In light of what researchers know about pornography today, the simplistic understanding of pornography held by some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints needs to be re-evaluated.
When we understand the reasons behind pornography addiction and apply the principles of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will lose inclination to condemn our brothers and sisters who struggle with pornography and be more encouraging by giving them our love and support.
Consider some of the most important and pervasive findings around pornography addiction. According to Fight The New Drug, extensive research has shown pornography affects the brain just like any other drug, substance or stimulant. Similar research found in the 2017 edition of Addictive Behaviors Reports shows those who struggle with pornography originally relied on it as a coping mechanism.
Unlike alcohol and illegal substances, pornography is immediately available online, leaving anyone who uses the internet at risk to its clutches. A 2018 study in the Addictive Behaviors Reports also shows how shaming keeps victims trapped in an addictive cycle. Additionally, a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study revealed women are just as visually stimulated as men when viewing pornography. These findings show pornography is no respecter of persons — anyone can be vulnerable in this internet-saturated age.
What do these research findings suggest when we are interacting with or ministering to friends and family struggling with pornography addictions? For example, does shaming help people who are trying to rid themselves of this addiction but are falling short? Should young women (or men) run from a relationship if they discover their partner struggles with pornography? What does Christlike love look like when interacting with someone wrestling with pornography?
“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved,” John 3:17 reads. We can see evidence of this scripture in John 8:3-7, when a woman taken in adultery was forcibly brought before Jesus.
The scribes and Pharisees claimed according to the Law of Moses that a woman caught in adultery should be stoned. The Savior, in humility, responded, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Christ was the only one among the crowd without sin, yet He refused to cast a stone.
Jesus instead beheld the woman with compassion and asked, “Where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” The woman responded, “No man, Lord.” Christ then declared: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Applying this to our own ministering efforts, it’s evident that no one except Christ has the authority to condemn anyone. Because we all sin, we have no authority to condemn another. When we condemn another for their sins we are denying the infinite reach of Christ’s atoning power — and pornography is no exception to this rule.
Replacing condemnation, we must apply what is found in 1 Samuel 16:7 “…For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Looking at the heart means remembering that every person is a child of God and is worthy of love. In essence, it is seeing beyond someone’s shortcomings and identifying their true intentions.
The next time someone discloses their struggle with pornography to you, remember pornography is not unlike any other drug, substance or stimulant. Remember how nearly impossible it is today to avoid exposure to pornography, and how easy it is to slip into addiction. Remember what shame does to someone in an addictive cycle. Remember none of us are qualified to throw stones and the only person who is qualified to does not.
Most importantly, remember to look past someone’s shortcomings and strive to understand their true intentions. Pornography is not going anywhere anytime soon, but because of what we now know about the physiological and emotional effects of pornography, we can better understand the intentions of someone struggling with it and give them the true support they need.
Above all, our ability to abandon condemnation and to love the individual struggling with pornography can be strengthened through an intimate understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. With the help of Christ’s saving grace, we can experience outpouring love for those struggling with pornography, and therefore increase our capacity to love and become more consecrated disciples of Jesus Christ.
— Dallin Wilks