I got the following email yesterday and I thought it urgent to respond.
“I found out recently that my boyfriend went through this program of yours (see www.Sons of Helaman.org). He graduated (from the program) and is doing well from what I understand and plans on going on his mission in a few months when he turns 19. I’m very proud of him for what he’s done, but I do have a little concern for what lies in the future. We plan on writing each other and seeing if something will work out after his mission (I tell you this only to let you know why this is of concern to me) but I’m having a hard time seeing a good relationship with his past addiction. The main reason for contacting you is to essentially figure out if this is my problem or his. If he has reconciled with Heavenly Father and his past is forgiven then I have no right to hold this over his head. But at the same time it is still something that could become a problem again. What are the chances of him falling back into his addiction? I want to trust him, but it is obviously a weak spot.”
“I’m not quite sure if I’ve relayed my concerns properly, but hopefully you get the idea at what I’m trying to get at. If this is a personal issue of forgiveness/forgetting that I need to handle then I’ll work on it and figure it out, but if there’s any way I can be reassured that a relationship wouldn’t be doomed for failure ten or twenty years down the road that would be greatly appreciated.”
“Thank you so much for your time in reading this,”
First, I want you to know that I hope my daughter (who is now 8) is as assertive, smart and courageous as you are when she reaches your age. I much prefer helping women work with these issues before the wedding rather than after it.
It is women like you that inspire us to be better men. I met with some women leaders from another culture a while back, and I found myself floundering in my ability to help them because of one main factor…the women of their culture were not demanding that the men fix these problems before entering into a relationship with them! Please, make it a rule that you will never marry a man who has gone less than a year without any problems in these areas. It is true that you should be forgiving, but if there is any one circumstance where you should be judgmental, it should be in picking an eternal spouse and a father to your children.
You are actually entering the picture at the perfect stage of life. By dating him before his mission, after he has acquired the skills necessary to beat the addiction, you have time to see if he will actually use the skills needed to protect you and your children from this subtle Satanic attack. In fact, I remember hearing about two mothers of the young men I work with discussing this issue. One mother asked another, “What would you do if the young man who picked up your daughter for a date was wearing one of those Sons of Helaman rings? Would you let him go out with your daughter knowing his history?” The other mother responded, “With what I understand about this addiction, I wouldn’t let a young man take out my daughter if he WASN’T wearing one of those rings!”
Unfortunately, the likelihood of a young man reaching adulthood without being exposed to pornography and its counterparts is unlikely. That doesn’t mean he will become an addict automatically, but with how determined Satan is to destroy individuals and families, the man will need some decent training on how to fight it off at some point in his life.
My recommendations for a young woman at your phase of life are as follows:
1. “When does a girl have a right to know?” We discuss this question frequently in our group sessions. It has been decided that she has a right to know right before she gives her heart to the young man. So, take the following course of action right before you let yourself fall in love with the young man.
2. Ask direct questions – “When did you last view pornography?” “How long has it been since you masturbated?” “What is your history of morality issues with other young women?” Yes these are very direct questions, but nothing motivates the young men I work with more than to know that the girl his is dating, whom he hopes with soon become his girlfriend, is going to ask them. Besides, you have a right to know!
3. Noticing how you feel while he is answering the questions is more important than his actual answers. Addicts are known for their ability to lie with skill. No matter how hard they try, they cannot keep the Spirit with them while they lie. If you feel a twisting in your stomach or chest while he is talking, this is what we playfully call, “The Creepy Guy Detector”.
4. If you are unsure about what you experienced while he was answering your questions, run it past a woman you trust (usually your mother). Most women have fine tuned the use of their “Creepy Guy Detector” over their years and can be an excellent resource for training you on how to use it well. By the way, it is a version of the Spirit of Discernment discussed in the scriptures.
5. Know your standards before you meet the guy (if it’s not too late). Nothing motivates a man to be sharp with his addiction fighting skills like the risk of losing his woman! In the same way there are standards for a young man with respect to the use of his Priesthood, there should be standards on whether or not he has you in his life also. You might find these ideas strict and hard to live by, but after interviewing many, many wives of addicts, and hearing them cry so many tears, I hope my daughter has strict standards…for her own emotional safety.
a. As mentioned above, know about the person you are dating before you let yourself fall in love with him. I strongly recommend you keep your heart at bay until he has at least 12 weeks of success. Date casually, but don’t fall in love! Then follow the following rules:
b. State clearly your expectations from the beginning. Let him know you will not continue dating a man who cannot (or will not) beat this addiction. This will be a great motivation to him.
c. If he has 1 “lost battle” cease contact for 1 week. Let him “go up the mountain” and talk to God all by himself to get rejuvenated, repaired and refocused. Do not help him! You may encourage, but his success must be built upon his relationship with God. The scripture says to not “trust in the arm of flesh.” (2 Ne. 4:34) This means YOU! When he works with other men, they force him to reconnect with God. When he comes back successfully, feel free to be warm and encouraging!
d. If he has a 2nd “lost battle” cease contact for 2 weeks from that date. He will need to re-court you upon his return each time from now on.
e. If he has a 3rd, then 3 weeks. And so forth and so on. If the pattern continues, the death of the relationship will take care of itself.
f. (P.S) If he lies about having a lost battle, double the time! This is vital. In my interviews with women, a lost battle is more tolerable than a lie!
6. As you can see, it is his success (or failure) that determines the relationship. This seems kind of strict and harsh, but you are doing yourself, him and any future relationship a favor if you follow these rules.
7. If he has lost battles after you have fallen in love with him, there are 2 primary explanations:
a. 1 – He is not as well trained in fighting the addiction as he needs to be. Encourage him to return to the training that helped him reach 12 weeks of success in the first place. If he has never formally been trained on how to fight this addiction, demand that he get formal training. This is not a war that can be fought on willpower alone.
b. 2 – He does not love you more than he loves his addictive behaviors. If this is the case, run away!
I wish I could tell you that you are better off marrying a man who has never had any of these problems before you get married, but Satan is just as willing to wait to attack a man with these issues after the wedding as he is before the wedding. I want desperately to be able to tell women that there will come a day when you need not fear for your man’s well being, but this would be lying to you. As much as we would like this earth to be as safe from danger as the Celestial world, we are here (in part) to be exposed to the efforts of Satan, to see how well we can discover him and fight him off.
There are many good young men out there. I have watched many study in great detail the skills necessary to win this war. They are practicing and drilling and sweating their way to success. They are creating great bonds with God. They are becoming Captain Moroni type men – they can kill Lamanites on Saturday and teach Priesthood meeting with the Spirit on Sunday. It is true what is said in Ether 12: 27 “…if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Exposure to these things and acquiring the skills to conquer them as a youth can work like penicillin. Because of a small exposure in youth, his body and mind creates a greater immunity to it for the rest of his life. You can have a great man in your life, but you have to be willing to hold out for him.
My recommendations for your situation specifically? Follow the rules above until he leaves on his mission. If the relationship is still in tact when he leaves, insist he report to you in his letters how he is doing while on his mission. This is simple, just have him write a small number in the corner of his letters to you showing how many days (or weeks) it has been since his last lost battle (even if it was before his mission). Reporting to you like this will help him remain sharp. By just having a small number in the corner, it need not be the center of attention. It will be small enough that he can focus his attention on becoming a powerful missionary, but big enough that he will stay vigilant against the tricks of the Dark Side.
Finally, although I have gained a great respect for the power of Satan over my professional career, I have also gained an even greater respect and appreciation for the power of God and the Atonement of Christ. Satan will have power to bruise us, but we will have power to Crush him! The power of God will always be greater than that of Satan. Also, it is very relieving to know that even if Satan successfully roughs us up a bit, the Atonement will make us whole again. Yes, you should forgive a man for his mistakes, but in the same way he has to regain God’s trust, he will also need to regain yours.
I pray that this young man you are dating will do what it takes to keep you. You are obviously a good catch! I want desperately to get this information out to as many pre-married young women as I can. Please pass it on through texting, email, facebook, etc. for the safety of the young women, and for the motivation of the young men. For that matter, pass it on to all the young men you know as well so they can know what kind of interviews to expect from their girlfriends! Just tell them you found the article in a google search so they don’t think it is about you.
Hope it all works out for you! Feel free to ask more questions and encourage your friends to ask more questions too. firstname.lastname@example.org
Maurice W. Harker, LPC and servant of God.
P.S. We have started a new training program for young women designed to help them successfully get through this stage of life. We call it the “Daughters of Light” email me if you want more information on it.