While having a discussion about the Oscars with my brother he mentioned that the Prophet clearly stated that we should not watch Rated R movies. This prompted me to go actually look it up and it turns out, as I previously suspected, this is not true.
No, that the Prophet said we're not supposed to watch movies that are Rated R. I have heard this from many different people over the years and I must have looked into it at some point because I always get this feeling it's not true.
So what did the Prophet say?
I could paraphrase, but why not put the actual quote and reference here:
"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." - Ezra Taft Benson, April 1986 Conference. To the “Youth of the Noble Birthright”
He begins that talk with "Tonight I would like to speak directly to you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood." This talk was clearly directed toward the young men of the church which is clearly understood to be the Aaronic Priesthood holders 12-18 years of age. This is the first mention of Rated R movies by a Prophet and with good reason too. In the 80s it was becoming cool to be under 18 and see a Rated R movie. I remember my friends that year trying to buy tickets for Aliens, Platoon, Stand by Me and the like.
What about girls?
He left that out for some reason, but that didn't stop people from believing he meant everyone. All the subsequent mentions of Rated R movies I found fall into these categories:
- Quotation - This is where the general authority (Seventies) quotes Ezra Taft Benson's talk often only using the "Don’t see R-rated movies" part and omitting the context (Kofford). This implies that the Prophet has said no when he said no to the people who shouldn't see it.
- Personal Preference - This is often stated as "I would never watch another R-rated movie again (Bednar)" or "in our family we have decided to not see R-Rated movies." And I applaud them for using their God given agency.
- No Reference - This one is almost as bad as #1. The speaker/writer says "the prophets have told us not to" and leaves it at that. The fact that no Prophet has commanded the people to avoid any specific rating of movie eludes them.
So we all should watch Rated R movies?
No, we should stop saying a Prophet commanded us to do so. This falls in line with saying the Prophet commanded us not to have caffeine, chocolate and doctor prescribed drugs. He didn't and I wish Mormons would stop saying he did. This has become part of Mormon culture and it is not a good facet of our people. We should choose for ourselves the good from the evil. Why else are we given the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of Christ if not to discern for ourselves?
So, banning Rated R movies is not a commandment?
Nope, and sad is the day when the Prophet says so. It will mean that the membership of the church is incapable of making good content watching decisions for themselves and their families. "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward" (DC58:26).