“Charity Thinketh No Evil,” Ensign, Aug. 1988, 61
Objective: To let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly.
We don’t develop character by chance. Good character is the result of continual effort in righteous thinking and the righteous acts that such thinking brings about.
The scriptures tell us, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7), and “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). Both the Apostle Paul and the prophet Mormon taught that charity, the pure love of Christ, “thinketh no evil.” (See 1 Cor. 13:4–5; Moro. 7:45.) Clearly, we are what we think. And if we think righteous thoughts, we will very likely live righteously.
How do we distinguish between good and evil thoughts? The scriptures offer us a guide: “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moro. 7:12–13.)
We are the masters of our thoughts. Just as we would tend, prune, and cultivate a garden, so should we tend and cultivate our minds, pruning and weeding impure, negative, or sinful thoughts while cultivating righteous ones.
One way we cultivate righteous thoughts is by keeping in mind our purpose in mortality. If we forget that purpose, we may fall prey not only to immoral thoughts, but also to worries, fears, self-pity, or negative thoughts.
One woman found that when she allowed herself to think continually about clothing and household furnishings she couldn’t afford, she felt discouraged, particularly when she compared her life with the lives of others who had accumulated more wealth and material possessions than she had.
But she decided that she could learn to control her thoughts, and she made an effort to focus not on what she didn’t possess, but on the kind of person she wanted to become. She studied the scriptures, concentrating on the Savior’s life and on patterning her life after his. She prayed more earnestly, and she developed a strong desire to become more Christlike.
As she did this, she became more sensitive to the needs of those around her. With her new perspective, she found that her problems seemed to shrink and her testimony and her family became more precious to her. She felt more grateful for her blessings and felt a greater spirit of charity. She began to admire Christlike character in others more than she had admired worldly wealth. She found that, overall, she was happier.
To develop purity of mind, we need to do more than dismiss or avoid evil, negative, or impure thoughts. We also need to learn to think virtuous thoughts. Just as it takes effort to discover material treasures of the earth, it takes effort to develop good thoughts. The scriptures guide us in choosing what to think about:
“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report … think on these things.” (Philip. 4:8.)
We can learn to “think on” such things by seeking good surroundings, reading the scriptures and other good books, praying, singing hymns, fasting, observing the Sabbath, selecting uplifting entertainment, wearing modest clothing, developing talents, participating in church and community service, and striving to keep the commandments.
As we learn to think virtuous thoughts, our lives become more virtuous. We will want to live righteously, in thought and in deed. We will be more Christlike.
Read Matthew 6:19–21 [Matt. 6:19–21] and discuss heavenly “treasures” we might set our hearts upon.
Read D&C 121:45–46 and discuss the blessings that come from virtuous thoughts. How can righteous thoughts and desires increase the spiritual feeling in our homes?
(See Family Home Evening Resource Book, pp. 15, 257–59 for related materials.)