Although the tongue weighs very little, very few people are able to hold it. -Anonymous
Question #93189 posted on 06/22/2020 8:22 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

My question is as a LDS member, what types of TV and Movie can I watch. I understand that shows with sexually immorality and other negative stuff isn't recommended, but what about television with light swearing ( maybe a documentary about something, a TV series, YouTube or online video or a Movie), with the context being ok /wholesome with some swearing involved.

Also, as well as this, I would like to know the overall boundary of what I can watch, what things are allowed etc.

Many Thanks

-Malachi

A:

Dear Malachi,

It is more about your personal boundaries than clearly defined, hard rules. Technically speaking, you're "allowed" to watch pretty much whatever you choose. That's probably something to be grateful for - it protects your agency. 

For a long time, the Church looked down heavily on R-rated films and even printed some materials that shamed "the kinds of people" who watch R-rated movies. I used to work in the Religious Education department, and there's a media center in there with plenty of old printed books by General Authorities talking about "the evils of Hollywood" and the like. But it's not like that anymore. 

There isn't a punishment for listening to music with swear words in it, or watching a movie that has a short risque scene in it. The Church isn't going to tell you what to do beyond those recommendations you mentioned. You get to decide for yourself whether or not what you watch is 'acceptable' to you. 

MOST IMPORTANTLY, the people who have stricter standards are not holier or better than the people who listen to rap or watch R-rated films. That's not how it works. Your personal boundaries shouldn't be defined by what you think other people believe is acceptable. 

Personally, I don't watch most horror films or things with a lot of gore because they make me feel icky. But the movie Parasite is rated R, and I watched it and it was acceptable to me. I also enjoy plenty of movies with a handful of swear words, and I watch Youtube channels like Buzzfeed Unsolved (which has more than a handful of swears)... but swearing isn't one of the things that I feel bad about. It doesn't feel like when other human beings swear, it's corrupting my mind or anything. So I listen to and watch lots of things with swears and don't feel guilty about it at all. 

The Church shouldn't be in your life to make you feel shame or guilt. The determination of your boundaries shouldn't be made out of shame or guilt either. It's just a personal decision about what you want in your life. 

Cheers, 

Guesthouse

A:

Dear ihcalaM,

Some years ago, I read a Reddit thread in a Latter-day Saint community wherein the author was asking about why the Church didn't provide an explicit list of things that were and were not okay to do on Sundays.

One user's response, though his name and the name of the thread are long lost to me, has been with me since. The Sabbath day is between you and God. It's not about keeping some extra arbitrary rules because God said so, it's about sanctifying the day through your own thoughts, actions, and decisions. You make the Sabbath day holy to you by choosing to do certain things and avoid certain others, and you demonstrate to God--or account to Him in prayer--how your actions have made that day holy both to you and to Him. 

It's the same way with the ways we choose to spend our free time. You're not asking about the Sabbath specifically, but the same principle applies. In making your decisions with TV, movies, or any other media, you justify to God why the choice you've made is virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. If you can't justify that decision to Him, you probably shouldn't go through with it. The church isn't going to discipline you for things that aren't asked about in the temple recommend interview, and it has steadfastly refrained from issuing any sort of lists of hard rules as to what is and is not okay to watch, read, or consume, because not everybody interprets worthiness and the presence of the Spirit in precisely the same way. There are lots of helpful talks and other offerings put out by the Church that help guide and inform your media choices, but no one is going to draw lines in the sand for you. That's up to you, and it should be between you and the Lord. Even the rule against R-rated movies isn't really an official Church proscription as much as it is an ingrained cultural habit; you're not going to lose your recommend for watching The Passion of the Christ, but if watching it would be an uncomfortable, unpleasant, and ugly experience, then don't do it.

I say this as someone who used to avoid music that had any sort of objectionable language at all, no matter how mild. As I've gotten older, rigid lines like that have been less helpful for me, and it's become more important to pay attention to the overall tone of the music or movie or book in general. One of my favorite books/movies is Silence, which is rated R for some very bleak and heavy scenes of the horrific violence that the Japanese inflicted on Christian converts in the 1600s. The book isn't quite as graphic for obvious reasons, but it's not exactly uplifting material. In a similar vein, one of my favorite video games (as I've said many times) is NieR Automata, which is similarly rated M for violence and language as it tells a moving but thoroughly bleak and existential story of war between human-built androids and alien-built machines. There are Latter-day Saint homes where neither of these would pass muster, for perfectly understandable reasons, but for me, both were moving, emotional, and left me with broadened horizons and things to ponder. Other people may simply be turned off by the depictions of violence, blood, and death. That's fine. Outside of the boundaries of temple worthiness, precisely what your covenants with the Lord mean to you--and what they do and do not permit you to do--is a matter between yourself and God.

Genuinely,

9S

PS: You may be interested in the wisdom of some writers past and present in a similar question, Board Question #85692, which I asked when I was but a humble reader.