Several months ago I made a phone call to my young adult daughter.  I hadn’t been able to reach her through text for two or three days and it worried me because we communicate almost daily.  I wondered why she wasn’t replying.  To my relief, she did answer my phone call and after some probing from me admitted that she was struggling with something and was embarrassed and afraid.  She had watched a crime show on television a few weeks before and witnessed some very disturbing images.  She couldn’t get them out of her head and felt almost incapacitated.  She questioned her worthiness and her ability to receive divine help.  Because of my own experience with battling and conquering fear and negative thoughts, I was able to listen calmly as she shared her worries.   And because the Lord blesses us with personal challenges that, through our growth, enable us to better help others, I had some answers for her.   I’ll write about the answers in another segment, but for now know that my counsel calmed her and together we created a plan of action to help her overcome the adversary.

That very evening my mother, unaware of the needs of her grand-daughter, sent me an article called “I Cried Out “Why?”, from Meridian Magazine.  It was written by Ted Gibbons and in it he shared a personal experience similar to the one my daughter was having.  While serving as a missionary in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ted had been overcome with a terrifying inability to control his thoughts.  In his own words:  “I don’t know why it happened or even how much of it was a result of my own weakness.  I was not pursuing a course of my own choosing, but that did not diminish the pain I suffered with the problem.  I was in Hell. I hated to leave the apartment, so great was my fear of what my mind would do to me on the streets. I fasted and prayed and sought a blessing from my companion and district, but all without discernible results.”

Then he learned of an upcoming visit by Elder Kimball to his mission.  He rejoiced in the possibility that this may be an answer to his plead for help.  Each of the 18 missionaries in the Santos Zone was to have a personal interview with Elder Kimball after which he would address the entire Zone.  Ted earnestly prepared for his time with Elder Kimball.

The day finally came.  Ted says:  “Because of where I was sitting, I would be the last one interviewed. The elder next to me had been out for about five minutes. It was nearly my turn. I was praying silently, my head down, for the Lord to give me a solution to my problems during the interview when I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I looked up. It was Elder Kimball.

Elder, he whispered, I’m out of time. I need to deliver my message and travel to São Vicente for the dedication of the chapel. Would it be all right if I interviewed you the next time I come to Brazil?”

I felt shattered, my heart like a dishrag—twisted, stretched, and wrung out within me. I needed this interview! I had fasted and prayed in preparation. How could this be happening? And, of course, I smiled and said, “That will be fine, Elder Kimball,” As he walked to the front of the chapel, I leaned back with tears in my eyes, and cried out “Why?” in my heart.

Then Elder Kimball got up and gave a powerful sermon on CONTROLLING THOUGHTS. The message may have been a blessing to others, but I knew, as I listened in wonder and joy, that it was intended for me. I learned two things that day. I learned how to control my thoughts, and I learned that the Lord could respond to my very personal needs through the inspired public utterances of his servants.”

Ted continues, “As I have shared this experience over the years, I have been astounded by the number of people requesting the details of President Kimball’s counsel.”  Here is his edited recollection of President Kimball’s counsel on controlling thoughts so many years ago:

“President Kimball began by talking about mowing his lawn. He decided on one occasion that he no longer wanted to be troubled by a row of flowers along the edge of the lawn.   He said that once he had made that decision, he simply moved the mower over and cut them down.

But the next week when he mowed again, he discovered that they were still growing. The stalks had begun to  produce new green leaves and were continuing to flourish. So he cut them down again. The next week was the same and he mowed them once more.

After a few weeks, he said, the leaves had begun to turn brown around the edges and the plants appeared to him to be less healthy. He cut them off once more. The plants continued to deteriorate, week by week, because every time he encountered them, he cut them off at once.

Finally, they were gone.

I am certain that Elder Kimball elaborated on this analogy and experience, but of that I remember nothing.   The message is clear enough. The thoughts themselves were, like the flowers, unwanted. But it was when they were allowed to grow unchecked that their roots went deep and it became difficult to kill them.  It seems now that this is a remarkably simple solution, and an incredibly effective one. I left the meeting determined to keep the lawnmower running. Every time I was troubled by the blossoms of unwanted thoughts, I cut them off. They continued to come back for a while, but, as Elder Kimball had suggested, they soon began to appear with less frequency and beauty. After some time, they stopped appearing at all. I was free. I think part of what helped me then was the image of the lawnmower, and the fact that a prophet had helped the Lord answer my prayers. I know this at least: it worked! And it felt so good when the problem was gone.”

Now back to my daughter.  President Kimball’s counsel worked for her, too,  just as it has worked for me and can help you, or your child, or anyone else who has faith enough (or is desperate enough) to fight for control of his/her mind and thoughts by keeping the lawn mower running. 

But first of all we need to consider the source of our thoughts. How do we know which to mow down and which to consider?  The scriptures are full of counsel from the Lord on controlling our minds and thougths.   I know this because I have looked up and written down every one of them.  We are taught from our youth to “sing a hymn” when unworthy or unwanted thoughts creep in.  “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly;  then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45).  “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole body shall be filled with light and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.  Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God and the day will come that you shall see him . . . cast away your idle thoughts . . . “(D&C 88: 67 – 69).

There is nothing I want or need more than days filled with light instead of darkness.  If I am confident in the presence of God, I will not fear man or circumstances or the adversary.   


But the adversary is strong.  He is out there, surrounding us, in his last ditch effort to destroy the noble and great spirits who have been saved for this day.   And he has a battle plan.  He has saved his most powerful and vicious tactic for now.  It’s getting into our HEADs!   The purpose?  To drive out the light. Stop us from doing good things. Get us to believe things about ourselves that aren’t true.  We see this in Ted Gibson’s experience, my daughter’s, and mine.   I am pretty sure Ted was Zone Leader at the time of his struggle. “I was in Hell,” he said, which would make him almost non-functional in his calling to build the kingdom of God --  until Elder Kimball came with an answer to his prayer.  If the adversary can stop us from doing good things, he is advancing.   Fear, depression, unworthiness, hopelessness, or the belief that we are --or are not-- this or that.  “And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters (Satan and his evil followers sitting upon the “many waters” reminds us that filthy water—as in the case of a devastating flood—tries to get into every aspect of our lives--The Book of Mormon Made Easier, David Ridges); and she had dominion over all the earth . . .and did gather together multitudes to fight against the Lamb of God” (1 Ne 14: 11-13). 

 “Man is not alone in his mind.”  We “live and move in the midst of many unseen influences and beings which can and do distort (our) perception  . . seeking access to the undiscerning and un-guarded mind.  These midst of darkness that drift across our mental paths play mostly on our fear, which generates pride, coveting, criticism, depression, selfishness, hatred, power ploys, and mental disturbances in general.  These thoughts are aggressive.  Sometimes they seem to be thinking us more than we are thinking them.  Without being conscious of these thoughts as visitors to our inner space, we attach to them as though they were ours, as though they necessarily represent reality.  We unconsciously personalize them, so they seem to be a true reflection of our circumstances. Our minds are mixed with many sorrow-producing thoughts, simply because we do not yet discern their nature.  They do not reflect reality or who we really are, yet they run our lives”  (MC Thomas, Light in the Wilderness).

This is why the Lord instructs to fill our thoughts with Him—with light.  Our thoughts shape our inner and outer reality.  In fact, our thoughts CAN CHANGE THE VERY STRUCTURE OF OUR BRAINS*.  This is why it is so important to “let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly.”

Okay, this post is much longer than I intended.  I haven’t yet addressed pornography addictions, SSA, eating disorders, and other epidemics that are attacking our youth.   But with the background I’ve presented, I’m sure you can see the direction I am headed.  I will discuss these in Part II.  Future segments will be “Neuroplasticity and the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s” and “Neuropathic Ski Slopes to Happiness”.

I will be sharing *BRAIN SCANS of addicted brains, which-- after applying gospel principles -- become healthy brains, scientific proof that “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND”  (2 Timothy 1: 2).

But what if we already have problems— addictions, even?

 We find strength to keep the commandments through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Our minds can experience both spiritual and PHYSICAL healing by keeping the commandments of God.

This is VERY good news . . . for us, for our children, for the hastening of the work.   If you are a parent or work with youth, you won’t want to miss it. 

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