*A note on Virtue: Here is where I think Mormons get a little confused. Whenever we hear the word “virtue,” our minds immediately scream CHASTITY. This is not an inaccurate association – chastity would not exist without virtue, but I think that there is a better definition for this principle. Virtue is the purity and mastery of thought. Virtue is seeking out the good things, or the things of worth in life instead of the bad things. Call it optimism of a higher order. This isn’t just seeking out the happy things, but things that will bring us light, intelligence, and growth even in times when things seem dark. Virtue is the mastery of our mind, to focus on and seek out the good.
You might be thinking Mary and Martha? That is a long shot… but hear me out.
So Jesus comes to chill out at Mary and Martha’s place. These sisters have very different reactions to the Savior’s arrival. Martha goes straight into service mode, clearing the house and making food. Mary, on the other hand, sits at Christ’s feet and listens to Him teaching. At some point, Martha gets a bit miffed that she is the only one doing anything good and helpful to prepare the house, and so she tells Jesus to make Mary help her. Jesus, at this point, gently chides Martha for not seeing the good in what Mary was doing. Mary was putting aside worldly things for a moment to hear the gospel. Don’t get me wrong – Martha was doing good in her own form of service for the Savior. But instead of focusing on the negative thoughts against her sister, Martha should have seen the merits of Mary’s actions. In the same way, we need to have virtue in our minds by not focusing on the negative aspects of people’s actions or the circumstances in our lives but instead choose to see the silver lining. Try to find the lesson, the light in the darkness. In doing so, our thoughts become pure, and our hearts are filled with joy.
In keeping with our definition of virtue, I would say that Emma Smith is the woman who exemplifies virtue in our modern times. Of all women in the scriptures, she is the one whom we know the most about. We know she lived through some of the most horrible trials imaginable. Early on, the Lord gave her a bit of advice that would serve her throughout her life. “A revelation I give unto you concerning my will; and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion… And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” Even in dark times, Emma followed this counsel. She would manage to keep her head up and focus on the joy that comes with living the gospel despite the horrors that surrounded her. There could have been so many moments when she could have succumbed to the darkness – but she did not. She held her ground and chose to look to the light of Christ instead.