The phonograph, first invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, was the first electronic device to deliver modern entertainment and media into homes.
This evening I spent a long time on the phone with a dear friend. Although we have not seen one another in years, we speak often on the phone and reminisce about times past.
Tonight as we were talking I could tell that my friend was struggling. His usual jovial demeanor had been replaced by a sullen sounding monotone of answers as I tried to stir up our conversation. “How’s life?” I asked. Life was “okay”. “Did you watch the news on Tuesday night?” I prodded. He and his wife were rather sad about the results of this week’s elections. “Boy it’s getting cold here,” I had remarked. The weather where he lives is also chilly. “Excited for the NBA season to be starting?” Neither of us are expecting much out of the Utah Jazz this year.
Then, after a few minutes of idle chit chat he said out of nowhere, “I’m addicted to pornography Stan, and I don’t know how to quit.”
So much for being at a lack of things to talk about.
As a missionary I had learned that silence can be key in important conversations; so I sat on my end of the phone without offering a reaction, although if my friend had been here in person he would have seen the tears building in my eyes as I could hear him struggle to find his next words. After what must have seemed like an eternity to him, I finally asked, “Are you okay?”
And the floodgates opened. Both for my friend as he began to speak, and for myself as I wept over hearing of his struggles.
As we talked about pornography, its evils, its captive grab on much of society, and the way in which it so easily enters into our lives, I was surprised that my good friend had succumbed and allowed it to have a barbed wire grasp upon his soul.
As we talked it became evident that he does know how to “quit”, so to speak, but that its harder than anything he has ever done in his life. Most importantly, he recognizes his problem. Equally as important, his loving wife and priesthood leader know of his “thorn in [the] flesh”, and they are working together with the Lord to tackle his addiction head on.
My friend described how it all really started with one single night of television. His wife was out with some gals from their ward. He was home studying. He grew bored and turned on the television to relax from the math equations that were pressing his mind. As he was flipping through the cacophony of choices which he could see on the channel list before him, he could see the choices which were obviously inappropriate. He decided on a popular cable drama because so many people he worked with had mentioned how good it was. Although he noticed instantly that the language wasn’t exactly clean, “What could it hurt?” he had thought, and he kept watching. He enjoyed the show. The characters were engaging, the story line was compelling, and it was not only dramatic but also comedic. A perfect show to watch.
The next week when his wife went out with her friends again he decided to take a load off from studying and to watch the show for a second time. As he settled comfortably on his sofa to watch the show he noticed the language was the same as the week before, but “it was okay” because it was just so entertaining. “Why doesn’t everyone watch this?” he’d said to himself. But when a blatant sex scene came onto the screen five minutes into the show he knew he probably shouldn’t be watching, and he flipped the television off and went back to studying.
Interestingly, that week my friend noticed a real internal conflict with himself. He wanted to watch this show. It was funny. It was interesting. It was popular. He liked it. But he also didn’t like that he’d been a witness to such a crude indecency on basic cable during early evening viewing hours. He knew it was wrong. The few seconds of flesh mingled with flesh he’d seen on his flatscreen had caused the Spirit to leave him that night. And he’d noticed that he couldn’t even concentrate on studying without inappropriate thoughts coming into his mind.
The third week in a row, as his wife went out with friends to leave him alone to study, he said he felt literally as if he were in a war. On the battlefield of his living room he sat prepared to conquer college algebra. On the coffee table were his weapons of war, a calculator and some graphing paper. And on the wall at the other end of his small apartment living room, the television. He knew he shouldn’t watch the show. He studied his book. He looked up and saw the black screen of silence facing him. Inviting him. “It was one simple sex scene,” he heard a voice keep saying within him. “It will be okay,” it continued. Then another voice opposing the first one, “You can’t afford to lose the Spirit. Your wife needs you to be clean.” The argument continued in his head and as he knelt down to pray for strength over something that seemed so simple, another thought came into his mind. Smooth as silk it seemed to say, “If you just watch the show all this struggle will go away.”
Without thinking my friend grabbed the remote, while steel kneeling at his coffee table, and turned on the television. He rapidly punched the numbers into the remote and the screen flashed. Instantly he saw it. As if perfectly timed by an evil director from the sidelines of life, my friend had tuned in at precisely the moment another sex scene was beginning. But this time, willfully drowning out the noises in his head, he watched.
That was three years ago. He says that every day has been a struggle since then.
Tonight as we talked about his daily struggles to reclaim his life, return to virtue, and try to heal his marriage, the Holy Ghost was in great abundance. He mentioned that as someone addicted to pornography he has a heightened awareness for society’s complete lack of virtue. He can look anywhere, listen to anything, and engage in any form of media and instantly be bombarded with crude images, words, and blatant sex.
I shared with him my approach to our most recent General Conference. As conference had approached I had petitioned Heavenly Father to bless me with revelation on subtle things in my life that could make a huge difference, among other things. As the weekend of General Conference came and went I was given a catalogue of personal improvement I could make in my life. One of the most subtle came the Monday after General Conference though.
As I took a break at work that day I pulled out my phone and responded to a couple of text messages. Then, with a few minutes to kill, I chose one of my favorite apps to browse through and look at funny internet pictures and memes. – The app is one I’m sure most of you could easily identify. – As I was scrolling through a particularly funny collection of Bad Luck Brian photos I noticed that nearly half were inappropriate in substance. “I can just skip those ones though,” I had said half defensively to myself. Then, as my finger scrolled on across my phone’s screen, there was a randomly placed picture of a young woman in a bikini. Her sexy pose in front of a mirror while making the peace sign was not something I had intentionally sought out, but there it was. And I confess, I was tempted to pause. The silky and inviting voice from places unknown seemed to say to my mind, “Click on it. Zoom in. Save it even. No one ever has to know.” But just in that moment of temptation another voice seemed to say, “Stan, delete this app so that you never have to stumble across pictures like this again.”
I instantly recognized the second voice as a literal answer to my previous week’s prayers, and I deleted the app from my phone before placing myself in a place of temptation again.
“It’s funny how subtle the devil is,” my friend said as I ended my story.
“Yes. He doesn’t want us to even notice when we’re slipping,” I responded.
Then, since I was already sitting in front of my computer as we spoke, I asked my friend if I could share another brief story with him. He consented, and I prefaced what I was about to read by telling him that this was a story from Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the October 1999 General Conference. I read Elder Featherstone’s words,
“Pornography is evil. I love the story told at the funeral of Henry Eyring’s father. When he was a young man coming across the border from the Mexican colonies to the United States, the customs man said, “Son, do you have any pornography in your suitcase or trunks?” He responded, “No sir, we don’t even own a pornograph.” It’s wonderful to be that pure and naive. We know pornography is addictive and destructive. It has companions it travels with: drinking, smoking, and drugs. It uses some types of music, dancing, the Internet, and television. Those who produce it are godless and have no conscience. They know the consequences, but they don’t care. Like those who peddle drugs, they will never be around to pick up the pieces when you’re all broken up. But we will—your parents, bishops, and leaders.”
I added, “And the Lord too.”
And then, as is far too common, I began what I’ve come to call a short Stan Sermonette. I told my friend how I am jealous of President Eyring’s father for having grown up in such a time as to have not been exposed to pornography in his youth. I bore testimony of the power of the Atonement in my friends life. I bore testimony of the Lord’s love for him, and also my love for him. And I invited him to rid him self of the pornographs in his life. Cable, internet, his smart phone, whatever it is that might deliver pornography into his life. “Because,” I said as I ended my soap box preaching on the phone, “nothing is more important than your soul.”
Then there was silence again.
This time we were both crying.
As the silence and sniffles slowly passed he said, “That was exactly what my bishop said last night, and I’ve been struggling with it all day.”
“Your bishop told you to get rid of your pornograph?” I asked light heartedly, trying to not come off so overbearing.
“No. But you know what I mean.”
He then told me that our conversation would make a great blog post. I explained that I usually don’t share such personal experiences of those close to me. He told me to at least consider it.
After some consideration, here is our conversation for the world to see.
We all have weaknesses in our lives. For some it is pornography. For some it is overeating. Others struggle financially and with the principle of tithing. Many battle daily Word of Wisdom challenges. And some, like myself, battle the weakness that is their tongue and saying what they aught naught.
Whatever it is though, I invite you as your friend and fellow sojourner through this experience we call life, to get rids of your pornographs, or whatever it is that might be contributing to your vice. I invite you to listen more carefully to the promptings from the Holy Ghost and to rid your lives of unholiness. And I promise that as you do so your life will be more fulfilling and happier in every way imaginable.
No weakness we have or shortcoming we struggle with is beyond the scope and cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Tonight a dear friend of mine will be discussing with his wife how he wants to trade in his iPhone for a flip phone.
I invite you to identify your own personal pornograph and get rid of it also, because nothing is more important than your soul.
You’ll be glad you did.
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