“What doctrine can help individuals overcome pornography problems?” Counseling Resources (2020).
“What doctrine can help individuals overcome pornography problems?” Counseling Resources.
One of your responsibilities as a Church member is to teach and testify of the pure doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This can be done by teaching the doctrine of Christ, which is that all must have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. See these addresses, which are also available at “Addressing Pornography” section on ChurchofJesusChrist.org:
Individuals are responsible for resolving their own challenges with pornography. They must take responsibility for their own lives and the changes they need to make. As you engage in inspired discussions with individuals, guide them to seek personal revelation regarding solutions. Encourage them to seek spiritual self-reliance through efforts to understand and apply the doctrine of Christ. Study and prayer are essential to this process.
Individuals are also responsible for understanding and addressing the pain their pornography use has caused others. As you work with them, guide them to embrace this responsibility and do what they can to make restitution.
Overcoming pornography may be difficult. Individuals should work to identify and address the unique factors that influence their use of pornography. It is important to note that spiritual solutions, although important and helpful in overcoming pornography, are often only part of the complete solution. Individuals should consider exploring biological, psychological, and social issues, which frequently play a role in pornography use.
As you teach those struggling with pornography, work together to determine which doctrine may help them address the influences that affect their behavior. President Boyd K. Packer taught: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (“Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
The basic doctrine taught in seminary and institute is a useful guide for identifying which doctrine to focus on (see “Basic Doctrines”). Teach the doctrine by using gospel resources such as the scriptures and general conference addresses.
Minister with charity as you teach, and focus on helping individuals recognize the Holy Ghost in their lives. Encourage them to discover how to grow through their challenges with pornography. Consider asking inspired questions about their progress; their growing understanding of themselves biologically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually; and their development of Christlike attributes. Guide individuals to understand how the power of Christ can transform them and shape who they are becoming.
Focus your teachings on helping individuals understand repentance and the power of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. It can also be helpful to encourage them to seek information about healthy sexuality, proper sexual expression, and the role of a sex drive within the boundaries God has established.
The following examples highlight challenges commonly faced by individuals struggling with pornography and provide doctrine that may help with these challenges. Pray with each individual to help him or her to identify the specific doctrine most needed right now.
Individuals struggling with pornography often experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. They may lack social connection with others. Understanding the doctrine of the Godhead can help individuals feel love from and connected to Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Seek to teach the divine nature and roles of each member of the Godhead.
Feelings of shame often lead individuals to hide their behavior. Shame makes individuals feel that they are bad people and unworthy of forgiveness. On the other hand, guilt leads individuals to recognize mistakes and seek to repent and change. Understanding the plan of salvation helps us use the power of agency and accountability. Jesus Christ and His Atonement eliminate shame and help us repent, grow, and change.
Inappropriate or false beliefs about the role of sexual expression may emerge through pornography use. The plan of salvation clarifies the important role of sexual expression and its purpose in the creation of families and loving marital relationships. Teach that the plan of salvation and other doctrine help to place value on the worth of a soul rather than the dangerous distortions and objectification found within pornography.
As you listen to individuals discuss the challenges they face, you will be guided to determine the doctrine that best meet their needs. These examples are just a few ways to approach teaching doctrine.
Help individuals strive to understand doctrine relative to their unique needs. The Holy Ghost can prompt individuals to identify specific ways to apply truth in their lives. Encourage them to commit to live according to the promptings they receive, the commandments of the Lord, and the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a lifelong process for all who seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
The following concepts are additional doctrine that may help individuals struggling with pornography use.
Each of us is a child of God. Because of that divine identity, we have gifts, such as agency, and responsibilities, such as accountability.
Accountability to oneself, others, and the Lord is key to progression. Teach individuals the dangers of pornography and how it violates God’s standards. Help them understand that they cannot move forward without taking ownership of harmful and inappropriate behaviors.
For bishops and branch presidents: This includes confession. Sometimes it may take several meetings before those using pornography fully disclose inappropriate conduct. As you meet with them, help them understand the relationship between justice and mercy and how these truths relate to confession and accountability. Use sensitivity, love, and warmth to inspire and encourage. Take care to avoid shame or coercion. A membership council should not be held to discipline or threaten members who are struggling with pornography (see General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 32.8.2).
Regular prayer and scripture study are essential to a mighty change of heart. Teach individuals to pray specifically, asking for forgiveness and exercising faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Individuals may also receive strength by studying the Book of Mormon daily (see Russell M. Nelson, “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017, 60–63). Invite them to regularly search for general conference addresses and Church magazine articles about pornography and spiritual goals.
Individuals must believe they can change. Seek to be positive and realistic with them as you review principles of faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Teach them that the smallest desire to begin a process of change can lead to progression (see Alma 32:27–28). As individuals nurture their faith and apply what they are learning, they can grow their faith to sustain a mighty change.
Repentance is a joyful process that takes time (see Dale G. Renlund, “Repentance: A Joyful Choice,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016, 121–24; Stephen W. Owen, “Repentance Is Always Positive,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017, 48–50). Just as creating a bad habit takes time, so does developing healthy Christlike behaviors. Regular prayer, scripture study, and development of faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ aid this process.
It is not required, and neither is it very realistic, that an individual be perfect going forward or that he or she immediately experiences a mighty change of heart. Rather, he or she must move forward with real intent to seek forgiveness, eliminate sinful conduct, and make measured progress. Additionally, someone who is viewing pornography must also recognize and take responsibility for the pain that behavior is causing and the erosion of trust it creates in his or her relationships. This may include making restitution and should include being honest with the spouse, if the individual is married.
Testify often of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His capacity to help people change. The Atonement of Jesus Christ brings joy (see Mosiah 4:2–3).