Exception to the Rule

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints generally don’t watch R-rated movies, a practice that has its origin in President Ezra Taft Benson’s 1986 General Conference talk “To The ‘Youth of a Noble Birthright’” when he counseled the young men, holders of the Aaronic priesthood, to live clean, moral lives free from the influence of vulgar, degrading, and obscene media, including music and movies, and rich in wholesome activities and uplifting media.

I’ve adopted the standard of not watching movies with an “R” rating, as I’m sure many Church members have. However, I’ve further expanded this in my own life to include, or rather exclude, music with an “Explicit” warning, video games with an “M” rating, TV shows with an “MA” rating, and Amazon Prime’s “TV-16” rating (or “16+” or whatever it is).

I recently had an experience I wanted to share with you about the slippery road of making exceptions to our standards.

There was a movie on Netflix that I really wanted to watch, which was rated TV-MA. I rationalized to myself that since it wasn’t actually rated R, I could make an exception for this one movie, just this one time, and it wouldn’t be a big deal, right?

So I watched the movie and… well, to be honest, it wasn’t that great. It was pretty predicable, actually, and I wouldn’t have missed anything by skipping it – the preview and the film’s description told me everything I needed to know and the film itself contained no surprises.

However, “just this one time” quickly led to two more TV-MA movies (a feature length film and a stand-up comedy show), within the next couple of weeks, because I had watched that one movie and the world kept turning, right?

Yikes.

If I’m going to make an exception to my TV- and movie-watching standards, where does the exception-making stop? Is a second inappropriate movie just as “harmless” as one? Where do I draw the line?


An article on the LDS Living website about this very subject cautions against using a worldly rating system to help us in evaluating media.

I briefly paused in writing this blog post to research the rating history of the film Top Gun, which coincidentally debuted in 1986, the same year as President Benson’s talk. I could swear that it had originally been rated PG-13 (making it the first PG-13 movie my mom ever let me watch), but according to Wikipedia, IMDB, and several other sources I looked at, it’s rated PG.

I can’t find any sources to back up my memory that it was ever rated PG-13. The film is described by one of the sources I looked at as being “pretty racy” for the 1980s (True!).

The content of Top Gun hasn’t changed, even if the rating may have. I would still be embarrassed and ashamed to be observed watching that movie if the Savior dropped by my house unexpectedly one afternoon.

Does the rating matter? Are all PG-13 movies allowed? How do we know?

When I was a teenager, I didn’t have a regular curfew. Now, now, lest you think that I had the most permissive parents in the country, I first have to tell you that my curfew changed depending on what I was doing and what time I expected to finish the activity. A 10:00pm curfew for a dance that ended at 11:00pm wouldn’t have been any fun, but a 10:00pm curfew wouldn’t be appropriate for an afternoon at the bowling alley, either. So my curfew would have been something like 11:30pm for the dance and maybe 6:00pm for bowling (depending on how many games I planned to play).

A blanket curfew of 10:00pm didn’t serve my  best interests in the same way that assuming that all PG-13 movies are “allowed” serves my best interests, now. I think I should adopt a more introspective set of guidelines when determining whether I ought to watch a movie or not.

A good set of guiding questions can be found in the article “So, Can I Watch It or Not?” from the December 2014 New Era.

  1. How will this affect me?
  2. Does it invite the Spirit?
  3. Is it uplifting?
  4. Does it make evil look normal? (Or humorous or exciting?)
  5. Is it vulgar or violent?

Fantasy General Conference – the Results (and some notes)

I really enjoyed playing Fantasy General Conference this year – it may sound silly, but it helped me to pay attention to who was speaking and what they were speaking about!

Guess the topics.

Out of 2 topics per session, for a total of 10 topics, I got 4 correct.

  1. Love your neighbor.
  2. Missionary work.
  3. Family history.
  4. Strengthen families.

Conducting.

I did not guess a single one of these correctly.

When will the First Presidency speak?

Out of a possible 4, I got 2 correct.

Guess which Apostle will speak during each session.

Out of a possible 12, I got 4 correct: Ulissess S. Soares, M. Russell Ballard, Jeffrey R. Holland, and David A. Bednar.

David A. Bednar. Instead of returning home and asking what we learned about the Savior at church, ask at church what we learned at home. As Joseph Smith did, we too need to learn for ourselves. We can’t rely exclusively on other people’s testimonies. Gospel learning is becoming increasingly home-centered. Make our homes sanctuaries. (1) Always speak about temples with reverence, (2) Everything in the temple points to Jesus Christ.

Seventy Speakers.

Out of a possible 10, I got 1 correct, Elder Takashi Wada.

Who will speak from the Auxiliary Presidencies during Conference.

Out of a possible 6, I got 2 correct.

Becky Craven. We are not meant to blend in with the rest of the world. We can’t be perfect, but we can be worthy.

This is something I really needed to hear!

Tad R. Callister. We are subject to the law of justice. If we have faith and repent, we can receive mercy and be forgiven. The Atonement is infinite. Guilt can serve as a protection, warning us from sinning again. Sometimes He removes the affliction, sometimes He strengthens us, sometimes He gives us an eternal perspective. Every time we receive a gift of the spirit, we become more like God. That is why we are told to seek these gifts. Nothing can prevent us from achieving exaltation provided we keep the commandments.

The Men, Women, and Music of the Tabernacle Choir.

Out of a possible 10, I got 2 correct: the men wore single-color ties on Sunday and the song “Come, Follow Me” was sung.

Predict any Announcements or Policy Changes.

Out of a possible 3, I got 0 correct.

New Temples.

Out of a possible 5, I got 2 correct: a new temple was announced for Utah, USA and the country of Chile.

Fantasy General Conference

I’m so excited for General Conference, you guys! I found a fun game on Facebook that I wanted to try this year. It’s organized by the folks who run the Facebook page Fantasy General Conference. My predictions for April 2019 General Conference are below! You can download your own Fantasy General Conference packet here.

Guess the topics.

Saturday Morning: (1) temple ordinances, (2) love your neighbor.
Saturday Afternoon: (1) missionary work, (2) Word of Wisdom.
General Priesthood Session: (1) marriage, (2) father presides/guides.
Sunday Morning: (1) family history, (2) prayer.
Sunday Afternoon: (1) strengthen families, (2) technology.

Conducting.

Saturday Morning: President Eyring
Saturday Afternoon: President Nelson
Priesthood Session: President Oaks
Sunday Morning: President Eyring
Sunday Afternoon: President Oaks

When will the First Presidency Speak?

President Nelson: Saturday Morning, Sunday Afternoon.
President Oaks: Saturday Afternoon.
President Eyring: Saturday Afternoon.

Guess which Apostle will speak during each session.

Saturday Morning: (1) Ulisses Soares, (2) D. Todd Cristofferson, (3) Ronald A. Rasband.
Saturday Afternoon: (1) M. Russell Ballard, (2) Jeffrey R. Holland.
Priesthood Session: (1) Dale G. Renlund, (2) Neil L Anderson.
Sunday Morning: (1) Dieter F. Uctdorf, (2) Gerrit W. Gong, (3) Gary E. Stevenson.
Sunday Afternoon: (1) David A. Bednar, (2) Quentin L. Cook.

Seventy Speakers.

(In no particular order/session.)

  1. Jose L. Alonso
  2. W. Mark Bassett
  3. Randell K. Bennett
  4. Yoon Hwan Choi
  5. Randy D. Funk
  6. Erich W. Kopischke
  7. Richard J. Maynes
  8. Kevin W. Pearson
  9. Paul B. Peiper
  10. Takaski Wada

Who will speak from the Auxiliary Presidencies during Conference.

Primary Presidency: Cristina B. Franco
Young Women’s Presidency: Becky Craven
Young Men’s Presidency: Douglas D. Holmes
Sunday School Presidency: Tad R. Callister
Relief Society Presidency: Jean B. Bingham
Presiding Bishopric: Dean M. Davies

The Men of the Tabernacle Choir.

Saturday: Striped tie
Sunday: 1 color tie

The Women of the Tabernacle Choir.

Saturday: Green dress
Sunday: Purple dress

Hymns During General Conference.

(In no particular order/session.)

  1. Isreael, Israel God is Calling
  2. For the Strength of the Hills
  3. Come, Follow Me
  4. God be with You Till We Meet Again
  5. Scatter Sunshine
  6. Count Your Blessings

Predict any announcements or policy changes.

(In no particular order/session.)

  1. Relief Society
  2. Primary
  3. Young Single Adults

New Temples.

United States:

  1. Arizona
  2. Utah
  3. New York

Continent:

  1. South America

Hail Mary (highly unlikely):

  1. Alaska

I also added in my predictions for flowers!

Saturday: white
Sunday: red/yellow