Many of you learned the following way back in your Primary days: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (Articles of Faith 13). This is very much like Paul’s admonition to the Philippians: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
This advice to seek after and think on what is good is wonderful, and as Isaiah advised one way to do this is by shutting our eyes from seeing evil (Isaiah 33:16). This means to avoid evil and to keep it far from us. But there is something we need to beware of. Sometimes in our effort to avoid evil, we search it out so we can label it and then avoid it. We spend time making sure we know all the hidden meanings in words of songs so we can avoid that song. We make sure we know who the evil people are so we can avoid them and any person they have any contact with. In other words we get so obsessed with avoiding evil that all we are thinking about is evil.
But there is another way to shut our eyes to evil and avoid it. Obviously we avoid the blatantly evil things in life, but the things that are evil by association or because someone says there is a hidden meaning in the words or because there is some distant connection with evil can be avoided by us simply assigning good to it so that when we see or hear that thing we think of good.
This was brought home to me one day when some Jehovah Witnesses knocked on my door and were teaching me about the evils of Halloween. I knew Halloween had pagan beginnings. But in my own heart Halloween is about children, fun, giving treats, and love—none of which are pagan. In other words, we could all go through life making everything pagan and evil through some association. Or we can go through life making everything as righteous and good as possible and that is the best way to shut our eyes to evil.
As Elder Bruce R. McConkie said in General Conference of October 1973, “We must not center our attention on evil and wickedness. We must cease to find fault and look for good in government and in the world. We must take an affirmative, wholesome approach to all things.” That is one way we can seek after and think on good things.