Jews say no to online porn; Mormons applaud

May 22, 2012

The speakers at Citi Field said that if improperly used, the Internet can destroy families, with gambling, pornography and other addictions. But mostly, surfing the Internet is a colossal waste of precious time young people could spend working or studying. – Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, Brooklyn

I raise an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls. The concerns I raise are not new; they apply equally to other types of media, such as television, movies, and music. But in a cyber world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense. I plead with you to beware of the sense-dulling and spiritually destructive influence of cyberspace technologies that are used to produce high fidelity and that promote degrading and evil purposes. – Elder David Bednar, an LDS Apostle


When my wife told me that tens of thousands of religious men had gathered at a stadium in New York yesterday to hear sermons on the dangers of the internet, I was sure that some kind of LDS priesthood meeting had been held. It turned out to be a gathering of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, and the speakers were rabbis instead of apostles and prophets. Nevertheless, the unprecedented event highlighted the desire of religiously observant leaders throughout the country to warn their congregants of the downside to a wireless world.

In recent years it seems that at almost every large LDS conference, at least one speaker condemns online pornography. When my former stake president (= Catholic bishop) began his service, one of the first things that he did was to establish a pornography self-help group for members of the stake (= diocese). He had been a bishop (= rabbi) for many years, and after counseling many pornography addicts he had decided to help them.

Of course, Mormons are avid users of the internet (as are many ultra-Orthodox Jews). The LDS Church itself has a large online presence, and Mormons use the internet to promote their values and beliefs to a worldwide audience. However, we are regularly reminded by our leaders to be careful about the websites we visit and the online contacts that we make. If the Jewish gathering in New York is any indication, our mutual concern over internet abuse may lead to fruitful collaboration in the future between the LDS and Orthodox communities.

As a postscript, I’d like to add my firm belief that the extension of First Amendment protection of political speech to pornographers is one of the greatest legal fictions of our time.           

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