Recently I sat in the Temple reading Enos in the Book of Mormon. It happened as it does sometimes, I read something I had never read before. Enos was in the forest praying and contemplating words that he had (quote), “often heard my father speak concerning eternal life,” but that’s not all. Then he wrote this beautiful phrase new to me but I will cherish it always now. Enos said he also remembered the words his father said about , “the joy of the saints.” --the Joy of the Saints—the two things he remembered from his father was, eternal life and the joy of the Saints. I like that a lot! What kind of things do you think Enos remembered about the “joy of the saints?” Maybe his father talked about Primary and what a great teacher he had and songs that they sang that he still remembered, or how wonderful it was to have home and visiting teachers who came every month that loved his family. Maybe he talked about how nice it is to be with good people like we have here every Sunday and how they inspire us to be better. Maybe he talked about how these good saints all fasted one Sunday when his child was sick or how they brought in food when his wife had a baby. There are so many good memories when you begin to contemplate the “joy of the Saints.” With inspiration from Elder Ballards recent Conference talk I would like to talk about how blessed we are to be here together as a Ward Family loving, serving and teaching one another.
Our 4 years here has been a joy. I am so impressed with the wisdom and goodness of you wonderful people. If I had time I could tell specifically how you have touched my life. When I was a child my family was not active. My stepfather was an alcoholic and there was domestic violence in my home. When I went to school I tagged along to Primary in the afternoon with the other children. I sat on the long wooden benches in the old Wellington church and sang “The Light Divine.” The sweet spirit enveloped me. That song still makes me cry. The “joy of the saints” touched me very young. My mother had a beautiful soprano voice and these good saints invited her to sing and she did and came back to church. The missionaries came weekly to teach my step-father for 10 years. I sat there and learned the gospel with him. He eventually joined but could never give up the alcohol but the “joy of the saints” in that community taught me and loved my dysfunctional family and I knew, when I was young, that I always wanted to be with good loving people like they were. And I can say that I have had great joy in my church associations, because I have been loved, served and taught in so many ways.
Boyd K. Packer: "In one sense, we ourselves may participate in an atonement, when we are willing to restore to others that which we have not taken, or heal wounds that we did not inflict, or pay a debt that we did not incur, we are emulating His part in the Atonement." (CR Oct. 1995)
As Saints in a church community we have numerous opportunities to “participate in an atonement” with our fellow Ward members because we know them and we organize to serve and teach each other. It is a beautiful thing.
Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book, “Who Needs God” has touched me with his words in support of a religious community.
“It makes an immense difference whether we see ourselves as isolated individuals at war with the rest of the world, or as links in a network of human beings working for each other’s happiness as well as our own and depending on other people to help us find what we cannot get for ourselves. On this question, the teaching of religion is clear: ‘It is not good that man should be alone’ (Genesis 1:4) P.99
“True religion offers to redeem us from loneliness… by teaching us to see our neighbors as ourselves, to be aware of their humanity, their fears and feelings, instead of only being aware of our own. True religion teaches us not how to win friends but how to be a friend, to be concerned with alleviating the loneliness of others, learning to hear their cry instead of wondering why no one hears ours…When we learn to see the people around us as needing love, as being entitled to love, every bit as much as we are, we discover that we cure our loneliness in the act of reaching out to them. And furthermore, true religion teaches us that, once we have met God, we may find ourselves widowed and unmarried, unemployed or unpopular, but even then, God’s closeness will protect us from a sense of abandonment and despair.
“What does religion offer that we lonely human souls need? In a word, it offers community. Our place of worship offers us a refuge, an island of caring in the midst of a hostile, competitive world. In a society that segregates the old from the young, the rich from the poor, the successful from the struggling, the house of worship represents one place where the barriers fall and we all stand equal before God. (P. 102-103)
“And that is why I feel there is something lacking in the life of a person who says, ‘I believe strongly in God; I don’t need a building or a formal service to find Him.” Religion is community. It is the way people learn to relate to each other and to belong to each other in truly human ways. (p. 105)
“In congregational worship, regularly scheduled services on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I have come to believe that the congregating is more important than the words we speak. Something miraculous happens when people come together seeking the presence of God. The miracle is that we so often find it. Somehow the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. A spirit is created in our midst which none of us brought there. In fact, each of us came there looking for it because we did not have it when we were alone. But in our coming together, we create the mood and the moment in which God is present.” (P. 149) Harold Kushner
I love Moroni chapter 7. Mormon talks about the “peaceable followers of Christ” and how he knew they were because of their “peaceable walk with the children of men.” I know we all want to be “peaceable followers of Christ” as we move through our daily connections.
Of course we are not perfect and we are sometimes offended and offend. Mormon taught us about charity in this chapter. He gave us a list that we would do well to contemplate every day. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked,
It is hard not to envy and we so often are puffed up and easily provoked. This list is not always easy but Mormon gave us the key to success at the end of the chapter. He said …”pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”
I love this scripture! For me it is a key to being a joyful saint
What if the main focus of our prayers every day was not on what we need but on pleading with all of our energy to be “filled with love” -- asking to be guided as we try to become “peaceable followers of Christ.” Surely this is a prayer that God would answer as he helped us to suffer long and be kind. Surely many joyful things would happen as we grow to become more like Christ as the scripture promises.
I look forward to many more joys with you great Saints of the Fruit Heights 9th Ward as we go forward together as “peaceable followers of Christ,” seeking to participate in an atonement daily as we are guided by the spirit of Christ. And hopefully our children will recall the “joy of the saints” as Enos did. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen