Is it a Sin to Binge Watch Netflix?

We all know that the defining sin of the Nephites was pride.  But what about the defining sin of the Lamanites?  From the very beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi focuses on one particular vice.  “[A]fter they had dwindled in unbelief” the Lamanites became “full of idleness and all manner of abominations.”[1] He later calls them an “idle people.”[2]  When the Anti-Nephi-Lehies famously buried their weapons of war, they also made a covenant that “rather than their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.”[3]

The Lamanites’ sin of idleness is, in fact, the mirror image of the Nephites’ sin of pride.  The Nephites successfully overcame the sin of idleness, but then used their surplus “despising others, turning their backs upon the needy, and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.”[4]

What is worse: spending the days of your probation pursuing “treasures on earth”[5] or idling it away?[6]  It doesn’t really make a difference to the people you could have helped.  The sheep don’t care if you forgot to feed them because you were too selfish or because you were too lazy; either way they don’t get fed.  It’s the spiritual equivalent of choosing your Mammon in the form of extra vacation days or a cash payment.

What’s the 21st century equivalent to spending our days in idleness?  It’s allowing the “next episode” timer to expire on Netflix.  It’s clicking on another YouTube video in the thumbnail.  It’s reflexively opening Reddit and Instagram on your phone.   The average American spends 4.76 hours on socializing, relaxing or leisure each day, including 2.84 hours on TV. [7] By comparison, they spend 0.30 hours on volunteer, religious and civic activities.[8]

When you feel that tinge of guilt from binge watching your favorite show, that’s a prompting from the Holy Ghost that you should be doing something else.  What should you be doing instead of watching the next episode?  I, unfortunately, am unable to give you the answer.  Only the Spirit can reveal that to you.  But here are some suggestions:

  • Is there something special you can do for your spouse?
  • Have you called your parents or grandparents recently? What about your other family members?
  • Is there a friend that you could catch up with?
  • Is there someone on your ministering list you haven’t reached out to recently?
  • Do you have a creative project you’ve been putting off?
  • Have you procrastinated setting up appointments (e.g. doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, etc.)?
  • Is there a long-term project you’ve been putting off (e.g. searching for a new job, refurbishing part of the house, helping with your kid’s school project)?
  • Is there something you could be doing for your calling? Have you thought about what you could be doing better in your calling recently?  Can you do any of those things now?
  • Have you looked into service opportunities in your area? Google can help.  Getting your spouse or friend to come along makes it much easier.
  • Have you asked your Bishop if there’s anyone in the ward who is having a hard time and would be good for you to reach out to?

The Spirit may also tell you that it is OK to keep watching another episode.  After all, we should not “run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided.”[9]  Sometimes you really do need to decompress.  But when you feel that tightening of the chest, the squeezing sensation of guilt – when you know that you are paying for cheap happiness now at the expense of remorsefulness later – you have strayed into the sin of idleness.

It should go without saying that this sin is not confined to spending time on the internet.  How often do we have that same sensation after playing video games or reading another romance novel?  You know your own favorite vice.  “I cannot tell you all the things whereby you may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.”[10]  When you feel that sensation of guilt, it is the Holy Ghost prompting you that you are wasting “the days of your probation”[11] and you should repent.

Maybe you’re committing that sin even now by reading my article instead of doing something else.  Take a look back at my list.  It’s more important that you to do something good for someone else than to keep reading my post.  So go out and do it.

[1] 1 Nephi 12:23

[2] 2 Nephi 5:24

[3] Alma 24:18

[4] Alma 4:12

[5] Matthew 6:20

[6] D&C 60:13

[7] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Time Spent in Detailed Primary Activities and Percent of the Civilian Population Engaged in Each Activity by Day by Sex, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/tus/a1-2018.pdf

[8] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Time Spent in Detailed Primary Activities and Percent of the Civilian Population Engaged in Each Activity by Day by Sex, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/tus/a1-2018.pdf

[9] D&C 10:4

[10] Mosiah 4:29

[11] Mormon 9:28

6 comments for “Is it a Sin to Binge Watch Netflix?

  1. rcf
    February 25, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Oh, if we could only put that mass media genie back in the bottle. But once the lightning hit Franklin’s kite, we were all doomed.
    Your list is excellent, and we should paste it on our electronic screen of choice, no doubt.

  2. anitawells
    February 25, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Can you index some records? Upload memories to FamilySearch? Scan some old photos, digitize those letters and journals? Make a temple trip?

  3. sute
    February 25, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    Abinidi told the following to King Noah, but he might as well have been talking to virtually everyone in western, entertainment driven civilization as well:

    “I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives.”

  4. Happy Hubby
    February 25, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    I don’t think it is a sin to binge watch general conference over most of a weekend!

  5. Wondering
    February 26, 2020 at 7:12 am

    HH, What if binge watching BBC’s Sherlock and considering what makes a “good man” is more inspiring to action than general conference? :)

  6. larryco_
    February 27, 2020 at 3:49 am

    Yes, it is a sin…unless you’re watching the Andy Griffith Show. And even then you are to avoid the episodes where Otis the Town Drunk is cited as a role model.

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