The Joy of Hope

This is just one of my favorite scriptures.

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” – Ether 12:4

This scripture brings me joy.

This scripture was given to us by Ether, but recorded for us by Moroni. Moroni- who had just witnessed the complete extinction of a civilization – his civilization. AND he had just abridged the records of another civilization that went extinct based on their wicked choices.

Ether also witnessed the destruction of his civilization.

These men witnessed an event that most of us will never really see – and yet they tell us – during such hopeless times that if we believe in God, we can have hope.

A belief in God gives us hope for a better world (which means a lot when you just witnessed the end of your civilization!). This hope for a better world anchors our soul to Christ. We understand that He is the author of such a world. Then, our hearts are turned to Him and filled with His love. We do good works for others because of the Love of God that we have obtained.

Is this not joyful?!

It’s possible to have joy in any circumstance when we have the perspective and hope of God.

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A Joyful Society (4 Nephi 1:15-17)

After Christ’s Visit to the Americas, the people were changed. They covenanted with Him. They kept their covenants and the commandments. And what followed is nothing short of amazing.

” And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-18

This society – it was heaven on earth. It was Zion.

How was it possible? The love of God which dwelled in the hearts of the people.

So, I know that I could write at least 10 pages on this subject – the love of God that dwells in the hearts of people. For now, though, just understand that this isn’t some kind of amalgam concept of “love” that we seem to have now. They had the very specific love of God – the pure love of Christ – the love what doesn’t fail. This love comes as a result of discipline and covenant keeping.

Through covenant keeping and discipline, we develop God-like love, or charity, and then we can experience the following:

  • joy in the success of others – (lack of envy)
  • Peace – (no strife)
  • Virtue – (no whoredoms)
  • Sanctity of Life and safety – (no murder)
  • Healthy Family life – (no manner of lasciviousness)
  • Happiness
  • Safe Property – (No robbers)
  • Safe Life – (No murderers)
  • A United Class – (No Racism or class)
  • Blessings
  • Heir to the Kingdom of God
  • Prosperity
  • The Abundant Life

Often, I think that we have a backward approach on this. We think that if we will just work at joy, peace, safety then we’ll have it. Or we think we make laws to prevent murder, robbery, and rape, and then experience the kind of society described in 4 Nephi. We think that we can “eradicate” class through governmental control.

We often try to approach this ideal society backwards – looking at the corollaries, rather than the cause.

The way to be the kind of society like these Nephites after Christ’s visit is through humbly covenanting with God. It is through Righteousness and devotion to the commandments that will enable us to become the kind of people who have hearts filled with the love of God.

I find this message to be especially hopeful. It’s possible! Christ will make us perfect. He will complete us and enable us to live joy – even while in this mortal state. If we will just turn to Him. He will teach us how it is possible, and empower us by filling our hearts with His love.

The Results of Faithlessness (Clue: They aren’t good!) (3 Nephi 2:19)

Yes, I know that we just read about the peace and joy that the people had as a result of covenanting with the Lord and being righteous. But then, they forgot…

“And thus ended the fifteenth year, and thus were the people in a state of many afflictions; and the sword of destruction did hang over them, insomuch that they were about to be smitten down by it, and this because of their iniquity.” – 3 Nephi 2:19

Silly people. Really, we are silly.

Wickedness and abomination increase. They consider faith in Christ to be “foolishness.” And here’s what happens:

  • They experience many afflictions
  • The sword of destruction hung over them
  • They were smitten down.

Yikes!

This sounds horrible! These are the results of wickedness. Wickedness never was happiness. Remember – that’s not just some trite saying. It is a universal law. No matter what we try to convince ourselves, it is as real as the law of gravity.

The Need for Personal Righteousness over Governmental Regulation (Helaman 5:3)

The culture of the Nephite continues to decline. There are short periods of humility, righteousness, and prosperity followed by periods of wickedness, war, and misery. I think that if we looked at our own societies, we can see the exact same cycles.

During on particularly bleak downturn, we read:

“Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.” – Helaman 5:3

The people had become so wicked that they couldn’t be governed by law or justice. No law, no regulation, no punishment could motivate them. The bright democratic culture of the Nephites is becoming a dangerous anarchy.

This resonates with me, actually. I think that here in the U.S., we’ve lived through stages similar to this. I’m reminded of Elder Christofferson’s talk given shortly after the recent economic collapse. Elder Christofferson taught:

“In most of the world, we have been experiencing an extended and devastating economic recession. It was brought on by multiple causes, but one of the major causes was widespread dishonest and unethical conduct, particularly in the U.S. housing and financial markets. Reactions have focused on enacting more and stronger regulation. Perhaps that may dissuade some from unprincipled conduct, but others will simply get more creative in their circumvention. There could never be enough rules so finely crafted as to anticipate and cover every situation, and even if there were, enforcement would be impossibly expensive and burdensome. This approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone. In the memorable phrase of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, “We would not accept the yoke of Christ; so now we must tremble at the yoke of Caesar.”

In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay. Societies will struggle in vain to establish the common good until sin is denounced as sin and moral discipline takes its place in the pantheon of civic virtues” – D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Discipline,” October 2009

If we want to save our society, we can learn from our own mistakes and from the mistakes of the past. We don’t need to add copious amounts of regulations that probably won’t work. We need to think of the elegant and effective solution – live righteously and teach our children the same.

Oh, and I don’t want this post to simply be some political diatribe. I want to say that this will bring us joy. Imagine the society we could live in – if we chose to be righteous?! If we chose to serve one another and love one another! Imagine the kind of happiness and joy we would have if we were not selfishly chasing after our lusts and other wicked notions. Imagine if we each, individually committed to being righteous.

We would be happy – both on a personal level; and on a societal level.

Corruption and Joylessness (Helaman 1:9-11)

Nephite civilization is in serious upheaval.

There was a serious debate on who should be the next chief judge. Three brothers were all vying for the appointment: Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni.

The people were divided, but eventually a majority of the people chose Pahoran. When this happened, Pacumeni united with the voice of the people – and his followers also supported Pahoran. Paanchi, however was really angry. He wanted to flatter away the people, but instead one of his followers took action.

“Now when those people who were desirous that he should be their governor saw that he was condemned unto death, therefore they were angry, and behold, they sent forth one Kishkumen, even to the judgment-seat of Pahoran, and murdered Pahoran as he sat upon the judgment-seat.

And he was pursued by the servants of Pahoran; but behold, so speedy was the flight of Kishkumen that no man could overtake him.

And he went unto those that sent him, and they all entered into a covenant, yea, swearing by their everlasting Maker, that they would tell no man that Kishkumen had murdered Pahoran.” – Helaman 1:9-11

This is the beginning of the end, really. We see that the Nephite government is truly corrupt – to the point where people are making secret societies that will murder and then cover up those murders in order to get their way.

It reads almost like a Shakespearan tragedy. Or like some gangster movie. Sure, things like the Mafia may be romanticized in our current society, but when you take the time to think about these chains of events – the murder of an elected official – and the fall-out that happens to our entire society…well, it’s kind of depressing.

These aren’t the marks of a joyful society.

In fact, they are the marks of a society on the decline. When you think of Shakespearan tragedies, there are no weddings. There is just a body-count. It’s sad. It’s miserable. And it can all be avoided by our own commitment to personal righteousness.