On Media and “The World”

Today’s guest post comes from Rebbie Brassfield, a copywriter in Babyl — err, Los Angeles.  

So I accidentally binge-watched all seven seasons of Game of Thrones last summer, and have spent the last few months wondering how ashamed I should be. Okay but seriously, it’s made me think about media consumption, specifically the way it might affect how we see “the world.”

As a girl, I was very into the Sweet Valley High series. These are not Deseret Book fare, and they’re certainly not high brow literature, but they taught little life lessons that stuck with me in adolescence. Some of them dealt with troubling issues – I remember clearly one story in which Lila was sexually assaulted, and another where a character was involved with drugs and had to deal with the consequences. These were scary things that in my Provo community I had never been exposed to, let alone would dream of talking about with my parents. It will sound silly, but looking back I sincerely think it was a good way to be exposed to the “sins of the world.” It showed me behaviors outside my norm, and allowed me to form opinions on them.

Fast forward to recently when I recommended one of my favorite books to a Mormon friend. It’s a hilarious coming of age story that I assumed most women would relate to in some way. When I asked what she thought, she said, “It was good, if you don’t mind language and sexual promiscuity.” I was surprised. And annoyed.

In my (admittedly subjective) opinion, the book is absolutely tame. There is mention of sex outside marriage, but nothing close to explicit. There is some language, but I suppose my ears have become numb since living in LA or working in advertising? Not to mention that to read books without language means…not reading books? In my mind, this story about the struggles of a young single woman coming to understand herself and her place in the world was empowering. To my friend, the inclusion of sinful behavior was enough to get the baby thrown out with the bathwater.

We’ve been given several Prophetic directives regarding media consumption, but I want to focus on two.

First, we have the suggestion of no rated-R movies, based on Ezra Taft Benson’s talk from the ‘80s. Given the rise of streaming services and their often un-rated entertainment, I think most of us would agree that simply using no rated-R’s as a parameter has become a bit pharisaic (not to mention the subjective nature of movie ratings in general). That said, I still think the widely accepted measuring stick among Mormons is to avoid rated-R content.

As in most areas of spirituality, I think our bar for media consumption should be determined by what helps or hurts your connection to the spirit. I think each of us has different sensitivities, and should pay attention to those. But in my mind, not engaging with a book or movie because it presents behavior outside what is deemed appropriate within Mormonism is alarming. I can’t help but wonder whether remaining ignorant to different life experiences might contribute to our alienating ourselves from “the world.” (Forgive me for the obnoxious air quotes, but I’m so sick of accepting The World as a thing.)

I think it lessens our ability to be comfortable with disagreement. It robs us of the chance to practice seeing a behavior, acknowledging it, and choosing calmly to disagree. By only engaging with media that falls directly in line with my moral boundaries, I create a false perception that I can exist in a world in which everything I see, I agree with. Can it be any wonder then, when we do a poor job of interacting with “the world?” We have no experience with it.

In my mind, books and movies seem like an opportunity to understand more of the world, or maybe even to acquaint ourselves with the grief of “sins” we may not have lived. After all, what classic piece of literature doesn’t deal with sin in some form? I would argue they became classics because they deal with sin, because sin is the conflict of life. And I mean all of our lives, even those of us who so righteously abstain from alcohol or swearing.

Second, we have been told in the 13th Article of Faith to seek after things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. I’m interested in exploring what fits into that definition.

After three seasons, I stopped watching Breaking Bad because I was turned off after seeing a character murdered in an especially brutal manner. My co-worker was horrified at my decision. “You stopped watching it?” she gasped, “but Rebb, that is some people’s reality.” In her mind, the sympathy or understanding gained by watching a show about an objectively evil set of people was important and should be endured. For me, it drove out the spirit. I stopped watching it, and I have no regrets about that decision.

But there is something interesting to me in her reaction – because what is the definition of virtuous and lovely, good-report and praiseworthy? Does that mean uplifting, feel-good movies like Wonder or The Greatest Showman (both universally loved in my Mormon circles)? Or does that mean watching Jamie Lannister, arrogant scum of the universe, be slowly humbled? Is it coming to understand why Jamie might behave as awfully as he does, and relating to his painful turn towards being a better man?

Is the 13th Article of Faith about interacting with art that reinforces our beliefs? Or is it about acquainting ourselves with grief?

What’s funny is that I was very judge-y about GoT watchers for a long while. My husband and I started watching it almost as a joke — we had downloaded VidAngel and were like, hmm should we test it out on the worst of all the shows? (VidAngel is a whole separate post, on which I have complicated feelings) What we learned is that you cannot watch a show about warring factions when all the battle scenes are censored. But by then we were hooked, so we subscribed to HBO and just watched it, with frequent closed eyes and some use of the 10-second skip button. Of any show I have watched, GoT upholds the “acquainting oneself with grief” definition of good-report and praiseworthy. Of any show I have watched, GoT contains the most gratuitous violence and infuriatingly unnecessary nudity. Is it the greatest show on television? I think it’s close. Will I recommend it to a fellow Mormon looking to feel more of the spirit? No, no I will not.

I suppose it does come down to individual discernment — our media choices should be dictated intentionally, based on how they affect us. By this definition, I should probably have more respect for my friend not wanting to read a book she finds offensive. All I’m saying is, I can’t help but think media can be a good way of coming to gain more understanding of the world we so stubbornly insist on separating ourselves from, and that we lose out when we shun it categorically.

Because at the end of the day, Game of Thrones is the story of a family torn apart by insidious evil, and their struggle to uphold the values their parents taught them — which you could also say about The Book Of Mormon

Okay, now I’m just rationalizing.

Comments

  1. mikerharris says:

    To throw fuel on the rationalizing fire, Elder Christofferson read and quoted from Lone Survivor. Not your typical AofF #13 book considering the profanity. (see https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/ces-devotionals/2011/01/give-us-this-day-our-daily-bread?lang=eng)

  2. I’m always amused by people who look for something like VidAngel to clean up something like Breaking Bad. If you can endure watching a show for that many seasons about how decent people turn entirely evil, a bit of language, nudity, and violence really shouldn’t bother you.

    I started reading Game of Thrones in high school–over 20 years ago. I’ll re-read the series every couple of years. For obvious reasons, I’m careful about recommending it to other Mormons–but it really is excellent fantasy, second only to Tolkien.

  3. Heresies of a fantasy-novel loving Carolyn:
    (1) Violence / nudity / evil sorcerers in novels doesn’t bother me nearly as much as visual depictions of it in film.

    (2) Tolkien is the beginning and not the pinnacle of modern fantasy.

    (3) The Kingkiller Chronicles and the Stormlight Archive are better than Game of Thrones.

  4. Not a Cougar says:

    I have wonderful, loving, very active Mormon parents who were pretty careful about what we watched (my mom was shocked when I mentioned a few years ago that I had seen The Matrix when I was a senior in high school), but who didn’t really try to review or censor what we read, and I took full advantage of that (though I still can’t find anything truly redeeming about American Psycho). Much like the author, I’m grateful I was allowed to be exposed to situations I likely would never face (with the understanding that real life is never so neat and tidy). I also loved the ASOIAF books and also watch the series (though I admittedly fast-forwarded Theon’s torture and Shireen’s sacrifice). I’ve given up trying to rationalize the books I like to read, and have found many kindred spirits at church. If what I read makes a me a sinner, it’s just one more thing I’ll have to answer for at the bar – and I’m sure it’ll be far down on the list of reasons I’m on the outside looking in. Either that or the whole grace thing really is awesome.

  5. I’ve tried several times with GoT, and I just can’t, but I loved Breaking Bad. So? So I agree with your general assessment about choosing for ourselves and having no regrets about those decisions. (Like Carolyn, I find literary descriptions easier to manage than visual depictions.)

    I do think the Mormon propensity to keep our entertainment choices juvenile and/or using the FTSoY manual as a family manual actually harms adult discourse and empathy. We are not as children anymore, and we should be able to navigate complexities. Literature and art have always helped humans do that. You cannot learn if you stop your ears and cover your eyes at things remotely complicated. Real life doesn’t fade to the ceiling.

  6. Thanks for this post. It parellels many of my own thoughts. President Hinckley frequently advised getting as much education as possible, which I sometimes wondered about given some of the lectures and required reading that were part of my education. Did President Hinckley really want me reading that? Actually, I think he did—for all the reasons identified here.

    I suppose there is a line though. I’ve also watched Game of Thrones and wondered about a question my mom might ask, is this bringing me closer to the Spirit or farther away? And ummm, there are moral lessons to be learned…but if I’m being honest with myself…

  7. Bro. Jones says:

    I don’t have a hard and fast rule on particular content. “The Wire” is my favorite television show precisely because it explored very human stories of people that generally don’t get their stories told. There’s plenty of violence, but it doesn’t focus its view on the violence: the grim murders, shootings and beatings are parts of the story but not characters in and of themselves.

    I tried watching GoT and Breaking Bad, and it seemed like rape and violence where amorphic characters, taking up screen time in scenes that ranged from the merely unnecessary to downright disturbing. Couple this with the relative lack of sympathetic (human) characters, and I just haven’t felt the urge to spend my limited “grown up TV” time on these shows.

    On an aside, everyone in this thread should head to Netflix and watch “The Breadwinner.” It’s a breathtaking, moving film that explores a time, place, and cultural perspective I had not previously been able to experience. Violence and the risk of violence define the lives of the characters, yet the emotional implications of those acts are presented without focusing on the technicalities of the violence itself. To put it another way: I don’t need to see the actual impact and injuries of a person being beaten to understand that it hurts. Indeed, one of the main themes of the film is concealment, and all the risk and reward it carries.

  8. Bro. Jones says:

    Two additional notes: 1) “The Breadwinner” is animated but it is probably not for younger children without substantial supervision and discussion. I watched it together with my very precocious 7-year-old but we talked a lot about it. Probably better for the 12 and up set, and absolutely appropriate for adults.

    2) Re OP’s fast-forwarding and eye-closing: I once watched “Braveheart” in a conservative Mormon home, and every time something exciting happened on screen, the uncle would fiddle with the remote, fast forwarding and rewinding until he got *just* past the “bad stuff.” While he was thus occupied, I took the opportunity to sneak (G-rated) affection with his niece (my girlfriend). And there are *lots* of exciting scenes in that movie. :D

  9. Pres Monson often quoted Prof. Harold Hill from The Music Man “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’re left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.” I always thought this was highly inappropriate to quote in GC given that he used this line trying to convince the librarian to “hook up” with him while he was in town.

    I had never heard of GoT until I was sitting in a Barnes & Noble and our stake executive secretary walked by and recommended it during our conversation. I shouldn’t have been surprised that he liked GoT, since I liked it as well, but I was. Maybe I shouldn’t like it either, but it seemed a bit stunning to me that a fellow Mormon would highly recommend a book (and TV series) with so much explicit description of sex.

    I’ve never heard of The Kingkiller Chronicles or Stormlight Archive… thanks for the referral Carolyn!

  10. I was a person who read a whole bunch of probably-R-ish-rated books as a fairly small person (middle school/high school) and it was really good for me. Sweet Valley High, for the reasons in the post. I also learned about sex and functional/dysfunctional relationships, which was really useful — I was the kind of kid who wasn’t going to have premarital sex because of reading books but could very easily have gotten some really messed-up ideas about sex in general from LDS culture, and I owe reading a variety of books to not totally funking out when I got married.

    I also feel very strongly that reading a large variety of books about people doing a whole bunch of different things, many of which might or might not be LDS-approved, has helped me be a less judgmental individual (a fault which I am especially prone to) because I had (have) a window into seeing what it was like to be a person who was different than I was and their reasons for being that way. This was especially important when I was a teenager, but is still important for me now.

    A couple more disjointed thoughts:

    The Earthsea books are way better than GoT! /totally judging

    And also The Good Place is TV everyone should watch — it is of good report and praiseworthy AND it examines what virtue even means (seriously, philosophical ideas of good and evil are are actually what it is about) AND, I mean, Kristen Bell and Michael Danson (though the entire cast is very very good). AND it’s hilarious. And the interesting thing is that the language should be by rights filthy but they’ve employed a technique to make it not so. (Just don’t read spoilers for first season.)

    I did recommend Hamilton in the highest terms to a brother at Church, and then had to backpedal and say as to how the language and some themes would be, uh, explicit. (He had already heard about the musical — thus why we were talking about it — so he wasn’t totally shocked.)

  11. I’m always suspicious of the motivations of anyone who says I’m “missing out” by not reading/watching/having something. There is more than enough to consume that fits the mold of “acquainting ourselves with grief” and developing a sense of how people other than us live.

    I’m an avid reader of YA (young adult) books, with the occasional foray into the Adult stacks. I enjoy a variety within YA, from Meg Cabot and Eva Ibbottson through Brandon Sanderson and Terry Pratchett through Shannon Hale and Mette Ivie Harrrison. Agatha Christie is still my #1 favorite author, and someday I’ll get through all of her books. I’ve dismissed “Wonder” as inspiration porn, and have a good number of books I don’t care about reading, most often books about women whose lives seem to revolve completely on their perspective relationship with some guy.

    I’ve not missed anything by not reading GoT any more than I miss something by not living in Syria. Nobody missed out on something when they decided not to watch Star Wars Episode 2 & 3. At some point, reading/watching someone make bad decisions and sink into depravity is just “suffering porn”. We don’t need to know the details of how many bad things a person has done to be inspired to want to help them come out of it or cheer them on as the attempt to do so.

    Absolutely people should continually work to expand what they consume. But just as we aren’t lesser spirits for not experiencing all the things others have experienced, we’re not lesser by not consuming all the variety of media that is available. Recommend all you want, but don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t resonate with them.

  12. @Mikerharris – A few years ago, we had a speaker quote The Godfather III in Stake Conference. When he was done, the Stake President stood up and said, “Well, I’m a little surprised to hear Brother so-and-so quote the Godfather in this meeting. I also have to correct him — that line was from The Godfather I.” It was epic.

    @Carolyn – My husband is reading the Stormlight Archive, which got me into Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and I have loved them! Would definitely recommend. It’s also interesting because he is a Mormon author and the books are edifying in my opinion, but you could easily turn them into R-rated TV content due to their violence. Goes back to your comment about reading and watching having different effects, I’m with you there.

    @Bro Jones – Very much agree with this: I don’t need to see the actual impact and injuries of a person being beaten to understand that it hurts. And I hadn’t heard of The Breadwinner, but will check it out!

  13. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Rebbie, are you in the Los Angeles Stake by any chance? IIRC the stake prez is the old bishop of the USC Ward and is the chillest dude imaginable. If you’re in SaMo I don’t know who replaced ol’ Bob Keeler but I’d imagine that he’s a bit less straitlaced as well.

  14. Great post. I’m curious (and I’m always looking for recommendations): what’s the favorite book you recommended to your friend?

  15. The first R-rated movie I ever saw was Schindler’s List. I grew up before streaming services, when you could only watch something if you rented it from a Blockbuster or saw it in the theater and my parents were pretty strict about age limits (no PG-13 before 13, no R before 17, that kind of stuff), but my mom felt that Schindler’s List was an important movie that we needed to see, so she took me and my younger brother to see it when we were still too “young” (as based on the MPAA’s subjective rating system).

    And it was a good experience. I’m glad I saw that movie when I did. And that kind of flexibility has worked really well for me in the 20+ years since. Because ratings are subjective lines drawn by a small and fairly shadowy cabal of people. I prefer making up my own mind, trying things out and finding out where my personal lines should be drawn.

    The more stories we ingest, the more we understand different viewpoints and life experiences, and the more empathy we have. And more empathy can only ever be a good thing.

    Plus, personally, I hate programs that cut the “bad” parts out of media. They just offend me on an artistic level. If you don’t want to watch it, “warts” and all, then just don’t watch it. It’s as simple as that.

  16. Eric Facer says:

    When my kids were relatively young (between the ages of about 8-14), I talked them into watching Poltergeist with me on DVD. They still remind me of the nightmares that ensued, which is amusing since by today’s standards that film is pretty tame. (By the way, they aren’t really angry with me, though, when it’s expedient, they do like to intimate that the experience scarred them for life.)

    For movie trivia buffs, Poltergeist and Gremlins, two Spielberg films both released in 1982, were the catalyst for the creation of the PG-13 rating (each was rated PG). Prior to that time, there were only G, PG, R & X.

  17. @Heptaparaparshinokh – This was in the Santa Monica stake. I’m blanking on his name right now but he is a young hip lawyer, bald and always wears a bowtie? Ha I was also there during the Keeler years though — great guy. Probably hasn’t seen The Godfather :)

    @Cate – The book is The Girls’ Guide to Hunting And Fishing. Read it!!

  18. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    On the subject of “Schindler’s List”: I’ve heard people argue that the image of the commandant’s topless lover on the bed is unnecessary and salacious, but the juxtaposition of that scene of sensual pleasure with his random, cold-blooded murder of a camp inmate immediately thereafter is one of the most devastating parts of the entire film: the notion of “the banality of evil” laid out as simply as possible.

    Sex and sexuality are much more important and normal parts of human life than are violence and bloodshed.

  19. felixfabulous says:

    Good post. GOT is my favorite TV series of all time. It’s a cornucopia of character development, moral choices (good and bad) as well as gratuitous sex and violence. To me, it’s like the Old Testament in that way (there is a lot of sex that is “edited out” of the King James Bible). It’s good to use our time and resources wisely and seek out the good and uplifting. But, for the love of Pete, why can’t we just use Joseph Smith’s quote about teaching people correct principles and let them govern themselves? I can understand hard and fast rules and strict guidelines for kids and young teenagers, but at some point, adults can make their own decisions and do what they see fit.

  20. Thank you! I’ve had it with the whole “world” vs “us” idea. I credit most of my early empathetic ability to the very diverse and sometimes explicit reading I did in middle school\high school. The best way I found to continue building my empathy is to NOT avoid seeing life from contrasting perspectives.

  21. Thanks, Rebbie. I’ve actually already read it – and liked it!

  22. JustWondering says:

    Several years ago BYU studies published an article called “Seeking After the Good in Art, Drama, Film, and Literature” by Travis Anderson. The author talks about the common phrase “wholesome entertainment” and how the word wholesome implies good for the body and the soul. He argues that most of the movies or tv shows we call wholesome are innocuous at best but certainly not edifying. The OP has a lot in common with the article,

    https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/seeking-after-good-art-drama-film-and-literature

  23. I think the most important thing to say about media consumption is that it should never be used as a cudgel to judge others. People like what they like. Grew up in a home that didn’t have TV? No sports on Sundays? No video games on Sundays? Great, I’m happy for you. Media-avoiders are the LDS version of vegans.

  24. I, too, hate the framing “the World” as everything wicked that needs to be avoided.
    Sometimes I wonder what non-member visitors think we are referring to when we use that phrase?
    I view “the world” as something that provides opportunities to learn and grow—not that we need to make self-destructive choices—but that we can learn from other’s experiences and grow to love and understand our fellow man. I keep coming back to the Garden of Eden scenario where God gave conflicting commandments. I’ve never relied on the simple movie rating system to decide which movies to see. Certainly there are some rated PG-13 which I would consider worse than some rated R.
    Shindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan are just two examples of R-rated movies I found worthwhile. There are many more. There is much good in the world and wonderful non LDS
    people who we should/could learn from.

    Often we members decry the decay of “the world” as we are confronted with more news involving abuse of others—but I believe such abuse has always existed—it was just never made public. I think sunlight the best disinfectant to doing and becoming better. I do think new technologies can present
    unique challenges for raising children and keeping them from harm as well as provide valuable experiences. Just think how much information we can access now with just a few keystrokes!

  25. One of my favorite television shows is Orange is the New Black. While there is plenty of content there that would make me very hesitant to recommend to any other Mormons, I can genuinely say that I think I’m a better person for having watched. There is a lot about seeing humans as complex, about what it means to be a ‘criminal,’ about grace and redemption and casual evil and abuse. To me, making wise choices about entertainment means seeking things that make you engage – even if some of those things make you uncomfortable.I don’t have any hard-and-fast rules about what I watch, but I’m much more likely to watch violent or explicit content if it is part of something that I think is a meaningful contribution to the conversation about a topic, as opposed to a raunchy comedy or action film.

    I also am uncomfortable with the Mormon tendency to call the heavy realities of some people’s lives ‘inappropriate content.’ It’s okay to decide you don’t want to watch something because you find it upsetting, but I’m bothered by people thinking that is somehow a more righteous choice.

  26. Bro. Jones says:

    JustWondering: that BYU address was a great read. Thanks for sharing the link.

    J – “Media-avoiders are the LDS version of vegans.” Excellent. :)

  27. Good, thought-provoking post and discussion. Although I have more open tastes than most Mormons would dare admit in Sunday school, I still fall into the holier-than-thou trap with my husband. I will admit to having felt a little smug that I have no desire to watch “Kill Bill,” and he does.

    I remember hearing a stake leader preach that he hated when people say a movie was “only rated R for violence.” He said, “If you can stand to watch someone being ripped apart….” I forget how he ended, but the gist was that there was something morally amiss with you. I agreed with him at the time. One of our fights from our first year of marriage was over my husband wanting to watch “The Pianist” with me. I couldn’t believe he’d suggest such a thing. A decade of my scruples rubbing off later we watched it together, and I bawled my head off.

    I’ve come to think I fall farther on the empathy scale than my husband, and suffering is just harder for me to watch. He can (and does) say, “It’s just ketchup,” but for me any fictional pain is a reminder that pain is a reality for some. I won’t consume media where it seems the violence is merely “violence porn,” Coloseum-style entertainment (but honestly, what book/movie isn’t, at the end of the day, entertainment?) — so no “Kill Bill.” But on the other hand, I feel drawn to “mourn with those who mourn” by seeking out media that helps me understand suffering — historic or contemporary. I just have to ration it with lots of “inspiration porn” in between.

    “I also am uncomfortable with the Mormon tendency to call the heavy realities of some people’s lives ‘inappropriate content.’” My thoughts exactly. A conservative Mormon friend shared with me an article decrying how inappropriate children’s literature was getting, exposing teens to harsh realities that few could actually relate to. But isn’t that what books are supposed to do, expand understanding? If you want your kids to just understand themselves (an underrated skill), have them keep a journal. But if you want them to understand others, let them read! That’s not to say anything goes, but a book about a teen pregnancy might better help youth understand the importance of the Law of Chastity than a fluffy clean romance (not knocking clean romances).

    I liked JK Rowling’s response to the criticism when she started killing off Harry Potter characters. Can’t find the actual quote, but it was something like she wanted to show that this is what evil IS/DOES. Evil is an action, not a character trait, kind of like “love/faith is a verb, not just a feeling.”

    Here’s two seemingly conflicting findings from studies: Reading makes people more empathetic. Excessive TV consumption in childhood is correlated with findings of sociopathy later in life. Why is that?

  28. @JustWondering – Thanks for sharing this! Excited to read.

    @Megan – This sums it up perfectly: “To me, making wise choices about entertainment means seeking things that make you engage – even if some of those things make you uncomfortable.” Maybe that’s another bar to use — is ‘inappropriate’ content being used to engage or to entertain?

  29. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Laurel: Might have to do with the different parts of the brain activated by each medium. I can tell you that my daughter is a lot snottier and more unpleasant after an hour watching cartoons, even sans commercials, than after the same amount of time reading.

  30. I believe that I am responsible for deciding what to watch and what to read, with a personal standard of reading or watching that which helps me to increase in comprehension and compassion and which emboldens me to do more good in the world, or at least give me a relaxing, non-damaging, break from reality. I believe that I am also responsible for understanding that judging other people’s decisions as to what to read and watch that helps them increase in comprehension and compassion and emboldens them to do more good in the world (or not) will not always be the same things that help me to do that, and to respect their decision, not condemn it, whether I consider their choices as heavier or lighter than mine.

    Different brains and different lives means that people learn differently. Not everyone will learn from the same things I learn from.

    I am not so much interested in whether or not people enjoy or validate or learn from the things I read or watch. But am interested in what they learn from what they read or watch.

    Certainly it is a real pleasure to converse about a mutually appreciated book or film, but the conversation can also be totally engaging if the book or film was not mutually appreciated but the learning and insights that were gained are enlightening.

    Judging others’ choices of books or films, or feeling disappointed that someone didn’t like the book or film you liked, just cheats you out of some really interesting conversations.

  31. I read what I want and I don’t care what anyone else thinks. That may or may not change when I cross the proverbial bar and Jesus asks why I read all seven books of Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series.

  32. Geoff - Aus says:

    Condemnation of the wicked world only works if you live in an isolated community. Perhaps when a Utahan mormon gets to Las Vagas, they turn around and go back to Utah having seen the wicked world.
    Not talking about media but reality. Was in California during the prop8 and attended a 5th Sunday that was the most extreme gay bashing I have ever seen. Have the gays taken over the school system yet, and converted all your children? We found this very offensive. The next week a group of the HPs that had participated in this were discussing the cage fighting they had been to the night before, which I found incomprehensible. Outside US sex/nudity is generally less offensive than violence.
    I live close to the Gold Coast in Australia. My 70 year old wife and a friend from RS went paddle boarding this morning. A group of young ladies turned up just after them wearing this years bikinis, which have g string bottoms. My wife reported that they looked fantastic.(of good report and praisworty). In Utah they would probably be the wicked world, but my wife thought they were of good report and praisworthy.

  33. mikerharris says:

    No small bit of moral relativism being tossed around. It only corrodes faith. We don’t set the standard. The Lord does through those with the keys. We choose how to comply.

  34. Bro. Jones says:

    @ mikerharris: Those with the keys have admonished us to avoid works that portray violence in any way, and they have also counseled us to read the scriptures daily. Which commandment should we obey when faced with reading the book of Joshua or the 14th chapter of Alma?

  35. nobody, really says:

    Joshua and Alma got *nothing* on a stake intramural basketball game. I’m convinced that most of the book of Alma is the result of ward basketball games that got out of hand.

  36. “Those with the keys have admonished us to avoid works that portray violence in any way”?? Really? If you could provide a citation to this remarkable claim, it’ll save me having to Google it.

  37. mikerharris, your comment seems to imply that church leaders have laid out a standard that would dictate conclusions for everyone about all of the decisions we have to make in our media choices. But, of course, that is not true. (It is also not desirable, but that’s a different point.) Hence this discussion.

  38. I studied Humanities at BYU (about 15 years ago), where apparently every professor has to spend at least an hour of class going over why it is ok to look at paintings of naked ladies (and other “unholy” stuff), which gets kind of annoying over time. But one professor had us read a really wonderful essay called “Can a Humanist Go to Heaven?” written by a former head of the BYU English Department. (I can’t find it, but if you are better at google-fu than I am, you should look it up.) My favorite part is when he recounts the time an older lady came to see him with a list of objectionable books being taught at BYU (It was basically all the books being taught at BYU). She suggested that BYU students should only read books they would feel comfortable reading aloud to the prophet in the temple, which just makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.

  39. Mark B.: um, it’s in the current version of “For the Strength of Youth”: “Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable.”

  40. I didn’t think that the readers of this blog were the children to whom FTSOY is addressed. And, frankly, I don’t think they mean it–if they did, there’d be no Mormons in the armed forces–and certainly no former members of the Luftwaffe in the Quorum of the Twelve.

  41. Those words “as acceptable” are very, very different from “in any way.” Violence that leads to destruction, whether of one character’s peace of mind or of an entire civilization, is categorically different from violence that is somehow enjoyed for the sake of gore or brutality or whatever.

    That’s probably why I part company with Mormons who think that the violence in the Book of Mormon is a glorification of battle and an excuse for a supposed “just war.” If you take the short term view of one of Moroni’s glorious victories, then violence is acceptable. If you take the long term view of those wars leading to the destruction of everything that mattered in Book of Mormon civilization, then you’ve participated (vicariously) in something that in no way presents violence as acceptable.

  42. Agree w your thoughts.
    I watched several seasons of breaking bad but stopped during season 3 also.
    My husband has watched the entire series, as had other family and friends.
    I have an issue w certain images being stuck in my head.
    When I was 10, I fell through a plate glass window and was seriously injured w blood and chais permanently etched in my brain.
    I have also been in several car accidents, some serious.
    I have also been in a situation w a police shootout in my neighborhood and officers in our home shooting at the man in the house next door.
    Watching certain things brings it all back so I turn it off or walk away when I get uncomfortable.
    When saving private Ryan was released I saw it in the theater. Rated R if you recall. At that time I was more strict in my “no rated R” movies but I went to that one.
    My deceased father was in WWII and involved in Normandy invasion. He returned from the war and didn’t talk about it. I needed to see that horrible reality to better understand my own father.
    There is a purpose for art and movies and books. for some, it helps us understand situations we don’t experience personally.
    I remember watching Platoon and barely making it through. I hear the music from that and it takes me back.
    War movies in particular are important so we realize the cost of war on human beings.
    When we have the Holy Ghost w us we can know what is appropriate and what is not.
    Thank you for your thoughts.

  43. Bro. Jones says:

    Ardis: hoo boy, I attempted to teach what you propose as the “long view” in Gospel Doctrine once, and was soundly informed that the Book of Mormon’s portrayal of Nephite victories are absolutely a roadmap for how we should comport ourselves as modern saints (and, presumably, Americans), and the whole business at the very end was an accident of unrighteousness.

  44. I was looking for a way to quietly “like” and memorialize Ardis’ comment, but Bro. Jones your experience reinforces to the point that here’s my follow-on comment:

    The cult of Captain Moroni is strong. Only the brave will stand against it.

  45. Mily: As you’ve probably found, Jon D. Green presented that at BYU First Annual Laying the Foundations Symposium in 1991. Couldn’t surf to a copy of the essay but do see his 1994 book, “Coming to Your Senses,” about writing about the humanities, on Amazon.