I was first exposed to pornography when I was eight. I had no idea it was bad because no one had talked to me about it before. But when I was seventeen and started learning about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I realized that this habit I had indulged in for years did not align with the commandments or gospel standards. I determined to quit my habit as I further investigated the Church and then eventually became a member.
At first I thought it would be easy to quit seeking out pornography. I would go a couple days without it with no problem. But then stressors would hit, and I would slip back into my habit. This happened a lot. I felt so much shame, afraid people would think I was a dark, horrible person. So I hid it from everyone.
Reaching for Help
But I started to feel promptings to reach out for help. On my own I could only muster the willpower to go a small amount of time without pornography.
When I was finally honest with my bishop and my best friend, they were compassionate and helped me to abstain. I left to serve a mission, and with the help of my mission president, I didn’t have any problems in the mission field.
But a week after I returned home, the COVID pandemic began. Alone, anxious, and depressed, I returned to my old habit. I was struggling almost every day, but I had learned to be open about it and sought help from loved ones again.
I started attending Brigham Young University. I knew I needed to get my problem under control, but even while I tried my best, I would slip up when I was alone and stressed. Every time I tried and failed, I felt like I was back to square one. I read my scriptures, prayed constantly, and did all I could to connect with Christ, but I was losing hope. Pornography was hindering my progression in life in many ways, especially spiritually.
And then I discovered a BYU club where students who were struggling with pornography could meet and support each other. The people I connected with were so loving and supportive. Right from the beginning, they helped revive my hope for a life free from pornography.
Striving Is Key
Faith, hope, and a daily accountability group helped me begin to abstain from pornography for longer amounts of time. A week would pass without pornography, then two weeks, then a month. I was achieving previously unreachable lengths of time. It was a miracle. I learned that to make progress, I needed to have small goals instead of an all-or-nothing outlook.
I fully recognize that my journey to overcome pornography is not over. Pornography is complicated and often stems from unmet needs or other underlying issues that need to be resolved. Statistically speaking, I could slip up again, but my mindset has changed.
I am striving. I am striving every day to turn to temporal and spiritual resources and to Jesus Christ to help me become better. My flicker of hope grows each time I choose to turn away from pornography; the feeling is amazing.
I used to think I was a horrible person for having this problem, but Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, shared some words that give me hope: “Some mistakenly receive the message that they are not worthy to participate fully in the gospel because they are not completely free of bad habits. God’s message is that worthiness is not flawlessness. Worthiness is being honest and trying. We must be honest with God, priesthood leaders, and others who love us, and we must strive to keep God’s commandments and never give up just because we slip up.”1
Like the boy in his talk who struggled with pornography, I strive for “small, reachable goals” and “incremental growth” instead of “all-or-nothing expectations.”2
I have come far in overcoming pornography because of the help I have received from loving Church leaders and friends. But what also helped me was holy habits. When I was struggling the most, I often felt unworthy to participate in spiritual practices—I falsely believed Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were ashamed of me. But I learned that They always lovingly invite me to turn to Them through the scriptures, prayer, and temple worship to access Their healing power, especially during my darkest moments.
I have no doubt that as I continue to strive, I will one day be able to return
nullto my Father in Heaven knowing I did my best. And I will weep at the feet of my Savior, Jesus Christ, for making it possible. I am beyond grateful for the gift of His Atonement and for all the chances He gives me as I keep trying.
Faith and Hope in Christ
If you are facing a pornography habit, know that you are not alone. Don’t give up. The journey to overcoming takes time, faith, and effort. But the fact that you are trying to get help means you’re on the right path. Turn to God. Turn to those who love you. Ask for help. Be honest and humble. Let your Church leaders know you’ve been struggling.
Jesus Christ is with you as you strive to overcome, no matter how many chances it takes. He knows your good heart and your divine worth. Your efforts to strive mean everything to Him, and as you exercise faith, He will extend His mercy toward you to help you overcome your weakness (see Ether 12:27). As President Russell M. Nelson promised, “Faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest power available to us in this life. All things are possible to them that believe.”3
First image: Detail from Christ Walking on the Water, by Robert T. Barrett