24 Hour Challenge to Revolutionize Relationships

Have your family try to guess what goes in this blank :

The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is _______.

You may get a variety of answers from scripture study to church attendance. What is the real answer?

“The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people.”
–Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, May 1992

Hopefully, all the great things we DO (read our scriptures, say our prayers, go to church, serve, etc) are causing us to BECOME as Christ is – to put on his character and attributes.

“We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Cor. 13). The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ,” is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes.”
–Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000

The attributes of Charity (charity suffereth long, is kind, envieth not, etc) are really attributes of Christ – it is a description of His character and what we should try to emulate. How closely a person is emulating Christ is easily discovered by how he treats other people.

“Would you consider this idea for a moment – that the way we treat the members of our families, our friends, those with whom we work each day is as important as are some of the more noticeable gospel principles we sometimes emphasize…
Imagine what could happen in today’s world – or in our own wards, or families, or priesthood quorums and auxiliaries – if each of us would vow to cherish, watch over, and comfort one another.  Imagine the possibilities!…
If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.
If the adversary can influence us to pick on each other, to find fault, bash, and undermine, to judge or humiliate or taunt, half his battle is won.  Why?  Because though this sort of conduct may not equate with succumbing to grievous sin, it nevertheless neutralizes us spiritually.  The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell where there is bickering, judging, contention, or any kind of bashing…
Once again may I emphasize this principle that when we truly become converted to Jesus Christ, committed to Him, an interesting thing happens: our attention turns to the welfare of our fellowman, and the way we treat others becomes increasingly filled with patience, kindness, a gently acceptance, and a desire to play a positive role in their lives.  This is the beginning of true conversion.
Let us open our arms to each other, accept each other for who we are, assume everyone is doing the best he or she can, and look for ways to help leave quiet messages of love and encouragement instead of being destructive with bashing.”
-Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, May 1992


If the most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people, what is one step we can take to treat people better? Watch our tongues!

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.” (James 3:2)

James contends that if a man can control his tongue, he is a perfect person! Why? Because being the master of what comes out of our mouth requires a tremendous amount of self discipline. If we can conquer that one habit, we are truly the masters of ourselves and will be able to control all of our other actions and passions.

“The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”
–David O. McKay

James continues his sermon and gives us this warning and admonition. 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.” (James 3:2-10)

Jeffrey R. Holland’s explanation of this passage is insightful:

“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.’

So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be ‘perfect’ men and women in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail.”
–Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Tongue of Angels,” Ensign, May 2007


  Have you ever wanted a list of all the Christian values we want our youth to understand and live by in a format that was clear, concise, direct, and short enough to finish in 30 minutes? In our church we have a pamphlet that is worth its weight in gold. It covers 19 topics from dating to honesty to work and self-reliance. You can check it out here.

Before I gave this 24 hour challenge to a class of teenagers, I would ask, “What is the very first thing listed in the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet about language?” They answered in unison, “Don’t swear!” It always surprised them to learn that’s NOT the first thing it says. It doesn’t even come up until the second paragraph!

How you speak says much about who you are. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Do not insult others or put them down, even in joking. Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord’s commandments to love one another. When you use good language, you invite the Spirit to be with you.
Always use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Misuisng their names is a sin…

I love the first sentence: How you speak says much about who you are. People should be able to tell, just by how we talk, that we are Christian. Like James directs, let’s not have the same tongues that praise God, demean and criticize His other children.

The 24 Hour Challenge is simple: for 24 hours you may not say anything negative to anyone including yourself! This includes your tone. You may not criticize, gossip, yell, be sarcastic, make fun of someone (even in joking), or do anything like unto it. If you catch yourself saying something negative or saying it with an unkind tone, you must start the 24 hours over again. If you THINK something negative about someone, you do not have to start over as long as you push that thought aside. If you dwell on it for a long period of time, you must start over. One other rule if you are doing this challenge with other people: you may not tell somebody else they need to start over otherwise YOU have to start over. The only person who decides whether she has to start over is herself (This idea comes from John L. Lund, a marriage counselor).

The motto for the next 24 hours is “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” You can even watch the clip of the movie Bambi where Thumper is reminded of this important lesson (especially if you are doing this challenge with young children – it is helpful to have a visual for them). We have a code word at my house: “Thumper.” If my kids ever say something unkind, I simply say “Thumper” and they know what I mean. That way I don’t have to lecture them (especially in front of other people at the store, at their friend’s house, at church, etc).

When I did this challenge with some teenagers, the results were amazing. Sometimes it took my teenagers a week or two to complete it, but eventually everyone came back with eye-opening outcomes. They said, “Wow, I never realized how negative I was…” or “I didn’t notice how much I gossiped” or “I used to be so mean to my mom….”

I’ll never forget one young woman’s report. When I issued the challenge,she immediately protested. The first words out of her mouth were, “If you knew my brother, you’d know this will be impossible. He always….” I finally convinced her to try it out and I was eager to see what happened. To her credit, this stalwart young woman resolved to be kind no matter what her brother did. And her brother tested her to her max! At some point he figured out she wasn’t going to argue with him so he pushed her even harder to see if he could get her to! A lot of the time she just had to bite her tongue and not say anything! Change didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, her brother started reciprocating. When she was finally able to complete the challenge, she came back, tears in her eyes and said, “I always thought my brother was the problem, but as soon as I changed MY behavior, I realized that a lot of the fighting between us was because of me. My brother and I have actually started hanging out together and having a great time. I never knew that my brother could be my best friend.”

This challenge really helped these teenagers focus on what was coming out of their mouths! And that is an important step to conquering our thoughts:

“Check Your Words-If you first gain power to check your words, you will then begin to have power to check your judgment, and at length actually gain power to check your thoughts and reflections.”
–Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 6:98

Anger can sour a relationship quickly. Learning to control our words (and our tone) is a very important step in learning to deal with angry emotions.

“Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything….To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can MAKE us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.”
–Thomas S. Monson, “School thy feelings, O my brother,” Ensign, Nov. 2009

Originally posted on January 17, 2013 at Raising Temporally, Spiritually Self-reliant Kids