~by Heather L.

Our son recently lost three teeth in three days! Those new gaps can be challenging, although so can trying to eat when they’re loose. 🙂

Mormon thoughts on repentance and personal progress

If you get a tooth knocked out accidentally or have one pulled before a new one is ready to fill its place, the dentist often puts in what is called a spacer. It holds the teeth on either side of the hole in place until that new tooth comes in.

And for other problems, there are braces and retainers to help move, correct, and hold teeth in place. These measures may involve pulling teeth and uncomfortable wire/diet adjustments.

All of these efforts take work and patience, and all of these situations require an adjustment period as you get used to the way your “new” mouth works and feels. But each correction is made with the goal of a more beautiful you in the future.

Looking at my son’s gap-filled grin got me thinking about how we deal with other “holes” in our lives.

The process of learning about and trying to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes finding there are things we need to “pull out” of our lives. Step by step, we strive to eliminate behaviors and habits that are not in harmony with the teachings of the Savior (anger, unkindness, addictive substances or behaviors, immorality, etc.). This enables us to better live the teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ of loving, forgiving, serving, obeying and learning.

As we are making these changes, though, there is a gap created in our lives—a space that needs a “spacer” to keep those old habits from returning, to overcome former desires, and to enable us put positive things in their place. And just as with fixing teeth there is an adjustment period as we get used to our new life.

For example, Elder Boyd K. Packer counseled:

If you can control your thoughts, you can overcome habits, even degrading personal habits. If you can learn to master them you will have a happy life.

This is what I would teach you. Choose… a favorite hymn [or song], one with words that are uplifting and music that is reverent, one that makes you feel something akin to inspiration. … Go over it in your mind carefully. Memorize it. Even though you have had no musical training, you can think through a hymn.

Now, use this hymn as the place for your thoughts to go. Make it your emergency channel. Whenever you find these [inappropriate thoughts] have slipped …onto the stage of your mind, put on this record, as it were.

As the music begins and as the words form in your thoughts, the unworthy ones will slip shamefully away. It will change the whole mood on the stage of your mind. Because it is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will disappear. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light.

Once you learn to clear the stage of your mind from unworthy thoughts, keep it busy with learning worthwhile things. Change your environment so that you have things about you that will inspire good and uplifting thoughts. Keep busy with things that are righteous. (“Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts”)

Filling the time and space around us with uplifting activities, art, music, movies, books, hard work, etc. can help us keep our minds, hearts and hands filled with positive instead of negative – important when we’re trying to make a life change!

When we’re trying to replace more physical things, doing good physical things can help, too.

Hands once used to holding a cigarette can be instead used to hold a crochet hook and make washcloths for people in need, for example. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and I spent hours one vacation crocheting washcloths for Humanitarian Services – it was an awesome feeling to complete even one washcloth (I think that’s all I did) and can imagine this could be meaningful for others as well.

Or how about putting those hands to work in family history research? A positive addiction! 🙂 Not only can one’s hands be busy, and one’s mind challenged, but one’s heart will be filled with love as well. And there can be help and encouragement of ancestors to strengthen resolve to leave old habits behind.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke of the need to stay away from the places, people, and things that tempt us and also talked of the importance of making new friends that will encourage us to stick to good habits. Taking daily walks with good friends can lift our spirits, busy our minds, and strengthen our bodies. It was amazing to me how uplifting a half-hour walk with my Visiting Teaching companion could be! We helped each other realize we weren’t alone in our desires to do better, and we always came away encouraged to face the day.

Regular exercise, service, scripture study, personal prayer, church attendance, and, when able, temple attendance — all of these things can help us fill the spaces in our lives to help the new practices become habits. As we seek the good, the Savior can change our hearts, and the old habits are forgotten. As we continue to do these things throughout our lives (and this is a life-long process!), we are better able to experience that “happy life” Elder Packer promised.

What are some favorite “spacers” that help fill “gaps” in your life with good?