About the time this goes live, I will be reading this live. Hope there's exactly eight minutes and thirty-nine seconds left when I stand up. Otherwise I may have to walk to the front of the room reeeelly slowly.
taught his children that Adam fell so we might be and we are that we might have joy. Long before Lehi, Enoch
taught that, “Because . . . Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe.” On the surface, these teachings sound rather opposite. On the one hand, because of the Fall we might have joy. On the other hand, because of the Fall we are made partakers of misery and woe. Is Lehi trying to cheer us up? Is Enoch just a big downer? How can both these teachings be true?
Happily, both Enoch and Lehi explain this seeming contradiction.
said fourteen verses before we-might-have-joy that “it must needs be . . . there is an opposition in all things.” But why? Why do we need opposition? Because without it, “righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. . . . all things must needs be a compound in one” including, he goes on to point out, “happiness [and] misery”.
Enoch meanwhile gives us the same explanation God
gave Adam: “. . . when [thy children] begin to grow up,” said God, “sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.”
See how that works? Until sin has sullied us, we cannot know the joy of being clean!
As my friend Redoubt
once wrote, “[We] can’t just say that we’re here to have joy. That’s only half the equation. . . . Unhappiness is real, it breathes in our cities, it permeates our lives, and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, [we] can’t pretend it’s not there just because [we] don’t want it.”
I think it’s telling though that both of these scriptures that tell us what we’re supposed to do in our life, joy or misery, reference the Fall of Adam and Eve. They had it pretty chill there in Eden with fruit on the trees and comfy moss to nap in. But they couldn’t stay. They had to leave. As Eve
realized, “Were it not for [their] transgression [they] . . . never should have known good and evil, and the joy of [their] redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.”
Staying in paradise-slash-innocence—or even desiring a simple return to paradise-slash-innocence —is antithetical to our divine instructions.
Consider Joseph Smith languishing in a jail so small he can’t stand up. What comfort
is he given? “if the very jaws of hell . . . gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
From Redoubt again: “You might be born blind, not because you sinned, not because your parents sinned, but for no reason at all. It’s mortality. It’s not fair. It’s not roses and moonlight and happy songs and sweet wine. It’s life, and it sucks.”
Which is my roundabout way of saying Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy.
Keep in mind what God
told Moses, that his “work and [his] glory [is] to bring to pass [our] . . . immortality and eternal life”. That endgoal thinking is part of the joy equation. Mormon
says when we arrive at eternal life we will “dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom . . . in a state of happiness which hath no end.”
So now let’s return to Enoch
who, remember, is the one who told us we’re to spend our days in misery and woe. At the end of his life, he was living in the city of Zion where he “and all his people walked with God . . . [who] dwelt in [their] midst . . . and . . . God received [them] up into his own bosom”.
Which is the goal, yes? To return to God? “To dwell in the presence of God . . . in a state of happiness which hath no end”? We are that we might have joy and, if I’m understanding all this correctly, when that day of pure uninterrupted joy finally commences, it will be when we walk with God. When we walk with God. Plural. Like Zion did.
talked about this notion of saintly plurality a couple years ago in General Conference:
The miracle of unity is being granted to us as we pray and work for it in the Lord’s way. . . . God has promised that blessing [of unity] to His faithful Saints whatever their differences in background and whatever conflict rages around them. He was praying for us . . . when He asked His Father that we might be one [as he and his Father art one].
The reason that we pray and ask for that blessing is the same reason the Father is granting it. We know from experience that joy comes when we are blessed with unity. We yearn, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, for that joy which we once had with Him in the life before this one. . . .
[But] He cannot grant it to us as individuals. The joy of unity He wants so much to give us is not solitary. We must seek it and qualify for it with others. . . . God urges us to gather so that He can bless us. He wants us to gather into families. He has established classes, wards, and branches and commanded us to meet together often. In those gatherings, which God has designed for us, lies our great opportunity. We can pray and work for the unity that will bring us joy and multiply our power to serve. . . .
The Lord has given us guides to know what to do to receive the blessing and joy of ever-increasing unity. The Book of Mormon recounts a time of success . . . in the days of Alma. . . .
Everything Alma and his people were inspired to do was pointed at helping [them] choose to have their hearts changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That is the only way God can grant the blessing of being of one heart.
In Mosiah we read:
“And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church. . . .
“And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.
“. . . . And thus they became the children of God.”
The children of God.
Until we recognize both our identity as children of God and our potential as children of God, our quest for joy will be hindered. As it will be should we fail to recognize that every person sitting right here right now—and every person not ever here—is also a child of God with all the potential that implies. We were sent here to support each other, to share and spread the joys and miseries of life.
says that we “should consider . . . the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For . . . 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.” And King Benjamin is right. But we can’t misunderstand him and suppose that that state of never-ending happiness will arrive before we are faithful to the end and received into heaven to dwell with God. First things first, and this life is first. Remember, these words come from the same King Benjamin
who said we start out as “[enemies] to God . . . and will be, forever and ever, unless [we yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and . . . [become saints] through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become as children], . . . willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon” us. And I don’t know about you, but “inflict” doesn’t sound like it’s hinting at an inherently joyful process, end result notwithstanding.
But now we’re getting to useful stuff. Like how do help each other in this process? How does one child of God help another child of God make it through our miserable messed-up lives that we might have joy?
Maybe the first step is to remember that we’re not competing against each other. Nephi
asks “Hath [the Lord] commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? . . . Nay; but he hath given it free for all men. . . . [Hath] the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? . . . Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.”
writes that God “loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other.”
And so can we. We too can cheer on each other, support each other, love each other, find joy in each other’s joys just as we mourn with those who mourn. Life isn’t always pretty. It’s complicated and convoluted and confusing and much of the time it’s a big mess.
We are, as Enoch said, made partakers of misery and woe. But we are also, as Lehi said, that we might have joy.
All of us will suffer. Therefore all of us will have joy. And I, with Nephi, “pray the Father in the name of Christ that [we] may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day”, “in a state of happiness which hath no end.”
In the name of etc amen.