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The weekend before last was the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I mentioned before that I took notes about the commandments that I received, but I also took notes on doctrines.

Here are two big pieces of doctrine that I learned.

The Greatest Mission Is to Change Hearts

Brother Steven J. Lund told the story of his young son who came down with cancer. Even in pain, he passed the sacrament because “I see how people look at me when I pass the sacrament. I think it helps them.”

And then God and His Spirit whispered, “It helps them change their hearts, which is the greatest mission anyone can have in this life. That is why it is said, ‘How great shall be your joy with [one soul you have saved] in the kingdom of my Father!'” (D&C 18:15)

I am a proud man, and not in a good way. I have pride that stops me from learning from God and from doing what He would have me do. The biggest problem is that I struggle against a desire to be “important” in His Church, to hold callings where I am more visible and doing “more” of His work.

But the Spirit told me that I have it backwards. There is no calling that God places above doing what He wants because, in the end, all that matters is that we helped Him change hearts, including our own. And He gives that mission to all of us. Including me.

In other words, the greatest mission, which He gives to all of us, is to change hearts.

To Build Character, Start with Thoughts

The next thing I learned was actually an obvious secret: thoughts shape desire.

We are all told frome when we are young that:

Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap your character.
Sow a character, reap your destiny.

Elder Ulisses Soares reminded me of that, but he also added to it when he said that if bad thoughts are allowed to stay, they will shape our desires.

Then the Spirit told me that the corollary is true: if good thoughts are encouraged to stay, they will also shape my desires.

Thus, the real poem should go like this:

Sow a thought, reap a desire.
Sow a desire, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap your character.
Sow a character, reap your destiny.

This was the unveiling of a great secret for me, and I was joyous. Here was the doctrine I wanted more than anything!

Why is it what I wanted? Because it gives me a pattern to change my habits.

I have some bad habits. I check my phone too often, and I don’t have as much charity as I should. I have struggled for the longest time to figure out how to improve in those (and in other) ways because I can’t seem to get the desire to do so.

What Elder Soares and the Spirit taught me is that if I fill my mind with good thoughts, good desires will eventually come, at which time building good habits and good character will naturally, and easily, follow.

And it totally makes sense.

You see, when I was fighting depression, I read the book Feeling Good by David D. Burns, and in it, he suggested changing my thought habits. Instead of thinking negative thoughts, I needed to think positive thoughts.

Seven years later, and with my thought habits becoming more positive everyday, I can say without a doubt that he was right; my depression only existed because I fed it negative thoughts.

Likewise, any evil in me only exists if I feed it evil thoughts.

I have started small. As I lay in bed each night, waiting to fall asleep, I spend my thoughts thinking about charity. As time goes on, I should think about charity more and more until having charity for everyone starts to come naturally.

I can’t wait for that day.