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Open and honest conversations are crucial in protecting families from harms of pornography

As Becky Moller and her husband, Nathan Moller, were walking around the Utah Coalition Against Pornography conference four years ago, they were constantly looking over their shoulders for a familiar face.

“The first time we came to UCAP we were terrified we would see someone we knew,” Becky Moller said.

They knew that if they were seen, someone might connect why they were there.

At the time the couple had been together for more than a decade and had four kids — two boys and two girls. They had a fun, “normal courtship,” were married in the temple, and were raising their children in the gospel. They had held many callings in the Church.

“I had no reason to think [pornography] would be a part of my life,” Becky Moller said.

But, as with many Church members today, Nathan Moller’s addiction that began as a young boy had become a part of their marriage. Due to the private nature of the situation, the Mollers had not shared their story with many people. They felt isolated and alone and had gone to the conference for help.

While walking around the vender booths, Becky Moller met another woman who had experienced similar things she had been through. As they talked, Becky Moller began to feel like she was understood.

That conversation started a successful recovery process that continues today.

Recognizing that the recovery process is not quick, easy or even exact and that it takes a lot of hard work and “surrendering to God,” the Mollers know that the connection to others has been an important piece of their recovery.

Because of that knowledge, rather than looking around the room worried about who they might see, this year, the couple spent hours on a Saturday standing at a booth, looking for someone they could help.

“I want [people] in this community to know they are not alone,” Becky Moller said, “and that they can be transformed in beautiful ways.”

Just as a simple conversation at the conference opened the door for Becky Moller to better understanding, that is what the conference is doing for people who attended the annual conference on March 10.

The conference brought together more than 2,000 people in the Salt Palace — some seeking help and resources to battle a pornography problem, others wanting to help a loved one, still more looking for ways to prevent pornography in their home.

This year’s theme, “It Starts With Us,” encouraged all who attended to “be the agents of change.”

“If not us, then who?” the materials for the conference read. “Working together we can help people live happier lives free from pornography and create a bright, safe future for children and families.”

“It is all of our responsibility to be informed and educated,” said Pamela Atkinson, the chairwoman of the UCAP board and well-known advocate for the homeless and refugees in Utah.

The conference is one way of “giving you the tools and information you may need,” she said. Adding later that, “with sharing that knowledge you may well save a person’s life.”

An important theme of the event was that open, honest and loving conversations are critical for protection and healing.

Those conversations must be done with love, Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, said during the morning keynote address.

Pornography is a problem affecting “our boys and our girls and we’re not talking about it enough,” said Sister Jones.

“I am here today as a concerned woman, mother and grandmother,” she said. “We know that we can’t close our eyes to the problems of pornography.”

Sister Jones targeted her remarks on “the need for parents, families, teachers, leaders — all of us — to really see, value and protect our children and youth,” she said.

How does a person take on such a task?

“Love, I believe, is also our greatest weapon in fighting against pornography,” she said.

The closing keynote address, given by expert John Foubert, author of the book How Pornography Harms: What Teens, Young Adults, Parents and Pastors Need to Know, highlighted some of the statistics and harm pornography is causing families today.

“We now live in the era of ubiquitous porn,” Foubert said.

Sharing frank statistics — among young adults in the United States ages 18 to 30, pornography is being used by 79 percent of men monthly and 29 percent daily, while 42 percent of women use pornography monthly and 7 percent use it daily — Foubert tried to show how pornography is becoming more of a guide in the lives of young adults today.

But, just as much as researchers have found negative data showing harm from pornography, Foubert said it is through data that positive change will occur. With understanding, prevention and the knowledge that change is possible, individuals and families are able to make a difference in their own lives and communities.

“Use the anvil of data to crush the bull of the sexual exploitation industry,” Foubert said.

For John Cheney, from Salem, Utah, attending the conference with three of his six children has been helpful. He has been a few years in a row, and each time he has taken away helpful suggestions to implement in his home.

“A few months ago we started checking in with each other every night,” he said. “It is the same for me as it is for them. I have to be willing to talk so they’ll be willing to talk.”

Most nights, he and four of his sons do a recap of what they encountered that day and how they dealt with it.

“At first it was a little weird,” said his son, Garrett, 15. “But it made me realize how much was out there.”

Cheney said he realizes the need to be proactive, to teach his children how to navigate the world today.

“I need to be an awesome example to protect them,” he said.

For Debbie Felt, the mother of six children and grandmother of soon-to-be eight grandchildren, attending the conference helps her feel empowered.

“I like learning about the new books and new resources,” she said. “I feel like this is a live science. Learning about the new technology and new research gives you power, and makes it so you are not so afraid.”

Felt is a Laurel adviser in the Young Women’s program, and feels a responsibility to — in addition to helping her family — help her class of five young women learn.

“We need to protect and inoculate,” she said. “This is a whole different ball game than when I had young kids.”

For those who were not able to attend the conference, information and some of the workshops are available on the website utahcoalition.org.