One test of integrity is what you choose to do when no one is watching. So a powerful indication of our character is what we choose to think about.
We generally assume that our thoughts are private, that no one else knows what we’re thinking unless we tell them. Of course that may not be true. We may give away our thoughts with body language or facial expressions. Additionally, God knows what we are thinking, and He can reveal our thoughts to other people:
- “Hearken ye unto me, and know that by the help of the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth I can tell you concerning your thoughts, how that ye are beginning to labor in sin,” (Jacob 2:5).
- “Thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit” (Alma 12:3).
- “And it came to pass that Ammon, being filled with the Spirit of God, therefore he perceived the thoughts of the king” (Alma 18:16).
- “And [Jesus] said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts” (3 Nephi 28:6).
Shortly after telling Zeezrom that his thoughts were not secret, Alma shared an even more sobering truth: we will be judged according to our thoughts
For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence (Alma 12:14).
When King Benjamin’s people experienced a mighty change of heart, so that they had no more desire to do evil, he knew that they were still susceptible to temptation. He warned them to be careful:
If ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not (Mosiah 4:30).
Just like words and actions, we can commit thought-sins of omission by failing to think about things which we should. Captain Moroni condemned government leaders for sitting on their thrones “in a state of thoughtless stupor” while soldiers were giving their lives on the battlefield (Alma 60:7). Those leaders needed to engage their minds and begin to do real work on behalf of the people they served.
Ultimately, the time and energy we spend thinking about things changes us and influences who we are becoming:
For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:13).
So what should I think about?
- I should not harbor thoughts which I would be embarrassed to have other people know about.
- I should think about my duties and my responsibilities.
- I should think about things which will elevate my soul and bring me closer to God.
Today, I will be intentional about my thoughts. I will remember that they are not as private as I may think. And I will remember that my thoughts not only reveal my true character; they also shape it.