Staying Spotless in a Sea of Slime – Part 1
by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd

With online access, the forbidden fruit is only a click away, and it is easy to rationalize that “No one will ever know,” or “It won’t hurt anyone to take just a quick peek.”

NOTE: This introduction is longer than we intended, and we apologize if the material is not as uplifting as you have come to expect from Meridian. But the first step towards fighting an enemy is to be able to understand it, and that is the foundation we are trying to build today. You should now be able to understand why the Prophet is concerned, and why every member (and especially parents) should be vigilant in safeguarding families from this evil.

If you review the talks given at the Priesthood session of the last General Conference, you will find a common theme that runs through most of them. Of the six talks presented that evening, four of them – including all three of the talks by the First Presidency – warned both the young men and their fathers of the evils associated with pornography. President Hinckley counseled the fathers, “If they want to get involved in pornography, they can do so very easily. They can pick up the phone and dial a number with which they are familiar. They can sit at a computer and revel in cyberspace filth.”

Comments from some of our local leaders confirm that pornography – particularly online pornography – is becoming more of a problem for a growing number of members of the Church. Although pornography can be attractive to women as well, their internal wiring usually causes them to be more repulsed than aroused by such material. So it is generally the men that have to be on guard to keep their resources up against this particular temptation.

The problem is that online access to pornography is just so easy. Before the popularity of the Internet, people had to work to acquire pornography, and there was always the fear that someone you knew would see you coming out of the magazine shop or the video store. But with online access, the forbidden fruit is only a click away, and it is easy to rationalize that “No one will ever know,” or “It won’t hurt anyone to take just a quick peek.”

We have all heard the stories (or perhaps had the personal experience) of children using the computer for a school project who accidentally stumble upon some seedy adult site. The reason this happens so often is that the owners of these sites want you to find them. They fill their web pages with hundreds of dirty and suggestive words (as well as innocent words with suggestive double meanings) so that your search engine is more likely to find them. Another common trick is to build an imposter site with a name similar to a popular site. The U.S. Justice Department has tried unsuccessfully to shut down an adult web site with a name similar to the one for the White House (www.whitehouse.gov). If little Jimmy and Julie want to write a letter to the new president but type in the wrong name, they are going to be in for an unwholesome surprise.

One of the secrets of the industry is that companies that provide search engines and portals make a good deal of their money from pornographers and other businesses who want their sites to be found. Have you ever noticed that the banner ads appearing on the pages of search engines seem to magically correspond to what you are trying to find? For example, if you search for “buy CDs online,” it is not uncommon for a banner ad to appear for companies that sell music online. This is not just a matter of chance, but is a result of money being paid to the owners of the search engine for displaying that ad, or having their site appear near the top of the search results page. Because pornography is one of the largest cash cows on the Internet, you can bet the pornographers are providing a good deal of the income for the people who create search engines and portals.

As if all of this weren’t bad enough, it is not uncommon to receive one or more unsolicited email messages each week inviting you to visit new adults sites. Most of these contain imbedded links to the site, so that all you have to do is click on the message and your browser will display the first page of the material. Most of these offers are pretty honest (and graphic) about what they are selling, but some are more subtle. Some of them will have subject lines such as, “In Answer to Your Question.” or, “Here’s the Information you Requested,” so that you will open the message instead of deleting it unread. Once you open the email and the message is displayed, the text may not even give any hint that the site in question contains adult material. Teasers might say only, “Click here for something we know you will like,” or, “Come and see some of our favorite pictures from this summer.”

The obvious goal of most adult sites is to make money, so you will not have to stay long before you are asked to enter a credit card number to pay for further exploration. This will keep youth and children away from the most explicit material, but most sites still offer “free previews” that can be pretty raw. Other sites are run by private individuals, men’s magazines, and glamour photographers who display their erotic works free of charge, although they usually warn you that people under the age of 18 should not view the material (as if that would stop any hormone-charged teenager). The bottom line is that someone who is looking for erotic material can find lots of it even without a credit card.

If you think the material displayed on these sites consists of pretty girls in skimpy swimsuits, then you must still be stuck somewhere in an episode of “Father Knows Best.” Most adult sites contain hard-core stuff, with ample material for just about every fetish or perversion. About the only thing that is currently banned is child pornography, and there are even groups fighting to ease the restrictions on that. One “businessman” recently argued in court that he should be able to display photographs of adults having sex that had been digitally altered so that the faces on the bodies were those of children. His logic was that because no children were forced to have sex to produce the pictures, they were not really child pornography. This logic assumes that the only danger of child pornography is in posing for the pictures.

In His introduction to the Word of Wisdom, the Lord tells us that it was prompted, “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days…” (D & C 89:4). This scripture has come to mind many times over the past few years, as the abuses of the tobacco industry have come to light. For many years the industry discredited and falsified health studies, while increasing their efforts to market tobacco products to new generations of victims. When called upon to testify before Congress, the leaders of the major tobacco companies raised their hands and swore to tell the truth, but then blatantly lied about their activities and intentions. Many of those involved in the pornography industry employ similar tricks to try and legitimize their tawdry product.

Many of us don’t realize the amount of money made by the panderers of pornography. It is estimated that the “adult entertainment” industry has gross revenues of 8-10 billion dollars per year. To put that in perspective, pornography rakes in more than the annual domestic box office revenues of the movie industry, and more than twice the annual revenue of major league baseball (“U.S. News & World Report,” February 10, 1997). With that kind of money financing their efforts, it is easy to see how the industry is making great progress in making themselves look acceptable – if not respectable. It is amazing how fast the doors will open if you hire some good lawyers and public relations people, and make a few strategically-placed political contributions.

For a number of legal and technical reasons, we have to realize that our governments can provide us only limited protection from smut. As pornography becomes more and more pervasive, we must expect that the standards expected of Latter-day Saints will be increasingly higher than those embraced by the rest of the world. Although our governments can protect us from the most hideous abuses, it will always be our responsibility to make up the difference between the higher law of God and the lower law of society.

This introduction is longer than we intended, and we apologize if the material was not as uplifting as you have come to expect from Meridian. But the first step towards fighting an enemy is to be able to understand it, and that is the foundation we are trying to build today. You should now be able to understand why the Prophet is concerned, and why every member (and especially parents) should be vigilant in safeguarding families from this evil.

In our book A Parent’s Survival Guide to the Internet, we explain some techniques for protecting your family from pornography and other harmful material. In future columns, we will summarize and present some of these ideas in the hope that you may fortify your home against this growing sea of slime.




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