Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 18: Virtue—a Cornerstone on Which to Build Our Lives

“Chapter 18: Virtue—a Cornerstone on Which to Build Our Lives,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley (2016)

“Chapter 18,” Teachings: Gordon B. Hinckley

Chapter 18

Virtue—A Cornerstone on Which to Build Our Lives

“You are, each one of you, children of a divine Father in Heaven. You were created after His design in the image of your Creator. Your body is sacred. It is the temple of your spirit. Do not defile it with sin.”

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

Speaking to students at Brigham Young University in 2007, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“I observed a very interesting thing the other day. In Salt Lake City, early on a Saturday morning, the Key Bank building was brought down with a series of well-placed detonations. It all happened in three or four seconds, with a great cloud of dust that rolled to the northwest. The process is called an implosion, in contrast with an explosion.

“The building was constructed nearly 30 years ago. I suppose construction extended over a period of at least a year, maybe two. Now it was gone in seconds.

“That, my friends, is the story of so many lives. We nurture them ever so carefully over a period of years. Then we find ourselves in highly charged circumstances. Mistakes are made. Chastity is compromised. There is an implosion, and a ball of dust is all that is left.

“I was reminded of this when I recalled a young man and a young woman who came to my office. He was a handsome boy and she was a beautiful girl. They were university students. Their future looked bright and beautiful. But they gave in to temptation. …

“Tears filled their eyes as they talked with me. But there was no escape from the reality that faced them. Their lives had suffered an implosion, and a tower of dreams had come tumbling down.

“Do not let this happen to you. Do not sell yourself short by compromising your commitment to morality. You are, each one of you, children of a divine Father in Heaven. You were created after His design in the image of your Creator. Your body is sacred. It is the temple of your spirit. Do not defile it with sin.

“Now, hearkening back to the illustration of the tower that collapsed, I remind you that in its place will be constructed a new and beautiful building. Similarly, those who have transgressed can turn to their Redeemer, our Savior Jesus Christ, and, through the power of His Atonement, be made clean and new again.”1

President Hinckley at pulpit

President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled, “Let virtue be a cornerstone on which to build your lives.”

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley


Virtuous living brings marvelous and wonderful blessings.

There is nothing in all this world as magnificent as virtue. It glows without tarnish. It is precious and beautiful. It is above price. It cannot be bought or sold. It is the fruit of self-mastery.

… The Lord has given a wonderful mandate. He has said, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45). This becomes a commandment to be observed with diligence and discipline. And there is attached to it the promise of marvelous and wonderful blessings. He has said to those who live with virtue:

“Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God. …

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (D&C 121:45–46).

Could there be a greater or more beautiful promise than this?2

Is there a valid case for virtue? It is the only way to freedom from regret. The peace of conscience which flows therefrom is the only personal peace that is not counterfeit.

And beyond all of this is the unfailing promise of God to those who walk in virtue. Declared Jesus of Nazareth, speaking on the mountain, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). That is a covenant, made by Him who has the power to fulfill.3

You should recognize, you must recognize, that both experience and divine wisdom dictate virtue and moral cleanliness as the way that leads to strength of character, peace in the heart, and happiness in life.4

Let virtue be a cornerstone on which to build your lives.5


When we rise above the filth and immorality of the world, we enjoy greater happiness, security, and peace of mind.

As we look out over the world, it seems that morality has been cast aside. The violation of old standards has become common. Studies, one after another, show that there has been an abandonment of time-tested principles. Self-discipline has been forgotten, and promiscuous indulgence has become widespread.

But, my dear friends, we cannot accept that which has become common in the world. Yours, as members of this Church, is a higher standard and more demanding. It declares as a voice from Sinai that thou shalt not indulge. You must keep control of your desires.6

Paul’s words to the Corinthian Saints are as applicable to us today as they were to those to whom he wrote. Said he:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).7

Again Paul’s counsel to Timothy, “Keep thyself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22).

Those are simple words. But they are ever so important. Paul is saying, in effect, stay away from those things which will tear you down and destroy you spiritually. Stay away from television shows which lead to unclean thoughts and unclean language. Stay away from videos which will lead to evil thoughts. They won’t help you. They will only hurt you. Stay away from books and magazines which are sleazy and filthy in what they say and portray. Keep thyself pure.8

man and woman

Chastity is “the way to happiness in living.”

Marriage is ordained of God, marriage between a man and a woman. It is the institution under which He designed that children should come into the world. Sexual relationships under any other circumstances become transgression and are totally at odds with the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.9

We believe in chastity before marriage and total fidelity after marriage. That sums it up. That is the way to happiness in living. That is the way to satisfaction. It brings peace to the heart and peace to the home.10

No family can have peace, no life can be free from the storms of adversity unless that family and that home are built on foundations of morality, fidelity, and mutual respect. There cannot be peace where there is not trust; there cannot be freedom where there is not loyalty. The warm sunlight of love will not rise out of a swamp of immorality.11

I believe that it should be the blessing of every child to be born into a home where that child is welcomed, nurtured, loved, and blessed with parents, a father and a mother, who live with loyalty to one another and to their children. … Stand strong against the wiles of the world. The creators of our entertainment, the purveyors of much of our literature, would have you believe otherwise. The accumulated wisdom of centuries declares with clarity and certainty that the greater happiness, the greater security, the greater peace of mind, the deeper reservoirs of love are experienced only by those who walk according to time-tested standards of virtue before marriage and total fidelity within marriage.12

We live in a world of filth and immorality and trouble. Rise above it, stand taller, leave the world behind you, and walk as the Lord would have you walk.13


Pornography is addictive and destructive, but we can rise above it.

I rather reluctantly speak to a theme that I have dealt with before. I do it in the spirit of the words of Alma, who said: “This is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance” (Alma 29:9).

… I speak of pornography in all of its manifestations. … It is devilish. It is totally inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel, with personal testimony of the things of God. …

… All who are involved become victims. Children are exploited, and their lives are severely damaged. The minds of youth become warped with false concepts. Continued exposure leads to addiction that is almost impossible to break. … So very many … find they cannot leave it alone. Their energies and their interests are consumed in their dead-end pursuit of this raw and sleazy fare.

The excuse is given that it is hard to avoid, that it is right at our fingertips and there is no escape.

Suppose a storm is raging and the winds howl and the snow swirls about you. You find yourself unable to stop it. But you can dress properly and seek shelter, and the storm will have no effect upon you.

Likewise, even though the Internet is saturated with sleazy material, you do not have to watch it. You can retreat to the shelter of the gospel and its teaching of cleanliness and virtue and purity of life.

I know that I am speaking directly and plainly. I do so because the Internet has made pornography more widely accessible, adding to what is available on DVDs and videos, on television and magazine stands. It leads to fantasies that are destructive of self-respect. It leads to illicit relationships, often to disease, and to abusive criminal activity.14

You live in a world of terrible temptations. Pornography, with its sleazy filth, sweeps over the earth like a horrible, engulfing tide. It is poison. Do not watch it or read it. It will destroy you if you do. It will take from you your self-respect. It will rob you of a sense of the beauties of life. It will tear you down and pull you into a slough of evil thoughts and possibly of evil actions. Stay away from it. Shun it as you would a foul disease, for it is just as deadly. Be virtuous in thought and in deed.15

There is so much of filth and lust and pornography in this world. We as Latter-day Saints must rise above it and stand tall against it. You can’t afford to indulge in it. You just cannot afford to indulge in it. You have to keep it out of your heart. Like tobacco it’s addictive, and it will destroy those who tamper with it. “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly” [D&C 121:45].16


With discipline and effort, we can control our thoughts and actions.

Be clean in mind, and then you will have greater control over your bodies. It was said of old, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Unclean thoughts lead to unclean acts.17

When tempted we can substitute for thoughts of evil thoughts of [our Savior] and His teachings. He has said: “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.

“Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you” (D&C 88:67–68).18

Jesus gave a commandment to control our thoughts as well as our deeds. He said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). …

Mental control must be stronger than physical appetites or desires of the flesh. As thoughts are brought into complete harmony with revealed truth, actions will then become appropriate. … Each of us, with discipline and effort, has the capacity to control our thoughts and our actions. This is part of the process of developing spiritual, physical, and emotional maturity. …

We plead with people everywhere to live in accordance with the teachings of our Creator and rise above carnal attractions that often result in the tragedies that follow moral transgression.19


Those who have been involved in immoral behavior can be forgiven and can rise above the past.

I do not wish to be negative. I am by nature optimistic. But in such matters as this [pornography and immorality] I am a realist. If we are involved in such behavior, now is the time to change. Let this be our hour of resolution. Let us turn about to a better way.20

If you find yourself slipping under the pressure of circumstances, discipline yourselves. Stop before it is too late. You will be forever grateful that you did.

Be true to yourselves and the best you have within you.21

Let me … assure you that if you have made a mistake, if you have become involved in any immoral behavior, all is not lost. Memory of that mistake will likely linger, but the deed can be forgiven, and you can rise above the past to live a life fully acceptable unto the Lord where there has been repentance. He has promised that He will forgive your sins and remember them no more against you (see D&C 58:42).

… Church leaders [can] assist you in your difficulty. You can put behind you any evil with which you have been involved. You can go forward with a renewal of hope and acceptability to a far better way of life.22

Suggestions for Study and Teaching


  • President Hinckley taught that there is “a valid case for virtue” (section 1). How might you respond to someone who argues that there is not a valid case for virtue?

  • Why is chastity “the way to happiness in living”? Why does chastity bring “peace to the heart and peace to the home”? (See sections 1 and 2.)

  • President Hinckley said, “We as Latter-day Saints must rise above [pornography] and stand tall against it” (section 3). What can we do to rise above it? How can we help others rise above it? What do you think it means to stand tall against it?

  • As you read President Hinckley’s counsel in section 4, what do you learn about controlling your thoughts? What are some practical things we can do to keep our thoughts clean?

Related Scriptures

Psalm 24:3–4; Matthew 5:27–28; Philippians 4:6–8; Jacob 3:2; D&C 46:31–33; 59:6; Articles of Faith 1:13

Study Help

As you read, “underline and mark words or phrases so that you distinguish between ideas in a single [passage]. … In the margins write scripture references that clarify the passages you are studying” (Preach My Gospel [2004], 23).


  1. “True to the Faith” (Brigham Young University devotional, Sept. 18, 2007), 2–3, speeches.byu.edu.

  2. “How Can I Become the Woman of Whom I Dream?” Ensign, May 2001, 95.

  3. “Words of the Prophet: Blessed Are the Pure in Heart,” New Era, July 1999, 4.

  4. “Reverence and Morality,” Ensign, May 1987, 48.

  5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 118.

  6. “Stay on the High Road,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 114.

  7. “In These Three I Believe,” Ensign, July 2006, 4.

  8. “Converts and Young Men,” Ensign, May 1997, 49.

  9. “True to the Faith,” Ensign, June 1996, 5.

  10. “This Thing Was Not Done in a Corner,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 49.

  11. “In Search of Peace and Freedom,” Ensign, Aug. 1989, 5.

  12. “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 99.

  13. “Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, Feb. 2007, 7.

  14. “A Tragic Evil among Us,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 59–62.

  15. “Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 51.

  16. “Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, Aug. 1997, 6–7.

  17. “Be Ye Clean,” Ensign, May 1996, 48.

  18. “A Tragic Evil among Us,” 62.

  19. “Reverence and Morality,” 47.

  20. “A Tragic Evil among Us,” 62.

  21. “Stand True and Faithful,” Ensign, May 1996, 92.

  22. “How Can I Become the Woman of Whom I Dream?” 95.