What Does Righteousness Look Like?

Posted on May 25, 2009 by


Joseph Smith once said, “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite.” This raises the question of what indicators do we use to identify righteousness. Clean language, honesty, or something else? Here are a few different measures that I’ve seen used.


Sweetness is, perhaps, the kind of righteousness we see promoted the most heavily at church. It’s about not offending anyone. Politeness, clean language, and avoiding the appearance of evil all fall under Sweetness. In fact, Sweetness is more about what you don’t than what you do. Disney studios used to say, “We may bore you, but we’ll never shock you.” That’s the motto of Sweetness. The mascot for Sweetness is the young quiet Mia Maid whose name you don’t remember.


Service is the kind of righteousness that reaches out and isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty. Its motto, “Seek need”, means that it’s a little bit nosy, but with the best intentions. Service is active and engaged. It’s willing to give up free Saturdays and a nice car in order to share time and money with people who need it more. Service is about more than showing up to quorum service events — Service is able to reach out to help without needing to be invited. The matron saint for Service is Mother Teresa.


Purity is the kind of righteousness that focuses on keeping free from the world. It’s the ascetic path that remembers that the seeds sown into the thorns were “choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life”. Purity reads its scriptures, attends the temple, and gives up worldly pleasures in exchange for heavenly treasures. The best example I have for purity (other than the Savior, of course) is the apostle Paul.

These are three measures of righteousness. We should not judge, but it happens that we do automatically. What indicators do you find yourself using to judge people (yourself or others)? Joseph finished the quote I started with by saying, “I do not want you to think that I’m very righteous, for I am not. There was one good man, and his name was Jesus.”

Posted in: Musings