Like all gifts which come from above, words are sacred and must be spoken with care and by constraint of the Spirit, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve in his address Saturday morning.
"It is with this realization of the power and sanctity of words that I wish to caution us, if caution is needed, regarding how we speak to each other and how we speak of ourselves."
Elder Holland told Church members that the voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayers and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process.
"Is this something we could all work on just a little?" he asked.
Elder Holland told husbands that they have been entrusted with the most sacred gift God can give — "a wife, a daughter of God, the mother of your children, who has given herself to you for love and joyful companionship."
"A husband who would never dream of striking his wife physically can break — if not her bones — then certainly her heart, by the brutality of thoughtless or unkind speech," he said.
After decrying all forms of physical and sexual abuse, Elder Holland said he would focus his conference remarks on verbal and emotional abuse of anyone against anyone, but "especially of husbands against wives. Brethren, these things ought not to be."
He also spoke to the women. "Wives, what of the unbridled tongue in your mouth, of the power for good or ill in your words.... A woman's words can be more piercing than any dagger ever forged, and they can drive the people they love to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined."
Elder Holland said adults must also be careful when speaking to a child. "What we say or don't say, how we say it and when is so very, very important in shaping a child's view of himself or herself. But it is even more important in shaping that child's faith in us and their faith in God."
Elder Holland said so often negative speaking flows from negative thinking. "We see our own faults, we speak — or at least think — critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything....
"Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself. Try not to complain and moan incessantly.... I have often thought that Nephi's being bound with cords and beaten by rods may have been more tolerable to him than listening to Laman and Lemuel's constant murmuring."
Life has problems, he added, "but please accept one of Elder Holland's maxims for living — no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse."
Words, like deeds, should be filled with faith, hope and charity, he said.
"With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail."