King Benjamin Taught Mormons to Overcome Porn Addiction

512px-Flag_map_of_Arizona.svgLast Sunday night, I spoke at a multi-stake fireside in the Snowflake/Taylor area of Northeastern Arizona. About 600 people showed up and listened to me share my experience, strength and hope for over ninety minutes. I was humbled.

I say often that an important part of staying in recovery is sharing what I have with others. Sunday night’s fireside allowed me to do just that. In seeing the wonderful Latter-day Saints of Northeastern Arizona open home and heart to me, I received back a hundred-fold more than what I could have possibly given them. I think Mormon founders Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake would be pleased with the enthusiasm with which their progeny now live the Gospel–Arizona-style.

A New Understanding of King Benjamin’s Discourse on the “Natural Man” in Book of Mormon

Mormon Temple in Snowflake Arizona

Snowflake Arizona Temple

In the middle of what I was talking about at the fireside, I brought up Book of Mormon prophet King Benjamin’s discourse from the tower. At that moment, I looked out across the chapel and into the faces of Mormons on chairs in the gym and suddenly gained a new and powerful insight into what Benjamin’s angel was talking about. Personal revelation sometimes comes at unexpected moments.

Here’s what the angel said to Benjamin who then declared it from the tower:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Unexpected Changes in My Heart

When I began to experience addiction recovery a few years back, something wonderful happened inside me that I hadn’t expected. Addiction is painful and it causes the addict to be self-absorbed. If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know how hard it is to care about anything other than just getting the pain to stop. Similarly, addicts have trouble feeling compassion for others because they are focused on self-medicating themselves to numb out the pain they feel. That’s what happens when you’re in mental, emotional and spiritual survival mode. With recovery, however, the pain goes away and with it exits much of the narcissism.

In Recovery, I Could Finally Feel Empathy

Almost overnight I began to genuinely care for others–actual empathy! I soon learned that the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the White Book of SA both promise this feeling of godly charity to those addicts who work an honest recovery program. Other recovering addicts had experienced charity–the pure love of Christ–and recorded it for those who followed.

It seems that this was a natural by-product of recovery. Addicts in recovery naturally care about those around them. You can’t force it. It just happens naturally. The problem for me doctrinally, however, is that this natural state seemed to be in conflict with what Benjamin’s angel said about the “natural man.” The natural man is an enemy to God. If I enter recovery from addiction and something just happens naturally, isn’t that a little at odds with what the angel said? You’re supposed to give up the natural man not walk straight into him, right?

Natural Man Versus Natural Child

20130217-144529.jpgSo there I was talking about the “natural man” at the fireside on Sunday and suddenly it became clear to me. That verse talks about the natural man–but it also talks about the natural child! I had read the rest of the verse a zillion times, but had never before recognized that the list of attributes given by the angel actually exists naturally in children. Babies are angelic; they love freely and unconditionally. Babies are naturally submissive, meek, humble, patient, and full of love. They depend upon their parents and they love their parents. Small children (with the possible exception of the ones in their Terrible Twos) willingly submit themselves to the care and protection of their parents. They need their parents. That is the natural state of a baby–and it becomes the natural state of the addict in recovery.

To Overcome My Addiction, I Must Become as a Child

In my experience, the only way for an addict to overcome addiction is first to recognize his own powerlessness and then to turn his will and life over to the care of Heavenly Father–just like a child willingly submits to his parent. This means holding nothing back. For me, it means repenting according to God’s terms and not my own. It means being willing to do whatever it takes to find and stay in recovery even if it also means getting a sponsor, going to lots of meetings, working the 12 Steps and bringing the addictive behavior and obsessions out into the light of day. Addicts don’t get the option of half measures that others apparently get.

512px-Cactus_arizonaIn the chapel of a stake center full of Mormons in Northeastern Arizona on a chilly night in February 2013, Heavenly Father taught me about myself and my relationship to Him. Those child-like attributes possessed by Christ and His saints–being submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love–are gifts from God. I had always thought that I had to somehow force myself to acquire them on my own (typical addict thinking). Now, I believe that they come to me only when Heavenly Father is ready for me to have them. They come to the “natural man” as he forsakes his sins and as Christ’s atonement then transforms the “natural man,” rendering him a “natural child.”

God bless the Saints of Northeastern Arizona!

Image credits: Arizona flag: User:Huebi [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC-BY-SA-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. See full copy of GFDL here. Snowflake temple: I [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. See full copy of GFDL here. Cactus: By Jason Vasquez (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Comments

King Benjamin Taught Mormons to Overcome Porn Addiction — 5 Comments

  1. I was at this fireside with my addict husband. He was so excited about what he heard from you that he went to work the next day and spent hours talking with coworkers about lust addiction. Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge.

  2. So wonderful that you had such an inspiring event as you were there to give the gift of hope and recovery!! That Sunday will be equally memorable for me. Thank you again for your insight and for your gift in being able to translate that to the rest of us so clearly!!

  3. dang! You need to let us know when and where you are speaking. I live in Flagstaff and I would have come with my husband had I known you were giving a fireside! You must announce your public events. 🙂

  4. We were at this fireside as well, and it was such a great experience -we appreciated your words and spirit. Northeast Arizona really is awesome 😉