In the battle of churches, everyone is promoting their church as the gate that stands between you and your salvation. Other say that you don’t need a church, you can just go to God himself. There are many other ideologies as well, so what is true and how can you know it?
I can only speak from my own experience on this and I’ll leave others to speak from theirs. One way I look at the message that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers is in the context of “terms”. By “terms” I mean a state of agreement, a concord, a mutual relationship between man and God. The purpose of the church is to expound the terms of certain conditions pertaining to this life and the hereafter.
Covenants and Joy
“Men are that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25) taught the prophet Lehi, and God desires us to have this joy now and forever. However, I think it is self-evident that outside of God’s covenants, people find great joy because joy can be found whenever true principles are lived. The birth of a child, the achievement of goals or learning something new can fill us with a lasting joy.
So how it this joy found through covenants? Do covenants imply a course of action or a pathway through life? How is joy obtained through this particular path?
Perhaps the only way to know is to walk the path ourselves.
What if we have walked the path but we find ourselves depressed, frustrated, laden with guilt, worried, fearful, angry and overcome with life around us? Where is the joy that God has promised us? What does God mean by “joy”?
In the verse “Men are that they might have joy”, maybe the word “might” can teach us something. Might can mean “may or may not” but it can also mean “strength or power”. What strength or power is being conveyed and where does this strength originate? Joy seems to be a conditional principle, but then again, so are covenants.
If we find ourselves joyless, perhaps we should examine why that is and what we are basing our joy in. Maybe the path to joy requires us to become something different by making it through and rising above things that are the antithesis of joy. Maybe a complete joy as promised by God through his covenants can only be known this way. Maybe the way is personalized to each of us and our own situations.
Consider Jesus Christ; was he joyful there, hanging from a cross, freshly beaten and abused, bleeding, with metal spikes driven through his hands, wrists and feet? What does that say about him? What does that say about us? What does that say about joy?
At church we often recite that scripture, “Men are that they might have joy,.” Members of the church use it a measure of how they are doing in life, how they are learning to be happy, something they should seek. It’s kind of an elusive thing in our constant battles of life, to find happiness amidst our problems.It’s almost a condemnation of us if we aren’t happy all the time; when we don’t feel happy we somehow feel we have failed in life. Almost as if something is wrong with us if we are not happy.
What of those who have depression and chemical imbalances that make is hard to find happiness, as per everyone’s definition of being an upbeat person?
Jesus was known as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. And yet I have to believe that he had joy. I don’t know that he was happy in the sense of being jolly and upbeat about everything.
I think happiness has to do with outward circumstances and how we react to them. Whereas joy has to do with something deeper and more abiding.
People tend to believe that joy is the same thing as happiness.
I can be happy when I am with my family. Eating an ice cream cone can make me feel happy. Doing something I enjoy can bring a sense of happiness. Loving and serving others can bring a feeling of happiness. Even getting one’s own way can make one feel happy. Being selfish makes some happy because they are oblivious of others’ feelings.
Happiness and joy, I believe are similar, but joy, I feel, is something
deeper, something more intense.
You know how you read the scriptures that talk about some prophet’s soul being full of joy because of someone repenting, or saying their joy is full because of the turning away from sin? I look at happiness as being a cake, but joy as being the frosting on the cake. Joy is ever so much more than
a feeling of happiness.
I believe joy is a deeper state of being, a deep soul thing, not something that we can acquire simply by doing pleasurable activities or seeking self aggrandizement.
I believe joy has to do with a deep knowing we are in accordance with God’s will and precepts. Joy is something that arises from a abiding sense of knowing who we are and whose we are. No matter the circumstances around us that may depress us, I feel we can still have joy because we know that we are doing our best and we feel that God is with us.
Joy is, I think, is more intense than happiness. It is the overpowering sense of knowing God loves us and approves of us.
True joy, I feel, comes from being cleansed from sin and knowing we are pure before the Lord. Until that happens, or until we feel that from time to time as we progress on our journey through life, I don’t think we know true joy.
I know I feel what I believe is joy when I see my children and grandchildren living righteous lives. When I sat at a grandchild’s baptism and had our whole beautiful family gathered around us, I felt tears of joy that I was in this family.
I felt joy when I read my missionary son and daughter’s
letters telling of the impact the gospel had on people’s lives. I felt a small part in their joy because even though I was not the missionary, I felt I had some small part in the missionary experience because I had raised my son and my daughter, who were now worthy servants of the Lord having an impact on others’ lives, for the better.
I believe that is the design of our existence–to learn how to find the deep joy of knowing God’s will and doing it. The greatest joy is becoming clean of sins and purified before God.
My sense of what joy is is something that kind of defies words.
Great thoughts! I agree that joy, in God’s eyes, is something much deeper than happiness. Perhaps in our pursuit of happiness we miss out on true joy.
What is happiness?
Is happiness based on circumstances where joy is based on awareness of eternal truths in the grand scheme?
Like colors, sounds, tastes and feelings, eternal truths are better experienced that described imperfectly in words.