Virtue is almost always passive, constraining from abrupt and improper behavior. It contains and limits. It is a strong barrier against misconduct. It has protocols and expects behavior to be mild. It is not the same as righteousness. Righteousness will often require or impose action — sometimes action that exceeds mere virtue. Nephi was constrained to kill Laban. Elijah mocked the false priests. Christ rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees as unclean “whited sepulchers” filled with rot and decay. These kinds of righteous actions are not ungoverned or spontaneous. They are carefully controlled and are undertaken only when the priesthood holder, whose thoughts are virtuous and disciplined, is led by the power of the holy ghost to rebuke sharply.1 Virtue can be offended by righteousness. Righteousness controls, and virtue surrenders. Whenever it is necessary to do so, virtue yields every time to righteousness.2
1 “Power in the Priesthood, Part 3,” May 22, 2012, blog post.
2 40 Years in Mormonism Lecture 5, “Priesthood,” 30.