He Restoreth My Soul–How Christ Lifted from Me the Shadows of Pornography
I remember as a young man hiking up through trees to where the rock face looked down across the valley below. I had scaled 20 feet of jagged rock before I felt my fingers slip. I knew I would fall. With sharp rocks below, I was certain the resulting fall would mean serious injury if not death.
My body entered panic mode. Blood pounded in my head. My nerves screamed. I cursed my overconfidence and my foolishness in going alone. I had no cell phone, and nobody knew where I was. That’s where things get hazy in my memory. As my trembling fingers clung to that shallow stone ledge, I called out for my Heavenly Father and found myself suddenly standing on top.
Breathing hard, grateful to be out of danger, I didn’t realize until much later just how remarkable that experience was. Someone had lifted me up. I swear to this day, I was lifted by angels. These angels weren’t the first divine help I received in life, and they wouldn’t be the last. My Savior would save me from a fate far worse than that physical fall, in a struggle that spanned over 15 years.
I spent my early childhood in imaginary battle. Sometimes a stick sword met invisible warriors and dragons in combat, and my bicycle wheels were like blazing hooves down the sidewalks. I spent long hours in my yard, crawling through snowy trenches behind enemy lines, with nothing but my determination and an empty squirt gun to see me safely through. In my childhood play, I didn’t understand that there was a very real enemy who hunted my soul in those tender years. It’s terrifying to think about, really. I had learned about him, but it wasn’t until about 1990 when I fell into his trap. I was seven years old.
I remember vividly when I turned the television on in our basement to find a movie airing on public television. An unmarried couple was sexually intimate. I hid in a closet and watched the movie through the crack of the door. I heard footsteps enter the room and pause. I held my breath, certain I would be caught, but then the footsteps left. The television was left on, and I kept watching, curiosity awakened inside that I’d never felt before. I learned there were often movies like that on public television. Even in our family collection were films with scenes we’d always fast-forward.
So I waited until everyone slept, and then I sneaked up the stairs to the television and watched. My parents were right down the hall sleeping, but I never got caught.
My family got a computer, and my parents had strict rules to keep us safe from pornography. They assigned a password and hid it so we wouldn’t get online while they were gone. My siblings found the password hidden in a drawer. They used it to play computer games, and when alone, I used it to search for pornography. Those images are emblazoned in my mind.
I lived a half-life between darkness and light. I could never stop completely. I remember driving down the road with my dad in our family car. My dad told me my little brother was worried about me. I confessed a little to my dad, and I went to visit my bishop. I desperately longed for the help that could save me from my enemy, but I never returned to that bishop. Nothing changed. I stayed in bondage.
I was active in the Church to anyone who knew me, and through the strength of phenomenal parents, I even gained a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m certain this proves just how hard my Heavenly Father fought for my soul during my adolescent years. Even so, around this time I became entrenched in Internet pornography and began experimenting with other sexual sins. It seemed that whenever I fought back against my enemy, the shackles only tightened.
In high school I met a beautiful and virtuous young woman, but I pushed affection too far, and my weakness became hers. Though we never took it beyond inappropriate touching and kissing, I felt like a damned soul, for now I had corrupted someone I loved with my own weakness.
In the common area during lunch one day, a friend told me about her patriarchal blessing. She shared an insight it had given her into overcoming a personal challenge. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t believe there was a way I could receive specific guidance for my personal life directly from my Heavenly Father. At the time, I felt certain my enemy must have hidden that knowledge from me. I realize now that my Father likely knew just when I would need that knowledge the most.
By this point I had accepted my fence-sitter status. I was convinced that in the War in Heaven, when Michael struck down the dragon (see Revelation 12:7–8), it must have been mere happenstance that I ended up on the right side of the line. After all, to be in bondage for so long here, I could not have been anything special there. I was just continuing a pattern of weakness that began in premortality and would follow me my entire life. My patriarchal blessing was one of the first major bursts of light that helped to clear away the darkness.
We arrived at the home of the stake patriarch, a stranger to me. I sat and spoke with him a moment before he had me take a chair in the center of his living room. His wife sat nearby with a typewriter and a recording machine. The patriarch’s hands rested on my head, and I began pleading in my heart for the Lord to tell me something—anything that could bring me out of darkness. The very first lines from the patriarch’s lips went straight to the heart of my doubts and broke them asunder. I heard my Heavenly Father speaking directly to me through this stranger and felt His arms encircle me, and I began to cry. I learned that with my Savior’s help, I had conquered my enemy before this life. I learned that with Christ, I could conquer my enemy here as well.
I separated myself physically from the girl I had grown to love so much. From a distance, we nurtured the best parts of our relationship. It was as if my head had broken at last through the mists of darkness into sunlight. I was able to serve a mission, and when I returned home, that young lady and I made it to the temple and we made it there clean.
Though my enemy still rails at me in moments of temptation, I have remained clean through continually turning to my Savior. I’ve been married to that magnificent young lady for over 10 years. We have two beautiful daughters who taught me just how deep true love can extend.
The armor I imagined in my youth is today very real, strengthened and polished with faith, righteousness, and the power of temple covenants. The imaginary sword that vanquished dragons in my youth is today very real. I wield it in defense of my family like my Savior did in the wilderness of His temptation when He went up to fast. Against our common enemy I declare, as He did, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written” (Matthew 4:10).
Let me say it again because my heart fills with inexpressible joy at the utterance, a joy that you too can attain. After a plagued adolescence, my Savior pulled me up over that ledge of addiction. He called me back to Him, and when I called out to Him, He lifted me up into light. He championed my lost soul, and today I am clean.
In my home is a painting of King David by Walter Rane. It is titled He Restoreth My Soul. In this painting, with David’s head bowed in earnest supplication and one clenched fist resting against his forehead, I recognize my own soul calling out to God in my rock-bottom moment. I’m reminded that even in our deepest despair, we have hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
No matter how long you’ve struggled and how dark your surroundings may seem, your Heavenly Father will never leave you comfortless. Though you may slip or fall, the time will come when your falls become less frequent and less severe until one day, you too will be free of these chains.
It is my witness that God lives. How glorious to speak those words and know what they mean for every one of the sons and daughters of God! The Savior lives, and as the champion of our salvation, He reaches out to you today and lifts us to safety when we call out to Him. That is my witness, the testimony of my personal journey through darkness, in the name of the Savior who brought me through, even Jesus Christ, amen.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
“Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:1–6).
*Name has been changed.