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
Elder 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.