Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pollution of the Mind

I love the verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Sow a thought and you reap an action;
Sow an act and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

This inspired verse outlines just how important and life-shaping our day-to-day thoughts can be. Almost 40 years ago, Elder Robert L. Simpson (1915-2003), assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a talk in a General Conference entitled, "Pollution of the Mind," (Ensign, Jan. 1973, 112). In his talk, Elder Simpson spoke very plainly about the potential dangers of not watching what goes into our minds. Said he, "it has been said: 'As a man thinketh, so is he.' The master control center within each individual must be regarded as the key. Signals flashing out to the various parts of the body bring instant reaction; in sum and substance, this center dictates the character, the conscience, the strength, and yes, even the weaknesses of every man."

He spoke against the general degradation of public morals concerning what passes as appropriate literature and entertainment with our media saying, "The gradual infiltration of this mind-polluting material has quietly engulfed us on a wide front. . . . Public attitude against smut has very gradually been lulled into a state of mild resistance—so mild, in fact, that the adversary has already won a major victory whether we are ready to admit it or not." On a side note, I love that he used the word smut, what a great word. We all know this is true whether or not we think it is much of a problem or care to do anything about it.

With so much "smut" perpetually surrounding us, we have to be unfailingly careful to watch what we take in to our minds. If the true measure of a man is how he spends his time when he doesn't have to do anything (thank you President McKay), then we can assess our own level of self-control and self-willpower as we take note of the things we do when not busy. Are we garnishing our thoughts unceasingly with virtue? Are we continually striving to cleanse our inner vessel? Are we bridling all our passions? Are we filling our time with worthwhile activities that we not only cease to be idle but bring to pass much righteousness of our own free will and choice? (see D&C 121:45; Alma 60:23 and D&C 38:42; Alma 38:12; D&C 88:124 and D&C 58:27-28).

I have such a strong testimony of the effect of our thoughts on our actions and our happiness. I have seen the results of thoughts both good and bad and I notice a difference in my life when I strive to control my thoughts versus when I do not. On a personal note, I fall back on the song "I Am A Child of God," when something comes across my path that influences my thoughts not for good. I can promise that the influence of hymns and uplifting music is a very real and very strong power in striving to control our thoughts.

The power of thought is very real and very strong. The Lord will help us overcome poor thoughts if we desire.