Monday, January 6, 2014

Have we not great reason to rejoice?

I remember very clearly an experience that I had near the beginning of my mission. We were riding the bus back to our apartment from Atlantic City, and I was really upset. I was frustrated, angry, and becoming discouraged. While I was sitting on the bus, wallowing in my misery, a very clear question came into my mind: "Why are you unhappy?" Due to the mood that I was in, I felt more than prepared to list off a slew of reasons to justify my attitude. However, as I began to ponder on that question, I couldn't create ANY reasonable answer to rationalize my feelings. I was in shock! Soon my feelings of discontent started to melt away as I began to realize all of the reasons that I had to be happy; all of the blessings, miracles, and tender mercies that the Lord had, was, and would continue to bless me with. It was a miraculous display of Heavenly Father's love for me and greatly impacted the way I view happiness and the sources of happiness.

We can find similar examples in the scriptures. While Ammon and his brethren were serving among the Lamanites they were "cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon [their] cheeks... stone, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison" (Alma 26:29). Yet, even with all these trials, even though they had "suffered all manner of afflictions," Ammon still found happiness (Alma 26:30). Despite all these things, he asked his brethren, "have we not great reason to rejoice?" (Alma 26:13). He goes on the glory in the Lord and is overcome because his joy is so great.

We can learn too from Nephi. After the death of his father Nephi also found himself "in the valley of sorrow" and realized that his happiness came from righteous living (2 Ne. 4:26). As he "did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things," he "lived after the manner of happiness" (2 Ne. 5:10, 27). Nephi recognized as well that obedience to the Lord brings happiness.

Just as Ammon and Nephi, we can find true joy, true happiness, through obedience to the restored gospel. When we are living righteously, we can wonder like Ammon, "have we not great reason to rejoice?" Likewise, breaking the commandments can cause our souls to grieve because of our iniquities (see 2 Ne. 4:17). Since "wickedness never was happiness," conversely righteousness has always been happiness (Alma 41:10). I know that as we keep the commandments, as we do everything we can to live the gospel, that God will bless us with the ability to find the fullest joy in this life.

That doesn't mean that this life will be easy, we were sent here to be tested, to learn, and to grow. However, with God hope is not lost. Through Christ life cannot only be fulfilling, it can be joyous.

"Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever." (Alma 26:16)