I hopped on my elliptical machine to exercise, and turned on TV to make the time go by faster. Every channel clamored for my attention, such as commercials and programs shooting out dizzying images, grating voices, and quirky phrases to capture my focus. Even news channels bombarded my senses with moving messages along the bottom and sides of the screen in addition to spoken words. I was on sensory overload and my ears throbbed. Exasperated, I switched off the TV and tapped my phone to The Mormon Channel. By contrast, I listened to an apostle of the Lord speaking in a humble voice about an important principle of truth. His voice was soft; his message powerful. Ah—what relief! Spiritual truth cannot compete with the flash and flair of the world, if we are energized by those things. The world shouts in voices that are brassy and harsh; God speaks with the quiet voice of the Spirit which lingers and lifts. I need to seek quiet places to hear answers to my prayers, to hear God’s counsel, to feel His peace. “Therefore, let us follow after the things which make for peace” (Romans 14:19). God’s peace is what energizes and sustains me even through difficult days. In this I find Reasons to Rejoice!
When teens graduate from high school and leave home to taste independence, they enter the dangerous decade of young adulthood. In the thrill of freedom, they often explore forbidden paths which lead to destructive behaviors, habits, and detours. By contrast, what parent could want more than to hear the following words from a son or daughter during these critical years? Here is a short extract from a long list of lessons learned from our oldest grandchild who recently returned from her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was hard work. She said she is not the same person that she was 18 months ago.
- I have learned why we need opposition and the trial of our faith.
- I have learned the important role of the Holy Ghost, and why I never want to live without the guidance of the Spirit.
- I have learned the importance of family and what I want my future family to be.
- I have learned what it means to truly love people.
- I have learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite and intimate.
- I have learned what Heavenly Father can accomplish through 19 and 20 year- old men and women.
- I think the greatest change in me is that I can say with confidence that I know the truths of the gospel for myself.
- There is a certain peace and joy that comes when you know the truth. It comes from the Savior. That is what continually motivated me to wake up every day with excitement to share it with others.
- I have learned that I have great reason to rejoice!
It is inspiration from God to send missionaries of young adult age to spread the good news of the gospel worldwide. In the process of blessing others, these young adults are shaped in magnificent ways. I am a grandmother with great Reasons to Rejoice!
Do you know how many Mormon temples there are in the world? Presently, there are 144 operating temples, and 14 more under construction. There are 15 new ones announced for construction—which will soon bring the total to 173. The recently completed Payson Utah Temple will have a free open house to the public starting Friday, April 24, and run through Saturday, May 23, 2015. It will be open every day except Sundays. Please accept my invitation to tour this wonderful temple prior to its dedication June 7. What is the purpose of a temple? It is a house of the Lord, a holy sanctuary in which sacred covenants are made and ordinances are performed for the living as well as in proxy in behalf of deceased ancestors. In this way, all have an opportunity to accept God’s Plan of Salvation. The central purpose of holy temples is to unite families for eternity. When a man and woman marry in the temple, their marriage is eternal if they keep their covenants. Stepping through temple doors, a person closes out the noisy world of chaos and contention to feel the Lord’s peace. His Spirit is felt in abundance. It is the Lord’s work performed in these holy places of worship. Participating in these sacred ordinances gives me Reasons to Rejoice.
I ask myself: What blessings have come from sacrifices made to fully live my religion? This blog follows the former one about sacrifices required to live one’s religion. I have discovered that blessings far outweigh the sacrifices. Each sacrifice is rewarded tenfold with an outpouring of tender mercies, miracles, and manifestations of God’s love and approval. Here are just a few blessings that come as a result of striving to live my religion with all my heart:
- Feeling peace of conscience that God is pleased—engulfed in His light.
- Extending my understanding and view of God’s eternal plan.
- Communicating with God. Hearing His answers.
- Feeling JOY and optimism—untouched by circumstance.
- Recognizing God’s tender mercies, even during trials.
- Feeling gratitude for everything.
- Recognizing God’s grace. Feeling His love and enabling power.
- Feeling the comfort, guidance, and companionship of the Holy Ghost.
- Feeling personal growth beyond my own ability.
- Being enabled to let go of offenses.
- Rejoicing in seeing my family members grow in testimony and conversion.
- Witnessing miracles unfolding before my eyes.
- Being transformed, changed. Feeling clean.
And more—many, many more! Aren’t these Reasons to Rejoice?
What do you think of this definition of repentance? “It occurred to me recently that life is repentance, that progression and improvement and growth and maturity and refinement are all forms of repentance, and that the God-fearing live in a constant state of repentance…[having] desires for holiness and purity, longings to feel quiet confidence before God” (Robert Millet). This perspective helps me to see repentance as an ongoing attitude and movement through each day—a merging of all my thoughts, acts, desires, and longings. Repentance is my soul’s gradual unfolding and refining. Repentance requires a healthy dose of “divine discontent” to see my faults with an earnest desire to overcome them, and “a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Nephi 31:20) to maintain confidence that Christ’s atoning gift enables me to become holy. Understanding repentance in this way brings peace—another Reason to Rejoice!
Let’s think of people we know who exude a radiance of happiness, even when going through trials. We like to be around them. They lift us up. They see the bright side of things, and they help others see it too. For example, we have a neighbor who is bent almost in half with osteoporosis and can’t see into the faces of others. But she is always cheerful with a sparkle of humor and optimism. She jokes that when people approach, she has to identify them by their shoes. “So much depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then to choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment” (Thomas S. Monson). The ability to feel gratitude also contributes to genuine happiness. Instead of blaming others (or God) for our difficulties, we can focus on abundant blessings. We can seek and celebrate the uplifting aspects of our circumstances. With a buoyant attitude, we can make the choice to be happy every day. We have many Reasons to Rejoice!
May I describe what joy feels like to me? It’s deep and untouchable by external influences—such as disappointments, trials, and pain. I’ve had all of those. But even in the midst of difficulties, I feel a brightness of hope that lets in light. This hope is leads to faith, because I trust God’s purpose in allowing trials—His beautiful plan to tutor and improve me. I pledge to follow Him. This faith increases gratitude for my Savior who makes it possible to have eternal life. This gratitude heightens inner peace, which is a soothing feeling of equanimity that allows me to fall gently to sleep at night and to wake smiling in the morning. I might describe joy as an inward “smile.” Peace, gratitude, faith, and hope—gradually increase my ability to “grow in love” as Leo Tolstoy put it. These are all elements of happiness. They are subtle feelings and are easily overlooked, especially during an uphill climb. So I’m trying every day to recognize, acknowledge, and then record these tender mercies from above. They are Reasons to Rejoice!