Media Choices That Matter

Sometime around 1997 and 1998 I made a decision that would alter my life ever so slightly for the next ten plus years. I turned off my television. I didn’t get rid of it I simply canceled my cable service and stopped watching. I continued to rent movies at a rapid pace and with the money I wasn’t spending on cable service I even began to purchase some movies. But the television was gone.

This might not seem like such a big deal as there are a lot of people who don’t watch television for a myriad of reasons. What made it a big deal for me was that I had more than grown up with television my life was centered on television. I was in my twenties before I could no longer recite to the Thursday night lineup the included “The Cosby Show” or the lineup from years before that which included “The A-Team”. In 1983 my summer mornings did not consist of games of baseball in an old sandlot or explorations down by the creek. They consisted of Pat Sajak and The Wheel of Fortune, reruns of The Love Boat and Benson, and the Peter Tomarken hosted Press Your Luck. So to walk away from the television after twenty years of “marriage” was extreme.

In Disney’s 2000 movie “The Kid” the character of Rusty utters the quote, “Holy smokes… 99 channels and there’s nothing on!” That is how I began to feel. An evening of television viewing became two hours of channel surfing. Never really watching all of anything but simply trying to watch part of everything. I could feel the brain cells rotting away by the truckload.

In 2000 (or 2001) my then fiancé and I made another media life changing decision; we made the decision to stop watching R-rated movies. We had chosen to put the counsel of the church leaders to the test. Would it make a difference if we did or did not watch R-rated movies? It did. We became much more aware of the content of the movies and television programs that we watched.

Three or four years later we noticed another effect of our decision. In 2002 the Lord blessed our home and our marriage with two precious little souls to nurture. Because of our media entertainment choices prior to our children’s birth we had no cable on our television at home and so as our children got older and we started to introduce them to video entertainment their selections were what was available on PBS – Sesame Street, Cailou, etc. – and the few video tapes (and later DVDs) that we owned or checked out from the library. An amusing side effect of this was that once when our children were two or three and we visited my wife’s grandmother they chose to sit down and watch cartoons that they did not have access to in our home. The first commercial that came on was very irritating for my children because they wanted to know who had changed the channel. They had never seen a commercial before and had a difficult time comprehending the concept.

In an article in the November 2003 Liahona (“Let Our Voices Be Heard,” Liahona, Nov 2003, 16-19) M. Russell Ballard issued some warnings about the media choices we make everyday. He counseled that we should “choose wisely what we listen to and what we watch.” He further admonished, “The choices we make in media can be symbolic of the choices we make in life. Choosing the trendy, the titillating, the tawdry in the TV programs or movies we watch can cause us to end up, if we’re not careful, choosing the same things in the lives we live.”

In the news recently there has been much talk of individuals and families who have been focusing on not buying any products that were made in China. These consumers sometimes go to great lengths to obtain items that they desire to have. At times they even choose to go without certain things in order to stay true to the personal standards they have set. As faithful latter-day saints we too should be remaining true to our personal standards we should be choosing entertainment mediums that are uplifting, that are clean, and that help us stay focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ and that don’t leave the door open for Satan to weave his destructive web of immorality, innuendo, and deceit within the walls of our homes.