Brigham Young on Studying Evil and Living in a Bubble

I enjoy Orson Scott Card’s books. My in-laws feel that he portrays evil too much in them. OSC has his own defenses of this (cf. A Storyteller in Zion), but I thought of it when I came across these comments by Brigham Young.

Shall I sit down and read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Covenants all the time?” says one. Yes, if you please, and when you have done, you may be nothing but a sectarian after all. It is your duty to study to know everything upon the face of the earth, in addition to reading those books. We should not only study good, and its effects upon our race, but also evil, and its consequences.

Journal of Discourses, 2:34.

Study evil? These remarks fascinated me, so I ran some searches and looked up the context. I found that President Faust has quoted these words at least twice in his teachings.

Brigham Young continued.

I make these remarks to lay the foundation for principle in the minds of the people; and if you do not yet understand what I would be at, I will try to illustrate it still further. For example, we will take a strict, religious, holy, down country, eastern Yankee, who would whip a beer barrel for working on Sunday, and never suffer a child to go into company of his age—never suffer him to have any associates, or permit him to do any thing or know anything, only what the deacon, priests, or missionaries bring to the house; when that child attains to mature age, say eighteen or twenty years, he is very apt to steal away from his father and mother; and when he has broken his bands, you would think all hell was let loose, and that he would compass the world at once.

Now understand it—when parents whip their children for reading novels, and never let them go to the theatre, or to any place of recreation and amusement, but bind them to the moral law, until duty becomes loathsome to them; when they are freed by age from the rigorous training of their parents, they are more fit for companions to devils, than to be the children of such religious parents.

If I do not learn what is in the world, from first to last, somebody will be wiser than I am. I intend to know the whole of it, both good and bad. Shall I practise evil? No; neither have I told you to practise it, but to learn by the light of truth every principle there is in existence in the world.

Journal of Discourses, 2:34.

Brigham reiterated these ideas nine years later at the dedication of a new SLC theater in 1862.

“My son,” says the Christian father, “you should not attend a theatre, for there the wicked assemble; nor a ball-room, for there the wicked assemble; you should not be found playing a ball, for the sinner does that.” Hundreds of like admonitions are thus given, and so we have been thus traditioned; but it is our privilege and our duty to scan all the works of man from the days of Adam until now, and thereby learn what man was made for, what he is capable of performing, and how far his wisdom can reach into the heavens, and to know the evil and the good.

It is written in the Scriptures, “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” [Amos 3:6 See below.]Is there an evil thing upon the earth that he does not fully understand? There is not…. The Lord understands the evil and the good; why should we not likewise understand them? We should. Why? To know how to choose the good and refuse the evil; which we cannot do, unless we understand the evil as well as the good. I do not wish to convey the idea that it is necessary to commit evil in order to obtain this knowledge.

Upon the stage of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and the follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and a just dread of its consequences. The path of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed, and how to shun it.

The Lord knows all things; man should know all things pertaining to this life, and to obtain this knowledge it is right that he should use every feasible means; and I do not hesitate to say that the stage can, in a great degree, be made to subserve this end. It is written, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” Refuse evil, choose good, hate iniquity, love truth. All this our fathers have done before us; I do not particularly mean father Adam, or his Father; I do not particularly mean Abraham, or Moses, the Prophets, or Apostles, but I mean our fathers who have been exalted for millions of years previous to Adam’s time. They have all passed through the same ordeals we are now passing through, and have searched all things, even to the depths of hell.

Is there evil in the theatre? in the ball-room? in the place of worship? in the dwelling? in the world? Yes, when men are inclined to do evil in any of those places. There is evil in persons meeting simply for a chit-chat, if they will allow themselves to commit evil while thus engaged.

Journal of Discourses, 9:242-243.

Brigham makes several interesting points, I think.

1) We should not create such a filtered or strictly controlled life for our children that they go wild once they live on their own. (I’ve seen this at all three Universities I’ve attended, though less so at BYU.)

2) God knows and understands the evil as well as the good. We thus have a duty to understand evil, its consequences and effects.

3) It is not necessary to sin or practise evil to acquire this knowledge. (Elder Faust notes in connection with Brigham’s comments “It is not good practice to become intrigued by Satan and his mysteries. No good can come from getting close to evil. Like playing with fire, it is too easy to get burned…My principal reason for choosing this subject is to help young people by warning them, as Paul said, ‘lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Cor. 2:11.)'”) In the Strength of the Lord: The Life and Teachings of James E. Faust, 415-416.

4) Fiction, in the form of novels or theater, can provide this understanding of good and evil and the effects thereof.

I like this. Though I have no children, I plan to impose on my children such fictional horrors (to teenage boys, at least) as Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. Why? Because they show contrasting characters in a realistic way. Austen deals with personal choices about integrity, honesty, and character. We see the negative effects of greed, infidelity, shallowness, and deception, temptations much more common than rape or murder, which seem to be the standard fare for much TV and film. Her characters are three-dimensional and complex, another failing of much fiction today.

Certainly, as appropriate, I will watch more troubling fare with my children and discuss the choices and situations the characters face. If my children will sneak in the occasional R-rated movie, as I suspect many of us did as teens, I’d much rather watch it with them and discuss it. Certainly some provide more entertainment than thought, but historical films in particular such as Glory (9th grade history) are excellent studies in good, evil, and character. Other movies simply glorify evil and portray it as having no negative effects (here I’m thinking of James Bond.)

(Please don’t derail this into a thread about the relative merits of this film or that film, or film ratings. Such is not the point…)

Given Brigham’s reputation as an iron-fisted religious dictator, what I found most interesting is his insistence that we not be so strict or limiting as to drive people away from the Gospel. There comes a point where increasing discipline or standards has diminishing returns. Surely Brigham was not advocating a gospel free-for-all or sampling sin, but simply living the gospel and being acquainted with evil as well as good.

Excursis on Amos 3:6.

Someone may well point out that the JST changes Amos 3:6 to read “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done known it?” Clearly, Joseph Smith was trying to avoid the idea that the LORD does evil. However, Heb. ra’ah also means disaster, calamity, etc., and several other passages make clear that God does cause ra’ah in that sense. Since the KJV does not translate them as “evil,” those passages were left alone.

In context, Amos asks several rhetorical questions to emphasize that God’s judgement inevitably follows prophetic warnings to repent. The well-known missionary scripture of Amos 3:7 follows, “Surely, the Lord God will do nothing without revealing his plan unto his servants the prophets.”

36 thoughts on “Brigham Young on Studying Evil and Living in a Bubble

  1. I suppose Most of Brigham’s points could be summarized with Matthew 10:16 “be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”
    “or D&C 111:11 “Therefore, be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin”.

  2. I accept his wisdom here. The big question for me is what level of familiarity is acceptable. Here are some of the possible levels:

    1. I have a blanket understanding that evil exists
    2. I have an understanding that evil exists, and understand that it takes forms A,B, and C
    3. I have seen sanitized, fictionalized portrayals of evil in forms A, B, and C in conjunction with explicit moral messages showing unhappy results
    4. I have seen 3, but without the attached moral message.
    5. I have seen evil in forms A, B, and C up close in my own life, simply by not shielding myself from them.
    6. I have seen evil in forms A, B, and C up close in my own life by seeking them out (but not participating) for experience sake.
    7. I have experienced A, B, and C as a non-participating, but friendly, witness/accomplice
    8. I have participated in A, B, and C.

    Which of those possibilities strikes the right balance? Or is it some other line that I’ve missed?

  3. The danger in studying evil is always twofold.

    First that you’ll become numb to evil. That is you’ll have seen so much evil: especially great evil, that you’ll be more accommodating of the evils around you.

    Second that you’ll start to find evil attractive. This is an especially big problem in film and literature. No matter how hard the artist tries, it is frequent that the evil portrayed for a message becomes glamorized and exciting. Consider Saving Private Ryan. Most were shocked by the realistic portrayal of the evils of war at the beginning. Yet how long was it before kids were seeing it to see how “cool” it looked. It’s a common feature of film especially where evil becomes glamorized.

    That’s not to say we can’t avoid all this. But I think it is always a danger that has to be kept in mind.

  4. Ben, regarding raising your future children, I think you should keep in mind that it is inevitable that they will be exposed to the evil of the world regardless what you do to try to protect them. It is inevitable that they will go to a friend’s house and watch an R-rated movie or that they will see pornography on the internet or other forms of evil. Our day is a bit different from Brigham’s in that sense.

    Brigham was way ahead of his time in pointing out that people trying to keep away harmless sins — dancing, novel-reading, etc — are apt to develop rebels. But I do feel we have an obligation to make our homes places where the Spirit can reside. Does this mean we don’t ever watch R-rated movies such as “Glory” or “Saving Private Ryan” or “Schindler’s List” or others that have legitimate artistic or historical value? I say no, but I would also vote for the Clean Flicks version rather than the gory originals, at least for children under 10 years of age.

    I think open communication is essential. You simply have to teach your kids the difference between right and wrong and then be there to talk to them when they have questions.

    Please keep in mind that it is a slippery slope for teenagers from trying to be an understanding parent to being a “cool” and “with it” parent who lets them get away with things they shouldn’t. My rule is: never allow things to be done in your home that you would be embarrassed about if the prophet were to make a surprise visit. Would you be embarrassed to watch “Schindler’s List” with your 16-year-old boy if the prophet were to visit? Probably not. You could point out you were making an important educational point about the Holocaust. Would you be embarrassed that your 16-year-old boy was spending three hours a day playing violent video games that you bought him? Probably yes.

  5. Geoff: I’d invite Pres. Hinckley to a one on one in Halo anyday. Of course, my guess is that if he ever visited me, there would be other more pressing things on his mind (and mine); but there certainly wouldn’t be any shame.

  6. It is inevitable that they will go to a friend’s house and watch an R-rated movie or that they will see pornography on the internet or other forms of evil.

    Really, Geoff, Inevitable?

    Possible? Yes.
    Probable? Perhaps.
    Inevitable? Not at all.

    These “forms of evil” have never been a part of my life. I can’t imagine a reason for that to ever change and I’ve hardly lived my life in a bubble.

  7. Ryan: I agree, the Prophet is never likely to visit me; alternatively, what type of “fun” activity do you imagine as appropriate if a Prophet visited your household? Would it be based on what that prophet did as a boy? What your children do? What you did as a kid? As I’m not a huge Halo fan (it’s fun), I don’t have a dog in this fight, but do wonder where the line is and how one would draw it. Personally, a nice game of settlers of catan/zarahemla might be better? Or are these _evil_ also?

    Adam: Wherein lies the difference between “getting under the skin” of soldiers in a movie and role-playing soldiers in a video game?

  8. Lyle, there are all kinds of fun things one might do during a visit from the prophet. I’d love to crush him with my Settlers of Catan prowess, personally (only in the sense that I enjoy crushing all who challenge me in Catan, not in any sense that I particularly want to beat Gordon B. Hinckley at it).

    I just don’t think I’d feel comfortable sitting down, handing him a control pad, turning on Halo, and trying to gorily wipe out alien races with him (even if I did personally play the game). And my comment above is meant to say that I really doubt you would either. Be serious. Construct the scenario as realistically as you possibly can. Gordon B. Hinckley drops in on you for a night of diversion. Are you really going to try to get him to play Halo with you? And you wouldn’t be the tiniest bit ashamed?

    And Melissa, I agree with you.

  9. Clark –

    Another example, from the world of Comic books is Alan Moore’s classic “Watchman.” The thesis of the comic was that superheroes are actually very, very violent, and if they actually existed, the world would be a rather awful place, what with the constant destruction and mass murdering. Moore was attempting to deconstruct heroes completely.

    Instead, comic book readers decided it was “cool” to have explicit megaviolence in a comic – this paved the way for the Punisher (originally a spider-man villain) to become a popular super-hero with several monthly titles. Moore constantly complains how badly comic book readers and creators misunderstood Watchmen. The kept the superficial stuff without getting the moral of the tale.

    That happens way too often with movies, video games and TV as well.

  10. Ryan: following condorcet’s paradox, we’d never get to Halo cuz I like Settlers better. However, my tastes aside, I don’t see anything normatively wrong with playing video games with the prophet; whether it involves killing aliens or shooting at each other. I’m sure he played cowboy’s & indians as a kid (look at where he grew up! in a fort!). Isn’t Halo just the modern & visual iteration of that kid’s game?

  11. Melissa,
    I think its inevitable. Eventually everyone comes accross something that is evil. Even through no fault their your own, it happens. What happens next, however, is not inevitable.

  12. It’s also important to remember that BY himself, as masterful and profound as his sermons were, could also be self-contradictory. Remember, this is also the same prophet who wanted to create the Deseret alphabet, not only to make English easier for foreigners, but also because it was a way of isolating Mormon youth from the evil influences of Gentile literature.

    I also think that there are things that BY could not even imagine would be available today. Anyone who has accidentally happened upon a porn or mutilation site knows what I’m talking about. Theater is one thing. Hard-core porn and other disgusting material is something else. So I think his overall advice is good, but of course it has limits.

  13. Which brings me, Carl, back to my original question: what is the appropriate balance? If anyone would care to pick one of the options I listed above, and explain the choice, I’d be interested to hear it.

  14. In the Lord of the Rings, IIRC, Gandalf says that one reason Saruman turned to evil was that he studied it so much, he became enamored of it. He studied it originally to fight it, but in the end he became what he studied.

    As for the proper balance, I have no idea. I think that 3 & 4 above in Ryan’s post #2 are misformulated. Where’s the “I’ve experienced unsanitized fictional potrayals, sometimes with explict moral messages, sometimes not?

  15. Getting under a soldier’s skin isn’t the same as ‘kill, kill, kill!’ But that is the same as Halo.

    Ryan Bell,

    Any of your examples are fine if one has repented of them! Good thing, too, because all of us are up to #8 for at least A, B, and C sins. Possibly others.

    Otherwise I would say 1-3, and 5, depending on one’s motives for not shielding oneself. (In other words, its all right to witness evil if one is doing it as part of some good and the good is not the experience of witnessing evil.) I’m open to argument.

  16. You know, one thing that has continually kept me from apostasy is reading words of incredible wisdom, insight, and spiritual guidance from leaders whose other words or actions might lead me to think ill of them. Especially BY, who could really let the storm and thunder fly when he wanted to–this is a very nuanced and insightful lesson. Note to self: stop being a proud, judgmental jerk and humble yourself!

    Having said that, let me be the first jerk to point out: different times call for different teachings, and today’s typical rated-R movie/rated-M game/contemporary novel/play is likely far more graphic than most things easily available in BY’s day. But the key is to strive for balance and moderation in this as in all things: don’t limit yourself to “The Work in the Glory” and don’t overdo the war films. Right?

  17. Melissa (#8), a story: I am Mr. super anti-porn. I despise it. Yet, one day I was working on the desktop of somebody else at work because mine was being repaired. This person did not have Mozilla. I fired up the browser and the first thing that flashed on my screen was a pop-up of super-graphic porn. I quickly closed the pop-up, but not before the image had been engraved on my mind. I didn’t go seeking it — it came onto the screen — at work, no less.

    As for R-rated movies, my ten-year-old recently had a birthday party. All of the girls at the party were talking about how their parents had taken them recently to see R-rated movies (“The 40-year-old Virgin” and “The Wedding Crashers” were the ones that were most talked-about among the 10-year-old girls).

    I have come to the conclusion that these types of things are inevitable. I tell my kids over and over again that they can’t see PG-13 movies until they are 13, and R-rated movies ever, but it is inevitable, yes, inevitable that they will sleep over at one of their friend’s houses and see this stuff. It is inevitable that someday they will see a porn pop-up on their computer.

    I wish it weren’t true, but it’s probably inevitable for all of our kids. Don’t fool yourselves, even in Utah.

    As JKS says, all we can do is try to train them to close the pop-up as soon as it appears and to close their eyes during the worst parts of the R-rated movies. And maybe they will even speak up when the friend puts in the R-rated movie and say they aren’t allowed to see that. I hope so. But I’m also realistic.

  18. This is a very interesting thread!

    I think that it is very clear that there is necessity in being confronted with evil as that is part of the plan in that is not being confronted with evil actually being tempted, and is not temptation part of the plan of happiness. 2nephi is clear about this that we cannot act unless we are enticed (tempted) by the one or the other, or in other words, temptation, or confronted with evil, is a necessary part of live. How can we know the good if we do not know the bad for their msut be opp in all things and that opp is mostly temptation in any many cases and so the person who the comment that these things are inevitable if so right, but what happens after is not an inevitability, or in other words, we do have our choices to “touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing!”

    Does not God also tell Abraham that we must be proven in all things which means that he has allowed temptation, good or bad, to enter the world as Satan was cast down to the earth to tempt us and prve us herewith to see if we will do all things that he has commanded us, this is so clear and perfect doctrine because if not, how would we be able to use our agency correctly in all things?

    Temptation = inevitable, our choices = not inevitable, the consequences to these choices = inevitable!

    as for porn and the evil that does exist today, we still have our choices as to how we handle it, but if we do handle it then eventually I would bet that we will embrace it, or as Satan says, ‘They will be in my power!’ and he is very clear about that, isn’t he?

    As for reading and viewing Evil, this reminds me of why the book fo Ether was placed where it was placed in the Book of Mormon because the prophets were worried that if the people got their hands onit, they would do what they did in the end, and create secret combinations of all manner of evil that destroyed the liberty and the freedoms of the people…hmmm, make you wonder in that context why the sealed portionof the plates has been sealed, but perhaps to save us from knowing some of the unnecessary evils that would make or break our society! Hmmm, makes you think!

  19. I doubt President Hinckley would be interested in playing Halo, or even Settlers of Catan. But it wouldn’t suprise me if the Phrophet 30 years from now enjoyed throwing down every once in a while. Prophets are human after all, don’t they relax some time? And if so, how do they do it?

  20. Of course the things our youth are exposed to is much worse than in BY’s time, but why suggest this is a bad thing? As long as they aren’t participating in it, isn’t it a GOOD thing? They are much stronger to much more temptation. You put teenager 1860 with teenager 2005 and guess who is stronger to Satan’s work. I would imagine teenager 2005.

    Lyle, I’m with you on the Halo thing. Contrary to Ryan’s perfect understanding other people’s natures, I too wouldn’t be ashamed to suggest playing Halo with the Prophet. As I truly try to construct the scenario in my mind (the hilarious idea that he’d come to my place to be entertained and left it up to me to decide what we do), I don’t think he’d totally want to play (like jjohnsen said), but I don’t think he’d care too much that I suggested it. Then I’d suggest we watch Arrested Development, though I don’t think he’d find it nearly as funny as I do.

    Adam, I’m not ashamed of not being ashamed. But you can be ashamed for me if you’d like (heaven knows we need more shame).

  21. With porn there is the added problem that it is a corruption of something that is very innate and good under the appropriate conditions. Violence isn’t a very natural behavior for most of us, but merely seeing nudity, especially for men, elicits an automatic sexual impulse that requires a great deal of control (or perhaps desensitization) to overcome. Elder Oaks recent sermon on this subject included the testimony of a former drug addict who said that his addiction to cocaine was nothing compared to his addiction to pornography. I think a better understanding of this would help our culture to avoid promoting such a destructive influence. There was a recent Slashdot review of a book entitled Pornified, which purportedly cites numerous studies and personal interviews to demonstrate the real toll that porn has had on our country. Sounds like important information. It’s surprising to me that this whole industry has been largely ignored (or at least not mentioned) in the mainstream press but takes in such enormous amounts of money.

  22. I appreciate the comments that have been made. (This thread is also being discussed over at the Nauvoo board, and there are some interesting comments there.)

    It appears that the main difficulty with applying BY’s counsel has to do with explicitness. I agree that one can find much more explicit material today, particularly with regards to a visual medium. Reading a scene in a novel, no matter how explicit the wording, is still much less powerful than seeing it in color on a big screen with 1000 watts of sound.

    I think there are many forms of evil that one need not be explicitly exposed to and yet understand its effects very well. For example, you can read all about the negative effects of (p0rn, drunkenness, abuse, etc.) without ever partaking of any. You can read about it in non-fiction, or, if honestly portrayed, in fiction. The trick is in finding something that does not portray whatever the evil is as attractive or without consequences (again, I’m thinking of James Bond.)

    For example, I’ve never seen it, but I heard that Requiem for a Dream is a powerful story of how drug use corrupts and destroys lives. It’s R because it explicitly shows drug use AND its effects. In the abstract, I think that would be better to watch than the Pg-13 comedies that portray drug use as something fun and vaguely goofy, but without any serious consequences.

    Orson Scott makes the point in defending his fiction that anything obsessed over becomes harmful. I think seeing Saving Private Ryan can be educational and character building, as well as exposing someone to the harsh realities of war. However, someone who watches the opening scenes repeatedly, obsessing over and idolizing the violence, is harming themselves.

    Gandalf says that one reason Saruman turned to evil was that he studied it so much, he became enamored of it. He studied it originally to fight it, but in the end he became what he studied.

    Reminds me of “Whoever battles monsters should take care not to become a monster too, for if you stare long enough into the Abyss, the Abyss stares also into you.”
    —Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, chapter 4, no. 146

    Clearly, we need balance, an anchor. We should not be studying evil to the exclusion of good, because we need the contrast.

    Ivan, interesting comments about comic books. I didn’t know that about Watchmen.

  23. Ben,
    Can you really claim that reading something is “much less powerful” than seeing it? Why, then, do people always say “the book was so much better than the movie”? Books almost always describe feelings and ideas better than movies. Additionally, some people just respond differently to different mediums.

    Of course I’m not saying you’re completely wrong, I just don’t think you can make that blanket statement.

  24. I’ll stick with my blanket, but perhaps powerful is not the right word. I find that larger than life images and sound affect me in a much greater way that reading about the exact same scene would not.

    Besides, movies are rarely exactly the same as books. They get adapted, they leave things out, they can’t tell you what the character is thinking unless they do voice-overs, etc. The change in medium inevitably affects what can be communicated and how.

  25. Rusty, sorry if I came off as condescending. I wasn’t trying create any shame in anyone. I was asking Lyle to reconsider his off-hand comment by really imagining the scenario realistically. If he had re-affirmed, seriously, that he wouldn’t have a problem playing Halo with the Prophet, I would have backed down just fine. Just pressing him to make sure he meant it.

    By the way, jjohnsen, why do you think President Hinckley doesn’t like Settlers of Catan? To capitalistic? He has a family, with whom he presumably interacts. Not too big a stretch to think he might play board games with them– even German ones.

  26. Ben,
    It still seems like your evidence is merely anecdotal. You just said “…and sound affect me in a…” forcing me to believe you are still only talking about yourself. I believe you, YOU are affected more by visuals, but to project that onto everyone seems absurd.

    Your second paragraph is true, but it doesn’t support your point in any way, if anything they contradict it.

    No prob. I just have pretty strong opinions regarding Halo/video games and their affect/non-affect on well-balanced adults. I personally find Settlers mind-numbingly boring and wouldn’t want to put our dear President Hinckley to sleep 🙂

  27. Rusty, you’re equating quality with impact. Not the same thing. Usually when people complain that a book was better than a movie, I believe they’re talking quality, how much they liked it, not how much less the portrayals of evil affected them.

    Do YOU find explicit movie violence to have more of an impact on you than simply reading the same scene? Which is more disturbing? Which resides longer in your memory?

    Care to provide me some statistics on whether you’re the norm or not? 🙂

  28. Ben,
    I don’t know if I’m equating them, but I think quality and impact have a close, direct relationship. A high-quality book can have a profound impact on me. The better the writing, the more impactful. Books start revolutions, not movies.

    If you’re going to say visuals have a greater impact than reading, aren’t you then saying visuals for positive themes would impact us more than reading as well? I don’t know if you can separate only the violence and sex as visually impactful.

    To answer your question about my own experience: it depends. It depends on the movie and depends on the book. The Shining was a much more disturbing book than movie.

    Of course I can’t provide statistics, but neither can you… so there! 🙂


  29. “I’ll stick with my blanket, but perhaps powerful is not the right word. I find that larger than life images and sound affect me in a much greater way that reading about the exact same scene would not.”

    I think portrayals of violence, sex, etc. are much more susceptible to framing in a book than in a movie. That’s because I believe its demonstrable that we have hard-wired responses to visual portrayals of sex and violence that are difficult to contain with a message.

    Don’t have the statistics with me, though. Durn.

  30. On the President Hinckley vs. Halo thread:

    Just a quick chime in with this not so insightful observation:

    Didn’t Joseph Smith enjoy a good fist fight every once in a while? I seem to remember hearing stories about him terrorizing the neighborhood with Orrin Porter Rockwell…

  31. Embarassaed by my last comment, I’ll try something a little more on-topic.

    Brigham’s concept is that part of what makes evil scintillating is the nature of the unknown. Melissa talked early on back in the comments about how it’s possible to make it through life without seeing an R Rated movie or an un-blocked porn pop-up online.
    Although that is becoming increasingly harder (anecdotally, in public high school I was in classes on a number of occasions where Rated R movies were played purely for entertainment value, albeit not in Utah… sometimes this happened without me knowing before hand what the rating was…) in our current society, I do have to commend those who can do that. I wonder, though, if we can’t sort of do what Brigham talks about and take the sheen off the sexuality part of both those things (R-Rated movies and Pornography) by teaching our children doctrinally correct principles, in a wholesome way.

    Specifically, the target point that I’d like to reach is the point where my kids don’t
    turn their heads away in shock at sexuality, forcing themselves to look away from something that they in their hearts have a deep desire to participate in or that is, at the least tantalizing, but instead turn their heads away because of the distasteful way that human sexuality is being portrayed in whatever the medium is. The sexualization of our culture has been much discussed in other places, I’m sure, but I think that it’s possible to at least partially innoculate our children culturally against the evils of this sexualization by teaching them correct principles about sexuality, much the same way that most members of the church have been innoculated against smoking because they know it’s unhealthy for them. While there is a huge cultural stigma, born under this theory from the unwillingness to confront sexuality, towards sexuality outside of the bonds of marriage in the church, there’s not as much of a stigma towards smoking, though it’s clearly a sin. In short, I’d like to get my kids to the point where they understand sexuality outside marriage is wrong the same way they understand that smoking is wrong, and to equate them emotionally with the same reaction: distaste.

    How to accomplish this is another question. Being up-front with them about their bodies early on is clearly important: “Timmy and Suzy: our bodies are special to Heavenly Father, and he wants us to keep them private. We don’t share them with other people. This is why we wear bathing suits when swimming…” etc. Perhaps, though this is clearly controversial in the church, exposing them to appropriate nudity and explaining why it’s not evil would also help… “Timmy and Suzy: This picture of Adam and Eve shows them leaving the garden. They didn’t wear clothes because…” or “Timmy and Suzy: In some places in Africa, people are so poor they don’t have clothes. That’s what we are seeing right now. If people are fortunate enough to have clothes, Heavenly Father expects us to wear them.” etc. etc.

    Of course, all of this is hypothetical, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and it hit me in the shower, so… there it is.

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