On Fast Sundays, instead of a full-length article, I write what I call a “fast thoughts” post. A short, unplanned look into a quick lesson I learned from the Book of Mormon. Enjoy.
The other day as I was reading King Benjamin’s address to his people, something new stuck out at me. Right in the part where an angel appears and instructs him to teach the people about the coming of the Son of God:
And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me.
And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.
Sounds familiar, right? Chances are you read something about “good tidings of great joy” a few months ago with your family as you gathered to recount the Christmas story. That phrase about tidings and joy is echoed throughout scripture: from Isaiah to Luke, from Romans to the Doctrine and Covenants, and here in the Book of Mormon. But I noticed that this angelic rendition of the phrase includes an extra work– the angel is here to announce “the glad tidings of great joy.”
That little “the” stuck out to me. That little word adds a little extra oomph and importance, doesn’t it? It’s not just good news that the angel is bringing– it’s the good news. The exclusive, one and only good news.
Is that a stretch? Isn’t there other good news out there? Seems like announcements about wars ending, babies being born, and Fast Sunday dinners also count as “glad tidings of great joy,” right? Maybe the angel meant “the best” or “the most important” glad tidings of great joy, right? Maybe it’s not literally the glad tidings, but just glad tidings so important that other good news doesn’t really come close.
Maybe. Maybe I’m being overly literal. But I think the angel meant what he said. Think of it this way: is there any truly “glad tidings of great joy” outside of the message of the Atonement of the Savior? I actually don’t think so. Alma invited his too often maligned son, Corianton to imagine a life without “the plan of redemption, (laying it aside).” I likewise invite you to imagine for a moment that the plan of redemption had not been brought about*. Then think of any of the glad tidings we could receive in this life, and see if there is any lasting “great joy” you can get out of it. It gets pretty bleak and existential really fast
- You’re getting married! Congratulations, you may be a little happier before you die in the next cosmic blink of an eye. History can now forget you together instead of individually.
- You’re having a baby! Awesome, now you can invest time and energy into the munchkin until he “leaves just as he is becoming interesting.” If you’re lucky, you’ll die first, ending your few short years as a family.
- Oh, the war is over! Neato. We’ll probably get a few more decades of freedom now before the inevitable collapse of democracy. Not that it really matters. It’s not like any one system is more moral than any other.
So what am I suggesting? That unless you have accepted the reality of the Atonement of Christ, you’re incapable of real joy? That with every happy occasion,you’re really just whistling nervously past the graveyard?
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
I’m not arguing that there aren’t “glad tidings” out there in the world. All the warm, fuzzy moments we experience in this life bring real happiness. They sometimes even bring real joy. But absent the Atonement of Christ, each one brings with it the terrifying reminder that all happiness, all purpose, and all meaning to everything in life is fleeting. They may be “glad tidings,” but by themselves, they cannot bring “great joy.” That is only possible in and through the assurance of the Atonement of Christ. Good news that doesn’t last is not so good after all. Elder Urchdorf taught:
Is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.
Thankfully, there is a Savior. And He did bring to pass universal resurrection and opportunity for eternal life. Family ties can be bound forever. All that is good and important in this life can last through the eternities. “That same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory.” We never really have to say goodbye. Keep going, Elder Uchtdorf:
We are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless13 and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.
The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions– temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.
Every other good news pales in comparison to this message. Every other good news loses its goodness without this message. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the one and only source of lasting joy in this life and the life to come. And The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the one and only way to access that joy.
“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth.”