Media and Leisure

Appropriate use of media and keeping leisure activities in proper perspective

January 7, 2014


Media defined

Media is a broad topic. In the context of communication, here are some categories:


For our purposes media consists of any methods used to deliver information.

Leisure defined

As I've investigated the concept of leisure this week I've found that it is surprisingly difficult to define. For our purposes we'll just call it "free time" and recreational activities.


Agency as it relates to media and leisure

Elder Russell M. Nelson stated the following:

My dear brothers and sisters, each day is a day of decision. President Thomas S. Monson has taught us that "decisions determine destiny." The wise use of your freedom to make your own decisions is crucial to your spiritual growth, now and for eternity. You are never too young to learn, never too old to change. Your yearnings to learn and change come from a divinely instilled striving for eternal progression. Each day brings opportunity for decisions for eternity.

So, each day we get to choose how to act and along with that comes the choice of what to listen to and what to watch. What to wear, what to eat, what to learn, what to do with our free time.

I marvel at the perfectly and personally configured test that is our mortality. Our Heavenly Father has prepared a way for us to return to him but he won't force us to comply. We get to use our agency to show him we truly want to be with him. We do that by following his plan, which will undoubtedly result in a mix of hardships and blessings as we go along through life. Elder Nelson explains a bit more about our mortal situation:

God implanted strong appetites within us for nourishment and love, vital for the human family to be perpetuated. When we master our appetites within the bounds of God’s laws, we can enjoy longer life, greater love, and consummate joy.

It is not surprising, then, that most temptations to stray from God’s plan of happiness come through the misuse of those essential, God-given appetites. Controlling our appetites is not always easy. Not one of us manages them perfectly. Mistakes happen. Errors are made. Sins are committed. What can we do then? We can learn from them. And we can truly repent.

We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. How? There is only one way. True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He loves you—each of you! He allows you to access His power as you keep His commandments, eagerly, earnestly, and exactly. It is that simple and certain. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change!

A strong human spirit with control over appetites of the flesh is master over emotions and passions and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital to the spirit as oxygen is to the body! Freedom from self-slavery is true liberation!

So, each of us will be presented with information via various forms of media and it will be our choice whether to subscribe to those data and methods or reject them in favor of others. It is always our choice! We will also be presented with periods of time during which we have the opportunity to decide what we will do. Of course, we each have high-priority obligations that must be met to ensure general well-being but what about after that, when we can choose between an almost infinite set of other lower-priority activities? How do we go about the choice of using our time?

Purpose and planning and their application to media and leisure

Much like a painter staring at a blank canvas, we should probably already have an image in our mind before ever putting paint on the brush. We must understand our purpose and have a goal for ourselves or we might not like the way the painting turns out.

The first chapter of Preach My Gospel, entitled "What is my purpose as a missionary?", contains the following paragraph which very clearly establishes a missionary's purpose:

You are called to represent Jesus Christ in helping people become clean from their sins. You do this by inviting them to come unto Jesus Christ and become converted to His restored gospel. To come to the Savior they must have faith in Him unto repentance--making the necessary changes to bring their life into agreement with His teachings. You can help people develop such faith by teaching them the restored gospel by the Spirit and inviting them to commit to live according to its teachings. Keeping this commitment prepares them for the covenants of baptism and confirmation and the precious gift of the Holy Ghost. They are to put off the "natrual man" and become a Saint "through the atonement of Christ the Lord" (Mosiah 3:19).

That paragraph makes it very clear what the purpose of a missionary is. Knowing our purpose and having goals will, by default, rule out a broad spectrum of media and activities that aren't in keeping with our divine nature and destiny. But what about all of the other options that are still available to us? How do we choose between them?

Discerning what will be of most help to us and others

In the posthumously published book, "The World According to Mister Rogers", Fred Rogers was once quoted thus:

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.

In a 1981 Ensign article, Karen Lynn discusses our society's approach to work and leisure. In her article she points out that we often define ourselves and others and our worth according to the work that we do, especially the tangible and objective results of that work. But a more accurate measure of who we really are comes by observing what we do during our unstructured free time.

One of two things can happen to free time. It can be leisure, a time to expand the soul and renew the energies. Or it can instead become something very different: idleness. And it’s idleness, not leisure, that should make us feel guilty.

Our crucial task, then, is to distinguish leisure from idleness. Let me suggest what I think some of the differences are. Idleness puts us in a passive role, whereas leisure usually calls on us to participate mentally or physically or creatively; idleness merely passes time, whereas leisure fills personal needs; idleness occupies us, but leisure renews us; we put the responsibility for filling our idle time on something outside ourselves, whereas we look within ourselves for our leisure. Of course, these distinctions are ultimately private ones; one person may watch football or read novels only in order to numb the mind and extinguish an afternoon, whereas someone else’s approach to football-watching or novel-reading may demand such alertness, such appreciation, that it is the highest kind of leisure.

Scripture study comes to mind as something that we might be doing just to fill time and be able to say that we did it, or, with some pondering and prayer can become very renewing and rewarding experience. Lately, simply reading from one chapter to the next hasn't been as exciting as cataloging meaningful verses and committing them to memory.

Along the lines of scripture study, we can talk about church's use of technological media and how that might relate to our leisure time. Elder Richard G. Scott had this to suggest:

You live in a world where technological advances occur at an astounding pace. It is difficult for many of my generation to keep up with the possibilities. Depending on how technology is used, these advances can be a blessing or a deterrent. Technology, when understood and used for righteous purposes, need not be a threat but rather an enhancement to spiritual communication.

For example, many of us have a personal electronic device that fits into our pocket. We are seldom without its company; we may refer to it many times a day. Unfortunately, these devices can be a source of filth and wasted time. But, used with discipline, this technology can be a tool of protection from the worst of society.

Who could have imagined not very many years ago that the full standard works and years of general conference messages would fit into your pocket? Just having them in your pocket will not protect you, but studying, pondering, and listening to them during quiet moments of each day will enhance communication through the Spirit.

Be wise in how you embrace technology. Mark important scriptures on your device and refer back to them frequently. If you...would review a verse of scripture as often as some of you send text messages, you could soon have hundreds of passages of scripture memorized. Those passages would prove to be a powerful source of inspiration and guidance by the Holy Ghost in times of need.

I don't think he's exaggerating when he suggests that we are capable of memorizing hundreds of passeges of scripture. But it would require very deliberate efforts on our part. Along with the scriptures and general conference, personal electronic devices (and other computers) enable us to participate in the church's indexing project, to do family and personal history, and fulfill our callings more easily.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that all we do with our leisure time is study the scriptures, but we should never find ourselves too busy for spiritual things, and those spiritual things should be done deliberately, not casually. As Elder Nelson stated, we're going to make mistakes, we're going to have to change and improve at times. There are helpful directions from the Lord in the scriptures

D&C 50

23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

D&C 130

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

D&C 58

26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.

2 Nephi 5

Illustrates a contrast between the Nephites and Lamanites and how they used their time.

17 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands.


24 [the Lamanites] did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety...

Mosiah 4:27

27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.


The topic of appropriate media consumption, for me is all about proper use of agency. We know our weaknesses. I hope we will listen to the Spirit teach us how to avoid the filth offered by the world and stay spiritually safe. What we allow into our mind has a great bearing on our thoughts and actions.

Regarding our leisure time, our approach really does matter. Each of us needs rest and relaxation from the pressures and stresses of life. We need to do things that will, as Berthold Auerbach stated regarding the effect of good music, "[wash] away from the soul the dust of everyday life." We all can grow as a result of our choices and activities. This is a great time of year to think about the kinds of activities and endeavors we will plan for the coming months. What will we do to make this year one of growth and meaning?

I hope we will follow the promptings of the Spirit and consequently, Heavenly Father's plan for us.

-Michael Whatcott