“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Nov. 1995, 17
It would be nice if there were a simple answer to this question, where you simply do some things on a list and the problem goes away. Controlling your thoughts, which will in turn control your actions, will be a lifelong challenge. In fact, it is one of the big challenges of our time on earth.
Picture your mind like a field that has been prepared for planting. Something is going to grow in that fertile soil. You can choose to plant it with many good things like vegetables, fruits, and flowers, or you can leave it to chance to grow whatever seeds happen to be blown by. A field left untended will become a tangle of weeds. But a field that is carefully planted will produce a good harvest.
You can do the same with your mind. Plant good things by reading good books, listening to good music, watching worthwhile entertainment, studying the scriptures, and paying attention to the speakers in church. Those good seeds will sprout and grow and produce more good thoughts. Then when a weed takes root, get rid of it. Put that thought out of your mind.
Our readers had several suggestions. First, they suggest staying away from situations where these types of stories might be told. Get up and walk away when the things being talked about are not good for you to listen to. When thoughts come into your mind, change the subject. Replace the bad thought with something else like singing a song in your head or repeating a scripture. Your mind is a wonderful thing, but it cannot concentrate on two different things at the same time.
Just as a well-tended garden will grow fewer and fewer weeds, choosing to think of good things can become a habit. Every time you refuse to dwell on a dirty joke or story and start thinking of something else, it becomes easier the next time to shift your train of thought. And dwelling on good things brings happiness to our lives in many ways.
The way to overcome the things of the world is through a devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only do we serve with all our physical strength and with our hearts, but we also serve with our minds (see D&C 4:2). When we are truly committed to Christ, we are also committed in our thoughts. Thoughts then lead to good actions.
Our reward, just like a bountiful harvest from a garden, is being included in the encompassing love of Christ. He always loves us, but evil thoughts can keep us from feeling that love. By maintaining pure thoughts, we can feel of his love and peace.
In 1 John 5:5, it says, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” The only way one can abstain from being of the world is to build one’s foundation on our Savior, Jesus Christ. One must never forget to communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer.
Lisa Moorcroft, 17
Johannesburg, Edenglen, South Africa
When I start to listen to a dirty joke, I ask myself, “What would Heavenly Father think?” and I turn away.
Tony Lee, 14
Kansas City, Missouri
It’s very difficult to avoid those dirty jokes we hear every day. But being a Latter-day Saint, you should always remember that listening to dirty jokes is one way of disobeying the law of chastity. Ignore those dirty jokes, and bear in mind what you stand for.
Polly Navarro, 18
Quezon City, Philippines
You should try to avoid settings where dirty jokes and immoral things are said or talked about.
Jennifer Bailey, 16
Pilot Point, Texas
I have been working very hard to avoid evil thoughts. I tried everything to get rid of them and found some helpful solutions like singing a hymn, reading scriptures, or focusing on one really good thing. These all work, but the best way I have found is to pray with all your heart to Heavenly Father. He will give you the strength to keep clean thoughts if you really want it and are willing to do your best.
Jill Forsyth, 16
The friends we choose have a great impact on the way we think and the things we do. Choose friends that, even though they may not be LDS, would still respect your ideas and religion. These kinds of friends make a big difference in the way we deal with the world.
Autumn Smith, 18
What helps me keep my mind clean is some favorite scriptures. I particularly like Doctrine and Covenants 58:42 [D&C 58:42], which says, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” It tells me I must put forth the most effort to keep my mind clean. But if somehow a dirty joke gets past, I know the Lord will forgive me if I repent.
Ellie Dugbatey, 12
St. Louis, Missouri
When I have bad thoughts enter my mind, I do what I once heard a General Authority say to do. I sing a Church hymn out loud or in my head. Other things that help are keeping the commandments, avoiding bad places and situations, and losing yourself in service. If you do these things and read the scriptures, your testimony will be strengthened, and you will be able to control your thoughts better.
Brandon Jeppson, 16