Finding Strength to Abandon Sin

"Finding Strength to Abandon Sin," Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts, (2006)


If you already indulge in pornography to any degree, you can stop. You have agency to choose your thoughts and actions. The adversary may have misled you in the past, but you have the final choice. You can regain the strength of the Spirit in your life. To do this, you need most of all to know that your Redeemer loves you. He has the power to help you. He died to pay for the sins of all who repent and follow Him. You can draw on the power of His Atonement for hope and strength as you repent. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Hope

If you have tried to quit pornography but have been unsuccessful, you may feel discouraged. Satan will try to exploit your discouragement by attempting to convince you that you cannot stop or that the Atonement does not apply to you. These are lies. Because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you can repent and change. The Lord promised that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

Accepting accountability and recognizing rationalization

Individuals rationalize sin by telling themselves, “It is not hurting anyone,” “I only do it occasionally,” or “This is the last time.”

If you indulge in pornography, you need to recognize the truth about yourself and your actions. Seek the Lord through prayer, and He will help you examine your behavior honestly and see yourself and your rationalizations clearly. When you know the truth, “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Remember that you are a child of God. Through the Atonement, you have power to become like Him. You will never find happiness in sinful behavior. Any involvement with pornography damages you spiritually. Do not risk the consequences of sin.

Repentance and the Atonement

The key to abandoning pornography is found in repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Repentance brings strength and a new attitude toward God, oneself, and life in general. Through this strength, you can turn from evil. You can align your heart and will with God’s plan for you.

Begin with earnest prayer, and humbly ask for help. Your Heavenly Father can increase your desire and strength when you ask with real intent, with a firm commitment to change. The scriptures will help you understand the power and love of God. Your faith will increase in His ability to strengthen you and free you from this bondage. As you forsake your sins and obey the commandments of God, the influence of the Spirit will return to your life.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ has two powerful effects: it cleanses you from sin, and it strengthens you. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve explained:

“When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call a broken heart and a contrite spirit, the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He also gives him or her new strength. The new strength we receive from the Savior is essential for us to realize the purpose of our cleansing from sin, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to His presence, we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a morally weak person who has transgressed into a strong person with the spiritual stature to dwell in the presence of God. We must, as the scripture says, ‘[become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord’ (Mosiah 3:19). This is what the scripture means in its explanation that a person who has repented of sins will forsake them (see D&C 58:43). Forsaking sins is more than resolving not to repeat them. Forsaking involves a fundamental change” (“Sins, Crimes, and Atonement,” an address given to CES religious educators, Feb. 7, 1992, 12).

Confession

Repentance includes confessing your sins to the Lord. He will be “merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts” (D&C 61:2; see also Mosiah 26:29). Serious transgressions require confession to the Lord’s representatives in the Church (in most cases the bishop). An unintentional encounter with pornography may not require confession to your bishop. However, if you seek out pornography intentionally or if you repeatedly indulge in it or rationalize its use, you should discuss the matter with your bishop.

Help from your bishop

Your bishop cares about your spiritual welfare. He wants to help you. You may feel reluctant to disclose your problem with pornography to him. You may feel embarrassed or unsure of what to expect. Do not allow your fears to deprive you of the blessings of repentance. Through the Spirit, your bishop can understand your concerns, and he will help you repent. He can become a great ally.

Be honest with your bishop. Do not hide or minimize your sin. Your honesty will help him understand the extent and seriousness of your problem. He will keep your discussions confidential.

Breaking the cycle of indulgence

Indulgence in pornography often occurs in a cycle. If you are engaged in this cycle, you may dwell on inappropriate thoughts, scenes, and images in response to boredom, loneliness, curiosity, stress, discouragement, or conflict. Then you place yourself in situations that lead you to pornography. Afterward, you may feel discouraged and repeat the cycle.

You can break this cycle by identifying and controlling the earliest thoughts and actions that lead you to pornography. Understand your patterns of behavior and your excuses and rationalizations. The earlier you replace negative thoughts the more easily you will avoid the actions that follow them.

The best solutions will be those you develop as you counsel with the Lord, but these suggestions may help:

  • Fast and pray for help.

  • Identify positive activities that can occupy your time, such as studying the scriptures, exercising, or talking with a family member or friend.

  • Change your environment. Surround yourself with pictures, music, and literature that will inspire good and uplifting thoughts. Avoid media, people, or settings that have tempted you in the past. Consider disconnecting the Internet or television cable.

  • Learn constructive ways to respond to conflict, boredom, or other negative feelings.

  • Confide in and seek support from a parent, a spouse, or another trusted family member.

Your desire to change must be powerful—more powerful than your desire for pornography. Ponder your most sincere desires for your life and the life of your family, and focus on accomplishing good instead of dwelling on your struggles with pornography. Jesus Christ taught His disciples, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:22). The more you fill your life with good thoughts and activities, the less attention you will give to evil.

Availability of professional help

Some people may need additional help to abandon pornography. Addictions are sometimes symptoms of other problems. Your bishop may refer you to a professional counselor who can help you. It is best if you find a counselor who has a good understanding of gospel principles.