Sister Lauri Arensmeyer
Born in Key West, Florida and raised in Cut Bank, Montana, Lauri Arensmeyer graduated from Ricks College and received a bachelor’s degree in communication from Weber State University and a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix.
Lauri was hired for an internship with the State of Utah’s Department of Commerce, and ended up staying there for 13 years. She came to BYU-Idaho in 2007 to work as a registration manager until becoming the university’s Registrar two years ago.
While living in Utah, Lauri was called to serve a mission in the Utah Ogden Mission. She is currently the Laurel advisor in her ward. Lauri enjoys growing roses, compiling personal histories of ancestors, and has a newfound passion for road biking.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
How can the words you speak make the world better?
Thank you for that wonderful music. Each week, and especially today, I am grateful for these beautifully performed musical numbers that help us connect with the Spirit. While I love good music, I have absolutely no musical talent. My only musical ability is playing the radio, and even that is questionable at times. I once listened to a performance with a friend when he grimaced at a note sung off-key. To me, however, it sounded just fine. Truly, we all can’t be in the choir; some must sit in the audience and applaud.
Contrary to my lack of musical talent, I understand words, and I enjoy clever writing. I love alliteration, metaphors, imagery, irony, and parables. While I am not at the level of our talented English faculty, I do understand the difference between grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. I know when to use “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” Likewise, the words “two,” “to,” and “too” do not confuse me. I know a period always goes inside the quotes, but placement of a question mark depends on the sentence. Like my friend who could hear a note sung off-key, I can hear when a plural verb is used with a singular noun or when a sentence is incomplete.
Good writing has a cadence that can enhance the writer’s message. Like music, when words are used correctly, they create harmony; when combined poorly they create dissonance. Words used correctly have power—power to teach, power to comfort, power to motivate. Words can also confuse, segregate, or scar when used incorrectly. The effect of our words depends on how we use them. In accordance with the Lord’s plan, we have agency to choose our words, and we have accountability for those choices. As a society, and as covenant members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are ultimately responsible for the very words we speak.
Words We Should Not Speak
Today, the use of social media can broadcast our words worldwide in seconds. Just 10 years ago, society had no idea how our world would change with the creation of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. Sadly, too much of society has chosen to use these platforms and other online forums to spew contentious and combative opinions. It seems we have forgotten our responsibility to control our words and speak respectfully to one another.
In the 1942 movie Bambi, Thumper said it best. (Please say it with me.) “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” (Yes, some of you will recognize Thumper’s incorrect use of a double negative.)
In Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, he beheld a great and spacious building that stood as if it were in the air. “It was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female . . . [who] were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers toward those who . . . were partaking of the fruit.”
Mocking means to make fun of someone in a derisive, cruel, or hostile way. Forms of mocking include ridicule, taunting, contempt, and sarcasm. As prophesied, the world will mock those who press forward and partake of the fruit of the tree. We must choose to heed them not—and more importantly, we must not join them.
I was recently introduced to the phrase “Why do we do what we do, when we know what we know?” Today, I would ask, “Why do we say what we say, when we know what we know?”
As covenant members of His Church, we cannot keep one foot on the covenant path and one foot in the great and spacious building. When we choose to join those in the building to mock others, we are also choosing to leave the covenant path.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, 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.”
I have recently considered the placement of my own feet on the covenant path. My message is the product of learning from my own errors and painful experiences. I have been patiently taught by others, including a merciful Father in Heaven. Like Nephi, my heart has sorrowed because of my flesh, and my soul has grieved because of my iniquities. Although imperfect, I now have an ever-increasing testimony of these things of which I speak.
During this time of personal improvement, I adopted this phrase: “Look in the mirror.” Satan would have us believe that any challenge, frustration, disagreement, or annoyance is entirely the fault of another. He cut me off in traffic. She didn’t do the dishes. They are incompetent. He offended me. She was rude. Except in situations of abuse, it is important to look in the mirror and recognize our own contribution to any conflict. It is better to pause, check our motives, give the benefit of the doubt, and listen—listen to the other person and listen for clarity from the Spirit on how to proceed.
Today, I invite you, as I have done, to “look in the mirror” as you consider these questions:
- Do you speak harshly to your friends, colleagues, spouse, or children?
- Do you criticize, belittle, or speak unkindly to others?
- Do you yell angrily or with vulgarity in frustrating situations?
- Do you gossip instead of addressing concerns directly with the person with whom you are at conflict?
I like this thought from an unknown author: “You should examine yourself daily. If you find faults, you should correct them. When you find none, you should try even harder.”
Most of us take great effort to continually improve our physical appearance through diet, exercise, wardrobe, makeup, and hair style, yet we put little thought into intentionally improving our words and language. Truly, no amount of physical beauty can compensate for ugly, vulgar, or contentious words coming from one’s mouth.
Remember that judging and criticizing another does not define who they are. It defines who you are. Therefore, as you look in the mirror, you will likely recognize opportunities for self-improvement. In fact, you may have just received an undeniable impression from the Spirit of something specific where correction is needed. Please do not dismiss these impressions. I testify that your peace and personal happiness, and the peace and happiness of others, will increase as you change where needed.
Please also beware the tendency to justify unkind words. The world uses phrases like “I just needed to vent,” “He made me so angry,” “It was her fault,” “Their views are completely wrong.”
In Matthew we read, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”
Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “We must guard against bigotry that raises its ugly voice toward those who hold different opinions. . . . Everyone . . . has the right to express his or her opinions in the public square. But no one has a license to be hateful toward others as those opinions are expressed.”
Understandably, despite our best efforts, conflict is part of mortality. However, conflict does not need to become contention. There are better ways to handle these situations.
Contentious: “You’re wrong; I disagree with you.”
Kind: “Help me understand your perspective; I’m seeing it another way.”
Contentious: “Stop that! You are so frustrating.”
Kind: “You may not be aware that your actions are affecting others.”
Contentious: “You are so incompetent; someone better fix this!”
Kind: “I’m having some difficulty, and I’m hoping you can help me.”
The words we speak are based on motive. Are we seeking to be right or to prove a point, or is our goal to find an agreeable solution? A friend of mine teaches her children this way: it is always better to be kind than right.
I believe that one day we will each be asked to give an account of how we treated one another in mortality. If we ever feel justified in speaking unkind, critical, or harsh words, I believe we don’t really understand our eternal relationship to each other. Surely, the God of Heaven weeps when His children mistreat one another, but He undoubtedly rejoices when we reflect, repent, and reconcile.
One of the best ways to improve your words is to always consider the recipient of your words. You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love. He is a son of God. She is beloved of Him.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “The pure love of Christ can remove the scales of resentment and wrath from our eyes, allowing us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us: as flawed and imperfect mortals who have potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine. Because God loves us so much, we too must love and forgive each other.”
Words We Speak to Ourselves
I would like to pause here and discuss a related concern. What words are you speaking to yourself? Too often, we speak more harshly or critically to ourselves than we would ever speak to another person. Most of us would never say, “You’re an idiot,” “You’re ugly,” “You’ll never amount to anything,” “It’s your fault,” “You don’t deserve to be loved.” So, why do we say these and many other destructive things to ourselves?
This type of damaging self-dialogue is one of Satan’s tools to strip you of hope, cause you to shrink, and turn you away from a loving Father in Heaven. Please stop. Do not let Satan have control in your life. Look in the mirror—at yourself—and see who you really are, a son or daughter of God with infinite worth.
In last week’s Devotional, Brother Kevin Galbraith reminded us, “[Jesus Christ] will catch you, lift you up, and strengthen your faith when you are doing your best, even when you are weak and struggling. He is merciful, kind, and loving. He is patient and forgiving. Because of His nature, you can trust Him.”
I invite you to trust Him in recognizing your worth and begin to believe just how loved you are.
Words We Should Speak
Now, let’s consider words we should we be speaking more often to others—and to ourselves.
- Do we express appreciation and gratitude generously?
- Do we frequently speak words of love and care?
- Do we apologize quickly and forgive completely?
- Do we offer words of encouragement and support readily?
- Do we genuinely praise and recognize others’ successes?
There is far too much negativity in the world today. We all need to hear kind words often, and we will never regret speaking kind words to another.
For example, when I was a teenager just learning to drive, my dad let me practice driving our green station wagon on a rural two-lane highway in Montana. After rounding a curve, I realized my right tires were on the edge of the ditch. Due to my inexperience, I pulled the steering wheel too sharply as I attempted to bring the car back within the lines. This resulted in us swerving back and forth several times until we went into a sideways skid for several yards. My dad later said that he did not know why the car stayed on its wheels instead of flipping and rolling down the highway.
After coming to a stop, Dad got out, opened my door, and told me to slide over. I did so and braced for a lecture. Instead, he simply said, “That kind of scares you, doesn’t it?” before he went in search of the hubcaps that had come off. I was shaking for a long time after and had little interest in driving again. However, my dad’s choice of words conveyed his understanding that I had not intentionally tried to wreck the car and harm us in the process, but that I was young, inexperienced, and had simply made a mistake. In that moment, his words comforted instead of condemned, helped instead of hurt.
A few months ago, I sent a simple note of appreciation to a colleague who was under great pressure to meet significant deadlines. In response to my note, this colleague replied, “You must have been feeling the Spirit today, because I really needed to hear those words. You have no idea how they touched my heart and will keep me moving forward.” Coincidence? No. The Lord knew what was needed, and I am grateful to have helped Him bless another by acting on an impression to speak kind words.
I now invite you to watch this short video demonstrating the impact of kind words.
I testify that we can change the world by changing our words. On this week’s Devotional discussion board, I asked, “How can the words you speak make the world better?” Thank you to those who participated as we taught one another.
Tracey Nell said, “It's always interesting to me that we are sometimes far more cautious about what we say and how we say it to non-family but feel like we can say whatever we want within the walls of our own home. This should not be the case. We should see our home as a place where we conduct ourselves with civility and kindness.”
I love the imagery in C.J. Waisath’s response: “We need to use our words to bless, uplift, and edify each other. . . . As we strive to be architects with our words, we can build a better world together, one person at a time. It’s that simple.”
Shelby Delbridge shared this example. “I converted to the Church when I was 18, and it was due to the thoughtful words of my member friends that inspired my desire to learn about the Church. We are representatives of Christ's Church, and the world is listening. By choosing the right kinds of words to speak, we can give opportunity to those listening to come closer to Christ.”
I will summarize with a very simple invitation: Be kind; always, always be kind. Be kind to others whether in your family, your employment, your friendships, or your local, national, or global community. Be kind even when you are tired or burdened. Be kind whether you believe the recipient deserves your kindness or not. Even if we disagree about everything, we can and should still be kind to one another.
Like you, most people are usually doing the best they can. Give them the benefit of the doubt just as you hope they will give to you in your moments of weakness and imperfection. You never know the burden another carries. The kind words you speak can comfort, strengthen, and lift others above the crushing weight of their present mortal struggle. Sadly, the unkind words we speak can add further burden to their already weakened shoulders or introduce new burdens they were not meant to carry.
Be kind to yourself as well. Even while seeking for personal improvement, speak to yourself as your Father in Heaven would speak to you: You are good enough. You will make it. You are loved.
In the coming week, I invite you to seek out opportunities to speak words of appreciation and kindness to others. I also invite you to stop any initial impulse to be contentious, but to give the benefit of the doubt instead and respond in kindness. Elder Renlund put it this way: “As His disciples, let us fully mirror [Christ’s] love and love one another so openly and completely that no one feels abandoned, alone, or hopeless.”
Ultimately, as we speak our words, our goal is to become more like the true source of kindness, He who is “the Word,” our Savior Jesus Christ, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.
I close with the words of our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, during the last April conference:
I bless you to do better and be better. And I bless you that as you make these efforts, you will experience miracles in your life.
I so testify that these promises are true and attainable as we, in humility, seek to improve the very words we speak, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Bambi, David Hand, Disney, 1942.
 1 Nephi 8:27; emphasis added.
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Tongue of Angels,” Ensign, May 2007.
 See 2 Nephi 4:17.
 Matthew 15:11.
 Dale G. Renlund, “Our Good Shepherd,” Ensign, May 2017.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” Ensign, May 2012.
 Kevin Galbraith, “Faith and Family,” BYU-Idaho devotional, Oct. 1, 2019.
 Tim Johnson, “An Experiment in Words”; youtube.com/watch?v=iSaYbQ4kGGM.
 Dale G. Renlund, “Our Good Shepherd,” Ensign, May 2017.
 John 1:1.
 Joel 2:13.
 Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better,” Ensign, May 2019.
The Words We Speak
Audio of Sister Lauri Arensmeyer's BYU-Idaho devotional address, Fall 2019