What Does It Mean to Be Sober?

Throughout the Book of Mormon, people who are responsible, disciplined, and serious are referred to as “sober.”

  • Nephi and Jacob both tell us that they taught the gospel with soberness (1 Nephi 18:10, Jacob 6:5).
  • Jacob explains that God expected him to “magnify [his] office with soberness” (Jacob 2:2).
  • King Benjamin urged his people to teach their children to “walk in the ways of truth and soberness” (Mosiah 4:15).
  • When Alma met with his three sons, he concluded each message with an admonition to be sober (Alma 37:47,  Alma 38:15Alma 42:31).
  • Helaman told Captain Moroni that his 2,000 young warriors were “men of truth and soberness” (Alma 53:21).
  • At the age of ten, Mormon was entrusted with the records of his people because the previous caretaker, Ammaron, saw that he was “a sober child and quick to observe” (Mormon 1:2, 15).

The most common definition of “sober” is “not drunk.” But the term has a broader meaning: “serious, sensible, and solemn” (Oxford Dictionary). To be sober is to be objective and disciplined, to be governed by reason, not by emotion.

Elder James J. Hamula explained the term this way:

Being sober means being earnest and serious in assessing your circumstances and careful and circumspect in weighing the consequences of your actions. Soberness therefore yields good judgment, as well as measured conduct (“Winning the War Against Evil,” General Conference, October 2008).

It’s easy to understand why we would want a person in a position of trust to be sober. We want them to act rationally and responsibly. We need them to be objective and thoughtful as they fulfill their duty.

When I was twelve years old, a teacher at church told me and my friends, “It’s great to have a sense of humor, but no one likes the guy who can’t ever be serious.” That advice has stuck with me. I appreciate that leader’s encouragement to “walk in the ways of truth and soberness.”

Today, I will strive to be sober. I will keep my emotions in check. I will be objective in assessing circumstances and will think about the consequences of my decisions. I will take my responsibilities seriously and fulfill them conscientiously.

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