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Joy and Spiritual Survival

Joy and Spiritual Survival

Thank you, President Monson. We love and sustain you. My dear brothers
and sisters, today I would like to discuss
a principle that is key to our spiritual survival. It is a principle
that will only become more important as the tragedies
and travesties around us increase. These are the latter
days, so none of us should be surprised when
we see prophecy fulfilled. A host of prophets, including
Isaiah, Paul, Nephi, and Mormon, foresaw that
perilous times would come, that in our day the whole
world would be in commotion, that men would “be lovers
of their own selves, . . . without natural affection, . .
. lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God,” and that many
would become servants of Satan who uphold the adversary’s work. Indeed, you and I “wrestle
. . . against the rulers of the darkness of this
world, [and] against spiritual wickedness in high places.” As conflicts between
nations escalate, as cowardly terrorists
prey on the innocent, and as corruption in everything
from business to government becomes increasingly
commonplace, what can help us? What can help each of us
with our personal struggles and with the rigorous challenge
of living in these latter days? The prophet Lehi
taught a principle for spiritual survival. First, consider
his circumstances: He had been persecuted for
preaching truth in Jerusalem and had been commanded by the
Lord to leave his possessions and flee with his family
into the wilderness. He had lived in a
tent and survived on what food could
be found on the way to an unknown
destination, and he had watched two of his
sons, Laman and Lemuel, rebel against the
teachings of the Lord and attack their
brothers Nephi and Sam. Clearly, Lehi knew opposition,
anxiety, heartache, pain, disappointment, and sorrow. Yet he declared boldly and
without reservation a principle as revealed by the Lord: “Men
are, that they might have joy.” Imagine! Of all the words
he could have used to describe the nature
and purpose of our lives here in mortality, he
chose the word joy! Life is filled with detours
and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had
times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are here to have joy? Yes! The answer is a resounding yes! But how is that possible? And what must we do to claim
the joy that Heavenly Father has in store for us? Eliza R. Snow, second
General President of the Relief Society,
offered a riveting answer. Because of Missouri’s
infamous extermination order issued at the onset of the
grueling winter of 1838, she and other Saints were
forced to flee the state that very winter. One evening, Eliza’s
family spent the night in a small log cabin
used by refugee Saints. Much of the chinking
between the logs had been extracted and
burned for firewood by those who preceded
them, so there were holes between the
logs large enough for a cat to crawl through. It was bitter cold, and
their food was frozen solid. That night some
80 people huddled inside that small cabin,
only 20 feet square. Most sat or stood all
night trying to keep warm. Outside, a group of
men spent the night gathered around a roaring
fire, with some singing songs and others roasting
frozen potatoes. Eliza recorded: “Not a complaint
was heard–all were cheerful, and judging from appearances,
strangers would have taken us to be pleasure excursionists
rather than a band of gubernatorial exiles.” Eliza’s report of that
exhausting, bone-chilling evening was
strikingly optimistic. She declared: “That
was a very merry night. None but saints can be happy
under every circumstance.” That’s it! Saints can be happy
under every circumstance. We can feel joy even while
having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year! My dear brothers and
sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the
circumstances of our lives and everything to do with
the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is
on God’s plan of salvation that President Monson just taught
us and Jesus’s gospel, we can feel joy regardless
of what is happening–or not happening–in our lives. Joy comes from and
because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime
when we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” And we can feel
it all year round. For Latter-day Saints,
Jesus Christ is joy! That is why our missionaries
leave their homes to preach His gospel. Their goal is not to increase
the number of Church members. Rather, our missionaries
teach and baptize to bring joy to the people of the world! Just as the Savior
offers peace that “passeth all understanding,”
He also offers an intensity, depth,
and breadth of joy that defy human logic
or mortal comprehension. For example, it doesn’t
seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers
with an incurable illness or when you lose your job or
when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the
joy the Savior offers. His joy is constant, assuring
us that our “afflictions shall be but a small moment”
and be consecrated to our gain. How, then, can we
claim that joy? We can start by “looking
unto Jesus the author and finisher of our
faith” “in every thought.” We can give thanks
for Him in our prayers and by keeping covenants we’ve
made with Him and our Heavenly Father. As our Savior becomes
more and more real to us, and as we plead for His
joy to be given to us, our joy will increase. Joy is powerful,
and focusing on joy brings God’s power
into our lives. As in all things, Jesus Christ
is our ultimate exemplar, “who for the joy that was set
before him endured the cross.” Think of that! In order for Him to endure the
most excruciating experience ever endured on earth,
our Savior focused on joy! And what was the joy
that was set before Him? Surely it included the
joy of cleansing, healing, and strengthening us; the joy of
paying for the sins of all who would repent; the joy of making
it possible for you and me to return home–clean
and worthy–to live with our Heavenly Parents
and families. If we focus on the joy that will
come to us or to those we love, what can we endure
that presently seems overwhelming,
painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible? One father in a spiritually
precarious situation focused on the joy of finally
being clean and right with the Lord–the joy of being
freed from guilt and shame–and the joy of having peace of mind. That focus gave him
the courage to confess to his wife and bishop
about his problem with pornography and his
subsequent infidelity. He is now doing everything
his bishop counsels him to do, striving with all
his heart to regain the trust of his dear wife. A young woman focused on the
joy of staying sexually pure to help her endure
the mocking of friends as she walked away from
a popular and provocative but spiritually
dangerous situation. A man who frequently
demeaned his wife and indulged in angry
outbursts at his children focused on the joy of being
worthy to have the Holy Ghost as his constant companion. That focus motivated
him to put off the natural man, to which
he had too often succumbed, and make needed changes. A dear colleague
recently told me of his past two decades
of heavy trials. He said, “I have learned
to suffer–with joy. My suffering was swallowed
up in the joy of Christ.” What will you and
I be able to endure as we focus on the joy
that is “set before” us? What repenting will
then be possible? What weakness will
become a strength? What chastening will
become a blessing? What disappointments,
even tragedies, will turn to our good? And what challenging
service to the Lord will we be able to give? As we diligently
focus on the Savior and then follow His
pattern of focusing on joy, we need to avoid those things
that can interrupt our joy. Remember Korihor,
the anti-Christ? Spewing falsehoods
about the Savior, Korihor went from
place to place until he was brought before a high
priest who asked him, “Why do ye go about perverting
the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people
that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings?” Anything that opposes
Christ or His doctrine will interrupt our joy. That includes the philosophies
of men, so abundant online and in the blogosphere, which
do exactly what Korihor did. If we look to the world
and follow its formulas for happiness, we
will never know joy. The unrighteous may
experience any number of emotions and sensations, but
they will never experience joy! Joy is a gift for the faithful. It is the gift that
comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous
life, as taught by Jesus Christ. He taught us how to have joy. When we choose Heavenly
Father to be our God and when we can feel
the Savior’s Atonement working in our lives, we
will be filled with joy. Every time we nurture
our spouse and guide our children, every
time we forgive someone or ask for their
forgiveness, we can feel joy. Every day that you and I
choose to live celestial laws, every day that we
keep our covenants and help others to do the
same, joy will be ours. Heed these words
of the Psalmist: “I have set the Lord
always before me: because he is at my right
hand, I shall not be moved. . . . In [His] presence
is fulness of joy.” As this principle is embedded in
our hearts, each and every day can be a day of
joy and gladness. I so testify in the sacred
name of Jesus Christ, amen.

18 thoughts on “Joy and Spiritual Survival”

  1. This talk was just what I needed to hear! I'm grateful for our living prophets and apostles!
    Btw… Does anyone know the name of the hymn the choir sings at the end?

  2. I love these words of wisdom from these humble and powerful men of God. Despite attacks from people around me, I am strengthened as I focus on Jesus Christ and on serving my fellow men.

  3. I love President Nelson so much! I really needed this talk, and I’m so thankful we have a Prophet to inspire and teach us God’s will and relay His care to us.

  4. What a relevant talk. Among other things he spoke of people in high places serving satan. The secret combinations of old are alive and serving the adversary well. President Nelson is an awesome man.

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