Lesson 46: Avoiding Degrading Media Influences

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 176–80


Objective

Each young man will recognize and strive to avoid degrading media influences in his life.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      Pencils for marking scriptures.

  2. 2.

    (Optional.) Prepare one boiled egg, white if possible; a container filled with enough water to cover the egg; a spoon; and food coloring for the demonstration. A tablespoon of vinegar in the water will help the egg absorb the color better.

  3. 3.

    Prepare three posters from the three sections of “Guidelines for Evaluating Media Influences,” found at the end of the lesson. These could be written on the chalkboard if you can arrange to reveal only one section at a time.

  4. 4.

    Prepare a copy of the handout “Guidelines for Evaluating Media Influences” for each young man.

  5. 5.

    Review the counsel about media on pages 11 and 12 of For the Strength of Youth.

Suggested Lesson Development

Degrading Media Influences Are Some of Satan’s Most Powerful Tools

Discussion

  • What products in your home can you name that might be both useful and harmful? (Insecticides, sprays, chemicals, cleaning aids, gasoline, medicines.)

  • How are these products useful?

  • How might they be harmful?

Conclude that they may be either useful or harmful depending on how they are used.

Chalkboard and discussion

Draw a skull and crossbones on the chalkboard.

skull and crossbones
  • What do you think of when you see this universal symbol on a product label? (It is a graphic warning of what can happen to the physical body if the toxic material is misused.)

Explain that there are other things in our lives that can be either useful, uplifting, and strengthening or harmful and even deadly to our spirits. Although some influences bear no skull and crossbones, we know they can be harmful because the prophets continually warn us to be cautious with them.

  • What do you think these influences might be?

Allow time for the young men to think or comment. Lead them to suggest the influences of mass media, such as magazines, music, television, and movies. Write the young men’s suggestions on the chalkboard.

  • How can these be used for good?

  • How might they be harmful? (They are used for immoral and obscene purposes.)

Quotation and discussion

Read the following statement from the First Presidency:

“There is abundant evidence of the damaging effect of obscenity. …

“We … are deeply concerned about this growing obscenity in print, on record and tape, on television, and in motion pictures. …

“We … urge all Latter-day Saints to … avoid smut in any of its many insidious forms” (First Presidency statement, Church News, 7 Oct. 1972, p. 5).

  • What harmful effects do you think might occur from a diet of suggestive music, pornographic magazines, immoral movies and television shows, and tobacco and alcohol advertisements?

Help the young men to understand that thoughts planted in the mind stay there forever. Evil thoughts tend to make us insensitive to what is good and bad. They crowd out wholesome ideas, and the Holy Ghost cannot remain with us.

Quotation

President Spencer W. Kimball warned us of some of the dangers resulting from these exposures to degrading media influences: “Certainly the tragedy … often begins with a visit to [a pornographic] motion picture theater or fingering through an obscene magazine. The path to the grievous sins of fornication, adultery, and homosexuality can begin, too, with the viewing of some of the sex-and-violence-oriented programs now being shown on television, including network television” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, p. 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 6).

Help the young men understand that the effects of degrading influences may not happen all at once. We can let ourselves gradually be eroded spiritually, bit by bit, day by day, week by week, until we are blinded to reality, numbed to the Spirit of the Lord, and engulfed in evil influences that lead to sin.

Poster

Display the poster titled “Satan’s Tools,” or uncover the first list on the chalkboard.

President Spencer W. Kimball described how this spiritual erosion takes place: “Lucifer in his diabolical scheming deceives the unwary and uses every tool at his command. …

“He will use his [refer to the points on the poster] [1] logic to confuse and his [2] rationalizations to destroy. He will [3] shade meanings, [4] open doors an inch at a time, and [5] lead from purest white through all the shades of gray to the darkest black” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 94; numerals added).

Discuss the “tools” listed.

Optional demonstration and discussion

To illustrate how Lucifer’s tools or methods can indeed affect us, little by little, perform the following demonstration. Immerse a boiled egg in food coloring just once. (This might represent looking at one pornographic picture.) The egg is slightly tinted. Then return the egg to the coloring, spooning the liquid over it many times. (These might be off-color jokes, a pornographic movie, a suggestive song.) Show the young men that each time the egg is covered with the food coloring, the shell becomes a shade darker.

  • Where could such continued exposure lead?

Explain that the young men may be thinking, “What does all of this have to do with me? I’m not going to let that stuff change me. I’m stronger than that.”

  • What is wrong with this kind of thinking?

Explain to the young men that they may think that these things do not affect them personally as much as they do others. However, it may be a matter of degree, as President Kimball suggested. The negative effects of these things may go unnoticed until they seem impossible to remove.

Scripture and discussion

Have the young men read and mark 2 Nephi 28:20–22 and Moroni 9:20.

  • What does it mean to be “without principle, and past feeling”?

  • How can we become so accustomed to having these influences around us that we lose our judgment as to what is degrading and what is not?

  • How can righteous standards help us avoid this pitfall?

We Should Judge Media Influences and Avoid What Is Degrading

Poster and discussion

  • What standards can we use to judge whether something is good or bad?

President Ezra Taft Benson gave some standards to use as guidelines for judging media influences. Although he refers mainly to the books we read, the same standards can be applied to other media as well.

Display the poster titled “Standards to Judge Media Influences,” or uncover the following standards already written on the chalkboard:

“Today, with the abundance of books available, it is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read. … As John Wesley’s mother counseled him: ‘Avoid [1] whatever weakens your reason, [2] impairs the tenderness of your conscience, [3] obscures your sense of God, [4] takes off your relish for spiritual things, … [5] increases the authority of the body over the mind.’

“The fact that a book is old does not necessarily make it of value. The fact that an author wrote one good work does not necessarily mean that all his books are worthy of your time. Do not make your mind a dumping ground for other people’s garbage. It is harder to purge the mind of rotten reading than to purge the body of rotten food, and it is more damaging to the soul” (“In His Steps,” 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1980], p. 61).

Discuss each of these five kinds of effects on the mind, the conscience, and spirituality. Help the young men understand that degrading media influences can cause the Holy Ghost to withdraw, leaving us unprotected.

  • How can you use these five standards to decide what to read or see?

Have the young men read and mark Moroni 7:15–17.

  • What guidelines does this scripture give us for judging movies or television shows?

  • How can we avoid such influences in the first place?

  • What can we do when we are exposed to evil and degrading influences?

Poster and quotation

Display the poster titled “How to Avoid Degrading Influences.”

Bishop H. Burke Peterson gave the following counsel:

“There should not be … [immoral] movies that we participate in viewing or talking about. There must be no pornographic magazines, pictures, or stories. … Do you have the courage to walk out of an off-color … movie or do you watch and listen, and suggest to yourself, ‘This soon will pass,’ or ‘Everyone is doing it; it must be an acceptable type of entertainment’? Have you the courage to keep out of your home some television shows that are filled with suggestive sexual conversation—and even experiences? Have you thought lately how effective these shows are in piercing even the strongest spirits? … We must not feed ourselves a diet of trash!” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1980, pp. 56–57; or Ensign, Nov. 1980, pp. 38–39; italics added).

Case studies and discussion

Ask the young men to consider these ideas as guides or possible solutions to the problems in the following case studies.

David was invited to a party where a videocassette tape was to be shown. He found out ahead of time that the movie was indecent, and he was able to persuade his friends to change it. But on a second, similar occasion, David did not know beforehand what the entertainment would be. It was a movie that had received excellent reviews in the newspaper, and most of his friends had already seen it. When they began viewing it, David heard language and saw scenes that made him feel uncomfortable.

  • What should David do under these circumstances?

One of Kelly’s closest friends seemed to constantly wear his new headphones through which he listened to his favorite radio station. One day he and Kelly talked about the kind of music that particular station continually played. Kelly asked Darin why he listened to it when the words to much of the music suggested immorality of many kinds. Darin replied that he liked the beat and sounds of the music and did not pay much attention to the words anyway.

  • What effect might the lyrics have on Darin even though he does not consciously listen to them? What might Kelly have said to Darin?

Guide the young men toward responses that won’t offend others. They need to learn how to maintain their own standards without condemning others.

The father in one family telephoned the theater where a movie was playing that their family planned to see. He was told by the manager that it was “acceptable family entertainment.” When they arrived, the very first scene was an explicit bedroom scene. The entire family walked out of the theater.

  • What did this father teach his children?

  • Which tool was Satan using?

Ross, with several friends, was visiting Paul, a boy who had just moved into the neighborhood. Paul reached into a drawer of his dresser and brought out several obviously pornographic magazines. He said, “Take a look at this!”

  • What should Ross say and do?

  • Why might this be difficult?

Quotation and discussion

President Benson said, “Be warned that some of the greatest battles you will face will be fought within the silent chambers of your own soul” (“In His Steps,” p. 60).

Sometimes we are the only person viewing a television show or looking at a magazine rack in a grocery store. Ask the young men to remember silently what television shows they have watched when no one else was at home.

  • Which tool would Lucifer use to persuade you to watch something indecent in these circumstances?

If you have time, you may want to discuss the counsel about media on pages 11 and 12 of For the Strength of Youth.

Conclusion

Adviser presentation

The influence of the mass media is far-reaching as it comes into the lives of millions of people. It can be a great force for good or evil. We should seek out and support what is good in the media and avoid what is degrading. We may have to search for and wait for desirable productions and books. We will have to be selective in what we read, see, and listen to and exercise restraint and self-discipline in the choices we make daily.

Challenge

Give the young men copies of the handout “Guidelines for Evaluating Media Influences.” Challenge them to use these guides to avoid degrading media influences in their lives. Suggest that they place this handout in their journals. Encourage the young men to review the counsel about media in For the Strength of Youth regularly to help them make righteous choices.