Practicing Priestcraft | How the Pornography Epidemic is Killing LDS Families (And They Don’t Even Realize It)

LDS men who consume porn are practicing preistcraft and don't realize it.This evening as we were doing our family Book of Mormon reading, we came to the last chapter in Third Nephi, just a tiny little thing. Only two verses. The second one bowled me over! Mormon says that Jesus Christ himself commanded him to write certain things for the benefit of the Gentiles (i.e., people of the latter days, or us). Here’s what the Savior commanded him to write:

Turn, all ye Gentiles, from you wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.

I recognized myself, a sex and pornography addict, in that verse and was again reminded that Mormon saw our day and knew what we were going to be dealing with. He knew of the sex addiction pandemic that was going to decimate families in our generation. He saw me and other LDS men and women similar to me. When I have been in the middle of my addiction, I am all about lying and deceiving. How can I hide my computer history from my wife? How can I contort my brain through sufficient mental gymnastics to be able to answer the bishop’s questions affirmatively and “qualify” for a temple recommend? How can I hide where I’ve been or the money I’ve spent on my acting out?

And what about whoredoms and secret abominations? Staying up all night to watch fifty or so graphic porn videos where absolutely nothing is left to the imagination constitutes engaging in whoredoms. In case you wondered, there, I’ve said it. Staying up all night binging on porn and masturbation while your wife and kids are sleeping down the hallway is a secret abomination. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Isn’t spending hours watching page after page of lust-filled, sexually graphic images in a quiet–almost reverential–manner really just a form of idol worship? Someday, I’ll post about how Mormon men who binge on porn are contributing to the murder of womanhood.

All porn impairs all men so they can't relate to women in healthy ways.One thing made clear on this site is that porn consumption doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sexually compulsive behavior is caused by and contributes to the breakdown of the mind, body and soul. It snuffs out men’s ability to relate to and connect with women in healthy, appropriate ways. Without exception–and I do mean without exception–the consumption of pornography causes men to objectify women–including their own wife! Their wife becomes an object, a tool to be used to satiate these men’s appetite for lust. It makes men miserable, self-centered, self-absorbed, emotionally distant, short-tempered, and hostile. It is not benign. Not in the least.

Their misery spreads to those around them (wife and children especially) like the bubonic plague. Porn consumption contributes to envying and strife, wickedness and abomination within the family. And the whole time, these guys think they’re fooling people. I certainly thought I was fooling my family.

It turns out that my wife and kids could sense the lack of spiritual leadership and the absence of moral authority. They may not have always known that my defects of character were directly connected to my sex addiction, but they knew something was wrong. I have since realized that this is the same feeling I had growing up in my home with my father–a man who kept secrets for decades, thinking he was fooling us.

Three generations of secretsIt is the same feeling I had about my grandfather on my mother’s side. Much of his behavior revolved around attempting to make clumsy, lust-driven connections with the women he encountered. He was a traveling salesman before he retired. It was the perfect life for an addict.

Both of them were lust addicts. Both were Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Both spent most of their lives in Utah. Both went to church every Sunday. Both were temple recommend holders. Just like I was.

This brings me to my last and most important point: the practice of priestcraft. Nephi explained that “priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.” Noah Webster’s dictionary at the time of the Restoration defined priestcraft as “the stratagems and frauds of priests, fraud or imposition in religious concerns, management of selfish and ambitious priests to gain wealth and power or to impose on the credulity of others.”

My addict brain always assumed that the priests who practice priestcraft had to be outside the Church. Addict brains create blindness on all levels. Addict brains seek to exculpate and distance the addicts from any possible connection whatsoever to sin. It sure was easy to point the judgmental finger at all those non-Mormon priests out there practicing priestcraft.

I just couldn’t connect the dots until recently. The Lord is very clear in the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants that the “rights of the priesthood” can only be “handled…upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36).

Take a look at the next verse:

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man (my emphasis).

I don’t think we talk about this scriptural passage enough in the Church in the context of pornography consumption. Without question, those LDS men who binge on porn and masturbation undertake to cover their sins. Through this behavior, they gratify their own self-centeredness or pride.

I used to think “vain” in this verse related to vanity, similar to pride. Now I think it might be used here in the sense of uselessness or fruitlessness. Without recovery, the LDS porn addict dreams of the celestial kingdom. He has ambitions of achieving eternal life with his family. Being unable to forsake his sexual sins, however, because he covers them up and lies about them or dismisses them as “just a little problem,” he will never be able to overcome his addiction on his own in isolation. Without forsaking the sin by first achieving recovery from his addiction, his celestial ambition is vain, useless, pointless.

Here’s what I’m getting at: LDS men who binge on porn lose the right of the priesthood. That means that when they attempt to exercise the Holy Priesthood of God, they do so without authority. They are practicing their own priesthood which consists of the philosophies of men (“porn is no big deal”) mingled with and thereby diluting scriptures like the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants. These LDS men are engaged in priestcraft!

What’s more, I do not believe that Heavenly Father restores the power of the priesthood to LDS porn and masturbation bingers quickly and simply. For instance, I believe firmly that a brief “I’m so sorry” prayer following pornography consumption uttered on the way to the temple for an endowment session is vain. That man is practicing priestcraft as he enters God’s house under false pretenses and without authority, when he dresses in the robes of the Holy Priesthood and then participates in sacred priesthood ordinances.

Porn bingers in the LDS Church need to wake up to the fact that they make up a secret “shadow priesthood” within the Church. The men who engage in any compulsive sexual behavior whatsoever outside the covenant marriage with their wife (this includes masturbation) or any lust-driven behavior within their marriage lose the rights of the priesthood. They may dismayed to realize that they are no longer of the house of Israel, but are Gentiles, unable to “turn from their wicked ways” because they cannot overcome their addiction on their own.

I invite the men of the “shadow priesthood” to come out into the light. Talk to your bishop. Tell him the whole story. Tell him how many times you have tried to stop and failed. Tell him how old you were when you first realized it was a problem. Tell him everything you have tried to do to stop. Ask him to help you find help.

But you cannot stop there. You know from experience that confession does not cure the compulsions. It may dissipate them for a time, but they will return. If you do not acquire the tools of recovery and put them to use in your life, you will continue to fail in your quest to forsake the sin.

Those who have found lasting recovery agree that professional counseling and participation in an effective 12 Step program are key to that recovery. I endorse Sexaholics Anonymous as do a growing number of LDS men. Find those men. Ask your bishop and your stake president to help you find them. Ask your local LDS Family Services counselors to help you find them. These men are the “lower lights” referred to in the wonderful hymn “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.” They will take you by the hand and lead you out of the “shadow priesthood” and back into the sunlight and true fellowship of the priesthood of God.

Blind Signal image credit: Anatom5 by Wikimedia Commons

About Andrew+

Latter-day Saint, sex and pornography addict in recovery, dealing with depression, returned missionary, father of a bunch of kids, graduate degree, self-employed, Book of Mormon reader, writer and thinker. Working on understanding and overcoming resentment, the number one killer of addicts.

Comments

Practicing Priestcraft | How the Pornography Epidemic is Killing LDS Families (And They Don’t Even Realize It) — 4 Comments

  1. I agree with most of this post – and with the others, too. This is exactly what I have felt and am dealing with. All the same, though, the Lord is eager to forgive. I believe that He is willing to forgive the moment a man is worthy of it. That point varies from person to person and certainly requires sincere emotional commitment to the change and a valid modification in behavior, but we must not forget the Almas, the Elder who repented and became worthy in days after hearing the words of Abinadi and the Younger who repented and was forgiven in 3 days lying on the ground. Neither one of them really had any history of repentance behind them – but their repentance was demonstrated thereafter. [Moderated.]

    Now I must say, I am not encouraging sinful men like myself to justify our behavior or ignore it. If your Bishop says stop taking the Sacrement, you don’t dare take it until he says you are good and worthy AND you know yourself in your heart he is right. Don’t for a moment delay repentance because you assume you are forgiven now. You MUST confirm that with God and with his earthly representative.

    But don’t lose hope, either. The Lord will forgive freely and abundantly to all who are worthy of his forgiveness.

    • E: I would urge caution with this kind of thinking when we’re dealing with addictive behavior. The problem in the Church is not that we lack men who want to be like Alma. To the contrary, we have a bunch of sex and porn addicts who are praying desperately to have that Alma experience where God steps in and changes them and forgives them and sets them on their way to a new sin-free life.

      They are doing this in secrecy and in isolation–as they have for years in the past. And they will continue to fail–as they have for years in the past. If they can just have this experience, they think, this whole porn and masturbation nightmare will just be a distant memory and only they and the Lord will know about it.

      What you’re talking about assumes one big, giant fact: that addicts can just quit one day. They just wake up one day with sufficient faith and SHAZAM! no more compulsions! A big part of the problem is that so many of fail to understand that sin is not addiction and repentance is not recovery. They are all related and overlapping, but they are not the same thing. Just because you go through the motions of repentance does not mean you’ll automatically find recovery from your addiction.

      Too many Mormon men want to “repent” their way out of addiction. They want to pray really hard–in secrecy and isolation–in the vain hope that they can “repent” without anyone else knowing about it. Addiction, however, CANNOT be overcome in secrecy and isolation. It doesn’t work that way. Without an effective recovery program, addicts do not have the ability to forsake the sin. If you can’t forsake, you can’t truly repent. Addicts keep thinking that this time they’re REALLY going to stop. But they can’t because they haven’t found and started working on a recovery program that actually works.

      Repenting and relapsing and repenting and relapsing is not repentance. It’s called full-blown addiction. In contrast, when an addict musters sufficient humility to get help from professionals and an effective 12 Step group, and then progresses far enough along in his sexual sobriety and recovery that he is certain that he will never go back, at that point, I believe, he can go to the Lord and repent and the Lord will make it clear to him that he is forgiven. That was my experience.

      This is what we’re trying to help people understand on this site. We are asking them to understand the reality of addiction, the reality that it requires more than just a little extra prayer and scripture study and willpower to overcome it. Gratefully, however, it can be overcome if we become willing to do whatever it takes.

    • Absolutely. It’s called white-knuckling–just surviving by sheer willpower until the addiction overwhelms the addict’s willpower once again and he acts out.

      Also, I talk a lot about “acting out” and “acting in.” A sex addict can get his drug just by thinking about it, fantasizing, planning, wondering, lusting, staring, connecting, intriguing and flirting. He gets his lust hits and yet he says to himself, “Woohoo! Look how awesomely strong and spiritual I am! No porn and no masturbation! Yep, I’m cured for sure.” Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. That’s why addicts need sponsors to be there to help them see their blind spots.