Along with this snow, I was faced with an decision that to me was a no-brainer but which I considered as I pondered about writing this blog post today. I love the snow. I absolutely adore everything about the snow: how it improves the landscape, how it feels, the symbolic nature of everything being covered in pure white, the cleansing, etc. Snow is one of those tender mercies of the Lord so for me, snow is one of the ways that my Heavenly Father reminds me that He is still there, that He is aware of me, and that He loves me.
As I walked out into the snow to take some pictures, I reflected on the Facebook posts I had seen and what my two friends had said; "Such a beautiful day to sing!!" and "Snow...Let the Christmas music and hot cocoa commence!" These two friends of mine both had the same mindset that I had: excitement and enthusiasm for the change in weather. But for many of you, I would guess that your thoughts on snow are the exact opposite. You hate it, it feels like torture, etc.
As he is wrapping up his sermon, the prophet Jacob gives a few concluding reminders, almost summarizing what he had taught and giving the application of the principles he had discussed. In verse 52 he says, "Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice."
Notice Jacob's wording here. "Let your hearts rejoice." He does tell his people (and us) to rejoice, he doesn't say we need to be happier. The way I read understand that last sentence is as if he said "Allow your hearts to rejoice."
Have you ever noticed how naturally you feel joy and how easily it comes to you as you go about your day-to-day life? I have noticed that for me, it doesn't come naturally at all. In fact, I could very easily go from one day to the next without feeling joy or any sort and I could even do so without doing anything bad. I wouldn't have to sin, I wouldn't have to break one of God's commandments, I wouldn't even have to do anything. I could just sit here all day on my computer and I wouldn't experience joy.
I don't know if I am alone in this or if anyone has really ever thought about this, but I would suspect that I am not alone. I would actually hypothesize that this kind of day is far more natural than the kind of day where you feel joy at all. Now, let me define what I mean when I say "natural".
|King Benjamin teaching the people|
What exactly is the natural man? Simply put, it is the man (or woman) that the devil wants us to be. It is the selfish, lazy, miserable, gluttonous, etc. being that comes as a result of not following the Savior and following the ways of the world. Hence why it is called the natural man. It doesn't take any work to become a perfect embodiment of the natural man, but it takes a lot of effort to be a saint, which king Benjamin teaches is the opposite of the natural man.
So tying this in to my previous thought, it is natural for us to not experience joy. It is unnatural and therefore requires effort to experience joy each day and this leads me to the crux of my thought process this morning which goes back to a conversation I had a few weeks ago.
While spending an evening with my aunt and uncle, they were playing games with their neighbors while I sat nearby doing my homework. When they finished their game, their neighbor, who also happened to be one of the local church leaders whom I know very well turned to me and posed a question. This wise leader asked, "Tuck, what is the relationship between attitude and faith?"
What do you think about this? How are those two related? When he asked me, my mind flashed back to my mission as it often does when I think of anything related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I thought to the experiences I had, the people with whom I interacted, and the faith-attitude relationship I had observed and responded that I thought they were strongly interrelated.
For about an hour after that we had an amazing conversation focused on the relationship between faith and our attitude and how those two work together. I don't propose this as official Church doctrine or anything more than my personal belief, but from my personal life I have observed that our faith grows when we choose to be happy and doing so increases our faith. In other words, we have a greater trust in our Heavenly Father when we "let [our] hearts rejoice."
|Alma baptizing those who believed|
But they soon had to flee from their city and sought protection away from the people of Noah where they did their best to follow the teachings of the prophets about Jesus Christ with faith in His coming. How were they rewarded for their efforts? They were subjected to the bondage of one of Noah's wicked priests. They could have chosen to become hardened and embittered and angry towards God for rewarding their hard efforts with by subjecting them to the torture of their evil controllers, but they didn't. Instead they maintained their faith by keeping a positive attitude.
As we read in Mosiah 24:15, "they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." Again notice the word relating to their attitude. From one challenge to the next, I might have been very tempted to become frustrated and lose my cool. But not these great people. They did what the Lord saw fit to inflict upon them and did so cheerfully.
In the very next verse we see how this positive attitude impacted their faith in the Lord. "And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage." Because of their optimism and their patience in the face of great physical and spiritual turmoil, the Lord delivered them from their trials.
I wonder how things would have been different had they not submitted cheerfully. I wonder if the Lord would have wanted them to be in bondage longer had they not demonstrated their great faith and trust in Him and His will.
I have observed in my own life that when a trial comes, my natural reaction (again keeping in mind the concept of the natural man) is the tuck my head and trudge through the mess. And to be honest, I think it works pretty well. I am able to get through the trials and grow and become a stronger person as a result and what I experience.
But then there have been the few times where a trial comes upon me where I have a sudden glimmer of faith and hope than enables and inspires me to be better. As a result I rise up, I lift my head and I smile through the challenge. I wouldn't necessarily say the trial is shorter or that the Lord removes it from my path any quicker than He might have otherwise, but when I do so and "let [my] heart rejoice" in the face of hardship and adversity, my trial no longer becomes a trial. I soon forget about the struggle I once had and only notice it when another person points it out to me.
Such was the case of the people of Alma. As a result of their faith and their positive attitudes, "the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease". With ease! Whenever I submit to my burdens with cheerfulness the exact same thing happens to me: the weight is lifted and I forget it exists until I either lose my optimistic attitude or when someone points it out to me.
|The prophet Joseph in Liberty jail|