Do I stay or do I go now?

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aaron2
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Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by aaron2 » 31 May 2012, 10:20

I'd like to get as much feedback as possible while posting things in this forum. I'm really struggling with what to do with my life from a spiritual sense. I was raised LDS and have always been a very strong and stalwart member. My parents were not very active so I was kind of the white sheep of the family.

The issue that I'm having is that I've tried for so long to make it work for me and it's simply not working. To be fully honest and straightforward, let me say that I've struggled with masturbation and pornography since I was 11. I am now 34. I have always wanted to be a good person and having a relationship with God has always been important to me. When I was a kid, I prayed a lot and had many of my prayers answered. The problem I had was that I equated the church with God.

This created a problem because I had a rather hard childhood growing up, so I let the church replace my parents in my life. I looked to God for approval and the best way I knew to get that approval was through the church. When I started my addiction to masturbation, I didn't know what it was. It just happened.It was not long before I was hooked and could not stop. At age 14, I finally came forward and told my mom. She was loving about it and the first thing we did was go to the Bishop. He too was loving and understanding about it, but as I've come to realize later, not equipped to deal with issues like that. Since that point in my life I've worked with every Bishop I've ever had and some stake presidents. I've had a lot of good Bishops and many bad Bishops.

The point I'm trying to get to is that I thought the Bishops could save me from this addiction. I say addiction because for me, it is. It may not be for most people, but it is for me. I know more about the church than most people in it because, like Elder Packer said, "The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." So I devoted my life to studying as much about the gospel as possible. It helps that I have a natural love for theology and Mormon Doctrine. I attended ARP (addiction recovery program) as much as I could for years. Once I got married, church attitude towards me changed a lot. Bishops became much more harsh in their rhetoric. Usually a Bishop will sit down with me and quote scriptures about how horrible the sin is. They will tell me how it is 2nd only to murder and list all the reasons why. They will tell me how, if I don't stop right now, I will lose my wife and children and they will be given to someone else in the next life. I subjected my self to this for the longest time because I wanted to be humble. I wanted to show Heavenly Father that I was willing to go through anything if ONLY He would deliver me from this addiction and help me find a way out. I met with many general therapists, sometimes the church even paid for them. The problem I had is that each Bishop would usually come to the same conclusion. They always started off very loving and wanting to help, but after a period of time with no real progression, they would eventually end up saying, "I guess you just don't want it bad enough or I would have stopped by now". How could I argue with that. Doctrinally I knew that God could deliver me from this. Doctrinally I knew that God abhorred that sin and wanted me to stop. I just couldn't explain why I wasn't able to.

You see, I've been told by every Bishop I had met with and many sunday school teachers in lessons, that unless you're keeping the commandments, you will not have the spirit with you. Since I was not capable of keeping the commandments, I was not able to have the spirit. This lead to great feelings of unworthiness. I couldn't trust myself or my feelings because I didn't have the spirit with me. Since my wife did not have an addiction to any of the things that will stop her from holding a temple recommend, she was the only one worthy to have the spirit. This led to her believing that she was the only one that could make right choices because she had the spirit. So when making decisions about the kids, we would have to default to her opinion because I didn't have the guiding influence of the spirit with me. My wife resented my addiction. I didn't keep it from her or hide it from her. I've always been honest about it with her and Bishops. But in the church, we raise our daughters to abhore and not tolerate those kinds of things. After all, it is 2nd only to murder. My wife has told me on a few occasions that she woud rather have me beat her physically than look at pornography. I don't know what to say to that.

Once I finally learned that God would be there for me immediately when I turned to Him and that I could feel His spirit and have his promptings, I because to try and trust myself more. I have asked Him why I am still in this addiction even after having fasted and prayed, and studied and attended 12 step meetings and counseling etc and surrendering it to Him as best I knew how. The answer I consistently got back was, keep being persistent. Don't give up and you will eventually overcome it. There are other things in your life that I want you to overcome in your life that are bigger than this. As I started to listen to God I came to one conclusion, I know that there is a God. I know it because I can see His influence in my life. I can feel and hear Him talk back to me, not in a crazy way... but you know what I mean. :)

The problem is that some of the things I was being taught in church were contrary to what I heard and felt God telling me, such as, I can have the spirit with me right now, even though I'm not worthy in the eyes of the church. I should love and accept everyone for who they are, regardless of their sins or imperfections. I am worthy of God and everything He has simply because I'm His son and He loves me. You see.. we don't really believe that as a church. There are a growing number of people in the church and in leadership in the church who think that way, but they are still in the minority. Church policy is still not geared that way. As a church, we believe that we have to earn the atonement. That's fine for those who can keep the commandments, but I can't. I was willing to live in the church with this conflict and just try to be the best person I could... until the following happened.

My wife finally one day told me that she was seriously contemplating divorce because she thought that we were not right for each other. She wants a righteous priesthood holder who can baptize their children and give them blessings. She said that I needed a wife who would be more understanding of my problem. I freaked out internally. Externally, I told her that she needed to make the best decision for herself, but that I didn't want a divorce at all and pleaded that she would hold on. I accepted to watch the kids while she went to the temple to think about it. She took a week and then decided to wait a little longer. This was, however, the straw that broke the camels back.

You see, in the church, we teach our young women to look for worthy men to marry in the temple... What are those qualifications? They need to be a return missionary (which I am). They need to be eagle scouts (which I am). They need to have their duty to God (missed that one). They need to be able to be married in the temple. I pulled some last minute sobriety to get into the temple and get married. But the point was that my wife had been raised to feel that her husband had nothing good to offer because it was all trumped by his pornography addiction. She was raised to believe that it was a direct attack against her. That it was bringing evil spirits into the home and would destroy the children if it wasn't overcome. My wife felt for a long time that she had made a mistake in marrying me. She had settled for something less than she was worthy for. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to overcome my issue just because my wife wants me to, or because I want to not get in trouble. I want to do it because it makes me miserable. It's not conducive to the type of person I want to be.

I was quickly coming to the conclusion that I didn't want to be in the church anymore. This was not a doctrinal decision. Believe me, I have studied thoroughly every negative thing against the church and was able to come to grips with it. I placed my faith in God. What I WASN'T able to come to grips with is the type of people that the church is creating. They are creating attitudes that are very rigid, conditionally loving, and living by fear. My experience in the church, and that of my wife, was one where most people and leaders in the church teach by fear and control. We do it because the Prophet said so. We do our home teaching because God is very displeased with us when we don't do it. We don't look at porn because how could we dare to do such a horrible awful thing to our wife and kids? After all.... what sort of a person are you? One that Jesus wants to save, but can't because you won't do what you're supposed to do so He can.

I'm sorry this is so long and I'll wrap it up right now. I'm trying to take a time out from the church right now. I am attending a sexual addiction recovery program called LIfe Star which is producing some very good results in my life. It's slow progress, but it's happening. I'm focusing on living a healthier life style and living steps of recovery and not paying attention to my length of sobriety or amount of slips. This is helpful to me and this is why I am taking time away from the church. I don't see how a true church would create such unhealthy attitudes and people though. If we have as much of the truth as we do, WHY would God allow such a detrimental attitude and teaching method to exist in his church. the LDS church has one of the higher percentages of Sex Addicts than other groups of people. Usually the more rigid the culture, the more people that struggle with addictions. I can testify that the rigidness and fear or sexual things, porn and masturbation has kept me trapped in my addiction.

So what do I do now? I am not ok with simply not going to church. I yearn to connect with God and fear that I cannot do this without attending something. I have been attending some Evangelical Churches that are not rigid and while I really enjoy the sermons, there is still that hint of dogmatic thinking. I've studied a lot about the history of the Bible, mostly the New Testament and there are far more problems with the New Testament and the story of Jesus than there are with the church. I KNOW there is a God because I communicate with him, but I have no idea about Jesus. In fact my attempts at the atonement application have been futile. But as I look at other religions out there, I don't see any that can be that anchor in my life like the LDS church was. Any feedback? if you're still reading... lol
They say that religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for people who've been there. - Martha Beck -

Tadpole
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by Tadpole » 31 May 2012, 16:06

Aaron2,

My heart goes out to you, I am so sorry for what you're going through. Second only to murder, really? You're right, these are very unhealthy attitudes and the church has made people think it's a big enough deal to break up families over it. Ugh. I don't know what it's like to feel addicted to these things but helping a child through some problems I learned that I don't trust the church or LDS social services to deal with sex issues in a healthy way. "Porn is evil, porn is evil, porn is evil. Hey, why am I thinking about porn?"

I wish I could talk to your wife. I was pretty judgemental about my husband's lack of enthusiasm for his Priesthood duties until I started reassessing my own faith. When I started to let go of my expectations for him in the church, I started seeing him as the husband and father that he is and I appreciate him much more. Keeping my marriage covenants are important to me no matter his testimony or his "worthiness". I don't know how I found a new lens to look through but it has strengthened our marriage to do so.

I don't have any advice for you but wish you love and peace on your journey.

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wayfarer
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by wayfarer » 31 May 2012, 17:56

hmmmm.

Is it possible, just possible, that you think you have a problem with porn and masturbation because the church's standard says you have a problem with it?

I have been through 12 step programs - alcohol and drug addiction as it were. The reality is that I had a problem because I was in a church that had zero tolerance for drinking or using at all. Guilt drives addiction. Guilt drives oblivion. Guilt for your natural inclinations is destroying you.

I wish there were an easier way to say this to you.

God loves you, unconditionally. You don't need to feel guilty about who you are and how you act. Your guilt is not helping you, nor is the obsession with the obsession as it were.
"Those who speak don't know, those who know don't speak." Lao Tzu.
My seat in the bloggernacle: http://wayfaringfool.blogspot.com

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Heber13
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by Heber13 » 31 May 2012, 18:04

What I always find interesting about being told you can't have the spirit with you if you don't keep all the commandments is that none of us are perfect and keeping all the commandments. It would be weird to have a plan from Heavenly Father where none of us would have any help from the Spirit because we aren't keeping the ALL the commandments.

It doesn't work that way. We all have things we're working on. If you consider perhaps natural things in life that the majority of people experience isn't necessarily major sin worth defining yourself about, perhaps there are other parts of life that really do define you and who you are, and keep a perspective. If I take a sip of coffee...am I immediately an unworthy priesthood holder and terrible husband and sinner unworthy of God's love? I doubt it. There needs to be perspective.

Let go of fears and remember God loves you for who you are. Separate out your issues so you can work with them one at a time so you don't get overwhelmed.

The Church can be a support, but it is not the only path to God or happiness. Real life issues need real help, sometimes from professional sources outside the church that can handle things with expert skills (marriage counseling, addictions, etc). Bishops try their hardest, they just are not professionals.

Hang in there. Feel free to seek support from this group. You're not alone. We're glad you're here.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 31 May 2012, 19:39

Welcome. Given my limited time, I just will provide a link to something I wrote a while ago on my personal blog:

"Sexual Sins Are NOT Next to Murder" (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011 ... urder.html)

We really mess up our reading of that passage in Alma, imo.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

leavingthecave25
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by leavingthecave25 » 31 May 2012, 19:41

You're definitely not alone. I struggled with some of the same things in my past as well. I can completely relate to the guilt and other feelings you are experiencing. Because I moved around so much, I have talked to probably 8 or 9 different bishops, and had a pretty wide range of attitudes from one branch president who basically shrugged off my problem to over-zealous bishops who made me feel like I was going to hell, even though I had by that time managed my problem to where I only had a couple of problems a year. The hellfire and damnation speeches were a waste of time; you feel guilty enough on your own without their 'help'. One of the things that was frustrating the most is that most people, unless they've been addicted themselves, don't quite get it. Sometimes they just assume that if you just tried harder or had more faith, you would conquer it. Willpower alone isn't enough sometimes. Your situation may be more difficult than mine (my addiction never became tangled up with pornography), but there is hope. It's been probably six years since I had an active addiction. It gets easier. At first it was all I could do to make it from night to night, then week to week. Now it is only on rare occasions when I feel strongly tempted. Hang in there :)

bc_pg
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by bc_pg » 31 May 2012, 20:49

Hi Aaron,

I have had a lot of similar experiences to you. As I mentioned on a parallel thread the judgmental approach of the LDS church vs. the opposite approach of effective recovery programs is a definite concern to me.

This is my personal experience, I'm not trying to convince you of anything. Warning: This isn't inline with the teaching of the church. This is also fairly direct, adult content. It's said in the most clinical way possible, but it is adult.

For me the biggest problem boiled down to my wife & I being sexually incompatible. Our difference in sex drives and difference in levels of interest in sex were so different that it created an impossible situation. On my side I essentially felt like I was chronically starving for sex - since my wife was the only "legal" outlet. My wife was chronically feeling like she was overfed sex and felt a lot of stress that she had to provide it to prevent me acting out and created a lot of resentment. This resentment made me feel more and more pain.

For 2 1/2 years I only acted out a total of 2 times and both were very minor. I can honestly say it was the most miserable 2 1/2 years of my life. The growing resentment and pain nearly destroyed our marriage. It got to the point that if I touched my wife should would stiffen up. I consistently felt like I had a knife stabbed into my heart. There was no answer. God wasn't going to take away my, frankly, healthy sex drive. He wasn't going to make my wife more interested. In fact the problem got worse and worse. I pretty much was to the point that something had to change and suicide was a consideration.

A had already been having some pretty big doubts about the church for a while (for years really), but it had resurfaced a lot in the previous year. Eventually I decided the only solution was masturbation as an outlet - or divorce or suicide. So I let the guilt go. My wife is still my first choice, but I'm not going to spend the rest of my life starving. For the first time in 30 years I decided I wasn't going to feel guilty about it anymore - and I didn't I didn't tell my wife what I was doing for a time - our marriage improved greatly. Eventually I told her about my doubts and a little later about porn/masturbation. It was a challenging time and is still difficult for her, but our marriage is improving and is probably the best it has ever been. My wife understands that porn/masturbation is there but we don't talk about it - I'm not accountable to her for it. However, she also knows that there is no pressure on her to keep me away from it so she has sex when she wants to.

So I now refute the label that I am a sex addict any more than someone who needs to eat 3 meals a day is an addict. You may or may not be in a similar situation, but for me it is the only tenable solution for keeping our marriage working with greatly differing sex drives - the church was never able to give me a solution of any kind.

I will also note that the law of chastity of not having sex with other women is clearly defined in Christianity. Masturbation and porn are not. Many many people feel that there is nothing wrong with either or these in moderation. Many marriage counselors and sex counselors teach and believe that masturbation and sometimes even porn are healthy aspects of sexuality and marriage.

One way to think about this is the Ether scripture about God giving man weaknesses to come unto Him. Back when I still believe in God my understanding was that as long as we were willing to come to Him ultimately the atonement would make up for the rest. Even if this were a problem I had my whole life I was confident that a "broken heart and contrite spirit" would ultimately be enough - Jesus and the atonement were powerful enough to make up the rest. So if the addiction brings you to Christ it is not a bad thing - it will ultimately get you where you need to go.

I also have had many spiritual experiences like you have. It has taken me a fair amount of time to come to grips of what those mean to me. There are any number of paths - I was OK staying within the church keeping a temple recommend for a couple of years - there are ways to think about it that can be compatible with both. Ultimately that is not the decision I personally made, but it is one that could work for a lot of people.

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Ilovechrist77
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 01 Jun 2012, 01:24

Aaron, I'm recovering from the same problems, so I now want you're going through. The difference with me is I'm still active in the church. I also have mild mental disorders that complicated things more. I'm on medication, so that does help with them. In fact, in my introduction I got into more details about my problems. I will keep you in my prayers to help you heal sexually and to find peace wherever you can find it. Welcome.

Minyan Man
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by Minyan Man » 01 Jun 2012, 05:36

Aaron, welcome to the group.
To help you answer your question, please stay.
You can always decide later.
See if this forum can help you decide.
Live what you can & leave the rest.

Mike from Milton.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Do I stay or do I go now?

Post by Brian Johnston » 01 Jun 2012, 05:51

My heart goes out to you Aaron2. You end up facing the the emotional and spiritual roller coaster because of your honesty with everyone you mentioned above. You've probably been too open and honest with people for your own good (outside of your spouse, perhaps). Most of the people you sought help from don't sound like they were able to help.

Quick answer: A lot of people I have talked to with similar experiences seem to find their "problems" go away or are reduced greatly when they finally just deeply accept that it isn't the problem they thought it was, that it really isn't that big a deal, that it is normal natural behavior, and accept this about themselves. It's NOT the same thing as giving in and going all crazy with those things. It's a final and deep sense of relief, love and acceptance for themselves. A realization that you are completely normal, and that almost all healthy normal people have some involvement to some degree with erotica and masturbation. It's been around forever. It doesn't look like it's going anywhere soon.

Just as an example, women read steamy romance novels. But GA's don't stand up in General Conference to declare that fantasy outlet as "2nd only to murder." In our Mormon culture, we just don't pay much attention to that or shine the spotlight of shame on it. We don't tell husbands it ends their temple sealing or makes their wife unworthy to be a mother. I'm just picking on that as an example.

Problems or not problems (or somewhere in between), these issues and our church cultural response to them have been blown WAY out of proportion. 2nd only to murder? For real? That pernicious and evil comparison is revelation from the Lord of Darkness himself, and I mourn the day it was introduced as an idea, as an apostasy from The Gospel (the Good News), in our Church.
aaron2 wrote:You see, I've been told by every Bishop I had met with and many sunday school teachers in lessons, that unless you're keeping the commandments, you will not have the spirit with you. Since I was not capable of keeping the commandments, I was not able to have the spirit. This lead to great feelings of unworthiness. I couldn't trust myself or my feelings because I didn't have the spirit with me.
Also a false, pernicious and destructive teaching: that you can only have the Spirit and be loved by God when you are perfect, when you obey all commandments. I don't care who taught it, it is wrong. It is wrong conceptually, as you pointed out. If this were true, then NOBODY who ever lived would be worthy of love and the Spirit. It would destroy the purpose of creation. It is a teaching of the Devil. It is a teaching meant to destroy souls, to grind them in an every descending spiral of negativity and darkness.

Fortunately, it sounds like you reached the breaking point and see. Some of us need to reach those points before we are ready to make a change and develop/expand past those barriers in our souls. Knowing is power. Change the cycle. Break out of it.
aaron2 wrote:You see, in the church, we teach our young women to look for worthy men to marry in the temple... What are those qualifications? They need to be a return missionary (which I am). They need to be eagle scouts (which I am). They need to have their duty to God (missed that one). They need to be able to be married in the temple. I pulled some last minute sobriety to get into the temple and get married. But the point was that my wife had been raised to feel that her husband had nothing good to offer because it was all trumped by his pornography addiction. She was raised to believe that it was a direct attack against her. That it was bringing evil spirits into the home and would destroy the children if it wasn't overcome. My wife felt for a long time that she had made a mistake in marrying me. She had settled for something less than she was worthy for.
This is a problem. It is a very dysfunctional way of going into a marriage, and in seeing what a marriage union means. Let me take a step back -- it works really good for a very small number of highly ideal people. It works less and less as people don't match up with the perfect idealism.

But really, when you break it down, those attributes are NOT guarantees for a compatible mate or a good marriage, not now nor in the eternities. We also in our culture have a tendency to push off problems to the magical "eternities" future when we subconsciously hope God will solve the problems.

We have to see our spouse as they are, and love that person as they are.

We also have to adapt with change in our relationship over time. That which does not bend will break. It is unrealistic to expect that problems won't arise, and that people don't change. The Savior doesn't just save the easy people and leave the tough folks hanging.

Nobody is worthy. Nobody. But that is negative, so I prefer not to think of it that way. We are all fallen. We are all STILL WORTHY regardless. Life is not a test. Say it a thousand thousand times in the mirror to yourself. Life is not a test. It's an experience. It's a hero's epic journey.

We make the story.

"Do I stay or do I go now?"
Either way, make sure you listen to The Clash ;)
On a more serious note, we can't say what the future holds. Will you stay or leave? That's your decision to make, and there's no single right answer. You will figure it out, what is best for you and the people you love. It will all be OK in the long run.

We're here to help people figure out how to stay. We're totally fine if people need to leave too though.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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