Pornography “ought to be seen like a public health crisis; like a war; like an infectious, fatal epidemic; like a moral plague on the body politic that is maiming the lives of our citizens,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in his keynote address at the Utah Coalition Against Pornography’s 14th annual conference on March 12. More than 3,300 people attended the day-long conference in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City.
“I can’t tell you, really, much you don’t already know about the evils of pornography,” Elder Holland said. “I’ll tell you that pornography is steadily, inexorably, unendingly present, that there is more of it, that it’s easier for everyone, including children, to access, and that it continues to rend the very moral fabric of our society whether that be the family, or the community, or the very state or the nation. That is because in every case, it rends the moral fabric of the individual.”
He cited a major study by the Barna Group, entitled “The Porn Phenomenon,” to be released next month. It found that not only has the topic lost much of its taboo status in popular culture, but the attitudes of younger generations have shifted toward neutral or positive views of pornography, he said. “It is reported that 89 percent of teens and 95 percent of young adults regularly have either ‘encouraging’ or ‘accepting’ conversations with their peers about pornography use,” Elder Holland said. “That means that of those interviewed only 1 in 20 young adults and only 1 in 10 teens say they and their friends think viewing pornography is a bad thing.”
While pornography use and accessibility have grown significantly, measures taken to fight its spread have already taken effect. For instance, the Utah Legislature passed a resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis on March 11 — the first state to do so. This resolution reflects the call issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops when they released “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography” in November of 2015.
“These good bishops declared the exponential growth of the pornography industry … bordering on a ‘public health crisis,’ ” Elder Holland said. This position parallels his own views he said. “[No] real headway can or will be made in this battle until there is a much deeper, much broader, and, frankly, much more fearful concern about the actual threat of pornography than we presently see in society in general.”
Like any other pandemic infection, pornography “needs to be eradicated,” Elder Holland said.
He declared that the pornography industry in all its forms is directly in opposition to the commandments of the Savior when He taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “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 … in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
“Catholic bishops, Protestant ministers, Jewish rabbis and Muslim mullahs have all spoken out on this sin because God Himself has spoken out on it. Yes, heaven abhors this practice,” Elder Holland said. “In this work, in this conference, we are on the side of the angels.”
Because members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15), “One cannot exploit the body without damaging the spirit because these two are inseparably connected in every man, woman and child,” Elder Holland said.
For those struggling with pornography, Elder Holland shared an acronym that he often gives to those who come to him for advice. He would tell them to “hold FAST.”
F is for ‘flee.’ Elder Holland said, “My first admonition to anyone struggling with pornography is to leave the scene of the crime.” This can be difficult with the omnipresence of filth, but “we must try to get each other out of harm’s way,” he said.
A is for ‘ask.’ Too many who struggle with an addiction won’t ask for help or acknowledge that they have a problem, Elder Holland said. But they need to ask for help from someone trustworthy. “Above all, I would have a person struggling with pornography ask God for help, pleading for the mercy and grace of the Almighty to aid him or her in this difficult task,” Elder Holland said. “I would ask and ask until my throat was hoarse. I would knock and knock until my knuckles were bloody.”
S is for ‘strive.’ “Related to the tenacity of asking for help is striving constantly to win this battle once the help comes,” Elder Holland said. “It may take days, it may take years, it may take much of a lifetime, but I believe in the reward of persistent effort.”
T is for ‘triumph.’ In order to win a struggle of any kind, a person must believe that victory is possible, Elder Holland said. “They need to have and to keep that hope always — to believe they can be victorious in this battle, that they can conquer this implacable foe. We are the ones to give those people that confidence. We are the ones to give them hope.”
In closing, Elder Holland testified, “I have deep, personal feelings and gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His redemption. I declare that force, that pull, that saving grace to be infinite and eternal in its reach, a force and a grace that will save us from all kinds of bondage and lift all kinds of burdens if we but permit it, if we but seek it, and allow it into our lives.”