When Shall These Things Be

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Elder M. Russell Ballard

In order to keep the light and love of Christ burning in our hearts, we have to be careful in our choices of what we will watch and what we will read. Pornography is rampant and is absolutely, totally, completely destructive. Not too long ago I was assigned by the First Presidency to interview a man who had been excommunicated from the Church for adultery. It had required eight years for him to work his way through the long and sometimes painful process of reinstatement in the Church, and now he was sitting before me in an interview to determine his worthiness for a possible restoration of his priesthood and temple blessings. I asked him this simple question: "My dear brother, looking back on this traumatic time in your life, how did it happen?"

Tears began to flow freely down his cheeks as he tried to respond. At last he was able to speak. "Brother Ballard," he said, "it all started the day I picked up a pornographic magazine in the barber shop. It was the first time in my life I had ever seen anything like that, and it intrigued me. I wanted to see more and more. And then I wanted to see things that were progressively more explicit. And then it wasn't enough to just look at pictures—I wanted to actually participate in some of the activities I was looking at. Eventually I was untrue to my wife and my family and unfaithful to covenants I had made with my Heavenly Father in His holy house."

The man continued through his tears: "I'm not trying to shift blame for the choices I made. I knew better than to do what I did, and I alone am responsible for my sins. But there's no question in my mind that exposure to pornography played a significant role in my spiritual decline." And then he asked me: "When you talk to the brethren of the Church, please warn them. Please tell them to be careful about the things they read and watch."

I'm not only going to tell you brethren that, I'm also going to extend that same warning to you sisters. All of you—please be vigilant in your entertainment choices. Some of the things that are being shown in our theaters and broadcast to our homes via television and videos and over the Internet are insidious and dangerous. Rather than falling within the scriptural admonition to seek after that which is "virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy", they are more clearly described in chapter 7 or Moroni, where the prophet Mormon teaches that "whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God...is of the devil (Moroni 7:17).

Now I'm aware that some of you may think that you know better than I do about this subject. And you will argue your case based on artistic merit or the fact that "everyone is seeing it," or you will insist that you are not one of those people who will be influenced one way or the other by on-screen sex or violence.

To you I have only one question: Are you going to follow the true and living prophets or not? It really isn't any more complicated than that. The standard of the Church with regard to morality is clearly outlined in the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet, which you haven't outgrown, even though many of you are no longer in Young Men and Young Women. If you choose to read anything that contains material that is contrary to the moral standards of the Church, then you are placing yourself and your own wisdom above the counsel of God's prophets—a course of action that would indeed be very unwise. As soon as people begin to think that they know better than God or his oracles, or that counsel given doesn't apply to themselves, they are stepping onto a slippery slope that has claimed far too many victims already. It takes faith—real faith, unequivocable and unreserved—to accept and attempt to live by prophetic counsel even when you don't completely understand it. Such simple faith has the power to guide you safely through every challenge you may face in your life.

Elder M. Russell Ballard - BYU Devotional March 12, 1996 - "When Shall These Things Be"