I feel so guilty right now because I looked at swimsuit models. I know that the apostles tell us that we shouldn’t look at images that promote inappropriate behavior. Is this something I must confess to my bishop?
Thank you for your question. I feel there are a couple of different points that I would like to cover in my response to you.
We live a modern age, and in this time, we are increasingly exposed to a variety of images, some wholesome and others not. Some of these images we intentionally look for/seek after and others are unfortunately forced upon us. As an example of this, it is pretty much impossible to even check out of a grocery store without being exposed to a magazine cover graced by a person in revealing clothing. Within minutes of turning on the TV, driving past a billboard or surfing the internet, it is not uncommon that you will have seen someone in their swimwear or some version of questionable attire. Anytime you go to the pool, there is obviously swimwear. If you live in a country outside the United States and go to the beach, there is a high likelihood that swimwear may be even less modest and/or optional for that matter.
In the not too distant past, if someone wanted to see something “inappropriate” they had to actually make an effort to seek it out. We live in a time where it feels like we are not always the seekers, but rather the ones being sought out instead. This is not to make light of the situation and excuse us of our own actions, however, this is the reality in which most of us find ourselves in this modern age.
Let me share with you a story from the Bible that I feel is appropriate in this situation. This story involves King David, the same David that was praised and honored for his victory over Goliath. For many years David was a righteous King and highly favored by the Lord for his faithful obedience. Despite his righteousness, later in life David stumbled and went down a path of sin that he would later regret. David’s start down this path of regret takes place in 2 Samuel 11:2. It reads:
“And it came to pass in the eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.”
So in easy to understand terms: David couldn’t sleep, so he got up from bed and went out on his patio to pass the time. While looking around he stumbled upon his neighbor taking a bath outside across the way. The question now is simple: Has David sinned at this point? Similar to David, but in our day in age, if we stumble across inappropriate images, have we sinned by simply seeing the image? The answer is no, if we unintentionally come across it.
I feel this is the critical question one should ask themselves: Did I intentionally seek out these images or not? Let’s return to King David for a moment. Upon initially seeing Bathsheba, David has a pivotal choice to make:
Option 1: Turn his eyes away from her and flee from the situation. David could have followed the example of Joseph of Egypt when Potiphar’s wife offered herself to him. In Genesis 39:12, it says that Joseph did not linger when faced with temptation, but rather he, “fled, and got him out”. Meaning – he left and got out of there quickly.
Option 2: In contrast to Joseph’s wonderful example of fleeing a bad situation, King David did not. David continued to view Bathsheba. (In our day, he continued to flip through the magazine and view the images in it.) In fact it says not only did he not flee he: “…sent and inquired after the woman (Bathsheba).” David’s continual viewing of her bathing may have seemed harmless at first, but it was part of what started him down a path that eventually lead him to adultery. I doubt David ever originally intended to go down this path, but he did and it all started by “continuing” to view his neighbor in an inappropriate situation.
Here are two questions I would ask myself if I had just viewed questionable images:
1. Did I intentionally or unintentionally search out these images and why?
2. Did I follow the example of Joseph and flee the situation OR did I stay and view them longer like David did with Bathsheba?
Matt, you said “I feel so guilty right now.” The question is why? Is the answer because you simply saw swimsuit models, OR is the answer because you went looking for those images on purpose? The beauty of having the Holy Ghost in our lives is to help us correct our course and let us “feel” when we are doing things that we should not. Feeling guilty is a good thing. It means you are open to recognizing correction from our Heavenly Father.
As far as seeing your Bishop: I would counsel that it is never a bad thing to visit with your Bishop for any reason. We should not avoid him and sometimes it is even okay just to visit with him to simply say hi. Discuss your concern with him. As the person with Priesthood Keys in your area, he is best prepared to help you personally address your anxiety over what you have seen or done. Trust me when I say that your Bishop will welcome you with love and understanding. Viewing inappropriate images is nothing that he hasn’t already heard before. Be open with him and I believe you will find comfort and appropriate guidance in his counsel.
Thank you Matt for your question and trust the feelings of the Holy Ghost as it prompts you to choose the right.