I have a very vivid memory of being on the school bus when I was in 4th or 5th grade and having some boys my age offer me candy if I would say a swear word. When I declined they tried to get a little more persuasive and try to convince me that it didn’t count if I said a swear word because I could just quote them saying it so it wasn’t actually my own words. To their great disappointment, I didn’t end up saying a swear word that day. I don’t mean to paint this picture in a persecuting light. The boys were my friends, they were having fun teasing me and I was having just as much fun being stubborn back to them. I was somewhat of an anomaly to them. I was the only Mormon in my elementary school besides my little sister so they were curious to see what my limits actually were and if I could be bought over by candy.
Avoiding profane and vulgar language is something that most Mormons strive to do. My brother-in-law requested that I do a blog post on this subject to try and help explain why that is. Sometimes it’s not so obvious why it matters so much. In the situation on the school bus I didn’t really know why I wasn’t supposed to say swear words, I just knew I wasn’t supposed to. My reasoning, as it often was when I was younger, was that it was against my religion. At that time that was a good enough reason for me. As an adult though I desire a little more insight as to why our church leaders have asked us to avoid profane and vulgar language.
Now let’s get something straight before I go any further. If you haven’t heard a Mormon use a swear word you probably don’t know very many Mormons. This is something that is difficult for a lot of people to master. Sometimes the tongue is a little faster than the mind but as a general rule we do try to keep our language clean.
What somebody says, or how they say it, reflects who they are. All kinds of assumptions are made about someone based on their speech. If I spoke with really bad grammar people would assume I was uneducated or if I spoke with my best Boston accent people would assume I either had a speech impediment where I couldn’t say my “R’s” or know that I was from Boston. As I have explained before, when we are baptized we take the name of Jesus Christ upon us and agree to be his representatives throughout our lives. That means our language not only reflects who we are but also the Savior. It doesn’t really matter if people are watching and assuming or not, I covenanted to represent Jesus Christ at all times; when I’m alone, when I’m angry, when I’m with friends, when I just got cut off driving, etc. so my language should also reflect that at all times.
We also don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. We do not use the Savior’s name as an expletive or that of our Heavenly Father. Those names are to be used with only the utmost respect and reverence. In the bible James explains about why language matters. He says that if we can control our speech then we can control our whole bodies but if we allow our speech to be vulgar our lives will follow. He also explains that the same mouth that teaches God’s word has no room for profane and vulgar words, it’s hypocritical.
Mormons don’t avoid profane and vulgar language to be self-righteous or to prove a point, we do it because we are trying to represent Jesus Christ and want to lead clean lives. But, we’re just normal people and we say things we regret in the heat of the moment or perhaps sometimes the candy being offered just looks too enticing. When you avoid profane language do you notice a change in your behavior as well?