Sister Joy D. Jones Says to Use Tests of Life to Spiritually Progress
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- We can control the worthwhileness of the events we experience.
- This life is all about progression.
- In moments of enticement, prayer can help.
“Enticements, tribulations, and tests, when endured well, are followed by blessings. … The challenge and opportunity of our lives, then, is to be steadfast in Christ by practicing rising above enticements and adversities.” —Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President
Enticements, both positive and negative, are real, Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, taught during the annual Campus Education Week devotional at Brigham Young University.
“It is what we choose to do with [enticements] when they occur that will make all the difference in our daily lives,” she said. “Can you be excited and motivated realizing that you can use every enticement to progress spiritually?”
Speaking to thousands of people gathered in the Marriott Center on the university’s campus on August 21, Sister Jones said that enticements—attractions or temptations—in a person’s daily life are inevitable.
“Are we aware that we are continually being enticed to progress or to regress?” she asked.
In today’s world, individuals are constantly bombarded with “enticements”—billboards, TV ads, ads on electronic devices, a bad driver, a teenage child coming home after curfew, the police officer extending a speeding ticket, bills piling up, a broken washing machine, or a strained relationship.
All of these situations—along with many more—are “there for our spiritual growth, if we can see them for what they really are—and be grateful,” Sister Jones taught.
Each situation provides an opportunity for an individual to choose a reaction.
“Men and women are God’s creations, and we were given the power and agency to act,” she said. “But there would be no acting without first being enticed.”
Recognizing that a person cannot completely control the events that come to them daily, Sister Jones reminded listeners that they can indeed control the worthwhileness of those events.
“We are confronted each day with choices that require us to choose between ‘the one or the other,’ meaning between light and dark, between pleasure and pain, between good and bad,” she said. “The world is filled with enticements for the very purpose of encouraging us to act on our God-given agency.”
An enticement can come in the form of temptation and lead to doubt, fear, anger and the loss of the Spirit. Or an enticement can come in the form of encouragement and lead to understanding, confidence, fulfillment, love, joy, and peace.
“One of the great ironies in life is this: the one precious thing that Heavenly Father will never take away from us is our agency, yet it is often the very thing that we give away so freely to others,” she said. “Letting others influence our decisions through their behavior can weaken our ability to use our agency correctly. In fact, it can happen so frequently that we are not even aware what we are forfeiting.”
Sharing an experience she had while traveling to attend the temple on a beautiful spring morning, Sister Jones spoke of how she didn’t even realize she was speeding and was pulled over by a police officer. After writing her a ticket, the officer said, “Have a good day, ma’am.”
“Have a good day? How could I have a good day? I was amazed at how quickly feelings of darkness, failure, and shame washed over me.”
She immediately thought she shouldn’t go to the temple, since she was not worthy to be in the Lord’s house, and turned her car toward home.
Those in attendance listen as Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks during BYU Education Week in Provo on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.
“My own thoughts were separating me from the Spirit,” she said. “My mind quickly began listing all my personal weaknesses as I mentally beat myself up. I had truly been enticed. I had made a mistake—one I could make restitution for and learn from. Yet I was choosing to allow myself to slip into darkness. But in this one particular instance, instead of continuing this negative berating, just as in the story of the prodigal son, I came to myself.”
She began to pray, repenting of her wrongdoing and again headed for the temple.
“In those few moments, a loving Father helped me see that I was allowing lies to enter my personal temple,” she said. “Receiving a speeding ticket had nothing to do with my worth as a daughter of God. In that moment, I longed even more for the light, refuge, and peace of the Lord’s temple.”
One takeaway from that experience was that this life is “perfectly designed” to provide opportunities to grow “spiritual muscles” as a person becomes more like Heavenly Father, she said.
This life is all about progression.
Patti Sawyer of Uintah, Utah, takes notes as Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks during BYU Education Week in Provo on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.
“Even our children, a spouse, or a parent can be enticements,” Sister Jones said. “The people we love most can provide some of our greatest enticements and also our greatest opportunities for spiritual growth.”
In moments of enticement, prayer can help.
“We are being taught to thank the Lord in all things—even in the enticing moments that challenge and stretch us,” she said. “We can practice throughout the day looking unto Him in instant prayer and gratitude. … Brothers and sisters, inherent in every enticement to do wrong is a spiritual growth opportunity.”
Enticements can even be a blessing in a person’s life, if he or she allows it to be, she said.
“Sometimes we will have the opportunity to experience multiple enticements, one after the other or several at the same time,” she said. “Some of you in this very hour may be in the middle of serious adversity or trial, which can be an enticement magnified. We must have the courage to continue in faith and hope in our Savior, Jesus Christ, and not be overcome. Every prayer is heard by our loving Father in Heaven. Doubt not. Fear not.”
As individuals make a daily effort to overcome the enticements in their life and put off the natural man, they begin to experience greater control in their life. The little things don’t bother as much because they are able to see them for what they really are—opportunities to use agency to turn to Heavenly Father and to become as He is.
Enticements in daily lives are inevitable. How a person views them makes all the difference.
“Enticements, tribulations, and tests, when endured well, are followed by blessings,” she said. “As we see negative or evil enticements with our spiritual eyes, we can receive the power to overcome them. That is one of the blessings. The challenge and opportunity of our lives, then, is to be steadfast in Christ by practicing rising above enticements and adversities. …
“We cannot allow the enticements of life to ‘interfere with [our] prospects’ for eternal life. We must learn to rise above them, turning to the Lord, and looking unto Him in every thought.”
For Shelly Farley, from Orem, Utah, Sister Jones’ words were exactly what she needed to hear. Farley is a veteran of Campus Education Week, having been nearly every year for the last “20-something” years.
“This was one of the most powerful talks I’ve heard in a long time,” she said. “It was just what I needed—I will refer to it again and again. I can’t wait to study it line by line.”
Farley liked the reminder from Sister Jones of the choice she has in how she responds in each situation she encounters.
“Just last night all of the classes got out at the same time and I was getting so frustrated sitting on the bus,” she recalled. “[This talk] was a good reminder that I don’t have to turn over my agency. I have a choice.”
For Joan and Garry Boyle from Gilbert, Arizona, their first time at Education Week has been a great learning experience.
Right before walking in to the devotional, Joan Boyle received a phone call from her daughter, who shared some concerns with her. Minutes later she heard encouraging words from Sister Jones.
“The Lord was answering my desperate pleas, and I knew everything will be all right,” she said.
Her words helped her realize that she can look at hard things that come her way as something tragic or as an opportunity for growth.
“The Lord knew what we needed to hear,” Garry Boyle said.
Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, sits with her husband, Robert B. Jones, before speaking during BYU Education Week in Provo on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.
Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, greets David and Patricia Hall of Santa Rosa, California, during BYU Education Week in Provo on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.
Attendees gather to listen to Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, during BYU Education Week in Provo on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.