Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Through sorrow and sacrifice, we are made whole . . . or are we?

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? 


  1. LOVE THIS!!! I agree, yes you can learn through joy and love just as much as you can learn through trials. But we need both. There has to be opposition in all things and we would never know the sweet if we didn't taste the bitter. My frustration comes when people get so caught in trials that they NEVER seek or obtain any joy at all it seems and its there for the taking. They seem to think there is something wrong if you are happy and you aren't progressing if things are going well. On the contrary, they are going well because you sought after and worked for it. It takes effort, but joy is there for the having in any situation. God wants us to reach for and have the joy. That's how I feel.

    1. I agree that all things have opposites and that we need bitter to know the sweet, but as you said, people get stuck thinking there is only bitter, and sweet it only a dream obtained after enduring as much bitter as possible, then dying. I know some people who don't need to be tried the same we most others because they are so humble, so willing to learn and do what the Lord asks that all He has to do is nudge them and they go that direction. It's given me a great example to work toward in my own spirituality and humility.

  2. I think it's no coincidence that you posted this today, right after I had done my scripture study on this very topic! I was reading 2 Nephi today and that scripture came up, and I've heard and read it before, but I really thought and pondered about it this time. Then I read the scripture where he talks about how if Adam and Eve had never sinned and been cast out and experienced hardship, they wouldn't have had joy, because they wouldn't have known what it was.

    This was interesting to me because I have had trials throughout my life, especially financially. There had been times when my husband and I were literally digging in the couch to find change for gas to get to work. And it got to the point that when my husband and I were able to support ourselves and our family, and I was able to quit my job and stay home, I almost felt like I wasn't worthy to be happy, and I constantly feel like some big trial or problem is lurking around the corner for me. I think we do put too high a price tag on trials and hardships. Like we can't be humble if we don't have them (and I'm not saying they don't make those who truly need them to become humble, because I've experienced that first hand). I just think that sometimes, when you are doing the very best you can to follow the counsel of the Lord and prophets, and everything seems to be on the up and up, we need to realize that our joy is coming from being obedient, and we don't need to be looking over our shoulder for the next trial to hurdle. Those will come when we need them. But our purpose here is to learn, and to have joy.

  3. And lets not forget that the pioneers at Winter Quarters were told by the prophet not to go until the next spring, and yet they still went. We always praise their struggles and trials, but they brought it upon themselves. When we tell their story in church, we seem to skip the fact that they didn't listen to the prophet...

  4. I think the emphasis is that change requires sacrifice of some kind. Change is necessary for all of us and requires effort on our part; it can be a labor abounding in joy or a labor forged in adversity. We will all experience both. Either way, it must be a Christ-centered labor of love. When we make a relatively small sacrifice in order to become more like Him and follow his teachings, we allow His infinite sacrifice to bind us to Heaven and eternal life.