In yesterday’s Deseret News, Timothy R. Clark, who writes the weekly column, “On Leadership,” gave me a new perspective on profanity. The headline for his column read, “Profanity is overused and overrated.”
I liked several of his quotes, such as:
“I listened to Howard Stern once for about two minutes and that was two minutes too long. Take out the profanity and he’s dead air.”
“Shock jocks use it [profanity] as the ‘weapon of the witless’ because they have no real talent, but that doesn’t matter to a market that has no real taste.”
“Profanity has become a crutch for those who can’t write.” [And I would add that sex scenes are another crutch for bad writers, including screen writers. But I digress.]
But the quote that really made me sit up and take notice was this:
“The term profanity comes from Latin roots that mean before or outside the temple, thus referring to language that is irreverent or indecent.”
It’s one thing to have profanity inflicted upon us against our will, as when we are standing in line at the grocery store or strolling through the park or some other public place, or perhaps our boss or co-workers habitually use profanity. It’s an unwelcome assault on our sensitivities as it defiles the temple of our consciousness, but we are innocent victims because we did not consent to the profanity, neither do we condone the profanity.
But let’s think about when indecent or irreverent material appears in a book we are reading, or in a movie or during a TV program that we have chosen to view. If we continue to consume indecent or irreverent material after it turns profane, are we not consenting to and condoning the profanity? Maybe we have continued because we hoped that the first appearance of profanity would be the only example of it in the entire book or show. How often has that been true in the past?
How many profanities will we have to hear or read before we say, “that’s enough!”? When will we have crossed the thin gray line in which we have gone beyond tolerance and have begun “enjoying” the indecent and the irreverent?
The phrase “outside the temple” caused me to imagine myself being prohibited from entering any of the Temples of God. And I thought how devastating it would be to desire to enter God’s presence, but because I had chosen profanity, I could not enter. Since profanity is “outside the temple,” if I choose it by continuing to read it or watch it, am I not also choosing to BE outside the temple? Am I not choosing unholiness over holiness? Am I not choosing to be unclean and unworthy?
The Holy Ghost departs when irreverence or indecency is chosen over goodness and virtue. When can I afford to be without the Holy Ghost? Is not “now” the crucial moment of my existence?