Letting Your Voice Be Heard
by JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton
"Speak Up for Truth and Goodness and Decency and Virtue" (President Gordon B. Hinckley)
I was reading in Chapter 29 of Alma, verse 1 where he says, "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God," and I would like to say, "O that I were an angel and could have the wish of my heart, that you might not only understand the message I have today, which in reality comes from a Prophet of God, but that you would not only hear and understand, but go forth and act upon it."
First frame: When a Prophet Speaks, We Need to Act President Gordon B. Hinckley stated in the Ensign, September, 2004, in the opening article, the home teaching message for all of us. He said that we need to speak up for truth and goodness and decency and virtue.
I want to testify to you today that speaking out for decency is sooo fun! It is soooo easy, sooo rewarding, and so empowering, so exciting and every one of you can make a huge difference. You can feel the Spirit just when you make a phone call, and I can hear you say, "Not me." Yes, I was really nervous at first, but we'll talk about easy ways to do this today that won't even make you nervous and really don't take any time. Many of you will find that you can just do this while you are shopping. Alma tells us in Alma 37:6 that by small and simple things great things are brought to pass. You can be a part of small and simple things that will really accomplish great things. If you or I just make one six-second phone call a day, at the end of the month we will have spoken up for decency 30 times! Or perhaps we could write one short note each Sunday night.
I want to increase our awareness of everyone's NEED to speak out for decency. I don't want to offend; however, I felt strongly that I should include this next comment in this talk. I hope you will notice that our Prophet didn't tell us to speak out for truth and decency IF it was convenient, IF we had time, If we weren't too busy, IF we wanted to, nor did he excuse us IF we were bashful, IF we were over 60, IF we found it difficult or IF we had poor health. He didn't leave room for excuses for any of us. That's because President Hinckley knows what needs to be done for the protection of our children, for the protection of our families. He knows what will happen if we choose to do nothing.
A reality scripture is II Nephi 28:20 and 21: which says "For behold, at that day (the last days) shall he (Satan) rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good." You see it. People are angry about prayer in school, displaying the Ten Commandments, etc.) And the verses go on and say, "And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well - and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to (where he lives )." Our prophet knows that some families in today's world think they are okay but many are not. Verse 24 says, "wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion." I hope and pray that no one here will ever again think their environment is good enough and therefore they really don't have to get involved. That is NOT what the prophet has said.
I want to bear my testimony that God speaks through His Prophets and we need to listen. He spoke to the children of Israel through Moses, he spoke to the Nephites through Nephi, he spoke to the early members of the Church through Joseph Smith.
But let me ask you, "What do you think would have happened to the children of Israel if they would have said, "No, Moses, we're not going to put the blood on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses when the angel of death was about to strike Egypt. We know the answer. They would have received the consequences of that choice. The first born of every family would have died that night. What if Lehi had said, "No, Lord, it really will be uncomfortable for us in tents in the wilderness." Well those things didn't happen because those are not the choices that the people made. They chose to follow the Lord and their families followed the Prophet of that time. In that day their physical lives were at stake. Today it is our spiritual survival.
It is just as obvious what happened to the people who didn't listen. The people in Noah's time didn't listen and the flood did come. The people in Moroni's time didn't listen and we know the results. I personally think that most of you know the importance of listening to a Prophet of God, and how grateful I am that we have one living in our time, giving us guidance for our personal lives and for our families. Second Frame: I like the confirmation in Doctrine and Covenants 1, verse 38, where the Lord says, "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." When we listen to the Prophet, this is God speaking.
Third Frame: President Gordon B. Hinckley is telling us there is a problem we need to deal with. He tells us in the September Ensign, 2004 that there are a lot of problems in the world and I'll go into more detail about this in a minute, and he mentions some of them. Then he tells us that we have millions of good people. He tells us that if the millions of good people would join the few who are effectively working that we could literally turn back the state of our environment. He goes on in the article as he discusses pornography and tells us to (1) take care of our self (2) take care of our families and then (3) he spends the last two pages of his article guiding us and encouraging us to take care of our communities. He gives us specific instruction, which we will discuss in a minute. Near the end of his message he says, "I think the Lord would say to us, ‘Rise, and stand upon thy feet and speak up for truth and goodness and decency and virtue.'"
Fourth Frame: The very next month President Thomas S. Monson, again in the home teaching message, which goes to every family in the Church, expressed his concern for children. Those of you who are parents, these are your children he is talking about. Those of you who are grandparents, these are your grandchildren he is discussing and all of you who teach classes and work with your ward in any way, these are the young people and children that he is talking about. He said "What is placed in the child's brain during the first six years of life is probably there to stay. . . . If you put misinformation into his brain during (this period), it is extremely difficult to erase it." Stop and think for a moment the many places where your children and grandchildren and your Sunday School class members are getting misinformation in today's world in the following ways: through television, television commercials, videos, video games, movies, music, magazines, billboards, posters, calendars, books, the libraries, etc. and we need to do something about it.
Fifth Frame: Judith Reisman, author, lecturer, researcher, who testified before the U.S. Senate Committee in 2004 about the affect of media on children in this nation reaffirms President Monson's statements. She said that in 3/10 of a second a little child sees an inappropriate picture in a grocery store checkout line. The child had no choice. The parent had no choice and yet that image stays in the mind of that child for the rest of his or her life to influence how he or she thinks because a child can't go home and erase that image. Today I get the privilege of teaching you how we can take care of this problem.
Rory Reid, a licensed certified social worker who lectures here at education week stated in a letter to Women for Decency: "One of the greatest tragedies is when children are exposed to these magazines (magazine covers that are sexual in nature) just because they were shopping with their parents." He goes on to say that "parents that take their children grocery shopping should not have to consider the risks of being exposed to inappropriate material, in all places, at the checkout stand. This is obviously an unavoidable location since everyone must pay for their merchandise."
Rory states that magazines that promote the exploitation of a man or woman's body in order to sell a product are subtly harmful. He says and I quote, "Material that promotes the objectification of men and women gradually desensitizes society to behaviors that are unhealthy and inappropriate. Some of the magazines that you and I see in the grocery stores and elsewhere often depict behavior that promotes a fraudulent message about human sexuality. This in turn, creates unrealistic expectations in the minds of men and women about how things ‘should be.' These unrealistic expectations then foster problems in relationships as one or both partners become frustrated when expectations are not met." President Gordon B. Hinckley understands this.
Sixth Frame: Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his conference talk in April of 2005 and as recorded in the May Ensign, 2005, said, "Let us all improve our personal behavior and redouble our efforts to protect our loved ones and our environment from the onslaught of pornography." Somehow members of the Church pass over the part that says, "and our environment." We unthinkingly let our families see images that will affect their choices and their thinking. Mark Kastleman, author, researcher, lecturer, stated at a Conference at Sherwood Hills near Logan, "Don't the parents on the Wasatch front realize that if they are letting their children watch hardly any television at all that they are setting them up for sexual addiction?" I sat there and thought, "No, they don't have a clue. They don't realize the quickness of addiction, which can be in one week to three months.
One thing we need to realize is that every person, every teen and every child IS being exposed to pornography not because we want to see it but because it is being flaunted in our faces in today's world. One purpose of this class is to help you realize this, not so you leave in despair but so we can combat this problem in positive ways - in ways our Prophet is trying to teach us. Hopefully you will look at yourself and ask yourself, "How desensitized am I? How far away am I from the standard Jesus Christ would have me live? What can I do to protect my family? How can I help my community?"
And when the Brethren warn us against pornography, let's establish a common definition. What is pornography anyway? It is debated on many levels in many circles. First I will give you my simple definition and then I will give you a quote from someone who has the degrees to substantiate his words, and his quote comes from a national conference My simple definition is that it is anything that causes a person, a youth or child to have inappropriate feelings. For youth, who medical people say have 20 times the testosterone of adult males, to see inappropriate lingerie or swimsuit images just in an advertisement, in a catalog or on a magazine cover can cause them to have inappropriate feelings, so for these youth that is pornography. I know "good youth" who have become addicted to pornography as a result of seeing the lingerie section in a J.C. Penny Catalog that was in their home. These are not trashy people. They are good people who didn't realize the quickness of addiction; they were just curious and the addiction came rapidly.
Pornography escalates; therefore if the teen has been exposed first to swimsuit or lingerie images, it will take more provocative material to gain the feelings he had at first. That is why the term "pornography" is debated so extensively. It all depends on how much the person has seen and how desensitized the person is, and so it varies widely depending on who you are talking to. It is helpful to understand this when you think in terms of your own family and what makes them feel uncomfortable. Some members won't think some things are inappropriate because they are desensitized because they have had more exposure than others. Others will be shocked when they see the same material.
This definition of pornography comes from Rory C. Reid, Licensed Certified Social Worker who if he doesn't yet have his doctorate degree, soon will have it and the information comes from the American Psychological Association Annual Convention, Washington D.C. August 2005.
". . . Legal, academic and other definitions of pornography vary widely, but in a practical sense, pornography is any visual, written, or tactile medium that has the intent to sexually stimulate a person independent of a committed, monogamous relationship." The quote goes on to say that the material may not have been created to be inappropriate, but if a person finds themselves uncomfortable because of it, then it is pornographic for them.
So where is our society right now? I want to quote Dr. John Harmer. He worked as an attorney against pornography in California for 35 years, worked as Attorney General in Governor Ronald Reagan's cabinet in California and is currently Chairman of the Lighted Candle Society, an organization committed to educating homes and families, fighting pornography legally across this nation and helping victims. That web site is lightedcandlesociety.org. He said that 35 years ago in the Los Angeles area he won his first obscenity case. Obscenity is pornography that is illegal in the United States for adults. There were five images that he worked with. He said that the material that was considered legally to be obscenity 35 years ago is now commonly displayed on magazine covers in checkout lanes and on magazine racks in local stores. We need to realize today what is happening and why our Prophet is so concerned that he wants us to act on this issue. We are being inundated with pornography and it is desensitizing us and affecting our acceptance of media and materials as well as affecting our marriages, dress standards choices and relationships.
Seventh Frame: Let me give you one last quote from Elder Russell M. Ballard. Elder Ballard said, "Let our voices be heard" in the October Conference in 2003. He said, "The time has come when members of the Church need to speak out and join with the many other concerned people in opposition to the offensive, destructive, and mean-spirited media influence that is sweeping over the earth." Remember how President Spencer W. Kimball constantly reminded us to DO IT. Just DO IT! Someone else, I don't remember who, said, "When a Prophet Speaks, the Debate is Over." We need to remember that.
Eighth Frame: Now let's examine Our Prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley's solution.
"The home is the cradle of virtue" . Yes, President Hinckley, we cradle our babies in our arms. Likewise we need to cradle and gently teach and nurture virtue. Then President Hinckley also told us in the September Ensign 2004, how to do this. It is quoted on the overhead. He said, "Let your children experience good books, music,"etc. He is saying very clearly that we need to supervise and instruct our children about what is going to build virtue in their lives. In today's world that supervision must encompass television, the Internet, movies, videos, video games, magazines, books, etc.
In Teachings of President Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 200, our Prophet says, "Fathers and mother are needed who will rise and stand upon their feet to make of their homes sanctuaries in which children will grow in a spirit of obedience, industry, and fidelity to tested standards of conduct." And what is a sanctuary? The dictionary says it is a sacred place. And President Hinckley tells us what we should avoid in order to make our homes a sanctuary.
President Hinckley says, "Pornography with all its titillating and vicious attraction is all about us. We have television, videos, DVDs, the Internet and other means to deliver the filthy and the evil into our homes and lies. It is taking its toll." (This quote came from the Church News, Feb. 15, 2003, p. 5 reporting on a talk to the seminary and institute teachers Feb. 7, 2003.)
Ninth Frame: So as we follow the counsel of a Prophet of God and make our home a sanctuary, a place where we nurture virtue we might look at this list of suggestions:
- Get rid of everything that is inappropriate, i.e., vulgar, immoral inappropriate, suggestive or pornographic in any way (For the Strength of Youth pamphlet) One mother raised her hand in a stake where I was speaking and said that after my talk she and her husband went home and entered their home, took their garbage can and threw in it that night 3/4s of their videos, 3/4s of their DVDs, 3/4s of their magazines, and their CDs. They threw out catalogs. So often the lingerie section is inappropriate. Then this mother emphatically said, "I will not expose my own children in my own home." I suggest that we follow her example.
- Regulate or turn off the television. Never put television in a child or teenager's bedroom.
- Be an example to your children. I haven't heard the Brethren tell us as adults that inappropriate or suggestive movies are okay. We are told in For the Strength of Youth pamphlet that we are to keep the Sabbath Day holy, dress appropriately, and avoid entertainment that is vulgar, inappropriate, suggestive or pornographic. This is the standard for teens and adults. There is no double standard in the Church. By the way there is a Harvard study that indicates that what was R rated 10 years ago is now PG-13. This can be found in an article reported by Bob Smithhouser in Plugged In Magazine put out by Focus on the Family, Dec. 2004. (Kimberly Thompson, Harvard School of Public Health reported by Bob Smithhouser, Plugged In Magazine, Focus on the Family, Dec. 2004) We need to remember, too, that the people who produce the media are the ones who decide on the ratings, and they care about profits, not the values of our families. We need to take a look at the example we are setting.
- Check everything that comes into your home, especially computer disks.
- Include good music.
- Include good games. We can't just take everything away. We need to replace things we take away with wholesome activities that we, too, participate in. And, by the way, do take time to check the entire video game that your child has. You need to know that sellers of pornography are at times putting pornography in the middle of a child's game. Parents have also been surprised when they checked G rated games for small children to find inappropriate language and sometimes inferences that were inappropriate. I have been told that teen football games have included cheerleaders in outfits you would not approve of.
- Tenth Frame: Put a filter on the Internet - You still need to supervise it because no filter that I have found is 100% effective.
- Check and see what has been pulled up on your computer. Go to strengthenthefamily.net. Scroll to the bottom of the home page. Click on Content Watch. Next click on "Family," then Content Cleanup. Download the free trial and your computer will pull up everything that has ever been on your computer. How do you know if a babysitter or someone else has ever pulled up pornography? You cannot solve a problem you do no know about.
- Know that there is help available. If you have child or husband who gets involved, there is information in the form of books and programs to help them pull out. Anger is never an answer. You need a strong supportive relationship in order to work with this problem. "Good people" are finding themselves involved in this problem and many of them are getting on top of it with the help of bishops, counselors and the support groups offered by LDS Church Social Services. Addicts need all three of these elements in order to get on top of their problem.
- Support or instigate the PTA White Ribbon Program and educate your children and teens. See strengthenthefamily.net. You can use these PTA ideas in your family home evenings.
- Eleventh Frame: Keep the Internet in a public area.
- Teach your children "Crash and Tell," i.e. turn the computer off immediately if they pull up something inappropriate and teach them to tell you about it. Telling releases the curiosity a child or youth might hold.
- Keep your children and youth out of chat rooms. My Space.com is a major problem for lots of today's youth.
- Beware: Cell phones with Internet access are an easy source of pornography for youth.
- Talk openly to help children/youth so they know how to handle various situations. Role play how to walk away from bad jokes, pictures, etc. There is a great need for this parental teaching. Teach them that what goes into their mind can't be erased.
- Twelveth Frame: Teach your children the quickness of addiction and how pornography can take the joy out of their marriage. Intimacy is a God-given gift that can offer joy and bind a couple, but pornography will make it so no wife can fulfill the expectations of her husband. Children need to understand that it isn't just a bad picture. It will stay in their mind to tease and tantalize and encourage them to see more. It will change their personal standards.
- Teach your children about why your home needs to be a sanctuary
- There is a new song called "We'll Stay Clean." It was written by Me'Chele Musgrave. She and I both feel that God had a hand in writing this song. I feel the Spirit every time I hear it. Every child in the church should be singing it in Family Home Evenings and around the house. It's catchy and it will strengthen your children. It is in the form of written music and also is a CD sung informally by a group of children. It can be purchased by going to Heartrise Music.com or e-mail Me'Chel Musgrave at musgravefam.@yahoo.com.
- Teach your children to listen to the Spirit. Father in Heaven speaks through feelings. This has to be taught. Children and teens need to realize that when they feel uncomfortable the Spirit is giving them a warning.
- And may I comment that hopefully grandparents and parents realize that the library is not a safe place for our children. Most libraries are strongly influenced by the American Library Association. To help you understand their policy, let me give an example. In July of 2000 at an American Library Association conference, a session of the conference taught how they could get more pornography into libraries without public awareness. The source of this information is from the book, To Strengthen the Family by JoAnn Hamilton. I have personally viewed a book brought home from the children's section of a local library by a five year old. In it were pictures that depicted nudity - in the name of art, of course. That book does not need to be available to children nor do displays of magazines that are inappropriate for children. If the librarian doesn't take care of the problem, go to the head librarian in your county and if he doesn't act, know that there is a library board made up of citizens from your community. They are the head officials of the library and their responsibility is to reflect the values of the community. That's why it is important to speak up. If you say nothing, it is automatically assumed that everything is okay as far as you are concerned. Ask the library board for help. Teach them about the problem, if that is necessary, and if they don't provide the support, you can work to get them removed and place people with family values on that library board. The American Library Association would have you believe that they are in charge of libraries. Know that they have very liberal views. They are not in charge of your library. The library board is.
Now let's look at what a prophet of God has told us to do in connection with our communities. I was thrilled when I saw this message in the 2004 September Ensign as the home teaching message. I thought, "This will change our homes. It will change our communities. It will influence store managers. This is the answer to what is happening to us as a society. And then nothing happened on the large scale that I expected. I remember asking myself the very question we are discussing today. Aren't people listening to and following a Prophet of God? If not, we will reap the results of this failure to listen and to act.
I am going to quote extensively now from the Ensign, knowing that I am repeating what I briefly alluded to earlier in this talk. Here I quote the home teaching message - a message from the Prophet scheduled to go into the home of every member of the Church. On the first page of this message President Gordon B. Hinckley begins by saying,
"One evening I picked up the morning paper, which I had not previously read, and thumbed through its pages. President Hinckley said, "My eyes stopped on the theater ads, so many of them an open appeal to witness that which is debauching, that which leads to violence and illicit sex.
"I turned to my mail and found a small magazine which lists the television fare for the coming week and saw titles of shows aimed in the same direction. A news magazine lay on my desk. . . .. We are hopefully all aware of the nature of articles and pictures in magazines, which are blatantly flaunted before our children and teens with teasers that seem irresistible. I was in North Carolina last year and I went with some sisters into their grocery store. I asked them to find the magazines that they felt were inappropriate for children. They found 18 magazines, 17 on the eye level of a child and one on the eye level of an adult. The producers of these materials purchase their spots in the store. They know that if they can get your child to see these things, they will have addicts later and then they will make more money.
After mentioning magazines, President Hinckley goes on: "The flood of pornographic filth, the inordinate emphasis on sex and violence are not peculiar to North America. The situation is as bad in Europe and in many other areas. The whole dismal picture indicates a weakening rot seeping into the very fiber of society.
"Legal restraints against deviant moral behavior are eroding under legislative enactments and court opinions. This is done in the name of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of choice in so-called personal matters. But the bitter fruit of these so-called freedoms has been enslavement to debauching habits and behavior that leads only to destruction."
NOW here is a Prophet's answer. Notice how positive it is, how full of hope it is.
"On the other hand, I am satisfied that there are millions upon millions of good people in this and in other lands. (That's everyone here he's referring to as well as the people in your wards, stakes and neighborhoods.) He says as he talks about the millions of good people, "For the most part, husbands are faithful to wives, and wives to husbands. Their children are being reared in sobriety, industry, and faith in
God. Given the strength of these, Thirteenth Frame: I am one who believes that THE SITUATION IS FAR FROM HOPELESS." Now here is President Hinckley's strong prophetic statement on this issue, "I AM SATISFIED THAT THERE IS NO NEED TO STAND STILL AND LET THE FILTH AND VIOLENCE OVERWHELM US OR TO RUN IN DESPAIR. The tide, high and menacing as it is, can be turned back if enough of the kind I HAVE MENTIONED (the good people) WILL ADD THEIR STRENGTH TO THE STRENGTH OF THE FEW WHO ARE NOW EFFECTIVELY WORKING" And he adds, "I believe the challenge to oppose this evil is one from which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as citizens, cannot shrink."
Then he suggests four points of beginning, as mentioned earlier, in our efforts to oppose the tide of evil. He tells us to begin with our self. We cannot influence others if we are not an example of virtuous living. President Hinckley quotes from the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8)." I personally think that a key question that we ask our self is "Would Jesus see that movie? Would He watch that television show? Would He play that video game?'
President Hinckley's second point is to strengthen and protect our families. As stated earlier, he encourages exposure to good books, good music, and a good newspaper. He would approve of the items we have already covered.
Fourteenth Frame: Then President Hinckley moves to the community on the last two pages in the Home Teaching message in the September 2004 Ensign. He says, "Now my third point of beginning: The building of public sentiment begins with a few earnest voices. I am not one to advocate shouting defiantly or shaking fists and issuing threats in the faces of legislators. But I am one who believes that we should earnestly and sincerely and positively express our convictions to those given the heavy responsibility of making and enforcing our laws. The sad fact is that the minority who call for greater liberalization, who peddle and devour pornography, who encourage and feed on licentious display make their voices heard until those in our legislatures may come to believe that what they say represents the will of the majority. We are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for." I want to repeat that statement. We are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for. That is a key statement. Silence means consent.
Fifteenth Frame: What might we speak up about?
- We should encourage our senators and representatives on a national basis to help see that the Marriage Amendment is passed next year.
- We can ask them to pass legislation which relegates cable choice, so you do not have to pay for programs that you do not approve of and which violate your values and are brought into your home with the cable package.
- You can let them know where you stand on the abortion issue.
Sixteenth Frame: Now what about your community? If you see a magazine in a store that you think is inappropriate for children to see, I hope you are requesting that it be covered. I hope you are noticing what children are seeing - not just turning away. We have a responsibility to teach and protect our children and love our neighbor's children enough so we want to protect them. The question is, "Are we doing it?" If you see that magazine in a store that is inappropriate and say nothing, your silence tells the store manager that it is okay to display it. If you see a commercial on television and do not phone in to the programming director letting him know that that ad was during family time and was totally inappropriate, then you have just consented to its existence. If the news broadcast shows something that you are uncomfortable with and you fail to call the television station, then again you just voted that it was okay. So often you will feel the Spirit when you call and say, "Your ad in the newspaper offends my sense of decency. I object to having to edit it before my youth can read the paper. Will you please stop running that ad?" Can you imagine what would happen if the millions of members of the Church would request that certain commercials were off the air or certain sections of catalogs were not sexual in nature?
- You can request covers on magazines that are displayed and totally inappropriate for children and youth.
- You can ask television programmers to not show specific commercials.
- You can ask television programmers to not show certain shows.
- You can ask news broadcasters to be more aware of children as they air the news.
I am aware of television shows that were not shown because people met with the programming director and asked that it not be shown. I am aware of a television series that was scheduled and was instead cancelled after four showings because people telephoned the programming director. I have seen store after store place covers over inappropriate magazine covers because people politely asked for them. One lady in Ogden phoned me and said, "I can't believe it. I stopped at four stores this morning and asked them to put covers over magazines that were inappropriate for children to see and they all said they would." That is what President Hinckley is saying when he talks about the millions of good people who can turn back what is happening in our society. The managers, the programming directors, the owners listen to the public - if the request is politely handled.
Seventeenth Frame: Now in the Ensign President Hinckley says, "Let our voices be heard." He tells us how we should do this. He says, "Let our voices be heard. I hope they will not be shrill voices, but I hope we shall speak with such conviction that those to whom we speak shall know of the strength of our feeling and the sincerity of our effort." He adds, "Remarkable consequences often flow from a well-written letter and a postage stamp. Remarkable results come of quiet conversation with those who carry heavy responsibilities." And I might add that becoming friends with store managers is very rewarding. Most are such fine people who care about families. As they start to work with you to cover what is inappropriate and they are thanked by other people in the community, everyone feels good as the environment is turned back just as our Prophet has told us can happen. This has happened in Bountiful, Lehi, Centerville, Springville and to some degree in many other cities. Citizens in many states are working on this.
Let me tell you how easy this is. I made an appointment with my first grocery store manager. He covered inappropriate magazines that very day. Was I ever thrilled and absolutely amazed. I'd only made one request. I remember thinking, "Maybe every inappropriate magazine in Bountiful isn't covered, but the children that come in this store won't see anything inappropriate." I felt wonderful. That's the Spirit.
I want to share one more story. I had requested covers for inappropriate magazines a number of times at the Albertsons store but had never met with the head manager. One day, when I was shopping anyway, he was there. His name was Dave Ferguson. When I met him, I asked where he lived. He said, "Bountiful." I asked if he had children and he said, "yes." I remember that he had at least a couple of young boys under ten at the time. Then I picked up two inappropriate magazines and said, "Would you want your boys to see these?" He said, "My boys will never see those in my home!" I replied, "No, but the neighbor boys might have them and show them to your boys." After that we comfortably talked about covering everything inappropriate for children and the importance of doing so. After that conversation, he went immediately to the copy store and purchased some vinyl covers for the magazines in his store, because for the first time he really understood the affect those magazines had on kids. And months later I found that he had instigated on a corporate level a policy for all the Albertsons stores in our district - that was 51 stores in Utah, Colorado and Idaho to cover everything inappropriate for children AND he requested and it was approved to drop the sales of the two magazines we had discussed that day. I was amazed at the power of a quiet conversation. Now if stores in those areas aren't providing covers, it is because the public hasn't asked for them.
President Hinckley quotes D&C 64:33-34. "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind."
When we began working in Bountiful to try to produce a community that was child-appropriate - a community where a child could go into any store and public building and not see anything inappropriate, it looked like a pretty big task SO we just took one project or perhaps two at a time.
Eighteenth Frame: This is what we asked for and got. Here is a 7-eleven. Notice the height of the child's head and where the inappropriate magazines were. The magazine owners purchase their spot and they are intent on exposing our children. They know that early exposure insures the likelihood of addiction later.
Nineteenth Frame: Notice the covers in this store are also down low. There were no inappropriate magazine covers on the eye level of adults. The inappropriate ones were only down on the eye level of children.
Twentieth Frame: For magazine racks we used a piece of plastic covered with a vinyl sign indicating the store's name. Enough of the magazine's name can be seen by the customer so they can still find the magazine if they want it.
Twenty-one: We learned the Power of One. One person made one request to a grocery store manager and covers were placed on the inappropriate magazines that afternoon.
We learned the Power of Focus. One store manager told us that if 6 to 8 people approached him in a two week period of time, he made a change in his store.
We learned the Power of being Polite as President Hinckley in the Sept Ensign 2004 encouraged. One corporate public relations person told us that if they received an angry letter they ignored it and just threw it away because that person was probably not a rational person.
The Power of a Soft Answer. "A soft answer turneth away wrath. Grievous words stir up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
The Power of Using Education. Many people have not thought about what these sexual images do to children.
The Power of Building Relationships. Managers who become friends are more willing to be supportive.
We learned the Power of a Community Standard.
Everyone needs to understand that every community has a community standard.
We need to understand that there is a national Harmful to Minors Law. This is sometimes called Indecent Public Display. This law acknowledges that some things that are okay for an adult to see, are NOT good for a child. The law states that it is illegal to sell, exhibit or display some materials that are legal for adults. Also the 1986 Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography states that children can be protected from adult material. It also states, and I quote, "Much of that material is protected by the First Amendment, but it does not follow that the material is harmless, or that its proliferation is good for society." "To the extent that citizens have concerns about the kinds of sexually explicit material that are available in contemporary America, they should not only recognize that the First Amendment protects and encourages their right to express these concerns loudly and often, but should as well appreciate the fact that in many aspects of our lives TO KEEP QUIET IS TO APPROVE."
Did you know that all those plunging necklines, all those skimpy bikinis, all those sexual headlines about 24 ways to do certain things in the bedroom, break the Harmful to Minors Law? Now here is the problem. To enforce the law, it is predicated on three points. Two of the three points deal with what the community standard is. The third asks if the material is art.
Let me give you an example. In a predominantly LDS city of perhaps 50,000 people a poster was displayed in a mall. It was eight feet tall and contained a guy and a gal, side view but totally nude. The people in this community were upset. They asked for it to be taken down. The business did not respond even though 1,000 requests were made. Concerned people went to the prosecuting attorney. They went to the police. They said, "It breaks the Harmful to Minors Law." The law enforcement people could not take it down. Why? Because in that community at that time, the people were walking through grocery store checkout lines where magazines were displayed that also broke the Harmful to Minors Law, and the people were saying nothing. They were walking past similar displays and ignoring their existence. That law at that time could not be enforced because the local community standard was actually below the Harmful to Minors Law.
Twenty-two: Another group of people understood this principle. They wanted to develop a child appropriate community standard, again in a city of about 50,000. They went to a city council member and explained what they wanted to do. He suggested that they ask the City Council to pass a resolution indicating that they felt the citizens of this community would want a "child-appropriate community standard." In other words children could go in the local stores and office buildings and not be exposed to sexual images. The city council understood that a resolution is not a legal document. It is a statement of policy and helps to establish a community standard.
This city council member ultimately wrote a simple resolution, encouraged other city council members to pass it, set up a time for a short presentation on the subject and ultimately the resolution was passed. A copy of this resolution is on the web site, strengthenthefamily.net. Twenty five cities in Utah have now passed similar resolutions. I attended a conference earlier this year put on by the Lighted Candle Society. National experts came to put on this symposium on community standards. One of the speakers strongly emphasized that every city should have a resolution indicating their desire to maintain a child-appropriate community. They said a resolution by the city council would serve as an important part of establishing the community standard.
In this same city this group of people focused on two major stores at a time. Someone politely approached the store manager, explained the damage being done to children by exposing them to sexual images and asked the manager to please cover the magazines that were not appropriate for children to see both in the check out lane and on the display rack. As I mentioned earlier one store manager later told us that if six to eight people made a similar request in a two-week period of time, he made a change in his store. I want to emphasize that this is NOT hard. As I said before, I was amazed at the result I had and I am aware a lady in a city who made five requests in one week and all five stores order covers. As I stated before, one person can make a difference. The managers listen to the customers! I want to repeat that, "The managers listen to their customers." That's you. It's easy because you all shop.
As you interact in your daily lives, encourage friends and neighbors to make the same request at the same store. Lets USE THE ADVICE OF THE PROPHET. He says, "let our voices be heard" He also says "The problem is that so many of us fail to ask. . ." and we cannot expect to get that which we do not ask for. (Ensign, Sept. 2004)
Twenty-three: Let me give you examples of how you might make requests to store managers to cover those things that are inappropriate.
- You can verbally make a request at the service desk.
- You can fill out comment cards.
- You can take a bunch of comment cards home and as people come into your home, ask them to fill one out. Then get them in the mail. I took 35 comment cards home one time, asked people to fill them out as they came into my home and every three or four days my husband mailed them. At the end of the month I stopped in to see the manager. He said, "You know, lots of people are interested in this issue. I received 35 comment cards this month." This is NOT hard.
- You can circle the amount of money you have spent in the store and then on the edge of the receipt write, "Please cover the magazines that are inappropriate for children to see" and hand it to the manager or to the people at the service desk. Leaving it with the check out person usually does not work.
- You can go to the check out line and as it is your turn, ask the girl to call the manager. She will get on her phone and say, "Will the manager please come to check out line # 4." Let me tell you what happened to me at a Target store. I did as I just recommended and the girl called the manager. When he came, I said, "I think you are wonderful!" He was smiling. Then I said, "Let me tell you why. You are wonderful because you are covering some of the things that are inappropriate for children. But tell me, what do we need to do to get the rest of them covered?" He was still smiling as he said, "If you can get a few more people to make requests, I can probably get corporate approval." I replied with, "I'll do it." I made two phone calls to people who I knew would each gather a few more people to make requests at that store where they shopped anyway. Did you notice that I stayed positive and thanked the manager? By thanking him you are doing one of the things that President Hinckley encourages us to do. He says, "The problem is that so many of us fail to ask and, more frequently, fail to express gratitude for that which is good." (Sept. Ensign, 2004)
Now you will want to start with the easy stores. If a store manager resists, move to another one. Pretty soon you can go to the stores and say, "We are wanting to establish a child-appropriate community standard. Our city council is supporting this. They have passed a resolution encouraging stores to be mindful of what children see. Store A, Store B and Store C are covering magazines that are inappropriate for children to see. Would you please join us?"
We placed flyers in the windows of stores that were working with us. Here is an example of one. Twenty-four: The flyers just said, "We are a family friendly store." Some business managers actually asked us what they had to do to get a flyer. Each time a store started covering inappropriate images on their magazines, we called the newspaper and the local paper ran an article, which did two things. It educated the public and gave the store recognition.
Now let me explain the power of a community standard. The storeowners and corporations understand how a community standard works, but sadly the general public does not. There are penalties in some states for stores that do not meet the community standard. The stores that are openly displaying the worst sexual displays probably will not want to cooperate, but when all the stores around them are "family friendly" and not displaying those materials, they don't want the legal ramifications and so they will comply. That is the power of the community standard. Don't agitate the worst stores. Just establish your standard around them. Again, they know the law and so they will comply once a standard is established. If they don't, give them a copy of the law, the city resolution and an article by Jim Olson entitled, "Have You Seen Any Indecent Public Displays Lately?" all found in a book entitled People Speaking Out for Decency which is available on the web site strengthenthefamily.net. Also down the road if and when there are legal cases against obscenity in your community, your community standard will be a determining factor as to whether or not the case is won. I believe that five cities in Utah are now approximately 95% child appropriate.
Some people get discouraged because the store is a member of a large corporation and the manager says, "Sorry we are a corporation and so I can't do that." Know that in Utah stores like Albertsons, ShopKo, Walgreens, Fred Myers, Rite Aid, 7-Eleven, Maceys, Smiths and even Target and Walmart have covered inappropriate magazines in some of their stores, and they are members of large corporations. Now that the ice is broken, so to speak, they will be more ready to listen to you IF they see that you care because they are receiving a number of polite requests from customers.
(POSSIBLE TIME CUT: And how did we get corporations to consent to do this. We pray a lot. We fellowship and teach the local manager and then ask him what we can do so he has permission to do this. Know that they care on a corporate level what the customer wants. To get corporate approval in Utah for one store where the manager didn't seem to understand why he should do anything, we just started sending the President of the Company and the public relations person a list of people every two weeks who were going to avoid shopping at their store because they were not covering things that were inappropriate for children. After six weeks, their store was covered. This was the only store on a corporate level where we felt we had to use this method in order to accomplish our goal. Generally positive polite requests work.)
Twenty-five: Some stores will work with placement of magazines like you see on this overhead. Magazines with inappropriate images are placed behind other magazines.
It is important to always use the term "inappropriate for children." Everyone seems to understand that. Do not ask store managers to cover "pornography" because as I explained earlier, people have different definitions for pornography depending on how desensitized they are. And for the rare manager who asks, "What do you mean by child-appropriate?" you just answer by saying, "Whatever you think would be appropriate for a six or eight year old little boy to read and see."
Once the covers are up it is equally important to do as President Hinckley has said and say thanks at the service desk or to the manager.
Dr. Meg Meeker, who has spent the past twenty years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine and counseling teens and parents and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, states, "The epidemic (of teen sex) has been caused by our silence as we sit by and allow big businesses to use sexual advertising to our children to sell their stuff."
The Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, 1986, points out that "community acceptance and community condemnation are central to what a community is." Generally members of a community have no idea that they can affect the environment of their community. (This quote is also found in People Speaking Out for Decency which can be seen in its entirety on the web site strengthenthefamily.net.)
Twenty-six: In conclusion here again on the overhead is a summary of President Gordon B. Hinckley's suggestions in the September 2004 Ensign:
- He says, "Let our voices be heard."
- He tells us in the September Ensign, 2004, that we need to "Speak with conviction," in other words let people know that this is important to us.
- "Have quiet conversations." Anger doesn't work.
- He encourages well-written letters.
- Approach "those who enact the regulations, the statues, and the laws—those in government on local, state, and national levels and those who occupy positions of responsibility as administrators of our schools."
- Express gratitude for that which is good.
And will we experience the scoff and disrespect of some people? Of course we will. I have worked on issues of this type for seven years and "yes" I have received a small amount of disrespect, but I have received far more appreciation from good people who were grateful for what I was trying to do. President Gordon B.Hinckley says, "Of course, there will be some who will slam the door, some who will scoff. Discouragement may come. It has always been thus." And then President Hinckley quotes Edmund Burke when he said that we may be abused for our supposed motives but we need to remember that calumny and abuse are essential parts of triumph.
Twenty-seven: Then in the Ensign President Hinckley states on a positive note, "I think the Lord would say to us, ‘Rise, and stand upon thy feet, and speak up for truth and goodness and decency and virtue.'" Pretty clear isn't it?
Twenty-eight: President Hinckley concludes his article in the Ensign saying, "Finally, my fourth point of beginning: Strength to do battle begins with enlisting the strength of God. He is the source of all true power. And he says, "God give us the strength, the wisdom, the faith, the courage as citizens to stand in opposition to these and to let our voices be heard in defense of those virtues which, when practiced in the past, made men and nations strong, and which, when neglected , brought them to decay. God lives. He is our strength and our helper. As we strive, we shall discover that legions of good men and women will join with us. Let us begin now." Let us act as citizens of our community.
Twenty-nine: I want to call your attention to last year's Priesthood/Relief Society Manual, Teachings of Presidents of the Church, about President David O. McKay because it, too, tells us that we have a responsibility to do something about our environment. On page 22 in chapter three of that manual, President McKay points out that "the mission of the church is to prepare the way for the final establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. Its purpose is two fold: to help people become Christ like and to transform society." That's what we're talking about today. On page 23 in bold we are told that "the Priesthood and the Auxiliaries are designed to help accomplish the Church's mission, as stated previously, to help people be Christ like and to transform society. Now is a good time to start doing this.
Then on page 26 let's look again at what President McKay said: "Right-thinking, upright men and women everywhere are desirous of eliminating from our communities evil elements that are constantly disintegrating society."
Thirty: Here we are continuing to quote from the same source: "Let us here and now express gratitude for the Church of Jesus Christ with quorums and auxiliaries specially organized to combat these evils." So what is happening in your ward? Are you reminding each other of things you can do to influence your community? Are you focusing on a problem?
In Alma 60:11 Captain Moroni is frustrated and he writes to Pahoran, who is the Chief Judge. In reality he doesn't know what is going on with Pahoran, but in his frustration he says in essence, "You can't just sit there and do nothing and expect God to deliver you." This applies to us. We can't just sit and expect God to get those commercials off of television, get those magazines covered in the stores. We need to follow a Prophet of God and speak out politely and with conviction and make a difference in our lives, in the lives of our families and in our communities.
Thirty-one: Bryant S. Hinckley, father of President Gordon B. Hinckley said "We believe that the final test of any religion is the effect it has upon the lives of those who live it." (Church News April 1, 2006. He goes on to say the Gospel is not doctrine in cold storage. "It is action, not diction." That is the message of this presentation.
Elder Russell M. Ballard in the October Conference, 2003, said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. We need to raise our voices with other concerned citizens throughout the world in opposition to current trends . . . . Joining together with neighbors and friends who share our concerns, we can send a clear message to those responsible." We can leave notes at service desks. We can thank managers for covering inappropriate images. We can request covers in order to protect our children. This is easy. It is exciting. You will feel the Spirit. Sister Carol Brown, my friend, said, "JoAnn, I just feel so good when I go to Walmart. The manager waves at me and smiles and I say, Thanks for the covers! He feels so good he looks around to see what else he can cover. It's just a small and simple thing that makes such a difference, and he works to make his store better every week."
Thirty-two: We are back to where we started. When a Prophet Speaks, we need to act. I have a testimony that President Gordon B. Hinckley is a Prophet of God, that he speaks for God, and that He knows the importance of our taking care of our communities. I believe that he has confidence in the fact that we will do it. May God bless you all as you return to your communities, begin as a committee of one and then enlist the help of others to establish child-appropriate communities as well as influence the media, your law makers and others as you work to turn your communities back to communities that are decent for children.
I leave my testimony that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ and that we have today a living Prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ.
Letting Your Voice Be Heard - Power Point Slides
by JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton
This 11 MB file will take some time to download and requires PowerPoint. It has the points from the address JoAnn gave at the 2006 BYU Education Week titled "Letting Your Voice Be Heard".
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