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More Subtil Than All the Beasts of the Field

Before the Revelation

By Rex Goode

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All Saints parish church, Oakham, Rutland

“Now the serpent was more subtil than all the beasts of the field (Genesis 3:1).”

So says the Bible about the serpent in the creation story, whom we now call Satan or Lucifer. It is interesting to me that the word, “subtil” (as spelled in the King James Version) or the word “subtle” (as we spell it today), refers to a fine, delicate fabric, the feel of which on the skin is nearly imperceptible. Today, we use it for all sorts of things that we prefer to not be overstated. There is subtle clothing, subtle makeup, subtle lighting, and subtle humor. It is also interesting to me that the “b” in “subtle” is usually not pronounced in most places where I’ve lived. That makes the “b” in “subtle” subtle.

The Bible tells us that Lucifer was subtle and his words to Adam and Eve certainly demonstrate it to be true. He tempted with suggestions that seemed somewhat reasonable and could twist the commandments given to Adam and Even to make it seem like they could do what he wanted them to do and they would still be in compliance with the will of God.

As the father of lies, we can still find what seems to be logical in the commission of sin. It usually seems like something we tell ourselves, but in Christianity, we see it as the machinations of Satan to lead us from righteousness.

After now around fifteen years of moderating Clean-LDS and the LDSR forums, one of the most common of these seemingly useful machinations is the idea that if you keep your sin a secret, that no one but you is hurt by it. It is one of those subtle lies.

Many years ago, I was sent by my employer to a city a long way away where I would work all week and then come home on the weekend. Those times away from my family were difficult for a lot of reasons, but the main one was that crushing weight of temptation that I felt. This one thought plagued my mind. I could go out and find trouble and no one back home would ever know.

Through a mighty wrestle with God over this, I was able to stay away from trouble and came out of the whole experience stronger and more determined than ever. Part of that wrestle was to share what I was experiencing with trusted friends who supported me in the form of reminding me of the consequences if I were to succumb to temptation.

I remember how stubbornly and coldly I asserted that I didn’t care. The temptations were so powerful that the consequence of losing my family or membership in the Church were not enough to deter me. I literally felt like if I didn’t give in, the temptation itself would kill me.

As I have pondered that situation, I have learned many things from my friends’ efforts to support me. They all meant well and they were all right in what they said. Yet, at the same time, most of their reasoning had to do not with the consequences of sinning, but with the consequences of getting caught.

As helpful as they were, it didn’t really address that main subtlety I was dealing with, that being that I was in a position where I could sin and get away with it. That’s the problem with obedience based on the fear of being discovered.  Many people go their whole lives living with secret behavior that is never discovered. It’s like the man who died and was found to have kept a whole storage unit full of pornography.

I think that one mostly unexplored area of sexual addiction is how undiscovered acting out affects marriages and families. I maintain that pornography in the home has an effect on the quality of the spirituality of the home, even when it is only the addict who knows it is there. I also believe it has an effect on the quality of relationships with spouses and children.

One of the most chilling things I have heard in my years operating forums for Latter-day Saints dealing with sexual addiction was the man with a high local calling in the Church who had never revealed to anyone his lifelong struggle with pornography and sexual addiction. He knew he had not lived up to his temple covenants but was not willing to take the steps that would bring him back to worthiness, all because he couldn’t bear the process of telling his wife and priesthood leaders. His statement was something like, “I’m just going to finish out my life keeping this all to myself and then slip quietly into hell.”

I suppose in one way of thinking, it was a noble plan. One of the wrenches in the works in his plan was that his secret behavior was affecting his calling, his marriage, and his family in ways he didn’t recognize. His upward mobility in the church had become too important to him. His reputation was more of a priority than his salvation.

Thankfully, he eventually saw this and “came clean”. That led to treatment and repentance. There was no need to slip quietly into hell, but it would require a bit of a sojourn in what seemed like hell as he went through the painful process of confession and repentance.

I would appreciate some answers to questions for the sake of helping people understand that secret sin is not a freebie.

Note that even though the comment form requires an email address, the email address will not show on the site. You can respond to the questions anonymously.
If you are married to someone who has revealed an addiction to pornography or sex in what ways did it affect you before you knew? If you are someone who revealed your addiction to your spouse, do you see, in hindsight, any consequences for your relationships that weren’t apparent to you before you opened up?

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See Also

Repentance/12 Steps Comparison
Quitting. Again.

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