Of Starfish and Destinies: Jeffery Bunker advises students to control their thoughts

Jeffery Bunker from student academic and advisement services gave the Tuesday, April 5, 2016 devotional on maintaining control of thoughts. (Natalie Bothwell)

Associate executive director of BYU student academic and advisement services Jeffery Bunker spoke on changing for the better by maintaining control of thoughts at the Tuesday, April 5, 2016 devotional. 

Bunker began his devotional by telling a story concerning a devotional that he had attended 36 years ago when he was a freshman at BYU. He explained that President Ezra Taft Benson and the Quorum of the Twelve spoke on following the prophet and keeping the commandments of God.

“The spirit was strong that day, and I was motivated by President Benson’s remarks,” Bunker said. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to follow his counsel to be a better follower of the prophets, and more faithful in keeping the commandments of God.'”

Bunker then proceeded to tell about what happened after he attended the devotional and said he had made a commitment to never make another mistake. He explained he had an urge to use the restroom shortly after he began to exit the Marriott center and said he was so focused on his goal to never make another mistake, that he made a mistake by walking into the ladies restroom. He realized that although his intentions were good, it was impossible to be free of mistake. 

He focused the rest of his devotional on helping students see the importance and effects of thoughts in their everyday lives. 

Our destiny, as grandiose and incomprehensible as it is to fully understand, begins with the tiniest of individual thoughts” Bunker said. 

Bunker also gave the analogy of a seashore. That our mind is a shore where starfish, debris and other things may wash up. He said it is up to individuals to determine what they will allow to wash up on their shores, which will in turn lead to the individual’s actions and habits.

“Thoughts must be consciously and carefully monitored and directed so the acts, habits and character that surely follow them are consistent with the commandments of God and lead to the destiny that is inherently ours,” Bunker said.  

To help students with controlling unwanted thoughts Bunker shared a few ideas that past Church leaders and others had suggested, such as thinking of a favorite hymn or pondering what the Savior has done. He suggested a pattern he devised that helps him keep virtuous thoughts. He called it the Five R’s:

  1. Recognize—when a thought is inappropriate, unworthy, or unwanted  
  2. Remove—the thought as soon as it is recognized
  3. Replace—the thought with something pure, positive or productive  
  4. Repent—immediately when necessary   
  5. Repeat—the process as often as required, for as long as required

Bunker then assured everyone that no matter what, “we can have our shores washed clean through the cleansing power of Christ’s Atonement.”

He concluded his remarks with his testimony and advised students to stay strong, listen to the Holy Spirit and “don’t give up.”

“Through constant effort and by the Grace of Christ, you may control your thoughts by removing inappropriate or unwanted ones and replacing them with thoughts that are virtuous, lovely or of good report,” Bunker said. “To do this, you must listen carefully to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and then follow those prompting with exactness.”

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