In the day that the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam and bore record of the Son, Adam learned “that as [he had] fallen [he may] be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will. And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled.” He exclaimed: “Blessed be the name of God, for...in this life I shall have joy!” (Moses 5:9-10).
Adam was determined that in this life, he would have joy. Adam and Eve introduced our freedom of choice into the world, enabling themselves and all of us to choose a pattern of life that would lead to joy. Their life was not easy. They endured the most exigent circumstances, laboring “in the sweat of [their] face[s]” (Moses 4:25) for their daily bread and raising children the best they knew how. Despite their best efforts, they lost one of their sons at the hand of another. But yet they had joy, as they made it their life’s effort to obtain and maintain it. They understood a principle that would later be emphasized by Marion G. Romney: “The fruits of the gospel are the only objectives worthy of life’s full efforts” (Marion G. Romney - General Conference Oct. 1949).
Everyday, seemingly small choices can have a great impact on the joy we experience in this life. When Christ visited the Americas, on an occasion when he completed delivering the address he had prepared for the day and was preparing to leave until the morrow, "he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and behold they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them" (3 Nephi 17:5). He had a choice to make. He could continue with his current plans—after all, he's a busy guy with a universe to keep in order—or he could stay a little longer with them.
As it turned out, Jesus was not so busy that he could not stay a while longer, and what ensued is what must be one of the Savior’s most treasured moments of His ministry on earth. He healed their sick, prayed for them in words that cannot be uttered, blessed the little children and called down angels to minister to them. In the midst of all that, Jesus declared, “now behold, my joy is full” (3 Nephi 17:20), and “so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome” (3 Nephi 17:18).
Can you even begin to imagine that scene? Could you fathom what joy the multitude felt? A magnitude of joy so beyond the capacity of their mortal frames to contain that they were overcome? A magnitude of joy so great that led Christ himself, “even God, the greatest of all” (D&C 19:18) to declare that his joy was full?
What would we give to experience such joy if even for a moment? What would we give to be able to grant such joy unto others?
If these are gifts that we seek, then we should count ourselves blessed, because we are in the right place. The gospel provides a proven formula that we can follow to obtain them. King Benjamin instructed that we “should 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 neverending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (Mosiah 2:41).
I found this counsel most helpful when I was a teenager. When I was eighteen years old, I found myself looking for happiness. I was attending the University of Wisconsin - Madison. While I was there, I watched as most everyone around me got involved in heavy partying. I’d often hang out with friends, but go back to my dorm early as the night devolved into drunkenness. I then wasted time playing video games or watching TV, consoling myself with the idea that it was better than partying. I had straight A’s, and attended most Sunday church meetings. I felt that I was responsible and making mostly good decisions, but I did not quite feel as happy as I thought I should.
I began to do as King Benjamin directed, “to consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.” I looked around me at the lives of those that had gone before me that I considered to be happy to see if I could find some commonality among them, some steps that I could take to achieve the same end. I noticed a few things. First of all, I noticed that those that I perceived to be happiest were invariably members of the church. They were married in the temple and had children that they were raising or had raised. Most of the men had served a full time mission. I noticed that it did not seem to matter how successful these happiest people had been in temporal pursuits. Some were well off, while others were staving off bankruptcy. It did seem to matter, however, how much they dedicated their life’s efforts to living the gospel and serving in it.
I knew at the time that I did not have all the answers, but I felt strongly that I had concocted a formula for happiness that was worth trying. As Alma described, I had little more than a “desire to believe,” but I “let [that] desire work in [me]” (Alma 32:27). I began to get my life in order to serve a mission, and I have never looked back. There are times that I stand still with a grateful heart in awe and appreciation for the good that has come into my life since then. That fledgling testimony that I started with has taken root in me, and I have tasted of the fruit thereof, and the “fruit [is] desirable to make one happy,...yea it [fills] my soul with exceedingly great joy” (1 Nephi 8:10-12). The joyous fruit of the gospel is the only objective worthy of life’s full efforts.
Jacob and Isaiah counsel, “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness” (2 Nephi 9:51). Let us continually be reminded that, if our goal is to have joy, which truly is the end of our creation, then let our life’s efforts be spent in pursuit of it. Recall Christ’s words, that “in [the] world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full” (D&C 101:36). If ever we find ourselves spending money for that which is of no worth or our labor for that which cannot satisfy, then let us cut our losses that we may be at liberty to reinvest into that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted: those joyous fruits of the gospel.
We all have a lot of demands on our time. I know that I am not alone in saying that as a father, I am often troubled by wanting to provide more for my family. I feel confident that if I would put in more hours at work, I would climb the corporate ladder more quickly and increase our household income. However, to do so, I’d have to sacrifice in other areas as a husband and father. For example, it might become difficult to find time for a family home evening lesson or activity, or we might be unsuccessful scheduling with our home teachers. Together with my wife, Elisabeth, rather than try to accelerate the increase of my take home pay, we try to make do with less. If you’ve ever visited our home, you’ve no doubt seen our comically small $100 Ikea couch. I’ll always remember when Phil and Connor were our home teachers. When Phil would sit on that couch his knees were about level with his nose. But the advantage of having a small couch is that there is more room to wrestle with the kids on the floor, and I can be home to do it. That, I think, brings me more joy than a nice couch would.
It can be hard to give up our favorite activities or pursuits—whether they be good or not—for something better. At times, I can feel and hear the counsel of God instructing me to reprioritize and give up a bit more for something better. As I near the tipping point to give in to those promptings and begin to mourn the loss of whatever it is that I might have to give up, I recall the words of our Savior, “the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56). That declaration is so powerful to me. The Savior would have us know that what He asks is in no way intended to destroy our lives or what measure of happiness we enjoy at present, but quite the opposite, to save our lives and add joy unto them, even a joy beyond the capacity of our mortal frames to contain.
It is my prayer that we may feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, that our souls may delight in the joyous fruits of the gospel.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.