In a talk titled ‘Joy and Spiritual Survival’ President Russell M. Nelson taught us to handle the intensity of evil and Satan’s onslaught we face today. He said: “These are the latter days, so none of us should be surprised when we see prophecy fulfilled. A host of prophets, including Isaiah, Paul, Nephi, and Mormon, foresaw that perilous times would come,1 that in our day the whole world would be in commotion,2 that men would “be lovers of their own selves, … without natural affection, … lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God,”3 and that many would become servants of Satan who uphold the adversary’s work.4 Indeed, you and I “wrestle … against the rulers of the darkness of this world, [and] against spiritual wickedness in high places.”5
As conflicts between nations escalate, as cowardly terrorists prey on the innocent, and as corruption in everything from business to government becomes increasingly commonplace, what can help us? What can help each of us with our personal struggles and with the rigorous challenge of living in these latter days?
The prophet Lehi taught a principle for spiritual survival. First, consider his circumstances: He had been persecuted for preaching truth in Jerusalem and had been commanded by the Lord to leave his possessions and flee with his family into the wilderness. He had lived in a tent and survived on what food could be found on the way to an unknown destination, and he had watched two of his sons, Laman and Lemuel, rebel against the teachings of the Lord and attack their brothers Nephi and Sam.
Clearly, Lehi knew opposition, anxiety, heartache, pain, disappointment, and sorrow. Yet he declared boldly and without reservation a principle as revealed by the Lord: “Men are, that they might have joy.”6 Imagine! Of all the words he could have used to describe the nature and purpose of our lives here in mortality, he chose the word joy!
Life is filled with detours and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are here to have joy?
Yes! The answer is a resounding yes! But how is that possible? And what must we do to claim the joy that Heavenly Father has in store for us?
…. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, which President Thomas S. Monson just taught us, and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime when we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”9 And we can feel it all year round. For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy!
…. Just as the Savior offers peace that “passeth all understanding,”12 He also offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension. For example, it doesn’t seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers with an incurable illness or when you lose your job or when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the joy the Savior offers. His joy is constant, assuring us that our “afflictions shall be but a small moment”13 and be consecrated to our gain.14
How, then, can we claim that joy? We can start by “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith”15 “in every thought.”16 We can give thanks for Him in our prayers and by keeping covenants we’ve made with Him and our Heavenly Father. As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.
Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives. As in all things, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”17 Think of that! In order for Him to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy!
And what was the joy that was set before Him? Surely it included the joy of cleansing, healing, and strengthening us; the joy of paying for the sins of all who would repent; the joy of making it possible for you and me to return home—clean and worthy—to live with our Heavenly Parents and families.
If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?” (He goes on to share a number of real life scenarios.) ~ Elder Russell M. Nelson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke in General Conference on ‘Joy and Spiritual Survival’ Sunday morning October 2, 2016. Click the link to hear or read the complete talk.