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The Living Room of Your Brain

Elder Boyd K. Packer once said, “Probably the greatest challenge to people of any age, particularly young people, and the most difficult thing you will face in mortal life is to learn to control your thoughts.”
Of all things in the world, our thoughts can often feel like the things we have the least control over. We can’t see them, we can’t touch them and they seem to frequently come in unasked and overstay their welcome, especially the ones we don’t like.
But Heavenly Father never intended for us to live as prisoners within our own minds, trapped in tornadoes of negativity we didn’t choose. In an April 2009 Ensign article, Bruce K. Fordham said, “We know that one of the ways Satan influences us to work against ourselves…is by promoting the idea that our thoughts control us rather than that we can control our thoughts. This, of course, is a great deception.”

We can control our thoughts! Heavenly Father guaranteed us our agency, and why wouldn’t that start at the genesis of our actions: our minds?

But how is this done? First, we can work on what thoughts we allow to stay, and which we remove. Dean L. Larsen, in a BYU devotional, told of a helpful analogy he learned from Elder Marion D. Hanks. Elder Hanks described two parts of the brain: an antechamber or foyer, and a “living room.” He told Larsen that “none of us really has complete power over the impulses, the fleeting thoughts, that come into that antechamber area,” but that also, “we have the power to usher out almost instantaneously those negative thoughts which come.” Then, once we have sorted out the unhelpful and unwelcome thoughts, we invite the positive, helpful ones into the living room to stay. Negativity and darkness can be asked to leave.

Larsen also spoke about being on the offensive against pervasive negative thoughts, a practice he called “constructive thinking.” As a mission president, he frequently drove long distances over Texas, resulting in a lot of time to think. Instead of allowing his mind to wander for long stretches of time, Larsen routinely practiced organizing talks, making connections between scriptural concepts. “In order to sustain constructive thinking,” he said, “it’s necessary for us to have something worthwhile to think about, to have in reserve…some items, some problems, some challenges, to which we can turn our minds.” Practicing constructive thinking in the mind’s forefront will leave no room for destructive thinking.

“In order to sustain constructive thinking,” he said, “it’s necessary for us to have something worthwhile to think about, to have in reserve…some items, some problems, some challenges, to which we can turn our minds.”

Finally, train the brain to want to communicate with heaven. Tina Peterson, a speaker at the Mormon Women Project Salon Event, said, “Your time with the word of the Lord is your personal Urium and Thummim. It is there that God will speak to you. Frequent the scriptures often enough that your brain craves that kind of input.” Heavenly Father speaks in love and helpful, constructive criticism, things we can all use more of in our minds.

So which thoughts will you allow to get comfortable in the living room of your brain, and which will you show the door? The choice, in truth, is yours.
By Melanie Kasper

By Melanie Kasper

liveJoy Founder and Life Coach