“Good Tidings of Great Joy”

    Shepherds at the Stable

    “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). The scriptures teach that we “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) at the prospect of coming to earth. The scriptures also teach that had our first parents, Adam and Eve, remained in the Garden of Eden they would not have known joy (2 Nephi 2:23). In this world our “joy is not full” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:36). Our joy will be full forever, if we have “endured the crosses of the world” (2 Nephi 9:18).

    Recently, I had a conversation with a friend, and we agreed that this mortal journey often feels like one long endurance test. What if there is no Bountiful after the wilderness? What if we are stuck on the prairie? What if we never make it to the promised valley? Can we still have faith, trust and hope? How do we still feel joy and rejoicing when faced with no hope for recovery? There are people who face these questions every day.

    Learning from Trials and Afflictions

    If there is anyone who is qualified to teach us about feeling joy in the midst of affliction, it is Peter. The Come, Follow Me lesson for the week of November 25-December 1 explains that in spite of suffering severe persecution, Peter counselled the Saints of his day to remember, “That the trial of your faith [would lead to] praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). He is an example of striving, struggling, changing, learning line upon line, progressing, humility, dedication, commitment, and becoming.

    Peter

    Peter’s mortal journey is most certainly an example of opposition in all things. His epistles speak of temptations, great trials, and suffering: ”Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy“ (1 Peter 4:12-13).

    He did not write these words from a position of hindsight—his trials were not yet over. He wrote from his experience. He also wrote about rejoicing, happiness, glory and exceeding joy. As he wrote these words, I expect he was very aware of his own prophesied martyrdom—“Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me” (2 Peter 1:14).

    Like Peter, Nephi and Lehi found themselves in prison. So many people in the scriptures are imprisoned. Can you imagine it? The sons of Mosiah were stoned (Alma 26:29); John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14:10). We may not be persecuted for our religious convictions like Peter, Nephi or Lehi, but we can find ourselves in prisons of a different kind. What symbolic prison walls surround you now?

    Can you put yourself in the place of these brave servants? Can you imagine standing in the midst of an earthquake as “the foundations of the prison” shake with such force that “immediately all the prison doors {are] opened” as it was for Paul and Silas? (Acts 16:26) Perhaps you can imagine an angel freeing you like Peter? (Acts 5:19)

     Our symbolic prison walls are very real, and like these faithful servants, we too can find escape. Nephi and Lehi were imprisoned, but the scriptures state, “they were filled with that joy that is unspeakable” (Helaman 5:44). Peter counselled all Saints to “rejoice with joy unspeakable” (1 Peter 1:8).

    Peter in Jerusalem

    Joy: A Spiritual Gift of Obedience

    Paul explains that one of the fruits of the Spirit is “joy” (Galatians 5:22). If joy a spiritual gift, then we can pray and earnestly seek for this gift (Doctrine and Covenants 46:8).

    Praying

    Elder David A. Bednar clarifies: “The Guide to the Scriptures describes joy as ‘a condition of great happiness [that results] from righteous living.’ Interestingly, our gospel perspective helps us to understand that joy is more than a fleeting feeling or emotion; rather, it is a spiritual gift and a state of being and becoming” (“That They Might Have Joy,” [Brigham Young University devotional, Dec. 4, 2018], speeches.byu.edu; italics added). Elder Bednar teaches that as I pray for joy, I also need to add obedience to the commandments and righteous choices.

    When we obey, the Lord promises us: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:13).

    Jesus Christ Brings Joy

    The Lord Jesus Christ is the person that causes happiness. As Paul explains, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11).

    Christus

    President Dallin H. Oaks explains: ”Joy is more than happiness. Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being. It comes from being complete and in harmony with our Creator and His eternal laws” (“Joy and Mercy,” Ensign, Nov. 1991).

    If I strive to choose the right each day, and seek the Spirit, then I shall be filled with the joy that comes from Jesus Christ. This is a reminder that faith is required always, and we can feel ultimate joy in spite of mortal circumstances. This perspective of joy is more lasting, deep, and heartfelt than the fleeting moments of happiness that mortal life often brings. Divine joy will lead to rejoicing despite current afflictions and suffering.

    This is the unspeakable joy spoken of by Peter, Nephi and Lehi. This joy is an underlying sense of peace that is a gift from our Father in Heaven. It is the presence of God in your life. Through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can feel an underlying sense of peace in our hearts.

    Finding the Fullness of Joy

    In Doctrine and Covenants 101:36 we read, “Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.”

    President Russell M. Nelson has taught: “Saints can be happy under every circumstance … When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy” (“Joy and Spiritual Survival,” Ensign, Nov. 2016, 82).

    shepherds with angel

    Joy is a feeling that grows when we have the anticipation or expectation of something great or wonderful. What can be more anticipated and wonderful than the Resurrection, or the Millennium, when we will be free from all sorrow? Days may be difficult now, but brighter days lay ahead.

    Those brighter days all rest in Jesus Christ and in His loving and atoning sacrifice. No wonder the angels proclaimed “I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). It was and is in Jesus Christ that we can place our anticipation and expectations of everything wonderful and great. He is our source of eternal, unspeakable, marvellous, miraculous joy everlasting.