Mormon Missionary EldersA lot of us live in a culture which can be very foul-mouthed. I know that, in many cases, just going to high school can expose you to a solid barrage of profanity. And that’s without all the swearing in movies, television, books, the graffiti people like to etch in bathrooms, and so on.

Mormons make a point of not swearing, but using good language is more than avoiding the big five or six swear words that’ll drive a movie’s rating up to PG-13 and R. I know I use some slang terms that may not technically be swear words, but are really kind of vulgar, and I strive to catch myself when I start saying those kinds of things.

In general, our speech should be free of vulgarity. We shouldn’t make dirty jokes.  We shouldn’t make gestures with crude meanings. Why not? Well, why should we? What are the purposes of these words and these gestures? Movies and other media stick them in for “realism,” but why should we make them part of the way we interact with other people? Why should we make them part of our reality?

The Mormon Church (officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) counsels that such talk and such action is degrading, and maybe you can see why. A swear word can express anger or disgust or contempt—all manner of harshness. A vulgar term can make light of sacred things, or debase the body. Why would we want to make people wince, not even at what we say, but in how we’re saying it? Even if many people are used to that language, and worse, why not be a pleasant exception?

Perhaps we are giving in to peer pressure. When everyone else around you is swearing, it may not seem so bad, but in keeping your speech free from it, you’re not losing anything. Having fewer useless words cluttering up your talk, you’ll have that much more room to say what you want to say. (If you can figure out how to stop using words like ‘um’ and ‘like,’ let me know.)

Of course, speech that’s free of swearing and vulgarity isn’t sufficient, if you use it to put down others and gossip. A major reason why Mormons are not supposed to swear is to help edify others, uplift them. Backbiting and insults never uplift anyone, including the person who comes up with them. What good do they do? They might temporarily make you feel better about yourself (because, look, I’m better than that person, I said so!), but they make you pretty unpleasant to be around and can alienate people from you very easily. How would you feel if someone said that to you?  That’s always something to keep in mind before speaking.

Making yourself pleasant to be around may not be possible with all people. You may simply not get along with some people. That’s part of being human. Regardless of someone liking you or not, always conduct yourself with gentleness and civility. Look for ways to compliment people. If you look for someone’s positive points instead of their negative ones, you might find it a lot easier not to judge them (and thus insult them, even in your head) and a lot easier to see them as your spiritual brother or sister: another person with as much worth as you have, with their own flaws and their own gifts. Wouldn’t we all rather focus on the good?

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