347-348: Challenging the “Addiction” Paradigm with Regard to Pornography

Porn buttonThe past two weeks featured two opposing Op-Eds in the Salt Lake Tribune (here and here) focusing on the issue of pornography, and especially if an “addiction” model (“pornography is highly addicting”) is appropriate to be taught in high school settings. The impetus for the initial opinion piece was the propriety of allowing the group “Fight the New Drug” (FTND) to offer presentations in public school assemblies or other gathering types, especially since the science behind the claims FTND makes about pornography as “addicting” is not credible (at least that is the claim of the writers). Leaders of FTND and others who work with clients under the “pornography addiction” model and the therapies it suggests wrote a response challenging the claims made in the first Op-ed, linking to studies they say supports all the arguments they make or that challenge studies that underlie the thinking of those who oppose the “addiction” model. It is a fascinating back-and-forth that highlights a major division within helping communities with regard to the effects of pornography upon the human brain and body, and the best approach(es) to take when someone comes to a therapist for help with a level of pornography usage they feel is is problematic.

In this two-part episode, two of the authors of the first Op-ed, Natasha Helfer Parker and Kristin Hodson (both Mormon and certified sex therapists), along with neuroscientist and sex researcher Dr. Nicole Prause and counselor and sex therapist Jay Blevins (who are both non-LDS), join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a wide-ranging discussion of the research surrounding the effects of pornography and if it shows the markers typically associated with “addiction,” and why this group feels the model fails—not only scientifically but with the therapies that arise out of this framing doing more harm than good. The host and panel discuss the influence of religious framings on both therapists and clients that are likely very much at play in preferring the “addiction” model, what other factors might be at play in continuing to use this language and claims about pornography usage, the propriety of it being presented in schools that allow no teachings whatsoever about sexuality within the curriculum yet still allow scare-inducing warnings against pornography (which, in itself, seems incomprehensible apart from understanding healthy sexuality first), along with various other models for assisting those who self-report as pornography or sex “addicts”—and why they feel these other framings and therapies yield better results. Plus so much more!

In coming weeks, as Mormon Matters can gather a panel of persons supporting the addiction model and treatment programs that employ that framing, we look forward to letting them present their reasons for preferring it, and to challenge anything offered in this episode.

Please listen and then share your responses and experiences in the comments section below!


AASECT Position Statement on Sex Addition (released 29 November 2016)

Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) is devoted to the promotion of sexual health by the development and advancement of the fields of sexual education, counseling and therapy. With this mission, AASECT accepts the responsibility of training, certifying and advancing high standards in the practice of sexuality education services, counseling and therapy. When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexual education and health care, AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.

AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual problems. AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.

AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for consumers seeking treatment for problems related to consensual sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.



Op-Ed: “Utah Students Need Real Sex-Ed, not ‘Fight the New Drug’,” Salt Lake Tribune, 1 October 2016

Op-Ed: “Utah Students Need Real Sex-Ed and ‘Fight the New Drug’,” Salt Lake Tribune, 8 October 201

Prause, N., Steele, V. R., Staley, C., Sabatinelli, D., & Proudfit, G. H. (2015). Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with “porn addiction.” Biological Psychology, 109, 192–199. 

* The largest neuroscience study of cue-reactivity EEG, often called the “biomarker” of addiction, shows sex films do not behave like any known substance or behavioral addiction

Prause, N., Steele, V. R., Staley, C., Sabatinelli, D., & Hajcak, G. (2016). Prause et al.(2015) the latest falsification of addiction predictions. Biological Psychology.

* The most succinct publication describing the many predictions, not just neuroscience, of the addiction model that have been falsified.

Balzarini, R. N., Dobson, K., Chin, K., & Campbell, L. Does exposure to erotica reduce attraction and love for romantic partners in men? Independent replications of Kenrick, Gutierres, and Goldberg (1989) study 2. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2016.11.003

*The largest study to date on the effects of sex films on relationships finding they either increase desire and love for the partner or do not change it.

Klein, M. (2016). His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America’s PornPanic with Honest Talk About Sex. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

* Building on decades of psychotherapy practice, the text reviews how sex films are often demonized to avoid addressing real, and more challenging, problems in relationships. Appropriate for lay audience, but also helpful for clinicians with case examples.

Natasha Helfer Parker, Mormon Sex Info website

Kristin Hodson’s therapy practice website: The Healing Group

Kristin Hodson, et al, Real Intimacy: A Couple’s Guide to Healthy, Genuine Sexuality (Cedar Fort, 2012)

“Sex-Positivity in Mormonism,” Mormon Matters podcast episode, Nos. 314-315. December 17, 2015.

Dallin H. Oaks, “Recovering from the Trap of Pornography,” Ensign, Ocober 2015

AASECT: American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists website

346: Intimacy in Mormon Marriages

holland-memeMormon theology, including temple covenants, along with pulpit and lesson rhetoric and cultural and community discourse place a strong emphasis on the family. It also focuses on our becoming as fully like God as we can, including perfecting the combination of strength and vulnerability, independence and relationality. In Mormon marriages, this means developing full intimacy with our spouses, which requires first a genuine intimacy with ourselves, facing our challenges and becoming whole. All of our theology and values point to this type of “becoming”—becoming one with God, within ourselves, and with our spouse. Yet, are there aspects of Mormon thought, culture, and practice that work against the development of genuine intimacy between spouses? And, if so, how might we come to better understand these in ways that will allow us ultimately to change them, but along the way, for ourselves, to at least transcend them?

In this episode, Carol Lynn PearsonStephen Carter, and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a focused discussion of intimacy in Mormon Marriages. Pearson alerts us to the negative consequences of the persistence of polygamy in our doctrines, practices, and in the hearts and minds of many Latter-day Saints, leading to a terrific discussion that dives down several more layers and, ultimately, to our imagining a “partnership” future that has transcended the harm engendered by “patriarchy.” Carter takes us into several interesting areas related to gender roles, church structures, and ways that the LDS culture places “value” on and judges the success or failure of a marriage—all of which that work against intimacy. Finlayson-Fife lifts up examples and insights from her career as a marriage and family therapist working with Mormon clientele, along with calling us again and again to pay attention to the core gospel of Jesus Christ, what Christ pointed to, which is internal transformation and development not external performance.

The above is just a tease! There’s so much more! Dive in! And then please join in the discussion in the comments section below!



Carol Lynn Pearson, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men (Walnut Creek, CA: Pivot Point Books, 2016)
Carol Lynn Pearson, Beginnings and Beyond (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2011). Contains the poem, “The Steward.”
Carol Lynn Pearson website
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife website; link to relationship courses
Sunstone, Perspectives on Polygamy Issue (includes Stephen Carter’s review essay discussed in the podcast)
Eugene England, “On Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage,” Dialogue 20, no. 4 (Winter 1987); link is to version on the Eugene England website (but it links to original if wanted)

Not mentioned in the show, but here is a fantastic article: Marybeth Raynes, “How Sex and Spirituality are Linked: A Developmental Perspective,” Sunstone, Nov 2011. It shares both via research as well as samples from poetry, lyrics, and other literature various levels of intimacy and the spirituality associated with it.

345: Dialogue at Fifty!–Part 2: Present and Future

50-graphic_gold-R2-2We are excited to continue our celebration of the 50thanniversary of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought through a conversation with its current editor, Boyd Jay Petersen, its immediate past editor, Kristine Haglund, and current Dialogue board member and one of the organizers of the upcoming Dialogue jubilee gala, Joanna Brooks. How is Dialogue doing in these times of unprecedented access to information that is causing difficulties for print publications? What is the extent of its online profile these days? How is it positioning itself and its continued importance within the Mormon tradition? How is it competing for great scholarship, essays, fiction, poetry, and other writings? What are its editorial and board philosophies as it tries to steer toward the future?

This is a terrific discussion that we think you’ll enjoy very much! And after Joanna Brooks shares more about the Jubilee events on September 30th, our guess is everyone who listens will be hard-pressed to not want to respond by attending or getting involved in some way! It is going to be amazing!



Dialogue Website

344: Dialogue at Fifty!—Part 1: History

50-graphic_gold-R2-2Something wonderful with long-lasting effect on Mormonism began in 1966 with the publication of the inaugural issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Beginning as a dream made into reality by five friends at Stanford University, Dialogue went on to become in the days before the Internet “the” go-to source for the best thinking on Mormonism, especially for LDS students and intellectuals who wanted so much to bring their scholarship into conversation with their faith. Along its storied career, Dialogue has published many pivotal articles that have helped shape Mormonism in the past half-century, along with providing an early outlet for great writing  and art of all sorts, including personal essay, sermons, fiction, poetry, and visual arts.

In this episode, the first of two parts, one of Dialogue’s founders, Frances Lee Menlove, an early Dialogue editor, Robert Rees, and the author of an award-winning series of histories of the journal, Devery Anderson, join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon to explore Dialogue’s history and impact, its aspirations and how they have and have not been met, some of the key moments in its history, as well as assessments of its importance within the LDS community. Dialogue is, in many ways, the foundation upon which today’s podcasting and flourishing online discussions about Mormonism are built. It’s history is compelling, with many ups and downs involving the interplay between church leaders and the journal’s decision makers, its finances and reputation. Ultimately it is a triumphant story, and we are pleased to offer you this short taste.

Following this episode, we will then focus in Part 2 on Dialogue’s present and future.

A day-long celebration of Dialogue’s Jubilee year will be held on 30 September at Utah Valley University. We encourage all of you to click on this link to learn more about its various offerings! We hope to see many of you at this wonderful event!



Dialogue Website

Devery S. Anderson, “A History of Dialogue, Part One: The Early Years, 1965-1971,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 32, no. 2 (Summer 1999)

Devery S. Anderson, “A History of Dialogue, Part Two: Struggle toward Maturity, 1971-1982,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 33, no. 2 (Summer 2000)

Devery S. Anderson, “A History of Dialogue, Part Three: ‘Coming of Age’ in Utah, 1982-1987,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 35, no. 2 (Summer 2002)

Devery S. Anderson, “A History of Dialogue, Part Four: A Tale in Two Cities, 1987-1992,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 41, no. 3 (Autumn 2008)

Frances Lee Menlove, The Challenge of Honesty: Essays for Latter-day Saints by Frances Lee Menlove (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2013)

343: An Exciting Approach to Scripture

JSmith_Iron_cover_1024x1024A new book edited by Julie M. Smith, As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture, does  something wonderful. It takes something we all “kind of” know–that not every verse of scripture fits together in perfect harmony with others; that every writer whose words eventually became “scripture” agrees with every other writer–and in the interesting and entertaining format of imagined dialogues between scripture writers illustrates some of those divergent voices and viewpoints. Joining Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for this discussion are book contributors Julie M. Smith, Michael Austin, and Mark Decker.

In the book, you can hear, among others, Abraham and Job in dialogue about suffering and God’s killing of children (Austin’s piece), Jacob from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith debating polygamy and God’s laws and their exceptions (Decker’s), and Gospel writers Mark and Luke in conversation about women’s values and roles and the best way to honor them in Christ’s kingdom (Smith’s contribution). These stand alongside others such as John the Evangelist and John the Revelator (treating these as different individuals) on the Divinity of Jesus by Nicholas J. Frederick, Job and John on The Satans by Ronan James Head, Tamar and David on Personal Morality by Jason A. Kerr, Abraham and Thomas on Doubt by Steven L. Peck, Amulek and Alma on the Atonement by Joseph M. Spencer, Hannah and Sariah on Complaint, plus eight other fascinating dialogues. As Michael Austin notes within the conversation in this episode, we as Latter-day Saints too often think of and focus on scripture at the “verse” level versus the chapter and/or “book” level, and in so doing miss so much richness. This book and this discussion begins to show the new and complex and robust worlds that can open when we step back and view what has ended up in our scriptures as the writings of good people wrestling with God and life’s big questions, and who are sharing about their experiences and/or the events that shaped their peoples and giving their best takes on these subjects. It’s then up to us to give their words our consideration and make them springboards into our own spiritual explorations.

Please listen to this episode and share your thoughts in the comments section below!



(A portion of the purchase price of items ordered from Amazon through the links below goes help support Mormon Matters, as well as any from any other Amazon purchases during the same shopping session.)

Julie M. Smith, ed., As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016)

Michael Austin, Re-Reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014)

Mark T. Decker, Peculiar Portrayals: Mormons on the Page, Stage, and Screen (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2010)

John Russell, The Mormoness; Or, The Trials of Mary Maverick: A Narrative of Real Events (Mormon Image in Literature),Michael Austin and Ardis Parshall, eds., (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016)

Mark T. Decker, Industrial Society and the Science Fiction Blockbuster: Social Critique in Films of Lucas, Scott, and Cameron (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing, 2016)

Eric Samuelsen, The Plan: A Play, Sunstone (July 2009)

H. Parker Blount, “Scarlet Threads in the Lineage of Jesus: Four Women of the Old Testament,” Sunstone, (November 2006)

342: Mormon Women’s Position and Organization Names and Titles

beehive girlsThe Summer 2016 edition of the online journal SquareTwo features the results and a discussion of a recent poll of Mormon women about the ways that LDS women’s organizations are referred to, and about the names and titles of women’s groups, as well as women who are referred to primarily through their relationship to their husband’s titled calling: the “bishop’s wife,” the “mission president’s wife.” It also asked for reactions to a proposal to change the wording of the Young Women’s Theme plus the name of the “Young Womanhood” Award (currently the name of the recognition that is the equivalent to young men’s “Duty to God” award. Respondents who thought that discussions of these things or changes were in order were then given a chance to make suggestions for those new names and titles. Following a Salt Lake Tribune blog post about the survey, discussion really took off, netting an large number of comments both supportive of and quite dismissive of the survey and issues it raises.

This Mormon Matters episode, featuring SquareTwo board member and one of the writers of the article analyzing the survey’s results, Neylan McBaine, and Mormon therapist and writer about women’s issues and group dynamics, Julie de Azevedo Hanks, examines the survey and its findings, but also the interesting feedback it has received. What do these responses say about today’s Mormonism, especially in relation to non-correlated, non-official efforts to open up discussions about and propose potential solutions to issues that negatively affect many LDS women?


V.H. Cassler and Neylan McBaine, “What’s in a Name?: SquareTwo Poll Survey Results on the Naming of Women’s Positions and Organizations in the LDS Church

Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mia Maids? Mission Prez’s Wife? Please, in the name of all that is holy, change these outdated monikers, LDS women plead,” Following Faith blog, Salt Lake Tribune, 12 August 2016

Neylan McBaine, Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact (Salt Lake City, Greg Kofford Books, 2014)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2016)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2013)

The Mormon Women’s Project website