The Passion Recut: Mormon Friendly?

Mel Gibson has removed five to six minutes from his monumental film, which is to be re-released March 11, 2005. Interestingly enough, the film’s distributor, Newmarket, has no plans to release this version on DVD or VHS. Rather, the idea is to release this version of the film each year around Easter, an intriguing marketing concept. But that’s not really the scope of this post, read on for some more details and the real discussion I have in store for you.

As part of the ordeal of editing the film for its re-release, Gibson took it to, your friend and mine, the Motion Picture Association of American with the hope that the newly edited film would receive the much lighter PG-13 rating. No such luck. The MPAA still thought it to be R material. So rather than play the tug-of-war game like most producers do in similar circumstances, Gibson has decided to release this new version “unrated”. He thought that releasing it with the same rating might defeat the purpose, as the goal of this endeavor is to bring out “a new version for new audiences to discover and everyone to be inspired by”.

In my continuing attempt to understand the “other side” of the rated-R dilemma within the Church, I’d like to peacefully invite those who don’t watch rated-R movies to offer their thoughts on these unique circumstances. As one who only loosely looks to the rating system for guidance, I must say that the original version of the movie was indeed extremely gruesome and could easily be inappropriate for many. However, I was torn by this factor, as it was still a powerful movie that I wanted to recommend highly to friends and family otherwise.

In my opinion, leaving the strange marketing concept behind (i.e. no DVD release, but instead re-release every year), I think Gibson is doing just what I would have hoped for. I am one who finds movie editing by third-party companies to be less than desirable, as generally it is poorly done, not to mention just a way to shift the responsibility of dictating appropriate movie content from the MPAA to some other faceless group of people.

So from within this context, I am wondering what the general consensus will be from the Mormon population of non-R watchers. I don’t mean to point this out as a low blow, but this movie did technically “beat the system”, as it will not be rated R. The same way many other movies, which are edited by third parties, are not rated R. This is a booming industry here in Utah, but never have I heard of these third parties resubmitting their edited versions of R movies for PG-13 approval. So viewing of these edited films partially falls under the category of “what we don’t know can’t hurt us”.

But the caveat not to be left out in the case of The Passion Recut is that we do know that the movie would still be rated R, if it were rated. So the question remains, will a Mormon non-R watcher watch this new version of the movie? Would it do me any good to [potentially] actively recommend this movie to non-R watching friends and family (after I see the new version, of course)? Or do the same rules apply? Rather than have this question be answered in a speculative way by those of us who do watch rated R movies, I invite all non-R watchers to give us their thoughts.

We here at By Common Consent promise to respect your thoughts whatever they may be.

Comments

  1. As Ebert says frequently, the rating system is completely broken. It is also inconsistent over time. There are R-rated movies from the 70’s that would almost be PG today. Three Days of the Condor is one example, with the exception of an F word, it is pretty harmless. Some people get shot, but the “action” is almost laughable by todays standards. Basically people shaking when they get hit as far as I remember.

    As far as the Clean Flicks thing, those will never get submitted to get a rating since CF doesn’t own the copyright. The consumer just has to trust the judgement of CF.

    Orrin Hatch is currently sponsoring legislation to explicitly legalize CF. Oddly his is still supportive of the DMCA, which outlaws software that could be used to achieve even better filtering of DVDs without having to make an edited copy or alter the original in any way. Such software could be used for much greater control over filtering and would be a boon to parents and Jar-Jar haters everywhere. Orrin needs to get a clue. My letters have always fallen on deaf ears.

    Oddly, when DVDs were first being marketed the ability to have filtering on a disc was often cited as a feature. As far as I know it has almost never been used by studios. This is pretty dumb, as they are leaving money on the table. They are however willing to do the opposite and release “unrated” versions of popular movies with the most graphics scenes that didn’t make it to the theaters re-inserted.

  2. Oh, of more specific interest to this discussion is an incident in which Chieko Okazaki mentioned having seen Schindler’s List during a talk at BYU. It caused quite an uproar. As it turns out she had seen it in Europe and had no idea what it was rated in the US. She found it disturbing that so many people were bothered that she had seen the movie, that people were so willing to judge her, and that so many people were obsessing over the ratings of various movies.

  3. Bob, this should be interesting. As someone who generally has the same attitude as you do about R-rated material, I’m not necessarily the person you want to hear from at this point, but I shall speculate nevertheless.

    Having been in that camp, knowing a movie would be R-rated if it were rated would be enough to avoid it. I mean, really, the Not Rated is just a cover for a “not as bad, but still R-rated.”

    But I really can’t tell for sure what R-rated movie avoiders think. I was recently told by a close friend of mine (an R-rated movie avoider) that I was mingling the philosophies of men with scripture.

  4. First, I really back Random John. The content filtering or having two versions on a DVD was a real feature plug but has never been used. Its crazy when you consider in recent times that PG movies can do better than R rated movies economically.
    Only an industry like Hollywood would throw away potential profits for the sake of “art”.

    I think that knowing what it would be rated is an impact many will consider in choosing not to watch the re-release. I hope that they will consider the edits and revisions and consider the counsel given that its not R rated material we are counseled to avoid, but the things in the media that are not uplifting.

    As others have pointed out the MPAA is broken. We need to MPFiX it!

  5. john fowles says:

    Many of us “avoiders” simply do so because Church leaders have admonished us to avoid movies with that rating. (Yes, I know that John H. has written to the contrary, i.e. tried to “debunk” the idea that Church leaders want us to avoid R-rated movies.) For some of us, it really is that simple. I wasn’t always an R-avoider, but since marrying, my wife and I have both determined that we will “avoid.”

    Gibson’s approach might be a way to avoid “avoiding” for many of us to are just avoiding to be obedient, and not out of any kind of moral superiority to non-avoiders. The problem is that, because of Gibson’s attempt to get the cut version a PG-13 rating, as reported by Bob, we know that the movie would still get an R rating. So seeing it with this knowledge is still knowingly violating a request of Church leaders not to see movies with an R-rating.

  6. Bob, I think your caveat makes it in easy answer. If we didn’t know that it would have otherwise received an R-rating and all we knew was that “5-6 minutes was removed and is now Un-rated” I wonder what would be the reaction. I would imagine a bit different, but I’m not so sure.

    (Maybe this is an idea for a different post, but wouldn’t it be great if ALL movies followed Gibson and nobody used the rating system anymore? What would we have to do then?)

  7. I have never understood why active Church members who are R-rated watchers seem so concerned with us active members who are non-R rated watchers. It is not a very complex scenerio. And I know it has been discussed ad nauseum (I know I’ve misspelled that) here and other places. I think as imperfect people we actively attempt to live the most Christ-like lives we can. For some that means following what Chruch leaders have said about not watching R-rated movies. For others it means following other counsel (which could very well be more important counsel, if such a hierarchy is possible in margin counsel from Church leaders). It is not a Church doctrine, or policy. It is not most importantly a question for a temple reccomend. But each of us chooses the counsel we will follow b/c we are unable to follow all of it.

    As far as the question of the Passion. As a non-R-rated watcher I would not watch it. Obviously it is released un-rated b/c it would have recieved an R-rating. I see it differently from Clean Flicks, where they edit to specifically remove not along rating lines but along lines of what they feel to be appropriate for discerning viewers. Usually this leads to a film with less content then PG-13. But this is an easy choice for me as I have no desire to view the Passion. I’m not big into media depictions of the sacred and usually avoid them. I put the Passion in the same camp as Singles Ward, God’s Army. All movies I really don’t want to view (I know some are now scoffing at me placing SW and God’s Army with a movie as well done and artistic as the Passion–but oh well). Now if we were discussing the same scenerio with a movie like Collateral, well I might just come out differently….

  8. John, my wife and I have tried to consciously “avoid” PG-13 movies as well. I started doing this after seeing one too many PG-13 gore fest or sex fest or swear word fest. It simply offends the Spirit to see all that stuff for two hours in a movie theater.

    Having said that, it is a personal decision for me and my family. I can accept that there are perfectly loyal Latter-day Saints who watch R and PG-13 rated movies. But it makes my stomach sick to watch most of that stuff.

    I didn’t watch the Passion when it came out in the theaters but decided to order it through Clean Films. It was almost unwatchable even on CF. The Gospels don’t concentrate on the gore. They concentrate on the suffering, but we can imagine the suffering and gore without having to see it. I was reminded of Mormon and Moroni’s words about the terrible times they lived in. The people during those times became desensitized to the violence to the point where it no longer repulsed them. The Spirit of the Lord was completely lost from the land. That was how I felt while watching “the Passion” — a complete absence of the Spirit. I would recommend “The Greatest Story Ever Told” over “The Passion” any day.

  9. In response to Rusty, and some others: I like the rating system. I realize it is imperfaect and horribly inconsistent but it provides an easy bright-line. Thus for me I can say, I don’t watch R-rated movies period and then I check PG-13 movies for their content on a movie by movie basis. True I miss some good movies but I also don’t subject myself to certain images that I personally don’t want to see. Perhaps I am using an axe where a scapel would do a better job but sometimes an axe is easier to use.

  10. Bob Caswell says:

    John Fowles,

    I think Rusty is probably right… When writing this post, I honestly had the idea of withholding the information about the MPAA stating that they would still issue an R rating for the movie, if it were to be rated. I see now that the post would have probably been more interesting, if a mean trick. But indulge us here, John Fowles (& other non-R watchers), would you have considered the new edited movie had Mel Gibson not taken it to the MPAA and found it still to be in the R category? I mean, there are presumably many Mormons who won’t read a dozen press releases like I did to find out this information and who would, in turn, just consider the movie “edited and unrated”. So did I do you (and anyone who reads this post) a favor? Is this like the classic missionary story of Elders accepting a what-appears-to-be-safe drink, which actually has alcohol in it? Had they known, then of course they wouldn’t have accepted the drink. But since they didn’t know, they usually don’t necessarily regret it. Don’t read too much into the analogy, but what say ye? Would you have seen it under different circumstances? In my quest to recommend this movie to my fellow Mormons, did I just throw away my chance by revealing certain evidence?

  11. Bob Caswell says:

    “Now if we were discussing the same scenerio with a movie like Collateral, well I might just come out differently….”

    Wow, I appreciate the honesty here. Any other R movies that I should recommend studios re-release professionally edited and unrated? :-)

  12. I think it’s interesting that some R movies appear to be “worth it” regardless of their rating. I wonder how far we can take that reasoning and still be consistent. Personally, I draw it pretty broadly, but I’m a hedonist.

  13. Random John said,
    “Orrin Hatch is currently sponsoring legislation to explicitly legalize CF. Oddly his is still supportive of the DMCA, which outlaws software that could be used to achieve even better filtering of DVDs without having to make an edited copy or alter the original in any way.”

    Hatch’s legislation, which has already passed the Senate, clarifies that filtering software (like ClearPlay) does not violate the copyright law. It doesn’t effect CleanFlicks at all. I think most would agree that CleanFlicks is violating copyright law and the Lanham Act. There is a case before a federal court in Colorado that should go against CleanFlicks whenever the judge gets around to ruling on outstanding motions.

    So as a non-R watching Mormon, I think I’ll get myself a ClearPlay DVD player and watch the movie.

  14. Nate G., does it bother you at all that you’re not watching the movie as intended?

  15. john fowles says:

    Bob asked: But indulge us here, John Fowles (& other non-R watchers), would you have considered the new edited movie had Mel Gibson not taken it to the MPAA and found it still to be in the R category?

    The short answer: yes. I think my earlier comment should express that clearly enough already.

  16. Somewhat. I think it’s important for our society to respect and preserve artistic expression in its original form. But I think it’s more important for people to be able to have access to quality entertainment without language, sex and violence. I like ClearPlay technology because it doesn’t permanently alter the original artistic work.

    The problem with ClearPlay is that it allows for overconsumption of graphic movies. If conscientious movie watchers all go out and buy a ClearPlay DVD player, there will be more incentive to make graphic movies. Meanwhile the makers of family friendly movies will suddenly find they have more competition.

  17. Good question Steve. I would be interested in an answer that has more than someone putting the word “art” in quotes.

    I sincerely want to understand Nate’s (and other non-R-watchers-but-edited-R-watchers) view. The rating system is a bunch of guys in LA that say “such and such is in the film, therefore it’s appropriate for such and such audience”. Fine. I understand that. Then with the editing of the film, ANOTHER party is involved saying, “the ‘such and such’ was still too much for some viewers, we need to get rid of more ‘such and such'” So now there are three third parties involved (prophets, MPAA, Clean Flicks) suggesting what is appropriate for you to watch. Wouldn’t it be easier and better for you to skip those last two, research for yourself what’s in the movies, make your own decisions whether it is in line with what the prophets deem as appropriate material, and go with that?

  18. john fowles says:

    Rusty, what if Church leaders have suggested that they would prefer us not to watch R-rated movies. What of making our own decisions then?

  19. Rusty,

    I think you’re right. We certainly shouldn’t just base our decisions off of what others think is appropriate or not. Many Mormons base their movie watching decisions soley off the ratings. That’s not what we are told to do. Try searching for “rated-R” in recent conferences. Leaders aren’t telling us to avoid rated-R movies. They tell us

    “choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. 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.” (from For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet)

    I don’t think that ClearPlay represents a third party’s judgment in the same way that MPAA ratings do. ClearPlay has different settings which allow the viewer to choose how much violence, sex and language they are willing to see or hear.

  20. john fowles says:

    NateG, what do these sentences mean for you: 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.

    When people argue that Church leaders are not telling us to avoid R-rated movies based on this change of language in the Strength for Youth packet (which used to say don’t see rated-R movies), I can’t help but wonder if those people actually think that Church leaders are, in essence, saying that some R-rated movies might actually be okay after all. It seems to me that what they are doing with this change of language, far from broadening the scope of what we should be willing to see, is narrowing that scope. In other words, they are saying that many PG-13 and possibly even PG movies are not appropriate rather than that some R-rated movies are actually appropriate after all. They have worded it this way, it seems to me, so that they don’t have to come out and say in a blanket statement not to see any PG-13 movies, because that would probably be a little draconian.

    That said, I believe that it really is merely a recommendation of our Church leaders, and not a commandment. Thus, everyone is at liberty to choose whether or not to see whatever they want based on whether they personally believe that the movie is debasing of higher Christ-centered thought patterns and lifestyle or not. So I agree with Geoff B. above that perfectly good Latter-day Saints might opt to see rated-R movies. What I can’t understand is the seemingly scoffing attitude of the latter against R-avoiding Latter-day Saints.

  21. JF: “What I can’t understand is the seemingly scoffing attitude of the latter against R-avoiding Latter-day Saints.”

    I can’t understand it either, because I don’t know what on earth you’re talking about. Where have you witnessed this attitude? That’s crazy talk.

  22. Isn’t the Strength of Youth pamphlet for the strength of youth? Are we saying that adults need to go scuffle through the YM/YW cabinet file to find instruction on what they ought to watch?

  23. John,
    I read the quote from For the Strength of the Youth the same way. It says to me that we should be avoiding many PG-13s rather than watching more Rs.

    At the same time, it introduces personal judgment into the equation. The Brethren could have made things easier by giving us a quick and easy rule. Since it’s more of a subjective standard we shouldn’t be surprised that people interpret it in different ways.

  24. I realize this comment is besides the point of the both the post and the ensuing discussion, but I can’t help but wonder, given how the movie’s presentation of the Christ was (in my view) thematically undermined by Gibson’s relentless and explicit focus on His tortured, bloody, shredded body, if this presumably slightly less gorey version might not in fact constitute a better movie overall.

  25. Godot,

    For one thing, if it’s good enough for the kids it’s good enough for the adults.

    For another, For the Strength of the Youth is representative of what the Brethren tell the adults as well. For example, take this quote from H. Burke Peterson in Conference, 1993.

    “stay away from any movie, video, publication, or music—regardless of its rating—where illicit behavior and expressions are a part of the action.”

  26. John, c’mon man, this isn’t a hypothetical, they already DO suggest that they prefer us not to watch R-rated movies (or at least we can read their comments that way, which for the most part, I think I do). However, like you said above, they have omitted telling us to not watch R-rated movies, probably for the reasons you provide (there are PG and PG-13 movies we should avoid). But I would hope you aren’t suggesting that they also think that there aren’t ANY R-rated movies worth watching.

    It’s this hardline, zero-tolerance of any good R-rated movie that is hard for me to imagine the prophets intend. If everyone said, “I generally avoid R-rated movies because they usually contain too much x, but there are a few that I have found to be very uplifting and I’m happy I watched them.” I would never talk about this topic again.

    JF, I think the “scoffing attitude” probably comes from a defensiveness for what we believe. When my good friend relates me to Satan as someone that mingles the philosophies of men with scripture, it’s hard for me to sit back and think, “well, I guess we just have different opinions.” I also think the defensiveness comes from the suggestion that we aren’t following the prophets in our decisions. Why do your ‘prophet quotes’ trump mine?

  27. Russell,
    You might be right, it could be a better movie overall. But again, doesn’t that depend on the viewer? Isn’t that what the whole R-rated movie debate is about? (or at least what we R-rated movie watchers would like it to be about).

  28. Because your prophet quote is totally stupid and it reeks like poo. That’s why John’s is better.

  29. “stay away from any movie, video, publication, or music—regardless of its rating—where illicit behavior and expressions are a part of the action.”

    Oh- crap! That means I can’t watch my favorite church movie- “Measure of a Man”- any more. They illicitly drink in that- it shows it right on the movie!

    “Ever notice how a beer can sweats? In tiny little beads…”

  30. Bob Caswell says:

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

    In my opinion, this is horribly worded. As hp100 pointed out, “in any way” pretty much means we can’t turn on the t.v., leave our house, or even watch Church videos. Good thing we don’t take things literally in this Church, oh wait…

    Russell, I think it could potentially be a better movie. But that may just be the utilitarian in me giving too much weight to the fact that the “good” coming from the movie is more likely to hit a broader audience.

  31. Bob Caswell says:

    “For one thing, if it’s good enough for the kids it’s good enough for the adults.”

    Nate, I’ve heard this philosophy before and have had a hard time understanding it, to be honest. I mean, aren’t there tons of things great for kinds but not necessarily appropriate for adults? Such as 8:00 bedtimes, rules about being home by a certain hour, holding hands while crossing the street, etc. Not to mention there are plenty of movies that are rated G and not appropriate for certain age groups. Does that mean they’re not appropriate for adults as well? Do you see the confusion? Some things are designed for kids (youth) and other things for adults. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  32. john fowles says:

    Rusty, what I have trouble imagining is that our Church leaders think there are any “good R-rated movie[s].” If (1) the rating system were abolished so that everyone really did have to decide for themselves based on subjective application of the general guidelines such as those in the new For the Strength of Youth packet, or (2) GAs had never adopted the R-rating as the cut-off line and had simply taught that each of us should rely solely on our own moral compass and subjective aesthetic and moral judgments which movies and entertainment are appropriate or not, then I would certainly never default to the judgment of a board sitting in Hollywood or the profit-minded judgment of a corporation that illegally alters movies for my entertainment.

    Chances are, based on my aesthetic tastes and judgment, I personally would watch tons of R-rated movies, avoiding only the pornographic or psychopath-venerating ones and seeing all the violent and otherwise heavy-themed ones. Violence, especially war violence, in movies doesn’t bother me personally in the slightest. So, my subjective judgment would allow me to watch movies that, although they don’t bother me or keep me up at night, would actually be desensitizing me to these acts of violence. But my personal, subjective compass would cause me to avoid movies where adults or teens are having sex, children are being abused or exploited, or psycho-killers are wantonly killing, torturing, staulking, or cannibalizing.

    My own choices, therefore, would actually be just as arbitrary as our Church leaders’ choice to informally adopt the R-rating as an easy (albeit admittedly arbitrary) bright line indicator. But defaulting 100% to my own subjective taste is not where the recommendations of Church leaders stand. They have incorporated the R-rating as an easy bright-line rule in past statements. They have clearly expressed criteria (NateG quoted it above) which render a movie inappropriate for people striving to lead a Christ-like life.

  33. Bob Caswell says:

    “…so that everyone really did have to decide for themselves based on subjective application of the general guidelines such as those in the new For the Strength of Youth packet…”

    “They have clearly expressed criteria…which render a movie inappropriate for people striving to lead a Christ-like life.”

    But John, what would you say to the idea that I stated above that the criteria was neither clear nor expressed well… not to mention that we’re again to the problem of subjecting ALL to youth standards. Don’t you think it a little odd that the Church would reveal standards for all through a pamphlet written to the youth? If this were a big enough issue to give all members council on, then we’d hear about it through the appropriate channels. Incidentally, this is also the problem with the Benson quote that is so oft quoted. Yes, the prophet said don’t watch rated R movies, but he was talking specifically to the young men in a priesthood session.

  34. john fowles says:

    Bob, I understand the arguments against avoiding R-rated movies. If I understand it correctly, you specifically wanted to avoid those in this post anyway. My comments have been an explanation as to why I won’t see The Passion Recut with the knowledge that it would have still been rated-R if Gibson had sought a new rating but why I would probably see it absent this knowledge if it were truly “unrated” based on my own subjective judgment and aesthetic tastes.

  35. Bob Caswell says:

    “My own choices, therefore, would actually be just as arbitrary as our Church leaders’ choice to informally adopt the R-rating…”

    But that’s just it, John, you’d be making your own choices. If they’re arbitrary either way, they may as well be yours. That, to me, is extremely valuable. Go watch, Gladiator, man, you’d like it.

  36. Bob Caswell says:

    Thanks, John, for sticking to the original idea of this post better than I have.

  37. “Go watch, Gladiator, man, you’d like it.”

    If you’re going to watch a rated R movie, Gladiator would not be the pick. There are far better ones to consider (wasn’t there a BNL post on this topic? Bob, you want to cross-link?)

  38. john fowles says:

    Bob wrote But that’s just it, John, you’d be making your own choices. If they’re arbitrary either way, they may as well be yours.

    Why should I elevate my own subjective moral and aesthetic tastes over the admonitions of Church leaders who have stewardship over my efforts to assist in building the kingdom of God and establishing Zion? I can defer to the arbitrary lines that they draw, trusting that that will place me where God wants me. If they have decided to adopt an arbitrary line drawn by a committee in Hollywood, then that is an easy enough bright line rule to adhere to and feel comfortable in doing so. It doesn’t make it easy, however. I can attest to that. Most of the movies I really want to see end up being rated R. None of this would be necessary if Church leaders had not felt compelled by the state of society and the Saints’ choices in entertainment to speak to the matter and begin drawing arbitrary lines in the first place. Absent those arbitrary lines and guidance from leadership, I would likely be choosing to go places with my aesthetic and entertainment choices where the Lord would not have me because my aesthetic and moral compass might not be refined enough to discern the spiritual damage that some kind of entertainment might be causing me when there are no visible temporal detriments to that very entertainment.

  39. John says, “my aesthetic and moral compass might not be refined enough to discern the spiritual damage that some kind of entertainment might be causing me.”

    What kind of “spiritual damage” would this be? Apologies to the liberals on this blog, but, as I interpret your statement, it seems to be a very liberal idea. Namely, the idea that our environment can damage us internally, that our environment is responsible for our behavior. I don’t buy it. I think we have an agency that trumps all.

    I think one could spend all day every day watching the most violent movies for a years, and choose to respond to that exterior stimuli with kindness and gentleness. I believe that violent war vets are fully responsible for their own behavior. It is our choice how we respond to our environment.

    Bottom line – I am not convinced that *anything* external can do any real spiritual damage to us. The only way spiritual damage can occur is when we make unchristlike decisions.

  40. john fowles says:

    Godot wrote I think one could spend all day every day watching the most violent movies for a years, and choose to respond to that exterior stimuli with kindness and gentleness.

    What do you make of BoM passages that relates the desensitization of the people such that the face of the land was covered in one continuous round of bloodshed and misery?

  41. They still had the choice to respond peacefully to the violence and I’m sure there were many people who did. Unfortunately, because of the wickedness of the people, most chose to respond as they did.

    I do not see the BofM identifying the desensitization as a *cause* of the extreme violence.

  42. john fowles says:

    violence and sin caused desensitization which caused people to be immune from the voice of the Spirit, which caused further depravity and unspeakable atrocity (all of which the perpetrators are fully accounted for–I am not arguing that the perps somehow have an excuse for their actions because they made choices that led them to desensitization which led them to become hardened in their depravity).

  43. I don’t watch R rated movies.
    I have not seen ‘The Passion’ yet (and I won’t even if they cut it enough for a G rating).
    Here’s why:
    When I first saw the Church video ‘Lamb of God’ in between Conference sessions years ago it broke my heart into a million pieces. It still has that effect on me no matter how many times I watch it, so I am pretty sure that I couldn’t emotionally take seeing Christ suffer, as depicted by Gibson, on the big screen. Needless to say, I don’t need (or want) to see this movie for worship or entertainment purposes-even though I have been pressured by both camps.

    Also, after the fact, I heard from several LDS and non-LDS moviegoers that they regretted their decision to see the movie. It had negatively impacted them in ways that they had not anticipated…

    btw-I use several resources to help me decide whether or not to see a PG-13 movie when it comes out.
    Dr. James Dobson’s great Christian website family.org has a movie review feature that gives a pretty good overview of what you are going to see if you head to the theater.

    It’s here: http://www.pluggedinonline.com/

    Also, of course, is the Internet Movie Database found here: http://www.imdb.com/

    I find that melding the information from these particular two sites, I am usually able to get a pretty accurate read on what to expect from a particular movie and am able to make more informed entertainment choices for myself.
    Isn’t that what we are all supposed to be doing?

  44. Julie, I think that’s exactly what we should be doing.

  45. john fowles says:

    In my last comment, I meant “all of which the perpetrators are fully accountable for”.

  46. Bob Caswell says:

    Here’s the “official” Top Ten Rated R Movie List:

    1. Gladiator
    2. Braveheart
    3. The Shawshank Redemption
    4. Good Will Hunting
    5. Amistad
    6. The Godfather
    7. Office Space
    8. When Harry Met Sally
    9. The Passion of the Christ
    10. Glory

    And here’s the link to the discussion for anyone interested:

    http://www.bobandlogan.com/archives/000151.html

  47. For the record, I only think 5 of those 10 are really worth seeing, especially if you’re breaking a personal ethic to do so.

  48. Orson Scott Card makes a good argument for viewing certain R-rated films here. This one was new to me, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s already been discussed here.

  49. Bob Caswell says:

    Steve, don’t just leave us hanging… Give us your five; by all means, if we’re carefully working with others to help them break personal ethics, let’s make sure we give some solid recommendations. :-)

  50. Hey, if anyone out there wants to watch Gladiator, Private Ryan, The Matrix, or Schindler’s List I’ll send you my British copies. They have British ratings, all of them the equivalent of PG13. So you won’t be watching R’s! Hooray! And I would trust the British censors over those in California any day, after all the latter come from a country that invented Shock and Awe. Such high moral standards! ;)

    Seriously, this conversation is appalling. If we could transport ourselves back 2000 years we’d be debating how many steps it is lawful to take on the Sabbath. What Pharisees! Don’t strain for a gnat and swallow a camel. Get off your arses and do some good. The movies you watch (provided they aren’t pornographic or psychopathic) are probably not much interest to Jesus. He’d have you worry about other things, methinks.

    Sometimes the Bloggernacle is just awful. But I love it because I too prefer to read such trivia than feed the poor.

  51. Bob,

    Suffice it to say that if you’re risking your eternal soul, you’d better make darned sure that you’re seeing Die Hard. Or Heat.

  52. Amen Ronan! You should become a BCC permablogger.

    …. check your email.

  53. Ronan-

    You’re right. This worrying about r-rated versus pg-13 is useless. Christ would much rather have us argue about whether or not he would be a democrat or a republican.

  54. To all avoiders out there, you should review our own Articles of Faith, and our admonishments to seek after good things. We cling to the concept of obedience as if there is some high water level of obedience that must be met to acheive exaltation, when we know that those who acheive exaltation must be “valiant in their testimony of Christ”. Perfection comes from the atonement of Christ, and to those who puff up their chests and expand their phylactories by declaring their obedience to an commandment never given or sustained, you expose the hyprocracy that Samuel referred to in his sermon to the early Nephites, and the emptiness that can accompany those who must be commanded in all things.

    We avoid a movie which for the first time depicts the atonement, the once in eternity event, that every prophet including Adam looked too, and we refuse to see it in order to boast of our obedience. We strain at the gnat and swallow an camel. The “avoiders” sound very similar to those who Christ addressed in Matthew 23.

    Have we become the Church of the Brethren, or do we remain the Church of Christ? This doctrine would have been so foreign to Brother Joseph and Brother Brigham. It seems that we as members of the Church have lost track of our original doctrines of seeking for the truth, and following the spirit.

    The rating system is a man made thing, R, PG-13, or PG, we should not allow ourselves to be lead into a false security in thinking that because it has an appropriate rating, or has been cleaned in a CF fashion, deporable content is deplorable content, regardless if it has been filtered. The Passion, is not deplorable, but depicts the suffering from the Garden to the Tomb, with the glory of the resurrection. Many LDS commentors have tried to put a negative spin on the movie having never seen it. According to the Avoider rule, Austin Powers is totally acceptable but viewing the atonement of Christ, is unacceptable and doing so makes one unworthy.

    Such belief systems create scenarios, such as BYU students going to Las Vegas to get married for the weekend only to have their marriages annulled on the following Monday, they kept the whole letter of the law, but in the end fell way short of the mark.

  55. john fowles says:

    Steve wrote

    JF: “What I can’t understand is the seemingly scoffing attitude of the latter against R-avoiding Latter-day Saints.”

    I can’t understand it either, because I don’t know what on earth you’re talking about. Where have you witnessed this attitude? That’s crazy talk.

    Ronan just saved me a timeconsuming trip to the archives here, at Sons of Mosiah, and at T&S (and Nine Moons?) to find the answer to Steve’s (disingenuous?) question/assertion. That is, Ronan wrote

    Hey, if anyone out there wants to watch Gladiator, Private Ryan, The Matrix, or Schindler’s List I’ll send you my British copies. They have British ratings, all of them the equivalent of PG13. So you won’t be watching R’s! Hooray! And I would trust the British censors over those in California any day, after all the latter come from a country that invented Shock and Awe. Such high moral standards! ;)

    Seriously, this conversation is appalling. If we could transport ourselves back 2000 years we’d be debating how many steps it is lawful to take on the Sabbath. What Pharisees! Don’t strain for a gnat and swallow a camel. Get off your arses and do some good. The movies you watch (provided they aren’t pornographic or psychopathic) are probably not much interest to Jesus. He’d have you worry about other things, methinks.

    Since when is following Church leaders in the last dispensation of time straining at gnats, swallowing a camel, or sitting on asses?

  56. Bob Caswell says:

    John Fowles, although I agree with you that the last few comments may have been a little harsh, I am still curious enough to ask you a question: Which Church leaders are you following? Can you quote any Church leader that was actually referring to you rather than to the youth of the Church?

    But don’t take me or anyone else here too seriously; I respect your choice to avoid rated R movies. And you’ve been the one on this post who has actually stuck with my attempt to understand those who do avoid rated R movies. I take comfort in the fact that you are comfortable admitting “…Violence, especially war violence, in movies doesn’t bother me personally in the slightest…” This, interestingly enough, warms my heart. From my own limited experience, I’ve found most Mormons who avoid rated R movies forgetting what does and doesn’t offend them, as this is no longer their decision. I’m glad you took the courage to prove me wrong.

  57. I reserve the right to scoff at anyone, John, myself included, who engages in a conversation about technicalities that began at 12.18pm (your first comment) and continues through 6.05pm (your last comment).

  58. john fowles says:

    Bob, I guess you have me pinned down. Can’t think of any, so the admonition must just be in my mind.

  59. And John, are you not scoffing at me? Because if you’re following the counsel of the prophets in these last days then clearly I’m not. How righteous you are.

    Anyway, you’re not coming to my party anymore. And I’m ticked off at you: I’ve wasted so much time replying to you that I’ve had to cancle my trip to the soup kitchen I had planned for the evening. Whoops! There goes home teaching. Better keep blogging….

  60. john fowles says:

    Because if you’re following the counsel of the prophets in these last days then clearly I’m not. How righteous you are.

    ?

  61. I watched Schindler’s List-in German- in the BYU language resource lab in the JKHB some years back. It was unedited, but no r-rating since it was the German version. John- do you think that made a difference?

    Also, I watched several films in a German course at BYU (from Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog) that probably WOULD have been r-rated in America, had they been produced here. Luckily, they were produced in Germany, and hence had no rating. But how does that fare with the recommendation against viewing r-rated films? Is it OK because it was at BYU? Is it OK because it was related to education?

    Finally, some very good current German flicks (like Goodbye Lenin, for example) are not rated, but they would likely be rated “r” here in America. John- how could one justify watching those, when one is almost 100% sure that these films would be r-rated had they been produced here in America? (In fact, if you rent them at the video store, they may actually have an “r” rating stamped on them…)

  62. Can you quote any Church leader that was actually referring to you rather than to the youth of the Church?

    I could have sworn that this question was asked and answered on Times & Seasons months ago. For example, the following statement by Elder Joe J. Christensen was made in a CES/BYU Fireside Broadcast to Young Adults: “In addition to making a resolution that we will read only the best in print, it would be very beneficial if now we resolved not to watch even one R-rated or NC-17 movie, or television shows with questionable content. That may sound extreme, but I assure you that much of our future happiness and success depends on it.”

  63. John- note that I am curious about your reaction, and am not trying to bait you or something… :)

  64. Barry,
    I understand what you are getting at, but I don’t think most R-avoiders are the kinds of people you are describing. I don’t think they avoid R-rated movies to feel morally superior than others, but rather because are trying to live according to what they interpret the prophets to be saying. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Likewise, I don’t think their rule allows the Austin Powers, but rather the opposite, which I think has been clear in the previous comments.

    Like I said before, I don’t think the problem is Avoiders’ decision to not watch R-rated movies. That’s a personal decision. What bothers the Watchers is the assumption we’re not following the prophets and silly remarks (like suggesting we’re like Satan because we mingle philosophies of men with scripture).

  65. john fowles says:

    Jordan wrote I watched Schindler’s List-in German- in the BYU language resource lab in the JKHB some years back. It was unedited, but no r-rating since it was the German version. John- do you think that made a difference?

    Not in the case of Schindler’s List since you knew that it was rated R. But authentically German movies wouldn’t fall under that category, unless, as you’ve noted, they carry the R-rating when on sale here. Just like I think that if Church leaders had never chosen to adopt the arbitrary R-rating as a reasonable bright line rule in their statements over the years, then I would certainly be watching all of the movies Bob listed above. Because they did, if I want to show goodwill and submission to them in their callings, then I feel that I need to respect that. I don’t have to like avoiding the R-rated movies that I want to see to feel that I should subordinate my subjective taste here to the admonition of Church leaders who are speaking in the course of their stewardship. But if you can convince me that they haven’t admonished against R-rated movies, then I would gladly give up this insane obedience and watch whatever I want.

  66. Rules according to Ronan:

    1) You’re not allowed to have a discussion about something Ronan deems silly for longer than six hours.
    2) Being at work and on the internet discussing gospel-related themes isn’t good enough. We must leave work and feed hungry people.

    If there are any more Ronan, we’d love to hear them.

  67. John- does the fact that I got it from the BYU language resource center (and watched it there) make any difference?

    Also, I distinctly remember that one the Wenders flicks we had to watch in my German Cinema class (at BYU) was labelled as “r-rated” by Blockbuster, since I had to rent it and watch it having missed class on the day it was screened at BYU.

    Does the fact that my BYU professor required watching it make any difference? And this film was clearly not rated in Germany- just on blockbuster’s shelves for some reason.

    And what about “Goodbye Lenin”? Isn’t that labelled as “R” on the shelves of American rental stores?

  68. john fowles says:

    And what about “Goodbye Lenin”? Isn’t that labelled as “R” on the shelves of American rental stores?

    I’m not sure. I bought my copy in Germany last summer. I think it is rated either 12 or 16–I’m not sure.

  69. I used to be an R-rated movie watcher. I have come to the conclusion that, for me, I don’t like the way I feel after watching some of those movies, even the ones that I thought I was being selective about viewing. I’m not saying that they all are bad. I made the decision that I don’t want to bring in entertainment into my life that drives away the spirit. That has had me cut out many potential PG-13 movies as well. I don’t know that I’ll never watch an R-rated movie again, but I will be more discerning than I have been in the past.

    As for The Passion of the Christ, I decided not to watch it because I feel that it would be too disturbing for me. I think that it is wonderful that a major movie has been made about Christ and the Atonement. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine what Christ went through for me, but I don’t feel that I could handle watching it. That is my own personal decision and those same images may not bother others as they would me.

  70. john fowles says:

    In truth, Ronan is not to be faulted here. He is, after all, from England, where they don’t have an R-rating, so he is, and always has been, in the position to decide arbitrarily for himself based on his own subjective tastes and judgment which movies are appropriate for him, hopefully using the general guidelines set out about uplifting entertainment. Absent our Church leaders’ choice to rest with the R-rating as a good indicator of which movies to avoid, and indeed recommending the avoidance of such, we would all be in the same position as Ronan. In that case, I would have a much larger movie selection and would go rent The Last Samurai tonight.

  71. Rusty,

    You forgot the most important rule:

    #3 Rules 1-2 are deemed void if said conversation occurs at United Brethren.

  72. So is it OK to buy films like that in Germany, so long as we don’t know what they would be rated in rental stores and retail outlets across America?

    For example, if you look up Goodbye Lenin on Amazon.com, it clearly states that the movie has been given an r-rating. Does this mean that you will no longer watch it now? Or is it different because it’s a foreign film? Does it matter that the movie actually IS r-rated in America, or is it more important that you didn’t know at the time you bought it that it was r-rated in America? In other words, now that you know it is, will it make any difference to you?

  73. john fowles says:

    now that you know it is, will it make any difference to you?

    Probably, although this is an interesting case since I have already seen it so there is no need to protect me from the inappropriate drugs and sex that it portrays.

    Anyway, I should avoid it now that you have told me it is R-rated. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it, though (especially since I already bought it in Germany).

  74. John,

    By the way, I’m with you on avoiding r-ratings as a bright-line rule. But the line seems fuzzy to me when you get into foreign films like Goodbye Lenin (sorry to harp on that one over and over, but it is a good example of the point I am making, especially since you own it!). If it would be OK to watch in in Germany prior to the pronouncement of some American beaurocrat that it should be “R”, then why would it not be OK to watch afterwards?

    I’m with you on American films, though, if for no other reason than my parents taught me not to watch r-rated movies so I refrain to honor them. Well, that and Andrea would kill me if I did watch one… (knowingly- that originated in America and was not available at BYU).

    Speaking of which- you still have not answered regarding whether or not the fact that the film was available from BYU makes any difference to you.

  75. D. Fletcher says:

    I have no problem disregarding the “ratings”; I’m willing to see any movie I desire. I do not desire to see the Passion, whatever its rating or edition. I do not need to see Jesus with flayed skin. I’ll stick with King of Kings, thanks very much.

  76. “Many of us “avoiders” simply do so because Church leaders have admonished us to avoid movies with that rating.”

    No, you pick and choose what you want to do based on a selection of what Church leaders have said. And that’s fine, but I get frustrated when people try and make it all sound so “simple.” The reality is a small handful of Church leaders have specifically spoken out against R movies, almost all Seventies. The only prophet to do so was Ezra Taft Benson, and that was in a talk specifically addressed to the Youth.

    Again, it’s just fine if you choose not to watch R rated movies based on advice from a Church leader. But let’s also acknowledge the Ensign articles that have admonished members to not trust or use the rating system, or acknowledge statement’s like Elder Perry’s, said in General Conference, that tell us we don’t need a man-made rating system because we have the spirit of the Lord.

    Saying “I don’t see R rated movies because Church leaders say not to” is just away of marginalizing those who don’t – implying that they don’t listen to Church leaders. People are so desperate to hold on to cherished beliefs, even if incorrect, that they conveniently ignore statements from leaders that dispute what they believe.

  77. john fowles says:

    Speaking of which- you still have not answered regarding whether or not the fact that the film was available from BYU makes any difference to you.

    It doesn’t make any difference to me. Each person will be held accountable for the choices that they make regardless of whether some BYU prof in the German dept. decided that Schindler’s List could be seen in German in the HLRC or not. The question is whether our Church leaders have admonished against R-rated movies or not. If they have, then it doesn’t matter what Professor Lyons says. Of course, their admonshment is only inspired advice or a recommendation, so as everyone on this thread has aptly pointed out, everyone can make their own decisions on which movies to watch. But for me personally, I don’t see why I shouldn’t defer to the bright-line rule that Church leaders prefer both out of trust and respect for them in their callings and because I have sustained them in those callings.

    This R-rated movie thing is only an issue in the US because in other countries, as I have noted above, members are left to choose based on their subjective judgment what movies are or are not appropriate. I am sure that very few members shun very few movies under those circumstances. Perhaps it is an unfortunate thing that Church leaders adopted the R-rating as a useful bright-line and admonished against it because it sets up the double standard Church-wide where people in England or Germany can see any movie they want, hopefully but not necessarily guided by the “spirit of the law” with regards to avoiding the content of a film with an R-rating, while many Church members in America feel obliged to defer to Church leaders’ arbitrary choice of the cut-off rather than their own subjective taste in making that decision.

  78. Forgive me, Jordan, but this is what is crazy: It’s not OK to watch a R-rated movie unless you watch it at BYU, or if you buy it overseas. Surely there must be a better, less Pharasaical way of doing this. I have a good idea of when a film is not suitable: would I be ashamed if the Saviour saw me watching this? In the case of the Passion, Schindler’s List etc. the answer is an honest no.

    And John, British Mormons do have a rule: we try to avoid “18’s” which are usually the equivalent of “R” but not always. Luckily, all the good films I want to watch are not “18”. So here’s a question for you: would you watch The Last Samurai if you were still in Oxford, knowing that you were a member of a Ward that had a native interpretation of the R-rule? Actually, don’t answer that. I’m tired of this.

  79. john fowles says:

    John H. wrote No, you pick and choose what you want to do based on a selection of what Church leaders have said. And that’s fine, but I get frustrated when people try and make it all sound so “simple.” The reality is a small handful of Church leaders have specifically spoken out against R movies, almost all Seventies. The only prophet to do so was Ezra Taft Benson, and that was in a talk specifically addressed to the Youth.

    Are you implying that because only a handful of Church leaders have expressly said the words “rated-R” and the rest haven’t said anything at all that those who didn’t say anything think/thought it was okay to see R-rated movies? It seems like any support you can muster in support of R-rated movies is an argument from silence. Have any Church leaders said “I know that a handful say that R-rated movies are inappropriate, but don’t worry about ratings and just judge for yourself which movies are appropriate or not”? Absent something like this, the silence you refer to doesn’t even indicate a difference in views on the issue, much less the idea that R-rated movies are okay.

  80. john fowles says:

    John H. wrote But let’s also acknowledge the Ensign articles that have admonished members to not trust or use the rating system, or acknowledge statement’s like Elder Perry’s, said in General Conference, that tell us we don’t need a man-made rating system because we have the spirit of the Lord.

    Such statements made by Church leaders cannot, I believe (and of course, you are free to disagree), be interpreted as a green light on any rated-R movie; rather, they are saying that PG-13 and PG movies might similarly be inappropriate, not vice versa.

  81. Ronan,

    I am sorry to hear you view this as “pharasaical”. I find it interesting. I refrain from watching such movies because my parents expect it. I know I don’t live with them anymore, but it seems an easy way to honor them and their wishes.

    I do think the line is very blurry with foreign films, and I do admit that this fuzziness makes the whole bright-line r-rated rule seem sort of silly. I mean- it seems ludicrous to think watching a movie would be OK in Germany when it was first released, but then become taboo suddenly when released in the USA because some decision-maker decided to rate it “R”.

    But who has time for movies anyway? :)

  82. john fowles says:

    Johh H. wrote Saying “I don’t see R rated movies because Church leaders say not to” is just away of marginalizing those who don’t – implying that they don’t listen to Church leaders.

    This just isn’t true. At least not for me.

  83. John Fowles:

    Elder Perry’s statement is very clear and unambiguous. He doesn’t say we should only trust the rating system when it refers to R rated movies. He says we don’t need to use a man-made rating system. Period. End of story. If you say you won’t see R rated movies, you’re using a man-made rating system and therefore ignoring the counsel of Elder Perry. As I’ve said, I don’t have a problem with that, since I’m also ignoring the counsel of Elder Wirthlin, who did say we shouldn’t see R rated movies.

    What continues to puzzle me is your insistence that there’s no inconsistency, that there isn’t any conflict between such positions. It seems very plain to me when I look at the statements (and I’ve looked at them all – at least all published ones) that the ambiguity and the inconsistency is there. It’s abundantly clear the Brethren have no clear-cut policy on this, and it also seems clear that in recent years they’ve moved even farther away from singling out R rated movies. If the only prophet we can cite who did single them out died a dozen years ago, that doesn’t exactly strike me as great evidence of a consistent policy.

    Let’s look at this another way. I honestly can’t think of anything else on this planet from the entertainment industry that the Church trusts. Mormons take such immense pleasure in hating the media and denouncing it at every given turn. Why do you think the Brethren believe that the industry got this one thing right?

    We are expected to use Latter-day Saint standards and values when we make any other decisions regarding media – be it books, music, TV, etc. Why do you think we gain absolution if we use the rating system when it comes to movies? I just can’t fathom that Church leaders would put their trust in a system created by the same motion picture industry that they rail against almost every General Conference.

  84. John: Perhaps it is an unfortunate thing that Church leaders adopted the R-rating as a useful bright-line and admonished against it because it sets up the double standard Church-wide where people in England or Germany can see any movie they want, hopefully but not necessarily guided by the “spirit of the law” with regards to avoiding the content of a film with an R-rating, while many Church members in America feel obliged to defer to Church leaders’ arbitrary choice of the cut-off rather than their own subjective taste in making that decision.

    Can you not see how CRAZY that is?! So, Ronan and John sit down to see a movie. It happens to be R-rated in the US but not in the UK. Both agree it looks like a fine film, but because he’s American John has to leave the room whilst Ronan can sit back and enjoy the movie.

    Would God be the author of such a CRAZY system? If I were you I would take the R-rating as a guideline not an absolute and carefully research movies that might be R but only because they tackle certain issues/events. But I’m not you.

    Anyway, I’m going to put the Matrix in the DVD player and kick back for the evening, but I’ll be sure to watch the British version.

    CRAZY.

  85. john fowles says:

    John H. wrote If the only prophet we can cite who did single them out died a dozen years ago, that doesn’t exactly strike me as great evidence of a consistent policy.

    This is very good. If only you could convince my wife of this, I could rent the Last Samurai tonight. I’m serious about that. Down with the ratings! (That is, if our Church leaders really haven’t recommended against seeing R-rated movies, but I have to confess I’m still a little skeptical about that).

  86. Ronan-

    Would it be less crazy for John to leave the room because he is “honoring his parents” and striving to not disappoint his wife? Because those are the reasons I would use.

  87. BTW, John, Samurai is a great film and remarkable for the fact that the love story has absolutely no sex involved. Why’s it R? Because it portrays war pretty realistically (but without much gore). Uncle Ronan approves. Tell Alli to let you watch it!

  88. john fowles says:

    Ronan, of course I can see tha absurdity of the dilemma you pose. But what I am supposed to do if I want to show good faith towards Church leaders who recommend against seeing R-rated movies? If I see the R-rated movie based on my own judgment of what is appropriate for me, am I saying, in effect, that I know better than the Church leaders? Am I affronting their stewardship with relation to my spiritual well-being? I mean these questions sincerely. If I am to defer to them and their judgment based on their callings and stewardship, then, yes, the result from your absurd hypothetical follows, and you are the lucky one in the equation. It is not a matter of being pharisaical, I don’t think.

  89. Jordan:

    My parents told me that to vote Conservative was to follow the Church. They were just wrong! :)

    I too honour my wife, but I don’t obey her if I think she’s wrong. double :)

  90. Bob Caswell says:

    “This just isn’t true. At least not for me.”

    John Fowles, I believe you but still wouldn’t mind further explanation. You continue to say things like “…I don’t see why I shouldn’t defer to the bright-line rule that Church leaders prefer…” What, like the three members of the seventy that have spoken out on this? You see this as enough to create a blanket statement about “what Church leaders prefer”? What if I were to produce a dozen Church leaders who “preferred” something entirely different?

    And in answer to this question, “Have any Church leaders said ‘I know that a handful say that R-rated movies are inappropriate, but don’t worry about ratings and just judge for yourself which movies are appropriate or not’?” The answer is a definite “yes”, that is, depending on your definition of Church leaders. I’ve known plenty of bishops and counselors who have seen rated R movies and lived to tell the tale. They have all been “Church leaders”. So is it only members of the seventy (as John H. pointed out, prophets and apostles steer clear of this) that can dictate uncoordinated “bright line” rules for the whole Church? Or can local leaders do that too? I’m confused, what do I do when my Church leaders seem to have conflicting view on official “bright light” Church policies? Hmm… Kind of makes you wonder where the official policy came from… Do we have a proclamation on this? An origination? Where did it start if it’s so “bright”?

  91. john fowles says:

    What if I were to produce a dozen Church leaders who “preferred” something entirely different?

    Then the issue would be settled and I would revel in a stack of R-rated films. But, alas, this is not the case.

  92. John Fowles:

    I’m not here to tell you no Church leader has ever said not to R rated movies. The statements are out there – but you’ve got to hunt for them.

    My only point is that I think it’s funny how deserately some people seem to cling to the “no R rated movies!” mantra. Some people aren’t into movies that much, and not seeing something because of a rating isn’t a big deal. Other people just find the rating system to be a decent guide for them. I’ve honestly got no problem with either. But some people are so insistent they refuse to believe the scarcity with which leaders have actually addressed the R rated issue.

    It just seems like there are other statements, nearly as infrequent, that people could also latch onto if they wanted. How about President Kimball and President Joseph F. Smith’s statements condemning hunting for sport? I don’t see people dragging those out, demanding all Latter-day Saints stop hunting.

    If someone wanted to believe dancing was evil, they’d sure find plenty of support among late-nineteenth century leaders. And there probably aren’t a lot of statements from leaders specifically condoning dancing, either.

    The Church is 175 years old – there’s lots of statements addressing lots of different cultural oddities over the years. It’s actually more than possible that in the next 10 or 20 years, the rating system will disappear and will be replaced by another system.

  93. John H:

    I’m having trouble tracking down this alleged statement by Elder Perry telling us not to use the rating system (as opposed to not trusting it exclusively). I certainly see nothing that would indicate that Elder Perry thinks that those who don’t see R-rated movies are ignoring his counsel. If you’re not just blowing smoke, could you please post the specific quote to which you’re referring?

  94. john fowles says:

    John H. wrote How about President Kimball and President Joseph F. Smith’s statements condemning hunting for sport? I don’t see people dragging those out, demanding all Latter-day Saints stop hunting.

    The ironic thing with this observation is that I was raised in that type of home. My father was 100% against sport hunting based on those statements and based on his own experience growing up in rural Utah killing animals with his dad for sport and not need for meat. Similarly, as you can imagine, based on other statements by Church leaders, R-rated movies and caffeine were strictly forbidden in my home. All I am trying to say with this is that some Latter-day Saints are following the words of Church leaders very strictly. The R-rated movie issue falls into that category.

    As to dancing, I think that might be a bad example because I think it was pretty much accepted among nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints.

  95. John H,
    As much as I agree with you, you seem to want it both ways. You are suggesting that the only thing that bothers you is how Avoiders assume we Watchers aren’t following prophetic council. But then you say, “I don’t see people dragging those out, demanding all Latter-day Saints stop hunting. I think John F’s point is that he’s not demanding us to not watch R-rated movies. He’s just saying he doesn’t do it himself and we can make our own decisions.

  96. Bob Caswell says:

    “It’s actually more than possible that in the next 10 or 20 years, the rating system will disappear and will be replaced by another system.”

    Probably even sooner… As soon as Jack Valenti dies, I see the system getting totally revamped. And I doubt the man is going to live for 10 or 20 more years. But this is just my opinion based on the information I’ve gathered while writing two different research papers on the matter.

    John Fowles, the Last Samurai is a great movie. I’ll let you borrow my copy as soon as I get it autographed by… how many Church leaders would you need to approve of it before you’d pop it in?

    But seriously, if your wife has a problem with this more than you do and you’d like to honor her standards, I can see that as very noble of you. Not to pry, but would she be against me inviting you to my house to watch the Last Samurai with me? For the record, the invitation is always open, just give me a couple days notice, and BAM! We’ll watch whichever of the great R movies you’ve missed up until now.

  97. john fowles says:

    Not to pry, but would she be against me inviting you to my house to watch the Last Samurai with me?

    I don’t know–I’d probably be too afraid to ask. But she probably wouldn’t really have a huge problem with that.

  98. /need to finish my thoughts before posting/

    So what I’m asking is what really bothers you John H? The assumption that we’re not following prophetic council or their demands of us to not watch R-rated movies?

  99. Nat Whilk:

    Here’s Elder Perry’s quote:

    “We do not need man-made rating systems to determine what we should read, what we should watch, what we should listen to, or how we should conduct our lives. What we do need to do is live worthy of the continued companionship of the Holy Ghost and have the courage to follow the promptings that come into our lives.”

    L. Tom Perry, “That Spirit Which Leadeth to Do Good,” Ensign (May 1997): 70.

    It’s available on the Church’s website, at the end of the page.

  100. john fowles says:

    It is very tempting, but what would that mean I am doing with regards to the counsel we have been given? That is the problem I am having here. I don’t want to disregard the counsel that our leaders have given us, but I agree that the R-rating is arbitrary and, for me, pointless if it is a war movie or some other movie merely R-rated because of violence and/or profanity.

  101. Can we all take a moment to reflect on how AWESOME the bloggernacle is? John F’s last post almost brought a tear to my eye. The fact that we’ve been having this discussion for what, 8 hours, it seems like we’re actually getting somewhere.

  102. John H:

    This is all you have? This quote does not say that we are not to use rating systems, and any inference from this that Elder Perry thinks those who avoid R-rated movies are ignoring his counsel is wishful thinking, at best.

  103. Bob Caswell says:

    “It is very tempting, but what would that mean I am doing with regards to the counsel we have been given?”

    John Fowles, I would not be opposed to the idea of calling your wife to ask if you can come over and play… Assuming she says yes, though, we still need to work with your uncomfortableness of how this leaves you with the counsel we’ve supposedly been given. Would it make any difference that by supposedly hurting the feelings of three members of the seventy (don’t worry I won’t tell them), you’d be following the counsel of other members of the Church? I have been branch president twice and am I’m sure we could get others who’d recommend good R movies to state their respective leadership callings to give you enough of a base to feel like there are a substantial number of “Church leaders” who are with you on this one. What do you say?

  104. Rusty, you are an awesome dude. That last comment indeed made the thread worthwhile.

    Nat, you’d be hard-pressed to find a GA quote saying that rated R movies are OK, but it stands to reason that we should not overly rely on ratings systems set forth by sources outside of the Church. I think John’s quote is pretty good!

  105. Bob Caswell says:

    Elder Perry says, “We DO NOT NEED man-made RATING SYSTEMS TO DETERMINE what we should read, what we should WATCH, what we should listen to, or how we should conduct our lives.” (emphasis added)

    Nat Whilk says, “This quote does not say that we are not to use rating systems”

    Huh? Am I missing something between the lines or what?

  106. Unfortunately, Bob, most of us weren’t members of those branches you presided over as a missionary. As much as that experience might have made you feel like a General Authority, some of us consider their stewardship to be a little bit broader than yours.

  107. Rusty:

    Good question. To put it bluntly, I get worked up too easy as it is. I just shouldn’t let things bother me. That said, what does get under my skin is the portrayal of issues like this as if they are cut and dry, black and white. “The Prophet said not to see R rated movies, so why do you” is often the refrain.

    It’s not just this issue, either. A lot of people in the Church like to portray themselves as only being the way they are because “the prophet said so.” They seem unwilling to acknowledge that, for the most part, the real reason they believe what they do is because it fits their personality and lifestyle and comfort zone. They selectively emphasize certain Church leaders (Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, Ezra Taft Benson, etc.) that will back up their worldview. They do the same with certain issues (sexual morality, word of wisdom, media and entertainment, etc.) and seem to suggest these are the issues we really need to worry about in life. Leaders like Hugh B. Brown, David O. McKay, or Howard W. Hunter, who tended to be more moderate in their views, are de-emphasized. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that David O. McKay, the longest serving Church leader ever (counting apostleship and presidency) had almost no books of his teachings out until this year. On the flip-side, every single one of Bruce R. McConkie’s books are in-print and available from Deseret Book.

    Don’t misunderstand – I’m not crying conspiracy. I just think the majority of Church members tend to have a certain perspective, and that perspective then takes precedent, regardless of “truth”. I think publishers like Deseret Book then cater to that perspective by publishing what sells. Hugh B. Brown’s books don’t sell, Joseph Fielding Smith’s do. Put more simply, I think our conservative culture determines what we believe more than the voice of God. And since Church leaders are born and bred in this same conservative culture, they by and large are not immune from its influence.

  108. Yes, Bob, you’re definitely missing something.

    To say that we do not need X is not to say that we should not use X.

  109. Steve,

    If movies are “art” and the director wants control of it, then they should control the experience. Certify the theaters it can be shown in, make sure that people don’t (or do, if desired) talk during it, and give refunds if the film is ruined by a dim bulb, poor sound, or it breaks. Once they are willing to put it on a plastic disc and sell it to me to be viewed in my home in less than ideal circumstances, on a device with pause, rewind, and fast-forward buttons, then they are trading some of the control over the experience for money. Purists are free to watch a film in their house as they will. I am should also be free to choose how to experience it. If I choose to deprive myself of the director’s vision in my own house, that is my loss or gain. Look at what is happening in the music world, in which the Gray Album by DJ Dangermouse is basically a bastardization. While it isn’t the intent of the original artists, is it not also art? Should it be disallowed (or less valid) because it wasn’t the intent of the original artist?

    In a more film centric example, fully capable filtering software should provide the ability for someone to remix a movie to create something new. Want to see Pulp Fiction in chronological order? Why shouldn’t you be able to? Same goes for the Godfather movies. Want to eliminate Jar Jar and Ewoks from your favorite movies? That is a new and valid experience. To call these tools mere censorship (not saying that you have, but other have) shows a lack of creativity on foresight.

    Finally, if I buy a paperback book, shouldn’t I be free to pull the pages out and put them back together in any order or degree of completeness that I like and then read the book?

  110. Nat,
    What in the name of Marduk and Ishtar does this mean:
    To say that we do not need X is not to say that we should not use X.

  111. john fowles says:

    Rusty: agreed. In fact, I’ve never had more fun writing a motion to compel as today. (The motion really is coming along despite the time I’ve spent on this discussion and the T&S discussion on proxy baptisms today.)

    Bob, I don’t know. Like I disclosed at the beginning, it has only really been since I’ve been married that I’ve been an avoider. And yet I’m not blaming that on my wife. I was raised never to see R-rated movies and yet watched them all the time at friends’ houses anyways. That wasn’t based on an evaluation of different Church leaders statements and deciding to follow some rather than others; rather, it was pure disobedience both to parents and to Church leaders. Now, I can regret the fact that some Church leaders have hooked onto the arbitrary R-rating as their measurement all I want, but it doesn’t change my awareness that those Church leaders intended those statements to be guiding principles. I like the Elder Perry statement but have a hard time bringing myself to believe that it means that R-ratings are okay after all. I can’t avoid the conclusion that it means that we need to further filter our viewing past merely avoiding R-rated films.

  112. Er…so Nat, when President Hinckley says we don’t need pornography, he’s not saying we shouldn’t use pornography? If we don’t need something, it seems to go without saying that we shouldn’t use it. Or, to put it in positive terms, if we should use something, wouldn’t we by definition need it?

  113. Ronan:

    Which word don’t you understand?

  114. john fowles says:

    John H., I really like Hugh B. Brown. Admittedly, I haven’t read a lot from him, but I have a hard time thinking that he put less emphasis on these things than other Church leaders.

  115. Oh, puhleeze, John. You are really grasping at straws. Are you seriously contending that President Hinckley couches his criticism of pornography only in terms of not “needing” it?

    If we don’t need something, it seems to go without saying that we shouldn’t use it.

    Right. So if you don’t need R-rated movies, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t use them.

  116. Just because I don’t “need” my Lucky Charms, doesn’t mean I “shouldn’t” eat them. Does it?

  117. Bob Caswell says:

    “Unfortunately, Bob, most of us weren’t members of those branches you presided over as a missionary.”

    Well, Nat, if we’re to use statements from seventies at BYU firesides to govern how the whole Church should live, then I find my stewardship just as valid as theirs. The point is that I was using this to illustrate how silly it is to assume that since someone has a particular calling, they have the authority to speak to the whole Church even if the whole Church somehow wasn’t a part of the BYU crowd that night (i.e. no different than me holding you accountable for not being at my sacrament meeting when I told you – even though you weren’t there – to not use the rating system).

    “To say that we do not need X is not to say that we should not use X.”

    Interesting nuance… Thanks for spelling it out for me.

  118. Well, Nat, if we’re to use statements from seventies at BYU firesides to govern how the whole Church should live, then I find my stewardship just as valid as theirs.

    The Seventies are called General Authorities for a reason. The “BYU firesides” are CES firesides that are broadcast to all the Young Adults of the Church (who aren’t busy watching R-rated videos, or otherwise). Elder Christensen has repeated this counsel in General Conference.

  119. Nat, your logic is a bit faulty, as Rusty’s already pointed out. A better way of putting it, perhaps, would be to say that just because we shouldn’t rely exclusively on ratings systems doesn’t mean that they are useless.

    JF: you should read An Abundant Life, an excellent book of Hugh B. Brown’s memoirs. Truly excellent.

  120. I think the oversimplifications in this argument need some pointing out. Everybody is making valid points but a lot of people are speaking past eachother. Moreover, we’ve divided the camp here into R-avoiders and R-watchers, and some false assumptions have come along with the division.

    There is more than one kind of R-avoider:

    There is the R-avoider who watches anything pg-13 but nothing R. I think everybody here would agree that this would be following the letter of the law and not the spirit, since many pg-13 movies are intended to be crude/vulgar/slightly pornographic etc.
    There is the R-Avoider who also avoids almost all things PG13 and doesn’t watch any movies with an F-word, a gunshot, even a hint of a shadow of something that would offend the spirit (and I think we could all agree that the spirit is offended easily).
    Then there is the R-avoider like myself. I have seen less than 10 R-rated movies, and with almost all of them I fast-forwarded through parts. (self editing?) At the same time, I avoid almost every other movie as well because most just aren’t good movies (content wise, entertainment wise, acting-wise, etc.)

    But there is more than one kind of Mormon R-watcher as well.

    There are the R-watchers who avoid any counsel from church leaders that watch whatever they feel like and disregard whether there is pornographic/violent/vulgar content.

    There are the R-watchers who only see R-rated movies if they believe the message is greater than the accompanying bad content, but who also keep the standards of the church in mind and try to be selective and wise in their choices.

    And I think there are many more “types” or “categories” however you want to see it. The biggest difference may be this:

    There is a scale of “spiritually inspiring message” vs. “amount of negative content.” R and PG13 avoiders tend to think that “No amount of negative content is worth a good message.” That may be because we believe we can find the same message in a more kosher package. R-watchers tend to say, “YEs there was lots of (gory violence, or nudity, or sex scenes, or swearing) but the message was so important and it makes me want to be better”

    So we have people who are willing to tolerate a certain amount of bad content in order to get the message of a movie, and there are those who think the message isn’t worth it.

    As Joseph Smith said, we are taught true principles and then we govern ourselves. The STrength of Youth Pamphlet teaches principles. How we govern ourselves is up to us. I personally avoid most movies, because i think watching them would not be living those principles.

    I feel like “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” means the following: that if i find myself having to justify watching something, then instead of seeking something virtuous, i’m looking for virtue in something which is neither lovely, nor of good report, nor praiseworthy. THe R-rating line is helpful to some members of the church who may need set rules to live worthily and i think they should not be criticized for holding to it. But i feel like more important is the question of are we seeking for something that is innately good, or seeking for good in something that innately isn’t. That’s the principle i go by, and it has led me to avoid R-rated movies, even though i believe there are exceptions.

    The Mirth

    “Moderation in all things except for moderation”
    “Every Blanket statement is false”
    “there are always exceptions”

  121. Nat, your logic is a bit faulty, as Rusty’s already pointed out.

    I thought Rusty was agreeing with me that not to need X is not the same as being obligated not to use X.

  122. Nat, looks like I got confused because you say some contradictory stuff. At one point, you said “So if you don’t need R-rated movies, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t use them.”

  123. john fowles says:

    I do think that Bob’s points are very persuasive.

  124. Bob Caswell says:

    Nat, I’m sorry, but I still don’t follow. Something as big as submitting my movie-going experience to a third-party American censor (run by Hollywood no less) indirectly endorsed by the Church constitutes a situation that could be potentially as important to me as say, the Word of Wisdom or Tithing, if it were truly something we as members need to live by. Such principles are not introduced by a seventy at a BYU fireside. If the Church has a certain stance about something – and it’s important – there would be no wishy-washy unorganized, decentralized, cryptic way of distributing information on said stance.

  125. john fowles says:

    I like what The Mirth has to say except that it makes me feel bad about myself because I clearly fall into his/her first category of R-avoiders, and that supports Ronan’s argument that I am a pharisee.

  126. The Mirth,
    EXCEPTIONS!!!! That’s the whole point! We’re not saying everyone should watch all R-rated movies regardless of content, we’re just saying that what the church leaders have said leaves room for exceptions.

  127. Bob Caswell says:

    John Fowles, if it’s any consolation, I’m not so convinced that you’re a pharisee.

  128. Bob Caswell says:

    By the way, I know we’ve touched on this, but the Church would have a hard time issuing any sort of centralized, official statement on R rated movies, as it would then be branded what it never wants to be: An American Church. Think about it. I bet there are plenty of brethren who get frustrated when it’s brought up in broadcasts that are crossing borders, as more than half the Church is confused (and in some instances, outraged) by their supposed need to submit to Americanism.

  129. I’m sure this will be extremely popular with the masses:
    A cavalier attitude does not change the fact that choices still have consequences.
    And, with all due respect, disregarding/subverting your wife’s counsel/position in the movie choice department is *not* a step in the right direction.

  130. Bob Caswell says:

    Julie K, I think I agree with most of what you said… One thing I want to point out, though, let’s not forget that some choices have GOOD consequences… The word “consequences” gets such a bad rap in our Church.

  131. I also think the Americanization of it has something to do with the church’s current position on the matter. I remember one of my companions in Brazil who spent a considerable amount of time trying to tell a member that she ought not be watching a movie because it had something called an “R” rating in the United States. I don’t think the woman ever comprehended what he was trying to tell her.

  132. One more thing on the “not watching the movie as intended” front, though I think that the discussion has moved on. I think there is a valid distinction to be made between “art” and “entertainment”. This has as much to do with the attitude and wants of the viewer as the intention of the “artist”. If I want to sit and be entertained for two hours without being offended I see nothing wrong with that.

    It is probably odd that while I am a big defender of filters and the like I have never used any other than one of my own I worked on briefly as a hobby project.

  133. I must apologize for the tone of my comments. I truly am not trying to be preachy, honest! I just feel very strongly about this subject and cannot stop the feeling that all perspectives should be considered. I did link from M*, so blame them for my intrusion over here! :)

    I think that the commenters who support the idea that the Church leadership does not really have a firm position on this are not really looking very hard at the evidence to the contrary.

    With the assumption that Church publications are under the direction of, and an extention of, Church leadership, I did a search of the Gospel Library at lds.org using ‘r-rated movie’ as my request. I got 500 matches. Admittedly, not all of them mention R rated movies specifically, but the tenor was clear in each reference. Not one suggested that we should dabble and experiment with how much questionable content we could safely expose ourselves to. Everything I skimmed was explicitly advocating staying as far away from those influences as possible.

    We all get to choose what we watch and do not watch. That’s a given. No debate there.
    What we base those choices on is what is in question here, I think.
    Each of us comes to our own conclusion on where to draw the line using our own judgments and preferences.
    But the point that I really want to make here is that we can’t always know what the consequences of our choices are going to be beforehand.

    For instance, we don’t know how a movie is going to affect us until after we watch it, and then it is too late to press rewind or delete and un-experience the experience, so to speak.

    For instance, how do you guys know that you are not, by your viewing choices now, inadvertantly feeding the monster that is going to become your midlife crisis in ten or twenty years?
    You don’t. You can’t.

    Am I the only one who senses danger here?

  134. Julie: “Am I the only one who senses danger here?”

    In all honesty, I don’t sense the danger that seems to possess you on this topic. If we’re talking about avoiding pornographic materials, I’m with you. If we’re talking about keeping children away from negative influences, I’m with you there, too.

    I think you are very correct to point out that we cannot predict how a certain film will affect us. Thus the burden is on us to do our research and to examine ourselves in this respect. That’s important, and shouldn’t be cast aside.

    And don’t worry about intruding at all — as the signs say on our chapels, Visitors Welcome!

  135. Julie, if you want to base avoidance on old GA quotes, that’s fine.

    But I must disagree with “we don’t know how a movie is going to affect us until after we watch it, and then it is too late.” Unless you’re talking about basic reactions like crying, being startled, etc.

    I do not understand how this is possible. I do not understand how a movie can make me do or will something against my will. That is not possible.

    And what movie watching has to do with a mid-life crisis is beyond me.

  136. Since the obvious intent of avoiding R-rated movies is to stop ourselves from being influenced by bad examples, I submit that our own scriptures are sadly in need of a rating system, perhaps on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Any instance of bad behavior, even though we might actually learn something from it, should probably be excised. Who knows how it might affect the weak-minded among us? They might be tempted to follow in King Noah’s footsteps, after all. When Moroni mentions the depravity of the Nephites, and how their wickedness exceeded that of the Lamanites, who were feeding their female captives the flesh of their husbands, well, clearly, we’re in R-rated territory here. Why, just the mention of Gadianton robbers and secret oaths is probably enough to start tender minds wandering down forbidden paths: what did they mean by that? What kinds of oaths would they take?

    Obviously, if we’re going to be consistent and complain about the content of R-rated movies, we need to put our own houses in order first.

    Right?

  137. Godot:
    re: old quotes
    I have a tiny perspective of the world. Granted, it is expanded enormously by my educational choices and knowledge of the gospel plan, but my own experiences are very limited in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, I personally have come to the conclusion that is in my best interest to heed the recommendations of those who can see a much bigger picture than I can. Perhaps they can even see into the future, as their titles imply? Wouldn’t that be a valuable resource to you, too?

    re: reactions
    Maybe one movie can’t make you do anything against your will, but what happens if several different movies that you see suggest the same thing over and over again-doing something that you would never do? What if over time your will *changes* due to the influence of the things you have been watching? What if you are not even aware that this change has taken place in your mind?

    re: midlife crisis
    What we feed our minds feeds our thought processes, and over time, a steady diet of anything influences not only how we think and act, but who we are. The entertainment choices that are discouraged by the Church are not discouraged for arbitrary reasons, and if we get in the habit of ignoring the counsel of our leaders and spouses it sets up a dangerous precedent for when times can get really tough in midlife. I don’t have to actually spell it out here, do I?

    I stick by my initial premise.
    We can choose.
    We cannot choose the consequences.

  138. I haven’t read through most of the comments on this thread for lack of time, but I thought I’d comment as one who doesn’t watch R-rated movies. I made a commitment when I was a Beehive never to watch an R-rated movie, and I never have.

    In conversations like these I usually avoid responding because this decision is easily misinterpreted as a proud, pharasaic, letter of the law sort of rule-following that represents a misunderstanding of the Gospel. While my commitment as a 12 year old may have originated from that kind of desire to be obedient, my motivation over the years to not watch R-rated movies has changed a lot.

    When I was a freshman at BYU, for example, I decided that I was not even going to watch edited movies on campus that had once been rated R. I wanted to avoid the very appearance of evil. The issue was no longer just about protecting my own purity and receptivity to the Spirit since I wouldn’t have been exposed to offensive material in edited versions of R-rated movies. Instead, my decision was the result of a particular interpretation of Corinthians. I came to understand, through my study of Paul, that how one uses the freedom one has as a Christian is integrally related to the spiritual safety and development of others. I decided that I never wanted to be fluent in an R-rated movie’s plot or characters even if I’d seen a “clean” version of it. I never wanted to be able to converse about a once-questionable movie that someone else might not know I had only seen edited. I didn’t want to risk losing the trust of those in the future to whom this issue might matter.

    Over the years there have been those who have indicated to me that a certain movie was “life-changing” and worth suspending my personal ethic to view. Schindler’s List, Rainman, Saving Private Ryan, The Passion of Christ—all of these were “must-see” movies, according to most. However, I have noticed no deficiency in my life for not having seen any of these movies despite the momentary buzz they all elicited.

    It is important to me that you know that this is a personal decision of mine for my own life and not something I impose or expect of others. I bear no condesecending ill-will and pass no judgment whatsoever on those who have made different decisions in this area.

  139. Melissa, I really respect you for sticking to your decision and the path you’ve taken. I have chosen somewhat differently, but at times I find myself envious of people with such fortitude…

  140. Julie says, “We can choose. We cannot choose the consequences.”

    I agree. Unless the consequences are an involuntary modification of the will. Then we *can* choose the consequences, because we can always choose our will.

    As to old quotes, back in the seventies and before, multiple GA’s spoke out against interracial marriage. After OD2, there was no more discussion of it. There were no statements saying that is was permissible, there was simply no discussion. Technically, it seems, we are still bound to believing that it is wrong.

    It’s been 17 years since a prophet last told anyone not to see R’s. I suspect that that number is going to grow by one every year from now on. At what point does it no longer hold doctrinal weight?

    I think part of the issue of the debate on R’s in the church has to do with the nature of R movies. Many members assume that R’s are more evil in message, tone, etc. This is simply not the case at all. They are just more graphic, contain a larger number of swear words, etc. For a rating system that includes tone and message, the Catholics have their whole own system at usccb.org that is usually pretty good. It would be cool if our church had its own rating system.

    Speaking about The Passion, Robert Millet said that “the rating system had betrayed us” by giving The Passion an R. It appears that Millet has no idea what the rating system is for or what it does. I wonder how many members think the same way.

  141. Bob Caswell says:

    Melissa,

    I appreciate your thoughts. I hope you don’t mind the prying reply… When you say, “I have noticed no deficiency in my life for not having seen any of these movies…” you seem to want this to be fairly bold evidence of something. I’m curious as to how one measures deficiency from something one never has experienced. I see two problems: 1) how the measurement is defined and 2) how to measure one’s life based on the absence of positive experiences. If you could expound, answering those two questions, then maybe I could grasp what it is you’re trying to show. Also, when you say, “I made a commitment when I was a Beehive never to watch an R-rated movie, and I never have.” I’m impressed by your patience with yourself, for if I were to live any part of my life completely based on decisions I made when I was 12, I’d go crazy!

  142. I don’t want to keep banging my drum with a beat that only I can dance to, and I want to spare you all the torture of listening to the incessant noise!
    My visit here has been most enlightening.
    Thanks all!

  143. Bob Caswell says:

    Oh Julie, trust me, it’s good to see the other side’s point of view even if I don’t start dancing. I hope you visit again soon.

  144. Hey now, Julie, I thought we were pretty good to you. Maybe Godot wasn’t at his most charming, though. :)

    Come back soon, ya hear?

  145. Hey Bob,

    Although I’m finally home, I still have miles to go before I sleep tonight so I’m going to have to offer an abbreviated reply.

    I was not trying to offer “bold evidence” of anything in my comment. If anything I was gently mocking those who descibed these movies as “life altering” and somehow necessary for understanding certain issues. I just don’t buy the idea that watching Rainman can teach me more about autism than I can learn from volunteering to work with autistic kids or that watching Schindler’s List is somehow more informative or moving than attending Yad Vashem in Jerusalem or the Holocaust museum in DC. Likewise, I take issue with the perspective, offered by some, that the Passion offers a richer and more meaningful understanding of the Atonement than I could gain in other ways (like from the Spirit)

    The only measure I have is a comparative one. The comparisons I’ve made, make it clear to me that any “knowledge” imparted through films such as these can be acquired, at least as effectively, elsewhere.

    As far as the broader question goes, it seems obvious that we measure our lives “based on the absence of positive experiences” all the time. I don’t count myself deficient or lacking because I’ve never joined a gang, smoked pot, had a child out of wedlock, gone to prison, broken my leg, and so forth. I don’t need to experience these things to know that their absence is nothing to mourn.

    I certainly haven’t lived my life “completely based on decisions I made when I was 12″ as you imply. Your comment is actually enigmatic to me. Nobody could live one’s life based “completely” on prior decisions. Life comes at us fast. Circumstances change quickly, sometimes overnight, and we have to respond in the moment, often without careful forethought. But, deeply-rooted principles guide those spontaneous decisions most the time. On rare occasions, the principles themselves need to be examined. As I indicated in my post, this particular decision not to see R-rated films was something I’ve reevaluated at several points (as a freshman in college, for example). In the end, however, I’ve always chosen, or more accurately, re-chosen to continue down the path I began, even if my reasons for doing so have changed.

    Part of what I find confusing about your comment is that many of the decisions I made when I was 12 (that I wouldn’t date before I was 16, that I would keep the Word of Wisdom, that I would stay morally clean, that I would serve a mission, attend church, and so forth) were very good decisions. Had they not been good decisions, I may not have been wise to follow through with them. Although my understanding of, motivation around, and experience with these issues has obviously changed dramatically since then, my decisions about my behavior have not. However, if, after reflection and prayer, I had ever felt that my position on any of these issues needed alteration, I am sure that I would have made the necessary adjustment.

  146. Bob Caswell says:

    Melissa,

    Well said. But I still have to point out some inconsistencies on your part as well as further clarify my enigmatic comment.

    First of all, when you said, “…it seems obvious that we measure our lives “based on the absence of positive experiences” all the time. I don’t count myself deficient or lacking because I’ve never joined a gang, smoked pot…” you completely missed the point. Remember what I said, POSITIVE experiences, yet you list only NEGATIVE ones. Let me give you an analogy to illustrate my point. Let’s take a man and a woman who have been married for 25 years but have had no children. It would not make sense if their reasoning was your logic: They had not missed anything positive from having kids. Huh? How would they know? The paradox is that until they have kids, they can’t state that they haven’t missed out on positive experiences associated with having kids. The paradox holds true for you too. You can’t state that, “you have noticed no deficiency in your life for not having seen any of these movies…” (as you put it) because the only way you could accurately quantify the deficiency that supposedly hasn’t happened is after you watch said movies. Do you see what I’m getting at? That’s not to say that you may be missing nothing. But the possibility is equally as strong that you’re missing quite a bit of positive material. Whatever the case may be, you’ll never know what you’re missing until you see it.

    Sorry this is getting long but I also wanted to respond to something else you said: “Part of what I find confusing about your comment is that many of the decisions I made when I was 12 (that I wouldn’t date before I was 16, that I would keep the Word of Wisdom, that I would stay morally clean, that I would serve a mission, attend church, and so forth) were very good decisions.” I just wanted clarify here because I can understand your confusion. Our difference of thought stems from what we consider “decisions”. Looking back at my situation when I was 12, all the same decisions were made (that you’ve stated). But I don’t really consider them my decisions nearly as much as I consider them the decisions of my parents, which I happened to abide by due to my presence in their home. I didn’t actually make the decision to attend Church until AFTER my parents weren’t attending with me. And I didn’t actually make the decision to keep the Word of Wisdom until I was in an atmosphere where I could break it, etc. Until these circumstances were in place, no real decisions were being made on my part.

    So when I think of decisions I made when I was 12, I’m referring to the way I treated others. The way I judged. The way I decided (myself) how to interact with others, etc. Thus, if I were still living by these “decisions” today, I’d be very, very disappointed in myself.

  147. I just got an email from The Passion website trying to sell me The Passion Church Resource DVD. It does not contain the movie but various clips and stills from the movie for use during a sermon. I wonder if this would be acceptable? I still don’t see it coming to a fireside anytime soon.

  148. It’s amazing how much discussion this subject always brings up. What is most striking to me is how arbitrary the rating system is; the ratings have nothing to do with a film’s value or the message it portrays. I see very few R-rated films; the ones I do (and Passion was one) are ones that for me have been faith-affirming in one way or another. On a percentage basis, I’m not sure that PG-13 movies are any better.

  149. No inconsistencies, Bob. Just a misunderstanding.

    I thought you meant “positive” as in definite, having or expressing actual existence or quality as distinguished from deprivation. i.e. not speculative, but empirical or real.

    But, since it seems that you meant “positive” in an evaluative sense, meaning worthy of approbation, I can see that you would have thought I had avoided the issue. But, what makes you think that positive experiences are any different? My comment holds true for life experiences people evaluate usually positively as much as for life experiences people usually evaluate negatively.

    Let’s use your example of parenthood as a case in point. It is obvious to me that becoming a father has been a “life-altering” experience in my brother’s life, that having a child has opened up certain realms of understanding, compassion, sensitivity, devotion . . . that were inaccessible to him previously. While I may need to have a child myself to experience those “realms” at that same level, I don’t need to experience parenthood to recognize that the experience itself is a life-altering one.

    In STARK contrast to parenthood, it is far from obvious to me that watching the particular movies I mentioned has had this sort of “life-altering” effect on anyone I’ve ever met. Of course, there are experiences that affect us in ways that are unobservable to the outside observer, but I think it is overdramatic to ascribe such a description to a film.

    While it may be true that I will never directly know the details of what I’ve missed by not watching R-rated movies (graphic violence, for exmaple) I can observe the fruits of those who have. If watching R-rated movies produces no fruit, or bad fruit, then I do have some indirect experience of the consequences of watching these movies. In fact, I would suggest that many of our decisions are based on this kind of observation and evaluation.

    Lest further misunderstandings ensue let me make it clear that I acknowledge the power of visual images to evoke emotional, psychological, and even physical responses. Hence, the strong prohibitions against pornography, for example. Exposure to certain visual images can obviously have a profound effect. I’ve just never seen evidence that any of those effects (when they exist at all) are of the sort that I both want and couldn’t acquire as effectively in other ways.

    Lastly, I’ve already explained that the way I “judged” or made decisions, reasoned through the issues, chose my motives, etc. has changed throughout the years (it seems like this should be obvious, and thus a non-issue). But, it also seems like I had a very different experience than you did as an adolescent. When I was 12, I really did make these decisions quite on my own. Without going into particulars, none of these decisions were my parents’ decisions. This becomes quite obvious when one compares the life paths of my siblings.

  150. Melissa,

    Wait a minute. How can you suggest that a movie can’t have a “life-altering” impact on someone if you are also suggesting that movies can have a substantial negative impact on people. You can’t have it both ways: either movies can touch us positively AND negatively, or they can’t affect us either way.

    I don’t know if anyone is saying that any of these films are “life altering” anyway. I think we all consider them as very positive experiences that made us just a little bit better of a person overall. Adding those all up is at least a small net gain. Of course you might be able to understand the holocaust better at the museum, but who has that opportunity? It’s easier for the masses to go to the video store and pick up Schindler’s List and be “almost” as touched as they would if they went to the museum. Just because you can learn more elsewhere doesn’t mean the movie isn’t a positive thing in the first place. And frankly, I imagine that the museum would be more graphic than the movie anyway.

    While it may be true that I will never directly know the details of what I’ve missed by not watching R-rated movies (graphic violence, for exmaple)

    I think it’s too bad when Avoiders overlook the positive in some R-rated movies because all they can see is the negative (suggesting that the only thing you missed was violence). As members of the Church we CONSTANTLY overlook the negative in order to take in the positive. So many points in our history, so many bad examples of leadership, so many inconsistencies, etc. We do it ALL THE TIME. Why is it so different in movies?

  151. Bob Caswell says:

    “If watching R-rated movies produces no fruit, or bad fruit, then I do have some indirect experience of the consequences of watching these movies. In fact, I would suggest that many of our decisions are based on this kind of observation and evaluation.”

    The problem here, Melissa, is that in both cases, [it seems to me] you have made your decisions in an arbitrary, subjective fashion completely ignoring the other side. So far, it seems that according to you, parenting = good and rated R movies = bad. Yet, although you’ve experienced neither, you clearly see only what you want to see in both cases. If you could acknowledge the idea that their could be negative consequences as a result of parenting and positive consequences as a result of watching certain films, somehow it would make me feel better. I personally have nothing against parenting but do recognize that as I prepare for it, I should take into consideration those I interview who have had negative experiences. In the same fashion, as you make a decision about rated R movies, rather than say things like “While it may be true that I will never directly know the details of what I’ve missed by not watching R-rated movies (graphic violence, for exmaple) I can observe the fruits of those who have.” Again, you seem to take seriously only that which is convenient to your way of thinking. What if I were to tell you that I have learned quite a bit about compassion, sensitivity, and devotion from watching rated R movies? Witness Eric’s comment above and many others. People DO have very real, positive experiences from watching these movies. You can’t ignore that. But I don’t see evidence of you taking this into account while making your blanket statements like “If watching R-rated movies produces no fruit, or bad fruit, then I do have some indirect experience of the consequences of watching these movies.” I submit to you that you have very little experience of the consequences of watching these movies. If you had such experience, then I doubt very much you’d ignore the good in certain films like you have so far without watching them.

    And lastly when you say, “…let me make it clear that I acknowledge the power of visual images to evoke emotional, psychological, and even physical responses. Hence, the strong prohibitions against pornography, for example.” Again, why must the medium of film have such a powerful effect on us (as you state) only in a NEGATIVE way? Would it not make sense that if this power can be so gripping in a negative way, that the same power could be just as gripping when used in a positive way? I believe so and would love you to add this to your “indirect experience” before you say “…I’ve never seen evidence.” If you’d like, I could help gather even more testimonials from more of the people whose evidence you’ve never seen (or ignored). But somehow I don’t think it would help, as it seems that you see only that which supports your way of thinking.

  152. Bob Caswell says:

    Wow, Amen to what Rusty said! Melissa, I hope we haven’t scared you away. It has been good for me to reiterate my feelings on the subject by explaining them to someone like you all while taking into consideration the things you’ve said.

  153. Bob and Rusty,

    I wish I had the time today to respond fully to your comments, but I don’t.

    What I will say is that I regret having broached this topic at all because of the deep misunderstanding that is occurring that I don’t have time now to try to fix. I think these decisions are intensely personal and that it is easy to misunderstand the motives behind people’s actions. I have never tried to impose my personal choices on others nor have I passed judgment on what other people choose to watch.

    For me the choice not to watch R-rated movies has been a good one. I have never denied that there may be instructive or moving elements in an R-rated movie (see my first post). What I *have* said is that viewing a movie is not, as far as I can tell, ever the only effective way to be moved or instructed on some particular topic. That doesn’t mean that someone can’t disagree and thus, make different decisions that are just as legitimate and worthy for their own life as my decisions have been for me.

    I have no doubt that there may be benefits to watching these movies, Bob. But, I have yet to be convinced that the good outweighs the potential bad. I’m not speaking objectively here. I’m talking about the potential good, for me, and the potential bad, for me.

    As for the charge of making “blanket statements” if you look again at the quote you referenced twice in your comment above, you will see that I was offering an hypothetical.

    I only have time for one more remark. Just like I cannot know the explicit details of the shows I haven’t seen (beneficial or otherwise), you cannot now experience what it would be like to not have seen those films, Bob. You do not know if those films have dulled your sensitivty to violence, to sexual material, or to the Spirit. Perhaps they have made it easier to see other R-rated or PG 13 films that may be less worthy than the “high quality” exceptions with which you began, and so forth. Or, perhaps none of these consequences obtain. The point is that you don’t know, and can’t know what your life may have been like had you made different decisions. Neither can I.

    What I can say is this—I have never regretted not having seen any movie. In conversations with others who have seen this or that show, I have never noticed that my understanding of an important issue is less-informed than others for not having seen the show to which they refer. On the other hand, I know many people who regret having seen movies for a variety of reasons.

    Although this comment will be my last on this thread, you need not worry that I have been “scared away”. On the contrary, like watching R-rated movies, I just don’t think this conversation is the best use of my time or that the benefits outweigh the costs.

  154. Melissa,

    I realize that you’re more-or-less signed off of this thread, but if I may push back a little on one of your assertions. You wrote:

    “I never wanted to be able to converse about a once-questionable movie that someone else might not know I had only seen edited. I didn’t want to risk losing the trust of those in the future to whom this issue might matter.”

    The problem with this is that there are many areas where R-rated knowledge crosses over in a way that your casual observer might still make that kind of mistake.

    For example, you may have read The Wings of the Dove, by Henry James. It’s a pretty good book. It’s also been made into a somewhat well-known movie which is rated R. (See http://imdb.com/title/tt0120520/ ). So you may tell your friend “I really liked The Wings of the Dove” or “I thought The Wings of the Dove was trite” or whatever, and your casual third-party observer might reasonably assume that you’ve seen the movie.

    To push it even further, you could run into that perception simply by saying that you like a particular actor or actress. You might say “I really think Nicole Kidman is a good actress” because you liked her in The Others, but your observer might assume that you’ve seen Cold Mountain or Eyes Wide Shut or other R-rated fare that she’s been in.

    So I don’t think that you can entirely innoculate yourself from the “appearance of evil,” if that’s your goal, just by avoiding edited movies. It seems that complete innoculation could require almost total avoidance of film and literature.

    There are, of course, differences (either of degree or kind) between these examples.

    Still, the problem of your initial hypothetical (an observer who wrongly assumes you’ve seen unedited R-rated fare) could come up in many other situations. How far is it appropriate to go, in your opinion, for that observer’s benefit?

  155. John Mansfield says:

    This is a tangential concept that several of the posts brought to mind. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether adolescence is the beginning of adulthood or not. The varying points of view on this are seen in the disagreement over whether a young woman can at twelve make meaningful commitments to the form of her life. The value of counsel to youth also seems to be weighed according to these different views; is it meant to keep children safe, or to guide new adults in their responsibilities?

  156. Bob Caswell says:

    “You do not know if those films have dulled your sensitivty to violence, to sexual material, or to the Spirit.”

    Oh, but I do know, Melissa. I can answer that, yes, some sensitivity has been dulled, just like my sensitivity had been dulled each time I read the Book of Mormon growing up (you read about wars every day for the first 20 years of your life and that just happens). Now, this is not to say that Book of Mormon hasn’t taught me wonderful things all while dulling my sensitivity in certain areas. Heavens, if life were about minimizing the dulling of sensitivity, then I’d find it hard to leave the house every day, much less turn on the computer or T.V. (even to watch KBYU or the news). Going back to my original analogy, when adults have kids, they do know to a certain degree how it has changed their lives in comparison to their lives previously. When they speculate not having had the experience, that’s when they don’t know.

    I think this is the quintisential difference between those Mormons who have never once seen a rated R movie and those who see them on occasion. If I may be so bold to make some generalizations here, it seems that those who don’t watch any rated R movies, seem to be those with a very low tolerance of any sort of “bad” in their quest for “good”. Life needs to be black and white with no gray (even though, for whatever reason, life is quite a bit of gray). It seems they’d have a hard time living in a place like New York City, as they’d have to wear earplugs walking down the street in order to make sure that every day wasn’t the equivalent of experiencing rated R material (a.k.a. dulling of sensitivity). I find this commendable in many ways even if difficult to fathom. It’s just that looking for good in its purest form is nearly impossible on this earth. The trick is (at least for me) to strive always to take in more good than bad while wading through the mess. But if your concentration is on avoiding bad at all costs, well, one of the major costs is avoiding quite a bit of good too.

  157. Bob Caswell says:

    John Mansfield,

    The issue you bring up in your comment really deserves its own thread, as it’s buried too deep for anyone to notice it on this thread. I’ll see what I can do; it seems that it would be an intriguing discussion.

  158. john fowles says:

    Bob wrote I think this is the quintisential difference between those Mormons who have never once seen a rated R movie and those who see them on occasion. If I may be so bold to make some generalizations here, it seems that those who don’t watch any rated R movies, seem to be those with a very low tolerance of any sort of “bad” in their quest for “good”. Life needs to be black and white with no gray (even though, for whatever reason, life is quite a bit of gray).

    This doesn’t seem to follow from what has transpired on this very thread. I am one who has seen many rated-R movies but have, since marrying, decided to finally be obedient to my parents’ teachings and what I have believed to be the counsel of Church leaders to avoid rated-R movies. But I am one of those annoying “life needs to be black and white with no gray” types (at least that is the frequent feedback I get from many in the Bloggernacle). Melissa, on the other hand, has said that she has never seen a rated-R movie. BUT, she is, from what I have seen both here and at T&S, not a “life needs to be black and white with no gray” type. She seems sufficiently “nuanced” to garner the approval of the “liberal” side of the Bloggernacle. This basically falls out completely opposite of your generalization.

  159. JF: “I am one of those annoying “life needs to be black and white with no gray” types (at least that is the frequent feedback I get from many in the Bloggernacle).”

    Yes, that is your reputation.

    John Mansfield, interesting idea — hopefully Bob can generate a post soon on that topic!

  160. Bob Caswell says:

    John Fowles,

    Discussing this issue with you has been a real treat, as you seem to have been the exception to what I have found to be “generally” accurate about those who avoid R rated movies. You have been openly honest about your decisions and perceptions (not to say that others haven’t, but you especially so). But even if you and Melissa didn’t fit my generalization, well finding two people outside of a generalization doesn’t stop it from being, you know, “general” (at least for me, as I’m basing this generalization off of quite a bit of experience, not just this thread, let alone the Bloggernacle – this generalization is the accumulation of all my life experiences in regard to interacting with those who avoid these movies).

    And that brings me to my next question, John. When you say, “…BUT, she is, from what I have seen both here and at T&S, not a “life needs to be black and white with no gray” type.” Really?! Please back that up! How does that reconcile with her never having seen one rated R movie, let alone the fact that at least at one point in her life, she wouldn’t even watch edited movies (this isn’t a bad thing, I’m just saying it’d be the first liberal I’ve met [within the context of the Church] who had made such decisions)? She sure sounds like someone I should get to know better if she somehow still manages to be “liberal” here in the Bloggernacle.

  161. john fowles says:

    I didn’t say she was a “liberal.” I don’t know whether she is or not, although I suspect she probably is. I said “She seems sufficiently ‘nuanced’ to garner the approval of the ‘liberal’ side of the Bloggernacle.” One small support for this is that Kaimi highlighted her position, even though it’s a position that he doesn’t share, as commendable among the thread of comments here on his T&S sidebar notices. Other support would be the posts she has originated in the Bloggernacle and her comments around the blogs. In essence, I’m equating “nuanced” with an awareness that life is “gray” and not black and white. I am basing that on the fact that often when people have disagreed with a position that I take, they have told me that my position is not “nuanced” enough and that the world is not black and white. So I don’t think that connecting the two in this manner is inappropriate.

  162. Bob Caswell says:

    Not good enough for me, John. For one, Kaimi is always polite in the sidebar so that tells us nothing. For another, based solely on her positions here (I haven’t read much anything else by her or had anyone like you point out otherwise), I’d put her as less nuanced than you (gasp!). I don’t mean that as a dis to either party; it’s just my observation on limited experience (with her, not you). But now you have me all curious and ready to plaque Melissa’s threads at T&S. She doesn’t want that; you better apologize.

  163. john fowles says:

    Well, I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you. It’s probably not worth the time. Besides, if I can apply what seems to be your position more broadly, there is really no liberal or conservative, just gray.

  164. Bob Caswell says:

    “…if I can apply what seems to be your position more broadly, there is really no liberal or conservative, just gray.”

    Um, sure. Interestingly enough, I don’t consider myself extremely liberal. I mean, I am and I’m not. I was raised in a very conservative home, so by those standards, I’m liberal now. But there still are plenty of conservative ways of thinking that I have a hard time letting go of (just ask Steve). So, yeah, I think of it more as a spectrum with very little of the population actually being 100% one way or the other. Most of us are just different shades of gray.

    But don’t confuse that with the way I used gray to illustrate my previous point… because that was entirely different.

  165. I’m pretty uncomfortable with the public speculation about what “type” of person Melissa is. I think I know her better than any of you do, and I can assure you that you are all wrong–Bob, you’ve got her in the wrong box, as do you, John. Melissa is faithful, and smarter than the whole lot of you (and me!), and I wouldn’t be caught dead second-guessing her own personal revelations for her life (which, she has been at pains to point out, are all she was describing here).

  166. To hop briefly on the bandwagon, I agree with Kristine, and I think that Melissa’ position is entirely consistent and should be respected. I have taken a different stance, but I think anyone who is able to think decisively and act consistently on this issue should be applauded, no matter how they come out.

  167. john fowles says:

    Kristine, I am curious–how does my description of Melissa, from my observations in the Bloggernacle, put her in the “wrong box”?

    I wrote BUT, she is, from what I have seen both here and at T&S, not a “life needs to be black and white with no gray” type. She seems sufficiently “nuanced” to garner the approval of the “liberal” side of the Bloggernacle.

    I wasn’t really putting her in any “box” with this statement. If this is the wrong “box,” are you saying she is a “life needs to be black and white with no gray” type?

  168. Bob Caswell says:

    Oh, come on, Kristine! First you say I’ve “got her in the wrong box” and then correct me with “faithful and smarter”? Did I say or even imply anything about how faithful or smart she is? Next you use the ultimate Bloggernacle trump card / conversation stopper of “personal revelation”. You’re not the only one who is uncomfortable now.

    I liked Steve’s comment much better. I seriously hope no one took any of my comments as a reason to think less of Melissa. If so, then shame on me for writing such bad comments.

  169. Bob, I’ve had personal revelation that you and John Fowles are wrong.

  170. Bob, I only meant to say that “black and white with no gray” is not a useful category to put people in. Melissa is both faithful and smart, which are far more interesting and salient characteristics than where she fits on your black/white/gray scale. Melissa repeatedly said that her position was a personal revelation by which she guided her life, and that she was not willing to derive general principles from it; your criticism of her ignored that assertion, so I thought it worth repeating.

    John, I don’t think it’s necessary or useful to try to figure out who is on the “liberal side of the bloggernacle” or who garners approval from whom. Our discussions would be more productive if we could all take Melissa’s (and everyone’s) comments at face value instead of perpetually trying to figure out where people fit on one side or the other of the liberal/conservative, orthodox/heterodox, black-white/gray divide. That’s all. All the boxes are wrong!!

  171. I am picking up on this days later, but I was amazed at the response of Latter Day Saints as this film was released in the theaters. My mother has visited a website with threads and ideas pertaining to young womens lessons quite often. She was mortified to see posts of woman condemming members of their wards, their priesthood leaders, bishops, you name it for having seen The Passion. Saying that they should be released and so forth. It’s just funny that such un-christian behavior can be unleashed by someone trying to bear the testimony that THEY have of Christ. I myself have not seen it and not because of it’s rating. I don’t feel a need to at this time. I have disregarded ratings long ago, and instead check out the movie for myself (screenit.com is a good tool that lets you know the EXACT content) and then decide if it will be detrimental to me or not. I generally don’t watch R rated movies, and know many who don’t at all. More power to them, it’s a good rule, as long as it just doesnt stop there. I usually find content in some PG-13 to be more offensive than the R’s (good ol rating system to thank there). But am disgusted by this righteous indignation by some who have no quams with watching some slap stick PG-13 with two girls making out, but give me wary glances as I mention an R rated film that I may have seen. My father, like Chieko Okasaki, made mention of Schindler’s List over the pulpit as a bishop. Taught a beautiful lesson as to the importance of missionary and temple work. He got called in by the stake president shortly after and was told to be careful as it created an uproar from a number of members in the ward. My dad didnt even realize it was rated R. For such self proclaimed accepting people, we sure can be judgemental. What bothers me more are the hypocrites. So do what you think is best for you and your family pertaining to the principles of the gospel. Seek after what is lovely and of good report. And if you must, quitely be a good example to your neighbors, but don’t broadcast your righteous pride to everyone else.

  172. john fowles says:

    Steve, see Kristine’s last comment: “All the boxes are wrong!!”

  173. Bob Caswell says:

    Yeah, well then Kristine, maybe you could talk to Steve about the idea that all permabloggers here are liberal, as this characterization of myself had me uncomfortable long before this discussion. And we’re all “faithful and smart” here (except maybe me) so those characteristics don’t help me understand the differences between people. I wasn’t trying to accuse anyone of anything; I was trying to analyze the reasons for choices in a constructive way. This was not meant to be a negative analysis. I actually commended Melissa for her choices several times. But even then, we’re having a conversation here to understand each other, not sitting around patting each other on the back.

  174. Bob Caswell says:

    Sarah,

    Situations like those you mentioned can be frustrating. It also seems that they can be equally as frustrating for those who don’t watch rated R movies, as they are typically characterized by the negative, hurtful actions of hypocrites. It’s just unfortunate all around when members try to make decisions for other members rather than for themselves.

  175. Bob, all the permabloggers here are liberal: see here. This is what I mean by liberal, at least in the sense of “BCC is a bunch of liberals.”

    Especially 5b.

    But I think that there’s a way for us to look at Melissa’s case and analyze it, evaluate it as a model and take lessons away from it without necessarily plunging into ‘boxing’ her. I think more than anything Kristine is afraid of us mischaracterizing someone who isn’t around. The analysis you’re doing is fine, we just need to be careful about drawing conclusions about the person without their participation.

  176. Bob Caswell says:

    Ok, Steve, fair enough (on both accounts). For being such a loaded term, I like most of the definitions you point to. And as far as Melissa goes, I didn’t mean for it to come to the Bloggernacle police coming out and saying “now children, play nice”, but I suppose I could have been more careful especially when having my one-on-one with John Fowles (gotta watch that). Overall, though, I have to admit that I am a little saddened by Melissa’s departure over not getting much return on investment… Oh well, at least she can take comfort in the fact that my return on her investment was very high (but she’s not here, so I’ll stop bringing this up).

  177. Um, Bob, John–it’s possible that I was too hasty in donning my Bloggernacle Policewoman suit. Sorry for being snippy.

  178. On the desensitization issue… I cried after the first full day of my mission. I had never in my life seen such poverty. At the end of my mission I thought nothing of it. What was once “destitute” was now “normal”. I don’t know that desensitization is something that is easily labeled good or bad.

  179. But Kris, you look so cute in your Bloggernacle policewoman suit.

    Besides, it allows you to make all sorts of bad double (or single?) entendres about handcuffs.

    :P

  180. Godot mentioned the rating system of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. If you’d like to read their review of “The Passion of the Christ,” go to this link:

    It’s a more nuanced rating system than the MPAA’s. I can’t understand from the discussion exactly why the LDS church has seemingly officially bought-in to the MPAA system (other than it was the only one available at one time).

    You might also want to check out the Decent Films website , which reviews films from a Christian faith perspective.

  181. I don’t know what happened to the links I just tried to post. You could google the USCCB website and the Decent Films website.

  182. Bob Caswell says:

    Bill Logan,

    The LDS church has NOT officially bought-in to the MPAA system. At best, it’s very unofficial, based on a few words of advice from certain leaders, which has lead to many practicing Mormons adopting it as a standard. As to why [the emphasis from a handful of leaders], your guess of “it was the only one available at one time” is as good as mine (my guess is that it’s the most widely known system and that most leaders who refer to it haven’t researched other systems to know that the MPAA’s is rather inferior)… Thanks for your links.

  183. Aaron Brown says:

    Anyone who watches R-Rated movies is going straight to Hell. Period. End of Discussion.

    Aaron B

  184. Bob Caswell says:

    Finally, Aaron, where have you been up until now?

  185. Aaron Brown says:

    But on a more serious note…

    Sometime soon, when I find a spare 16 hours to read all the comments on this thread, I will engage the issues being discussed herein. Until then, here’s my true story of the day:

    My mother and I got into a discussion about R-Rated movies today. She explained to me that she had made a commitment to herself to never watch R-Rated movies ever again. I knew that there were certain R-Rated movies that she really liked.

    “So, you’re never going to watch the Shawshank Redemption ever again?”, I asked.

    “No,” she replied. “It’s rated-R.”

    “Do you find anything about it offensive?” I asked.

    “No,” she said.

    “Do you find it particuarly moving, meaningful or inspiring?” I inquired.

    “Definitely,” she responded.

    I thought this was kind of sad. She explained that her reason for completely abstaining from R-rated movies was so she could “follow the Prophet’s counsel” to the letter. I asked her when the Prophet had given this precise admonition. She didn’t know (strangely, dogmatic proponents of her position almost never do). I gave her what I’ll call the “John Hatch” historical review of the issue (see John H’s comment somewhere above). She seemed intrigued. She told me that she had always assumed that more explicit and frequent counsel had been given on this issue than actually had.

    She is now “reconsidering” her “commitment to herself.”

    I realize there are different reasons why some LDS people avoid R-rated movies, and different reasons why many do not. I am not trying to engage all the arguments here. Like I said, maybe I’ll have more to say later, and maybe I’ve missed some profound comment above that will radically change my thinking. However, I would just point out that I think a lot of members of the Church are operating under the mistaken assumption that there is a “No R-Rated Movie Rule” that has been promulgated by the “Brethren” with a definitiveness and a frequency that really doesn’t exist. However you all specifically come down on the issue, and for whatever reason(s), I think for many LDS people, the issue turns on the same misunderstanding that my mother had.

    Aaron B

  186. I just remembered something mentioned over at the AML-List a while back and which, I thought, was a pretty good point.

    After The Passion had been out a few months CES sent out a memo to all CES employees telling them not to tell their students to see or not to see the movie because the church was firmly neutral on the matter. I saw the memo because Travis Anderson (or someone) posted a copy of it on the International Cinema board at BYU.

    If the church’s position were against it, they would have said so. At the very least, they wouldn’t have told all CES employees not to tell their students not to see it.

  187. Godot,
    You are right, and it was re-affirmed at the beginning of this school year to us seminary teachers. At the time I thought it very strange that if the Church had a strong position on it, if they really wanted to make a stance, there were fewer places better to do so than directly to the seminary kids. But alas, it was not to be. I guess they figure we can make our own decisions. Drat!

  188. The whole “R” rating thing aside….I find it sad that someone with the means and influence to actually make something of this caliber was seemingly shot down so fast by the entire LDS community. Mel Gibson was taking a risk, and yes, he probably has money to spare, and yes, it was probably more graphic than necessary, but the fact is he did it. In a world where it sometimes feels that we are being overrun by evil and apathy towards our Savior, someone in the most unlikely of places strove to take a stand. The rest of the Christian world seemed to be thrilled and many reported of renewed faith in Christ. My mother retorted to someone bashing Mel Gibson for his “R” rating that she “may not see the movie, but have half a mind to buy a ticket if not only in support of his efforts.”

    As before mentioned, there is no doctrinal rule that states that “R” movies should be banned, and none supporting the viewing of them or any other ratings of movies for that matter. Don’t you hate having to use your head and make your own educated decision? Such a pain. If only Satan had gotten his way we wouldnt have to deal with such matters.

  189. Since the posts following my exit yesterday (was it only yesterday?) surprisingly dwelt on the character of my personality, I thought I should briefly respond.

    Let me first say that I forgive you, Bob for speaking too quickly about that which you do not know. As a cautionary tale to encourage greater reflection on your part before allowing hasty generalizations to so easily escape your keyboard in the future let me point out that I am a 31 year old politically independent, pro-choice feminist with socialist leanings who is single by choice and has often questioned the normative status of the Proclamation on the Family in public settings and yet I still identify with a patriarchal, marriage-centered, largely republican church. I am pursuing a Ph.D. in religion at one of the most rabidly secular institutions in the country where I manage to maintain both the respect of my colleagues and my Temple recommend. To imply that I refuse to grapple with difficult issues is nothing short of laughable and reveals the inaccuracy of your judgment.

    But, I want to make a much broader, and more significant point here than that you misundertood me personally in your uninformed attempt to pigeon-hole me into some pre-conceived idea of what sort of person one must be to choose not to view particular sorts of media.

    First, I think your comments represent a misunderstanding of true Christians. For anyone to be a Christian—to be truly devoted to Christ is to live with paradox. Christians knows that there is no joy that doesn’t also accompany sorrow and loss. Christians experience relentlessly in the midst of their daily striving the paradox of the “already/not yet”—the paradox of hoping for things still unseen, yet nevertheless promised. Real Christians somehow believe in the paradox that only in losing one’s life can one ever find it and that the abundant life here and eternal life there is only available from the one who died a traitor’s death.

    If life as a devoted disciple of Christ requires not only an acceptance of, but a whole-hearted embracing of such paradox, then life as a 21st century Mormon woman who must negotiate the ever-shifting boundaries of the conflicting discursive communities within which she shapes her moral identity can never be simplistically described, for any of us, as “black and white with no gray”.

    Now I’m really finished and signing off.

    Oh-Kaimi, The hypothetical conversation you mention doesn’t sound remotely like the sort of conversation I would likely have, but the short answer to your question is “pretty far.”

  190. Bob Caswell says:

    Melissa,

    I do not know if you will even read this, but I feel the need to write it anyway. I appreciate your [heated] forgiveness and am disheartened by your assumption that I was trying to determine your political status. I clearly stated that I was speaking within the context of the Church and was speaking hypothetically with the “black and white with no gray”, which was never meant to be a direct reflection of you. Of course, life isn’t that simple (within or outside of the Church). But guess what, generalizations are by definition flawed, as they are formed with limited information. Reading into what my experience has shown me and telling me that I’m judging you specifically is misrepresenting the whole point of my comment. And your statement that I implied that you “refuse to grapple with difficult issues” is dead wrong, as Kristine would say, as your decision to avoid all rated R movies is a commendable way (as I stated before) to do just that: grapple with a difficult issue.

    I appreciate your cautionary tale and hope that you could accept one from me as well: Not every one who makes a generalization does so in an attempt to pigeonhole their fellow brothers and sisters. Some of us are just seeking to understand with the knowledge that is given to us, Melissa. Oh, and don’t worry, I won’t take your generalization of “real Christians” as an implication as to what constitutes my Christian status.

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