All Movies/Books/TV/Or Any Non-Church Activity is Evil
This has been a hectic week.
First, the day before Thanksgiving, my husband lost his job. Unlike the fortunately well-prepared Jeff, we don't have things paid off or any money in savings or any money coming in anytime soon. Things are...not good. Christmas is pretty much kaput this year (and if you knew the deep and abiding love I have for the season, you would know how this seemingly unimportant detail deeply depresses me). I've been feeling extremely panicked the last few days, compounded by the fact that we received our COBRA information that to continue our health insurance will quite literally cost more than our mortgage payment. I have to have the insurance for the baby, but we can't begin to imagine how we'll be able to make that payment. So if anyone has any extra room in their prayers, the Wilson family could use them right about now.
Full on panic aside, I wanted to write today about something I've seen growing up in the LDS community and recently had the opportunity to hear about it again.
A seminary teacher asked one of his students a question, and the student didn't know the answer. The teacher then went on a rant about how the student might have known the answer if he didn't waste so much time watching movies.
The teacher then elocuted on the inherent evils of movie watching. That such time could be and should be better spent in learning the Gospel and studying. This evil movie watching apparently also extends to fiction reading and television viewing.
So, immediately my hackles rise. 1) I write fiction (does that make what I do even more of a waste of time?). 2) I read fiction. A lot. 3) I like me some movies. 4) I like me some television too.
I started listing off in my head all the reasons why this was wrong (because I do so enjoy rationalizing when I think I'm right). First, I thought of the fact that there are times that things are taught/represented in a visual way that has more of an impact on us emotionally and spiritually than any bone-dry recitation of scripture. When I think of an example of faith, I can try to comprehend the faith Ether had, but there is definitely something to be said for watching Indiana Jones step out into that deep, vast chasm, to hope that when he placed his foot into nothingness by leaping from the lion's mouth that he wouldn't fall and die.
Taking a Church-sponsored video, at the end of "Testaments" when Christ calls Helam's name, the look on his face is priceless and touches me so deeply every time I see it that I am still, multiple viewings later, unable to watch that scene without crying. Multimedia allows us to experience things in an entirely different way.
By speaking to a common human experience, by using fiction to illustrate truth, we are taught.
The Savior spoke in parables, in stories that would be easy to remember and would carry important divine truths.
If we stopped being able to quote works of fiction in our talks, as Rob has pointed out before, half of President Monson's talks would be gone.
I don't think people should get a testimony from fiction or TV or movies. But there is an ability to teach there that I think shouldn't be dismissed. For example, we have often talked to our oldest son about not cheating. He's ultra-competitive (a fault I take full genetic credit for) to the point that he sees nothing wrong with cheating as long as he wins. This is something we talk to him over and over about.
The biggest improvement I've seen in his behavior was when he watched the movie "Cars." At the end the bad guy cheats to win. And while he's celebrating his hollow victory, no one else cares. No one celebrates with him. He doesn't get the big endorsement deal. My son could see what happened to someone who only cared about winning and that caring about other people mattered more. Something that examples and lectures hadn't managed to convey.
I also think that there is room in our life for entertainment. Perhaps that makes me a heathen, but I'm pretty sure that when I came to this planet I wanted to live a righteous life and be close to my Savior, but that I wanted to experience what it meant to be human. That doesn't mean I think we have carte blanche to do whatever we want or feel like doing, but I also don't necessarily think that we're all supposed to live monastic lifestyles. Life is meant to be enjoyed and lived.
When Brigham Young started settling Salt Lake City, wasn't building the playhouse one of the first things he set up? And not for religious plays (although I'm sure that did happen). It was meant to be entertainment. They had dances and parties and games and activities just to have fun.
I think in all things there has to be balance. I think sometimes it's hard to find that balance and we can spend too much time on things that don't have any great eternal merit, but I don't think the Lord expects us to devote every waking moment to the scriptures.
So, am I wrong? Is there room in our lives for other non-Church things? What would your response be to the teacher who thinks that to watch a movie or TV or read a book is without worth?