I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are filled with hope as you look forward to the New Year. I love this time of year, because it provides me the opportunity to put things into perspective. I remember why we have Christmas – because the Christ Child was born. I remember why we have new beginnings – because We can begin together, right now.
Richard G. Scott, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or Mormon Church) taught in his conference address entitled “How To Live Well Amid Increasing Evil” (Ensign, May 2004, 100) that every day we have a choice, and he encourages us to make our choice consciously with our eyes wide open:
“You have a choice. You can wring your hands and be consumed with concern for the future or choose to use the counsel the Lord has given to live with peace and happiness in a world awash with evil. If you choose to concentrate on the dark side, this is what you will see. Much of the world is being engulfed in a rising river of degenerate filth, with the abandonment of virtue, righteousness, personal integrity, traditional marriage, and family life. Sodom and Gomorrah was the epitome of unholy life in the Old Testament. It was isolated then; now that condition is spread over the world. Satan skillfully manipulates the power of all types of media and communication. His success has greatly increased the extent and availability of such degrading and destructive influences worldwide. In the past some effort was required to seek out such evil. Now it saturates significant portions of virtually every corner of the world. We cannot dry up the mounting river of evil influences, for they result from the exercise of moral agency divinely granted by our Father. But we can and must, with clarity, warn of the consequences of getting close to its enticing, destructive current.
Now the brighter side. Despite pockets of evil, the world overall is majestically beautiful, filled with many good and sincere people. God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures evil agents spread throughout it. You can live a virtuous, productive, righteous life by following the plan of protection created by your Father in Heaven: His plan of happiness. It is contained in the scriptures and in the inspired declarations of His prophets. He clothed your intelligence with spirit and made it possible for you to enjoy the wonder of a physical body. When you use that body in the way He has decreed, you will grow in strength and capacity, avoid transgression, and be abundantly blessed.”
I hope you, like me, will desire to choose the brighter side, to avoid transgression and be abundantly blessed. We can do it, if we try. We might slip and fall from time to time, but one of Mormons beliefs is that through the wonder of the atonement we can repent, be forgiven, and begin again.
To help us on our journey to happiness, here are a few scriptures I’m sure you’ll find encouraging:
Paul taught, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) It’s simple, isn’t it? Remember our grandmothers admonition to us? “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” Life can be sweet if you approach it that way.
When we start each new day with a resolution in our hearts to seek out happiness, we should emulate Joshua: “Choose [ye] this day whom ye will serve; … as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Begin each day with the desire to serve the Lord and you will be blessed.
In the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Jesus taught: “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.” (D&C 24:8) Each day, as we strive to overcome evil with good, as we serve the Lord faithfully, Jesus never leaves us comfortless. He is with us always.
The Savior also reminds us that, “He who is faithful shall overcome all things, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” (D&C 75:16) Oh, what happiness we will have then!
Finally, we can follow this pattern of success: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, … deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, … that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.” (Moroni 10:32)
We are not expected to be perfect in Christ today, or even tomorrow. That is a crown on our efforts we might receive at the end of our days, should we be faithful day by day. I rarely move forward more than a couple steps before slipping back a step. At least, I tell myself, that I am generally moving forward! I think this is success, though. To generally move forward, to make every day a new day and to try again. Doing so, will allow us to have happiness in our life and will nominate us for joy in the eternal days to come.
I encourage you to ponder these scriptures and then to repent, make full use of the Atonement which was made just for you, then … begin again, and be happy.