Q&A: Questions and Answers
March 2001

“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Mar. 2001, 16

Questions and Answers

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

I know we’re not supposed to take the Lord’s name in vain, but what about other kinds of swearing? Is it really that bad?

New Era:

  • Learning to control our speech is part of developing the self-control we need to become Christlike.

  • Our language reveals who we are, what we think, and what we believe.

  • We will be judged for our language as well as our thoughts and actions.

  • Swearing offends the Spirit and those around you.

  • Like other sins, swearing is addictive.

  • Breaking the habit of swearing is difficult, but it can be done.

Swearing offends the Spirit and those around you. Vulgar words dull our senses, making us insensitive to promptings of the Spirit. Swearing tarnishes reputations and repels good friends. Learning to control our speech is an important part of developing the self-control we need to become Christlike.

We will be judged for our language as well as our thoughts and actions. “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36).

Many readers who wrote to answer this question said swearing shows weakness of character. People who can’t control their words may not be able to control their thoughts and actions. Bruce Weaver from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, wrote, “If we choose to be righteous and not swear, then there is a greater chance we will not be led into greater sins.”

One of the worst things about swearing is that, just like other sins, it is addictive. As we become calloused, the habit becomes more difficult to escape. Some people say it’s okay to swear if you do it when you really mean it, such as when you get hurt. But swearing in anger or pain never solved a problem or made the pain go away. Swearing only makes problems worse.

It can be hard not to pick up the habit of swearing if you are bombarded by vulgar language in movies, music, and from friends. Avoiding these words may mean changing who you spend time with, the music you listen to, and the movies you watch.

“A person is known as much by his language as he is by the company he keeps,” said President Joseph Fielding Smith. “Filthiness in any form is degrading and soul-destroying and should be avoided as a deadly poison by every member of the Church” (New Era, July 1972, 23).

The habit of swearing can be difficult to quit. But it can be done. Many people try to substitute other words for swear words, but Elder L. Tom Perry warns that so many times those substitute words are so similar to the swear words or vulgar phrases that everyone knows what you meant to say and your vocabulary hasn’t really changed. Elder Perry suggests a simple activity to break the habit:

“First, make the commitment to erase such words from your vocabulary. Next, if you slip and say a swear word or a substitute word, mentally reconstruct the sentence without the vulgarity or substitute word and repeat the new sentence aloud. Eventually you will develop a nonvulgar speech habit” (New Era, Aug. 1986, 7).

Our language reveals who we are, what we think, and what we believe. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ. If profanity flows from our lips, we don’t represent what we say we believe, and people are left to assume that what comes out of our mouths is what can be found in our minds and hearts.

Elder Robert K. Dellenbach

“When you open your mouth to speak, you reveal a great deal. The words you use and the way you speak are like a blueprint of who you are deep inside” (New Era, May 1992, 47).
—Elder Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy


Addictive language will constrain our spiritual growth just as much as any other addictive substance. If we allow any words to become a habit, we are losing some aspect of self-mastery and becoming ever closer to the dreaded natural man.

Andrew T. Curtis, 18
Clarkston, Michigan

The language you use portrays the type of person you are.

Scott Murdoch, 18
Idaho Falls, Idaho

Imagine that Christ were in the room. Would you feel good and comfortable letting a few inappropriate words slip out here and there?

Angelina Smith, 19
Arlington, Washington

Our ultimate goal is to become like God, and swearing draws us away from Him. Although there are worse things that we see in this world, little things can draw us away from our Heavenly Father.

BreeAnna Holdaway, 17
Bothwell, Utah

After you swear a lot, you will start to feel just like the words you are saying. When you do any kind of swearing, you hurt the Lord, yourself, and sometimes others.

Justin LeSuehr, 15
Mesa, Arizona

If you start swearing, it will become second nature to you. Then you will start to do other things wrong and will find yourself far off the path.

Bobby Sheline, 13
Sparks, Nevada

Photography by Tamra Ratieta. Posed by model