As time passed I though that I had things under control. These thoughts and urges were the same thoughts and urges that all young men have, Right?. And I was a good kid. I could keep them under control.
Despite my thoughts and actions I loved the Gospel and the Lord and I wanted to serve a mission. As I was getting close to submitting my mission papers, I found myself sitting at home alone one night. I sat there flipping channels on the tv and found a station playing some late night Music videos. The videos were filled with images that were not pornographic so to speak but more lustful. I allowed myself to linger there until the all too familiar urges arose inside of me. For the first time in my life I had the desire to self pleasure. I had never done that before… I remember so clearly thinking… “NO.. don't do that”….. but then thought, “One time cant hurt”.After the act, I was of course instantly ashamed. I immediately decided I would never do that again. I could hold off.… but only a few days later, the urges came on strong again.
An internal battle was raging inside of me. It seemed everywhere I looked I saw images or people or things that would send my thoughts back to that first time. The urges were becoming stronger and stronger. I knew that as a soon to be called Missionary, that Satan wanted nothing more than an unworthy subject. Even knowing this… I found myself sitting in front of that same late night TV channel on many more occasions, fulfilling the fantasies that had been playing out in my mind.
I was determined to serve a mission. But now I felt even less worthy than before. I knew I could not honestly pass the interview and I wanted to be clean. I made up my mind to talk to my bishop.
I went to him and through tears, explained my struggle. I insisted I had it under control. He said “This is a serious sin , however, many young men have struggled with this and they are able to conquer it and still serve. You will get through this.” He asked me to meet with him a couple more times to report my progress. So, for the next month we met weekly and each time I could report that I had gone without viewing or release. I had made it a month and that was enough to show him I was cured.
I had put time between the sin and my meetings… but I did nothing to really truly repent. Confession and abstinence alone do not make one a repentant soul. I did not understand that I was in need of the atonement. Here I was preparing to preach about the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I didn't have the slightest understanding of the crowning principle on which it is built.
I returned to preparing for my mission. Working, hanging out with friends….
a few weeks went by…. and I was again slipping into the trap. My resolve was strong until it wasn't. I knew what I wanted was to be clean and pure, but I had tasted of this pleasure and the urge to experience it again and again kept coming back. Eventually my resolve weakened until I again found myself alone, devouring the music videos and giving into temptation.
After a few more weeks of giving into the desire, I became determined to be clean before my mission. I set a course of Scripture study and prayer. My call came, and I left on my mission.
My Mission was filled with faith promoting experiences. My testimony grew and I loved preaching the gospel and serving the Lord. My mission was not without slip ups though. I let my guard down and found myself falling into that old comfortable place of imagination and fantasy. Even when I felt completely disgusted with myself, somehow I could still teach a perfect lesson and others could feel the spirit. I began to think I was unsinkable… maybe one could live their life with a foot in each world. Maybe I was the exception to the rule.
What I really learned was that Satan was working overtime on me and I began believing his lies. I learned very quickly that you can fool a few people but you cant fool the Lord and the emptiness I started to carry with me made it very difficult to teach.
After a couple more slip ups, I decided to get my mission back on track and went to see the mission president. We had a zone conference one weekend. I confessed to the Mission President. I was told… “You are an amazing Missionary Elder… I know you can handle this. BE clean, Work Hard, and you will overcome it”. I was basically patted on my head and told.. don't do that again…. and so… be good… and good luck".
I felt a lighter load after making that confession. And I was able to refocus and did really well for a long time. I became district leader and Zone leader… and then… I slipped up again… but this time… I could not talk to the President. He had trusted me with these callings. I was the example and could not disappoint him. My pride got in the way of any future confessions on my mission and I finished serving and was given an “Honorable” release.
After my mission I went and visited one of my old friends. He was an LDS buddy who sort of served a mission. He went, and was never really serious about it. After serving for about a year he was sent home. He felt that he was dishonorably discharged. He later confessed to me that he felt bad about that and wished he had taken his mission more seriously.
He told me he was going to have the opportunity to manage an apartment and asked if I would like to be his room mate. I said yes. I was working at the pool again, I had a steady income and job. I was toying with the idea of going to school and so living with him felt great. It would be my first opportunity to truly live on my own. I moved in and found out very quickly that my friend was a computer genius.And through him, I was introduced to the power of the internet.
This was before actual websites were even used much. With slow modem speeds and dial up, the most prevalent content providers were news groups and forum services. Newsgroups came in every shape and variety. I perused the list on a few occasions and learned that there were several pornographic newsgroups. I passed over them at first. I was a newly returned missionary and I had no desire to get sucked into that world again. I had started to attend the institute and I was thinking about dating and so I didn't want to pollute myself so quickly.
One day while my friend was gone I noticed he was downloading something. In fact, he had been downloading all night. I looked at the download list and saw that he had been downloading images of some sort. In my curiosity I began to look around for the download file to see what it was. After a short search I discovered the files and saw that he had been compiling a HUGE collection of Playboy scans. I looked at the first picture and was offended… but I felt the urge to look at more… and so then… I spent the next hour or more… looking at all of the pictures he had collected. I closed it up tight so he wouldn't know I had found them and then vowed not to look again.
A couple weeks went by and I saw him doing another long download. I decided to ask what he was downloading. To my surprise he told me outright…”they are scans of naked women”. I played dumb and said….”What… Why?” He said he had friends that would pay him for them. He showed me the CDs he had burned and the collections he had acquired. There must have been thousands of pictures.
Knowing that those Cds were just sitting there, the temptation grew stronger day after day. He worked a lot and I was home often alone. Denying myself the opportunity to look at those pictures became a painful exercise. I would sit on my bed and the thoughts would run over and over through my mind. I would pace the house and know they were simply waiting over there for me. I fought the urges and hunger until finally it became more than I could handle and I gave in. Before long it became a regular ritual to peruse and view his images. I don't think he ever knew.
My resolve had weakened and now my curiosity came into play. I knew there were newsgroups on there that offered more than just the playboy, airbrushed, mostly censored photos. I wanted to see what else was out there…. so I set out to create a collection of my own. I began downloading from the Porn newsgroups and quickly discovered that there were far more hard core pictures available.
Collecting the photos starting to become an obsession. Even the ones I hated or was offended by, I did not want to delete. It was so much work and took so much time to download them that I felt like I had to keep them. So taking a tip from my friend, I began burning them to cd and hiding them for later viewing.
As I think back on it though, I don't know that I ever looked at them after the first time. Its almost as if once they had been viewed, I was done with them. I had already seen them and so they could never provide the same thrill that I received the first time. The only thing I could do was get more…. and More.. and More…
I lost a lot of sleep downloading pictures late at night. I amassed a collection. I hid it and began to hate it. There were several times that I got mad and threw them all away… but then I would wish I hadn't and so the downloading would begin again to recollect my treasure.
The fantasies began to grow in my mind. I was creating unrealistic scenarios that would be impossible for any future wife to live up to. I never told my room mate or anyone at all. I was so ashamed that I wanted to look at these pictures. I was embarrassed. I thought I could stop it but I also knew how delicious they were. I had so much willpower then. I deleted the pictures on so many occasions and then quit altogether.. getting myself right. But somehow it would always creep back. My focus was not where it should be… I was a 22 year old man with an unsatisfied sex drive and I allowed myself to let my guard down completely.
I got called to be the Elders Quorum President in the institute branch of the church. By this time I had been home for about 6 Months. I had gained a reputation of being the perfect Priesthood holder. I was fun and funny and obedient and lived the gospel…. but I struggled in the background and nobody knew. I decided that nobody could know. I could get this under control and nobody need ever know. I truly believed that.
I accepted the calling and went on… doing good and slipping up back and forth for the next year and half. I was again working at the pool and again I found myself staring at my fantasies daily and the battle was harder than ever.
I enjoyed the institute. I dated a little bit. I felt loved and felt like people liked me. It was fun to be there. I dated a few girls and had a lot of fun but nothing serious ever developed.
Not until a beautiful woman moved into the branch fresh from BYU. On her first Sunday she stood up and bore her testimony. She caught my Eye immediately. I was so anxious for her to notice me that I jumped right up and bore my testimony. After Sacrament meeting I introduced myself and eventually became bold enough to ask her out.
We began dating. and I began setting myself in order. I felt very quickly that she and I were going to marry and I knew that I needed to be worthy. So I cut myself off from all the temptations and focused completely on her. We spent every free moment together. It was a wonderful and fun and a silly sweet and loving courtship. There were sparks early on and we knew that we were going to be married and began planning our engagement after only 2 months.
I stayed clean throughout our entire engagement. My fantasies shifted to being with her on our wedding night. I still had not completely confessed my previous sins. I had not turned them over to the bishop or the Lord. But I had been clean for more than 6 months and felt that this time with a wife to help me fulfil my fantasies, I would certainly have no need for those dark and dirty distractions anymore.
Our wedding day could not come fast enough. Eventually it did come and we enjoyed an amazing and perfect spiritual day being sealed together in the temple.
We were married and were happy and blissful. The wedding night was everything it was supposed to be. Fun and silly and sexy and adventurous and new. It was perfect. I wanted to always remember that moment. I felt that if I could hold on to that memory, the temptations could be kept at bay…. and that worked for a few months. But soon the pains, and urges and hunger began to creep back in and in only a couple months my resolve began to fall.