Editor’s note: We are grateful to the author of this post, who requested that she remain anonymous. She notes that usually discussing past sins is something that we don’t often do in the LDS Church; because we believe in repentance and the forgiveness available through the power of the Atonement, we are encouraged to forsake our sins and leave them in the past. But she felt — and we feel — that it is appropriate and helpful to share her story so that these experiences can be a warning about the dangers of pornography, but also a witness that redemption and healing through Jesus Christ’s Atonement are real.
~By a Mormon woman
At a very young age I was exposed to pornography. I don’t even remember specifically how old I was, but it was before puberty. My father had pornography in the bathroom closet. I found it as I looked for something else. It piqued my curiosity, so I looked. I remembered it was there and was curious, so I looked many more times. It was also available in my best friend’s home, so I looked at magazines there. As the years went by I developed an addiction to pornography, which led to other harmful behaviors.
I didn’t understand the seriousness or intricacies of what was going on, but I did know that I wanted to keep it secret. I was ashamed and felt dirty. When teachers at church would tell me how much God loved all his children I was sure they didn’t mean me because they didn’t know my secret. I could barely look at myself in the mirror, it seemed that there was something irreparably wrong with me. Keeping my secret became such a practiced behavior that by the time I reached a youth class where we were encouraged to talk to the bishop about sexual sin, I felt that it was something I could not do. Despite specific guidance from church leaders about the destructiveness of these things I rationalized my behaviors, convincing myself that what I was doing to myself wasn’t really a sexual sin, that pornography wasn’t against the major commandments, and I wasn’t hurting anyone.
How wrong I was.
There were good times in my life that I was able to keep these behaviors under control through sheer willpower. I thought I had finally conquered it all. But it always came back. Now I know that I missed an integral piece of change- true repentance. I needed God’s help and Christ’s atonement to fully overcome these serious sins, otherwise the habit and lure of sin was just too strong.
Eventually I was married to a wonderful man. I thought that this would be the end of my shameful secret. I hoped that my husband would fulfill my needs and I would be free. In reality, I now know, pornography and masturbation had changed my natural sexual responses. Being intimate with my husband was different than the sensations I had promoted through my sinful habits. It was awkward and brought out the guilt that I felt from my unresolved sins. Instead of being “one in the flesh” with my husband, I felt isolated and wrong. Still, I continued to keep my secret. I didn’t even open my heart to the person who loved me most in the world, my husband.
Approximately five years into our marriage I was diagnosed as severely clinically depressed. In my desperation to be rid of the darkness that was suffocating me, I admitted my sins to a therapist. I am so thankful that I had an LDS therapist who knew that these behaviors were harmful, instead of perpetuating a false belief that some mainstream therapists have that nothing is wrong with what God has deemed sinful.
After telling my therapist, I knew that I had to tell someone who could help me get rid of these destructive habits – I confessed to my bishop. I cried in his office for some time before I could finally get the words out of my mouth as I stared at the floor. As I continued to cry the tears of a desperate sinner, the bishop counseled me on how to repent. Part of the repentance process was opening up to my husband, which was extremely difficult. Once I told him, he, despite my fears, was wonderfully understanding and supportive. But even though he had great love for me, and would do all he could to help, it still was not enough.
The following scripture sustained me during this time:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
It occurred to me that if I did all I could to be spiritually strong I would be better able to resist temptation and thus fully repent. I started reading my scriptures and praying more consistently — every day was my goal. I plead with God through fervent prayers to forgive me and to help me stop the behaviors. I worked on my relationship with my husband. I acknowledged my need to be loved physically as well as in other ways. My husband began watching my activities on the Internet (which had made my addiction all too easy to fulfill) and lovingly kept me on track. It took patience and love in our marriage, over years, to slowly gain a more healthy intimate life and for me to fully repent.
What I have learned from this horrible experience has strengthened me, but I still would not wish it on anyone. Which is why I share my story, although it’s difficult to do. Pornography will not enhance your sexual relations. Prophets have counseled us to avoid any behavior or anything that depicts the human body or sexual relations with the intent to arouse sexual feelings. This applies within a marital relationship and outside of it.
The counsel for those not married in For the Strength of Youth booklet says, “Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage.” For those who are married, we have received counsel such as the following: “Because it is ordained of God, the intimate physical expressions of married love are sacred. Yet all too commonly, these divine gifts are desecrated. If a couple allows lewd language or pornography to corrupt their intimacy, they offend their Creator while they degrade and diminish their own divine gifts. True happiness is predicated upon personal purity. (See Alma 41:10.)” – Elder Russell M. Nelson
Just as church leaders have counseled, and I tell you as one who has been stuck in that mire, these things deaden true and real expressions of love. They create barriers between loving people. They promote shame and lack of self-worth that enables Satan to rob people of their full potential.
God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, don’t want us to feel this way, which is why they have given us commandments so that we can avoid this kind of pain. And God loves us enough that he created a merciful plan through which we can be free of sin and some of it’s consequences if we do disobey – the atonement of Jesus Christ.
In my life, these sins contributed to a severe depression which could have ended my life. I urge you to do all you can to keep these destroying influences out of your life and out of the lives of those you love. It does harm others, it harmed me when my father kept it in our home. If there is a problem of this type in your life, or in the life of someone you love, there are wonderful resources available (see here also) that I wish I could have had the benefit of many years ago.
One thing I gained from this that I do wish everyone could have is healthy sexual relations within marriage. The Lord took my weakness and turned it into a strength as the scripture in Ether promised. In working with my husband in honesty to overcome my addiction, we developed communication about sexual issues. I know his love for me is unconditional, and the trust I feel in him is rock solid. He has been there for me, sacrificing his own needs, in my very darkest days. I will be forever grateful for that and I live to give the same support to him. To me honesty, love, unselfishness — these are the things that will promote greater satisfaction in marriage; not those base and immoral things that are falsely presented as intimacy and fulfillment, which are in fact imitations of true intimacy and love.
Marital intimacy between husband and wife, is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, especially considering that with it we are able to create life. While I am saddened that my entrance into this beautiful experience wasn’t better, I have a sure belief that it is a wonderful, joyful expression of human love between a man and a woman that God has given to us as a blessing.
As I reflect on this journey, I echo the words of a Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi:
“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness…
“He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
“Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.
“And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me…
“Awake my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
“Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
“May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of they righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!
“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever…
“Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God.”
2 Nephi 4:20-24, 28, 30, 32, 34-35
Through my own experiences I know that redemption is possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ. I participate fully in His Church- holding leadership positions, raising a righteous family, and teaching others the doctrines of salvation. My life is filled with the gospel, with the Holy Spirit, with happiness and joy. I have a beautiful and growing relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ and God, my Eternal Father. This type of recovery from serious sin would not be possible without God and his magnificent plan for our growth . Glory to God for the magnificent gift of his Son, through whom it is possible to be cleansed from sin and to someday return to live with God.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I think most people don’t realize that women can also be affected by pornography addiction.
Wow. For me this post resonates as a personal testimony of the reality of repentance. Jesus Christ enables us through the power of the atonement to overcome sin. To become new. Thank you sooo much I will likely refer to this experience when I teach about repentance in the future. This post is full of hope.
I have often heard the arguments that pornography can enhance intercourse and that it does not harm others. Thank you for addressing these topics from your own personal experiences.
Thank you–this is so well and courageously written. I hope that many will have the opportunity to see it and read it and that it will be helpful in their lives, not just in cases of pornography, but other serious sins, as well, as this is such a stunning testimony that the atonement is the only sure and true way to healing, whatever the wound.
Thank you so much for sharing — this testimony will bless many!
Thanks for the honesty of this post. It helps me to have a new perspective about something that would otherwise be very difficult for me to understand.
Thank you for this brave and powerful post.
Thank you for this article. As a spouse of someone with a pornography addiction this was so helpful to read from the addicts perspective. I love my husband, he is a GOOD man and will stand by him. He is doing so well in overcoming this addiction with help from a loving bishop. I have learned so much about our Savior and how he views us and how much he wants to help us. When I learned about his addiction after 12 years of marriage I was devastated. In a dark and painful moment these words came into my mind, “Just love him, because that is what I am doing.” I have done that and it has strengthened us and our marriage is better than ever. Please be careful of judging pornography addicts. We are a “core” member of our ward, you would NEVER in a million years guess that we are struggling with this, people would be shocked. Just goes to show me that we never know people’s hearts and what goes on behind closed doors!
As a life-coach and relationship coach, I often talk with people who have this evil lurking in their lives. This post is, as stated by others, courageous and very needed in a time where our lives are inundated by the easy access and world-view of ‘it is natural’.
As we struggle on our own, we simple get more mired in the quick-sand of deceit, lust and rationalizations. Only with the Savior’s loving hand to guide, protect and rescue, can we move forward. For those with loved ones, this is a valuable glimpse into the inner-mind. So many struggle and yet can not seem to break free. Love them, pray for them, stay clear and clean yourself so that the Spirit can act unrestrained.
Thank you so much for this article. I am a Church Service Missionary in Addiction Recovery, and lead two 12-step meetings each week. The first is for the wives of porn and sex addicts (while my husband meets with their husbands), and another night I meet with sisters who are addicted. I would encourage everyone to seek out a meeting in your own area. Go to Provident Living.org, then Social and Emotional Strength, then Addiction Recovery Program. The Atonement DOES heal, and this program certainly helps. Thank you again.
An LDS therapist can be an invaluable tool in overcoming pornography addiction. To find an LDS counselor in your area go to http://www.ldsamcap.org which is the “Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists.”
As a spouse of a wonderful man that has fought this addiction for almost all the years of our short marriage, I have experienced all the pain and devastation that this particular filth can bring. I even experienced it from his perspective as before our marriage as a teenager I fought the same addiction for many years-started by reading dirty novels. First of all: To those women who rationalize reading romance novels, don’t do it! Don’t get caught up in it, it’s not real and it WILL destroy you! Second: To every spouse who loves her husband enough that she would charge hell with a bucket of water to save him, and drag him by the scruff of his neck to heaven with her if that were possible, to you I say that I understand how you feel; like you are being torn apart and dying from the inside, that without him heaven will not be heaven. Lately I have taken up a saying with which I say when I am hurting beyond bearing “dig a little deeper” and “I choose to love him and fight for him” these really help to change my thought patterns, because Satan would have me give up. I know that we will get through this as we once more go through the repentance process and rely upon the Savior’s atonement. If you are going through this make sure that you do not do it alone, as the sweet brave woman who wrote this article said-it can’t be done alone. Rely upon all of the services that the Church provides-the counseling, the 12-steps program, the Bishop, etc…These are all invaluable and a must if you want to finally be free from this terrible thing. And have faith…have faith in your loved one that he/she will remember who they are and their vital worth to their Father.
I saw a link to this post at Mormon Mommy Blogs, where I contribute. This was very powerful and I appreciate the courage and honesty of the writer. I am so glad she is healing–and I’m glad she has the courage to talk about this to help others.
Did you tell your children and why or why not?
This is what the author shares in response to your question:
“I have not told my children. This issue is complex and intense and my children are still relatively young. I don’t know for sure that I’ll ever tell them. I hope that the intensity of my testimony portrays my belief in the atonement as one who has gained a close relationship with the Savior through personal experience. There are other occasions where I made use of the atonement which are easier for children to understand that I do share with them.
If there ever comes a time in one of my children’s lives that they will benefit from knowing about this particular struggle I will share it, or a part of it. Largely that is how I made my decision, by asking “Will it benefit them more than it would hurt?” For now, that answer is no.”
I am so glad that you recognized the need to talk and let your Bishop and your husband know. Sexual addiction issues like pornography, destroy lives everyday and it’s not until someone finally takes the step to repent and allow both parts of themselves to speak.
I am referring to the two-parts of your brain. When someone is facing an addiction, there is a part of that person that wants to continue looking at the porn and hunt it out, while there is another part of them that is fighting to get rid of this. We call this the two-part brain. Once we learn how to manage an addiction, and through repentance, and retraining our brain, lasting hope and long-term sobriety exist.
It is indeed inspiring for someone to overcome porn addiction. I am certain that such journey was not easy. Though I am also certain that the struggle towards recovery was worth it. I hope that people will be inspired with this story and that they would never allow themselves to turn into porn addicts.