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!
Our son took a lovely young woman out on a date. It was the first date and the last, because a few mildly coarse words peppered her speech. It was a deal breaker for our son. I’ve been thinking lately about the need for refinement of speech. The selection of words spewing from our mouths reveals what we are inside. That is what the Savior Jesus Christ taught: “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man” (Matthew 15:18). And consider this statement: “Language most shows a man. Speak, that I may see thee” (Ben Jonson). How we speak reflects our true selves. Though I would not swear or use the Lord’s name in vain, I want to avoid even using alliterative, substitute words for the Lord’s sacred name. Also, I don’t want to use coarse or crude words—in surprise or exclamation, or in reference to body parts—even though these words are commonplace. How easy it is to become desensitized from hearing coarse and crude language in school, in the media, and in public everywhere. But this is no excuse to lower one’s personal standard. “Refinement of speech is reflected not only in our choice of words, but also in the things we talk about. Refinement of speech is more than polished elocution. It results from purity of thought and sincerity of expression” (Douglas Callister). When in doubt about the appropriateness of using certain words, I will remember the message of this simple child’s hymn: “If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say…if I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?”
The Savior told instructed His disciples to be yoked to Him. He said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). First of all, what is a yoke? I think of that wooden thing between a pair of oxen, latching them together. When I covenant with Christ, I am yoked to Him so I won’t drift into forbidden paths. Being latched to Christ is like having a protective shield around me, ensuring safety from temptations. How can a yoke be easy? It looks heavy and cumbersome. At first glance, pledging obedience to commandments might appear cumbersome or restrictive. But actually, obedience frees me from the adversary’s snares. It’s not “shoulder-shrugging acceptance, but instead, shoulder-squaring to better bear the yoke” (Neal A. Maxwell). How can the Savior’s yoke make burdens light? Being yoked to Christ puts a spring in my step, fills my heart with hope. It enlarges my capacity to learn and feel joy—even during the most difficult trials. Being yoked to Christ enables me to carry on, to persist, to endure, to finish. The Lord needs finishers, no matter the challenge—to the very end of life. His yoke makes this possible. His yoke makes the journey easy and joyful.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE? Before we came to earth, we lived as spirit children of Heavenly Father. We gathered together in a great council in heaven where Heavenly Father presented His plan for us to come to earth, obtain a physical body, gain experience to progress toward perfection, and ultimately realize our divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. A Savior would atone for the sins of all mankind, making it possible for us to repent and become clean again. In that premortal realm, we chose to accept Heavenly Father’s plan and Jesus Christ as our Savior. Because of the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection, we can return to God’s presence and progress to live the kind of life He lives. We shouted for joy at the opportunity to come to earth, progress through experience, and prove that we would be faithful to our premortal promises. This is the greatest of all Reasons to Rejoice!
Two of my favorite words are “eager” and “earnest” because they describe the amperage of a person’s spiritual motor. Here is a vivid example: “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” “And they immediately left the ship…and followed him” (Matthew 4:20,22). After testifying of His divinity, Jesus Christ invited Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him and become fishers of men. Undoubtedly, the Savior spoke many words as they tarried by the water’s edge, and the Spirit bore witness to their souls of His truth and divinity. The fishermen must have keenly felt this powerful witness to immediately leave their nets—their livelihood to follow the Master. They didn’t say, “I’ll think about it and get back to you,” or “Let me finish what I’m doing and make some arrangements first.” They immediately left behind all that was familiar and went forward with faith. I want to do the same and follow the Savior with eagerness, without excuse or caveat. I will obey His commandments with all my heart. He promises, “All that I have is thine” (Luke 15:32).
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!
We had oodles of Halloween candy left after trick-or-treaters were gone. I looked at the tiny bite-sized Snicker bars and decided it was a metaphor for an important principle. I would never go in a store and treat myself to a full-sized Snicker bar. My conscience wouldn’t let me. But I can easily gobble down a bunch of mini Snickers—more than the equivalent of a full-sized bar—with barely a twinge of guilt. Why? Because they are just tiny bites, right? Here’s the principle: The adversary knows I wouldn’t be tempted to commit grievous sins like murder, adultery, theft, or deception. Instead, he dangles tiny bite-sized temptations to slowly draw me away from the light. He coaxes little rationales such as: Just this once. Everyone’s doing it. No one will know. Let someone else help. Too tired. Too busy. Too hard. Quit trying. These are the tiny bite-sized temptations that can effectively draw us off the Savior’s path. So, I’m going to recognize the adversary’s subtle ploys and fight back with determination to keep trying, never give up. As I pray for strength to endure hard things, the Lord will lift me beyond every temptation. He promises: “I am with you to bless you and deliver you forever” (D&C 108:8).