Latter-day Saints believe that wholesome entertainment is an important part of human and spiritual development. In early LDS communities, the saints enjoyed plays, musical performances, dances and lectures. As early as July 1830, the Lord instructed Emma Smith, Joseph’s wife, to compile a “selection of sacred hymns” that was published in 1835 (Doctrine and Covenants 25:11). On the trek west, pioneers held dances. Mormon bands entertained both LDS and non-LDS along the Mormon Trail.
Through Brigham Young, the Lord proclaimed, “If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving” (Doctrine and Covenants 136:28). With this guidance, LDS are encouraged to see entertainment through the lens of faith, for the Lord taught, “…all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:34).
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is world renowned, having the longest running program (80 years and running) on radio, The Spoken Word. Brigham Young University produces award-winning dance and entertainment teams. The film and art departments interface with professional producers. The animation department is one of the three best in the United States. The High School Musical movies were filmed in Utah to take advantage of the local talent.
The prophets frequently warn us today concerning two major entertainment issues: first is that it needs to uplift and edify. Second, that it not consume us to where we do not work or develop ourselves.
The Book of Mormon begins with the story of Lehi and his family, who were led out of Jerusalem just before it was sacked by the Babylonians. They were led down through Arabia and instructed to build a ship and cross the sea to the Americas. While crossing the ocean, many of Lehi’s family entered into vulgar and lewd entertainment. The Lord sent a storm to humble them, for “there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts” (1 Nephi 18:20).
Today our prophets warn us about entertainment being used to promote sin and unrighteousness. We have been encouraged to avoid ‘R’ rated movies and use wisdom in choosing PG13 films, as well, due to their sexual, violent and profane content.
This warning also extends to music, television, video games, online chat forums (such as Facebook and Twitter), and even texting. “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent virtuous, and in doing good to all men….If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (Articles of Faith 1:13). Such a statement of our faith requires us to be highly selective of our entertainment.
Engaged in Good Works
In a recent address, Elder Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, counseled us to not let things that seem good keep us from doing what is best. Entertainment can stimulate our minds, refresh our souls, and inspire us. However it can also consume our time and energies insomuch that more important things are neglected. We all know individuals who would rather play games online than play with their children, attend college, or work. Many Americans find themselves in major debt, often due to funding their entertainment addictions–they cannot stand to be still or bored for even a moment.
The Lord has shown how wholesome recreation and entertainment can refresh us and help us in our worship of God.
The Church encourages wholesome entertainment. The Tabernacle, Conference Center, and local buildings are often used for concerts, plays, seminars, and talent shows. The Church creates many religious videos, many available on Youtube, provides Internet and cable access to BYU television, and Internet-based Mormon radio. The Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii is owned by the Church and performs music and dance of the South Pacific. Pageants on Church subjects are held is various locations, and cultural celebrations attend every church temple dedication.
Several LDS-related films of varying quality have been created in recent years, including the award-winning “Saints and Soldiers,” “Napoleon Dynamite”, “Emma”, “Baptists at Our Barbecue”, and “Mobsters and Mormons”.
Famous Mormon Entertainers
There are many talented Latter-day Saints in many fields of entertainment, including:
Producers/Writers: Glen A. Larson (Battlestar Galactica, Magnum P.I., Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Six Million Dollar Man)