What Does It Mean to Be “Temperate in All Things?”

While serving as high priest over the church, Alma delivered a series of sermons in different cities. He admonished the people in the city of Gideon to be “temperate in all things” (Alma 7:23). He later gave the same advice to his son Shiblon (Alma 38:10).

The apostles Paul and Peter both emphasized the importance of temperance in their epistles, including them in lists of attributes worth developing (Galatians 5:22-23, Titus 1:7-9, Titus 2:2, Peter 1:5-8).

To be temperate is to be restrained or moderate, to avoid excesses. The word “temperance” has historically been associated with abstinence from alcohol, but its full meaning is much broader: A temperate person doesn’t allow anything–including mind-altering drugs, ambitions, or strong emotions–to cloud their judgement and damage their sense of propriety. A temperate person is a disciplined person, a person who can be trusted to behave within certain limits or standards.

Why must we be temperate “in all things?” Because intemperance in one area of our lives can easily contaminate other areas. Temperance is a skill which we acquire through practice and which we can lose through neglect. As Maria Konnikova, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, has observed:

Self-control is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Avoiding something tempting once will help you develop the ability to resist other temptations in the future (“The Struggles of a Psychologist Studying Self-Control,” New Yorker, 9 October 2014, quoted in Quentin L. Cook, “Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: Be Temple Worthy–in Good Times and Bad Times,” General Conference, October 2015).

Today, I will strive to be “temperate in all things.” I will act with moderation and restraint in all aspects of my life, avoiding excesses and maintaining high standards of conduct.

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