Once upon a time, there was a young woman who went out to college. She met a young man. Though she for a long time only saw him as a friend, her feelings finally turned into something more and they fell in love.
They had many conversations about their pasts. He told her that he used to have a pornography addiction but he was over it. She believed him.
He visited her over the summer after that semester and asked her to marry him. She said yes.
One night, after she was back at school, he told her he had viewed pornographic images once during their engagement, while she was away for the summer.
This was very hard for her, and she considered breaking off the engagement. But she ultimately decided she loved him and still wanted to marry him. They got married.
Married life was good sometimes, and other times really hard. He often did not treat her with love and respect. He once told her he loved himself more than her. They had good times too, though, and during one of these good times, the young couple chose to have a baby. They had a baby boy.
Having a baby did not heal their marriage woes. The marriage continued to decline. She finally found out that he had gotten back into pornography. That explained his declining grades, his secretiveness, his temper, their lack of intimacy.
She was angry and heartbroken. She quickly realized, though, that even though her love for her husband was gone, she did not want to sever the relationship. For her child, she was willing to work hard to fix her marriage. They counseled with the bishop of their congregation. The young man started a 12-step addiction recovery program.
There seemed to be some hope, but it soon faltered. He decided overcoming his addiction was too hard. His family was not worth all that trouble. He asked for a divorce. She obliged, but it was the hardest thing she had ever had to do in her life.
After college graduation, she and her son left him. They moved far away.
And they lived happily ever after?
Well, after years of self-esteem issues, guilt over leaving her son in daycare, and feelings of ostracism for being young and divorced with a child, she finally found happiness again. She is happier than ever.
His life has not changed for the better.
This story is not one that any of us would want to write into our histories, nor into the histories of our children. However, because this is a true story, and there are so many others like it, it is important to explore how this story could have been written very differently.
The first thing that is important for us to consider is that a pornography addiction can happen to anyone regardless of age, sex, religion, or marital status. In the story, he was the one with an addiction, but it could have just as easily have been her.
Because age is not a factor in whether or not someone will develop a pornography addiction, we need to start teaching our children about pornography from a young age.
Before we can tell our kids about pornography, we need to tell them about passions and feelings.
Sister Linda Reeves, the 2nd Counselor in the General Relief Society presidency in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) explained, “One reason we are here on earth is to learn to manage the passions and feelings of our mortal bodies. These God-given feelings help us want to marry and have children. The intimate marriage relationship between a man and a woman that brings children into mortality is also meant to be a beautiful, loving experience that binds together two devoted hearts, unites both spirit and body, and brings a fulness of joy and happiness as we learn to put each other first.”
These same feelings aroused outside of marriage, however, are not characterized as love, but rather lust. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle in the LDS church spoke of the different between love and lust:
“Why is lust such a deadly sin? Well, in addition to the completely Spirit-destroying impact it has upon our souls, I think it is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever. Someone said once that true love must include the idea of permanence. True love endures. But lust changes as quickly as it can turn a pornographic page or glance at yet another potential object for gratification walking by, male or female. True love we are absolutely giddy about… But lust is characterized by shame and stealth and is almost pathologically clandestine—the later and darker the hour the better, with a double-bolted door just in case. Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people. Lust, on the other hand, is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite.”
Now that our kids know that participating in pornography is a poison to true love, we need to now tell them what pornography actually is. According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary it is movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement.
As I ponder the “etc.” in the definition, I think of books (think romance novels, for example), TV shows, music, music videos, video games, photo advertisements, and sometimes even products. Anything created to induce sexual excitement can be considered pornography. It doesn’t have to be Playboys, movies from adult video stores, and naked images from porn websites. As long as the materials arouse a person sexually, they are considered pornography. Explicit nudity is not a prerequisite.
Some might might call this a difference of “hard porn” and “soft porn.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle in the LDS church, said, “Some seek to justify their indulgence by arguing that they are only viewing “soft,” not “hard,” porn. A wise bishop called this refusing to see evil as evil. He quoted men seeking to justify their viewing choices by comparisons such as “not as bad as” or “only one bad scene.” But the test of what is evil is not its degree but its effect. When persons entertain evil thoughts long enough for the Spirit to withdraw, they lose their spiritual protection and they are subject to the power and direction of the evil one. When they use Internet or other pornography for what this bishop described as “arousal on demand” (letter of Mar. 13, 2005), they are deeply soiled by sin.”
In this quote, we see some of the dangers from pornography: loss of the Spirit and subjection to the Devil’s power.
Sister Reeves explained how important it is to talk to our kids about these dangers: “We as parents and leaders need to counsel with our children and youth on an ongoing basis, listening with love and understanding. They need to know the dangers of pornography and how it overtakes lives, causing loss of the Spirit, distorted feelings, deceit, damaged relationships, loss of self-control, and nearly total consumption of time, thought, and energy.”
It is so important that our conversations with our kids are ongoing, and even go beyond the damaging effects of pornography.
Jeffrey J. Ford, MS
, a marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT, advised to have many conversations with our kids about pornography to clarify our values, let our kids express opinions, instill truths about sexuality, and answer our kids’ questions. We should also discuss the “what if” scenarios with our kids so they know what to do if a friend tries to show them a dirty magazine, or if a teacher starts showing an inappropriate movie, etc. This way, if they do come in contact with pornography, they have already made the decision of how to get away from it. Dr. Ford stresses that kids need a safe place to talk about porn, and that should be in the home.
The Utah Coalition Against Pornography encourages us to tell our kids about our experiences with pornography. This way they can see that we also have struggles, and have empathy for theirs. We should encourage our kids to tell us within 10 minutes if they have had contact with pornography, and then praise them when they do.
My friend let me borrow a CD of a sermon her pastor had given a few years back about sex and pornography. Several of his points were excellent. He said that we need to be the ones to tell our kids about sex and their bodies. (You may need to have the same conversations more than once and with varying detail – my son already forgot what sex is and I told him less than four months ago.) If you tell them about everything, they won’t feel the need to look up this information and, as a result, come in contact with pornography. We should always tell our kids the truth when they ask us, and look for teachable moments. Talking about pornography can be a little embarrassing, but we should remember it is the Devil who does not want us to talk about it. “Silence is a reckless option.” Our kids can only make good sexual choices if they know what they are.
As a young kid, maybe 10, I was exposed to pornography. A friend of mine showed me a copy of one of her father’s Playboy magazines while her mother was running an errand. On another occasion, she closed us up in one of the rooms of her house and showed me, on mute, parts of a pornographic movie. I never told my parents about it, probably because our family did not ever sit together and talk about pornography, how it is wrong, and what to do if you see it. As mentioned, it can be embarrassing to talk about pornography, but it must be done to protect our children, and to help them know how to react when porn comes into their grasp.
I just had a conversation about pornography with my 9-year-old son on Sunday. I told him about the feelings and about what pornography is. At that age, he doesn’t really understand. However, he does understand our bodies are temples, that we are created in the image of God, and that bodies should be viewed and treated with such respect. He does know what to do if he sees naked images. He knows what to do if he hears a song that makes him uncomfortable. I also gave him the advice that if friends at school whisper for him to come look at something, he probably wouldn’t want to go over there. Any time a kid feels the need to be secretive about something, most likely he/she is breaking a rule.
In our counsels with our children about pornography, we should decide what our media standards are going to be and why. These media standards should be kept by all members of the family. If you wouldn’t want your kid looking at it, reading it, or listening to it, then it most likely should not be in the house at all. Don’t think they won’t find it. Kids snoop around when you aren’t home. They find the romance novels and the dirty magazines.
Even with standards, we need to safeguard further by keeping our TVs and computers in common areas, as well as installing parental controls for our computers, TVs, and handheld devices, such as cell phones and tablets. (Sister Reeves mentioned that most kids get involved with porn through these handheld electronics.) This way members of the family will not accidentally, or be tempted to purposely, partake in pornography.
A couple good free internet filters are k9webprotection.com and opendns.com. For cell phones, you can install parental controls that can even disable the internet and texting, if you like. I recently downloaded Kids Place on my phone, and it has many options for safeguarding kids from inappropriate content.
Social media is also a place where pornography is rampant. It would be beneficial for us to be friends with our kids on Facebook, Instagram, etc., to monitor what they are posting and liking.
These filters are great at helping prevent the viewing, listening, and reading of pornography, but Sister Reeves has an even better filter option: “…The greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us.”
Elder David A. Bednar, an apostle for the LDS church, said, “Such testimony fortifies faith and provides direction. Such testimony generates light in a world that grows increasingly dark. Such testimony is the source of an eternal perspective and of enduring peace…”
Once Sister Reeves and her husband were praying because they were overwhelmed with their young children and all their other responsibilities. The answer to their prayer was, “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”
These spiritual filters – testimony, scripture study, prayer and Family Home Evening, bring an abundance of the Holy Spirit into the home, and can be a protection from the temptation of the Devil.
Sister Reeves also spoke of the protection that can come from many other worthy practices:
1. Doing family history work and attending the temple
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, in regards to participating in family history and temple work, “I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life” (“The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,”Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 94).
2. Following the prophet
President Wilford Woodruff stated: “I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 212–13.)
Elder Boyd K Packer said, “The scriptures hold the keys to spiritual protection. They contain the doctrine and laws and ordinances that will bring each child of God to a testimony of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer.” (The Key to Spiritual Protection October 2013)
It is the job of the parents to explain the sacred feelings given to us to use in our marriages, explain what pornography is and its dangers, set up regular times to discuss pornography with our kids, set family standards, install parental controls, and finally, make our homes safe havens by the spiritual deeds performed there.
Once we have done this, it is in our children’s hands to make the right choices. We have set the example and taught them the right way.We have to remember that they will be in other people’s homes. They will be around other people with different values at school and work. We can’t protect them from everything.
For example, I used to babysit my cousins some nights while their parents were out. Their TV did not have parental controls. Once I was flipping through the channels and came across a very sexually charged movie. I was curious, the heat rose within me, and I secretly watched much of it. It was the wrong choice. I should have known better.
Sister Reeves admonished, “Youth, take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being. Turn off your phone if necessary, sing a Primary song, pray for help, think of a scripture, walk out of a movie, picture the Savior, take the sacrament worthily, study For the Strength of Youth, be an example to your friends, confide in a parent, go see your bishop, ask for help, and seek professional counseling, if needed.”
A person’s spiritual well-being relies on so much more than not participating in pornography. The standards must be much higher.
It says: Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.
1. “Above all, start by separating yourself from people, materials, and circumstances that will harm you.”
2. “Along with filters on computers and a lock on affections, remember that the only real control in life is self-control. If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil.”
3. “Like thieves in the night, unwelcome thoughts can and do seek entrance to our minds…Replace lewd thoughts with hopeful images and joyful memories; picture the faces of those who love you and would be shattered if you let them down.”
4. “Cultivate and be where the Spirit of the Lord is. Make sure that includes your own home or apartment, dictating the kind of art, music, and literature you keep there. If you are endowed, go to the temple as often as your circumstances allow. And when you leave the temple, remember the symbols you take with you, never to be set aside or forgotten.”
Parents lead the way, and then the children make their own choices. There will be times, though, when despite all the good direction you have given your kids, that they may still develop an addiction to pornography at some point in their lives.
Sister Reeves gave humbling counsel: “We would be wise not to react with shock, anger, or rejection, which may cause them to be silent again.”
The natural reaction to finding out a loved one has a pornography addiction would be all the things she said not to do. I thought about it, and even if someone is engaged in such a horrifying sin, that person is still a child of God. That person still has the ability to change and become better. By showing compassion and care, we can help the person know that the change is possible and worth it.
For more advice about how to respond when you find out someone you love has a pornography addiction, click here
The young woman in the story may not have reacted the best at first, but she did sincerely want her husband to overcome his addiction. She wanted to save her marriage and keep her family together.
She suffered greatly because of her husband’s addiction. It made her feel betrayed, unloved, not good enough, and defeated.
Sister Reeves has offered words of hope to people like this young woman: “We as leaders are also greatly concerned about the spouses and families of those suffering from pornography addiction. Elder Richard G. Scott has pleaded: “If you are free of serious sin yourself, don’t suffer needlessly the consequences of another’s sins. … You can feel compassion. … Yet you should not take upon yourself a feeling of responsibility for those acts.” Know that you are not alone. There is help. Addiction recovery meetings for spouses are available, including phone-in meetings, which allow spouses to call in to a meeting and participate from their own homes.”
Elder C. Scott Grow has also provided comfort with his words: “The Savior felt the weight of the anguish of all mankind―the anguish of sin and of sorrow. “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Through His Atonement, He heals not only the transgressor, but He also heals the innocent who suffer because of those transgressions. As the innocent exercise faith in the Savior and in His Atonement and forgive the transgressor, they too can be healed” (“The Miracle of the Atonement,” April 2011 General Conference).
If this young woman had realized that her husband’s addiction was not her fault, that there were support meetings for other spouses like her, that she could be healed as she exercised faith in her Savior and forgave her husband, her suffering would have been much less.
Forgiveness. That is a very difficult thing to do when one has been betrayed so deliberately and painfully. President James E. Faust
spoke about forgiveness in a way to make it more attainable. He said:
1. Forgiveness is not always instantaneous.”
2. “Most of us need time to work through pain and loss.”
3. “Forgiveness comes more readily when … we have faith in God and trust in His word.”
4. “If we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us.”
Now what about the one with the pornography addiction? The young man in the story chose not to repent of his sins. He chose not to go through with the program. He chose to end his marriage. Maybe he just didn’t understand this, spoken by Sister Reeves:
“Young people and adults, if you are caught in Satan’s trap of pornography, remember how merciful our beloved Savior is. Do you realize how deeply the Lord loves and cherishes you, even now? Our Savior has the power to cleanse and heal you. He can remove the pain and sorrow you feel and make you clean again through the power of His Atonement…He has paid the price for our sins, but we must kneel before our Father in Heaven, in deep humility, confessing our sins, and plead with Him for forgiveness. We must want to change our hearts and our desires and be humble enough to seek the help and forgiveness of those we may have hurt or forsaken.”
No, as a youth, this young man must not have realized he had to repent to really get over his pornography addiction. Then as an adult facing divorce, he must not have known that forgiveness and purity was within his reach if he would only reach out to his Savior.
There are so many wonderful resources to help those affected by pornography addictions. Anyone with an addiction, or spouses and family of one with an addiction, can find live or phone support meeting schedules at addictionrecovery.lds.org.
Much of the information I put in this blog post came from overcomingpornography.org. It is a site dedicated to educating, preventing, dealing, and healing. Everything you need to know about how to teach your children correct principles is there. Advice for how to safeguard your home is there. The signs of a pornography addiction are there. It is all there. Most importantly, this site is meant to help you or a loved one overcome pornography through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Only Jesus Christ can make us clean. Only through Him can we live with our Father in Heaven again.
Perhaps someday the young man in the story will feel Christ’s outstretched arms, beckoning him back, reaching to him, yearning to pull him into a warm, loving embrace.
God bless this young man, and any other person who has fallen into Satan’s trap of pornography. It is not too late for you. You can overcome. You can find peace. You can be pure again. All you have to do is trust in the Lord.