There’s a word within the Church that we use frequently—one I think too often goes misunderstood: virtue.
But it’s easy to understand why. Society in general uses this word in so many functions and to mean so many things—it’s hard to pin down.
Take this sentence as an example: The virtuous woman realized that patience was a virtue by virtue of her own determination.
No wonder we’re all so confused.
However, virtue is an essential characteristic for those who are worthy to go to the temple. Virtue is required for us to return to our Heavenly Father.
So why do we still misunderstand it?
In order to help us realize how important virtue is for each of us, here are four common virtue myths debunked as well as the truth behind this crucial principle.
Myth 1: Virtue means the same thing as chastity and purity.
Often we use the word virtue almost interchangeably with the word chastity.
While virtue definitely encompasses purity and chastity, we cheapen virtue by saying it’s synonymous with those things.
Why would we even need virtue if it didn’t add anything new? The word itself would become pointless if that’s all it meant. But in our culture, we can get hung up on this one facet of virtue because we understand how dangerous and destructive sexual sin and addiction can be.
But virtue can help us in so many other areas of our lives if we only understand it.
In fact, being virtuous means you try to uphold all virtues, like honesty, morality, integrity, humility, charity, accountability, civility, patience, compassion, cleanliness, dignity, faith, generosity, forgiveness, gratitude, repentance, self-reliance, etc.
No wonder it can become overwhelming or confusing.
But here’s something to help us focus our understanding of virtue: virtus, the Latin root of virtue, means strength. Virtue is a strength that comes as a result of how we live our lives in the small moments—our day-to-day thoughts and actions. “It is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions” (“Virtue,” lds.org).
Virtue builds strength and power because it allows us to take control of our own lives by living free from addiction and free from the negativity and frustration that make us feel like pawns.
Instead, virtue gives us the courage to take charge of our own life and fill it with optimism and goodness at every chance.
Myth 2: It’s especially important for women to be virtuous.
Don’t misunderstand me when I say this. I’m not trying to argue that women don’t need to be virtuous—they most certainly do. But when we fashion a statement like that, it seems to suggest virtue is only for women, not necessarily men.
Though Sister Elaine Dalton and other female Church leaders have been rallying under the charge of having a “return to virtue,” this call includes men.
In a world that constantly demoralizes men—in every meaning of the word—it’s crucial for men to remain virtuous.
In fact, virtue works hand in hand with the power of the priesthood. Frequently in the scriptures when Christ performs a miracle, the words “virtue went out of him” accompany this event. It’s through the power of virtue Christ healed the woman with an “issue of blood” or the blind man or a number of other people.
In Doctrine and Covenants, virtue appears frequently in connection to the priesthood. For example “by virtue of the priesthood” is used often.
A number of other words could have been used in these verses, but virtue is so fitting, because it demonstrates that it is through virtue men and women use the priesthood and exercise the full power of the covenants they have taken.