January 8, 2010

Sin as sickness

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:40 am

I personally don’t like it when valuable new content gets stuck in the comments section of a blog post, so I shall respond to yesterday’s commentors with posts.  Technically, P was first, but got stuck in comment approval limbo for a while.  Given that none of the people who would be likely to agree with the Mormon tendency to label porn use as an addition have commented, we are missing a voice on the issue.  Hopefully, some of them will contribute.  If not I’ll do my best to represent their likely counterpoints at a later time (that should fill you will alarm, not provide a reason to sit back TBMs =) )

Anyway, I would like to add my voice to P’s, and the resources that I linked to, in making it clear that porn CAN be an addiction.  Ultimately, this subject will lead into Joe’s question, so we have a built in transition (thanks Joe!).  The key distinction is found in the nature of the harm experienced.  In clinical applications of the term, the harm experienced by the addictive behavior is obvious to a neutral observer.  Alcoholism, smoking, a wide range of drugs, etc.  In the case in which the term is often used in a Mormon context, the harm is the violation of a tenet of faith.

There is nothing wrong with tenets of faith.  Defining incidental porn use as sin is part of your faith.  While there might be arguments on whether that is a good idea, that isn’t really relevant here.  It is a tenet of Mormon faith.  The problem is when violating that tenet is raised to the level of a disease.  Persons who violate tenets of their faith are not addicts by definition, they are sinners.  Some sinners might also be addicts, most are not.  In Mormonism, nearly every occasional porn user is labeled an addict.

I assert that the misapplication of this term within Mormon cultural contexts is related to the degree of seriousness attached to the violation.  Porn is REALLY bad, therefore, if I am doing it, a REALLY bad label seems appropriate.  The popularization of self-diagnosis and the medicalization of behavioral issues are among the other factors that cause us to want to apply clinical terms to our sins. 

I am not sympathetic to interchanging sinner with addict.  In the case of porn, the TBMs might well argue that the person feels compelled; resisting the desire is painful.  That is certainly likely to be true, but is also applicable to wide range of sins which are not also labeled as addictions.  Gossip, pride and lying immediately spring to mind.  In those cases, the tenets of the faith do not ascribe the same severity of evil to the sin.  See my point in the above paragraph to illustrate that this thinking bolsters  the previous element of my argument.

By this point, I have well exceeded the three paragraph limit at which most readers will bail on a blog post.  I shall summarize with this:  You may feel compelled to engage in a sinful activity, that makes you a sinner, not an addict.  Some sins can be addictions, many are not.  The levels at which addiction is ascribed to the porn use rates by LDS folks are highly unlikely to meet the clinical definition of addiction.   

UPDATE:  In reflection on these posts, I think it is highly likely I have not persuaded any TBMs in the slightest.


  1. Assuming I am a TBM, what might I be persuaded to that I have not been? I would be the last person to defend the missapplication of a clinical term by non-clnically trained persons. I have not heard this term applied as broadly as you, perhaps. (It would be interesting to search the incidence of the word “addiction” and it’s context in General Conference talks, for example.) What I hear most often over the pulpit is that pornography is destructive, and there has been great effort to get this message across. That aside, please clarify for me what the negative effect is in your view of misslabeling as addicted those that are not. Does it help or hinder the cause to decrease the level of “addictive” behavior?

    Comment by Grandpa Art — January 8, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  2. Hmmm…this is going to be an unpopular comment.

    Google says that about a quarter of Mormons are converts. I would say that a person who chooses to join a more restrictive religion is often times rebounding from certain issues from the past. <> Glenn Beck <>. These people might be more susceptible to addictions of all kinds.

    I’m going to assume that there is a far lower rate of alcoholism within the Mormon realm. If you’ve never tasted alcohol, it’s hard to develop an addiction for it. But sex is everywhere, and so those Mormons who have a tendency toward addiction might be more drawn to porn because they’ve already had a taste…

    Comment by Cris — January 8, 2010 @ 8:58 pm

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