“What do I need to understand about the scope of pornography use?” Counseling Resources (2020).
“What do I need to understand?” Counseling Resources.
Pornography use has many factors, and the process of repentance will be different for each member. Listen to members express where they, including their attitude (have they been discovered or are they seeking change?), the scope of the use, and what they desire in moving forward.
Begin by expressing love and gratitude to individuals for finding the courage to come forward to seek help. Strive to help them understand that there is hope. They can address this situation and move forward as disciples of Jesus Christ. Assure them of their divine identity as children of God. A strengthened sense of who they truly are enables them to escape shame and use this situation for their own personal growth and change.
Bishops have the sacred trust to assist members in their repentance process. As a judge in Israel, they act under inspiration to help members understand it is their responsibility and privilege to seek personal revelation and receive the answers necessary to overcome their challenges.
Leaders should focus on strengthening members’ discipleship and faith by teaching “As a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ, you support individuals and families in accomplishing God’s work of salvation and exaltation” (General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 2.0). (See “What doctrines help individuals overcome pornography problems?”)
Although repentance for pornography use does not, by itself, require formal Church discipline, remember that “the Church condemns pornography in any form. Pornography use of any kind damages individual lives, families, and society. It also drives away the Spirit of the Lord” (General Handbook, 38.6.13). Your purpose is to help individuals to eventually experience a “mighty change of heart” (see Alma 5:12–14) and more fully embrace the role of Jesus Christ in their lives, particularly the power of His Atonement. Their discipleship will grow as they come to know His power in their lives through a process of change that requires His guidance and enabling strength.
As you encourage individuals to understand their use of pornography as something more than just a sign of moral weakness, they can determine what, if any, additional resources they need. For example, pornography use usually has several contributing factors (such as biological, psychological, social, and spiritual). Resources needed will depend upon the severity of individual’s behavior and how he or she is dealing with the issue.
Consider the following ideas as you seek to help members and their spouses understand the extent of their involvement in pornography and its impact on their lives.
Strive to help members take personal responsibility for the decisions, choices, and changes that lie ahead. Never lose sight of the fact that decisions about the future are the responsibility of the struggling person and his or her spouse. Your role is to help and support them as they seek revelation.
As you ask inspired questions, you will be able to help those involved (individuals; the parents, in the case of youth; and spouses) discern if those using pornography are occasional users, intense users, or compulsive users. Understanding this may help you in assisting them through the repentance process as well as in knowing how to minister to the spouse or parents. Also ask questions as to the nature of the pornography being used—pornography can vary in its intensity and can also be linked to other behaviors.
Be cautious in labeling individuals as addicts; the majority of individuals who use pornographic materials should not be considered addicted, especially those who are adolescents. Self-labeling as pornography addicts could weaken them in their efforts to change. For more information on this, see Dallin H. Oaks, “Recovering from the Trap of Pornography,” Ensign, Oct. 2015, 32–38.
An individual’s involvement in pornography is often complex, and it is important to acknowledge that viewing pornography is usually more than just a sexual impulse. In most cases, pornography use is tied to biological, psychological, social, and spiritual challenges unique to each individual.
Challenges with any one or a combination of these four areas may weaken individuals and make it difficult for them to discontinue pornography use. As they seek to understand the complexity of their pornography issues, they may begin to identify other influences that are affecting them. Although spiritual strength is important, it is often helpful for individuals to address the biological, psychological, and social areas of their lives as well. Encourage individuals to explore these areas and their potential influence. This may lead them to greater success in discontinuing pornography use.
Four indicators may help members assess how deeply they have become involved with pornography: frequency, duration, intensity, and risk-taking. Understanding these indicators may help you, the individuals, and those close to them recognize the complexity of their challenge.
Frequency refers to how often an individual engages in the behavior. Sporadic viewing of pornography indicates a milder problem, although this conduct is still clearly inappropriate. The more frequently an individual views pornography, the more serious the problem.
Duration refers to how long an individual has been engaged in the behavior. If an individual has been unable to stop viewing pornography for a period of years, it will most likely be more difficult for him or her to overcome the behavior than if he or she has only been using pornography for a short period of time.
Intensity refers to the nature of the material viewed. While all pornographic images and content are inappropriate, some types of material are significantly more degrading. As you learn about a member’s issue, it is important to note the type of pornography he or she has been viewing.
For example, media that depict sexual acts are more intense and graphic than photographs of individuals wearing little or no clothing. Some pornographic material is violent or involves children. If you become aware of any viewing, purchasing, or distributing of child pornography, contact civil authorities. A help line is also available for the bishop in dealing with this issue.
Risk-taking tendencies or behaviors related to pornography use are another indicator of how severe the challenge may be. The more an individual is willing to risk to view pornography, the more difficult it generally is for him or her to discontinue its use. Risk-taking activities may include missing school, work, or other commitments; engaging in unlawful, covert, or dishonest behavior; or similar actions. Risk-taking behavior in adults may lead to loss of employment, divorce, family disruption, or criminal activity.