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note: This is a speech given by Elder Jeffrey R.
Holland at the Fourth Annual Guardian of the Light
Award Dinner of the Lighted Candle Society.
What may be the most
disturbing fact of all for us in a world as repulsive
as the world of pornography is the reach of pornography
into the lives of those least prepared to resist it
— our children. As you know, reliable statistics
accessing the online use of pornography are hard to
come by, but a few years ago a Kaiser Family Foundation/NPR
survey found that 31 percent of children aged 10 to
17 with computers at home had seen a pornographic
In another study by the
Kaiser Foundation, 70 percent of teens aged 15 to
17 said they had accidentally come across pornography
on the Web. A survey revealed that, nationally, 5
percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17
using the Internet had received a solicitation for
sex in the past year (see The National Academy of
Sciences, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet,
studies, now dated only by a few years, the problem
has become worse. The number of homes with Internet
access has increased dramatically, and cell phones
and other technology popular with youth can now connect
with the Web. Blogs, chat rooms, and community Web
sites like Myspace.com have proliferated, along with
the potential for contact with online sexual predators.
But of course we must
always be vigilant to note that the problem is so
much larger than this. As much as there is at least
something of a national consensus on the evils of
child pornography, there is, sadly, none whatever
— yet — on pornography for and featuring adults.
The scope and significance of the problem in the adult
world is more pervasive than ever.
The simple fact of the
matter is pornography victimizes everyone —
those who are addicted to it, those who live with
them, a society that fosters it, a society that is
trying to oppose it, even those who create it. It
Not long ago a Protestant
periodical gave an account of a woman, now a believing,
practicing Christian, who at one time acted in the
kind of films a generation ago were found only in
back alley movie theaters and are now openly sold
in stores and shown on cable TV. She writes:
is] one of the greatest deceptions of all time. Trust
me, I know. I did it all the time, and I did it for
the lust of power and the love of money. I never
liked [men or] sex… In fact I was more apt to spend
time with Jack Daniels than [any other man of my choosing.
Who wouldn’t] hate being touched by strangers who
care nothing about [you. Who wouldn’t] hate being
degraded… Some women hate it so much you can hear
them vomiting in the bathroom between scenes... One
of my friends went home after a long night of numbing
her pain and put a pistol to her head and pulled the
trigger. That was her way out.
truth is there is no fantasy in porn. It’s all a
lie. A closer look into the scenes of a porn star’s
life will show you a movie [that] industry doesn’t
want you to see. The real truth is [if] actresses
want to end the shame and trauma of our lives [in
that world] we can’t do it alone. We need you...
to fight for our freedom and give us back our honor.
you to throw out our movies and help [us] piece together
the shattered fragments of our lives. We need you
to pray for us... so God will hear and repair our
ruined lives (Shelley Lubben, www.blazingrace.org/thetruth.htm).
Did you catch her references
to money and power? The industry we’re fighting is
not about men or women or love or intimacy — it’s
about money, and the power money supposedly brings.
The tragedy here is that the human soul is not a commodity
of exchange, not a thing to be consumed and discarded,
a thing one can buy for $19.99 plus tax and then,
when tired or ashamed of it, throw in the trash bin.
And deep-down everyone
knows that, even those who are mired into the depths
of this. One of our national associates in this fight
wrote, “When I ask men who are sex addicts if they
would want their wife or daughter to be in porn, 100
percent say, ‘No,’” she said. “All of them say,
‘No.’ They want it to be somebody else’s wife or daughter.
They know this material is damaging [and the practice
Years ago one of my personal
LDS heroes made this observation:
witnessed the reduction of persons to things in a
code number, a subscriber, a punched card. Each reduction
indicates that the person is expendable, replaceable.
This renders men [and women as] functionaries and
destroys their being and loses for them their self...
This is hauntingly true as people are “used” to gratify
physical passions in illegitimacy.
do not “love” things. We use things like doormats,
automobiles, clothing, machines; but we love people
by serving them and contributing to their permanent
good (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle,
155-56; emphasis added).
I really don’t intend
to document the problem ad nauseam for this
audience because you are documenting it far more skillfully
than I ever could. I also don’t want to be guilty
of simply “wringing my hands and shaking my head,”
a rather useless response decried in your founding
documents. So let me light a candle or two.
Of all the characteristics
ascribed to Jesus Christ — whom the scriptures call
the Light of the World — love is His most fundamental
and most enduring virtue. We must remember that
not only those who view pornography but also those
who perform it are children of God, and furthermore
are someone’s son, someone’s daughter here on earth
as well. For all their sin we need to love them,
serve them, save them if we can, and contribute to
their permanent good. We can do that, in the spirit
of your society, by following the pattern set by God
at the outset of our earthly experience.
The book held sacred
by Jews and Christians worldwide begins with these
beginning God created the heaven and the earth...
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided
the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:1, 3-4).
Our work is to divide
the light from the darkness by lighting more and more
candles. I can think of a few ways we could begin
to do that.
First, let us be clear
about the holder of the candles. I find it interesting
that the first thing light reveals when a candle is
lighted is the hand holding it. The Lord made this
fascinating observation about personal light.
The light of the body
is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single,
thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine
eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
heed therefore that the light which is in thee be
whole body therefore be full of light, having no part
dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the
bright shining of a candle doth give thee light” (Luke
The candles we hold up
for others to see ought to be extensions of the light
within ourselves. What we are shines more brightly
than anything we say or do. If we are to fill the
world with light, we must first face any tattered
remnant of darkness that remains in our own souls.
I invite each of you to join me in regularly turning
inward to confront there anything we wouldn’t
want others to see. It may not be pornography. I
am assuming it wouldn’t be pornography for
us, but it may be arrogance or unkindness, impatience
or vanity, or any number of other flaws we need to
remedy. Whatever it is let us trim our lamps, add
oil, and make those changes necessary that allow us
to hold up a brighter candle, a purer light. Christ
focused some of His most pointed opprobrium for the
hypocrite. We must never be guilty of that
in this battle. We must be the best person we can
be in every way we can.
Second, let us educate
ourselves. Light is not the absence of darkness;
rather, darkness is the absence of light. Light and
truth exist independently. This being the case, the
more light we have, the more independent we are.
The freer we are to choose. With truth lighting the
way, we are able to see and make choices we otherwise
Since we are agents with
the ability to choose, the responsibility for our
education rests first with us. Others may help —
teachers, parents, leaders, friends, even those who
are not friends but whose negative examples and misguided
perspectives serve to instruct what not to do or what
not to believe. Ultimately, however, the responsibility
for getting the facts straight is ours. The work
is ours. The choices are ours.
Keep in mind that any
knowledge we gather can be both negative and positive.
Yes, we will gather statistics and horror stories
about the impact of the darkness on our society.
But more important, we must also fill our hearts and
minds with truth and light, with love and the Spirit
of God. Too often we allow ourselves to be forced
into a defensive, remedial position when we could
be more effective by taking positive, constructive
action. And nothing is more constructive than a good,
powerful, pure personal life.
Third, as we educate
ourselves, we need to educate others. The promoters
of darkness often seem to have direct access to the
media microphone. We may not be able to take that
away from them, but we can at least raise our own
voices. We can teach correct principles often and
in as many ways as possible.
Since darkness is the
absence of light, surely the most powerful way to
counter darkness is to fill the world with light.
One of my associates observed recently:
and darkness cannot occupy the same space at the same
dispels darkness. When light is present, darkness
is vanquished and must depart. More importantly,
darkness cannot conquer light unless the light is
diminished or departs (Robert D. Hales, in Conference
Report, Apr. 2002, 80-81; or Ensign, May 2002,
Is it not part of our
work as sons and daughters of God to encourage creative
efforts that dispel darkness and replace it with light?
Indeed, one objective of the Lighted Candle Society
is to promote “positive and uplifting... education
and entertainment.” How powerful a force for good
would be a renaissance in literature, art, technology,
and science that adds light rather than takes it away!
Such a renaissance is possible. There are among us
artists and artisans who need only to receive a little
more support and encouragement from men and women
of conscience to produce works that could rival those
that half a millennium ago marked the end of Europe’s
Dark Age and the rise of a wonderful new cultural
and spiritual Renaissance.
As we fill the earth
with art (and media) that is good and uplifting —
as we fill the earth with light and knowledge — our
children will see the darkness for what it is. They
will see that it is counterfeit, that it brings only
sorrow, pain, and emptiness. They will come to prefer
light and be attracted to that which is good and true.
Fourth, we can be
vigilant. Some of the most effective work we
can do, as was said about the Watergate scandal, is
“follow the money.” We can keep money out of the
pockets of the merchants of immorality. Owners perspire
when profits fail. We can work against the profitability
of those who merchandise in human suffering and degradation.
We can alert media moguls that we will ignore their
services and the products they advertise as long as
they remain in league with those who abuse the individual,
undermine the structure of the family, and attack
the moral fiber of society.
But again, if that is
all we do, we have not filled the void with light.
We must also support, encourage, and finance that
which is positive and life-affirming, art and beauty
— in short, truth — that encourages people to come
out of the darkness into the light.
Lastly, as parents
we must control use of the Internet in our own homes.
We need to set and enforce family rules that protect
us and our children from those who would sneak into
our homes and there replace light with darkness.
As citizens, we can seek controls on Internet use
in public places. We can understand and teach others
how to use the Internet safely. This wonderful tool
is too valuable to all of us to let greedy individuals
use it for their own selfish ends.
You are well aware of
the Harry Potter books and movies by J. K. Rowling.
One of the reasons the books are so popular, I think,
is that they show children victorious in battle against
dark forces. They give readers hope that, even in
total darkness, there is that spark of light. Despite
the powerful evil arrayed against them, they know
they can defeat the darkness.
But fundamental to the
message of the Harry Potter books is the idea that
children don’t — indeed, can’t — fight their battles
alone. In fact, the one gift that saves Harry over
and over again is the love of his mother, who died
protecting him from evil. Without any question one
of those best “defenses against the dark arts” — to
use a phrase from the Harry Potter books — is close
family ties. Parental love, family activity, gentle
teaching, and respectful conversation — sweet time
together — can help keep the generations close and
build bonds that will never be broken.
A strong home and the
love of parents is not infallible; we all know of
children and teachers who give in to the darkness
despite the best efforts of their loved ones. But
both research and experience show that parental love
and a happy home is the strongest defense our children
have against anything the lords of darkness can throw
In this regard, recent
findings bring good news: “The use of filters in
families with teens has grown 65% in four years, from
around 7 million users at the end of 2000, to close
to 12 million today. Of all families in the United
States connected to the Internet, 54% use Internet
filters” (Amanda Lenhart, “Protecting Teens Online,”
Pew Internet and American Life Project, March 17,
These and similar statistics
are encouraging. More parents are recognizing the
need to protect their families. Most teens (73%)
report that “their household computer is located in
a public place inside the house,” and most parents
(64%) reported that they set rules about what their
children do on the Internet. Unfortunately, 65% of
all parents and 64% of all teens say that teens do
things online that they wouldn’t want their parents
to know about” (“Protecting Teens Online,” ii).
We still have work to
In my attempt this evening
to add to the lighted candles you share so generously,
I hope something of what I have said finds a place
in your hearts. The second greatest poet in the English
language once wrote:
has light within his own clear breast
May sit i’ the
centre, and enjoy bright day:
But he that hides
a dark soul and foul thoughts
Himself his own
Lighting candles can
be a great adventure. Whatever else is revealed by
the light, nothing becomes as clear as what we find
in our own souls.
May our journey into
light be inspirational. And may the light you share
show others the way to pure light, Eternal Light,
God’s light. Thank you and God bless you.
Are your children safe surfing the Internet? Are you sure? Click Here to find out how to keep your family safe on the Internet.
© 2006 Meridian
Magazine. All Rights Reserved
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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