I promised yesterday that I’d tell you the incident that finally sparked my study of words—an incident I am forever grateful for because without it I might never have begun my study. As I said yesterday many verses of scripture (including those I gave you) had been jumping off the page and shaking me by the shoulders to get my attention, but I never considered the subject “word” as ample enough to study.
Then one day a friend was complaining to me about her girl’s camp experience. Some of the leaders had started a “game” at camp where if someone caught you using slang words they’d call you on it by repeating some cutesy phrase that made the whole camp stop and laugh at you. Well, my friend’s language was laced with slang and she felt like the leaders were wrong in what they had done. “I’m not swearing,” she said. “The words I use are words everyone uses. They’re not bad words.” I listened while she talked without saying anything, but had a very uncomfortable feeling come over me. Finally she looked at me and said, “What do you think?”
Put on the spot now, I had to confront the feelings inside me which were telling me in very strong vibes that she was wrong, and yet I wasn’t sure why. So I told her that I was sorry, but that I agreed with the leaders. (It is important that I also tell you that in the past my own language had been very laced with slang!) In that moment I suddenly realized that the slang words I used were nothing more than different words (symbols) for very vulgar things. What difference did the word make when the intended meaning was the same?
At that point there was no way I could deny the direction I was being driven. Starting that day I began searching the scriptures to understand the power of words. I’ve gained many, many insights and will be speaking on this topic at BYU Education Week this year. But for now, let me just share one thing.
When Alma is teaching the Zoramites he compares the word to a seed. In that great speech found in Alma 32, he tells the people that “Every [word] bringeth forth unto its own likeness” (Alma 32:31). What this means is that when we plant (say or think) vulgar, fearful, doubting, worrying words they grow into vulgar, fearful, doubting, worrying trees. They enlarge and make more of their own kind and bear like fruits. But when we plant words of beauty, faith, love, courage, and peace they also grow into trees of faith, love, courage, and peace and they bear fruit of the same kind.
Words have power. And “The words of the Lord are pure words” (Psalm 12:6). Therefore, if we want to be like Jesus Christ we need to learn to use pure words.
PS- Try reading Alma 32 and every time he uses the word seed substitute the word word. Fascinating!