The Curious Case of LDS Porn Addiction

A recent study showed that when subscription data to online porn websites is analyzed, Utah shows a higher incidence of usage than any other state.  This statistic would probably not be surprising to any LDS who had been listening to General Conference (and local) talks over the last few years, where the problem of pornography addiction among LDS has been repeatedly addressed.  My stake recently had a Saturday evening session of Stake Conference where our SP spent almost an hour on the subject. Every Bishop or SP that I am friends with seems to have, at one time or another, told me “You have no idea how bad it is.”

Apparently the LDS Church (and christianity in general) is suffering from an epidemic of pornography use among its members.   And I’m guessing that, as of March 2009, the Church is losing the war on pornography.

As with all losing wars,  there comes a time when the leaders have to re-evaluate their strategy and survey the battlefield.  Sometimes, radical new tactics must be adopted.  Certainly, no competent General would assume that doing the same losing battle plan over and over would eventually result in victory, right?  And sometimes, surrender and retreat is the only logical option.

With that in mind, I suggest one option LDS Church leaders may have to eventually consider:  accept pornography.  But I say “accept pornography” not as a means to admit defeat, but instead as a tactic to kill the beast at its very heart.

After all, what if the only way the Church could “win” the war on pornography was to just let it go? What if the harder they fight against it, the more LDS men want to look at it, and the only way to reduce their interest is to tell them it’s OK to view it with wisdom and moderation?

As with anything, there will always be those people who can’t view it “with wisdom and moderation”, and then it becomes a problem. But just as the Church is able to deal with individuals with eating disorders while at the same time understanding that most people can enjoy the occasional dish of ice cream without going overboard, could the Church move towards a similar attitude for pornography? And does it have any other choice?

Because with our current, porn saturated world, I’m not sure the current no-tolerance policy is going to help. Or maybe the Church leaders just need to talk about it a little more, and things will get better.

Maintaining the Status Quo

But suppose the Church continues to take a hard-line stance and commits itself to a “no tolerance” policy.  What, exactly, would the logical result be?

Ideally, the inspired leadership of the Church on the matter would turn the hearts of the fathers (and young men, and single men) away from their computer screens.  That’s the hope.

But what happens if current trends continue, and two things happen:

– Pornography use and/or addiction continues to increase among Church members, with few actually confessing the problem to their Bishops.
– The Church maintains a zero-tolerance policy on the issue.

Assuming the problem (in areas with broadband internet access) reaches 25% of current priesthood holders, what will happen to the Church 25 years from now if porn use reaches 75% of priesthood holders?  Or 85%?  How will the Church be different than it is today?  Will there be any noticeable difference?

Will the divorce rate or rate of infidelity be greater?  Will priesthood blessings generally be less effective?  Will home teaching numbers be lower?  Will tithing receipts be lower?  Will Temple attendance fall off?

And those kinds of numbers would indicate that it probably isn’t just the rank-and-file who have a problem; there would be leaders with problems as well.  Would their pornography addiction have any noticeable affect on their leadership abilities?  Would their callings be less inspired?  Would they be less discerning in interviews?

What does a pornography epidemic mean to the Church in general?


Filed under Doctrines, Teachings, Policies and Traditions

29 Responses to The Curious Case of LDS Porn Addiction

  1. rw

    I really and truly hope you’re writing this tongue in cheek. Your argument is equivalent to:

    Mom: Don’t hit your sister
    Mom: Don’t hit your sister
    Mom: Don’t hit your sister
    Mom: Don’t hit your sister
    Mom: Don’t hit your sister
    Mom: Don’t hit your sister
    Mom: Okay, I’m getting tired of telling you not to hit your sister. It’s okay to beat her up, but be sure to only do so in moderation.

    How in the world is an eating disorder, or a dish of ice cream compared to the soul enslaving vice of pornography? It is human trafficking that is being committed by BOTH the provider AND the viewer. I can’t imagine a scenario where things improve by the prophet saying “It’s okay to traffic in the virtue of another human being. Just so long as you do it in moderation only. If it becomes a serious problem, you need to repent.”

    This is madness.

    The reason porn use being higher in Utah is a compelling fact is because it’s a compelling story. All of those sexually repressed, white knuckled, knuckle-dragging Mormon men must be secretly depraved. Why else would they practice polygamy (which, of course, we haven’t for 120 years)?

    Satan doesn’t seek to corrupt the wicked. He seeks most to corrupt the righteous…or at least those who know what the standard of righteousness is supposed to be and have made covenants to keep them. People in NY state, for example, are not his prime targets because he’s already got a lot of them under his thumb in that and other ways. He wants the high value, “special ops” targets, if you will. He’s going right for the heart of the Army of God with a nuclear arsenal suitcase bomb in every home. He just hopes we don’t recognize it as the DishTV device, the mobile phone, and the Internet connection.

  2. Cinepro

    So….zero-tolerance then?

  3. Great post Cinepro. I’ve enjoyed quite a bit on your site.

    Anyhow, while RW might have a point about the church not being able to green light pornography, his explanation for Utah having such a high usage is utterly rediculous.

    Oh, that’s right, the devil made them do it. That’s classic bologna. Satan is so smart and witty that he can convince endowed members that have been clothed in the garment of the holy priesthood to just throw it all away for some boobs. Satan sure is powerful! Whatever happened to crushing his head while all he can do is bruise your heel?

    Is it just me, or is this Satan guy just way more effective in both his message and approach to soul slavery than God is? Also, the bit about 120 years of no polygamy just reeks of whitewashery. Who’s we, and what does practice really mean. What’s the definition of the word the? etc etc. Just smoke and mirrors.

    There were families still practicing polygamy that were members in good standing of the LDS Church up until the 1940’s by default. Practicing polygamy isn’t limited to the narrow definition of an additional marriage. Polygamous unions took place up until the very early 1900’s and those family units remained as intact polygamous ones for 40-50 years plus afterwards.

    But I’m sure this whitewashing, excuse making RW knew that.

  4. Cinepro

    But to follow up with rw (and any others who have feelings in a similar vein):

    What will happen with the Church if current trends continue? What if Satan is successful in his assault on Utah, and more and more LDS men start looking at pornography? What is the future of an LDS Church with a large percentage of men hooked on looking at naked women on the internet?

  5. kenneth

    Every Latter Day Saint who views pornography is loosing the battle;thier personal battle;and that is what its all about.The church can keep doing what they are doing to promote chastity and morality and hope the members respond.I was always taught that it will become increasingly harder and harder to be a Latter Day Saint.I think we are seeing this.The brethern are our shepards and are there to lead us out of temptation. Then its up to us to drink from the fountain or choose not to.

  6. Joseph

    “The reason porn use being higher in Utah is a compelling fact is because it’s a compelling story. All of those sexually repressed, white knuckled, knuckle-dragging Mormon men must be secretly depraved. Why else would they practice polygamy (which, of course, we haven’t for 120 years)?”

    RW could you explain what you meant by this? Do you mean that prohibiting polygamy is the reason for porn addiction?

    Personally I believe that the church should stress zero tolerance. The fact that the church keeps the standards high, is one of the reasons I love the church. There has to be sacrifice, obediance and devotion in order to obtain the award. If not, the award is not worth it’s value.

    The thing is, where is faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ?

  7. zytines

    I think there’s plenty of room for the church to maintain its high moral ground, but still change its tactics. The way the church treats pornography (and sexuality in general) only adds to the cycle of shame and guilt that keeps people looking at porn. Even the language in the OP adds to this (in the statements that imply that anyone who has seen porn is addicted, for example).

    • Cinepro

      I suspect LDS would classify the “cycle of guilt and shame” as a byproduct of the pornography, not the teachings against it. Thus, the “cycle” provides more evidence that pornography is bad.

  8. Sophocles

    Google trends shows that the consumption of internet pornography in Utah tends toward the softcore: swimsuits, lingerie, nudity, etc. Once you start getting into hardcore porn, Utah consumption drops off considerably.

    I once heard that one effect (intended or not) of the strict rules at BYU is that students who want to experience the thrill of rebellion can do so through relatively benign acts. Not shaving, wearing shorts, carrying a Starbucks cup, swearing, etc. gets you the same mileage as body piercing, binge drinking, and casual sex at a normal school.

    Maybe the church’s approach to porn is having a similar effect. The zero-tolerance policy gives relatively benign porn an added allure. Because it’s so forbidden, men in Utah seem to be able to get what they need from sites on par with the Victoria’s Secret catalog, and have no use for the coarser stuff that might actually have an adverse impact.

  9. jw

    I see the foundation of this debate as flawed. The talk primarily centers on policy, governing tactics and restrictions / regulations. The church can’t compel/force/restrict anyone from doing anything. It’s leaders provide guidance for peaceful living in this life and salvation in the life to come. It is our choice to follow or not; exactly as God intended it.

    Each individual works out his/her salvation with God (approaches himself/herself to the spirit or backs away). The church tells us how and provides mediums (sacrament meeting, temple, priestood ordinances) for this to take place, but the degree of spiritual unity between an individual and God depends on the righteousness/repentance of that individual, not church policies. The church doesn’t set the bar for spiritual communion (that is an eternal, unchanging standard set before the world was) and it doesn’t force anyone to commune. It can’t.

    If I want the spirit with me (peace love and fulfillment) I don’t look at porn. When I look at porn I feel empty, frustrated and sad. I know the former is good and the latter is bad; I’ve had personal experience with both. It is now my choice for which I want. My spirit, my life, my salvation. My signature first on the temple recommend, my priestood to use or lose, my life to be blessed or not. My honesty in interviews and with friends and family. My integrity. My soul. I am grateful for the church’s help in building my relationship with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, but my relationship is with them and their mandate to “be ye therefore perfect” and not to church policies and standards.

  10. Right On RW

    RW is 100% correct! Furthermore, since when is “giving up“ ever the noble thing to do . . . wait, oh yeah, the pop-psychobabble culture of the past 25 years is now fully entrenched in our culture . . . try not to hurt his feelings . . . try not to hurt her feelings . . . feelings, feelings, feelings are more important than logic and perserverance. Shame on you feminists!!

  11. NSteven

    The church understands addiction very well. Every missionary, new convert, bishop understands it because of the word of wisdom. Is this not the plague fortold by president Grant when he addressed the repeal of prohabition “that should afflict every family”. The church has created a 12 step program called the addiction relief program. 9 steps focus on coming to christ and the last 3 deal with maintaining. Pornagraphy is forcing us to become a more christlike people. To be a zion people. We have to beat this. We have to by coming to Christ and using the atonement. There is no other way

    • Cinepro

      “Prohibition” is an interesting analogy. It could be said the Church is taking a “Prohibition” approach to pornography, and it’s working about as well as Prohibition did in the 1920’s.

      Honestly, I’m not interested in pornography, so it doesn’t matter to me what the Church says. I only find it interesting to see the Church fighting against it, but apparently losing the war, and to think about what this might mean.

  12. Lion Sack

    I think that this quote pretty much sums it up:

    I share a warning. Satan is extremely good at blocking spiritual communication by inducing individuals, through temptation, to violate the laws upon which spiritual communication is founded. With some, he is able to convince them that they are not able to receive such guidance from the Lord.

    Satan has become a master at using the addictive power of pornography to limit individual capacity to be led by the Spirit.

    We have to overcome Satan and his evil ways by finding the strength in the Spirit to guide us to do the right things!

    • Cinepro

      I wonder if there are people who look at pornography not because Satan tempts them, but because they just really like it.

      In other words, I really like root beer floats. But no one would say Satan tempts me with them. I just enjoy them. But if the President Monson came out in conference this weekend and said that we were adding root beer floats to the Word of Wisdom, would that mean when I felt like having a root beer float on Monday that it was Satan tempting me? But he wasn’t tempting me the Friday before when I just felt like having one?

      If we truly believe God has given us our sexual desires, than it doesn’t make much sense to say that Satan needs to tempt people to look at pornography or break the law of chastity. God has already given us plenty of desire to do those things on our own, without Satan needing to do anything.

  13. Chris

    I’ve looked at plenty of porn when I was a mormon. At first it was really difficult to deal with the guilt until I realized that blessings came whether I was looking at porn or not. It was kind of a weird realization. On the mission, many claimed that I was very spiritual. One time a lady commented on how I had a visible glow around my head. Little did she know I masturbated every night and I was supposedly entrenched in a sinful nature because of this. But yet, I just taught and baptized. Taught and baptized.

  14. TH

    It bugs me how nobody has yet said this so I will state it clearly and in all Caps. THE CHURCH IS NOT SETTING THE STANDARDS TO FOLLOW, IT IS THE LORD. You’ve all been talking like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is just like any other church. Ruled by leaders that make our decisions and tell us what to do. You all are forgetting a very important thing here, we have a living prophet who gets revellation from God. Pornography is evil. It always has been and it will continue to be forever. And yes, I have lived in Utah my whole life. And at a very young age I became addicted to pornography. This also led to masterbation. These drastic sins ruined my early life because of the guilt I felt. Everyone thought nothing was wrong and nobody knew save me and God. It was not until I confessed and I literally cried out for salvation to God and my Bishop that I felt a new hope. Through my moral sins however, I can honestly say that it strengthened my testimony so strongly that it changed my life for the better. We all have to fall at some time and beg for forgiveness, some for more serious sins than others. But when it really comes down to it in my personal testimony, I believe that to gain a true testimony of the atonement you have to have been a sinner of some form. Otherwise it would be impossible to feel the amazing healing that Jesus Christ provided by giving the ultimate sacrifice. God doesn’t expect all LDS saints to never comit sins like Pornography and Masterbation, He knows that many will. He will however, always have a zero tolerance for it and will never lower His standards. That is precisely the reason he gave us his Perfect son.

    There are probably thousands of Saints just like me. Living in Utah, got entangled into this pornography and yes, that perhaps really is a reason Utah is heavily imprinted with pornography. But what I also think is how many people in Utah who view pornography are also like me, fighting it to the core. How many people have been strenghthened in their testimony’s and their dedication to keeping the commandments through a trial like pornography? I’m sure yes, many LDS members are viewing pornography or have viewed pornography at some point in their life. But I am also sure that many of those same people have used the God given Atonement to help bring that trial, into a blessing.

    • Cinepro

      Thank you for sharing your story.

      It’s important to recognize that acknowledging the potential for the Church to change doesn’t mean that we are ignoring God’s role in that change. If we truly believe the Church is a “living Church”, being led by revelation, then we can be open to any sort of changes that might come in the future. There are teachings where Church leaders have stood like a rock, unbending, but there are other times when teachings were adapted to the capacity of the Saints over time.

      But I’ll put you down for a “No Change” vote.

  15. TH

    And Chris. I notice you said, “When I was a mormon”. Now I do not know for sure, and I am making a reference here, but from that It seems implied that you have left the church. Your comment does startle me and makes me fear for you in a very caring way Chris. You just revealed that you did not truely keep the commandments of God and that you lived a double life while on your mission and throughout your LDS membership. Chris I would strongly ask you to pray for forgiveness and come back to the true Church of the Living God. Chris I do no judge you for the sins you have commited because I too have soccumbed to the temptations of pornography and masterbation. But I do fear for you because you appear to feel no remorse for disobeying the Will of God. Chris if you are ever reading this, I want you to know that I can truely say that I love you as my fellow man. I would invite you to make a full repentence and live a guilt free experience.

    ~Taylor H

  16. TH

    When it really comes down to it, it is a principle of obedience. We are told to not watch pornography or Masterbate. We are also told many other things not to do that I will not list. Failure to obey these whether you agree with them or not, is considered sin. Feeling the spirit when disobeying anything you know you shouldn’t be doing whether big or small, is almost impossible. I know that the churches views on these things will never change because they have never changed since Old testiment times. I even give you an example. In the Book of Mormon, repeatedly the Nephites go through stages of obedience and prosperity and then followed by disobedience and consequences from God. When they started to get naughty and thwart the commandments, did the prophets in the Book of Mormon ever tell them that it was ok to do those sin if they did so in moderation? No. And when the people became wicked enough as a whole the wicked were destroyed by God.
    I believe the same would happen to us in our day. You say we are losing the battle against pornography? Well I personally do not know for sure whether we are or are not. What I believe is that if we as a church do start to change how we view standards, just for the reason that most of our Saints are breaking them, then we are as guilty as the Nephites of old. I’m done sharing my testimony and spiritual impressions I have felt I needed to say. I’m glad I found this thread and I hope that I can help others with my comments.

  17. Eleanor

    What if your husband, who is a Mormon, is looking at porn at his workplace? His computers are infected with it and I am pretty much disgusted with it. It has even infected our home computers. What should I do?

    • Cinepro

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband. If his workplace has policies against such things (as most do), then there are issues above and beyond the Church’s stance. If he is putting his career in jeopardy, he should probably seek professional help. If the pornography is more important to him than your happiness, then he definitely needs counseling. If he won’t give it up, then you might consider counseling as a couple to appraise the impact this will have on your marriage.

  18. Ann

    No one but “Eleanor” has addressed the affects of pornography on a marriage. It is devastating. This plague has been a part of our home for over 30 years. Last year I told my husband he either had to get help or leave. He chose to get help and is working hard to beat his addiction and repent of the deception his addiction led to. He is becoming the man I “thought” I married. Leading a double life has been a torment for him and for me. Please see pornography for what it is. It is lust and lust is sin and sin brings destruction and misery. I am not a “bible-thumping” Mormon, standing on a soapbox. I am a good woman who has lived through a difficult marriage to someone I truly love, but had almost come to hate. I have lived a double-life too:-as the wife of porn-addicted bishop’s counselor, high councilman and then a bishop. Every day was a lie for me as people told me how wonderful my husband was. He is wonderful, but nobody knew about his addiction. It is awful to live in fear of being found-out. Please stop advocating this practice as something that is harmless, or that only harms the person who views it and masturbates. My support group is full of women who will tell you otherwise, as will their husbands.

    • Cinepro

      Thank you Ann. Your story is a reminder of the effects pornography addiction can have on a marriage. Just in case I wasn’t clear in my post, I sincerely wish all members of the Church were able to resist looking at pornography and that it wasn’t a problem and that the Church had a 100% success rate in the fight against pornography. But from every indicator I’ve seen, this isn’t the case. So the question is “What could the Church do differently to be more successful?”

  19. The following book is great resource for anyone who is trying to understand Pornography addiction. Many of the questions that are being asked in this blog post are answered directly with references, and research in Donald L. Hilton’s Book He Restoreth my Soul. Don is a member of the LDS Faith and provides wonderful insights into this addiction. You can find it here.

  20. Joe Cool

    Something I’d like to point out: All of the “ill effects” of porn mentioned in these comments is caused by the taboo status of porn, not porn itself. For example, Ann lived in fear of being caught and shamed, a result of the taboo. Porn didn’t cause her husband to sleep with other women, which would have been a direct result of porn.

  21. I can’t believe my eyes! The surgeon general has proven that porography contributes to rape,child molestation & murder! NOW BECAUSE YOUR members can’t control their thoughts or passions…let’s just let them do whatever they want! Dont hold them accountable! I’m a nymphomanic so I’ll just be a slut & a whore in moderation! But please, don’t take away my temple recommend so I can continue looking like a good little LDS/ Mormon on Sunday when Intake the sacrament. Oh! And did I say that porn distinctively foggs your memory or ability to make right choices? Oh! And about my sexual addiction…if I get pregnant now the Mormon church is advocating abortion! BUT GAY COUPLES CANT HAVE THEIR BABIES BKESSED IN THE MORMON CHURCH! We have a saying in the South! “If you don’t like the weather…wait a minute & it will change!” The same goes for the LDS Church!! Give it long enough & you can do anything you want! just don’t get caught!How can you promise that the prophet will never lead you astray when pres. Monsen has alzheimers! Got to go turn on my Red light!

  22. Oh! I’ll stop all our subscriptions to church magazines & let my husbands PLAYBOY & Penthouse come in the mail instead of him hiding it all the time!Hugh Hefner will be happy that you are helping to build his empire! Jesus won’t! Has anyone told you…an addiction is an addiction! There is no moderation! DA!

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