When first I heard of the Imus controversy, I thought immediately of Elder Jeffery Holland’s conference talk, The Tongue of Angels. As the controversy has exploded with Imus now losing not only his simulcast but also his radio show I’m wondering whether American society and pop culture is truly interested in cleaning up its verbal act. Or, is this overly dramatized single event only a media feeding frenzy and self flagellation bound up in our hypocrisy exhibited daily on talk radio, in our entertainment, music videos and modern movies?

Don Imus is but a symptom of a much larger cancer that has already metastasized throughout our media and pop culture. If any good can come of this, hopefully it will be that Imus is not just a fall guy for the likes of the morally questionable crusaders such as Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton, both of whom are as or more racist to the core than is Don Imus.

Indeed words are powerful and can be extremely hurtful. Elder Holland’s conference discourse was spot on:

Said James: “For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

Continuing the imagery of the bridle, he writes: “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.

“Behold also . . . ships, which though they be . . . great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm.”

Then James makes his point: “The tongue is [also] a little member. . . . [But] behold, how great a [forest (Greek)] a little fire [can burn].

” . . . So is the tongue [a fire] among our members, . . . it defileth the whole body, . . . it is set on fire of hell.

“For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, . . . hath been tamed of mankind:

“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

“Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”

Well, that is pretty straightforward! Obviously James doesn’t mean our tongues are always iniquitous, nor that everything we say is “full of deadly poison.” But he clearly means that at least some things we say can be destructive, even venomous—and that is a chilling indictment for a Latter-day Saint! 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. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing,” James grieves. “My brethren [and sisters], these things ought not so to be.”

Is this something we could all work on just a little? Is this an area in which we could each try to be a little more like a “perfect” man or woman?

This is an area in which we can all work on just a little (especially me). Clearly this advice cannot be and is not limited just to Latter-day Saints. To be serious we cannot smile smugly now that Don Imus is gone. If the penalty for racist, sexist and hurtful discourse is the termination of careers, will our pop culture similarly indict the likes of: Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reiley, Howard Stern, Ann Coulter, and a plethora of hip hop rappers? (Note this is not meant to be a comprehensive list.  There are several others, as the comments already show).

Do we who bear profound testimony, utter fervent prayer, and sing the hymns of Zion acquiesce in other voices of our popular culture that berate and criticize, embarrass and demean, inflict pain and destroy the spirit of others, if we fail to speak out and take a stand?

There is a lot of talk right now about this subject. Some of it good. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Annegb has also posted her thoughts on this controversy over at Mormon Mentality.