Ezra Taft Benson, “Think on Christ,” Ensign, Mar 1989, 2
When President George Albert Smith was a boy, he had an experience that changed his life. He wrote:
“As a child, thirteen years of age, I went to school at the Brigham Young Academy. … I cannot remember much of what was said during the year that I was there, but there is one thing that I will probably never forget. … Dr. Karl G. Maeser one day stood up and said, ‘Not only will you be held accountable for the things you do, but you will be held responsible for the very thoughts you think.’
“Being a boy, not in the habit of controlling my thoughts very much, it was quite a puzzle to me what I was to do, and it worried me. About a week or ten days after that I suddenly understood what he meant: You will be held accountable for your thoughts, because when your life is completed in mortality, it will be the sum of your thoughts. That one suggestion has been a great blessing to me all my life, and it has helped me on many occasions to avoid improper thoughts, because I realize that when my life is over I will be the product of my thoughts.” (Sharing the Gospel with Others, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1948, pp. 62–63.)
Habits Lead to Character
Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character—and our character will determine our eternal destiny.
King Benjamin understood this. In the next-to-last verse of his great discourse recorded in the Book of Mormon, he states:
“And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.” (Mosiah 4:29.)
Then in the last verse he counsels that we must watch ourselves and our thoughts. (See Mosiah 4:30.)
When Christ appeared in America following His resurrection, He stated:
“Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;
“But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.
“Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.” (3 Ne. 12:27–29.)
Enter into your heart? Of course, for, as the scripture states: “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7.)
That Which Will Bless You
The mind has been compared to a stage on which only one act at a time can be performed. From one side of the wings the Lord, who loves you, is trying to put on the stage of your mind that which will bless you. From the other side of the wings the devil, who hates you, is trying to put on the stage of your mind that which will curse you.
You are the stage manager—you are the one who decides which thought will occupy the stage. Remember, the Lord wants you to have a fulness of joy like His. The devil wants all men to be miserable like him. You are the one who must decide which thoughts you will accept. You are free to choose—but you are not free to alter the results of those choices. You will be what you think about—what you consistently allow to occupy the stage of your mind.
Sometimes you may have difficulty driving off the stage of your mind a certain evil thought. To drive it off, Elder Boyd K. Packer suggests that you sing an inspirational song of Zion or just think of its words. The late Elder Bruce R. McConkie recommended that, after having an opening song in your mind, you might preach a sermon to yourself. In fact, he said the finest sermons he ever preached were preached to himself.
We should not invite the devil to give us a stage presentation. Usually, with our hardly realizing it, he slips into our thoughts. Our accountability begins with how we handle the evil thought immediately after it is presented. Like Jesus, we should positively and promptly terminate the temptation. We should not allow the devil to elaborate with all his insidious reasoning.
It is our privilege to fill 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 answered the devil with appropriate scripture which He had stored in His memory.
No Greater Question in Life
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 kind 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 minds—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 our thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then 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 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.
We are accountable for our thoughts and what we think about. Our thoughts should be on the Lord. We should think on Christ.
I testify to you that there is no greater and no more thrilling 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 fulness 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. (See 3 Ne. 12:48.)
“What would Jesus do?” or “What would He have me do?” are 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.
That we may 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 is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Ideas for Home Teachers
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
1. Not only will we be held accountable for what we do, but we will be held responsible for the very thoughts we think.
2. Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character—and our character will determine our eternal destiny.
3. The Lord wants us to have a fulness of joy like His. The devil wants us to be miserable like unto himself.
4. President Benson says there is no greater question that we can ask in this world than “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
1. Relate your feelings about living a Christlike life by controlling your thoughts.
2. Ask family members to share their understanding of how our thoughts can control what we do and what we become.
3. Are there scriptures or quotations from this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
4. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?
[illustration] Calligraphy by Maurice Scanlon
[illustration] Painting by Heinrich Hofmann^ Back to top