“Setting Family Standards for Entertainment,” Ensign, June 2001, 26
Most people look forward to spring each year, anticipating the new growth of flowers and the regeneration of grass and trees. For me, however, it brings seasonal allergies, accompanied by a runny nose, sneezing attacks, and itchy, red eyes.
After years of suffering, I finally saw an allergy specialist who began injecting small doses of the allergens into my system over a period of time until I became desensitized to them. After numerous exposures, my reactions became less severe and eventually were barely noticeable, even though the dosage of allergens continued to increase.
Subtly and not so subtly, Satan exposes many of us to impure “allergens” that have the potential of contaminating our minds and spirits. These can be found in all forms of entertainment: television, the Internet, movies, music, books, and magazines. Prolonged exposure to these moral allergens that initially shock and offend us will gradually dull our spiritual sensitivities, lulling us away into carnal security and sin (see 2 Ne. 28:21). Because none of us is immune to these subtle influences, which can eventually destroy the spirit of righteousness and peace, we need to rid our homes of these harmful things.
Some parents may think they are keeping a safe enough distance from inappropriate entertainment, rationalizing our involvement by saying that “just a little won’t hurt” or “it only has one bad part.” Standards will deteriorate if parents subject themselves to these influences.
Late one afternoon my husband and I stood watching the sunset on a beautiful beach, leaving our shelter and chairs far enough up on the sand to protect our belongings—or so we thought. We were taken by surprise when a huge wave suddenly washed up, covering our snacks, traveler’s checks, camera, and film. In the same way, while the tide of evil continues to rise higher and higher, we often pitch our tents upon the sandy shores of the world, assuming we are on safe ground. Our homes may unexpectedly be flooded with a deluge of evil if we do not carefully evaluate where we stand as parents.
I recognized the challenge in this when I began listening to a radio station that plays the music I enjoyed as a teenager. There were songs I hadn’t heard for more than 20 years, yet I had total recall of the lyrics, some of which I now recognize were not always appropriate. I was always taught that if you hear the music, your mind is recording the words, but I realize only now how desensitized I was as a teenager to some of those popular lyrics. I find myself doing a lot of station-hopping because my spirit can no longer tolerate the words which come so vividly back to my mind, and I realize that if I, as a parent, want to remain credible in the eyes of my children, I cannot justify listening to or viewing the kind of entertainment that I have asked my children not to participate in.
The most powerful way for us to teach our children correct principles is by example. If we stand firm against the waves of worldly entertainment and set a consistent example of private prayer, scripture study, church and temple attendance, and meaningful service, our children will be more likely to follow our example and develop these same strengths in their own lives.
We must make our homes a holy place, not a hiding place for entertainment that will lead us away from the Spirit of the Lord.
Few of us would invite perfect strangers into our homes to teach questionable values to our children while we are busy in another room. Yet in effect that’s what we are doing when we don’t monitor and participate in our children’s entertainment choices. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “Movies, magazines, television, videos, the Internet, and other media are there as guests and should only be welcomed when they are appropriate for family enjoyment. Make your home a haven of peace and righteousness. Don’t allow evil influences to contaminate your own special spiritual environment” (“Like a Flame Unquenchable,” Ensign, May 1999, 87). These media sources are not just casual baby-sitters—they become close companions who repeatedly teach our children to follow value systems that don’t always match our own.
The Jenkins family* had been less active in the Church during most of the children’s growing-up years. As the parents once again embraced gospel truths, they knew they needed to make some changes in their lifestyle. Evaluating their entertainment was one of the first things mother and father did, but they knew they could not force their children, now in their teenage years, to immediately change some of their entertainment choices. Instead, they discussed gospel standards and encouraged each child to predetermine what forms of entertainment were acceptable. When family members came home from watching a movie or video with their friends, they were asked about what they saw and how they felt inside as they watched. This level of accountability and parental concern soon helped the children realize how much better they felt when they chose wholesome forms of entertainment. Eventually, the older children who had been struggling began to make more appropriate entertainment choices of music, television shows and videos, and computer games.
In all of our families, we can discuss and identify values and then establish guidelines for using gospel standards to evaluate entertainment choices.
An especially useful tool to help parents evaluate entertainment choices is the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. It clearly outlines standards which support the scriptures and teachings of the living prophet and apostles. It urges young people not to watch, listen to, or attend any form of entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. It counsels them not to be afraid to walk out of a movie, turn off a television set, or change a radio station if what’s being presented does not meet high standards. The pamphlet emphasizes that entertainment which presents immorality in any form is unacceptable, and that when we have a question whether a particular movie, book, or other form of entertainment is appropriate, we should avoid it (see For the Strength of Youth, 12).
Following a family home evening in which these principles had been discussed, 10-year-old Colin knew what he had to do when he was invited to go to a questionable movie for a friend’s birthday party. Colin gathered the courage to tell his friend he didn’t feel right about the movie and could not attend the party. The next day his friend told Colin that a more appropriate movie had been chosen for the party. Because of Colin’s willingness to take a stand, all of his friends were able to participate in a more desirable afternoon of entertainment.
Because our children cannot avoid every potentially harmful situation, we need to help them develop the moral courage to remain true to their values when faced with compromising choices. As they consistently do this, it will become easier to choose the right the next time.
Parents should set limits and help plan television and video viewing in advance. Perhaps you can determine as a family what shows are appropriate for viewing, then turn the television on for those programs only. As parents, you can discuss the programs with family members, teaching children how to evaluate and learn from what they view.
We can establish stronger family relationships if we encourage other forms of creative entertainment—reading, playing games, exercise, hobbies, and worthwhile projects.
We can also help family members evaluate entertainment choices by asking them to consider questions like these: “Does it make me feel worthy to kneel in prayer before my Heavenly Father?” “Are the values being portrayed virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy?” (see A of F 1:13). “Are my entertainment choices bringing me closer to the Savior?” “Is this taking me away from more important things that I should be doing?”
We need to help our children learn the importance of making the Holy Ghost our constant companion. As family members learn to follow the guidance of the Spirit, they will be able to make appropriate entertainment choices. Satan knows that they will be able to resist his temptations if they have the Spirit with them. I recently heard a seminary teacher share his experiences with youth who were willing to give up their collections of undesirable music. These young people didn’t do it because of pressure from their parents or their teacher; it was the Spirit that convinced them to remove those influences from their lives. The Spirit changes hearts.
A young woman named Heather tells of her struggle to choose between heeding the promptings of the Spirit and listening to her friends. She had accepted a date to a concert that she knew would probably not meet Church standards, rationalizing that it probably would be all right to go just this once. Shortly after accepting the date, she was in a testimony meeting with a Church group. Their leader said that sometimes we have to make hard choices and give up things we know aren’t right even when we really want them. She reminded them of the covenant they had made with the Lord to obey, and encouraged them to pray for strength to follow the promptings of the Spirit. The upcoming concert immediately came to Heather’s mind, and she felt the Spirit bear strong witness that she should not attend. When she told her date and her best friend that she had decided not to go, they ridiculed her for her sudden change of heart. Had the spiritual witness not been the deciding factor in her decision, she might have buckled under the pressure, but later, after learning of some of the degrading and immoral behaviors exhibited at the concert, Heather was grateful she had heeded the Spirit and withstood the pressure to attend.
When we teach our children correct principles, we give them the doctrinal foundation for making correct choices as they learn to listen to the Holy Ghost. Alma 5:57 urges those who desire to follow Christ to “come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things.” We need to set ourselves apart from the world in the entertainment choices we make. We can begin to purify our lives and to strengthen our families as we set a consistent example, evaluate and establish guidelines, and encourage family members to remember their covenants and follow the promptings of the Spirit.
“I plead with you to leave it alone. Stay away from any movie, video, publication, or music—regardless of its rating—where illicit behavior and expressions are part of the action. …
“The Doctrine and Covenants gives a warning and a promise. The promise says ‘if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things’ (D&C 88:67).
“In an application of this scripture today, it is my understanding that anytime we look at or listen to this kind of material—even in its mildest form—the light inside of us grows dimmer because the darkness inside increases. The effect of this is that we cannot think as clearly on life’s challenges—be they business, church, school, family, or personal. We have cluttered the channel to the source of all light with various unclean images. Our entitlement to personal revelation on any subject is severely restricted.”—Elder H. Burke Peterson of the Seventy, “Leave It Alone,” New Era, Jan. 1995, 45; emphasis in original.