E P I D E M I C
Presented in Stake
March 9, 2003
by Steven A. Cramer
When Sister Cramer and I were ready to come home from our mission, we had to island hop from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico, then to St. Louis, and finally to Salt Lake. As we stepped up the first ticket counter, early in the morning, the lady was preoccupied with her computer and keyboard.
She never even looked at us, but asked for our names.
Then, without looking up from the computer she asked: "Final Destination?"
When I answered, "heaven," the trance was broken. She looked at us and grinned and I think she will remember that.
Whenever we discuss pornography and the challenge to keep our minds and bodies clean and pure, we are definitely talking about final destinations.
Last week after the snow storm on Saturday, I had to walk down and back up Hill Field Road. It was early and the sidewalks had not been cleared, so I had to walk in street.
That was okay till the cars came, and then I had to walk in the gutter.
I didnt like that one bit because it reminded me of how I lived in the gutter for over 30 years, helplessly addicted to masturbation and pornography, of my story of being abused and becoming addicted.
So today I am going to share with you some of the dangers and consequences of surrendering to these Satanic temptations, how to avoid falling into this trap, and how to regain your freedom and purity even if you have already fallen victim to this plague that is sweeping through the world and yes, even through the Church.
Mortality is a test. In fact it is a lot of tests. Pornography is one of the tests.
We come here not just to obtain a physical body, but also to learn how to use it wisely, to use it to produce joy and increasing capacities, instead of succumbing to the captivity and restrictions that our fallen, "natural-man" flesh tries to impose.
The daily choices we make for the use of our minds, bodies and time will determine whether we go through this life living in bodies that are temples or prisons.
Either we learn to control our bodies, or they control us.
Before we begin our discussion of masturbation and pornography, it is important to remind ourselves that it is not wicked or evil to feel sexual desires.
In fact, an editorial in the December, 1986 Ensign instructed parents that "It is important that we impress upon our childrens minds and hearts the beautiful and eternal nature of their sexuality." (See p. 57).
God gave these feelings to us. He built them into the very core of manhood. But they are very sacred, and He has asked us, indeed, commanded us to reverence them and save them for righteous sharing within marriage. To use them selfishly, privately, by ourselves and outside of marriage is sin.
Our bodies are created in the image of God. He created them to be attractive to each other. It is nothing to be ashamed of to find yourself interested in the beauty of women. In fact, the May 1989 New Era stated:
"It's perfectly natural to be attracted to a good-looking young woman. It's the way God planned that it should be. Satan knows this, however, and will ever so quietly sneak bad thoughts into your mind." (Editorial, The New Era, May 1989, p. 17)
Because our sexuality is so intimately connected to our passions and choices, and because our chastity and virtue are so important in the eyes of the Lord, these sacred feelings are one of the major targets of Satan in His efforts to destroy mankind.
One of His greatest goals is to have us misuse this part of our temple bodies and minds. In the October, 1982 Ensign, Bruce C. Hafen emphasized this when he said that sex "is not only good, it is pure, precious, even sacred and holy. For that very reason, one of Satans cheapest and dirtiest tricks is to make profane that which is sacred." (Ensign, October 1982, p. 66)
As priesthood bearers, the Lord has asked "that every man should take righteousness in his hands and faithfulness upon his loins" (D&C 63:37), but immorality is the major sin of our times, and it almost always involves the use of our hands.
In Isaiah 56, the Lord said: "Blessed is the man that keepeth his hand from doing any evil." (Isaiah 56:2)
And In Micah 2:1 he warned: "Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand."
As Satans power in the world is increasing, as more and more of our priesthood boys and men fall victim to sexual problems, the Brethren are concerned.
I wonder if you have noticed the last several years how they have been escalating their warnings about pornography and other sexual sins?
Their warnings have increased both in the frequency of their talks and in the explicit detail of what they say.
For example, in 1969, President Kimball said this about masturbation:
"Prophets anciently and today condemn masturbation. It induces feelings of guilt and shame. It is detrimental to spirituality. It indicates slavery to the flesh, not the mastery of it and growth toward godhood, which is the object of our mortal life. Our modern prophet has indicated that no young man should be called on a mission who is not free from this practice." (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 77)
And in the December, 1986 Ensign, parents were counseled that "children should be taught at around the first signs of puberty what masturbation is and why it is wrong. Parents who avoid guiding their children in this matter do them a disservice" (See pp. 57-58).
Now those are both strong and compelling statements, but listen to a recent statement by Richard G. Scott, in the October, 1998 Priesthood session of General Conference:
"Strongly tied to the sacred, private parts of the body are powerful emotions intended to be used within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman in ways that are appropriate and acceptable to them both.
"They are an important part of the love and trust that bond a husband and wife together and prepare them for the responsibilities of a family. They bring the blessing of children.
"These emotions are not to be stimulated or used for personal gratification outside of the covenant of marriage.
"Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. These things are wrong. Do not do them."
Now that is about as plain as language can put it. And then He explains why this self-control is so important:
"Such practices would undermine your ability to be inspired by the Holy Ghost in the vitally important decisions you must make for your future."
"They lead to binding addictions and grievous transgressions."
(Ensign, November 1998, p. 69)
In recent years there have been dozens of similar plain statements. Now lets consider how their warnings about pornography have increased.
Weve all heard President Bensons warning about the sensitivity of our memory banks:
"Don't see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive or pornographic.
"We counsel you not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards." (Ensign, May 1986, p. 45)
I can testify that is true. One of the most terrible things about pornography is that when you load a pornographic image into your mind, it is there for life. It will haunt you even after you repent. You cannot get rid of it. Only Jesus Christ has the power to remove that from your memory and that process does not come easily.
So President Benson gave us one of the first strong warnings. It has become a standard. But in comparison to what is being spelled out today, that was milk toast.
In the April 2000 conference, Bishop H. David Burton said:
"The consequences of pornography are catastrophic. Pornography is as addictive as many substances we would not even consider taking into our bodies." (Bishop H. David Burton, Ensign, May 2000, pp. 39)
Now just one more quote and we will move on. Speaking again of the sexual part of marriage and the dangers of messing around outside that sacred relationship, Elder Scott said:
"Satan knows that those powerful emotions can be aroused by things you could see, hear, or touch. When stirred, those emotions can be used to lead one to destructive experimentation, then to serious transgressions. He uses pornography through videotapes, movies, magazines, computer images, or contaminated music for this purpose.
"Close your eyes, ears, mind and heart to it. Unchecked, it would surely grow unrelentingly from initial curiosity step by step to become a raging monster. That demon would wreck wholesome desires, worthy companionship, noble thoughts and acts until it could destroy you. Dont lift the cover of salacious material in any form, and you will not be captured by it." (Elder Richard G. Scott, Ensign, November 1998, p. 69)
I think, brethren, that these statements should make us aware that we are behind enemy lines, we are surrounded by the Satanic weapons of immorality. We are in peril and it will require of each of us the utmost care and effort to come through it without being stained.
I close this section with this blunt summation from the October 1975 Ensign:
"Sexual experiences were never intended by the Lord to be a mere plaything or merely to satisfy passions and lusts." (Ensign, October 1975, p. 4)
Satanic Hate and War
We have agreed that life is a test. Mortality is also a war and our sexual feelings are one the major battlegrounds.
On the battleground of sexual temptations we have two major enemies to conquer:
First is ourselves. The selfish desires of our mortal, fallen, carnal natures that try to keep us on the animal plane instead of the spiritual.
And secondly, Satan and His demons, who hate the fact that we have physical bodies and they dont. They are determined to use sexual temptations to destroy us
The First Presidency described Satans cruelty and determination to destroy us this way:
"There is no crime He would not commit, no debauchery He would not set up, no plague He would not send, no heart He would not break, no life He would not take, no soul He would not destroy." (Messages of the First Presidency, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., S.L.C., Utah, Bookcraft, 1965-75, 6:179)
Satanic Home Teachers
The Book of Mormon is filled with warnings about these demons. For example:
"Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of Him who hath sought to destroy our souls." (Helaman 13:37)
Of this 24-hour Satanic surveillance, Brigham Young said:
"It requires all the care and faithfulness which we can exercise in order to keep the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ for there are invisible agencies around us in sufficient numbers to encourage the slightest disposition they may discover in us to forsake the true way, and fan into a flame the slightest spark of discontent and unbelief.
"[These] spirits are watching us continually for an opportunity to influence us to do evil or to make us decline in the performance of our duties." (Journal of Discourses 12:128)
Lets talk about them being in "sufficient numbers." President George Albert Smith said, "The devil has the world so perfectly at his disposal that it requires few devils to keep it in subjection," and "The whole legion of devils has nothing to do but look after the Mormons " (as quoted by Carlos E. Asay in the Ensign, Nov. 1981, p. 67) President Wilford Woodruff estimated that Satan would assign at least one hundred of his demons to every man, woman and child in the Church. (See Journal of Discourses 21:125-26) That would be a hundred for the father, a hundred for the mother, and a hundred for each child over eight.
You might think of these demons as your familys Satanic home teachers, except they live with and follow and observe and work to tempt and destroy your family 24 hours a day. Now these demons cannot read our thoughts, but they know us very well and they can certainly read our actions. For example, if they see our head jerk around to get a better look at a pretty girl, they will know that we might be susceptible to the temptations of nudity.
Technically, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is not actual pornography. But you may be certain that if your demons see you pouring over that or something like it, they will know that you would be curious to see more. And they have the power to bring it into your path. Ill give you an example of this.
Many years ago, during one of my cycles when I was really trying hard to overcome pornography, I went to the Federal IRS building to get some tax forms. As I left to go home, I had the strongest impression that I should go to the restroom first. But I didnt feel the need and continued heading for the car. However, the impression grew stronger and more insistent, so finally I figured what would it hurt and went in. Those demons who followed me, looking for ways to defeat me not only knew that I was susceptible to the temptation of pornography, but they also knew that there was a magazine in that restroom. They knew that if they could get me in there quickly, there was a man standing at the only urinal, so I would have to step into the toilet stall which is where the magazine was.
That is the kind of knowledge and power they have to manipulate us if we allow it. I am glad that happened to me because it revealed their hand and I became more aware that I was being targeted and did not need to beat on myself every time I had an unworthy thought or desire.
If our desire is to live pure and clean, then we must remember that we are surrounded 24 hours a day by these determined demons and we must learn to live worthy of the Spirit and to avoid the compromises that invite them to have power over us.
Reality of Addiction and Satanic Control
We have heard many warnings today about the danger of addiction if we compromise and tamper with masturbation or pornography.
I fear that many of us underestimate the power that looking at pornography gives Satan over us. Lets be clear what sexual addiction means. It is being a slave to passions and desires we can no longer control. It means that we have gone so far, we have repeated our sins so often, that we are now under the control of Satan and no matter how much we may want to stop, we have lost the power to do so. Satan has become our master. That is addiction.
It is important to understand two things about Satan and the demon home teachers he assigns to us.
First is that they can never force us to sin against our will at least not at the beginning. As Elder ElRay L. Christiansen said, "Satan and his aides no doubt may know of our inclinations, our carnal tastes and desires, but they cannot compel a righteous person to do evil if He seeks help from the Lord." (New Era, July 1975, p. 49)
So the tempter demons can never force us, but with thousands of years of experience, they can certainly be very persuasive. And the prophets have taught that we can actually give away our agency and lose control of our own lives.
The way people descend into addiction is simply by a series of bad choices, compromises that lead them gradually downward into harmful habits and then into addiction. Each choice we make for the way we use our time and our bodies either leads us upward, toward greater spirituality, freedom and self-mastery, or downward toward enslavement and sorrow.
As President Kimball warned "Sin is intensely habit-forming." He said that "Sin in sex practices tends to have a "snowballing" effect. As the restraints fall away, Satan incites the carnal man to ever-deepening degeneracy in his search for excitement until in many instances he is lost to any former considerations of decency."
And he warned that: "As the transgressor moves deeper and deeper in his sin and the error is entrenched more deeply and the will to change is weakened, it becomes increasingly nearer hopeless and he skids down and down until either he does not want to climb back up or he has lost the power to do so" (The Miracle of Forgiveness, first ed., Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, Inc., 1969, p. 117).
Elder Scott has warned that when we indulge pornography or masturbation long enough for it to become an addiction, "It is as though Satan ties strings to the mind and body so that he can manipulate one like a puppet Through subtle, tempting influence, he encourages us to gratify desire or to succumb to appetite. He progressively binds those that follow carnal desire. Unless they repent, they are effectively converted into robots who no longer exercise control over their eternal destiny." (Ensign, May 1986, pp. 10-11 and Ensign, November 1981, p. 11)
Brethren, I testify that these warnings are true. I spent thirty years as his slave.
But even if we deliberately chose to enter into that slavery, even if we still love the sin, Jesus Christ has more power than Satan and all his demons. If we will allow it, Jesus Christ is anxious to use His infinite power to rescue us. As "the God of the impossible," He can rescue us from our evil desires and from our evil habits. No matter how helpless and hopeless we are, He has the infinite power and love and atonement to rescue us from our sin and from our addiction.
It Starts with Curiosity
All my life Ive heard the expression, "Curiosity killed the cat." It almost killed our cat, Sevario.
I was on the roof of our home, cleaning, oiling and preparing our swamp cooler for the coming summer season. When I felt I had it ready, I climbed down the ladder and went into the house to turn it on, so I could go back and check the belt. But I got to wondering if I had cleared away all the tools, so instead of turning it on, I climbed back on the roof to check. It is a good thing I did, because there was our curious cat, checking things out. He had actually climbed inside the round drum-shaped fan in the center of the cooler, and had I turned it on, he would have been shredded as he spun inside the sharp blades of the cylindrical fan.
Curiosity is a good thing. It is one of the things that helps mankind produce the inventions and innovations that bring progress to our society. But curiosity has also become a major tool of our Satanic enemies and the conspiring men who seek to lead us into addiction to pornography. Over the last 25 years I have personally talked with hundreds of priesthood holders who have become helplessly addicted to pornography. I want to tell you that one of the most important things I have learned from them is that their addiction did not start with being "over-sexed," lustful, or wicked. For most of them it started with simple curiosity and compromise.
You know that if we never take that first drink or first smoke, we will never become addicted to alcohol or nicotine. Likewise, if we never pause and compromise our curiosity with that first temptation to look at nudity, we will never become subject to its power. I am so impressed that the brethren understand this connection between curiosity and addiction.
With divinely inspired insight, the prophets are continually urging us to avoid the consequences of indulging our very natural, but potentially fatal, mortal curiosity about pornography. For example, Elder Richard G. Scott recently said:
"The tragic pattern is so familiar. It begins with a curiosity that is fueled by its stimulation and is justified by the false premise that when done privately, it does no harm to anyone else. Lulled by this lie, the experimentation goes deeper, with more powerful stimulations, until the web closes and a terribly immoral, addictive habit is formed. (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May 2000, p. 37)
Fathers and priesthood leaders, please note that sign post. If we direct all our teachings against lust and impure thoughts, we will miss the majority of people who are being trapped into pornography by plain old curiosity.
Before we discuss how to get out of these addictions, I first want to describe for you three of the worst dangers and consequences of surrendering to pornography and similar sins.
The first is how simply looking and lusting mentally inevitably leads to acting out worse sins physically. Probably one of the most common laments made by men who are excommunicated is that they thought they could handle it. They never dreamed they could go from looking at pornography and committing adultery mentally to actually taking off their garments and doing it physically.
Satan uses the weapon of pornography to attack our virtue because He knows that if he cannot tempt priesthood holders to indulge in sexual sins physically, with pornography he can induce them to participate in those activities mentally and emotionally, thereby sowing the seeds of future acts of indulgence.
Viewing pornography and masturbation are like mental practice sessions preparing for adultery. Who would deny that physical adultery is always going to be preceded by mental adultery? The thoughts and desires which are stimulated by masturbation and viewing pornography are like seeds planted deep in our minds and hearts. Each time we masturbate or pollute our minds with pornographic material we are watering those seeds.
At the beginning it seems like one can "get away" with pornography because no one knows, and we are satisfied to just look. But carefully nourished by many practice sessions of pornographic viewing and fantasy, the indelible seeds of pornography cannot grow into anything else but a harvest of filthy, compelling thoughts and wicked deeds as we grow numb to consequences and then finally act out the things we have locked into our minds and passions.
Now some may disagree because they have looked at pornography without acting it out physically. And that may be true so far. This is exactly how Satan lures us deeper and deeper: gradually. Seeds do not harvest overnight
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" is always true if not immediately, then eventually.
Pornography Destroys Relationships
Another tragic consequence of masturbation and viewing of pornography is how it destroys the relationships in our marriage and families. We came to earth to learn to build eternal relationships with people, not to waste our lives in preoccupation with the outward appearance of their bodies. But pornography makes us appearance-focused instead of relationship-focused. It teaches us to build pretend relationships with illusions in substitute for healthy relationships with real companions. The more people indulge in pornography, the more their natural orientation toward relationships with others is replaced with a shallow relationship with themselves. The longer one indulges in pornographic substitutes, the more one retreats into the world of fantasy and illusion and the less ability one will have to experience a sincere, bonding relationship with one's wife. As Elder Scott said:
"One of the most damning influences on earth, one that has caused uncountable grief, suffering, heartache, and destroyed marriages is the onslaught of pornography in all of its vicious, corroding, destructive forms." (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May 2000, p. 37)
Now I want you to hear the heartbreaking words from a wife who gave me permission to share her letter This letter is typical of hundreds that I have received over the last 25 years since I was rescued from my addiction and started writing books about it. She explains this far better than I ever could:
|"I was completely devastated when I
discovered that my husband was involved in pornography.
"I am feeling totally rejected. I gave my entire self to my husband the day we were married in the temple. I saved myself for him, and to have this happen makes me feel as if he is telling me that my gift to him is not good enough. I feel this is a total mockery.
"This whole thing has had an incredible effect on me and how I feel about myself and most definitely on how I think my husband feels about me.
"I am wondering if you could help me understand what a man is thinking when he is involved in pornography.
"I ask my husband this question, and he thinks for awhile and always says that he doesn't know why he was involved in it.
"He tells me over and over that it isn't because of the women. He said he wasn't attracted to them. I find that impossible to believe.
"And I find it even more impossible to believe him when he tells me that he is attracted to me.
"I have many people tell me that I am beautiful and attractive, but even though all those people tell me that, I still feel ugly, because I feel I am ugly to my husband the one person I want to be beautiful to.
"I feel as if he would rather have me be some dirty woman, with big implants and be this trashy figure than to be clean, spiritual and keep precious things sacred.
"My husband keeps telling me that it isn't true and that he doesn't want me to be like the women in the pornographic material. I am having a very difficult time understanding why he would be involved in it if this is really true.
"My husband assures me that it doesnt have anything to do with me.
"From my point of view, I feel that my husband wouldn't have even thought about crossing into pornography if he really loved me and was attracted to me and satisfied with me as his wife.
"This is what I am having a problem with. I have taken this very personally. I don't have the best self-esteem to begin with, and to be hurt in this way by the man that is supposed to cherish me and love me above all others has really brought me to the depths of despair.
"I just want to feel loved by my eternal companion. I want to believe him when i hear him say I love you and I want to be able to feel that he shows affection because he cares about me and loves me and not because he is just using me."
Brethren, dont be duped by Satans whispering that you can look at pornography and get away with it. Either you move away from it toward repentance, or you head toward the tragedy and heartache described in this letter.
Loss of the Spirit
Perhaps the greatest of all consequences or penalties for indulging masturbation, pornography, and mental lust is the loss of the Lords Spirit, because when we lose the Spirit, we lose everything that matters.
Because the mortal mind cannot entertain two opposing thoughts at the same time, there is no way that holiness, virtue, and purity can coexist with deliberate filthiness and lust. As Jesus warned in D&C 42:23: "He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall not have the Spirit "
In D&C 59 He also commanded: "Thou shalt not commit adultery nor do anything like unto it." Can there be any question that these two warnings apply to allowing our minds to wander in lustful fantasies and imaginations, or viewing pornographic images?
I am only going to share one quote with you about the relationship between immorality and losing the Spirit. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin warned just how sensitive the Spirit is to the intrusion of pornography when he said:
"Every ounce of pornography and immoral entertainment will cause you to lose a pound of spirituality."
That is a terrible price to pay for lust.
"And," he warned, "it will only take a few ounces of immorality to cause you to lose all of your spiritual strength, for the Lord's Spirit will not dwell in an unclean temple" (New Era, May 1988, p.7).
If we are striving to make temples of our bodies, then we must remember that our minds would be like the "Holy of Holies." This means that every time we push the "Enter" button on a TV remote or computer keyboard in order to view pornography, we automatically push the "Delete" button that drives the Holy Spirit from us.
And brethren, to lose the Lords Spirit is to lose our battles and eventually, our faith, our testimonies, our families, and our Church membership. It is a path that has been well worn with far too much traffic.
How thankful we are to know that no matter what mistakes we have made in the past, no matter how long we have been away from His Spirit, when we are ready to repent, the Lord has given this promise of help in 3 Nephi 24:7:
"Return unto me, and I will return unto you."
I know this is true and I love Him for being that kind of a Savior.
Now brethren, there is no petty Band-Aid cure for this. There are no quick or easy escapes. This is a powerful, big time addiction at least as powerful as addiction to cocaine or heroin, if not worse. If you want to overcome this addiction or help someone else to do so there are some hard facts you must face. Most of them pertain to the things we try to substitute for Christ, so that we can save ourselves. So lets talk about how to get out of this mess.
One of the first facts we must face is that willpower is good and necessary, but no matter how strong you are, you will never conquer this with willpower alone. Even if you could find enough willpower to stop doing porn, you would still be riddled with guilt and shame and stand unclean before the Lord.
You will never overcome addiction to masturbation or pornography if all you do is focus on changing your behavior and fail to reach for the new heart and nature Christ is trying to give us.
There are many good books that can guide you and help in your recovery. One of them is He Did Deliver Me From Bondage, by Colleen C. Harrison. This book is based on the principles taught in the Book of Mormon about healing, rescue, and deliverance. I have spent 25 years helping people with this problem, and I consider this to be the best book Ive ever seen for help in spiritual recovery. It is the one and only book recommended by LDS Family Services, and it is available in all LDS bookstores. So yes, that book will help, but there is no book that is going to save you.
Therapy cannot not save you either. Therapy from a spiritually oriented counselor might help but there is no therapist or therapy that is going to save you. Your wife cannot save you and neither can you by yourself.
You must know that you cannot save yourself from this and that you will only prolong your misery and addiction if you waste your life like I did, trying to be your own Savior. Spiritual death can never restore life to itself.
It is commendable to stay active and take part in the Church while you work out your repentance but dont fall victim to Satans deception that somehow, if you do enough good works, they will somehow compensate for or erase the penalty for your sins.
That is not how the Gospel works.
The only solution for this is the broken heart that will allow you to come to Christ for total healing. He is the Savior we are not. I say total healing because you must look past the mere stopping of your sinful acts. That is only the beginning to getting well.
Jeremiah 17:9 describes the natural-man heart as "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." That is why fallen man is so vulnerable to temptation.
What we all need whether we are addicted or not is a new heart, a changed heart,
a heart that loves God and godliness more than carnal and worldly pleasures.
And that means major heart surgery.
There must be a divine change in nature, a total transformation, the process of being born again, the mighty change which only Jesus Christ can perform.
After you get on your knees and admit to yourself and to your God that you are in over your head and that you cannot and never will be able to solve this problem by yourself, then one of the next and most urgent things you must do will be one of the hardest and most important parts of your recovery, and that is a full and total confession to your bishop.
In D&C 58:43, the Lord defined the test of true repentance this way:
"By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins, behold, he will confess them and forsake them."
The Lord put the confession part before the repentance and forsaking part because the confession is part of what makes the forsaking possible. Without that, we are only deluding ourselves and Satan will do everything in his power to persuade us not to confess or confide in the bishop.
I testify that as long as you hold this problem secret and try to hide the truth of where you really are, you only perpetuate the addiction, shut out the divine help you need, and make it all the harder for yourself and your family.
You can never take the pain of these things out of your own heart, but over time, your bishop, your judge who represents the Savior in such matters, can help you in that process. And he can be your friend and supporter through the months of repentance and the withdrawal pains.
There is another thing he can do for you. He can refer you into one of the Church-sponsored 12-Step recovery programs. Did you know that up and down the Wasatch Front and in other locations there are dozens and dozens of support groups meeting under the supervision of over 200 senior missionaries called by the Church to help people recover from compulsive, addictive behaviors?
This program began under the sponsorship of LDS Family Services a couple of years ago, with about 400 attendees. Now there are over 4000 men and women receiving help and supporting each other in their recovery. I wish there had been something like that when I was struggling.
Here is another perspective you will need:
Pornography is a Satanic weapon and heres why it is important to look at it that way. If you were involved in the war in Afghanistan or Iraq and you got shot, you wouldnt be ashamed to ask for medical help. Likewise, if you have been wounded by Satans weapons of pornography you must be willing to ask for spiritual help from your priesthood leader. A doctor is not offended by sick or injured people who come to him for help. Thats what he trained for and he is delighted with the opportunity to help them. Likewise, the Savior paid a terrible price to make it possible to heal and cleanse sinners who come to Him in repentance, and I believe it is one of His greatest joys to help us and make that suffering count for something.
Confessing to your Bishop is essential, not because he is going to have all the wisdom and counsel to make you well, but because that is the Lords way, and you have no right to expect Christ to help you overcome if you refuse to involve his authorized stewards over you.
In 25 years of helping people overcome this, I have never known one person to succeed who did not make their bishop their partner in the battle.
The Scriptures have over six hundred verses that talk about being prisoners and captives of Satan. The way I visualize addiction to drugs or pornography and being captured by Satan is that it is like being a prisoner of war, trapped as literally as if we were imprisoned behind barbed wire with demonic guards making sure we dont escape. And each of us who have tried to leave those prisons know how determined those Satanic demons are to keep us in captivity.
A prisoner of war is not ashamed to admit that He needs a rescue.
One of the most important principles I have learned in overcoming addiction to pornography or drugs or any other captivity is that it involves being rescued from our addictions by a higher power instead of just trying to overcome them on our own.
The Scriptures identify that "higher power" as Jesus Christ. For example, Luke 19:10 says "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." That is His job to save or rescue people who are lost and in over their heads.
I love the description of the Saviors mission in Isaiah 61 and in Luke 4:18. These two references tell us that God sent Christ to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance, and to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.
We know that one meaning of that refers to Family History and missionary work in the spirit world. But it also refers to the rescue of those of us who are bound in captivity by their addictions, as though in a prison. The message and mission of Christ is that He has the power and ability to rescue us and bring freedom from those heartaches. That is who he is and that is what he does if we will only allow it and cooperate with him.
So either we fall for Satans deception like I did and waste our lives trying to save ourselves or we start learning how to come to Christ and allow him to help us in the healing and cleansing process.
Here are a couple of scriptures that illustrate this:
First, Ephesians 3:20, which says that Jesus Christ "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us."
You and I have limited power, while Christ has infinite power but we can shut it out by insisting on being in charge of ourselves.
Next, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says:
"For though we walk in the flesh" meaning we are mortal and fallen and struggling to be what God means for us to be "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds "
Oh how I love that promise because if there was ever a "strong hold," it is the enslaving power of pornography.
But we cannot pull down that "strong hold" with mortal weapons like psychology, positive thinking, willpower, or behavioral modification techniques, as important and helpful as all those things are.
Verse 5 promises that when we allow Gods power to work within us we can actually cast "down imaginations, and every high thing [like addiction] that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
Wow! What a promise!
I know that sounds impossible to a person who has failed in spite of their very best to overcome sexual addictions but I am a witness that even after thirty years of failure, it is still possible.
From Genesis to the end of the Pearl of Great Price, it has been demonstrated countless times
that our Savior and Heavenly Father are Gods of miracles, the Gods of impossible circumstances. As the angel told Mary: "For with God nothing shall be impossible." (Luke 1:37) As far as I can tell, the only thing that is impossible is for us to become involved in a problem which Christ cannot solve.
I testify that there is no weakness, no bad habit, no addiction, no sin that He cannot repair, if we are humble enough to offer them to Him with a broken heart and a spirit that is willing to allow His redeeming power to remold us, to cleanse us, and to make us whole. I testify that with Christ as our partner, we can all make sacred temples of our bodies. But that can only happen for us and in us when we allow Christ to become our partner in the battle.
One of my favorite power scriptures is Jeremiah 32:37:
"I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?"
He is the God who has power even over flesh that is addicted to drugs, alcohol, homosexuality, or pornography. There is nothing too hard for Him if we allow Him to use His power on our behalf.
A missionary who served on the Navajo reservation told me about how an elderly squaw woman there received her testimony. He and his companion had a problem of being persecuted by the two Protestant ministers who also worked the reservation. They made it a point to follow the Elders, and then when they left a hogan or a tent, the ministers would go in after them and try to undo all they had taught.
This one particular woman wanted to believe the Elders but was confused by the ministers. So one night she prayed to know the truth and what she should do. That night she dreamed that she was at the foot of a tall mountain and as she looked to the top, she saw Heavenly Father standing there, calling and beckoning for her to come up to Him.
She began to weep, because she wanted to go to her Heavenly Father more than anything in life, but she was too old and heavy and feeble to make the climb. Then, in her dream, the two Protestant ministers came to her aid. Each one took an arm and said "We will help you up the mountain." She was thrilled. But then, half way up the mountain, they let go of her and turned to go back down.
"Wait!" she cried. "Why are you leaving me?"
They said: "Because this is as far as we can take you."
I testify that Gods infinite power is always there, waiting and ready to come down and rescue us. Our willpower and best of intentions can only take us so far up the mountain of repentance, but I testify that if we will humble ourselves with proper confession and obedience to the counsel of our bishops. We may know and expect with absolute certainty that we will always find the divine help we need coming down from above to fill our lives with victory and joy.
Abraham 3:17 is another favorite:
"There is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take into His heart to do but what He will do it."
Why not go to the bishop and get into a program of supervised repentance so that the Lord can put your rescue and healing into His heart and agenda?
I often ponder how the Savior must feel to have this incredible power and ability to untangle the mistakes we have made and to remold us into His image, and then not be able to do it because we are so busy trying to save ourselves with willpower alone that we shut Him out as I did for thirty years.
So what "final destination" are you seeking? Mere self-control or becoming a whole person, a Celestial person, molded into a new creature in the image of Christ?
May we all choose and accept the final destination that He has prepared for us in the joys of eternal Celestial glory.
© 2003 Steven
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