This Week in Mormons

Stop It with the R-Rated Movies Thing


By Kurt Francom
To see or not to see?

To see or not to see?

I picked up the book Lone Survivor about two or three years ago. I read it and couldn’t stop thinking about the story for weeks. It’s a remarkable story and I recommend it to all who are in awe at the service our military heroes give–especially those in special forces.

The book turned out to be such a success they made it into a movie, which just had an unexpectedly huge weekend at the box office this past week. I find myself in a similar dilemma as Al Doan, who discussed his desire to see the film on a recent episode of the podcast This Week in Mormons. Do I go to the movie or not? It is rated R you know, so this means my cultural upbringing gets in the way and plays on my conscious.

My oldest brother … took me to the first Austin Powers movie. We should have known better.

My oldest brother is 9 years older than me and we always laugh about the time he took me to the first Austin Powers movie (rated PG-13 so it was legit…right?). We laugh about it now because we realize bad judgment was exercised all around. I should have known better and he should have known better. It was poison to the mind of a young teenager (and the mind of anyone else for that matter). But then when I would show up to a movie party and the suggestion was made to watch an “R-rated movie” I would gasp and say, “I. DON’T. WATCH. R-RATED. MOVIES.” I slept better at night knowing I was living up to the standard of my Mormon culture.

I say Mormon culture because the leaders of the LDS Church never meant to draw a line as to what movies you can’t see based on ratings, though there have always been guidelines about what is appropriate. Sure, President Benson mentioned the term “R-rated” in a talk in 1986, but I don’t think he meant to set a standard based on a secular opinion known as the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA).

WHY AM I SWAYED BY A MOVIE RATING?

And aside from that, as Geoff mentioned on the above This Week in Mormons episode, does Canada use the MPAA? Does the Philippines? Nope. Last time I checked, the Church is now an international body, and General Authorities don’t base direction on the motion picture industry’s primary lobbying group in the United States or any other country, for that matter–they have a Better Source.

If you need a good read on this topic, check out Elder Lynn G. Robbin’s BYU devotional talk he gave back in September of 2013. He stated:

“It is risky for the Church to draw a line. If the speed on the freeway is sixty-five miles per hour, how fast will people drive? Well, they will feel free to drive as fast as the limit. If the Church were to draw a line with movies, that would be like giving permission to watch everything up to the line. President Gordon B. Hinckley never drew a line. Neither has President Thomas S. Monson. But the prophets have taught us principles found in For the Strength of the Youth, such as the following:

Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable.’”

Elder Robbins goes on to say:

“In 1986 President Ezra Taft Benson warned members of the danger of anything ‘R-rated’ or beyond. The members thought he had drawn a line. I know that because I have heard many members of the Church say, ‘Oh, we can watch that movie. It’s only a PG-13. The prophet gave us permission.’ They don’t say that last part, but that is what they are thinking, because they thought he posted a speed limit, so to speak.”

Stop relying on MPAA ratings

Thankfully, when the Austin Powers peeps decided to release sequels, my parents had the sense enough to ask me not to see those movies. “But it’s PG-13″, I remember saying. They drew the line (parents, not the MPAA) and I was obedient (and better off for it).

How did my parents know it was full of trash? Well, I guess they didn’t. Maybe the director saw the error of his ways from the first release and then made a movie about an English spy that wakes up in Walnut Grove, Minnesota (Little House on the Prairie reference)? I doubt it. All my parents had to go off of was previews seen on TV, a short blurb in the newspaper, and, of course, the increasingly flawed ratings system from the MMPA.

Rate it yourself with better resources

Twenty years ago it was helpful to have an organization like MPAA to give us a heads up. Today it’s just not needed. With websites like OK.com (LDS Church-produced) and kids-in-mind.com (not to mention the Parents Advisory section at IMDB) there doesn’t need to be surprises while sitting in the theater.

We all know that many PG-13 movies are trash (sorry Anchorman 2, I’m skipping out this round). By freely going to PG-13 movies just because they aren’t R, we are exposed to immorality and filth we know we should have avoided. Use these resources to make good judgment.

So Al, circling back to Lone Survivor, what are we going to do? Are we going to avoid it because it is R rated or because it has 143 F-bombs? ….tough call. ;)

There’s more to say on this topic so please comment below with your perspective. If you know of other resources you use to create your own judgment on media please share.

About 

Kurt Francom is the editor of LeadingLDS, a blog about improving leadership capabilities within the LDS Church. When he's not doing that, he works as a marketing consultant, serves as his ward's bishop, guest hosts on Sunday School Bonanza, and makes really, really cool caricatures at drawyoufunny.com/

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  • atari_guy

    What you have to understand is that the parents of today’s teenagers (including myself) were teenagers at the time Pres. Benson said not to watch R-rated movies. That was the law at the time. And so of course that’s being passed down to our kids. Although, fortunately, many of us are wise enough to also realize we don’t want our kids watching some PG-13 or even PG movies! :)

    • Jennifer Guthrie Packard

      in his talk, pres benson defines an r-rated movie as “depicting immorality and violence as acceptable behavior”. this pretty much describes most pg-13 movies nowadays. there is a more recent talk (oct conference 2007-ish, i believe it was russell m. nelson or m. russell ballard) that addresses this. in it, we are told that we can NOT rely on the rating system and that every family needs to decide FOR THEMSELVES what their personal standards are in regards to what movies they will or will not see. but be warned…if you mention this aloud, you can expect to be criticized and ridiculed by all the members who INSIST “the prophet said not to watch R-rated movies” but who can not produce any evidence to support that claim.

      • Guest

        Just wish to quickly thank you for your opinion. Keeping an open mind is how to learn and grow!

      • Bradford

        What if I decide FOR MYSELF x-rated movies are appropriate for me? Does moral relativity extend that far? I understand that MPAA ratings aren’t doctrine, but if anything we should be more selective of PG-13 films, not more liberal with R.

        • skgmarkham

          Hahaha taking that part of Jennifers comment out of context certainly validates your opinion (irony).

          She does not introduce the concept of relative morality- there is a line, amd she acknowledged it- and she doesnt in any way hint that you can draw your own line, but rather posited that all of us have to decide for ourselves case by case what is above and below the line. Notice that she cited a prophetic source.

          X rated movies depict immoral behaviour as acceptable, so your attempt to illustrate inconsistency through exaggeration fails because it is inconsistent.

          Also you parroted what she said about being more wary of PG13 movies, so you even agreed with her when you tried to invalidate her position.

          If you cant take a passage and objectively treat each part individually and as they relate to all other parts with the contemplation due said passage, you might not want to spend too much time in the comment section of articles.

          • Bradford

            It’s “reductio ad absurdum” – and I think you tried to find more to my comment than was even there.

            What’s the line she mentioned? I didn’t see one, only a statement that we each decide for ourselves. And we do, it’s all we can do, however just because we have determined our personal line doesn’t mean it’s correct. It seems your problem is more with my comment than with the points I made. Not much substance to your complaint, really.

            I’m frankly pretty baffled by all the reaching conclusions you formed of me, including your final near-incomprehensible invitation for me to go away because I jumped to too many conclusions. Sorry buddy.

  • Susan Bluth

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! It is a breath of fresh air in the whole Mormon R-rated movie “debate”. Not that it’s really a debate, but I do think many of us debate within our own hearts and minds. Although, I have had this “debate” with my sister, who insists that “the Prophet says we should not see R-rated, so I will never do so”. Yet, she will watch mindless, sometimes vulgar PG-13 movies with often far worse content and feel all is well.

    I am an active LDS person who does watch R-rated movies when they are thoughtful, sophisticated and tasteful treatments of important subjects. An R rating does not mean it is full of sex, violence and horrible language. I have seen many R-rated movies that had none of this; their ratings were due to content that was serious or of a very complex nature: There Will be Blood, The Green Mile, 12 Years a Slave, etc. These movies inspired me and taught me a great deal about mankind, hope, redemption, forgiveness, love, family, etc.

    A main problem with the LDS culture around this issue is the sense of judgment one feels disclosing the fact that you’ve seen an R-rated movie. We need to stop this type of black and white thinking and follow common sense and allow others to do what makes best sense to them. I often will check the parental guidelines on Fandango before deciding to see an R-rated movie. Not because I have children I want to take; but for myself. This is a realistic, accurate indication of what is in a film. I believe in educating myself first. I have been to too many PG-13 movie that were trash and many R-rated that were excellent to solely rely on a cultural dictum.

    • Camille

      I haven’t seen the movies you mentioned but I went to the site kids-in-mind.com to see for myself and from what I saw, the movies you listed all had sex, violence, and horrible language to great degrees.

      • Guest

        The first part of their last paragraph stated exactly YOU to a “T”… “…and allow others to do what makes best sense to them.” Not only are you judging them (not Christlike btw), but you whent out of your way to go and look up all those movies and come back to this site to pass your judgement….

        …Ive grown up in the church and agree with them 100%… and if i didnt? Is it MY place to judge him? NO! And it certainly isnt yours!

        And I know you and/or others will simply say thats not your intent… but i think you need to ask yourself if your conscience is clear in the matter…

        • Camille

          1) I apologize for the sarcasm and rudeness of my post. You are right in that it was not kind and I apologize for it and forgive you of the same.
          2) The claim was “An R rating does not mean it is full of sex, violence and horrible language. I have seen many R-rated movies that had none of this; their ratings
          were due to content that was serious or of a very complex nature: There
          Will be Blood, The Green Mile, 12 Years a Slave, etc.
          The fact is: the movies listed did contain all of these things. Yes, I went “out of my way” to see if this claim was true or not because I did not want to make the same mistake of assuming what was not true.
          Does this mean this person intentionally misled everyone? Nope. Chances are more likely that they forgot the movies contained these things as often happens. How many times have we discussed movies after the fact and said “I don’t remember that being in it.”
          3) Christ did judge, in fact. He judged the sincerity of the woman caught in adultery and forgave her and he judged the impure motives of the men who brought the woman to him. This was his right and calling as the Savior to judge these people. You are right in that it is not our place to judge whether a person goes to heaven or hell for their decision. But we do have to make judgements from time to time which is what all these comments are about: is this movie appropriate or not. judgement made. is that party a good place to be. judgement made. will this person life me up or bring me down or will I do either to them. judgement made. We must make certain judgements to gauge whether or not we are on the path the Lord intended and if we are helping or hindering others likewise.
          having apologized and tried to make myself more clear on the subject I can say that yes, my conscience is clear. As you said, that’s between me and the Lord. Judge for yourself on the rest of it.

          • summervw

            Good for you. Stay strong.

          • Brian Ash

            Oh, you must be Jesus. Nice to see you again.

          • Spencer Udall

            Never heard of a “good” rated-R. Seen one or two “good” PG-13′s. Even the majority of PG’s step on For the Strength of Youth’s guidelines. That’s why missionaries don’t watch many movies, because there aren’t many that won’t drive the Holy Ghost away from you at one point or another. But I guess we “normal” members don’t need the Spirit all the time like missionaries do, right?….

      • Lee Anderson

        You really have to take sites like kids-in-mind with a grain of salt. They just spout off anything that by itself would be considered offensive, they don’t take into account the context of the “evil” being depicted in the movie. The Book of Mormon has plenty of violence that on it’s own is deplorable and something I would want nothing to do with (rape, murder, cannibalism, adultery, etc.) but in context evil can teach us and drive us towards the light. That is why there must be an opposition in all things, we can’t learn good without evil. Granted that doesn’t mean we have to expose ourselves to evil to learn good, but media that accurately portrays evil and its consequences isn’t evil in and of itself.

        • Guest

          OK, there is a BIG difference between reading about violence and other things in the Book of Mormon and WATCHING it. Reading about violence in any book, unless they depict in GREAT detail exactly what was done, is nothing compared to watching it play out before your very eyes. When you read something you are STILL limited by your own imagination and experiences. When you watch something bad, you are limited by what you are seeing and then wherever your imagination goes with it. It opens you up to TERRIBLE Things that I doubt many people really want in out minds. For example, read this: The man was hit in the face and blood trickled from his lip. OR The man was hit in the face and he could taste the salty blood in the corner of his mouth as it dripped from his lip. Imagery in your head and imagery in a movie are totally different. Yes, some books have vivid imagery, and maybe those should be avoided as well. BUT when you SEE it you are not soon going to forget it. You are more likely to forget what you read than what you see. And EVERYTHING that we see affects us and changes us by small or large degrees.

          • Lee Anderson

            I agree with you. It’s harder to get images out of your head than it is to forget words or scenes from a book (at least in my experience). But, there are some movies that some would consider overly “edgy” that I hold in high regard, because of the way they communicated to me. Beyond arguing what is and isn’t right for everyone, this is mostly a discussion regarding the imaginary R-rated movie commandment that exists in LDS culture. We need to look beyond that and focus more on every type of media we entertain and not look disapprovingly at people who we think are crossing some imaginary line.

          • beccalouise

            Maybe you are an extremely visual person, but your experience does not apply across the board. I have thrown a Stephen King book across the room, not being able to stand reading it anymore because it was so terrifying or awful. I have watched the same movie and due to whatever reasons, the movie wasn’t even as close to being as scary as the book! They didn’t have the technology to make the visual movie as scary as my mind could make it seem to me. So your whole thing about movies versus books is really only relevant to you perhaps. Should i have been reading or watching Stephen King? Well, that depends.

            The only reason people don’t think about too much violence with the B of M is that it is not written in modern language. There is nothing magical about movies that can corrupt you that a book or song or something couldn’t do the same thing. The point is not the medium it is delivered in, the point is the content.

            That being said, I don’t follow the Prophet. the prophets are still just men, and are not infalliable. I cut out the middle man and I follow Christ. If I feel it is something that is appropriate to watch, then I will. If not, I will not. The end.

          • Lee Anderson

            I also don’t tend to read horrifyingly graphic books, apparently. I’ve never picked up a Stephen King book. I don’t like horror (I do know that not all of his books are horror). I’ve stopped reading books that have too much language that doesn’t fit the setting. Given a particular environment, I can handle certain language in books and movies, if it’s there just to be there, I can’t. Especially when it’s the Lord’s name in vain, which bothers me much more than any other four-letter word. I agree that the Book of Mormon isn’t the best example, because while it does contain violent and evil acts, they aren’t described in excruciating detail and are completely in context of teaching the depravity that comes to mankind when they reject God.

            I do follow the prophet, but am also concerned with gaining a testimony for myself of what they have said. I know they don’t use the MPAA rating system anymore in General Conference or For the Strength of Youth, because this is a world-wide church and those ratings don’t mean the same thing outside the US, and, more importantly, they aren’t setup by God (but by well-meaning individuals, considering the state of the world, some people still want to warn us of explicit content).

            The best way to decide what movie to see (regardless of the rating) is to follow movie critics whose opinion you can trust. Also reference sites like commonsensemedia.org. Jonathan Decker just came out with a great book called 250 Great Movies for Latter-day families, that doesn’t contain any R-rated movies and provides scriptures and gospel topics that he’s found relevant to each of them.

      • Brian Ash

        The Green Mile and There Will Be Blood have no nudity whatsoever. There are no sex scenes whatsoever in There will Be Blood. There is one mildly uncomfortable sex scene between a husband and wife in The Green Mile – again, there is no nudity. Yet you just said that the movies had sex to great degrees.

        First off, you should read the article again and understand that you should allow others to do what makes best sense to them.

        Second, if you’re going to judge someone based on their movie choices, at least accurately portray the movies.

        • Author29

          That’s where people have to make their own judgement. As long as the nudity isn’t pornographic, (such as people good-naturedly skinny dipping and enjoying life) I would rather have that than seeing a guy get fried alive in an electric chair in the Green Mile. Or I’d rather here some bad words, than watch that scene. That scene was very emotionally disturbing to me. That’s where it comes down between the viewer and the Lord.

        • Spencer Udall

          Was that really the major point of the article?..

          I understood the thesis to be more like, “Stop rationalizing that its ok just because it’s not rated R.”

          “Vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way” will rule out about any R or PG-13.
          Even if it is “only one scene”

    • Chelsea Vose Hoer

      You are either with the Lord or you are with satan. There is a BLACK AND A WHITE!!!! If everything was Grey there would be no law. Rated-R moves are RATED-R for a reason. And the more you rationalize it the more you are falling deeper into confusion.

      I have not seen the moves you talked about. But have heard about the things that were contained in them. And they all have sex, violence, and horrific amounts of bad language. If you feel that Christ would be ok sitting next to you watching those movies then go right ahead. But you need to really think about how much of those things are desensitizing you.

      I don’t want to get too off subject but I have come to a realization. We are not judged at the end of our life, we are merely organized into the appropriate place for us that we have lived here on this World. The higher standards and higher morals we have, the higher place in the kingdoms we will reside. We are deciding with every choice we make where we want to live for eternity. I don’t think Christ would rationalize his standards of watching a movie with Sex, violence, and countless swear words just to watch a movie that really does not do us any good in the grand scheme of things.

      • Guest

        I couldn’t agree more. The prophet said it, so we do it. If he said we should all stand on our head for an hour a day, I would do it. We shouldn’t need a reason, or a justification. Christ was perfect, and we can’t be. But we can be perfect in things. Perfect in the word of wisdom, perfect in paying our tithing…and perfect in staying away from R rated movies.

        • lizzy

          Wow, amazing what u said. The prophet said it so we do it. What a mindless cult way of thinking. Learn whatever the hell you want and don’t ever follow blindly. .. ridiculous. Life is what you make of it, live it.

        • beccalouise

          That is not a good way of thinking. I don’t think any righteous Prophet would want you to stand on your head just because he said it. He would want you to pray to Heavenly Father to figure out whether or not you should do something, not just do it because he said so.

          • Spencer Udall

            Yea… well if you don’t want to trust the Prophet, just go watch a bad movie, lose the Spirit, feel depressed and then you’ll believe the Prophet! :)
            Once you’ve got a testimony of the living prophet you don’t need to pray to know that every single thing he says is true!

          • Dallin cervo

            So you believe that men live in the sun? Because Brigham Young said that. You dont drink any soda at all? because President Hinckley didnt. Prophets have said a lot of things. You have to know which are doctrine and what are opinions.

          • Spencer Udall

            Haha… I’ll let you decide if the prophets’ counsel on appropriate movies is opinion or commandment.
            Let me clarify what I said earlier: Once a testimony of the living prophet is acquired, you do not need to question if his prophetic counsel (not his personal opinions or habits as you have cited) is inspired.

        • Author29

          Apostle Charles W Penrose said, “President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.”

          It’s wonderful to want to follow the prophet. We should be constantly trying to follow the prophet as he gets revelation from the Lord. However, you have made us sound like a cult. This does no favor for Christ’s church. Please reread Uchtdort’s talk about prophets sometimes making mistakes. It was last general conference, a talk I think called “Come join with us.” Yes, we need to follow the prophet, but blind obedience is never good.

        • Dallin cervo

          Did you know that more prophets have said to not have playing cards in your house than to not watch R-Rated movies? Do you own playing cards? If so, then you need to get rid of them before you condemn people for seeing R-rated movies. This is the kind of arrogance that needs to be ridden of in the church.

      • beccalouise

        You may be right in comdeming those movies. I dont know. But you are missing the point. God does not determine which movies will be rated R. If he did, we could follow the movie ratings system without thinking twice. It is set by a bunch of Hollywood lowlifes, probably. I don’t know who does it, but I know they are not good judges. I was watching a seemingly innocent movie last week that suddenly showed most of a naked woman. It was rated PG-13. Why wasn’t it rated R? Should it have been? Does it matter? Not really. All that matters is the content. So you have to be willing to check out the content before you watch because the ratings system is almost completely arbitrary, it seems.

        • http://theshippinglane.com G-Off

          It’s done by the secretive panel of middle-aged adults within the MPAA. The MPAA does not disclose its true methodology for ratings and reveals very little about those who sit on the committee.

          • joseph peterson

            I remember when Michael Moore (yes, that one) was so mad because his “documentary” on 9/11 got an R-rating. I own this sorry excuse of a documentary, and I can tell you it has nothing in it to garner such a rating. He knew that too, which is why he was so mad because he said that not as many people would see it. the moral here, is often times, for ticket sales, etc, movie ratings can be political and economical, and the morality of such a rating is expedient to the times and usually quite fluid.

      • Author29

        Chelsea, please read the posts of Lindsay Brown and a few of the others, to see how you can disagree without being judgement. They are against seeing R rated movies, but truly spoke in a spirit of love. Your spirit is one of condemnation, in which I feel you have need to repent. Christ was most hard on the self-righteous people. You are being self-righteous. Here’s a Brigham Young quote for you. “Such a person has done wrong, and he cannot be a Saint, or he would not do so.” How do you know? … Do not judge such persons, for you do not know the design of the Lord concerning them; therefore, do not say they are not Saints. … A person who would say another is not a Latter-day Saint, for some trifling affair in human life proves that he does not possess the Spirit of God. Think of this, brethren and sisters; write it down, that you may refresh your memories with it; carry it with you and look at it often. If I judge my brethren and sisters, unless I judge them by the revelations of Jesus Christ, I have not the Spirit of Christ; if I had, I should judge no man”

        Some more things for you to think about.
        1. Would you judge those in different countries, who’s rating system is different than ours? What’s R here maybe be rated lower in a European country or what’s PG here may be rated higher in another country. You’re looking at the American rating system, a system set up by the arm of flesh, not the arm of God.
        2. Have you read the new Strength for Youth Pamphlet, in which the R rated counsel was omitted from the old one? That doesn’t mean every R movie should be seen. But it doesn’t mean your safe just watching PG or PG-13 either.
        3. Are you truly able to speak that some R rated movies won’t do any good, are you speaking for yourself? Speaking for myself, my life was changed for the better when I saw Schindler’s List. It made me want to sacrifice and lay down my life for others. I can’t say it will do the same for everyone, but it certainly helped me.

      • joseph peterson

        wow chelsea, i like your made-up doctrines. you should consider being a sidewalk preacher. I’ll make you a sign.

      • Guest

        Chelsea, you should apply Moroni’s promise to know if there is a Black and White or not. You can do this. I have faith in you! Way to be an upstanding, judgmental Mormon. You are the future!

    • Abe

      “Judging” is too loaded, let’s talk about “discernment”. http://doubtyourdoubts.blogspot.com/2014/01/they-judge-me-they-judge-me-not-they.html

    • Sandra

      I don’t know about the other movies, but The Green Mile definitely had some horrible language in it. I’m a born again Christian and I don’t watch R rated movies, M rated movies and lately I’ve noticed that a few of the Disney movies have a few mild curse words in them. It’s getting to the point that I had almost go to the book store and pick a good book to read instead of trying to watch a good movie. You never know when the actor or actress is going to throw out a really bad word. My Husband, myself and our 2 Grandsons, aged 14 and 11, are sitting and watching a movie that’s rated PG-13 and all of a sudden in the middle of the movie, here come the curse words. I turn the station. The Grandsons say Awwww, but we have to teach them right from wrong. They say, “it was in the middle of the movie and now we won’t ever know how it ended.” I’ll tell them it ended no good. lol They get over it when I find an oldie but goodie movie. We as parents and grandparents have to teach our children and grandchildren to the best of our ability. We’re not their friends. We’re their parents and grandparents. We have plenty of time to be their friends after we teach them all about life and the things in and around it.

  • Tevya Washburn

    One major factor in this line of thinking should be this simple fact: the MPAA does not, nor has it ever, released it’s guidelines or standards by which it rates movies. I’ve heard all kinds of rumors about how the process takes place, and the guidelines used. The simple fact is that we don’t know! We don’t know how it chooses to select ratings. Thus it would be pure foolishness to assume that somehow they align with our LDS values, and can therefore serve to guide our selections. They’re secret! We don’t really know what they mean. Therefore we should not trust or rely on them.

    • http://theshippinglane.com G-Off

      Yeah, it’s just this weird, anonymous gaggle of parents who have no disclosed methodology. And it is all clearly quite subjective. Movies can resubmit. Some movies are considered “culturally significant” so they get a pass (Look at “All the President’s Men” – loaded with language, but it is PG because it’s deemed “important. “The King’s Speech” took that approach with resubmission when it was given an R.)

      I think that any previous comments by Church leaders that used the MPAA system for reference were simply because that was the easiest way to paint a picture. Most Church members were American and most had an idea what an R-rated movie entailed. PG-13 was in its infancy. It was an easy explanation.

      Far be it from us to rely on personal revelation. ;)

      • dkmdlb

        The Matrix – rated R simply because it was released soon after Columbine and featured people in black coats shooting guns.

      • beccalouise

        I once watched Omega Man with Charlton Heston, rated PG, from the 70s(?), and was surprised to see at least two topless women. Did not expect that. But I learned that PG had a lot more serious content back then than it does now. I guess it had a broad range of content allowed. The weird thing is that these types of movies with PG ratings were around before LDS started thinking that it was R rated movies to avoid. Why didn’t they say PG on up? I’ve seen several old PG movies that would have been rated R today. Just seems weird how people seized on R rated movies as the only ones not to watch.

        • Author29

          What’s wrong with topless women. We were breastfed as kids, weren’t we? Frankly I’m tired of people making a bigger issue out of nudity than violence. By nudity, I don’t mean pornography or sexual immorality, I just mean human skin. Why should people make such an issue out of that, but not violence?

  • holly chaput

    Pray about it.

  • Ben

    Great post. Having the wrong expectations cabn be a real challenge to faith. I remember when Passion of the Christ (Rated R) was released and several general authorities and BYU leadership attended the film and talked about it. It made me question some things and challenged my faith a bit. Since then I have learned to make my own choices.

    • TWiM_Central

      But that said, “Passion,” was an overlong exercise in violence, and as Latter-day Saints, while we remember Christ’s suffering, watching him get flogged for ten minutes straight is very Catholic and not very Mormon.

  • Andrew R Langford

    You people make me sick. It also says that you are not to judge people based on action belief faith looks etc, But I see you do it every day. Passion of the christ was r rated llike a friend on facebook stated prior to this. Sheltering your children and hiding them from (r-rated) movies is sheltering them. Hiding them from the world. If evil was not ment for the world god would not alllow it. ANd bye keeping your children from it doesn’t exactly give them a choice does it? You’r forcing them to be good. Not giving them a choice between the two. Look that up in your book. Don’t get me wrong I do have a strong believe and relationship with god.

    • Josh

      We have a responsibility and right to teach our children, and guide – or set rules – for them while they’re young, so they might make they’re own wise choices when they’re older. And I’m sure you never make mistakes in your life, since your obviously in a position to judge everybody else.

    • Guest

      Im 21 years old, have grown up in the LDS church, and have seen many R-rated movies in my life… most of those I am ashamed to have seen… But even with your judging state of mind, I have to agree with you on one point. Hiding kids from evil in this world as if it doesnt exist is TERRIBLE!!!! I was sheltered growing up and when i moved out and saw the worlds for what it was, it was like a brick wall to the face! I wish i had had better preparation for the evil that is in this world, but sadly i didnt because i didnt even know half of it existed…. Ill even go as far as to say that most LDS members sort of refuse to accept a lot of the reality, living life as if it doesnt exist… well, it does! And you need to be ready for it!

    • TWiM_Central

      Smart bloke. I’m gonna take my kids to see “The Devil’s Due,” because, you know, the world is rough.

      The interesting thing about your statement, of course, is that it overlooks one of Christ’s central teachings – to be childlike, meek, humble, etc. Is it that our kids need to be sheltered and protected from the evils of the world, or is it really that we need to work to eradicate the evils from the world and children, in their innocence and closeness to the veil, are really the ones we should strive to emulate?

      Don’t get me wrong. The world is R-rated. Life is tough. But there’s no value in just throwing children to the dogs. They are not being denied choice. By your logic, every parents is committing some form of sin because they have standards and rules for their kids in all aspects of life. Is asking my son to do his homework forcing him to be good? Am I to let my child fail at school because he doesn’t learn the right work ethic there? No. Parents have a responsibility, but it is to teach kids as best as they can be taught and let the kids make their own choices as they mature and come to better understand the world.

  • Andrew R Langford

    one more thing If pornographic is bad in any way viewing or condoning

    then you are all sinners. Lusting towards your wife checking her out thinking about sex or other sexual encounters with her sex without intent to breed. Sex for pleasure. Are all sins. You people sin all the time. Not to mention judging like I stated previously. Sinning…..

    • Josh

      Bringing a husband and wife closer – or “pleasure” – is one of the main purposes of sex in a marriage, in addition to having children. Educate yourself about the LDS church teachings before you open your mouth next time.

    • skgmarkham

      (facepalm)

  • emperorbailey

    One thing I will say.
    I watched R rated movies all the time until I was 22, when I decided not to anymore.
    12 years later, I have occasionally noticed that I have been, to some extent, “re-sensitized,” and I find that encouraging. Sex, violence, and strong language make me flinch in a way that it wouldn’t have when I was 21.
    It’s hard to make a perfect line, excluding all that is inappropriate without excluding anything that is artistically significant. But the MPAA’s crude line is an improvement over nothing.
    Okay, one more thing:
    I also feel like producers of R-rated movies feel like they have a license to do whatever they want in their film, where those trying to reach a bigger or younger audience will feel some kind of boundary that they must stay within. They have to tell their story creatively

    • dkmdlb

      Have you seen the Matrix – it’s the perfect example of why the MPAA rating system ought to be ignored, or at least discounted.

      • Guest

        I second that statement^^

      • summervw

        Ha! I saw the CleanFlix version of it and was still appalled by the violence. Entertainment is so important to people- it’s amazing.

        • beccalouise

          agreed. it seems that sex and nudity are a big deal. but when it comes to violence, not a big deal, right? I think a high exposure to violence in entertainment is hurting a lot of people in this world. People are losing their empathy and their humanity because of it.

      • TWiM_Central

        Never seen the uncut versions of Matrix 2 & 3 (it’s understood that they “earned” their R ratings), but I recall being absolutely baffled why the original Matrix was given an R, unless the Wachowskis pushed for it or the MPAA was feeling ultra-sensitive because of Columbine.

        The original Matrix has no sex, no F bombs, no gore. A Bourne movie is more viscerally violent than that film.

        • dkmdlb

          Men in black coats with guns were scary in the days after Columbine. That’s literally the reason.

  • dkmdlb

    I realized MPAA ratings were worthless when I missioned in England, which obviously has a different ratings system. Plus, how is it possible that the MPAA has any kind of moral authority to determine which movies are appropriate? They don’t.

    Finally, the Matrix is an example of an excellent R-rated movie with essentially no objectionable content.

    The MPAA sucks, movie ratings are irrelevant, and individuals are responsible for their own decisions.

    Good article.

    • Bradford

      Violence is objectionable. Remember the famous scene in the Matrix where they shoot up the lobby? They murder dozens of people. Carelessly, cooly with their trenchcoats and sunglasses. Violence affects us. I love that movie, but I know how violence affects me. You don’t seem to understand that yet.

      People like to point out the violence in the Book of Mormon. I tell them, try and watch Apocalypto and compare the violence in that film with reading about it in the Book of Mormon. It’s not the same thing. It’s dishonest to claim that it is, and seems a weak attempt to justify behavior.

  • daddask8

    If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy we seek after THESE things..that’s been the council for like..ever!
    And what bugs me as much as saying “no r rated movies” are those who when a “good” R rated movie comes out goes a digging in the archives to find all the GA talks on “NO R” never being the guideline…they must sleep better at night knowing they’ve told everyone why they are going to the R rated movie…
    IF you’ve read the book, heard him speak and listened to all the talk shows he’s been on how exactly is the movie going to do anything more for you? We have our agency and have always been told to use it for the betterment of our selves and others…people who judge people who don’t see R movies or PG 13 and claim they are withholding reality and it’s sooo wrong are judging them like they don’t want to be judged..Get it? AND while I”m on my little soap box…some people LIVE the crap on the screen every day and really don’t want to pay to go see more of it! Just saying….

    • TWiM_Central

      I don’t believe the author is super concerned with “Lone Survivor” itself. He’s using it as a template for a broader discussion. What about, “The Kings Speech,” for example?

      • Kurt Francom

        Yeah….what TWiM said. It was simply an example to introduce a broader subject.

    • Author29

      To me virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy and of good report doesn’t necessarily mean always G-rated. On the contrary. I find the novel a Clockwork Orange to be lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report as it makes a great argument for free agency. The novel is brutal to be sure. But I was able to use it as an object lesson for a non-member who was having trouble understanding God giving people agency. I don’t judge people who don’t see R movies, but I wish some members wouldn’t judge me for seeing certain ones. That’s all I ask.

  • LetoII

    Found an interesting post on this topic from a Mormon blogger a few years back. He draws similar conclusions:

    http://forgottencenotaph.blogspot.com/2012/05/rated-r-for-retarded-part-2.html

    I think there’s a lot to be said about the artistic merit of movies and media in general, and whether we could be making better use of our time and our brains. Sure there are a lot of awful R-rated films, but I feel like there are more R-rated films that are at least trying to be artistic, or for “grown-ups”. PG-13 seems like a wasteland of mindless trash these days.

    • Bradford

      I wonder how much all the “art” we consume will be worth if all the other crap we consume along with it makes us more worldly or less sensitive to communicating with God?

  • Lindsey Brown

    I personally love using r-rated as a line to be drawn. then I only have to focus on figuring out which pg-13 to watch. I myself rarely watch pg-13. I have learned that everyone learns line upon line in this earth life. I don’t feel bound or bitter about the r-rated line I have drawn for myself. it helps me teach my child about choices and how to stay far away from media danger. I use any media we see to teach her how to judge for ourselves. Every person has to decide for themselves how they will remain pure. I personally get tired of people arguing whether it is good or bad. It doesn’t matter. set your own standards that you have learned from, line upon line and allow others to do the same. the standard in my home is no r-rated movies and it has been a blessing in my life.

    • summervw

      That is exactly how we should use lines. There were Ten Commandments- definite lines drawn, and then Christ came and showed us how to stay as far from the lines as possible. That’s all the R-rating referral was meant for. To let us know that the things movies are rated R for are the things to avoid. Shouldn’t make your decision harder- it should just make it easier! Oh- there’s obviously a bunch of stuff in there that even non LDS people consider offensive. Ta DAAA! Since when is a good story. since when is ENTERTAINMENT worth subjecting yourself to those things?? Their counsel to also thoughtfully consider your own standards wasn’t a “loophole” for going to R-rated movies! It was admonishing us to look at ALL movies and stay away from all the crap. Which means we need to be super cautious with PG-13! People are so immature.

      • Guest

        I think you are missing the point. This article is not describing a ‘loophole’ to justify seeing ‘R’ rated movies. I studied film at BYU, and some of my studies included viewing rated ‘R’ films. These films were powerful, and have shaped me to be who I am today (which includes being a strong, faithful member of the church).

        I think the author is just trying to open people’s mind to the concept that there are beautiful, worth-while films out there that have an ‘R’ rating. If you don’t want to ‘subject’ yourself to such entertainment, then don’t. Just please, don’t call us ‘immature’ for choosing to watch an occasional ‘R’ rated film. It is a personal choice.

        • beccalouise

          I took it as the author is saying that more often, there are a lot of PG 13 movies we shoudn’t be watching. And a lot of PG movies for that matter where children disrespect their parents constantly and other offensive material. Heck, there was a PBS kids show that I wish my daughter hadn’t watched because they showed a different vaccine philosophy than what we do in our family. But he is saying a particular rating doesn’t make it good or bad inherently. I don’t take it as a free license to start exploring R rated movies, but that is only because almost every R rated movie I have ever seen, I later wished I hadn’t because of the content was vulgar, to violent, etc.

    • beccalouise

      yes, that is exactly what I do, and I think that is what the article is really saying as well. even if there are some R rated movies that are ok, I will still be ok without seeing them. I would rather do more productive things anyway (like make comments on the internet, haha).

    • Author29

      I want to say that even though I watch a few R-rated movies, I love what you said, Lindsey. It was beautiful and thought-provoking.

  • Jennifer Wilkinson

    I do agree with you with the R-Rated Movie thing. I used to go see R movies a lot too (and will still some of the old ones that I saw). There was nothing said about it really. I’ve been an active member my whole life. But now, since I am a single Mother of a son (who is about to be ordained a Deacon later this year), I haven’t had the money to go to the movies a lot like I used to (I’m not sad about that anyway, I have better things to spend my money on). Besides, seeing some of the previews of some of those movies now, I wouldn’t pay 0.10 to see.

  • Guest

    I get the point this article is trying to make, ‘just because it’s not R doesn’t mean it’s okay.’ Unfortunately, it had the effect that I was afraid it would, such a people taking that to mean ‘as long as the Should we base our viewing choices on ratings alone? Absolutely not, but it’s been my experience that pg-13 and up are generally not stuff I want stuck in my head forever. Even some PG could fall under that distinction. Despite what other commentators have said, I’ve never seen an R rated movie that didn’t have at least one of the following: violence, or sex, or language and not just to a mild degree. These are the reasons shows get R-ratings. Imperfect though it may be, the MPAA does have guidelines to go by and that’s a starting point for us to review but not ultimately decide. I still don’t always make the best choices in my viewings, but I do feel safe if I steer clear of R and PG-13 generally. Should I come across a PG-13 the really sparks my interest I look at the trailer, the MPAA’s reasons for the rating and if needed the reviews on the sites listed in the article. But generally, when it comes to it I end up not seeing it because, could I enjoy the movie overall, probably. Will my life be unfulfilled and incomplete if I never saw a single movie? Nope.

  • Camille

    I get the point this article is trying to make, ‘just because it’s not R
    doesn’t mean it’s okay.’ Unfortunately, it had the effect that I was
    afraid it would, such as people taking that to mean ‘as long as the
    story is ‘thoughtful and I learn something’ then it’s okay regardless of the rest of the content.’ Should we base our viewing choices on ratings alone? Absolutely not, but
    it’s been my experience that pg-13 and up are generally not stuff I
    want stuck in my head forever. Even some PG could fall under that
    distinction. Despite what other commentators have said, I’ve never seen
    an R rated movie that didn’t have at least one of the following:
    violence, or sex, or language and not just to a mild degree. These are
    the reasons shows get R-ratings. Imperfect though it may be, the MPAA
    does have guidelines to go by and that’s a starting point for us to
    review but not ultimately decide. I still don’t always make the best
    choices in my viewings, but I do feel safe if I steer clear of R and
    PG-13 generally. Should I come across a PG-13 the really sparks my
    interest I look at the trailer, the MPAA’s reasons for the rating and if
    needed the reviews on the sites listed in the article. But generally,
    when it comes to it I end up not seeing it because it’s probably not worth it and it won’t change my life if I don’t. Could I enjoy the
    movie overall, probably. Will my life be unfulfilled and incomplete if I
    never saw a single movie? Nope.

    • Airpower

      2 F-Bombs and its R. Not a hard rating to hit, but you’re point is still valid

      • TWiM_Central

        Actually, that’s not even concrete. I believe films can get away with 3 f-bombs now and maintain PG-13, but it is very subjective.

        “As Good As It Gets” had 3 f-bombs and all sorts of other delights (like Helen Hunt’s bootay), and yet, PG-13. Strange world we live in.

        • Author29

          Would you rather hear the F bomb or the Lord’s name being taken in vain? The F word is tacky, no doubt, but I would rather here it than the name of Christ or God being used in vain.

  • Josh

    Thank you for this article. I am in the military, and enjoy movies like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. They accurately represent most aspects of military culture, and remind us of historical lessons and sacrifices in our country’s history. On the other hand, I cringe whenever a church member says they love a movie like Austin Powers or something. It contains nothing of value. Anyway, just my opinion.

    • joseph peterson

      blackhawk down remains one of the most impactful movies for me I’ve ever seen. I think everyone should watch it.

  • Sally Wilkin

    I am not surprised it had a whopping amount of 143 F bombs dropped in it after watching. Hopefully a television/family-safe version becomes available to families with these same concerns because it is really an amazing story.

  • Bob

    Our Solution: Get a Clearplay and just wait for the movie to come out on DVD. It cuts out all of the foul language and undesireable scenes.

    • TWiM_Central

      Tried it with Showgirls. All I got was 20 mins of Kyle MacLachlan talking.

  • TopHat8855

    From what I can tell, ok.com is not LDS-church-made. I didn’t see the official Church logo anywhere. Please make sure you aren’t falsely advertising it as Church-made.

    • TWiM_Central

      OK.com is produced, maintained, and owned by Deseret Digital Media, which is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is a for-profit holding company owned by the Church. The Church’s logo may not be there, but is the Church’s logo on Deseret News? Is it on KSL? The Church owns all of that.

      • TopHat8855

        But that doesn’t mean everything KSL and DN produce are Church-approved or at Church-standards. (and thank goodness for that!)

      • OK.com

        Well stated!

        • AJ13

          People can find ways to justify anything. They can justify sex before marriage because they are “in love” and you can justify seeing R movies. It comes down to what you were taught and what you know is right. Like Jiminy cricket said “let your conscience be your guide.

          • OK.com

            That is precisely what we are trying to accomplish. We hope that through what ok.com offers, people will do their research and fulfill Jiminy Cricket’s statement. The entire goal is to empower individuals to make wise media decisions.

          • Kurt Francom

            Rumor has it….Jiminy Cricket is Mormon.

            …just gonna put that out there.

    • OK.com

      Ok.com is run by Deseret Digital Media, whose parent company, Deseret Management Corporation, is owned by the LDS Church.

  • Guest

    Are we so desperate to be entertained that we need to watch R-rated movies? This argument isn’t new. Someone is surely going to post that “if the Book of Mormon were a movie it would be R-rated.” Ok sure – whatever. The fact is, for those of us living in America, the Brethren have drawn a line. They have also told us to be very careful with movies that have a less restrictive rating. They are trying to help us place safeguards in our life so we can avoid the thoughts that these kinds of movies tend to trigger.

    Ultimately, you can make the choice. Pres. Monson isn’t going to find out if you sneak in an R-rated movie. It’s silly to try to rationalize your decision in a public forum, simply to help you feel better. There are plenty of people who will agree with you and plenty who won’t. But you’re the one that has to deal with the consequences of watching.

    • Tyler

      … They have not drawn a line. And movies aren’t solely “entertainment”. The church uses film as an educational medium and is not alone in those regards. There are some very important messages conveyed in movies where the producers realized that the best way to portray them was to show us some very raw and mature content eg Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan.
      “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I won’t go out of my way for R-rated movies because I know the content will be explicit so I need to know that if I’m going to subject myself to it then it will be worth it. That’s where the “good report or praiseworthy” comes in. I want to know what’s going on in the world and sometimes that requires stepping out of the bubble. How else can we make a difference in the world? It’s one thing to have read about war in a textbook and another thing entirely to see a good representation of its real effect on the people involved.
      The point is avoid explicit material like that found in most R-rated movies but don’t let it deter you from the opportunity to become a better human being. There are important lessons to be learned that require more maturity than the audience of a PG movie.

    • Lee Anderson

      I second Tyler’s answer that movies aren’t solely “entertainment.” They are an art. The same guidelines for reading books, looking at art, listening to music goes for watching movies. Some people do just want entertainment and serious material isn’t good for entertainment, so it’s easy to draw a line. But for those looking for something deeper, your PG movies don’t often have much to offer (there are some obvious exceptions). I think the Book of Mormon argument is somewhat valid, the “mature” content in the book is presented in context and shows proper consequences. We are supposed to learn from opposition (that includes opposition represented in media).

      • Slop_j30

        True. Problem is, Lee, relatively few people (LDS or otherwise) see movies as anything but entertainment. In the case of the more pious LDS, they don’t even want that . . they want to feed a strange preoccupation with Pollyannish wholesomeness they’re convinced keeps The Sprit happy and Satan at bay. If you couldn’t tell, I find this goofy, but then film as an art form is important to me. Someone truly interested in film as art . . not just as a diversion or comfort food . . has to be willing to look past superficial concerns like a certain Very Naughty Word Indeed or a few nipples. To anyone who lets all that awful, horrible stuff bother them and prefers to just be happy “following the brethren,” then fine; great, go do that. I just won’t accept that they’re equipped to discuss the art of filmmaking when they have tunnel vision for the 10% of movies that feed their wholesomeness fetish. There is great value in some of the darker corners and off-the-map destinations of cinema. People who refuse to acknowledge that are basically children who won’t try new, yucky-looking dishes because, well, yuckiness BAD.

    • Josh

      You do realize your faulty logic here bringing in the BoM example, right? Just dismissing a valid point with “whatever” undermines your argument. The BoM does have graphic, violent, sexual themes, and it uses them to teach, to make a point, or illustrate something in context.
      No one is “sneaking” into R-rated movies, and like the article and other commentors have said, there hasn’t been ANY line made. No, there is no special rule for the United States.
      You shouldn’t take children to see an R-rated movie because it contains MATURE elements. Yes, MANY of the films contain inappropriate content, but that’s not necessarily a reason to blacklist ALL R-rated movies. Saving Private Ryan is one of the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen, and it’s rated R for good reason. We’ve taken mature storytelling and combined it with cheap, graphic entertainment to create the idea that “R-rated movies are all bad.”
      You’re wrong.

    • Kurt Francom

      The point of the article was not to justify anything. The point was to state the Brethren have not drawn a line because if they did that would be like setting a speed limit. Nobody drives 45 mph in a 75 mph zone (that’s what Elder Robbins was trying to teach). If we were to respect the rating system I would argue to watch less PG-13 movies, not more rated R movies.

      Thank you for reading my article and commenting.

  • Airpower

    i am a current member of the US Air Force. Yes, there was a strong presence of language in this movie. It’s the military, it’s war… it happens. For me, it comes down to how I feel after I watch a movie. Do I feel inspired? Do I feel like becoming a better person? or do I feel degraded, afraid, angry, or disgusted? I left Lone Survivor feeling inspired to honor those who have given and paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our god-given rights. There is a reason no one leaves the theater with a dry eye and its not due to a depressing story, but one of inspiration, brotherhood, and holding to the values and code one deems valiant in life. Would not hesitate to recommend this movie to any person of age.

    • Bradford

      How do you judge a movie before going to it if your criterion is how you feel after it? BTW, USAF as well. I’ll be waiting for the edited release of this one. I am patient.

      • Lee Anderson

        That’s an interesting question. I have a similar way of analyzing movies I’ve seen, and I think you just have to be smart with the ones you choose to watch. If it looks inspiring, it might be or might not be. If it isn’t, the important part is that you recognize that it isn’t (especially since you did some homework before and are OK with the content that will be presented). Even if you’re partially inspired, but disgusted by something wrongly represented in the movie, it’s important to recognize that and keep your discernment sharp. A healthy analysis (keeping a blog, reading reviews) will help sharpen one’s ability to properly critique media in all its forms, and as a result be able to properly communicate its value to others.

    • Tracie

      That’s the way I felt about slum dog millionaire, one of my absolute favs, and the movie I am always defending rated r for

  • rickdoc

    I just watched a movie the other night on netflix — being careful, because it was rated ‘R’, but I never had to stop it or turn it off — not one cuss word, not one nude or partially nude or sex scene — I will grant the violence. However, I believe the problem is not violence, that being rather replete in the scriptures themselves (some rather completely gratuitous — in fact some rather totally morally wrong!) — I won’t be contemplating any bad language or immoral behavior because of this movie. Several years ago I watched, in the same day, two movies, one rated ‘R’ and one ‘PG’ — the ‘R’ movie had no cuss words, no sex and no nudity, but violence (war) — the ‘PG’ had several cuss words, and a full frontal upper torso nude female scene. And I was watching the ‘PG’ with my kids!! While the ‘F’ word repeatedly used makes a movie uncomfortable to watch for me, many ‘R’ movies have far less nudity and sex scenes, as well as sex language and innuendo, than many ‘PG-13′s’.
    I find it ironic that we Mormons use without questions a rating system devised by the very people who insert into movies the very scenes and language that, for the most part, could be removed/replaced without altering the intended impact of the movies — IN FACT, they simultaneously DO remove/replace those scenes/language in order to have a ‘TV Version’, simultaneously, with the same actors voicing the substituted words in order to be TV-compatible!!
    We are a strange inconsistent people…

    • beccalouise

      agreed, except for the fact that violence doesn’t seem to be a big deal to you. look up studies on violent movies, cartoons, video games, and how they affect people. at least shield your kids from it.

  • Spencer Samuel Smith

    “Often, the evil is in the viewing, not the making” – BYU Professor

    • Taylor

      GUYS LOOK WHAT A BYU PROFESSOR SAID THATS WHAT WE NEED TO DO NOW. THE LIGHT HAS SHOWN UPON US.

  • Jennifer Guthrie Packard

    ok…i found it. the conference talk i have referred to in my previous comments was given by M. Russell Ballard, in November 2003. here is an excerpt…notice how he tells us exactly what movies/media to avoid, without ever using a MPAA rating…

    “Of course the most basic way to protest negative-impact media is simply not to watch it, see it, read it, or play it. We should teach our family members to follow the First Presidency’s counsel to young people. From the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, their instruction regarding entertainment and the media is very clear:

    “Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable. …

    “Have the courage to walk out of a movie or video party, turn off a computer or television, change a radio station, or put down a magazine if what is being presented does not meet Heavenly Father’s standards. Do these things even if others do not.”

    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 and destroy.’

    hope that helps clarify my statements…happy viewing!

  • J.L.J.

    When I taught seminary for 2 years, we were counseled NOT to even address ratings but focus only on principles when discussing media. This was shortly after “Titanic” came out and was a reaction to a number of Seminary teachers in Utah making their students sign pledges not to see the movie. We were trained that ratings were unimportant and, frankly, not a standard, because of their changing and inconsistent nature.

    Since that time, I have researched the MPAA board and have very little faith in them. I’m not sure what people think the MPAA board is when they visualize them, but it is a highly secretive board whose own members fail to meet some of the criteria established for them. It is influenced by corporate greed and a very controlling, undemocratic organization. With that said, they obviously do have guidelines for producing ratings, but those who believe it could be classified a standard are themselves deceived. Obviously it’s not wise to ignore them altogether, but I have found I use them as only a starting point from which I quickly move away from and then research films on my own in determining whether the theme and content of the movie is worth my time.

    Regarding the specific R-Rating, when trained in Seminary, we specifically addressed President Benson’s talk from 1987 and were told, in sum, that selectively removing the sentence denouncing R-Rated films removed that statement from the context of the talk which was opposed to the overall message. Indeed, after having us read the talk in its entirety, the meaning of that phrase was abundantly clear and left us all scratching our heads how so many members looked beyond the mark in claiming that was an authoritative statement to the entire body of the Church, when in fact he clarified himself at the beginning of the talk that it wasn’t. He was talking about, again, principles we can use in determining the worth of media, and eventually began listing specific forms that often contained vulgarity and other offensive material. The sentence by itself seems crystal clear, but so is the context of that sentence amid a reading of the entire talk (also an interesting side note we briefly discussed at the time, in 1987, the PG-13 rating was brand new, so new, in fact, that most people hardly had any understanding of what it would eventually become to entail, and because of that the ratings themselves were more commonly a topic of conversation unlike they are today and were specifically alluded to in general conversation more often due to the changed nature of the ratings and the newly introduced ambiguity in what that meant for the future).

    Now having said that, I am not justifying seeing R-rated movies willy nilly. Indeed, part of the emphasis in our training was avoiding giving students the impression that we were giving them permission to see them. This had to be done carefully. Using the principles given, there are PG-13′s I will not see, just as they are very few R-rated movies I have seen. Some of them were at the request of religious faculty at BYU in preparation for interviewing general authorities who had served in wartime so we could better understand their experience. Yes, they were violent, they are R after all, but the 3 we were requested to watch left me with a strong spiritual impression that has served me to this day in a positive manner and influenced the way in which I teach my own children. Of course, one can use the example of “The King’s Speech” versus “The Social Network.” Of those movies, one left me inspired, the other left me spiritually offended.

    Having said that, it is also of the utmost importance to emphasize what does indeed make our own Church so unique–personal revelation. Our ability to commune with the Spirit is unique, and indeed that personal communication of which we are all capable is unique to our own life experiences and sensitivities. Of the very few R-rated movies I have seen, I would not recommend them to people whose sensitivities to feel the spirit were different than mine. It speaks to all of us differently, and we perceive and interpret it differently, and what may be spiritually offensive to one person may be spiritually inspiring to another (I am careful here to clarify this is a narrow, not a broad statement, inferring somehow that specific forms of evil could be construed to be spiritual, that is not what I am implying). Ironically, I have found that some people who have condemned me for praising the spiritual virtue of a select few R-rated films will turn around and watch a PG-13 film whose sexual content I probably find just as offensive as they do the violent content in the other films. I have always been ultra sensitive to sexual content and sensuality in films, partly because that is often authentic, not artificial, like the depictions of violence.

    So it really boils down to personal preference, and the danger then of applying what is personally spiritually inspired for us as the new standard for the rest of the Church. After seeing an ultra offensive R-rated film in high school, only the second I had seen, I made a promise to myself never to see another one, and even wrote it on a paper and signed it. Imagine my surprise when, employed by BYU, I was then asked to view an R-rated war film in preparation for an assignment I had been tasked with. I struggled with it, and eventually resolved my conundrum by placing my faith in unchanging standards, not changing ones, and principles rather than politics (which believe me, the MPAA most surely is). I felt relieved when the next year, I had my aforementioned experiences in the CES/Seminary program that reiterated what I had already come to believe on my own through self introspection and prayer. Even still, I do not claim to have had the standard revealed to me by which all other members should adhere to–only that every member is entitled to an experience of their own, such as the one I had, where they can have personally revealed to them a plan for personally applying the principles taught in how to select what media we view. The spirit knows how we best hear it, and how we best will interpret it, and it knows what avenues are open to us that may be closed to others in communicating with us, and it will inspire us to close those that to us may be offensive that may, to others, may remain open because the spirit can uniquely reach others on that very channel you felt inspired to close.

  • J.L.J.

    I apologize–in my zeal to share my own experiences and respond to some of the comments already shared, I failed to thank Kurt for this article in the first place! So thank you! I use the resources you referenced, ok.com and kids-in-mind regularly, as well as screenit.com. I wish I could just convince people to completely ignore the MPAA but use those sites in determining what movie to see.

  • Nathan Allen

    One of our “very Mormon” movies, Saint and Soldiers, was almost R-rated because of the war depictions and because the main character gets killed. The producers and directors of the film had to work very hard and be very convincing in order to obtain a PG-13 rating. So, in a sense all Mormons who have seen that film have seen an R-rated movie because that is what it was originally going to be.

    This and a few other R-rated movies are very inspirational and non-damning in my opinion, but they are few. As we move up the rating system from G to R the likelihood of the movie being “bad” increases. This is why I tend to put in more thought and research before seeing an R or PG-13 rated movie than seeing a G rated Disney cartoon with my nephews.

    • Lee Anderson

      Good points. But also beware of the G and PG-rated movies that don’t accurately portray evil. There’s nothing to learn from movies that just share a gooey story of sunshine and rainbows. Movies and books can be great teaching sources for us as we learn to understand how to recognize evil, how certain actions produce certain consequences, etc. All media needs to be filtered or judged cautiously.

      • Slop_j30

        This is the same point I’ve made to my dad whenever he complains about today’s violent movies. Back in tha day, John Wayne could shoot an Injun and he’d just fall off his horse, dead. No big deal. No blood. Is this somehow “better” for you than seeing brain matter spray out of someone’s head after being shot? Sure, it’s less unpleasant, but isn’t that in fact more desensitizing that brutal graphic shots? Shooting no good cattle rustlers looks like fun when they just keel over neatly. Seeing someone’s skull cave in after being hit with a baseball bat tends to leave an impression: “avoid angry men wielding baseball bats.”

  • Justin

    So the guy writing the article is totally fine with reading books with countless F-words in it, but then when it is put to film it becomes a problem? This is one of my pet peeves. If you can read the language then you should be comfortable hearing it. If you are going to take a stance at least be consistent.

    • Kurt Francom

      Ha! Isn’t irony great?

      Just to clarify, no where in the article was I arguing whether one should see or not see the movie. I just used it as an example.

      You are correct….there are a lot of F-bombs in the book. I guess my next article should be about how to personally rate books one might read. ;)

  • Lediesa

    The current, For the Strength of Youth (which we have been told applies to adults too) does not use a rating system, but counsels to avoid anything that is “vulgar, immoral or violent in anyway” or that presents “immorality or violent behavior as acceptable”. My husband and I have yet to find many PG-13 movies that can pass that standard. But when I was a youth, in the late 80s and early 90s, the For the Strength of Youth stated not to watch R rated movies. It seems clear to me that the, it’s ok if it’s PG or PG-13 needed to be clarified and it has been.

  • Guest1

    After reading all these comments, I can see where people are coming from on both sides of the argument. I also feel that it’s a bit ridiculous to try to justify your actions with blog posts, comments, etc. If you feel that certain movies are off limits or inappropriate based on their ratings, that’s great for you. And if others select entertainment based on other criterion, that’s great for them. What bothers me is when people try to press their personal interpretation on other people, whether it’s for or against R-rated material. For me personally, I don’t feel like I need to justify what I choose to watch (or read or play or listen to) to an internet community or anybody else for that matter. It’s really nobody’s business. I have the utmost respect for people who set boundaries for themselves and their families regarding entertainment, even if it’s strictly based on a rating. I also place no judgment on someone who watches R-rated material, and do not see them as breaking any commandments by that action alone. To me, it’s a non-issue that is best left to the discretion of the viewer. If you don’t want to see it, then don’t, but don’t try to guilt trip others into feeling bad about themselves for something you yourself haven’t even seen. If you think it’s a sin, then why directly and personally attack people for doing it? I’ve never seen that change behavior.

    My issue is with “edited/clean” versions of movies. That to me is a blatant attempt at altering a work that isn’t yours. If you don’t want to see it as it is intended to be seen, then why do you feel the need to see it at all? Just watch something else. There are plenty of other options out there. I was overjoyed when places like Cleanflicks were finally shut down.

    • Bradford

      Hey! Don’t try to guilt trip me into feeling bad about myself about an edited movie you yourself haven’t even seen! If you think watching edited movies is a blatant attempt at altering a work that isn’t mine, then why directly and personally attack me for doing it? I’ve never seen that stop me from watching an edited movie.

  • George Gershwin

    I agree 100 billion percent. Some of my favorite movies are rated R. Some I wish I could use for examples in my Relief Society lessons at times. Sadly they are too dramatic to be in a “safe” rating zone. No filth, nor swearing (ok maybe once in a while, but that’s character driven – right?) with just too much depth of emotion acted out too well for “safety”. I don’t watch things because they are R just like I wouldn’t watch something because it was PG-13. PG or even G, for that matter. It fascinates me the degrading things some of my “gasp” friends watch and waste their time and energy on.

    It is the same with books. We had a ward book club that our Bishop insisted we only read books from Deseret. Ummmm, have you seen some of those LDS Harlequins? Then he directed us to only the classics like Les Mis…oops based on a rape and a convict, or Jane Eyre…wait, cheating husband, maybe The Scarlet Letter…well, let’s not even go there.

    I do know that at our stake baptisms while waiting for our ward’s turn they showed the LDS portrayal of Jesus’ life where he is whipped and the crown of thorns is placed on his head at the end, you know which one I’m talking about, right? My 6 year old twins had nightmares for weeks about their brother Jesus. All from going to their big brother’s baptism…nice. If people would actually think about what they are seeing and who the targeted audience is instead of blindly following ratings we’d all be far better off, with less nightmares.

  • Chris Larson

    It all comes down to how one feels about following the prophet. President Beson was pretty clear. “Don’t see R-rated movies…” Do you or do you not beleive that this is prophetic council? Rating specific advise has been given by other apostles. as well. I understand the spirit of the article. The rating isn’t important. The content is. Saints ought not view anything vulgar or profaine or violent.

    • Lee Anderson

      He was also directing this statement to the Aaronic Priesthood during a Priesthood session of conference. Don’t forget the rest of the quote, “Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.” Immoral, suggestive, or pornographic are what we are supposed to avoid, that is the filter we should apply to the media we entertain.

      • beccalouise

        Good point. So to the subject of violence, is it immoral or moral? Is Nephi killing Laban moral or immoral. I am going to say it was moral. Is some guy killing some other guy on a movie moral or immoral. 99% of the time it was immoral. There’s a good rule of thumb to apply to those who don’t think violence is a big deal.

        • Lee Anderson

          Very true and good to keep in mind. The movies done by the Church on Joseph Smith, the Testaments, Legacy, etc. all portray some level of violence. It is done in a way that isn’t gratuitous and is portrayed as true evil. If a movie shows violence as immoral and isn’t gratuitous, I would judge the movie moral.

    • beccalouise

      I don’t know if that was the Lord’s words, or just the prophet’s opinion. Or maybe it was both. I know I can pray about it to find out. But I also know that some church leaders voice their opinions and it isn’t necessarily God’s words that are always coming out of their mouths. So praying is necessary to figure out which is which.

    • Author29

      Yes, there is prophetic counsel Chris and there are commandments. This was counsel. Many leaders, while advocating following the prophet, have also said one needs to make their own decisions too. Here are some quotes.

      “Do not, brethren, put your trust in a man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone…” George Q Canon

      “There are altogether too many people in the world who are willing to accept as true whatever is printed in a book or delivered from a pulpit.” Hugh B Brown

      “And while all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile…” Hugh B Brown

      “We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.” Joseph F Smith

      Now, all those quotes said, I think it’s very important to follow the prophet. When the prophet speaks, I take it very seriously. But it’s not an excuse either for shutting off your brain and asking the Lord these questions. As President Uchtdorf said, mistakes have been made. And I think the drawing the line at R was, not a mistake in this case, but more counsel. I guess what I’m saying is while I love and sustain the general authorities and the prophet and work very hard to follow them, that not everything said is going to be Gospel Doctrine.

    • Kurt Francom

      I highly recommend you listen to Elder Robbins’ talk. My article was not a plea to throw out any prophetic counsel. As Elder Robbins’ suggests, President Benson wasn’t drawing a line but many are interpreting the counsel incorrectly.

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting.

  • Lee Anderson

    I’m glad to hear this talked about more. I ran a movie review blog for a couple years and very cautiously posted a few reviews of r-rated movies (some watched edited, others not). I’ve had a hard time explaining this to those close to me who have a hard time separating Mormon culture from Mormon doctrine. I included a two-part post on my blog making some of the same points you mentioned – http://movies.losanderson.com/2011/09/discussion-on-viewing-r-rated-movies-in.html and really liked Orson Scott Card’s article on the topic and referenced it quite a bit – http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-r-rated-movie.html . It is ultimately our responsibility to not rationalize our viewing of movies with strong content. But at the same time, I support people who draw that line, and are still judicious, because they are saving themselves the time and effort to weed out the larger number of useless r-rated movies to find the few good/great ones.

  • Beauford T

    This is the cause of arrested development you find at every mid-singles LDS activity. I see adults playing hide and seek. There are topics and entertainment that are produced for adults. Just because I watch a drama about mobsters does not incline me to become a mobster. Movies are made to cover all aspects of the human experience. Good ones transport us to have a better understanding of all walks of life.

    Be an adult. Make the decision for yourself. I’ve personally put away childish things and derrive the bulk of my entertainment from books and movies that are produced for adults. Frozen, Mosters U and Stuart Little are for children. Shawshank Redemption, The God Father and Shindlers List are adult entertainment. I prefer the later group. Only an extremist would obsess and feel guilty over a rating.

  • Riss

    This is a good article. I use both the rating of a movie and my own judgment to decide whether or not I will see a movie. The websites you provided are great! Though, none of them are actually LDS church produced. Maybe the websites are LDS member produced. They are still a good tool to use but your own judgment is the best tool! And if you get into a movie that you’d rather not have seen then just leave.

  • Be Random

    This is a great article. This is one of my biggest pet peeves that I ran into on my mission. The idea that the leaders of the Church or even the Lord draws the line of whats ok or not is a horrible idea. For anyone that believes that it is because they are naive and do not understand the commandments. It was a sickening feeling when I was asked be many members of the church, “elder we can’t drink caffeine because the prophet said so right, or (as said in the above article) we can’t watch rated R movies because the prophet said so right? I would reply I drink coke everyday for lunch or I watch a rated R movies the day before I became a missionary ( maybe not the best example but the point is there). The lord gives us a few things that we must not do, ie, Word or Wisdom (no alcohol, tobacco, coffee, illicit drugs, or tea), 10 commandments, and law of chastity ect., The rest become commandments between you and the lord. If you feel that the spirit of the lord is impeded by watching something, or doing something then you ought not do it. This can and will be different for all people, and no matter what the standards of one person are, it is not up to us to judge if they are a sinner or saint because of it.

  • destroyingangel

    Wait for the DVD to come out and turn on the filters to eliminate whatever you want: profanity, sex, drugs, but you can keep the violence. LONE SURVIVOR violence is about on a par with Ammon chopping off a bunch of arms at the river Sebus (IMHO). But that’s just me . Turn on the violence filter in degrees if you want. I turned off the profanity in ZOMBIELAND AND HAD A GREAT NIGHT WITH THE GRANDKIDS!

    • beccalouise

      I don’t know what Lone Survivor is. Was the violence necessary to further the purpose of God, like it was in Ammon’s case? I think it makes a big difference.

      • destroyingangel

        LONE SURVIVOR is the Wahlberg movie about heroism in Afghanistan and shows the price four SEALs paid for not killing some innocent people. On a par with Ammon? Probably not. Probably worth seeing though, without the profanity.

        • Author29

          I’m sorry destroyingangel, but what you said was ridiculous. People being killed is worse than profanity.

          • destroyingangel

            Seeing bad guys get what’s coming to them isn’t profane to me. I know, I know, “Judge not…” Then again, my own novel DESTROYING ANGEL spells out the rules of engagement thoroughly enough to satisfy me.

  • Kathleen S Dew Dempsey

    We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading. President Ezra Taft Benson

    Maybe, its about sacrifice and obedience. I don’t have the scope of God, but this is direct . I can’t see how it isn’t.
    Of course, it is meant to be a standard to live by . For the Strength of Youth teaches us to beware of all unclean material.
    The Holy Ghost will teach and guide us through this. I know PG-13 in many instances is not virtuous.
    However , I have foregone movies of good report . Why ? I would rather sacrifice a good movie than to possibly offend the Spirit. I am not condemning this movie, I am however , upholding a standard.

  • Ken Bingham

    Movie ratings are set by the main lobbying group for the movie industry the MPAA. They are not an objective judge but rather their interest lies with the movie industry itself and not parents or movie goers.

    They should never be used as a moral guide.

  • Dani

    Commonsensemedia.org is my preferred site. Good info and good discussion topics after.

  • Timothy Long

    How many “F-bombs” did you read in the book? What’s the difference between hearing an f-bomb in a movie and reading it in literature?

    • Kurt Francom

      This is a fair point…I should be more aware of what books I am reading.

      Thank you for reading and commenting on my article.

  • Stephen Thompson

    I like the ratings on IMDB. I set some standards for myself like: if there is nudity, or strong sexual content I’ll pass; if there is no inherent, good, message to surpass the amount of swearing and violence I’ll pass. But then you have movies like the Patriot, or the King’s Speech and others that I believe everyone should watch some day. But truly it is up to them and the Lord. What are you willing to sacrifice?

    • Stephen Thompson

      Ah yes! Someone brought up a point that I think deems necessary for repeat. One main point about evil being depicted in movies. When it is evil that is presented as good, that is when it becomes a problem. But as long as it sits on its correct light (or darkness), it is better for the situation.

  • Guest

    I never comment on articles, but as an LDS member of the film industry, I felt like I should share my opinion on this particular article. I feel that this is one case in which it is quite literally up to the individual to determine what films and other media fit within the guidelines set up by For the Strength of Youth and the Brethren. We have to decide for ourselves if the potential benefit of the film outweighs the content and this is different for everyone. For me, I may get more out of certain stylistic decisions in a film and it may open my mind to new lighting techniques, etc. For another person, the same film may offer no or very little positive benefits and therefore not justify the content. On the other hand, I may not get much out of a film highlighting the difficulties of being LGBT in today’s society, but a young college student struggling with their own sexuality may find the courage they need to be open about it. The church doesn’t draw a line on Sabbath worship for this reason as well. For one person, Sabbath worship may necessitate nature walks after church, for another, writing letters, and for another watching a movie with the family. Not of these things are inherently good or bad, but for each individual they are because they create different feelings for each person. God knows that we’re all different people. There are certain commandments (note the difference between “commandments,” “guidelines,” and “counsel”) that apply to everyone and will help all of us. For other things, we should rely on the Spirit and our own knowledge of ourselves. Finally, we should recognize that if we do set a line for ourselves, we will miss out on certain messages or benefits in certain films. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but we should determine for ourselves if what we will learn is worth the content. Focus on the good and determine if it’s worth it and stop condemning others for deciding for themselves (in either direction) if a film is “worth it.”

  • R Morgan

    It was interesting to me how in the article they seem to only give partial quotes from President Benson or from others to satisfy their own disobedience to a prophet of God. Especially the comments given at then end of the article. It is true that we should follow the spirit when making decisions on what movies to see. If the Spirit is offended when we are watching we should be too but would the Spirit prompt you to disobey a living prophet? Would Elder Robbins whom the seem to love to quote want you to go against the counsel of a prophet of the Lord? The quote goes like this ““The lusts of your eyes.” In our day, what does that expression mean?

    Movies, television programs, and video recordings that are both suggestive and lewd.

    Magazines and books that are obscene and pornographic.

    We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.” So the statement that President Hinckley or Monson haven’t said it reminds me of a statement by President Hinckley; “Some have even used as an alibi the fact that drugs are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. What a miserable excuse. There is likewise no mention of the hazards of diving into an empty swimming pool or of jumping from an overpass onto the freeway. But who doubts the deadly consequences of such? Common sense would dictate against such behavior.” A greater measure of the Spirit comes to those who obey even if they don’t like it or know the reasons why. Yes it is true that not all PG-13 or even PG’s are appropriate and no I do not trust the rating system but it is nice when a prophet does draw line. Perhaps we should too.

  • Guest

    The author seems to be using comments by Elder Robbins in a recent BYU devotional as validation for his points, but if you read through the whole devotional Elder Robbins is not making the same point as the author here is. Elder Robbins argues that the rated-R prohibition by President Benson is no longer valid because many PG-13 and PG movies now would have been R, and thus counseled against by a prophet, at the time President Benson made that statement. He is not claiming as Mr. Francom is that the R-rating restriction is too lax and some rated R’s are ok, but that it is not strict enough. His point is that we should not justify watching inappropriate PG-13 movies because President Benson drew the line at R, not that we should start watching more “uplifting” R’s. I know Mr. Francom also makes the good point that some PG-13′s should be avoided, by Elder Robbins at no time insinuates that some R rated movies are ok, only that many PG-13 ones are not.

    • Angie Rennie

      AMEN!! Yours is THE most concise & applicable response on this thread.

    • beccalouise

      good points, but I stated above that there are lots of movies from the 70s that are Rated PG, but today would be rated R. Omega Man with Charlton Heston is a great example.

      • Author29

        And again, why do people get so bent out of shape about nudity (note I’m not talking about porn which is Satanic and disgusting). If it was PG back then it was probably casual nudity. Or am I mistaken? I still am amazed at how lenient people are with violence and crude jokes as opposed to a casual nude scene.

    • Kurt Francom

      Many are interpreting my opinion in this article as being pro-rated-R. No where in the article do I say rated R movies are “too lax and some rated R movies are OK”. My point is the rating system is flawed and we should stop following it as if the First Presidency rates every movie.

      I also think you misunderstood Elder Robbins’ point as well.

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting.

    • Slop_j30

      The only reasonable position I’ve been able to settle on is “MPAA ratings are nearly worthless and I won’t filter what I see based on on them.” Too often these discussions end up with people citing a predictable list of a few R-rated films that are seen as “OK” by a lot of LDS that would otherwise recoil in horror at the awful letter “R” (looking at you, Private Ryan and Oskar Schindler). Either that or some Captain Obvious helpfully offers that “Well, there’s a lot of filth in PG-13 movies, too.” Honestly, people, ratings ARE WORTHLESS. Relying on them in any fashion is simply laziness in action.

  • R. Cameron Duckworth

    You have the correct principal but the wrong application. Probably 99.9% of rated R movies shouldn’t be viewed by those who are striving to follow the prophet’s suggestion. It’s the PG-13 movies that we should focus on restraining ourselves from. Don’t justify away this commandment just because it’s a “good story.”

  • Ty Kampen

    Gotta love it when Church policy is received as doctrine by the rank and file, and then whenever church members question that policy, they are viewed as “gasp” not being obedient, or falling away, or not being “good” mormons. The guiding principal of the plan of salvation is free will, and the mandate that we do good of our own free will and not just because we are told to. (Bad paraphrase of the scripture, I know) What this article is stating is that we not be on autopilot, but actively look at what we are participating in, and make good judgements–sounds like elements of the plan of salvation to me. If your life is enhanced by watching an R rated movie, then it seems there is value in seeing it. There are many similarities between today’s Mormons and the Jews of Christ’s day that were so hung up on the rules that they forgot why the rules were there in the first place. In Christ’s day he used the parable of people walking by the guy with the ox in the mire (like a guy with his car broken down on the side of the road) because they were concerned about breaking the rule of how many steps they could take on the sabbath. They were more worried about following the rule for the rule’s sake than actually doing good. Sooooo many parallels between then and today.

    • Kurt Francom

      Great comment. Thanks for reading my article.

  • Daniel Crowder

    I don’t find it helpful to count how many swears are in a movie or how much violence or whatever is in a movie and characterize it based on those facts with little context. Use IMDB or RottenTomatoes.com and find out about the content of a film in context. In a great movie, much of whatever’s in there serves the plot.

    In movies like Saving Private Ryan or Lone Survivor, or even TV shows like Band of Brothers or The Pacific you see a lot that you would not see in real life, obviously. But the story follows men in the military, and believe me, what makes it into a film IS the filtered version- even for R rated movies(I can speak from personal experience being a Navy brat and having several friends in the service). Men in the military in these instances must kill or be killed. What are you going to say when you have RPG’s and 7.62×39 flying around your head and shrapnel blowing your leg up? It’s part of the story, and it sticks with you.

    Ultimately, it all a personal choice, just like for everyone else. For me, just like someone else has said, when it come to stuff like the Patriot or Saving Private Ryan or Braveheart, I’ll probably see it. Others may not, and thats fine too. Just remember, don’t go judging people when it’s not your place to judge.

  • ShatteredArm

    Using an excerpt from the current edition of FTSOY to validate your point is wrong. If you were alive during the 90s, you’d know that past editions did, in fact, specifically say not to watch R rated movies. It’s understandable for people to believe there has been a line drawn, because there was.

    I personally watch whatever the hell I want. Sometimes realism makes better art.

  • Chase

    So did you watch the movie or not?

    I agree with your post and think that there are several PG-13 movies that “are over the speed limit” and there are several R-rated movies that are “under the speed limit”.

    However, my brother-in-law was in the same boat as you where he LOVED the book, and so he went to watch the movie. He mentioned that Lone Survivor said the F-word continually throughout the movie.

    I think your argument was valid against many R-rated movies that have been put out. But, I also think that according to your article, this would be a movie that should not be seen due to the overly explicit language conveyed.

    I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

  • John

    Just so you all know, I go to BYU and can say people from my hometown in the wilderness in Washington state, who regularly use vulgar language, have extramarital sex, and willingly participate in the use of drugs and alcohol are more friendly, more willing to serve, and more kind and engaging than 90% of the people at BYU. I hardly know the people in my hometown. Just food for thought. What is more evil, watching a movie that is helpful in a large way and evil in some way, or living in an environment where you won’t benefit ever.

  • Spencer Neal Young

    Benson said ” Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral” we can infer from the word OR that he meant do not do either. Do not see R’s regardless of content and do not see vulgar videos regardless of rating. Nobody but the prophet can negate that statement and no prophet has ever revoked the words of president benson. He said “don’t see r-rated movies” interpret or misinterpret as you will but that’s what he said.

    • Dale Wight

      I well remember Pres. Benson and his colleagues. It was common for people from their time and place to say “or” as the shortened version of “or in other words.”

      In this talk, he meant “Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or [in other words] participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.”

    • beccalouise

      he also said “or vulgar videos” or anything immoral. truly, we should be following the 13th article of faith and if it isn’t chaste virtuous or lovely, we shouldn’t be seeking after it. so that will cut down your entertainment choices to about 5% of what exists in the world. I am ok with that. I think entertainment like Tv and movies have become an idol anyway, and waste a ton of time. I would love to unplug entirely. I am working towards that.

    • Author29

      In the old Strength for Youth book it said that. The new Strength for Youth Books have omitted the R rating sentence where it just reads, “don’t see anything violence, pornographic, etc, etc.” I’m paraphrasing of course. But that’s much better than the R rated movie line as it allows members to exercise more free agency. Keep in mind that what’s R here is equivalent to a PG or PG-13 in another country and vice versa. Are you going to condemn those in other countries for not following the American movie rating system, rather than their own?

  • Skyler WIxom

    I never post on articles like this, but I really feel the need to this time. I really feel like there were some points in this article that are articulated quite well, namely that just because something is PG-13, it is labeled “Ok.” Honestly, there are more vulgar PG-13′s than not. However, I would very much appreciate a full quote of Ezra Taft Benson rather than throwing a translation of his words out there when his words are quite plain, with no evidence that his words are outdated:

    “Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading.”

    I don’t see how this can be misunderstood. This statement seems to cover all bases to me. I’m just looking at what is there, and not simply what I want to be there. As far as Elder Robbins, it looks like he was referring to the danger of drawing a line above PG-13 movies rather than below R-Rated, both very different things. He said nothing about the statement, “Don’t see R-Rated movies,” that would undermine that meaning.

    Again, I am looking completely at what is there. If anyone can show me any evidence that this is outdated, and I mean real evidence, not a translation of what one would like it to mean, I’m open to ideas.

  • Chelsea Vose Hoer

    There is a reason it is rated R. Although the church does not say, “Don’t go see rated-R movies based on the MPAA rating” it is still discouraged. And you are right, If the 143 F-bombs don’t help you make up your mind, you might as well call yourself jack. It is complete filth and the fact that the World is progressively making almost every movie Rated-R shows that it’s morals are declining, and fast.

    My husband and I have a rule that we do not watch Rated-R movies. If it is not ok for young children, why in the world would it be ok for anyone! Isn’t our goal supposed to stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ at all times? I try to think as if Christ was with me at all times. Would we feel comfortable watching a rated-R or filthy pg-13 movie if I was in the Lord’s presence? …. I think you got your answer.

    We are living at a higher standard and rationalizing that a story line or plot is worth bending your morals over, then maybe you need to rethink some things.

    Sorry if this was a bit harsh I just get very frustrated when people call themselves Mormons and then say “but I still watch Rated-R movies.” It drives me crazy!

  • Jake Tacher

    I think for the R rated movie thing, it’s kind of like the word of wisdom. There are specifics mentioned , don’t do drugs and alcohol, and then there are implications, don’t drink or eat or ingest things that harm you. With R rated movies, they have been mentioned as something not to watch, but implied is that you don’t watch movies of any rating that degrade the spirit. As for me and my house, we will draw the line at R as a good precaution and then make a judgement call on the rest of the movies rated below that.

  • Abe

    Wouldn’t it be great if we all accepted the personal responsibility to determine what is uplifting and what we feel isn’t going to benefit us instead of trying to pass it off to an organization like the Church or the MPAA? http://doubtyourdoubts.blogspot.com/2014/01/avert-thy-eyes.html

  • daddask8

    not sure anyone is saying the G rated are always good? I just think that if you don’t want people judging what you DO see, then don’t be judging them on why or what they DON’T see

  • Brad Marshall

    I am not disagreeing with much of the discussion in this article, but who are we to say that when President Benson drew the line to not watch r-rated movies that it still does not apply? Just because later presidents of the Church have not said it, does not nullify a previous prophet.

    “Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.” – Ezra Taft Benson

  • kay

    This is the actual quote by Benson in 1986:
    “We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading
    matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same
    afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in
    any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.”
    As
    you can see it is a counsel not a command. It’s for our own good. What
    we put into the mind does affect us. Not like it says people who watch
    R rated movies can’t make it to the celestial kingdom or anything but
    it’s a good guideline to start with and then should be extended to any
    movie regardless of the rating, which is why I check pluggedin.com first
    and use clearplay. We rarely go to the theaters.
    I think the more
    important thing here is how much we willing to justify. In Wayne Dyers
    book “Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life,’ he warns against watching,
    reading etc ANY violence even the news. Anybody who understands the
    power of the mind will agree with what he says.
    As far as judging others on this – it’s a tough one – for my 17 you daughter; she has to make those judgments and wouldn’t date many of the people here based on their viewpoint.
    I like the
    guideline to not watch anything when the spirit cant dwell there. Not
    always easy to get up and walk out but seriously why are we so movie
    addicted anyway? Why do we keep supporting that industry?
    I like the comment earlier that points out why are our standards different than missionaries? Shouldn’t we all have those high of standards? For some reason we can’t seem to be in the world but not of the world when it comes to those things we would rather justify away. I’m not calling anyone out here I have my own issues in different areas, just thinking out loud.

  • maybe

    I really did love this article. Honestly, I’ve seen R-rated movies, and a few i could watch over and over again just because they are some are my favorites ( Slumdog Millionaire, Saving Private Ryan.. just to name a few). Honestly, I trust my friends and I trust kids-in-mind. If I hear from somebody that the movie was worth a watch, i look it up and judge for myself based on the content, and how i view my friends judgment. Nobody knows what is going to effect me, and what makes an impact on me, can be different than what impacts another. I think there is a lesson in all movies, but that doesn’t mean I need to watch all of the violence, sex, and gore in movies to learn something. I I don’t trust comedies whatsoever, because everything is crude humor these days haha that’s just my opinion and I’m not the one to tell another that that’s a bad movie, just because I have no desire to see it.

  • Brennan Ogburn

    I have seen many R rated movies. Some not to be proud of and some that I walked away thinking “now why wasn’t that pg?” I admire people who place boundaries for themselves. I really think they are better for it. The church in my opinion is all about setting personal boundaries and experiencing personal growth as we each turn to the Lord. It is not uncommon for people to put words into the prophets mouth though. About 6 years ago, I realized that I was addicted to caffeine, so I decided to live healthier and stop drinking soda. You wouldn’t believe how many non-LDS thought I didn’t drink soda or caffeine because the prophet told me to. Here at BYU-Idaho, caffeine sales are banned. Not because a prophet told them to, etc etc. What kind of idea does that give the world? Same concept with movies in my mind. We all know the rules, whether we have been to primary or heard the discussions, we know right from wrong. I’m far from perfect, but there are some R rated movies I would happily watch before watching Titanic again.

    Now that I have confessed my sins to this blog, I admit that I believe there are few movies, even PG movies, that really hold the Lord’s stamp of approval. Then again I doubt that the Lord approves of my job that requires me to shove extended warranties down people’s throats when it’s obviously a scam. Welcome to Earth. You are going to make some hard decisions and you are going to fail most of them. As long as we strive to do better and work towards our Salvation, we are all in the same boat. “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you do.”

  • Guest

    This is why Mormons try, but are nothing but a laughingstock to people that aren’t Mormon. Whenever there’s a social gathering, normal people talk about normal things, Mormon’s talk about church. This is ridiculous. You’re the same group that would get mad cause Schindler’s List has nudity, and would completely ignore the fact that it’s a movie everyone should see, because that horror never should be forgotten. Let me ask you this: if someone said they wanted to make a movie about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, would you want them to be accurate, or would you want them to aim it at a “younger audience?”

    I believe it was either David O. McKay or Spencer W. Kimball who said that actors, like everyone else, are getting paid to do a job properly, so if someone is playing the villain, they’re not going to go around sayin “Gee, golly gosh” and it’s stupid to expect them to.

    As someone who wants to be a filmmaker, I will NOT ever advertise my Mormon upbringing, and if it was ever known, I will make sure that everyone understands that I completely distance myself from that laughably out-of-touch church.

  • Cool Cool

    I’m sorry, but this blog is just phony. This author is so insecure about the criticism of others, and feels preached to when others teach their kids to not watch rated-R movies because, while overly simplified and not 100% technically accurate, the prophet has said so. Who cares what the exact ‘rule’ is? If someone hears the prophet and makes that rule for themselves, then cool. That’s actually a good thing.

    But this author is obviously very insecure about himself. The bottom line is that if you feel comfortable going to an R-rated movie without having to explain yourself, then go to the movie. But stop trying to rationalize your choices by projecting your personal views and trying to pass them off as church doctrine. Stop trying to take the moral high-ground by convincing others about how right your personal views are.

  • Del Mar Dial

    http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-r-rated-movie.html

    Church does not condone MPAA rating system or any movie rating system for that matter(Canadian, British, etc etc etc). People need to govern themselves and stop judging those who choose to govern themselves.

    This is possibly one of the biggest issues in the church of not allowing people to govern themselves, was that not what the war in heaven was over? Agency?

    People have to be smart about there decisions. Example if you like donuts and you are fat then maybe you need to lay off the donuts…. are you breaking the word of wisdom? I say yes. Sadly obesity is pretty popular and yet people don’t limit themselves. Point I am making, make wise decisions to the best of your ability. If you have a weakness avoid it like the plaque. If its donuts then avoid them if its violence then avoid violent movies and violent games. Moderation folks but hey you know If I watch Passion of the Christ its less of a sin then eating that donut.

    I had a Bishop whom I will not name who asked my wife in her temple interview (question 13.) Is there any sins or misdeeds in your live that need to be resolved… She said hmm such as? His response was like rated R movies. She said yes I have seen some like Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot. Now she got done with her interview and now I enter. He started off by asking me about how I love blood and gut movies and had a problem with rated R movies. I said I am very selective on what I watch. So he gave me this huge spill on rated R movies are just PLAIN WRONG. PG-13 has 13 things wrong with them. PG is pretty good and G is just plain good. I looked at him and said is this on the question which obviously I know the answer and he said no. At which point I said why don’t we stick to those questions. AKA time move on pal. So the following week in Sunday school I taught the 16-17 year old’s. Jokingly I said don’t go and see any rated R movies or the bishop will get ya. This one boy started laughing and he said what my Dad are you kidding me we have more rated R movies at our house than anyone. I said hmm why is that? My Mom use to be the film director at BYU film department. I am not saying the Bishop watched those movies but seriously. I think I can govern myself that is what the 1st and 2nd estate is about. AGENCY.

  • Joe Average

    I love watching movies. Some of my favorite movies are R-Rated films (GASP!) does that make me a horrible person? Certainly hope not. It’s not about what you have done but who you are. I would hate to live in a society that solely bases your character on the movies you watch, the music you listen too, the people you like…God gave us the agency to choose for ourselves the path we want to take.

  • Guest1

    Are we not adults? I don’t need to only watch kids movies, personally, because I’m a thinking person. I’m not a little kid. Wouldn’t it be boring if everyone on the planet sat around counting the cuss words and the sexual innuendos? So I’m glad us Mormons have the right to judge everyone and to look down on everyone because we’re “special”. Everyone is “weird” except for us. Yeah what a great religion. Oap! I have to spend the next three hours looking for a cuss word in this movie or book because I can’t tell the difference between “fantasy” and “reality” and I need someone to shame and someone to shame me so I can recreate what it was like to be a little kid. Well I’m not a little kid, I’m not brainwashed, and I’m a mormon who doesn’t need to spend my time counting every cuss word like a 10 year old. Don’t we have better things to do? Are you guys even watching the movie in between counting all the cuss words? So much fear. This is why we’re perceived as a cult.

  • Taylor Monnett

    I realize that this discussion forum is 7 months old, and I agree that this article was very well stated. I agree on nearly every point, following doctrine. Numerous prophets and apostles have stated that we shouldn’t watch all PG-13 movies because, “the prophet gave us permission” as eloquently stated by many of us, at one time or another.
    This article was very well based on many apostles’ statements, but they all pertained to PG-13 movies. Yes, we should use our best judgement on PG-13 movies. Yes, there are PG-13 movies as bad as (or even worse than) some R-rated movies. No, not all R-rated movies are filled to the brim with sex, violence, or vulgarity. And, as well put in Elder Lynn G. Robbin’s words: “If the Church were to draw a line with movies, that would be like giving permission to watch everything up to the line.”
    And although no recent prophets have spoken on the matter (I wish they would, to clear up the “non-dispute”,) a past one did.
    Ezra Taft Benson did not merely “mention the term R-rated,” he stated boldy,

    “Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any
    entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen
    to music that is degrading.”

    Simple as can be. He didn’t say “don’t watch r-rated movies that you judge to be vulgar,” or “don’t watch r-rated movies that you judge to be sexual,” or “don’t watch r-rated movies that you judge to be violent.” He simply stated NOT to see them. At all.

    And though I love to bicker to prove my point (I am 17, it is a habit of mine to bicker,) I will not rise to any challenging proses you might write back at me concerning this topic.
    The prophet has said not to watch them. And while we’re counseled to stay as far away from the line as possible, there is a line. Our prophet (who by the way, is a seer from God) told us not to watch them. Period. The council is clear.

    Yes, use your judgement on PG-13 movies. Certainly.

    No, don’t watch R-rated movies. Certainly.

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