Sunstone and porn and synchronicity

I note that the latest Sunstone conference program is out. It reads something like a self-parody in places.

For example, consider the following offerings:

  •  “Baring All: Stripping Modesty Norms Through Nude Photography” (p. 10)
  • “My Journey into Nude Art Photography” [male perspective] (p. 10)
  • The LDS church clearly denounces pornography and liberally classifies all usage as addictive. However, the lack of a clear definition of pornography can leave bishops, leaders, parents, and teenagers with a potentially fearful and misinformed perspective of sexually explicit material (SeM) (p. 24).[1]

The last one is particularly silly. “Pornography,” as understood by the Church, is clearly defined all over the place. I can understand that some do not agree with that definition or the doctrines associated therewith, but to insist that the definition is vague or undefined is absurd.

One might start, for example, by looking at the Church’s booklet for those with pornography problems:

The adversary tries to thwart the Lord’s plan of happiness by suggesting that physical intimacy is only for personal gratification. Pornography encourages this destructive and selfish preoccupation. Pornography depicts or describes the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings. It may be found in written material (including romance novels), photographs, movies, electronic images, video games, Internet chat rooms, erotic telephone conversations, music, or any other medium. It is a tool of the adversary.[2]

It would be hard to be more succinct than that.

To summarize: Pornography tells us that physical intimacy is only for personal gratification and it depicts the body or sexuality in ways that arouses sexual feelings. In LDS doctrine, sexual behavior and feelings are only to be encouraged or stimulated within a marital relationship of husband and wife. This is pretty simple stuff.

The booklet goes on to note that other material might not be “pornographic” in the strict sense, but still have negative influences:

Some materials that are not explicitly pornographic can still fill your life with darkness and deprive you of spiritual strength. Television programs, pictures, movies, songs, and books often treat unchastity and infidelity as common, appealing, and humorous. Avoid anything that drives the Holy Ghost from your life.[3]

So, the nuance which our Sunstone abstract implies isn’t there exists too.

Yet, if one wanted to know what the Church thought about pornography, why wouldn’t you turn first to a booklet dedicated to that very question? It’s been available for seven years—not exactly hot off the presses. Curious.

And, despite the claim that porn usage is always spoken of in terms of addiction, that simply isn’t true either:

If you already indulge in pornography to any degree, you can stop. You have agency to choose your thoughts and actions…. Indulgence in pornography _often_ occurs in a cycle. If you are engaged in this cycle, you _may_ dwell on inappropriate thoughts, scenes, and images in response to boredom, loneliness, curiosity, stress, discouragement, or conflict. Then you place yourself in situations that lead you to pornography. Afterward, you _may_ feel discouraged and repeat the cycle (emphasis added).[4]

Or, one could check the For Strength of Youth book, which says:

Pornography in all forms is especially dangerous and addictive. What _may_ begin as an unexpected exposure or a curious exploration _can_ become a destructive habit. Use of pornography is a serious sin and _can_ lead to other sexual transgression. Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and _can_ damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.[5]

Note that pornography is said to be addictive (which is certainly true) but the statement is clear that what “may begin” as exploration “can” (not will inevitably) become a destructive habit; it can (not inevitably will) “damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others.”

So, one might not agree with these definitions, but to argue that such definitions do not exist seems a trifle obtuse.

Given how much misinformation and blinkered nonsense is in just the abstract, I cannot but wonder why anyone would trust anything from a presentation advertised with so little attention to the facts.

You really couldn’t make this stuff up.

By coincidence–or synchronicity–I stumbled randomly onto a quote from Thomas Dalrymple (no theist, he) in my files:

Revolutions are seldom the spontaneous mass upheaval of the downtrodden, provoked beyond endurance by their miserable condition, and the sexual revolution was certainly no exception in this respect. The revolution had its intellectual progenitors, as shallow, personally twisted, and dishonest a parade of people as one could ever wish to encounter. They were all utopians, lacking understanding of the realities of human nature; they all thought that sexual relations could be brought to the pitch of perfection either by divesting them of moral significance altogether or by reversing the moral judgment that traditionally attached to them; all believed that human unhappiness was solely the product of laws, customs, and taboos. They were not the kind of people to take seriously Edmund Burke’s lapidary warning that “it is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot he free”: on the contrary, just as appetites often grow with the feeding, so the demands of the revolutionaries escalated whenever the last demand was met. When the expected happiness failed to emerge, the analysis of the problem and the proposed solution were always the same: more license, less self-control.

– Theodore Dalrymple. Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses, 239.

I don’t know if this applies. But it does make one wonder.


[1] Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium and Workshops, “Mormon Bodies: Literal, Metaphorical, Doctrinal – Preliminary Program,” 31 July – 3 August 2013, PDF on-line.

[3]Avoiding and Resisting Darkness,” Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts, (2006).

[4]Finding Strength to Abandon Sin,” Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts, (2006).

[5]Entertainment and Media,” For The Strength of Youth.

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