I ran across a beautiful article the other day by a modern day apostle, Boyd K. Packer entitled The Spirit of Revelation. Though directed to the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his words offer encouragement for each of us about the importance of mastering our own thoughts. What we think and feel creates the most intimate parts of who we are. Do the things we harbor in our minds and hearts reflect the things that God would have there, or have we let this sacred space be taken over by the philosophies and worries of the world around us? God has asked us to focus our thoughts on Christ and virtue, among other things. One of the greatest things we can master in this life is our mind. We can use it to focus on good, evil, and every shade in between the two. But the disciple of Christ should be mindful of the first and greatest commandment:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Matthew 22:37)
This can not be accomplished if we spend more time thinking about our landscaping, car, finances, hobbies, or anything else, more than we spend time pondering the ways of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Above all else, we need to avoid putting things into our mind that drive the Spirit out of our lives— these things can enter in the form of entertainment such as movies, music, books or it can come in the form of friends, associations, or other influences. We may not always be able to control what we are exposed to, but we always control what we do with it after that. If it doesn’t belong in the heart and mind of a disciple of Christ, it has no place in our lives and should not be allowed to take root within us.
Though we must learn what works best for us personally, President Packer offers one valuable solution about learning to control our thoughts that happens to be one of my favorites. It has to do with the power of music to affect our thoughts and mood. Does music affect you in such a way that it can bring you peace, energy or even frustration that accentuates thoughts and feelings you had before the music began? It can be used to enhance or to change our mood. It can be used to control our thoughts and outlook on life.
If we choose carefully and give root to things that can inspire and uplift, we have ammunition against those things we do not want to entertain. Worthy music can provide protection and inspiration when we need it most. In just the opposite manner, music that is destructive to our spirit, it can lead and keep us in darker places that become hard to escape from.
President Packer reflects on how this lesson was learned in his own family. His brother taught him to face the challenges of war and life with a hymn and a prayer in his heart, saying. He said, “I have a favorite hymn . . . and when things got rough I would sing it silently to myself, and there would come a faith and an assurance that kept me on course.”
It was a lesson well learned, President Packer reports the value of what he learned from his brother. “As the years passed I found that, while not easy, I could control my thoughts if I made a place for them to go. You can replace thoughts of temptation, anger, disappointment, or fear with better thoughts— with music.”
Then, it the fun and straight-forward manner I have come to value in Boyd K. Packer’s counsel he ends with this great summary of the challenge to control our thoughts.
“Shape up! Face up! Take hold of your lives! Take control of your mind, your thoughts! If you have friends that are not a good influence, make changes, even if you face loneliness, even rejection.
“If you have already made bad mistakes, there are ways to fix things up, and eventually it will be as though they never happened.
Sometimes guilt controls our minds and takes us prisoner in our thoughts. How foolish to remain in prison when the door stands open. Now, don’t tell yourself that sin really doesn’t matter. That won’t help; repentance will.”
Take control of your thoughts and feelings and you will find yourself with a clearer focus and steadier feet on the path of Christ you seek to follow.