the same thing. This is when “my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them…” (2 Ne 4:15).

Elder Holland Speaks Out on Lust

Today, I had a similar experience as I reread Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s general conference address from April 2010. This talk has particular meaning for me because I clearly recall sitting and watching it on April 4, 2010, one week before I came out and disclosed to my bishop and my wife the extent of my acting out on my sex and pornography addiction. Elder Holland’s talk was the straw that broke this prideful camel’s back.

Here’s the video from lds.org:

It’s pretty clear to me from this talk, that Elder Holland “gets it” when it comes to sex and pornography addiction. He warns that we can’t just focus on pornography because it is merely a symptom of an underlying obsession with lust: “If we stop chopping at the branches of this problem and strike more directly at the root of the tree, not surprisingly we find lust lurking furtively there.” How about that? Elder Holland seems to be saying that if we keep hacking at the branches, the tree will just keep sprouting more branches. Attacking the roots, the mental obsession with lust, is what we need to do.

True Love is Not Lustful

J Holland sketchElder Holland also talked about “prostituting the true meaning of love.” In our American culture–and we’re certainly not alone–whether in music or movies or other media–the word “love” is frequently a code word for lust-driven behavior. This definitional hijacking leads many to assume that if you “love” someone, you engage in lust-driven behavior with that person. Elder Holland makes it clear that lust is always destructive and not a part of healthy, godly love.

My favorite part of Elder Holland’s talk, however, is this:

Acknowledge that people bound by the chains of true addictions often need more help than self-help, and that may include you. Seek that help and welcome it. Talk to your bishop. Follow his counsel. Ask for a priesthood blessing. Use the Church’s Family Services offerings or seek other suitable professional help. Pray without ceasing. Ask for angels to help you.

From the lips of a living prophet: “[P]eople bound by the chains of true addictions often need more help than self-help, and that may include you. Seek that help and welcome it.” I’m all for acknowledging that in my life, I need way more than self-help. I need other people to work with God and me to change the parts of me that I can’t change myself.

Priesthood, Professionals, Prayer–and Angels

But here is that new bit of insight that I mentioned at the beginning. Elder Holland directed those of us with a “porn problem” not only to engage with priesthood leaders, professionals and prayer, but also to “[a]sk for angels to help you.” What an interesting choice of words. The first several times I read, watched or heard this talk, I glossed over this part about angels.

And then I remembered another conference talk given by Elder Holland just eighteen months earlier–about angels. He talked about heavenly angels, and then he talked about earthly angels:

I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind [my emphasis].

The Angels in My Life

As I made the connection, I realized once again that Heavenly Father has put into my life earthly angels when I have needed them. One of them was my wife. Her love is godly, her patience is like that of Job, her kindness is a daily demonstration of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

One was a young man I met at the Missionary Training Center in 1987 when we were both elders preparing to go on our missions. We began a friendship that spanned across twenty years and several states and eventually continents. On April 13, 2010, he told me about Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) and saved my life.

Since that time, Heavenly Father has sent more and more angels in the form of men in SA who have taught me to recognize lust, resentment and fear (my toxic trifecta), to surrender them all and turn them over to Heavenly Father. At last tabulation, I counted nearly eighty addicts in recovery as friends. A growing number of them are Latter-day Saints. These are godly men. If you want to see the effect that the Savior’s Atonement has humble addicts in recovery, you need only look in their happy and confident faces.

I can bear testimony of the angels about which Elder Holland taught. He inspired me today. Funny how that happens when I read the same talk over again–for the first time.

About Andrew+

Latter-day Saint, sex and pornography addict in recovery, dealing with depression, returned missionary, father of a bunch of kids, graduate degree, self-employed, Book of Mormon reader, writer and thinker. Working on understanding and overcoming resentment, the number one killer of addicts.


Hearing Elder Holland’s Talk on Lust and Pornography Again for the First Time — 5 Comments

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  2. Wow! Wonderful. I remember that talk from 2010 and I love how you made that connection to an earlier talk. I will be rewatching that talk again. There definitely are angels among us

  3. My whole life, I’ve heard my church leaders tell me to pray and read the scriptures every day. Pray and read. Pray and read. Those Sunday school answers, they believe, will keep you on the straight and narrow path and prevent you from sinning. But I cringe whenever I hear someone say, “read and pray”, as though it will solve all my problems.

    I went through a period of learning and doubt before I understood the reasons why reading and praying work. For many years, I regularly read my scriptures and prayed daily, yet I still sinned by acting out with porn and masturbation. This was frustrating for me. I convinced myself that those Sunday school answers were insufficient. They didn’t work, I believed. One the one hand, I knew that there were principles of truth in the scriptures that I love and accept. And I knew that I have had personal experiences with prayer that brought joy and forgiveness and connection with God. Yet somehow, I continue to cringe whenever I hear someone say, “Just read and pray, then you’ll be fine”. What is it about that response that makes me cringe?

    Today, I had an insight in sacrament meeting that helped me to understand better. The speaker talked about gambling being a sin. Though I’ve never been tempted to gamble, I thought to myself, “Surely there must be a reason based on wisdom and experience that explains why gambling is a sin.” I have a very hard time with the idea of “blind obedience”. My brain seems to have an almost demanding attitude when it comes to knowing the “why behind the what” for any rule or commandment. Anyway, I’ve always believed gambling to be foolish because the liklihood that you’ll lose more than you win far outweighs the opposite scenario. That part makes sense to me. But I pondered why gambling is considered a “sin”. What is a “sin” anyway? Who decides which behaviors are sins? God or man?

    So, I looked up the word “sin” in the topical guide in the scriptures. It struck me that the word “sin” is associated with the following synonymns: Foolishness, Pollution, Corruption, Darkness, Bondage, Death, Offense, Trespass, etc.

    Wow! Those words create within me such a visceral and emotional response. In some ways, they seem so much more tangible and understandable than the common word “sin”. Whe people say “what you did is a sin” it feels like a condemnation from a hypocrite, since we all sin. But somehow, those other words feel like more of an acknowledgement of the reality that certain behaviors are bad BECAUSE they pollute, they corrupt, they fester in darkness, they bind you, they offend others and cause them pain, and they can even cause death – spiritual and physical.

    Then it hit me… the reason why reading the scriptures helps keep me on the straight and narrow path is because it encourages obedience to principles of happiness that have been proven to be true over time. Reading scriptures in and of itself does nothing if merely perfunctory and routine. But reading with a specific desire to learn and understand the principles of happiness does everything.

    Same with prayer. If merely perfunctory and routine, it does nothing. But prayer with a specific desire to spritually connect with God does everything.

    As a result of this insight, I am committing to avoid simply saying, “read and pray”, and instead clarify that I must “read specific passages of scripture to understand God’s proven principles of happiness, and pray to spiritually connect with God every day – to ask for His help and always give thanks in return”.

    I love Alma 7:23 because it captures in a single verse many of the principles of happiness that I have personally learned are true through trial and error. These include humility, submissiveness, being gentle, being full of patience, being temperate – not living in extremes, being diligent to obey, being grateful, etc. I’ve learned that when I live by these principles, I experience their fruits more fully in my life: love, joy, peace, confidence, contentment, etc.

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