“One cool summer evening when I was a freshman in college, I had a date with someone I really liked. I didn’t know him well, but I looked up to him a lot.
“When he came to pick me up for the movie, we walked to the theater, since he didn’t have a car. We had a great time getting to know each other better.
“Then the movie started. It was okay for the first ten minutes, but even though it had a PG rating, it started making me uncomfortable. The dialogue became more and more suggestive, and I started to sink lower and lower in my seat.
“And do you know what he did? Even though we’d only been there a short time, he turned to me and said, ‘I really don’t like this movie. Do you mind if we leave?’ He didn’t make a big deal over it, he just suggested we leave. I’ll always remember that date because of his integrity. That’s the kind of man I want to marry.”
Add to this true story countless others that are similar, and you come up with one alternative that many young LDS people are choosing: walking out, tuning out, turning off when movies, plays, radio, or television offend their standards.
Broadway has yet to see the likes again of a BYU performing group that stopped in to see a musical production while they were in New York City. Although many Broadway musicals are sheer fun and uplifting, this one made many in the group uncomfortable and prompted a mass exodus of BYU students halfway through the performance.
“I was proud of them for walking out, especially after they’d paid Broadway prices to get in,” said Bruce Olsen, who oversees the BYU entertainment groups. “It was such a contrast to the wholesome shows that they’d been putting on, they couldn’t tolerate the shock it gave them.
“We don’t do ourselves a favor by sitting in a production that would bring images or ideas into our lives that could degrade us or pollute our minds. I think it’s important for us to use the Spirit in deciding what we allow to go into our minds.”
The ballroom dance team from BYU had a similar experience while in London. They had spent the day in temple sessions and were looking forward to spending the evening at a popular musical that had received rave reviews. Before the show was half over, the group was seen quietly leaving en masse.
“At first the group wondered, will we embarrass ourselves by walking out in the middle of the show?” said George Bowie, director of the tour. “But the musical was so distasteful, especially after we’d spent the day in the temple, that we just couldn’t stand staying there another minute, so we left. The ushers asked us why we were leaving, and we told them. They told us they respected us for it.”
What many of these people walking out are asking themselves is, how important is a movie or play or television show or song in the eternal scheme of things? Is it important enough to damage sensitivity to the Spirit, or to make a person more tolerant of immoral behavior, or to plant unvirtuous thoughts in his or her mind? Their actions spell out a resounding “No!”
But what if you’re with a group of friends who don’t want to leave a movie or play? By following what you believe, you may set an example for them. Don’t be afraid to take a stand. Wait out in the lobby until the show is finished, and who knows, you may find yourself joined by some others who were offended by the movie, too. Also, it’s a good idea to check out a movie or play as much as possible before to see if you’re walking into something that is known to be less than up to your standards.
Being choosy about what you will and won’t let into your mind applies to radio and television, too. It’s physically just as easy to change the channel or turn off the set as to walk out of a theater.
“I hadn’t thought much about the lyrics of songs on the radio until I went for a drive with a friend from Idaho Falls who kept punching the buttons on the car radio. ‘Some songs aren’t worth listening to,’ he said. He explained that if he wouldn’t want his mom to listen to the song, he wouldn’t either. Maybe that’s corny, but if it is, I’m for it. I’m a lot more selective about what I listen to now,” said one young woman from California.
Television can all too easily become the downfall of someone trying to avoid mind pollution. It’s easy to be mesmerized by what comes on the screen, or to be pulled along in the plot of a show. And since watching TV is not so formal an event as going to a movie or play, your guard may be down. Is it harder to turn off the TV than to walk out of a movie that you’ve gone to with some friends? That probably differs for different people. But consistently choosing to watch those programs that will affect your life positively will reap long-term benefits for you.
“My landlord was hooking up my TV set to the cable in my apartment, and the show that was playing as he tested the reception was very suggestive, so he said, ‘That’s junk’ and changed the channel,” said a young woman from Salt Lake City. “I never would have thought he would do that—but it helped me decide to do the same thing more often.”
What will you gain by being selective in what you watch or listen to? We’re told, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). What you become is your reward—something that does matter a lot in the eternal scheme of things.