any of us don’t want to hear or read anything more about pornography, but it is urgent that we become better informed, aware, and watchful—for the sake of ourselves and all those around us.
Comparing the Losses
Wars have caused terrible losses. Following are approximate total human casualties in various wars that have involved the United States of America:
Civil War 618,000 (360,000 from North and 258,000 from South)
World War II 318,000
World War I 115,000
American Revolution 4,044
War of 1812 2,200
Mexican War 13,270
Korean War 33,000
Vietnam War 46,616
Iraq and Afghanistan 5,623 (as of Aug. 22, 2010 – Washington Post)
Tyrants have caused terrible losses. According to documented Wikipedia sources, Adolf Hitler was responsible for up to seventeen million deaths. Joseph Stalin was responsible for up to twenty million deaths (by execution, repression, and famine). And Mao Zedong (Tse-tung) was responsible for the deaths of between fifty to seventy million people (using horrible methods of torture, tens of thousands of live burials, government-created famines, and purges). These terrorist-tyrants put no value on human life; deaths of others apparently meant nothing to them.
Pandemics have caused terrible losses. The Bubonic plague (Black Death), which peaked around A.D. 1350, took twenty-five to fifty million lives in Europe, and an estimated seventy-five million worldwide. But some estimates have the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the most famous and lethal ever, killing up to one hundred million people.
Alcohol/liquors/intoxicating drinks have also caused terrible losses. In fact, Elder J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (who later served in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [1945-1961]), claimed that “drink has brought more woe and misery, broken more hearts, wrecked more homes, committed more crimes, filled more coffins than all the wars the world has suffered” (Conference Report, Oct. 1942, 8).
But now a new and devastating kind of war, tyrant, and pandemic—pornography—has the potential to be classed among the worst losses of all. This may be the worst battle, the worst plague, the worst intoxication (poison), and the worst terrorism; and it is not just in foreign lands. The battle, plague, poison, and terror are here, right here at home. Some statisticians suggest that more than sixty percent of all Internet sites worldwide are blatant pornography. And it is big business, some estimates exceeding 100 billion dollars a year.
According to the Internet Filter Review (2006), every second of every hour of every day $3,075. is being spent on pornography, and every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is made in the United States.
According to one source, AT&T, MCI, Time-Warner, Comcast, Echo Star Communications, GM’s DirecTV, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Radisson, VISA, MasterCard, and American Express all profit financially from the sale of pornography. Pornography is bigger business than the NFL, NBA, and pro baseball combined. America’s big corporations are complicit in a massive public health hazard (Hilton, He Restoreth My Soul, 15, 17).
Losses caused by pornography—in terms of broken individuals and families, damaged companies, and destroyed relationships—are virtually incalculable.
The Divine Standard
Jesus Christ clearly taught that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart [or in his brain, or spirit]” (Matthew 5:28), and that moral transgression will have heavy repercussions in society as a whole. In modern times Christ has taught more emphatically: “he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out [excommunicated]” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:23).
Today it is nobody’s secret that the lusts of men and women are seriously weakening the moral fabric of homes and societies, and, according to holy scripture, the end product will be rotten ethics and morals leading to the collapse or destruction of whole nations and peoples.
The Lord has warned: “And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land” (D&C 45:31, emphasis added).
Symptoms and Results of Pornography Use
Elder Bruce C. Hafen spoke in a Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional on March 2, 2010. His talk was titled “Bridle Your Passions.
” His poignant remarks included the following:
I have talked with men who told me what it’s like to become literally addicted to pornography. Even when they wanted to quit, even when they hated it, they were as chained to it as if they were drug or alcohol addicts. Ann Poelman once said that an addiction is an ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing satisfaction. The downward behavioral spiral demanded by that ever-increasing craving explains how pornography can lead to conduct and attitudes that end up destroying marriages.
Imagine the tragic irony—fake romantic love can destroy true romantic love. What a dirty trick—one of Satan’s dirtiest, because it turns passion into the enemy of true love rather than letting passion fuel the fulfillment of true love. The problem with pornography is not that there’s something wrong with passion. The problem with pornography is that it makes you lose the bridle that connects your passions to the Lord.
God himself has a body, parts, and passions. . . . God gave us those feelings because they are part of His nature, and He created us, His children, to be like Him.
Following are selections (used with permission) from a highly-recommended book, He Restoreth My Soul—Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by Dr. Donald L. Hilton, a Latter-day Saint brain surgeon in Texas. I have interspersed an occasional comment of my own, and from others. And please note that although many of the following statements refer to men, pornography addiction is becoming an increasing problem among women and girls—these warnings are for everyone.
Pornography is a drug! It is literally substance abuse. Pornography addiction causes changes in neural circuitry; it causes physical damage to the brain (long-term neuroplastic or neurochemical change in the brain). “Because the brain is the most tangible representative of the soul, the merging of the body and the spirit, pornographic damage to the brain literally damages the soul. The chemical chains of addiction thus become the spiritual chains of sin” (Hilton, 99).
In a U.S. Senate committee meeting entitled “Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities” (November 18, 2004), Dr. Jeffery Satinover said: “With advent of the computer, the delivery system for this addictive stimulus has become nearly resistance-free. It is as though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before, usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes. It’s now available in unlimited supply via a self-replicating distribution network, glorified as art and protected by the Constitution” (Hilton, 51-52).
Lust is progressive. “Lust is never satisfied, and it gets bored with the same thing. That’s why a twelve-year old boy doesn’t get one pornographic picture and keep it, never looking at anything else for the rest of his life. He must always have something different. His wife becomes his next piece of pornography, and then he must move on to something else once the lust is no longer satisfied by her.
Lust is unnatural and must be replaced by love. Love is connected to just one person at a time, forever, and it is completely satisfied with that person. Lust can be transferred from one person to the next. Love is giving and lust is taking (Hilton, 233).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland adds: “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. . . . 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” (General Conference, April 2010).
To the addicted person, sexual stimulation is no longer part of life, it becomes the main focus of life. Other demands become distractions and irritations to the obsession. (Much like video gaming—when someone becomes too focused on one thing for too long, life gets out of balance and causes great harm in human relationships.)
The “great and spacious building” of addiction is easy to enter, but extremely difficult to leave (Hilton, 78).
Pornography sells unattached sexuality (78). There are no lasting commitments.
One of the most insidious effects of pornography addiction is isolation . . . everything he cares about recedes from his view” (79). Signs of withdrawal are: little or no eye contact, increased time alone, up late at night and more tired, increased moodiness and irritability, and behavior that is disrespectful and more aggressive.
In essence, one makes the god of lust the most important focus in his life, and replaces loved ones, peace, and eventually all else with lust as loss accumulates on the altar of addiction” (105).
Shame deepens secrecy. . . . Guilt and shame reinforce isolation and cause the person trapped in addiction to live a double life” (107, 80). An addict can live two different lives and show two different personalities. He or she wants to hide, and become secretive—just as it was from the beginning. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the first thing Lucifer encouraged them to do was hide.
From a Church News article (“Fight to Stop Porn,” March 24, 2007):
“They are men with two relationships. One with family, the other with fantasy. They have learned to lie and hide and get by. Most justify their actions: ‘I’m not hurting anyone but myself.’ But eventually the lie and their life collide. Pornography hurts the people they love most—their wives and children” (Hilton, 40).
As the saying goes, “You are only as sick as your secrets.” Bringing all secrets out into the open is essential for lasting recovery. Doctrine and Covenants 121:37 says “when we undertake to cover [or hide] our sins . . . the heavens withdraw themselves”!
A person who lives in a fantasy world cannot establish residence in the real world. “Clinging to your fantasies will make it impossible to cling to your spouse” (from a BYU 16th Stake priesthood meeting, Feb. 11, 2001).
From Dr. Hilton:
A few years ago I visited with a man whom I had known in the past. He was well respected in his community, a professional who appeared to have achieved success in most areas of life. He did well financially, had a good reputation in his field, held important church positions, and appeared to be happily married with a large family. What wasn’t known is that he secretly had struggled with sexual immorality for years, and cable TV with its introduction of pornography in pay channels in the 1980s provided him easier access to pornography. He had lost his family and had been married at least a couple of times since. He had also lost his professional license, and with it, his good income. He had suffered a series of serious health problems. He had been excommunicated from the Church twice. He told me he used to think that we had to die to experience hell in the next life, but he had found that hell could exist on this earth. His goal was to be able to enter the temple again someday.
I thought of others in his life who were affected by his addictions. His wife, who had trusted that he would support and love her so she could bear and raise his children. His children, who lived with secondary guilt and shame and with the loss of loving parental bonds. The community, who knew of his actions and that he was a member of the LDS Church. Although his addiction was experienced in isolation, the effects were generalized far and wide and involved many others. I felt compassion for this person whose addiction had ruined his life, but I realize that he has access to the healing power of the Atonement (83).
Confession opens a person’s heart and eliminates secrecy in living the double life, with a determination that nothing will be hidden—no secrets! (125).
It takes time for the brain and the spirit to heal (125).
Every person in recovery needs three things: (1) strong support at home, (2) a strong bishop, and (3) a strong facilitator who is firmly in recovery.
If you have jumped into quicksand, it is not possible to extricate yourself alone; you need help, urgent help!
Part of that help is a network of support. A good support group and a professional counselor are indispensable.
The ultimate goal is not merely to abstain from pornography, but to lose all desire for evil and become sanctified—which is a process, not an event.
Without a firm foundation in spirituality—connecting with the loving Father, the Savior, and the Holy Spirit—full recovery is very unlikely.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that with regard to pornography addiction, full repentance will require an ongoing program and attitude of recovery for the rest of the person’s life” (173).
“We use the term ‘in recovery’ rather than ‘recovered’ to remind the person that he must always be cautious to avoid ‘re-activation’ of pornography addiction” (189).
Here are some excerpts from a husband and wife recovery story:
Husband: “I had to start doing everything differently than I had done before. I could not eat the same food, not watch any TV, not listen to the same radio stations and not drive the same way down the road. I had to be a totally different person. If [God] was going to make me a ‘new creature’ I had to change the way I did everything. It may seem silly to change all those little things, but I learned I had to change completely every minor detail of my life. And in each and every thing I changed I would say, ‘Father, I am changing because I need the grace of Christ in my life.’ And it didn’t matter what it was, nothing was too minor to me. I wanted to become a new creature in Christ. I had to leave everything of my old self behind [and] do things differently.”
Wife: “We learned at an addiction seminar, that even small changes begin to alter behavioral patterns in the brain. We learned about recognizing all the trigger points that pulled us into our avoidance and addictive patterns. The seminar really helped us. My attitude shifted to this being ‘our recovery.’ Since then, working together, we have had more hope.”
Husband: “After being sober for a long time, you may think that it is okay to add back some of the triggers (or small habits) that you had before and you will be all right. But if you do, you may not see it happen that day, but it will happen and you will have a relapse. Sure as sure. It will always come back. The brain will shift back into the pattern you had before.”
Husband: “It takes the Savior to fix it. He is the only one that can resolve it. The only way recovery comes is by a total surrender to Him. Complete, total surrender to His way, to His grace, to His benevolence. Only through Christ can anything be accomplished and particularly when it is something as drastically difficult and consuming and addictive as pornography or any other addictive patterns in our lives. Only Christ can fix it. Our wills are not strong enough” (Hilton, 253-254, 256).
Another individual testified: “I have never seen anyone overcome this challenge without following the [12-step] program. . . .I have never seen anyone be unsuccessful who comes to the meetings and works through the steps” (260).
(The 12-step program sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follows the basic pattern initiated by other organizations and institutions to help men and women overcome drug, alcohol, and sexual addictions. For more about Addiction Recovery programs see www.providentliving.org/familyservices)
Here is the testimony from a woman who recently read Dr. Hilton’s book:
I received the book, and I haven’t been able to put it down. I think I understand now better than ever, how [my former husband’s] addiction was affecting our marriage. I didn’t see it clearly before, but after reading the book the behavior is so clear! I am blown away as I come to understand the addictive power of pornography. I think during the [time] when I was trying desperately to save my marriage, I didn’t quite understand how powerful it was or what it was going to take for [my former husband] to overcome. I just thought he needed to stop! Now I understand the chains he was bound with. It is such a tragedy.