When I think of our need to help hasten the work of salvation, I don’t automatically think of being grateful. I don’t think of joy. Instead, I think of missionary work. I think of temple work. As unlikely as it may seem, gratitude and joy are necessary components to hastening the work.
The gospel we want to share with others, by very definition is “good news.” Good news is not spread by way of sadness and sorrow, but joyfully. This may seem rather obvious, but try to imagine sharing the gospel of Christ with your neighbor if all your mental and emotional energies are focused on the downward spiraling economy, the lapsing morals of society, government leaders who are betraying the public trust, the shrinking value of your paycheck, and increasing social instability? If this is where we are focused, it is difficult to think for long on the personal benefits of the gospel of Christ.
Yet it is the personal benefits of the gospel of Christ where we need to be focusing. President Benson said that when he was called to the Apostleship President George Albert Smith told him, “Your mission from now on is to find ways and means to disseminate the truth and warn the people that you come in contact with in as kind a way as possible that repentance will be the only panacea for the ills of this world.” The gospel of Christ is the gospel of repentance, and is the only cure for all our social ills.
Social ills are not cured one society at a time, but one person at a time. We need to focus on offering the healing power of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, His priesthood power, covenants, and His gospel to individuals. Only when enough people have been healed through Christ’s power will we be able to change the societies we live in. Change always happens from the inside out, one person at a time.
The Cesspool of Life
In case you are not familiar with cesspools, they are ponds or repositories of human waste. Sometimes they are contained in holding pits, but sometimes they are left out in the open. When my little sister was much younger, and we were living on a military base in Alaska, she and her friends went walking one fine summer day and found a pond. It smelled funny, but it was hot and they wanted to cool off, so they went for a dip. While they were swimming the police drove up and had a good laugh at these silly girls who were swimming in the base cesspool.
We are sent to live in a telestial world where appetites and passions are allowed and even encouraged to run amok. Cruelty and barbarity are the norm here. People are encouraged to debase themselves in every way imaginable in the name of fun, thrills, or because someone else can make a profit from it. Yet in the midst of all this, the Lord is telling us that to find happiness we need to live a higher law.
Those who live a higher law (terrestrial) are the good people of the earth. They look out for their neighbor, try to solve the ills of the world, feed the hungry, and heal the sick and wounded. These people find a measure of joy because they are grateful for what their God has done for them, and they want to turn around and share that goodness with others.
The Principle of Joy
These people have discovered that joy can only exist in the presence of gratitude. Without gratitude joy cannot exist. Fortunately, gratitude is a choice. If we seek for it, we can have our hearts softened and the Lord will help us recognize and feel grateful for all he has done for us. All good things come from God, and gratitude is no exception. It is only once we have felt gratitude for our blessings that we can begin to experience joy in this life.
Gratitude comes from recognizing our blessings. Joy comes from sharing our blessings. To be effective in sharing the gospel of Christ we have to be living lives filled with gratitude, and expressed through the joy of service in His name. This allows us to focus our thoughts, feelings, and actions on what will be of greatest blessing to those with whom we share the gospel.
Look Beyond the Cares of This World
When Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail he was in a physically and mentally miserable state. He was fed rotten food, was deathly sick much of the time, couldn’t stand up straight for months on end, was in a dark and confined condition, and was tormented constantly by his captors. The Saints were being burned and driven out of their homes, and were left to fend for themselves in the winter time. There was starvation and suffering in the extreme.
It was under these conditions that he complained to the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 121:1 – 6. He did his best to be respectful to the Lord, but in these verses he let the Lord know that he felt that both he and the Saints had been abandoned by God, and he wanted to know why the Lord was remaining silent while all this was happening.
Starting in Doctrine and Covenants 121:7, the Lord chastised Joseph for focusing on the things of this world. Because he was only looking at what was happening in mortality, he had lost his perspective on what was truly important. The Lord assured him that He was still in control, that Joseph’s sufferings and those of the Saints were not only temporary, but for their own growth and development (basically for their own good). In the midst of this suffering Joseph was to look at his circumstances and find peace in his soul.
Joseph had lost sight of God’s blessings, had ceased to be grateful, and hence, had lost all his joy in what God had done for him. When we lose our joy, sorrow is its replacement. In order for Joseph to regain his joy he had to remember a few things about what God had done for him, repent of his complaining, then focus on how he could set an example for the saints. If Joseph caved in during this time of trial, so would the members of the Church.
From that time on, no matter what happened to Joseph he kept his perspective, and lived a life filled with gratitude, and expressed with the joy of serving others. This is when he became his greatest self.
The principles of happiness don’t change, ever. If we want to be happy and share that happiness we have to seek the Lord and ask for His help to become grateful for what He has done for us. We then take that gratitude and turn it outward in the service of others. That is how one expresses gratitude – through service. That expression of joy is what powers our sharing of the gospel or good news of Christ. It is that example of joyful living that attracts people to the gospel message. It is the joy we find in our lives of gratitude that sets us apart from the rest of the suffering world.
Trust me, when your neighbor accepts the gospel, it isn’t because you turn his or her world upside down with new places for them to spend their money (tithing) or spend their time on Sunday (three-hour meeting block) or spend their evenings (FHE/Visiting/Home Teaching). It is because they see in you joy they cannot find in their own lives. We all want to be happy. We all want joy in our lives.
This life can be a very scary place. Without the gospel’s blessings and promises there is little else to give a person hope in something better than the cesspool that is the telestial experience. But our Father has given us the opportunity to taste celestial blessings, even while we live in a telestial world. As we seek to be grateful then express that gratitude through service, we will find joy. This joy is the attraction that will help us keep pace with the Lord as he hastens the work of salvation. And we will find joy in His service, and joy in all the ways we can be a blessing to those around us in His name.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.