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Giving the keynote address (remotely) to the Utah Coalition Against Pornography’s annual conference held at Dixie State University campus on September 12, 2020, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles outlined “striking similarities between pornography and COVID-19” and offered hope and encouragement to the “foot soldiers in the war against pandemics, whether of the body or the mind.”
“As we conquer COVID-19 — and we will — may we be equally committed right now to conquering this other pandemic and free the world from the plague of pornography,” he declared.
Dealing with Exposure and Impacts
Elder Holland explained that the coronavirus spreads through small, imperceptible droplets in the air. Those who are infected with the small particles — 1,000 times smaller than a grain of sand — may not initially recognize the danger and therefore “may or may not have taken appropriate precautions against this seemingly ubiquitous aggressor.”
“This sounds eerily like the infection of pornography,” Elder Holland noted. “Exposure begins through small, simple, visual droplets about which even the victim may not fully appreciate the danger.” Sadly, “the little pornographic germs” are pervasive — television, movies, checkout counters, cell phones, and iPads — so that exposure goes on and on.
While there is hope for the development of some form of inoculation to COVID-19, “I am not aware of a wonder drug coming to counter pornography, so we must conquer it another way,” he said.
Once in the body, COVID-19 forms spikes on its surface that contain three elements that help the virus access the ACE2 receptors of cells. After attaching, the virus deposits its genetic material inside the cell and quickly replicates itself until the cell bursts.
Like COVID-19’s “sticky” spikes, pornography has three elements that make it a particularly contagious disease. Quoting Dr. Al Cooper, Elder Holland explained that those three elements are accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. Due to its widespread accessibility, pornography’s onslaught is constant.
COVID-19’s impact varies, though it is generally worse for those over 60. Some will never know they had it while others end up on a respirator, having their blood artificially oxygenated, or dying from the disease.
In contrast, no one escapes pornography unscathed as some might with COVID-19, and it reverses its audience — attacking the young more viciously than the elderly. “Like COVID-19’s worst victims, pornography takes what is normal and natural and makes it artificial for everyone who uses it. Because it rewires the neural pathways in your brain, to leave it will require constant monitoring of your thoughts and feelings, not unlike the greatest monitoring of the lungs or blood of COVID-19 patients,” he said.
Social Distancing Differences
Both COVID-19 and pornography create a form of social distancing, he continued, where family and friends feel powerless. Where COVID-19’s isolation is compelled by public officials, pornography’s isolation is voluntary, stemming from a fear of being found out. “Unfortunately, users think that when they use it in isolation that they can restrain the contagion like someone in quarantine does for COVID-19,” he said. “Yet this isolation only perpetuates the disease instead of isolating it.”
Pornography distorts the very nature of love, “when pornography hijacks our love and emotions unnaturally, we struggle to replicate them naturally,” Elder Holland said.
Elder Holland then quoted Dr. Gail Dines: “In porn[ography], sex is not about making love. The feelings and emotions we normally associate with such an act — connection, empathy, tenderness, caring, affection — are missing. In their place are those emotions we normally associate with hate — fear, disgust, anger, loathing, and contempt.”
For those who give illicitly only part of that which cannot be followed with the gift of their whole heart, Elder Holland warned: “[Pornography] is its own form of emotional Russian roulette. If they persist in sharing part without the whole, in pursuing satisfaction devoid of loyalty and love, giving parts and pieces and inflamed fragments only, they run the terrible risk of such spiritual, psychic damage that they may undermine both their physical intimacy and their wholehearted devotion to those who love them most — in reality, not virtually.”
Moving Forward with Hope in Christ
Recognizing that many in the audience have “deeply personal hopes,” Elder Holland said, “Because God does work in this world, we can hope — we should hope — even when facing the most insurmountable odds … We all need to believe that what we desire in righteousness can someday, someway, somehow yet be ours.”
With COVID-19, there is hope for a vaccine. “As we have learned with flu and other vaccines, they are not always perfect. Similarly, efforts to protect yourself, your spouse, child, family member, or other associate from pornography may be successful by degrees.”
Elder Holland recognized that those who struggle will need help, “For the kind of painful loneliness that some suffer here today, the best help always comes from heaven.”
Elder Holland explained, “Part of life is coming up against obstacles such as pornography and pandemics and conquering them, destructive as they are.” He added: “Some problems are of our own making, and others simply happen to us. We face what we must face, and we persevere. It means squaring our shoulders and stiffening our back and staying with a virtuous effort.”
Elder Holland emphasized: “Every one of you needs to have hope. Christ Jesus gives us that hope because in some incredible way, He has in effect been where you have been and felt what you have felt.”
Christ will help individuals repent, repair, fix whatever needs to be fixed, and keep going. Elder Holland concluded: “If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going … If you fall, summon His strength. Get back up. Call out like one did, ‘O Jesus, … have mercy on me’ (Alma 36:18).”
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