Sunday, January 13, 2008

Men Are That They Might Have Fun

"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." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 255).

The scriptures are filled with teachings about happiness, cheerfulness, and rejoicing. The Lord's plan for His children is referred to as the "plan of happiness" (Alma 42:8,16). Alma makes it clear to his son that wickedness, since it is contrary to the plan of God, will never make us happy (Alma 41:10). Jacob tells us that "if there be no righteousness there be no happiness" (2 Ne. 2:13). King Benjamin encourages us to "consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending
happiness" (Mosiah 2:41).

But the scriptures are also filled with instructions on how to endure trials. The Lord told Joseph Smith to "be patient in afflictions, for thou
shalt have many" (Doc. & Cov. 24:8). Christ told His disciples of old that “these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matt. 24:8-9). Following the Lord doesn’t sound like a very happy, safe prospect.

Paul, when brought to defend himself before King Agrippa, proclaimed, “I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused” (Acts 26:2). Imagine that! He was happy to be on trial, because it gave him an opportunity to bear witness of Christ. Never mind the beatings and imprisonments, “In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Cor. 11:26-27), Paul rejoiced in the opportunity to bear witness of Christ, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Christ closed this dichotomy when he prophesied of impending tribulations, but comforted his disciples, saying, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulations: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Because Christ has overcome the world, we can find joy, even in our times of trial. Because of our unique perspective, we can be happy even when life is hard. As James said, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:10-11).

As Helaman described it, life is going to be hard, but if we’re built upon the rock of Christ, we cannot be overcome.

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).

The devil will send forth hail and storms and shafts in the whirlwind—we can be sure of that. But if we are built upon the rock of Christ, no power on earth or in hell can overcome us—we cannot fall. What a beautiful promise! We aren’t guaranteed that life will be fun or simple, but we do know that we can be happy and joyful, and because of our hope in Christ, we “can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven” (Moroni 7:3).

“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. 2:24-25).

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