When it comes to the brain, addiction is addiction is addiction. It doesn’t matter if it’s heroin, cocaine or pornography, the brain responds the same way. —Clay Olsen

ST. GEORGE — Strong families are one of the first defenses against the “raging storm” of pornography addiction, Elder Terry L. Wade told attendees at the Utah Coalition Against Pornography’s southern Utah regional conference Saturday.

As a boy growing up in fear of the raging storms and tornadoes of Oklahoma, Elder Wade understood how critical it was to have a storm cellar, or a refuge. In the battle against the storm of pornography, he said, families must be that refuge, and our greatest efforts must focus on fortifying our family culture.

Nearly 1,000 attended the conference — from therapists to parents, couples and young adults — to gather information to better fight against pornography. Elder Wade is an area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root,” Elder Wade said, quoting Henry David Thoreau. Conference attendees are among those who want to make a difference in the fight against pornography and are using what they learned to strike at the root of pornography, he said.

The conference included breakout sessions covering low-tech strategies to protect families from pornography, healing people and marriages impacted by sexual addiction, and a nuts-and-bolts workshop on Web filters for computers and phones, how to handle cyberbullying and how to prevent children from becoming victims of sexual predators or identity theft.

The No. 1 thing parents should know about pornography is that viewing it can lead to an actual addiction, with effects, behaviors and life-impacting consequences similar to addictions to alcohol or drugs, said Clay Olsen of the nonprofit Fight the New Drug, whose presentation is also available at the Net Nanny website.

“When it comes to the brain, addiction is addiction is addiction,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s heroin, cocaine or pornography, the brain responds the same way.”

Pornography desensitizes people, dulls their conscience and leaves them vulnerable to the power of the adversary, Elder Wade said.

It is important to have an ongoing, open dialogue with your children regarding sexual education and pornography, Olsen said. That was something presenter Steven Croshaw echoed, saying parents need to be the first people to talk to their children about pornography, not leaving it to the children's own curiosity or their friends.

Croshaw and his wife, Rhyll, spoke of his struggle with sexual addiction and its impact on their lives. Each spouse must make his or her own individual recovery before the couple can “recover” their marriage, they said — including the spouse who has been affected by the other’s addiction.

The effects of pornography addiction are no less devastating than a tornado, with families ripped apart and family members lost, Elder Wade said.

“We must work from within the walls of our homes, from our hearts and our minds,” he said, using tools like love, prayer, scripture study, time spent between parents and with children, and leading by example to create families and raise children that can meet the epidemic of pornography head-on.

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In a multibillion-dollar industry that dominates every form of media in society, pornography “is so prevalent that whether we choose to engage in it or not, we can find ourselves exposed to it,” Elder Wade said. “The task at hand to remove it, to take this influence out of our lives, is, to say the least, daunting. But men and women of God have faced these kinds of odds before and prevailed, as we surely will.”

For more information and presentations similar to what was covered during the conference, visit:

http://utahcoalition.org/ http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/ http://www.netnanny.com/learn_center/webinars http://salifeline.org/

Alison Snyder has a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Brigham Young University. She lives in St. George, Utah.