“So what if I do movies and novels of contemporary morality standards?” New Era, July 1971, 17
Answer/Arthur R. Bassett
I suspect that many of us find it difficult to feel totally “in” with religion 100 percent of the time. True religion demands the best that is in us, and a total effort is not always easy to give. It is a very human quality that leads us to become discouraged when the requests of the religious life begin to seem excessive. For some, the problem may be the claim religion makes upon their time; for others, the problem may come in the form of personality conflicts with someone in the Church; for still others, the lure of forbidden fruit may seem almost too strong to resist. It can be difficult during the times one feels “out of it” to resist such feelings of resentment or allurement without help. However, aid has been offered by the Savior, who, with his total awareness of our problems and also of our desires to have the best in life, is perhaps the only one qualified to render assistance.
Let us consider, for example, one of the most important teachings of Jesus in connection with the problem you have suggested. I refer to his teaching concerning the power and importance of thought. Because our thoughts ultimately determine our actions, Jesus repeatedly emphasized the need for good thoughts and proper motives if one is ever to come to peace with himself. Any activity that creates improper thoughts has the potential to destroy our happiness.
It is in this context, perhaps, that we should give careful consideration to the types of amusements we seek, recognizing their potential influence on our thought. If we seek complete happiness, we must face squarely the problem created by contemporary standards in the entertainment and art media. Many of the standards employed in the creation of contemporary movies and novels, for example, are clearly antithetical to the major thrusts of the gospel, and exposure to them may be a very large part of the reason some do not feel “in” with religion. Instead, they find themselves divided and torn, desiring the good life but also being unwilling to put aside that which is directly opposed to it; they find themselves like Augustine of old, who prayed, “Lord, give me chastity, … only not yet, For I feared lest Thou shouldest hear me soon, and soon cure me of the disease of concupiscence, which I wished to have satisfied, rather than extinguished.” (The Confession of St. Augustine, Book VIII.) Inner peace flees them and they find that to restore it, they must make a choice between the two.
How then, at times like these, does one find strength to give up that which he seems to enjoy so much? A partial solution to our problem, it seems to me, lies in another of the teachings of Jesus—the important truth that one can drive out bad thoughts with better thoughts. I suspect, for example, that anyone who enjoys X-rated movies and novels with contemporary morality standards would also enjoy a better quality of movie or a better novel, and both are available if one is willing to look for them. Therefore, why not decide in favor of the best within us and seek out higher forms of entertainment and instruction, thereby elevating our thoughts and ultimately our lives, letting our recreational moments become literally moments of re-creation. As Marcus Antonius remarked many centuries ago, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thought.” The Master has added in our own time, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.” (D&C 121:45. Italics added.) Ultimately this seems the only way to truly feel “in” with religion.