A few years ago a news report on the BBC website reported:
‘Lust has been wrongly branded a vice and should be “reclaimed for humanity” as a life-affirming virtue, a top philosopher reportedly believes. Professor Simon Blackburn of Cambridge University is trying to “rescue” lust, arguing it has been wrongly condemned for centuries, the Sunday Times says. His campaign is part of an Oxford University Press project on the modern relevance of the seven deadly sins. The list of sins was drawn up by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century. ‘
It said Professor Blackburn was aiming to save lust “from the denunciations of old men of the deserts, to deliver it from the pallid and envious confessor and the stocks and pillories of the Puritans, to drag it from the category of sin to that of virtue”.
Brother Rodney Turner made a statement some years ago:
‘Our moral environment is far more polluted than our physical environment. It seems as though good and evil are being homogenized out of existence by a generation led by ‘foolish and blind guides.’ What was once whispered in shame is now electronically shouted from the housetops as the famous and the foolish appear on television to parade their sins, like so many medals, before laughing, applauding audiences.’ (Rodney Turner, “To Learn With Joy,” p. 272).
The Lord says: “Ye must practise virtue and holiness before me continually.”(D&C 46:33)
Practise implies doing something, it implies repetition, it implies action. I would like to be able to play the guitar but I don’t want it badly enough to do the practice. . I wonder, how much do we want to be virtuous?
How can we practice virtue and holiness continually?
Gordon B Hinckley in September 2004 (and previously in 1975) gave four beginnings:
The first: Begin with yourself.
‘We cannot hope to influence others in the direction of virtue unless we live lives of virtue. The example of our living will carry a greater influence than will all the preaching in which we might indulge. We cannot expect to lift others unless we stand on higher ground ourselves.
I should like to give to all men and women who may read these words a challenge to
– lift their thoughts above the filth,
– to discipline their acts into examples of virtue,
– to control their words so that they speak only that which is uplifting and leads to growth.’
In Genesis we read how Joseph t became the ruler of Potiphar’s household. Then Potiphar’s wife began to make advances towards Joseph.
“And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
“But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
“There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
“And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.
“And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.
“And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out” (Gen. 39:7–12; emphasis added).
Joseph replied: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”’
There will be occasions when we need, like Joseph, to flee temptation to preserve our virtue.
And now my second point of beginning: A better tomorrow begins with the training of a better generation.
‘While they are very young, read to them the great stories which have become immortal because of the virtues they teach. Expose them to good books. Let there be a corner somewhere in your house, be it ever so small, where they will see at least a few books of the kind upon which great minds have been nourished.
Let there be good magazines about the house, those which are produced by the Church and by others, which will stimulate their thoughts to ennobling concepts. When there is a good movie in town, consider going to the theater as a family. Your very patronage will give encouragement to those who wish to produce this type of entertainment.
Let there be music in the home. If you have teenagers who have their own recordings, you will be prone to describe the sound as something other than music. Let them hear something better occasionally. Expose them to it. It will speak for itself. More appreciation will come than you may think. It may not be spoken, but it will be felt, and its influence will become increasingly manifest as the years pass.’
Now my third point of beginning: The building of public sentiment begins with a few earnest voices
‘I am not one to advocate shouting defiantly or shaking fists and issuing threats in the faces of legislators. But I am one who believes that we should earnestly and sincerely and positively express our convictions to those given the heavy responsibility of making and enforcing our laws.
Let our voices be heard. Remarkable consequences often flow from a well-written letter and a postage stamp. Remarkable results come of quiet conversation with those who carry heavy responsibilities.’
Finally, my fourth point of beginning: Strength to do battle begins with enlisting the strength of God.
‘“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10–13).’
In the Doctrine and Covenants we read:
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God. …
“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion” (D&C 121:45–46).
How can we let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly?
The Preach My Gospel manual says:‘
‘Virtue originates in our innermost thoughts and desires. It is a pattern of thought and behaviour based on high moral standards. Since the Holy Ghost does not dwell in unclean tabernacles, virtue is prerequisite to receiving the Spirit’s guidance. What you choose to think and do when you are alone and you believe no one is watching is a strong measure of your virtue. ‘
And in Philippians 4:8 we read:
“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
The problem that we have is that impure thoughts can come into our minds without us wanting them to but as the saying goes – you may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head but you can stop it from building a nest there.
D&C 121: 45-46 sets out the promised blessings of living a life of virtue:
‘Let thy abowels• also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy cconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews• from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant acompanion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of brighteousness and truth; and thy cdominion• shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
We are told hear that our confidence shall wax strong in the presence of the Lord. James E Talmage said ‘ Any man may enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom when his actions have been such that he can feel at home there.’
Marion G Romney said ‘I can think of no blessings to be more fervently desired than those promised to the pure and virtuous. Jesus spoke of specific rewards for different virtues but reserved the greatest gift, so it seems to me, for the pure in heart, for they, said he, shall see their God. (Matt 5:48) And not only shall they see the Lord but they shall feel at home in his presence.’
We are also promised that the Holy Ghost shall be our constant companion because we won’t do anything to offend the Spirit.
The virtuous will receive a scepter of unchanging righteousness and truth – in other words, they will be joint heirs with Christ.
Sister Elaine Dalton in General Conference in October 2008 called for a return to virtue:
‘What can each of us do to begin our return to virtue? The course and the training program will be unique to each of us. I have derived my personal training program from instructions found in the scriptures: “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.”14“Cleave unto [your] covenants.”15 “Stand … in holy places.”16 “Lay aside the things of [the] world.”17 “Believe that ye must repent.”18“Always remember him and keep his commandments.”19 And “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, … seek after these things.”20 Now more than ever before, it is time to respond to Moroni’s call to “awake, and arise” and to “lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.”21’