Porn Addicts Might Not Be the Sadducees and Pharisees of the LDS Church (But They Do Have Some Interesting Similarities)

I have to start this post with the same assertion I always make and that is that while I believe the porn epidemic is huge inside the LDS Church, it is nevertheless no more prevalent there than in other communities. We’re no worse off collectively when it comes to compulsive sexual behavior, but we’re no better off either.

Christ said, That being said, here’s my thought for the day: Porn addicts of the modern Mormon Church share some interesting similarities with the Sadducees and Pharisees of Jesus Christ’s day. This occurred to me while I was reading through the four Gospels recently. As I have worked on my own recovery from sex and pornography addiction, I have come to understand better why I was the way I was as a young man, then as a single adult, and then as a married LDS man. I see that I had and still have a lot in common with the S&Ps. I have only recently made this realization because I spent so much of my previous New Testament study desperately thinking, “I’m not like them! I’m not like them! I’m not like them!”

398px-Jesus_weptHere’s the rough description I’d give of the S&Ps based on how the Gospel writers and Jesus Christ himself talked about them. Perhaps above all else, they lacked compassion. They seemed obsessed with pointing out the flaws–however insignificant–in others. They refused to acknowledge that they ever did anything wrong. They prided themselves on outward observances of the law. In other words, they were very concerned with how they appeared to others. They exercised power and influence in their communities and wielded them in a concerted effort to shape and then control the thinking and behavior of others. Everything they did appeared to be an effort to justify themselves in who they were and how they behaved.

Christ compared them to whited sepulchers that were clean and whitewashed on the outside but contained the rotting flesh and bones of dead men on their insides. The S&Ps were not the same men on the inside as they led others to believe they were on the outside.

They desperately fought the messages expressed by the Savior of inner purity of heart, love for others, compassion for those in need and most importantly redemption through the Atonement of One who could do for them what they were unable to do for themselves. It’s little wonder actually why they fought so hard. They couldn’t obtain what he offered without giving up what they were, without casting aside the carefully crafted facade they had created in an effort to make people think they were noble and spiritual giants among common men.

Addicts are self-absorbed in their addiction and try to cover it by pointing out the flaws in others.Would it be surprising to hear that this description also fits addicts like a custom-tailored suit? When you read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, one oft-repeated theme is how addicts focus obsessively on the flaws of others in a desperate attempt to keep attention focused away from their own shortcomings. While there are many reasons for doing this, one is that addicts can’t stand introspection–looking at who they are on the inside. In fact, the very reason they self-medicate with their drug of choice is a sick and flawed attempt to cover up their own character defects and mistakes and not to deal with them. Perhaps more than anyone else on earth, addicts are whited sepulchers. We’re rotting on the inside all while we’re frantically whitewashing on the outside.

A common description given by sex and pornography addicts is that they never felt like their insides matched what they saw on the outsides of others. That’s exactly how I felt–and still do on occasion. When I am not in recovery, I have felt like a whited sepulcher containing the rotting bones of a dead man. Addicts in the Church (who are not in recovery, but living their addiction in secrecy and isolation) necessarily behave like the S&Ps. They are unable to obtain purity on the inside because they keep returning to their compulsive behavior. Because they are rotting painfully on the inside but don’t want anyone to know, the only thing they can do is focus on the outward trappings of being a Latter-day Saint. They cover sin with zealousness. They hide their addiction to lust with loud affirmations of piety. Oftentimes, they are well meaning. They hope that by acting like a saint, they will one day feel like a saint. But as we know, addiction without an active recovery plan does not give up its victims easily–or ever.

Addicts lack compassion for others. That is one of the attributes of addiction. It comes with the territory. They cannot feel compassion for others because the pain they feel on the inside swallows up any concern they might have for others. Addicts are necessarily selfish. They are in survival mode and survival mode is all about “me.” They may feign compassion, but when they finally arrive in recovery, they readily admit that while they may have been going through the motions in exhibiting compassionate behavior, on the inside, it’s still all about “me.” I remember that as a missionary, I so desperately wanted to connect with the people around me, the people we were teaching and the people in the Church. I tried. I prayed about it practically non-stop. But still, I felt self-absorbed. Little wonder: I was an addict. Not actively engaged in addict behavior, but an addict nonetheless.

Something encouraging about the S&Ps, however, is that some great individuals came out from them. I’m thinking in particular of the Apostle Paul. He overcame the false teachings of the doctors of the law to embrace the true Gospel just as he overcame his thorn in the flesh. It’s interesting that of all the writers in the Bible, Paul is the one to which addicts relate best. Was he an addict? Who knows. But it is certain that he understood addiction, had compassion and empathy for the addict and was able to speak to the addict in a way that the addict could understand and from which he or she could draw hope.

So here’s the experience I’ve had: As I’ve learned more about recovery from my addiction and I’ve learned more about what I’ve been trying to medicate, Heavenly Father has filled me with the compassion and empathy that I lacked before. It is absolutely wonderful to have the capacity to care about and for others. Similar to what Lehi taught, I have been able to savor the joy of goodness because I am able to contrast it to the hopelessness and despair that I felt before. I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who is willing and able to change me on the inside when I have been unable to change myself.

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Porn Addicts Might Not Be the Sadducees and Pharisees of the LDS Church (But They Do Have Some Interesting Similarities) — 3 Comments

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