In response to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inquiry, the Lord instructed: “And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.” 1
The instruction on being temperate in all things applies to each of us. What is temperance, and why would the Lord want us to be temperate? A narrow definition might be “exercising restraint when it comes to food and drink.” Indeed, this meaning of temperance could be a good prescription for keeping the Word of Wisdom. Sometimes temperance might be defined as “refraining from anger or not losing one’s temper.” These definitions, however, are a subset of the scriptural usage of the word.
In a spiritual sense, temperance is a divine attribute of Jesus Christ. He desires for each of us to develop this attribute. Learning to be temperate in all things is a spiritual gift available through the Holy Ghost.
When the Apostle Paul described certain fruits of the Spirit in his Epistle to the Galatians, he talked of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance.” 2
When Paul wrote Titus, describing the attributes necessary for a bishop to assist in this work, he said a bishop must “not [be] selfwilled, not soon angry, … [but] temperate.” 3 Being temperate is to use moderation in all things or to exercise self-control.
When Alma the Younger taught in the land of Gideon, he said:
“I trust that ye are not lifted up in the pride of your hearts; yea, I trust that ye have not set your hearts upon riches and the vain things of the world. …
“I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things.” 4
In a later message, Alma instructed his son Shiblon, and by extension instructs all of us, to “see that ye are not lifted up unto pride.” 5 Rather, we should “be diligent and temperate in all things.” 6 Being temperate means to carefully examine our expectations and desires, to be diligent and patient in seeking righteous goals.
Excerpt from Kent D. Watson’s October 2009 General Conference Address, Being Temperate in All Things . Kent D. Watson is a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. View Kent D. Watson’s full address here.