Peter said that the Savior “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). What if he had said something slightly different: “he went about doing no evil”?
That’s true too, and it’s important for us to avoid sin, with God’s help — and when we fail at that, to remove it from our lives, also with God’s help. But it’s not enough simply to do no evil. We’re to do all the good that we can.
Something Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees in a different context illuminates this point. He’s speaking here of evil spirits – and metaphorically, at that – but this applies to evil tastes and habits too:
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43-45).
The key word is “empty.” If we simply try to remove the evil from our lives, we create a vacuum into which it can easily return. If instead we diligently fill our thoughts and time with good, we find that it’s easier to resist evil.
With all of our legitimate concerns about protecting ourselves and our families from all forms of evil, including toxic entertainments in music, on the printed page, and on screens of all sizes – we might find here a useful preventive lesson too.
Temptation will not go away simply because we wish it. But if we cultivate in ourselves and our families a discerning taste for what is good in music, books, art, theater, and broadcast entertainment, we and they will have less taste for the temptations which inevitably come.
In other words, the more we love and understand and seek what it is good, the less taste we have for evil.
Mormon said we’re not only to seek diligently to identify good and evil. We’re to pursue the good we discover. “Search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ” (Moroni 7:19, emphasis added).
Evil has far greater difficulty getting a foothold in the minds and schedules of men, women, youth, and children who are busy laying hold on good things.
In that spirit, consider these words from President Hinckley:
We can be entertained through the miracle of reading and exposure to the arts – they add to the blessings and fulfillment of living.
Enjoy music . . . the music of the masters, the music that has lived through the centuries, the music that has lifted people. If you do not have taste for it, listen to it thoughtfully. . . . The more often you [listen], the more beautiful will be the experience.
“When I was a boy . . . we were never forced to read [books], but they were placed where they were handy and where we could get at them whenever we wished. There were also . . . the Church magazines and . . . other good magazines. There were books of history and literature, books on technical subjects, dictionaries, a set of encyclopedias, and an atlas of the world. . . . I would not have you believe that we were great scholars. But we were exposed to great literature, great ideas from great thinkers, and the language of men and women who thought deeply and wrote beautifully. (See Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, pp. 170-71, 395-96.)
In the age of the Internet and the smart phone, the essentials have not changed. Only some of the media have. We can as easily use the World Wide Web for good as for evil; there is plenty of both to be found there. The same is true of our books, our stages, our home theaters, and our stereos.
In a time when some evils are more readily available than they have ever been, we ought to enjoy and be grateful for the fact that a vast array of good is more available too. We must simply want it more.