Sigh – R-Rated Movies…Yet Again

Last week an article about R-Rated movies was making the rounds and caught my eye.  It has been bugging me ever since. It hit a lot of the usual points: that we need high standards; that we should choose wisely, that movie ratings aren’t a very good system, etc. All that stuff was fine. We do need to have standards, and we do need to choose wisely.

I am not going to address any of those things. People can watch what they want to watch. People can believe what they want to believe. What I WILL speak out about is when people misrepresent the words of the prophets.

The main point of the article was to foster the idea that our Church leaders haven’t addressed the issue much at all – thus relegating the issue to nothing more than a “cultural taboo.” To do this, the author stated the following:

“With so much cultural emphasis on movie ratings, it might be surprising that not much prophetic insight (not necessarily given as a specific commandment or as doctrine) has been given about them in a formal setting. In fact, the entire pantheon of past prophets has only mentioned R-rated movies in general conference once—three decades ago, in a 1986 talk by Ezra Taft Benson entitled “To the ‘Youth of the Noble Birthright.’” (link)

Sigh. There are a couple issues here. Both could be dismissed as a lack theological understanding on the part of the author. I would hope it be that, rather than an intentional attempt to misrepresent and minimize the words of the prophets. (There were some comments that happily embraced the “nobody tells me what to do” mentality.)

First Issue: We sustain 15 brethren as “prophets, seers and revelators.” Not one. President Jeffrey Holland said this, “…the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are commissioned by God and sustained by you as prophets, seers, and revelators, with the President of the Church sustained as the prophet, seer, and revelator, the senior Apostle, and as such the only man authorized to exercise all of the revelatory and administrative keys for the Church.” (link)

Second Issue: You could make the case that President Benson was the only President of the Church to speak about R-rated movies, but it is mistake, or disingenuous to claim he was the only prophet to address it, because he wasn’t. There have been a bunch. I will list some of them below.

So the point of this post is this: If you want to watch R-rated movies, do what you gotta do. But don’t misrepresent the words of the prophets to justify or rationalize it. They have made it clear what their position is, and what the Lord’s position is, on the issue.

Extra Issue: I was asked recently why the brethren don’t address this much anymore. My speculation is that the majority of the Church lives outside of the United States, so it would be weird to talk about a country-specific rating system that only applies to the minority of Church members in General Conference. Instead we hear things like what is contained in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet:

“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. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.” (link). (I have yet to know of any R-rated movie that passes this test.)

It is true that it isn’t talked about much anymore, but I can’t find anywhere that says they rescinded what was said earlier… (I don’t think prophetic counsel has an expiration date.)

Besides – with movies streaming on TV, unfettered by traditional rating, and anything and everything under the sun available online, it is about much more that just movies.

Here are the missing quotes about R-rated movies: (I’m gonna link you over to a site called “LDS Friends” that already did the heavy lifting of collecting applicable quotes from the brethren. You will see that the President of the Church, his counselors, and apostles have all addressed this issue – with. a handful of Seventies thrown in for good measure.)

Here is the link: LDS Friends.

You do you, but know that the Lord has made His opinion clearly known by the mouths of a bunch of prophetic witnesses.



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  1. I saw the article but didn’t read it because I knew I wasn’t going to agree. I think the Prophets have been very clear, from the beginning of this dispensation and Joseph Smith to President Russel M Nelson, by what measure we can clearly decided and choose what is good culture/entertainment/reading etc. Excellent post Brad. I’ve only seen one movie this year, The Greatest Showman, I left the theater feeling good and uplifted.

  2. I don’t mean to be a naysayer and I totally get avoiding films with gratuitous violence, BUT there are films that are important and need to be seen – Schindler’s List comes to mind. I took my son to see it when he was 13 and now that my grandson is 13 and talking about the Holocaust at school I feel it is important that he see it. It was rated R because of “brutal violence”, and considering I had quite a few of my family murdered in Auschwitz and Sobibor I just think it needs to be seen regardless of its R rating. I would be curious as to your thoughts on this.

    1. I can’t specifically respond to Schindler’s List – because I haven’t seen it. I WANT to see it. I know it is an important movie, and was well done. I’m a big Liam Neeson fan. I know it sheds an important light on a dark part of history.

      But… I didn’t see any “Prophetic Loopholes” that make me think any of those things matter.

      1. If you stream Schindler’s List through VidAngel you can take out the sex scenes that earned it the R rating. They are superfluous to the story and keeps it at a rating that is appropriate. We use the service even for pg rated movies, and our childhood favorites from the 80s that are so filled with profanity that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see them. It’s been the best way to watch things like Back to the Future, Karate Kid, etc.

  3. Thank you for writing this! I felt the same way about the article you referred to!

  4. We’ll said AGAIN! I love how you get right to the meat and what is important. Thank you for your inspiration and always obeying. You inspire me.
    I find myself turning off songs with off-color lyrics, walking out of things, running away from other stuff and finding it is a daily decision-making discourse to make correct choices in all that we absorb.

  5. And just because they haven’t specifically referenced those Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Showtime & HBO “original” movies & series that are rated MA “for mature audiences,” doesn’t mean those are acceptable either, no matter how highly acclaimed they are. The For the Strength of Youth yardstick is a great one.

  6. First — my life experience has been more violent than many R rated movies.
    Second – I don’t put much credence in our “enlightened” rating system. Anything beyond a “G” rating isn’t actually represented very well. I have found that I am far more uncomfortable watching some PG-13 rated movies with my teens than I am anything else.
    third – I really miss the horror genre of Lon Chaney Jr., Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. “Modern” horror is more of a gore fest.
    lastly….since my career change has gotten far less violent (although I still see plenty of gore) I have discovered that violence does affect me more than it used to.
    Seems like having to be told directly…do this, don’t do that….is very pharasitical. We have been taught “correct principles.”
    and when my EC and I run into one of my young men at the movie theater with his date….it is nice to know that we are going to see the same movie, and none of us are uncomfortable about knowing that the other one is there.

  7. Thank you for pointing out the international nature of the church membership. I’m often irked at how US-centric and myopic the debate tends to be on this and many other cultural subjects.

  8. I miss Netflicks! If you follow the prophet you won’t regret it… I haven’t watched many R movies but totally regret the ones I did watch. what’s ok for some is wounding for others just like the word of wisdom.. So just refrain.

  9. I always ask my kids “Does it pass the thirteenth test. Even Joseph Smith talked about it.

  10. What a well written post. (As usual!) I didn’t see the article you reference or any of the attached hub-bub, but I can add that after 30 years and never seeing a rated R movie, I don’t feel like I’ve missed a thing. Plus, as I’ve got a child 3 years from entering YW, I am glad I can teach her to avoid filth by example as well as by word.

  11. Amen. For nearly six years I’ve worked in Hollywood, but from a desk in Oklahoma City. It’s been an entertaining, interesting, frustrating-at-times, ride. I have left the company after three of our family-friendly films in a row have failed at the box office and the company is pivoting to raunchy rated-R teen comedies and the horror genre. I don’t know what I will do yet — looking for a new job now — but, thanks to prophetic counsel which I believe to be truth, I can’t lend my efforts to help my employer succeed in this new vision any longer.

    1. I don’t know you, Brian, but I want to say I’m impressed with your integrity. I hope you can find a great outlet for your talents and skills elsewhere!

  12. Thank you. I’ve seen exactly one R rated movie since my mission nearly 30 years ago. And I regret that one. I’ve determined that many PG13 don’t pass the smell test for me either. As a result I don’t see many movies. Ironically, I’ve caught more flak for it from fellow members than any other friends. There have been times where I’ve been the sole person in the group to walk away, and it’s been with a heavy heart. But at least I know that I am making a choice I won’t regret.

  13. Thank you! I was “uncomfortable” with that article, and appreciated your well said points.

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