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.