Choosing joy

"But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Ne. 2:25-26.)

Joy is an important aspect of God's eternal plan for our mortal experience. The Prophet Joseph Smith said: "Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. . . .

"As God has designed our happiness . . . He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of His law and ordinances." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 255-56.)

Although it is in the Lord's plan that we have joy in our lives, we are not excused from preparing ourselves to receive it. Joy is not a state of being that is dropped into our laps with no effort on our part. We need to live our lives in such a way that we can receive joy.

One of the first steps to do this is to have a clear conscience. It is highly unlikely that a life filled with sin can also have room for joy. If joy is missing from our lives, we might need to go through the repentance process to remove stumbling blocks to our true happiness. The more closely we keep the Lord's commandments, the greater will be our joy.

Joy does not come to us unbidden; we must seek it, but in seeking, we need to know its true source. Just as we will not pluck oranges from an apple tree, we will not find joy in the vices of the world. We will be sorely disappointed if we think we can receive a fullness of joy by following the venues of the world, no matter how glamorous or enticing they might be.

Numerous people have discovered that many pleasures offered by the world are fleeting, that instant gratification does not necessarily lead to eternal satisfaction.

President David O. McKay taught: "Pleasure is not the purpose of man's existence. Joy is." (Gospel Ideals, p. 492.)

Consider these words from Brigham Young: "Where is happiness, real happiness? Nowhere but in God. By possessing the spirit of our holy religion, we are happy in the morning, we are happy at noon, we are happy in the evening; for the spirit of love and union is with us, and we rejoice in the spirit because it is of God, and we rejoice in God, for He is the giver of every good thing. Every Latter-day Saint who has experienced the love of God in his heart, after having received the remission of his sins, through baptism, and the laying on of hands, realizes that he is filled with joy, and happiness, and consolation. He may be in pain, in error, in poverty, or in prison, if necessity demands, still, he is joyful. This is our experience, and each and every Latter-day Saint can bear witness to it." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 236.)

We need to understand that a life in which there is joy is not necessarily a life devoid of pain, suffering and even sorrowful situations. We may surmise that having joy in our lives has as much to do with attitude as with circumstance.

Victor Frankl, who suffered the most terrible deprivation, humiliation and torture in the Nazi death camps, survived to write: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." (Man's Search for Meaning, p. 86.) In discovering this, Mr. Frankl found he could abide in serenity, peace, and even joy, in the most terrible conditions.

Latter-day Saints speak often about the freedom to choose. We have the capacity, and the right, to choose joy. The psalmist tells us, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Ps. 40:5.) Let us wake up and choose joy!

By focusing on the positive aspects of what is happening around, we are able to see and experience the joy that awaits us. Sometimes we are so focused on our own pain, anger, resentments and fears that we cannot see any joy in life.

Some unfortunate souls think that joy is a luxury, one of life's frills they cannot afford or do not deserve. But if we truly believe that "man is, that he might have joy," we will recognize that it is God who decided that joy is the very purpose for our existence.

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