Why Scripture Study isn’t Working for Addicts

“Why don’t you just tell them to read the scriptures?” This was the question posed by my bishop friend’s sweet wife as he opened a box of newly ordered copies of Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship. I certainly can’t judge her for thinking this way. I would have asked the same question if I weren’t a sex addict in the midst of a life and death struggle.

The question of why scripture study doesn’t work for sex addicts isn’t easily digested for scripture-loving members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In a world where “pray and read the scriptures” is an accepted fix for almost any ailment, it’s hard to understand why it doesn’t work for this one.

There is so much that is wonderful and good in the Bible and the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures. They are the iron rod that leads to eternal life, and their importance to a God connection cannot be overstated.

I feel like church members I have spoken with about recovery almost take it as an affront to the religion when I explain that normal Sunday worship and church activity are not enough to halt addictive behavior. If it was going to happen for anyone, it would have happened for me. I checked just about all the boxes of what a “good Mormon” is supposed to look like, and lot of my addict brothers are just like me. We went on missions, took on church callings, and read the scriptures – but scripture study didn’t work for us. Not when it came to our addictions.

While the history of 12 step programs is actually rooted in a group of alcoholics who got together to study the Bible and apply its teachings to their alcoholic problem, many addicts never get there alone. So God, in his mercy, touched a few of these alcoholics and sparked a movement that has transformed the lives of millions – the twelve step movement, a program that is 100% founded in gospel doctrine; faith, surrender, accountability, love, service, honesty, prayer, meditation, repentance, forgiveness, God, spirituality.

Latter-Day Saints and people everywhere need to realize that addiction is just as much of an ailment as any other medical condition; diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, cancer, arthritis, asthma, etc. Anybody who had one of these conditions would seek professional medical help. They may also read the scriptures to help with the coping process, but they would definitely see a doctor. It’s really no different for addiction, yet perhaps because of the spiritual implications of addiction, and especially sex addiction, we pretend that just going to the bishop and praying and reading the scriptures is going to bring someone to recovery.

IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. Unless you or your loved on is in very rarified air, they will need more than this. If it was going to happen that way, it would have happened for me. And yet for all the kind and wonderful bishops I told about my “pornography problem,” none of their most sincere counsel ever brought me the point of being able to stem my addictive behavior. Only a daily, measured, tedious working of a recovery 12 step program has brought me any semblance of the freedom I have missed for so much of my life.

Recovery is not complicated. If somebody isn’t getting it, it’s because they don’t want it. They would rather have their addiction. I don’t believe God will withhold recovery from someone who wants it more than anything else, but it’s true that no man can serve two masters, and unless the addict is ready to set aside their brutal task master, Christ will not and cannot help them.

The veil of denial that clouds an addict’s brain is 99% of the time too thick for normal scripture study to penetrate. Addicts need the scriptures made simple through the 12 steps of recovery. Sex addiction is a disease, it requires specialized treatment, and once applied the scriptures will come alive in ways they never will in the darkest days of addictive behavior.

Latter-Day Saints everywhere, non Latter-Day saints everywhere: please, please, PLEASE take your denial to task. Admit that sex addiction is way bigger a problem than you ever imagined, way bigger a problem than you could ever control. Bigger than the biggest goliath, badder than King Kong. I can’t do it alone. You can’t do it alone. Don’t pretend that you can. Your scripture study won’t save you. Don’t hide behind it. You need it, but you also need some specialized treatment. It works if you work it!


3 thoughts on “Why Scripture Study isn’t Working for Addicts

  1. “Recovery is not complicated. If somebody isn’t getting it, it’s because they don’t want it. They would rather have their addiction. I don’t believe God will withhold recovery from someone who wants it more than anything else, but it’s true that no man can serve two masters, and unless the addict is ready to set aside their brutal task master, Christ will not and cannot help them.”

    This. This is the reason why I have yet to live in recovery, even though I’ve been at it for years and years. There’s a part of me that still wants it, won’t give it up. Like Lot’s wife, I can leave but I can’t leave without looking back longingly. Rather than turn into a pillar of salt, however, I just walk, and sometimes run, back to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Part of me still wants it too, for sure. I’m told this is a degenerative disease, so that tells me I’ll always be an addict. Here’s what my life started to look like when I got more serious about recovery. This is what worked for me. I went to a lot more meetings, ARP and SA. Sometimes three or four meetings a week. I did 90 meetings in 90 days with a combination of phone meetings and face to face. I got a sponsor. When that didn’t work as well as I wanted, I got a new sponsor. And then another. I’m on my 5th one now. I call him nearly every day. I started reaching out by making calls, daily. Often many calls a day. Wherever I went, if I was out of town, I looked for meetings. I read; Big Book, White Book, 12 and 12, etc. I spent money to go to SA international conventions and marathons. I started new SA mtgs. I started to change other areas of my life – realized that the lust wasn’t going to stop without a complete change of heart. I’ve been doing this type of effort for almost 4 years. Prior to that I had attended some meetings, I had shared with my wife and some friends, but it wasn’t anything like it is now. Big difference between then and now. Big difference between wanting recovery and wanting lust. I have tons of room for improvement, but there’s no denying that things are not the same as they were 4 years ago. If all this seems scary and too much, it seemed like that for me too. It was scary for me to let go back then. I’m busy; family, work, callings. Who has time for all that? But I could see how I was going to lose everything that mattered to me if I didn’t get really serious about recovery, and I’ll take this life any day over the one I had before. I always found a way to make lusting a priority, so why wouldn’t recovery require just as much effort?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We need God AND a recovery program. My husband and I both, in our 2 1/2 years of recovery from his sex addiction, have seen so many people trying just one or the other and that just doesn’t work. God is indeed the ultimate healer but He uses the recovery program and process, and people to bring us growth, healing and wholeness. His Word brings us life, and recovery brings us the miracle to receive that life.


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