The Problem with Porn - and the real solution

Recently in Church our lesson focused on the dangers of pornography; and just as is typical in many christian churches that believe in abstinence before marriage, the teacher awkwardly stated that he didn't want to get into too much detail, but speak about it in more general terms. I made a comment to my concerns that we often times are not bold enough about this topic; however, with the limited time, and awkward setting, it wasn't possible for me to explain the observations I have made and learned about on the related issues. Perhaps this blog post will be more helpful then my comments were.

In our world today we have so many people who seem oblivious to the dangers of something that just a few decades ago was obvious to most. The degradation of women (and even men) to the level of an object to be desired and used at will is increasingly pervasive throughout societies across the world; further perpetuated by ideas of "If it feels good, do it" while seemingly ignoring or having no regard for the conciseness for one's actions. Even the "safe sex" techniques promoted today ignore the spiritually damaging consequences of pre/extra-marital sexual activities.

The start of the problem for most men is often caused by what I like to call Soft Porn. It has become common place in public view, on billboards, on magazines covers prominently displayed on store shelves for all to see, and even at the beach or swimming pool as women show off as much of there bodies as they can; often wearing less clothing and revealing more then commonly used as underwear would if worn alone. Why is this so acceptable today, when just a few decades ago it would have been considered indecent exposure, and why is it such a big problem for men? It seems the world has forgotten the words of Jesus himself, that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).

We are sexual beings; it's a part of who we are, and for good reasons. Sex, and even more so, the idea of sex, can arouse feelings in us at almost any time we allow it to; men and women alike. These feelings help us develop bonds with our spouses, and encourages compliance with another great commandment of Gods: to "multiply and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28, 9:1).  The problem with Soft Port being so pervasive, comes from the fact that men tend to be more visual then their female counter parts when it comes to sexual stimulation. Thus women are less substitutable and cognizant of the constant bombardment of sexual stimulus that men see every day; and this often makes it more difficult for women to understand the real issues that lead to Pornography addition, or even how to help cure an addition to the same.

As soon as a young boy hits puberty, and girls stop being awkward looking, cudie-filled enemies, the problems starts. A bit of stimulus here, and a bit more there, essentially programing the brain to expect the rush of endorphins and other naturally created stimulus hormones on a regular basis. Since our brains are designed to primarily to keep us alive, they tend to revolt when something common place and expected is suddenly stopped. The brain will do everything it can to trick us into getting things back to what it's use to. Just like with drugs, as the body becomes used to them, the brain starts requiring more and more of these hormonal stimulants to achieve the same level of euphoria, thus implanting the seeds of addiction.  As young boys become exposed to more stimulation, and more threats from his society as to what might happen if he slips up, the conflicting messages of the world and his religion are undoubtedly going to trap him into a no-win situation. He can't screw up, but admitting that he's struggling with his bodies strongest natural desire, and seeking help, would only expose him as a disgusting vial little man. Thus without knowing were to go for help to understand what his body is experiencing, he "slips up", get's a huge reward from his bodies natural hormonal response, and the addiction sets in.

What I have personally seen with some people I know, and hear about with increasing frequency, is a common pattern with men who struggle with this increasingly common addiction. They struggle with masturbation and avoiding porn as young men. Doing everything they can to just get by until they reach that one goal that is so predominately preached to them: Marriage. Once they are married, they think, they will finally have an approved outlet for these desires, and everything will be ok; however, what usually happens is quite different. The exposure to pornography, and the unrealistic fantasies it and the world creates for men, simply cannot be satisfied in an appropriate marriage relationship; so when the real life intimate relationship within the appropriate bounds of marriage doesn't fulfill these unrealistic expectations, the addition eventually starts to resurface. The brain is looking for what it was trained to view as normal, and starts to create cravings when it doesn't get what it thinks it needs to keep things "normal".  Eventually the addiction is once again in full force.

In an effort to provide the much needed help, here are the three main areas that should assist with overcoming most addictions, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or even pornography (but keep in mind that I'm not a professional in this area, and anyone struggling with addictions of any kind, needs to seek real help):
  1. Physical - You don't have to be a body builder, or be the healthiest person on the planet, but you do need to get some kind of physical exercise on a regular basis. Work in the yard, go for a walk, play Wii Sports, or what ever works for you.  Just find something you can enjoy doing that you are willing to do at least a few times a week to help you body release some of it's built up energy. Get the right amount of sleep to help not only your body regenerate, but also so your mind can properly process your daily stress; meditation can also help a great deal with this.
  2. Spiritual - Pornography is a killer of spirituality, and how better to combat that then with spirituality. Reading even a few passages of scriptures daily, praying multi-daily, reading good books, listening to or watching something positive and uplifting. All of this is good and helpful, but all to often is the only answer given by churches and religious leaders to those who are struggling in this area; leaving them with an incomplete and unbalanced solution.
  3. Mental - Without a positive, realistic, and appropriate mental view of reality (especially when it comes to appropriate sexual expectations when dealing with porn addiction), one will never be able to compete with the fantasies shown in movies or on the internet; after all that's the goal of those types of media - to provide an escape from reality in favor of something more stimulating. This is were most Christians Churches that teach abstinence most often fall short. Even when they do teach more then just "Don't do it", the message of not doing it becomes dominant, and often what our kids are left with is a sterilized, technical knowledge of what they are not supposed to do. This is were the world comes in, with it's constant bombardment of sexually suggestive innuendos that start to seed the young mans mind with the drug like fantasies that will make Pornography so addictive.  With nothing (or very little) to counter the worlds sensationalized fantasies, the ideas of what sex is all about becomes polluted with unrealistic expectations.

Unlike substance abusers who can learn to avoid putting the drugs into their body, or who can learn to stay away from the bar, the things that make pornography so addictive, are unavoidably a part of who we are.  Our desire to procreate is an important part of how we are designed, and is meant to be there for our benefit.  Thus unlike other addictions, that are often dealt with by behavioral avoidance, sexual addiction requires a real change in one's desired behavior. When our natural sexuality is abused threw thing such as pornography and masturbation, it can create addictions that are impossible to overcome without a great deal of help. It's naive for us to think that if drug addicts and alcoholics need help to recover, why are sexual addictions any different?

If you struggle with this, you need a support system that includes those closest to you. You need someone you can openly talk with about your struggles, such as a spouse, or a psychologist. Bishops or other religious leaders are important to talk to as well - the confession will help with your spiritual recovery - but all to often our religious leaders are not equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to truly help someone with an addiction; it's unfair to them and the addicted to expect a complete solution from them. Hopefully they can be a good starting point towards getting you the help you need, and support groups for porn addiction are even becoming more prevalent; despite the overwhelming potential it has for causing social embarrassment (so much so that even making this blog post could likely cause some to feel embarrassed for me).

For us "Mormons" (or even any abstinence supporting Christians) I would suggest one resource in particular:

The History of Mormon Pioneers.

Between 1847 through 1869 (and even beyond the 1890s), estimates of 60,000 - 80,000 Mormon pioneers migrated to the Utah mountains on journeys that took months to complete. Today, July 24th, Mormons all around the world celebrate these faithful pioneers who made these treks.  The specific date, commemorates the arrival of the first company of Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders, who had already abandoned many cities in the relatively short time the church had existed, decided once again to abandon their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois, when Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was martyred at Carthage, Illinois, in June 1844. Their move to the West began February 4, 1846 as tensions between the Mormons and other Illinois settlers were continuing go rise.

With the outbreak of the Mexican War, U.S. President James Knox Polk asked the Mormons for a battalion of men. Volunteers were recruited and the Mormon Battalion formed. During their march of 1846-1847 from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to San Diego, California, they blazed a wagon route across the Southwest. Their pay and their later explorations also helped the pioneer settlers.

The historic pioneer journeys are celebrated throughout the Church each year with parades, picnics, dramatic and musical pageants or actual trekking re-creations, young and old, newly baptized and long-term members pause to honor and acknowledge the pioneer heritage of the early Church.  The festivities honor the sacrifice of tens of thousands of pioneers and are a reminder to Mormons of their faith.

In an 1870 article in the Deseret News, President Brigham Young recounted the trek:
“In April 1847 …one hundred and forty-three pioneers took up the line of march with our ox teams, with our cows and with what we could pick up. We made our own roads from day to day and week to week.…When the wagons were in the mud my shoulder was one of the first that ever lifted the wagon wheel; we pulled them out of the mud, sought our camping places, cut our roads through these canyons, and located on this place …”

More than 350 wagon trains and 10 handcart companies delivered early members of the Church to the Utah Territory during that 20-year period before the railroad was completed in 1869. Durring this time, the body of Church members, under the direction of Brigham Young, settled more than 400 communities in the western territories. An online library of stories depicting life on the trail is available through the Church History Department.  The completion of the rail road, however, did not stop immigration of Mormon converts to Utah, though it did require more cash in hand, the trip via steam boat and then train took only a few weeks as apposed to the many months that had previously been required.

One source notes, possible reasons for the decline in immigration and an end to pioneer treks:: In 1887 the Edmunds-Tucker Act brought an end to the LDS church corporation and threatened the survival of all Mormon institutions. Additionally, women, who had the vote under territorial law, did not have the right to vote by this act. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Immigration and Emigration, p. 675-676 further states,
"After the late 1880s, coinciding with a new wave of emigration from central and southern Europe and with negative publicity and ANTIPOLYGAMY LEGISLATION, LDS immigration was frowned upon by many in the United States. The large number of LDS steamship passengers were still assisted with arrangements by Church personnel, but they were instructed to maintain a low profile and did not function visibly as Mormon emigrant companies. By the 1890s the number of Latter-day Saints in Europe had dwindled, and in view of economic conditions in the United States, Church leaders began to discourage emigration."
Also during this time, in September 1890 Mormon church president Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, and the following year, the Democratic and Republican political parties were organized in Utah. Utah finally was granted statehood in 1896.

Many other L.D.S. Church Record Sources indicate 1890 as the end of the pioneer era. According to "Glen M. Leonard, “Westward the Saints: The Nineteenth-Century Mormon Migration,” Ensign, Jan 1980, 7", in the 1890s new converts and members "were encouraged to postpone migration, and then by the 1920s to stay in their homelands". The Great Depression and two world wars also created temporary barriers to immigration, followed by more effort towards the building up of the church's infrastructure throughout the world to further discourage immigration; especially in the war torn countries of Europe. Still significant immigration continued from Canada and Central America until the 1970s.

Today, more then a century and a half after the first pioneers, with nearly 150 temples world wide, and nearly 14 million members, the church has truly grown to be a world wide organization.  Today's Mormon Pioneers do not trek across the glob, but instead struggle in the small congregations to bring the gospel to there local communities.  In a January 2010 address to young members throughout the world, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles noted, “In many ways you are like the pioneers … except in your journey you face new and challenging circumstances. Each of you has your own personal challenges, and each of you is on the pioneer trail toward eternal life. You must always remember you are not alone. All over the world the youth of the Church are walking the gospel path with you.”

What do Mormon's Truly belive about the purpous of government?

The LDS Church's official doctrine on the purpose of government:

1. Governments should preserve freedom of conscience and worship:
"... governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society . . . government can [only] exist in peace [when] laws . . . secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life. . . all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws [those who] will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign."
1a. People can worship as they please so long as it does not interfere with the rights and liberties of others:
". . . religion is instituted of God . . . men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others . . . human law [cannot] interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion . . . [government] should restrain crime, but never control conscience . . . punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
2. All men should uphold their governments, and owe respect and deference to the law:
". . . all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected . . . all governments have a right to enact [laws] to secure the public interest [while] holding sacred the freedom of conscience . . . every man should be honored in his station . . . to the laws all men show respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker . . . the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense . . . for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment."
3. Religious societies should not exercise civil powers:
"[It is not] just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges . . . all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct . . . provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life . . . they can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship."
4. Men are justified in defending themselves and their property:
". . . men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed . . . all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments . . . where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded. . . it [is] just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world . . ."
4a. Slavery is unjust:
". . . we believe [it] to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.

The 56 Men who Birthed A Nation

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2nd, 1776. On this day, 234 years ago, a small group of men dedicated themselves to a higher purpose, an ideal they believed in so greatly, they signed their name to its expression and in doing so put their very lives at risk.

By signing the Declaration of Independence, 56 men stood in direct defiance of the British government. Today as we all enjoy what freedom is left of what our forefathers tried to guarantee us, think of the extraordinary sacrifice of 56 extraordinary Americans.

Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence:

Five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes burned to the ground. Two lost sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, and two more had sons captured. Nine fought and died in the Revolutionary War. If you ever feel like your lone voice can never be heard, that the political system isn't set up for "regular" Americans to change the course of history, remember: The signers were flesh and blood, mortal men with a divinely-inspired aim.

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants, and nine were farmers and large plantation owners. They were well educated, smart enough to know that by signing the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their own death warrants. They did it anyway, and God bless them for it.

As we enjoy our liberty this Independence Day, or any day this year, we must never take that liberty for granted. Too many have given too much. In the words of the Signers themselves, "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

The Signers asked for nothing in return for their pledge, but I say that we show our thanks with a pledge of our own: To remember, to be grateful, and to carry on in their spirit. America is the greatest country this world has ever known, and it will stay that way only so long as "we the people" remember that just like in 1776.