The R-rated Movie “Commandment”
Let me start off with a large quote from an essay by Orson Scott Card called "Is There An R-rated Movie Commandment" (I recommend reading the entire article). The purpose of this article is not to defend the watching of R-rated movies, but to help people (mainly LDS) to not judge those who choose to watch R-rated films (both LDS and those who aren’t in the LDS church) on the faulty notion of there being an "R-rated Movie Commandment."
Only one President of the Church has made an official statement that mentioned R-rated movies. On three occasions, President Ezra Taft Benson, when speaking specifically to the youth of the Church, mentioned films so rated.
Here is an actual quotation, in its context. I know it will be a lot of trouble for some people to read what the prophet actually said instead of merely repeating a rumor of it as a means of condemning other Saints -- but now and then it's worth it, don't you think?
Remember, President Benson is speaking to the young men of the Church when he says:
"Consider carefully the words of the prophet Alma to his errant son, Corianton, ‘Forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes.” (Alma 39:9.)
"'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. Don't listen to music that is degrading" (Ensign, May 1986, p 43).
The mention of R-rated movies is clearly linked to a specific goal -- keeping one's mind free of entertainment that is "immoral, suggestive, or pornographic." The purpose of the Prophet's wise counsel is to keep us from entertainment that will excite sexual lust in an inappropriate context....
If you and your family decide never to see R-rated or PG-13 movies, without exception, then by all means, I won't condemn you for doing so. But it is outrageous when you condemn others for reaching a different decision about a particular movie.Card then goes further to compare those who do condemn others to the Pharisees in the New Testament.
If the LDS Church were to say that we shouldn’t watch R-rated movies, they would also have to translate that into the media rating system of every other country that the Church is in (membership in the LDS Church is much larger oustide the U.S.A. than within). It is more important to teach people correct principles, to avoid all media (regardless of any rating system) with content that is “immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.” I think the term pornographic is pretty well understood, but the terms “immoral” and “suggestive” aren’t as clear, though I think what President Ezra Benson explains earlier in the above quote somewhat explains these terms.
Avoiding R-rated Movies Is Not Bad
I feel like I’m trying to offer you drugs because we’ve been so conditioned against R-rated movies. I just want to make it clear that I really believe it is O.K. to avoid R-rated movies. The R-rating makes it simple if you’re looking for a guideline to avoid most bad movies. I’m simply saying that the R-rating doesn’t automatically make a movie evil, nor does it make the person watching an R-rated movie evil.
In the end, our goal with this blog is to seek out the good anywhere we can find it, and that good will be found in old movies, new movies, animated features, documentaries, and occasionally in the form of a movie with an R-rating.
(I mentioned R-rating in here a lot and realize that it’s directly associated with the MPAA. I have some more thoughts regarding the MPAA that I will discuss in a later post.)