In July 1974, I started serving as mission president of the Indiana Indianapolis Mission. One day a reporter from an Indianapolis newspaper called me for an interview. I readily accepted. With only three stakes in all of Indiana, the Church was not well known, and a positive newspaper article could have a major effect on the success of our mission.
My wife, Viva May, and I decided to make this unexpected opportunity a matter of prayer.
The morning of the interview, the reporter asked me, rather abruptly, to make a “statement” about my church. I paused for a moment, then felt impressed to say, “It’s fun to be a Mormon.”
The reporter gasped and then silently stared at me in disbelief. She finally said, “You mean it’s fun to be a member of a church?” She paused again, then asked in an incredulous tone of voice, “How can that be fun?”
I quickly reminded her that the word fun can also be used to describe something that is pleasurable or enjoyable in the lives of people. Though it is seldom used to describe a church, enthusiasm for living the gospel and sharing it with others can bring lasting happiness and joy and even fun into a Church member’s life.
I told her that it is a great experience to pick apples at the welfare farm, to participate in the ward choir, or to take part in the road show. It can be a wonderfully happy experience to teach a Primary class, to be a Scout, to go to Young Women camp, to attend a Relief Society homemaking meeting, or to serve as an assistant priests quorum adviser. It is—yes, fun—to help others through group service projects or through individual acts of kindness. I told her that keeping the Lord’s commandments can be a happy experience and that it is a precursor to great joy—not only now but into the eternities.
When the article was published under the headline “Fun to Be a Mormon, Indiana President Says,” it proved to be very helpful to our missionaries. The thought of a church being happy and joyful caught the attention of Indiana residents and opened up many doors and conversations.
“Is It Joyful? Absolutely!”
Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers an all-encompassing lifestyle that includes lively activities, social interaction, family relationships, and lasting friendships. It also includes the more profound aspects of gospel living and testimony that constitute true joy and happiness.
Recently I used the same concept—the joy of being a member of the Church—at the Los Angeles Temple Visitors’ Center to catch the attention of Katrin Roop, a visitor from Estonia. When I asked her later what she thought of my statement, she replied, “I wanted to know how a religion could bring such happiness to people. I was curious to find out if what I knew about the Latter-day Saints was true.”
Another time, Mary McKinnon, a member of another faith, said, “The emphasis of the Church on family relationships can certainly lead to happiness. Some of my most treasured and enjoyable times have been with my family, so I can really relate to that.”
I’ve shared this approach with others. “The happiest times in my life are times when I feel the Lord’s Spirit in doing his work, especially in the temple,” said Lynn T. Reiman of Idaho Falls. “I’ve never had so much happiness in my life as when I’ve devoted myself to the work of the Lord.”
John G. Neeley of Newhall, California, said, “Is it fun to be a Latter-day Saint? Is it joyful? Absolutely! Truly, ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy’” (2 Ne. 2:25).
Establishing Common Ground
Focusing on the happy aspect of the gospel provides an opportunity to establish common ground and to develop rapport with others. Getting acquainted is the first step in this process. I have found that expressing my joy in being a Latter-day Saint has made it easy for me to get acquainted. And it’s then even easier to enter into a religious conversation with either a recent acquaintance or a longtime friend of another faith—or a relative, a business associate, a fellow traveler, a next-door neighbor, or even a total stranger.
After a discussion of common beliefs, we feel empathy as we look at things from the other person’s point of view. We develop relationships of trust, and we feel the Spirit. Our acquaintances then really want to know more and are ready to be visited by ward, stake, or full-time missionaries who can lead them to baptism and the wonderful possibilities of eternal life, eternal happiness, and eternal joy.
As a relationship of trust begins to form, it is possible to help another person feel the Spirit of the Lord. Then you may be able to discuss the basics of the restoration of the gospel, the Book of Mormon, or the plan of salvation with them.
The Prophets Taught of Joy
The quest for joy and happiness is a righteous desire. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us that “happiness is the object and design of our existence” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 255). We read in Proverbs that “whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he” (Prov. 16:20).
The Lord has taught us what true joy is: “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (D&C 11:13). Lasting joy is based upon our understanding of and living the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and enduring to the end (see D&C 14:7).
The Lord has told us that as we share the enlightenment of the gospel with others, our joy will be great: “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:15–16.)
I continue to find joy in being a Latter-day Saint. My membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has brought me more fun, more happiness, and more joy than I ever could have imagined. All of us can have these blessings. They come by devoting ourselves to the service of our Father in Heaven as we serve those around us, by keeping his commandments, by loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves (see Matt. 22:37–39).
Do you want to share what you have with your friends? It’s not difficult. Make it a happy experience!