The choices we make in media can be symbolic of the choices we make in life. Choosing the trendy, the titillating, the tawdry in the TV programs or movies we watch can cause us to end up, if we're not careful, choosing the same things in the lives we live.
If we do not make good choices, the media can devastate our families and pull our children away from the narrow gospel path. In the virtual reality and the perceived reality of large and small screens, family-destructive viewpoints and behavior are regularly portrayed as pleasurable, as stylish, as exciting, and as normal.
Often media's most devastating attacks on family are not direct or frontal or openly immoral. Intelligent evil is too cunning for that, knowing that most people still profess belief in family and in traditional values. Rather the attacks are subtle and amoral—issues of right and wrong don't even come up. Immorality and sexual innuendo are everywhere, causing some to believe that because everyone is doing it, it must be all right. This pernicious evil is not out in the street somewhere; it is coming right into our homes, right into the heart of our families.
The new morality preached from the media's pulpit is nothing more than the old immorality. It attacks religion. It undermines the family. It turns virtue into vice and vice into virtue. It assaults the senses and batters the soul with messages and images that are neither virtuous, nor lovely, nor of good report, nor praiseworthy.
The time has come when members of the Church need to speak out and join with the many other concerned people in opposition to the offensive, destructive, and mean-spirited media influence that is sweeping over the earth. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the percentage of television prime-time shows with sexual content jumped from 67 percent in 1998 to 75 percent in the year 2000.2
Media with this kind of content has numerous negative effects. It fosters a callous attitude toward women, who are often portrayed as objects of abuse and not as precious daughters of God who are essential to His eternal plan. The long-cherished values of abstinence from intimate relationships before marriage and complete fidelity between husband and wife after marriage are denigrated and derided. Children and youth are confused and misled by the deviant behavior they see demonstrated by so-called stars they admire and want to emulate. In the moral confusion created by the media, enduring values are being abandoned.
According to one social observer: "Television . . . has replaced the family,
the school, and the church—in that order—as the principal [instrument] for socialization
and transmission of values. . . . Greed, debauchery, violence, unlimited self-gratification,
absence of moral restraint . . . are the daily fare glamorously dished up to
Elder M. Russell Ballard (Gen Conf Oct 2003)
But I am suggesting that we spend a little less time in idleness, in the fruitless pursuit of watching some inane and empty television programs. Time so utilized can be put to better advantage, and the consequences will be wonderful. Of that I do not hesitate to assure you.
Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley (Gen Conf Apr 1995)
Stay away from television shows which lead to unclean thoughts and unclean language.
Stay away from videos which will lead to evil thoughts. They won't help you. They will
only hurt you. Stay away from books and magazines which are sleazy and filthy in what they
say and portray. Keep thyself pure.
Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley (Gen Conf Apr 1997)
Increasingly, the balance between living in the world and not being of the world is
becoming more delicate. Publications, radio, television, and the Internet have surrounded
us with worldliness. Some of the television programming has caused such a negative public
outcry that a rating system has been established so viewers can evaluate the content of
the programs. Surely this is an admission that there is a great deal available to us that
must be avoided. The question is whether or not we can trust others to make rating
decisions for us. We are fortunate to have been blessed with a special power to direct us
in making important decisions between right and wrong.
Elder L. Tom Perry (Gen Conf Apr 1997)
Satan has made great inroads into the lives of some Latter-day Saints through the evil
in the media. I am confident that the great majority of you have not been guilty of
serious sexual sin, but many are placing themselves in a path that could lead to it. A
bishop reported that he had observed that the spiritual level of the young priesthood
bearers in his ward was declining. Through his personal interviews with them, he
discovered that many of them were watching R-rated movies. When he asked them where they
went to see such trash, they said, "We don't go anywhere. We watch them at home. We
have cable television, and when our parents are gone we watch anything we want to."
Elder Joe J. Christensen (Gen Conf Oct 1996)
Of course you are tempted. It seems as if the whole world has become obsessed with sex.
In a very beguiling and alluring way, it is thrown at you constantly. You are exposed to
it on television, in magazines and books, in videos, even in music. Turn your back on it.
Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley (Apr 1996)
An elementary school principal reported to me that even our young schoolchildren see
and hear the defilement of sacred things. In television programs, videos, and popular
music, they are exposed to evil things that desensitize them, making sin seem normal and
Sister Susan L. Warner (Gen Conf Apr 1996)
It is amazing how much time suddenly becomes available with the television off.
Elder Durrel A Woolsey (Gen Conf Oct 1995)
Our youth are especially vulnerable as the enemy cunningly utilizes every means at his
disposal, including the mass media and changes in constitutional law, to deceive them. He
bombards our homes with enticements of destructive and harmful products and morals through
television, videos, press, books, etc.
Elder Horacio A. Tenorio (Gen Conf Oct 1994)
Surrounded as we are by worldly influences, how can we maintain a sweetness of spirit
and a humility that will make us receptive to such counsel? I fear that we have become so
enamored with recreation, with fame and fortune, with videos, with television, and with
what money can buy that we have little time for eternal things.
Elder A. Aldin Porter (Gen Conf Oct 1994)
An increasingly permissive culture, so heavily influenced by the media, especially
television, has caused us all, and especially our youth, to be subjected to a moral
wasteland of values. Television in America in most instances has almost single-handedly
removed vulgarity from modern culture by making it the "norm." The result is a
mass culture driven by profiteers who exploit the hunger for vulgarity, pornography, and
even barbarism. Such influences cannot help but have a demoralizing effect on the
religious faith and belief of our great young people.
Elder Richard P. Lindsay (Gen Conf Apr 1994)
Our television and movie screens are filled with not-so-subtle messages that encourage
and persuade young and old alike to unbridle their passions and they will experience
happiness. The results of this reckless course should be so apparent as we watch the
tremendous social and psychological costs continue to mount. The increasing incidence of
teenage pregnancy, abortion, rape, child molestation, sexual harassment, assault, drug
addiction, disease, alcoholism, and broken homes are all influenced by this persuasion.
And the alarming statistics continue to testify, but with little if any effect.
Elder W. Eugene Hansen (Gen Conf Oct 1993)
Any film, television show, music, or printed material unfit for youth is also
unfit for parents.
Elder J. Richard Clarke (Gen Conf Apr 1991)
Brothers and sisters, refuse to be used. Refuse to be manipulated. Refuse to support those programs that violate traditional family values. We may be a small voice to begin with; nevertheless, let us speak out and encourage a more uplifting, inspiring, and acceptable media.
Besides making our voices heard, let me conclude with seven things that every parent can do to minimize the negative effect media can have on our families:
1. We need to hold family councils and decide what our media standards are going to be.
2. We need to spend enough quality time with our children that we are consistently the main influence in their lives, not the media or any peer group.
3. We need to make good media choices ourselves and set good examples for our children.
4. We need to limit the amount of time our children watch TV or play video games or use the Internet each day. Virtual reality must not become their reality.
5. We need to use Internet filters and TV programming locks to prevent our children from "chancing upon" things they should not see.
6. We need to have TVs and computers in a much-used common room in the home, not in a bedroom or a private place.
7. We need to take time to watch appropriate media with our children and discuss
with them how to make choices that will uplift and build rather than degrade
Elder M. Russell Ballard (Gen Conf Oct 2003)