A while back I asked my friends on social media what kind of marriage articles they wanted me to write. I received lots of answers to that question, but none as compelling as this one. I’m not a numbers person. When I read articles others have written, I hate reading statistics because I never remember them anyway. So I won’t quote statistics to prove that this is a problem. I will just say three things about that: 1) If you ask your friends on social media what they want to read about marriage, and someone asks you to write about how pornography affects marriage, it must be a problem; 2) If you personally know a good number of people who have been affected by the issue, it must be a problem, and 3) Since almost every General Conference Priesthood Session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a number of years has addressed the evil of pornography, it must be a problem.
I’ve spoken with many women about pornography addiction in preparation for this article. I wish I could say that they had a solution to the problem. I wish I could at least say that they agreed on how to heal after the fact, or how they should be treated after the fact. I am, frankly, more confused after the research than I was before I began. The one thing I learned for sure: Pornography kills marriage.
This is a summary of discussions that I had with women who have been affected by this horrible problem. As most of my discussions were with members of the LDS Church, the discussion in this article will be concentrated there. I do realize that this is a universal problem.
The consensus of opinion is that in a good number of cases, when a woman goes for help, her words fall on deaf ears. Most women I spoke to do not place blame on ecclesiastical leaders, but most seem to agree that their leaders are not well trained to handle the situation. One woman pointed out that there is on-line training available for local leaders (see the end of this article). I heard stories from more than one source that men tell their leaders that they got into pornography because they aren’t getting enough attention from their spouses, so the wife is told to “make herself more available.” If leaders were to ask why the husband is not receiving a lot of attention, they may find out there are medical reasons, including having a baby just a few weeks prior. One woman considered it a blessing that leaders are not well trained because the only healing comes directly from Heavenly Father.
My thought process is that the leaders of the women’s organization should be trained to help. It was my experience as a Relief Society President, that when a sister had a personal issue, she tended to confide in other women, i.e., visiting teachers (LDS women who visit the sisters once a month), or the Relief Society President prior to confiding in priesthood leaders with personal information. It was also my experience that Relief Society Presidents are often able to give priesthood leaders insight on a variety of issues before they are faced with the situation directly. I presented that theory to the women that I interviewed, with mixed reaction. The woman who told me the only answer is turning to God, was not open to the possibility that the Relief Society President could help, but someone else pointed out that maybe the Relief Society President could help the affected sister learn how to turn to God.
One woman wanted very much for me to get the information out that a lot of spouses blame themselves. It is not the spouse’s fault. No matter how “available” she makes herself, an addict will continue to view pornography. She also wanted me to say that you can’t control your husband’s addiction by codependent behavior like filtering, stalking, and not allowing privacy. She wants my readers to understand that pornography is based in violence, and the violence is then transferred to the spouse. This can and does escalate into spousal rape and other abuse.
The only personal experience I have dealing with pornography is that I worked as a legal secretary in a family law office for two years. I once spent four hours going through four banker’s boxes of child porn to show the judge “the worst of the worst” in a child custody case. That evening I was supposed to teach an “Enrichment” lesson to the Relief Society sisters. Obviously, I didn’t have the Spirit, gave up, and just told the sisters what I had been doing all day. That experience was enough for me to personally know how vile and evil pornography is, and how it can affect those who come in contact with it (even in an innocent manner as an employee in a law office). All these years later, I still can’t get some of those sickening images out of my head.
Elder M. Russell Ballard, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently spoke at a Church Educational System devotional about pornography. He described it as a plague spreading across the world.
We don’t have to wait, my dear friends, for 180 or even for 10 years to discover the devastating effects of pornography because current scientific research has revealed that pornography cripples young adults in several ways and poisons their chances of one day having a loving and lasting marriage relationship.
Research has also shown that frequent use of pornography can lead to obsessive behaviors and can rewire the brain to capture a person in the prison of addiction.
Research has also verified that pornography fosters unrealistic expectations and delivers dangerous miseducation about healthy human intimacy.
Most insidiously, pornography conditions you to see people as objects that you can disregard and disrespect both emotionally and physically (Elder M. Russell Ballard, Of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Be Still, and Know That I Am God, CES Devotional for Young Adults, May 4, 2014, San Diego, California).
It must be pointed out that although the women I spoke with feel that local leaders are not well trained in dealing with pornography, this is not something that our leaders have ignored. If you go to the Church website, LDS.org, and do a search for pornography under General Conference talks, 12 pages of conference talks appear dating from 1971 to the present. One of the women I spoke with said she felt that the Brethren don’t understand the magnitude of the problem. Obviously, that is not the case. Our prophets and apostles have been warning us all about the evil of pornography for many years.
It also needs to be said that training is available to local leaders on-line. Bishops are very busy people, and they are only around for a few years in their callings. There are many issues about which Bishops need to be trained. It is possible that they view training on certain subjects when the problem presents itself in the ward. We are a church of volunteers, including the Bishop. Most Bishops are dealing with their own jobs and families at the same time they are trying to help their ward with its problems.
I’ll conclude the same way I began. I don’t know the answers. I don’t know how to stop men (or women) from viewing pornography. I don’t know how we train our leaders (priesthood and/or Relief Society) to handle these situations. I don’t know how we teach the victims that they are not at fault. What I do know is: 1) Pornography kills marriages—stay away from it. If you are already involved with it, get help immediately. 2) There is healing in the atonement of Jesus Christ, both for the addict, and for the victim.
For further information on overcoming pornography addiction (including information specifically for priesthood leaders and viewable only with login and password), please see Overcoming Pornography Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
For further information about recovering from pornography addiction, please see Addiction Recovery Program.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.