In my ward, we are doing a Book of Mormon Summer reading challenge. This will help the young women to complete their value project for virtue: to read the Book of Mormon. The challenge is to read the Book of Mormon in 70 days – during the summer. (It is roughly 7.5 pages a day).
I’m going to start my summer reading challenge tomorrow. Today, I wanted to figure out what to study as I read the Book of Mormon. So…I’m thinking about the Virtue value project. I’m struck by the following question:
“What did He and those who followed Him do to live virtuous lives?” – from Virtue, Personal Progress Value Experience
And I think that’s what I want to study/learn about
Personally, I feel like we have a pretty limited understanding of virtue. I think that many of us feel like virtue means chastity. If so, then why not simply call it chastity? Maybe then we’ll elaborate and say, “Purity.” Still. Virtue is not really interchangeable for either chastity or purity. Sure, virtue includes chastity and purity, but I really think that it is that and more.
Here is a quick scripture chain that might help to shed a little light on virtue.
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” – Proverbs 31:1
This is the “virtue” scripture that usually comes to mind. It seems nice. I don’t know. We might have some stereotypes or even wrong impressions about this scripture. This isn’t a scripture that describes a woman who is quiet and appeased by a bunch of gems. This isn’t a scripture that describes a woman who is property that can be bought.
The rest of 31 describes the many “virtues” of this virtuous woman. They include:
- She is trustworthy.
- She does good – especially within the context of her marriage.
- She works with her hands.
- She brings food. She physically nourishes her family.
- She wakes up early and takes care of her stewardship.
- She is a wise investor.
- She is a gardener – or creator.
- She is a hard worker.
- She knows that her merchandise is good. She is confident.
- She has many skills – she is knowledgable.
- She is charitable to the poor.
- She is not afraid or helpless.
- She provides well for her household.
- She is elegant.
- She causes her household to be elegant as well.
- She brings fame and honor to her husband because of her many strengths.
- She is strong.
- She is honorable.
- She is wise.
- She is kind.
- She is not idle.
- She is a mother.
- She is prolific in good works (of all kinds).
- She fears the Lord.
- She is praised.
All of these items in this list are ways that this woman is virtuous. You could say it another way – she is powerful. Her purity and chastity are part of what makes her virtuous, but she is more than that, too. She gets stuff done. I want to be like her, you know?!
Really look through this list with an open heart and mind. Today, we’d call the virtuous woman a “super-woman,” perhaps. She has a lot going on, for sure, but these things are all achievable – not all at once, but over time. (That’s nearly always the way). We can become wise, elegant, chaste, charitable, honorable, and strong. We don’t have to throw all of the balls in the air and do them at once. We have a lifetime to develop these qualities. And, while we’re striving, I believe we can consider ourselves to be virtuous women.
“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; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:45
Now, lest you think that the charge to be virtuous only applies to women, here is an example where men are told to be virtuous, too.
Throughout verses 41-46, the Lord instructs Joseph Smith on the use of the Priesthood. In verse 39, the Lord warns Joseph of the nature of most men in regards to the Priesthood and to power, in general:
“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:39
So – the Lord then tutors Joseph Smith on how to be a man who righteously bears the Priesthood of God. Since we made a list for the ladies, we’ll make a list for the men.
- Not power hungry
- loving to others – unconditionally
- exhibiting pure knowledge
- without hypocrisy
- without guile
- reproving – which means GENTLE CORRECTION
- sharp – exact and quick – so the dude who reproves with sharpness will correct gently with exactness. He won’t do a “hack job” of it. “Reproving at times with sharpness” doesn’t mean being a bully. Quite the opposite.
- guided by the Holy Ghost
- loving, especially to those whom he has gently corrected
- knows that “faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”
- bowels are full of charity
- virtue garnishes his thoughts at all times – his mind is pure and chaste which makes it poweful
- confident in God
- gains an understanding of the doctrine of the Priesthood
- has the Holy Ghost as a constant companion
- a father
So – men also have high standards. Both men and women are expected to be not only virtuous, but to strive to be the best people that they can be. We are all expected to be not only pure and chaste, but also motivated by faith and filled with charity. This enables us to be empowered by God.
Virtue figures into this greatly. I think that virtue is not only a commitment to be righteous (pure and chaste), but it becomes a well of power within us.
“And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” – Luke 6:19
This scripture is about Christ – when He healed some people “vexed with unclean Spirits.” I find this use of the word “virtue” particularly interesting because it challenges our modern notion of virtue.
Here, we wouldn’t describe Christ’s virtue as “chastity.” It is something else. It is a power to heal others.
His healing power is described as virtue also when the woman touches His hem and is healed:
“And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” – Luke 8:46
Christ was traveling in a throng of people. Undoubtedly many were touching Him. But only one was healed, and when that healing took place, He could feel his power being physically transferred to this woman.
There is a connection between virtue and power.
We will study one final example like this.
“And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” – Alma 31:5, emphasis added.
God’s word, as Alma knew, was virtuous. Not only does virtue, in this context, mean pure, righteous or chaste, we learn that virtue is a power that is stronger than the sword.
Now that we have studied these verses, I think that we can make better sense of virtue. Virtue is power that is rooted in righteousness and purity. It’s power comes from our decision to be righteous, chaste, and made pure through the Atonement of Christ. So, virtue is definitely related to chastity and purity, but it is a little bit more than that!!! Virtue is a source of power.
Virtue is not a power of force. It is not a power of material wealth. It is a power that surpasses the understanding of this world. Virtue is a power that can enable us to heal, to nourish, to strengthen, and to provide. Virtue is a power that is rooted in our Savior and can only be accessed when we are doing what we can to be like Him.
Really, virtue is pretty awesome. So I will agree with the proverb. The price of a virtuous woman is far above rubies. The price of a virtuous man is far above titanium.
I want to develop this quality.
Okay, I’ll end with one last scripture – because it is applicable and might give us a hint on how to develop virtue for ourselves.
“And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.
For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. – Doctrine and Covenants 88:38-40
So – if we want to have virtue, then we have to identify that it is built upon laws and principles. Virtue is only built upon the very highest principles of righteousness.
Additionally, if we want to be virtuous, then we must learn to love virtue. I have a feeling it is one of those qualities that continues to add to itself as we continue to progress and apply the Atonement in our lives.
What are your thoughts on virtue? Do you think it is an outdated stereotype or a source of strength and power? How can you work to develop virtue in your life?