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Controlling Homosexual Behavior

Group2flopSummary: Although you experience same-sex attractions, you can choose your behavior and set personal boundaries on your actions. Avoid bad habits and addictions because they can compromise your power to choose.

This section assumes you have determined that you do not want to engage in homosexual behavior. This section is organized as follows:

  • Principles to Consider About Changing Your Behavior
  • Suggested Actions for Changing Behavior Patterns
  • Specific advice about controlling fantasy, pornography, masturbation, and homosexual behavior

Principles to Consider About Changing Your Behavior

Change Requires Effort, But May Become Easier Over Time

Making positive changes in your habitual ways of behaving and relating to your environment may take significant effort, but if you are sincerely motivated, you can control your behavior. The comforting news is that as you resolve deeper issues, the compulsions and desires to act out may diminish in frequency and intensity and the struggle to control your behavior will be less demanding.

Understanding Your Behavior

Behaviors are purposeful and are governed by valid, ordered sequences of experience. While homosexual behavior may appear illogical to many people, it served what you viewed as a useful purpose and was rational from your point of view. Barney Swihart wrote, “Sexual bondage is never about simple lust or external behavior. It is in response to the deep wounds of life that sexual strugglers develop self-protective relational walls to insulate themselves from further hurt. However, the sad irony is that the very walls they have cultivated to ‘protect’ themselves now have become the ‘prison’ that keeps them in bondage.” (“When Christians Struggle with Sexual Sin,” Harvest News, Philadelphia, PA, Fall/Winter 1995, p. 2.)

Why Change Your Behaviors?

Do your current behaviors build you up or tear you down? Look back at the values and goals you set for yourself in the section Making Decisions About Same-sex Attraction. Do your current behaviors take you toward or away from your ultimate goals? When you behave contrary to your personal values, your internal feelings of self-worth decrease, but when you behave consistent with your personal values, those feelings of self-worth increase. Integrity is to have the moral courage to make your actions consistent with your knowledge of right and wrong. As you look at your behaviors, if you find any that are incongruent with the things you really value in life, change them to actions that are congruent with your values and with eternal gospel principles. All people have sex urges and if we control those urges, we gain self-mastery and strength. If we yield to our carnal desires and urges, we get weaker until our actions are beyond control.

“We give our lives to that which we give our time.” (Bradford, William R.  “Unclutter Your Life,” Ensign, May 1992, p. 28.) We become “oriented” to that to which we repeatedly give our hearts. Do you spend your time in healthy or unhealthy pursuits? Everything you do today affects your future. You can destroy your future or build your future by the choices you make today. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good. . . .” (Isaiah 55:2) Behaving in harmony with healthy desires brings positive consequences, while violating them brings negative consequences.

Behavior Is a Choice

Stephen Covey wrote, “Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.” (Covey, Stephen R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Calendar, 1996, 15 Jan. 1996.) You didn’t have a choice about the emergence of your same-sex attractions, but you do have a choice in how you respond to them. Although a person may crave food, he can learn to control his appetite and does not have to become obese. You have the choice of engaging in inappropriate activities or avoiding them. Each new choice in your life is an opportunity to move away from unwanted behaviors and toward a more desirable state.

“No man is free who is not master of himself.” (Stapley, Delbert L. “Using Our Free Agency,” Ensign, May 1975, p. 2.) You become truly free when you master your desires and have complete control of yourself. You may not immediately be able to free yourself from unwanted thoughts simply by desiring to do so. However, you can choose to govern your behavior. You can choose to control your actions.

Committing to Change

If you want to change your behavior, you must be committed to do it. You have to choose which will be “the last time.” Will it be this one? Or the next one? Or the next? There will always be a “next” time until you decide that it must stop. If you don’t commit ahead of time, the situation will decide for you, and when faced with familiar situations, you will act in familiar ways. Perhaps it is not that your bad desires are too strong, but that your good desires are too weak. You need to encourage, sustain, and strengthen the good desires, rather than spend so much time trying to eradicate the bad ones.

Avoiding Homosexual Behavior

If you have never acted on your same-sex urges, congratulations! Many people have to spend a great deal of time and energy undoing behavioral habits and addictions. You may be tempted to engage in homosexual activity thinking that if you could just experience it, your fantasies could be put to rest. But this false illusion ignores the seductive power of sexual sin. Many people know that homosexual behavior doesn’t satisfy, but are enslaved by it anyway! It is much harder to close a door that has been opened than it is to not open the door in the first place. Be strong and don’t give in to homosexual behavior. Leo wrote, “I have refrained from ever becoming sexually involved with another man. I choose not to ‘act out’ and sexualize my SSA feelings, but rather to ‘act on’ my need to love and be loved in Christlike ways.” (Hyde, Garrick and Hyde, Ginger, eds. A Place in the Kingdom: Spiritual Insights from Latter-day Saints about Same-sex AttractionCentury Publishing, Salt Lake City, UT, 1997, p. 83.)

Habits, Addictions, and Compulsions

Sexual behaviors can be extremely addictive, whether they involve fantasies, solitary activities, or actions with others. Habits and addictions are self-defeating behaviors that trade short-term benefits for long-term ones. (Read the section on Sexual Compulsions and Addictions.)

Dr. Russell M. Nelson explained, “From an initial experiment thought to be trivial, a vicious cycle may follow. From trial comes a habit. From habit comes dependence. From dependence comes addiction. Its grasp is so gradual. Enslaving shackles of habit are too small to be sensed until they are too strong to be broken.” (“Addiction or Freedom”, Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 6.)

Some people are more susceptible than others to addictions. Some people are more easily addicted to smoking than others. Some cannot take an occasional drink without becoming alcoholics. These tendencies may restrict the person’s freedom, but not his ability to choose. He may not be free to drink without addiction, but his agency allows him to choose not to drink at all. Dallin H. Oaks taught, “We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.” (“Free Agency and Freedom,” Brigham Young University 1987–88 Devotional and Fireside Speeches, BYU Publications, Provo, UT, 1988, pp. 46–47.)

Dr. Russell M. Nelson explained, “While we are free to choose, once we have made those choices, we are tied to the consequences of those choices. We are free to take drugs or not. But once we choose to use a habit-forming drug, we are bound to the consequences of that choice. Addiction surrenders our later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will!” (“Addiction or Freedom”, Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 7.)

Since behaviors become increasingly strengthened through repetition, we should avoid any behavior that is habit-forming or addictive. This is particularly important with sexual behaviors, because the intensity of the sensual pleasure adds to the addictive nature of the action. Joe Dallas wrote, “Compulsive sexual behavior…includes lust and poor self-control, of course, but it is much more than that. It is a repetitive, constant form of sexual activity that a person feels compelled—not just tempted—to indulge in…. [I]t’s bondage of the worst kind because there’s so much shame and remorse attached to it, making it terribly secretive and usually dangerous.” (Desires in Conflict: Hope for Men Who Struggle with Sexual IdentityHarvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1991, pp. 127-8.)

Joe Dallas explained, “To be sexually addicted is to literally rely on sex to stabilize you. It’s a state in which the rush of sexual pleasure, with all its accompanying chemical forces has become to you what a drug has become to an addict. And like a drug, it begins to interfere with all parts of life. Breaking the cycle of sexual addiction is not just a matter of will in this case; it’s a matter of strategy, consistency, and patience.” (Desires in Conflict: Hope for Men Who Struggle with Sexual IdentityHarvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1991, p. 63)

If you are engulfed in habits and addictions, they can be overcome by the incredible power of the human will, with the support of friends and loved ones, and through the omnipotent power of God. Dr. Russell M. Nelson taught, “Your willpower becomes strong when joined with the will of the Lord.” (“Addiction or Freedom”, Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 8.) Whether such mastery happens overnight or takes a significant amount of time, it can happen nonetheless. You may need to enlist the help of a twelve-step program, a support group, and a therapist to overcome addictions.

Avoid addictive behaviors because they compromise your will and work counter to your goals. Behaviors that are reinforced continue and even become stronger. Those that are controlled become manageable. If you control your thoughts, you can overcome habits and achieve your goals.

It is interesting to note the similarity between same-sex addictions and other compulsive behaviors. The things that trigger people to act homosexually tend to be the same things that those immersed in other addictions cite as instigating factors for their addictive behaviors. The instigating factors (stress, insecurity, depression, etc.) are the same; they simply have different methods of expression.

Addictions have physical, emotional, and spiritual components. Physically, you may be hooked on the excitement, the “rush,” the adrenaline “buzz” of the sexual experience. You may be emotionally hooked through envy or shame. And spiritually, you may feel rejected by God and tempted to act in rebellion.


Passions can be powerful. Jack Hickey wrote, “Throughout history men have killed and have been killed for no other reason but to satisfy their passions. To feed their sexual drive some have lied, cheated, stolen, and murdered; have given up family, friends, and jobs….A man who covets his friend’s wife will risk destruction of both families in order to satisfy his passion.” He explained, “Most of the time, they never even stop to think of the consequences. If they do stop to think, the drive is often so strong that it doesn’t matter.” (Hickey, Jack. “Passion: How Much Will We Pay?,” Victory Notes, 1986.)

As bad as you may consider your passions to be, they have a useful purpose. Don’t ask to be rid of your passions, rather learn to control your passions. Wise use of your passions can help you develop true love which comes through controlling and directing your passions, not by allowing them unrestrained expression. In the classic musical production Camelot, there is a line with good advice for us all. When the love triangle between King Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot began to deepen, King Arthur said, “We must not let our passions destroy our dreams.”

Personal Boundaries

Personal growth and progression requires setting and maintaining boundaries. In fact, a critical spiritual lesson to learn is to become masters of ourselves. In contrast, some people say that to deny yourself of worldly pleasures is to deny your true self. They emphasize feeling good rather than being good. They describe any form of self-restraint as self-loathing or homophobia. However, a peaceful society requires restraint, boundaries, moderation, and temperance.

Setting Safe Boundaries

You will likely need to set boundaries to get your behavior under control. By setting personal boundaries, you use your agency to temporarily limit certain individual freedoms to help achieve more important eternal freedoms. If you know you are susceptible to certain addictive behaviors, you can decide to limit your access to places or conditions that might make it easy for you to go astray. Since addictions can limit or compromise more important freedoms, it is important to forgo less important, temporary freedoms for more important eternal ones. Choose boundaries that keep you well inside a zone of safety. Old habit patterns have to be starved before they shrivel and die.

Personal space boundaries

Human beings need affection. Hugging and physical touch are important. However, it is also important to recognize that each person comes from a different background and has his own limits of personal space. What may be an appropriate hug for one person may be too intimate for another. When a person is starved for affection and conditioned to respond sexually, an otherwise appropriate hug may arouse or make him think inappropriate thoughts. Therefore, it is important to be aware of what is comfortable and appropriate both for you and for the other person. Once you define your personal boundaries, let others know what they are. And before you hug someone else, be sure you know it is within his personal boundaries.

Sexual boundaries

As steward of your own sexuality, you are responsible to set boundaries so that others do not use you in inappropriate ways and that you do not use others inappropriately. In addition to obvious sexual actions, there are other areas to be avoided. Flirting, innuendo, and suggestive conversation show disrespect for the other person and are a form of manipulation and predatory behavior. Fantasizing sexually about someone else is using them without their permission. Such actions affect your self-concept and your relationship with the other person. This is a particularly difficult area for people who have been abused sexually, because they often have difficulty differentiating between sexuality and true loving feelings.

Emotional boundaries

You often cannot control how you feel. Although you can choose how to respond to your emotions, you may feel happy or angry or physically attracted through no choice of your own. Emotions are not necessarily right or wrong; it is not always good to be happy, and not always bad to feel sad. However, understanding these emotions can give you clues to understanding yourself. Others can violate your emotional boundaries by doing things such as the following: telling you how you should feel, telling you they know how you feel, taking it on themselves to fix things for you, dumping their emotions on you, or using you to make them feel better without regard for what it does to you. Of course, you can violate the boundaries of others by doing the same things to them.

Intellectual boundaries

Our thought processes reflect our feelings, opinions, and perspectives, and not necessarily facts. You have a right to sort out what you think, and need to give others the right to think and decide for themselves as well. If you disagree with someone, it is not your job to fix their way of thinking.

Spiritual boundaries

Your beliefs belong to you and the beliefs of others belong to them. A violation of spiritual boundaries occurs when you tell someone, “You can’t believe that.” You cannot force a person to believe something any more than you can force them to think or feel the way you want them to. Likewise, you cannot live on the spiritual beliefs of others; sooner or later you need to determine what you believe for yourself.


Your memories can be marvelous gifts, but they can also seem like a curse at times. If you previously indulged in illicit sexual behavior, it may be hard to forget graphic details. Your mind may continually bring these memories to the surface to entice you back into old thoughts and behaviors. Your memory may magnify the good times in the past, reminding you how exciting and pleasurable it was, but will leave out the heartache, loneliness, and frustration you may have felt. Joe Dallas explained, “Your memories look good only because you’re not seeing them panoramically. Take them to their logical conclusion, considering not only what you did and enjoyed, but where it was leading you, and you get a more accurate picture of your past. That’s how you shake off the power of ‘good’ memories—you view them with an eternal perspective.” (Desires in Conflict: Hope for Men Who Struggle with Sexual IdentityHarvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1991, pp. 137) When you are reminded of the past, try to gain an accurate and complete picture of it.

Our minds and emotions remember experiences and continue to be drawn toward them long after we have satisfied the needs that originally drove us to them. Memories take a while to forget and we may be vulnerable to those possibilities until we forget the memories of them. But over time, the memories will fade if we don’t dwell on them or reinforce them. And the best way to hasten that process is to make new, better memories to replace the old.

Justifying Homosexual Behavior

Emotional difficulties do not grant any special rights to engage in illicit sexual actions. God’s commandments apply universally to everyone and we are on dangerous ground when we seek to justify our behavior, assuming we know more about what is best for us than God does. Some are tempted to believe that they have a unique situation and therefore God’s commandments don’t apply to them. Some men believe that since they are not attracted to women, and feel they cannot marry and enjoy heterosexual relations with a woman, they should be allowed sexual expression with men. But God has revealed only one law of moral conduct, which is abstinence outside of lawful marriage between a man and a woman, and fidelity within marriage. Nevertheless, some still argue it is not fair that they are prohibited from acting on their same-sex feelings. They apparently don’t understand that one purpose of this life is to learn self-control and obedience to God’s commandments. Life appears not to be fair to teenagers who are restricted from acting on their sexual impulses, nor to a physically disabled person who is not able to function sexually, nor to divorced or widowed people who no longer have a lawful outlet for their sexual desires.

Some people try to justify homosexual behavior by saying that our enlightened modern society now sees it as an acceptable expression between two individuals of the same sex who love each other. However, this is not God’s moral law, no matter how much people wish it to be. “Right and wrong, righteousness and sin, are not dependent upon man’s interpretations, conventions and attitudes. Social acceptance does not change the status of an act, making wrong into right.” (Packer, Boyd K. “Covenants,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, pp. 84–86.)

Another subtle form of justification is to accept a lower standard for ourselves than we are capable of living. Alan Medinger counsels us to be on guard against “the attitude that says, ‘God, I am doing the best I can do; this is just the way I am.’ Rather than working towards the gospel standard, we adopt a tolerant, indulgent attitude that declares, ‘If I only go off on a sexual binge once a year, I’m better off than I used to be. Besides, God understands my weakness.’ I have known people who for years have justified their ongoing sin as being reasonable, given their emotional and psychological makeup.” (“Justifying Our Sin: A Subtle Trap,” Regeneration News, Baltimore, MD, Oct. 1996, pp. 1-2.) It is sad when people accept for themselves a standard that is less than they could achieve.


Temptation is not sin. One of Satan’s traps is to convince you that you are sinning when you are merely experiencing temptation. Don’t feel guilty or ask forgiveness for temptations or attractions over which you have no control. The temptations themselves are not sinful (see Hebrews 4:15), but your reactions to them may be. When a temptation comes, you can either dismiss it or nurture it. If you dismiss it, it is no sin; but if you nurture it, it will grow into lust and then behavior.

Temptation is not identity. Just because you are tempted by same-sex feelings, it does not mean you are an evil person. Satan may continue to tempt you with things from your past, although you may have left them behind.

Temptation is not a sign of low spirituality. Don’t feel that you are falling apart spiritually because you experience temptation. Sometimes Satan tempts us more when we are growing spiritually. The scriptures are full of accounts of strong people who were continually tempted. Remember, Satan even tempted Jesus!

Temptation is not unique to you. Everyone faces temptation. Satan may use different approaches with different people, but the basic temptations, such as envy, lust, and selfishness, are common to everyone.

Suggested Actions for Changing Behavior Patterns

Be Clean

Ezra Taft Benson counseled, “Stay morally clean. This means that you keep a clean mind. Your thoughts will determine your actions, and so they must be controlled. It’s difficult to control those thoughts if you submit yourself to temptation. So you will have to carefully select your reading material, the movies you see, and the other forms of entertainment in order to have good thoughts rather than unwholesome desires.” (Benson, Ezra Taft. “Preparing Yourselves For Missionary Service,” Ensign, May 1985, p. 36.)  Some people say they want to change their behavior, but then flirt with temptation. If you are serious in your intent, steer clear of situations that might present temptations and do all you can to keep righteous thoughts and the spirit of God with you.

Identify the Cycle and Stop It Early

Dr. William Consiglio identifies six steps that happen when you notice an attractive man. (Consiglio, 1991, pp. 91-2)  At any point, you can choose to stop the cycle, but the further down the path you go, the more willpower it takes to stop.

  1. Visual attraction. Although you can’t help but notice an individual who has features that you consider attractive, you can choose to turn away or continue on to the other five steps.
  2. Visual attention. You give him your attention.
  3. Visual pleasure. You experience pleasure looking at him.
  4. Sexual pleasure. You begin to experience arousal or excitement.
  5. Desire for encounter. You want to make contact with him (or you keep the eroticized memory of him in your fantasy bank for later recall).
  6. Act to encounter. You act to make contact with him.

Try to Understand Your Attractions

Search for insight into your motives and an objective view of your behavior. When you are attracted to an individual, ask yourself what attracts you. If you are a man and are attracted to masculinity, then recognize it for that and turn your thoughts to what you can do to feel more masculine. When you are in need, it is fruitless to chase after something that cannot fill that need. You can never get enough of what you don’t need.

Roger explained, “I finally realized that part of the reason for my attractions to college-aged men was envy of the lifestyle they lead. When I was in college, I had practically no free time since I had a full-time job in addition to being a full-time student. I feel that I missed the fun and exciting college scene and I still desired that lifestyle. The attractions diminished considerably once I recognized that, and I was able to focus my efforts on making my current life more fun and exciting.

“A while back, I discovered two important questions to ask myself. The first question: ‘What are the characteristics of men I find attractive?’ To this, I answered, ’20-35 years old, masculine in appearance and action, muscular build, successful professional, over-achiever, and outgoing personality.’ The second question was quite revealing, ‘If I could change anything about myself, what are the characteristics I would like to have?’ To my surprise, I discovered that my list of answers for both questions was the same. I found I was attracted to men who have the traits I wished I had. I was attracted to those who looked the way I wished I looked and had the masculine characteristics I wished I had. Once I realized that, I knew I couldn’t magically possess these traits by chasing after men who had them. I needed to start working to develop them myself.”

Try to recognize your attractions and learn to deal with them on an emotional and intellectual level without letting them develop into behavior. As you begin to see things in perspective, the temptations for sexual misbehavior will become less enticing and dwindle in number, and you will achieve greater mastery over your fantasies.

See the Person Behind the Attraction

When attracted to someone of the same sex, many of us dehumanize the person. As a man fantasizes about another man, he may say, “that is gorgeous,” and he treats him as an object and not as a real person. Turning a person into an object makes it easier to think or act sexually with him. If you catch yourself in this trap, try to make the person real by recognizing that he has a family who loves him and that he has feelings and needs of his own. If possible, try to get to know him.

Roger explained, “I find that when the mysterious becomes familiar, my attractions diminish. I remember a particular night when a new guy showed up at our group meeting. His appearance was stunning. His dark tan, curly hair, and piercing blue eyes caught my attention immediately and I found myself staring at him during most of the meeting. I finally realized that I had dehumanized him and was treating him as an object. So after the meeting, I introduced myself and talked with him so I could humanize him. I found out that it was the first time Tom had been to a support group meeting. Some devastating things had just happened in his life and he was in a vulnerable condition. My physical attraction for him quickly turned into concern for him as a person. The more I talked with Tom, the more I got to know him and I became concerned that his involvement in the group would give him some answers and help him. Knowing that, how could I even consider being attracted to Tom in any way other than as a pure friend? It is much more fulfilling to support a man as a friend than it ever could be to act out with him sexually.”

Visualize the Consequences

When you are tempted to act sexually, all you may think about is the pleasure of the moment. Break out of the erotic enticement by thinking ahead and visualizing how you would feel afterwards. “It would be a setback for me.” “It wouldn’t really satisfy me anyway.” “It would bring me down and I deserve better than that.” Follow the action through to its logical conclusion.

Use Humor and Exaggeration

Dr. William Consiglio suggests this technique to help snap you back into reality. He gives an example of noticing a handsome man: “You begin to idealize his features and take visual pleasure in him as you begin to watch him. Silently, though you can’t actually hear it, you’re saying, ‘What nice, muscular arms he has; what beautiful blue eyes and dark black hair he has; what gorgeous teeth and a strong masculine face he has.’ This secret thinking produces erotic feelings and reinforces same-sex attraction.” (Consiglio, 1991, pp. 90) To counteract this, he suggests that you exaggerate what you say to yourself. In this example, you might say, “‘This man must be a Greek god. I’ve just got to go up and talk with him. I must get close to him or I’ll absolutely die. If I can just get to know him, my whole life will be absolutely wonderful from now on. He is so perfect. If I could just touch him I know that I’ll never be unhappy again. If I could just gaze into those liquid eyes of blue radiance, I will be in ecstasy forever.” Just as children are able to see the silly side of almost anything, you can use humor to get through the crises in your life. When you begin to feel stress, neutralize it by reading an amusing book, watching a funny movie, or just looking for the humor in life.

Watch for Triggers

Learn what sets you up for inappropriate behavior. Certain people, events, or situations may trigger same-sex attractions. Once you understand what influences you, then you can avoid those situations or change your perceptions. Triggers may include a wide variety of things such as particular songs that bring back specific memories, certain types of music, TV programs, movies, the use of alcohol or drugs, provocative clothing, cruising areas, or specific locations that bring back memories of homosexual events. When you feel triggered, ask yourself why. Examine the attractions and try to determine why you feel the way you do. If you can recognize the reasons for your feelings, you will be in a better position to deal with them.

Marcos explained, “Spiritual highs or other positive events always used to trigger me. Since inwardly I didn’t feel I deserved the good experiences, I subconsciously engaged in self-defeating behaviors to counteract the spiritual high or good feelings. I also think it was Satan’s direct attempt to dilute the positive effect of the experiences and drive the Spirit away. I urge you to use caution after a positive experience in a group or church meeting and watch your actions and conversations so you can continue to enjoy God’s Spirit and think about and process the things you experienced.”

We are usually the most vulnerable when we feel bored, stressed, angry, lonely, tired, hungry, depressed, discouraged, in pain, inadequate, or guilty. Some people use the acronyms HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) or BLAHST (bored, lonely, angry, hungry, stressed, tired) to remind them of these conditions that can put them at risk for homosexual behavior. When these conditions arise and you feel like acting out, look at the situation and try to find a legitimate fix. If you are hungry and tired, rather than going cruising, get something to eat and go to bed. When you feel the desire to masturbate, try to discover what your real needs are. It may be that you feel lonely or isolated and the real need is for friendship. Do you need to feel appreciated by someone? Are you lonely and just need someone to talk with? Is sex your way of relieving stress? If you have sex, will these real needs be satisfied or only intensified? You may need extra help when you are under stress, lonely, in an unfamiliar setting, or when you are depressed or bored. Plan ahead an alternative course of action to react to these conditions. Set up a network of friends that you can call when you need help.

Antonio explained, “When I don’t feel good about myself as a man and have self-doubts, I find I am attracted to other men who appear strong, confident, and sure of themselves. The attractions are not sexual anymore, but feelings of curiosity and a desire to get to know these men who have what I feel I am lacking. When I feel this way, it tells me that I am not taking care of myself. I can then look for the stress or the emotional issue that I am not addressing, and find a way to take care of it.”

Avoid situations where you will be vulnerable. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can flirt with temptation without being affected.

Control Your Thoughts

Gordon B. Hinckley explained, “Mental control must be stronger than physical appetites or desires of the flesh. As thoughts are brought into complete harmony with revealed truth, actions will then become appropriate….Each of us, with discipline and effort, has the capacity to control his thoughts and his actions. This is part of the process of developing spiritual, physical, and emotional maturity.” (“Reverence and Morality,” Ensign, May 1987, p. 47.) Thoughts generate actions which lead to habits which develop character which influences our destiny.

Be Accountable

An important part in changing our behavior is to be accountable to someone. You should make an accounting to God in daily prayer, confessing your weaknesses and asking for His strength to make it through the day. You should also be accountable to your church leader regularly. You can be accountable to your therapist for how well you are following your plan of action. In addition, you may need another person in whom you can confide. This may be someone from your support group who also experiences same-sex attraction or it could be a close friend who cares about you. In the Book of James we read, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

Alex explained, “When I got tempted to get in the car and go to a cruising spot, I could instead call a friend who knew of my difficulties and I would ask if we could get together and play racquetball, or go to a movie, or simply sit down and talk for a while. Often such activity only served to get me through a single night when I was having problems. But it got me through one night. Remember that when we are talking about addictive behaviors, the old twelve–step motto of ‘one day at a time’ is all we can ask for and probably all we should attempt. Over time, I found that my crises tended to diminish in intensity and frequency, but there were definitely many nights I had to call one of my emergency resources.”

Experience Healthy Excitement

Why do we sexualize the solution to our needs? Alan Medinger wrote, “I believe we do this because sex is one of the most intense experiences most people have, and whatever sex touches becomes more alive. Just as salt enhances the flavor of food, sex intensifies the power of any experience.” (“De-Sexualizing the Deeper Need,” Regeneration News, Baltimore, MD, Sep. 1994, p. 2.) Sex brings excitement when you are lonely or bored.

Antonio explained, “One of the reasons I was enticed by homosexual activities was that I wanted more excitement in my life. The gay world held a certain mystique for me and homosexual encounters appeared exciting.”

Replace Negatives with Positives

As you break from negative influences, be sure to replace them with new, positive activities and relationships. Rather than trying to discard a bad habit or a bad thought, you need to replace it with something good. When you remove the seemingly exciting homosexual behavior, your life may seem quite dull unless you fill the void with new, uplifting, and rewarding things. When you take cruising from your life, you will find many hours you can now devote to your family, your church, or service to others. You may want to start a new hobby or spend time developing new relationships with people. Make time for activities you enjoy. Studies have shown that when people work on projects or activities they enjoy, their blood chemistry is altered almost immediately in a positive way.

If you focus on the negative—all the things you can’t do—the past you are trying to leave behind will seem even more attractive. Instead, focus on the positive—all the great things you are working toward. The old behaviors brought only temporary pleasure, while the new ones will bring lasting joy. Changing behaviors does not have to be viewed as restrictive. Instead, look at it as opening a whole new world of opportunity. In reality, the old behavioral patterns were restrictive; they locked you into addictive patterns of responding and they held you back from the things you really wanted. Changing your behavior to be in line with your values will release you to move to higher levels of fulfillment and joy. Don’t concentrate on the things you are removing from your life, but focus on things you will add to your life.

The Apostle Paul admonished us to “put off…the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and…put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22, 24). New spiritual things must replace old carnal habits and thoughts. We must diligently seek a new life to replace the old.

Appropriately Respond to Setbacks

As you begin to face issues head on, you may experience increased stress as old wounds are opened and dealt with. As a result, you may experience a greater pull toward old behaviors as a way to cope with these increased feelings. Therefore, be on guard with increased resistance to avoid setbacks. Recommit yourself to your new goals, knowing that as you work to resolve your issues, the temptations may be strong, but your determination is even stronger.

If you do backslide, don’t think that everything has gone down the drain. Don’t minimize the consequences of what happened, but realize it is only a temporary setback and don’t let it defeat you. A slip or even a fall does not return you to point zero. Get back on your feet with new resolve and remember that all forward movement is cumulative and makes a difference. The very fact that you feel bad about it shows you are progressing. Don’t cover up the pain because pain is a warning. Feel it completely, repent, pick up the pieces, and move ahead. Learn from your mistake, so if you see the pattern developing again, you will have the experience and tools to stop it before it develops into homosexual actions. Focus on the progress you have made. Read your journal to remind yourself how far you have come. If you don’t reach your goal the first time, don’t consider yourself a failure. Failure is not trying at all.

Consider how you would respond if you were to eat something you shouldn’t on a diet. You could either tell yourself you slipped and immediately resume your diet or you could feel so guilty that you go on a self-defeating food binge. If you continue binging, you regain all the weight you lost, and then blame the diet for not working. In fact, the diet was working well; it was the way you responded to your setback that caused your defeat.

Your personal plan of action contains specific things you need to do. If you don’t keep on guard and follow your plan, there is a chance you could slip or fall. Just like a car, you need to keep yourself well maintained to function properly. If you let spiritual, emotional, physical, or intellectual things slide, you put yourself in jeopardy. Maintenance will be important throughout the rest of your life. Just like the recovered alcoholic, you may need continued vigilance. The changes you make in your life will be as permanent as you make them.

If you continue to feel tempted, does it mean you are not making progress? No. Continued temptation may actually be proof that you are still in the battle. It is only when you accept sin as good that it ceases to be a problem and begins to feel natural. If sin becomes the acceptable solution to the pain, then you have learned to choose it over God. But the fact that you continue to try means that you have not accepted the easy way out and you know there is something better. The scriptures do not promise that we will reach a place in this life where we are never tempted again. We need to continually watch and pray lest we fall into temptation. But we can be reassured we are no longer the people we used to be as we continue to improve and come closer to God.


Mark Laaser writes that the three building blocks of sexual addiction are fantasy, pornography, and masturbation. (The Secret Sin: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, ND, 1992, p. 29.) James Allen wrote that a man’s mind is like a garden that may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild, but whether cultivated or neglected, it will produce either useful plants or useless weeds. Whatever we allow to enter our minds will always bear fruit. Fantasy is damaging because it keeps us separated from reality. When you fantasize, you build a self-focused, self-pleasing world of fragments of people and situations which you rearrange to meet your needs. Fantasies are not about real or whole people and complete situations, but about imaginary, faceless people and unrealistic situations.

Jesus explained that sexual fantasy is also a violation of the seventh commandment when he said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28). The gospel standard of chastity calls for cleanliness of both thought and action. The way to keep your actions appropriate is to keep your thoughts clean.


A plague of pornography is sweeping across most countries of the world with increasing momentum and devastating impact. What began years ago as a few crude picture magazines that startled sensitive people has grown to a multi-billion-dollar industry with millions of publications, movies, and websites, each seeking to outdo the others with increasingly shocking and base content. New technologies that can bless our lives in so many positive ways are also being used to spread pornography.

What is Pornography?

Besides the obvious magazines, videos, and websites, pornography includes anything that arouses you, even if it isn’t graphically explicit. If muscle magazines or clothing catalogs excite you, you may need to avoid them for now. As you work through your problems and become emotionally healthier, you will see these things in a different light.

Pornography is Harmful

Some people rationalize that viewing pornography doesn’t affect anyone but them. They say it is better to relieve their sexual frustrations looking at pornography and masturbating than finding a sex partner. They feel that being the lesser of two evils, it isn’t so bad after all. However, many people can attest to the fact that pornography is addicting.

Pornography Drives Away the Spirit

We should avoid pornography because it drives away God’s Spirit and religious people desperately want His Spirit to guide them. The Spirit cannot dwell in unholy places.

Pornography Feeds Fantasies

The images portrayed in pornography constitute a fantasy unfounded in reality. It is a vision of exaggerated masculinity, exaggerated femininity, and sex without consequences. The object of the fantasy can be controlled, picked up, put down, and used as the person wants. It allows an individual the illusion of a sexual encounter without actually having to confront another human being.

Pornography feeds sexual fantasies. These reinforced feelings can work against other efforts you make to resolve issues in your life. The fantasies in your mind are a product of all the garbage you allow to enter your mind and once you allow these images in, they can be recalled even years later. Research has shown that sensory stimulation such as arousal through pornography releases the hormone epinephrine, which tends to lock the experience of stimulation in the brain, unlike the mental storage of less charged stimuli. (McGaugh, James L. “Preserving the Past—Hormonal Influences on Memory Storage,” American Psychologist, Feb. 1983, pp. 161-74.) If viewing pornography is accompanied by masturbation, the combined effect heightens the mental images. Such images are very difficult to erase from the memory banks of the brain.

Although you are not responsible for the desires that made you want to fantasize, you are responsible for allowing thoughts, stories, and images into your mind to fuel the fantasies. They make homosexual behavior appear enticing and can lead you into the addictive cycle of visualizing, then rationalizing, then acting.

Pornography Influences Behavior

The primary male response to viewing pornography is to masturbate. “Pornography is addictive. What may begin as a curious exploration can become a controlling habit. Studies show that those who allow themselves to become drawn to pornography soon begin to crave even coarser content. Continued exposure desensitizes the spirit and can erode the conscience of unwary people. A victim becomes a slave to carnal thoughts and actions. As the thought is father to the deed, exposure can lead to acting out what is nurtured in the mind.” (Haight, David B. “Personal Morality,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, p. 70.)

Pornography Feeds Feelings of Inferiority

Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel explain that “men who have viewed gay pornography may unconsciously compare their bodies (including genitals) with the ‘perfect’ standard of statuesque models. Viewing pornography can reinforce feelings of physical and sexual inferiority.” (Coming Out of Homosexuality: New Freedom for Men and Women, Inter Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1993, p. 153.) No normal person can measure up to the hyper-masculine images of men or the hyper-feminine images of women found in pornography. As an individual indulges in pornography, his or her feelings of inadequacy and envy merge with lust and eroticism and magnify feelings of sexual attraction toward the same sex.

Andrew Comiskey wrote, “Pornography can become a vehicle through which [a man], empowered by subconscious yearnings, eroticizes another’s manhood in an attempt to take it onto himself. Doing so may be a vicarious attempt to complete a perceived sense of lack in his own masculinity.” (“The Effect of Pornography on Male Homosexuals,” Hot Thoughts, Desert Stream Ministries, Anaheim, CA, 1996.) The aesthetically perfect men and women featured in pornography set up an unrealistic standard by which we compare ourselves, and when we compare their hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity to ours, we will invariably feel a deficit and may find it more difficult to accept our own body and gender, as well as to accept other men and women who don’t measure up to the unrealistic illusion of the porn idols. Thus, “pornography seems to distort how one views himself and others, potentially decreasing his capacity to relate realistically to other men.” (Comiskey, 1996)

Eliminate Pornography

Rex explained how he got rid of his pornography: “I had to take a giant leap of faith in deciding to dispose of my collection of pornography. It was a difficult decision to make. I thought I would never get rid of it. I felt like the guys in those pictures were my friends; they were guys I had related to for years. I knew them well. I knew their bodies well. But it was time. I knew I couldn’t just trash them quickly after having a ‘relationship’ with some of them for ten years. It had to be done in a way that I would never forget, yet something permanent, something with ceremony to it. When I announced to my support group that I was going up the canyon to have a ‘burning,’ several others decided to join me.

“We parked the car half way up the canyon. The night was cold but a spirit of warmth and goodness penetrated our souls. In the dark, we carried our last rites in our arms as we searched for a fire pit where the final purge would take place. Once a warm fire was burning, we knew it was time for the ritual to begin. I found that it was more than I could bear to resist looking at my ‘friends’ just one more time—to say goodbye before the permanent destruction. ‘Oh, no! I forgot I had that one! I can’t get rid of him. He’s too beautiful to destroy.’ But my soul kept saying, ‘it’s time.’ The flame consumed all my friends one by one. The pain was great, the anguish pierced my side, but my soul kept saying, ‘it’s time.’

“My companions also threw their pictures on the fire. Bob held back one magazine as though the pain to let it go was too great. Keeping it tucked under his arm like a mother protecting her child, it was safe for a time. Finally the tightly-clutched magazine was thrown into the fire and the pages were separated with a stick so all would be destroyed. Ideal he-man heroes disintegrated into nothingness. Envy and lust went up in smoke. Finally, a membership card to a gay club was thrown on the fire as a climax to this funeral of years of lust and envy. As we sat watching the fire burn, the symbolism really hit home. Now that the pornography, lust, and envy had gone up in smoke, we knew that a new era had begun. This was no longer a part of our lives. We felt that our slate was clean. Our self-confidence had been stirred and it had changed us for the better. Several of us felt the presence of heavenly spirits cheering us on in our demonstration of faith.”

If you are not yet at the point where you can burn your collection of pornography, consider agreeing not to look at it for a month (or a week). Give any pornographic literature you have to a trusted friend and ask him to lock it away for that length of time. Also agree that for the month you will not go looking for more. By the end of the month, you will have broken some of the compulsive cycles and you can have your friend throw it away.

Marco explained, “Most days I think I’ve got porn licked for good—then I inevitably get stressed out and have a binge fest. I stupidly use it as a crutch when things get overwhelming. The only motivator that has effectively helped me has been to learn to love myself enough to believe I am worth the effort to rise above the trash. Ironically, my wife taught me this lesson. One day she confronted me directly and asked me if I had a problem with pornography. I confessed that I had slowly but surely spiraled out of control into a pornography and masturbation addiction. Then, with great power, she said the magic words: ‘Dear, you are worth far more than the person you become as a pornography addict.’ I finally believed her. I am worth more than the trash. Improving my self-esteem and learning to love and respect myself over the past year has made all the difference.”

Here are a few ideas on eliminating pornography from your life:

  • Understand your use of pornography (when, what kind, how often, how long, and what effect has on your life.
  • Determine the “where,” “when,” and “how” of each situation.
  • Explore the feelings behind your use of pornography, such as when you are bored, lonely, angry, stressed, or tired.
  • Determine what has helped so far in overcoming it.
  • Consider a trusted person to be a mentor who can help you plan ways to limit your access to pornography and to whom you can be accountable.
  • Practice replacing unclean and negative thoughts with virtuous and positive thoughts.
  • Consider professional counseling. Some people cannot overcome pornography without professional help.
  • Participate in a local addiction recovery program.

For more help overcoming pornography, see Overcoming Pornography, Resources in Overcoming Pornography, and articles about overcoming pornography.


Almost all males who experience same-sex attraction attraction have a particular problem with masturbation. From a religious perspective, it is a form of sexual immorality that diverts men and women from the proper use of procreative powers. It does not edify and inspire, but is an unhealthy habit that hold you back from learning to deal honestly with yourself and the world. It is also unhealthy when it becomes the primary means of sexual gratification and is accompanied by erotic fantasies. The practice can become habitual and progressive, leading to other immoral behaviors, and is usually associated with pornography and sexual fantasies.

The following are some ideas to conquer masturbation:

Identify the triggers and stop the cycle early. It may help to identify the events that lead you to masturbate so you can stop the cycle at the first warning signs. It is much easier to stop at the beginning of the cycle than when you are halfway into the cycle. If you find that masturbation is always preceded by looking at pornography, then find ways to stop the cycle before looking at the pornography. If it occurs at a certain time or place, then take actions to change your routine so you can enjoy more healthy habits.

Identify the real needs behind the desire to masturbate. What are your real feelings and needs for which masturbation has become a substitute? Is it a need for friendship? Do you want to feel appreciated by someone? Are you lonely and just need someone to talk with? Is it your way of dealing with stress, depression, boredom, or anger? If you masturbate, will these real needs be satisfied or only intensified? Understanding these feelings and needs, you can make plans in advance to deal with them in a more healthy way.

Keep a log of temptations and how you dealt with them. Record the following in a confidential place for at least a month:

  • The triggers that started you into the cycle that ended in masturbation. (Was it loneliness, hunger, fatigue, stress, fantasy, pornography?)
  • What you could have done to stop the cycle. (What specific actions and at what points?)
  • The actions you plan to take next time you are in this cycle to stop it. (Be specific.)
  • What you can do to be spiritually, mentally, or emotionally stronger so this won’t happen again.

Review this log periodically to see if you can identify patterns, then talk with your church leader and therapist to get their perspectives and suggestions. If your masturbation is excessive or habitual, it may require intense effort on your part and therapeutic help to overcome it.

Be accountable to God in prayer. Acknowledge your weakness to God in prayer and ask for His strength. Admitting a problem is the first step in solving it.

Be accountable to a church leader. As embarrassing and personal as it may seem, you should talk with a church leader about this problem. You will not be the first person who has talked with the leader about masturbation. Accountability to a church leader is not only an important step in the repentance process, but his love and support on such a personal matter can be healing. He can give you ideas and a perspective that can be helpful as you overcome your habits.

Be accountable to a trusted friend. You may wish to define an accountability agreement with a close friend or member of your support group. Agree to talk with him about your temptations (avoiding specific details) and how you plan to stop the cycle next time. His perspective and support can be encouraging. A friend of mine committed to his wife that he would tell her each time he masturbated. Needless to say, this was a major deterrent for him.

Homosexual Behavior


Robert explained, “There was a time I couldn’t drive by a certain place without turning in to cruise. Now I drive by it every day on my way home and rarely even notice it. Occasionally, I’ll look over as I drive by and thank God that I don’t feel any compulsion to go in…. Several years ago, in the afternoon a few days before Christmas, I had gone out to do some shopping and finished earlier than I had expected and the thought entered my mind to cruise. My almost immediate response was ‘No. I don’t want that’ and I went straight home and took the family to a movie. Later that night I sat on the bed with the kids and read The Littlest Angel, a beautiful story about the littlest angel’s gift to the Christ child. While all the other angels gave bright and glorious gifts, all he had to give was a little wood box that meant a lot to him because it contained mementos from earth. Heavenly Father accepted this gift warmly and turned the box into a star that shined brightly over Bethlehem. The littlest angel’s gift was accepted because it was a gift from his heart. I thought then that no matter how strong the desires can be at times to go cruising, I can give it up. I can give it up as a gift to God to show my desire to follow Him.”

If you have learned to relate in the world of cruising by picking up on eye contact or subtle signals, you can also work your way back out of it by consciously ignoring those signals and by not giving out those signals yourself. Avoid staring at other men and if you notice someone staring at you, don’t return the look. The eyes are the windows to the soul and brief eye contact with someone may say more than you intend to say. If you don’t show interest, the situation won’t escalate. Eventually, you will find that you no longer notice the signals of others and you will avoid the temptations and encounters.

Casual Sex

For many men who experience same-sex attraction, many of their sexual encounters are with strangers or casual acquaintances. Because of their urgent desire for sexual contact, they find themselves connecting with another man for an evening or even a few minutes of pleasure. Anonymous sex is efficient—it may take only minutes or seconds from first meeting to engaging in intimate sex. But it is sex without feelings.

This paradox of having intimate actions with someone you don’t even know is a false substitute for true, fulfilling relationships. This counterfeit intimacy is one-dimensional, substituting physical and romantic intimacy for the true intimacy you could have in a relationship with a spouse that includes deep emotional ties, acceptance, commitment, and love. In fact, the substitute intimacy decreases the possibility of true intimacy because it introduces guilt, plays on your feelings of inferiority, and creates anxiety.

Although casual sex can bring physical pleasure and temporary satisfaction, afterwards, you are left with even deeper feelings of loneliness, rejection, and frustration. Rather than satisfying your need for the love of a friend, casual sex only intensifies the needs. It leads to an addictive spiral that feeds itself. The sexual experience generates more feelings that evoke even more acting out. After each sexual encounter, you feel used and of less value.

Make it Work!

You can keep your behavior in line with your new standards. The Apostle Paul promised, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). This scripture explains that there is no challenge beyond your ability to handle, and also that as you turn to God, He will provide a way for you to get through the trial. Every time you do the things that are right, the light inside you increases and the darkness decreases. This light enables you to call upon the powers of heaven when you need help.