Joy. It's our purpose
On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you today? How about the past week? The past year? Or overall? Would you (and those around you) consider you to be a generally happy person overall? Maybe you're just not a "happy" kind of person. Maybe you're not a total grump, but maybe on the overall personality spectrum, you're a bit closer to the Mr. Grinch end than the Relief Society President end. Maybe you're holding out hope that you would be eventually happy. You know, once your sons have returned from their missions. And your quorum takes their ministering assignments seriously. And your husband stops leaving the toilet seat up. Or maybe you're just enduring life right now and looking forward to that day of release when you will finally be able to rest in eternal felicity in heaven because sure then you will be happy, right?
If you're not a happy person in this life, I have some more bad news. Or rather, Mormon has some bad news. When speaking about the Final Judgment, when all is said and done, he taught:
Then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still.
To be fair, in context it looks like Mormon is referring more to the unhappiness of sin than a case of the "high priest grumps." But I think the principle is important. Who we are inside is not going to be erased and replaced with someone else in the Resurrection. If one hair of our head is not going to be lost, why would one iota of our personality be lost? If we are not a happy person now, we can't expect that we will just be made into a happy person then.
Fortunately, we are given a lot of help. First off, God teaches us that our happiness is actually our whole purpose. As in the mission statement for all of humanity. As in, "men are that they might have joy" (well, alright, if you insist!)
Not only is it our puspose, but it is the purpose of the Church. Pres. Pack taught, "The ultimate purpose of every teaching, every activity in the Church is that parents and their children are happy at home" (I find that quote especially powerful with the upcoming adjustment in meeting schedules and the home-centered curriculum).
Finally, it is the purpose of God Himself: "For behold, this is my work and my glory– to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." What is eternal life? The kind of life God lives, full of everlasting happiness.
God's purpose is our happiness, the Church's purpose is our happiness, and our whole existence is about our happiness. Seems kind of a self-centered doctrine, doesn't it? Isn't that exactly the kind of attitude and philosophy that we're supposed to avoid? The idea that anything goes just as long as it makes you happy? Also, how can God command us to be happy while at the same time making us pass through the afflictions and disappointments in life? I thought all that painful stuff was a crucial part of the plan?
True, true. I think the answer is that we as a society have corrupted and twisted the definition of the word happiness. When God says our purpose is to be happy, it's clear he's not talking about adopting hedonism. He did not say "men are that they might have pleasure." He said we are to have "joy." Joy is the happiness that lasts. The happiness that endures into eternity. The happiness that is selfless, that persists in all conditions. Joy is the happiness that fills the immortal, resurrected Christ and causes Him to weep.
God wants that joy for us. And the cool thing is that joy is not something reserved just for the eternities. It is something available to us now– today– as we develop the confidence that we are walking in the covenant path and God is pleased with our efforts. Elder Klebingat promised:
No matter what your current status, the very moment you voluntarily choose honest, joyful, daily repentance by striving to simply do and be your very best, the Savior's Atonement envelops and follows you, as it were, wherever you go. Living in this manner, you can truly "always retain a remission of your sins" (Mosiah 4:12) every hour of every day, every second of every minute, and thus be fully clean and acceptable before God all the time.
Yours is the privilege, if you want it, to come to know for yourself, today or soon, that you are pleasing God in spite of your shortcomings… I testify of a loving Savior who rejoices when we apply His Atonement daily with the calm and happy assurance that we are facing in the right direction.
So what's our part in this? To make sure nothing stands in the way of our joy. To maintain an eternal perspective and, in the words of President Monson, "find joy in the journey… now!"