Pure Thoughts, Part 8

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The lack of purity in thought and heart is what keeps the Church and its members from being as Enoch’s Zion. Robert Millet explains this,

“There is [a] matter that prevents many of us from enjoying the Spirit of the Lord in our lives as we might: the tendency to live on the edge, to play percentages with God, to tempt fate and to place ourselves in circumstances that can contribute to our spiritual undoing. There are those who want to see how far they can go without going all the way; those who want to drive the vehicle as close to the edge of the cliff as possible with no intention whatever of falling; those who cunningly creep up on the flame with no intention of ever being burned; those who want to enjoy all the privileges of Babylon but at the same time keep their citizenship in Zion intact. I promise you that there is no lasting happiness in such approaches to life, but rather a type of moral or spiritual schizophrenia” (Robert L. Millet, Selected writings of Robert L. Millet, p.351).

As we purify our thoughts and hearts, we will become a Zion society like that described by the LDS hymn:

This earth was once a garden place,
With all her glories common,
And men did live a holy race,
And worship Jesus face to face,
In Adam-ondi-Ahman.

We read that Enoch walked with God,
Above the pow’r of mammon,
While Zion spread herself abroad,
And Saints and angels sang aloud,
In Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Her land was good and greatly blest,
Beyond all Israel’s Canaan,
Her fame was known from east to west,
Her peace was great, and pure the rest
Of Adam-ondi-Ahman. (Hymns, #49)

We must be pure of mind and heart so we can as a church become a Zion society. We must build Zion within each of our homes and within each of ourselves. As we hike through life, we need to partake of pure water, whether it is gathered in purity from springs or taken from other sources and filtered and cleansed. As we purify our minds, we are sanctified by the Spirit of the Lord and are blessed individually and as families.

Pure Thoughts, Part 6

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Impure thoughts deaden our spirits but why else must we watch our thoughts? The Savior enlightens us through His intercessory prayer: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth…. Neither I pray for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me though their word; That they all may be one…even as we are one” (John 17:14-22). Thoughts that are in conflict with God’s cannot lead to unity with Him. Impure thoughts cement our separation from the Savior and the Father because they are not sanctifying. Isaiah taught: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD” (Isa. 55:7-8; emphasis added).

This is not to say that our thoughts cannot be like the Lord’s; His thoughts are just not like the natural man’s. If we forsake and remove our unrighteous thoughts, we can approach the Lord, just as Moses removed his shoes to approach the burning bush (see Ex. 3:5). So we need to have purity of thought in order to be one with the Father. This is also what the Lord revealed in Doctrine and Covenants section 88: “Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will. Remember the great and last promise which I have made unto you; cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you” (v.68-69). From these verses we learn that idle thoughts, which are not necessarily evil, but might fall under the category of superfluous, also need casting away. Impurity of mind is not only the commission of impure thoughts but also the omission of pure ones. Pure thoughts are those of the truth, which includes the word of God. Whether we covertly think impure thoughts, or merely let our minds idle away, we are not pure in thought.

Pure Thoughts, Part 3

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There are many ways to keep our minds away from satanic influences and thoughts; most of us learned as children to hum our favorite hymns should bad thoughts enter our minds. I have to add that humming your favorite hymn may actually be counter-productive. If you hum a hymn to get rid of bad thoughts, the hymn becomes associated with the bad thoughts and serves as a trigger for the thoughts. This means that the next time the hymn is sung or heard, you might think the inappropriate thoughts. I recommend this tactic be used sparingly with frequent changing of the hymn. Additionally, it is best if the hymn is sung (it can be silently to yourself) because singing the words will help push out bad thoughts more readily than simply humming the melody will. Many of us learned this scripture in seminary about the importance of keeping our thoughts pure: “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not” (Mosiah 4:30).

There are many “how to” guides for keeping our thoughts clean and our minds pure, but knowing the “how” without the “why” is like participating in rituals at church without conversion. For example, it is important for a child to learn that partaking of the sacrament is essential; however, as she grows older she should also learn why we partake of the sacrament and not just that we do. Without a conversion to the “why” of doing something, life-long endurance is nearly impossible.

So why are we commanded to keep our minds pure? Why should we shun vulgarity and pornography? At a basic cognitive level, it is because when we think unclean thoughts, we cannot and are not thinking of spiritual things, since we cannot have two thoughts at once. But that is hardly a sufficient explanation or reason for conversion or salvation. Purity is a mental and spiritual state. It is keeping unholy thoughts out but it is also more than that; the word also implies being free of superfluous substance, just as 24 carat gold is free from other elements. So purity is not just freedom from contaminating objects, but also freedom from all additives, even if they might be good, or at least neutral, things. That is why we cannot be too focused on good things if we leave the weightier matters undone (see Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ talk on this topic). Purity is a process; it is becoming cleansed of all imperfections; thus, that which was impure can become pure.

Pure Thoughts, Part 2

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Bishop H. Burke Petersen further explained: “When we were born in the earth, our minds and thoughts were clean and sweet and pure—unpolluted by the harmful impurities that are around us that become a part of the experiences of this life. In our infancy our minds are free from unrighteous and unwholesome thoughts. We are innocent and untouched by most of the harmful effects and influences of Satan.

“Our mind, which is like a tremendous reservoir itself, is capable of taking in whatever it may be fed—good and bad, trash and garbage, as well as righteous thoughts and experiences. As we go through life, we may be exposed to stories, pictures, books, jokes, and language that are filthy and vulgar, or to television shows and movies that are not right for us to see or hear. Our mind will take it all in. It has a capacity to store whatever we will give it. Unfortunately, what our mind takes in, it keeps—sometimes forever. It’s a long, long process to cleanse a mind that has been polluted by unclean thoughts.” (H. Burke Peterson, “Purify Our Minds and Spirits,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 37)

The brain is immensely efficient, able to process large amounts of information in a short time. While the brain has only a limited capacity for conscious processing, the brain receives a lot more information than we are aware. This is why we need to surround ourselves with only those things that uplift. However, the brain cannot actively process very much at once. In other words, we can only really think of one thing at a time, even if we can jump back and forth between ideas rapidly. This may be one reason why we are told to pray always–so we don’t have time to let our minds wander to places they shouldn’t go.

Elder Maxwell taught, “The human mind is remarkably retentive. We must be careful of what we allow in our mind, for it will be there for a long time, reasserting itself at those very times when we may be most vulnerable. Just as harmful chemicals heedlessly dumped in a vacant lot can later prove lethal, so toxic thoughts and the mulching of the wrong memories in the vacant corner of the mind also take their toll” (Elder Maxwell, The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p.346).

Pure Thoughts, Part 1

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When I was young I went on two long backpacking trips with my father and some varsity scouts. On both excursions we relied heavily on spring water to get through the hike. When there were no springs we had to purify our water, by filtering, boiling, or by using iodine tablets. The water from streams and rivers needed purification due to the various microorganisms in it, especially giardia, which is a bacteria that attaches itself onto the inside of intestines and stays there for an extended time. If we had not purified our water, the results would have been drastic and long-lasting.

We preferred the spring water because it did not take as much effort to process as did filtering or boiling water, nor did it have the taste of iodine. When we were able to get water from springs we did, because this water was naturally purified by the ground. It was water that we did not work hard to procure but still reaped its benefits and blessings – we were like the Savior’s disciples who were told: “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor” (John 4:38). Even though the spring water was naturally pure, we still tried to fill our bottles as close to the source as possible, to avoid the impurities that enter once the water leaves its subterranean origin. As water is to our body, so are thoughts to our spirits. Without filtration and purification of our thoughts, our spirits will sicken and languish. Like spring water, there is a pure source for thoughts; the scriptures and the prophets teach in purity and the Spirit helps us keep our thoughts pure. However, since much of that around us is not from a pure source, we must filter and cleanse our thoughts.