The Savior will strengthen us as we make our best attempt, or even desire to make our best attempt, to find joy in this life.
Photo by Jordan Larsen
One of the shows we perform here in Nauvoo is called “Sunset by the Mississippi”, which takes place on an outdoor stage and is full of high-energy, family-friendly songs and dances. One of the acts is a clogging number, “Orange Blossom Special”, named after a train in the east coast that ran so close to the orange trees that any rider could lean out of the train and pick a blossom from the trees. In the photo above, you can see the final pose of that dance.
Will you take a minute with me to look at the faces of my magnificent missionary friends? Can you, with me, see a special joy in their countenances?
In the center of the photo is the gracious Sister Mann. Let me tell you a little bit of what I know about her. She attends BYU with me, and in her work as a resident assistant, she is a mentor to many younger college girls on her floor of the dormitory. This is her second summer serving as a missionary in Nauvoo, and she has been dancing for all of her life. Her family owns a dance studio and this year their group is touring in Italy. However, Sister Mann left that travel opportunity behind to be able to serve here in Nauvoo.
Sister Mann exemplifies the principle of joy. Several weeks ago during a devotional, she explained that she wasn’t always that way. She often dreaded the Sunset show last summer because of the energy it required and the heat of the outdoors. However, her perspective changed over time as she realized that the Savior doesn’t want us to suffer through life as we try to endure to the end. Rather, she learned, He wants us to have joy in the journey!
Sister Mann today is one of the happiest people I know. She is always smiling and always has a kind word to say to everyone she meets. Every day when I see her take center stage at the end of “Orange Blossom Special”, just like you see in the photo above, my heart fills with emotion to see her and all the other missionaries giving everything they have for the Savior in the great, climatic ending of the dance.
Indeed, my friends, the Savior wants us to find joy in life. Things will be hard sometimes, which all of you know as well as I do. However, like Sister Mann, we can all put a smile on our face and decide to be happy until we genuinely feel happy! Sometimes it takes all the energy we have, and it definitely always requires the help of Jesus Christ. In saying that, I don’t advocate being disingenuous, nor do I discount the need for some of us to seek professional help in the case of anxiety or depression. However, often we spend so much time yearning for a future (or a past) day that we forget to live in the moment.
May we have the discipline to be present wherever we are, to express love to those who surround us, and to have faith that the Lord has our future planned for us better than we could plan it for ourselves.
“Men are, that they might have joy,” the great prophet taught, and I know that Heavenly Father and His Son desire our ultimate happiness (2 Nephi 2:25). They love me, and they love you.
You and I can ALL do this. The Savior will strengthen us as we make our best attempt, or even desire to make our best attempt, to find joy in this life.
May His spirit be with us in our lives and ministries to give us this strength, is my prayer for you, which I offer with all the love I have!