An idea has been floating around in my head for the last few weeks, and an article I just read from this months Ensign (published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) prompted me to write some of my feelings down. Please understand that these are my opinions, not gospel or doctrine in any way.
As Pioneer Day comes up here in Utah, many people become very focused on the Mormon pioneers, as right they should. Stories are exchanged in church, in special events, all pertaining to the sacrifices of those wonderful people. But after reading/listening/watching the umpteenth story about how a great-great-great Aunt left all her things behind, and traveled west with nothing but her clothes on her back, I'm beginning to see a trend here. Sacrifice is everything, joy is nothing in these stories. We, as member's of the LDS faith, put so much emphasis in sacrifice, in pain and struggle, trials and grief, that I feel we forget what the main purpose of our time on this earth is about. Yes, it is a proving ground, but it is also a place for joy.
'Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.' 2 Nephi 2:25
The whole reason the Lord sent us to earth is to have joy. In a talk given by Elder Russel M. Nelson, he say's this about have joy:
“My dear ones,” I replied, “in order to experience true joy in the morning, or at any time, at least three factors are needed. You need to feel good about the people with whom you live and work—your companions in life. You must feel good about yourself—not in any sense of conceit, but simply a proper esteem for yourself, well deserved. And possibly most important, you must feel good about your relation to God and sincerely love him.” (General Conference 1986 Joy Cometh in the Morning)
We are supposed to be filled with Joy, no matter our circumstance. I feel so much of the emphasis of church talks, discussions articles, and general feeling of this life is about the sacrifices we have to give in hopes that someday we will be happy and have joy. But the time is NOW! We can have joy now, we can learn through joy. I truly believe that soon, we will be out of the time when the only way we can learn is through trials, struggle and pain. We are entering a new age where the spirit of God can teach us through joy, love and acceptance. I'm not saying that we won't ever have problems. Being on earth, alive, will guarantee that we will have problems, but we don't need to wallow in them, searching for the answers because we will already have learned good lessons through joy and love.
The article I spoke of above was an article in the July 2013 Ensign entitled Powdered Milk, Budgets, and Blessings. First I want to say that I am in no way discounting the experience of this family. I know how hard it is to not have enough, and try and scrape by without things to pay bills and keep a car running. I grew up in a home without much and since that time, there have been months that my husband and I have had to rely on the Church for help with bills and food. But what I feel is being totted in the article is not a lesson of humility and love, but being presented as a badge of honor that they had to suffer to learn a lesson. If you carefully read some of the statements, you can see that either individually, or as a family, there was a resentment to the money that they had.
'I found myself wishing for bags of clothing to be dropped off on our porch instead of taking trips to the store when they outgrew clothes. Although we had done much to teach our children, we had not done enough to structure our lives so they would feel the necessity of hard work. '
There are a few things about this sentence that struck me. As the mother of the home, she had the ability to say NO. She could have said no to her children about new clothes, new toys, but this sentence shows me that she felt obligated to go buy new clothing for her children, not seeing the tool that money was in her life, the chance she had to get new things for her children. It had become a burden. Second was that they had taught their children, but not that they had to do hard work. We have seen in the recent years that 'good old hard work' isn't what it was fifty years ago. People who work hard all their lives, reach retirement and expect the company that they worked for for forty years to take care of them, but instead are shown the door and given only their last paycheck. 401k's, IRA's, CD's and other retirement accounts are not longer as reliable as they once were. So the idea that to succeed in life, you have to work harder, we are finding is fundamentally flawed. We shouldn't work harder, we need to work smarter.
The article goes on to describe the struggles and hardship that the family has gone through, and the lessons learned. Please don't misunderstand me. I believe there are times when we have to be humbled in able to see what the Lord wants us to see. Sometimes we are blinded by something that we have no way of changing otherwise. But at the heart of what the Lord does for us is Love. There are too many stories, too many experiences that are totted as the only way to learn something, or change is through pain and trial. I would like to offer a different idea.
Can we learn through love? Can we learn through joy? Can we learn through happy experiences?
Personally, I believe we can. But what do you think?