LDS View | Talking Less About Porn and More About Lust

The focus needs to be on lust, not porn.For a long time, I struggled to find a way to help Latter-day Saints quickly understand what was really going on with the so-called “pornography epidemic” both inside and outside the Church. So many conference talks, so many Ensign articles, so many firesides–all talking about the dangers and evils of pornography consumption. “Stay away from porn or you’ll become addicted!”

So porn (or porn avoidance) has become the standard for members of the LDS Church. If the guy with the “little problem” has not looked at porn in a long while, he’s evidently penitent. He’s happy, his wife is happy, his bishop is happy, and his stake president is happy. Ah, victory! He’s given up the porn! Hallelujah! Problem solved. Let’s move on and never look back.

Here’s the thing: Porn isn’t the problem. Lust is the problem. Lust is what our friend is addicted to–not porn! So when he swears off porn, he merely switches his focus to other objects of lust, very often his wife.

As I explain in my essay “Getting on the Same Page,” we need to compare lust addiction to alcoholism. Say you have a friend who’s an alcoholic. One day, he vows never to drink Coors Light again. But then in the next breath, he says he’s not too worried about whiskey, vodka, rum or tequila because they’re not really a problem for him. Wouldn’t you try to help him understand that to deal with alcoholism, he needs to forsake every type of alcohol, not just Coors Light?

We need to start doing the same thing with porn and lust. We need to help the guys with the “little porn problem” understand that they are actually addicted to lust and that porn is merely one of many vehicles that bring them their drug, lust.

Alcoholics need to forsake alcohol in all its forms. In the same way, lust addicts need to eliminate lust in all its forms. This can be difficult because lust is tougher to identify than a beer can or a whiskey bottle.

Usually, we know when we’re consuming alcohol. Too often, however, we fail to recognize when we’re consuming lust. We think that as long as it’s not porn (the traditional kind), we’re doing just fine. We think that as long as our wife is present and somehow participating with us in our sexual behavior, it’s all love and no lust. Nope! We just switched beer brands!

So where can a guy go to learn to identify and address the many cunning, baffling and powerful facets of lust? I wish I could recommend the LDS Church’s Pornography Addiction Support Group (PASG), but I can’t. It’s too watered down. The manual is too vague. In some sections it’s misleading and in others it’s just flat out wrong. There is no definition of sexual sobriety in PASG. There are no sponsors. There is no meaningful reading or discussion about the debilitating emotions, such as resentment, at the core of the addict’s desire to act out (i.e., consume pornography).

The PASG meetings are too often run by service missionaries who have no real understanding of lust addiction and certainly can’t speak in an open and meaningful way about recovery from sex addiction. A friend of mine refers to the LDS Church’s addiction recovery program as “12 Step Lite.” I tell people with absolute sincerity that if I had to rely on PASG to deal with my addiction, I’d be dead. I’m sorry I have to say that, but I will continue saying it unless things change dramatically in PASG.

Gratefully there is a program outside the Church that actually provides LDS men–and women–the tools they need to overcome compulsive sexual behavior and addiction to porn (lust). That program is Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). Its definition of sexual sobriety exactly matches Gospel standards. The main piece of program literature, the White Book, talks frankly and clearly about what addiction is really all about and again complements the message of the Restored Gospel.

Latter-day Saints who attend Sexaholics Anonymous understand that they will not find repentance, nor divine forgiveness, nor specific reference to the Atonement of Christ in those meetings. Those necessities are only to be found within the Gospel, the Church and the priesthood. What they do find in SA, however, is recovery from addiction! When they get into recovery and stop acting out, then they become able to forsake the sin! This allows them to repent with faith and hope in a real way that they had never before experienced.

Let’s talk less about porn because we’re talking more about lust. Let’s find and go to work on a powerful program that helps us identify and overcome lust. Lust is the general in Satan’s army. Porn is just one of the foot soldiers. Let’s help people understand that.

Comments

LDS View | Talking Less About Porn and More About Lust — 8 Comments

  1. FINALLY! I am ready to give up and divorce my LDS husband. I just attempted to discuss this with my husband, with our Bishops and our area President. Though I’m working on my Master’s in another area of psych, I have read, studied, self-improved, self-motivated, spent thousands on Intensive Couples retreats, faithfully attend LDS support 12-Steps and “Celebrate Recovery” 12 Steps, SMART, and even read about Bill Wilson’s life-pretty sure he switched addictions to sex and kept the nicotine addiction. Yesterday, while trying to explain to my husband that “lust” is never OK even for ones wife. PASSION, YES! Without learning the difference between the two, he may go a week or 30 years and remain vulnerable to personal trigger that sets the whole unraveling of abstinence in motion.

    I have explained to my Bishop and others, I feel he is afraid if he gives up “lust” he won’t be able to function sexually. “Abstinence” and “recovery” are not the same either-and any person who manages an addiction must also learn the difference of these as well. I am willing to remain married to and stand by an husband with addictions who is in active recovery and maintaining it daily just like we feed our bodies and spirits-No longer willing to wait and learn about the “slips” or acting outs or acting ins!!

    Just another opinion, due to the population of teens and adults I work with, I believe that sexual addiction is the under current for many person’s with addictions returning to the other more recognized or social acceptable addictions. I also believe sexual addiction is an unaddressed undercurrent for the escalating revolving doors of the same people through our jails and prisons-both men and women.

    A home with the darkness and secrets of sexual addictions has an air of incestuous energy which affects the children whether they are ever actually touched inappropiately or not. Clean, healthy love and intimacy cannot develop or survive with all the personality, moods, lack of spiritually, absent emotionally climate which weaves through the atmosphere of any home or relationship where a person with active addictions-even if is living in the “stinking thinking” only.

    Persons with addictions live in a self-absorbed world, isolated even from their true selves with denial and compartmental thinking and either will not or cannot communicate with those who are not living with addictions. I am so hopeless. I have given our relationship so much of my life and health, well-being, attention and obsession of saving “us”, our marriage, and not wanting to hurt anymore. I was healthy when I married him and I will be healthy after I am gone for a while. I love him more than anyone on this earth. His roller coaster emotions, his rages and anger, however, he is perceived as a saint outside our home. Makes me look like an emotional and mentally imbalance wife. He sees himself as “good”. Extremes of most things. Black and white thinking.

    I have Post-concussion Syndrome, PTSD, neurological, emotional and multiple physical illnesses which the stress has caused the symptoms to almost kill me too many times. I lived with hope if we could rip the causes of the ANGER out by it’s roots, his active recovery could begin and be maintained. I don’t even know who I am really married to until this layer is gone.

    Of course he can be so wonderful, as well, or I wouldn’t still be with him. Kept telling myself to love with detachment. Focus on my life and my eternal progression interdependently because I continue to forgive, love, accept and completely love him in every way a wife can. I answer to my Heavenly Father and focus on him and see my husband as he sees him. I have finally came to the conclusion that my husband loves me as much as he can, and he knows he is completely loved. I am confident that I satisfy my husbands sexual, intimacy, trust, faithfulness-needs.

    I can never feel the void of LUST if he chooses to keep it in his life. I get it he is the only one who can change himself. I get it I can only work on and change me. There is no room for the wedge of LUST in my life any longer. I feel I have been failed, my husband has been failed by the leaders of our church-even if it is in ignorance and simply not understanding the difference themselves. The damage and physical abuse hasn’t been addressed as well. I almost asked to be removed as a member of this marvelous, true Gospel church because I felt like I simply do not and will not matter as a woman and a daughter of my Heavenly Father.

    Decided to learn all I can to help others who will deal with husbands, brothers, sons and other men they love eventually. LDS women need to be educated to help raise their sons to understand and not be so devastated when sexual addictions are brought into the light. The focus becomes on the poor suffering brother-while the women and other family members are told to endure on and on…….thank you for my rant! I just finally feel validated!! “NightFury” (How to Train Your Dragon”)

    • NightFury: Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m so sorry for all the pain you’ve suffered through. You touched on so many important points I almost don’t know where to begin in responding. I think everyone in the Church must come to understand that lust is more addictive than cocaine; it is immediately addictive especially for those who don’t know what it is–which is most of us; it can never be overcome on one’s own in secrecy and isolation; anyone who claims otherwise is a liar; and recovery is possible for those who become willing to do whatever it takes and then do whatever it takes including lots of meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous and therapy. Those who find recovery will then be able to forsake the sin, truly repent, enjoy all the blessings and promises of the Atonement of Christ, and ultimately help others find recovery, too. I hope you’ll write more of your ideas and experiences. People need to hear what you have to say. Even if you’re mad, tired of it all, disappointed, dismayed and feeling let down and betrayed, you need to keep sharing what you know and understand. It’s important.

  2. So how do I know if it is an addiction? If he doesn’t openly confess until he’s cornered into it? If he says:
    “I knew it would hurt you so I didn’t want to tell you?”
    “It’s not like I see them as a replacement…it’s like they are objects (not exact words but what I got from what he said about the porn)”.
    “I don’t know why I did it…porn doesn’t really appeal to me.”
    “I didn’t break the law of chastity.”
    How do I know when I’m being “used” and the boundaries I need to set? Is lust always displayed in a negative way…could I be misinterpreting lust for passion?

    • Confused: Thanks for reading and commenting. Here are some thoughts. Hopefully, they’ll be useful in some small way. First, you don’t confess to addiction. You confess to sin. Addiction is not sin. Addiction is a disease. There is something wrong with the brain of the addict that causes him to obsess over a particular stimulus. The obsession builds, eventually crowding out everything else, and finally the addict will act out again with his drug. Addicts cannot get over their disease on their own any more than diabetics can get over their disease through sheer will power. It is a disease of the brain. If you read the rest of this website, however, you’ll know that there is a solution to the addiction and it’s a great one. It involves counseling and 12 Step meetings, preferable with Sexaholics Anonymous because that is the group with a sexual sobriety definition that most closely matches the Gospel standard. It also has the resources that give addicts power to overcome their destructive behavior and thought patterns. No other 12 Step group comes close to its effectiveness–and that includes the Church’s Pornography Addiction Support Group.

      Now, just because because I’ve said that addiction is a disease, I’m not saying that sin has nothing to do with it. Sex and porn addicts act out with their drug in sinful ways. They don’t just break the law of chastity; they crush the life out of it. Too many Mormon men think they can just “repent” hard enough of the sin, and the addiction will just go away. Thirty years later, they’re still trying and failing. That’s because addiction doesn’t care how penitent you are. You have to get into treatment for the addiction. Once you find recovery from the addiction, then you can repent because you are now able to forsake the sin.

      Your husband says some of the classic things that addicts say to minimize and obfuscate. He makes it seem minor. He makes you feel crazy if you make a big deal out it. He’s wrong. You are right. Those feelings you have in your heart in mind are Heavenly Father telling you that something is really not right!

      “I knew it would hurt you so I didn’t want to tell you.” Translation: I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to hurt ME. (Addicts are self-absorbed.)
      “It’s not like I see them as a replacement…it’s like they are objects (not exact words but what I got from what he said about the porn)”. Translation: I objectify the women I seen in pornography. I don’t see them as daughters of a loving Heavenly Father who cares for them and wants what’s best for them and wants them to get out of the cesspool they’re acting out in. I can’t see them as human because if I did, I would be unable to get my lust hits. I wouldn’t get my drug.
      “I don’t know why I did it…porn doesn’t really appeal to me.” Translation: I behave like an addict, but I don’t want to admit that I’m an addict. Then I’d have to get help from other people. I couldn’t continue to act out in secrecy and isolation.
      “I didn’t break the law of chastity.” OH YES YOU DID, PAL! Jesus Christ himself said that when a man looks on a woman and lusts after her, he commits adultery in his heart. Don’t the most important things in the Gospel happen in the heart? Isn’t that where Heavenly Father is going to look when we stand before him at Judgment Day? “Well, Father, you see, I never really touched anyone…it was just adultery in my heart.”
      Guys like your husband suffer from a severe case of hairsplitting. I used to be one of them. Like the Sadducees and Pharisees, they make up little lines and distinctions in their minds in order to justify or minimize their behavior. Somewhere along the line, LDS porn addicts embrace the idea that it’s not really adultery if they don’t make physical contact with another person. Nope, that’s not what Jesus said. I think I stick with his Law of Chastity. The hairsplitting gives me a headache.

      How do I know when I’m being “used” and the boundaries I need to set? Is lust always displayed in a negative way…could I be misinterpreting lust for passion? Those are great questions. If an addict is not actively working a clear and effective program of recovery, he is still in his addiction. When you wonder if you’re being “used,” I’d say most like you are. He is using you as an object–just like the women in the porn–to get his drug–lust.
      A lot of men will scoff at this. “You can’t objectify your wife!” they’ll say. Sure you can. Men have been doing it since time immemorial. LDS men, too.
      I have learned that there most definitely is a difference between lust and passion. Lust is the miserable, selfish side of passion. It’s what most men and women spend their whole lives experiencing. It comes with an orgasm at the end, so they all think that’s as grand as it gets. I can assure you that lust-free passion is infinitely more breathtaking and satisfying. Addicts, however, never experience it. They can’t. Neither can their wives (or husbands).
      But with recovery, they can. Lust-free passion is amazing. It is what God intended. Encourage your husband to get some help. He’ll never get over it on his own. No one ever has. Lots of men (and women) have overcome sexual addiction with the help of others.

  3. My husband thinks that his will power is enough. He thinks filters on the computer are sufficient. I know this is a disease. I know I have to work on my co-dependancy and on myself. I know that without recovery, he will relapse again and again. I pray…he refuses to get help at this point…so how long do I stay at this point? I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster waiting for him to actually commit adultery–to move beyond viewing pornography. I feel empty inside…I don’t know why I can’t leave yet. Sometimes I want to but I just don’t know where to go from here. Especially since he refuses to get help WITH ANY group or therapy at this time.

    • N: I’ve emailed you a copy of the book, Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship. If you’ve read it now, you know that a porn addict cannot recover on his own through will power. This means you also know that your husband is not sexually sober. He is a lust drunk. When he’s not acting out with porn and masturbation, he is still acting out in other ways or is acting in with lust, fantasy, planning, wondering, obsessing, and objectifying you and other women. You don’t have to wonder; that is what he is doing. That is the nature of the addiction. There is no such thing as “just a pornography problem” just like there is no such thing as “just a Coors Light problem.”

      So here you are. Your husband is a lust addict and will not get help. He will never overcome this on his own. He will continue to isolate, minimize, lie and years will pass.

      I’m not a marriage counselor, but I know a thing or two about being married and being an addict and finding recovery. It seems to me that the questions you ought to be asking yourself right now are:

      1. Will I continue to sleep in the same bed and be sexually intimate with a lust addict who objectifies me and uses me as a sex tool, or do I need space for healing?

      2. Will I continue to live in the same home with a lust addict who is unwilling to face his addiction and will continue to destroy himself, my self-esteem and our family (because that’s what happens in EVERY case of sex addiction)?

      3. Will I continue to stay married to a man who could–if he chose–find recovery from sex addiction (other LDS men have done this–and the numbers are growing), but chooses not to because he is unwilling to do whatever is necessary?

      I think you have to address those questions. You may have heard the old adage often used to describe teens and sex: Girls give sex so they can get “love;” boys give “love” so they can get sex. Sadly, this is what is going on in a lot of LDS marriages (and not just LDS marriages). The wives continue to provide the sex because they so desperately want intimacy–even if it’s the fake, unfulfilling intimacy of lust-driven sex. The husbands go through the motions of “romance” kind of, sort of (but not really) so they can get their wives in bed and get the sex (lust) they think they so desperately need.

      I know know you face a tough situation. I think this is when you get on your knees and ask, “Heavenly Father, is it your will that I should stay with a sex addict who refuses to find recovery?” He will tell you what you should do and it will be clear to you. I’m sure of that. That’s how God works.

  4. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve said repeatedly that this website is not for everyone. Apparently it’s not for you. Still, one thing I firmly believe is that God and Jesus Christ expect those of us who have found recovery and sexual sobriety to share our experience, strength and hope with those who still suffer.

    I assume that you’ve found long-term sobriety (although you didn’t actually say you had). Those who read this website would love to hear what works for you. In fact they’re desperate to hear it. I hope you’ll share.