… speaking things which they ought not
September 1971

“… speaking things which they ought not,” Ensign, Sept. 1971, 43

“… speaking things which they ought not”

“The Spoken Word“ from Temple Square, presented over KSL and the Columbia Broadcasting System June 13, 1971. © 1971 by Richard L. Evans.

Among the many human faults and failings there is one that seems peculiarly persistent, and that is, gossiping—whispering; spreading rumors that travel like a windswept fire from ear to ear and sometimes destroy, without conscience, the good name of a man, the reputation of an institution, or even the pride and confidence of a country. To speak abusive words in public, to put libelous statements in print, and to bear false witness in court are offenses that can be traced to their source. But to let words loose on a whisper that sweeps from ear to ear and from lip to lip, and that suggests more than it says, is in some ways among the worst forms of bearing false witness. And because of our receptiveness to gossip and our eagerness to be the first to tell something, we perhaps involve ourselves in the spread of what is false and unfounded oftener than we would wish to admit. “There is nothing that can’t be made worse by telling,” said Terence.1 “That which passes out of one mouth passes into a hundred ears.”2 And Paul spoke of “tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”3 As Juvenal in his Satires said:

“And there’s a lust in man no charm can tame

Of loudly publishing his neighbor’s shame;

On eagles’ wings immortal scandals fly,

While virtuous actions are but born and die.”4

May heaven keep us from the blight of those who spread rumors and gossip, like spores and seeds on a whispering wind, widely carried beyond recall.


  1. Terence, Phormio.

  2. Ernest Bramah, Kai Lung’s Golden Hours.

  3. 1 Tim. 5:13.

  4. Juvenal, Satires, Sat. ix.