Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lesson: A Plague of Our Day

Sisters, We as a Relief Society presidency have felt for a long time that we needed to address this topic. Today I gave this presentation and instruction with the hope that discussions can begin in your homes, and that you may be encouraged to seek help. We plan to follow up with more concrete ideas for parents in preventing and recognizing a problem with your children. Ellen

I, as Jacob, have prayed earnestly that I may not hurt the tender feelings of those who are innocent, in talking about a plague of our day. I have sought the Spirit in handling this topic with the wide variety of sisters here today.

Jacob 2:7 - it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech.

I hope to strike a balance between emphasizing the serious nature of this problem, and having compassion for one another.

The Plague
When I think of plagues I think of Moses and the Bible story about the plagues in Egypt. There were 10 plagues brought down upon Egypt when Pharaoh would not let the children of Israel go.

Water turned to blood, frogs, gnats, lice, flies, diseased cattle, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the death of firstborn.

One definition of a plague is an epidemic disease with a high death rate. We could talk of the Black death, in mid-14th century, or even the flu after World War I.

Defined more broadly, a plague is any large-scale calamity.

What makes a plague so destructive? Quick to infect, easy to spread. Often appears indiscriminate. The population does not understand the cause or does not have the tools to fight it. Innocent people often suffer. The cure is difficult.

What are some plagues of our day...widespread use of illegal drugs (1990 Hinckley), AIDS (1987 Hinckley), pornography (Packer 2010)...all named such by prophets.

Pornography is a plague with many of the same characteristics. Quick to infect, easy to spread. Innocent people often suffer. The cure is difficult.

Rather than a divine punishment on the wicked, as the Bible plagues were, it is one of Satan’s counterfeits that is deceiving the very elect. It has or will touch all of us as some statistics are proving out.

President Packer, Oct 2010 Conference, Cleansing the Inner Vessel:
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. The effect of this plague can be, unfortunately often is, spiritually fatal. Lucifer seeks to disrupt “the great plan of redemption,” “the great plan of happiness."
The adversary is jealous toward all who have power to beget life. Satan cannot beget life; he is impotent. “He seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” He seeks to degrade the righteous use of the life-giving powers by tempting you into immoral relationships.
This lesson is for you if you are using pornography, if your husband is using pornography, or if you have children. AND I add, if you know anyone struggling with this. I think that covers all of us.

The reason I’m talking about it today is because I have felt and seen the damage and broken hearts among us. You may feel embarrassed and alone. It’s just not something you chat about with visiting teachers, but we must look at it now and deal with it and support one another.

Devon has expressed the desire for us to focus on helping people get better rather than judging one another.

There is no way we can cover everything today, but I want you to listen to what the Spirit says to you.

This is an introduction and if there is interest we are going to begin a women’s support group. Or, if you have specific questions you'd like covered in other lessons, please talk to one of the presidency.

All my material for this lesson comes from church studies, conference talks and the church website

The statistics
Pornography is a widespread problem and a booming industry.

Stats from Church News: It's big business. Worldwide pornography revenue is $97 billion dollars, $13 billion in the US . Every second, 28,258 viewers are watching pornography and 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is made in the United States.

Churches are and aren’t dealing with it.

In an NPR report just this week, Religious Groups Tackle an X-Rated Secret , it says "more than 300 churches [are showing] today, Feb. 6, their members a video sermon featuring current and former NFL players talking about their struggles with pornography."

What they are hoping for is to remove the taboo and get members talking.

The producer of the video said "The statistics say that 48 percent of Christian families are dealing with the issue of pornography in their home. I would say the other 52 percent are just unaware of it being an issue in their house."

It’s estimated that 54% of all evangelical pastors have looked at porn in the past year. So it’s not something they feel comfortable talking about with their congregations.
The evangelical church is not alone, says Michael Gardner, who oversees the pornography addiction program for the Church of Latter-day Saints. He says that about a decade ago, the Mormon church leadership started hearing stories about the effect of pornography on families. Gardner estimates about 1 in 3 Mormon couples who seek marriage counseling have a pornography problem.

"They may come in because they claim they're just having marital problems," says Gardner, who is a clinical psychologist. "But as we dig a little bit deeper, we find there may have been some pornography use, and the spouse found out, and that created a betrayal of trust, which compounded other problems they were having."

Gardner believes the problem is declining because church members are getting help. The church's new website is aimed at combating pornography, offers guidance to families, spiritual inspiration and counseling programs. The church hosts more than 250 12-step meetings each week, focused exclusively on pornography.
Pornography use is a problem among Mormons.

A recent study showed that Utah was number one in online pornography subscriptions. Likely because Utah has strict laws about distribution in other forms. But lest we think ourselves above it, the difference between the highest and lower states was rather small. The internet brings with it an anonymity.

More Church stats concerning our youth:
7 of 10 youth have come across pornography accidentally.
9 of 10 young men and 1/3 or young women report using pornography.

Those statistics are chilling. They emphasize the need to educate ourselves, understand the problem, and have compassion for one another.

What is pornography?
Pornography is any visual or written medium created with the intent to sexually stimulate.

Why is using pornography a problem? What are the dangers? So many...

1. One danger is the growing acceptance in our culture, and a growing perversity, where more and more outrageous sexual behavior is sought and is flaunted, as normal.

2. Another danger is justifying it as important for normal sexual development. "Boys will be boys." "All guys are into porn." This is the classic calling good evil and evil good.

3. Remember it is a plague...Quick to infect, easy to spread, and difficult to be rid of.

Dalin Oaks spoke about pornography in 2005 Conference talk:
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.
The greatest effect is on us spiritually.

4. Secretive behavior, leads to living double lives, and putting energy put into the deception.

Dalin Oaks again:
The immediate spiritual consequences of such hypocrisy are devastating. Those who seek out and use pornography forfeit the power of their priesthood. The Lord declares: “When we undertake to cover our sins, … behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man”.

(5.) “Patrons of pornography also lose the companionship of the Spirit. Pornography produces fantasies that destroy spirituality.”

(6.) He goes on to say Pornography “has the effect of damaging hearts and souls to their very depths, strangling the life out of relationships”

(7.) 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.

(8.) Pornography is also addictive. It impairs decision-making capacities and it “hooks” its users, drawing them back obsessively for more and more.
How many dangers need to be listed?

It’s a trap.
What is pornography addiction? Why can't you or a loved one just stop. It’s a trap for many of us.

It’s a powerful drug for the brain and the more it's used the more physical changes take place in the brain. Overuse of certain pleasure centers of the brain cause a shrinkage cells and shortage of one chemical while other cells enlarge to compensate.

The pleasure thermostat of the brain is reset.

Brain scans show addiction in 3 ways: how the brain changes in metabolism, actual physical shrinkage of areas of the brain important in pleasure and control, and depletion of dopamine receptors. The same changes can be seen in pathological gambling, overeating addiction, cocaine or meth addiction and sexual addiction. Read full article.

The reason it’s important to know this, is that one doesn’t just snap out of it through a quick prayer of repentance and a good internet filter.

There must be counseling, and the 12-step support program which incorporates the principles and power of the atonement. It is a time for patience, support, teaching and a gradual resetting of the brain’s thermostat.

Do not be like the frog in the soup. If put in hot water she jumps out, but if  put in cold water and slowly warmed she soon becomes frog soup.

If you personally are using pornography, Elder Dalin Oaks gives you some steps to take immediately:
First, acknowledge the evil. Don’t defend it or try to justify yourself.

Second, seek the help of the Lord and His servants. Seek for the healing power of the atonement. [We are fortunate to have Bishop Pope because he worked in the Addiction Recovery program for nearly 3 years and he gets it.]

Third, do all that you can to avoid pornography. If you ever find yourself in its presence—which can happen to anyone in the world, flee. 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. Protect those we love, internet filters, passwords, placement of computers.

Finally, do not patronize pornography. Do not use your purchasing power to support moral degradation. Strengthen family spirituality through scripture study, prayer and family home evening.
And I would add, educate yourself. Resources are listed at the end of the lesson.

If you only go to one resource, it’s the church’s It is chock full of articles and resources. It has 5 main audiences or sections: Individuals, spouses, parents, youth, and leaders. Then it breaks down to Prevent, Recognize, Overcome and Support. You can zero in on what you have a concern about.

One article is titled Is my pornography use a problem? Go to this article and answer the questions. Do not be the frog in a slowly warming soup.

Parenting in the last days takes courage.

Just because your child looks at pornography does make him or her evil, nor immediately addicted. But knowing that it is a powerful drug means being extra watchful.

Know that youthful curiosity is normal. Know that the “sex talk” with your kids is many candid talks over the years about a variety of subjects. Let them learn from you what is expected, what your family values, what is normal, what is good and bad and why. All age-appropriate. If you don’t teach it they’ll ask their friends or go to the internet.

If you find that your child has seen pornography. Don’t over-react. Your initial reaction will open or close the doors of communication in the future. BUT DO ACT and be consistent in handling it.

Elder Lawrence, 2010 conference, Courageous Parenting:
If either parent doesn't feel good about something, then permission should not be granted. If either feels uncomfortable about a movie, a television show, a video game, a party, a dress, a swim suit or an Internet activity, have the courage to support each other and say 'no.' ... if your spouse doesn't feel good about something, show respect for those feelings. When you take the easy way out by saying and doing nothing, you may be enabling destructive behavior. 
"Fortifying homes comes by establishing righteous patterns", Elder Lawrence said. He listed five ways families can fortify the youth of the Church: family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, family dinner together and regular one-on-one interviews with each child.

If your husband is using pornography it’s a special kind of pain. A good marriage is founded on trust. And the affect of pornography can cause profound damage to a woman. There is fear, betrayal, anger, loss of trust. Somehow you think you’re responsible, you just didn’t measure up, weren’t sexy enough, or thin enough and that spirals to depression and feelings of low self-worth.

Let’s understand together a few concepts from Healing Concepts for Women Impacted by Pornography.
Clarify motivation. In many cases, pornography use is more about seeking an escape or mood-altering effect than it is about sex itself.
I’ve read that many men who struggle, love their wives deeply. But have learned to self-medicate with pornography for depression, anxiety, loneliness, or poor self-esteem. Then have become trapped.
Beware of comparing reality to fantasy. You may feel you just can’t measure up. The porn star represents a sexual ideal. This is one of the biggest lies pornography offers women to believe. Most porn stars have histories of sexual abuse, drug use or addition, mental health problems, failed relationships, cosmetic surgery, and or sexually transmitted diseases. ...Men who recover ironically begin to see the beauty of their spouse as what they desire and need.
Ignore comments from others that invalidate the seriousness of this problem and seek out people who understand.
Your life may have become unmanageable. You may become wrapped up in trying to deal with it...whether it’s rescuing/monitoring behaviors, playing the victim, persecuting (crying, yelling, shaming) or just pure denial. You need help and support too.

One counselor says, “Aside from abuse, I know of no other marital issue that affects the very soul of women more than pornography consumption by a spouse.”

Sisters, we need to be there for each other. And if this is you...You are in need of the power of the atonement and healing just as your spouse is.

Talk to the bishop and let us know if you are interested in a women’s support group.

The 12-steps can bring peace and understanding to you too just as it can for the one struggling with the addiction. And know that the Church is working on a women’s support manual that is specific to wives and mothers and that adapts the 12-steps to us.

12-step Addiction Recovery Program
I testify that this program is an inspired one. I’ve been through it as a way to seek understanding of addiction and the steps to overcoming, and to find healing myself.

The meetings are once a week. The group reads through the 12-steps together then focuses on one step in-depth. There is a study section to do on your own. You move at your own pace through the steps. Each week there is a sharing portion where you can express your feelings and struggles in a non-judgmental and confidential setting of people who care about your progress and will support you through the ups and downs.

From the manual introduction:
Whether you yourself struggle with addiction or associate with someone who does, this guide can be a blessing in your life. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been adapted into a framework of the doctrines, principles, and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are presented in this guide as key principles at the beginning of each section. This guide will help you learn how to apply these key principles; they can change your life.
Join us on Thursdays, 7:30 pm at the Valley Forge church or Sundays, 7:30 pm at the Stake Center. I usually go to these and would love to have you join me.

This is a serious problem, in our midst. It is a plague. It is affecting people we love.

President Packer said in conference, “We raise the alarm and warn members of the Church to wake up and understand what is going on. Parents, be alert and ever watchful that this wickedness might threaten your family circle.”

Let’s avoid it. Let’s educate ourselves. Let’s teach our children more diligently. Let’s seek out help and counseling. Let’s be supportive and compassionate to each other and those who are dealing with it. Let’s use the power of the priesthood. President Packer said in conference,
The priesthood holds consummate power. It can protect you from the plague of pornography--and it is a plague--if you are succumbing to its influence. If one is obedient the priesthood can show how to break a habit and even erase an addiction. Holders of the priesthood have that authority and should employ it to combat evil influences.
Let’s use the power of the atonement of our Savior to find help and healing. I testify that it is the only way. In the name of him who is mighty to save, Jesus Christ, Amen.


A Few Resources:

Attend our Addiction Recovery Program support group, Thursday evening, in the Valley Forge building, 7:30 pm. Download manual from the home page.

Draft of Family/Spouses Support Manual, link on the left at LDS Addiction Recovery website

Dallin Oaks, Pornography, April Conference 2005

Gordon B. Hinckley, A Tragic Evil Among Us, October Conference 2004

Boyd K. Packer, Cleansing the Inner Vessel, October Conference 2010 - Church’s website for individuals, spouses, parents, youth and leaders. Prevent, recognize, overcome, support.

Is My Pornography Use a Problem? -> Individuals -> Recognize

Understanding the Addictive Nature of Pornography -> Individuals -> Overcome 

The Road Back: Abandoning Pornography -> Individuals -> Overcome 

Getting help - You don’t have to overcome an addiction on your own -> Individuals -> Overcome

Healing Concepts for Women Impacted by Pornography -> Leaders -> Overcome

Family Safety with Technology at

Jeffrey Ford, Creating a Safe Place to Talk about Dangerous Things - Women uniting against pornography

NPR report, Religious Groups Tackle an X-Rated Secret, February 3, 2011

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