Ranch Creek Fireside: “Evils of Pornography”

Pornography gives the illusion of sexual acts without the spiritual fulfillment. It takes natural and good desires out of context so that what was spiritually designed for this world isn’t actually fulfilled. Sex is the temporal act of a spiritual union, designed to further unite. Sex is never of God when it is selfish or harmful or self-centered, or out of the bounds by which He has authorized us. In 2005, Dallin H. Oaks said:

Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life.

Pornography impairs one’s ability to enjoy a normal emotional, romantic, and spiritual relationship with a person of the opposite sex. It erodes the moral barriers that stand against inappropriate, abnormal, or illegal behavior. As conscience is desensitized, patrons of pornography are led to act out what they have witnessed, regardless of its effects on their life and the lives of others.

It was President Monson who outright declared pornography to be evil. In 1991, he said, “(Pornography) is big business. It is evil. It is contagious. It is addicting”. Twenty years later, President Monson confirmed his earlier counsel:

Stay completely away from pornography. Do not allow yourself to view it, ever. It has been proven to be an addiction which is more than difficult to overcome.

If it is evil, then it promises destruction. In the 1991 talk, President Monson said that we are the ones letting the destruction happen.  In the same talk, President Monson quoted Laurence M. Gould, former president of Carleton College:

“I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I don’t think our civilization will die that way. I think it will die when we no longer care. Arnold Toynbee has pointed out that 19 of 21 civilizations have died from within and not by conquest from without. There were no bands playing and flags waving when these civilizations decayed. It happened slowly, in the quiet and the dark when no one was aware

If we want to be aware, we have to understand what is really happening. We have to understand the doctrine of pornography. Except pornography isn’t doctrine, though… Just a tactic.

The doctrine we need to understand is the plan of salvation.  The Guidebook for Youth states:

In the premortal existence, Heavenly Father introduced a plan to enable us to become like Him and obtain immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39). The scriptures refer to this plan as the plan of salvation, the great plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, and the plan of mercy (see Alma 42:5, 8, 11, 15). The plan includes the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection, the Final Judgment, and all God-given laws, ordinances, doctrine, and commandments. Moral agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves, is also essential in Heavenly Father’s plan. The Holy Ghost is provided to guide us in our choices. Because of the plan of salvation, we can be perfected through the Atonement, receive a fulness of joy, and live forever in the presence of God. Our family relationships can last through the eternities. (Related references: Genesis 1:26–27; 2 Nephi 2:25; 31:19–20; Moses 6:52–62; Abraham 3:22–26; “The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

Specifically, we need to understand the part of this plan that began during premortality. We know the story: we were prepared and trained for this life, and even helped design it.  There was the whole War in Heaven where Heavenly Father presented His plan, and Lucifer said he would compel us to follow it – thus ensuring our return but without our choice in the matter, and also ensuring his glory for getting it all done. Jehovah pointed out that we should all get a choice, that agency was very important, and that the glory goes to Heavenly Father because it’s His plan.  We sustained Jehovah’s version, and Lucifer and those who agreed with his twisted version of force and stolen glory were all cast out.  This meant they lost out, too, missing the chance to come to earth to get their bodies.  All of us who followed Jehovah got to come to earth, to be born into bodies, and to practice making choices so that our choice to return to Heavenly Father really is ours, as evidenced by the hard work of teaching our bodies what our spirits already know and training our spirits and bodies to work together as a soul.

Now, here we all are, living our mortal lives in which, the prophets say, all things are temporal and spiritual (Moses 6:63, 1 Nephi 14:7, 1 Nephi 15:26-32, Mosiah 2:41, Mosiah 4:26, Mosiah 18:29, Alma 7:23, Helaman 14:16, Mormon 2:15, D&C 14:11, D&C 29:31-35, D&C 77:2).  Further, the Lord does not give commandments that are only temporal (D&C 29:31-35), which means everything commanded has a spiritual impact or consequence in some way… even the command to avoid pornography.

Thus, the question about the evils of pornography is really a question about what is the “temporal and spiritual” of pornography.

The temporal issue initially appears obvious, but becomes more subtle in its beguiling. Pornography is a graphic depiction of bodies and activities which Heavenly Father has taught us are sacred, or a perversion of that which He has declared to be sacred and appointed. The Family Proclamation states that we are all human beings created in the image of God, and each of us is “a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents”. It is a profane thing to present ourselves in any way contrary to this, much less to endorse such immodesty and immorality in others. Further, it declares that sexual acts are “sacred powers… to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife”.  Access to the fullness of these powers only comes through covenant keeping and the sealing powers of temple ordinances.

Sexual activities outside this context is an illusion, and a costly one. It all has to do with power, whether it is an illusion of power to keep someone, power to pretend someone else loves you, or power to feel a taste of what your body was designed to do here on Earth. All of us are here in mortal bodies having the sexual capacity with which we were designed. But Heavenly Father has been very specific about the boundaries and uses for those powers, and anything outside those limits is an abuse of power, even unrighteous dominion.

The price of any abuse of power is always a surrendering of Self. The Savior said that to lose oneself in service to others is to find out who we really are, to discover our divine nature and true children of Heavenly Parents. The adversary, then, is eager to prevent this, and he is more than willing to help us forget who we are. When we forget who we are, and whose we are, we begin to make choices that are not consistent with who He says we are and will become. We trap ourselves, and enslave ourselves. Enslavement to pornography, like other addictions – anything you can’t do without or can’t not do or can’t function without – means you have surrendered your agency. You have lost the ability to choose. You can no longer function without it, and indeed, it changes the way your brain and body function by flooding your brain with dopamine and neuroadaption and changes in neuroplasticity (2011, National Institute of Health).

Pornography throws you into an addictive dynamic that changes what is supposed to be a physical expression of a spiritual union of togetherness into a depraved and selfish act. Temporally, it means that you dependent on the addiction to function, and need more and more of it to find relief, and are no longer able to function as your body was designed. The adversary has succeeded in making you like him, as if without a body at all. Spiritually, the adversary has won you over, dragging you back to a premortal state where you cannot use your body and you have surrendered your agency and with such diminished capacity to choose, no longer have control over your spirit.

Further, if we spent premortal “time” designing and preparing for this world, part of mortality now is also designing and preparing for our eternal lives. More than just choosing which kingdom we will be comfortable living in by choosing which laws we now live, we are in fact designing what our lives will be like then – not just where we will live. Pornography, other addictions, and sex outside of marriage or without the sealing that begins in the temple, give us the illusion of fulfillment while really preventing us from creating our own eternal lives. It’s not just about the damage it causes your own body or the impact on your current or future relationships – that’s only the temporal level – but spiritually speaking, it is a bait and switch, a trading your inheritance for porridge, a choice that feels good for a moment while costing you eternally.

Back in 1974, before I was even born, President Kimball said:

(Pornography) is utterly without redeeming social value. We urge our families to protect their children in every way possible. We live in a permissive world, but we must make certain we do not become a part of that permissive world, that degenerate world.

The concern now, twenty-five years later, is that we can no longer prevent exposure to pornography.  We can, however, teach our children how to respond when we encounter it.  I write THIS ARTICLE last year for Deseret News, published on KSL, (and includes links to resources for help), about a pornography encounter Nathan and I experienced in our marriage.  It is never too soon to discuss this as a family, with more detailed instruction unique to each individual child.  Average first exposure is around age 11, with the largest consumer group being between ages 12-17 (SEE HERE for more statistics).  In October 2010, Rosemary Wixom repeated the counsel that:

“The world will teach our children if we do not, and children are capable of learning all the world will teach them at a very young age. What we want them to know five years from now needs to be part of our conversation with them today. Teach them in every circumstance; let every dilemma, every consequence, every trial that they may face provide an opportunity to teach them how to hold on to gospel truths.”

In a 2009 CES fireside, and reprinted in the Ensign in 2010, Elder Bednar said:

Immoral thoughts, words, and deeds always are immoral, even in cyberspace… We are all accountable to God, and ultimately we will be judged of Him according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts.

We must not surrender our agency, and we must remember the atonement is there – always – to change and strengthen the desires of our heart.

In this same 1991 article, President Monson told us to do three things:

First, a return to righteousness. An understanding of who we are and what God expects us to become will prompt us to pray—as individuals and as families. Such a return reveals the constant truth: “Wickedness never was happiness.” Let not the evil one dissuade. We can yet be guided by that still, small voice—unerring in its direction and all-powerful in its influence.

Second, a quest for the good life. I speak not of the fun life, the sophisticated life, the popular life. Rather, I urge each to seek eternal life—life everlasting with mother, father, brothers, sisters, husband, wife, sons, and daughters, forever and forever together.

Third, a pledge to wage and win the war against pernicious permissiveness. As we encounter that evil carrier, the pornography beetle, let our battle standard and that of our communities be taken from that famous ensign of early America, “Don’t tread on me.”

 

Other pornography related quotes and teachings:

“There is an ever-growing plague of pornography swirling about us. The producers and purveyors of smut are assiduously working a mine that yields them many millions in profit. Some of their products are artfully beguiling. They are designed to titilate and stimulate the baser instincts. Many a man who has partaken of forbidden fruit and then discovered that he has destroyed his marriage, lost his self-respect, and broken his companion’s heart, has come to realize that the booby-trapped jungle trail he has followed began with the reading or viewing of pornographic material. Some who would not think of taking a sip of liquor or smoking a cigarette, have ratioinalized indulgence in pornography. Such have warped values totally unbecoming one who has been ordained to the priesthood of God. Portrayals of sexual perversion, violence, and bestiality become increasingly available for those who succumb to their lures. As this happens, religious activities are likely to become less attractive because the two do not mix any more than oil and water mix.”

(President Hinckley, “Be Not Deceived,” Ensign, November 1983, pp.45-46.)

Satan has become a master at using the addictive power of pornography to limit individual capacity to be led by the Spirit. The onslaught of pornography in all of its vicious, corroding, destructive forms has caused great grief, suffering, heartache, and destroyed marriages. It is one of the most damning influences on earth. Whether it be through the printed page, movies, television, obscene lyrics, vulgarities on the telephone, or flickering personal computer screen, pornography is overpoweringly addictive and severely damaging.

Richard G. Scott, To Acquire Spiritual Guidance, April 2009

 

Priesthood holders carry with them the antidote to remove the terrible images of pornography and to wash away guilt. The priesthood has the power to unlock the influence of our habits, even to unchain from addiction, however tight the grip. It can heal over the scars of past mistakes.

~ Boyd K. Packer, Cleansing The Inner Vessel, October 2010 Conference

 

Like thieves in the night, unwelcome thought can and do seek entrance to our minds. But we don’t have to throw open the door, serve them tea and crumpets, and tell them where the silverware is kept! Throw the rascals out! Replace lewd thoughts with hopeful messages an joyful memories; picture the faces of those who love you and would be shattered if you let them down.

~ Jeffery R. Holland, Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul, Conference April 2009

 

Permissiveness, immorality, pornography, drugs, the power of peer pressure- all these and more- cause many to be tossed about on a sea of sin and crushed on the jagged reefs of lost opportunities, forfeited blessings, and shattered dreams.

~ Thoma S. Monson, Believe, Obey , and Endure, Conference October 2013

 

We cannot afford husbands and fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home. We cannot afford to have those who exercise the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God, waste their strength in pornography or spend their lives in cyberspace.

D. Todd Christofferson Conference October 2012

 

Be Cautious. These same technologies can allow evil influences to cross the threshold of your homes. These dangerous traps are only a mouse click away. Pornography, violence, intolerance, and ungodliness destroy families, marriages, and individual lives. These dangers are distributed through many media, including magazines, books, television, movies, and music, as well as the internet.

Deiter F. Utchdorf, A Matter of a Few Degrees, April 2008

 

“Don’t accommodate any degree of temptation. Prevent sin and avoid having to deal with its inevitable destruction. So, turn it off! Look away! Avoid it at all costs. Direct your thoughts in wholesome paths. Remember your covenants and be faithful in temple attendance.”
Elder Dallin H. OaksPornography, April 2005 General Conference
 

“[Pornography] is like a raging storm, destroying individuals and families, utterly ruining what was once wholesome and beautiful.”

President Gordon B. HinckleyA Tragic Evil Among Us, October 2004 General Conference

 

“Plead with the Lord out of the depths of your soul that He will remove from you the addiction which enslaves you. And may you have the courage to seek the loving guidance of your bishop and, if necessary, the counsel of caring professionals.”
President Gordon B. HinckleyA Tragic Evil Among Us, October 2004 General Conference
“In our day the dreadful influence of pornography is like unto a plague sweeping across the world, infecting one here and one there, relentlessly trying to invade every home, most frequently through the husband and father.”
President Boyd K. Packer, Cleaning The Inner Vessel, October 2010 General Conference
“Pornography will always repel the Spirit of Christ and will interrupt the communications between our Heavenly Father and His children and disrupt the tender relationship between husband and wife.”
President Boyd K. PackerCleaning The Inner Vessel, October 2010 General Conference
“Priesthood holders carry with them the antidote to remove the terrible images of pornography and to wash away guilt. The priesthood has the power to unlock the influence of our habits, even to unchain from addiction, however tight the grip. It can heal over the scars of past mistakes.”
President Boyd K. PackerCleaning The Inner Vessel, October 2010 General Conference
“Why is lust such a deadly sin? Well, in addition to the completely Spirit-destroying impact it has upon our souls, I think it is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever. 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. True love we are absolutely giddy about—as I am about Sister Holland; we shout it from the housetops. But 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.”
Elder Jefferey R. HollandPlace No More For the Enemy of My Soul, April 2010 General Conference
“Most people in trouble end up crying, ‘What was I thinking?’ Well, whatever they were thinking, they weren’t thinking of Christ. Yet, as members of His Church, we pledge every Sunday of our lives to take upon ourselves His name and promise to ‘always remember him.’ So let us work a little harder at remembering Him.”
Elder Jefferey R. HollandPlace No More For the Enemy of My Soul, April 2010 General Conference

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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