Ideal answer: No.
Real answer: Sometimes.
As with some of the other commandments we follow, Mormons see the way we speak as an outward manifestation of an inward belief. For example, since we believe in God and Jesus Christ, we don’t use their names in vain. I won’t go into a cuss by cuss explanation of why we don’t use the others, but suffice it to say, we’re not big on vulgarity.
The problem is, Mormons get frustrated just like anyone else, and when we do, we need something to yell.
Here are some common Mormon expletives:
“Oh my heck!”
One time I got frustrated at work and said, “Swear Words!” My co-worker applauded me—“It’s like you said all of them at once.” Whooops.
It’s always interesting when people realize you don’t swear. It dawns on them slowly.
“Wait…hold on…I just realized…do you not swear?”
It would be a little pretentious for me to claim that my not-swearing is entirely a factor of personal righteousness. Yes, I try not to say certain words because I find them offensive. But a big part of my verbal abstinence is due to the fact that for my entire upbringing, swears were not in my word bank. My parents didn’t swear. My friends didn’t. My professors didn’t. It just wasn’t in my mind for the first 20-something years of my existence. Let me tell a story to illustrate how not in my mind it was:
My mother grew up in Salt Lake City at a time when let’s just say, Church and State were one and the same. Her parents raised eight children who all played sports and an instrument of some sort–think Brady Bunch minus the second marriage. One day she was so mad at her brother she wanted to call him the worst thing she could possibly think of. She clenched her fists, scrunched up her face, and yelled, “YOU, YOU, YOU…..CIGARETTES AND COFFEE!”
Unfortunately, the apple did not fall far from the tree, as I recently experienced a similarly humiliating Mormon Moment.
I was on a commercial shoot in Texas and by some strange turn of events wound up in front of the camera instead of behind it. The director was trying to get me to relax, since my natural tendency when on camera is to look directly into it and say, “So…what should I do?” He told me anger was a really great way to release tension in the body. He said,
“YELL ABOUT SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU MAD!”
“YELL ABOUT SOMEONE YOU DON’T LIKE!”
Then he went full King’s Speech on me and said,
“YELL IT! F$#% F$#% F$#%!”
I sat there for a moment before yelling, “UMMMMM WELL, I DON’T SAY THAT WORD…DANG DANG DANG!”
Ugh. I suppose I did Mother proud.
My favorite stories of Mormon swears are when we don’t quite know how to use them, like the time my friend’s innocent little brother was trying hard to be cool. He walked up to his older brother’s group of friends and said, “What the damn are you guys doing?” I’d like to publicly thank him for that.
Now, I don’t mean for this to get all holier-than-thou. Do I sometimes slip and say a swear? Yes. Do I hope my mother didn’t just read that? Indeed. But at the end of the day, we’re all human.In fact, there have even been Mormon leaders who were actually famous for their rough-around-the-edges style of speech.
Probably the most famous is Elder J. Golden Kimball, one of the early leaders of the church, who was as well known for his engaging, spiritually uplifting sermons as he was for his good-humored over the pulpit swears. While we aren’t exactly sure what’s fact and what’s folklore, he is rumored to have said things like, “Cut me off from the Church? They can’t do that! I repent too damn fast!”
Check out this tough guy.
(You can read more J. Golden Kimball stories from our friends at Sistas in Zion.)
I guess the lesson to learn is that swearing is bad, but also funny?
Ok no, I guess the lesson is this: Mormons are encouraged to mind our language for many reasons—some of them being we believe in respecting Deity, we try to speak kindly to others, and we believe in having the discipline to bridle our tongues. (As someone who depends on Thesaurus.com to do my day job, I believe in synonyms.) But as with other commandments, each of us has the free agency to choose how we speak.
I’ve come to accept the fact that every “Oh my heck” I utter costs me valuable street cred. But I don’t think swear words sound very pretty. I don’t really like what they stand for. I do my best to not say them ever, but sometimes they slip out, and when they do, I am not struck by lightning.