[Update: Sometime around April 1, 2013, the LDS Church updated its pornography addiction recovery website. Although the content is primarily the same, the official “Sexual Addiction Reading List” discussed in this post sadly did not make the cut. I changed the link below so that it now lands on an unformatted page at lds.org that still contains the list.]
A few years back, the LDS Church jumped with fervor and fanfare into the battle against pornography with its website combatingpornography.org. Since then, the separate website has been incorporated into lds.org as its own topical section, www.lds.org/topics/pornography.
Nowadays, the site isn’t updated very often and suffers from some seriously flawed internal inconsistencies. For instance, the site contains articles by medical and psychiatric professionals that make reference to the thalamus and brainstem, dopamine, adrenaline and endorphins. They say that because of changes to the brain caused by addiction and pornography consumption, an addict can’t “just stop” and needs help to overcome his disease. Their science is generally good and I am pleased to find those articles on the site.
But then the site also contains articles under the byline of LDS Family Services that repeatedly suggest that addiction consists of nothing more than bad habits that need to be replaced with the practice of good habits like singing hymns. Well, which is it? A brain-changing disease or a very unfortunate bad habit? (The correct answer rhymes with PUHLEASE!)
Regardless, one of the things I love about the LDS Church’s pornography addiction recovery site is the “Sexual Addiction Reading List” that can be found at the following link:
I recommend the LDS Church’s “Sexual Addiction Reading List” to every Mormon with a porn problem, to the spouses of all those with a porn problem and to their priesthood leaders. And for heaven’s sake, this “Sexual Addiction Reading List” ought to be required reading for every LDS service missionary called to lead a meeting of the Mormon Church’s Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) or Pornography Addiction Support Group (PASG)!
I’ve printed out the list in the past and shown it to LDS service missionaries only to receive in response a blank look and unveiled disinterest. Come on, folks! Lives are at stake! Get with the program!
The list is divided into three logical subparts:
1. Books to Help Pornography Users: Contains a pretty extensive list of great books by both LDS and non-LDS professionals as well as others with experience in addiction recovery. I’ve read several and am working my way through the rest.
My fondest feelings rest with the last book on this first section of the list: the White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous. It’s a big part of the reason why I’m alive today. If you haven’t read it, you should.
By their very titles, the other books on this part of the list ought to at least engender some curiosity among Mormons. An LDS psychiatrist, Mark Chamberlain, co-wrote a great book with the very provocative title Willpower Is Not Enough: Why We Don’t Succeed at Change. Tell me that isn’t interesting! A Mormon saying that strength of self won’t cut it.
Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior is co-authored by Martha Nibley Beck, the daughter of Hugh Nibley. Patrick Carnes, considered by many to be the patriarch of the modern sexual addiction recovery, makes the list with two books.
My only gripe is that they didn’t include a fabulous little blue book with a yellow rowboat in a fog bank on the cover. Hey, I can dream! 🙂
2. Books to Help Spouses and Family Members: This subpart also contains some great titles that could get Latter-day Saints thinking a little more about how they’re addressing the porn epidemic. For instance, one book is titled Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self by Charles Whitfield. Boundaries could be one of the biggest questions marks for the LDS spouse of a porn addict.
Another book to consider is Discussing Pornography Problems with a Spouse: Confronting and Disclosing Secret Behaviors by Rory C. Reid and Dan Gray, both Latter-day Saints. We could all do insights like what they offer.
Here’s one that is on my short list to read next: Codependent No More: Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.
3. Articles to Help Pornography Users and Their Loved Ones: This third and final section is a list of Ensign articles and conference talks by General Authorities and others. It contains the neo-classics like “Pornography” by Elder Dallin Oaks and President Hinckley’s “A Tragic Evil Among Us.”
This part of the list really needs to be updated, however, to include some of the other great recent talks like Elder Holland’s “Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul” from the April 2010 General Conference. I recently wrote about this talk and why it’s important to me.
My primary disappointment about this third section of the list is that it’s long on the message that “Pornography is bad, bad, bad and whatever you do, don’t get addicted!” but short on advice to those of us who are already addicted and probably have been for years. We KNOW pornography is bad. We’re addicted to it. Now what?
Um, I’d like to suggest adding a link to a really great website…