Think, Brethren, Think!

Brigham Young has many wonderful tidbits scattered throughout his years as prophet. A friend pointed out the following snippet:

[T]hink, brethren, think, but do not think so far that you cannot think back again…

Now that is simply a beautiful quote. What does it mean? For the sake of completeness let me give you Brigham’s explanation:

In the eastern country there was a man who used to go crazy, at times, and then come to his senses again. One of his neighbors asked him what made him go crazy; he replied, “I get to thinking, and thinking, until finally I think so far that I am not always able to think back again.” Can you think too much for the spirit which is put in the tabernacle? You can, and this is a subject which I wish the brethren instructed upon, and the people to understand. The spirit is the intelligent part of man, and is intimately connected with the tabernacle. Let this intelligent part labor to excess, and it will eventually overcome the tabernacle, the equilibrium will be destroyed, and the whole organization deranged. Many people have deranged themselves by thinking too much.

The thinking part is the immortal or invisible portion, and it is that which performs the mental labor; then the tabernacle, which is formed and organized for that express purpose, brings about or effects the result of that mental labor. Let the body work with the mind, and let them both labor fairly together, and, with but few exceptions, you will have a strong-minded, athletic individual, powerful both physically and mentally.

When you find the thinking faculty perfectly active, in a healthy person, it should put the physical organization into active operation, and the result of the reflection is carried out, and the object is accomplished. In such a person you will see mental and physical health and strength combined, in their perfection. We have the best opportunity afforded any people to cultivate these properties of man.

So we should be careful thinkers. But don’t get so busy thinking that you forget to do your home teaching.

22 comments for “Think, Brethren, Think!

  1. Craig Atkinson
    June 14, 2005 at 10:59 am

    I think we have the opposite problem today, we don’t think enough.

  2. Mark B.
    June 14, 2005 at 11:08 am

    Or your plowing or sowing or reaping or milking or building or wood chopping or . . . .

    I’m not sure that home teaching satisfies the intention of Brother Brigham (I’d be interested in seeing the rest of the sermon). While we surely should do our home teaching, it sounds much more as if he was speaking of physical labor, something sadly missing from most of our sedentary lives, and something which, just like hanging, has a way of wonderfully concentrating the mind. As Brother Brigham said, you’ll “have a strong-minded, athletic individual, powerful both physically and mentally.”

  3. June 14, 2005 at 11:38 am


    You don’t chop wood for your home teachees?

    Here is the citation:

    JD, Vol 3.
    A Discourse by President Brigham Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, March 16, 1856.

  4. June 14, 2005 at 11:43 am

    Brigham’s comments sound to me like he might be describing illnesses like obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’m not discounting the practical advice here. I just wonder to what degree these kinds of statements were based on interaction with people having illnesses, the basis for which we are only beginning to understand. In other words, maybe the man wasn’t ill because he thought too much–his thinking too much was a symptom of his illness.

    Well, anyway it is is kind of a catchy quote, and I think there is wisdom to it on its face.

  5. Daylan Darby
    June 14, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    I think I thought a thunk!

    “Think, brethren, think, but do not think so far that you cannot think back again”, to me, is nonsensical. I hate phrases like these because 1) There is usually an anti-phrase, expressed by the same (or another) prophet, that contridicts it. 2) Phrases like this are occasionally taken out of context and used (unrighteously) to silence others.

  6. bboy-mike
    June 14, 2005 at 12:56 pm

    I happen to think that when the prophet has spoken, the thinking has been done.

    Just kidding. I find that morally repugnant, but I think Craig was right that the problem today is not too much thought; it is the utter lack of thought. And that extends to all parts of our lives, not just our religious part.

  7. Mark B.
    June 14, 2005 at 1:33 pm


    Not too many wood-burning stoves here in Brooklyn. Thanks for the reference.

    Craig and bboy,

    If you’re right about our not thinking enough these days, it is certainly coupled with our not engaging in enough physical work. I guess we’re losers on all counts.

  8. Shawn Bailey
    June 14, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    This brings to mind a memorable Garrison Keillor line: “Intelligence is like an all-terrain vehicle: it doesn’t keep you from getting lost, it permits you to get lost in more remote places.” Or something like that.

  9. greenfrog
    June 14, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    Many people have deranged themselves by thinking too much.

    My favorite part of that snippet.

  10. costanza
    June 14, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    I prefer Alexander Pope’s famous admonition:
    “A little learning is a dangerous thing, Drink deeply or taste not the Pierian Spring; Their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”

  11. June 14, 2005 at 5:31 pm

    “Many people have deranged themselves by thinking too much.”

    Amen, amen, and amen. Get off the speculation train.

  12. June 14, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    quit spamming, you BoH nerds.

  13. June 14, 2005 at 8:26 pm

    I’m all for lobotomies. What do we actually need our god given capcity to reason for anyway? I mean, thinking is highly overrated, and it can lead us down dangerous paths, so let’s just get it over with and get all that junk out now. Just take this post for example: No to higher education!

    Amen, and amen. and amen.

  14. June 14, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    This sounds like a veiled bit of satire and warning towards Orson Pratt and people listening to him too much.

  15. Chance Richardson
    June 14, 2005 at 10:17 pm

    Sorry to get serious, but Aaron has a point (place BoH propaganda link here). I have witnessed members, strong members, thinking themselves into inactivity. They talk themselves out of simple Gospel truths, relying on and trusting in cold logic, and forgetting how to feel the warmth of the Spirit. I realize Brother Brigham didn’t say it, but I think that was one point he was trying to make, as the body is the place we initially feel the Spirit. Look at the translation of the BoM, it was guided by just a short prayer and a burning in the bosom, not a 40 day fast. It’s ok to look for an answer with the mind, but you must also consult the body at some point in your search for that answer.

  16. Harold B. Curtis
    June 14, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    If I should think
    But fail to drink
    From wisdoms lucid lake

    The thought I think
    May surely shrink
    And ill decisions make

    For all our thoughts
    By virtue taught
    Achieve a destined port

    But ill conceived
    Oft do deceive
    And cut the thinking short

    For as one drinks
    He surely thinks
    His wisdom heaven sent

    Make sure the draught
    Divinely got
    Will save us in the end

    Harold B. Curtis

  17. June 14, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    This quote made me think of how much time I spend sitting in front of the computer, and how I don’t spend enough time helping others. It also made me a guy I met on my misison who was reading the bible, went nuts and starting tearing it into bits and trying to eat it. Talk about feasting on the word….His brother joined the church.
    I think this quote could be misused as an excuse to be lazy and not face the challenges to our faith, but I also see the wisdom in it.

  18. Mark B.
    June 15, 2005 at 10:39 am

    I think it interesting that there has been almost no attention paid to what seems the central point of Brigham’s statement: that body and mind must work together, and that we can avoid the problem of “thinking too much” if we engage in more physical work.

    The Saints in Brigham’s day had better opportunities to work, since “building the Kingdom” meant in many cases literally building, whether homes, meetinghouses, relief society buildings, tabernacles, temples, dams and irrigation ditches, barns, sheds, schools, roads, etc. etc. We need to look harder in our day for such opportunities, and spend our time in doing that kind of work, and then the dangers Bro. Brigham warned against can be averted.

  19. June 15, 2005 at 10:54 am

    I agree with Mark. Physical labor, such as buidling something or gardening, can be a great way to see and appreciate things in a different light.

  20. Lorin
    June 18, 2005 at 3:57 am

    This thread brings back memories of my youth. I was studying physics at the UofU and Saturdays I worked for my father who was builing homes out in the Murray area. I had three brothers. My oldest was taught the business side of home building, and he worked at that. My next brother was taught to be a carpenter, and he worked at that. My youngest brother was taught to do electrical work and he did the house wiring. I was given the task every Saturday of cleaning up and hauling away all the trash. There is nothing so frustrating as trying to haul away a mountain of dirt, plaster, bricks, rocks, wood remnants, shingles, wire, etc. etc. all mixed in together. One cannot even insert a shovel into a pile like that. I asked my father repeatedly why he taught all his other sons a trade and had me do the frustrating, backbreaking cleanup work. He repeated every time I asked, “Because I want to help you get the cobwebs out of your head.” But I leaned to work, and I appreciated the opportunity to pay my own way.
    Summers my father gave me a different opportunity. He also had a large farm used to raise alfalfa and 100 holstien heffers that were going to be part of a dairy. So summers, I plowed, sowed, cut alfalfa, raked, baled, hauled bales, attended to the heffers and irrigated. It was exhausting, but I loved that work. Plowing, slowly turning the warm earth over on a crispy autumn day can be almost a spiritual experience. Irrigating through the night and watching the new day dawn, watch it wash out the stars and bring the fields to life, can be a time of quiet contemplation about what yo want to make of life. Getting to know the animals individually was also enjoyable. They have their own personalities.
    So yes, I think it was a good idea to have physical work, to have a diversion from intellectual activities, to clear out the cobwebs, to have an opportunity for physical work, and to develop a love for a completely different way of life not involving differential equations and quantum effects.
    This father’s day, these are some of the things I am remembering and appreciating about what my father gave to me.

  21. manaen
    June 18, 2005 at 1:41 pm

    I believe the last paragraph cited summarizes Pres. Young’s point: “When you find the thinking faculty perfectly active, in a healthy person, it should put the physical organization into active operation, and the result of the reflection is carried out, and the object is accomplished. In such a person you will see mental and physical health and strength combined, in their perfection.” This echoes the creation: first a plan/thought, then the implementation which was good/perfect.

    Adapting verses from James 2:
    17. Even so THINKING, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
    18. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast THINKING, and I have works: shew me thy THINKING without thy works, and I will shew thee my THINKING by my works.
    22. Seest thou how THINKING wrought with his works, and by works was THINKING made perfect?
    26. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so THINKING without works is dead also.

    Putting thinking into action improves thinking by testing it and enabling us to learn from the results how to correct our thoughts and how to think better in the future.

    The benefit that Pres. Young describes from unifying thinking and action is similar to the reason for physical ordinances: the physical action presses the reality into us and deepens our understanding and awareness.

    (BTW, substituting MONEY, FAME, EDUCATION, or any other support people use for their pride in place of PRIESTHOOD in D&C 121:34-46 is enlightening.)

  22. Jack
    June 18, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    Nice thoughts everyone.

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