October 27th, 2006

Morality and Movies

movie

Movies are a highly popular form of entertainment and a very lucrative industry. Members of the LDS Church have a standard against which they judge a movie to determine if it is okay to watch.

What is that standard?

Some members will tersely reply that we cannot watch rated R movies. This is a widely spread rule and standard used. The original commandment comes from President Benson, who said:

Don’t see R- rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.

No R-rated videos. No vulgar videos. No immoral, suggestive, or pornographic videos.

Are there any PG-13 movies that are vulgar, immoral, suggestive, or pornographic? Yup.

Four years after President Benson gave this commandment, the Church released an updated version of the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet. The instruction regarding movies contained all four words that Pres. Benson used:

Don’t attend or participate in any form of entertainment, including concerts, movies, and videocassettes, that is vulgar, immoral, inappropriate, suggestive, or pornographic in any way. Movie ratings do not always accurately reflect offensive content.

Now, lest anybody think to themselves “well, that’s just an instruction for the youth, but I’m an adult!”, Elder J. Richard Clarke said:

For those who bear the priesthood, young men or adults, there is only one standard of moral decency. Any film, television show, music, or printed material unfit for youth is also unfit for parents.

Those who rationalize acceptance of immoral material on grounds of maturity or sophistication are deceived. Those who excuse transgression by saying "Well, I’m not perfect" may be reminded that conscious sin is a long way from perfection. We would do best to consider this counsel of President Brigham Young: " ‘Be … as perfect as [you] can,’ for that is all we can do. … The sin … is [not doing] as well as [you know] how." (In Journal of Discourses, 2:129—30.)

Moral to the story: No rated R movies, no vulgar movies, no immoral, inappropriate, suggestive, or pornographic movies (or books, magazines, websites, TV shows, etc.)

A worthy standard indeed.

59 Responses to “Morality and Movies”

  1. Dan
    October 28, 2006 at 5:33 am #

    A very worthy standard, one that can only be appreciated for its value upon applying it. I love movies and have watched numerous movies of very questionable content, but since I got married, and now have a little daughter, I’ve sold off my questionable content. I really wanted to see Sin City last year, but at the behest of my then fiance, I did not see it. I tell you it is wonderful to be free of the pervasive violence, sex, and vulgarity in those movies. It is something you cannot appreciate unless you let it go.

  2. Steve M.
    October 28, 2006 at 12:01 pm #

    I would suggest that many current members of the Church, particularly those who are currently teenagers or of college age, probably aren’t aware of President Benson’s specific direction to not view R-rated movies. I think the current teachings in the For the Strength of Youth are appropriately more general:

    “Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.”

    Granted, this probably rules out most R-rated movies, and many PG-13 movies. But I think the more general teaching of the current FTSOY is more appropriate than a straight-up “No R-rated movies” rule, because it puts the burden of interpretation on the member, it doesn’t arbitrarily rule out all R-rated films, and it also prevents people from justifying the viewing of a really bad PG-13 movie by saying, “It’s not rated R, so it’s okay.”

    I generally avoid R-rated movies, but I will view one on occasion if I feel that it is appropriate and not in conflict with my values. I don’t think that is in conflict with current Church teachings.

  3. John Anderson
    October 28, 2006 at 1:36 pm #

    I will view one on occasion if I feel that it is appropriate and not in conflict with my values.

    Huh?

    If a liberal group of film people gets together and decides that a movie should be labeled as “Restricted”, I’m thinking there is going to be at least a few really, really bad things in it.

    Not sure how any R-Rated movie would ever be “appropriate”.

  4. Steve M.
    October 28, 2006 at 2:38 pm #

    If a liberal group of film people gets together and decides that a movie should be labeled as “Restricted”, I’m thinking there is going to be at least a few really, really bad things in it.

    Not sure how any R-Rated movie would ever be “appropriate”.

    It always be those durned Californin’ Hollywood liberils, ain’t it?

    But seriously, I think that, far too often, we take a surface level approach to what kind of media is and isn’t “appropriate.” That is, we measure the appropriateness of a film/book/TV show/piece of art by how many times it says the F-word, whether or not it deals with or portrays violence, or whether or not it shows a boob. My problem with this approach is that it usually results in putting movies like Schindler’s List in the same category as American Pie, or books like On The Road in the same category as Penthouse.

    This is a 100% subjective, personal opinion, but I think that taking a thematic approach to determining the appropriateness of media can be beneficial.

    So I don’t always object to reading books, watching films, or looking at art that deals with “mature” themes (violence, nudity, etc.) if the representation is not meant to arouse, if the display is not gratuitous, if there is a thematic justification for the inclusion of such material.

    Additionally, I’ve seen a number of R-rated movies (e.g., Ordinary People) that were much, much more “appropriate” than countless PG-13 movies that I’ve seen temple-attending BYU students watch.

  5. Latter-day Teancum
    October 28, 2006 at 2:55 pm #

    I know there are many members in the Church that use Steve’s logic to watch rated R movies. I have used it on occasion myself. Especially in regards to movies on war and history. I love history and many historic films are rated R due to violence. Because violence is the only thing that tipped the rating scale I have talked myself into seeing them many times in the past. But I can testify that each time I did I left the movie with a sick feeling. The violence alone was not good for my Spirit. I have made up my mind to no watch rated R movies, and I’m so glad I made that decision.

    While some are arguing about how some rated R movies are in harmony with Church standards, I am asking the question of how many PG-13 movies actually fit Church standards.

  6. John Anderson
    October 28, 2006 at 3:14 pm #

    That is, we measure the appropriateness of a film/book/TV show/piece of art by how many times it says the F-word, whether or not it deals with or portrays violence, or whether or not it shows a boob. My problem with this approach is that it usually results in putting movies like Schindler’s List in the same category as American Pie, or books like On The Road in the same category as Penthouse.

    Well, yeah. All of the above feature graphic violence or sexual content. That, uh, is bad, right?

    Oh, I see: if you see graphic violence or sexual content, it’s *okay* if the showing is “historical”, “artistic”, or “has a good overall moral.” There’s no way something with “theme” really affects how we think or act.

    But if you see that sort of stuff and it is just for entertainment… that’s when images stay with you and affect how you think? So if the sex scene is Cleopatra and Alexander, somehow the brain treats it a different way? So if rambo blows someone’s brains out, that’s different than Robert Gould Shaw?

    Interesting. I’m not sure many would agree with you. Seems like I even read a report this last week showing that even *subliminally placed* erotic images affect those who subconsciously view them.

    I can see—partly—what you’re getting at. I really liked the edited version of Glory, but I don’t think blowing brains out is any more helpful for the mind if its for historical illustration. Can’t we remove the graphic violence from great teaching tools?

    I just think your “appropriateness” argument sounds like a slippery slope that might lead to viewing things that just aren’t right if you ask me.

  7. APJ
    October 28, 2006 at 4:44 pm #

    John Anderson (and others),

    So how do you justify the violence and immorality that are found in our scriptures (both Bible and Book of Mormon)? It seems that the same logic Steve M employs to choose which movies are appropriate, is the same rationale for which we study the War Chapters in the Book of Mormon and the temptaion of David by Bathsheba; and it makes perfect sense. In other words, the same arguments that you make for hands-down not watching R-rated movies could be used to not study the scriptures.

  8. APJ
    October 28, 2006 at 5:04 pm #

    Oh yeah, I was going to add:

    Pres. Benson originally said R-rated movies were bad per se. Then, four years later, that advice is modified, and the strict advice/counsel against R-rated movies was not perpetuated. It seems, then, that there is an argument that the Brethren recognized that not only were some non-R-rated movies bad (and should be avoided), but that some R-rated movies could be worth watching. Why wouldn’t they perpetuate the same counsel in the ‘For the Strength of Youth’ pamphlet as Benson had four years earlier, if they hadn’t thought better of it and consciously made that decision?

  9. Connor
    October 28, 2006 at 5:16 pm #

    So how do you justify the violence and immorality that are found in our scriptures (both Bible and Book of Mormon)? It seems that the same logic Steve M employs to choose which movies are appropriate, is the same rationale for which we study the War Chapters in the Book of Mormon and the temptaion of David by Bathsheba; and it makes perfect sense. In other words, the same arguments that you make for hands-down not watching R-rated movies could be used to not study the scriptures.

    Read this.

    It seems, then, that there is an argument that the Brethren recognized that not only were some non-R-rated movies bad (and should be avoided), but that some R-rated movies could be worth watching.

    For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
    But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. (D&C 58:26, 29)

    First, the counsel that came out in FTSOY pamphlet did not overturn what the Prophet had said four years previous. It didn’t say “it’s okay to watch rated R movies, so long as they don’t contain such and such…”. So the commandment from the Prophet still stands. But the pamphlet goes further by generalizing the principle and saying that all movies meeting the established criterion should be avoided.

    Do you want to be told each thing you may and may not do on the Sabbath? Do you want to be told exactly what foods and drinks really are okay, and which are indeed against the Word of Widsom? Of course not. We are more blessed when we live the higher principle and law instead of having to be spoonfed each commandment like the children of Israel in Moses’ time.

  10. APJ
    October 28, 2006 at 6:04 pm #

    The link to Baron of Deseret makes some interesting points, especially about the difference between text and a visual representation (video). However, I still think that some portions of scripture are so simply strait-forward, that they are destined to inspire mental images that would be considered R-rated. Take a well-known example of Nephi beheading Laban. The plain, simple text induces an R-rated image, unless you simple don’t understand English.

    As to my speculation that the FTSOY pamphlet modified Pres. Benson’s original exhortation, I think we may have a different idea of what ‘commandments’ are. I also don’t think that the Brethren ‘overruled’ Pres. Benson’s words. They modified it to be more in line with…THE VERY SCRIPTURE YOU QUOTED. Instead of explicitly saying R-rated movies are bad, or you cannot wash your car on Sunday, the Brethren made a conscious choice to only caution us against the principle that they were concerned with, and let us govern ourselves.

    It is not unheard of in our church for church positions/doctrines/etc to be modified without officially overriding or denouncing a former position. Perhaps the fact that we are not given a semi-annual talk about the dangers of R-rated movies (the way we are against pornography, adultery, gambling, or even vulgar movies) should clue us in as to how important the Brethren think that the R-rated standard is.

    I’m not trying to be contrary; I’m just saying that I honestly don’t think that the Brethren teach us to avoid R-rated movies that are virtuous (and I believe some exist). The same way they don’t teach us to avoid the scriptures, which are virtuous, just because they contain violence and questionable sexual content.

  11. Connor
    October 28, 2006 at 6:14 pm #

    I also don’t think that the Brethren ‘overruled’ Pres. Benson’s words. They modified it to be more in line with…THE VERY SCRIPTURE YOU QUOTED.

    Uhh.. that’s why I quoted the scripture. Just as the letter of the law is given before the spirit of the law can be understood, so must we sometimes receive the explicit commandment (no R’s) before living the higher law (no vulgar, pornographic, sensual, or violent videos). But somebody who lives the higher law must still obey the lower law. The higher law encompasses all lower laws. You cannot simply disregard the commandment to not watch rated Rs. It doesn’t work that way.

    Perhaps the fact that we are not given a semi-annual talk about the dangers of R-rated movies (the way we are against pornography, adultery, gambling, or even vulgar movies) should clue us in as to how important the Brethren think that the R-rated standard is.

    Sorry, but this sounds like justification to me. What you are saying here reminds me of myself a few years ago, where I argued the same thing. While the recent commandments have been more principle-based, the previous ratings-based counsel still stands, as this quote shows:

    "’Again I say, leave it alone. Turn it off, walk away from it, burn it, erase it, destroy it. I know it is hard counsel we give when we say movies that are R-rated, and many with PG-13 ratings, are produced by satanic influences. Our standards should not be dictated by the rating system. I repeat, because of what they really represent, these types of movies, music, tapes, etc. serve the purposes of the author of all darkness.’ (H. Burke Peterson, “Touch Not the Evil Gift, nor the Unclean Thing,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 42)

    So all rated R movies bad, and some (or a lot of) PG-13s as well. I see no room in that quote (or others) about some rated R movies being okay.

  12. APJ
    October 28, 2006 at 6:28 pm #

    Okay, agree to disagree, I guess. I believe the pamphlet modified Pres. Benson’s counsel; you believe it added to it (although that could have been accomplished by saying “R-rated movies and any other obscene, vulgar (etc.) movies). I will only add that I don’t think the issue can be boiled down to a ‘higher-lower law’ dichotomy.

    FWIW, I think your viewpoint is a fine one to take; it’s often wise to err on the side of caution. Obviously, you will never mis-judge the merits of an R-rated movie, as I might, and end up seeing an inappropriate one. I just don’t think commandments (and our standards) can hinge on what a group of non-members (MPAA) conclude.

  13. John Anderson
    October 28, 2006 at 7:33 pm #

    The acts described in the scriptures are hardly graphic. The one you’ve referenced says, “Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” Hardly a graphic description. He tells us what he did, and spares us the gory details. Such an account is hardly scarring.

    Though my film viewing preferences aren’t dictated by the MPAA either, I’ve found that—almost without exception—that the MPAA is more liberal and forgiving of graphic violence and sex than I am. They don’t dictate what I’ll see, but I can sure use them as a thermometer. There’s almost no chance a bunch of liberal film buffs are going to be more conservative than I am.

    The reason counsel from the brethren has become more vague is because they trust us more, and expect us to ask for less specific instruction. I agree with Connor there – I highly, highly doubt that the reason they’ve backed off is to include some sort of “good” R-rated (remember that means restricted?) movies.

  14. Dan
    October 28, 2006 at 8:47 pm #

    Last fall (2005) I wrote a review of Schindler’s List for a class project. I had to sit down and watch the movie again, paying close attention to details. I discovered an interesting thing; the violence in the movie turned me off. I realized I had no need to see a man being shot in the head, and just what happens with the blood that starts squirting out. For this review, I read a few scholars and historians (such as Langford, Barry. “’You cannot look at this’: Thresholds of unrepresentability in Holocaust film.” Journal of Holocaust Education, 1999 8(3): 23-40.) who criticized the movie, basically making the point that putting into motion picture the horrors of those atrocities lowered our threshold, the defenses we have for viewing bad things. Just forty years ago, how many shots to the head could we see at the movies? Yet today, those are common place, and our reaction to them is very muted; we expect to see a gunshot to the head. We find no problem seeing the bullet travel through the body (such as in Kill Bill or Three Kings). Sure we squirm the first time we see it, but then we become dead to that feeling. We accept the visceral as normal.

    The prophets know what they are talking about. There is a real beauty in the art of film, but unfortunately, Satan uses that medium to distract and corrupt our minds. Let us make an effort to only support quality content, including historical movies. Do we really need to see the way the bullets riddled the bodies of American soldiers who hit the beaches on D-Day? Must we get a closeup of the blood squirting out of a clean shot to the head? We need to get back to the real reason for seeing movies: characters and how they react to their environment and each other, not the special effects, the candy for the eye, that glimmers like a shooting star, but disappears just as quick.

  15. Steve M.
    October 29, 2006 at 11:39 am #

    Just as the letter of the law is given before the spirit of the law can be understood, so must we sometimes receive the explicit commandment (no R’s) before living the higher law (no vulgar, pornographic, sensual, or violent videos). But somebody who lives the higher law must still obey the lower law.

    I don’t think this is a lower law-higher law thing. What I’m arguing is that President Benson’s specific counsel against all R-rated movies has not been perpetuated by later Church leaders; rather, it’s been modified and made broader, leaving some room for personal interpretation. Most young Church members are not aware of President Benson’s counsel to avoid any and all R-rated movies, just like most of them are probably unaware of Joseph F. Smith’s counsel to not own face cards, or Brigham Young’s teachings on blood atonement, for that matter. Holding them accountable to teachings that were given before their time and have not been perpetuated, in every respect, by later Church leaders isn’t reasonable. The youth of the Church today are familiar with the teachings of the living authorities, who have chosen to counsel against “inappropriate” media in the following manner:

    “Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.”

    This probably rules out most R-rated movies. But the burden of interpretation as to what constitutes “vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic” media is on our shoulders. There is some gray area, and what one person deems “inappropriate” may be deemed “appropriate” by another person. We should each be responsible and accountable for our own judgments, of course, but we can’t necessarily fault somebody else for applying the above counsel in a manner different from our own.

    This is similar to how the Church expects us to determine what “keep the Sabbath day holy” means to ourselves. Some interpret this as meaning no homework and no TV at all. Some consider TV acceptable on the Sabbath. It’s not that one interpretation is more correct or more righteous than another; the counsel just means different things to different people.

    I have seen some PG-13 movies that have left a really bad feeling in my stomach. On the other hand, I’ve seen some R-rated movies that have left me feeling uplifted and inspired.

    All I’m saying is that the counsel given by the current leaders of the Church is more broad in scope than some of the comments of previous Church leaders, and I think this is intentional. I mean, back in 1982, the First Presidency instructed local leaders that oral sex constitutes an “unnatural, impure or unholy practice.” Clearly the Brethren have stepped back from such comments, and to hold couples that get married in 2006 accountable to that obscure piece of counsel that has not been reiterated by subsequent leaders would be ridiculous.

  16. Latter-day Teancum
    October 29, 2006 at 3:36 pm #

    Steve,
    Check out these articles. It appears not seeing rated R movies is still counseled in the Church today.

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/2001.htm/ensign%20may%202001.htm/you%20cant%20pet%20a%20rattlesnake.htm

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/NewEra/2004.htm/new%20era%20may%202004.htm/r%20fight.htm

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/NewEra/2003.htm/new%20era%20march%202003.htm/grated%20recruit.htm

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1993.htm/ensign%20november%201993.htm/touch%20not%20the%20evil%20gift%20nor%20the%20unclean%20thing.htm

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/2001.htm/ensign%20november%202001.htm/steadfast%20and%20immovable.htm

    Holding them accountable to teachings that were given before their time and have not been perpetuated, in every respect, by later Church leaders isn’t reasonable. The youth of the Church today are familiar with the teachings of the living authorities, who have chosen to counsel against “inappropriate” media

    This teaching has been perpetuated. Rated R movies are mentioned in the articles linked above. This principle is also taught in primary, young women and young men classes.

    The majority of LDS youth know very well the Church’s standard against R rated movies.

    President Benson’s counsel was given in 1986. Bringing the Blood Atonement into this I find very objectionable and offensive. How can you compare guidance given to youth in 1986, guidance that most youth in the Church are familiar with today, to quotes from the second prophet of the Church given before 1900?!?

    I am willing to admit that is not a commandment to stear clear of R rated movies. But it is very much alive in the Church today. And it is counsel I know that every Latter-day Saint will be blessed for following.

  17. Steve M.
    October 30, 2006 at 10:07 am #

    Of the links you provided, the most recent one given by a General Authority was in 2001. In this talk, he didn’t make any binding or authoritative blanket statements about abstaining from all R-rated movies. He told a story about a girl who had made that decision, which may reflect the speaker’s belief in the type of attitude we should take toward R-rated films. But there were no “Thus saith the Lord,” this-is-the-stance-of-the-Church-type statements to the effect that Mormons should never view R-rated movies.

    In any case, I believe the FTSOY pamphlet has been updated since that time, and if the GAs intended that if have a specific injunction against any and all R-rated films, it would have been included.

    Also, the 2003 and 2004 articles you linked to were New Era articles written by lay members. Hardly authoritative.

    Yes, President Benson’s counsel to avoid any and all R-rated movies was given in 1986. I was three years old at the time. The counsel might as well have been given before 1900.

    I am willing to admit that is not a commandment to stear clear of R rated movies.

    Thank you. That’s what I’ve been getting at all along.

    But it is very much alive in the Church today.

    So are a lot of other folk doctrines and pseudo-commandments.

    And it is counsel I know that every Latter-day Saint will be blessed for following.

    Okay, you know that you’ve been blessed by abiding by this rule. Many say they’re blessed for not drinking caffeinated Coke, or for not doing homework on Sundays. But these experiences are personal, and they have absolutely no implications about the manner in which I, or any other Latter-day Saint, should interpret the counsel that has been given. I’m glad you’ve been blessed by not viewing R-rated movies, but I don’t think you’re in a position to imply that I will be forfeiting certain blessings if I choose to view an R-rated film on occasion. I’m pretty sure that’s between me and God.

  18. latterdayteancum
    October 30, 2006 at 1:41 pm #

    Steve,

    The authoratative statement was already made by President Benson. And there are still leaders of the Church, while not apostles or members of the first presidency – still leaders, that continue to communicate this authoratative statement to the youth.

    Why should the Church have to reissue that statement annually to let the Church know its still in force?

    Your main point was that we cannot hold members accountable for teachings they are not familiar with. The majority of Church membership is familiar with President Benson’s counsel. Do you disagree that almost all of the youth of the Church know they are not supposed to watch rated R movies?

    Most instruction from our Prophets no longer comes in the form of “thus saith the Lord” statements. The Prophet gives us counsel and its our choice to follow it. Some members talk themsevles out of it or rationalize it, like you have with R rated movies, and others adhere to it.

    Is watching rated R movies going to prevent you from going to the temple. Probably not. But are you missing out on blessings that your might enjoy if you followed the Prophet. Most definately.

    Do you not see that you are a perfect example of someone that must be commanded in all things?

  19. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 12:03 am #

    I think the best measure of the Church’s current stance is what the current leaders are saying. And I think that counsel is best summed up in the FTSOY pamphlet. If they wanted a specific injunction against any and all R-rated movies, they would have put it in there.

    Some members talk themsevles out of it or rationalize it, like you have with R rated movies, and others adhere to it.

    What’s funny is that I only very rarely view R-rated movies, like maybe once or twice a year, at most. I consider the vast majority of them below my standards. However, I think a blanket prohibition of all R-rated movies is an unjustified extrapolation upon what the prophets are currently teaching.

    Is watching rated R movies going to prevent you from going to the temple. Probably not. But are you missing out on blessings that your might enjoy if you followed the Prophet. Most definately.

    I am following the teachings of current Church authorities as they pertain to media.

    Do you not see that you are a perfect example of someone that must be commanded in all things?

    Once again, Teancum resorts to personal attacks. Surprise, surprise.

  20. Latter-day Teancum
    October 31, 2006 at 1:36 am #

    I just call it how I see it. You know me.

  21. latterdayteancum
    October 31, 2006 at 9:32 am #

    Again, your argument was that you cannot hold members of the Church accountable for a teaching they are not familiar with.

    Are you suggesting that most members of the Church are not familiar with the counsel to not watch rated R movies? Are you suggesting that the youth of the Church are counseled by their leaders to not watch rated R movies and are familiar with this counsel?

    You have yet to answer that question, and I have asked it several times.

    And if they are familiar with the teaching, than how can you say that because the leadership of the Church does not focus on this counsel than it no longer needs to be followed?

    Has the Church EVER come out and said that President Benson’s counsel need not be followed?

    Brother, you are the one making the “unjustified extrapolation upon what the prophets are currently teaching.” You are interjecting your internal justification into silence.

  22. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 10:03 am #

    Are you suggesting that most members of the Church are not familiar with the counsel to not watch rated R movies?

    I am suggesting that most members of the Church are not familiar with prophetic counsel to not watch R-rated movies (specifically, President Benson’s comments). The counsel on media currently given by the First Presidency and the Twelve is that we avoid media that is excessively violent, vulgar, immoral, pornographic, etc. They currently do not teach to avoid movies of a specific rating. It is up to us to use our judgment and agency to determine what constitutes “inappropriate.” Of course, the current counsel probably rules out the vast majority of R-rated movies (as well as a number of PG-13 movies and TV programs). I imagine that many parents and local leaders go ahead and say that R-rated movies are never acceptable. But, strictly speaking, that’s not what the current GAs are saying.

    Are you suggesting that the youth of the Church are counseled by their leaders to not watch rated R movies and are familiar with this counsel?

    I, personally, cannot remember ever having a bishop, stake president, or EQP that specifically counselled against R-rated movies. The counsel I have received from my leaders has always been along the lines of that given in the FTSOY pamphlet.

    I don’t doubt that there are local leaders, however, who specifically preach against R-rated movies. That’s their prerogrative, and it’s none of my business. There are also local leaders who preach that their youth should not go on MySpace. A former stake president in my home stake wouldn’t give people a temple recommend if they drank Coke. What local leaders teach 1) is not always indicative of the official Church stance or that taken by the Brethren, and 2) is not binding upon anybody outside of the units over which they preside. So if your bishop specifically states that you should not view any R-rated movies whatsoever, that really has nothing to do with me.

    Has the Church EVER come out and said that President Benson’s counsel need not be followed?

    Has the Church EVER come out and said that members of the Church can own face cards? No. Previous presidents of the Church preached against owning face cards, and the Church has never come out and contradicted these statements. But no GA has touched upon the topic for over twenty years, and such counsel does not appear in current Church publications of any kind. The rising generation is probably totally unaware that such counsel ever existed, and so they cannot be held accountable to it (and I think that’s by design).

    The point is, the Church is not in the practice of contradicting what previous leaders have said. However, that doesn’t indicate that they condone all that has been said, or that counsel given by previous GAs has not been changed, updated, or adjusted. If the Church wants to move away from a particular teaching, they typically just stop talking about it and let the matter drop.

    As for President Benson’s counsel against R-rated movies, subsequent GAs have not specifically renewed that counsel, but have stuck to the underlying principle that probably motivated Benson’s comments in the first place: to avoid any and all media that is at odds with gospel standards, regardless of movie rating. And that’s the standard I’m trying to abide by.

  23. John Anderson
    October 31, 2006 at 10:20 am #

    Steve:

    I guess I see your point, but I don’t think its valid. Even if it were, it would be useless.

    First, just because the standard hasn’t been renewed doesn’t mean it is completely invalid. I think that’s shaky ground at best. Who gets to decide when doctrine is stale?

    Secondly, your argument really isn’t very pragmatic. Suppose for a moment that today the prophet himself validates your claim, and pronounces the prohibitions on R-rated movies a thing of the past in favor of a more principle-centered set of guidelines. How many R-rated movies are completely free from the harsh language, gore/violence, or graphic sexual content those principles are asking us to avoid? I just don’t see how a movie, which has content that demands an R rating, could somehow be free from the slime that principle based guidelines are trying to steer us away from.

    You can say you’re living a higher standard, but they are really one and the same.

  24. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 11:54 am #

    First, just because the standard hasn’t been renewed doesn’t mean it is completely invalid.

    Of course not, but I think the current teachings of the Church on the subject are the most relevant, and the most indicative of the manner in which current prophets want us to approach the question of which media is appropriate.

    How many R-rated movies are completely free from the harsh language, gore/violence, or graphic sexual content those principles are asking us to avoid?

    That’s exactly what the GAs are asking us to determine.

  25. Latter-day Teancum
    October 31, 2006 at 11:55 am #

    Steve,
    Thanks for leaving the Blood Atonement out of it ;)

    Can you name me the few rated R movie that would be acceptable under the guidelines in the FTSOY pamphlet? You have said many times that the majority wouldn’t. I would like to know of those exceptions that do.

    I don’t think they exist.

  26. Latter-day Teancum
    October 31, 2006 at 11:59 am #

    The reason I ask this is because if there are no acceptable rated R movies that meet the guidelines in the FTSOY pamphlet than there would be no need for GAs to say not to view rated R movies, as the current counsel would include all rated R movies as well as many other movies under various ratings.

  27. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 12:02 pm #

    Basically, my main point is that each individual member has the responsibility to determine what media is appropriate, according to the standards outlined by the current leaders of the Church (which standards, I believe, are best summed up in the FTSOY pamphlet). This is similar to how the Church expects members to determine exactly what “Keep the Sabbath Day holy” means to themselves, within some general guidelines.

    Imposing any specific restrictions on top of these general standards is putting words in the mouths of the current leadership of the Church.

    What I’m getting at is that how we interpret the counsel of the Brethren is a personal matter. We should accept responsibility and be accountable for our decisions, of course, but in light of current GA teachings, I don’t think members are justified in judging a member who is striving to follow the counsel that has been given, and chooses to view an R-rated movie on occasion.

  28. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 12:04 pm #

    I’ve felt very comfortable watching R-rated films such as V For Vendetta and Ordinary People. Much more comfortable than I felt watching some of the PG-13 filth that my old BYU roommates chose to watch.

  29. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 12:07 pm #

    I can already see you guys searching for reasons as to why the movies I mentioned don’t line up with Church guidelines. Please, don’t bother. It’s a personal decision to view those films, which decision I feel totally comfortable with.

  30. Connor
    October 31, 2006 at 12:13 pm #

    V for Vendetta: 5 “F” words, 8 “S” words, and some bare breasts and bodies.

    I think that violates the “higher principle” of what we’ve been warned not to watch.

    Yes, it’s your personal decision to view those films, but my pointing out these stats in the movie you felt “very comfortable watching” is simply to support John’s previous statement: “I just don’t see how a movie, which has content that demands an R rating, could somehow be free from the slime that principle based guidelines are trying to steer us away from.”

    Case in point. No movie that has been labeled as restricted by Hollywood liberals is in accordance with the higher standards we should be living.

  31. latterdayteancum
    October 31, 2006 at 12:24 pm #

    Imposing any specific restrictions on top of these general standards is putting words in the mouths of the current leadership of the Church.
    Dude! President Benson gave the counsel. Nobody is putting words in anyone’s mouth. You are just as much putting words in GAs mouths by saying their current counsel somehow negates President Bensons.

  32. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 12:29 pm #

    I don’t know where they got off saying there were bare breasts in V For Vendetta. There weren’t.

    As I mentioned before, I think theme is certainly relevant to our choice of media. I think that’s how we can justify reading about men who rape, torture, kill, and eat women in the Book of Mormon.

    I mean, Michalangelo’s David contains full-frontal nudity. Should we classify it as pornography? Of course not.

    I feel comfortable with my choices. They’re mine, not yours. Current Church standards allow for gray area, and are subject to personal interpretation. It’s not up to any of you to interpret those standards for me.

  33. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 12:37 pm #

    BTW (I promise this will be my last comment…for now), I think that this debate, and many others like it, probably boils down to the difference between an Iron Rod Mormon paradigm and a Liahona Mormon paradigm.

  34. Connor
    October 31, 2006 at 12:38 pm #

    I don’t know where they got off saying there were bare breasts in V For Vendetta. There weren’t.

    From the screenit.com review:

    • We see a flashback to a nude body being tossed down into a pit containing other nude, dead bodies (we see bare breasts and butts)
    • We see a brief slow-motion, lesbian kiss.
    • We see another view of the above dead and nude bodies in the trench.

    As I mentioned before, I think theme is certainly relevant to our choice of media.

    I don’t think the theme matters as much as the presentation. This is why the David statue isn’t bad, nor is reading about Laban’s execution.

    I feel comfortable with my choices. They’re mine, not yours. Current Church standards allow for gray area, and are subject to personal interpretation. It’s not up to any of you to interpret those standards for me.

    Just because they’re your choices doesn’t mean they’re right choices. :) We’re not trying to gang up on you—we’re simply trying to illustrate the point that no rated R movie can meet the criterion established in the FTSOY and by the GAs. You may disagree, and that’s fine. It is your choice. But I don’t think you can argue that such movies are acceptable to watch based on these guidelines.

  35. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 12:46 pm #

    I don’t think the theme matters as much as the presentation.

    That’s a good thought. And I would argue that there are movies that may qualify for an R rating, whose presentation of “mature” material is tasteful, unoffensive, and arguably in line with Church standards. I think we should at least be open to that possibility.

  36. latterdayteancum
    October 31, 2006 at 12:47 pm #

    Please, don’t bother. It’s a personal decision to view those films, which decision I feel totally comfortable with.

    Yes, we all have agency to choose what movies we watch. It’s your personal decision to watch whatever movie you feel appropriate. However, the discussion is about the current counsel the Church has given relating to movies, not about free agency. If you do not follow the counsel and guidance of Church leaders when viewing movies, than why are you even participating in this discussion?

    It’s a valid point to make that no rated R movies fall within the guidelines in the FTSOY pamphlet. The foundation of your position is that some do. You have mentioned two movies that don’t due to language and sexual content which is a violation of:

    “Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way.”

    So are there any rated R movies that would not be banned by the current counsel of the Church?

    If not than there would be no need for GAs to specifically warn against rated R movies, as ALL rated R movies would be included in their current counsel.

  37. John Anderson
    October 31, 2006 at 12:48 pm #

    I too have decided to live the higher law. Since no general authority has specifically indicated that thermonuclear warfare is prohibited, I feel comfortable in my new crusade to eliminate Antarctica.

    </sarcasm>

    Steve, if your “comfort” is your justification for viewing R-rated movies, then why are you talking about principles at all?

    I think there needs to be more than some sort of good feeling to justify our actions: the words of the prophets, both past and present, are there to help ratify spiritual feelings. I don’t think you’ll find any prophets willing to justify any R-rated movies.

    What I’m getting at is that how we interpret the counsel of the Brethren is a personal matter. We should accept responsibility and be accountable for our decisions…

    Sure, yeah, but that kinda undermines the absolute system of morals the gospel tries to shine some light on. Are some R-rated movies okay for you and not for me? How so? What about X-Rated movies? Do the swearing and nudity Connor has referenced somehow fit into a principled view of films? I still don’t see why some naked people in V for Vendetta somehow don’t arouse or affect the mind in a negative way.

    R rated movies, by their very definition, are bad. To get an R rating, you need harsh language, gore, or graphic sexual content. Those are universally bad. No question. To try to maneuver around the R-rating to some ideological standpoint is pointless (and in my opinion, an attempt to justify that which is wrong).

    I dunno – just saying that “you’re comfortable” with your decisions seems like a cop out to me.

  38. latterdayteancum
    October 31, 2006 at 12:52 pm #

    I think that this debate, and many others like it, probably boils down to the difference between an Iron Rod Mormon paradigm and a Liahona Mormon paradigm.

    We should remember that the Liahona didn’t work when Lehi and his family were not living righteously. If you aren’t following the counsel of the leadership of the Church, than your Liahona is broken. I would label it a “Justifying Liberal Mormon Paradigm.” That’s much more accurate.

  39. latterdayteancum
    October 31, 2006 at 12:57 pm #

    By the way, Steve, you know I love you.

    I was just talking with my wife about how if you and I were to meet in person we would be best friends. In this vast world wide web we always find eachother in the same places, and on the opposite sides. I love to talk, and our friendship definately would not lack dialogue.

    I will have to look you up next time I’m in Utah!

  40. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 12:59 pm #

    I’ve already spent too much time on this.

    Sure, yeah, but that kinda undermines the absolute system of morals the gospel tries to shine some light on. Are some R-rated movies okay for you and not for me? How so? What about X-Rated movies?

    What about the gray areas in the Word of Wisdom or the keeping of the Sabbath Day? Many have prayed and fasted and pondered, and feel that it’s inappropriate for them to do homework on Sundays or drink Coke. What implication does that have for how I keep the Sabbath and the WoW? None whatsoever. There are gray areas in life, and they’re there for a reason.

    By the way, I would argue that the presentation of mature materials (e.g., nudity) may not contradict the FP’s counsel to avoid media that is “vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic.” As Connor pointed out, presentation is key. And I would add that theme is relevant. Thus, the work of Manet, Rodin, and Michelangelo may include frank nudity, but it is probably not vulgar, immoral, or pornographic (whereas the presentation of nudity in Penthouse is probably undeniably vulgar, immoral, and pornographic).

    Which is why I get uncomfortable with members claiming that films like Schindler’s List are expressly forbidden by the leaders of the Church.

  41. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 1:02 pm #

    Teancum,

    I was referring to Richard Poll’s descriptions of Iron Rod and Liahona Mormons. You can read his description here.

    We probably would be better friends in person than on the Internet. I would much rather have these debates in some real-life, round-table type discussion. The Internet isn’t very conducive to good feelings, at times.

  42. John Anderson
    October 31, 2006 at 1:23 pm #

    There are gray areas in life, and they’re there for a reason.

    I totally agree. I’m just not seeing how naked dead people fall into the gray area, for one. Or people being shot in the head. I suppose yours can be larger than mine, but content in *any* r-rated movie is going to go past gospel standards, by the very definition of r-rated.

    Any gray area in r-rated movies is fabricated, in my view. I’m just not seeing it. When is the F bomb appropriate? What about watching other people have sex?

    By the way, I would argue that the presentation of mature materials (e.g., nudity) may not contradict the FP’s counsel to avoid media that is “vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic.” As Connor pointed out, presentation is key. And I would add that theme is relevant. Thus, the work of Manet, Rodin, and Michelangelo may include frank nudity, but it is probably not vulgar, immoral, or pornographic (whereas the presentation of nudity in Penthouse is probably undeniably vulgar, immoral, and pornographic).

    Only partly relevant. I think the graphic nature of the work is more relevant. The scriptures reference horrible acts: they don’t describe them or portray them in technicolor for us. Same with classical art. The body forms are hardly graphic.

    R-rated movies are a far cry from classical art as well.

    Which is why I get uncomfortable with members claiming that films like Schindler’s List are expressly forbidden by the leaders of the Church.

    I don’t think the movie specifically is, but here’s the logic:

    1 – Don’t expose yourself to graphic violence.
    2 – Schindler’s List is a film with graphic violence.
    3 – Don’t view Schindler’s List (or at least the bad parts of the film)

    I don’t think that’s hard to come by. Sure the film has merit, but there are parts of the film that we don’t need to see.

  43. Steve M.
    October 31, 2006 at 11:22 pm #

    Internet discussions tend to be kind of messy, but you guys got me thinking. I’m sorry for filling this thread with my babble–I promise this will be my concluding comment.

    I don’t think much about R-rated movies, because I very rarely even think to watch any. Please don’t think that I’m just trying to justify a favorite sin. Were I to entirely swear off R-rated movies, it would mean that I would only watch about one or two fewer movies a year. I avoid 99% of them without much thought, and when I do choose to view one, it’s only with some consideration.

    I have a hard time justifying a total rejection of all R-rated movies on the basis of an isolated statement by President Benson made 20 years ago, because we seem pretty comfortable ignoring other isolated GA statements about face cards, birth control, etc. I think the real issue is whether or not current teachings expressly forbid any and all R-rated films.

    I expect that you will all disagree with me on this, but I personally believe that the mere presence of profanity, violence, or nudity does not necessarily make a movie, novel, photograph, or painting immoral. I believe that the underlying theme, the overall message, the purpose of the depiction, and the prevelance of such material throughout the film are important considerations. Indeed, I believe it is these considerations that truly determine whether or not a piece is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic.

    Of course I will generally be offended by gratuitous violence, explicit sex, and extensive profanity. But I can honestly say that, depending on contextual and thematic elements, a few F-words doesn’t ruin a film or a novel for me. But if you tweak the context just a bit, even one milder swear word is likely to offend me. So it just depends on the film, I guess.

    I don’t expect any of you to agree with me on this, and that’s okay. I’m putting this out there to clarify my thoughts, not to carry on this debate. I try to be very careful about what media I let into my life, and I feel good about the standards I’m trying to live. I personally do not feel that they are at odds with current Church teachings, but you may disagree.

    Good discussion, anyway.

  44. John Anderson
    November 1, 2006 at 9:33 am #

    I guess I can give up my stance then too.

    If you don’t understand why a few F bombs aren’t at odds with current (or past, or future) Church teachings, then there’s really no point in continuing the discussion anyway.

    :)

  45. latterdayteancum
    November 1, 2006 at 9:34 am #

    Were I to entirely swear off R-rated movies

    You really shouldn’t swear either, Steve. :)

  46. Steve M.
    November 1, 2006 at 9:50 am #

    I realize I’m going back on my vow to not post on this thread again, but John’s comment about F-words made me think of an article I once read. It’s Levi S. Peterson’s misleadingly-titled “In Defense of Mormon Erotica” (read the first line of the article and you’ll realize the article’s not what you think it’s going to be). It appeared in the Winter 1987 issue of Dialogue. Here’s a link to it.

    I don’t agree with everything said in the article, but I think it’s worth a read. Here are a few excerpts:

    “If God’s people are sexual creatures and if they are sometimes angry and scornful, and if their anger and scorn sometimes well up into obscenities, the literature which expresses God’s people should reflect those facts. Literature should reflect life. Ultimately it should reflect all of life. Nothing that people feel, nothing that they do, should be denied a place in literature.”

    “Then how shall I distinguish between an acceptable expression of sexuality and pornography? It is a matter of proportion. Proportion is fundamental in any theory of art. It suggests a variety of elements standing in harmonious relationship with one another, none without due representation, each fitted to each, each shaped by the shape of the whole.”

    “Yet I for one find it sad and, yes, even eerie to contemplate the acres of shelf space occupied in local libraries by Mormon novels and to realize that there may not be a half dozen satisfying obscenities nor a single good orgasm among the lot. Writers who eschew entirely the sexual and the obscene fail to exploit an immense reservoir of energy, vigor, and sensory experience. It is as if they are piloting a twin-engined airplane but insist by reason of their scruples to operate only one engine. Timid authors fall into the error of incompleteness. Sexuality is a part of living. There is health in treating the broad range of experience in literature, in viewing clearly the full spectrum of human act and emotion, thereby helping to domesticate disorderly impulses and to disarm an unfounded fear of those that only seem disorderly.”

    Like I said, I don’t entirely agree with Peterson, but I think there’s some wisdom in what he says.

  47. John Anderson
    November 1, 2006 at 10:57 am #

    There isn’t.

    Nothing that people feel, nothing that they do, should be denied a place in literature.

    This does not mean that every sacred or horrific act needs to be scripted and portrayed in front of people in full color.

    Then how shall I distinguish between an acceptable expression of sexuality and pornography? It is a matter of proportion.

    What an overtly dishonest and intellectually infantile thing to say. Mister Peterson, to say such a thing would also require that you include a spoonful of venom with your evening meal. The acceptable expression of human sexuality is never in video, is never in public, is never in graphic, specific terms.

    Writers who eschew entirely the sexual and the obscene fail to exploit an immense reservoir of energy, vigor, and sensory experience.

    Agreed. I don’t think we need to dodge the bad things in life, but do we really need to broadcast the gory details?

    We know the nature of David and Bathshebas sin. First it was sexual, then it was violent. The depth of the sorrow invoked by that story is not lessened by refusing to show a video clip of that night, nor a full color photo of Uriah’s severed, decomposing body?

    On the contrary, such depictions poison and offend the human mind and lessen the emotional response to the real sorrow in the story.

    It is as if they are piloting a twin-engined airplane but insist by reason of their scruples to operate only one engine. Timid authors fall into the error of incompleteness. Sexuality is a part of living. There is health in treating the broad range of experience in literature, in viewing clearly the full spectrum of human act and emotion, thereby helping to domesticate disorderly impulses and to disarm an unfounded fear of those that only seem disorderly.

    You can be complete in your depiction without being graphic, Mister Peterson.

    What a retarded argument.

  48. Steve M.
    November 1, 2006 at 12:03 pm #

    I don’t think Peterson is advocating excessively graphic depictions of sex or violence. I can’t speak for him, but I think he’s talking about giving reasonable and tasteful attention to the subjects, but attention nonetheless.

    I think our disagreement might boil down to our differing views on whether or not it’s ever appropriate or moral to include profanity, violence, or sexuality in visual media. I would say that, depending on the circumstances, yes. You appear to be saying (correct me if I’m wrong), no.

  49. Steve M.
    November 1, 2006 at 12:05 pm #

    And by the way, the mental images evoked by certain scriptural descriptions (e.g., the description of men raping, torturing, killing, and eating women in Moroni 9) can be just as powerful as a visual representation, IMHO.

  50. Steve M.
    November 1, 2006 at 12:12 pm #

    On the contrary, such depictions poison and offend the human mind and lessen the emotional response to the real sorrow in the story.

    Can we get a source that suggests that our emotional response to David’s tragic story would be lessened were it represented visually?

    I remember reading the book The Rape of Nanking, about the Japanese massacre of the Chinese city of Nanking in 1937. The book contained some graphic photos taken during and after the massacre. Were they violent? Yes. Were the actions depicted immoral? Yes. Was nudity/sexuality depicted? Yes. These photos were certainly disturbing to see, but they drove home the fact that the event was real, and that the accounts given of the brutality and cruelty that occured during the massacre were not exaggerated. My emotional response to the tragedy was actually increased by the inclusion of the photos, and my sensitivity to such cruelty and immorality was sharpened.

  51. John Anderson
    November 1, 2006 at 12:44 pm #

    I think our disagreement might boil down to our differing views on whether or not it’s ever appropriate or moral to include profanity, violence, or sexuality in visual media. I would say that, depending on the circumstances, yes. You appear to be saying (correct me if I’m wrong), no.

    Is it okay to tell the reader that the main character swears? Sure. Is it okay to spell it out with the four letter words the character might have used. No. No reason for that.

    Is it okay to tell the reader someone has died? Is it okay for people to die in movies and books? Sure. Is it okay to describe how the persons entrails have been rearranged, or to soak an actor in blood and show the viewer? I don’t think so. It isn’t really needed.

    I hope you get my point. I don’t think we need to hedge about horrible things, we just don’t need the graphic representation of things. Talk about drugs sex and rock and roll all you want in a book, just don’t offend my senses by getting graphic.

    The mental images evoked by certain scriptural descriptions (e.g., the description of men raping, torturing, killing, and eating women in Moroni 9) can be just as powerful as a visual representation

    So why don’t they show movies of that in Seminary? I don’t think many will share your view. The scriptures don’t tell how they are raped and killed. They just say it happened. There’s no reason to see the details of what happened (nor dwell on how they *might* have happened).

    Can we get a source that suggests that our emotional response to David’s tragic story would be lessened were it represented visually?

    I didn’t mean to bring it across as fact: that’s just my opinion. It probably came across stronger than I intended, but I was basically saying that you don’t need to shock the viewer/reader in order to evoke emotion. You can bring sorrow, disgust, or anger to a reader without getting graphic. In my own experience, the accidental reading/viewing of graphic content shakes me out of the story and offends my senses.

    My emotional response to the tragedy was actually increased by the inclusion of the photos, and my sensitivity to such cruelty and immorality was sharpened.

    And now those images will stay with you for who knows how long. Maybe you should binge your eyes with the filth of pornography just so you know how horrible it is; just so it can really sharpen your emotional response to filth.

    I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that your sensitivity to gore and nudity has been lessened, and that’s something I view as undesirable. You forgot about the dead nude bodies in the R-rated movie you referenced, as a single example.

    I don’t have to see the brutal nature of the world to know it’s there. In a sense, you seem to argue that you need to get closer to the reality of horrific events to really experience their depth. Taking that to its full extent, you effectively turn yourself into a horror in order to find out that bad is bad.

    There really is no reason that we should ever decide to view graphically violent or sexual content. Never.

    I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, here, so I’m going to sign off.

  52. Steve M.
    November 1, 2006 at 1:44 pm #

    I think I’m going to sign off too. After this. Really, this time, I’m serious.

    I was basically saying that you don’t need to shock the viewer/reader in order to evoke emotion. You can bring sorrow, disgust, or anger to a reader without getting graphic.

    I totally, 100% agree with this. But with special attention to context and presentation, mature material can be tastefully and effectively brought into a novel, play, movie, etc., without “offending” the viewer’s senses, without going into excessive detail (I have never once argued that media should be ultra-explicit or show every gory detail), and without numbing the viewer’s sensitivity to such subjects.

    I think the artist Eugene Delacroix was very adept at using “mature” imagery to evoke emotion from viewers of his paintings, without being crude, insensitive, or tasteless. I’d suggest taking a look at the following paintings:

    The Death of Sardanapalus (http://www.usc.edu/schools/annenberg/asc/projects/comm544/library/images/108.html)
    Massacre at Chios (http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/d/delacroi/1/107delac.html)

    Also, I have never said that we should view that which is violent, sexual, etc. purely for the sake of knowing first-hand just how violent or sexual it is. That’s not my point at all.

    I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that your sensitivity to gore and nudity has been lessened

    Actually, I’d say that’s an unjustified conclusion. My experiences in reading The Rape of Nanking and viewing V For Vendetta made me more sensitive to violence and cruelty. In each of these presentations, the presentation of violent material was not glamorized, gratuitous, senseless, or overdone.

    I’ll admit that I have a more liberal approach to the arts. It bothers me when Mormons tell me that they won’t read The Catcher in the Rye because the protagonist has a dirty mouth. To me, it seems like they’re missing the point. I feel that I’m a better person for having read that novel, and it didn’t make me more partial to obscenity or immorality. Reading 1984 didn’t make me want to go out and fornicate, On The Road didn’t make me want to get drunk or steal cars, and V For Vendetta didn’t make me think of genocide in any more favorable terms. If anything, my values have been reinforced, not compromised, and my cultural knowledge has increased in breadth.

    I think we sometimes err on the side of being overly prude. There needs to be moderation.

    But these are just my thoughts. I’m sorry for dominating this thread, but I admit that I’m probably too passionate and too opinionated when it comes to this subject.

    That’s it for me. Hopefully.

  53. Aha
    November 7, 2006 at 11:24 am #

    The concept of an “R-rated” film isn’t as cut and dry as the fundamentalist folk-doctrine observing saints would like to admit. The word “rated” is a verb in the passive voice. Passive voice is well a known trick to take take attention away from the subject, or the actor, of the verb. The verb is “rate”. The movie was “rated”. So who is the subject? Who rated it R? Can I rate movies? Can you? Who’s rating is legitimate? The standard usage of “R-rated” implies the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), a largely politically rooted organization with plenty of lobbyists and agendas on its plate. When President Benson said “Don’t see R- rated movies” was he suggesting we entrust our judgment to the MPAA and have them make our choices for us? Or as so many prophets of the past, was he merely using a device familiar to his audience and time-period (an American audience) to illustrate a greater principle? How many of us actually have the opportunity to cast real pearls in front of actual swine? This is ever more evident when the global scale of the church is taken into account. “R-rated” , no matter well you translate it, is simply meaningless to those outside the confines of the US and its culture. How about foreign films? The MPAA hasn’t slapped a letter on them…. what to do? The bottom line is, trusting the MPAA to make our choices is part of forfeiting the gifts that God has given us. And whose plan is that? Next time you get into a R-rated movie discussion acknowledge the MPAA’s rating, maybe see what the Canadian system rated it. What do you rate it? What does God rate it? The answers to all those questions might be strikingly different. Let’s not make an out-of-context prophetic uttering shackle us in the fetters of the whims of a man-made, politically and economically influenced system, the MPAA.

  54. covert
    November 10, 2006 at 12:04 am #

    Greetings to all. I have entered the arena fashionably late, and I shall be brief. I’ll ask one question only and invite all to continue debate.

    Q: What About “Edited” R-rated movies?
    A: ?
    Q2: What Sayest Thou?

    p.s. I lied about the whole “one question only thing”

  55. Lucas
    April 18, 2009 at 3:01 am #

    The issue with flat-out rulings is that they gloss over what are always complex issues. I understand not watching movies that glorify violence, like Resident Evil or Sin City… but what about something like Saving Private Ryan? It’s not glorifying violence, but it is violent.
    Watching pornography shows the same parts of a woman as watching a medical documentary on pregnancy that features footage of a live birth. Both would be rated R, but the intent is far from the same.
    The guidance is sound, but the important part is to put the responsibility on the individual. People should ask themselves why they’re watching what they’re watching. A PG movie with girls bouncing in bikinis would be sinful, if you’re watching it for that reason. But if you’re watching an R-rated movie because it’s realistic (I’ll point to Hotel Rwanda as an example), then it is not sinful.

  56. Connor
    April 18, 2009 at 7:46 am #

    But if you’re watching an R-rated movie because it’s realistic (I’ll point to Hotel Rwanda as an example), then it is not sinful.

    Except that Hotel Rwanda is rated PG-13… And if you feel to justify things because they’re “realistic”, then so be it. The fact remains that it is unnecessary to subject yourself to viewing such material for entertainment purposes, and these R movies depicting violence could easily tell the story just as well without portraying the violence, blood, and gore as much as they do. Intent does indeed matter, as you mention, but it’s a factor of necessity.

  57. Carborendum
    April 18, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    but what about something like Saving Private Ryan

    These movies can easily tell the story just as well without portraying the violence.

    I spoke with a group of WWII veterans about some WWII movies. When the subject of violence came up, they said

    People get killed and maimed in war. That is what makes it something to avoid. But these new movies that Hollywood is putting out, greatly exaggerate the level of blood and gore you’d see. The older classic movies more accurately depicted what the average soldier saw on the battlefield.

    Lucas,

    Does it really reflect reality?

    With every commandment, there are guiding principles. But some rules are hard and fast unless specifically told otherwise. We baptize children at 8 years old. But a bishop must also interview these children to see if they are ready. Sadly, few really exercise that power.

    Are there some children who are so sober, such angelic spirits that they are ready for the covenant at age 6? I’m sure we could believe that of Mormon and Captain Moroni. Are there some who shouldn’t be baptized until much later? Absolutely. Some in my ward come to mind. But everyone is baptized at 8. Why the hard and fast rule? Think about it.

    So, is the rated R thing a hard and fast rule? That is what this thread is debating. Regardless, we are to always be mindful of the guiding principles that have been mentioned. I don’t think anyone here has argued the guiding principles.

  58. Jasper Magee
    December 28, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    Connor,

    I’m surprised that you would consider the counsel given to a group of youth from one church leader an official “commandment” given to the entire church. I don’t believe that it has gone through the proper methods to be called a church commandment. I also don’t believe that all rated R movies are “made with satanic influences,” which seems to be a conclusion you have drawn from that quote. I do agree that there ARE movies that are made with those influences, and might go so far as to say that applies to most rated R movies, but just because a group of Hollywood execs (who often rate things for political reasons) decide to make something rated R, I don’t believe the material at that point becomes “satanic.” For the life of me, I cannot fathom why Slumdog Millionaire was rated R. I think it’s a rather uplifting film I would watch with my older kids. The Last Samurai depicts death, but the violence in that movie is less graphic than Lord of the Rings. The Passion of the Christ is simply an accurate film depicting part of the Savior’s life (this one is worthy of the rating). The point is, I don’t believe these were made with satanic influences, and I don’t believe these movies to be worse than something that’s been labeled as PG-13. And yes, personal judgment should not be thrown out the window, especially since there is no official, proper commandment. More like a caffeine kinda thing. I’m sure you’ve seen Orson Scott Card’s article regarding this commandment, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on it.

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  1. Can you trust movie ratings? | Matthew Cook Piccolo - February 13, 2009

    [...] The “no R-rated movies” standard is a good start, but it isn’t enough. I realized this shortly after returning from my mission. During my service, there were few distractions – no worldly music, movies, news, or other media and entertainment. For two years, my soul had been marinated in the Spirit [...]

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