Staying Spotless in a Sea of Slime, Part 8: Words of Encouragement
by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd

When we started writing about Internet pornography, we thought we had enough material for two or maybe three columns. But based on the tremendous number of responses received, we have expanded this series to provide more detailed information and more advice for avoiding or overcoming this serious and pervasive problem. Even though it is difficult to provide a large quantity of information through a monthly column, we hope we have been able to at least make you aware of the dangers and help you understand what protections are available.

One point we have regularly tried to stress is that this protection is an ongoing process that will require your continued and detailed involvement. Do not labor under the illusion that you can just set some rules and install some software and then wash your hands of the problem. Rules can be broken or bent, and software protections can be disabled or circumvented. Just as daily prayer and scripture study are required to maintain spiritual strength, daily mentoring and monitoring are required to make sure the evils of the world do not enter you home through the front door or the phone line. There is no software product or rule that can take the place of an involved parent or spouse.

We Get Letters
Our previous columns in this series have generated a tremendous amount of reader comments – both positive and negative. Some readers thought we were exaggerating the seriousness of the problem, and pointed out quite forcefully that they had never had much of a problem with unsolicited offers for online pornography. Other readers thought our warnings should have been even stronger. These readers recounted heartbreaking tales of lost jobs, destroyed marriages, scattered families, and broken covenants.

We also heard from a number of local Church leaders, who confirmed that online pornography is a growing problem, at least for their members. These leaders spend a large percentage of their counseling sessions dealing with members who are struggling with this problem – both men and women. This was a surprise to us, because we had previously thought that women had a built-in immunity to pornography addiction. But leaders of many units, particularly units such as college wards and single adult wards that have younger members, report that women can become embroiled in pornography as easily as can men.

One reader took exception with our classification of pornography as an addition. She wrote that by calling pornography an addiction, we were diminishing the seriousness of the offense. This was certainly not our intention. We have continually tried to emphasize the seriousness of this evil, as well as its potential for human suffering. But most of us have had experience with those who are struggling to live the Word of Wisdom, and can appreciate the influence some substances can exert against our bodies. Pornography exerts a similar influence. Church members who are hooked on pornography aren’t evil – or at least they don’t start out that way. For the most part they are good people who stumble upon pornography through curiosity or even by accident and then find themselves in the position of trying to break an evil but addictive habit.

This point was driven home by a number of readers who responded to our columns. These readers were active in their wards and stakes. They held important callings, attended the temple regularly, and did all the things that one would expect of a good Latter-day Saint. But they had a dark secret in that they were also involved with online pornography. As you might expect, this involvement causes tremendous guilt, and leads to extreme feelings of worthlessness and hypocrisy. Most who wrote to us have been struggling with the problem for years, and would slip back into it unexpectedly after being “good” for several months.

Escaping the Grasp
It is to this group of tortured readers that we would like to devote the remainder of this column. Although only you can escape from the tentacles of pornography, perhaps we can give you some final advice to encourage you and help you achieve your goal. Please consider each of these ideas in terms of how they might help you break the cycle of pornography in your life:

Get Help from Church Leaders.
For a person who just cannot break from the grasp of pornography, perhaps the only effective solution is to seek some type of counseling from Church leaders. Your bishop or stake president will be familiar with such problems, and can recommend activities and ideas that will help you resist further problems while helping you repent of the previous transgressions. Bishops and stake leaders may be able to refer you to other experts who have experience in treating such problems. Usually the biggest obstacle to such counseling is getting the courage to make the first appointment. Although none of us wants to admit such activities to our leaders, it may be a necessary step in breaking the web of sin in which you find yourself trapped.

Recognize Spiritual Damage.
We have all heard stories of those who become so obsessed with pornography that they lose everything they hold dear. But most pornography addicts are skillful in compartmentalizing their lives, hiding their dark secrets from friends and family. This ability is a mixed blessing, because it allows these people to lead a double life for long periods, acting as though everything is normal even as they experience a gradual but consistent loss of spirituality. Recent world events have brought to our attention the absolute need to keep in constant and close contact with the Spirit of the Lord. The loss of that Spirit is probably one of the most unnoticed and yet tragic consequences of those who are leading a double life. Although those who occasionally dabble in pornography may have the strength to resist the carnal sins that follow in the wake of pornography addiction, they must realize that the spiritual damage they bring upon themselves may cause even more harm from an eternal perspective.

Confide in Someone.
In addition to your Church leaders, there are others in whom you may wish to confide. Any problem is easier to overcome if you have friends or family members who love you and who are willing to work with you to resolve it. When you’re choosing someone to talk to, you should find someone who will be sympathetic and will keep your confidences. Possibilities might include a spouse or family member, a co-worker, a good friend or a Church associate. Perhaps you have a friend with leadership responsibilities who does not have stewardship over you, such as someone who is a leader in another ward or stake. It is probably not necessary to reveal all the details in order for this person to help you. For example, you might want to tell a home or visiting teacher that you are struggling to overcome a personal problem, and you would like him to ask you about your personal progress when he visits each month. This will allow you to make a regular accounting of your behavior, without having to reveal all the embarrassing details. Another option would be to take advantage of online resources, such as discussion forums that specialize in LDS or Christian content. Those who post to such forums can usually keep some degree of anonymity, while getting encouragement and advice from others in the forum. Refer to our previous column for a listing of some of the more popular LDS forums.

Recognize patterns.
If you analyze the times you succumb to online pornography, you will probably find some patterns. Perhaps it is when you were extremely tired, anxious, bored or discouraged. Perhaps you turn to pornography over the holidays, or during the weekend when you are the only one at home. Perhaps it is late at night after other family members are asleep. Once you have recognized the patterns, you need to change your behavior to avoid those circumstances when you are susceptible to temptation. Place a curfew on your computer usage, or resolve to never use the computer when you are home alone. Change your daily schedule, or become involved with new hobbies or interests that will occupy your time when you are at home during these dangerous periods. But don’t count on your own resolve to get you through. You may have to ask for the help of others, who can assist by making sure you are not alone at vulnerable times.

Organize your computer activity.
Before you sit down at the computer, make a list of the items you wish to accomplish while using it. Your list might include items such as: Write a letter to Aunt Jane, balance the checkbook, do family history research, check my email, turn off the computer. Just as having a grocery list will save you money at the store, having a list of things to do at the computer will minimize the idle time that draws you into bad situations.

Change the environment.
The placement of your family computer can make a big difference on your susceptibility to pornography, as we mentioned in previous columns. Put it in the family room, or in a room where a lot of people will be present. But don’t stop there. Do other things to generate a more spiritual feeling around the area. Place pictures nearby that you will see while you are using the computer. Good examples would be family pictures, temple pictures, and pictures of the Savior and Church leaders. In terms of software, you can also buy products that produce screen savers or background wallpaper with religious themes.

Reach Out to Others.
Perhaps you don’t have a problem with pornography, but you suspect that another friend or family member does. Perhaps you sense that this person would like your help, but is just too embarrassed to ask. If this is the case, make sure you reach out to that person and let him know you are available to help him get his life in order. You don’t need to come right out and ask if he has a problem, but you can lead conversations in that direction, giving your friend plenty of opportunities to bring up the subject. If he responds to your invitation, make sure you offer comfort and reassurance, avoiding any temptation to rebuke or call him to repentance. You can only help your friend if you approach him as a partner who offers love and support, rather than a judge who is ready to condemn.

Once again, we would like to thank all those who took the time to respond to the columns in this series. We hope the information provided was useful, and we pray for all of you who are struggling to overcome personal problems in this area.

2001 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.