I just read the article on this site about when it is right to talk to one’s bishop about making out. And one thing that frustrates me, but I know is true, is the quote you used about adultery. I know I shouldn’t think about girls inappropriately, but I’m a growing boy and it happens. It gets really hard for me because I want to honor my father and mother, and my mother doesn’t want me to really go out with anyone before my mission. I want to stay as clean as I can, but I want someone to hold and care for. I’m so confused. Also I’ve got non-member friends who use a lot of unclean talk, which is tempting to me. What should I do? I feel uncomfortable talking to my parents about things like this because they are my parents and (like a typical kid) I think they won’t see anything my way. My Mormon friends have asked you questions and you’ve helped them a lot. Please help me. I know I could get some action…but part of me says get a little action, and the other part says get back. Which should I listen to?
Congratulations on staying as clean as you are. As you are well aware, we live in a very wicked world. As we are told in the Book of Mormon there are three areas of self control where we must overcome if we are to receive the blessings of the Father—
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)
But this much I can tell you, that 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).
The three areas of self control are thoughts, words and deeds. The easiest of these three areas of temptation to control, of course, is our deeds. Deeds often have noticeable and immediate physical consequences, both of which are deterrents to action. Words, however, flow freely and we often speak before we weigh the consequences of our words. Paul laid it on the line in these words—
For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:2-8).
So words are a little harder to control than deeds. But thoughts are yet another matter! Expressed thoughts, of course, are words. But unexpressed thoughts are known by no one except the thinker and the Lord—
And Ammon said: Yea, and he looketh down upon all the children of men; and he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart; for by his hand were they all created from the beginning (Alma 18:32).
Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart (D&C 6:16).
So the fact is that God does know what we think and our thoughts will also condemn us. However, we need to examine our thought process very carefully. You will recognize that there is a difference between seeing and looking, between hearing and listening, between smelling or tasting and savoring, between touching and feeling. The first of these pairs of senses is generated by the environment, the second is generated by the mind.. Living in the world our senses are susceptible to the environment. We can control that to some extent by where we choose to go and with whom we choose to associate, but unclean sensations from our environment can never be completely avoided. What to do when an unclean thought comes into our mind? Trying not to think of something bad will never work. Let me give you an example–get out your watch and mark the time. Now I want you to not think about an elephant for one minute. Go. You know what I’m talking about, that animal with the barrel-like legs, the long trunk, those large floppy ears and the rope-like tail. Is the minute up? What have you been thinking about? The fact is that we cannot think of two different things at the same time. Let’s do the experiment again. Look at your watch. Remember, you’re not to think about an elephant. Go. Now I want you to think about a lion–the king of the jungle, showing hungry fangs, yellow cat-like eyes, a tawny main, the long tail with a tuft at the end—. Now, have you been thinking about an elephant? No, you have been thinking about a lion. So, if we want not to think about something we simply need to think about something else. Therefore, let’s build a little library of thoughts to think in order to eliminate unclean thoughts. Here are some suggestions–memorize a favorite poem or two, or some uplifting scriptures, or the words to some of your favorite hymns. When an unclean thought comes along, let that be the trigger to recite the poem, sing the hymn, or quote the scripture. These uplifting thoughts will immediately remove the unclean thought from the stage of your mind, and as you contemplate the poem, the hymn or the scripture it will be uplifting to you and your understanding of the noble thought will become more profound.
Now, what about the other side of our senses–the looking, listening, savoring and feeling. All those thoughts are under your control, and are largely a reflection of who you are. If your mind runs to unclean thoughts without external stimulus, that is the time for character change. For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23.7). This continual process of ever improving the quality of our thoughts will inevitably result in the improvement in the quality of our words and our deeds, i.e., our character. This process may be a life long process–the earlier in our youth that it is started, the stronger ad more righteous a character we shall become.