Monday, March 7, 2011

Lesson Recap: Pornography Is a Family Issue

When you look at the statistics you'll realize what a secret danger pornography and pornography addiction are in our society. When you know someone who is struggling with it, are married to someone struggling with it, or are challenged yourself, you realize how heartbreaking and damaging it is. That's why as a presidency we have focused on getting education and awareness to our Relief Society sisters. Charity Wolf followed up my January lesson with this one on how to teach our children about this.

The black lung
In the late 1920s German scientists formally identified the link between smoking and lung cancer. It was not until the 1950s that health authorities again began to suggest a relationship between smoking and cancer. But it was not until the 1980s some 60 years later which prompted political action against the practice.

Many smokers begin during adolescence or early adulthood. Usually during the early stages, smoking provides pleasurable sensations, serving as a source of positive reinforcement. After an individual has smoked for many years, the avoidance of withdrawal symptoms and negative reinforcement become the key motivations to continue.

I can remember the assembly at Kastner Middle school where the man held up a normal pink lung and a black lung. He explained to us that the person whose lung was black smoked for some 30 years before it killed them.

For me that visual was very real and to this day smoking has never appealed to me.

But for that 60 years that the world was trying to catch-up to the Word of Wisdom, many lives were harmed because of the lack of information.

While there have been many things come and go over the years like wine is good, wine is bad, red wine is best, eggs are bad, eggs are good, the Lord has remained consistent in his counsel.

He also seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to information...the Word of Wisdom, the Proclamation to the Family. I can remember the talk about tattoos and piecing, now some years later we see many young people with much of their bodies marked.

Listen to the prophets
Between 1986 and 2008 there have about 140 talks in general conference that have spoken out against pornography in one way or another. That is almost 4 talks per conference for the past 20 years.

The Church has also implemented an addiction recover program; it is 12 steps to help the lives of so many to heal from the trials of this life. The program is NOT just for the addicts, is also for the loved ones that are around the addict that are struggling.

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Addiction has the capacity to disconnect the human will and nullify moral agency. It can rob one of the power to decide.” Revelation in a Changing World.

I testify that both the addict and the family members around him or her feel robbed of power to decide on a future or goals or anything. Being caught in the addiction cycle is a feeling of no progression. It feels hopeless.

I also testify there can and will be a change if you really participate and let the Savior heal you.

President Boyd K Packer said; “It isn’t always easy to give you a ‘why’ for everything. But we owe it to you the coming generation to do more than just say DON’T.”

Understanding pornography addiction
In 1869 the gypsy moth was brought to Medford, Massachusetts to produce silk. While they were good at producing silk, some escaped, and it was discovered that they were also very good at defoliating and killing trees. Since then, gypsy moths have continued to spread west and south, and have caused billions in environmental damage as they have destroyed forest.

In 1972 a paper was published in the Science which described a novel approach to controlling the moth. Rather than use toxic pesticides to kill the caterpillars and the adults it proposed using sexual attraction to stop the insects from reproducing. Although this seems paradoxical it is now a technique used for many other insect species. It so happens that for the adult male gypsy moth to find a female, she must secrete a chemical called pheromone which he can sense in very small amounts. The paper describes using an isolate of the pheromone to either trap or confuse the male, and thus prevent mating.

Pornography may be compared with Satan's tool to distract and ensnare.


In He Restoreth My Soul, by Donald L. Hilton, Jr., M.D.
  1. Individuals addicted to porn or sex experience the same chemical deficiency in the brain as those addicted to illicit drugs.

    All addiction creates a deficiency of Dopamine in the reward system of the brain that produces cravings. (1991 paper written by 2 Psychologists titled “Behavioral and Neurochemical Commonalities in Addiction” published in the Contemporary Family Therapy magazine) (Stanley G. Sunderwirth & Harvey Milkman)

    The same chemical interaction in the brain of a someone addicted to sex, porn, over-eating, and pathological gambling as we see in someone addicted to cocaine or heroine

    Changes in the neural circuitry occurs in the context, even in the absence of drug taking. (Howard Shaffer, head of the Division on Addictions at Harvard University)

    All addictions appear to cause shrinkage in the control and pleasure areas of the brain.

    All additions involve long-term, sometimes lifelong, neuroplastic changes in the brain.

    Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and relief from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is an addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. (Dr. Norman Doidge of Columbia University in The Brain That Changes Itself)

  2. Individuals suffering with addiction often exhibit similar problems as patients suffering from “front lobe syndrome”.

    When someone suffers major trauma to the front of the brain, they often experience damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. They experience changes in personality and often suffer from lack of judgment. Formally dignified and sophisticated individuals may be silly or may laugh or cry at inappropriate times. They often manifest impulsiveness and the inability to prevent themselves from doing things they normally would not have done. They often exhibit compulsiveness or repetition of certain behaviors they normally wouldn’t be fixated on.

    Studies show addicted individuals have reduced cellular activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. This in the front part of the brain and is used in making strategic, rather than impulsive decisions. Prolonged addiction actually causes visible shrinkage in the frontal control area of the brain.

    Fortunately, studies show prolonged abstinence can allow the brain to heal and these areas of the brain can regain their size and function with recovery.

  3. When viewing pornography a person’s brain releases powerful internally-made drugs that affect the brain when overused.

    Both Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and high doses of Dopamine are released into the body. Dopamine is a close cousin of Adrenaline. Even the thought of viewing pornography can cause the release of Adrenaline in the Locus Coeruleus (in the brain). Dopamine being released from the Ventral Tegmental area which stimulates the Nucleus Accumbens of the brain is thought to be what causes the sexual pleasure associated with viewing pornography.

    If we were to purchase these drugs and inject them in the body we would experience the same feelings as the addicted person when feeding the addiction. Pornography is actually a form of illicit drug use when viewed in this light.

  4. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone in the brain.

    It's important in the production and release of breast milk.

    Recent study shows that when this hormone is blocked in mammals that mate for life, they no longer bond with a mate nor do they mate for life.

    Oxytocin is released during orgasm in humans. Depression often found in women who are promiscuous with multiple partners may be related to Oxytocin.

    Oxytocin is believed to cause bonding to pornography when an addict masturbates along with viewing it.

  5. Viewing pornography causes natural Dopamine production to decease.

    Viewing pornography causes an over stimulation of Dopamine. Prolonged viewing of pornography causes receptors in the brain that accept the Dopamine to increase to handle the increased Dopamine being produced. Then under normal circumstances, the Dopamine being produced cannot fill all the receptors and “cravings” occur.  
Just like the black lung we cannot always see the effects our choices have on us.

This is what needs to be taught to our children.

Practice fire drills
At least twice a year our children practice fire drills in school. In reality the odds of them being caught in a building fire are 1 in 111,445. But thanks to those fire drills, we know exactly what to do in a fire, just in case we they are part of the 0.000008973%.

We need to be bringing up topics that open communication with our children, just as in a "fire drill".

When I first started down this road of talking with my older boys, it was very uncomfortable. A few years ago I was feeling a distance between one of my boys and myself. He would talk really gruff if he was asked a question. He looked like the weight of the world was on him. I pulled him from school and kept him with me for a few days. That time was precious. It was not right away but soon after he opened up about the burdens he carried. He was trying to follow the standards of the church, but he never felt like he could measure up. He did not have answers for things like, 'why is pornography bad?' or 'why do we believe in marriage between man and women?' In their health class they were taught that masturbation was a coming of age thing and that everyone did it. I had no idea that all these things were going on.

Over the next few months I was encouraged by the Lord to study fasting. As my son and I studied this topic he had a mighty change of heart. It was not all at once but when they say hold fast to the iron rod it has a new meaning for us. Fast is, at its root, to be quick. If you add an "en" to the word you attach to something. If you add an "ing" to the root then you are going without for something better.

So I decided that I should quickly, fasten myself to the iron rod through much prayer and fasting. As I did this I was able to help my son and he has received the personal revelation that he needs in his life.

This was one of many fire drills that is now practiced in my home.

An aside: Talk to your children at all ages, though. Start at least when they are 5 or 6 years old. Don't wait until they are teenagers. Teach your children about sex and normal sexual relations, in a way that is age-appropriate. Teach them what you in your family value and what you expect. e

Elder Lawrence gave us wonderful counsel in last conference titled, Courageous Parenting:
One of the most effective ways we can influence our sons and daughters is to counsel with them in private interviews. By listening closely, we can discover the desires of their hearts, help them set righteous goals, and also share with them the spiritual impressions that we have received about them. Counseling requires courage.
"Fortifying homes comes by establishing righteous patterns", Elder Lawrence said.

He listed five ways families can fortify the youth of the Church:
  1. Family prayer
  2. Family scripture study
  3. Family home evening
  4. Family dinner together
  5. Regular one-on-one interviews with each child
His ending encouragement:
Parenting teenagers in the latter days is a very humbling assignment. Satan and his followers are striving to bring this generation down; the Lord is counting on valiant parents to bring them up. Parents, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid” (Joshua 1:9). I know that God hears and will answer your prayers. I testify that the Lord supports and blesses courageous parents.
Elder Holland, (Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul) gave us this, for ourselves and to teach our children:
  1. Above all, start by separating yourself from people, materials, and circumstances that will harm you. As those battling something like alcoholism know, the pull of proximity can be fatal. So too in moral matters. Like Joseph in the presence of Potiphar’s wife, just run—run as far away as you can get from whatever or whoever it is that beguiles you. And please, when fleeing the scene of temptation, do not leave a forwarding address.

  2. Acknowledge that people bound by the chains of true addictions often need more help than self-help, and that may include you. Seek that help and welcome it. Talk to your bishop. Follow his counsel. Ask for a priesthood blessing. Use the Church’s Family Services offerings or seek other suitable professional help. Pray without ceasing. Ask for angels to help you.

  3. Along with filters on computers and a lock on affections, remember that the only real control in life is self-control. Exercise more control over even the marginal moments that confront you. If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. An old proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so watch your step.

  4. Like thieves in the night, unwelcome thoughts can and do seek entrance to our minds. But we don’t have to throw open the door, serve them tea and crumpets, and then tell them where the silverware is kept! (You shouldn’t be serving tea anyway.) Throw the rascals out! Replace lewd thoughts with hopeful images and joyful memories; picture the faces of those who love you and would be shattered if you let them down. More than one man has been saved from sin or stupidity by remembering the face of his mother, his wife, or his child waiting somewhere for him at home. Whatever thoughts you have, make sure they are welcome in your heart by invitation only. As an ancient poet once said, let will be your reason.

  5. Cultivate and be where the Spirit of the Lord is. Make sure that includes your own home or apartment, dictating the kind of art, music, and literature you keep there. If you are endowed, go to the temple as often as your circumstances allow. Remember that the temple arms you “with [God’s] power, . . . [puts His] glory . . . round about [you], and [gives His] angels . . . charge over [you].” And when you leave the temple, remember the symbols you take with you, never to be set aside or forgotten.
Why a women’s support group
Those who struggle with addiction aren’t the only ones who can experience a mighty change: loved ones find that as they apply the 12 steps to their own lives and attend recovery meetings, they can experience the blessings of the Atonement in regard to their own grief. The addiction recovery program provides support groups for family and friends, who discover that the Savior can heal them of the pain, anger, and guilt that loved ones sometimes feel.

When Deborah learned of her son’s drug addiction, she was plagued by feelings of guilt as she thought about how she could have been a better mother. Then she discovered that she could apply the steps to herself. She says, “What I learned in the program is that no matter how my son is doing, I can still be happy and have Heavenly Father in my life.” She adds, “On the outside I look the same, but my life has completely changed on the inside.”

Shannon, whose husband faced a pornography addiction, attended the support group for spouses. As she participated, she noticed a change in herself as well. At first she focused on the pain she felt over her husband’s addiction. But then, as she started learning and applying the steps, a miraculous change occurred. She says, “I began talking less and less about my husband and more about what I had learned from each step. I began to see how the Lord was working in my life.”

Pornography is the black lung of our day. Our prophets have warned and are warning us about it. Many of us have been affected by it's grasp on loved ones or ourselves. This is one of the reasons we as the Relief Society felt this topic was so important and we devoted 2 precious Sundays to it. The more informed we are and the more united we are. We can, with our Heavenly Father's help, stay a head of the curve ball Satan is throwing at our family. I hope today you will act on this lesson in teaching your children, learning more, or seeking help.


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