Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

Question: I hear swearing every day at school and from people around me. I find myself thinking these swear words even though I don’t say them. How can I stop swear words from coming into my mind?

Our Answer:

It is discouraging to resist using swear words only to find them popping up in your mind. And, unfortunately, there is a chance that some of those words will spill out of your mouth.

Many of our readers suggested that, since you cannot think about two different things at the same time, you could fill your mind with good thoughts like a hymn, a Primary song, or a memorized scripture when bad words come into your mind. If you are conscientious and continue to substitute good thoughts for bad ones, eventually the swear words will stop coming into your mind.

The most serious form of swearing is taking the Lord’s name in vain. Our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ deserve our deepest respect.

As members of the Church, we have taken upon us the name of Jesus Christ. That means we represent the Savior in everything we do and say. Profanity and vulgarity have no place in our vocabulary.

President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled, “Be clean in language. There is so much of filthy, sleazy talk these days. … It tells others that your vocabulary is so extremely limited that you cannot express yourselves without reaching down into the gutter for words. … A filthy mind expresses itself in filthy and profane language. A clean mind expresses itself in language that is positive and uplifting and in deeds that bring happiness into the heart” (Ensign, May 1996, 48).

We need to make it clear to those we associate with who take the Lord’s name in vain that such language offends us.

Often those who use such language do so without thinking. Perhaps they grew up around people who swore and picked up the habit almost unconsciously. Once their habit is tactfully called to their attention, many of these people express a desire to stop. If they are people we are around often, we can help them by showing them a good example and suggesting other phrases. These suggestions can be made with good humor and in kind ways that do not offend them.

We can also help keep bad language out of our minds by avoiding entertainment that uses swearing. Unfortunately, the more we hear filthy language, the less shocking it becomes.

As with every attempt at self-improvement, we can ask our Heavenly Father to help us clean up our thoughts. If we exercise faith in our Heavenly Father, doing our best to repent, “the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent [will create] a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).

Readers’ Answers:

The more eager we are to follow the Savior’s teachings, the more we are tested. But trials are not to cause us to fail, but to cause us to triumph over temptation and evil. If we succeed in removing all evil words from our minds, then we will triumph by receiving the words of truth and peace.

Erik Mattsson, 21, Örebro Branch, Stockholm Sweden Stake

Putting our priorities in order by fasting, praying, and attending church, seminary, and firesides will help us to get rid of profane thoughts. Remember the words of King David: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105).

Elder Pouono Lameko, 21, Lepale Ward, Apia Samoa East Stake

Whenever we hear profanity, we can remember that Jesus Christ taught, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36).

Elder Joel T. Labtic, 20, Micronesia Guam Mission

Degrading words hurt my spirit and the people who love me. Kind words not only make others happy, but they help us feel good about ourselves. “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Prov. 16:24).

Rossana Jurupe Franco, El Porvenir Ward, Lima Perú San Luis Stake

Whenever I hear profanity, I remember my covenant with my Heavenly Father, and then I pray for help in forgetting the words that I heard.

Set a personal goal to eliminate profanity from your mind, and invite the Holy Ghost to direct you, since “they that are wise … have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide” (D&C 45:57).

Elder Randy Fernando, Philippines Davao Mission

We are using our agency when we decide what our thoughts will be. If we have a habit of swearing in our minds, it is best to use our agency to stop the habit now and replace it with a habit of clean thoughts. If we will do this, our burdens will be lighter.

Elia Vasega, 22, Maagiagi Ward, Apia Samoa Stake

Thoughts can become acts, so the best thing to do when bad thoughts enter our minds is to recognize where these thoughts are coming from and distance ourselves from their source. We can also have a “battle hymn,” for lack of a better term, that helps us forget these thoughts, or we can say a prayer to remind ourselves of who we are.

Elder Paris Goyeneche, Parque Barón Ward, Buenos Aires, Argentina Banfield Stake

Our use of language depends on how we discipline our minds and on the image we have of ourselves. If that image is negative, we should try to increase our sense of self-worth. Then we will have the confidence, courage, and faith to better confront the adversities of life without succumbing to profanity.

Jose Oses, Conchalí Eleventh Ward, Santiago Chile Conchalí Stake

I am a police officer, and I constantly hear people telling indecent jokes and using swear words. When this happens, I try to turn the conversation to a more positive topic or to distract myself by concentrating on my work.

In my situation, it is important that my coworkers know of my standards. This way, they respect me, and when they are in my presence, they avoid saying things that are offensive.

Robison Rogério Faria dos Santos, 29, Vitoria da Conquista First Branch, Vitoria da Conquista Brazil District

It is not easy to stop swearing. But if you think of the unlimited love that Heavenly Father has for us, after a couple of weeks of trying very hard to stop, you won’t even be tempted anymore.

Moises Amorocho, 26, Amersfoort Ward, Apeldoorn Netherlands Stake

Because our thoughts make us what we are, and because it is necessary to strive to be like Jesus Christ, we must think as he does. When the Lord confronted the three temptations in the wilderness, he immediately rejected Satan with appropriate scriptures that he had memorized. Like Christ, we can use the same tactic to eliminate temptation.

Elisangela da Silva Oliveira, 17, Itapevi Branch, Osasco Brazil Stake

[photo] Photograph by Matt Reier