Addicted to Romance Novels?
July 2003

“Addicted to Romance Novels?” Ensign, July 2003, 57

Addicted to Romance Novels?

I knew it was wrong to view pornographic images, but surely the racy books I was reading were harmless.

When I was young, I was intrigued by so-called “literary” erotic fiction. Little did I know that this early indulgence would create great difficulty later when I became an adult.

Before I joined the Church, I married a member and later became converted through my own searching and gaining of a strong testimony. My husband, also a convert, eventually reverted to the behavior of his earlier years and left me for someone else.

Since childhood I had struggled with feelings of low self-worth. These feelings only increased after the divorce. That, together with my intense loneliness, made me an easy prey for Satan’s lures. I loved to read, and sexually explicit romance novels became my means of escape. It was easy to fantasize myself into the story. I knew it was wrong to view pornographic images, but racy romance novels? Surely they were harmless. Plenty of women read them. I did not realize that my rationalizations were beginning to fit the pattern Nephi described when he wrote, “Behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Ne. 28:22).

Whether I admitted it to myself or not, I was addicted to pornographic literature. Almost every day I set aside worthy activities so that I could spend hours reading or fantasizing about what I had read. The more I did so, the easier it became for me to engage in other types of sinful behaviors and thoughts. I even came close to having an affair. Fortunately, the covenants I had made in the temple kept me from making that serious mistake. Yet I felt overwhelmed and sometimes out of control.

I had been working as a high school English teacher, but thinking I needed something else to occupy my time and my mind, I decided to pursue a graduate degree full-time at Brigham Young University. My studies kept me busy, and I loved associating with my instructors and other students who shared my Latter-day Saint values. Yet my problem persisted, and I continued to try to conquer it by myself. The result? Repeated failure followed by self-loathing and depression. I promised myself I would not indulge, but eventually I would succumb, sometimes even skipping classes altogether and staying home to read.

Finally I realized I was not gaining ground on my problem. I recognized my own inadequacies and told the Lord I was helpless without Him. I begged Him to make me strong enough to rise above this temptation.

I became aware that I had to do my part. I threw away any inappropriate books and studied uplifting Church material, particularly the scriptures. I prayed, fasted, attended the temple, and prayed some more. I worked harder on my schoolwork and Church responsibilities, and I focused my creative energies on writing.

I don’t remember when I received the peaceful assurance that, together, the Lord and I would win. But I do remember a weekend free of indulging, then a full week, and finally I knew I was clean of that sin. When I became fully committed to seeking the Lord’s help, the freedom actually came quickly. What joy!

Some would say I now had self-discipline or had gained self-control. These terms would indicate that I was in charge. But there is no doubt in my mind that I was not alone in my fight. I know the Lord heard and answered my prayers. Now, years later, I still rely on His help to resist this temptation.

Often when we hear about the evils of pornography, we think of pornographic magazines, movies, and Web sites. Because men are more visually oriented, such material seems to appeal primarily to them. Yet the sexually explicit literature targeted at women, who are more verbally oriented, can be damaging as well. Like visual pornography, such literature presents a warped view of sexuality and is arousing and addictive. It dulls our spiritual senses, which distances us from God, and it can impair our ability to have healthy, lasting relationships.

Sexual sin of any degree can be difficult to overcome. But with the Lord’s help, it can be conquered. How grateful I am for the Lord, who made repentance and forgiveness possible.

In Ether 12:27 the Savior says, “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Because I have learned to rely on the Lord, I am now stronger when it comes to resisting not only this but also other forms of temptation.

I find further strength in a passage from Ether 12:37, which reads, “Because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” I pray that this great blessing will eventually be realized.

Desires of the Flesh May Be Subdued

Elder Russell M. Nelson

“Not an age in life passes without temptation, trial, or torment experienced through your physical body. But as you prayerfully develop self-mastery, desires of the flesh may be subdued. And when that has been achieved, you may have the strength to submit to your Heavenly Father, as did Jesus, who said, ‘Not my will, but thine, be done.’ (Luke 22:42.)”
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Self-Mastery,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 32.

More on this topic: See Thomas S. Monson, “Pornography, the Deadly Carrier,” Ensign, July 2001, 2–5; “Breaking the Chains of Pornography,” Ensign, Feb. 2001, 54–59; Robert L. Simpson, “Pollution of the Mind,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 112–13.

Ilustrations by Greg Hally

Photograph by John Luke