Q&A: Questions and Answers

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“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Feb. 1995, 17

Questions and Answers

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

I hear swearing every day at school and from people around me. I find myself thinking these swear words even though I don’t say them. How can I stop from swearing in my mind?

New Era

It’s discouraging to try to resist using vulgar words or swear words only to find them popping up in your mind when you don’t expect them. And, unfortunately, there’s a chance you will have some spill out of your mouth once they are in your mind.

Many of our readers who responded to the question talked about how much bad language they are exposed to at school and at their work. Most of them suggested that, since your mind cannot be thinking two different things at the same time, you can substitute good thoughts like a Primary song or a memorized scripture for the bad words. A few others suggested using funny or strange substitutes for bad words. And some said that their friends started copying them and using silly words instead of vulgar expressions.

You need to be conscientious and continue to substitute good thoughts for bad words as soon as they come into your mind. Eventually it will become a very good habit that can replace a bad one.

The most serious matter is taking the Lord’s name in vain. To understand how serious it is take a few minutes and look up what the scriptures say about it. Look in the Topical Guide under the heading Swearing.

For example, 3 Nephi 12:34–35 [3 Ne. 12:34–35], says we should not swear at all, “neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool.” The scripture also tells us we should say simply yes or no, keeping our word.

Our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ are precious to us, and it is offensive to hear their names taken lightly or used as nothing more than exclamations. We need to make it clear to our friends and those we are around a lot that not only would we never use such phrases but we would prefer that they also try to avoid such language.

As members of the Church, we have promised to take upon us the name of Christ. We need to represent Christ in everything we do and say. Profanity and vulgarity have no place in our vocabulary. President Kimball said, “We, as good Latter-day Saints … do not use foul language. We do not curse or defame. We do not use the Lord’s name in vain” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 1158).

Vulgar and crude language is unnecessary and often insulting. We need to set a good example by never using such language. Often those who use such language do so without thinking. It is something they grew up around, and it may have become habit. If they are people we are around often, we can help them by suggesting other phrases. It can be done with good humor and in kind ways which can help our friends change their speech. And it will make us more aware of where we may be slipping up.

We can also help keep bad language out of our minds by avoiding entertainment that uses such words. It is good that such language is shocking. Hopefully, it will always be shocking. When it stops being offensive, then we know we are losing the battle.

Taking care with the type of language we use will become easier as we make the effort to think good thoughts in place of bad words. As with every good thing, our Heavenly Father will help us. Pray always for strength and perseverance. Elder Robert K. Dellenbach said, “Our words describe our thoughts and who we really are. As members of the Lord’s church, let us always be aware that the Lord and others are listening” (New Era, May, 1992, p. 49).


In the Doctrine and Covenants, our bodies are compared to temples and tabernacles, sacred places. It also speaks of how the Spirit cannot dwell in unholy places. To erase the swearing from your mind, you must do the things that will allow the Spirit to dwell with you. We can pray always to our Heavenly Father for guidance and help in erasing the profane words in our minds. As much as possible, we should stay away from places or people who use swearing a lot. Don’t watch movies or read magazines with profanity.

Masina Akana, 17
Kaunakakai, Molokai, Hawaii

I also do not swear aloud, but for the same reasons as you, I occasionally swear in my mind. The second I start to do so, I stop everything I’m doing and concentrate on something good.

Candice Corrigan, 15
East London, Cape Province, South Africa

A good way to keep yourself from using profanity is to memorize the commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Whenever you swear in your mind, hurry and repeat this commandment. If you get into the habit of this, whenever you get angry or nearly swear, you’ll remember the commandment and the profanity will get pushed out of your mind.

Misty Johnson, 15
Genola, Utah

You can’t always control thoughts coming into your mind, but you can control how long they are allowed to stay. Have ready another thought or song which will remind you of something joyful in your life.

Darren Lewis
Cheltenham, England

I start thinking good thoughts that are fun to think about, or else go do something that is really fun. I think about what Christ did for us, how he died for us. That’s what clears my mind of dirty language.

Mark Luper, 12
Tooele, Utah

I am around and hear filthy language all day at school. But I know several nonmembers who look up to me for not swearing, so I’m not about to start now. We need to remember to set a good example for everybody and to only say things that we would want Christ to hear us say.

Andrea Riding, 15
Troutdale, Oregon

Photography by Matt Reier

Using the sacred name of God as an exclamation of surprise or to emphasize a point must be avoided. Moses received the Ten Commandments instructing his people and us in our day to avoid taking the Lord’s name in vain. The scriptures go on to say that we should avoid swearing in any form (see Matt. 5:34–37). (Painting Moses and the Ten Commandments by Paul Mann.)