We tend to think of the 1950s as if their TV shows, “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It to Beaver” were documentaries. But look at this 1955 essay by Marianne C. Sharp (1901-1990), first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society – how little it would take to update the article for publication in a current magazine!
Take Time to Safeguard Children
A child’s life in any period of world history has always been a joyous one, if he had a sense of loving security and a deep awareness of the watchcare of his Heavenly Father. Regardless of the richness or poverty of his immediate surroundings, he has lived for each day alone, and taken from that day the full measure of happiness and contentment it offered, in the purity of childhood.
Whether his world was confined to a world within walking distance, extended at infrequent intervals by trips made by donkey, horse, wagon, or carriage, the child’s world remained rather small and circumscribed. Today, however, the opportunities for travel to far places by bus, train, plane, or ship, are commonplace. In addition, a child can reach the TV set, turn it on, and have shown to his startled and wondering gaze the wide reaches of the world with its beauty and cruelty, its riches and poverty.
All discoveries and opportunities in this so-called Atomic Age, are, to the Latter-day Saint, but ap art of this last great dispensation, the dispensation of the fulness of times. These scientific marvels being revealed to the minds of men are intended for the blessing of the Heaven Father’s children, but twisted and warped by the powers of evil, they may become a curse. To which use each man puts this knowledge for himself, is left for each man to decide. For man has his God-given free agency.
But the uses to which these inventions are put for a child, is not for the child to decide, but the responsibility falls upon the parents as placed there by the Lord. Since the mother in the home is constantly with her child, a grave part of this responsibility presses upon her shoulders. It used to be possible to shield children who were carefully guarded in the home; however, with the discoveries of the radio and TV, these media have been invited to enter the sacred precincts of the home itself. The fare which they offer may be uplifting or demoralizing to the tender understanding of a child. It is the mother’s part to hear new programs and seek to free a child’s listening and viewing time for worthwhile productions. While many parents condemn all the offerings, others take the stand that their children can take a chance and see anything. Neither of these attitudes is correct and both reveal ignorance of what is being shown.
An executive, prominent in the television industry, states in a recent article that from thirty to forty million people a week look at the most popular television shows, and that a program may cost from five to eighty thousand dollars a week to produce. He says that Americans devote more time to television viewing than to any other pursuit except eating and sleeping. In addition to being the biggest business for entertainment ever known, he declares it is likewise the most powerful medium for distributing merchandise. The entertainment varies from the educational and informational to the mediocre and slapstick.
An intelligent appraisal of programs by the mother in the home will enable her to plan the child’s time so he receives benefit and not harm. And still a child cannot be and, perhaps, should not be shielded from all awareness of practices not in conformity with Latter-day Saint standards. But the mother should point out those destructive practices and teach to her children the truth.
Just because a program is listed for “children” is not enough for a mother. How can her son be expected to feel the heinousness of killing, second in evil to denying the Holy Ghost, when he sees, almost daily, the taking of life and is not warned and taught by his mother against it. And TV is more strictly censored than are the movies. Does a mother know what her child will see when she allows him to spend Saturday sitting in a movie house? Is the mother constantly teaching chastity and striving to counteract influences which may attractively portray drinking, stealing, fornication, and countenancing adultery? The words of Alexander Pope are especially applicable with regard to a constant viewing of objectionable practices:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
On the other hand, the knowledge and understanding which these new media offer can be of inestimable worth and value to the child.
Gone are the days when Latter-day Saints lived to themselves. Today from their earliest childhood throughout their adult life they physically live in Babylon. Still the words of the Lord warn: “Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (D. & C. 133:5). Not the physical withdrawal, but the mental withdrawal which results in a cleanliness of life forbidding practices condemned by the Lord, is the clarion call today. The training which will result in obedience to the mandate. “Be ye clean” is begun in the home by constant warning, prohibition, and teaching of the goodness of the gospel and resulting blessings. The wisdom of a mother in taking time, in the midst of her many other duties, to keep currently informed on TV and radio programs and movies, so that she may train and safeguard the mind of her child, brings the blessings of eternal life not only to her but also to those souls, her children, dearer to her than mortal life itself. It is worth every mother’s time to safeguard her children from partaking of evil.
— Marianne C. Sharp