Have you found it difficult, since joining the church, to make some of the changes you need to make? Perhaps it’s time to focus on your thoughts instead of just thinking about your actions.
We seldom do something we’ve never even thought of doing. Before we sin, we’ve tossed it around our minds and perhaps imagined it. For this reason, learning to control our thoughts is very important to learning to live without sin.
Elder Dean Larson suggested this tactic: “In order to sustain constructive thinking, it’s necessary for us to have something worthwhile to think about, to have in reserve, … some items, some problems, some challenges, to which we can turn our minds, to think our way through to a solution.” (Quoted in “Lesson 9: Purity of Thought,” The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part B, 66.)
Elder Boyd K. Packer suggests memorizing church hymns you can sing when an inappropriate thought enters your mind. My mother used to help us memorize poetry we could recite during times when we needed to keep our thoughts moving in a good direction.
It’s helpful to have a plan in place for such times. Memorize things you can recite—poetry, hymns, scriptures—or make a mental list of topics to contemplate when you need your mind appropriately. Is there a problem to solve, a strategy to plan, or a fun activity to dream up? Can you think of people you know and what service you might give them? Give an imaginary talk or lesson in your head. I use times when I’m alone, such as when I’m doing housework or driving, to plan my writing for the day.
The secret is to have a plan. When the negative or inappropriate thoughts come to mind, you need to know exactly what to think of instead. When you don’t need to take time to figure out what to think of, your mind can go straight to work thinking and blocking out the negative thoughts.
Of course, it’s also important not to put yourself into a situation that might encourage inappropriate thoughts. Monitor your media, and your surroundings. Try to avoid people and places that will send your thoughts the wrong direction. When working in the home, put on appropriate music. Surround yourself with reminders of the gospel in your home and car. Keep a small picture of the Savior in your purse or wallet, where you can look at it when you need a reminder. This will help you keep your thoughts pure, which will make it easier to keep your actions pure.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.