Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

My friend and I really like watching this one soap opera every day. We’ve had several Young Women leaders advise us against watching these kinds of programs. Is there really anything wrong with it?

New Era

It may seem like watching a television show regularly is harmless and will have little effect in your life other than providing entertainment, but our attitudes and behaviors can be affected by becoming immersed in questionable entertainment.

Do the characters portrayed in soap operas have the values you have? Do you agree with the decisions they make? Do the plots show people who choose the good, uplifting things of the world?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, in April 1993 General Conference, said, “We are lathered with soap operas in need of nothing so much as soap—for the scrubbing of themselves!” (Ensign, May 1993, p. 77). He went on to point out that television executives deny that their programs’ content adversely affect viewers, yet these same networks air commercials in hopes of changing people’s behavior.

Your parents and leaders are concerned that the constant exposure of corrupt ideas may affect your view of what is good and pure. You may argue that you are strong enough and are firm in your understanding of good and evil, but try this little test to see if your television watching is affecting your attitudes.

Remember back to when you first started watching your program. Weren’t there incidents portrayed in the shows that you found shocking? If you think about it, you may find that the show doesn’t really shock you anymore. Some experts call this being desensitized. If you see deceit or cruelty or violence or immorality acted out often enough, your mind may no longer rebel against acceptance of these evils.

Another bad thing about soap operas is their addictive nature. In other words, do you rearrange your life just so you can watch a television show? Can you go one day, one week, or one month without watching it? Nothing so trivial as a television program should have such control over you.

Your church leaders are not the only ones who are advising against watching violence and immorality on television or in movies. In fact, the U.S. government is threatening to become involved if television and movie makers do not change the things they show in films. Parents’ groups are angry that their children are being exposed to evil in the guise of entertainment. Social scientists are publishing the results of studies that demonstrate a connection between the violence shown on television and the increasing violence acted out by children and adults.

To really understand how a soap opera may be affecting you, you need to get away from it. We’d like to challenge you to avoid your program for one month. At first, it will be hard, just as it is hard to break any habit. But as each day goes by, and you become used to doing other things with your time, we suspect that at the end of the month you will feel a sense of freedom and maybe even relief. Several readers wrote in and said that they didn’t realize how much they were being affected by soap operas until they quit watching them. Then they realized that they were being adversely affected without really knowing it. They had begun to accept some of the things portrayed on soap operas as the normal way of the world.

You can choose the good things in life. But you need to reject watching portrayals of the bad. Test the advice of your Young Women leaders. Only when you turn off the soap operas can you see their influence clearly.

Readers

I liked watching a couple of soap operas too, but my mom is totally against them. Besides that, I’ve found that a third of the time you’re actually watching filthy scenes. I think you should ask your parents what they think about you watching them. If you’re still worried, pray to Heavenly Father about it. After all, whose advice is better than the Lord’s?

Joy A. Andrus, 12 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

These types of programs send the wrong message about family values and do not show the way we should live our lives. We must guard against programs that hold us back from spiritual progress.

David Edward Box, 15 Del Rio, Texas

As my father told me, “If Christ were in the room, would he approve of what you are watching?” If the answer is no, you’ll know whether it’s wrong or not.

Jim Feagin, 17 Columbia, Maryland

For me, soap operas portray a world full of fantasy and immorality. Stop and ponder the advice from your youth leaders, who are showing their love by being concerned. Consider the consequence of your decision and determine for yourself if watching this show meets your standards.

Molly Mendez, 20 Plymouth, Indiana

Ask yourself, What is it portraying? What is the overall message, and how is it benefiting or taking away from your own character? With the limited amount of time granted to us as free time, we would be better off spending it on something that would allow us to progress.

Elizabeth Fiorito, 17 Hemet, California

Did those soap operas ever help you in your real life? I think you should do something good rather than watch those programs. Your mind and will can gradually be decayed.

Hawi-Ru Syu, 18 Miaoli City, Taiwan

My advice would be to first make a list. Write down the things you see in the soap operas that go along with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Then write down the things you see that Satan would want us to do. I think you’ll get your answer. I don’t like to watch people sin, and I hope you don’t either.

Elder Gerrit Johnson, 19 Adelaide, Australia

[photo] Photography by Matt Reier

[illustration] Even though television and movies had not yet been invented, the guideline Joseph Smith wrote as part of the 13th Article of Faith covers entertainment well: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” [A of F 1:13]