Pornography

He Restoreth My Soul Chapter One

A review and response to the book "He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ" by Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD (Neurosurgeon).

This response addresses chapter one "Out of the Mouth of the Lion" pgs. 3–6.

Obstacle - Collective Identity

Chapter one is only three pages. In those three pages, Hilton leverages a "collective identity" or "collective behavior" to signal safe passage to his readers. This safe passage is critical to the LDS community. Within our culture, we are leary of "outside" sources in general, but especially those regarding sexuality or issues involving sexuality. The sanctimoniousness in which we address sexuality is both beautiful and hindering. Our view of sexuality is beautiful because of our connecting it to eternal progression. It’s hindering because we perceive external (those outside the faith) experts as a threat to that sacred sexuality.

Therefore, because Hilton is generally unknown among the faithful members of the church — he is neither a General Authority or an "official" resource for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint — he signals to the reader that he is a safe source by using language, analogies, scriptures and conclusions the collective identity already agrees with.

In social psychology there is a concept referred to as collective behavior:

"Collective behaviour, the kinds of activities engaged in by sizable but loosely organized groups of people. Episodes of collective behaviour tend to be quite spontaneous, resulting from an experience shared by the members of the group that engenders a sense of common interest and identity. The informality of the group’s structure is the main source of the frequent unpredictability of collective behaviour....

The U.S. sociologist Robert E. Park, who coined the term collective behaviour, defined it as “the behavior of individuals under the influence of an impulse that is common and collective, an impulse, in other words, that is the result of social interaction.” He emphasized that participants in crowds, fads, or other forms of collective behaviour share an attitude or behave alike, not because of an established rule or the force of authority, and not because as individuals they have the same attitudes, but because of a distinctive group process." Britannica

Hilton's appeal to the collective identity isn't inherently bad. Knowing your audience and connecting with the culture of your audience is good communication. However, when that appeal is used to perpetuate unfounded claims and assumptions, it’s contributing to a systemic problem. Whether he intended it or not, his leveraging a collective identity and backing it up with his credentials creates unchallenged buy-in within the community. 

Wresting

Hilton leverage the collective identity with a simple recipe:

  1. Identify a concept the particular community already agrees with: "Porn is evil."

  2. Quote a from a scripture or prophet/apostle that vaguely supports identified concept.

  3. Share a miraculous/captivating story/analogy that emphasizes concept.

  4. Provide vague non-solution that is often in the form of the "atonement".

1.

Hilton isn't sharing anything new to the intended community; however, he is feeding into the fear and panic of the "porn epidemic." He capitalizes on the readers’ fears by conveying the idea that no one is safe, and if we all are not vigilant, the dangers of porn will, like a lion "[grab] them by the spiritual throat and [strangle] the life out of happiness, joy, companionship, learning, love (both romantic and platonic), spirituality, reason, and life itself." He later references pop-psychology jargon, that if exposed to porn "even the sexual self being ruined and consumed as the chemically altered brain is left to crave what can never be fully satisfied." These statements are deeply problematic, untrue, divisive and communicate a confusing message of despair and hopelessness.

2.

Hilton's use of 1 Peter 5:8 is ironic. Hiltons's use of scripture here is referred to as proof-texting.

"Many Christian ministers and Christian teachers have used some version of the following humorous anecdote to demonstrate the dangers of prooftexting: "A man dissatisfied with his life decided to consult the Bible for guidance. Closing his eyes, he flipped the book open and pointed to a spot on the page. Opening his eyes, he read the verse under his finger. It read, 'Then Judas went away and hanged himself' (Matthew 27:5b). Finding these words unhelpful, the man randomly selected another verse. This one read, 'Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."' (Luke 10:37b). In desperation, he tried one more time. The text he found was: 'What you are about to do, do quickly.'" (John 13:27) Wikipedia

Also refer to "Proof-Texting is a Bad Habit that we Need to Break".

Throughout his book, Hilton assigns his own meaning to the particular passages he quotes. As for 1 Peter 5:8, he fails to emphasize the "sober" concept that Peter was conveying in "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."

Isolating verse 8 from the context of Peter's message would lead any reader to believe we SHOULD be fearful of the "roaring lion." However, Peter’s message was quite the opposite. "Be sober" is a message of hope, love and grace. Peter is teaching about God's grace through the Atonement. We are safe, inspite of the "roaring lion," to be vigilant and observant how the fear of the lion will rob us of our joy. Let’s read this verse in context:

"6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5: 6-11

How should believers live, believing in a real devil — a spiritual enemy with an agenda to bring harm to Christians? Peter's answer to that question begins this verse: Be sober-minded. Be alert. It's the third time in this letter Peter has urged his readers to be clear minded (1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7). It matters that we are paying attention, with serious minds, to what's going on in our lives and in the world around us.

"Peter writes that there is danger beyond the physical persecution some of his readers were facing. There is a deep agenda, far beyond that of the powerful men who might inflict that persecution. The devil, not the men or women who might harm us, is the real enemy of a Christian believer.

Our enemy the devil desires to devour us, to cause real and lasting harm. The Greek word here is katapiein, literally meaning to "swallow," or to "drown." Peter has made it clear that our place in eternity with our Father is secure. The devil cannot take that from us, but he does seek to damage our faith. He wants fear to shake our submission to the Father, and lies to distort our understanding of God's goodness. Since He cannot touch the believer's soul, Satan seeks to leave us as weak and ineffective servants of our King.

In the next verse, Peter will describe how to fight that enemy. Notice, also, what he doesn't tell Christians to do. He doesn't say to live in fear. Nor does he say to live as if the reality of the devil is unimportant. We are not instructed to ignore the devil, nor to cower in the shadows." BibleRef

3.

Ironically, Hilton's focus is on the fear, the devil, the hopelessness, the loss, the damage. Unfortunately, he continues to misuse Peter's lion analogy, convincing the reader they are not safe, to hyperventilate before shadows. This does not create a clear and sober mind, let alone an informed mind. It creates panic and fear, and turns power over to the devil — exactly what Peter was warning us not to do.

Additionally, Hilton reinforces his faulty interpretation of the scripture by quoting non-experts on the subject. Although President Hinckley has perceived a potential danger that seems to be associated with pornography, both Hilton and Hinckley's comments oversimplify the complexity of the problems and fail to address the root issues involved in "damaging hearts and souls."

In Hilton's reference to a professional in chapter one, he not only quotes the therapist incorrectly, he again takes it out of context and misrepresents the intent of the therapist. In quoting Mark Haney, Hilton claims "pornography addiction" is what leads a teenager to experience "isolated agony."

First, "isolated agony" is nowhere in John Mark Haney's article "Teenagers and Pornography Addiction.”

Hilton, although vague in his misquoting Haney, the misquote leads the reader to believe pornography is what creates the isolation. This is false and NOT what Haney stated.

"Normalize the Issue: Many teenagers who are developing compulsive pornography problems do so in agonized isolation, often believing that they are perverts and alone in their actions. It can be helpful for the professional to educate them on the prevalence of the issue while still clearly communicating the dangers so they don’t trade their isolation for an ‘oh well, since everyone is doing it …’ idea, for that is common too."

Hilton's careless and self-serving misquoting and changing of context is reckless. Haney's only use of "isolation" is in a section educating the reader to "normalize the issue" with teens, recognizing that teens "often [believe] that they are perverts and alone." It is NOT because of the pornography, but because of the lack of education and clarity (sober thought) on the subject. This is a HUGE misrepresentation and is foreshadowing of Hilton's carelessness throughout the book.

Second, it seems like Hilton didn't even read the "Teenagers and Pornography Addiction" article.

"Some critical cultural, religious, and socioeconomic factors with pornography and youth warrant mention. Some cultures have much broader parameters surrounding what is considered appropriate with sexuality, while cultural norms within other groups make the topic almost unmentionable. Therefore, practitioners must attempt to educate themselves about cultural mores. ... Similarly, approaches to spirituality and religion can have a profound impact on a teenager’s sexual development, and not always in the way that a parent intends. For example, some youth who come from rigid and legalistic religious backgrounds that wrap sexuality in shame and guilt, try to forcefully repress their desires, which causes them to unconsciously bond with the same profane elements they are trying to ignore. When they act on these repressed desires, the resulting shame and self-loathing just perpetuates the cycle."

4.

After a confusing message of hopelessness and fear, Hilton's solution is the atonement, but he doesn't actually talk about the atonement. In just two paragraphs, he demonstrates his lack in doctrinal understanding and his mockery of those who have embraced the atonement without reprieve. He confuses agency, sin, transgression and biological limitations.

Somehow he is under the impression that women experiencing pornography is limited to chat rooms. This is complete ignorance, and potentially another misreading of the "Teenagers and Pornography Addiction" article.

Hilton suggests homosexuality is a similar issue as pornography and an addiction. Is Hilton suggesting reparative, conversion or aversion therapy?

Hilton's leveraging a collective identity is irresponsible and mitigates readers from identifying and questioning his inconsistencies and double checking his references.

See also: 

He Restoreth My Soul Introduction

Female Struggles With Porn And Masturbation

Anonymous Question Series:

Q: "What is your advice to females who have watched pornography or masturbate?"

See also:

A Place of Healing, Not Hiding

ARP Fails Women Support Groups

Furthermore, as I have stated in other posts; this is a great question and will be a little difficult to answer concisely, for me. This has been a topic of GREAT interest and equal concern for me, so much that I have taken up the opportunity to write about it. I am over 100 pages into a book I hope to complete by the end of this year that addresses this issue and other related topics and their solutions. Additionally, Kathryn Kirk and I have attempted to fill this gap, of women not having a resource, with "LDS Women Struggle Too" Blog and Group. But because of our Latter-day Saint culture, it is very hard to get the word out.

A: 

The quick answer: Love yourself, be kind to yourself, retain the joy and beauty that is your sexuality, come out of hiding, and be confident in your struggle.

Your question is important to me, one I am addressing in depth in my book. There are too many women struggling alone. There are few resources and even fewer good resources. There is much I want to say, but there is so much misunderstanding, negativity and flawed ideas around the subject, and a more lengthy response is required. I am working frantically to get good resources out to our dear sisters alone in this battle.

But for now, avoid negative self-talk and avoid viewing sexuality as bad or evil. Discover joy and beauty in sexual desire. Understand these desires are of God; they are not evil. Also, recognize that every individual's biology and sexual drive is different. Be careful to not compare your sexual urges and desires to another person's. Focus more on untangling the unhealthy views of pornography from your own sexuality. Develop a true self-mastery plan that measures progress as apposed to abstinence.

Continue to be brave! Porn is everywhere and everyone defines it differently. You do not need to be ashamed. In fact, I encourage you to put off all shame that is preventing you from feeling joy. You love the Lord and you know that. Don't let your struggle define your love for Father.

Take a moment and read Kathryn Kirk’s blog:

"Being open about my struggle with pornography has changed my life. I haven’t been wide open about it, but I have opened up to some very key people, and as you can see from this blog, I’m starting to share my stories and experiences with whoever wants to listen. Once I stopped trying so hard to hide from everyone, I slowly started finding room to heal. This ongoing transformation has been something I never could have imagined, and now I want others to experience it too." (A Place of Healing, Not Hiding)

An Unspoken Struggle: LDS Women Addicted To Pornography

"So. I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and have been my entire life. My struggles with pornography began in 2003 out of a mix of boredom and curiosity. For years now, I have felt like one day I would share my experiences, and that from the things that I've learned, that I would be able to perhaps help just one other person in their struggles. My intent is not to talk about the details of anything, but just how the gospel of Jesus Christ has and is changing me, and helping me through this painful addiction. If you are a woman who is struggling, or know of a woman who is struggling with pornography, let me know. I know that it is difficult, and I know that having someone to talk to can make all the difference in the world. So this is my attempt to reach out to you. If you are a single woman, you are in good company cause so am I. I don't know what it is like to have this struggle in marriage, but if you are married, hopefully there will be something here that can help you too." LDS Women Struggle Too Blog

This "LDS Woman" is a brave single adult woman and active member who contacted me about her addiction to pornography. She had been battling this persistent Goliath for many years, had seen her bishop many times, fasted, prayed and did everything right. But the desire and addiction wouldn't go away, and she would find herself back at square one again and again. Discouraged, frustrated and at times hopeless, this dear sister didn't know what else to do. No matter how hard she prayed, read her scriptures or how sincere her desire to rid her life of porn, it wouldn't go away. As a result, at times she would even question if her faith was sufficient. After all, if faith can move mountains why not rid her of her desire for porn? Additionally, as a woman addicted to porn in The Church, this provided its own difficulties.

If you are an Latter-day Saint woman struggling with porn in any form, you are not alone. I get it, we don't talk about Latter-day Saint woman addicted to porn in The Church. But I assure you, I have seen as many women as men who are struggling, and you are not alone. There is hope! The story of my client "LDS Woman" is a beautiful one. I encourage you to follow the link to her blog and follow her personal journey. I encourage you to seek her out and ask her questions. If you feel unworthy, unclean and ashamed, I would ask you, are those feelings bringing you closer to Father or further away? It is a common misconception that we must feel shame and guilt. Sorrow, yes, but not shame or guilt. Where shame and guilt are, hope can not prevail. Where there is no hope, despair and depression grow. You can be happy now, even in the mist of battling an addiction or an occasional viewing. Yes, you most definitely can be happy during the battle of your Goliath.

"An Unspoken Struggle" will be a series of blog posts that guide you in your battle, how to turn from shame toward hope, from despair toward courage and how to retain the beauty of intimacy and sexuality while untangling yourself from porn. Unlike most addictions and misuse, we don't want to destroy, avoid or suppress our heavenly gift of sexuality. Too many have "defeated" their Goliaths only to find a new problem when they get married. Intimacy is difficult, avoided or triggers past addictions.

If you have any specific thoughts, questions or curiosities that you'd like me to address, please contact me directly or in the comments section.

“I never thought a pornography addiction could be a girl’s problem. I was proved wrong when I was about 16 years old. I came across a video of pornography, and since I was alone and curious, I watched it. After that first time, I felt like I had to watch something every day. I became addicted to pornography.

Viewing pornography made me feel bad. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t do anything to change. I was never happy, and I felt dirty and infected with Satan’s tempting filth. But I still found ways to watch it just so I could satisfy my appetite. My addiction led to more and more wrongdoings. I lied to everyone: my brother, my mother, and worst of all, the Lord and myself. I would tell myself that one more movie wasn’t going to hurt me, one more dirty story wouldn’t be that bad.” —"No Longer Addicted: My Journey to Overcome Pornography"