President Gordon B. Hinckley devoted his entire priesthood session address to warning of the evil of pornography "in all of its manifestations," saying, "It grows increasingly worse. It is like a raging storm, destroying individuals and families, utterly ruining what was once wholesome and beautiful.
"I do so because of letters that come to me from broken-hearted wives."
He read portions of a letter he received a few days earlier. The writer told of her husband's confession to her of his addiction to pornography, a confession that came after a surgery and before his impending death.
She wrote: "I was stunned, hurt, felt betrayed and violated. I could not promise him forgiveness at that moment but pleaded for time. . . . I was able to review my married life (and how) pornography had . . . put a stranglehold on our marriage from early on. We had only been married a couple of months when he brought home a (pornographic) magazine. I locked him out of the car, because I was so hurt and angry."
The writer went on to tell of cruel demands made by her husband, of a counseling session in which her husband "ripped (her) apart" with criticism and disdain, of how she took on a protective shield thereafter and found joy in her children and in projects and accomplishments that did not include her husband.
"I am now left to grieve not only for his being gone, but also for a relationship that could have been (beautiful, but was not)," she wrote. "Please warn the brethren (and sisters). Pornography is not some titillating feast for the eyes that gives a momentary rush of excitement. (Rather) it has the effect of damaging hearts and souls to their very depths, strangling the life out of relationships that should be sacred, hurting to the very core those you should love the most."
President Hinckley exclaimed, "What a pathetic and tragic story. I have omitted some of the detail, but have read enough that you can sense her depth of feeling. And what of her husband? He died a painful death from cancer, his final words a confession of a life laced with sin.
"And sin it is. It is devilish. It is totally inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel, with personal testimony of the things of God and with the life of one who has been ordained to the holy priesthood."
President Hinckley said he is convinced pornography "is a serious problem 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."
Citing statistics showing the pervasiveness of what has become a $57 billion industry worldwide, the Church president said, "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."
Comparing it to a raging storm, he answered excuses that it is hard to avoid by saying, "You can dress properly and seek shelter, and the storm will have no effect upon you.
"Likewise, even though the Internet is saturated with sleazy material, you do not have to watch it. You can retreat to the shelter of the gospel and its teaching of cleanliness and virtue and purity of life."
Quoting the Savior's words, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8), President Hinckley asked, "Could anyone wish for a greater blessing than this? The high road of decency, of self-discipline, of wholesome living is the road for men, both young and old, who hold the priesthood of God."
The time has come, he said, for anyone involved with pornography "to pull himself out of the mire, to stand above this evil thing, to 'look to God and live' (Alma 37:47). We do not have to view salacious magazines. We do not have to read books laden with smut. We do not have to watch television that is below wholesome standards. We do not have to rent movies that depict that which is filthy. We do not have to sit at the computer and play with pornographic material found on the Internet."
He urged any who were so involved to "plead with the Lord out of the depths of your soul that He will remove from you the addiction which enslaves you. And may you have the courage to seek the loving guidance of your bishop and, if necessary, the help of caring professionals."
President Hinckley quoted Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46 relative to the blessings that come to those who remain pure, including constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth and everlasting dominion.
"How could any man wish for more?" he asked. These supernal blessings are promised to those who walk in virtue before the Lord and before all men."
"You can retreat to the shelter of the gospel and its teaching of cleanliness and virtue and purity of life."