When I was a young missionary serving in Paris, France, I had several opportunities to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, 102 stories above the ground.
The tower was completed in 1889 as part of an international exposition. In the early days, several individuals fell to their death because the enclosure around the top floor was not high enough. Since those early days, a very high glass and wire enclosure has been installed, making it virtually impossible to fall. On a windy day, the top of the tower may sway as much as two feet. It is frightening to be there at such a time. Still, visitors are free to walk on the top-floor platform and look for miles or take pictures in any direction and yet always feel secure because of that enclosure. It protects them and gives them tremendous reassurance. Visitors are at peace knowing it is in place.
Like that enclosure, standards are boundaries that protect us from spiritual and often physical harm. Standards are everywhere. They are present in all aspects of our lives, from the moment we come to earth. They are necessary for us to be safe, to grow, to develop, and to be happy.
Free to Choose
The spiritual body and the mind, like the physical body, are made up of what they feed upon. On a trip some years ago, my wife and I drank some water that we were unused to, and we were sick for several weeks. The mind is like that. It, too, is made up of what it feeds upon. The spirit is influenced by what the body and the mind feed upon.
Remember, the spiritual body of man is eternal. It lives on, hopefully receiving all the blessings promised those who use their agency in mortality to choose the standards established by our Father in Heaven.
Imagine the joy we felt when we learned that a beautiful earth had been created for us to come to. And imagine our satisfaction in learning that we would not be left without some standards or boundaries by which we could feel secure and protected, standards given by our Father in Heaven. He would not leave us without this great protection, though giving us our freedom to accept or reject it. He would offer us His ways, His standards, His boundaries, His inspiration, and His direction and then let us exercise our agency to accept or reject them. He would make it clear in His standards that they are eternal, never changing, reliable, and true safeguards, just like that enclosure on the Eiffel Tower.
If we stay within the boundaries prescribed, we will be safe, even at peace. Yet, even so, we are not compelled to follow them. We have our agency, for we are told by an ancient prophet, Jacob, “Ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life” (2 Ne. 10:23).
Now, all of this brings me to an important point. Today’s technological world is made up of the most remarkable advances ever known. They can enhance knowledge, understanding, and progress. But they can also open the floodgates to unsavory entertainment in the form of videos, music, or other things that influence what we think and what our minds feed upon. Ultimately it will influence our eternal spiritual selves, all in the privacy of our own homes. Will it strengthen our standards—or weaken them?
These advances provide a thorough test of our agency. Will we choose the standards of the Church and live by them, even when no one will know if we do or not? If we can keep the standards of the Lord now, it will become easier for us to do it always.
A Clear Standard
The First Presidency has given us strong media standards:
“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.
“Pornography in all its forms is especially dangerous and addictive. What may begin as a curious indulgence can become a destructive habit that takes control of your life. It can lead you to sexual transgression and even criminal behavior. Pornography is a poison that weakens your self-control, changes the way you see others, causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit, and can even affect your ability to have a normal relationship with your future spouse. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.
“Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior’s message of love for one another” (For the Strength of Youth , 14–15).
The Lord’s standards and boundaries, if followed, are for our salvation, our joy, and our peace. They are our key to really know our Father in Heaven and the Savior, for He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). So let us learn of His standards and boundaries and keep them so as to “come unto the Lord, the Holy One.”