As a young man, Joseph, the son of Jacob, had prophetic dreams that one day he would have power and position. Instead of rejoicing that their younger brother would be favored by the Lord, his brothers “envied him.” (Gen. 37:11.) So thoroughly did they envy him that “they conspired against Joseph to slay him.
“And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
“Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” (Gen. 37:18–20.)
The Lord turned this evil to great good in the lives of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was sold into slavery, instead, and in Egypt he rose to a position of power where he could save his family from famine.
But the brothers’ sin haunted them years later. When Joseph asked them to bring their youngest brother to Egypt, they said, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear.” (Gen. 42:21.) Joseph forgave them, and the family was reunited, but his brothers had nevertheless wasted many years in unnecessary anguish of soul and had lost opportunities for joy with their brother.
Compare these brothers’ actions with those of the brother of another Joseph—the Prophet Joseph Smith’s brother Hyrum. As a young man, Joseph received visions. When he shared with his family the message he had received from the Lord, Hyrum accepted that message. He became a great strength to Joseph and a valiant servant of the Lord, serving alongside his brother, even to dying with him at Carthage Jail. Of Hyrum, Joseph wrote: “Brother Hyrum, what a faithful heart you have got. Oh, may the eternal Jehovah crown eternal blessings upon your head, as a reward for the care you have had for my soul.” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, compiled by Dean C. Jessee, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1984, p. 531.)
These two stories illustrate why “the Lord God hath commanded that [we] … should not envy.” (2 Ne. 26:32.) Every day we face situations in which we may feel envy or covet something another person possesses. We may envy another person’s home and comfortable financial situation, someone else’s talents and abilities, the church position of another, or the happy family life of another. Such envy can canker our souls.
In recording the words of his father, Mormon, Moroni wrote that charity, the pure love of Christ, “envieth not.” (Moro. 7:45.) To be filled with this love, we must “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart.” (Moro. 7:48.) If we find ourselves envying someone else’s talents, possessions, lifestyle, or accomplishments, we should first turn for help to our Father in Heaven. In his mercy, he will bless us with the ability to rise above the destructive pettiness of envy and to rejoice in his goodness to our brothers and sisters.
By seeking the Spirit of the Lord, serving others, and recognizing the many blessings the Lord has given us, we can overcome feelings of envy and rejoice in the Lord’s goodness to all of his children.
1. Discuss how envy can alienate us from the Lord and from our fellowmen.
2. Discuss the joy that can come into our lives as we rejoice in the blessings of others. You or the sister may want to relate an experience in which you learned to rejoice in someone else’s opportunities or blessings.