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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers took a bold step in the final minutes of the 2016 Legislative Session. Late Friday night, the Utah House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis. The resolution is the first of its kind in the country.
"Society must see this evil like the epidemic it is," said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. "This ought to be seen like a public health crisis, like a war, like an infectious fatal epidemic, like a moral plague on the body politic that is maiming the lives of our citizens."
On Saturday, Elder Holland and other community leaders met at a conference organized by the Utah Coalition Against Pornography to speak out against what they call a growing epidemic as dangerous as an infectious disease.
"We do need to see this (pornography) like avian flu, cholera, diphtheria or polio," said Elder Holland. "It needs to be eradicated."
Elder Holland said pornography should be treated like a war that people from every faith should fight together.
"Catholic bishops, Protestant ministers, Jewish rabbis and Muslim mullahs have all spoken out on this sin because God Himself has spoken out on it," Elder Holland said.
Nearly 3,000 people attended the UCAP conference, compared to 200 people, 15 years ago. Organizers say that shows more families are aware of the issue but demonstrates how big of a problem pornography has become.
Anti-porn activists point to statistics to show pornography is a growing concern. They say porn sites get 450 million unique visitors per month. That's more than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. When it comes to kids, they say 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls are exposed to pornography before age 18.
"We've got young children," said attendee Karen Ashby. "It's good to learn this type of stuff before it happens."
Another attendee said the event can help anyone.
"All of us have people that we know who are addicted to pornography," said attendee Alan Daimaru. "Even if we don't know that there's an addict in our life, there is someone that we know who can benefit from events like this."
Pamela Atkinson is a community advocate who chairs UCAP. She wants people attending the conference leave with one thing — hope.
"People leave here with the hope that they can heal their loved ones, heal their marriages and prevent the destruction and break-up of families," Atkinson said.
The resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis will be sent to Governor Gary Herbert for his signature.