Good Company, Wholesome Recreation, and True Joy

Can you imagine how joyous our reunion will be when this life is over and death is conquered?

Illustration by J. Ken Spencer

If you’re the type of person who keeps track of holidays, you’ll know that this past Thursday, July 25th, was “Christmas in July”.

There is a missionary in our group, Elder Merrill, who is a Christmas fanatic. All of his friends in high school called him “Father Christmas” because of how much he adores the holiday. Even here in Nauvoo, you can frequently find him humming a Christmas song.

Early this week, the missionaries who live with Elder Merrill decided to throw a surprise “Christmas in July” celebration for him. The elders obtained some Christmas decorations from one of our warehouses. A few sister missionaries put together twelve small gifts that corresponded with the Twelve Days of Christmas. And someone from our Brass Band obtained the sheet music for “Sleigh Ride” and had all 18 musicians quickly skim the music the night before.

On Thursday morning, Elder Merrill woke up to a house fully decorated for Christmas.  One elder played seasonal tunes on his fiddle and another gave him a Santa hat to wear. When he arrived to the theater for our morning meeting, he saw a Christmas tree set up in the middle of the stage and the brass band standing in formation. Someone handed Elder Merrill a bowl of spoons for him to shake to imitate the sound of sleigh bells, and then, on a cue from the drummer, the band started in playing Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”.

The entire theater swelled with music as the sound of Christmas filled the air. Elder Merrill shook the bowl of spoons in perfect time with the band, as if he had played the song a thousand times before, and he then slid the bowl across the stage and began to dance. Missionaries grabbed each other and polka’d across the stage, others began to clap in time, and I ran to the mission president’s office and pulled him out of the middle of a meeting to witness what was happening.

That humongous room was filled with joy as the band gave its all playing the most flawless “Sleigh Ride” I have ever heard. Members of the original bass band, who had long since passed on, joined us in spirit to fill in the holes that our band could not play, and at the climatic ending of the song, our magnificent trumpeter, Elder Zeller, imitated the whinny of a horse with a gusto that cannot be matched. When the song was over, an encore was called, and the band played the last verse again, and then another encore was called, and they played it all over once more! People were cheering and laughing, missionaries were dancing, the leadership staff was hugging, the mission president was filming the whole ordeal with his phone, and guests outside in the lobby were even craning their necks in surprise to hear what was happening behind the closed doors of the theater.

As I stood in the back of the theater taking photos, I thought about one of the last days that the early Saints spent in Nauvoo before they were forced out of the city. 

It was February 9, 1846, and Brigham Young had called the Nauvoo Brass Band to assemble in the upper room of the temple. They had already played a few songs for the people gathered, but suddenly, Brother Brigham stood and announced to the crowd that “he thought it no harm to have a little recreation… as long as it is done in righteousness”, and the floor was then opened for a dance! The brethren and sisters danced to the music of the original Nauvoo Brass Band, and they delighted in each other’s company until 3 AM the next morning! (Contributor 1.9, June 1880, 197)

I think I can imagine pretty well the feeling in that upper room as the saints danced. I believe it would have been the same feeling that we had in our theater during our Christmas in July. It was the feeling of good company, wholesome recreation, and true joy.

In this life, we will all be required to pass through a vale of tears as each of us confronts the trials that the Lord has laid out for us. But the prophet Jacob explained that sorrow should not be our only mortal experience: rather, “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25)!

With that in mind, then, I invite you to embrace the experiences of life and find joy in this great journey.

If you do so, at the last day,

We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!
(Hymns, 2)

Can you imagine how joyous our reunion will be when this life is over and death is conquered?

Oh, what songs of the heart
We shall sing all the day,
When again we assemble at home,
When we meet ne’er to part
With the blest o’er the way,
There no more from our loved ones to roam!
(Hymns, 286)

We will have the same glorious experience that the saints had in their upper room and that we had in our theater. It will be a reunion of good company, wholesome recreation, and true joy. 

So, my good friends, “if [you] hold out faithful to the end [you will be] received into heaven, that thereby [you] may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness” (Mosiah 2:41).

In other words, if you live the principles and ordinances of the restored gospel, then the plan of salvation—made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ—will be fulfilled.

I know that is true and give you that testimony by virtue of my authority as a minister for the Savior, who loves you, as do I!

Elder Torres

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