Satan has become a master at using the addictive power of pornography to limit individual capacity to be led by the Spirit. The onslaught of pornography in all of its vicious, corroding, destructive forms has caused great grief, suffering, heartache, and destroyed marriages. It is one of the most damning influences on earth. Whether it be through the printed page, movies, television, obscene lyrics, vulgarities on the telephone, or flickering personal computer screen, pornography is overpoweringly addictive and severely damaging. This potent tool of Lucifer degrades the mind and the heart and the soul of any who use it. All who are caught in its seductive, tantalizing web and remain so will become addicted to its immoral, destructive influence. For many, that addiction cannot be overcome without help. The tragic pattern is so familiar. It begins with curiosity that is fueled by its stimulation and is justified by the false premise that when done privately, it does no harm to anyone else. For those lulled by this lie, the experimentation goes deeper, with more powerful stimulations, until the trap closes and a terribly immoral, addictive habit exercises its vicious control. Participation in pornography in any of its lurid forms is a manifestation of unbridled selfishness. How can a man, particularly a priesthood bearer, not think of the emotional and spiritual damage caused to women, especially his wife, by such abhorrent activity? Well did inspired Nephi declare, “And [the devil] will … pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, … and thus [he] cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” If you are ensnarled in pornography, make a total commitment to overcome it now. Find a quiet place; pray urgently for help and support. Be patient and obedient. Don’t give up. Parents, be aware that the addiction of pornography can begin with youth at a very early age. Take preventative action to avoid that tragedy. Stake presidents and bishops, warn of this evil. Invite anyone you consider captured by it to come to you for help.
Sexual immorality and impure thoughts violate the standard established by the Savior. We were warned at the beginning of this dispensation that sexual immorality would be perhaps the greatest challenge. Such conduct will, without repentance, cause a spiritual drought and loss of commitment. Movies, TV, and the Internet often convey degrading messages and images. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and I were recently in an Amazon jungle village and observed satellite dishes even on some of the small, simply built huts. We rejoiced at the wonderful information available in this remote area. We also recognized there is virtually no place on earth that cannot be impacted by salacious, immoral, and titillating images. This is one reason why pornography has become such a plague in our day. I recently had an insightful conversation with a 15-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holder. He helped me understand how easy it is in this Internet age for young people to almost inadvertently be exposed to impure and even pornographic images. He pointed out that for most principles the Church teaches, there is at least some recognition in society at large that violating these principles can have devastating effects on health and well-being. He mentioned cigarette smoking, drug use, and alcohol consumption by young people. But he noted that there is no corresponding outcry or even a significant warning from society at large about pornography or immorality.
We hope that our parents and leaders will not tolerate pornography. It is really garbage, but today is peddled as normal and satisfactory food. Many writers seem to take delight in polluting the atmosphere with it. Seemingly, it cannot be stopped by legislation. There is a link between pornography and the low, sexual drives and perversions. We live in a culture which venerates the orgasm, streaking, trading wives, and similar crazes. How low can humans plunge! We pray with our Lord that we may be kept from being in the world. It is sad that decent people are thrown into a filthy area of mental and spiritual pollution. We call upon all of our people to do all in their power to offset this ugly revolution. It is ridiculous to imply that pornography has no effect. There is a definite relationship to crime. Murder, robbery, rape, prostitution, and commercialized vice are fed on this immorality. Sex statistics seem to reflect a relationship between crime and pornography. It is utterly without redeeming social value. We urge our families to protect their children in every way possible. We live in a permissive world, but we must make certain we do not become a part of that permissive world, that degenerate world. We are shocked at the depths to which many people of this world go to assert their freedom. We fear that the trends of permissiveness toward immorality are destroying the moral fabric of our generation.
In keeping with the theme of this week, I would like to discuss with you a vision of who we are and what we may become. At a recent training session for General Authorities, the question was asked: “How can we help those struggling with pornography?” Elder Russell M. Nelson stood and replied, “Teach them their identity and their purpose.” That answer resonated with me, not only as a response to that specific question but as an appropriate response to most of the challenges we face in life. And so today I speak of the true nature of our identity and a correct vision of our divine destiny. First, our identity. There is a sentiment among many in the world that we are the spirit creations of God, just as a building is the creation of its architect or a painting the creation of its painter or an invention the creation of its inventor. The scriptures teach, however, a much different doctrine. They teach that we are more than creations of God; they teach that we are the literal spirit offspring or children of God our Father.1 What difference does this doctrinal distinction make? The difference is monumental in its consequence because our identity determines in large measure our destiny. For example, can a mere creation ever become like its creator? Can a building ever become an architect? A painting a painter? Or an invention an inventor? If not, then those who believe we are creations of God, rather than His spirit offspring, reach the inevitable conclusion that we do not have the capacity to become like our creator, God. In essence, their doctrine of identity has defined and dictated a diminished destiny. On the other hand, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that we are the spirit offspring of God with inherited spiritual traits that give us the divine potential to become like our parent, God the Father.
We live in a world that is filled with filth and sleaze, a world that reeks of evil. It is all around us. It is on the television screen. It is at the movies. It is in the popular literature. It is on the Internet. You can’t afford to watch it, my dear friends. You cannot afford to let that filthy poison touch you. Stay away from it. Avoid it. You can’t rent videos and watch them as they portray degrading things. You young men who hold the priesthood of God cannot mix this filth with the holy priesthood. . . And while I speak of such matters I want to give emphasis again to the matter of pornography. It has become a $10 billion industry in the United States, where a few men grow rich at the expense of thousands upon thousands who are their victims. Stay away from it. It is exciting, but it will destroy you. It will warp your senses. It will build within you an appetite that you will do anything to appease. And don’t try to create associations through the Internet and chat rooms. They can lead you down into the very abyss of sorrow and bitterness.
Many children, youth, and adults are innocently exposed to pornography, but a growing number of both men and women are choosing to view it and are drawn back repeatedly until it becomes an addiction. These individuals may desire with all of their hearts to get out of this trap but often cannot overcome it on their own. How grateful we are when these loved ones choose to confide in us as parents or a Church leader. We would be wise not to react with shock, anger, or rejection, which may cause them to be silent again. We as parents and leaders need to counsel with our children and youth on an ongoing basis, listening with love and understanding. They need to know the dangers of pornography and how it overtakes lives, causing loss of the Spirit, distorted feelings, deceit, damaged relationships, loss of self-control, and nearly total consumption of time, thought, and energy. Pornography is more vile, evil, and graphic than ever before. As we counsel with our children, together we can create a family plan with standards and boundaries, being proactive to protect our homes with filters on electronic devices. Parents, are we aware that mobile devices with Internet capacity, not computers, are the biggest culprit? Young people and adults, if you are caught in Satan’s trap of pornography, remember how merciful our beloved Savior is. Do you realize how deeply the Lord loves and cherishes you, even now? Our Savior has the power to cleanse and heal you. He can remove the pain and sorrow you feel and make you clean again through the power of His Atonement.
I previously mentioned pornography. It easily becomes an addiction of the worst kind. Let me read to you from a letter I received from a victim: “I would like to share something with you that I have not been able to share with anyone else. I am a 35-year-old male. For most of my adult life I have been addicted to pornography. I am very ashamed to admit this, … but for the most part, my addiction is as real as that of an alcoholic or a drug addict. … “The main reason for my writing is to tell you that the Church can’t do enough to counsel the members to avoid pornography. I was first introduced to this material as a child. I was molested by an older male cousin, and pornography was used to attract my interest. I am convinced that this exposure at an early age to sex and pornography is at the root of my addiction today. “I think it is ironic that those who support the business of pornography say that it is a matter of freedom of expression. I have no freedom. I have lost my free agency because I have been unable to overcome this. It is a trap for me, and I can’t seem to get out of it. Please, please, please plead with the brethren of the Church not only to avoid but eliminate the sources of pornographic material in their lives. Besides the obvious things like books and magazines, they need to turn off cable movie channels in their homes. I know many who have these services and claim that they are able to screen the bad things out, but this is not true. … “Pornography and perversion have become so commonplace in our lives that the sources of this material are everywhere. I have found pornographic magazines by the roadside and in dumps. We need to talk to our children and explain how evil these things are and encourage them to avoid looking at them when they come across them. … “Finally, President Hinckley, please pray for me and others in the Church who may be like me to have the courage and strength to overcome this terrible affliction. “I am unable to sign my name, and I hope that you will understand.” The computer is a wonderful instrument when it is properly used. But when it is used to deal with pornography or so-called chat rooms or for any other purpose that leads to evil practices or evil thoughts, then there must be self-discipline enough to turn it off. The Lord has declared, “Purge ye out the iniquity which is among you; sanctify yourselves before me”. No one can mistake the meaning of those words.
This is not the only letter I have received. There have been enough that I am convinced this is a very serious problem even among us. It arises from many sources and expresses itself in a variety of ways. Now it is compounded by the Internet. That Internet is available not only to adults but also to young people. I recently read that pornography has become a $57 billion industry worldwide. Twelve billion of this is derived in the United States by evil and “conspiring men” who seek riches at the expense of the gullible. It is reported that it produces more revenue in the United States than the “combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises or the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC”. It robs the workplace of the time and talents of employees. “20% of men admit accessing pornography at work. 13% of women [do so]. … 10% of adults admit having internet sexual addiction”. That is their admission, but actually the number may be much higher. The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families states that “approximately 40 million people in the United States are sexually involved with the Internet. … “One in five children ages 10–17 [has] received a sexual solicitation over the Internet. … “Three million of the visitors to adult websites in September 2000 were age 17 or younger. … “Sex is the number 1 topic searched on the Internet”. I might go on, but you, too, know enough of the seriousness of the problem. Suffice it to say that all who are involved become victims. Children are exploited, and their lives are severely damaged. The minds of youth become warped with false concepts. Continued exposure leads to addiction that is almost impossible to break. Men, so very many, find they cannot leave it alone. Their energies and their interests are consumed in their dead-end pursuit of this raw and sleazy fare. The excuse is given that it is hard to avoid, that it is right at our fingertips and there is no escape.
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