We had a big ol’ combined Sunday School lesson today after Sacrament Meeting. It was fairly interesting; we had a guest speaker who explained that he would be discussing some “weighty material,” and we all settled in for something deeply thought-provoking and a little disturbing. He started by introducing the subject of pornography, and just how good Satan is at getting us to think that once won’t hurt; one bad movie won’t do any lasting damage; one website won’t really damage my soul, etc.
And this kind of approach is something I agree with. I am a serious non-advocate of porn. (Antagonist? Enemy? What would be the word for that?) Also, I think we all tend to assume that we’re immune to spiritual damage, provided we don’t do anything significantly damaging; we can brush off the little stuff. Pornography is an addiction, and we should take it seriously.
The issue I had with the lesson was that, following that introduction, the man spent a good long while using various animal traps to describe in graphic detail just how seriously doomed we would be if we even came near pornography. He showed at least two dozen traps, emphasizing and re-emphasizing how impossible it would be to get out of a trap, once caught. And then he spent about five minutes mentioning that there was a way out through the gospel.
Do I think pornography is a serious trap? Of course I do. But I really think that an inspirational message should be – well, inspiring. When I leave church, I want to feel like I should be a better person – and can be. The subject matter he was discussing was, indeed, weighty. And when I left, I got the distinct impression that every man in the room felt guilty for ever having looked at a woman, and every woman in the room felt hopeless of ever finding a man who wasn’t a total scumbag.
This seems to be a recurring problem I’ve seen in the church – not just the LDS Church, but I’ve heard this from many a church-goer. And the basic problem is this: Sunday School teachers seem to be so focused on prevention that they forget the concept of repair. They spend so long scaring you out of sin that you’re afraid to leave your front door – and when you finally do realize that you’ve messed up in life, you figure, “Well, I blew it – might as well go whole hog!”
Let’s turn a spotlight on Jesus. Jesus is the reason for church, yes? I submit He is. And the whole reason we go to church is to improve our lives. Jesus is there to ensure that if – and when – we do mess up, we can still repent, be healed, and move on with our lives just as whole as before. This doesn’t mean we should go out and do stupid, spiritually damaging things just because we can heal ourselves; the recovery process still hurts, and it still wastes invaluable time that you could have spent making significant spiritual progress. It slows you down. But it does not stop you. Let me repeat: Sin. Does. Not. Stop. You.
Paralysis is not progress. If you are afraid to live, you do not understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ. If you are afraid to change your life, you do not understand forgiveness. And if you have made mistakes, you should understand that everybody does. That’s why Jesus paid for our sins, remember? Because we have them. So stop being scared of messing up, and go live your life. You can’t step forward spiritually until you’re willing to take a step. Paralysis is not progress.
I have every respect for our Sunday School teacher (and many others like him.) But I would like to put forward a message of hope. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. And that’s okay. Let’s keep getting closer, and fix our mistakes faster when we make them. I’m through with fear; I’m going to live my life out of love. I’ve found a cause worth dying for, and I’m going to live for it. ◊