Episode 23: Protection from pornography — Licensed therapist offers 5 action points for parents and hope for healing
Episode 23: Protection from pornography — Licensed therapist offers 5 action points for parents and hope for healing
Jill Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist, joins this episode of the Church News podcast to discuss an important issue — protecting homes and families from pornography. Manning — who in addition to her clinical work is a researcher, author, consultant, professional speaker and activist — gives listeners five ways to prevent pornography and offers hope to families impacted by this issue. Noting that light and dark cannot occupy the same time and space, Manning highlights “five candles in the darkness.” She draws on her extensive experience and shares helpful resources that can guide members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seeking recovery or working to protect their homes and families.
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Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with leaders, members and others on the Church News team. We end each Church News podcast by giving our guests the last word and the opportunity to answer the very important question: “What do you know now?” We hope each of you will also be able to answer the same question and say, “I have just been listening to the Church News podcast, and this is what I know now.”
Today’s episode of the Church News podcast explores a topic that can be hard to talk about. While writing about the effects of pornography on homes and families and individuals in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had the opportunity several years ago to meet Dr. Jill Manning. She is, in every way, the rock star among those who speak out against the harms of pornography. She is a licensed marital and family therapist and certified clinical partner specialist who specializes in treating individuals who have been sexually betrayed through infidelity, or compulsive sexual behavior. A native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she currently lives in Colorado with her husband and two daughters. She serves on the board of directors for Enough is Enough, as well as the advisory councils for various organizations involved in supporting those overcoming sexual integrity issues. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Manning is a researcher, author, consultant, professional speaker and activist. Welcome to the Church News podcast today.
Jill Manning: Thank you. It’s a delight and an honor to be speaking with you, Sarah.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I am so glad you’re here, because you have a unique way to talk about the harms of pornography without ever being dark or pornographic. It’s one of the things that I have appreciated so much about being able to interview you and associate with you over the years, because in every way, you seem to be able to shed the light of the gospel on this really hard topic. So, let’s start today with what has already been said and written about this topic, by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jill Manning: I’m appreciative of you starting there, because it is true. We are so fortunate as members of the Church to have been blessed by inspired and highly consistent messaging by our General Authorities and General Officers of the Church over many decades. We have an impressive body of work, and I do think we’d be remiss not to acknowledge that. If I were to summarize what those many decades of messages have brought forth, it is that pornography is abhorrent to our Heavenly Father and to our Savior, Jesus Christ; that as children of God, we are to avoid it in all of its forms and at all costs. That we are to love, teach and protect our families diligently. And for those who are ensnared or have been hurt indirectly, through no choice of their own by this, there is healing and there is hope. And I wholeheartedly endorse and support these messages.
The challenge is, what can I possibly add to that today? And the answer as I've pondered that is I can only add that, that I know to be true, and that I've directly observed during two decades of professional work in this unique area of mental health.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And one of the things that you’ve taught me is that while dealing with dark and heavy topics, that it’s important to to view those through a gospel lens to contrast and divide light from darkness, and truth from lies.
Jill Manning: Yes. It’s necessary, I believe, to protect ourselves, and to also help lift others up out of that darkness. And when we’re dealing, anytime we’re dealing with a dark and heavy subject, I really do believe we have a unique opportunity to divide light from darkness, and to achieve a laser-like focus on truths that are necessary for combating its influence, but also for recognizing who and what are on our side. And I say who and what with capital W’s.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and you have referenced a quote from Anne Frank, that talks about a single candle. Can you share that with us and give us some perspective on why that’s important when it comes to this issue of pornography?
Jill Manning: Sure. I love this quote by Anne Frank, especially because of who she was and the period of time she lived and wrote, and she once said, “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Now, we have dozens of scriptures that teach a similar principle, and today, I’d like to help defy the darkness of pornography by highlighting five common characteristics of those who are struggling in this space, and speak to what those characteristics teach us about the path to healing and resilience. They are what I’m going to refer to today as the candles in the dark, if you will, the five candles in the dark that I’ve most readily recognized in my work, over a long period of time, from those that are dealing with this darkness in their lives.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, why don’t we just jump in right there and go ahead and have you introduce those five candles in the darkness?
Jill Manning: Sure, and I need to start out by saying I’m keenly aware, it is a diverse group of people all over the world — male or female, very young, very old, that are struggling with this. And so I’m sensitive that there will likely be one or many things that I say today, that there will be exceptions to things that I may say today. But I do believe, and I cannot deny the predominant patterns and correlations that I’d like to share that I believe will apply to many. And so it’s in that spirit that I’m hoping these ideas, these lights may be helpful in some way to someone listening.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and Dr. Manning, before we introduce those, why don’t you give us some background on your education, and also your experience in clinical work that has brought you to these conclusions.
Jill Manning: I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist. I am originally from Canada, and did clinical work in Canada, and then came to the States for my graduate work. And I’ve been working in these topics and areas of mental health for just over 20 years. I’ve also done research in this area. I was a social science fellow at The Heritage Foundation for a time. And from that experience, was invited to testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the harms of pornography on marriage and the family. And that was such a foundational experience to my later work and even the work I do today of looking at the harms. But then what does that teach us about how we build resiliency and foster healing? If we just stay in the dark, we’re just going to be in the dark. But I’m passionate that there is a way to look and handle this in a way that can restore healing and light and people’s lives. I’ve seen that happen. And I would not be able to continue this work if I didn’t passionately believe that.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Let’s just jump in and talk about these five characteristics.
Jill Manning: Sure. The first one, and these are patterns that I’ve noticed in the majority of those that we see that are struggling with, typically, compulsive pornography use, that would meet the threshold of addiction, if you will. And the first one is when we learn of their stories and we get into their histories, there is almost universally, what we notice, a lack of education and teaching in the home regarding healthy sexuality and marital intimacy.
And so what this teaches me, the positive takeaway is, the action step we can take is to teach, to actively teach in our homes as parents, our children, and fill that void. Make sure that our children are not in a vacuum on such important topics, such as the body, the sanctity of the body, intimacy, marital intimacy, healthy sexuality, as well as sexual issues such as pornography. We know that far too many are remaining reticent to teach these topics in their home. In fact, Elder Matthew Richardson, when he surveyed a group of young, active young adults in our Church several years ago found that only 15% considered their parents to be the primary source of information regarding sexual topics. And when he asked them further where they were getting most of their information, sadly, they said peers or media. I think and I know we can do better, we can do better. And this is an important area of resilience and buffer that we can offer our loved ones in our home. And when we devote time to addressing these topics around virtue, and problem areas like pornography, we are simultaneously working on other key parenting goals and building their spiritual armor as well.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and as a mother of three daughters, I think what you’re saying is, if we don’t teach our children, somebody else will.
Jill Manning: Exactly. And as much as I don’t want to give pornography credit, there is something I think we need to acknowledge that it does very well. Pornography is an outstanding teacher. And we need to realize that, as parents, who do we want, what do we want teaching our children? When we compare and contrast what pornography teaches versus the characteristics of effective parenting, one offends the Spirit. Faithful parenting when we’re teaching and doing our best, and that doesn’t mean we don’t fumble or make mistakes. But when we’re doing our best, and really seeking the Spirit, it invites the Spirit. We know that pornography distorts truth about bodies, gender, and sexuality. Whereas a faithful parent doing their best to teach these things arm youth with truth about bodies, gender, and healthy sexuality. We know that one is satanic, while the other is Christlike. It is Christlike to teach in an active, loving way, things that we want our children to have knowledge about and to be resilient in today’s world. So teaching, teaching actively is the first principle I want to highlight today.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and in a time when the whole world is facing the pandemic, I have actually heard more than one Church leader compare talking to children about some of the harms of these things, to immunizing them.
Read more: Elder Holland compares pornography to COVID-19 in address to Utah Coalition Against Pornography
Jill Manning: It is. You know, if we go right back to Proverbs 7, there’s a fascinating example that’s laid out. It’s somewhat painful to read. As you read this account of a young man, who, for whatever reason, is prone to being tempted by an adulterous woman. And what pops out to me in that passage of Proverbs 7, as it describes this young man as being “void of understanding,” and I’ve thought so many times, I would love to know exactly what it was he was void of understanding. But it highlights again this principle of the need to teach to fill in the voids, to actively teach our children the things that will buffer and strengthen them and build that armor. And even if we start small, start with one thing, choose one thing that you feel strongly about, that you would regret not having relayed or talk clearly to your children. And start there. Every piece of those conversations make a difference.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Let’s move on to your second characteristic.
Jill Manning: The second characteristic that I’ve noticed is that pornography was normalized by someone in their family or social circle. Somewhere along the line, typically, in that eight years of age to 13 years of age, that window. It may have been a parent, a sibling, a cousin, a close friend, someone in their sphere, normalized pornography use. That may have been directly or indirectly. Directly, in that it may have been actively encouraged or egged on or indirectly, maybe a young person finds pornography that belongs to someone else. And the way that lands for them is they erroneously believe that that makes it okay, if this person that I love and trust is involved in this, this is okay.
So the action step that I take from that observation is the importance of testifying and bearing witness to those we love of what our values are, and what we believe about pornography specifically. I think we miss out on an opportunity when our young people, and especially our children, don't know where we stand. We don't want that to be a best-kept secret. So along the lines of teaching, actively testifying, and being a witness of the power of virtuous living, and the power of avoiding pornography. It makes a difference.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Wow. Well, let’s jump right on to the third one.
Jill Manning: The third is that long standing observation that I’ve had that mental health issues are often intertwined in this problem for someone, and we actually have quite a bit of research to support that as well. One study actually found that 75% of those that were struggling with compulsive pornography use had one or more mental health issues that had never been properly diagnosed or treated. Some of the most common mental health issues that are often in the mix with this issue, ADHD, depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder, chemical dependency. 40 to 60% of cases often have drugs or alcohol in the mix. Impulse control disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, attachment disorders, the list goes on. Low self esteem is a common factor in this as well. Now, an interesting question is, what comes first? Are mental health issues symptomatic of pornography use, or are they caused by pornography use? You know, what I’m saying is, are people that are prone or struggle with a mental health issue, does that create vulnerability to something that’s so highly charged like pornography? Or, I think there’s a good case to be made for, when someone who may be healthy and of sound mind gets involved in pornography. I don’t believe you can hang out in Satan’s playground and not have that negatively impact your mental and spiritual well being. That would defy logic.
The takeaway is to treat those things, to intervene as early on as possible, to make sure that people are getting the adequate skills, and sometimes medical treatments necessary to be as strong and healthy and resilient as possible.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I think a lot of times in our Church, we turn to faith, because we want to turn to faith, because we believe in miracles, and we believe in a loving Heavenly Father that can send them to us and help us. The one lesson that I learned from President Russell M. Nelson earlier this year, was when he called for a worldwide fast, he said, “I’m a man of faith and a man of science.” And he spoke about both the component of believing that the Lord can heal you and help you through some of these hard things, and also doing everything you can to go to all of the necessary medical professionals that are available. Can you talk about that a little? Why is it important that we seek out professional advice?
Jill Manning: Well, I’m so glad you brought up, Sarah, President Nelson’s wise statement about that, being a man of science and a man of faith. And he certainly is, and I’m so grateful for his example on that specifically, because we have bodies that have tendencies and vulnerabilities to get sick, and for things to go awry. And we do, we need medical care, and that medical care can sometimes include therapeutic care, and psychiatric care, and intervention at times. There are things that get out of balance in the body and the brain and the nervous system that need support. Being a mental health provider myself, I’m keenly aware that there’s a certain amount of skills and help that I can offer, but that that is certainly magnified when combined with spiritual practices and knowledge as well. We need both.
And I think what’s happened is there’s often stigma or shame around seeking help, that somehow we’re spiritually weak, or we’re not doing life, right if we need that kind of help. And that’s just simply not the case. We know that from the National Institute of Mental Health, that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness will begin by the age of 14, and three quarters of mental health issues will begin by the age of 24. And I’m highlighting that window because that is often the very window that we will see pornography issues take root. If we are not dealing with bolstering resilience to things like pornography, but also tackling some of those more organic issues going on, I think we’re missing an opportunity for healing and for strengthening people.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, thank you for that advice. Let’s go on to the next characteristic.
Jill Manning: The fourth observation is that people had access to it. And I I know that sounds so simplistic, and perhaps overly obvious, but I think it bears mentioning that people that are struggling with this have access to it.
And what I take away from that as an action step, a light, if you will, is the necessity for me as a parent to be doing all that I can. One, to protect myself, but also my home and my family, that I use all resources and tools available to me and that I keep learning how to make sure that my home can be a safe haven from this “guck,” and that I'm not letting that seep in. And it's an ongoing job. It's not one of those things where I can just install the lock and the deadbolt on my front door and think that I'm done. I need to regularly be strengthening that practice and doing reviews and talking as a family to make sure that we're doing all we can to shut out that which is evil and destructive, but also having discussions of as a family about what are we seeking out. It's not enough just to show out the bad, we need to be teaching, what are we seeking out? And why?
Sarah Jane Weaver: At this time in history when so many children have smartphones, it seems like there’s so many entrances for these type of things to come into our homes. The days of putting a filter on our computer seem to be behind us. How do we arm our kids? What can we do?
Read more: Addressing pornography: How indexing and family history can help
Jill Manning: We need the filters and the technology to help us. I think it’s all hands are needed on deck. And it’s just layering that conversation, I believe. Really being involved, knowing what are the devices and forms of media coming into our home and that our families’ using that takes regular dialogue, being involved. And then also using righteous leadership in the home to model what is it that we seek out. And it’s an ongoing, layered conversation. And I think that’s part of what exhausts people, is that it’s a constantly moving target. Devices are constantly changing, the number of apps coming at us is constantly changing. But there’s other things that we’re adapting to all the time in life. And I think this is an area of smart parenting and healthy living that is simply necessary in today’s world. And we know that the research tells us that when parents are involved, they don’t have to be tech pros, I wish I was, but it gives me comfort that the research says I need to just have a reasonable working knowledge of technology. So I need to be involved. But I also need to be taking my role of righteous leadership in the home seriously. And in that, there’s no room for hypocrisy, when it comes to media use, I cannot expect my children to be observing and watching me watching certain programming or using certain apps, let’s say maybe I’m watching and listening to really good things. But I’m using that too long, that’s absorbing too much of my day. It’s modeling and showing a good example of what we as adults are taking in and using and the steps we’re taking to protect ourselves, and then teaching that in our home. So there’s congruency, there’s no hypocrisy, and that the kids know that we are aligned with the same values that we’re teaching and encouraging for our whole family.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, that old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t seem to hold much water these days.
Jill Manning: True enough. And I think just wherever we’re at, to improve even if it’s 10%, how do I improve 10% in how I’m managing that aspect of life, and am I actively teaching my children, the principles that I desire for them to be good digital citizens, to be wise consumers of media, and to be making sure that that’s enhancing life and not causing problems for them? And that, I will admit, that is a tough road to walk right now, especially during this time where the load of remote learning and online necessities is at an all-time high.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. Let’s move on to the fifth characteristic.
Jill Manning: The fifth characteristic that I observed in those struggling in this area is the vast majority have experienced trauma of some kind in their background. They may have experienced trauma that’s significant, such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect, or something less obvious. But either way, something along the way interrupted their ability to process emotions appropriately in healthy ways. It interrupted their ability to get attachment needs met and completed, and that their self worth got distorted or minimized, and was not appropriately affirmed. That is a common theme in those that we work with. There was a study several years ago that showed that 72% of pornography and sex addicts had been sexually abused, 81% had been sexually abused and 97% had been emotionally abused.
The candle or light that I pulled from that awful set of numbers is how necessary it is for us to heal past experiences in our life that still hold a lot of energy, that we’re healing trauma, and also that we are making sure that we are doing everything in our power not to be a source of that type of pain for anyone else. If there's something we need to correct or repent of or shift in how we are parenting, let's say, let's do it. Let's do that today. Let's not wait there. There are too many people suffering and those types of traumas create vulnerability to getting sucked in to the influence of pornography, which becomes a way to regulate emotions, it becomes a way to escape stress, to self-soothe loneliness, etc. And the vicious trap of that, I believe that pornography is traumatic in and of itself, that it has a traumatic effect on the brain. So it just further entrenches this really vicious, vicious cycle. So healing, I think we can introduce virtuous cycles and light-filled cycles in our life as we're encouraging others who may be in this or ourselves who may be struggling to heal, do all that's necessary to heal those traumas and get the support that we need.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, years ago, the Deseret News and Church News participated in an initiative with KSL and other DMC companies called “Out in the Light.” The idea behind the initiative was that when dealing with this huge issue of pornography, sometimes we need to move it out to a place where we can shine some light on it, that pornography thrives in dark, secret places. Can you talk today about the hope you see? And so many times when people deal with this issue, they feel overwhelmed, like maybe it will never get better. But you are saying that there is light, there is hope, there is something for them to look forward to, right?
Jill Manning: Yes, unreservedly I’m saying there is hope and healing. Is it hard work and a difficult road? Yes. It’s not easy to overcome something that becomes so entrenched into our brain and heart and system. But there have never before been so many resources, never been so much research and tools available to understand this issue, one, but also to help people overcome it if they are willing to put in the spiritual and mental work to overcome it. It’s possible, and I see the fruits of that every day I go to work. I think this work would be just utterly discouraging and disheartening, Sarah, if I did not regularly see people overcoming this and improving their relationships and in being able to re-engage with healthy living again.
May I share a story about seeking help and getting help that's had a big impact on me?
Sarah Jane Weaver: Sure.
Jill Manning: So I was born in the early 70s. And one of the first live action films that really grabbed my attention as a young girl was “Superman” that starred Christopher Reeve. And so growing up, if anyone mentioned a superhero Christopher Reeve as Superman was what came to mind for me. So imagine my just enormous excitement and privilege to be able to meet him in my early 20s. Here was my childhood hero, and superhero, literally. And I was a waitress in a very nice restaurant in downtown Calgary where I’m from. And he came into the restaurant with two others that he was accompanied with. And the house manager assigned me to Christopher Reeve’s table. I was so nervous. I was so nervous about dropping something, spilling something but you know, I remember being just so taken with how gracious and gentlemanly, he was soft spoken, handsome, just it was such a treat to see a childhood hero even be even more elevated in my memory. What stood out about that experience, though, was he asked for my help with something very simple. And what it was, is quite irrelevant to the story. But it was something that I don’t believe many men would ask a woman to help them with, and especially Superman. It just stood out to me that he had that humility and confidence in himself that he was willing to ask for help with something that most people wouldn’t ask for help for. And that stayed with me for ever since. And I really do believe that supermen, and superwomen do ask for help when they need it. And there’s so much power that we can access, especially if we’re doing that within a gospel framework. There’s power that I don’t think we even fully understand, that we have access to, and I want to close with just that, that encouragement, that invitation to really be super men and women and ask for help, even with simple things. And it’s available. And there is hope and healing available.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Years ago, when I first started writing about this issue as a reporter for the Church News, I remember asking a therapist if they could refer some people to me who struggled with this issue, and maybe if their spouses would be willing to speak as well. And the next day, a woman called, and immediately I recognized her voice. And she was a friend of mine. Our kids played on the same sports teams. And they had been dealing with this issue in their home for a long time, and I didn’t know. We had been to Young Womens camp together, and we had spent hours having meaningful conversations, and I still didn’t know. Is this something that impacts so many more people than we think that it might?
Jill Manning: Yes, sadly, it does. And it impacts people sometimes that you would least expect — all walks of life, all socioeconomic brackets, including women. We don’t often shine enough light on females that are struggling with sexually compulsive behavior, but they are there. And there is help available for them as well. What I do notice, I had someone similar to your story, Sarah, several weeks ago, call in tears. This is someone I’ve known for a long time. And she reached out to me just pleading for any help or direction that I could give her. She had recently learned that her son in high school had been using, secretly, pornography for at least two years, that the best that they knew. And she was devastated by this. And I’ll never forget her words. She said, “I feel like such a failure. What did I do wrong?” And, boy, I mean, I think as parents, we can relate to that sentiment, right? When something goes wrong, we can take that so personally. But as we unpacked her story, there was actually a lot of successes in it. The fact that this young man came forward, the fact that it had been two years, and that he wasn’t coming forward 10 years later. This was a home where she had taught good things, they had modeled good media use. She said, “I’ve done all the right things,” and you know what? She had. And I think that’s a good wake up call for all of us, that we can be doing our best and we can be doing good and right things. It doesn’t make us immune. But when those things arise, and we have been doing our best, the recovery period is shorter, it will be easier to get out of that. It will be easier to stay relational and connected with one another. And I have every hope that this family friend that reached out, they’re going to do great. And I do not anticipate this being a long-term struggle for them, because they had a foundation of teaching and connection and open conversations.
So, you know, things aren't always what they appear to be. Sometimes what we immediately feel like ais a failure, may not be at all, it may be an opportunity to further drill down, further learn, you know, tighten the ship. But I don't believe anything's wasted in these efforts. When we are faithfully doing our best, combined with the Lord's enormous help, this will work for our good. I firmly believe that, and we just have to keep faithfully moving forward, doing what we can. And I think that's the key, though, is to act, to not just hear these things and say, “Okay, well, maybe one day, I'll have to do that to act.” And that's what I love about these lights we focused on today. It gives everyone listening, myself included, action steps that we can implement in our homes and families right away.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I will never forget a phrase my friend shared with me. During the first conversation we had after she told me about the struggles her family had with pornography. She said when she first learned about everything, she used the phrase,” I was almost happy.” No, she wasn’t happy. Her husband wasn’t happy. This was one of the worst days ever, but they glimpsed something ahead of them. They were ready to deal with it. They were ready to move forward, they were ready to seek more light in their life. You know, you referenced, in preparation for this podcast, a scripture found in Genesis about God saw light and it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness. And I think they glimpsed that potential. And as they went to counseling, and he went through the repentance process, all of that became possible for their family.
Jill Manning: Well, and that scripture that you just referenced, Sarah, is powerful. There’s so many lessons and that the phrase that stood out to me is “Let there be light.” The light is there. I think it’s figuring out what’s getting in the way of us letting it come more fully and richly into our lives. We don’t have to create the light. I’m so grateful for that. We don’t have to be running around trying to figure out how to create that, we need, our job and task is to figure out what’s blocking it. It’s there. So “let there be light” is a powerful invitation. And as we divide light from darkness, there’s power in that. We’ll be blessed in those efforts, even those small efforts, efforts that someone may think, “How big of a difference can this really make?” Every layer makes a difference.
Sarah Jane Weaver: As we conclude this podcast, can you list for us again the five characteristics that we have spoken about today, and then tell us again, the action that we can do that will help prevent this in our homes and among our families?
Jill Manning: Certainly. So the five are, one, lack of education about healthy sexuality and marital intimacy in the home. The action step tied to that is to teach those principles and concepts in our home.
Second, that pornography use was normalized by someone in their family circle, their social circle. And the action response to that is to testify and be an active witness to the power of virtue and the harms of pornography, to not let that our views and testimony of that be a best-kept secret.
Third, that mental health issues are often present and entangled in this sphere. And the action step for that is to make sure we intervene and treat and assess those things early on, to not wait. When those are treated, it makes a world of difference in getting traction in healing.
Fourth, they had access to pornography. And the action step that I associate with that is for us to take all necessary steps to shut that down, and to teach our families what we do want to seek out.
Last and fifth is that they've experienced trauma. The response to that is that we actively work on healing in our own lives, that we encourage healing in the lives of our loved ones, and to love and make sure that we are not the source of trauma for someone.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Okay. Well, Dr. Manning, tell me, where can people go for help or for resources who are looking for some direction and some peace right now?
Jill Manning: Great question. First, let’s make sure we’re clear on what the help that people receive needs to accomplish and address, because that can help people understand which resources they need for their individual circumstances.
First, they need help in establishing sobriety. They need to deprogram the destructive and shaming messages that pornography has instilled, and often need help doing that, because these have often been messages ingrained since the time they were young, children even. We need to address the mental health issues, treat the past trauma and attachment wounds, and restore spiritual wellness and vitality.
So with that in mind, there's five sources of help that I recommend people consider. The first is to turn to the Lord sincerely and urgently, and to listen to His prophets. Secondly, to turn to your bishop, and be fully honest about the scope of this issue. That's often where I see people misstep on that important piece. They hold back out of shame, they minimize or they deny the full seriousness of this. Go with an honest and open heart to really lay this out. Third, connect with a recovery community, such as a 12 step program. And in that, be authentic, seek of authentic fellowship and be accountable to that group. Fourth, seek out a specialized mental health provider, and there are two credentials I want to mention. For those that are struggling with this issue, I highly recommend seeking a certified sex addiction therapist. They will have the training to properly assess and treat any compulsive sexual behavior, including internet pornography use, and the international directory for that group of credential providers is iitap.com, that’s spelled iitap.com. For those that are impacted: The spouses, the partners of those struggling, including family members, I recommend working with a betrayal trauma specialist, and the international directory for that group of credential providers is through apsats.org, apsats.org. That's the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts and Trauma Specialists. And lastly, if someone knows that they have earnestly tried to overcome this for years, I highly recommend seeking out a physician who specializes in addiction medicine, or a psychiatrist who specializes in mental health and seek help to rule out or rule in any mental health or medical issue that may be a driving factor in this. We know that the World Health Organization recognizes and has classified compulsive sexual behavior as a recognizable disorder, this is a real thing. And in their criteria for diagnostic work, they say that anyone that has struggled with this for six months or more should be looking at ruling out or ruling in any contributing factors and getting treatment for this.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, we have a tradition at the Church News podcast where we give our guests the last word. And so, Dr. Manning, I am hoping that you can close today by just sharing with us what you have learned after studying and researching and talking about this hard topic for so many years, and what you know now as a result.
Jill Manning: Thank you for that opportunity. I know for certain that there is light and hope, that healing is possible. I also, in time, feel a growing urgency to make sure that our youth especially understand the harms of pornography. This is dangerous material. But, I’m grateful that, from a gospel perspective, we have access to power that far transcends and exceeds that which pornography has in anyone’s life. And I think keeping anchored in that perspective makes all the difference. But what I’d want to say is there is hope and there is healing, for both for those that are struggling and also those that have been impacted through no choice or fault of their own. And I know this, because every week when I go to my office, and I work with a remarkable group of people that have been honest and vulnerable in earnestly working to overcome this, I see change and I see people thriving and succeeding that overcoming this and are healthier than they ever have been before. You’ll recall in the classic movie, “Pinocchio,” when all the boys were shuttled off to Pleasure Island, they changed, they physiologically changed because of the lies and the behaviors they were engaged with. But I know that there is hope, because more than a fictional story, we have a truth and true doctrine called the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which also changes people physiologically, spiritually, can change our hearts, change our minds and change our lives. And that’s where I hold my greatest hope, is with the Atonement and those that are sincerely desiring to repent. And with appropriate help, people can overcome this issue, that I know.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor, Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you’ve learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast, and if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others.Thanks to our guests, to my producer KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.