Editor's note: This is an excerpt from “To Bring the World His Truth” by Matthew B. Christiansen, published by Covenant Communications.
Power and purity go hand in hand. As a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you personally represent the Lord Jesus Christ. I will never forget that moment when I first put on my name badge and saw my name and the Savior’s name so closely aligned. With such a sacred privilege and responsibility pending, now is the time to purge your life of any impure media influences.
Whether we recognize it or not, music is an incredibly powerful influence in our lives. Music has the power to invite or offend the Spirit. For this reason, music can either be a blessing or a curse in your life. But before discussing the quality of different music and its influence, I want to take a moment to discuss the quantity of music.
Today’s teenagers have been plugged in from the time they could walk. Those who are waiting to go into the Missionary Training Center are about to go cold turkey from iPods, MP3 players, Facebooking with friends, texting and all other nifty gadgets. Prospective Mormon missionaries need to ask themselves, “Am I comfortable in silence? Do I take time to simply ponder and reflect?”
Now there’s the quality of music. I believe that good music can be found in any genre be it pop, hip-hop, techno, alternative, rock, country, oldies, classical and maybe even rap. Today I challenge you to scan your iPod or MP3 player and hold each of your songs to the standards above.
Yes, you will most likely have to delete some songs — maybe lots of songs. If it seems hard, ask yourself, "Do I really value this song more than the companionship of the Holy Ghost, more than the holy priesthood I bear, more than my love for the Savior?" The answer is clear. Please do it!
In my short lifetime, television has changed from a basically harmless time-waster to a dangerous outlet for worldly images, philosophies and behaviors: immodesty, sensuality, immorality, cruelty, violence, vulgarity, crudeness, light-mindedness, materialism, vanity, selfishness.
Let me offer some simple guidelines that can help you in your television choices:
• Never sit down to watch TV if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to watch (in other words, don’t channel surf). Doing so is like playing Russian roulette with your standards. If you want to watch the game, watch the game — but don’t loiter around on the tube.
• Don’t watch TV late at night. It’s not a coincidence that networks program their most edgy, crude shows during the hours when viewers’ sensibilities are dulled and impaired by exhaustion.
• Establish a set time when the TV is off limits — the earlier the better.
• Just because a program is funny doesn’t make it acceptable. Sadly, the crudest and most offensive shows are also the funniest and most popular with teenagers.
The adversary would love nothing more than to derail your future mission for the LDS Church by using the lure of Internet pornography. Nothing makes Satan’s job easier than a private computer with unfiltered access to the world’s filth. Make it a practice to only use the family computer and avoid using it late at night. Do not surf the Web. It wastes time and opens you up to temptation. The funny YouTube video or Facebook friend isn’t worth exposing yourself to surrounding smut. The adage “better safe than sorry” should always guide your Internet and computer use.
It’s been said that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he uses his free time. If that’s true, the gaming trend of the past decade is a telling indicator that the bar has not fully been raised by many of our missionaries.
I’ll admit it: I don’t get this one at all. I don’t see how anyone could justify or feel comfortable wasting so much time in a dark basement playing a game that has absolutely no significance or meaning in real life. Surely an obsession with video or computer games is one of Satan’s most successful ways to cheat a young man’s soul.
The excessive amount of time spent playing would make these games bad enough, but the content of the games makes this issue something far more serious. Think about it. Most of the video games popular with teenage boys are graphically violent. You are not only watching life being taken, you are participating in the act.
Video games are also addictive. Similar to pornography, these games produce a powerful chemical stimulus in the brain that is difficult to overcome. They are specifically designed to keep you playing for long stretches of time and to keep you coming back for more. I know I’ve already said it, but the amount of time some of our Aaronic Priesthood holders spend “gaming” is ridiculous. They become out of touch with the real world and preoccupied and obsessed with the virtual gaming world.
Before a young man (or woman) enters the MTC, it is good that they evaluate their media consumption to help them prepare for the months ahead of them. The greatest items you can bring to the MTC are clean hands, a pure heart and a clear conscience.
Matthew Christiansen served a mission in eastern Europe. Returning home, he caught the eye and won the heart of a fellow MTC instructor named Bethany. They are the parents of three children. He teaches seminary and is a ward missionary.