Questions and Answers

“Questions and Answers,” Liahona, Sept. 1999, 26

Questions and Answers

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

The scriptures warn us against gossiping. But what should we do if someone starts gossiping to us or spreads gossip about us?

Our Answer

The Psalmist said it simply: “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Ps. 34:13). The Savior also commanded us to avoid the evil of gossiping. In establishing the laws of the restored Church, He said, “Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm” (D&C 42:27). Gossip includes idle conversations, which may or may not be exaggerated or untrue, and it usually harms the reputation of the person under scrutiny as well as the person doing the scrutinizing.

Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “Lies and gossip which harm reputations are scattered about by the four winds like the seeds of a ripe dandelion held aloft by a child. Neither the seeds nor the gossip can ever be gathered in. The degree and extent of the harm done by the gossip is inestimable” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 54).

President John Taylor earlier told the Saints, “The reputation of our neighbors and the members of our Church should be as dear to us as our own, and we should carefully avoid doing anything to another or saying anything about another that we would not wish done or said about ourselves” (in James R. Clark, compiler, Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 volumes [1965–75], 3:84).

Many readers suggested that if we involuntarily find ourselves in a situation where others are gossiping, we should change the subject, say something nice about that person, or leave. These actions are not always easy, but by them we let others know that we do not tolerate gossip.

By not tolerating gossip, President George Albert Smith said, we will be much happier: “You never saw a gossip in your life that was happy. He is just as unhappy and miserable as the devil all the time—and of course he is in Satan’s company when he is gossiping about his neighbors” (in Conference Report, April 1944, 29). When we participate in gossip, we, too, are under the influence of the adversary.

Sometimes harder than avoiding gossip is avoiding being the subject of gossip. Having others say negative and sometimes untrue things about us often leaves us with feelings of anger and a desire for retaliation—but this reaction is not the Lord’s way. Jesus Christ said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). When we live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, we help our peers realize that the gossip being spread about us is untrue.

As in any situation, we should turn to our Heavenly Father for His help and guidance. With His direction, we can talk to the perpetrator and let him or her know the truth. We should do so with a spirit of forgiveness. As the Apostle Paul wrote, we should be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “The snide remark, the racial slur, hateful epithets, malicious gossip, and mean and vicious rumor-mongering should have no place among us” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 664). By avoiding gossip, stopping it when it starts, and turning the other cheek when someone gossips about us, we set an example for others. These actions also help us as a society to be of “one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18) and as individuals to be worthy to return to live with our Heavenly Father.

Readers’ Answers

Gossiping causes quarrels and divisions and, eventually, it can lead us to personal apostasy. If someone gossiped about me, I would ask Heavenly Father to give me self-control and to strengthen me so I could find harmony with others.

Gbologan Kokou,
Koumassi Ward, Abidjan Ivory Coast Stake

Before speaking of others, ask yourself three questions: Is it true? Is it good? Is it useful? If others begin to gossip to you, change the subject or ask them to stop. Then say something positive about the person in question.

Sunday School class,
Eberswalde Branch, Berlin Germany Stake

Gossip is everything that you are ashamed of saying face to face to the person you are speaking of.

Oscar Ortiz,
Jyväskylä Ward, Tampere Finland Stake

We can pray for those who try to involve us in gossip. Jesus Christ wants us to pray for those who despitefully use us and speak falsely against us. He wants us to love our enemies and offer them our friendship (see Matt. 5:44).

Lorena Velázquez Revilla,
Pochutla Branch, Puerto Escondido Mexico District

I learned from my mission president that instead of saying anything bad about someone, we should find five good qualities about that person. Highlighting virtues in another is a good way to counteract the bad being spoken about them.

Elder Celso Daniel Munhoz Reffatti,
Brazil Curitiba Mission

If we listen to gossip, we are more inclined to criticize and we will look for the negative in others rather than the positive. We need to try to understand others’ points of view. We need to fast and pray for those who have hurt us and show them that we care.

Shim Soon Mi,
Poong Hyang Ward, Kwang Ju Korea Stake

Never underestimate the power of words. As children of our Heavenly Father, we should not allow unclean words to hurt our spirits or the spirits of others. We should not only stop the spread of gossip, we should treat our ward members with love, so our wards can become “a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 88:119).

Hsu Chen Chin Yi,
Tainan Second Ward, Tainan Taiwan Stake

When we gossip, we belittle those we gossip about in an attempt to exalt ourselves. When we do this, we do not have the love of Christ within us.

We should try to maintain a peaceful attitude within us when we hear that others gossip about us. If we vent our feelings, we give the gossipers reason to claim that our reaction proves the gossip true. If we do not react, others will see by our attitude that the gossip is not true. We will feel at peace within.

Elder F. Talivakaola,
Tonga Nuku‘alofa Mission

It isn’t always possible for us to control everything going on around us, but if we avoid gossip we will be happier and we will strengthen others. The Lord is pleased when our speech is clean and virtuous. When necessary, we can express an objection so others won’t think our silence is approval or consent.

Luis Ramón Cleto Mueses,
Luperón First Ward, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Stake

I have made a decision that I will never tell or listen to another person tell someone else’s secrets or discuss someone else’s faults. Reading the scriptures helps me to be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit. When we have the Spirit with us, we can speak and listen in an edifying and enlightening way.

Grace Almin,
Gapan Third Ward, Gapan Philippines Stake

It is very difficult to withstand and overcome gossip about ourselves. However, as members of the Church, we have the necessary aids—prayer, Church teachings, the holy scriptures—to help us know we have inestimable value in the eyes of God. We must never forget to reflect the light within us, in spite of what others may say about us.

Malalatiana N. Randrianalidera,
Antananarivo Second Branch, Antananarivo Madagascar District

In my short time as a member of the Church, I’ve realized that hearing other members gossiping is one of the reasons some people give for becoming less active. When someone does start gossiping, we should be a good example to them. We must continue to love them and strengthen them.

Suzette Satsatin,
Libon Branch, Ligao Philippines District

It is very painful when we learn someone is ruining our reputation, but we must remember that our true friends will stand by us. We can speak to gossipers with kindness, to help them understand the teaching to “speak not evil one of another” (James 4:11).

Elisabetta Marangon,
Treviso Branch, Venice Italy Stake

Christ asked the Nephites: “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27). When we are the victims of gossip or we hear a piece of gossip, we can ask ourselves, “What would Jesus Christ do?” If we have the Spirit, we will act in the way He would.

Nestor Fabián Rodriguez,
Villa Aguirre Branch, Tandil Argentina District

One day I read a quote in the foyer of a hospital: “When you hear something negative about a person, do not repeat it, for it may not be the truth; and if you later learn that it is true, remember that it is sublime to remain silent.”

When someone spreads rumors about me, I remember words my mother shared with me, “When someone insults you, remember that Christ, the Son of God, received the greatest insults.”

Martin Apolo,
Foz Do Iguaçu Ward, Cascavel Brazil Stake

I once read the text of a hymn in A Liahona (Portuguese) that made me think. The words read: “Should you feel inclined to censure Faults you may in others view, Ask your own heart, ere you venture, If you have not failings, too” (“Should You Feel Inclined to Censure,” Hymns, number 235; quoted in Liahona, May 1997, 18).

When we participate in gossip, we exchange blessings for a moment of useless diversion.

Andreli Fernandes Ribeiro Viana,
Itapetininga Second Branch, Itapetininga Brazil District

Photograph by Jed Clark