08) IMMORALITY: Does some rock music imitate sexual immorality? Can music lead to immoral behavior?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

It is the privilege of the Saints to enjoy every good thing, for the earth and its fulness belong to the Lord, and he has promised all to his faithful Saints; but it must be enjoyed without spirit of covetousness and selfishness—without the spirit of lust, and in the spirit of the Gospel; then the sun will shine sweetly upon us; each day will be filled with delight, and all things will be filled with beauty, giving joy, pleasure, and rest to the Saints. [1]

Harold B. Lee

At the same time music can be prostituted to Satan’s purposes. Napoleon is quoted as having said, “Music of all the liberal arts has the greatest influence over the passions and is that which the legislator ought to give the greatest encouragement.” May I paraphrase and say, “Music in the Church of Jesus Christ is that to which every leader of youth should give his greatest concern to see that the wrong kinds of passions are not aroused by our introduction of sensuous music into our youth programs.” [2]

Spencer W. Kimball

Down in New Zealand, I was the recipient of many courtesies while there. They sang and danced and rolled their eyes and stuck out their tongues. And so we applaud them, you know, and think it wonderful to encourage the continuation of that culture. But as it was interpreted to me, . . . they chant and sing battle hymns– not peace hymns. And so I said to some of the leaders: “With all your beautiful voices, your wonderful talent, why don’t you develop some impressive songs on the themes surrounding the coming of Christ, about the restoration of the gospel, about lofty ideals, the latter-day exodus, the glories and good things which the gospel and the Church have brought us?”; In all cultures, let us perpetuate not the mating dances, the sex stories, but the good and the beautiful and lofty as we sing and as we dance.

We should be perpetuating Mormonism and the gospel; the true way of life. That doesn’t mean we need to bury all things of the past; but, if there is anything associated with paganism or sectarianism or sex, we eliminate. And so, we are building a great culture entirely different from that out there in the sectarian world. We are building a glorious culture of cleanliness and morality with high-minded, wonderful people. And, all the things the Church does– the singing of the songs, the speaking in public, the organization– everything is devoted to this one thing: building a great spiritual culture that the Lord wants. [3]

In circulation now are upward of a score of recordings in songs and recitations containing the vilest material. One such record was discovered in her home by a zealous mother. The waxing had been hidden in the room of her daughter, age 15. It was placed in the hands of members of the Youth Protection Committee in consideration of its fight against pornography. It was so obscene that some of the listeners could bear to hear no more than one or two of the ten selections of the two sides of the record. Yet this filthy thing had been purchased by two 15-year-old girls at a supposed reputable music store.

Parents should be warned of these evils, and do all they can to protect their sons and daughters from a corruption which is designed to stimulate sex passions and open the doors to more serious offenses. By a cooperative effort, they can eradicate these things from the newsstands and from the mails, and bring to justice those who would sell the morals of a generation for personal gain. [4]

Ezra Taft Benson

Have you been listening to the music that many young folks are hearing today? Some of it is nerve-jamming in nature and much of it has been deliberately designed to promote revolution, dope, immorality, and a gap between parent and child. And some of this music has invaded our Church cultural halls. [5] [6]

We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterward. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading. Remember Elder Boyd K. Packer’s statement: “Music, once . . . innocent, now is often used for wicked purposes. . . .In our day music itself has been corrupted. Music can, by its tempo, by its beat, by its intensity [and I would add, by its lyrics], dull the spiritual sensitivity of men. . . .Young people,” Elder Packer goes on to say, “you cannot afford to fill your mind with the unworthy hard music of our day.” [7] >Instead, we encourage you to listen to uplifting music, both popular and classical, that builds the spirit. Learn some favorite hymns from our new hymnbook that build faith and spirituality. Attend dances where the music and the lighting and the dance movements are conducive to the Spirit. Watch those shows and entertainment that lift the spirit and promote clean thoughts and actions. Read books and magazines that do the same. [8]


Rock Artists

Mick Jagger

“Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex,” he [Mick] said . . . He told me this was a great day for them because now instead of just having audio where they could portray some of what they wanted to about sex and all, they now had videos and could have the people both hear it and see it portrayed. He said this would have much more impact on the youth, that his music was selling much more, and thus he was making much more money. . . . He told me the importance, in his view, of freeing up the youth. He felt that they ought to be able to do whatever they wanted in spite of their parents. He said that parents were inhibiting them too much and controlling things and they ought not to be doing that. It was truly astounding to me. He told me that he was thankful the family, as an entity, was being destroyed. And I gathered from what he was saying that he was doing his best to help that along. [9]

Billy Joel

Come out Virginia, don’t let me wait. You Catholic girls Start much too late. But sooner or later it comes down to fate. I might as well be the one . . . They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait. Some say its better but I say it ain’t. I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. Sinners are much more fun. And only the good die young. [10]

Peter, Paul, Mary

I dig rock ‘n’ roll music . . . but if we really say it the radio won’t play it unless we lay it between the lines. [11]

Marvin Junior and Johnny Funches

You know I didn’t even know her name but I was never going to be the same. What a lady, what a night.[12]

Supporting Statements

UCLA Study Results

Listening to music with degrading sexual lyrics is related to advances in a range of sexual activities among adolescents, whereas this does not seem to be true of other sexual lyrics. This result is consistent with sexual-script theory and suggests that cultural messages about expected sexual behavior among males and females may underlie the effect. Reducing the amount of degrading sexual content in popular music or reducing young people’s exposure to music with this type of content could help delay the onset of sexual behavior. [13]

Giovanni Pierluigi la Palestrina

There exists a vast mass of love songs of the poets, written in a fashion entirely foreign to the profession and name of Christians. They are the songs of men ruled by passions, and a great number of musicians, corruptors of youth, make them the conern of their art and their industry. [14]

Felix Mendelssohn

In this opera a young girl divests herself of her garments and sings a song of the effect that next day at this time she will be married. All this produces effect, but I have no music for such things. I consider it ignoble. So if the present epoch exalts this style and considers it indispensable, then I will write oratorios. [15]

  1. Discourses of Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses
  2. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 203.
  3. Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 394.
  4. Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], .
  5. CR April 1969, Improvement Era 72 [June 1969]: 46-47.
  6. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 325.
  7. “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,”Ensign, January 1974, 25, 28.
  8. Ezra Taft Benson,Come Listen To A Prophet’s Voice, p. 7-8
  9. Mick Jagger, as quoted by Gene R. Cook in address given at Ricks College, 1988
  10. Billy Joel, lyrics to Only the Good Die Young
  11. Peter, Paul, Mary, lyrics to “I Dig Rock and Roll Music”
  12. Marvin Junior and Johnny Funches, lyrics to “O What a Night”
  13. Exposure to Degrading Versus Nondegrading Music Lyrics and Sexual Behavior Among Youth: PEDIATRICS Vol. 118 No. 2 August 2006, pp. e430-e441
  14. Giovanni Pierluigi la Palestrina, about 1550 AD
  15. Felix Mendelssohn, stating his reasons for refusing to write music for an opera
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