The Thoughts of the Heart

Jesse's Story

A missionary studying scriptures at his desk.

When I first encountered pornography, it caught me by surprise. I was preparing to get my driver’s license and was shopping online for a car. In my search, I accidentally came across a website I knew was bad. I immediately realized what it was and turned the computer off.

I felt I had a choice to make—I could talk to my dad about it or keep quiet and deal with it on my own. I knew that it had been an honest mistake, but I was scared and did not want to tell my dad. However, I thought about the image I had seen on the Internet over and over again and finally gave in to temptation. My thoughts started me down a path of loneliness, pain, fear, insecurity, lies, and actions I will forever regret. 

For two years, I struggled with this addiction and did not want to stop. I found myself wanting it more and more. Deep down inside I knew I had to change because I knew it was wrong. Finally, in my last year of high school, I decided to change. A new bishop had just been called in our ward, so it was hard to get myself in his office to tell him what I had done. I was so ashamed and in so much pain. I did not know how to proceed with my life, so I knew it had to be done.

When I finally met with my bishop, I told him what I had been doing for the past two years. For the first time I felt somewhat relieved, but it was just the beginning of my battle for freedom. The bishop spoke to me kindly and told me I needed to start reading the scriptures, praying, and meeting with him more often. He asked me if he needed to take away my privilege of passing the sacrament until I got this resolved. I immediately knew I did not want that to happen and that I wanted to change, so I did as he asked.

Over the next year, I freed myself from the physical aspect of viewing pornography and felt great. I did not realize until later that the fight was not over. I graduated from high school and served a mission. On my mission, I realized the physical addiction was easier for me to overcome, but the hardest part to overcome was my thoughts. It felt like I was fighting a battle I couldn’t win in my head.

I began to question my faith and why I was on a mission. All the feelings of shame, fear, dishonesty, and covering up my past came back. I felt like running away to hide my problems. Again I was faced with a choice to make, and I did not know what to do. I felt lost and defeated on all fronts and I wanted to give up.

But I remembered one thing I had heard growing up; it was about the atonement of Jesus Christ, praying, and seeking forgiveness through Christ. I decided to put it to the test, realizing it would not be an easy process. I began by telling myself to take it one day at a time. My mission president told me to exercise every time I had thoughts or an urge to do something. A miracle began, but it wasn’t something huge or grand. It was simple. I turned to the Lord and said, “I can’t do this alone. Help me, please!”

The process still was not easy, and it took time. I read the Church magazines and the Book of Mormon. I also fasted and prayed to really apply the atonement to my life. At the end of one Sabbath day, I finally felt an overwhelming sense of peace and freedom. I realized I had forgiven myself and conquered what had plagued me for many years. I felt at peace and grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This was a victory, and a victory never to be forgotten!

I finished my mission and returned home honorably to family and friends. I have been able to enjoy so many blessings I know I would not have if I had not made the choice to turn to the Lord for help. I am now happily married to a wonderful person who loves me and supports me in all I endeavor to do. We are expecting our first baby.

I still struggle today with the remembrance of what I did almost ten years ago, but I know it serves as a reminder of what I don’t want to do again. I find that I am at peace with my past, even though I may still be tempted. I know that in my heart the Lord has forgiven me, and that I have forgiven myself.