About 1,000 Utahns were told to join the "war on pornography" Saturday at a conference aimed at teaching them how to protect themselves and their children against it or how to get help if they are addicted.
"Internet pornography is the sexual revolution times 1,000," said Patrick Trueman, former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section Criminal Division under President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush.
At the Utah Coalition Against Pornography's ninth annual conference at Little America Hotel, Trueman said porn leads to sex parties and prostitution and "hijacks our brain" to make users never satisfied, always seeking more deviant images.
He urged listeners to lobby politicians to enforce the federal laws that already exist against hotels, cable and satellite companies providing hard-core pornography. And he told parents to use computer filters.
Without one, "you might as well say to your kids, 'Anything goes. We don't love you enough to protect you.'
"What's more damaging to a child, a handgun or a computer?" he rhetorically asked. "A handgun may not be loaded. The computer is loaded; it's loaded to the hilt."
With sessions on repairing relationships harmed by porn, helping teens who view porn and aiding parents in a "digital world," the conference attracted parents, youth church leaders and families. The coalition's board includes Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, the Utah Catholic Diocese, LDS Church members and companies that offer counseling and Internet filters.
"It's one of the big problems affecting the youth in the church" said Peter Barlow, an LDS leader from Draper, who said church leaders urged members to attend the conference. "We need to figure out how to help them."
He attended a session that offered warning signs of teen porn use, including using vulgar and sexual language, extreme religiosity or avoidance of church activities.
"I have little kids," said Amy Horspool, from Plain City. "I figure it's out there, I might as well learn how to protect my family."
Gov. Gary Herbert, another conference speaker, called porn a "growing scourge."
"We view ourselves as a very moral community. ... But we have every evil here in Utah that's found in any inner city in America."
Last year, a study published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives showed Utah had the nation's highest online porn subscription rate per thousand home broadband users, at 5.47, from 2006 to 2008.
"This is a huge problem. It's destroying families," said Jonathan Taylor, who was at a booth promoting the group Sons of Helaman. It provides group therapy to Mormon men struggling with pornography addiction.
The 24-year-old from Riverdale said he is now recovering. Before, he would wake up anticipating and dreading when he would see the graphic images. "I felt out of control. It was dark."