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By John L. Harmer,
Chairman, Lighted Candle Society

 

When Edwin Meese, III, a former United States Attorney General, and I first formed the Lighted Candle Society in 1998 we pondered what we could do that no one else was doing .  Ultimately we selected as one of our mission objectives the pursuing of civil litigation against the producers and distributors of pornography.

Our strategy included financing medical research regarding the effect of pornography upon the human brain.  If we could prove that pornography actually damaged the human brain we could file civil lawsuits against the producers and distributors of pornography so that we could prove to a judge and jury that the pornographers were financially liable to the victims whose brains their product had damaged.

In 2002  we were introduced to Dr. Judith Reisman, Ph.D.  Dr. Reisman  had been monitoring the current scientific research on the brain.  Shortly after our first interview with Dr. Reisman we retained  her to work with us as we searched for answers regarding how pornography changes and damages the human brain.

In 2004 we sponsored a symposium of national experts from various universities and law firms. We had them meet in Salt Lake City for two days reviewing what medical science was learning about the human brain through the use of “functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery.” (fMRI)

The next year a second symposium was convened in Washington, D.C. which included some participants from the first symposium with the additional participation of other experts from medicine, psychiatry, and the law.

In 2005 we persuaded Dr. W. Dean Belnap, M.D., Ph.D, to become one of our trustees to help oversee our research.  As one of our trustees Dr. Belnap conducted some experiments using fMRI technology with an admitted pornography addict.  In those experiments we were able to identify the pathways that were created in the brain as a result of frequent viewing of pornography.

In 2009 we hosted Dr. Donald Hilton, jr, M.D., an internationally noted neurosurgeon, as the featured speaker at our annual Guardian of The Light Award dinner.  Dr. Hilton presented an incredible array of medical research demonstrating how the frequent viewing of sexually explicit images created an addiction in the brain which was as powerful as any chemical addiction.

Thus, after ten years of work the total cost of which exceeded half a million dollars we felt that we were ready to go forward with our civil litigation.  In a large east coast city we found the perfect victim to be our plaintiff and hired an attorney who had once been a criminal prosecutor against pornographers.  With the ideal plaintiff and the services of a highly qualified attorney we felt confident that we had the perfect situation for litigation that would result in huge financial liabilities for the production and distribution of pornography.   Producing and distributing pornography in the United States would effectively be wiped out.

After months of preparation as we were ready to file our lawsuit our attorney requested that we retain two behavioral scientists to confirm that our plaintiff’s emotional and physical injuries would convince a jury to find the defendant pornographers guilty under civil law for the injuries that she had sustained.

The behavioral scientists interviewed a large group of people randomly selected who represented the same profile as the population from whom the court would select the jury.  What they learned was stunning.  Yes, the injury suffered by our victim plaintiff would certainly result in a jury verdict in her favor.  But, when the two behavioral experts showed our evidence more than half of the people who were an exact profile of our prospective jurors said that they could not be certain that the evidence was pornography.

What had happened was that during the time we were preparing for trial the tolerance of the general population for the presence of obscenity had become so accepting of the obscene that we could no longer rely upon being able to empanel a jury that would support our victim’s case.  The victim was a minor and our attorney was confident that the material that would be submitted as our evidence was obscenity that met the legal definition of pornography.  Still, we were advised that we could not expect to have a jury of twelve people who would all agree that our evidence met the legal definition or pornography.

We spent another two years and many thousands of dollars attempting to find the right combination of victims and evidence.  There was never any doubt that pornography had damaged the brains of our potential victims.  What made our task impossible was the collective tolerance in America of sexually explicit materials in the media.  As one of our experts noted, when you drive down the highway and are continually viewing huge billboards featuring half- naked women the shock value of our evidence had essentially been destroyed.

WHY THE LIGHTED CANDLE SOCIETY
REVISED ITS MISSION STATEMENT AND STRATEGY.

As the age of prospective missionaries for the LDS Church was reduced to 18 years and the 18 year old missionaries were arriving in their assigned fields of labor medical advisors for the more than four hundred missions of the Church were swamped with calls for help from Mission Presidents.  There was the usual number of situations involving homesickness.  There was the usual number of cases dealing with chronic depression. That was expected.

What was not anticipated was the vast number for whom the pre-mission involvement with pornography had not been resolved.

For years our trustee and faithful associate Dr. Dean Belnap, M.D., had dealt with some of these cases at the request of the Church.  Yet, even with his fifty years of experience as a psychiatrist he had not found what he felt was the answer to the above question, a question which he had formulated.  His book entitled, “A Brain Gone Wrong” gave the best answers that were available to the therapists to whom the Church was referring the more difficult cases of obsession with sexually explicit materials.

As the trustees of the Lighted Candle Society had to accept the bitter reality that our key strategy was no longer realistic the issue then became,  “has all of the time and money spent for the last decade been wasted?”  Again it was Dr. Belnap who provided the guidance we needed.  “Our time and effort has not been wasted,” he said.  “Somewhere in the thousands of pages of studies that we have accumulated there is the answer to a better way.  We need to find that answer.”

A New Wind fills Our Sails

In the past, the Lighted Candle Society engaged in efforts to prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials through litigation against the major producers and distributors of pornography and through research of a highly scientific credibility regarding the damage to the human brain from the viewing of pornographic images. The society has also published research reports, books and other materials to accomplish it’s mission. All of these strategic priorities will continue. Yet, these ongoing efforts have naturally lead to an expansion of the mission and vision of the LCS.

Given the findings of the human brain research, the LCS now reaches out to educate others concerning the dangers and effects of pornographic material on the mind. In addition, the LCS seeks to heal and give hope to victims. Experimental treatment programs are in process of being evaluated to determine their effectiveness and publications are in process to provide simple “how to” techniques and guidelines for overcoming the addiction. Further, the LCS is testing and researching the affect of some of these treatments on young adults who are suffering from exposure to pornography and are in danger of not functioning in critical life tasks. Related to this effort is a proposal in process to develop an assessment for the purpose of accessing young adults’ needs for mind management training. Finally, the Lighted Candle Society now supports victims of sexual abuse by providing funds to pay for counseling and treatment where victims can not financially afford to receive professional help. This occurs in a number of ways including supporting organizations such as Hart for Healing (see www.hartforhealing.org).

Following is a brief summary of some of our new priorities.

Research and Evaluation

Preliminary tests are under way with individuals struggling to become free from the problems related to sexually explicit images in their memories.

Publications

Evaluations, focus groups, and testing of principles for publication in a “How To” book for overcoming sexual sin and temptation are under development. Preparations are being made for publishing and marketing the book.

 

Development of Courses and Assessments

An Online course is under development for the purpose of allowing individuals to get self-help in overcoming pornography addictions. The course will help individuals with mind management and rebuilding damaged functions in the brain.

Counseling Support for Victims

The Lighted Candle Society helps support organizations and agencies that provide healing to victims of sexual misbehavior. In this regard, the Lighted Candle Society supports www.hartforhealing.org. Last year Hart for Healing provided approximately $2,300 of financial support for 10 victims to receive multiple sessions of counseling support. However, the need and request for financial support is much greater than funds available.

 

 

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