While Christmas is the season of joy, it does not stop there. Latter-day Saint youth can find joy in Christ all year round.
In January, youth all over the world will open a new international youth magazine called For the Strength of Youth. They will notice its new look and feel. The articles are shorter and more readable. It is filled with voices of young people from all over the globe.
I hope one thing the youth will notice is the tagline on the cover: “Finding Joy in Christ.”
Every month, that tagline can remind youth of that wonderful goal.
On one occasion, my wife and I exited a subway station in a large and crowded city. We saw representatives from a church standing near a nice display of their religious literature. I greeted them, but no one else even glanced in their direction. A few blocks later, we encountered a man waving a sign that said, “Hell is real. Don’t go there. Accept Jesus now!” I smiled at the man, but everyone else ignored him.
Our missionaries often get the same treatment. It is almost laughable to see the lengths to which some people go to avoid talking with a person wearing a plaque. People appear to have no interest in God, Jesus or religion. Nevertheless, they all desire a better life.
As sure as an inborn moral compass, there is an upward reach within us. Deep inside, people want something better for themselves and those they love. Immigrants and refugees move across the globe, and parents seek better jobs for themselves and better education for their children. People search for health and happiness. They all want joy.
The problem is that they typically blow off anyone who proposes that God and religion are a means to reaching their goals. They want a better life, but not God. They want happiness and joy, but not religion, not Christ. They have yet to connect the dots and realize that the only way they can truly satisfy their upward reaching is through God, Christ and the gospel. Even some members of the Church — especially the youth — have yet to connect the dots.
I once spoke at a large youth event in Portland, Oregon. The teens were asked to write questions on cards and turn them in. Later in the day, the presenters were given questions to answer. I will never forget the one I got: “If this is called the plan of happiness, then why am I so miserable? #FalseAdvertising.”
The young person who wrote that question is not the only one who has asked such a question when the realities of life have hit hard. Some face bullying and abuse. Others deal with physical, emotional and mental health issues. There are those who struggle because of the poor choices of those around them, while others face consequences of their own bad decisions. Low self-esteem is compounded by poor communication skills and inability to deal effectively with pressure and stress. Add weak spirituality to that, and soon we all end up wondering whether the plan of happiness is indeed false advertising.
I testified to those youth in Portland that it is not. Latter-day Saints are unique among Christians because we understand that God did not create the world with the goal for us all to live forever in the Garden of Eden.
Mortality was Plan A, not Plan B. The Atonement of Christ was not a last-ditch attempt to salvage the wreckage Adam and Eve had made of the world. It was planned from the beginning (see Mosiah 4:6). Mortality was meant to be a school — complete with hard teachers and difficult tests. God made suffering a required course in life, but growth had to be an elective.
God’s plan is called the plan of happiness not because everything is perfectly happy but because it is how we are happily perfected.
In 2 Nephi we read, “Men are, that they might have joy” (2:25). In the footnote to that verse we read, “Potential to become like Heavenly Father.”
Christ did not perform the Atonement to free us from suffering but to be able to be with us and teach us in our suffering — to make it count for something. Because He descended below all things, He can offer consolation and comfort during challenges, perspective and peace during trials, and divine assistance through it all.
So next time a young person in your life is tempted to think #FalseAdvertising, help him or her think to #ChooseChrist. Point that teen toward the new youth magazine where real help and direction will be given every month. Youth may think they don’t want a Church magazine but, deep down, they want a better life. They want happiness.
Point out the new tagline: “Finding Joy in Christ” and let this new magazine help them connect the dots.