I Should Have Changed the Subject

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“I Should Have Changed the Subject,” Ensign, Feb. 1977, 87

I Should Have Changed the Subject

Most of us can remember some movie, book, or conversation from our early youth that frightened or horrified us, keeping us awake in the night to wonder what sort of creatures our fellowmen were and in what sort of world our Heavenly Father had left us to make our way. Such dreadful impressions are often not erased by the intervening years, but remain to plague us in adulthood.

“I guess you read what the killer did,” an unthinking guest blurted out at the dinner table in our home the other night. “He tied them all up and. …” Then followed a detailed description of torture and atrocity that was, I regret, served to my children with their spinach and potatoes. He did not realize that there was cruelty in introducing such horrors to innocent young minds.

It is impossible to shelter our children from all that is unpleasant or wrong in the world. But children gain their basic attitudes toward mankind and life’s realities in the home, during casual encounters when we have not had opportunity to prepare our responses in advance. It is futile, for instance, to teach respect for our country and its leaders in a well-planned family home evening if our daily conversation betrays our constant doubt of their integrity. In the same way, it seems pointless to forbid our children to see violent, debasing stories in movies or on television and then permit an unthinking neighbor or friend to discuss before them each shocking detail. I should have stopped that undesirable conversation in our home. How are children benefited by learning of the boy who tortured animals or the man who shot his wife? Such knowledge can only bring grief to anyone, and it can be devastating to our children. The Savior has warned that “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6.)

The Lord has also counseled that we “stand in holy places.” (D&C 45:32.) Surely if we are to make “holy places” of our homes, we must take an active role in keeping out that which is debasing and mind-polluting, whether it enters via television, books, or a friend’s thoughtless conversation.

We are not helpless in the face of all that is ugly in the world; we can make our homes sanctuaries of peace and beauty and actively, responsibly, exclude all that keeps us from that ideal. From such homes our youth, as well as ourselves, can gain the faith and the strength to face the outside world and to overcome.

Sharan Elwell
Napa Second Ward
Napa California Stake