Friday, December 26, 2008

The Tongue of Angels

You know those times when you hear a talk at General Conference, and you come away from it with a renewed desire to be better? Well, this is one those talks for me. It was given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in April 2007. I love the ideas that he talks about, especially the idea that the speech we use is very powerful and ought to be uplifting and build others up and point others to Christ. It's such a small and simple thing, and sometimes we don't realize the power in our words, for good or for evil. There's no way I could do justice to an Apostle words through any remarks of my own, and so I wanted to share a few excerpts from his talk. The entire is available at,5232,23-1-690-7,00.html.

" Like all gifts "which cometh from above, "words are "sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit." It is with this realization of the power and sanctity of words that I wish to caution us, if caution is needed, regarding how we speak to each other and how we speak of ourselves.

There is a line from the Apocrypha which puts the seriousness of this issue better than I can. It reads, "The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh: but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones." With that stinging image in mind, I was particularly impressed to read in the book of James that there was a way I could be "a perfect man." Said James: "For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." Continuing the imagery of the bridle, he writes: "Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. "Behold also . . . ships, which though they be . . . great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm." Then James makes his point: "The tongue is [also] a little member. . . [But] behold, how great a [forest] a little fire [can burn]." . . . So is the tongue [a fire] among our members, . . . it defileth the whole body, . . . it is set on fire of hell. "For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, . . . hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be." Well, that is pretty straightforward! Obviously James doesn't mean our tongues are always iniquitous, nor that everything we say is "full of deadly poison." But he clearly means that at least some things we say can be destructive, even venomous—and that is a chilling indictment for a Latter-day Saint! The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process. "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing," James grieves. "My brethren [and sisters], these things ought not so to be."

Is this something we could all work on just a little? Is this an area in which we could each try to be a little more like a "perfect" man or woman?

In all of this, I suppose it goes without saying that negative speaking so often flows from negative thinking, including negative thinking about ourselves. We see our own faults, we speak—or at least think—critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything. No sunshine, no roses, no promise of hope or happiness. Before long we and everybody around us are miserable. I love what Elder Orson F. Whitney once said: "The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience." We should honor the Savior's declaration to "be of good cheer." (Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!) Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself. Try not to complain and moan incessantly. As someone once said, "Even in the golden age of civilization someone undoubtedly grumbled that everything looked too yellow."

Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland's maxims for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse.

Paul put it candidly, but very hopefully. He said to all of us: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good . . . [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God. . . . Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you. . . . And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

In his deeply moving final testimony, Nephi calls us to "follow the Son [of God], with full purpose of heart," promising that "after ye have . . . received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, [ye] can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels. . . . And . . . how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ." Indeed, Christ was and is "the Word," according to John the Beloved, full of grace and truth, full of mercy and compassion.

So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be "perfect" men and women in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail. I pray that my words, even on this challenging subject, will be encouraging to you, not discouraging, that you can hear in my voice that I love you, because I do. More importantly, please know that your Father in Heaven loves you and so does His Only Begotten Son. When They speak to you—and They will—it will not be in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but it will be with a voice still and small, a voice tender and kind. It will be with the tongue of angels. May we all rejoice in the thought that when we say edifying, encouraging things unto the least of these, our brethren and sisters and little ones, we say it unto God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. "

Isn't that a neat talk? I love it! It makes me so thankful to have the gospel and inspired leaders who can help us pinpoint ways to live happier lives. I'm glad that the gospel is so optimistic. Life is good! Here's a few more delectable tidbits I've come across for your delight and enjoyment :)

"Live so that those who know you, but not Jesus, will want to know Jesus because they know you." (unknown)

"Speech is the mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so he is." (Publilius Syrus)

"By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach." (Winston Churchill)

"If you wouldn't write it and sign it, don't say it." (Earl Wilson)

"Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."(Colossians 4:6)

"They may not remember what you said, but they'll always remember how you made them feel." (unknown)

Drop a pebble in the water: just a splash, and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water: in a minute you forget,
But there's little waves a-flowing, and there's ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing to a great big wave have grown;
You've disturbed a mighty river just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word, or careless: in a minute it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them, once you've started them to flow.

Drop an unkind word, or careless: in a minute you forget;
But there's little waves a-flowing, and there's ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart a mighty wave of tears you've stirred,
And disturbed a life was happy ere you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness: just a flash and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn't believe the volume of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness: in a minute you forget;
But there's gladness still a-swelling, and there's joy circling yet,
And you've rolled a wave of comfort whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water just by dropping one kind word.
(Author James William Foley)

Au Revoir!

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