When I was 14, I realized that I had a problem with pornography. I kept telling myself, “I know this isn’t good. I need to stop.”
But I would still find myself back in the same trap again and again. I struggled with this cycle for a few years. And after numerous attempts to stop, I knew I couldn’t overcome this habit on my own. Because I knew the prophets had always warned us to stay away from it, I was embarrassed to reach out to anyone for help, including my Savior. I had messed up too many times. I felt that I didn’t deserve redemption. But I finally decided to seek help.
As I met with my bishop about my struggles, he responded with love. But I started to realize something: my struggles with pornography had clouded my ability to recognize and receive love—to love myself, to love others, and to love God.
Having been trapped in patterns of lying for years, I thought that if anyone knew what I struggled with, they wouldn’t love me. I also thought that love was temporary and unrealistic.
Eventually, as I repented, built better habits, and practiced self-mastery and healthy thinking patterns, I began to realize that Jesus Christ had felt my suffering and that He and Heavenly Father could forgive me. I began to feel hope instead of shame. But it would take some time to begin to experience love the same way.
Feeling and Sharing God’s Love
A few years later, I went on a mission! I was so happy to be serving my Savior, but lasting effects from my secret struggle showed up in my life as a missionary. I still struggled to love others and to feel love, especially from Heavenly Father.
I still hadn’t forgiven myself. I still thought that I was unlovable, even though I had worked so hard on overcoming my past habit. I was afraid to be vulnerable or to invite any love in my life out of fear of pain, disappointment, and suffering. So I often shut people out and didn’t allow them to get close to me.
One night when I was feeling desperately lonely, I was on my knees pleading to Heavenly Father for help. I expressed to Him my sorrows for being afraid to love myself, to love Him, and to love His children as much as I wanted to.
As I wept, I felt a clear and gentle impression in my mind. I felt that God was telling me that it’s OK to love deeply. That love is a gift He has given me—a talent I had hidden. I felt impressed that I needed to use it and multiply it. Just like God’s love for me never runs out, I needed to love more deeply.
This mercy from the Spirit touched me beyond anything I had felt before. I truly felt Heavenly Father’s love—what it means to be His child. It was a feeling I can’t put into words.
I wanted to do better at sharing this love with others and allowing others to share it with me. I prayed for opportunities to deepen this capacity for love and over time was blessed with so many experiences to share it with my brothers and sisters.
Christlike Love Can Change Everything
I had repented from pornography use, but I still needed to heal my heart. And that healing didn’t happen all at once—the Savior’s power came through seeking Him by studying truths in the scriptures and praying earnestly for help. I started to believe He and Heavenly Father did love me enough to offer me redemption. I felt my pain and self-loathing slowly peeling away.
The story of the tree of life in 1 Nephi 8 taught me how I can seek Jesus Christ. Everyone is in a different place in life. Sometimes, finding our way to Him takes time. But I know that eternal joy awaits us as we take steps along the covenant path toward Him.
Mistakes don’t define us. Satan wants us to think that we are unloved and unworthy. But that is false. We are loved perfectly. And Christ can help us rise above our sins.
There are many who are struggling with pornography or other habits they don’t want, and often, like in my case, these habits thrive in secrecy and isolation. But I have seen how Christlike love can change everything for those who struggle.
Those of us who struggle can first seek light through honesty. Building strong, righteous relationships with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, your family, and your friends can be the most helpful blessing in your efforts to build better habits and come unto Christ.
When speaking to those struggling with pornography, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles lovingly counseled:
“The invitation to come unto the Savior means hope. … When we accept this invitation, we humble ourselves before Him. ... And what does it mean to humble ourselves before Him? Maybe it means ... to ask for help from our leaders, from our relatives, from our families, even from medical professionals. … It means also that we should never give up on trying. Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes. … The Lord has a perfect love for all of us. He understands our anguish, our challenges, our problems.
“So if we turn our hearts to Him … the Lord can forgive us, [He] can embrace us, can love us, can understand, and can help and give us strength to never give up. Don’t forget that the grace of the Lord is available to you before, during, and ‘after all [you] can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23).”1
We don’t have to hide in shame—we can reach out, be honest, and ask for help. Knowing I am loved by Heavenly Father and those around me made the biggest difference in my ability to heal from pornography use and the aftereffects, because that knowledge helped me see that I am redeemable, loved, and worthy of Christ’s help.
We all are as we seek Him.