In all the counsel from LDS General Authorities during the history of the Church, it is easy to find criticism of the media, including suggestions that range from condemnations of fiction for being “untrue” to current criticisms over sex, violence and profanity. Less frequently we find suggestions that members should fill their homes with good media. And even less frequently has come advice that we should support good media—both financially by buying media that support our ideals and also by expressing gratitude for the efforts of those who produce that media.
In the following, then-Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley urgest exactly this latter support of media.
We don’t often think of Hinckley as a man of letters. And while every LDS general authority is literary to a degree—their principal task is communicating, usually by carefully crafted discourse, Hinckley was more prolific than most, and came from a more literary background. His father, Bryant S. Hinckley, was an author and educator who wrote biographies of LDS Church leaders and numerous church manuals. Returning from his LDS mission in 1935, Gordon B. Hinckley was immediately employed by the Church in its Radio, Publicity and Missionary Literature Committee, where he used what he had learned studying journalism at the University of Utah to bolster the Church’s use of outside media. Even before his call as a general authority, Hinckley wrote books, including What of the Mormons? (1947) a heavily-used missionary book intended to introduce the Church to outsiders that he reworked and retitled Truth Restored in 2001. Outside of the missionary and faith-promoting materials he wrote, Hinckley also wrote the biography James Henry Moyle (1951).
By Gordon B. Hinckley
You know that your children will read. They will read books and they will read magazines and newspapers. Cultivate within them a taste for the best. While they are very young, read to them the great stories which have become immortal because of the virtues they teach. Expose them to good books. Let there be a corner somewhere in your house, be it ever so small, where they will see at least a few books of the kind upon which great minds have been nourished.
Let there be good magazines about the house, those which are produced by the Church and by others, which will stimulate their thoughts to ennobling concepts. Let them read a good family newspaper that they may know what is going on in the world without being exposed to the debasing advertising and writing so widely found. When there is a good show in town, go to the theater as a family. Your very patronage will give encouragement to those who wish to produce this type of entertainment. And use that most remarkable of all tools of communication, television, to enrich their lives. There is so much that is good, but it requires selectivity. President Kimball spoke yesterday of the efforts of the television networks to present in prime-time evening hours suitable family entertainment. Let those who are responsible for this effort know of your appreciation for that which is good and also of your displeasure with that which is bad. In large measure, we get what we ask for. The problem is that so many of us fail to ask, and, more frequently, fail to express gratitude for that which is good.
General Conference, October 1975,
Saturday Morning Session
I agree with Hinckley. Too many of us fail to ask and fail to express gratitude for that which is good. Too many of us fail to provide good books for our children, or for ourselves, and we fail to make good literature a priority in our lives.
Of course, part of the problem that remains after this is defining what is good. I, like many of those who participate here on A Motley Vision, fear that the warnings we get from our Church leaders have somehow become the only definition of what is good: somehow the lack of sex, violence and profanity means that the book is good seems to be the prevailing view. And some even go so far as to assume that feeling unsettled by books that challenge the reader’s worldview is an indication that the book detracts from the spirit.
Somehow, I think Gordon B. Hinckley would disagree with that view.