Not long ago, prosecutors rarely had to deal with crimes involving illegal pornography, and, particularly, child pornography. In the early 1980s, federal officials in the United States thought they had the problem virtually eliminated due to aggressive enforcement by postal inspectors.
Today, however, across the United States and in many parts of the world, this vice and its related scourges — sexual abuse, domestic violence and molestation, to name a few — keep crime-fighters in every jurisdiction busy. Newspapers carry almost daily reports of arrests for these crimes. Often, the guilty are school teachers, firefighters and other respected community members who seem unable to control their destructive visual and sensory addictions.
What has happened? The catalyst for this change is not in doubt. The Internet has put pornography within easy reach of many who otherwise wouldn't think to view it, and the peddlers of this filth have taken full advantage of the new medium, stationing it in every corner of the World Wide Web. Even casual browsers are bound to come across a link to one of these sites, its purveyors beckoning like carnival hucksters with bullhorns.
The result is a booming industry that now boasts $10 billion in annual sales of videos, photos and paraphernalia.
This is no excuse to participate. Easy access is no justification for sin. It is, however, a call to arms for all faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it is a reason for families to fortify themselves with a heightened sense of vigilance.
Rest assured, this onslaught is a calculated attack by the adversary. The viewing of pornography is among the most spiritually deadening of all transgressions. It also can be among the most difficult to overcome.
Small wonder that modern prophets have warned members of the Church against it for decades. More than 30 years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball wrote about the public's responsibility to avoid such things, saying, "Who is to blame? The filth peddler, of course, but even more than this vulgar entertainer, the filth consumer, the public. So long as men are corrupt and revel in sewer filth, entertainers will sell them what they want. Laws may be passed, arrests may be made, lawyers may argue, courts may sentence and jails may harbor men of corrupt minds, but pornography and allied insults to decency will never cease until men have cleansed their minds and cease to require and pay for such vile stuff." (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 229.)
President Gordon B. Hinckley has reinforced this message numerous times. "You must not rent videos with pornography of any kind," he told a recent priesthood session of general conference. "This salacious stuff simply is not for you. Stay away from pornography as you would avoid a serious disease. It is as destructive. It can become habitual, and those who indulge in it get so they cannot leave it alone. It is addictive." (Ensign, May 1998, p. 49.)
Researchers are beginning to verify these points. Some recent studies have suggested that brain chemicals change in response to such stimulus. People begin to process information differently. Writing in a recent edition of Policy Review magazine, Wall Street Journal writer Holman Jenkins said this change can produce "states of motivation so powerful they can temporarily overwhelm even strong sensations like hunger or fatigue. . . . Having unlimited porn imagery within easy reach of every computer is likely to produce social effects that we haven't yet reckoned with."
The scriptures are clear on the subject. Speaking to his son, Corianton, the prophet Alma said of sexual sins, "Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?" (Alma 39:5.)
And the Savior brought this home with a specific warning that applies to visual stimulus. "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 5:28.)
Members of the Church can use strategies to keep this problem out of their homes. They can put computers in well-traveled parts of the house so that children are never allowed to browse the Internet in private. They can teach important principles in carefully planned family home evenings, and they can hold regular family prayers and live in every way so that the Spirit of Lord reinforces their homes as fortresses against the attack.
What they cannot afford is to ignore the problem or think it can't affect them.