Television and Time

“Television and Time,” New Era, Sept. 1979, 7

Talk of the Month:
Television and Time

In every stake conference, there is a group of people who were made to come. Some want to attend, but those who do usually bring with them some who don’t want to come. Most of these people who don’t want to come are under 20. I suppose the greater percentage of them are under 12. This is the group that brings pencils and paper to draw pictures with during conference. Some bring bags of Cheerios. Their mothers say, “Now if you’re good for the first hour, the second hour you can have Cheerios.” I would like to talk to all of those who are made to come to conference.

I would like to talk to you about your home. Let me ask you who is the most important person in your home. How do you tell who is important? Is it the person who earns the most? Is it the person who has the best room? Is it the person you love the most? Is it the one who gives you the most of his or her time? Who is the most important person in your home? You might say, “Everybody is important in our home.” I wonder if that’s really true.

Let me ask you another question. How is the TV treated in your home? Does it have its own room? Do you like it better than your brother? How about your mother? Do you like it better than your great-grandfather? Does it get much rest?* Do your parents spend more time with it than they do with you? Do they spend more money on it than they do on you?

Do you follow its opinions more than your parents’ ideas? Does it tell you what to eat for breakfast? Does it come to dinner? Often? When it does, does it get the best seat? Do you have to keep quiet when it is talking? Does it ever cause fights in your house? Do you ever get sent downstairs when it does? Who’s the boss in your family? Is it the TV? Does it tell you when to get up and when to go to school? Does it tell you what to do? How about on Saturday morning? Does it tell you what to do then? Does it tell you when to go out and play? Does it talk during prayers? Does it tell the home teachers when it’s time to go? Does it ever keep you from going to Church? How about on Super Bowl Sunday?

Is it your best friend? Would you be lonely without it? Would you cry if it broke? Would you miss it more than your brother? If your house were on fire and you could save one thing, would you save the TV? What if you could only save two things? Could you live without TV for a week? How about a month? Who is your favorite teacher? Is it the TV? Do you like TV better than Primary or Mutual? How about Sunday School? Does TV teach the same things as your Sunday School teacher? Does it teach different things? Does TV agree with your Sunday School teacher? Who is right?

Does TV make you want things you don’t have? Does this make you happy? Does it ever make you mad at your parents? What about when they won’t buy you something you have seen advertised on TV? Who do you want to be like when you grow up? The Fonz? How about Evel Kneivel? Or Farrah Fawcett Majors? Or Donny and Marie? Or Starsky and Hutch? Or Baretta? How about being like your mom and dad? Is your dad as cool as the Six Million Dollar Man? Are your parents as neat as the Waltons? Is your dad like Archie Bunker? Who told you so? Was it the TV? Does TV always tell the truth? Somebody once said TV was chewing gum for the eyes. You think about that.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, … For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20–21). This means that the things you give your time and attention and money to are the things that to you are really important. Unless these things are important to the Lord, too, they aren’t going to count for very much in heaven.

Does TV prevent you from doing things that you should do like being a better friend, or helping with the dishes, or doing work for your great-grandfather? If it does, do you think it’s really your friend? Maybe it’s not your best friend. Maybe the Savior would want you to try to find better company, at least some of the time.

There was once a great playwright named Henrik Ibsen. He wrote a play called Peer Gynt. Peer Gynt is the story of a young Scandinavian man who grows old on the stage. He lives his life by doing whatever he wants to do. Near the end of the play he’s being chased by a button molder who is going to melt his body down and make buttons out of it so he can be used over again for something worthwhile. He runs across the frozen ground, trying to get away from this man. As he does, some small tumbleweeds get under his feet. He starts to talk to them, and he says: “Get out of my way. Off with you. You block my path.” And then something very interesting happens. The weeds talk back to him and say: “We are thoughts. You should have thought us. Feet to run on you should have given us. We should have soared up like clangorous voices, and here we must roll along as weeds.”

He kicks them out of his way and keeps running. After a while he steps on some leaves. The leaves start to talk to him and say: “We are a watchword. You should have proclaimed us. Your dozing has riddled us. Worms have gnawed us in every crevice, and we have never been able to bear fruit.”

Then the wind blows in his face. It whispers to him and says: “We’re songs. You should have sung us. A thousand times over you have cowed us down and smothered us. Down in the heart’s pit we have lain and waited, but we were never called forth.”

Peer becomes angry over these accusations, and he says: “Poison you. Have I time for verse and stuff? I am running for my life.” Then he bumps into a tree. There are dewdrops dripping from the branches. They speak to him and say: “We are tears unshed forever. Ice spears sharp and wounding. We could have melted. Now our barb is in the bosom. The wound is closed over and our power to help is gone.” Peer doesn’t like that either, but he keeps on running. Finally, he trips over some straws and falls on his face. As he’s getting up the straws start to speak and they say: “We are deeds. You should have achieved us. Doubt the throttler has crippled and torn us. On the day of judgment, we’ll come aflock and tell the story, then woe to you.”

“We are thoughts. You should have thought us.” “We are words. You should have proclaimed us.” “We are songs. You should have sung us.” “We are tears. You should have shed us.” “We are deeds. You should have achieved us.” “And on the judgment day, woe to you.”

Now, brothers and sisters, one of the great cries of modern man is we don’t have time to do the things we should do. We don’t do our genealogy because we don’t have time. We don’t love our neighbor because we don’t have time. And yet we spend more time watching television than any other single elective thing in this world. I don’t believe the excuse is going to hold any water with the Lord. I don’t believe that we can ever say we didn’t have time. I think all we’ll be able to say, rather lamely, is that our priorities were not the same as the Lord’s.

You know, I think some of the reasons some of your brothers and sisters bring Cheerios to conference is because they can’t understand what some of us are talking about. I hope that all of you understand what I have just said. I think it is very important for you to make wise use of your time. I know it’s important to me.

Brothers and sisters, may the Lord bless us all to magnify the things we know, to seek to know more, and to order our priorities so as to lay up treasures in heaven.

  • (Introductory questions taken from Marilyn Burn, I Am Not a Short Adult, Yolla Bolly Press: Little, Brown & Company, 1977, p. 90.)

Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh