Posts Tagged ‘Forgiveness’
This is not a politically correct post. There are so many things that can be found objectionable I will list them right up front. In the end, I hope something I provide here will be helpful to those who struggle with addictions. I recognize this is a difficult subject in today’s enlightened world.
First is the idea of a spirit. If you don’t believe we have one, then you may find all this amusing. That’s OK. My life experience has led me to believe otherwise. No, I can’t prove we have a spirit and I don’t think anybody can prove it to your satisfaction if you choose not to believe it.
I accept the idea that I have a spirit, or more correctly that I am an eternal spirit temporarily housed in a physical body. This belief is a part of my faith, a fundamental part of my religion. I am certain I am not alone in this belief. Millions, if not billions of people feel the same way.
The Spirit World
Second is the idea that spirits can hang around after death. Those who do believe we have a spirit may be inclined to think all spirits go somewhere else when they leave the body. To some, it’s either heaven or hell, to others it’s paradise or spirit prison. That’s just not always true. Again, I base that on some of my personal life experiences so far and those shared with me by others.
I happen to be one who believes that not all spirits go to a place of happiness or rest. Does that mean I believe in ghosts? No, I don’t believe the spirit can normally be seen with our physical eyes. But yes, I do believe there are spirits hanging around who were not happy to discover they continued to exist after death and are now missing, even craving pleasures of their mortal body.
In my faith we are taught and I believe the spirit world is right here on earth among us. Most Mormons believe that the spirits of the departed can and do look upon us from time to time. If this is true for our loved ones, then the same is true for those who may not have lived such a good life. Rapists, murderers, adulterers, child molesters, and just plain dirty, nasty people go somewhere and that somewhere is right here or wherever they liked to hang out when alive.
Third is the idea that addictions can be caused by something other than standard explanations. Addictions to tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, gambling and even food have been extensively studied and explained as natural physical responses. Biology and brain chemistry play a large part in addiction but interestingly, so does genetic makeup and family history.
What if there is another explanation, one that has been around for thousands of years that could help us understand and overcome addictions? I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Most people have. It’s commonly dismissed as harmful in light of today’s scientific proof of how things work. We should rightly be concerned when someone attributes their addiction to any outside source.
When someone leaves this world with a habit or addiction to a physical pleasure, that addiction doesn’t just leave them. Addictions are more than physical. They are spiritual. Unless they have mastered them, a person who is now in the spirit world still craves the pleasures of the body. They continue to seek them out. I believe under certain, specific conditions, these disembodied spirits can temporarily co-habit or possess those who are still mortal but their bounds are limited.
OK, now I’ve gone all “spooky” on you. Talk about possession scares people. I understand that. It’s unfortunate that our perception of spirit possession is so skewed to the weird side of things. Movies like the Exorcist or The Shining have totally messed up our understanding of something that is referred to in the scriptures so matter-of-factly. I wrote an essay about this previously. The wide variety of comments on that essay demonstrates the interest people have in the subject.
In that essay I referred to a documented account of a conversation between a priesthood holder and an individual possessed of an evil spirit. I share that privately with those who request it. I’d like to take the dialog from that essay another step down the road of understanding. Throw out the false ideas of spirit possession from overly dramatic media characterizations. Instead, think about people you know who suffer from addictions. You may have some in your own family.
If you have studied the subject of addiction or talked with someone who suffers from addiction you know there are times they feel “out of control,” like they can do nothing other than the very course of action they are trying to resist. This is beyond a mere habit. I’m referring to a feeling that someone or something is taking over. Resistance makes it more noticeable. Unless you suffer from an unwanted addiction yourself, you may not be able to comprehend this feeling.
Shield of Protection
Let’s take the case of someone who drinks until they either pass out or blackout. We say they lose control of themselves. In the case of the blackout drunk, someone is obviously in charge of the body, even if the original owner is unable to remember it later. If you want to know more about what happens to drunks who pass out, read what George Ritchie had to say about it in his book “Return from Tomorrow.” I quote extensively from that book on one of my other blogs.
It is from Dr. Ritchie that I first learned about the shield of protection found in the human body. Some people call this our energy field. Western medicine has all but decimated any belief in the body’s energy fields. You’ll have to go to those who study or practice Eastern medicine to come to an understanding of how they work. I accept the reality of human energy fields as a part of my religion. No, it’s not taught in the LDS Church, but I accept truth from whatever source it comes.
The shield of protection can be weakened or breached when we participate in activities that are below our value standards. It can also be breached when we take offense at what someone has said or done. This shield of protection is composed of light, but a light purer than our eyes can comprehend. One of the objectives of this life is to gather light and to strengthen our shield. The weakening or loss of that shield of light can allow disembodied spirits to co-habit a mortal being.
Now let’s consider another type of addiction. I’ve also written about this extensively before. To this day I still receive private email requests for help in response to my essay on “Healing from Pornography Addiction.” I didn’t spell it out clearly in that essay but I’m sure I have elsewhere on this blog. There is no difference between what George Ritchie saw happen to the drunks and what happens to individuals who participate in pornography and masturbation. It’s that simple.
When viewing pornography, the individual is allowing those disembodied spirits to use their body, even if just for a few moments, so they can vicariously experience sexual pleasure again. I know many of my readers will find this offensive, but I’ve had enough experience in dealing with men in church disciplinary councils who can attest to this fact. A practice the world teaches is natural and normal is in fact, a conduit for unclean spirits to experience the thrill of lust again.
Of course we believe in repentance or change, even after this life. An addicted spirit can resist the addiction, which is now spiritual, but will feel the torment and pull of that addiction even in the spirit. Brigham Young taught that it is a hundred times easier to change while we have our mortal body. That’s why it’s so important we make every effort to master ourselves while we are still alive. It is almost impossible to prove mastery over the flesh when you no longer have it.
The counsel I’m about to share is spiritual and not intended to replace competent medical advice. I’m addressing the spiritual side of addiction, which can be just as powerful as the physical. When we allow a disembodied spirit to use us for a moment, even if it is unintentional, there is something left behind that allows that spirit or another like it to get back in when they want to. Think of it as a chink in the armor, a crack in the light, a trigger or button to be pushed at will.
Now don’t go thinking after reading what I’ve written so far that you’re possessed. A certified stress management consultant can easily ascertain if an individual has any spirit attachments. It’s possible but not as common as some people think. Then of course, there are those who think all this is hogwash anyway, but as I said at the beginning of this essay, I’m not writing for them. I’m reaching out to those who want help overcoming addiction or want to help a loved one do so.
The secret to overcoming a spiritual addiction is very simple. In fact, it’s such a modest proposal that you may be disappointed to learn how unassuming it really is. Note I didn’t say it was easy, just simple. All you have to do is forgive. The trick of course is discovering exactly who and for what. Once the original event that caused the crack in the light is discovered, it can be repaired in just a few moments. The darkness left behind by the disembodied spirit can be eliminated.
Forgiveness is the Key
Remember, this is advice for healing the spiritual and emotional aspects of addiction. Those who suffer from addiction should also seek and receive help to overcome the physical aspects of that addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, tobacco or even food. There are even programs for helping those with sexual addictions, but none of them of which I’m aware address the spiritual aspect. I know of several individuals who are skilled in finding and eliminating hidden spiritual addictions.
Over the years, I have spent considerable time and effort to study and understand the process whereby hidden stress can be identified so it can be resolved. It is not an easy process to learn but it is so much more effective than years of therapy that may or may not work. It involves questioning the intelligence or the innate part of our subconscious that remembers everything. Those who have experienced this process will agree that it produces amazing results.
With just a few moments of questioning the subconscious and receiving measureable yes or no responses, a skilled practitioner of this technique can find the root cause of an addiction. It is almost always traced to an individual from earlier in the person’s life. In either a traumatic event or an offensive situation, something negative passed between these two individuals. The only way to heal the effect is to forgive the other individual involved and almost always oneself.
I could go on and on about this subject. The purpose of this essay is not to titillate you with stories or ideas about evil and unclean spirits. They are not important. Yes, they exist but we should be more concerned with our own battles to master the flesh, not their desire to co-habit ours for a moment. There is a difference between those who were cast out, never to be born, and those who experienced mortality and have refused to go to the light once their life was over.
The idea here is to come to an understanding that sometime in the past, a person who struggles with addiction today may have opened their shield of protection in a moment of weakness, stress, or trauma that allowed an unclean spirit to use them for a time or a season. When the individual regained control of themselves, the spirit departed but left behind some darkness that acts as a trigger or future entry point for that spirit and others to work on until they gain entry again.
Dismiss all this if you will, it matters not to me. You’re welcome to leave comments telling me how deluded and mistaken this is. That’s OK. I’ve heard it all before. I used to think the same way. But if this essay has helped somebody, anybody to find some hope that perhaps their own or a loved one’s “out of control” behavior can be explained, then I will have succeeded in my purpose. Shoot me a private message with your questions or comments. I’m happy to share more.
Here are some individuals who practice the discovery and elimination technique:
Dr. Brad May, Emotional Complex Clearing, Serenity Systems
Dr. Mel Fish, Healing the Inner Self, Cedar City, Utah
Jan Graf, Graf Stress Management, St George, Utah
Tamara Laing, Hope for a Better World, Roy Utah
Russ Stewart, Stress Solutions, Grants Pass, Oregon
Elizabeth Richardson, Mind-Body Stress Management, Rockville, MD
If you know of others or have been helped by this technique, please let me know.
This entry was posted on Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at 8:26 am and is filed under Doctrine, Mormon culture, Personal Revelation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
7 Responses to “Addictions and Disembodied Spirits”
- Roy Says: May 20th, 2012 at 5:59 pm Tim,Thanks for this blog. It lends validity to some of my own experiences and studies. Thanks for your time and efforts on this and other blogs. I find it uplifting and inspiring. I also find it helpful in my personal journey to become more Christ like and hopefully someday to enter into the presence of the Lord along with those I love. Sincerely.
- Janet Owens Says: May 20th, 2012 at 8:05 pm I would be interested in more information on evil spirits that surround us and how to block them. Do they have the power to discern our thoughts?
- admin Says: May 20th, 2012 at 9:27 pm “…there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.” D&C 6:16 Of course, we are aware that just as the Lord and his angels can place ideas in our mind, so can the adversary and those who follow him. Those in the spirit world watch and know our actions and can share those with “familiar spirits” such as mediums and psychics. That’s why we are counseled to stay away from fortune tellers or “spiritual advisors.” The way to block the influence of evil spirits is to simply live the gospel: to love the Lord will all our hearts and to serve him in righteousness. Constant prayer and regular gospel study helps us walk through life with the Holy Ghost as out constant companion. We do not need to fear being deceived by the whisperings of the adversary into our minds. We can tell the difference through the light of Christ.
- h_nu Says: May 21st, 2012 at 7:28 pm Do you have any evidence of “energy fields” that protect people? Science has decimated my ability to believe in things for which there isn’t evidence… I have faith about spiritual matters that have scriptural precedent and record … but where is the evidence of a “energy field?” How on earth does this weird speculation get listed as a “faithful blog” This sounds new to me: “When viewing pornography, the individual is allowing those disembodied spirits to use their body, even if just for a few moments, so they can vicariously experience sexual pleasure again”. Do you have any scriptural backups for this type of weirdness. I agree with the church’s standards wrt the law of chastity and the word of wisdom … But this goes much further than any church leader has stated in general conference … I don’t believe in “private teachings”, and there were several apostates who did. I think Hiram page felt like he was getting some private revelations … I hope that anyone who reads this blog completely ignores it. There is a way to forgineveness, but believing false and (crazy) things won’t help you to it…
- admin Says: May 24th, 2012 at 9:07 pm Response to h_nu:I’m not quite sure what you were looking for or what you expected when you came to my blog. Let’s be clear up front. What I write here has to do with my own religious or spiritual beliefs. If you want official LDS Church doctrine, go to their web sites. I’m sharing things on my blog that have helped me on my journey through life. If you find it helpful, then I’m glad. If not, then take your own advice and ignore what I’ve written. It’s obviously not intended for you.
I’m not sure where or who has listed me as a faithful blog. I’ll give you my definition of faithful: One who is true to their covenants made as a member of the church. I think that’s about all you need to include. We accept people into our church who believe all kinds of stuff. I know of a recent convert who is very happy to share with you her Wiccan beliefs. She is a fun and happy person, a real nature lover, enjoying her newfound faith and keeping her baptismal covenants.
If you are serious about your assertion about science then I assume you do not believe that man has a spirit because according to science, we are nothing more than molecules and synapses. You can’t use that argument that you only believe in things for which you have evidence and also claim to have faith. You can’t prove God exists or that love exists. It’s not something you can see. You can’t take it out and show it to me. I can’t show you energy fields but I know they exist.
What I have is the witness of many individuals who have shared with me their experiences in working with energy. If you have never studied chakras or auras then of course it’s going to seem weird to you. I know of individuals who claim to be able to see the auras of others. There are times when I am certain I am seeing something unusual behind a person who is speaking or singing with passion, especially in a worshipful manner. It’s a spiritual gift some people have.
I linked in my essay to two sources that contain sufficient evidence for me that we have energy fields. One is found on my other blog on Holistic Research. I include the background there on how I was first introduced to energy fields, how I was dumbfounded the first time I saw muscle testing in action and my response to the amazing things I read in George Ritchie’s book, Return From Tomorrow. I spent years researching something that my mind said couldn’t be true.
The other is a transcript of an interview I conducted in my research for the book I was planning to write on the subject many years ago. As I wrote in the essay immediately preceding this one, I am most grateful to have been able to meet and interview Jan Graf, who I consider a pioneer in this field. The idea more commonly taught by the early Brethren that disembodied spirits can afflict and torment man came alive for me as I learned of the things Jan encountered in his work.
If you are serious about wanting to know more about the body’s energy fields I will be happy to share with you a transcript of a seminar in which the energy fields are discussed along with a demonstration of how they are balanced. This stuff has been around for years. It’s only recently come into more common knowledge of our civilization steeped in the Western way of thinking – you know, the kind that says I won’t believe in anything not taught in medical school.
You asked for scriptures related to what happens when you view pornography. You also noted that what church leaders have said on the subject in General Conference is a defining source for you on how you view the matter. I don’t know how long you have been in the church but I can assure that this is not a new idea. I have sat at the feet of General Authorities, Stake Presidents and Bishops for years who have taught that lustful behavior brings unclean spirits into your life.
3 Ne 12:28-29 – “…whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart. Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.” What are “these things” to which Jesus is referring if they are not the feelings of lust placed there by unclean spirits? Lust opens the heart to allow evil spirits in.
D&C 42:22 – “… he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit.” D&C 63:16 adds the additional phrase, “and shall fear.” Think about it. What would cause that fear? Is it fear of punishment, fear of being caught, or perhaps some other kind of fear, the kind that the unclean spirits experience as they await their day of judgment? The guilt and fear that comes from viewing pornography or going to a strip club or wherever else lust is enflamed is placed there by unclean spirits enticing the man.
No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. The unclean spirits know this. They are fearful and cower in shame at his presence, therefore they hide. And where do they hide? They hide in those who invite them in through unclean behavior. Why do you think the Lord taught that those who believe could and should cast out unclean spirits in the name of Jesus Christ?
I think you misunderstand my emphasis on forgiveness in this essay. I’m not talking about receiving forgiveness from the Lord. I’m referring to releasing negative energy stored in the body, left there by unclean spirits. The way to get rid of it is to find the original event that caused it, and to forgive the individuals involved in putting it there. That almost always means forgiving oneself for participating in lustful behavior like viewing pornography and masturbating.
These are not private teachings. Disembodied unclean spirits are real. They hang out wherever pornography or public sex is being created, sold or viewed. They also hang out in many LDS homes when good priesthood brethren struggle to deal with them not knowing that they have the power to cast them out if they would only learn to exercise their priesthood in righteousness. In fact, priesthood is not required to cast them out. Women can do so in the name of Jesus Christ.
This is not a pleasant subject to discuss but it gets right to the heart of salvation. Being clean is what it’s all about – the fight in this life. We don’t have to be perfect when we leave this life but we do need to be clean. I don’t want to take along any extra baggage from unclean spirits. I want a bright spirit filled with pure light that comes from keeping covenants and faithful obedience to commandments such as not letting “any of these things” enter into my heart through lust.
By the way, thanks for visiting my blog and having the courage to leave an intelligent comment. I greatly appreciate the questions and reservations you expressed. They help me focus on what is really important in what I was trying to get across and give me a chance to clarify. It’s obvious you read my essay and thought about it. I get that it may be new to you and that it’s not orthodox or mainstream Mormonism, but trust me, this stuff used to be commonly believed in our church.
- Stephen Says: May 25th, 2012 at 5:56 am This morning, Mr Snuffer’s blog referenced Mosiah 3:6 “And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children or men.”Amazing how one could read the Book of Mormon almost daily and have stuff just skip right over you. I suppose that is why we are commanded to never stop reading the scriptures.
- admin Says: May 25th, 2012 at 7:21 am Hi Stephen,I also noticed Denver’s comments on the verse. What a coincidence. I wonder why it is that we don’t hear more of this subject taught from the pulpit today. Perhaps it’s because we don’t want to be perceived as “weird.” The early brethren – Brigham and Heber – were not reticent at all in talking about “whipping the devils” in our daily walk through life.
Is there such a thing as orthodoxy in Mormonism? And who has the right to proclaim what is orthodox in our religion that should or should not be believed? I understand and accept that the men I sustain as leaders in the LDS Church have the right to determine and enforce what should be taught in the classrooms and declared from the pulpits of that worldwide institution.
But many things I attribute to Mormonism the religion, are not taught today in the LDS Church. Does that mean the Mormon religion and the LDS Church are two different things? Consider the recent General Conference address from Elder Donald Hallstrom, “Converted to His Gospel through His Church.” He is obviously declaring the Gospel is not the same as the church.
The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation, the doctrines that teach how we can be saved and live forever in a state of happiness, redeemed from death and hell. On the other hand, the church is the institution organized and established by the Lord through Joseph Smith in 1830 that has undergone a tremendous number of changes over the years.
Religion and Church
Although it embraces both, in my mind, our religion is something altogether different from the gospel and from the church. I suppose that’s dangerous ground. If you think about it, I’m saying what I believe to be truth is not limited to what the LDS Church declares to be truth today. That is indeed dangerous ground. It invites speculation that the Church limits us in some way.
At one time we taught that we embrace all truth. Yet some things we taught as truth in the early days of the church are no longer found in our official curriculum. I’m not talking about plural marriage, blood atonement or restricting the priesthood. I’m talking about things like the reality of evil spirits, catastrophes of the last days and the literalness of D&C 93:1.
I feel a debt of gratitude to three men whose views have changed my life. Although they do not want or care for the attention, I would like to acknowledge them, their ideas and their work. Each has worked tirelessly to bring their beliefs to light and I for one have benefited from their work. They illustrate the idea that something from the early days of our religion has been lost.
Jan Graf – Reality of evil spirits
I first met Jan at a time in my life when I was troubled by many things that would not go away. There is no other way to explain it concisely. Because of his ideas and explanations of things, I was able to make them go away. It’s that simple. What he teaches about how to remove distress is nothing new or different. It is simply the application of the principle of forgiveness.
But what is unique, unorthodox and controversial about Jan’s skill in helping people find peace are his beliefs about what causes stress in our lives. It is the idea that evil spirits are real, can be found in the world around us and are very active in afflicting and tormenting us. That is a very common belief in the early days of Mormonism but hardly ever taught in the church today.
I was so excited about the amazing results in my life from what he taught that Carol and I went to St. George to interview him and talk about writing a book. Because what he does is so easily misunderstood, he asked that I not pursue my project. Out of respect I dropped the idea but continue to refer people to him I know could benefit from his stress-reduction technique.
Anthony Larson – Latter-day catastrophes
A long time ago I ran across a book that got me genuinely excited about how the last days are going to unfold. It was not told from a social, political or even religious perspective but from a cosmological view that could only be described as unorthodox. Anthony Larson explained for me how the signs and prophecies of the scriptures are descriptions of natural events.
What he explained in his trilogy of prophecy books was not thought to be so unusual in the early days of Mormonism. We were at one time considered an Adventist church, preparing intently for the forthcoming return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though his books are based on scripture and statements of early Mormon leaders, today they are considered unorthodox.
I have written many essays about his beliefs and interpretations of scripture. I have attended his seminars, read each of his books multiple times and had many dialogs and conversations about how he interprets myths of the past. I’m in the process of writing a fictional account based on the now unorthodox but one-time common beliefs of this visionary, prophetic man.
Denver Snuffer – The Second Comforter
I was recently introduced to the writings of Denver Snuffer, a man who claims to have received the Second Comforter and was asked by the Lord to write about it. That’s an amazing claim and obviously very unorthodox in our modern LDS church. He has generated a lot of controversy. Some have called him apostate or dangerous and said he should be excommunicated.
I have almost finished reading Denver’s eight published books. I have written previously that I would withhold judgment until I finished them all but I think I have made up my mind. Denver’s advice that we read his books in order has merit. I read them in reverse order. That may have been a mistake, but I survived because I read most of the “alternative views” previously.
I have decided I like Denver, or that I can at least accept and trust what he has written. Just as I have with Jan Graf’s and Anthony Larson’s writings, I have pondered and prayed about what I have learned. I am not dismayed or taken aback by his latest book as some others have been although I confess an initial misunderstanding of how he defines the sealing power.
I suppose I need to change my bio on Twitter, Google Plus and here on my blog. Because of my acceptance of the beliefs of the three men I have described, I guess I can no longer claim to be an orthodox Mormon. What’s more, I am discovering I am unusual in my church because I have long believed and taught that we can seek and should strive to have “spiritual experiences.”
After years of sharing some of my sacred experiences online, engaging in dialog about the reality of personal revelation, I have come to the conclusion there are many within our church that do not experience communication from the spirit world like I thought everybody did. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? “Spooky,” an embarrassing unorthodox belief, some would say.
Perhaps that is why there are two conflicting cultures within the LDS church today. On the one hand we are encouraged to share our testimonies, which are supposed to be based on personal sacred events. On the other hand, the subtle message is being communicated that we must keep our spiritual experiences to ourselves, because they are “too sacred” to share.
Orthodoxy seems to be all about what is appropriate and acceptable as the norm. As I wrote at the beginning of this essay, I accept and sustain the right of the leaders of this church to direct what is preached from the pulpit and what is taught in the classroom. The church is a place of order. It is a magnificent, effective organization that does tremendous good.
The meetinghouses, the temples, the missionary force, the humanitarian effort, the welfare system, the lay ministry, the willingness of the members to sacrifice and serve each other all attest to the goodness of this organization. But there is something more to our religion than just the church and our activity within it. There is something intense and personal.
That something today is unorthodoxy. It is our individual efforts to commune with God. It is our testimonies, our spiritual experiences, our determination to study, understand and internalize what we believe. It is developing our ability to hear and respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. It is our participation in the ordinances and adherence to the covenants we make.
In short, it is being different from the world and even from many within the church who are not willing to pay the price of obedience and sacrifice that inevitably bring the promised blessings. The church is not the same as the gospel and the church is not everything there is to our religion. There is so much more to Mormonism but you have to be willing to be unorthodox to see it.
Be forewarned: This essay contains references to masturbation and other sexual acts. Once again by assignment, I examine the social impact of a controversial book first published over forty years ago, at the height of the sexual revolution. I’ve noticed a trend among most of the short stories and books that we have considered this year in our American Literature classes: many of them contain material that would be considered to be shocking or offensive to more conservative readers. Portnoy’s Complaint is no exception. In fact, if Ginsberg hadn’t broken the indecency barrier with his poem Howl a decade earlier, I am certain that Philip Roth would have been charged with breaking some sort of obscenity law. As it was, attempts were made to prohibit the distribution of the book in some countries and many U.S. libraries banned the book as too vulgar. Of course that was in 1969. Today it is considered an American classic.
I would like to address in this essay just what it is that makes Portnoy’s Complaint such an American classic, to discuss its universal appeal beyond the context of the Jewish culture in which the story takes place and to delve into the very important theme of religious influence on sexual thought, development and behavior. I can’t think of any two subjects that are more a part of our American literature tradition than religion and sex. Put them together in the same paper or book and you introduce conflict. Make them one in your treatise and you have broken a taboo. Roth’s book was a bestseller because he did just that. If you aren’t familiar with the novel, it was Portnoy’s Complaint that he could not enjoy sex because of the guilt that he felt from his religious culture. It is my thesis that the majority of American literature addressing this theme is faulty because of an incorrect understanding of the place of sex in religion. In fact, it is my contention that Portnoy’s Complaint is deeply flawed because of the focus on guilt as a direct result of religious culture and upbringing. But then, that’s what makes it so very American.
Alexander Portnoy understood the principle of guilt. He was an expert at guilt. In fact, he was a slave to it. He lived with it day in and day out. And where did he get it? He tells us that it came from his parents. After providing numerous examples he exclaims, “Doctor, these people are incredible! These people are unbelievable! These two are the outstanding producers and packagers of guilt in our time! They render it from me like fat from a chicken!” (p39) Did they do it on purpose? Are they to blame? Perhaps this later observation from Alex makes it clearer. “Doctor, what do you call this sickness I have? Is this the Jewish suffering I used to hear so much about? Is this what has come down to me from the pogroms and the persecution? from the mockery and abuse bestowed by the goyim over these two thousand lovely years?” (p40) In other words, he did not necessarily blame his parents for the guilt he felt; he blamed his religion. He equated Jewish suffering, and in particular, his own guilt, upon his cultural religious history.
At the age of fourteen, coincidentally about the age that most boys are in the midst of puberty, Alex decided that he would no longer participate in the traditional religious practices of his parents. He told them that he would no longer go to the synagogue with them. Since Alex has been masturbating, he has been experiencing guilt. It is clear that he attributes this guilt to his religious culture. In Jewish tradition, masturbation is prohibited, as are impure thoughts and sexual relations before marriage. In the midst of a long-winded diatribe directed at his father but more generally directed at his people, he says, “… instead of crying over he-who refuses at the age of fourteen ever to set foot inside a synagogue again, instead of wailing for he-who has turned his back on the saga of his people, weep for your own pathetic selves … It is coming out of my ears already, the saga of the suffering Jews! Do me a favor, my people, and stick your suffering heritage up your suffering ass– I happen also to be a human being!” (p84) But he could not get away from the guilt he continued to experience because of his ongoing sexual activities.
Portnoy’s Complaint is not just a novel about masturbation or the sexual activities of a young Jewish man. It is really a very Catholic book, which means that the subject matter has universal and widespread appeal. Every young man goes through puberty, and if we are to believe the statistics, the majority of them (90% by some accounts) will have masturbated at least once by the time they are 18, with 60% masturbating regularly during their adolescent years. In America, the land of porn, we have the unique distinction of also being a very religious country. According to recent statistics, 83% of Americans claim to belong to a religious organization even though less than 40% formally participate by attending church regularly. Do you see my point? If the majority of young men masturbate and the majority of people in America have some sort of religious tradition in their lives, then this really is an American conflict that Roth has brought to our attention in such an entertaining manner. It is a characteristically American problem.
Portnoy’s answer to his complaint of guilt was to disassociate himself with his religious practices, a common solution for many young men in America who experience their own crisis of faith. In his case, he continued to have a very difficult time with guilt because being Jewish is more than just a religion. It is also his cultural heritage. He simply could not get away from the terrible feelings of shame and remorse he experienced even though he had renounced his faith. As he so eloquently exclaimed, “Doctor, I can’t stand any more being frightened like this over nothing! Bless me with manhood! Make me brave! Make me strong! Make me whole! Enough being a nice Jewish boy, publicly pleasing my parents while privately pulling my putz!” (p 40) Even many years after his vow of non-participation, he still felt like he had to be a nice Jewish boy to please his parents. Even though he had graduated first in his law school class and was a very successful government lawyer, he could not free himself from the control of his parent’s beliefs, especially his mother’s ability to manipulate his feelings after so many years.
That was the wrong answer. Instead of rejecting his faith, maybe he should have listened to his father and embraced it, or at least the good parts of it. Alex went to Israel in a spontaneous attempt to find himself, his roots and some peace to his predicament. Unfortunately, he did not approach his quest with the right attitude. To him, it was purely an intellectual exercise. “I set off traveling about the country as though the trip had been undertaken deliberately, with forethought, desire, and for praiseworthy, if conventional, reasons. Yes, I would have (now that I was unaccountably here) what is called an educational experience. I would improve myself, which is my way, after all. Or was, wasn’t it? Isn’t that why I still read with a pencil in my hand? To learn? To become better? (than whom?) So, I studied maps in my bed, bought historical and archeological texts and read them with my meals, hired guides, rented cars—doggedly in that sweltering heat, I searched out and saw everything I could.” (pp284-285) In the middle of his travels, he hits up on the local Israeli girls but finds that he has suddenly become impotent.
Alex concludes that he has been cursed by God, or at least by some sort of all-powerful judge because of the way he treated the women in his life. He resolves nothing and returns to America to a long session with his psychoanalyst, which results in the book we have read. Of course this is a fictional account but it so aptly describes the typical intellectual approach of some to finding answers to the really big questions in life – like how to be free of guilt. I have read the writings of a good rabbi who advocates the need to feel remorse and make amends. If Alex had looked deeper into his faith, I am convinced that he could have found an intelligent way to eliminate guilt that is both rational and practical. Guilt is a universal part of the human condition. It is something that we all feel when we have done something that goes against our own moral beliefs. In Alex’s case, he knew that it was wrong to masturbate, or at least to take it to the level that he did. He also knew that he had hurt each of the women he introduced us to in the book. If he had studied his own religion even just a little bit (how did he ever get through his own Bar Mitzvah?), he just might have learned the true meaning of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, one of the holiest days of the year for his people.
To me, guilt is an indication that you still care about something that you once valued. If Alex didn’t care about these girls and their feelings, why did he keep bringing them up? If he didn’t really believe deep down in his heart that masturbation was wrong, then why did he feel so guilty after all these years? Alex was a good man, an intelligent man, but a confused man. He was confused by the idea that sex was something only meant for personal pleasure. If he would have considered that maybe, just maybe, what his faith taught about sex was worth considering, then maybe he could also have accepted the idea that he could be forgiven for whatever he has done that has caused him so much guilt. In Judaism, sex is reserved for marriage. It is intended to draw the married couple close to one another and to bind them as partners in their family. It is not just Judaism that believes this, so again this is a very catholic book with universal appeal. Alex did not want to get married, because to him, marriage was all about lust.
“Look, at least I don’t find myself still in my early thirties locked into a marriage with some nice person whose body has ceased to be of any genuine interest to me. How much longer do I go on conducting these experiments with women?” (p114) That’s pretty shallow. People do get old. Bodies change. Yet they stay married. Why? Because they are comfortable and happy together. It’s not all about sex. Marriage is more about a relationship, helping each other find happiness, learning and growing together. It’s not an experiment. It’s a commitment to one another. “I have affairs that last as long as a year, a year and a half, months and months of love, both tender and voluptuous, but in the end-it is as inevitable as death-time marches on and lust peters out. In the end, I just cannot take that step into marriage. But why should I? Why? Is there a law saying Alex Portnoy has to be somebody’s husband and father? I simply cannot, I simply will not, enter into a contract to sleep with just one woman for the rest of my days.” (p116)
No, Alex, there’s no law, but you are missing out on wonderful things that come from marriage and in no other way: a sense of security and belonging that lasts. People get married because they love each other. They get married for love. And because you love another person you agree to be faithful to them and to do all you can to help them want to be faithful to you. But he continues, “For love? What love? Is that what binds all these couples we know together– the ones who even bother to let themselves be bound? Isn’t it something more like weakness? Isn’t it rather convenience and apathy and guilt? Isn’t it rather fear and exhaustion and inertia, gutlessness plain and simple, far, far more than that ‘love’ that the marriage counselors and the songwriters and the psychotherapists are forever dreaming about?” (p117)
No Alex, love isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength, but then you’ve admitted that you know nothing about love. You don’t understand that love involves sacrifice and giving and caring. Actually, Alex, love is not convenient at all, it is often very inconvenient. Love is the opposite of fear, it is faith. One doesn’t enter into a marriage relationship at the end of a long series of exhausting sexual escapades, but at the beginning, when sex is a novelty to be discovered together by two people who are committed to each other and want to please each other for a lifetime. I think we can safely conclude that Alex is against marriage. He does not want to be married. He does not want to be faithful to one woman. He seems to think that a marriage will only work as long as there is a strong lust element. Yet, he also complains over and over that he is not satisfied with his lustful, perverted life.
He won’t marry because he doesn’t believe he can or will be faithful. He justifies dumping these girls because he says he knows that he will just tire of them and that he doesn’t want to cause them grief or pain down the road. He tells us that he knows he will have a mistress a few years into the marriage, and asks why “… my devoted wife, who has made me such a lovely home, et cetera, bravely suffers her loneliness and rejection? How could I face her terrible tears? I couldn’t. How could I face my adoring children? And then the divorce, right? The child support. The alimony. The visitation rights. Wonderful prospect, just wonderful.” (p117) He’s already decided that marriage will never work for him. He does not want to get married and probably never will. He does not see that it brings him anything that he is not already getting, because apparently all he wants is sex. Oh Alex, that is such a small part of marriage. You have no clue, you have no idea what joy can be found in a marriage relationship that does not involve the bedroom. You idiot! You’re so smart, but you’re such a schmuck! Grow up!
Get rid of that guilt by forgiving your parents, forgiving yourself and getting on with your life. Decide that you’re going to change your approach to sex and marriage into something much more wholesome. Get a clue from your religion. Talk to your rabbis again. Maybe you should study your theology and discover what it really teaches about how to overcome guilt. You’re not the first person to ever experience this you know. And Alex, thanks for the entertaining novel and for contributing greatly to this very American literary tradition of religion and sex in such a unique way. But couldn’t you have done it without so much obscenity and vulgarity?
Roth, Phillip, Portnoy’s Complaint, New York: Bantam Books,1969
This is going to be a little difficult to write because it is both a sacred and a sensitive subject. It is sacred because it involves personal revelation that is intended to be just that – personal. It is sensitive because I know from many years of experience and dialog with other members of the church that not everyone feels the same way or has had the same experiences I have had with the Holy Ghost and in particular, the feeling of the burning of the bosom that I have experienced.
You asked if I thought if everyone can experience or feel the burning of the bosom. I like what Elder Oaks had to say about that: “What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity. That is the witness many receive. That is the way revelation works.”
Burning of the bosom
Elder S. Dilworth Young said, “It is a feeling which cannot be described, but the nearest word we have is ‘burn’ or ‘burning.’ Accompanying this always is a feeling of peace, a further witness that what one heard is right. Once one recognizes this burning, this feeling, this peace, one need never be drawn astray in his daily life or in the guidance he may receive.” Elder Romney taught this many times – that we can make life’s decisions correctly using instructions in D&C 9:8-9.
Elder Packer taught, “This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.” Another apostle said, “As I have traveled throughout the Church, I’ve found relatively few people who have experienced a burning of the bosom. In fact, I’ve had many people tell me that they’ve become frustrated because they have never experienced that feeling even though they have prayed or fasted for long periods of time.”
Some do feel the burning
So, from both personal experience and from what we have been taught by Apostles and Prophets, yes, we can and many do feel the burning of the bosom at various times in their lives. But for many faithful members, and perhaps most, the burning of the bosom is either very rare or non-existent. I guess it all depends on how you describe it or what you expect. If Elder Oaks can say that he has never felt caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion then I accept that.
I guess I am the exception and can say without a doubt that I do often feel a warm sensation in the area of my chest when I am engaged in something that I know pleases the Lord. In contrast, I have felt a cold feeling or absence of warmth in that same general region of my chest many times in my life when I have engaged in actions or even thoughts that offended the spirit. For me it is a very real and discernable sensation that has blessed me throughout my life since I was a youth.
You asked about my experience at Ricks College in regards to receiving an answer to prayer. This was not my first experience with revelation, nor was it the last, but it was one of the most powerful and tangible up to that point in my life. It has also been one of the most memorable and influential spiritual experiences to come upon me even though it occurred over 35 years ago. As I noted, it is sacred, but I do feel it is appropriate to share with you since you have asked.
I was 17 years old at the time. It was in the Fall of 1974. My family joined the Church in 1962 when I was five so I feel that I grew up as a member, attending Primary, Sunday School, MIA and Seminary. However, during my Senior year of High School, there was about a six to eight month period of time that I hung with the wrong kind of friends and did not attend church. In short, I had some repenting to do and felt a strong desire to know my standing before the Lord.
Early in the Fall of 1974, I attended an assembly at Ricks College, now BYU Idaho, in which I distinctly remember President Eyring introducing Elder LeGrand Richards as our devotional speaker. I had heard Elder Richards speak in General Conference before but I had never been in the same meeting with him in which I could feel his spirit and sense his enthusiasm for the gospel. Something in me caused me to sit still and pay careful attention to what he was saying.
As he taught the gospel and bore fervent testimony of the work of the Lord I remember thinking to myself how much I would like to be able to speak with the power, confidence and enthusiasm that he had. A distinct impression came over me, and I attribute this to the whisperings of the spirit, that I could have that same witness that Elder Richards had and that I could teach like that someday if I would pay the price of study, devotion, obedience and especially of intense prayer.
Led by the Lord
As I left the devotional assembly I pondered the message I had felt from the spirit long and hard. Like Joseph said, I reflected upon it again and again. Never had anything penetrated my heart so deeply. I felt drawn to the possibility that I could know what Elder Richards knew and that I could receive it in the way he testified – through humble prayer and revelation from the Lord. I wanted to know what the Lord thought of my efforts to repent thus far in leaving my sins behind.
On Friday, I determined that I was going to put the promise to the test. My roommate was gone for the evening to a dance so I knew I would have a few hours alone to talk to the Lord in prayer. I felt filled with desire as I began my efforts and was impressed that the words flowed so easily. It was clear to me that the spirit was directing my thoughts and helping me to express myself. I am confident that I went on for a solid hour reviewing my life with the Lord as I prayed aloud.
The second hour was not so easy. In fact, it became very difficult to confess my sins of the year that had passed and to have revealed to me the effects my actions had upon myself and on others. Tears flowed as I saw how I had hurt myself and others and again, the spirit impressed me how the Lord felt about my sadness and the misery through which I had passed. I felt no judgment or condemnation, only that the Lord was pained because of my pain and that he wanted to heal me.
Finally, in the third hour, I was in agony as I pled with the Lord to forgive me and to restore to me the innocence and happiness I had once felt before the days of my rebellion. I asked again and again for relief. I wanted to know that I had been forgiven and that I would yet be able to make something of my life in spite of the sin and disobedience of earlier days. I pleaded and begged for a witness or a manifestation of the Lord’s love for me and that I had been forgiven.
Opposition is real
It was towards the end of the third hour that I saw clearly in my mind’s eye the reality of the existence of unclean and evil spirits. As I recalled moments of my sinful behavior, the Lord showed to me that I was not alone, that there were beings from the unseen world participating with me in my sin. I was appalled at the scenes I was recalling and abhorred the fact that the adversary had used me during those moments. My pain was real and I was suffering terribly.
Just as I was about to give up in despair that I would receive no relief from my torment and just as I had about decided that my emotional outpouring of grief and despair were in vain, I realized that something unusual was happening about and within me. I began to sit very still and to pay close attention to what I was feeling or rather sensing. A tangible feeling of peace came over me and a feeling of happiness, almost euphoria entered into my heart and mind. It was powerful!
Warmth filled my being almost from head to toe. I did not see, but I sensed light all around and within me. Now this is the most difficult and personal part to describe of what I experienced. I did not see anything with my eyes. I did not hear anything with my ears. But I knew that I was not alone at that moment. I began to hear words, no, full sentences in my mind and saw myself at some future time in my life, participating in sacred and powerful events related to the gospel.
I cannot adequately describe what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my heart, but I will tell you that I sat transfixed for what seemed like another hour as scene after potential scene of my life was revealed to me. I both saw and heard myself speaking and teaching the gospel with the same kind of confidence that I had seen in Elder Richards earlier in that week. I knew as I was seeing this that it was not guaranteed, but was conditional upon my willingness to prepare for it.
That’s why I say that from then on, everything changed. I knew that I would soon be going on a mission. I knew I would marry in the temple. I knew that I would accept and serve faithfully in many callings over the years. I knew I would serve in a leadership capacity in my local ward and stake. I saw myself doing all these things and especially saw myself teaching and speaking from the pulpit, hearing specific things that I would be saying and teaching. It was amazing to me.
Now, as I said this is personal and sacred. One who is not familiar with the revelatory process could describe this as the frenzies of a deranged mind, brought on by emotional distress over the imagined need to repent for what I considered sins. Anyone can say what they like, but it was real to me and nobody will ever be able to take away this experience that I still hold sacred. The feelings that accompanied this revelatory experience are indescribable but filled me with joy.
Summary and conclusion
Yes, what I experienced that night at Ricks College so long ago was much more than a burning of the bosom. It was a tangible immersion in the spirit. I felt like I was baptized by fire and yet I knew at the same time that I had so much more to do to qualify for a real born again experience. It was the beginning of a long path to realize the dream of being able to teach and speak like I had seen demonstrated to me by an Apostle of the Lord. I still have a long, long ways to go.
Thanks for asking me to share this with you. I think I would like to post it on my blog. I haven’t felt inspired to write much there lately but this experience might do some good for someone else. I hope I have answered your questions about the burning of the bosom and about the reality of the revelatory process. I am a personal witness that it is real. The Lord answers prayer and will give to us what we ask for in faith, if it is something that we need and will be for our good.
As we go through life, we embrace high ideals as standards that we value. I am confident that most of us do not perfectly live up to those high value standards. That can cause difficulty in our lives and can be a major form of stress. How do we deal with the discrepancy of a life lived at a level below what we would like it to be?
More aptly asked, how do we live up to those high value standards that we have accepted as being desirable and believe to be achievable? Is it even possible? The Savior taught, “Be ye therefore perfect.” Modern prophets have defined specific standards of behavior that help us reach for that perfection in our day and age.
For example, the Mormon Church has one of the highest standards of sexual purity both before and after marriage, than any other organization of which I know. The standard is total abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity after marriage. Failure to adhere to these standards is a cause for disciplinary action in our church.
Mortality means being less than perfect
Instead of focusing on the formal disciplinary aspect of failing to live up to the standards of sexual purity, I’d like to address the spiritual aspect of what it does to our souls when we find ourselves weak in this area. In particular, I would like to discuss what happens to our feelings of self-worth when we yield to temptation.
Obviously I cannot address this perfectly and include a woman’s point of view because I am a man, so I’ll stick with what I know. I especially want to deal with the idea of being virtuous in our thoughts in order to be worthy of the Lord’s approbation in connection with our efforts to exercise the priesthood as found in section 121.
I am an experienced sinner. I also like to think that I am fairly knowledgeable about repentance. Like just about every other human being, I awoke one day as a teenager to discover that I had entered puberty. No surprise there, but what was very surprising to me was the discovery of the power of hormones in my life.
Virtue and purity bring personal power
Although I don’t recall my parents discussing the idea of virtue with me when I was young, I do recall many lessons in Sunday school, Seminary and especially Aaronic priesthood classes that made it clear what the Lord’s standards are. I can say that I clearly understood that virtue and priesthood power go hand in hand.
I think it is wonderful that the Young Women’s organization in the church has added virtue to the list of Young Women values. I don’t know how it got left out of the original list when it was formulated. It was probably just an oversight. If there is anything that is needed in our youth today, it is an understanding of virtue.
So I can say that before I entered puberty and began to experience the powerful pull of raging hormones for myself that I understood clearly, at least intellectually, that I needed to control myself, to resist certain behavior and to focus on creating virtue in my life. That was a relatively easy thing until my body started to change.
Dealing with temptation
One day in school I was surprised to discover that when one of my friends brought pictures out of his wallet that he had cut from a men’s magazine, I found myself interested in seeing them. Whenever this had happened before I had always turned away in disgust. It surprised me when that disgust turned to very strong curiosity.
Now girls probably won’t understand this, or maybe they do better than I realize, but men are visually stimulated and aroused. It’s just the way we are made. So I found myself viewing these pictures along with the rest of my friends, yet all the while knowing that what I was doing was wrong and that I should turn away.
Over the years, I have come to realize that it is a rare man who is not interested in viewing the naked female form, or that can turn away when presented with such a sight. It takes discipline to resist what is only natural to the natural man (Mosiah 3:19). I knew that it was wrong but I couldn’t tell you exactly why at the time.
The effect of sin on our soul
No amount of lecture from a parent or teacher can prepare you for the feelings of guilt that are experienced the first time you do something that you believed you would never do. Perhaps I am just overly sensitive to guilt, but I experienced it big time that day. I felt miserable. I felt terrible. I could barely function in school.
And yet, what bothered me most was the fact that the images I had viewed kept coming back into my mind at the most inappropriate times, like when I was talking to a girl, or the next day in Seminary class while trying to study the scriptures. This was a new phenomenon, one that I was not familiar with, and it bothered me.
I also noticed that I was strangely argumentative and ornery with my family, and especially with my mother, as if I had a chip on my shoulder. Mother and dad looked at each other knowingly, but I didn’t get it. I did not understand why I was so miserable and did not connect it with viewing pornography the previous day.
Learning about repentance
Of course, I also had an intellectual understanding of the principle of repentance. I knew that when one sinned, one could repent, or turn away from that behavior, and the Lord would take away the feelings of guilt associated with that sin. Although I had sinned before, I had never felt the need to repent up to this time in my life.
Perhaps it was the nature of the sin. We are taught in the church that sexual sin is one of the most serious, although it takes personal experience to really understand why. What I intellectually understood about sin now became a reality as I felt the guilt, shame, embarrassment and sorrow over having put those images in my mind.
Everyone has different levels of tolerance for sin before they notice how it affects them. I have come to discover that my tolerance is very low. I wanted the pain of that sin gone from my life. I was especially contrite and humble as I partook of the sacrament the next Sunday. I swore in my mind that I would never do that again.
Summary and conclusion
And you know what? I felt an immediate relief after partaking of the Sacrament. I felt happy, light and relatively care-free again, at least as care-free as a young man just entering puberty can feel. I had a long ways to go before I learned to master myself, and in fact, I still deal with the pull of the flesh every day as we all do.
The response of many in the world to what I have described here will be to shake their heads in amazement. The viewing of porn is not looked upon as a problem and especially not as a sin. They do not value the standard of sexual purity and it does not mean to them what it means to us: virtue is the source of personal power.
The world does not have the high standards that we do. We have taken upon us ideals that are difficult to achieve, and in some cases almost impossible. It is the Lord that has set these standards and it is the Lord that makes it possible for us to repent each time we fail to live up to them. Forgiveness truly is a miracle.
Related content: Healing from pornography addiction