One of my favorite scriptures has always been (Prov 23:7) which states:
7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
I even bought the simple book by James Allen called, “As a man Thinketh.” I liked the book, and the concepts presented. It seemed to flow with what I believed and practiced.
What we see triggers what we think, what we think influences what we desire, what we desire affects our actions, our combined actions determine our character, and our character determines our eternal destiny. – Dallin H. Oaks
For a long time the scripture found in Proverbs has been a favorite of mine to quote, even though the title of the book has all of us quoting it wrong. “For as he thinketh in his heart,” not “as a man thinketh in his heart.” According to the footnotes it’s more about our motivations than just what we think.
With all that world is offering us to think about, to motivate, and to desire, I started pondering on the questions, “what should we be thinking about?” What should our motivations be?
The New Age philosophies teach us to think about what we want, and then ask the universe to comply. When I first heard about “The Secret” I was impressed. I thought the idea was really good, I mean I believe in a positive attitude, and why not believe in Karma, right? Well I was wrong. I was trying to shape “The Secret” philosophies around The Gospel of Jesus Christ. I won’t go into details about the false teachings of The Law of Attraction, you can find my thoughts expressed best by Rosabella Knightly: The Law of Attraction vs. The Law of the Harvest. The Law of Attraction and Luciferianism.
As I have studied the scriptures, I started paying close attention to the usage of the word, “Heart.” I’ve noticed the word “thought” is almost always tied together with the word “heart.”
The footnotes of Proverbs 7:23 encourage further study on the words motivation, and heart. I started to realize what the Lord was trying to teach. He knows the thoughts of our hearts, and what our motivations are. “Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart,” (D&C 16:16).
It seems the Heart is a point of access for the Lord and the Adversary. “4 And it came to pass that they would not suffer that he should enter into the city; therefore he went and got upon the wall thereof, and stretched forth his hand and cried with a loud voice, and prophesied unto the people whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart. And he said unto them: Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart; and behold he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people” (Hel. 13: 4-5).
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.” (3 Nephi 19:24)
We learn from the Book of Mormon about the pride cycle, and how “they did harden their hearts and did not hearken unto the words of the Lord” (Hel 10:13). The first time the earth was destroyed the Lord describes the condition of men:
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5)
And God saw that the wickedness of men had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually. (Moses 8:22)
The Book of Mormon warns us about how Satan gets hold of our Hearts:
21 But behold, Satan did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings.
22 And it came to pass that they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant, that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant.
23 And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God.
24 And whosoever of those who belonged to their band should reveal unto the world of their wickedness and their abominations, should be tried, not according to the laws of their country, but according to the laws of their wickedness, which had been given by Gadianton and Kishkumen.
25 Now behold, it is these secret oaths and covenants which Alma commanded his son should not go forth unto the world, lest they should be a means of bringing down the people unto destruction.
26 Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit.
27 Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth.
28 And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell.
29 Yea, it is that same being who put it into the heart of Gadianton to still carry on the work of darkness, and of secret murder; and he has brought it forth from the beginning of man even down to this time.
30 And behold, it is he who is the author of all sin. And behold, he doth carry on his works of darkness and secret murder, and doth hand down their plots, and their oaths, and their covenants, and their plans of awful wickedness, from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men.
31 And now behold, he had got great hold upon the hearts of the Nephites; yea, insomuch that they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God, and did turn unto their own ways, and did build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver.
Think on Christ
If we are to be saved in the last days, what should we think about?
“The Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought.” (D&C 6:36.) Looking unto the Lord in every thought is the only possible way we can be the manner of men and women we ought to be.
The Lord asked the question of His disciples, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” He then answered His own question by saying, “Even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.) To become as He is, we must have Him on our mind—constantly in our thoughts. Every time we partake of the sacrament, we commit to “always remember him.” (Moro. 4:3, Moro. 5:2; D&C 20:77, 79.)
If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts. Let me repeat that: If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, we must think Christlike thoughts.
Paul, en route to Damascus to persecute the Saints, saw a light from heaven and heard the voice of the Lord. Then Paul asked a simple eight-word question—and the persistent asking of the same question changed his life. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6.) The persistent asking of that same question can also change your life. There is no greater question that you can ask in this world. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” I challenge you to make that the uppermost question of your life.”
Alma while teaching his son declares:
(Alma 37:35–37) O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.
36 Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
And so I ask you, will you put on a pedestal all of your selfish wants and desires, and then bow down before the God of Heaven and command Him to bring them about? Or will you put away the things of this world and place Him and His will above your selfish desires?
The Bible Dictionary states that the purpose of prayer is, “the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” As you can see this is opposite of “The Law of Attraction,” it requires Faith in Christ, and we will not reap immediately our reward.
(Mormon 9:21, 27–28) 21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.
27 O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.
28 Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God.
“I began my remarks this morning by discussing how we are accountable for our thoughts and how we are what we think about. I have concluded by affirming that our thoughts should be on the Lord. We should think on Christ.
I testify to you that there is no greater, more thrilling, and more soul-enobling challenge than to try to learn of Christ and walk in His steps. Our model, Jesus Christ, walked this earth as “the Exemplar.” He is our Advocate with the Father. He worked out the great atoning sacrifice so we could have a fullness of joy and be exalted in accordance with His grace and our repentance and righteousness. He did all things perfectly and commands that we be perfect even as He and His Father are perfect. (3 Ne. 12:48)
“What would Jesus do?” or “What would He have me do?” are the paramount personal questions of this life. Walking in His way is the greatest achievement of life. That man or woman is most truly successful whose life most closely parallels that of the Master.
I know the Lord lives. I know that He loves us. I know that apart from Him no one can succeed, but as a partner with Him no one can fail.
I know that God can make a lot more out of our lives than we can.
May we all have the moral courage from this moment forward to more fully strive each day to think on Christ, learn of Him, walk in His steps, and do what He would have us do.” – President, Ezra Taft Benson
When the Lord visited the Nephites He taught them about prayer, and He said:
(3 Nephi 18:20) And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
It is arrogant to think that we can go to our Heavenly Father, tell Him what we want and expect to receive all that we ask for. We should follow the holiest example from our Lord and Savior:
(Moses 4:2) But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
(Luke 22:41) And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
He did not pray to Father and tell Him what He wanted, He said Thy will be done. Elder Russell M. Nelson recently taught us, “The practice of Church members is to kneel in family prayer each morning and evening, plus having daily personal prayers and blessings on our food.42 President Monson said, “As we offer unto the Lord our family and our personal prayers, let us do so with faith and trust in Him.”43
And so, in praying for temporal and spiritual blessings, we should all plead, as did Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.”
Christ is our advocate with the Father, the reason we close our prayers in His name, if in some other name or will they will stand invalid, as King Benjamin taught, “And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17). “And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God..” (Mosiah 5:10)
Jesus the very thought of Thee
I love the beautiful way that Alma describes his repentance process in Alma 36. Notice what releases him from bondage:
17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! (Alma 36:17–20)
It always makes me sing the Hymn, Jesus the Very Thought of Thee
Words by Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th Century (Jesu dulcis memoria)
Translated from Latin to English by Edward Caswall, Lyra Catholica, 1849.
Music by St. Agnes, John B. Dykes
Perfomed by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Interactive Player Version
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!
O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!
But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.
Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.
O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!
When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.
O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.
Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.
Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.
O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.
Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.
O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.
Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.
Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.
The blog “Believe all Things” has a wonderful post about the beautiful song, “Jesu! the Very Thought is Sweet”
Jesu! the Very Thought is Sweet
Written by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux 1090-1153 AD
Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Jesu! the Very Thought Is Sweet!
Jesu! the very thought is sweet!
In that dear Name all heart-joys meet;
But sweeter than the honey far.
The glimpses of His presence are.
No word is sung more sweet than this:
No name is heard more full of bliss;
No thought brings sweeter comfort nigh,
Than Jesus, Son of God most high.
Jesu! the hope of souls forlorn!
How good to them for sin that that mourn!
To them that seek Thee, O how kind!
But what art Thou to them that find?
Jesu, Thou sweetness, pure and blest,
Truths Fountain, Light of souls distressed,
Surpassing all that heart requires,
Exceeding all that soul desires!
No tongue of mortal can express,
No letters write His blessedness,
Alone who hath Thee in his heart
Knows, love of Jesus! what Thou art.
Alone who hath Thee in his heart
Knows, love of Jesus! what Thou art.
Keith B. McMullin, “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” Ensign, May 2004, 33
Howard W. Hunter, “‘Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee’,” Ensign, May 1993, 63
President Benson said, “It is our privilege to store our memories with good and great thoughts and bring them out on the stage of our minds at will. When the Lord faced His three great temptations in the wilderness, He immediately rebutted the devil with appropriate scripture which He had stored in His memory.” Notice that the Lord’s rebuttal to each temptation began with “It is written, it is written, it is written.” (Matt. 4:1–11) He had committed the scriptures to memory.
“The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example. Did not he recognize the danger when he was on the mountain with his fallen brother, Lucifer, being sorely tempted by that master tempter? (Matt. 4:1–11) He could have opened the door and flirted with danger by saying, ‘All right, Satan, I’ll listen to your proposition. I need not succumb, I need not yield, I need not accept—but I’ll listen.’
“Christ did not so rationalize. He positively and promptly closed the discussion, and commanded: ‘Get thee hence, Satan,’ meaning, likely, ‘Get out of my sight—get out of my presence—I will not listen—I will have nothing to do with you.’ Then, we read, ‘the devil leaveth him.’
“This is our proper pattern, if we would prevent sin rather than be faced with the much more difficult task of curing it. As I study the story of the Redeemer and his temptations, I am certain he spent his energies fortifying himself against temptation rather than battling with it to conquer it” (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 216–17).
A Mighty Change of Heart
We must be born again, “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7). And when we partake of the Sacrament we must renew this covenant. I’m reading a great book called, “Unlocking the Idioms” By George M. Peacock and He talks about a Broken Heart, meaning a Covenant Heart. When renew the baptismal covenant, we recommit to always remember Him.
7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.
11 Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
12 And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (Alma 5:7, 11–14, 26)
1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them.
2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
3 And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God. (Mosiah 5:1–5)
The Law of Restoration
If we follow what President Benson has said, “If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts.” We will be able to stand at that great and dreadful day. But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moro. 7:47–48)
Yes our thoughts will restore unto us that which we have set our hearts upon.
For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all. (Alma 41:15)
He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. (Helaman 14:31)
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)
For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence. (Alma 12:14)
And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7:14–23)
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 Jn 2:16)
I would encourage all of you as you set your New Years Resolutions to remember The Lord in that process. as George Albert Smith concluded, “I realize that I will be, when my life’s labor is complete, the product of my thoughts.” If we are to be like Christ, we must think like Him.
As part of my New Year I have purchased the book, “In His Steps” to better understand what it means to follow His voice, and always remember Him. President Benson related the story of this book in his talk, and about how the phrase “What Would Jesus Do” came to be. “O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.” (2 Nephi 9:39).
I will conclude with my favorite passage, “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13). Think on Christ. Amen.