The other day on my walk in to school, I came across a flier on the streets of Philadelphia decrying addiction to pornography and linking it to depression.
I was surprised to find the leaflet where I did, and indeed I am surprised (and relieved) whenever I learn of society condemning this pernicious ailment—in the otherwise time-wasting movie, Larry Crowne, in other church’s leaflets, and the occasional critical individual. It is nice to know that my faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is not the only entity fighting this crucial fight.
Heaven knows we need all the help we can get. Pornography is the #1 use of the Internet (on the brighter side, family history, including my faith’s premier tools and website, FamilySearch, is #2).
Pornography seems to be everywhere these days. Although blatant, out-in-the-open hard porn is not as prevalent in the U.S. as it is in Europe (several free daily newspapers in Britain contain “page 3 girls,” always topless – was absolutely shocking to this naïve American girl!), we still have our fair share of soft porn in the form of “innocuous” advertisements. It is everywhere, and it harms all of us.
Unfortunately, although my faith stands firmly against it, pornography is also a problem for Latter-day Saints. Like the pernicious evil of divorce, I know no one in the Church who is not affected by it—either because they are struggling with it themselves, struggling with a loved ones’ addiction, or attempting to provide comfort and assistance to either kind of victim.
It is almost as if Satan has caught us collectively and individually unawares. The sad story for most men (and, increasingly, women through the written word) trapped in the terrible web is similar: a teenage or adolescent boy’s curiosity is peaked, then aroused, then quickly bound.
On Thanksgiving Day, I heard of a documentary called “Deep Blue,” where a young father participating in a competition to circumnavigate the earth in a solo boat was faced with the prospect of turning back and losing the funding from his sponsor (and the means of support for his family of four children) or lying about his position. He chose to radio in a lie, and set himself on a course of lies for a period of seven months. As he fixed his leaky boat and waited at sea for the others to pass him on their circumnavigation, he finally realized that after a few deaths, delays, and destruction of his co-competitors’ leaky boats, he was set to “win“ once he pulled into port. Rather than live a lie in the presence of his family, peers, and the media for the rest of his life, he abandoned the boat, leaving the two logbooks – one truthful, one false – and never was heard from again.
Those suffering from pornography addiction are like the man in the boat. The vicious secret of pornography is that the first small deception at a tender and innocent age can lead to a life of sin and deception. The whole course of one’s life, testimony, personality, and relationships can be drastically affected by the first deception to self and God. Although they can make efforts to rectify their situation, they (and all of us, really) are helpless to overcome their mistakes on their own.
What the man in the boat and perhaps those caught in the web of pornography could not foresee is that radioing in the truth or calling for help after the first, second, or even 50th deception will be much better than an inevitably tragic ending.
“Radioing in” can do much more than indicate our true position, however. Radioing in to spouses, family, friends, and priesthood leaders should help unwitting addicts courageously and humbly approach the Lord, who, unlike any power for the man on the boat, can correct the days months, years and even decades of small, wrong decisions.
Satan may have power to bruise our heels, but the Savior has power to crush Satan’s head! The Savior’s power can heal us individually and as a Church from pornography as we turn to Him and His saving grace. He is the only antidote—early and often, we need to turn to him, turn over our pride, and let Him cure, let Him correct, what we cannot.
While there are few things that are more devastating than the destructive wake of pornography, there are few things more inspiring than reading about or knowing Church leaders and members who have humbly called upon the saving power of the Lord to heal them and make them whole. The purity of the saved life is a sure testimony of the Savior’s atoning power. As a previous president of my faith has said, “Christ changes men, and changed men will change the world.” These men have not changed themselves; they have been changed, and the light in their eyes belies the source.
In addition to testifying of the saving antidote of the atonement, I hope to facilitate another solution as a future mother: prevention. I recall as a missionary a dear companion who taught me to teach the law of chastity with boldness and with excitement. I will follow suit in motherhood. I have considered long and hard about how early and in what manner I will teach my children. I have concluded that I will be the very first in their lives to teach the sacred doctrine of chastity while being open and candid, focusing on the whys as well as the “thou shalt nots.”
Additionally, I will teach my children how Satan works and what his tricks are (probably have them read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters) so they can learn to recognize him and, like Joseph in Egypt, flee the very appearance of evil. Too, I will teach them if they are caught, that there is a Savior. Through faith in the Savior’s atoning power and severe repentance, they can be pure again.
I certainly don’t have all the answers for how to maintain or regain personal purity in fighting pornography. Yet I write now to wage my own private war the best I know how in my own little corner of the world: by testifying not only of the change that Christ brings about, but that those changed men are now changing the world.