Kyle*, a young professional in his early thirties, sat across from me in my office and quietly asked, “Is there any way out of this?” Kyle had been battling an addiction to pornography since he was thirteen years old. He had repeatedly failed in his attempts to stop viewing pornography during the previous 20 years. In fact, he had been defeated so many times that he wondered if he would ever be acceptable to God.
Kyle represents a large number of earnest and sincere individuals who battle addiction to pornography. When I visit with these individuals in the safety and security of my office, many of them express fear that they will eventually be sabotaged by the pull of pornography and their own lack of character. They share stories where they experience weeks and months of victory over viewing pornography, only to be suddenly blindsided by the overwhelming forces that lead them to act out. They feel that they face ultimate ruin and will surely end up in the dustbin of the Telestial Kingdom.
The ability to overcome the allure of pornography is possible. There are initial steps that must happen to achieve the hope of lasting change. I provide this guide as a way to help put you or a loved one on the path to ultimate victory over the terrible plague of pornography. I will present these steps as if I’m speaking directly to an individual who secretly views pornography.
Admit that you are powerless over pornography
Admitting your own defeat may seem like giving up in hopelessness. In reality, the opposite is true. When we are broken down and recognize our inability to fix our self-destructive behaviors, we open ourselves to the redeeming power of the Atonement. We trade self-sufficiency for divine repair. Vance Hayner once observed, “It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume… it is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”
The scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, highlight prophets and individuals who struggled with their own inadequacies and shortcomings. For example, Nephi admits feeling burdened with temptation and begs the Father for strength to overcome. As you read the scriptures, you’ll notice that an earnest plea for help immediately delivers spiritual support through the power of the Atonement.
Like Alma the Younger, you will find great peace and encouragement after you sincerely plead with the Father for mercy. If you’ve never completely let go of all of your good intentions, strategies, maneuverings, and secrets, try it. Once you admit your need for help, you might be surprised how quickly the hope of lasting change starts to infuse your soul. Ammon described the joy that comes after submitting to the Father when he exclaimed, “Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?”
Step out of the shadows
Often times, Heavenly Father will direct you to individuals who can be help you through this difficult journey of repentance and growth. Speaking to another person about your battle with pornography is an essential part of healing and recovery. This allows you to acknowledge your dependence on Heavenly Father and demonstrate trust in His ability to guide you toward those who can help you.
If you’re married, I recommend you include your spouse in this process. Pornography tears at the delicate fabric of marital intimacy, especially if it’s concealed. Elder Richard G. Scott promised that spouses who share the personal details of their lives with one another create “powerful spiritual insurance.”
Who else should be included in our circle of confidence? Elder Orson F. Whitney described the types of individuals who are most helpful in this process. He said, “ When we want counsel and comfort, we do not go to children, nor to those who know nothing but pleasure and self-gratification. We go to men and women of thought and sympathy, men and women who have suffered themselves and can give us the comfort that we need.” Certainly, your bishop should be a key counselor in your journey.
You will feel terrified as you take this step. You may convince yourself that you’ve only done it a few times or it’s not happening very often. Please remember that if your secret behaviors stay secret, no matter how minimal you believe they are, you will shut off the potential for lasting change.
It’s normal to wonder how to step out of the shadows and start talking to someone about your battle with pornography. You may be tempted to wait until you’ve created the perfect script for delivering your message. Remember that unless you consider yourself a “[fool] before God”, and are willing to simply start talking about your difficulties, however unrehearsed, you might never get around to it.
If your secret behavior was discovered accidentally, you might be tempted to deny and minimize the truth. Please note that “getting caught” isn’t the same as “stepping out of the shadows.” It takes tremendous courage to be honest with another about your struggles with pornography.
A simple suggestion for this step might be to set up a specific time to talk with the individual you’ve selected. You might say, “I need to talk with you about something very serious,” and then, at the given time, say the words, “I’m struggling with pornography.” After the main secret is revealed, you can start filling in the gaps with the rest of your behaviors. Again, if you’ve been discovered using pornography, you can still use the same phrase. This keeps you from minimizing the seriousness of your actions.
As you share your actions with others, Satan will begin to lose power over you. This is because the prince of darkness only operates in secrecy and shadows. The hope of lasting change begins when our dark places are illuminated with light and truth.
Fill yourself with Him
Pornography and its host of consequences exact a steep price from those who consume it. The resultant losses in time, relationships, spirituality, income, and self-respect can be incalculable. This is what Satan delivers to those deceived by his lies — endless misery.
Thankfully, Jesus delivers a more excellent way. He proclaims, “Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price… feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.
His goodness provides unmatched healing for the damaged soul. He delivers an unlimited supply of nourishment and healing when we’re “stripped,” “wounded,” and left “half-dead.” As we present ourselves in our wounded and humiliated state, we wonder if He will even notice us. We worry that He’ll lecture us and send us to our room without supper. To our complete surprise, He runs to us and hugs us with a tight embrace. He binds us up, feeds us with His truths, and invites us to keep filling ourselves with His light and goodness.
As you spend your time and energy seeking relief for your wounded mind and spirit, recall Alma’s invitation to “try the virtue of the word of God.” He found that the words of Jesus Christ had a more powerful effect on the mind than anything else. Among all of the methods available to overcome the dark pull of pornography, an ongoing and personal tutoring relationship from the Lord Jesus Christ will deliver the ultimate protection and healing.
If necessary, search out the counsel of caring professionals
If your attempts to free yourself from the grip of pornography have proven unsuccessful, it might be necessary to seek the counsel of caring professionals. Despite Satan’s attempts to overwhelm the world with his salacious wickedness, our Heavenly Father has revealed ample resources to combat these forces.
The range of available resources starts with articles, books, and educational workshops. Long-term and more intensive help is available through individual or relational counseling, group work, and 12-step meetings. An abbreviated list of resources is included at the end of this article.
If you decide to request the assistance of a licensed counselor, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. Choosing a counselor to help you with your situation can be confusing. You may wonder where to start looking for help. There are two major areas to consider as you begin the process of selecting a counselor.
First of all, ask to have an initial consultation to see if there is a “goodness of fit” between personalities. Second, it will be important for you to know their background, credentials, and treatment philosophies. The following list of considerations can help you make your selection:
He or She:
If you are currently working with a counselor, I encourage you to measure the care you’re receiving with this list. If you haven’t taken the step to seek professional help, these recommendations can help you locate a counselor who will be competent in leading you across the “everlasting gulf of misery” toward the hope of lasting change.
The hope of lasting change
Hope is more than the empty wish that the urge to view pornography will diminish over time. As soon as you begin taking active steps toward recovery, you will be filled with purpose and direction, founded in the true hope that leads to a life grounded in recovery.
President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized this process when he said, “Plead with the Lord out of the depths of your soul that He will remove from you the addiction which enslaves you. And may you have the courage to seek the loving guidance of your bishop and, if necessary, the counsel of caring professionals.”
Lasting change is possible. The reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ reassures us that the healing of all sicknesses and maladies is within the reach of our Savior. When individuals follow the steps outlined in this article, they create a pattern that will guide them toward the hope of lasting change.
Nephi confirmed this truth when he taught, “And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay… Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope… Wherefore, if ye shall press forward… ye shall have eternal life.”