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At SLC conference, Mormon apostle warns against ‘epidemic’ of porn

First Published      Last Updated Mar 13 2016 03:36 pm


‘A moral plague’ » Thousands gather to talk about ways to avoid and remove pornography.

About 2,700 people gathered Saturday at the Salt Palace to listen to speakers rail against pornography, led by a Mormon apostle deploying some mighty weapons: metaphors.

"Society must see this evil like the epidemic it is," Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told attendees of the annual conference of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography (UCAP).

Holland said pornography "needs to be eradicated," like diseases such as avian flu, diphtheria and cholera. Porn, he said, is "a moral plague on the body politic that is maiming the lives of our public citizens."




Holland also used a war metaphor in the conference's keynote address.

"The odds in the battle are sometimes not very favorable to us," Holland told the attendees, urging them to persevere against a multibillion-dollar industry. "As Tom Paine said, this is no time for summer soldiers and sunshine patriots."

One front where that war is growing more difficult, Holland said, is among millennials — young adults between 16 and 34.

Holland cited a recently released survey by the Barna Group, a religion-based research organization, that found millennials are more comfortable discussing pornography than older generations.

"The subject does not have the same social taboo that it once did," Holland said.

And fewer young people see pornography as sinful. In fact, Holland said, the study showed more young adults thought that not recycling is a sin than thought porn is.

"This is why we need to reach out to young adults — this is the culture we're growing up in," said Malissa Richardson, a Brigham Young University student who works with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a Washington, D.C., advocacy group.

Richardson led a panel discussion on how millennials concerned about pornography can mobilize their peers.

Richardson advised millennials to use social media to spread the word on what she considers the dangers of pornography. "People will think of you as a resource if you post regularly on social media," she said.

She also urged millennials to use their purchasing power. "You need to let them know what you approve of, as far as the messages of their marketing … that you deem pornographic or condoning rape," she said.

What one considers pornographic can be quite broad. Krisana Finlay, deputy director for development at NCOSE, cited the group's annual "Dirty Dozen List" of contributors to sexual exploitation. This year's list includes the American Library Association (because it advocates for unfiltered Internet terminals at libraries), Cosmopolitan magazine and the cable channel HBO — citing specifically the popular series "Game of Thrones" for scenes of rape and sexual assault.

"The message is that there are so many different forms of pornography, and there is a spectrum," Richardson said. "It can apply to so many different things, whether it is mainstream or under the table."

Attendees could find other tools at various booths set up at the conference. Goods and services on display included Internet filtering technology, advocacy organizations and addiction-treatment facilities.

On another battlefront — the Utah Legislature — Holland and Pamela Atkinson, the Utah philanthropist and homeless advocate who is UCAP's board chair, declared a small victory.

Both lauded the Legislature's passage this week of a resolution, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, declaring pornography "a public health crisis."

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