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Prevention: Fence or Ambulance?

Dear Brother & Sister,

Prevention is crucial! I mean that in both not getting into pornography in the first place, but I mean it also with those who are struggling with it. It is imperative that you prevent the thoughts, feelings, situations, circumstance, etc. that have led you to look. When I think of prevention I think of the following poem by Joseph Malens (1895):

'Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, "Put a fence 'round the edge of the cliff,"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
"For the cliff is all right, if you're careful," they said,
"And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they're stopping."
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: "It's a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they'd much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief," cried he,
"Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley."
"Oh he's a fanatic," the others rejoined,
"Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He'd dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We'll support them forever.
Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?"
But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
"To rescue the fallen is good, but 'tis best
To prevent other people from falling."
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence 'round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.

How much happier would we be with more fences and less ambulance in regards to our problem with pornography? Are there fences we need to put up to stop us from being home alone? From staying up late? From using the computer all together? From getting a SmartPhone? It is so much better to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent!

You know the fences you need to put up--perhaps you haven't put them up so that you can continue in your addiction. But it is time to stop. Rally the town (your spouse, your bishop, other family members, etc.) and put up your fences today. Be strong and make your stand today.



Dear Brother,

One of the hardest parts of the recovery process is not only admitting you can't do it alone, but then acting upon that admittance and telling others about it. The Dear Brother Letters is meant to help you take that step.

I encourage and invite you to write your own Dear Brother letter both as a means of beginning to express yourself, but also as a means of relating to someone else who is struggling with the same problem we have each had. Tell of your heart ache, your hurting, and your hope for healing.

I invite you to email me your letters at to share with others facing this same challenge. I look forward to hearing from you!


Worth It

Dear Brother,

I don't have much time to write tonight, but I wanted to let you know that not only can you beat this, but it will be worth it. Due to the difficult nature of the battle you are a part of, you may question if the benefits of continuing to fight will really be worth it. As one who has fought and continues to fight, I assure you that it is a battle you can win with persistence and effort, and it is worth it.

I remember a priesthood leader once attributing all the blessings they had received in their life to the decision that they had made to going on a mission. While I know I have received many blessings from serving a mission, I would have to say that I feel that I can attribute the majority of the great blessings of my life--my marriage, my profession, my talents--to my beating pornography. Then again, maybe those were all blessings that I had coming to me because of my mission--I just couldn't embrace them all until I had overcome this challenge. I guess it's like a house that is surrounded with sunshine but doesn't realize or truly experience it until the drapes are pulled back and the shades lifted. Then the house is filled with all the wonderful sunshine it had waiting for it.

As I go to work each day, as I come home to my dear wife, as I write these letters to you, I am filled with sunshine. It is the light that comes with a pure life. Of course life isn't all joy and smiles--I face stress daily (just finished those darn taxes. What a chore--ugh!). But it is a different stress than before. It's no longer the stress of shame, or embarrassment, or of trying to keep a great secret hidden.

Don't give up brother. If only casting aside this burden were as easy as opening the blinds in the house and welcoming the light! You have a journey before you that may be the hardest journey you have ever had to face, but it's a journey that will qualify you for unlimited blessings from our loving and eternal Savior.

Keep ascending,


Dear Brother,
Awareness is key. 

As I have been thinking of all that helped me in my quest to overcome pornography, I realize that an awareness of my thoughts, emotions, surroundings, use of time, relationships, and pretty much everything else can impact your desire to look at pornography. Of course there must be appropriate action taken once you begin to be aware of the problem, but that is a letter for a later day.

The most common word we in the addiction world use for awareness is ‘trigger.’ You may be very familiar already with this word. If you are not, I encourage you to become well acquainted with it because your recognition of and reaction to your triggers will deeply impact your progress in recovery.

How do we become aware of our triggers? Begin by backtracking. Though painful as it may be, think about the last time you acted out. What were the conditions, emotions, thoughts, etc. that caused you to act out? Remember that acting out is not an isolated, spur of the moment action. There was something that got the ball rolling initially. It is crucial that you identify what it was if you are to learn to avoid it the next time.  

Was it something you saw? An inappropriate billboard? An immodest person? Something you saw on TV?
How about something you heard? A suggestive song on the radio? Inappropriate joke? 

What were you feeling at the time when you decided to act out? Boredom? Loneliness? Anger? Stress? Tired? Shame? Don’t just stop once you have identified the emotion, dig deeper. What caused that emotion? Why did you feel that way? Was your stress a result of problems at work or with your significant other? Do you feel bored at certain times of the day when nothing is going on? 

Forgive me for throwing so many questions at you, but it is imperative you understand you nearly perfectly. You must begin to recognize what it is that causes you to want to act out this way.  I know that developing self-awareness was a vital behavior that lead to my own change. When I realized that stress was a key trigger, I realized that I either needed to find ways to avoid stressful situations (not likely to happen completely) or else find more productive ways to relieve it when I started to feel stress.  I also recognized that traveling a certain way home from work would take me past a certain billboard that would trigger inappropriate thoughts. Once I became aware of that, I was then able to change my route home. King Benjamin was speaking to us when he said to "watch yourselves, and your words, and your deeds...even until the end of your lives" or else we "must perish." (Mosiah 4:30) Have we not have perished a little spiritually each time we have acted out? Have not our relationships with those we trusted perished a little each time we have given in? Learning to watch our thoughts, our deeds, our emotions, our surroundings, etc. is crucial if we desire to perish no more.

Examine your life. See and learn as much as you can about yourself and you will begin to utilize one of the most vital behaviors you need to heal. Brother, "remember [to be aware], and perish not."



Dear Brother,

Don't think that after nearly two years you are off the hook. I have experienced a wonderful sobriety for over the past two years and have received many blessings because of it, but I've learned today that I still must stay on my guard. The adversary wants us bad, especially when we are making rapid strides against his filthy tide. For some reason I woke up this morning and felt weak. I'm afraid if I would have hung around my apartment any longer, something could have happened. But I left and headed to work.

I know that part of the problem was that I was a little down on myself. At times it can be hard to believe that I will accomplish all that I want to. Occasionally I still think about past mistakes and they pull me down. Some days the shame that I thought was gone looms it's ugly head back into my heart. But I like to think I am like Nephi in his Psalm. He called himself a wretched man, but then pulled himself out of it by remembering who he has trusted.

I too have trusted the Lord and he has taken care of me. He has brought me out the jaws of pornography, and I am NOT going back in. I know that I always have a choice. It may be incredibly hard to change at times, but with His strength, I can do all things.

You have a hard road to head on, but you can do it brother. Don't let discouragement get in your way. Don't let relapse get in your way. Use the stones that have burdened your back as stepping stones to get where you want to go. Be strong.



Dear Brother,
  You are hesitant to call it an addiction, aren’t you. You tell yourself that the word ‘addiction’ is reserved for druggies, and alcoholics, but not you. Yes you have struggled with pornography for years--perhaps getting by for brief periods in which you thought you were done with it only to find yourself eventually staring at another screen or magazine yet again. Not an addiction?
Brother, my fear is that you don’t see the danger for what it is. More than likely the stakes have not been raised high enough yet. There’s the chance to you have covered it up well-enough that no one knows. And you tell yourself that as long as no-one knows, it’s not really a problem.  In your mind this is just the common-cold. Wait long enough, and it will disappear.
But dear brother, this is not a cold, nor flu, nor paper-cut, nor bruise that will merely disappear in a week or two. This is full-blown cancer of the soul. And unless you see it for what it is and treat it for what it is, it will destroy you.
  It is not uncommon for an individual with a life-threatening illness to have denial. So it is with an addiction. Both are things that only happen to other people, not us. If we were told we had cancer, we might first be prone to tell ourselves that if just exercise a little more, or take a few more vitamins, or get some rest and that fix it all. Same thing with pornography—just by reading the scriptures a little more, praying a little longer, fasting with a little more intent will make it ‘all better.’ In both cases those things can help the healing process, but there comes a point when reality must be seen for what it is so that the problem may be treated properly.  There are stronger treatments we will need if we are going to come out on top.
You need to understand the healing that begins when you start to see your struggles for what they are: an addiction. When you come to the realization that you have not and cannot beat this of your volition and ability, you will begin to look for help. 


Dear Brother,

If one of the adversaries titles is "the Great Deceiver," I have no problem in calling pornography his greatest deception. Look at all five of these definitions for the word 'deceive' and tell me that it does not describe pornography perfectly:

1. ensnare
2. a: to be false to b: to fail to fulfill
3. cheat
4. to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid
5. to while away
Pornography has ensnared us, has failed to fail our needs, has caused us to be false to our selves and others, has cheated us and caused us to cheat others, has shown us images that we have accepted as true but are false and invalid (see the clip below), has caused us to while away the precious gift of time. We have been deceived in so many ways--from the pictures we see, to the emotions we have felt, to how we have treated ourselves and those we love most.

In the most recent general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard compared addiction to fly-fishing. He stated:
The goal of the fly fisherman is to catch trout through skillful deception. The adept fisherman studies trout behavior, weather, the water current, and the types of insects trout eat and when those insects hatch. He will often craft by hand the lures he uses. He knows these artificial insects embedded with tiny hooks need to be a perfect deception because the trout will identify even the slightest flaw and reject the fly.
He goes on to say:

Like the fly fisherman who knows that trout are driven by hunger, Lucifer knows our “hunger,” or weaknesses, and tempts us with counterfeit lures which, if taken, can cause us to be yanked from the stream of life into his unmerciful influence. And unlike a fly fisherman who catches and releases the fish unharmed back into the water, Lucifer will not voluntarily let go. His goal is to make his victims as miserable as he is.
The porn industry thrives on counterfeits. They nip this, tuck that, pile make-up over the top of all of it, and then finish it off by a heavy dose of Photoshop to smudge out leftover wrinkles, shrink bulging love handles, and enlarge lips so that before your eyes you see the perfect woman that only seems to exist on the page. A hand-crafted deception is made that lures us in. We are deceived in thinking that is what beauty means. But the hook that is embedded hurts because we knew better than to look. Satan deceives us through shameful feelings that tell us that we are our mistakes and that no one can truly love us because of our defects. As we buy into that deception, we create our own deception so that we won't be caught or discovered. Deception leads to deception.

Brother, please know that hope is not lost!

If anyone who is addicted has a desire to overcome, then there is a way to spiritual freedom—a way to escape from bondage—a way that is proven. It begins with prayer—sincere, fervent, and constant communication with the Creator of our spirits and bodies, our Heavenly Father. It is the same principle in breaking a bad habit or repenting from sin of any kind. The formula for having our heart, our body, our mind, and our spirit transformed is found in the scriptures.
The prophet Mormon counseled us: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love … ; that ye may become the sons of God; … that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:48).
This and many other scriptures testify to us there is hope for the addicted, and this hope comes through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ and by humbling oneself before God, pleading to be freed of the bondage of addiction and offering our whole soul to Him in fervent prayer. (Elder M. Russell Ballard, Nov. 2010 Ensign)
I personally know that through the Savior, you will learn to see through the deceptions that face you if you will turn to Him to him in prayer.



Dear Brother,

I have been reading a book from a book entitled Confronting Pornography: A Guide to Prevention and Recovery for Individuals, Love Ones, and Leaders. (Deseret Book, 2005) It is a wonderful book and I encourage you to get a copy as you work on your personal copy. Your significant other will also find it useful as they seek to help you.

As I have tried to reflect what to say to you that might be of worth as you begin your recovery, I found this quote by Victor B. Cline. In the very first chapter of the book, he mentions several factors that most predict success in recovery. I intend to only discuss the first today. He states:

"The individual must be personally motivated to be free of his addiction and possess a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve success. While freedom from addiction and renewed health are possible, you can never force a person to get well if he doesn't want to." (emphasis added, 21.)
Can you say this of yourself brother? How deep is your willingness? Are you truly willing to do "whatever it takes" at whatever cost may be required? This might mean that you need to leave your current job because it requires you to be on a computer all day. This might mean you have to give up your Smartphone and revert back to a model from a few years ago. This means you will have to tell your spouse, your ecclesiastical leader, a support group, and many others the mistakes you have made.

For some becoming will mean hitting rock bottom--losing a spouse, a job, their church membership--but this does not have to be the case! Take the smallest step that you can today to show the Lord your willingness, and that willingness will grow! President Boyd K. Packer has said that "a testimony is to found in the bearing of it." So it is with willingness. Willingness is to be found in the demonstration of it! Call your bishop if you have not. Tell your spouse if you have not. Find a support group. Give someone your laptop. Drive the extra 15 minutes it takes to avoid that area of temptation. Do whatever you know you need to in order to demonstrate your willingness.

Remember, those who are willing, will find healing!


Dear Brother

Dear Brother,

I am your neighbor. I am your best friend. I am your coworker. I am your boss. I am your doctor. I'm the guy sitting next to you in church. I am the store clerk helping you with groceries. I am the principal at your kid's school. And just like you, I struggle with addiction.

I need not tell you right now how I got into it. As these letters come, you will hear both how I got in, and how I got out. Today, all I wanted to let you know is, that you aren't the only one struggling. You may feel that you are. You may feel that everyone else around you has never sunk as low as you have. But you couldn't be more wrong.

You are not alone in your struggles. As you look into the faces of so many others, you would be startled to see a past that has run nearly perfectly parallel to your own with mistakes, regrets, and shame. You are not alone.

I am reaching out to you now to let you know that I have faced this horrendous battle just as you are right now. I am your neighbor. I am your friend. I am your brother.