Speak Kind Words

“Speak Kind Words,” Ensign, Aug. 1977, 2

First Presidency Message

Speak Kind Words

My appeal in this message is that we control our tongues, and by speaking kind words to each other emulate in our relationships with each other the loving kindness the Lord has for his people, as expressed by Isaiah when he said:

“I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.” (Isa. 63:7.)

Jesus said, “Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:35–36.)

The following succinct statement epitomizes the matchless loving kindness of the Savior:

‘Twas a thief said the last kind word to Christ: Christ took the kindness and forgave the theft. (Robert Browning, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 13th ed., 1955, p. 573-b.)

It is not clear that Jesus forgave the theft, but he did speak the kind words: “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43.)

And for his crucifiers he prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.)

Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, said:

“I … beseech you … with all lowliness and meekness … to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace [and] let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. …

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:1–3, 29, 31–32.)

In his general epistle, the apostle James gives this counsel:

“Be swift to hear, [but] slow to speak.” (James 1:19.)

He then thus contrasts the outspoken pretender with the man who has so bridled his tongue as to in truth control his words:

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, … this man’s religion is vain.”

And then he adds:

“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 1:26; James 3:2.)

This bridling of the whole body is a lofty objective. To reach it requires a real struggle, however. For notwithstanding the tongue is a small member of the body, it is very effective and it seldom wears out. James reminds us that as with a small bit in a horse’s mouth “we turn about [his] whole body” and with a very small helm great ships driven by fierce winds are easily controlled, so with the tongue, a little member of the body, great things are boasted and great fires are kindled. He charges it with being “a world of iniquity,” with defiling the whole body and setting “on fire the course of nature,” pointing out that although “every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (See James 3:2–8.)

Although nearly two thousand years have passed, the evils against which James so forcefully, counseled are still with us; but they are no more consistent with the life of a Latter-day Saint than they were with the life of a former-day saint.

Long before the time of Jesus and Paul and James, the Old Testament prophets were expounding the same doctrine and giving the same advice:

“A soft answer turneth away wrath,” said the wise author of Proverbs, and added, “but grievous words stir up anger.

“The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. …

“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. …

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. …

“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Prov. 15:1–2, 4; Prov. 31:10, 26.)

In America, King Benjamin instructed parents not to suffer their children to “fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.” (Mosiah 4:14.)

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he has Polonius instruct his son Laertes to “give thy thoughts no tongue. … Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice: Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.” (Act I, Scene 3.)

Someone else has said:

“If wisdom’s ways you widely seek, five things observe with care: of whom you speak, to whom you speak, and how, and when, and where.” (Anon., The New Dictionary of Thoughts, Standard Book Co., 1961, p. 678a.)

In these latter days—more than a year before the Church was organized—the Lord, in projecting missionary service and specifying qualifications for the work, said:

“Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence” (D&C 4:6; italics added)—thus identifying these virtues as essential to missionary service.

Later the Lord specified them as prerequisite to the exercise of priesthood power.

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” (D&C 121:41–42.)

“Discretion of speech is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal is more than to speak in good words or in good order.” (Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 13th ed., 1955, p. 121-a.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith told the Relief Society sisters of his day that “the tongue is an unruly member” and gave them this counsel: “Hold your tongues about things of no moment—a little tale will set the world on fire.” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5:20.)

Let us, therefore, resolve to control our tongues and by speaking kind words to each other emulate the loving kindness of our Lord.

Should we be moved by anger to speak rashly, think of these lines by President Charles W. Penrose:

School thy feelings, O my brother;

Train thy warm impulsive soul;

Do not its emotions smother,

But let wisdom’s voice control.

(Hymns, no. 340.)

And these of H. R. Palmer:

Angry words! oh, let them never

From the tongue unbridled slip;

May the heart’s best impulse ever

Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love is much too pure and holy,

Friendship is too sacred far,

For a moment’s reckless folly

Thus to desolate and mar.

Angry words are lightly spoken;

Bitt’rest tho’ts are rashly stirred—

Brightest links of life are broken,

By a single angry word.

(Deseret Sunday School Songs, no. 67.)

Rather than malign, defame, slander, or speak evil of another, let us remember and implement the message of the beautiful hymn, “Nay, Speak No Ill,” and then be as lenient with failings of another as we are of our own.

Let us go further and, in the words of Joseph L. Townsend,

… speak kind words to each other

At home or where’er we may be;

Like the warblings of birds on the heather,

The tones will be welcome and free.

They’ll gladden the heart that’s repining,

Give courage and hope from above,

And where the dark clouds hide the shining,

Let in the bright sunlight of love.

(Hymns, no. 94.)

Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn