Swearing Off Swear Words
January 1982

“Swearing Off Swear Words,” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 35

Swearing Off Swear Words

As a child I learned to curse and use vile words freely. Even in later years, I had little regard for President Spencer W. Kimball’s suggestion that indecent language is a sign of weakness and stupidity (see “President Kimball Speaks Out on Profanity,” Ensign, Feb. 1981, p. 5), until I began preparing to give a lesson on journal-keeping. Desiring an illustration from my own journal, I recalled a 1972 entry in which I recorded bewilderment at a national event. What I found instead was an expletive which contained little descriptive content at all. I was deeply embarrassed by my inarticulateness (which I recognized as a manifestation of ignorance), and resolved to clean up my language.

Giving up the actual obscenities was easy. In fact, one of the first signs of success was that vulgarity began to offend me. Within two weeks, however, I was talking the same way as before, except that the expletives were words like “shoot,” “darn,” and “gads.” But since I viewed the words as harmless, I used them without restraint; I depended on expletives more than ever.

Then one day it occurred to me that over the years I had developed speech patterns that relied heavily on swear words. By retaining those speech patterns, I was still offending many listeners, who were reminded of vulgar words by the substitutes. I realized I’d probably never fully escape the use of vulgarity if I continued using the substitute words.

I solved the problem by changing the way I talked. After a sentence with a swear word or a substitute word slipped out, I mentally reconstructed the sentence without the expletive and repeated the new sentence aloud. Eventually, I developed nonvulgar speech habits.

With vulgarity truly out of my life, I am, I think, more articulate and less of a spiritual drain on those around me. Indeed, one need only give up vulgarity a short time to be impressed with the importance of the Apostle Paul’s injunction:

“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.

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the days of redemption.” (Eph. 4:29–30; see also the Jerusalem Bible.)

  • Kent H. Roberts, an attorney, is a member of the St. Louis, Missouri, Sixth Ward.

Illustrated by Bradley Clark