The Passion vs. The Last Temptation

March 2, 2004 | 78 comments
By

(I blush to confess that) I’m old enough to remember the release of The Last Temptation of Christ. While there was some discussion of the film in the student ward I attended, I don’t remember it being nearly as big a kerfuffle (or “brou-hahr-hahr” as they say around here) as The Passion has been. I’m sure that not nearly as many Mormons saw The Last Temptation as will see The Passion. I can think of several possible reasons for this:

1. The Last Temptation did not generate quite as much general media hype as The Passion.
2. Mormons are generally more comfortable with violence in movies than sex in movies. (Whether or not we should be as bothered with the notion of Christ being married and having sex as many Christians would be is a whole ‘nother subject, which I will leave to a week when we haven’t been quite so “sex-obsessed” in our discussions)
3. The Atonement, while certainly a central component of Mormon theology, was not as much a matter of emphasis or as prominent a feature of Mormon discourse as it now is. President Benson had given his “Come Unto Christ” talk just a year (or two?) before, but it had not yet filtered into the habits of thought of church members. Moreover, we were still somewhat suspicious of evangelical Christians, or at least very defensive about their views of us. I can’t imagine “having something in common with other Christians” being the sort of motivating factor then that it appears to be now in some members’ decision to see The Passion. I’m not sure whether our relative comfort with a decidedly non-Mormon portrayal of Christ is due to an increased sense of shared mission with other Christians, a mere change of which facets of Atonement we choose to emphasize, or a significant shift in Mormon Christology. What do you think?

A disclaimer: I have not seen either movie, and don’t necessarily want to get bogged down in a discussion of the relative merits of the films (though I’d be interested in learned opinions on that subject, of course). I think I’m using The Last Temptation mostly as a chronological marker.

Tags:

78 Responses to The Passion vs. The Last Temptation

  1. Renee on March 3, 2004 at 12:13 am

    Well, the “Continue reading” link is broke at the moment but here’s my $.02. I saw both. I wasn’t a Mormon when I saw the first one. The only kerfluffle was from the Catholic church who opposed presenting a fictional account of Jesus.

    It wasn’t bad, although I hope Jesus didn’t resemble Willem Dafoe (the second creepiest man in show business). I was ok with artistic exploration of that nature. Now the play that came out around 4-5 years ago that had a gay Jesus, that’s um, more blasphemous in nature to me. Anyway, the soundtrack for the Last Temptation was good.

    The reason the media wasn’t all over TLToC is because anything that maligns traditional Christianity is favorable. But if you want to present actual scripture in a gigantic, powerful way like The Passion, watch out. It’s simply not popular to suggest this story is true.

  2. Matt Evans on March 3, 2004 at 12:38 am

    These two movies aren’t similar except for surface subject matter, so it’s not very meaningful to compare Mormon’s reaction to them.

    The Last Temptation of Christ was written by an atheist, boycotted by Christian groups, and heralded as an artistic achievement by Hollywood. The Passion of the Christ, on the other hand, was written by a believer, has been embraced by most Christians, and been hissed by Hollywood and media elites.

    This article from Time magazine is an excellent smack-down of the media’s hypocrisy toward The Passion:
    http://www.time.com/time/columnist/printout/0,8816,596038,00.html as is this article by Jennifer Braceras http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/braceras200403020838.asp

    Let me again urge everyone to see The Passion. I hope to see it again soon. If you need more encouragement, read these reviews:

    Ramesh Ponnuru http://www.nationalreview.com/ponnuru/ponnuru200402201151.asp

    Orson Scott Card http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2004-02-29-1.html

    Kieth Merrill http://www.ldsmag.com/arts/040216Passionate.html

  3. Clark Goble on March 3, 2004 at 1:04 am

    Despite being a Scorsese fan, I never saw Last Temptation. What I heard of it turned me off. It is, from what I’ve read, a far more ambiguous picture. While in many ways it offers some elements which are more attractive to Mormons (a married Jesus, a stronger emphasis on his humanity) it also offered a lot that I think most of us would consider blasphemous (pretty much downplaying the supernatural, no real certainty about his nature, etc.) While the book may well have been written by an atheist, the film is by a Catholic. And someone who, while perhaps more liberal in his religious views, still seems to have strong spiritual conceptions. (His Kundun was interesting as well along those lines, even if a highly flawed film)

    I should add that I think the more human Gibson Christ is far more in line with how I conceived him. The scene with his mother doing the carpentry is particularly good. There is that undertone between Christ and Mary his mother where the recognition of his divinity and the necessity of the act is very well done. It was subtle and perhaps it means something quite different to a Catholic. I especially liked Mary Magdalene. While Catholics definitely view her differently than many Mormons do, I tended to view her through that Mormon prism.

    Yes the devil and the demons were not in line with Mormons nor were some of the more melodramatic elements, like the crow. But I think Gibson portrayed a Christ knowing what he had to do but not wanting to do it very well. I truly loved the beginning in the garden.

  4. Grasshopper on March 3, 2004 at 2:00 am

    It’s been a long time since I saw Last Temptation. I saw it quite by accident as a teenager. I don’t recall many details of the movie, but I *do* recall the ending. Reflecting on the ending of that movie has been very enlightening for me. Last year, I rented the movie, hoping to watch it with my wife. We began watching it and after a few minutes, she was so uncomfortable with it that she asked to turn it off.

    Should I be concerned about the “blasphemous” elements in the film?

  5. Brent on March 3, 2004 at 9:25 am

    I have to echo Matt’s statements about seeing the film. However, I would encourage that you do so without reading any more reviews. Read the gospels and then go see the movie. The first time I saw it I had read too many reviews and found myself watching the movie with all those reviews in mind. The second time, I knew what was in it, and having spent several days worth of scripture study on the gospel accounts and other commentary on the atonement and crucifixion, I appreciated the film to a much greater extent.

    I also remember the Last Temptation of Christ and never have desired to see it. To answer Grasshopper’s question we should be concerned about blasphemous elements, and I remember reading about Christ having sexual fantasies in the movie. Give me a break! I know Kristine didn’t want us to discuss the relative merits of the film, but I think the films’ relative merits are what mark the differences in public and member reaction to these two movies. I don’t think it is merely the fact that time has passed, or that the atonement has gotten more attention since The Last Temptation came out. Nor is our relative comfort with violence really an issue. The Passion follows the gospel account, the Last Temptation did not.

  6. Blake on March 3, 2004 at 10:22 am

    I find it interesting that many Mormons who usually criticize any other Mormons for watching R-rated movies are actually encouraging others to watch this one. Matt spoke of media hypocrisy, but this seems like another type of hypocrisy to me. Suddenly, when it’s about Christ, the rating doesn’t matter. Who cares about the onslaught of violence, it’s about Christ! There has even been speculation by one reviewer that, if the subject matter hadn’t been “religious,” “The Passion” would have been rated NC-17 for its high level of violence. I think I’ll pass on this R-rated movie, and don’t know that I’ll recommend it to anyone.

  7. Kristine on March 3, 2004 at 10:31 am

    Brent, it is true that Last Temptation departed from the account in the gospel, but isn’t it also fair to say that Passion adds a great many details which are not found in the texts?

  8. Grasshopper on March 3, 2004 at 10:40 am

    Brent,

    Why should I be concerned about blasphemous elements in the film?

    Kristine,

    I wonder whether one of the differences in Mormon reaction to the two films is how closely we relate to evangelical Christianity. When Last Temptation came out, I think we (as a church) did not identify as closely with evangelical Christians. I think since then, we have shifted to a closer identification with evangelical Christians. The reaction of evangelical Christianity, therefore, has a much greater impact on Mormons now than did their reaction to Last Temptation.

  9. Brent on March 3, 2004 at 10:43 am

    Of course not seeing a film makes it difficult to be able to recommend it. You can put me in the group that avoids R-rated movies (as well as most PG-13 movies) and thinks it is advisable for all to do the same. That said, if ever an exception were warranted to the “No R-rated movie” rule, this movie presents such an exception. The movie is about Christ and it is a rather accurate portrayal of what likely occurred based on what I have read (e.g. Jesus the Christ, the gospels, etc.). Should I not have read the various accounts about Christ’s suffering because they were violent? It seems to me the answer is no. This is not an easy matter especially in light of the fact that Church leaders have chosen to mention the rating system as an appropriate guide for eliminating a category of movies from our viewing options. If seeing this film makes me a hypocrite, so be it. I will continue to recommend this particular movie, and at the same time encourage all those over whom I have responsibility or influence to avoid other R-rated and other lesser rated movies with profanity, sex, gratuitous violence and the like regardless of rating without losing much sleep over it.

  10. Charles on March 3, 2004 at 10:48 am

    I believe that the additions made in the Passion do not detract from the central story. I felt like the demons Judas saw were very much in line with what may have happened in his head. They, and other plot devices such as Satan, were well used in that they allowed a very visual medium with little dialogue to convey the emotions and atmosphere of what was happening.

    The garden at the begining is a great example. In the scriptures we have a few lines that would have to translate into a great soliloquy to convey what many know the garden to be about. While there wasn’t as much time spent on the garden as I would have liked, I think the use of Satan was well done as a literary device.

  11. brayden on March 3, 2004 at 10:55 am

    I was a child in the 80′s so I don’t recall events with great clarity, but I am surprised to learn that the Church is decidedly more Christian now. I say that because it seems that in reading through earlier prophets work Christ is a very prominent feature of the discourse. Would others consider Benson’s talk to be a turning point, as Kristine has portrayed it here?

  12. Brent on March 3, 2004 at 11:01 am

    Grasshopper, why wouldn’t you be concerned about the blasphemous elements of the film? Perhaps concerned is not the right word, but if the film presents blasphemous elements, why would you waste your time watching it? What is uplifting or gratifying about a film that blasphemes our God?

    Kristine, Mel Gibson does present his own “take” on Christ’s final hours and life, but I don’t know that he fills in a “great many details” in such a way so as to detract from the Gospel account. In fact, following my viewing I went back and reread the Gospel accounts and was surprised actually at how true the movie was to such accounts. There were details I simply hadn’t remembered or noticed which were actually in the text. Any additional details which were added appeared to be based on historical information (e.g. scourging and crucifixion techniques) or for mere dramatization (e.g. Christ making a table and interacting with Mary at their home, and other scenes/dialogue with Mary or others). Thus, there was not a wholesale departure from the Gospels, and certainly Gibson did not seek to undermine who Christ was and what he taught, which, from the many reviews and the like I read on the Last Temptation was the effect of the such film.

  13. lyle on March 3, 2004 at 11:10 am

    Blake:

    So…do you want to be consistent? Or complete? Choose.

    Oh…and if you want consistency, don’t forget that you need to skip The Lamb of God, produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is rather violent in nature.

  14. Renee on March 3, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    Hi, Blake. Surely you believe that the context should matter. Pointless violence without consequence is entirely different that violence written as in the gospels or visual as in some movies. Context is very much relevent and yes, it is different because it is about what happened to Christ. If you want to equate slasher flicks (which honestly are more bloody with a higher death count) with The Passion, feel free. But I find it hard to believe anyone thinks they are comparable.

  15. brayden on March 3, 2004 at 12:55 pm

    There are plenty of violent R-rated movies (besides slasher flicks – the straw man) that have important content. Where do you draw the line?

  16. greenfrog on March 3, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    I was a child in the 80′s so I don’t recall events with great clarity, but I am surprised to learn that the Church is decidedly more Christian now. I say that because it seems that in reading through earlier prophets work Christ is a very prominent feature of the discourse. Would others consider Benson’s talk to be a turning point, as Kristine has portrayed it here?

    I do. I recall in the 80s a professor at BYU was teaching the importance of developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Elder McConkie came to campus and delivered a sermon condemning such a practice as idolatry, as we are (were, at that time) taught to worship only God the Father.

    While (of course) the rhetoric of Elder McConkie’s sermon was severe, the point he was making was not terribly novel at the time. In my experience, the Church’s Christ-centric orientation is a relatively new emphasis.

  17. Nate Oman on March 3, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    To what extent is it a shift in emphasis vs. a shift in conceptualization. For example, McConkie’s final sermon, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane” is one of the more powerful LDS evocations of Christ ever, INMHO (1985). Perhaps we are simply more likely to emphasize a personal and gracious savior rather than an antoning Jehovah.

  18. lyle on March 3, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    Greenfrog:

    I’ve heard this before…and perhaps I’m just too young myself; but…I just don’t believe it. A book on LDS Cristology from Joseph Smith to Now…would be good. If the Ensigns and GC talks support this…fine. Somehow…i doubt it.

  19. Gary Cooper on March 3, 2004 at 2:20 pm

    Boy, so much to address from just one thread! Here goes:

    1. The R-rating issue has bothered me for some time. To my knowledge, the last time any general authority specifically mentioned not watching any R-rated movie was back when President Benson was still alive, though I could be wrong. Since then, I’ve not heard any G.A. be quite so specific. This church policy may be undergoing change in much the same way that a number of other policies have ended up evolving, in that no one ever comes out and announces a change, but a change has taken place (such as the ban on waltzes at church dances in the 1800′s, to their being acceptable in the 1900′s). At the time of President Benson, the R-rating was a reliable guide to parents, telling us that we could expect nudity/sex/gratuitous violence. That is simply no longer the case. You can now get that in PG and PG-13 flicks, and even subtle sexual innuendo in G-rated. On the other hand, some really wonderful films, such as “Glory” that had no sex, no nudity, only mild language, and fairly tame war violence, get an “R”. In short, the R-rating does not appear to me to be as definitive as it once was.

    2. I think there has been a very definite change in focus on the part of the Church and the G.A.’s towards more emphasis on Christ, but I think it has more to do with President Benson’s demanding we get more into the BoM.

    3. I originally had planned not to see this film, because I could not see how its strong emotional emphasis could help me learn anymore about the Atonement than Scripture study and the Holy Ghost could. Now I think I’ve been close-minded. Heavenly Father created us as emotional beings, and He is a being with emotions. We must bridle those emotions within Gospel bounds, but sometimes, just sometimes, I think we need to put away all the philosophizing and reason and logic and exegesis, etc., and just take time to FEEL the emotions of realizing that Christ came and truly SUFFERED, in terrible ways, so that He could gain the saving knowledge He needed to help each of us overcome our sins and weaknesses and become like him. I’ve changed my mind; I’m going to go see this film, and I suppose I’ll shed open tears and get real torn up watching the terrible violence. I suppose I’ll have to overlook the doctrinal errors. But I suspect I may come away with a renewed appreciation, if only emotional, that I have covenanted through baptism and the temple ordinances with a Being who loved me so much so He voluntarily went through Hell for me, just to give me the opportunity, if I choose, to be like Him, and to help my family be like Him, and my friends, my acquaintences, my enemies, and the whole world.

  20. Matt J on March 3, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    From my perspective, I would agree with Matt Evans’ assessment. The Last Temptation was derided by Christians, including Mormons. The Passion is hailed by Christians, a little by Mormons. This has more to do with the content and motives in creating the films than with our relationship to other Christians. As a teenager in the 80s I always felt like Christ was #1 and the central part of our religion.

    If anyone wants some good music to listen to while driving to and from The Passion, I would recommend Dvorak’s Stabat Mater (about the grief of Mary). Seems appropriate given the approach Gibson has taken.

  21. Clark Goble on March 3, 2004 at 2:41 pm

    Where do we draw the line? I don’t know. I know BYU was seeking to show Schindler’s List with only the one nude scene removed (or blacked out). Yet it is a very violent film. Many people saw Saving Private Ryan which, as many have pointed out, was far more violent than The Passion. It is hard to say.

  22. Matt Evans on March 3, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Blake,

    I agree it would be hypocritical for someone who says no one should ever see rated-R movies to see The Passion, or to encourage others to see it.

    I don’t subscribe to the R-rating as a rule, but as useful proxy for movies that are spiritually harmful. Because the rating system isn’t a perfect proxy spiritual harm, the rating is only one of the factors that lead me to avoid a movie. The R-rating is underinclusive: not all spiritually damaging media is stamped with an R; and overinclusive: some movies that are stamped with an R are not spiritually damaging.

    The problem of over- and under-inclusion of the MPAA as a proxy for spiritual harm has increased as the standards of the world have diverged from the standards of the church. No doubt this is part of the reason why the church removed the reference to the R-rating from the latest edition of For the Strength of Youth. (In addition to the deteriorating values of television, video games, and the Internet.)

    Finally, I think the MPAA was right to give The Passion an R-rating. Children under 17 should not be allowed to see it without their parent.

  23. Brent on March 3, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Gary, just run a search at the church’s website and you will find a number of talks from General Conference where GAs have mentioned not watching R-rated movies, but I agree with your assessment about the ratings. It is still a good general policy to place R-rated films in the do not watch category, but a film like the Passion requires one to evaluate the rule. Note that Orson Scott Card wrote recently, in discussing the Passion:

    (And for those who piously refuse to see R-rated films, I can only say: There are movies that children should not see, and this is one of them. But for a Christian adult to refuse to see it as a matter of moral principle, as if this movie will somehow dirty you, moves you over into the category of those who let the letter of the law keep them from its spirit.)

    Some good points, if a little strong.

  24. brayden on March 3, 2004 at 5:09 pm

    It’s interesting that in this discussion no one has brought up profanity as a reason for avoiding R-rated movies. For some people this is the primary reason they avoid the R-rating. Who wants to have your head dirtied with filthy words?

    I’m assuming that in The Passion there is no profanity. But there are other movies that have no or little violence, no sex or nudity, but a dose of profanity that requires that MPAA to give it them the R. Is there a content guideline that people use to assist them in making decisions about when it’s okay to watch a movie with excessive profanity?

    I can think of a few movies I’ve seen that I recommend heartily to people even though they are rated R and have some profanity. I recommend them because I thought the message and/or the story was important enough to merit watching. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, One True Thing, and Sophie’s Choice all fit into that category (can you tell I’m a Meryl Streep fan?).

  25. Brent on March 3, 2004 at 5:20 pm

    Brayden, some may think it silly, but my wife and I purchased a product, the name of which escapes me at the moment, which filters out profanity in movies. We have rented some great movies that were rated R only because of profanity and have enjoyed them profanity-free.

  26. Gary Cooper on March 3, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    Brent,

    Back to your response that a search of the Church’s website shows a number of G.A. talks on not watching R-rated movies, which dealt with my statement that it had been a while since any G.A. had openly said, “don’t watch any r-rated movies”. You’re right, but in my check at LDS.org I noticed the last talk was from April 2001 Conference, nearly 3 years. Again, I suspect the Brethren are realizing the ratings are not as helpful now as in the past (re: Matt Evans comment above about the change in For The Strength of the Youth).

  27. Brent on March 3, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    Gary, I don’t disagree. You will note that every mention of R-rated movies over the years has come with a description of what materials in movies are to be avoided (e.g. sex, nudity, profanity, violence, anything else morally degrading). Who knows why it is emphasized less. It could be to avoid adherence to the letter rather than the spirit problem (i.e. anything not R is okay) or just a realization that regardless of rating there is a whole lot of questionable media out there and thus the emphasis has been placed on content. I mean there is more filth on TV each night than on the scores of movies playing at any time.

  28. Greg Call on March 3, 2004 at 6:45 pm

    I would think that part of the reason it’s not mentioned much anymore is that an “R” rating is only relevant to U.S. Saints. For everyone else, drawing the line at R-rated isn’t very helpful. (I remember that at BYU, my Canadian pals had seen all sorts of movies I hadn’t, because as I understand it the ratings system is different there.)

  29. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 2:59 am

    My goodness, a discussion about the R rating that I’m getting into so late…

    I can understand where Blake is coming from. Last time we had a similar conversation, Matt, Adam, and others had serious issues with the R rating. And now they’re all gung-ho about this one. Now, I can understand why, but perhaps it would be helpful if Matt or Adam would come out and admit to seeing more than just this one R rated movie. I don’t want to call anyone a hypocrite here, but it would be easier if those who had no issues with the Passion could also openly say they have no issues with movies like, “Glory”, “The Pianist”, “Last Samurai”, “Schindler’s List”, “Braveheart”, “Last of the Mohicans”, etc. These are just my examples; I’m interested in one or two movies you’ve seen that are a) rated R and b) not the Passion.

    If this is the first rated R movie you’ve ever seen, then Blake’s point becomes a little more valid. There is something strange about someone willing to watch the Passion but shunning Glory.

  30. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 3:07 am

    “…just run a search at the church’s website and you will find a number of talks from General Conference where GAs have mentioned not watching R-rated movies”

    Two things: 1) How many of those have been from prophets or apostles? Answer: almost none. Not to say seventies don’t have good things to say, but you’d see more support even higher up if it was really important. 2) Why do we always forget to mention the context? Reread the notorious Benson quote. He was talking to the YOUTH of the Church. Well, of course they should avoid R ratings!

  31. Matt Evans on March 4, 2004 at 10:45 am

    Hi Bob,

    I’ve probably seen 20 rated-R movies in my life, a dozen of which I saw the summer before high school. My wife and I have only seen two R-rated movies, The Passion and Saving Private Ryan.

    But I still disagree with your analysis. For someone like me, who considers the MPAA ratings system to be under- and over-inclusive, I think The Passion is the best evidence of it’s being over-inclusive. I really liked Saving Private Ryan, and would encourage people to see it despite the R-rating. In fact, the reason I like it was specifically for the shocking realism that earned it the R-rating. Adults in a democracy shouldn’t be sheltered from seeing the effects of public decisions we’re expected to weigh on. Nevertheless, I am much more emphatic about urging people to see The Passion, because the importance of giving emotional impact to the truth “Jesus voluntarily died to redeem you” is much higher than “veterans died to defeat Nazism”.

    Even though we don’t know exactly how Christ was beaten, scourged and crucified, and it’s possible that Gibson’s account shows the physical suffering worse than it really was, we don’t know that it _wasn’t_ like this, either. Every time there was a scene that parted from the way I’ve imagined the final hours, I reminded myself that I don’t _know_ his eye wasn’t swollen shut, or that his cross wasn’t flipped over, to give two examples. Most importantly, I knew that Christ suffered infinitely greater than what I saw on the screen.

    I’m sympathetic to the complaint that the movie wrongly suggests the atonement is physical in nature, but for people who take true knowledge about the source of Christ’s suffering into the theater, it didn’t matter. But I don’t know what the alternative is. Should we not imagine his death at all, because no matter how closely we imagine it, we’ll be infinitely far from the truth?

    I for one, despite reading the scriptures my whole life, and reading Jesus the Christ, had a renewed appreciation for Christ’s sacrifice.

    That is why, of all the times someone might recognize that the MPAA rating system is an imperfect proxy for recognizing spiritually harmful movies, this is it.

  32. Grasshopper on March 4, 2004 at 10:58 am

    Brent,

    “Grasshopper, why wouldn’t you be concerned about the blasphemous elements of the film? Perhaps concerned is not the right word, but if the film presents blasphemous elements, why would you waste your time watching it? What is uplifting or gratifying about a film that blasphemes our God?”

    Well, I found the overall message of the movie to be quite uplifting. The mere existence of bad, even evil, elements in an uplifting film does not make the film worthless any more than the existence of good elements in an evil film make it worthwhile.

    I like the approach suggested by Brigham Young:

    “Our doctrine and practice is, and I have made it mine through life—to receive truth no matter where it comes from. Is there truth in heaven? Yes, it dwells there, it is the foundation of the heavens. Is there truth on earth and beneath the earth? There is. Is there truth in the words of a good man? Yes. In the words of a wicked man? Yes, sometimes; and there is truth in the words of an angel, and in the words of the devil, and when the devil speaks the truth I should have the spirit to discriminate between the truth and the error, and should receive the former and reject the latter. For example, you read in Genesis about the formation of the earth and the creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden. By and by the devil comes along and tempts Eve, by offering her the fruit of a certain tree, assuring her at the same time that the very day she ate of it her eyes would be open and she would see like the Gods. Did the devil tell the truth? He did. Did he tell a lie? Yes, and how many of them he told to one truth I have not taken pains to examine. You take a wicked person, an opposer of the truth, one of our apostates, for instance, and he will tell you a little truth and mix it up with a great deal of error; but we should know enough to understand and receive the truth; that will do us good, and if we reject the error it will do us no harm.” (JD 14:160-161)

  33. Matt Evans on March 4, 2004 at 11:04 am

    On the topic of the MPAA rating system being an imperfect proxy for spiritual value, here is a partial list of movies I’ve seen that, despite not being rated-R, are more spiritually harmful than The Passion of the Christ (in no particular order):

    Finding Nemo
    Aladdin
    The Little Mermaid
    Beauty and the Beast
    Hercules
    Tarzan
    Toy Story
    A Bug’s Life
    The Lion King
    Cinderella
    Robin Hood
    The Jungle Book
    101 Dalmations

  34. Brent on March 4, 2004 at 11:08 am

    Grasshopper (I can’t help but envision David Carradine as I write that), I understand your point, and it is good to be able to sift through the bad and receive the good. Again from what I have read, it didn’t make sense for me to spend my time sifting through bad to find good when I could go to other sources. I don’t think Brigham was encouraging the saints to seek out instruction from apostates or opposers of the truth. My impression is that he was saying, if you come across one, look out for truth. If we have the choice between watching a film on Christ which contains blasphemous elements and not watching it, I would opt not to watch it. That’s just my take. For me, it would be difficult to find the overall message to be uplifting in such circumstances.

  35. Paul on March 4, 2004 at 11:55 am

    Matt,

    I tried to let your post go, but I just couldn’t do it. I’m sure I’m walking into a trap here, but how in the heck are some of those movies more spiritually harmful then gaining a fuller appreciation of the physical suffering of Jesus Christ? I would actually tend to think, how are any of them more harmful, but I’ll settle for just a few examples…even one.

  36. Kaimi on March 4, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    Matt,

    1. Yeah, those wacky Disney movies. Better keep your kids away from them. The music is all cheesy Elton John stuff!

    In all seriousness, I must confess I find the evils of Robin Hood to be underwhelming. (Or are you talking about the Kevin Costner version? Yeah, the guy can’t act — but I wouldn’t call his acting inability so bad as to be spiritually harmful).

    2. I’ve heard a thousand times from various members, “why couldn’t they have just filmed [movie x] without the [sex/violence/nudity/etc]?” Such as “why couldn’t they have made Titanic without the nudity? Shrek without the flatulence jokes?” And so forth.

    It seems that no one is asking that about the Passion. Why couldn’t they have made it without the graphic violence? And let’s face it — they could have.

    It would have been a different movie. Just as Titanic without the nudity would have been different. But it certainly could have been done.

    The church has a video depicting the death of Christ. I’ve always found the whipping scene to be a painful to watch, vivid, and rivieting depiction of Christ’s suffering — and it is done without graphic violence.

    I’m not a big fan of the “why couldn’t it have been made without” line of reasoning, because I generally think artists should have the freedom to make the pictures they want to. That said, the silence is deafening from the usual crowd — it appears that Mel Gibson has been given a free pass, despite the fact that he _could_ have done things differently.

  37. Brent on March 4, 2004 at 12:32 pm

    Kaimi, many have commented about the fact that Mel Gibson could have done it differently. In fact in numerous interviews he has addressed that particular issue. He intentionally portrayed the violence and blood for a purpose. Comparing the inclusion of nudity in Titanic and Christ’s suffering misses a key distinction. Mel Gibson wanted to show Christ’s suffering. He wanted people to be disturbed by it, not for gratuity, but rather so that people would appreciate what Christ did as our Savior. Mel Gibson isn’t being given a free pass, he has a much better explanation for including what he did in his film than any of the directors who include gratuitous sex, violence, nudity or profanity.

  38. Adam Greenwood on March 4, 2004 at 12:35 pm

    Bob Caswell,
    I know ‘those people’ can be a little hard to tell apart, but I’ve actually said next to nothing about the Passion. I haven’t seen it and don’t know that I will. For the record, I’ve seen parts of two R-rated movies since my mission, both of which I didn’t know were R-rated and both of which drove away a kind of holiness that I’d apparently been carrying around with me without realizing it.
    As for your contention that seeing the Passion but not seeing Glory would be absurd: absurd! Glory is a fine movie–I saw the edited version at BYU–but the assault on Fort Fisher is not the central event of human history. My salvation in no way depends on understanding in my gut the price paid for me.
    In any case, your call to openly discuss and compare exceptions is ultimately a call to destroy the rule. I believe in the rule and certainly do not intend to trumpet any and all exceptions I may make to it.

  39. Adam Greenwood on March 4, 2004 at 12:39 pm

    “My salvation in no way depends on understanding in my gut the price paid for me.”

    This should either read “my salvation in no way depends on understanding in my gut the price paid there” or else “my salvation depends on understanding in my gut the price *Christ* paid for me.”

  40. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 12:52 pm

    Matt, Adam (All),

    I have seen the Passion and am glad I did. It was an excellent film, definitely an exception to any R-rated rule. I can’t think of subject matter that is more applicable to all of us. BUT, comparing it other movies such as Glory is not that far fetched. Sure, Adam, “the assault on Fort Fisher” is not the most important historical event. But think of the principles behind that movie. We can all learn from it just like we can all learn from the Passion. My point is that a movie doesn’t necessarily have to be about Christ in order to be an “R-rated exception”. There are principles found in many movies [that are rated R] that are applicable to all of us.

    Adam, I commend you for sticking to the “rule”. But not discussing its exceptions shows me that you wish it was better than it really is (the rule). The reality is there are exceptions.

  41. Adam Greenwood on March 4, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    Bob,
    You ignore two things:
    (1) Even the best rules have exceptions or examples of imperfect fit. A too public discussion of those exceptions deconstructs the rule and undermines it. Even if our judgment is such that we don’t need a rule (I highly doubt it), there is still noblesse oblige, or the principle of not eating sacrificed meat.
    (2) Making an ‘exception’ for every movie we judge worthwhile is too destroy the rule. We can still say we are following it, or showing it some respect, but the truth is that we are doing exactly what we would do anyway if there were no R-rated rule. The rule has no effect on us; we have written it out of existence. If a rule is to mean anything, it has to mean that our judgment isn’t to be trusted and needs to be schooled. Any ‘exceptions’ should be made hesitantly, for the solidest of reasons, and bruited too publicly. Passion may be such an exception, but for the reasons Kaimi gives I am reluctant to say.

  42. Matt Evans on March 4, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Paul,

    The spiritual harm I see in most movies, including Disney’s, is the irrelevance of God. No matter the danger, the importance of a decision, or the ambiguity of the right course, the protaganists teach that God is unnecessary and irrelevant.

  43. Brent on March 4, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    It’s also always interesting to have to explain to your young daughter that she can’t wear sleeveless dresses or outfits because they are inappropriate when every Disney princess and/or female character dresses that way.

  44. Melora on March 4, 2004 at 2:40 pm

    The problem here is a classic rules vs. standards one. I think Blake’s point was that people who are always hard-line rule followers (never watch R-rated movies because they’re R-rated) are now saying that there should be more of a standards approach–consider the context and message, etc.

    As to Disney and other movies’ lack of morals (my uncle always points to Back to the Future as the ultimate in bad messages), there are so few movies that speak to my particular world view that I should stop watching if that is all I’m looking for. I think movies, like literature and other forms of expression, reveal others’ views, giving us perspective and something to think about and maybe understand. Most people around me think that God is irrelevant, and there may be some value in understanding them.

    Finally, Christ’s atonement did not need to be violent and bloody. I have no doubt that it was, but saying that the violence was requisite or excusable for this reason seems to open the floodgates: anything dealing with a “good” topic can be gratuitously violent or disturbing.

  45. Logan on March 4, 2004 at 4:58 pm

    Adam, your arguments confuse me. As you point out, “Even the best rules have exceptions or examples of imperfect fit.” Since that’s true, wouldn’t that mean that it is important to discuss exceptions to better understand the nature and extent of the rule?

    Also, if the point of the rule is to help you see “worthwhile” movies and avoid ones that aren’t (what else could it be for?), it seems that what destroys the value of the rule is precisely when we don’t make exceptions for worthwhile movies. Isn’t every worthwhile movie we fail to see solely because of the rule a failure of the rule?

    The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

  46. Logan on March 4, 2004 at 5:19 pm

    To better address your point, Adam . . .

    I should point out I don’t share your sentiment about the value of rules. I don’t think they’re there to override our judgment; we have them because they provide a shorthand for making decisions. If we had to consider the implications of every single choice we made, we’d have little time for anything else. Not only do I have more faith in myself than not to trust my judgment, but I believe God does as well; hence the encouragement to be “anxiously engaged,” and not to be “commanded in all things.”

    The relatively less consequential rules like this (as opposed to “thou shalt not kill, commit adultery,” etc.) are great training for us to exercise our own judgment. The point isn’t never to make a mistake (aka Satan’s plan), but to learn and grow from our mistakes.

    I do think it’s important to exercise great caution in using our judgment in which movies to see. And if you choose not to see this or any movie, that is perfectly honorable if that what you feel is the right choice. But I think that our own judgment is the important part — even if it is our best judgment not to make an exception.

  47. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    Logan, you beat me to it. I apologize in advance, Adam, if you feel ganged up on.

    I never liked rule-based living. The fact that there were always exceptions, but that I was never “allowed” to be the one making the exception was extremely bothersome to me as a child. That is why I live my life on principle. There are no exceptions to principles.

    I love it each time the Church comes out and says, “we let our members govern themselves”. Rules are quickly dying if not mostly dead. We know they don’t work nearly as well as principles. If rules actually worked, then we’d still be living under the Law of Moses. Christ broke all sorts of rules while he was on the earth because he lived by principles instead.

    My disclaimer is that if it works for you and you want to live a rule-based life, that’s wonderful. But it will never work for me.

  48. Adam Greenwood on March 4, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    Principle-based living is a fine ideal–I hope to get there some day–but it only works for those whose principles are pure and whose judgment is not corrupted. I doubt any of you are in that latter group. Until then we have to be content with living a medley of principle and rules and abiding by both in their sphere. In my opinion, if you were ready to entirely rely on your judgment in the sphere of entertainment, you would not be taking the position on judgment that you do.

  49. Brent on March 4, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    But don’t most who follow a no (or exceptionally few) R-rated movie “rule” really mean that they are following a principle. The principle is don’t watch movies that are not morally uplifting, that contain gratuitous violence, nudity, sex, profanity, blasphemy, etc. A movie generally does not receive an R-rating unless it contains one or more of these things. Thus, eliminating R-rated movies means that you will avoid these things as to that class of movies. Thus, the principle is being adhered to, even if, as Matt says, it might be overinclusive in that it covers a movie like The Passion that does not involve gratuitous violence, sex, nudity, profanity, or the like, but does involve historical subject matter not for children.

  50. Renee on March 4, 2004 at 6:03 pm

    Bob,

    I saw Glory. I’ve seen a slew of R rated movies. I’m just more selective now. However, with regards to your comment, “There is something strange about someone willing to watch the Passion but shunning Glory.”, I’d defend those people by saying that Christ is a bit more compelling than a mere mortal war. :)

  51. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    “Principle-based living is a fine ideal–I hope to get there some day”

    Adam, I in no way want to imply that I am somehow further along than you are just because I choose to watch rated-R movies and you do not. Rather, I think this topic is all about perception. You seem to think of “principle-based” living as an out-there-nearly-unachievable goal somehow so distant that it feels like it’s almost not worth pursuing because we have rules, which are good enough (I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so please correct me if I’m wrong). I have many friends in the Church who think this way, and as respectively as possible, I wouldn’t mind analyzing why. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve found that the less I rely on rules, the more I feel like I’m using my free agency in a very good way.

  52. Matt Evans on March 4, 2004 at 6:18 pm

    Bob, Logan and Melora,

    The reason rule advocates are wary of principle advocates is that principle advocates tend to place their principle on the far side of the rule.

    While I was a missionary and governed by the burdensome rules of the White Bible, we missionaries spent a lot of time talking about the letter and spirit of the law. One thing I noticed was that no one who subscribed to the “spirit” of the law ever argued that the “spirit” of the law meant they should get out of bed *earlier* than what the rule required. If the mission rule to be out of bed at 6:00 a.m. is over- and under-inclusive, as it would be, if it’s an approximation of a principle, then some missionaries abiding by the principle would be up before 6:00 a.m. However, the average “rules” missionary thought he should be up by 6:00; the average “principles” missionary thinks he should be up sometime between 6:00 and noon.

    Because “spirit of the law” missionaries so often erred on the side of staying in bed, they were always open to the charge that they didn’t respect the principle any more than they respected the rule; the invocation “principle” is just a convenient justification for their failure to obey the rule *or* the principle. It’s convenient because principles are squishy, so it’s harder to prove that a missionary is violating the principle.

    In the same way, people who argue that the “rated-R rule” is a principle, and not a rule after all, are disadvantaged by the fact that so many Mormons who subscribe to the “spirit” of the law view the principle as authorizing rated-R movies, but not seriously limiting the number of appropriate unrated or PG movies.

    I try to be the kind of “spirit” advocate who refuses to use the principle as a justification for not living the rule.

    As to your point about movies speaking to you, Melora, I don’t think the point is that the movie fit harmoniously with your worldview, but that it teach true principles and push you toward the truth. I don’t believe it’s possible to witness countless characters solve dilemmas and challenges without regard to God’s will without being influenced to thinking God is less relevant to ourselves, too.

    As for Christ’s atonement, it may not have needed to be violent and bloody (I don’t know) but the atonement was preordained to parallel the violent and bloody slaughters of the sacrificial lamb. (See also Isaiah 53 and Mosiah 3:7 for evidence that the gruesome nature of Christ’s atonement was known beforehand, even if the gruesome details weren’t necessary.)

  53. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 6:21 pm

    Renee,

    It’s nice of you to defend “those people” but let me explain why I said that: If the movie Glory is about war, then the movie The Passion is about a man being tortured. But I think differently about both movies. The movie Glory is about bravery, courage, and leadership. The movie The Passion is about Christ dying for our sins. There are principles to be learned from both movies. That is why I put them in the same category; they both give me reason to be a better person.

  54. Brent on March 4, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    But, Bob, surely you can see that one involves the single most important events in all of eternity, whereas one is just another movie about bravery, courage and leadership. You can claim that both are good and give a good message, but they cannot have equivalent value based on the underlying story.

  55. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 6:34 pm

    Matt,

    Thanks for your insight. We “principle advocates” have to be careful here because what you say can, unfortunately, be true. Your example of missionaries getting up on time reminded me of my own mission. I actually did spend probably a couple months worth of mornings getting up at 5:30. But I also had my fair share of seven o’clock mornings as well. Not that it would necessarily prove anything either direction, but I wonder what my average was…

    Either way, I can understand those who live by the phrase “better safe than sorry”.

  56. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    Brent,

    Value, to me, is a very subjective term. Yes, you are right in that Christ’s sacrifice is more important than bravery, courage, and leadership. I suppose my point was that, for me at least, if an R rating isn’t going to stop me from seeing Christ’s sacrafice, then it wouldn’t stop me from watching a movie based on bravery, courage, and leadership, which are other topics in which I find quite a bit of “value”. But maybe for others, bravery, courage, and leadership are not worth the implications of seeing an R rated film, which is just fine.

  57. Logan on March 4, 2004 at 7:36 pm

    Matt,

    You do have a point when you say that much laziness and slothfulness has been justified in the name of “the spirit of the law.” That’s a shame.

    It’s interesting you bring up mission rules — wake up times in particular. As a missionary and ward mission leader, I’ve been able to see 5 different mission presidents give their interpretation of the “spirit” of that particular rule. One of them considered it the absolute latest time you could get up and still be a good missionary, and as such encouraged missionaries to wake up earlier and get in extra study time. When the next one came, it was one of the first things he changed. He said that missionaries needed rest, and discouraged waking up any earlier. What’s more, on P-day you could sleep extra, as long as you got your studying in.

    Personally, even though I am an ardent “principle advocate,” I always got up right exactly on time. The “spirit” of the rule, as I saw it, was to get into a healthy pattern of sleep that was the same each day.

    But that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I have no problem admitting that many people speak of principles as a license to do whatever they want. Sometimes even whatever the hell they want. It’s an unfortunate fact. I try not to be such a person. As for not being someone “whose principles are pure and whose judgment is not corrupted,” what can I say? I’m certainly not flawless. Still, how can we improve our judgment without prayerful practice and experience?

  58. greenfrog on March 4, 2004 at 7:55 pm

    “The reason rule advocates are wary of principle advocates is that principle advocates tend to place their principle on the far side of the rule.”

    Or perhaps it is that the only time the principle-based conduct ever becomes an issue to the rules-based community is when it yields outcomes that conflict with the rules-based community’s mandates? Such a situation would yield many more rules-violations noticed and discussed (and condemned) than rules-conformities noticed, discussed, and condemned.

    “If the mission rule to be out of bed at 6:00 a.m. is over- and under-inclusive, as it would be, if it’s an approximation of a principle, then some missionaries abiding by the principle would be up before 6:00 a.m.”

    Doesn’t this presume that the rule is set at the top of the bell curve, rather than at some point earlier, to provide a cushion or margin designed to account for those who will always choose to be late? I don’t see any reason to suppose that the rule you propose is set at the bell curve high point.

    “Because “spirit of the law” missionaries so often erred on the side of staying in bed, they were always open to the charge that they didn’t respect the principle any more than they respected the rule; the invocation “principle” is just a convenient justification for their failure to obey the rule *or* the principle.”

    I agree with the point that assertions of principle can be offered as pretexts to camouflage wrongdoing. That doesn’t suggest to me that principle-based conduct should be discarded by those who actually intend to conduct themselves in such a manner, any more than a sheep should abandon wool simply because wolves like the fabric, too.

    “In the same way, people who argue that the “rated-R rule” is a principle, and not a rule after all, are disadvantaged by the fact that so many Mormons who subscribe to the “spirit” of the law view the principle as authorizing rated-R movies, but not seriously limiting the number of appropriate unrated or PG movies.”

    I don’t think that my endeavors to live in accordance with the principles I believe to be correct is affected by another’s false pretensions to the same lifestyle. In fact, as a practical matter, I think I am more “disadvantaged” by those who presume that I am simply a rule-breaker because I do not conduct myself in accordance with their standards.

    “I try to be the kind of ‘spirit’ advocate who refuses to use the principle as a justification for not living the rule.”

    God forbid we should seek righteousness over rules-compliance. Or did you mean something else?

    “As to your point about movies speaking to you, Melora, I don’t think the point is that the movie fit harmoniously with your worldview, but that it teach true principles and push you toward the truth. I don’t believe it’s possible to witness countless characters solve dilemmas and challenges without regard to God’s will without being influenced to thinking God is less relevant to ourselves, too.”

    {off subject comment: This is an interesting statement that suggests (to my obviously warped mind) a tacit acceptance of determinism: if a certain percentage of persons will act wrongfully in an environment with X evil stimuli, and a certain additional percentage will act wrongfully in an environment with X+Y evil stimuli, and an even greater percentage will act wrongfully in an environment with X+Y+Z evil stimuli, aren’t we tacitly admitting that humans simply respond to stimuli, and do not make independent decisions via their moral agency?}

    greenfrog

  59. Logan on March 4, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    “God forbid we should seek righteousness over rules-compliance. Or did you mean something else?”

    Wow, greenfrog. Well put (and I’m glad I’m on your side on this).

  60. Matt Evans on March 4, 2004 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Greenfrog,

    My intention was to show why “spirit of the law” advocates are disadvantaged in their attempts to persuade rule advocates that their’s is the better way. I count myself a “spirit of the law” advocate, as I believe Christ taught us to be, but it’s frequent abuse complicates our case.

    As for the position of the rule on the principle spectrum (I think it’s a spectrum, but am not sure how it would apply as a distributional bell curve), you’re right to wonder. We don’t know. This is the crux of the problem. In the case of movies, if the R-rating was intended to be prohibitive, then the rule may be under-inclusive, but it can’t be over-inclusive. I think this is the view of most people who accept the R-rating rule as a true rule. It’s like the speed limit: there are times when the principle (drive safely) requires that you go slower because of travel conditions, but never is it appropriate to go faster than the speed limit. (All R is forbidden, but not all that’s forbidden is R). The Word of Wisdom is definitely of this variety: all liquor is forbidden, but not all drinks that are forbidden are liquor.

    There are some important qualifications that suggest the ratings system not dispositive, most importantly the MPAA being a body unconcerned with the same things that matter to Mormons.

    Finally, it’s important to recognize that principles are always based on rules. The only difference is that principles are rules applied contextually, whereas rules are rules applied mechanically. In the case of movies, the rule underlying the principle is “Do not offend the spirit,” etc.

  61. Bob Caswell on March 4, 2004 at 9:16 pm

    Matt,

    “…but never is it appropriate to go faster than the speed limit.”

    You just spoke a lot about your personality, my friend. Did you really mean NEVER?

    “…principles are always based on rules.”

    I have to disagree. I think it’s the other way around. IMO- Rules are created so as to facilitate a one-size-fits-all approach to principles.

    Anyone up for a new post on the differences between Rules and Principles?

  62. Logan on March 4, 2004 at 10:35 pm

    Matt, I also disagree that principles are based on rules. What rule is the principle of charity based on?

    Not all commandments are rules. Rules are dichotomous — you either follow them or you don’t. With commandments like ‘love thy neighbor’ or ‘keep the sabbath day holy’, you can always keep them “better” than you do now, no matter how well you currently observe those commandments. These are much closer to what principles are.

    As you’ve stated, all rules have exceptions (the classic case in point being Nephi’s evening of killing, stealing and lying). The principles on which they’re based do not.

  63. Logan on March 4, 2004 at 10:52 pm

    Sorry Matt, Adam said that rules have exceptions.

  64. Matt Evans on March 5, 2004 at 12:44 am

    Hi Bob and Logan,

    Sorry for the confusion, I meant to delete the sentences about the speed limit, and apparently only deleted parts of it.

    I think rules undergird principles, not the other way around. “Love your neighbor” is a rule, as is “have charity”. Most of our principles are deduced from rules God gives us. The commandments (I can’t think of any exceptions right now) are rule based, even the sermon on the mount is a list of rules — love your enemy, judge not, be perfect. God’s revealed some principles — it is not good for man to be alone — but most of the time God speaks in imperatives, the language of rules.

    A principle is the distillation of lots of lots of rules into a framework we can comprehend. Our principle on media is built on the interplay of lots of intersecting rules: keep thoughts clean, love God, seek wisdom, do justly, refresh, enjoy.

  65. Bob Caswell on March 5, 2004 at 1:46 am

    Matt,

    Hmm… Somehow we keep talking of rules and principles with different definitions. Obviously, this is an interesting topic if we think so differently about it. I still feel like you have it backwards (the same way you feel about me, to be sure). Logan’s example of Nephi stealing and killing is a great help because it illustrates that there are only two choices for rules: you either kill or you don’t. The rule is don’t kill. But “keep thoughts clean”? There is no dichotomy there, but rather a spectrum. We can always do this “better”; therefore, I see it as a principle. What do you think of our theory that rules are dichotomous? It make senses to me. After all, you can “break” a rule, but you can’t “break” a principle. That being said, charity is the greatest of principles in my mind. For me, calling it a rule gives it next to no meaning.

  66. Logan on March 5, 2004 at 9:28 am

    Matt, sorry if it’s two against one. But I definitely see things more like Bob does here. What’s becoming very clear is that in our common usage the words ‘principle’ and ‘rule’ have meanings that are much too broad and imprecise for us to pin down what we each mean by them.

    Whatever we call them, it seems clear that there are at least two different kinds of principles/rules. First, there are the discrete, do-them-or-don’t-do-them ones like killing and stealing. Another thing that seems to go along with these discrete rules is that they nearly always have hypothetical exceptions. We use our judgment (and, I hope, the spirit) in finding the exceptions (which may not even come about very often).

    Another kind of principle/rule doesn’t have such a discrete test of compliance. Instead of being either respectful or disrespectful, it is possible to more respectful or less respectful. You can show more love or less love toward your neighbor. If “love thy neighbor” were the other kind of principle/rule, would it count as following it if you showed just a little love? Maybe you’d take all their money except one dollar, or hurl only your second-worst insults at them. With these rules/principles, we use our judgment on how best to do them, not whether to do them at all. These are the kind that don’t have exceptions. It’s not “should I love this particular neighbor?” but “how can I love this particular neighbor?”

    In my own language, I usually call the first type “rules” and the second type “principles”. I’m open to different terminology and further refinement of the classification, but I think there is a distinction and that we’re mixing these two concepts in our discussion.

    When you talk about distilling rules into a framework for understanding the principles, it sounds to me like you’re saying that the more rules you know, the more likely it is that you will know a rule that applies to a given situation and be able to follow it. That works fine when you apply “principles” (the second type of principle/rule — which all your examples were in talking about it) to the framework because they have no exceptions. But applying “rules” to it doesn’t work because there are exceptions out there that may mess up your framework. If you take account for the exceptions, then all of the sudden you’re using the “principles” anyway.

  67. Brent on March 5, 2004 at 10:20 am

    Among the many reviews of the film that have been written, I thought this one might be of interest to readers here:

    http://www.meridianmagazine.com/lineuponline/040305passion.html

  68. Renee on March 5, 2004 at 1:38 pm

    Brent, that was an excellent article. Thanks for the link. I like what he said about preparing to see it. I feel that way about anything spiritual. I definitely have a different attitude upon entering the chapel or the temple depending on things like the music I listen to on my way there and what I’ve been doing that day.

  69. Greg Call on March 8, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Logan, Bob, and Matt: If you still care, here is Lawrence Solum’s take on the differences between and relative merits of principles, standards, and rules: http://tinyurl.com/2ug6s
    I realize that his discussion may not import into gospel perfectly, but it at least provides a common framework.

  70. Norm on March 11, 2004 at 4:55 am

    Principles and Rules are nice, but it gets high minded and academic. “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”. First we follow the rules. Then we analyze the rules & learn the foundational principles. The Doing helps us get beyond basic learning and all the way to understanding.

    Keep following the rules (and the principles) to increase in spiritual maturity. To become repentantant and forgiving. Christlike.

    When we are in tune, we will occassionally get a prompting that appears, on the surface, to contradict a Rule we live. But the Spirit will remind us of the Eternal Unchanging Principles that are in place. There is no contradiction, merely a Clarification of How To Follow Correct Principles in Unusual Circumstances.

    In real life, here’s how it applies to movies.
    There’s only a few reasons to see a film. The Bad reasons, the OK reasons, and the Great reasons. Think kingdoms of glory again.
    Satan’s way, Your way, God’s way.

    Bad reasons to go to a movie – a sample
    To impress your friends.
    To practice unrightous diminion (going outside your Authorized Domains) by viewing unchaste, immodest, or otherwise immoral behavior.
    To selfishly escape from anything more important and urgent.

    OK reasons to go to a movie – a sample
    To spend time with family, friends, and loved ones.
    To build relationships.
    To relax.
    To let your imagination loose.
    To think in new ways.

    Not very many GREAT reasons to see a show – here’s the COMPLETE LIST
    You thought about going, felt it would draw you closer to God in one way or another, decided to go, prayed to see if the Holy Ghost confirmed it.
    That’s all.

  71. Norm Chambers on March 11, 2004 at 5:10 am

    If Mel Gibson’s movie had no rating, and had gone straight to video, my decision would almost certainly be the same. I doubt I would have bothered with it. In spite of Keith Merrill (?) and the Christian backing. Why? Because even fake “movie” violence has a pretty big impact on my spirit and attitude, and LOTR was more than enough for me (especially #2).

    I don’t feel that seeing this movie, great art though it may be, would help me become a better Christian. I doubt I will suddenly be kinder to my wife, or a better dad to my kids.

  72. Norm Chambers on March 11, 2004 at 5:21 am

    A reviewer (linked above) said their reason for breaking the rated-R-rule was for a (hopefully) more important principle. “I wanted to better understand Christ—not merely what happened to him, but how magnificently he responded to it.”

    One man’s genuine prompting can be another man’s excuse.

    If I want to better understand how the Savior responded to horrible things, I feel the lessons are already all around me. In my own life. In my family’s. In my relatives’. In my friends’. In my business dealings, and in my scripture study (of which I don’t do nearly enough, so why bother with a film when I’m not even doing my part with the basics.)

  73. Norm Chambers on March 11, 2004 at 5:30 am

    Bob, you said “After all, you can “break” a rule, but you can’t “break” a principle.”

    I can break a principle.

    You say “keep thoughts clean” is a principle. I can break that. Trust me. Or I can live it to various degrees. I can “break it” or live it “pretty good” or “really well” or “almost perfectly”.

    Hmmm.

  74. Logan on March 11, 2004 at 8:20 am

    Norm, I think you’re right in that Bob’s talking about “keeping thoughts clean” sounds very “rule-like” and “breakable”. Maybe he can explain more what he meant, but applying the exception test makes it sound just like a rule.

    Here’s what I mean: there are definitely times when there are exceptions. For example, sometimes when I am enjoying a romantic dinner with my wife, I purposely entertain what many might call “unclean thoughts” (which might well be an inappropriate activity for an unmarried person). Do I feel the slightest bit of regret? Nope — I quite enjoy it and have a crystal clear conscience. At the same time, I imagine that I could still hypothetically think things that are inappropriate in that situation.

    What this tells me is that the “rule” to keep thoughts clean, while often the best choice of action, is just an application of some higher principle.

    I like your talking about how the Spirit will give us promptings concerning when it is appropriate to “break” rules. I think that it can’t be overstated that it is important to seek the Spirit in this process. I also think that perhaps it isn’t quite as rare a circumstance as you seem to say that there will be an exception, and that our own thinking plays a part (“Study it out in your mind” — D&C 9:8).

    I also appreciate hearing your reasoning and promptings (again — both are important) for avoiding The Passion. It sounds like in your judgment it wouldn’t help you in your life or build your testimony. In that case the right decision is for you not to see it. While I haven’t seen it yet myself, I feel at peace in deciding to go and see the movie.

  75. Kaimi on March 11, 2004 at 8:29 am

    Logan,

    You think sex-related thoughts around Amy? Sheesh, what kind of crazy apostate are you?

    Actually, I think that’s quite appropriate. I do the same thing, and I think others do as well.

  76. Kaimi on March 11, 2004 at 8:33 am

    Umm, on re-reading my comment, I think I had better clarify what I meant by “the same thing.” I meant that I (and others) think sex-related thoughts around our respective wives. Not that we all think sex-related thoughts around Amy Bobo. (Which would be a lot less appropriate, of course).

  77. Logan on March 11, 2004 at 9:21 am

    Nice clarification, Kaimi, since I know where you live. ;)

  78. Gordon Smith on March 11, 2004 at 10:16 am

    Wow! And to think that I was feeling squeamish about my “enhancements” post! Thanks, Kaimi and Logan.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.