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.
When Boundaries Are Missing
One time, our oldest daughter was not properly watched by a baby-sitter and was permitted to crawl wherever she wanted. She crawled across a floor furnace grate and was severely burned. The grate was so hot the burn penetrated the skin deeply. Her leg looked like a waffle. She still carries some of the scars of that accident because a needed boundary was missing.
We once lived in a little old home where standards for cement footings had been totally ignored. In time, the floors sloped in many directions. When my sons build a house, they have rigid standards that must be met, starting with the preparation and compaction of the soil before construction is even begun. This ensures that once the house is built, it can stand the tests of weight and time.
Free to Choose
My friends, the spiritual body and the mind, like the physical body, are made up of what they feed upon. On a recent trip, 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. When a person dies, there is a separation of the spirit from the physical body. The physical body is lifeless, but the spirit 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 that would stand the test of time for us all. 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 truly 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 enhance knowledge, understanding, and progress. The advances in the media, for example, are almost unbelievable. We are astonished as we see them roll forth with ever-increasing rapidity. I served a mission 44 years ago, and TV was virtually unknown. It won’t be long until every possible type of TV, audio, telephone, and computer information from hundreds of stations or sources will be available through a single fiber-optic system fed into the home. What a springboard to education and wholesome entertainment that will be!
But it will 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? Can we do it now when 60 to 70 percent of movies and entertainment produced have ratings and materials unsuited to our spiritual development? 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 our media standards in For the Strength of Youth:
“Our Heavenly Father has counseled us as Latter-day Saints to seek after ‘anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy’ (A of F 1:13). Whatever you read, listen to, or watch makes an impression on you. Public entertainment and the media can provide you with much positive experience. They can uplift and inspire you, teach you good and moral principles, and bring you closer to the beauty this world offers. But they can also make what is wrong and evil look normal, exciting, and acceptable.
“Pornography is especially dangerous and addictive. Curious exploration of pornography can become a controlling habit leading to coarser material and to sexual transgression. If you continue to view pornography, your spirit will become desensitized, and your conscience will erode. Much harm comes from reading or viewing pornography. It causes thoughts within you that weaken your self-discipline.
“Don’t attend or participate in any form of entertainment, including concerts, movies, and videocassettes, that is vulgar, immoral, inappropriate, suggestive, or pornographic in any way. Movie ratings do not always accurately reflect offensive content. Don’t be afraid to walk out of a movie, turn off a television set, or change a radio station if what’s being presented does not meet your Heavenly Father’s standards. And do not read books or magazines, or look at pictures, that are pornographic or that present immorality as acceptable.
“In short, if you have any question about whether a particular movie, book, or other form of entertainment is appropriate, don’t see it, don’t read it, don’t participate” (pages 11–12).
My young friends, and all members everywhere, whom we love so much, standards and boundaries, especially those established by the Lord, 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. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name” (2 Ne. 9:41).