Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, after sharing the Beatitudes and encouraging His disciples to let their light shine, Jesus gave six examples of commandments or traditions which the people had interpreted too narrowly. In all six cases, He encouraged them to expand their perspective and live according to a higher law.
The first two are expansions on the sixth and the seventh commandments: “Thou shalt not kill,” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (See Exodus 20:13-14.)
With regard to the first, the Savior said:
Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, and it is also written before you, that thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of God;
But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment.3 Nephi 12:21-22, Matthew 5:21-22
And with regard the second, He said:
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.3 Nephi 12:27-28, Matthew 5:27-28
I’ve been thinking today about what these two expansions have in common. In both cases, He starts with an action that is undeniably wrong, which clearly harms someone. He then identifies an analogous decision in our thoughts, feelings, and desires. That’s why, in the Book of Mormon version of this sermon, He follows up the last statement with the following admonition:
Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.3 Nephi 12:29
Society constrains our actions in so many ways. We may fear punishment. We may want to avoid disappointing the people we love and respect. We may want to preserve our reputation. But our thoughts and feelings are a different matter entirely. They appear to be invisible to others. They seem to be private. No one can tell us what to think or how to feel. The only restraint that can govern them is self-restraint.
And that’s why the Savior’s admonition is so powerful. If you govern your actions, that might reasonably be attributed, at least in part, to your circumstances, your friends, and the cultural norms within which you live. But if you govern your thoughts and feelings—those portions of you that no one can see—then you have made a decision that uniquely belongs to you.
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.Proverbs 23:7
Today, I will intentionally govern my thoughts and my feelings. I will remember that the most accurate reflection of my true character is in my mind and in my heart.