In the most recent conference, President Nelson gave an incredible talk on joy that is one of my absolutely favorites.
The central point of his talk is that true joy is accessible only through faith in Christ and his atonement. And moreover, that such joy is accessible through faith in Christ and his atonement at all times and no matter our circumstances.
At the very end of the talk, Elder Nelson makes a bold claim that sheds light on the entire message he is sharing:
“The unrighteous may experience any number of emotions and sensations, but they will never experience joy! Joy is a gift for the faithful. It is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ.”
In other words, the joy that Elder Nelson speaks of is not the same as pleasures of the world. It is not the same even as happiness or jovity. Instead, joy is a supernal peace that passes mortal understanding. Joy is the certainty that “our ‘afflictions shall be but a small moment’ and be consecrated to our gain.” Joy is knowing that come what may, we are Christ’s:
“My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.
When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … 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.”
President Nelson is not claiming that we will always have sunshine and rainbows in our life. He is not suggesting that feel depressed or sorrowful is contrary to the Gospel. Instead, he is suggesting that we can find joy despite of our circumstances because of the certainty of eternal joy.
The best illustration of this is the life of the savior who was described as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And yet:
“As in all things, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” 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.”
Christ’s joy was full because he understood his purpose. Even in the face of death he had joy because he knew what his life was for.
I have felt joy and comfort beyond myself thanks to my knowledge of God’s plan. In the midst of my father’s funeral last year, I felt deep sorrow and yet also peace and even joy because of the witness of the spirit that death was not the end and that I could see my father again.
President Nelson’s promise is sure. Focusing on the joy of eternity will help bring us in line with our father’s plan. It will help motivate us to do the right thing and to overcome our trials and challenges.