By LDS Family Services
Pornography use thrives in secrecy. To overcome your use of pornography or involvement with other immoral behaviors, you should discuss your problems openly with appropriate priesthood leaders. The First Presidency has stated, “Individuals and their families desiring help with these matters should seek counsel from their bishop, branch president, stake or district president” (First Presidency letter, Nov. 14, 1991).
Talk to Your Bishop
Some individuals feel ashamed or embarrassed to discuss pornography problems with Church leaders. Some are unconvinced or unclear about the need to confess to the bishop. Confession is an important part of the repentance process. The Lord counseled Alma that He would forgive those who confess their sins “before thee and me” and repent in the sincerity of their hearts (Mosiah 26:29). Later, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43). If you question whether you have a need to confess, talk with your bishop. If you feel reluctant to meet with your bishop, don't allow your fears to deprive you of the special blessings that can come through this inspired servant of your Heavenly Father. Your bishop compassionately understands your concerns, and he will help you apply the principles of repentance.
Meet with your bishop at least weekly. When the temptation to use pornography is especially powerful, meet with him more often. Your bishop will help you determine the frequency of meetings, but don't hesitate to request more frequent appointments than he suggests if you feel they will strengthen you. Less-frequent meetings may be sufficient once your behavior is under control and you are on the path to recovery. Don't minimize the value of these contacts. Ongoing regular contact will minimize the likelihood that your problem will recur. Your bishop will keep your problems confidential. If others are needed in the repentance and recovery process, your bishop will only discuss the matter with them with your permission. If you are married or if you live at home with your parents, you can also receive invaluable help from your spouse or parents.
Fully Disclose the Problem
Be completely honest and open when discussing pornography use with your bishop. You may be tempted to cover up or minimize the problem. A forthright confession will help your bishop understand the extent and seriousness of your problem and how he can best help you. Share the following information with him:
- How long you have used pornography.
- The types of pornography you use (for example, adult, child, heterosexual, homosexual, or violent pornography).
- How frequently you use pornography.
- Whether you view pornography alone or with someone else.
- What related behaviors you engage in, if any, such as masturbation, sexual involvement via the Internet, fornication, and adultery.
- Where you access pornography (at home, at work, at school, and so forth).
- The effect pornography is having in your life (spiritual, marital, psychological, social, and occupational).
- What you think can be done to help you overcome the problem.
- What you have already tried to do to overcome the problem, including what has been helpful and what has not been helpful.
- Who knows about the problem (parents, siblings, friends, spouse, coworkers, bosses, and so forth).
Study and Apply Gospel Principles
A deeper understanding of gospel principles will help you overcome your use of pornography. Important topics to study include faith in Jesus Christ, the Atonement, repentance, and forgiveness.
Read and ponder scriptures such as Isaiah 53:4–5, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Mosiah 4:2–3, Alma 36–40, and Moroni 10:32–33 to gain a better understanding of the healing and saving power of the Atonement. Your faith will increase as you understand that the Savior’s atoning sacrifice applies to you personally and will, through your repentance, free you from the effects of sin.
If you relapse and stumble in your resolve to repent and stop using pornography, don’t give in to feelings of despair, worthlessness, or helplessness. Others have recovered from setbacks. So can you! Never give up. Fortunately, the Lord has placed no limits on how often we may apply repentance in our lives (see D&C 1:31–32;Mosiah 26:30; Moroni 6:8). A pattern of repeating your sins, however, indicates that complete repentance has not yet taken place.
To understand the requirements for repentance and the Lord’s willingness to forgive, read and ponder scriptures such as Ezekiel 33:14–16, Enos 1:1–8, and Doctrine and Covenants 58:42–4. Consider also the significance of President Ezra Taft Benson’s statement: “God’s gifts are sufficient to help us overcome every sin and weakness if we will but turn to Him for help” (“A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 2–5).
You will find added strength by praying daily with real intent, fasting, searching the scriptures, honoring the covenants you have made, and obeying all the commandments of God. Give heed to the counsel of living prophets. Many Church leaders have addressed the problem of pornography in general conference and in other settings.
Doctrinal promises will become realities as you turn to the Savior and cleanse your life of all unrighteousness. Healing will come through the grace and power of Christ.
Control Your Thoughts
You have been commanded to control your thoughts and desires. The First Presidency issued this statement: “We remind you of scriptures that make clear the relationship between one’s thoughts and actions (see Matthew 15:19; Mosiah 4:29–30; Alma 12:14; 3 Nephi 12:28; D&C 121:45). There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior. However, such thoughts and feelings, regardless of their causes, can and should be overcome and sinful behavior should be eliminated. This can be achieved through faith in God, sincere repentance, and persistent effort. The help of others may be needed. We commend and encourage those who are overcoming inappropriate thoughts and feelings. We plead with those involved in such behavior to forsake it. We love them and pray for them. We are confident that through repentance and obtaining needed help, they can experience the peace that comes from conforming their lives to God’s teachings” (First Presidency letter, Nov. 14, 1991).
Pornography fills your mind with impure thoughts and unrighteous desires. The very nature of pornography creates powerful images that are difficult to erase from your mind. You can control your thoughts and desires, but it is essential that you stop using pornography to be successful. As you keep your thoughts clean and pure, the temptation to view pornography will decrease. Your desire to use it will diminish.
Additional scriptures you will find helpful include Proverbs 23:6–7 and Moroni 7:45. Read articles by General Authorities, such as Elder Boyd K. Packer’s “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 21–25; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 25–28). This talk, in particular, explains how you can replace unworthy thoughts with thoughts that are uplifting. Also read Elder Packer’s “The Spirit of Revelation” (Ensign, Nov. 1999, 23–25). “A Mighty Change of Heart” (Ensign, Oct. 1989, 2–5) by President Ezra Taft Benson will also be helpful.
Consider the cost of clinging to your rationalizations. How will your continued involvement with pornography affect your relationship with family members, the Church, and your friends and colleagues? How has pornography affected your ability to receive spiritual guidance and direction? How will it affect your eternal well-being? What excuses do you use to justify your continued involvement with pornography? How do you justify the behavior to others? To overcome your use of pornography, you must identify and eliminate the reasons you use to justify your actions. Discuss your rationalizations with your bishop or a trusted family member.
Replace your rationalizations with true statements such as “I know that I am hurting myself, my spouse, my family, my relationship with the Lord and His Church, and my spiritual well-being every time I choose to indulge in pornography.”
Disrupt the Cycle of Pornography Use
It is imperative that you break the cycle of pornography use as quickly as possible. Identify the sequence of events you engage in as you use pornography. Look at what happened before you were tempted to use. Is there a pattern? Are negative emotions a part of the pattern? What are your triggers? What fantasies do you engage in before participating in pornography? What patterns of behavior do you follow as you seek out pornographic material?
Disrupt this cycle at the earliest possible stage—the preoccupation phase. If you allow yourself to continue fantasizing, you will become increasingly sexually aroused, and the process of disrupting the addictive cycle will become more difficult. Replace sexual fantasies with appropriate thoughts and activities. Inappropriate thoughts come swiftly. Therefore, changing them as quickly as they come is an important tactic.
Choose counter thoughts that work for you; you will discover them through trial and error. Be prayerful in your selection of your counter thoughts. You will want to avoid accidentally pairing something good with something harmful. This could occur by using hymns or scriptures as counter thoughts. The sexual thought or image can become paired with a hymn or scripture. When you sing a hymn, the sexual image may also emerge.1
Once you have a tactic that you believe will work, practice it so that bringing it to your mind takes little effort or time. Practicing can prepare you for when your mind seems as though it were a battlefield. Unwilling to retreat, the improper thoughts will seek to constantly return. Counter the attacks as they come by working smarter, not necessarily harder. If you find anxiety and difficulty in refocusing your thoughts, and if tactics do not seem to help, accept the thought. This does not mean to let it linger and allow it to gain power. Try to think, “I am having an inappropriate thought right now.” Try to remain emotionally at ease, recognizing the thought's existence, but wisely countering it by dropping the thought and the associated struggle altogether.2 Ignore it and focus elsewhere. One cannot have an argument if one party stops talking. Your skill at ignoring and refocusing your thoughts will improve with practice. Success requires changing the “channel” of your mind, similar to how you would a television station, from an inappropriate program to one of more fulfilling material.
Take the stance of moving toward something that is ultimately important in your life. Through introspection (not criticizing yourself), establish values that give you a sense of purpose and motivation. These values will provide meaning and direction—helping you to move forward in a healthy direction. You may want to study your patriarchal blessing, weigh the reasons for using against the reasons why you should not engage in pornography, teach yourself about sacrificing for the greater good of self and family, and help yourself understand how to put off the natural man and thereby reap the rewards of confidence and nobility.
Learn about the true lives of pornography stars without delving into their pictures and scenes. Recognize that they are victims of sexual abuse and misfortune. Understand how some stars feel economically trapped and feel that they can do nothing else to make money. Many find the work very painful and many utilize drugs to deaden their feelings about this immoral work.3 Some have committed suicide to escape the associated emotional and spiritual pain. 4 Know that your personal participation in pornography, as small as that may seem comparatively, helps the business thrive.
When attempting to overcome pornography use, avoid settings where previous transgressions occurred. If certain locations cannot be avoided due to occupational responsibilities, plan a strategy prior to entering those locations. Be specific in making the plan to cover all possible scenarios. Find something positive to take the place of pornography; otherwise, you may be tempted to engage in other unacceptable behaviors to fill the void. Identify activities to take the place of pornography use, such as listening to good music, reading a good book, beginning a new hobby, learning something new, exercising, playing sports, working on an interesting project, or talking with a family member or friend. It may take some time to develop an appreciation and love for the new activities you have chosen, especially when you are accustomed to the cheap thrills and instant sexual gratification that come from using pornography.
Overcoming pornography use is seldom easy and it takes time. Focus on the progress you are making and do not become discouraged if you should slip. If you do slip, encourage yourself by considering the length of your success; do not let your slip discourage or overwhelm you. Consider what you can learn from the relapse to protect yourself from problems in the future. Many people have relapsed during the course of repentance and recovery, but they have gone on to free themselves from using pornography.
Strengthen Family Relationships
As you strive to overcome personal problems, repair poor family relationships and establish good friendships. Work on family relationships that have caused negative feelings. Better communication, resolution of problems, and increased compromise with loved ones will bring happier emotions and satisfaction—lowering the desire to use pornography as an escape. Seek to develop friendships with individuals who have the kinds of standards you are trying to acquire. Many people try to repent while clinging to unhealthy relationships. Recognize that these kinds of dysfunctional relationships can draw you back into old addictive behaviors. “Most young men who choose to proceed ahead with establishing relationships [before recovery] report that during times when they feel emotionally connected to others, the frequency of pornographic incidents decreases dramatically. . . . A meaningful connection with others is one of the most important resources one has to work with when trying to overcome this struggle.”5
Individual and family fasting and prayer will assist you in combating pornography difficulties. Immediate and sincere prayers when temptation surfaces will bring courage, understanding, and optimism. There is hope and help available as you honestly and sincerely exert energy into your journey of recovery.
- Moody, R. (18 February, 2003) [address] Address presented at a special conference sponsored by Women's Services and Resources, a department of Student Life at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Retrieved September 23, 2009, from http://www.byub.org/secrets/transcript/moody_transcript_2003.htm.
- Ibid., 7.
- Hall, B., Young, K., Tomlinson, R., Nuttall, T., Hall, B., Cook, C., Salazar, J. (2007). Traffic control: Peoples war on internet porn. U.S.A.: Living Biography Media, LLC, 55 North University Avenue, Suite 223, Provo, Utah, 84606.
- Holland, J. R. (2006). Into pornography's dark world: Let there be light. Meridian Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.meridianmagazine.com/articles/060515holland.html. Moody, R. (18 February, 2003) [address], p. 7.