Summary: R-rated movies are mostly inappropriate, but our carefulness with media shouldn’t stop at not watching just R-rated movies. PG-13 and other ratings are often inappropriate too. 

Adam. Abraham. Abinadi. Alma. Ammon. Aaron. We’re not even done with the letter A, and it’s already evident that the scriptures are full of righteous examples who were required to sacrifice much—sometimes all—for the gospel cause. Whether it be years of missionary work, a beloved child, or even one’s own life, God is not shy about asking a lot from His servants. It’s how He separates the truly devoted from those who want to keep a summer home in Babylon.

Unfortunately, the Lord’s tests often prove too difficult for even the most devout. For instance, some early saints who were willing to move across country for the church were unable to bear the law of consecration. Indeed, it is a sad but self-evident truth that many people are only willing to give so much before taking their leave. Luckily, we’ve got it pretty easy today. Sure, we’re asked to tithe our incomes and magnify our callings (and that’s a lot, by modern religious standards)—but most of us are able to manage at least a halfhearted effort. That being said, we may soon face a day in which the spiritual resolve of church members everywhere is bent to the point of breaking. And that day may be November 20th, 2015—when the final Hunger Games movie is scheduled for theatrical release.

People love The Hunger Games. Mormons really love The Hunger Games. In fact, rumor has it that someone somewhere is about to be known throughout their lives and on the records of the church as “Rue Katniss McConkie.” So imagine the hysteria that would ensue if the Motion Picture Association of America, in their infinite wisdom, determined that part two of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay was worthy of a restricted rating.

Improbable? Yeah. But not impossible. Movie producers aren’t stupid—they know that a PG-13 rating means a better showing at the box office—but let’s be honest, there’s some violent stuff in that book. So violent, in fact, that filmmakers admitted it was an arduous task to score a PG-13 for the first film. Again, this probably won’t happen. But the point is, what if it did? Would Utah County theaters be full of folks with their heads down, wearing hoodies and dark glasses so as not to be seen by their Relief Society President? Would people decry the movie in fast and testimony meeting? Would someone graffiti ‘CTR’ on the headquarters of Lionsgate Film Studios in protest?

  A movie’s content is the same regardless of what capital letter Hollywood puts on the poster.

“No R-rated movies, thus saith the Lord!” is one of the messiest cultural misconceptions in our church, and hardly anybody knows it. But this blog post isn’t to persuade you all that watching R-rated movies is totally ok. It’s to make it clear that our entertainment choices should be thought out and regarded as important between us and the Lord. The fallacy that either God or His prophets have made a definitive church-wide statement regarding movie ratings, I believe, has led us to become lax when it comes to choosing appropriate media. We figure that just because something’s not R-rated, it’s ok. Worse, we may even judge those who choose to watch R-rated movies.

Let’s establish one thing right off the bat—what any general authority  says does not necessarily constitute doctrine, and a member of the church is in no way obligated to follow every piece of counsel these general authorities might give (though it is nearly always advisable to do so). If the Lord wants a policy implemented, a rule created, or something to be said that has not been said before, the responsibility for this lies with the president of the Church. So while a few members of the seventy and even one apostle, Joseph B. Wirthlin, have made statements against R-rated movies, these men are not authorized to institute any sort of church rule, policy, or doctrine.

If you ask a Mormon why they don’t watch R-rated movies, nine times out of ten you’ll hear some variation of “The prophet said not to.” But it’s likely that any follow-up questions (Which prophet? What exactly did they say? In what context?) will be met with blank stares. This ignorance is where the problem lies. As an educational measure, I will provide two facts that should enlighten any who may not know the answers to these questions.

Fact #1: there has been a grand total of one prophet who has said something about R-rated movies. In a 1986 priesthood session address, Ezra Taft Benson delivered this quote: “Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.” President Benson made a similar statement in a young women’s meeting six months later.

That’s pretty straightforward. “Don’t see R-rated movies.” Case closed, right? Not exactly. You see, a quote without context is like a hammer without a nail—you can whip it around and do some unnecessary damage with it, but it won’t effectively serve its intended purpose. So let’s examine the intended purpose of this quote, which comes from a talk called “To the Youth of the Noble Birthright.” The title of this talk implies what President Benson explicitly says in the introduction: “Tonight I would like to speak directly to you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood.”

It is an undeniable truth that some prophetic counsel is only applicable to some people. Not all members of the church are expected to abstain from dating—just those under the age of sixteen. Not all members of the church are expected to serve a mission—just worthy and able young men. We could go on all day, but the point should be clear: sometimes the prophet gives instruction that is only applicable to certain demographics, and he always specifies when he does so.

With that principle in mind, ponder on Fact #2: it is clear that President Benson’s talk was not directed to the church membership as a whole. He acknowledged he was glad leaders and teachers and parents were hearing it so they could encourage the young men’s obedience, but several times reiterated that they were not his intended audience. In fact, the sentence directly preceding the “Don’t watch R-rated movies” quote begins with the phrase “We counsel you, young men.” Not “we counsel you, church members” or even “we counsel you, young people”—but young men specifically. As previously mentioned, President Benson made a similar quote directed to young women in a meeting six months later, so we can effectively include all the youth of the church under this “don’t watch R-rated movies” umbrella—but only the youth of the church.

If you gain one piece of knowledge from my post, I hope it is this: we should be making media choices based on whether something is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praise-worthy”, not simply because the rating seems kosher. Generally, R-rated movies probably won’t be a good idea. But there are certainly exceptions.

As Latter-day Saints, we are entitled to personal revelation from our Heavenly Father, and refraining from R-rated movies altogether works for many people. But until the prophet delivers that counsel to the whole church, we are absolutely not entitled to expect others to do it. Any adult member who judges another to be disobedient or unrighteous for watching an R-rated movie is themselves guilty of disobedience, for just as we are warned not to ignore the words of the prophets, we are warned not to add to them.

Once again, I hope it is clear that this post is not meant to advocate R-rated movies. It is also not meant to advocate PG-13 movies, or PG movies, or G movies. When a movie’s rating becomes our litmus test for its acceptability (which is unfortunately the case for many church members—largely because of this misconception), we are in danger of ignoring the more important factor—its content. I was once in a testimony meeting where a man declared over the pulpit that he was invited by some friends to go see The Wolf of Wall Street, but declined “because it’s rated R.”

Really? That’s why you declined? Because it was rated R? The MPAA (which is operated by some of the very people who make the movies they rate) is far from a perfect judge of a movie’s acceptability. What if a liberal employee had happened to slap a PG-13 on The Wolf of Wall Street and you, only knowing the rating, had seen it? You’d have no idea that over the next three hours you were about to be subjected to prolonged scenes of male and female nudity, pervasive sexual content, and graphic drug use. Also, you’d hear over 500 uses of the F-word, the Lord’s name taken in vain over a hundred times, and countless other obscenities.

A movie’s content is the same regardless of what capital letter Hollywood puts on the poster. Because of this, we all have the responsibility to be wise and research a movie’s content before we see it. We do not have the responsibility or the right, though, to manage the entertainment selections of another.

Consider: a man might see the R-rated film The King’s Speech and be thoroughly uplifted. However, if that same man struggled with faith in God and watched The Invention of Lying, a PG-13 film which promotes atheist philosophy, it could shatter his testimony forever. Or suppose he was exceptionally sensitive to religious profanities—the PG-rated movie The Spiderwick Chronicles, meant for children, takes the Lord’s name in vain fourteen times. Again, the point is not to advertise or condemn any specific film, but to expose the foolishness in determining media selection based on a worldly rating system. This foolishness is compounded when the Lord’s prophets are incorrectly cited as the source.

I could go on for days about other reasons it’s stupid to watch or not watch a movie based on its MPAA rating—the rating system is constantly changing, the majority of the church lives outside of America and has never even heard of the MPAA—but those reasons aren’t really relevant to this discussion because when the prophet speaks, we should obey. We should obey with faith, without hesitation, regardless of how logical our justifications not to obey might seem. But in this case, no justification is needed, because the prophet has not said one word to adult members of the church regarding R-rated movies. So let’s stop pretending otherwise.

Now, I understand that my Hunger Games analogy at the beginning of this post was imperfect—after all, lots of the Mormons who would want to see it are youth, and they have been given prophetic counsel not to watch R-rated movies. I know that some youth are probably mature enough to handle an R-rated movie, just as some youth are probably mature enough to go on dates at fifteen. That doesn’t matter. It’s not a question of maturity, it’s a question of obedience to the prophet. But for the adult members of the church, the prophet has left us to our own devices. Joseph Smith was once asked how he was able to effectively govern so many people—he responded that he didn’t need to. “I teach them correct principles,” he said, “and they govern themselves.”

We have been taught correct principles about entertainment, now we must govern ourselves. We would be foolish to allow a worldly rating system to govern us, and we cannot allow ourselves to govern others. Continuing to do so will continue to breed ignorance and hostility, neither of which belong in the church of Christ. As we become less Pharisaical about the imagined scarlet letter of the movie rating law, we can learn to better implement correct entertainment principles in our lives.

And the odds will be ever in our favor.

Comments

comments

About the author

Jake Healey


175 Comments

  • Very interesting! Thanks for writing. I have been thinking a lot about this topic in the past few weeks actually, and working on trying to do my own blog post on the matter. I feel like you covered a lot of what I was thinking about, and so I am grateful to read it! Most of all, as you said, the MPAA is not the prophet. In fact, the MPAA actually has no Priesthood authority (news flash) so the idea that the MPAA determines entertainment choices for members of the Church is very strange. That being said, I also appreciated (and agreed) with what you pointed out that recognizing this does not “authorize” watching whatever movie we want. Because the Lord’s standard is clear, that immoral/profane/etc. offends the Spirit.

    This principle is especially important for me since I once was sharing a movie I’d been profoundly moved by, with a close friend, and once the friend found out the movie was PG-13, they didn’t want to hear any more about it – regardless of how spiritually uplifted I had been by the movie, since it was “wrong” for its rating alone.

    I guess I should never tell them that one of the most sacred movies I’ve seen is “Saving Private Ryan.” Because recognizing and understand the terrible sacrifice paid for the freedom all of us enjoy would be definitely immoral, hmm?

  • The church has not said anything yet about R rated movies, caffeinated soft drinks, or tattoos. You could get a tattoo today and watch an R rated movie and still take the sacrament and get a temple recommend! Once the church comes out with new revelation and say you can’t do this anymore I will happily comply. Prophets and apostles said we should avoid such things, but have yet to make it a general rule.

      • They also said members should refrain from watching R rated movies but its not a rule, its just highly suggested that you don’t get a tattoo. If you do get one you wont get into trouble and nothing will happen. PS: The church handbook outweighs “For The Strength of Youth”. It also says in “For the Strength of Youth” kids should have Family Home Evening. But if you don’t, you wont get into trouble.

        • Well David, there are a lot of things we can do and “not get in trouble.” Have you ever heard the phrase, “our bodies are a temple”? We shouldn’t be marking up are bodies with permanent symbols/drawings. You definitely won’t get excommunicated for it.. just like you won’t get excommunicated if you go get drunk one night but that doesn’t mean you should go and do it.

        • We just need to remember that the purpose behind following prophetic counsel is not to “avoid getting into trouble” with church authorities. It shows that the leaders of the church trust the members to make wise decisions on their own when they choose not to give overly specific instructions concerning what they can or can’t do. However, if we interpret that trust as a relaxation of the Lord’s standards for His people, we are certainly misinterpreting the message. There are lots of things in both the handbook of instructions and for the strength of youth that would be displeasing to the Lord if we were to do them, and doing something stupid with the excuse of “well, it doesn’t say anything about it in the handbook or for the strength of youth” or “i won’t technically get in trouble at church” shows a pharisaical immaturity regarding church standards. As to for the strength of youth, after the release of the new version, in an official press release, the church said, “Although the new series will mainly target youth, the standards apply to members of all age groups in the Church.” And the reference for anyone concerned about hammer swinging: (Lok Yi Chan, Church News and Events, “Church Magazines’ New Series to Highlight For the Strength of Youth Standards” 2014)

        • So, following the Lord’s prophets is all about trying to not get into trouble now? We should do something because we don’t want to get into trouble? I think we should do it for the right reasons, because we are to be beacons to the rest of the world of anyting that is “virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy” and to glorify God and His Son. I have tried to let the 13th article of Faith guide my media choice and it is hard because we so easily and often say, well the rest of the world is doing it, even members. Another thing that has guided me in my decision making in most anything is a quote by Sister Dalton, “If we want to make a difference in the world, we MUST be different from the world.” With that said, I think that we should be examples to the world. I now try to avoid most movies that are scary or have any type of horror theme to it because for me, I don’t feel the Spirit when I watch those kinds of movies. I feel yucky inside. Same thing goes with movies and books, etc. that have sexual content in it. And even movies where you “can’t see anything” because they are under the bed covers, etc. it still means that they are in bed with each other having sex and they are not married in real life. I did not see the last two Twilight movies for that reason. Even if they were married in real life, I would not see it because intimacy is something sacred and should not be glorified or shown on the tv screen. And even implying there was sex is not ok, because even if it “didn’t happen”, I wouldn’t feel comfortable watching it with the Savior or my kids if I had any. I do try to avoid most entertainment with swearing/profanity as well. And the “For the Strength of Youth” is a guidance for all members I believe because living those standards to me brings the most happiness to my life and the Spirit stronger than ever. Plus, the youth look to us adults as examples, so should we not be good examples to them, our future?

    • “Latter-day prophets strongly discourage the tattooing of the body. Those who disregard this counsel show a lack of respect for themselves and for God.”
      —See True to the Faith (2004), 167

      I think it would be cool to have a tattoo but I don’t get one because of this counsel.

      • Good for you, but that still doesn’t mean your decision is doctrine. A fresh tattoo won’t keep you out of the temple, and in my mind as long as you can enter the temple you’re doing okay.

        • Going to the temple does not equal going to the celestial kingdom. In the temple recommend interviews, you are asked if you sustain and follow the prophet, you cannott follow the prophet when you disregard what he says. So you could get a fresh tattoo and promptly go to the temple but you would be lying which I think is a commandment if I remember right. Anyone can go to the temple unworthily.

        • Ally. You’re right, a fresh tattoo won’t keep you out of the temple. Whether 1 calls it doctrine or the other not, the prophets and apostles have still told us for YEARS that it is disrespectful to our bodies to get tattoos. And just a side-note that the book True to the Faith is a doctrinal resource from the church (officially) to help us study. But isn’t the prophet’s counsel good enough, whether stated as doctrine or not? I don’t want to sound like I am attacking, but I really think that the attitude of “as long as you can enter the temple you’re doing okay” is harmful, because the point is that we are constantly striving to be our best and prepare for when we become perfect/whole beings. I appreciate your opinion and hope the same is true for you, too. Have a great day Ally!

        • you have the choice to get a tattoo. that doesn’t mean you should you would be abusing your agency to choose to go against the lords counsel through church resources. just because you can enter the temple with a tattoo doesn’t mean you are doing okay. we should do everything we can to keep our bodies pure and retain the self image of our bodies are a temple.

  • I feel like R rated movies are like temple garments. What and how you do with them is between you and the lord and people should but out of it! The only time I watch R rated movies or movies that are not rated is if they have an historical context. Such as “Elizabeth the First” or “Schindlers List” (a movie about the holocaust). I had to watch German Nazis kill Russian Jews one time in History class. I feel like watching it helped me better understand the situation. And the film was rated NR-17.

    • So many seem to ignore the fact Schindler’s List contains gratuitous nudity. I’m not referring to that found in gas chamber or the scenes shortly before it which on their own wouldn’t have made me disfavor the movie. It is about context.

        • I feel like that quip is unfair, Blake. I scoff at the idea of censoring an art history class, but nudity in movies, especially in a sexual context, hurts my heart. And that’s my standard when it comes to media content — whether it hurts me emotionally, or if it’s something I feel I could become desensitized to with too much contact.

        • What a falsely dichotomous ad hominem attack veiled in probability. Your bio claims you study philosphy. That comment betrays you.

        • Sorry, Blake, but I have to agree with these Lauren and Erik here. I appreciate your defense of my position but your comment was not in line with the thesis of my article. CurtisLB’s concern with the nudity in Schindler’s List is a completely valid one for him to hold, as long as he doesn’t judge others for their own entertainment choices. Ad hominem attacks and other logical fallacies aside, the problem with this comment is that you’ve made a judgment call (on somebody you’ve never met) simply because of their personal entertainment choices.

          As I stated in my article, it’s comments like these that breed hostility, which doesn’t belong in the church of Christ.

  • David, on the back of my 409 all purpose cleaner it has the phrase “Avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing.” I would suggest that when we are instructed to “avoid” something by church leaders, that we take the same caution with that something as we would with 409 all purpose cleaner and our eyeballs. The definition for avoid is “:keep away from or stop oneself from doing (something).” I don’t know if more clear language could be used in giving warnings against spiritually harmful practices, activities, desires, and the like.

  • While I agree with the gist of the message, that we’d be foolish to rely on the MPAA, there probably are zero R rated movies that will actually bring you closer to God than numerous other options for spending one’s time. The Kings Speech (itself probably a good example of an R rated movie that is kinder to your soul than PG-13 movies like The Hunger Games) will always fall short of a long list of more wholesome activities that we could assemble. In addition, the standard set by the first presidency in “For The Strength of Youth” is much higher than President Benson’s R rated movie statement. It is this: “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. “

  • Actually the Church has made a.formal statement about caffeinated drinks and President Hinckley commented on numerous occasions about not getting tattoos and not watching R rated movies. What I got from this long winded diatribe of rationalization was , “Follow the prophet, no don’t, OK do”

    • Actually President Hinckley has NEVER said anything about R-rated movies. It’s a huge misconception. You can’t find anywhere him saying it. Infact Elder Robbins, presidency of the 70 said, “It is risky for the Church to draw a line. If the speed on the freeway is sixty-five miles per hour, how fast will people drive? Well, they will feel free to drive as fast as the limit. If the Church were to draw a line with movies, that would be like giving permission to watch everything up to the line. President Gordon B. Hinckley never drew a line. Neither has President Thomas S. Monson.” There is no line with movies.

    • One of my favorite things is how easily others dismiss the arguments of those they disagree with through the use of words with negative connotations

      “Long-winded; diatribe; rationalization” – These are words that, in description, mean little, but contextually are used as a weapon to belittle something towards which we disagree. Neutrally, the phrases “Long formed, essay, and reasoning” fit just as well, but don’t attempt to quickly make the author look like a fool with a quipped remark.

      As an aside, they don’t quite have that “zing” quality that one apparently requires to justify their internet commentary. But, I suppose, you rationalized that it was okay, because you did not agree with what the author was saying.

  • Actually President Spencer W. Kimball was the first. http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1187. It wasn’t to the general church population, but my mom must have somehow heard or seen that talk, because he was the basis for our not watching them when we grew up. Both of my parents are LDS, but it was my mom who felt strongly about it when they married. I think a lot of people just look to be directed in all things, when really we should just be using a moral compass, not a Hollywood rating as you stated. The PG-13 rating didn’t even exist till 1984, which is why you have early PG movies in the 80’s having content that is quite unsuitable for smaller kids. And as society progresses what is allowed in each rating changes, just as the gap between PG and R became more apparent, the gap between PG and PG-13 is now. Research movies before seeing them, like you said, it should never be assumed it’s ok on rating alone.

  • Loved your article. Nice points and good counsel to make wise informed media choices, which is something more “informed” than a simple rating. Besides, the rating system, though it has evolved somewhat over its 50 year history, society’s definition of what receives each rating has changed. The societal perception of certain language, situations, etc. has evolved, just as certain words/situations that were not acceptable for primetime TV 30 years ago are now rampant. Don’t let some “group of people” decide for you. Decide yourself.

    • yeah, they are also prophets, seers and revelators, but I think only when they speak as a united voice is it considered doctrine and not just counsel.

      “An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be.”

      -President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Eternal Keys and Right to Preside”

    • Yes, they are sustained as that. They are given apostolic keys the moment they are ordained. However, those keys lie dormant until put into use under the assignment of the prophet. This is why only council that is given over the pulpit at General Conference is considered to be scripture and doctrine. The talks are reviewed and agreed upon by the prophet. He then gives them the authorization to share that particular talk in the Lord’s name. This is what makes them prophets, seers, and revelators.

      Books that the apostles put out, stake conferences (outside of those whom the address is for), or devotional speeches, while edifying, are not under the direction of the prophet, and thus they cannot be considered scripture. We need to be careful about when and where these quotes are taken from.

      “The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles holds all of the priesthood keys, power, and authority needed to guide the Church (see D&C 107:23–24; 112:14–15). Each member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is given the keys of the priesthood at the time of his ordination as an Apostle and calling to the Quorum. Only the President of the Church has the authority to exercise all of the keys of the priesthood, but, as President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) explained, each member of the Quorum of the Twelve ‘holds the keys of this dispensation in latent reserve. Inherent in that divine residual is the assured ongoing leadership of the Church’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 4; or Ensign, May 1983, 6). (Teachings of the Living Prophets p. 32)

      https://institute.lds.org/bc/content/institute/materials/english/student-manuals/religion-333-teachings-of-the-living-prophets-student-manualeng.pdf

  • I’ve discussed this a lot with friends, and there is no consensus. I largely agree with this article.

    For me, the point I decided R-rated movies needed to be judged on content was in 8th grade when we watched The Pianist in my world religions class (private high school), because we were studying Judaisim. It was quite violent and disturbing, but it has become one of my favorite movies. I always cite it as an example when people say we “shouldn’t watch rated R movies”, because I found that this movie, along with others like Saving Private Ryan, inspire me to be a better person. Other R-rated movies may not necessarily be uplifting, but still inspiring as they portray aspects of the human experience that we need to explore and understand.

  • Very good. In Australia and many other places in the world, we don’t have ‘R rated’ movies and really must think about what the content is.I think this may be the reason the youth pamphlet wording, as it stood in the 1990s, was changed.

    I think when we receive prophetic counsel, we should seek to understand it and actively live it, and not refuse it or make it choose for us.

  • This classic counsel of not watching R-rated movies has been given by more than just President Benson and, when done so, the words Benson used are often referred to by other General Authorities in explicitly denouncing the viewing of R-rated movies. On one occasion in my youth, I remember a Seventy delivering thd sharp and strong counsel to avoid R-rated movies and to have the courage to walk out of a party or a movie theater if the situation warranted it. I strongly suggest you read the articles from LDS.org because your logical process does not align with what First Presidency approved material we are to follow:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Alds.org+r+rated&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official

    • You’re incorrect if you’re trying to assert that every quote by a general authority is doctrine.

      And did you just use a Google search results page as your proof?

  • The strength of youth pamphlet no longer says no r rated movies. There are guidelines for movies instead. This is in part because some lower rates movies can be worse than r, but mostly because there is either no rating system or different rating systems in other countries.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      I’d actually like to point out another common misconception. Contrary to an apparently popular belief, no version of “For the Strength of Youth” has ever mentioned an R-rated movie. I mean, if it had, it still wouldn’t contradict my article because I’ve already said youth shouldn’t watch R-rated movies, but whatever. The point is, I’ve seen a lot of people who say it was in the pamphlet, but I’ve read both versions and I’m quite sure it never was. If it was, I’d appreciate it if somebody could provide the exact quote.

  • All this justification is very disheartening. The very first page in “For the Strength of Youth”, is a statement by the first presidency proclaiming the book as doctrine. The older version specifically referred to R rated movies, the newest version refers to abstaining from any inappropriate movies because of the e lowering standards of the movie industry, they now recognize just saying R rated doesn’t include 100’s of PG-13 movies that have inappropriate and objectionable subject matter, seen and unseen. The Lord never intended to state every specific instance where we should abstain from something that is not for our benefit. That is why the newest “Strength of Youth ” teaches principles, that is why recently the course of study for Pr RS was Gospel Principles, so we can understand and use true principles to make choices beneficial to our spiritual lives. We are a church of revelation, but let’s be true to ourselves if we feel we receive revelation contrary to the leaders of the church’s teachings and council we had better be very careful coming to the conclusion it comes from the same spiritual source as the teachings from the Prophets and Apostles. We do all have the opportunity to sustain the First Presidency and the Apostles as Prophet Seers and Revelators does that mean we sustain them only in what is convenient for the moment. I sure hope this isn’t the way we show our love and gratitude to The Lord for all he has blessed us with, not the least is to live in a time with Prophets and Apostles.

    • You have not understood this article at all. We are promoting going BEYOND just not watching R-rated movies, and examining our choices to be even more virtuous. We absolutely love and sustain all the brethren. Reread this. You might understand better.

    • Read my comment on the post directly above yours.

      If “the older version specifically referred to R rated movies,” I’d appreciate it if you’d provide us with a quote.

      Thanks!

  • There’s a lot of Mormon “doctrines” out there that aren’t really doctrine. The no R-movies standard may be one of them, and it’s definitely valuable to be clear on what the prophets have said about any given subject matter. It is even more valuable to pray, and exercise your own faith to gain a testimony of any given counsel.

    I personally have never been harmed by the decision to avoid rated R movies. Sure, I’ve seen a few R movies in my day. Some of them I liked, but most of them I’ve felt like were a waste of time at best, and all of them contained something I had wished it didn’t. I’ve certainly never felt like watching an R movie was a necessary measure to improving me as a person. Hollywood movies in general just aren’t that important.

    As long as you understand that watching rated R movies isn’t going to infallibly save you from all forms of evil in movie-watching, there’s nothing wrong with avoiding R movies entirely. It’s a pretty good place to start a safe practice of movie watching actually, as evidenced by President Benson’s talk to the Young Men. Just be advised that your personal content filter will undoubtedly need to include more criteria than just, “don’t watch R-rated movies.” Having a strong testimony of the rest of the gospel will help with deciding what those standards should be.

    • You seem to have a tremendous conceptual understanding of my post. Thank you for taking the time to read it thoroughly and ponder its meaning before commenting–and thank you for commenting! I agree with your sentiments completely.

  • I agree with your ideas. I don’t watch R rated movies’ by choice. I don’t watch some pg 13 movies either. Like you said all movies have the ability to offend the spirit. I know someone who gets terribly offended by Victoria secret commercials. It is wise to use your own sensibilities to make choices. I tried to go see an R rated movie once and came out feeling horrible. So I don’t see them. I think we need to remember that if we listen to that still small voice, that if we heed that part if our own spirit we will indeed govern ourselves way that Father intends us to. With the grace of a child of God. I’m repeating a lot of what you said. Mostly because I agree and also because I felt that by the testimony of two or more we can recognize truth. You are wise. I’m impressed by you. Also you can have tattoos but to go into the temple of the Lird they must be covered up so they can’t be seen? That is reason enough for me. It says something that The Lord doesn’t want to look at them. Just my opinion.

    • But, He does “look” at them. He looks at everything–he sees all, and he isn’t offended or shocked or turns his head at anything. Because he loves us all perfectly and knows all. He doesn’t turn away from us, attempt to shame us, he doesn’t set conditions. I think what you’re really trying to say is that many in the temple are a part of a certain cultural framework that assigns a judgment to a tattoo as a way to mark if you are acceptable or not according to social standards that may or may not be universal. Please, don’t put this on the Lord–to be more accurate, there are some fellow saints who don’t want to see tattoos in the temple.

    • This link is broken, but I’ve done a lot of research on the subject and never once seen President Kimball cited as saying a word about R-rated movies. Will you please provide a quote for me? Context would be nice too.

      • The link itself works and gives me a list of talks. The one mentioned is at the top of the list, by title. If you click the link to “read” the talk, that is broken. However, if you click the link to “print” the talk, it will download as a PDF to your computer. While he specifically mentions R-rated movies in the talk, it comes by way of warning. He warns his audience about the content contained in movies thus-rated. Here is the entire paragraph (for context) of what he said:

        “Speaking of things of the moment and social diversions, let me add one word of caution. The other night, Sister Kimball and I watched, by means of video casette, an older movie, “The Sound of Music”. It was delightful. The music was beautiful, the acting superb, the scenery magnificent. It was wholesome and entertaining in every way. We had a wonderful, relaxing evening together. However, as you well know, it is difficult nowadays to find such entertainment. I would warn you against the R- and X-rated movies that unfortunately seem to be so prevalent these days. For the most part, they are filled with violence, sex, profanity, and crime. I can hardly imagine that any young man at the BYU, or elsewhere in the Church, would ever think of taking his lovely date to such a movie.”

        I feel that your piece above doesn’t contradict anything mentioned in this talk by President Kimball and, in fact, is in keeping with the spirit of it. He probably should have added PG movies to his talk (there wasn’t a PG-13 rating widely used at that time) as according to the MPAA, brief, non-sexual nudity is OK in a PG movie.

        Thank you for writing this post. It encompasses some of my same feelings. Especially after traveling abroad and speaking with members of the church about movie watching habits they have. For them, the talks that specifically mention R-rated movies aren’t translated to reflect the counterpart-rating that their country uses (if it has one at all). So, it always seemed ridiculous to me to say that one doesn’t watch R-rated movies because the prophet told us not to. His exact words don’t translate globally and therefor can’t be a commandment for citizens of other countries where the specifics of the commandment can’t be met. However, the spirit of what the prophet said (i.e. a warning to educate yourself on the content of ALL movies and exposing yourself only to praiseworthy, uplifting conten) holds true regardless of political boundaries. Even within the US, this is very true as the MPAA has, at times, given different ratings to the same movie depending on where in the country it was being screened. The content of the film was the same – just the audience was different.

        • I agree completely with this comment.

          Though I wasn’t aware of this quote, there’s a big difference between “Don’t watch R-rated movies” and “I would warn you against the R- and X- rated movies that unfortunately seem to be so prevalent these days. For the most part, they are filled with violence, sex, profanity, and crime.” I daresay, even, that if President Kimball gave this quote in 2014 he would likely include PG-13 in his remarks.

          As you said, the whole statement makes it clear that he’s warning against CONTENT that is OFTEN contained in R- and X- rated movies. The disclaimer “for the most part” is the key.

      • I just looked it up and printed it to PDF. The only time (I could find) he says anything about it is in the following quote:

        Speaking of things of the moment and
        social diversions, let me add one word of caution.
        The other night, Sister Kimball and I
        watched, by means of video cassette, an older
        movie, The Sound of Music. It was delightful.
        The music was beautiful, the acting superb, the
        scenery magnificent. It was wholesome and
        entertaining in every way. We had a wonderful,
        relaxing evening together. However, as you
        well know, it is difficult nowadays to find such
        entertainment. I would warn you against the
        R- and X-rated movies that unfortunately seem
        to be so prevalent these days. For the most
        part, they are filled with violence, sex, profanity,
        and crime. I can hardly imagine that any
        young man at the BYU, or elsewhere in the
        Church, would ever think of taking his lovely
        date to such a movie.

  • There are a lot of good points, but honestly I feel that we shouldn’t have to look for loop holes or technicalities to stretch things to our desires. Honestly, you are probably safer just following the counsel of not watching rated r movies as frustrating as that may be at times. I much rather do all I can to have clean thoughts and images in my mind. When you try to go around the counsel, it doesn’t make you a bad person or even less worthier than someone who doesn’t watch r rated movies, but you are putting yourself at greater risks and then it becomes easier to start justifying not following other counsel. For those that have children too, your kids see that it is convinient to pick how and what counsel to follow. It is not that you are a blind follower, it is how much you want to protect your spirit and standing before The Lord. Would you invite the savior to watch the movie with you?

    • You aren’t understanding this article at all. It’s saying that “no R-rated movies” isn’t ENOUGH of a standard – we need to be MORE virtuous in our choices.

  • Thanks for the article Zeezrom. Seriously, are those other 14 guys just making suggestions when they speak at conference? Are they chopped liver? Do you not really sustain them but just raise your arm because its tradition? Do you need to be commanded specifically? Is it ok to show kids Goonies because you watched it in the 80’s and cussing kids were ok back then, even though its obviously not ok now? Sophistry and cunning lawyer speak, that’s what this article wreaks of. I can imagine Alma and Amulek contending with you; “Saying you don’t condone watching rated r movies in this article, yet speaking in exactly that manner so as to lead away the hearts of those who don’t have God’s commandments in their hearts, is in fact apostatizing from the faith. Crap like this is why members of the church outside of Utah are afraid to live in Utah..because its full of people like this author nitpicking things and reasoning away basic doctrines (yes, its doctrine to not watch rated R movies and things like it…like the walking dead). Do you not remember the words of the prophets saying to seek out good and wholesome and uplifting entertainment? Do you need to be commanded in all things?” Yes, I’m being a hollier-than-thou judge as I’m sure you’d call me…are we not commanded to judge righteously? This is starting to have more questions than Alma 5.

    • You need to reread this article because clearly you didn’t do a good job. It’s advocating for righteous entertainment choices. As in, go BEYOND just not watching R-rated movies. There are just SOME exceptions to R-rated movies being not ok.

      • Yep, read it twice. It’s a bait and switch he does…like a new writer trying their best to be edgy, but then recoiling into the safety of the proposed moral highground. Just the arguments themselves, as if he plays a devils advocate, are what’s bad and it leads folks to immediately start reasoning away their spirit derived conviction that no rated r movies are good and yes, prophets of God have said so. Sure he comes back to the fold and lets us know he’s still worthy of his priesthood. The damage that was done and the nitpicking away at a very important set of principles is the problem here. Take the comment suggesting that kids are commanded against rated r movies in the youth pamphlet (a book now) but adults are left to their own devices. That’s utterly false and demonstrates not being in touch with words of the prophets…which you can pretty much hear every general conference if you pay attention. yes, read it twice before commenting, and reviewed again right now. If you or anyone actually believes the lie above that prophets have not commanded us to not watch rated r movies, then you’ve been taken.

        • You just don’t seem to have all the facts.

          For the Strength of Youth–both the old and updated versions–say NOT A WORD about R-rated movies. If you’d like to assert otherwise, please provide a quote.

          Adult members of the church could not possibly have a “spirit derived conviction that no rated r movies are good [because] prophets of God have said so” because the fact is, NO prophet has said so! And certainly not ‘prophets’ in the plural form. As was made clear beyond reason in the post, President Benson DID give that counsel–to the youth only, just as the counsel not to date is clearly given but only to those under sixteen. Many adult members are entitled to a spirit-derived conviction, as you say, that no R-rated movies are good FOR THEM, but they are not entitled to such a conviction for the church as a whole.

          Unless you can find me a quote where a prophet of God tells the entire church not to watch R-rated movies, your argument and attacks against me have no weight because it is simply a matter of personal spirituality. You over-assume your authority by presenting your valid personal opinions as doctrine.

          • You have baited your readers, then you insult them for challenging your lack of understanding of spirit of the law. My bad on the strength of youth pamphlet not using the words “you can’t watch rated r movies.” How bout you take a gander in there and tell me if you think anything else in that pamphlet (or counsel from apostles from any of the last 10 general conferences) that denotes that it would be ok to watch rated r movies. And another obvious question…what is it that makes a rated r movie rated r? What makes a pg-13 movie inappropriate for latter-day saints? Do you see what is going on here? Doesn’t matter how your article ends up, you said blatent falsehoods…you require the president of the church to say no to rated r movies…you suggest President Benson only told the youth to not watch them, but not adults? How can you not see the problem with that statement? I’m done here, you get the last word, you win the internets bro. Have fun in your next interview.

          • I myself would hope that our leaders wouldn’t fall into the ridiculous and dangerous logic of telling the church not to watch “r-rated” movies. To let an anonymous group of busybodies in California, some of whom work in the movie industry, have the authority and power to decide for all church members what is acceptable or not according to THEIR standards an opinions would be an irresponsible abrogation of priesthood authority and a illogical conclusion. However, there are many members who wander aimlessly waiting for someone to tell them if they’re right or wrong, so if the MPAA rating system works for you personally and fulfills your needs, then fine, but that doesn’t mean it’s church doctrine, or a valid measure of righteous living.

    • First of all, let me just say that your Zeezrom comment was the hardest I’ve laughed all day. I know you meant it pretty maliciously and all, but it just cracked me up. Second, and equally funny, I don’t see Alma and Amulek using the phrase “crap like this.”

      On a more serious note, you’ve accused me of “apostatizing from the faith.” How dare you? I have not “reason[ed] away basic doctrines,” I have clarified a common misconception about the prophet’s words. In no way did I advocate poor entertainment choices or attempt to invalidate the words of the Lord’s servants–I merely contextualized them.

      The most egregious statement you made, though, came towards the end: “Yes, it’s doctrine to not watch rated R movies and things like it…like the walking dead.” As my post made CRYSTAL clear, such a notion has never been announced as doctrine by a prophet of God, who would be the only person on earth authorized to do so. Are you SERIOUSLY trying to persuade others that church doctrine is your own personal interpretation of prophetic counsel? My friend, for someone who accused another of “apostatizing from the faith” not three sentences earlier, that is a gross error indeed.

      In closing, I would indeed say you’re being a “hollier-than-thou judge”–but I wouldn’t have spelled ‘holier’ wrong.

      • “As my post made CRYSTAL clear, such a notion has never been announced as doctrine by a prophet of God, who would be the only person on earth authorized to do so.”

        Do you need to have the prophet (President Monson and not the other 14 apostles which apparently dont count to you) say “Jake, you are commanded to not watch Rated R movies”? Is there not already a commandment to live the law of chastity which would apply to rated R movies and many PG13 movies..not just nudity but profanity, gore, violence, etc? Is there not a 13th article of faith which should for sure denote no rated r movies? How is not watching rated r movies not a doctrinal command from God through his servants? Judging by your reply its clear to see with the offense you took that you are indeed. My Zeezrom comment is right on the money bro, it is derived from an honest parallel that is easy to make reading your article, not malice. I honestly consider my comment as from someone defending my faith from an obvious detractor…with some obvious and imperfect language choices, my bad. One more question, do you watch the superbowl every year on Sunday? That’d be a good article to write about next because no, our prophets haven’t said you couldn’t watch it! 🙂

        • Your perfectly valid interpretation of the 13th article of faith might indeed outlaw all R-rated movies, but that is your own interpretation. One of the main points of my post, which you inexplicably seem to be missing despite your multiple readings, is that one’s personal opinion should never be presented as doctrine. Again, if you have something MORE than your own personal opinions, feel free to bust out the quotes.

          As for watching the Super Bowl, I’m glad you brought that up. Though no prophets have expressly said not to watch it, just as no prophets have expressly told adult members of the church not to watch R-rated movies, I do not watch the Super Bowl due to my personal belief about Sabbath Day observance. As a huge football fan, that’s a sacrifice for me–I’m only able to justify a brief check of the score once or twice. The key is that I do not present “don’t watch the Super Bowl” as doctrine and I do not judge others one bit for doing so.

          You might consider a similar approach in this instance.

          • Despite personal viewpoints and taste to the contrary, I have found examples of “r-rated” that were indeed praiseworthy, beautiful, life-changing, and virtuous, of good report, etc. We don’t need a list of “approved” movies to watch, we just need our own efforts at using the moral compass that God gave us as His greatest gift.

        • So, how does the commandment of not watching R-rated movies apply in other countries? The MPAA only rates movies for the US. Many other countries in the world do not have ratings systems, or have ones that clearly do NOT match up with our ratings system. Was the prophet only speaking to residents of the US?

          TV ratings are completely different, and slightly better at warning an audience of the content of a show, but none of the prophets have called out a specific rating in TV shows as a “line in the sand” that we don’t cross. Likewise, they haven’t in other countries. Are the residents of the US just special Saints that get extra doctrine, not meant for the rest of the world?

          I think Jake’s article clearly points to the spirit of the prophet’s counsel: be careful what you watch. It doesn’t matter if it is unrated, G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17. According to MPAA standards, brief, non-sexual nudity is OK in PG movies. But I don’t want to take my kids to see that.

    • Jpcmt, you have made a lot of assertions in your comments that you have failed to back up with fact. Accusing the author of “sophistry and cunning lawyer speak”, suggesting that he is encouraging apostasy, and repeatedly insulting him for “needing to be commanded in all things” are pretty intense accusations.

      The great irony of your string of vapid comments lies in the following statement you made: “Crap like this is why members of the church outside of Utah are afraid to live in Utah..because its full of people like this author nitpicking things and reasoning away basic doctrines (yes, its doctrine to not watch rated R movies and things like it…like the walking dead”.

      That statement is demonstrably false. It is precisely this self righteous arrogance, coupled with the empty and baseless arguments, that scare many people away from LDS communities. Furthermore, the idea that the author is “reasoning away basic doctrines” is patently false. It is not a basic doctrine of the church that we must not watch R rated movies, and the author has repeatedly asked you to back up that assertion. And repeatedly you have failed, though you have been quick to reply with more impassioned, empty rhetoric. Your comments are eerily similar those made by the pharisees in the New Testament that sought to imprison and murder the first apostles.

  • Hmm… The way I see it, this life is a time to prepare to meet God. Who are better examples of that than the prophets and apostles? Therefore, if I can imagine the prophet going to such movies, I wouldn’t think twice about going. But, he wouldn’t. That’s more than enough for me. While Christ stated that we shouldn’t add or take away from the gospel, we also shouldn’t do eveything that’s not specifically commanded with a “thou shalt not.” That person would be a slothful servant and not very useful to the Lord.

    • I agree with your sentiments, for the most part. I’m not sure what you meant by one part of it, but I just wanted to clarify–it’s perfectly valid for you to PERSONALLY believe the prophet would not watch a film like Schindler’s List, but it would be an error for you to impose that belief on another.

      A side note to that–Jeffrey R. Holland once said that he stays dressed up in his church clothes for the entirety of the Sabbath and believes all members should do the same. Would it be ‘disobedient’ if somebody said they didn’t feel like that counsel was right for them? Some might feel inclined to follow it, and that’s wonderful–but nobody should be obligated or expected.

  • You’ve been bitten by the justification bug pretty hard, Jake. That’s your best defense, that the quote was taken out of context? Surely you can do better than that. Where’s the quote that says, “But once you aren’t a young man anymore, go see the Hangover because it’s an absolute riot!” They teach us standards as youth so we can keep the same standards throughout our lives. The Prophets and Apostles don’t expect our standards to drop once we hit 19. The rating system is a quick and easy guide of helping us determine what is more or less inappropriate. Many countries don’t have this luxury. If you walk into a PG-13 movie that is not appropriate, we would be expected to walk out. The % of rated-R movies that one could watch while still obeying all of the other prophetic counsels regarding pornography and vulgarity is near zero, so why even risk it? If a liberal employee were to slap a PG-13 on the Wolf of Wall Street, then one would be expected to walk out of the movie. Yes, I will confess that I am one of those ignorant, sheep Mormons that avoids movies just because of a certain capital letter. What harm does that do me? If I’m watching a PG-13 movie that I find inappropriate, I stop watching it. If you’re to the point where you need to break down and analyze a simple commandment with the sole purpose of finding ways to break it without feeling as guilty then you need to re-examine your faith and your testimony.

    • You’ve been bitten by the “I-don’t-understand-posts-before-I-comment-on-them” bug pretty hard, Chris. Where did I say that the “sole purpose” of my post is “finding [a] way to [watch R-rated movies] without feeling as guilty?” I don’t feel guilty at all about watching an R-rated movie unless I feel it drives away the spirit. A movie’s rating is completely and utterly meaningless to me. It’s ALL about the content.

      Also, you cite the option of walking out of a PG-13 movie as justification for being “one of those ignorant, sheep Mormons.” Don’t get me wrong, walking out of a bad movie is a good thing to do, but the problem is, if you’ve walked out of a movie, that means you’ve already been exposed to something that was worth walking out over. It’s much better to disregard the rating, adequately research the content, and avoid having to ever walk out of a movie in the first place.

      And I wouldn’t call it a “defense,” but yes–my best defense would be “that the quote was taken out of context.” If the quote is indeed taken out of context, as I believe I’ve shown to commonly be the case, wouldn’t that in fact be a PERFECT defense?

      • “I don’t feel guilty at all about watching an R-rated movie unless I feel it drives away the Spirit. A movie’s rating is completely and utterly meaningless to me. It’s ALL about the content.” Um, pretty sure a movie rating is ALL about the content dude. There is a reason it is R, and it’s not because they put the letters into a hat and drew it out. It’s R because of its content. Can’t tell you how many friends say, “Oh, well it’s only R because profanity” or “It’s only R because of violence” or “It’s only R because of the sex scenes” because that is ALL about the content. I have yet to hear someone say, “Oh, it’s R because they drew into a hat and pulled out a letter.” There is always something content related, and they always say, “It’s R because (insert content)”. They directly cite the rating because of a content. They are connected. I just don’t understand how you say a rating means nothing but it’s all about the content when the rating is based on the content. It’s like saying that you’re going to completely disregard the nutritional facts on a food because you only care about its content…when the nutritional facts are telling you about the content. You can look up exactly why the rating is given based on content.

        • Your analogy is faulty. Nutritional facts are just that–facts. Scientific facts. A movie’s MPAA rating, while based on its content, is an imperfect determinant of content because it is given by a subjective Hollywood interpretation. Also, nutritional facts don’t change but movie rating standards do.

          I’d like to add that there’s a difference between objectionable content and mature content. Movies can be rated R for mature content without being necessarily objectionable to everybody. To demonstrate, I’ll provide an example. Please note that I am not endorsing any specific movie for anybody except myself, just providing an example. I would never let a teenage child of mine see Schindler’s List because the content in it is far too mature. There is violence and non-sexual nudity in the film which accurately depicts the horrors of the Holocaust, and I feel that only somebody more mature than most teenagers could truly understand and appreciate it.

    • “We have been taught correct principles about entertainment, now we must govern ourselves. We would be foolish to allow a worldly rating system to govern us, and we cannot allow ourselves to govern others. Continuing to do so will continue to breed ignorance and hostility, neither of which belong in the church of Christ. As we become less Pharisaical about the imagined scarlet letter of the movie rating law, we can learn to better implement correct entertainment principles in our lives.”

    • I think you’ve been bitten by the “disconnect in my personal world view” bug. Leaders recommend that youth don’t date until 16–does that mean no one should ever date, even adults? Missionaries are awesome righteous servants of the Lord, but does that mean I should wear a white shirt and tie everyday in order to measure up? Fasting is an awesome spiritual practice, but when my mission president in Guatemala told us NOT to fast was a suddenly adrift spiritually? Brigham Young condoned, encouraged, and participated in dramatic performances in early Salt Lake theaters, including plays and dramatic stories involving adult themes. I’m pretty sure he didn’t invite his 30 preschool aged kids to the performance, because it wasn’t appropriate for them, but was fine for responsible adults.

      Mr. Disconnect, this isn’t about breaking down loopholes and trying to get away with something or avoiding guilt. This is about approaching life with faith, and the courage to find your answers on your own. It’s like you’re a child who wants someone else to makes sure you’re safe all the time, but can’t face the adult scariness of finally making your own decisions. They (leaders in church I guess) teach us standards as youth in order to help us develop skills and abilities to act as adults, not that we will continue to live the same throughout our lives. I make my kids go to bed at 9:00, which is probably a good thing me, too, but I got adult things to do, maybe even some late hours at work. It’s okay for me to stay up late.

  • Okay first of all, this article as I read it seems to be using what prophets have said out of context. Using the “words of prophets” to justify bad behavior. Second of all what one prophets says to a certain age group is not only counsel to them but we all can be good examples and teach our children right from wrong by not going to see rated R movies. Third members of the 12 apostles as well as the first presidency are all prophets, seers, and revelators and have all said that watching rated R movies isn’t good for anyone. Most rated R movies have sex scenes, nudity and provocative behavior which every prophet in the church says or have said stay away from, Gordon b. Hinckley being very adiment about it and have said on numerous ocations not to see rated R movies and to stay away from the harming, destructing effects of pornography, which as I said before most rated R movie have in them. I have seen rated R movies before and every one I have seen despite wanting to have seen them just by previews, I have come out saying to my self, with out any judgement from any for seeing it, why did I go see that movie. There have been some pg-13 movies where I had ask myself that very same question, titanic being one of them. I just don’t understand why we even need to see blood, gore, people naked and having sex or why its even necessary to be subject to people swearing and being volger for 2-3 hrs straight. There has been war movies, fantasy movies and comedy movie that have been made that had little to no swearing, nudity, sex, or blood. We just don’t need smut to be entertained. I believe in all the prophets of the church and sustain them as such and will abide by their council despite who it’s directed too.

    • Finally! I read a comment by someone who has actually done research and understands instead of just reading someone’s blog and being like, “Oh, jeepers, derp! I like this! This must be completely true! This sure sounds great.” Thank you Eric, because half of what he said is completely wrong. There are many references to not watching R-rated movies. I tend to think that they don’t emphasize it anymore not because it’s okay, but because they’re trying to teach the principle that this guy actually touched on of the principle of content, although he somewhat has missed it I feel. I think they’re teaching us that Moses’ law was don’t watch R movies, and now the full law is use the Spirit to make good decisions in entertainment…which would obviously exclude R rated movies because of content.

    • “Okay first of all, this article as I read it seems to be using what prophets have said out of context. Using the “words of prophets” to justify bad behavior.”

      Then you didn’t read it well. That’s not what I said at all. And why did you put “words of prophets” in quotes? Are you implying that they didn’t actually say the quotes I cited, or that they’re not actually prophets? Either way you’d be wrong.

      “Second of all what one prophets says to a certain age group is not only counsel to them but we all can be good examples and teach our children right from wrong by not going to see rated R movies.”

      What a prophet says to an age group, if he says it SPECIFICALLY to them, is SPECIFICALLY for them and them alone. And it’s perfectly valid to not watch R-rated movies to set an example for your kids! But it’s nothing you should press on anybody else.

      “Third members of the 12 apostles as well as the first presidency are all prophets, seers, and revelators and have all said that watching rated R movies isn’t good for anyone.”

      This statement is blatantly false. They have not all said that.

    • I think he was trying to put the words of the prophets into context. So, that something a prophet said to deacons and beehives doesn’t end up being the new 11th commandment for the world for all time and eternity.

  • If someone chooses to disregard the rating of a movie and judge whether or not it is appropriate to watch based solely on the content, then good on them for keeping their standards. No one has the right to judge another for the decision to watch R-rated movies. However, if another person chooses to follow the recommendation of some of the general authorities to abstain from watching R-rated movies completely, then that is a choice that they have made based on THEIR personal beliefs. Kudos to the man in the article who was happy that he stuck to his personal standard of not watching R-rated movies. Let’s not implement reverse discrimination by judging those who have used their agency to refrain from R-rated movie watching.

    • I don’t fault the man for not watching an R-rated movie. The problem lies in preaching “no R-rated movies” over the pulpit as doctrine. We’re all entitled to our live our own personal interpretations, just not to push them on others.

      For instance, some people might not eat white bread or chocolate because of the Lord’s command for us to be healthy. These people would be completely justified in their actions but it would be unacceptable for them to stand before a congregation and preach those opinions as the will of the Lord.

      • There was a time when people in Rexburg were pressuring the college there to remove all white bread from their cafeterias, because they claimed that general authorities had preached this.

  • General conference 1986 the “prophet” Ezra Taft benson said the following.
    “We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading.”
    If a prophet of The Lord says somthing so clearly we should listen.

  • There is only 2 teensy problems with your justification. 1. President Hinckley also spoke of rate R movies in an interview with Larry King. 2. In the manual Teachings of the Living Prohphets for Institute there is an entire chapter about what weight we are to give the talks in conference from the Quorum of the Twelve. Here is a link here in case you can’t find it on LDS.org •President Howard W. Hunter spoke about general conference addresses in relation to latter-day scripture: “Much inspired counsel by prophets, seers, revelators, and other General Authorities of the Church is given during general conference. Our modern-day prophets have encouraged us to make the reading of the conference editions of our Church magazines an important and regular part of our personal study. Thus, general conference becomes, in a sense, a supplement to or an extension of the Doctrine and Covenants. In addition to the conference issues of the Church magazines, the First Presidency writes monthly articles that contain inspired counsel for our welfare” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1997], 212; emphasis added).

    • Here are my rebuttals to your two issues with my post.

      1) You are incorrect. I have looked at the entire transcript of President Hinckley’s interview with Larry King, and he says nothing about R-rated movies at all, much less that we shouldn’t watch them. He does mention caffeine, though–maybe that’s what you’re thinking of?

      2) I agree, we should heavily weight what the apostles say and strongly consider following their counsel. That being said, an apostle saying something and a prophet saying something are very different things. Jeffrey R. Holland once counseled members to stay dressed up in their church clothes all day Sunday–would you consider that to be doctrine? Would you think less of anyone who chose not to do it?

      That being said, thank you for only finding “2 teensy problems” with my post. Plenty of people are finding far more of them that are far less logical.

  • I agree with the bulk of what was said here. I think it is important to point out that while I do not consider the MPAA rating system to be a good gauge of morality, it does provide some indication of the wholesomeness (or, more specifically, the lack thereof). The culture of the MPAA rating system is far from static. Right now, it seems, that any type of violence (especially gun/war violence) is heavily frowned upon by the MPAA, yet language, sexuality, and even nudity is more acceptable. You are more likely to see a movie receive an R-rating for violence than you are for sexual content. The MPAA is a reflection of society in many ways.

    That being said, I am faced with 2 dilemma specifically as a parent and an individual. First, I do not care for the “do as I say not as I do” mentality. If it is wrong for my 15 year old to watch a rated R movie, it is wrong for me to do so. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the difference… the dating analogy was a decent one. Another analogy would be driving. My 15 year old may not be able to drive on the freeway, but that certainly doesn’t mean I cannot. But the crux of the issue is WHY it is wrong for my 15 year old son to watch a rated R movie. Why did an Apostle of the Lord tell him not to? Sure, as an adult I should be more mature and better equipped to handle the potential immoral exposure a rated R film will present, but does that make it acceptable for me?

    As the author points out, this is a matter of personal belief and conviction. As for me and my wife, we made a decision early on that we would not watch things we were not willing to share with our children. Being an example is much more important TO US than being entertained or even potentially uplifted by Hollywood. I capitalized TO US because I think the real message intended by the author is that we should not make any judgments on others based on our beliefs. I, myself, have been guilty of thinking poorly of church-going friends and family members who have no qualms about going to rated R movies. There is no excuse for that.

    My second dilemma is justifying viewing a rated R movie simply because of the flaws of the MPAA. I, admittedly, have made some exceptions to my personal “no rated R movies” rule. I saw Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, and Lone Wolf all in violation of my personal rule. But in general, while a PG-13 is not necessarily safe nor any better than a rated R movie, I still have a difficult time, in general, justifying a rated R movie as being spiritually appropriate simply because the MPAA is flawed. I don’t believe that the MPAA rating flaws make some rated R movies fall on the acceptable side of morally acceptable, but rather place some non-R-rated movies on the far side of the morally acceptable.

    Again, as the author pointed out, there is no commandment on this. What I do know is this: my wife and I were listening to the same Apostle of the Lord and we both heard the same message, which does not match with the words that were spoken. We both heard, independently, that our Father in Heaven would prefer us not to watch inappropriate material which (in general) includes ALL movies rated R or higher, and some material even rated below R. Was that personal revelation? Was that the message we received as very young parents for the benefit of our children? Possibly… but what I do know is that my life and my spiritual health will not be hampered by having to miss any film in the history of movie making that received an R rating, and I, for one, would rather err on the side of caution in such matters.

  • In addition to the good points here, the strict reliance on the MPAA rating system presupposes films and theaters in the United States, but this is a worldwide church. Rather than stipulating what the rating cutoff is for each country, the counsel to select media that will not offend the Spirit and that which enhances the Spirit in our lives applies at all times and in all places, regardless of ratings.

  • Thank you for your thoughts. I just returned from a mission a couple of months ago and I have made some choices in the media I choose to watch, read, listen to, etc. since I’ve been back, that involve what you talked about. I think it’s so important to be informed as to what is in the things we’re entertaining ourselves with. I gave up a couple of rather raunchy TV shows that I had justified before my mission with the “Oh, the rating isn’t that bad…”

    Since being back, I’ve felt the dulling power of some entertainment. And I’ve gotten rid of it. On the other hand, I’ve felt the Spirit being entertained by things I ruled out before I left, simply because I was uninformed about those things. So. In short… Amen, brothah. D&C 58:26.

  • There’s a cliff, and three potential drivers are being interviewed for a job. “How close to the edge can you drive?” was one of the questions. Who got hired? The one who said, “I’ll stay as far away from the cliff as I can.”

    I’ve tried to apply that principle to most of what I do as a member of the LDS church. I *can* do a lot of things that won’t bar me from the temple or heaven or whatever, but will it help? Are we really missing some great experience in life if we forgo R rated movies and most the PG-13 ones?

  • I agree with the article for the most part. I’m a firm believer in discovering what a movie or book is about before watching/reading it. It is very important to know the author’s intent. And I feel some R rated movies can help a church member ie: passion of the christ. And some PG-13 movies will tear down ones morals. However, where I do slightly raise objection is some of the reasoning you used. It’s import to note that anything said by an apostle of Christ is doctrine as much as it is from the Prophet/President of the church. And those words are also scripture as like Alma, Nephi and others. I also have concern that you think that just because President Benson spoke directly to the youth; that he did not intend for all members to heed the counsel. That counsel was given to prepare youth for adulthood and to be faithful members. Why should we ever feel that we are exempt? In regards to the argument of not dating till we are sixteen, there was a time frame put on that counsel and there is not one on this. I hope I did not come off as Rude or holier-than-thou. I respect your article and do agree with most points you have made. I also believe that you have received personal revelation of your decision on R rated movies.

    PS: my choice of using the word concerned was probably a poor one and hope you do not take offense to it.

    • “It’s import to note that anything said by an apostle of Christ is doctrine as much as it is from the Prophet/President of the church.”

      I appreciate your respectful tone–many (including myself on occasion) could learn from your example. However, I’d like to point out that your statement is simply not true. There have been several prophetic and apostolic quotes on the issue. If you have the time, please root through all these comments and look for one I posted–it contains a quote from Harold B. Lee that should clear up the issue for you.

      Thanks for commenting, and no, I don’t take offense to anything in your post.

  • I personally refrain from all R rated movies and uses my judgement on PG-13. I find if you justify seeing an R rated movie you could start on a slippery slope.

  • I’ve noticed one particular sentiment being repeated many, many times. Rather than replying to all of these instances individually, I will just kill all the birds with this one stone.

    The idea many of you have is that what an apostle or other general authority (besides the prophet) says automatically constitutes doctrine. This is unequivocally untrue. Elder Harold B. Lee of the quorum of the twelve, who would one day become the president of the church, understood his limitations and role as an apostle when he said the following:

    “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard Church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea.””

    If I had the energy to type them and you had the energy to read them, I could cite several similar quotes from other apostles.

    Please understand, I do not advocate the immediate disregard of apostolic counsel. These are righteous men with a sacred calling, and their words can be a tremendous source of power and inspiration for us. That being said, I also do not (and neither did Harold B. Lee) advocate the immediate blind acceptance of apostolic counsel. Since it is established that what an apostle says is not necessarily doctrine, what i DO advocate is prayerful consideration of this counsel. Since the prophet has not made a definitive statement (the compelling argument for this is clearly outlined in my post, please read it carefully) personal revelation is key in determining what entertainment choices, including R-rated movies, are acceptable for each of us.

    • Actually, if you were to finish that quote by Harold B. Lee and not take it out of context it says, “if he says something that contradicts what is in the standard church works”. I don’t see how saying to avoid R-rated movies contradicts the thirteenth article of faith. And I do believe that the original FSOY said R-rated movies. That would be the peach colored one. Not the white one. And that would be a standard church work.
      I like the idea that the MPAA rating is worthless and that we should judge whether we should watch all media based on its content. But it is a slippery slope to interpret prophetic counsel as not being applicable to you (or to a certain group). Do you really think that president Benson would say that to the youth and then turn around and say that it was ok for their parents to go see those types of movies?
      And we do sustain all fifteen brethren as prophets seers and revelators. And insofar as they speak at general conference and are not corrected by the presiding authority their word is doctrine. That’s why the prophet always speaks last. So he could correct anything said that he doesn’t agree with. And more often than not he endorses all that was said.
      If someone is trusted enough by the Lord to be called as a prophet seer and revelator and what they teach is not contrary to, or “go beyond” (that’s what that means; which makes it funny that the quote you used to justify not listening to the apostles actually condemns your stance on not listening to the apostles) what’s taught in the scriptures or by modern prophets it’s doctrine to me.

      • You’re misrepresenting the rest of the quote. I’ll post it in it’s entirety so people can see the fault in what you said.

        “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they speak and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer and revelator — please note that one exception — you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea.” And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works, you may know by that same token that it is false, regardless of the position of the man who says it.”

        I have taken nothing out of context. His statement “if he says something that contradicts what is in the standard works” is a completely separate follow-up statement, not the same statement. So the quote I used does not condemn my stance in the least.

      • Actually, the “r-rating” says “no one under the age of 17 admitted”. So, if we’re to follow that blindly like some would advocate as Mormon doctrine, then I guess adults over 17 could go. Because, then it’s righteous. Because we are supposed to let the MPAA make that decision for the entire church membership, because a general authority sort of told us that the rating system is now church doctrine.

  • i think the ultimate message of this article is good. However claiming things like ” all mormons” love the hunger games, and that if u asked a mormon why they dont watch rated R movies and they cant say exactly which prophet said not too is an unfair assumption that u are inviting all non members to think these things of mormons. Not all mormons, maybe you yourself as a mormon. Or maybe those around u who have not come to the undersatanding of its not just the rating but the content also. I am a mormon and i have had this understanding for years.

  • Letter of the law, spirit of the law. It is not meet that we should be commanded in all things, but we are supposed to be trying to be perfect, even as Christ is perfect, so…there you have it.

  • This is really good. I enjoyed the article. The principle holds true in the For the Strength of Youth manual. When selecting a film to watch, I like the guideline, found in the Entertainment and Media section: “The information and entertainment provided through [movies] can increase your ability to learn, communicate, and become a force for good in the world. However, some [movies] can lead you away from righteous living. Choose wisely when using media because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you.”

  • The counsel to refrain from harmful media is definitely beneficial, and I have seen firsthand how “I don’t watch R-rated movies” is an oversimplification of the issue. In high school, I often sat in the hallway while my AP European History class watched R-rated movies. I didn’t actually research their content or even ask my parents, I just said no.
    Since, however, I have watched a few R-rated movies that were incredibly uplifting – even some that I abstained from in that class. I have also seen many PG13 movies that were the complete opposite. The individual movies definitely matter.
    I’d also like to point out that one would be hard-pressed to create a film adaptation of any of the standard works without a restricted rating. Horrible things happen in the scriptures, but it is the overall message that counts. That is why we can read the violent account of Ammon cutting off arms and still feel the Spirit. We need to acknowledge some of the worse parts of the world. Ultimately, it’s the Spirit that tells us what is right.

  • I totally agree with you. We should use the spirit in all our decisions, including our entertainment…regardless of the rating. I feel that the concept of making decisions with the spirit is something that many members are forgetting because they just want someone to tell them exactly what to do or follow the culture we’ve developed among the members of the church (which doesn’t actually have anything to do with the church or the gospel). The Lord gave us brains and the spirit and he expects us to use them.
    What makes me most sad when I read comments to articles such as these is when I see other members of Christ’s church attack and ridicule the author (and all from their comfortably distant homes I might add.) Whether or not the opinions expressed in this article are true in no way gives anyone the right to be unchristlike. Even if someone is incorrect, attacking and berating them means that you do not have the spirit. If you feel correction is needed, do it with love and a desire to help others understand and bring them closer to Christ. There is nothing to be gained by tearing others down. Self righteousness does not equal righteousness. So, let’s all show Christ in our countenances by the way we treat fellow sons and daughters of God, regardless of their opinions. Great article Jake. 🙂

  • I just want to comment that when we sustain the 12 apostles we sustain them as “prophets and apostles” therefore anything the President of the Church says as well as his counselors and any member of the quorum of the 12 is doctrine and should be treated as such.

    • Search “Common consent” in the scriptures on your digital device, and you will find a revelation that spells out what is binding upon the members of the church. It is those things which are done by common consent. The prophet and his counselors are not dictators, nor do they get unfettered leeway to say whatever they want and have it apply without the check of the members’ voices. Common consent is the way in which this is done, and unfortunately, members don’t realize this, nor do we practice it to the extent that we probably should.

  • At first when I started to read your article, I was a little confused, but after reading the whole thing and then reading almost everyone’s comments, I understand it perfectly. Jake, I agree with you that we should let more than the “R rated” rating guide us in our entertainment choices. However, I am one of those who do not watch R rated movies, but I don’t let that guide my decision. More often than not, they are very gory or sexual in nature, and therefore I do avoid that. Therefore I also avoid PG-13s that include that, and if PGs started to include immoral scenes and large amounts of violence and gore, I would not watch those as well. Now, I do not judge others of what they do. However, if one of those others is one my youth’s leaders (if I had kids) and they are supposed to be an example to my children and they are promoting those types of things or watching movies full of violence, gore, and sexuality/nudity, then I might be wary because I wouldn’t really want one of my children/youth to see those. Therefore, I would almost base my decisions on what would I feel comfortable watching if my children were sitting next to me (again, if I had children). I think that we forget that our future (the youth and children) look up to us. With that being said, here is a quote from Sister Dalton: “If we want to make a difference in the world, we MUST be different from the world.” With that said, I think that we should be examples to the world. I now try to avoid most movies that are scary or have any type of horror theme to it because for me, I don’t feel the Spirit when I watch those kinds of movies. I feel yucky inside. Same thing goes with movies and books, etc. that have sexual content in it. And even movies where you “can’t see anything” because they are under the bed covers, etc. it still means that they are in bed with each other having sex and they are not married in real life. I did not see the last two Twilight movies for that reason. Even if they were married in real life, I would not see it because intimacy is something sacred and should not be glorified or shown on the tv screen. And even implying there was sex is not ok, because even if it “didn’t happen”, I wouldn’t feel comfortable watching it with the Savior or my kids if I had any. I do try to avoid most entertainment with swearing/profanity as well. And the “For the Strength of Youth” is a good guidance for all of us, though I would not push it onto anyone else. They can make their own decisions and I try to not judge them for that.
    I hope I made sense. I agree that we shouldn’t let the MPAA rating system decide what we watch, though I still wouldn’t go see an R rated movie, just because they are really gory and a lot of the times have sexual scenes and I try to avoid movies with that.
    And if you haven’t noticed, but movies that maybe could once be innocent, are now not. Take Frozen for instance, it is rated PG. I find that that movie should be rated G. However, it is PG for some mild peril and crude humor (I think), which is ridiculous. Mild peril? pretty much anything has “mild peril” in it or else what would make it exciting? Most plot contain some type of danger. So overall, the rating system that Hollywood uses is retarded and we should use our own judgment!
    One last thing, there is an excellent talk that Elder Bednar gave entitled “Things as they really are” which warns against inappropriate media and entertainment. There is also a really good Mormon Message based off of that talk.

  • This is nice and all but it seems like a lot of justification. An R rated movie may have an overall message that is good, but there is too much filth for it to be worth my time. It is like if I offer you a glass of water with just a little bit of Arsenic in it. Would you drink it even if it is 99% pure water, but i’m sure you would not want to risk drinking that water. I for one do not try to get as close to the line of sin as possible. I imagine to myself would the prophet go to see this movie? Would I feel comfortable watching this movie with Christ sitting next to me? If the answer is no i don’t go to see the movie and yes the not only excludes R-rated movies, but many PG=13 as well.

    I like the quote by Ezra Taft Benson quoted in the blog, but I wish he had quoted the full paragraph. “We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading.” of course he is speaking to the young men directly, but the counsel applies to all. Even if you are an Adult if you put filth in your mind it will never be the same afterwards. there is not cut off to that.

    • If Christ was sitting next to me, I like to think I’d be doing something besides watching a movie.

      I feel that a better way to express this sentiment is, “Does it drive away the spirit for me? Can I still feel the spirit while watching it?”

  • Jake Healy:

    Thank you for writing this article. I am very impressed with the effort you have put into responding to so many comments (all or almost all of them). I have lived in Provo for years and my favorite sushi rolls close to BYU are made at a restaurant called Sushi Ya! in Orem.

    • Thanks! Might as well respond to yours too 🙂

      I’ll keep that in mind and probably go there as soon as I have enough money for sushi.

  • Samantha Shelley:

    I know this is your site and all, and you are rushing to defend your buddy Jake in his first op-ed, but let’s get real for a second. FOUR TIMES, FOUR TIMES in the comments you said something along the lines of, ” You don’t understand the article! Go back and read it again! You don’t get it.” Perhaps this is showing that either Jake did a very poor job at getting a point across that never actually made it, or YOU are the one who needs to re-read the article without so much bias.

    I get it, ok? You and Jake are “progressive Mormons.” You pick apart doctrines to make Mormons who actually follow what the (yes, infallible) prophets say appear foolish and outdated. We are so dumb because we can’t quote who, why, or when a leader told us to not watch rated R movies.

    I literally thought this was a satirical article for a while. Jake did you really spend a couple paragraphs explaining the mind-blowing point that President Benson was only speaking to youth? That’s an absolute joke. I literally can’t emphasize it enough how ridiculous it is that you found that to be a legitimate point. “Don’t watch R movies as a youth, but after you go through the temple it’s fair game!”

    “Really? That’s why you declined? Because it was rated R?” Yeah, so what? Is that such a bad thing?

    Jake, you said most rated R moves aren’t generally acceptable, but many are. Would you mind listing those off for me? You probably won’t know of course, because according to Samantha you are advocating we go BEYOND (her caps, not mine), just not watching R movies, which means you probably don’t watch any R movies anyway. I’d love to see that list of spiritually uplifting R movies so I can add them to my queue and put my Clearplay on the shelf. You scoff and laugh at the Zeezrom jab, but I don’t think he’s that far off. Do you think Zeezrom thought he was doing anything wrong?

    Hey Jake, if I’m walking down the street in Europe (as I did for 2 years), and I see a billboard with a naked woman on it, and I look away, then I was already exposed to it. What could I have done better? Not gone outside that day? The wrong thing would be to keep looking at it (not leave the movie). This is another weak argument. If I do my research and deem a PG-13 movie to be appropriate and it isn’t, I walk out. Since I know that maybe <1% of R movies are not anywhere close to acceptable, then I won't waste my time researching them, I'd rather avoid them altogether. According to you, it is ludicrous that people behave so blindly.

    You don't understand what it means to put something out of context. That's like saying Obama was quoted out of context because a quote of his didn't include, "My fellow Americans." Technically, yes, he was quoted out of context because not every single word he said was quoted. But in this case, it didn't matter, because he was addressing everybody. When a Prophet addresses the youth, he is also addressing the adults they will become, because he does not expect youth to drop standards after reaching age 18! So your point is very weak.

    • Thanks for your comment.

      Please note that Samantha didn’t say that to anybody who didn’t demonstrate horrendous reading comprehension. People can feel free to disagree respectfully, but to shoot accusations like “apostate” and “Zeezrom” is pretty intense and if you’re going to do it, you should at least understand what the post is saying. The people who did so clearly did not have that understanding. From the various comments I’ve seen on social media platforms and the article itself, it’s clear to me that most people have a clear grasp of the concepts I present. I don’t see how my article could have been any more clear in saying we need to be wise and spirit directed in selecting our entertainment–should I have said it twelve times instead of eleven?

      Speaking of a lack of reading comprehension, many of the concerns presented in your lengthy comment could be answered by direct quotes from my article. Though I hate having to say things twice, I’ll do it once for you to prove that most people who don’t understand the article simply haven’t read it closely enough.

      You say: ““Really? That’s why you declined? Because it was rated R?” Yeah, so what? Is that such a bad thing?”

      Quote from my article: “When a movie’s rating becomes our litmus test for its acceptability (which is unfortunately the case for many church members—largely because of this misconception), we are in danger of ignoring the more important factor—its content.”

      I’m not sure how you missed that–it was in bold. Yes, it IS a bad thing to assume that JUST because a movie is R-rated, it’s bad (we’re in danger of judging others who choose to watch it) and it is also a bad thing to assume that JUST because a movie is rated PG-13, it’s alright. Now I’ll address some of your other comments.

      You: “I get it, ok? You and Jake are “progressive Mormons.” You pick apart doctrines to make Mormons who actually follow what the (yes, infallible) prophets say appear foolish and outdated. We are so dumb because we can’t quote who, why, or when a leader told us to not watch rated R movies.”

      First of all, no doctrine was picked apart in the making of this post–just a piece of prophetic counsel. Second, did you seriously just say the prophets are infallible? I daresay every single prophet and apostle who ever lived would disagree with you. In light of new revelation about race and the priesthood, Bruce R. McConkie admitted of previous comments he and other brethren had made, “we spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that has now come into the world.” That doesn’t sound infallible to me. Claiming that the brethren are infallible proves you have serious misunderstandings about far more than just my article. Finally, I never called anybody dumb who’s not a doctrinal encyclopedia. The only reason I knew the information and context of that quote is that I took a lot of time to do research. Not everybody has that time, and that’s ok. What IS dumb, though, is somebody who is presented with evidence suggesting something, and insists that the opposite is true WITHOUT any evidence of their own. You’re completely entitled to think that a prophet has made a definitive church-wide statement regarding R-rated films, but you’re foolish to publicly assert it unless you can find a quote to back it up.

      You said: “Jake did you really spend a couple paragraphs explaining the mind-blowing point that President Benson was only speaking to youth? That’s an absolute joke. I literally can’t emphasize it enough how ridiculous it is that you found that to be a legitimate point.”

      *sigh* AS I STATED IN THE ARTICLE. *deep breath* It is an indisputable fact that not all instances of prophetic counsel are applicable to all members. The prophet must and does always specify when this is the case. Do not date–until you are sixteen. You have a duty to go on a mission–if you’re a worthy and able young man. Don’t have a steady girlfriend–until you’re home from your mission. “We counsel you, young men . . . Don’t watch R-rated movies.” It’s even more clear that this piece of counsel was not intended for everybody when you consider the fact that MORE THAN HALF OF THE CHURCH DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT AN R-RATED MOVIE IS AND THEREFORE HAS NO WAY OF FOLLOWING THE COUNSEL. Again, that’s stated in the article. Does a member living in Malaysia need to research whether a movie is rated R in America before watching it? If you’re going to engage in debate, it’s poor form to assert that your opponent’s argument is “an absolute joke” and that you “literally can’t emphasize it enough how ridiculous it is” if that’s all you have to say on the matter. Back up your bold statements with some fact, otherwise it’s just empty and impassioned rhetoric.

      “Jake, you said most rated R moves aren’t generally acceptable, but many are. Would you mind listing those off for me? You probably won’t know of course, because according to Samantha you are advocating we go BEYOND (her caps, not mine), just not watching R movies, which means you probably don’t watch any R movies anyway. I’d love to see that list of spiritually uplifting R movies so I can add them to my queue and put my Clearplay on the shelf.”

      Again, you demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of my post. I would never provide you with a list of R-rated movies that are spiritually acceptable, because what might be spiritually acceptable to me might not be to you. Since you asked, I can tell you that personally, I consider Schindler’s List, The King’s Speech, and several others to be acceptable for me. But maybe not for you. In my opinion, the good in those movies outweighs the bad and watching them has left me uplifted. But yes, Samantha is absolutely correct about my intentions, though you repeatedly try to assert otherwise. I AM advocating that in many instances we should “go BEYOND” just not watching R-rated movies. There’s a lot of hasty assumptions in that paragraph of your comment.

      You said: “Hey Jake, if I’m walking down the street in Europe (as I did for 2 years), and I see a billboard with a naked woman on it, and I look away, then I was already exposed to it. What could I have done better? Not gone outside that day? The wrong thing would be to keep looking at it (not leave the movie). This is another weak argument. If I do my research and deem a PG-13 movie to be appropriate and it isn’t, I walk out.”

      You clearly didn’t read the comment I was responding to very carefully. The person I was responding to, Chris, had asserted that in the hypothetical scenario that Wolf of Wall Street was rated PG-13, you should walk out of it. I agreed that it was worthy of a walk-out, but clearly anyone who goes to see the Wolf of Wall Street in the first place either hasn’t done their research on the content it contains or doesn’t care. If you’re walking down the street and see an inappropriate billboard, that’s not your fault. If you go see a movie with inappropriate content and have to walk out, that usually is your fault because you should have done the research to find out what was in that movie before you saw it. The logical fallacies in this paragraph of yours are astounding, and you’ve repeatedly put words in my mouth that were never there.

      Finally, you said: “You don’t understand what it means to put something out of context. That’s like saying Obama was quoted out of context because a quote of his didn’t include, “My fellow Americans.””

      This parallel is not at all rational or applicable. Here’s why. Just as it’s assumed that when the prophet speaks, he speaks to the whole church, it’s assumed that when Obama speaks he speaks to the whole country. UNLESS they specify otherwise. If Obama were to say, “upper-class Americans, I counsel you…” and then counsel them to do something, it would be clear to any rational person that he was only giving that counsel to exactly who he said he was–upper-class Americans. Similarly, when President Benson says “we counsel you, young men…” and then gives them counsel, it should be clear to any rational person that he is only giving that counsel to exactly who he said he was–young men. You aren’t trying to put words into the prophet’s mouth, you’re trying to take them out.

      Several different times you asserted that my arguments were weak, and several times you used weak arguments of your own to try and prove it. I believe I’ve effectively demonstrated this to be the case. If you have any more questions or concerns that you’re quite confident can’t be solved by a careful reread of my article or past comments, I’d be happy to continue this conversation.

        • So you have time to write a very long and insulting comment to an author but you don’t have time to read his reply?

          Sounds like you’re not interested in finding out where you were wrong.

          • I thought you’re done commenting Jake? For the record, I meant to say *aren’t* infallible. Obviously I don’t think any prophet is or ever has been perfect. Go back and read all the times either you or Samantha have told someone they didn’t read the article well enough, and then realize you should re-write the whole thing.

    • The prophets are not Infallible–that is a Catholic doctrine anyways, but also a dangerous thing to believe. Prophets themselves would disagree with that.

  • Thank you for writing this. Takes guts to approach a taboo subject like this with VERY strong opinions on both sides of the argument. We need more of this. From all of us. Honest questioning if something doesn’t make sense to us and trusting that if we are off, by virtue of our sincerity, we’ll be put on the right way.

  • Thank you! I largely agree with your article. There are several R-rated films I’ve seen that I felt were done in good taste, and many that were PG-13 that I felt were done in poor taste. If I know a film might have questionable content, I always look up a parents’ guide or something similar to get a feel for what will be in the film and if it’s something I’ll object to or feel uncomfortable watching. It’s important to be informed about our decisions, especially regarding film as they are graphic images of all kinds, and those are difficult to un-see. It’s not smart for anyone to blindly label media and assume all PG-13 movies are good and all R movies are bad. Thank you for pointing this out so clearly!

  • R-Rated Movies

    “The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us.” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign, May 2006, 30.

    “What difference does it make why it is rated R? The fact is, a prophet of God has said not to go to R-rated movies. That ought to be enough” (Ensign, July 1998, 16). —Elder Cree-L Kofford of the Seventy

    “It is very unreasonable to suppose that exposure to profanity, nudity, sex, and violence has no negative effects on us. We can’t roll around in the mud without getting dirty” (Ensign, Nov. 1996, 40). —Elder Joe J. Christensen Emeritus Member of the Seventy

    The quote from the Prophet is used in both the Book of Mormon Institute Manual and Eternal Marriage Institute Course. I can cite those for you, too. Both manuals are written and compiled by THE PROPHETS. These books are for college students and marriage students…Or in other words, ADULTS. They wouldn’t have put it in these manuals if it it were a quote just for the youth. I know these men are inspired and are representing The Lord. This isn’t an issue of r-rated movies, but of trusting our leaders and following the Prophet. Like Elder Kofford said, “a prophet of God has said not to go to R-rated movies. That ought to be enough.”

    “The real key for parents, then, lies in teaching children to recognize the Spirit of Christ and in strengthening them so they can have the courage it takes to respond to it. And the most powerful way to teach children is by example and by creating the kind of home environment that enhances spiritual sensitivity for the entire family.

    For instance, it seems illogical to expect a youngster to feel uncomfortable about watching R-rated films on the sly if Mom and Dad bring R-rated videocassettes home for their private viewing. Justifications like “Well, it won an Oscar” or “There’s only one little scene (or word, or grotesque special effect) that gave it an R-rating” are just that: justifications, hollow excuses for going contrary to the Spirit of Christ. Never mind that Mom and Dad won’t allow the kids to watch the show with them. The only thing that particular limitation teaches is that it’s okay to assault your values with video violence, profanity, and sexuality, as long as you’re an adult.”

    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1990/09/i-have-a-question/i-have-a-question?lang=eng

    • Sorry, church “manuals are not written and compiled by the PROPHETS.” It’s a long committee-driven process with many hard-working and faithful members participating all along the way. The Prophets authorize and manage the process, but they’re not sitting there writing it.

    • “There’s only one little scene (or word, or grotesque special effect) that gave it an R-rating are just that: justifications, hollow excuses for going contrary to the Spirit of Christ.”
      If you have a movie that is wholesome and uplifting, and then you add ONE inappropriate scene to that movie that earns an R rating, and then you remove that scene (i.e. with fast forward on a remote), then by definition, you have a movie that is wholesome and uplifting. This is not justification or going against the Spirit of Christ. It is taking something, removing the offensive portion, and then appreciating the good.
      Case in point: Twelve Years a Slave. Basically two scenes gave that movie its R rating. One shows a rape. The other scene shows slaves nude on a sales block. I personally chose to skip both scenes. The movie was very powerful and spiritually moving as I considered both the terrible pain that slaves endured, and was amazed by how love of family and God carried the main character through that pain.

  • I am extremely disconcerted by the amount of people that have come to this article (or this site in general) with flaming responses and accusations of apostasy. Christ taught us to love each other and to avoid contention, but I see negativity abounding in some of the new commenters. We could sit here and argue about little things–which interpreter is right and which interpreter is going to burn in brimstone and for how long–but the anger and judgement going around is going nowhere (supposedly “righteous” judgement, whatever that means, lol). Those who come on here and critique the content is one thing–but to judge the writer as a person. To make claims about the writer’s relationship with God? I used to think regular Internet trolls were bad, but now I’m quite sure the holier-than-thou are the worst. Let’s call it the Pharisees 2.0.

    To back up Jake’s article, I must add that everyone should read this: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine

    The last paragraph reads: “Journalists, academics and laymen alike are encouraged to pursue their inquiries into the Church by recognizing the broad and complex context within which its doctrines have been declared, in a spirit of reason and good will.”

    I see this article as nothing other than a highly academic inquiry into a doctrinal misconception using both the spirit of reason and good will.

    Jake, Samantha, and all other writers on this site, please keep up the good work! I love what you write! Don’t let such commenters stop you from expressing your faith and helping us millennials navigate the world and the gospel. The stuff you write has helped me in countless ways.

  • Thanks for the article Jake. I completely agree with the facts that you have presented and I’m sorry for all the flak you’re taking for presenting a logical argument on the internet. I was one who through high school didn’t watch R-rated movies and when I got to BYU as a freshman saw some with my RM roommates and realized that indeed, I can be responsible for doing the research as to whether or not I want to see a movie.
    As a personal opinion, I will watch an R-rated movie if it is historical, especially if it is about war. I think that filmmakers have a unique privilege and responsibility to present to the world the realities of war, so that the country’s future leaders don’t grow up thinking that war is like a video game and send troops into combat without realizing the implications of war on those who are involved.
    I am a film major at BYU and our professors have at times recommended or required that we see R-rated content. And I support them. Most BYU grads will not live in the BYU bubble forever and will need to be aware of the realities of the world, even though they may be horrific, so that they can be prepared to make a valuable contribution to the world. The trouble comes when the viewer views media solely for entertainment purposes, and not to be educated.
    Again, I respect you for the calm manner in which you have fielded flak shot at you from all sides.

  • I have to agree,with Chirs, is very much my own opinion. I want to add that, if we want to be an example to our youth, we must live in a way that they can make decisions base in our actions. Is been 30 years since I seen a movie and truly I don’t feel like I have miss anything, and personally I have not seen a movie in years, only because most do the PG13 are worthless, and not wiling to pay the price.

  • I agree 100%. I have been saying this for years. I also think it’s interesting to consider what the R-rated movies contained back then… they kind of sound like PG-13 now-a-days to me. Just goes to show even more… we can’t allow the MPAA to decide for us whether or not something is acceptable to let in.

  • Good points. We should avoid living the gospel on auto-pilot. What matters is so our best to avoid materials that will take away the Spirit.

  • Here is Spencer W. Kimball’s quote that he gave in a speech for a BYU devotional on September 9, 1980.

    “Speaking of things of the moment and social diversions, let me add one word of caution. The other night, Sister Kimball and I watched, by means of video cassette, an older movie, The Sound of Music. It was delightful. The music was beautiful, the acting superb, the scenery magnificent. It was wholesome and entertaining in every way. We had a wonderful, relaxing evening together. However, as you well know, it is difficult nowadays to find such entertainment. I would warn you against the R- and X-rated movies that unfortunately seem to be so prevalent these days. For the most part, they are filled with violence, sex, profanity, and crime. I can hardly imagine that any young man at the BYU, or elsewhere in the Church, would ever think of taking his lovely date to such a movie.”

    So you can argue that it’s just a suggestion, but basically all commandments are suggestions. We have our free agency to do whatever we want. So basically numerous church leaders and 2 prophets have specifically suggested that we not watch them. That’s good enough for me 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment! I actually addressed this quote in a previous comment–scroll up if you’d like to see it. It’s there somewhere 🙂

  • Is there a single person that understood this post correctly? He’s not saying it’s okay to watch any rated R movies, he’s saying that the letter doesn’t matter and that it’s possible to find a movie that is rated R that’s actually good for you. You have to evaluate each movie based on it’s own merits instead of just going by the letter.

  • Alright–I feel like I’ve said all I have to say on the issue. I won’t be responding to any comments from here on out–I’ve got a life to live!

  • Hey Jake, I just wanted to say that I really appreciated your post and found it refreshing. I think there are too many of us who are too quick to judge others for how they seek to come closer to Christ. The Prophets and Apostles are men of God, but men, and they are giving us council from their own personal lives as they also seek to follow the promptings of the spirit. We can only hope to be wise as we prayerfully consider their council, but we should consider. This life was meant to be uncertain so that we could more clearly grow and learn and follow our hearts. The point of this life, in my eyes, is to learn to become heavenly and to become as Christ and God so that we might feel comfortable in their presence when that day comes. There isn’t a box to check as we pass through the gates of Heaven, but rather a scale where we will place our hearts. I think we are too quick to cut others down and too lazy to try to understand. Reading these posts was a little disheartening as I saw the lack of understanding going on and the effort to understand. But many are afraid that if they ponder and question they might lose that strong rock that they are on. I understand that it is scary to ask questions when we don’t know the answers we will receive. But if we have Christ in the center of all things, we can not fall -despite our questions. Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the World and he lived His life for us and He died for us. Nothing can take Him down from that cross — the atonement is infinite and complete and ever present in out lives. However, I don’t want to rant for too long, so I will end it by simply saying we should always keep in mind that great commandment, Love our god with all our heart and our neighbor also. Then we need to realize how to express that love and be careful to do so. Thank again and God bless.

  • Amen to this article! I agree 100% with it. I have usually had this argument with many of my member friends and it seems like to many of them there’s an 11th commandment that’s says: thou shalt not watch R rated movies. I grew up in Spain and I remember when I moved to the U.S I was criticized by some of my friends for having watched the movie Gladiator. True that this movie is full of violence, but what confused me the most was that they criticized me because it was rated R… In Spain, the rating was 13, which is the equivalent of PG13 movies, so technichly I hadn’t breaking their commandment of Rated R movies :). I agree that most of the R rated movies are probably not the best to watch, but I do know that there’s a few that in my opinion are good. Some people have mentioned Saving Private Ryan, and another that comes to mind that I really liked was United 93. I respect people that decide not to watch any of them as a general rule, but hate when those people judge you for watching one. At the end of the day we all have to trust our agency and decide what is good or not, some people think eating meat everyday is against the word of wisdom because it says to eat meat sparingly, others think that books like Harry Potter are bad cause they promote witchcraft and deny the existence of God, and I could go on all day with examples like these. If we’re in tune with the spirit we will know what to do. That’s why the Lord hasn’t written a law for everything, His entire plan was for us to learn how to use our agency, not to tell us what to do in a things. Now to finish my testament, if there was a full movie made depicting the entire Old Teatament or Book of Mormon, it would be rated R… If you can’t watch it, you shouldn’t read it either right?

  • Those who try and live by the words of the prophets is admirable. However you then need to be able to reconcile your position with other statements made by other prophets such as Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation Volume 2 pg 88-89 declaring any form of Birth Control as “Wickedness and the primary cause for the downfall of nations” a practice that leads to “damnation” and “one of the greatest evils of the world today”. Further, “those healthy married couples who limit their offspring to two or three, and practice devices to accomplish this purpose, they are guilty of iniquity which eventually must be punished.” Can we pick and choose who and what council to follow? Is it ok to use birth control but wrong to get a tatoo or watch an R rated movie? Why? If you can’t honestly answer these questions you have not thought about, or discovered enough about your own proclaimed faith.

  • Enjoyed reading the post Jake, and skimmed through several articles. This is a tough subject. I say “let the Spirit be your guide, let it teach you what is true, it will testify of Christ

  • Thank you so much for your article. I appreciate that what you focus on is that we as individuals have the right to choose what we will do in our own lives to better ourselves. I would like to add that we also have the divine obligation to choose the right. All of the random and small things that people spend too much time and energy worrying about and fighting over, but mostly JUDGING each other on because of their individual choices, are actually distractions that lead us away from the spirit of God and Christ. I have read all of the comments to this article and I’m not only surprised, but hurt by how many of my fellow brothers and sisters in the Gospel are JUDGING Jake and writing hatred to him. He did not write this article as a form of justification so that he can watch rated R movies. He did not write this article to give all of us permission to watch rated R movies. I feel that he wrote this article to remind us to be wise in our choices, to be accurate if we are going to quote revelation from Christ’s Prophet and then follow it, and to STOP JUDGING PEOPLE when they don’t live the way we do… which was actually something President Uchtdorf told us to do too! https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng&query=Dieter+F.+Uchtdorf+“Stop+It”

    I remember a few years back when a woman who had previously served in the Relief Society General Presidency came to speak my ward to speak, she talked for a moment about how much the movie “The Last King of Scotland” had moved her and her husband. While she was talking about the movie and what she had learned from it, she stopped mid-sentence, stared at us for a few seconds, and then in a low whisper said, “Now, that is a rated R movie, so some of you may be judging me and I’m sorry for that, I guess you’ll feel that you have to keep it a secret that I even saw a rated R movie…” Then she just continued on with what she learned from the movie and the spirit was so strong during her entire lesson and I will never forget it. The point is that some movies will drive the spirit away for some people and some movies will uplift and teach some people… regardless of what the rating is. Every son and daughter of God on this earth was given the gift of agency and is excepted to use it to better their lives. I guarantee that every son and daughter of God is going to use that gift at least once in their life to make the wrong choice FOR THEM, but it is nobody else’s business when they do. All I know is that I’m so heart broken because of all the hate comments that I keep reading from members of the church on so many articles and blogs because people feel they have the right to JUDGE, belittle, berate, and try to tear down someone who isn’t living the way they are or think is right. Thank you Jake, for your words and your reminder. I needed it today!

    • You’re welcome. I couldn’t agree more.

      Here’s one particularly depressing example I heard: A woman bore her testimony about the film Passion of the Christ and how she saw it and the sacrament became so much more meaningful for her. Though she didn’t actually recommend the film to anybody, a member of the bishopric stood up and said, “I’d just like to point out that the church doesn’t condone watching R-rated films.” He SHAMED the woman for bearing a sincere testimony of her Savior. Later that day, the Relief Society President challenged all the sisters in the ward NOT to see the film. That is a clear overstep of her authority. These kinds of things don’t belong in any church, much less the restored church, and I’m grateful for people like you who understand that.

  • A friend posted this article on my FB wall. We had argued about this very thing a couple years ago. I have been trying to tell people this for YEARS! Thank you for saying it so eloquently. The ignorance, judgement, hostility, etc, about this topic within the church is ridiculous. I am glad someone is getting the word out and fighting against those ‘false traditions.’ Thanks again.

  • Sweet! I guess now I don’t have to listen to anything that Jesus said in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price. Those were obviously directed at people a long time ago and not the general membership of the current Church.

    Your logic is so fatally flawed. When the prophet speaks, the debate is over, and it doesn’t matter who he is speaking to.

      • If the primary justification to not follow the counsel of the prophet is that it wasn’t said directly to a specific group, and that it only applies to the group that the message was directed to, then most of the Doctrine and Covenants would be declassified as scripture. Most of the D&C was directed to specific persons or small groups of people.

        The missionary charge that the Savior gave before leaving the earth was directed to his apostles and the seventy. Does that mean we shouldn’t also be missionaries?

        It is dangerous to assume that we are immune to the will of the Lord simply because he wasn’t “speaking directly to you”. This post is nothing more that one opinion and attempt to justify what we all know to be unholy, which is participating in any entertainment that is “vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way.” I can’t think of a single R-rated movie, or even any PG-13 movies, that don’t contain at least one of those inappropriate elements mentioned by the Brethren to avoid. (Which consequently is why I don’t watch many movies, maybe one or two per year.)

        The Church doesn’t say “Don’t watch R-rated movies” anymore because that gives too clear of a line that many members will approach and straddle. They truly have taught us the principles and let us govern ourselves. However, there isn’t an R-rated movie that exist that fits within the principles that the Brethren have taught. Period.

        • You’ve accused me of “fatally flawed” logic and accompanied that assessment with some pretty faulty logic of your own. I’m not here to defend my logic–I’ve already done it several times in previous comments–I’m here to attack yours.

          You must not understand the concept of canonization. Every single example you cited is included in the standard works of the church, which have been canonized “by common consent” (D&C 28:13). Harold B. Lee taught, “the only one authorized to bring forth new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God and it will be accepted by the church’s First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and then sustained by the body of the church.” Since this has taken place with the examples that you cited and not with President Benson’s 1986 statement, your analogy is faulty and bears no weight.

          Second, you claim that “it is dangerous to assume that we are immune to the will of the Lord simply because he wasn’t speaking directly to you.” I would tend to agree with that. But when the Lord or His prophets ARE speaking directly and specifically to somebody else, isn’t it equally dangerous to assume that everybody in the church should be held to it? That’s essentially putting words in God’s mouth. “Well, yeah, he SAID for young men not to watch them…but he meant everybody, I’m sure of it!” Scripture warns of ignoring God’s word, but also of adding to it.

          Finally, you say things like “It doesn’t matter who he is speaking to…”, “This post is nothing more than…”, “…what we all know to be unholy…”, “The church doesn’t say…anymore because…”, and “there isn’t an R-rated movie that exist that fits within the principles that the Brethren have taught. Period.” You’ve foolishly spoken in absolutes and repeatedly presented opinion as fact, two of the most common “fatal flaws” of logic.

  • Why the double standard? If it is not good for the youth of the church, those who are preparing for dating, missions, temple covenants, and eternal marriage, then why is it okay for the adults of the church simply because they did their research about the movie and decided it’s not that bad? If avoiding these kinds of movies is important in preparation for the above mentioned duties of members of the church, then it is certainly important to continue avoiding it after having received and made temple covenants and entering into an eternal marriage. The idea that there is some magic age group that needs to avoid the nudity, violence, language and sexuallity that is so pervasive in R and many, many PG-13 movies is the true fallacy found in this article.

  • So while I completely agree we should be careful of all media we consume (not just movies and not just rated R movies) when a prophet “warns” us against doing something, regardless of what it is, we shouldn’t do it…period. Yes it doesn’t come in the way as a commandment or doctrine but when multiple prophets and apostles have exhorted us to avoid something (Kimball, Benson, Wirthlin) don’t do it. And there was a comment that Pres Benson’s comments were targeted at young adults…well to be more specific it was only Aaronic Priesthood holders as it was a Priesthood session of conference. But that would be ridiculous to assume that only boys 12 – 18 are not allowed to watch rated R movies. Rater R movies do not draw us closer to Christ and are primarily filled with filth (language, sex, violence all in excess) which is why we have been strongly advised to avoid it. That is not to say we should judge anyone who does. As I am not a bishop it is not my place to judge no matter what the sin or misdeed is. The linked talk is much better at explaining how we should each heed the “warning” of prophets. Do not take lightly there counsel.
    “Another fallacy is to believe that the choice to accept or not accept the counsel of prophets is no more than deciding whether to accept good advice and gain its benefits or to stay where we are. But the choice not to take prophetic counsel changes the very ground upon which we stand. It becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked. Each time he asked after that, each failure to respond would have lessened sensitivity to the Spirit. And so each time his request would have seemed more foolish, until the rain came. And then it was too late.”
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1997/04/finding-safety-in-counsel?lang=eng
    As an aside there are actual standards that determine what the MPAA rates movie. The Wolf of Wall Street could not be rated PG-13 no matter how much someone wanted to as no more than one “f-word” is allowed.

    • If you scroll up through the comment section, you’ll find that I’ve already addressed most of your concerns. I’ll just respond to the things in your post that I haven’t had need to mention yet.

      Don’t worry, I’m well aware TWOWS could never get a PG-13. I used it as an extreme hypothetical example to prove a point–the reason I chose that particular film is because it coincided with the harmful practice of condemning all R-rated movies over the pulpit.

      That being said, the MPAA’s standards are not as strict as you’d think. There are many PG-13 movies that contain two or more uses of the F-word, and one film, “Gunner Palace,” received a PG-13 despite its 42 uses of the word.

      • I’m not going to spend a bunch of time replying as arguing on the internet is a waste of time and usually ineffectual…if you go to BYU or live in the Provo area maybe we can sit down sometime and discuss. All I’m going to say is that we cannot pick and choose what “advice” or “warnings” the prophets give us. To call it a “harmful practice” is to say that you know better than men or women you sustain as speaking for our Heavenly Father. That is a very dangerous path to take and why I take issue with you telling others that is acceptable. We have been told to avoid watching rated R movies for a reason. You may not like it, I may not like it, but I would strongly advise you do it anyway.

        • My argument is not that we should “pick and choose” prophetic counsel, but that to adult members of the church, such prophetic counsel has never been given. To say that President Benson MEANT to address the whole church when he ACTUALLY addressed the youth only is putting words into his mouth and “is to say that you know better than men or women you sustain as speaking for our Heavenly Father.”

          • We aren’t picking and choosing prophetic counsel. If you read this properly you’ll see that we’re actually advocating for MORE carefulness with movies than simply not watching R-rated ones. There are lots of PG-13 movies that are inappropriate.

          • Samantha if that’s what he was saying I would totally agree with him and you. There are many movies (even PG), tv shows (most of them), music, and books we should avoid if we want to have the Spirit with us always. Jake has said that it is harmful practice to council against rated-R movies, potentially some of them are ok, and only President Benson has told young men to not watch these movies. All I’m saying is that if a prophet, seer, or revelator says we should not do something (regardless of who he addresses) we should do as we says. Obviously we have free agency and I am not condemning people who choose to watch those movies. I just don’t want people to think it’s ok to ignore prophetic counsel because we think we know better or it doesn’t apply to me in my personal circumstances.

          • Actually I’ll make it easy for you…
            President Faust: Parental hypocrisy can make children cynical and unbelieving of what they are taught at home. For instance, when parents attend movies they forbid their children to see, parental credibility is diminished. If children are expected to be honest, parents must be honest. If children are expected to be virtuous, parents must be virtuous. If you expect your children to be honorable, you must be honorable.” (Ensign Nov. 1990, p. 33)

            Elder Joe J. Christensen taught:
            “It is very unreasonable to suppose that exposure to profanity, nudity, sex, and violence has no negative effects on us. We can’t roll around in the mud without getting dirty. It is a concern that some of our young Latter-day Saints, as well as their parents, regularly watch R-rated and other inappropriate movies and videos. One more reason why the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice.

            Elder J. Richard Clarke taught:
            “Any film, television show, music, or printed material unfit for youth is also unfit for parents. Those who rationalize acceptance of immoral material on grounds of maturity or sophistication are deceived.”

          • I think my post didn’t make it past the moderators for some reason…anyway I just wanted to say that most of the scriptures were addressed to a specific group of people (Israelites, Nephites, Jews, early Saints) but we still apply them to our lives. I don’t ignore stuff in the General Women’s Meeting or words of counsel given to parents even though I don’t have children. Here’s a link with more than just President Benson btw (although once again his words were sufficient) http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/art/media_inappropriate.htm

        • If you read this properly you’ll see that we’re actually advocating for MORE carefulness with movies than simply not watching R-rated ones. There are lots of PG-13 movies that are inappropriate.

  • Interesting to read. There are quite a lot of excellent ‘R’ movies out there that I feel that most people should watch because of the message it brings. IP Man, V for Vendetta, just to name a couple. But yeah… I getcha, each one their own I say!

  • Nice article, Jake. Thank you for sharing your observations on this tough subject. Another reason to avoid a dogmatic adherence to one particular letter (R ratings) is that the rating system used in the US is not the same rating system used in most other countries. In England for example, there is no R rating in their rating system. So does that mean if I am in England I can justify myself in seeing any movie that comes out? Of course not. As you have suggested, we need to look at the content in the movie and make an informed decision for ourselves as to whether or not it is uplifting. Which is exactly what the Saints in other countries have always had to do. It is also obvious that the standards for ratings in the US have changed over time. Does that mean we can or should change our standards as well? Again, of course not. Our Heavenly Father gave us a brain, and instilled in us (to varying degrees, obviously – based on many of the responses to this article) wisdom. I believe he expects us to use both.

  • Anyone been to the symphony lately? I must say that I have a hard time relating to this conversation. I came across this site and this blog when reading the recent NY Times article about Joseph Smith, which links to this website. As a member of the church living on the east coast (USA) in an area that is considered to be very liberal, it sounds strange to me to find what seems to be a relatively contentious debate over movie ratings/church standards, where members of the church try to outsmart each other using “For the Strength of Youth” as a weapon in a war of words. Who wins? I’m just so grateful that my “liberal” colleagues are so tolerant of my beliefs and standards. I’m sure that you smart people can all can come up with many other better thoughts and ideas than mine, but here’s my list of…

    TOP TEN IDEAS OF BETTER THINGS TO DO TO FEED THE MIND AND SPIRIT THAN TO ARGUE OVER MOVIE RATINGS AND CHURCH STANDARDS:

    1. Take a date to the symphony and marvel at the well-crafted orchestrations and counterpoint.

    2. Check out a jazz group at a local venue.

    3. If you like cultural things that are not so ordinary, you might go to a local university and attend a “new music” concert. You’re bound to hear a lot of unusual new sounds to engage the mind, ears, and spirit.

    4. Go to an appropriate play or theater event etc.

    5. If you really like adventure and excitement, volunteer at the nearest Federal Prison. I’ve enjoyed volunteering for 3 years now and I feel that I’ve grown in the process. As I learned in our annual training meeting this afternoon, 97% of the inmates at our facility will go back into society at some point (i.e., not life-sentences). Many of the inmates’ families abandon them when they go to prison due to the seriousness of what they’ve done. With no positive interaction with the outside world, they often return to society more bitter and in a worse state than when they entered. Volunteers can make a difference. Rather than watching violent movies about people in prison, go visit them. It’s much more exciting and it just might change your perspective.

    6. There are always visits to those who we don’t see in our church meetings very often. Last week we discovered a list of 70+ members of our ward who do not currently have anyone assigned to reach out to them. We look forward to making personal visits to each of them each week of the coming year to try to befriend them.

    7. Watch/play sports.

    8. Hang with the family.

    9. Listen attentively and respectfully to someone who has differing political or religious views than you.

    10. Stop arguing on blogs over R rated movies.

    • 11. Read a lengthy article about R-rated movies, read a lengthy debate about that article, then make a lengthy comment about what a waste of time the whole thing was.

  • The thing I dont care for is this assumption that if you completely abstain from R rated movies youre somehow missing out on the spirit of the law. I choose to avoid r movies and then use the guidance of the spirit on any other movies.
    I understand each person will have a different set of standards than me.
    I do agree with a lot of posters here that the author seemed to be promoting the fact that R rated movies are ok rather than encouraging an even deeper look at ones standards and using the 13th article of faith as a guide. His agenda seems more about proving that avoiding r rated movies is not doctrine than encouraging thought into our selection.
    For those of us who avoid all r rated movies its because we realize the majority are filled with filth and why waste time and spirit on them. Im sure some have very wonderful messages but nothing I cant find anywhere else in life.
    While not official doctrine dont assume that those of us who try to follow the council of the brethren simple minded.

    • Kath, good for you. I’d never question the standards you’ve set for yourself regarding entertainment, and I’m glad you’re the same way with others.

      That being said, you’ve misrepresented me. You claim I have an “assumption that if you completely abstain from R rated movies youre somehow missing out on the spirit of the law,” and that I’m “promoting the fact that R rated movies are ok rather than encouraging an even deeper look at ones standards and using the 13th article of faith as a guide.” Your misunderstandings can be solved by reading my post more carefully. Direct quotes follow. Thanks for commenting.

      “But this blog post isn’t to persuade you all that watching R-rated movies is totally ok.”
      “Generally, R-rated movies probably won’t be a good idea.”
      “Once again, I hope it is clear that this post is not meant to advocate R-rated movies. It is also not meant to advocate PG-13 movies, or PG movies, or G movies. When a movie’s rating becomes our litmus test for its acceptability (which is unfortunately the case for many church members—largely because of this misconception), we are in danger of ignoring the more important factor—its content.”
      “If you gain one piece of knowledge from my post, I hope it is this: we should be making media choices based on whether something is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praise-worthy.”

      • To defend Kath (and keep the comments rolling for you), I think it’s your comments on Fact #1 and Fact#2 that leads readers to believe you actually are advocating R Rated movie watching. Then you add the disclaimer, “To cover myself, I’m not advocating…..”

        You are better off not watching anything these days… Go for a walk, learn a language, climb a tree, reach for the stars…

        • “I think it’s your comments on Fact #1 and Fact #2 that leads readers to believe you are actually advocating R Rated movie watching.”

          Which comments? That’s not the intention of my post and I’d like to be able to dispel this misunderstanding for you.

  • Fact 3: We are not bound to abide by those things for which common consent is not given (and no, sustaining and voting on the acceptance of a new policy are not the same thing). Do most of us not care that policy changes, accepting of scripture, accepting of revelations, accepting of church officers used to be done exclusively by the common consent of the church in conferences. In the early days of the church there were actually (and not infrequently) decisions made by an actual and binding vote. The D&C was accepted by a vote of the church, but the Lectures on Faith were removed without one. William Smith was called to be the Patriarch of the Church, but did not receive the vote of the church and therefore never held that office. If we don’t vote on a rule like “don’t watch r-rated movies,” it does not exist in any binding way in the structure of the church. Plenty of people sustained the prophet Joseph, yet disagreed with him in voting situations (for example, the excommunication of Pelitiah Brown by the Nauvoo High Council). COMMON CONSENT!!!

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