There once was a horse.*
This horse loved strawberries.
These strawberry bushes look awfully good to our horse. What our horse doesn’t know is that these strawberry bushes are full of thorns. Holes lurk beneath many of the branches.
Beyond the dangerous bushes lies a beautiful garden.
The strawberry bushes in the beautiful garden are good for our horse and safe to eat.
Ask: How do we get our horse past the strawberry bushes that will hurt him and into the beautiful garden?
(My children suggested a bridle, which I drew on the horse. I suggested a fence might be helpful too.)
Read Alma 38:12: “Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love…”
The strawberries can represent many different passions human beings have. The strawberries with thorns and hidden holes represent unbridled passions. The strawberries in the beautiful garden represent passions bridled by correct principles.
So if the passion we’re talking about is money, unbridled passions would be greed, covetousness and miserliness.
The bridled passion for money would be a righteous desire to provide for one’s family, avoiding debt, saving money, keeping our wants modest and giving to those in need.
If the passion is food, unbridled desires would be gluttony and fad diets. (But not chocolate addiction! Oh no.)
The bridled passion for food would be following the principles of the Word of Wisdom.
If the passion we’re talking about is praise, unbridled passions would be an unhealthy desire for fame or popularity, caving in to peer pressure, gossip, lying and fear of rejection.
An healthy outlook on the normal human desire for acceptance involves looking to the proper source for that acceptance.
As President Ezra Taft Benson put it: “If we love God, do His will and fear His judgment’s more than men’s, we will have self esteem.”
If the passions we’re talking about is sexual desire, a normal and God-designed passion within us all, then unbridled passions include pornography (there it is!), sexual relations outside of marriage and other sexual sins.
The bridled passion of sexual desire is a healthy, loving sexual relationship within marriage. (I conducted a separate FHE on healthy sexuality the following week.)
So, back to our strawberry bushes. Our horse likes strawberries. And that’s okay. Our horse is supposed to like strawberries. He was created to like strawberries.
But what happens if our horse goes to the strawberry bushes outside of the beautiful garden? What if he doesn’t learn to bridle his passion? What if he jumps the fence?
He’s going to get hurt.
What do those thorns and holes represent?
- Spiritual damage from sexual encounters outside of marriage
- Low self-esteem from sexual encounters outside of marriage
- Pornography addiction
- Lack of ability to control sexual urges which may begin as teenage promiscuity and repeat itself later in life in the form of marital affairs
- Teenage pregnancy
- Sexually transmitted diseases
What does the fence represent?
God’s commandments (found in the scriptures), guidance by Church leaders (such as that found in For the Strength of Youth – just as pertinent to adults I believe), and guidance by righteous parents.
What does the bridle represent?
Here I interjected this little thought:
There’s something important to understand about Satan. First, he is our enemy. He hates us and wants nothing more than to destroy us any way he can. Do not expect him to avoid using every weapon he has against you just to be nice. He’s not nice, he shows no mercy and he will use every weapon he can.
Second, he will use something good and distort it to suit his evil purposes.
Therefore, one weapon that is an absolute plague on the earth today is pornography.
I explained this next part pretty much the way the LDS counselor explained it.*
Our minds and our bodies are designed to react to sexual stimulation, physical or visual. It’s the way God created us and that’s just the way it is. So this is what happens when a young boy (or an adult, for that matter) first views pornography.* *
The boy views a sexually arousing image.
The boy’s body has an instant physical reaction to it, as he is designed to do. In other words, he likes it. His body will NOT be disgusted by it. His body will like it. (The counselor actually explained the anatomical and neurological process, but I didn’t retain all that information, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.)
The boy will most likely know he’s not supposed to like things like pornography. Intellectually, he may not like what he’s seeing at all. In short, he’ll know that what he’s viewing is bad.
The boy will put those things together in the following way:
- I liked that
- That was bad
- I liked bad.
- I am bad.
That is a universal reaction that leads to shame, secrecy and damage to self esteem. All of which is one leg of the vicious addiction cycle. (He talked at length about the addiction cycle too, but I won’t get into that either.)
So, Satan knows your body is going to react to something like pornography, because he knows you’re supposed to like strawberries. But what does he do to get sweet boys like you to look at pornography? He knows you’re not going to go looking for it.
Satan becomes the hunter.
What might a hunter do when he’s hunting deer? (Yes, I know, I’m mixing my animal metaphors, but bear with me.)
Let’s imagine the hunter lays traps.
The hunter lays traps where he knows his prey is going to walk, like on a deer path through the woods or next to a food source.
Then, the hunter is going to hide that trap.
What’s going to happen when our deer walks along the path, sees nothing but leaves, and steps in a trap?
The deer didn’t do anything wrong by walking along that path. But he’s caught nonetheless.
What does an animal do when it’s caught in a trap? Can the animal get out unharmed? The animal will have to chew its own leg off to get out of that trap.
Because here’s the next part. Satan knows that if you look at pornography, you will have a physical reaction of pleasure.
He also knows you’ll feel guilty about it. Ashamed.
He wants you to feel ashamed. He wants you to feel embarrassed. He wants you to hide and be in the dark.* * *
Satan works in secrecy.
He doesn’t want you to tell a soul about what you saw or how you felt or what you might be tempted to do next. He wants you to drown in your feelings of worthlessness. He wants you, bit by bit, to cycle into pornography addiction.
He wants you to chew your own leg off.
The other way an animal can get out of the trap is if a human being opens the trap for him and sets him free. How do we get out of the pornography trap?
We tell someone who can help. And we don’t wait.* * * *
Back to the strawberry fields and the fences and the bridles. Trust the wisdom of the people who built the fence to keep you away from harm. They know where the thorns and holes are most likely to be hidden. Exercise your free agency and bridle your passions. Be committed to that. Be committed to following the commandments no matter what. Do this, and the fruits of the beautiful garden will be yours. They will be sweet to the taste and cause you no harm.
What blessings come from bridling our passions?
“Bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.”
Love of self. Love of others. Love of God. Holy, virtuous principles lead to these things.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
* This is an actual FHE lesson I taught when my sons were aged six through ten. It was inspired by a joint Relief Society/Priesthood lesson taught by an LDS counselor specializing in sex addictions. He’s considered an expert in his field. He didn’t teach us grown ups with a horse and strawberries, that was my idea for my children.
* * The average age children are first exposed to pornography is age 11. That means some children view it much sooner. More often than not, the first time a person sees pornography (whether child or adult) is on accident. Malicious web designers purposely design their sites to be accidentally discovered, because they know how ensnaring that first experience can be. This sex addiction counselor spent a significant portion of his lesson explaining how easily people are trapped (adults with pornography addictions almost always began by accidentally stumbling across pornography online) and how important it is to A) educate kids about this danger, healthy sexuality, etc. and B) put multiple filters on your computer.
Filters are not foolproof. That’s why you have more than one. Determined kids might be able to figure out a way around them, that’s why you educate your kids, keep the lines of communication open and stay very aware of what they’re doing online. But you put filters on your computer for the same reason you lock your front door: to keep malicious intruders from barging into your home and doing damage. The lives of sweet, innocent, trustworthy children have been blown to bits because they accidentally saw pornography. This guy sees it all the time. The statistics back him up. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your children are immune. The potential damage is not worth the risk. Filter your computers.
* * * I’ll never forget my ten-year-old listening to this with rapt attention and with wide eyes saying, “He does?” He later told me that when he and his dad had gone camping several months prior, he was looking through the newspapers his dad had brought for starting campfires. In it was an ad of a scantily clad woman, dressed (or barely dressed) in some sort of animal skin. This (not surprisingly) caught the attention of my innocent, preadolescent boy. He hid the paper, went back to it several times during the trip, and finally threw it in the fire to get rid of it. He never discussed it out of fear and shame, and it had been corrupting his perception of himself. He wondered if he was a bad boy.
This FHE lesson gave him the permission to talk to me about this. He was visibly relieved to know that it’s natural to like the way a beautiful woman looks and that doesn’t make him bad. We talked about respect for ourselves, respect for women, healthy sexuality, and blessings that come from following the commandments. This talk freed my child from Satan’s trap.
Which he found in a newspaper.
Soft-core porn is all around us and social acceptance of it doesn’t dilute its poison at all.
* * * * For those already deep into pornography addiction, Satan may tell them they’re too far gone for help. Which is another way to keep them in the dark. Or as they go through their addiction cycle – which includes periods of abstinence before falling back into the trap again – Satan may encourage them to feel that they can control it on their own or to think the problem “really isn’t that bad because…” Again, Satan works in secrecy. Pornography addiction requires more counseling and education than a trapped deer can provide for itself.