During the LDS 2008 October General Conference, Elaine S. Dalton delivered an address entitled “A Return To Virtue“. She explained that “Virtue is a word we don’t hear very often in today’s society“, but it is needed more than ever before.
The term “Virtue” has many interpretations. Although the word may be narrowly defined as morality, chastity or virginity, it also encompasses a broad scope of moral living.
The word virtue is derived from the Latin “virtus” meaning moral excellence or virility [strength]. Synonyms are ‘goodness‘, ‘righteousness‘ and ‘integrity‘. One dictionary states that a virtuous person “shows conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles“. A very long list of desireable moral attributes can be perused in Wikipedia under the classification Virtues and Values, with the opposite being Vice.
One of the more interesting and symbolic associations of virtue is with manly excellence or valor. From history books and fairy tales we read romantic stories about the Medieval Knight, often described as the “Virtuous Knight“, or the “Knight in Shining Armor“. According to various historical accounts of the Middle Ages, a young man began his training around the age of 8 years old. He was educated and apprenticed throughout his teens and usually qualified for Knighthood by the age of 21. The Order of Knighthood Ceremony was an important occasion that included elaborate ritual and solemn vows. After a purification bath, the candidate for knighthood was dressed in a clean white tunic and other symbolic clothing. He knelt or stood all night in a prayer vigil before the altar on which lay his precious new armor, sheild and sword, which he would don on the morrow. In the morning there was a procession and sacred religious ceremony, including a sermon on the knight’s duty to protect the weak, to right wrongs, to honor women, and to defend virtue.
In the presence of the assembled nobles, knights, and fair ladies, the new initiate’s armor was buckled on, piece by piece. His sword was girded about his waist by his sponsor, and spurs were attached to the candidate’s feet. He then knelt to receive the accolade, consisting of a blow upon the neck or shoulder, given by the officiating lord which by the 11th Century had evolved into using the flat of a sword [as pictured] tapped upon the left and right shoulder. The accolade was given in conjunction with the bestowal of a new name – known as the “dubbing”. After performing the accolade, the officiator would say,
“In the name of God, I dub thee Knight. Be good and true. Arise, Sir _____!
Sister Elaine Dalton’s instuction on Virtue was directed specifically to the youth of the church, however, her wise council applies to men and women of all ages. We each have the opportunity to live with goodness, integrity and valor as our standard. Like the brave Knights of old, we can choose to make sacred vows, put on the “armor of righteousness“, and become a Guardian of Virtue.
Words Of A Prophet
“You be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow. There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so.”
~President Thomas S. Monson