That They Might Have Joy
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
14 February 2017
Vice President of Administration
Brothers and Sisters, aloha.
Let me ask you a question. Did you wake up this morning in a great mood and ready to face this beautiful day or did you just want to roll oever, smash your alarm, and go back to sleep? Life is full of choices. How did you choose to start your day today?
Our first parents, Adam and Eve, remained in a state of innocence while they were in the Garden of Eden until they made a choice to partake of the fruit and were cast out. Lehi gave us additional insight into this choice when he taught us that, “...if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created... And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.1
Then Lehi taught that, “Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy.”2 I would like to focus today on this teaching that men are that thy might have joy. Notice that the Lord didn’t say we would have joy but specifically that we might have joy. That means we have some choices and decisions to make so that we have joy in our lives.
As Adam and Eve recognized the principle of having joy, they were filled with the Holy Ghost and “Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.”3
Elder Jack H. Goaslind taught that “Our yearnings for happiness were implanted in our hearts by Deity. They represent a kind of homesickness, for we have a residual memory of our premortal existence. They are also a foretaste of the fullness of joy that is promised to the faithful. We can expect with perfect faith that our Father will fulfill our innermost longings for joy.”4
In order to fulfill these yearnings for joy, we must each realize that we have a responsibility in bringing happiness and joy into our lives and into the lives of others. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be,” and Henri J.M. Nouwen stated, “It is important to become aware that at every moment of our life we have an opportunity to choose joy...it is in the choice that our true freedom lies.”
So did you make up your mind today to be happy? Each morning we can start the day by making a conscious choice to be happy. This is a choice the Lord wants and expects us to make each day. Happiness doesn’t always come without effort. We can’t sit around waiting for it to find us, we must choose to find and create happiness and joy!
Some spend their lives seeking happiness in many different forms of pleasure like amusement parks, a hike in nature, hobbies, sports, and now more than ever, on the internet, on social media, in computer games, and even in inappropriate web sites that tear down our spirits. Many seek for happiness by acquiring things of the world such as a big house, a fancy car, expensive clothing, the latest gaming system, the newest phone, or many other material possessions.
These temporary pleasures produce a short-term happiness that fades when the activity ends, the possessions wear out, you have conquered the latest game, or another new phone comes out. There is no true and lasting happiness in the things we possess. Happiness and joy come from who we are and who we become while we are here on this earth.
Now please understand that I am not saying all of these things are bad or do not have value. Indeed, spending time with family and friends engaged in good wholesome activities creates lasting friendships and memories that provide the foundation of happiness. It is upon this foundation that we continue to build a happiness that doesn’t fade but endures beyond this life. We build an eternal happiness which comes when our thoughts and actions are in complete harmony with the teachings of the gospel.
Let me share a few ways that we can build this eternal happiness.
A Chinese proverb states, “If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap. If you want happiness for a day – go fishing. If you want, happiness for a year – inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime – help someone else.”
King Benjamin taught us that when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God.5 Serving others is one of the ways we find joy and happiness in this life.
Christ said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”6 If you would find happiness and joy in this life and in the eternities, lose your life in the service to others.
One way of accomplishing this is to serve and help others on both sides of the veil by serving in the temple, either as a patron or as a temple worker. Elder Franklin D Richards stated, “As we do temple work, we develop a spiritual kinship with our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that brings us peace, happiness, and eternal joy.”7
The Lord taught us “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things – that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”8 One sure place to receive this revelation and knowledge and find this eternal happiness is in the temple engaged in temple service.
Another way to ensure our happiness is to learn to follow the promptings that we receive from the Lord through the Holy Ghost.
Before my mission, I attended Dixie College in St. George, Utah. I completed a year of school before and enjoyed the experience and the many friends I made while at the university. Following my mission, I was living at home with my parents and three of my younger sisters. I had a good job working in a uranium mill and I also worked as a substitute teacher for the school district.
One Thursday evening after returning from work, I told my mom that I needed to drive to St. George the next day, a trip of about 350 miles or 560 kilometers. She asked me why and I told her I wasn’t sure; maybe I needed to see my friends that had returned from their missions. Even though I was supposed to work on that Friday, I still felt strongly that I had to go.
I left early in the morning and arrived in St. George about noon. I met a couple of my friends who were getting ready to go to class. It was a performance group we all sang with prior to our missions so I knew the songs, and they invited me to join them which I did. Following the class, while walking across campus, my friend mentioned that it was the last day to register for classes for the spring semester. Again, I felt prompted to go to the registrar and I registered for school. There was an opening in the apartment where my friends were living so I had a place to live. The next morning, one of my friends and I made the 350 mile (560 kilometer) drive back to my home, loaded my things in the car and then drove another 6 hours back to St. George. We arrived in time to sing at the program with the performance group that night where I met this cute girl named Linda Williams. She was vibrant and bubbly and I was immediately attracted to her. I asked my friends who she was and they informed me that I shouldn’t waste my time because she had a missionary returning soon and she had made it very clear to everyone that she was waiting for him. I took heed of what I thought was wise council from my friends and I decided not to ask her out.
Over the next few weeks, I kept running into her around campus and each time I saw her, my desire to ask her on a date increased, but remembering the advice of my friends, I still didn’t do it. After about six weeks had passed, I finally decided that I didn’t care what my friends told me, I was going to ask her out.
So I started planning how I would ask her out. As she said, I wrote a series of poems describing different professors and friends around campus that we both kne. I put them in separate envelopes along with a few letters of my name. I put the first envelope on the windshield of her car where I knew she would find it. It took her three days to figure out who all the people were, find them, collect the envelopes, and then piece my name together. As I went to my car one day after my classes, I found a plate of brownies she had left with a note saying she would love to go out with me.
We had a lot of fun getting to know each other over the next 5½ weeks at which time, we went out on an unforgettable date that she described. The details of that date are a story for another day, but it should be noted that the date ended with a bouquet of twelve red roses and one white rose with a scroll attached to it asking her to marry me. We had been dating for 5½ weeks. As she said, I was ready and she was not, but three days later on the grounds of the St. George temple she said yes.
There'ss a lot more to this story but the important part for now is this; that was Linda’s last semester at Dixie College before graduating and moving on. She had a missionary coming home, and everyone, including their families, expected them to get married. Had I not followed the prompting I received that day to go to St. George or the prompting to register for school, I would not have met her and her last name would likely not have been Black today. Following that prompting brought eternal happiness into my life as we were sealed in the St. George Temple five months later for time and all eternity.
The story doesn't end there. About a year later, we were both working full time and I was trying to finish my school. Things were tight, but one day as I was talking with her uncle, who had recently retired from the United States Air Force, he suggested I look into the Air Force as a career and said they would help me with my education. I had never even considered joining the military but with his help, I was able to get into the computer programming career field I desired and I joined the Air Force. Financially, the Air Force helped pay for my school expenses and I was able to get a Bachelors and a Master’s degree. If I hadn’t followed the prompting to go to St. George, I wouldn’t have married Linda and wouldn’t have met her uncle and my career would likely have taken a different pathway.
One never knows when this type of story will become their own happy story. We all receive promptings every day. We are prompted to say a kind word to someone as we walk by, to knock on a neighbor’s door, to go to class a little early for some reason, to attend a certain activity, to contact someone we visit or home teach, to walk home a different way, to go eat at a specific time, and the list could go on. We never know the result of following these promptings. But if we do follow them, you can be certain that the impact will bring a positive result ending with happiness and joy.
Let me give you another example of someone else's life being changed because someone else followed a prompting. Remember when the Savior was walking among the crowd and suddenly stopped and asked his apostles, “Who touched me?” Peter and the other apostles reminded Him that He was in a large crowd and questioned why He would ask who touched Him. He replied, “Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.” The Savior was prompted to stop. The apostles didn’t understand why but imagine how it changed the life of this daughter of God when she heard Jesus say, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.”9
When we follow these seemingly little promptings, we inevitably find great joy, and our lives and the lives we touch can be changed forever.
Keeping the Commandments
Another way to find happiness was defined by the Prophet Joseph Smith when he taught that, “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.”10 If we are to have joy in our lives, our footsteps should always be found in these clearly defined paths.
King Benjamin invited his people 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.”11
The commandments are a true guide to finding happiness in this world and in the world to come. Christ told His disciples: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love. ...These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”12
We read about the state of the Nephites after Christ had visited them and organized His church in the land. The apostles taught them and performed many mighty miracles and the people lived in peace. The scriptures tell us that the people “did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God...and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”13
A peaceful and eternal happiness will come to each of us as we strive to keep the commandments and prayerfully seek help from the Lord in doing so. If we are to be happy, we must keep the commandments.
Repentance and Forgiveness
In fact, Alma taught us that “wickedness never was happiness.”14
On occasion, we make mistakes and we disobey a commandment. However, we have the capacity to repent of our sins and to experience the sweet joy of forgiveness.
President Marion G. Romney taught that, “Jesus Christ, our Savior, has the power to heal our spirits. Every person’s spirit is ill when it is burdened with sin. No son or daughter of God is ever completely happy until his spirit is healed by the power of the Spirit of God. When one receives forgiveness, his spirit is healed and he has peace of conscience. Thereafter his happiness increases as he strives to perfect himself by inculcating into his life the attributes of charity...”15
Christ gave us an example of the joy experienced through repentance in the parable of the lost sheep when the shepherd invited his friends to rejoice with him, for he had “found [his] sheep which was lost...Likewise,” Jesus explained, “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.”16 In another parable, a father rejoiced in the return of a prodigal son, explaining, “For this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”17
Each of these examples teach of the pain of being lost and the joy of returning. The Lord taught Adam and Eve, in order to know pleasure, they had to know pain. Some of the pain we experience in life comes from the adversity we encounter. We would not be living the Lord’s great plan of happiness if we did not encounter challenges and trials in our lives.
Overcoming Trials and Adversity
Elder Jack H. Goaslind taught that, “Adversity is also part of our mortal probation, experienced by everyone. It is different, however, from sin. While we can choose to avoid sin, we usually cannot choose whether we experience adversity. I am convinced if we are to have happiness in our hearts, we must learn how to preserve it, in our hearts, in the midst of trouble and trial. We can control our attitude toward adversity. Some people are defeated and embittered by it, while others triumph over it and cultivate godlike attributes in the midst of it.”18
Trials can have a tendency to diminish our happiness. They don’t generally seem like joyful experiences when we are in the midst of them. Satan tries to use the trials and adversity as a way of tearing us down and breaking our spirits so that we turn away from the Lord.
Wilhelm von Humboldt once said, “Our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves.”
Trials are what give us opportunity to prove to ourselves and to the Lord that we will do all things which He has commanded us to do. I believe that most of us are either in the midst of a trial, just overcoming a trial or facing the next great trial in our lives. It’s part of the plan.
If we didn’t have trials and decisions to make, we would be caught up in Lucifer’s plan which was to have all of us come to earth with no difficulties or trials and in the end, all return to our Heavenly Father. No choices. No opportunity to succeed or fail. No happiness and no joy!
Fortunately, we do have choices and we do have this time of life to be tested and to be tried. The question is what do we do when we face trials?
Nephi was persecuted by his brothers Laman and Lemuel on a regular basis. While crossing the great waters on the ship Nephi had constructed under the direction of the Lord, his brothers got angry with him and bound him to the mast of the ship. The sea was angry and the tempests were sore. The boat was about to be swallowed up by the sea. When Laman and Lemuel were finally convinced to let Nephi go free, do you recall what Nephi did? His wrists and ankles were swollen from being tied up tight for four days and he said, “...great was the soreness thereof. Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”19
Do we face our trials and tribulations with a thankful heart praising God all the day long or are we looking at our trails and asking, “Why me?”
President Gordon B. Hinckley’s mother, Ada Bitner Hinckley, often taught her children that “a happy attitude and smiling countenance could boost one over almost any misfortune and that every individual was responsible for his own happiness.”20
My wife and I traveled to Osorno Chile to pick up our son when he completed his mission. As we traveled around the mission with him, we took many pictures and the memory in our camera was getting full. So one evening we left the cottage where we were staying and went to an internet café so we could download the pictures onto a thumb drive. We were only gone a short time but when we returned, we found our cottage had been broken into and we had been robbed. We called the police and by the time they completed their investigation and let us go, it was about 3:00 int the morning. Because that cottage was a mess from the dusting for fingerprints and everything else the police had done, they moved us to a different cottage and we went to sleep but we had to wake up at 6:00 in the morning for a scheduled hike with a group to the top of an active volcano. Rather than sleep in, we chose to get up and take the hike and created a wonderful memory with our son. We never did get any of our items returned to us. My son could have been very upset because he had lost so many memories from his mission including his missionary bag containing his scriptures, but instead, he simply said that he hoped the robbers would read his scriptures and join the church.
What would have happened if we had just gotten angry at the situation and decided to just sleep through the hike the next morning? In that case, our trial would have taken control of our lives and we would have been miserable. Instead, we chose to be happy, to climb the volcano and we had a wonderful time with our son and the rest of the group.
President Gordon B. Hinckley often taught that, “Things work out. It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. ...If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.”21
This quote is now printed over the top of a picture that I took of the volcano in Chile that we climbed that day and it sits in my office as a reminder of how we can find joy even in the midst of trial and adversity if we choose to be happy.
Over the past eighteen months, in addition to the everyday trials and tribulations that our family encounters, we have had some interesting trials with health issues. My wife has been through a number of surgeries on her eyes and my son has broken both of his arms, at the same time! Despite these challenges, as you can see, my son still chose to smile through his adversity and my wife has been an example of how we can choose to be optimistic and happy in the midst of adversity. The trials have not diminished her hope in an eternity of happiness with her family.
Joel Osteen said, “You’re going to go through tough times – that’s life. But I say, 'nothing happens to you, it happens for you.'"
Towards the end of His life, the Savior spoke with His disciples about the trials that were coming. After explaining the adversity He would face, He said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”22
Through the Atonement
As we face the challenges and adversity and make mistakes in this great plan of happiness, we must realize that the Savior has overcome the world through His infinite atonement and that without that atonement, eternal happiness would not be possible.
Elder Dallin H. Oakes said, “despite all we can do, we cannot have a fulness of joy in this world or through our own efforts.23 Only in Christ can our joy be full. This is why the angel proclaimed: 'I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day … a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.'24 We are able to have a fulness of joy only when spirit and body are inseparably connected in the glorious resurrection to celestial glory.25 That joy, of course, comes only through the mercy of the Holy Messiah, whose resurrection broke the bands of death and whose atonement unlocks the reservoir of mercy by which we can be cleansed of our sins and come into the presence of God to receive the fulness of the Father...God’s mercy is the only source of the ultimate and eternal joy, which restores every loss, dries every tear, and erases every pain. Eternal joy transcends all suffering.”26
Elder Jack H. Goaslind said, “Striving for happiness is a long, hard journey with many challenges. It requires eternal vigilance to win the victory. You cannot succeed with sporadic little flashes of effort. Constant and valiant living is necessary... It requires that you make a deliberate decision to do good and then carry out your decision. Do it. Simply do it, and do it long enough that you experience success, no matter how hard it may seem. Your victory over self brings communion with God and results in happiness—lasting and eternal happiness.”27
President Uchtdorf has taught us that, “So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial." But, he said, "The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness. We do matter. We determine our happiness. You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.”28
So take charge, Brothers and Sisters. Don’t ask “why me?” Make this a life of happiness and joy for yourself and for those around you.
As President Thomas S. Monson has frequently taught us, “relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.”
Speaking of love, I recognize that today is Valentine’s Day. So I will close with these thoughts.
Husbands, love your wives with all your hearts. Wives, love your husbands. Parents, love your children. Children (which we all are), love, respect and honor your parents. Return to them the great love they have given to you throughout your life.
I thank my wonderful wife Linda, who for the past 35 years has been the source of joy and happiness in our family and especially in my life. I continue to pray that I can bring as much joy and happiness into her life as she brings into mine. That dozen roses (and I increase the single to a dozen white) will remind us of that day 36 years ago, when she said, "Yes." I love her with all my heart and am so glad that we will get to spend eternity together.
I am grateful for a loving Savior who atoned for us and made it possible for us to overcome trials. I’m grateful that He created a way for me to return to my Heavenly Father even though I make mistakes and need forgiveness. I’m grateful that I can know Him and continue to gain an understanding of the wonderful plan of happiness created by a loving Heavenly Father who wants us to return and enjoy eternal happiness as families, with Him forever. I bear testimony that He lives and wants us to be happy, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
 2 Nephi 2:22-23
 2 Nephi 2:25
 Moses 5: 10-12
 see Mosiah 2:17
 Luke 9:24
 Luke 8:45-48
 Mosiah 2:41
 John 15:10–11
 4 Nephi 1:12, 15-16
 Alma 41:10
 Luke 15:6-7
 Luke 15:32
 1 Nephi 18:15-16
 John 16:33
 See Doctrine and Covenants 101:36
 Luke 2:10–11