With a Joyful Heart

Lynn A. Mickelsen
From an address given in October 1995 general conference.
Want to be happy? Good, because that’s what the Lord wants for you, too. You just have to follow the plan.

While teaching at BYU, Brother Dennis Rasmussen was selected to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In the opening session, as he gave his name and university, Rabbi Muffs boomed, “You’re the Mormon! … Do you pay your tithing?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Do you pay it with a joyful heart?”

“Yes,” he said.

“I believe,” the rabbi said, “that joy is the essence of religion. There is nothing more fundamental to religious living than joy. … I am working on a book about joy.”

Brother Rasmussen responded, “There’s a passage in the Book of Mormon … , ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy’” (2 Ne. 2:25). Rabbi Muffs was profoundly touched and exclaimed, “I’ve found the text I’ve searched for all my life … in the Book of Mormon.” Turning to Brother Rasmussen he said, “Say it again, but not so fast.” As he repeated the familiar words, the rabbi’s eyes glowed in appreciation of this great truth he understood but had not heard so succinctly expressed (Dennis Rasmussen, “An Elder among the Rabbis,” Brigham Young University Studies 21, summer 1981: 344–45).

How important it is to know the purpose of our existence. Man is that he might have joy, and that joy will come to us as we keep God’s commandments!

In 1995 I saw this joy personified as I accompanied the missionaries in Santiago, Chile, to visit some of their converts. At the Basuare home, eight-year-old twin boys, Nicolas and Ignacio, met us at the door, dressed in white shirts and ties, just like missionaries. Their father had been baptized three weeks earlier, and the following week he baptized his wife and sons. We talked of their conversion. They shared their feelings of love for the missionaries and the joy they were experiencing in living the gospel and keeping the commandments.

I asked Nicolas if he would like to be a missionary when he grew up. He answered yes, and we shook hands on the promise that he would prepare for the day. Then I asked Ignacio the same question. He hesitated and replied, “I’m not sure I can make that promise. I’m only eight years old.”

I persisted, “Nicolas made the promise. Wouldn’t you like to do the same?”

He still hesitated and said, “I don’t know if I could be ready.” I could see I had taken on more than I could manage, so I said, “Perhaps you had better talk this over with your father.”

He went to his father, who took him in his arms and said, “Ignacio, Jesus was a missionary. He walked the streets like Elder Sheets and his companion and made the people happy by teaching them to keep the commandments. Wouldn’t you like to be like Jesus?”

“Yes, Papi, I would.”

“Do you think if we work together, you can be ready to be a missionary when you are 19 years old?”

“I think so.”

“Wouldn’t you like to make the promise to Elder Mickelsen that you will do that?” He came to me, and we shook hands to confirm the promise. I marveled that this young father, a convert of just three weeks, could be so sensitive in helping his family follow the Savior and how he emulated the missionaries in teaching his son.

Since the beginning of creation such family happiness has been central to our Heavenly Father’s plan. Having been cast out of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve began to multiply and replenish the earth. As their family increased, they called upon the Lord for help. He gave them commandments and told them to teach them to their children. These eternal laws were reiterated to Moses on Sinai, summed up by the Savior in the two great commandments (see Matt. 22:36–40), and repeated to Joseph Smith in a revelation known as the “law of the Church” (see D&C 42).

Our happiness in this life and joy in the future as eternal families depend on how well we live these commandments (see Ex. 20).

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

God lives. He does exist, and He is the literal Father of our spirits. We are created in His image. He loves us and wants us to be like Him. He wants us to communicate with Him.

Thou shalt not bow to any graven image.

Our Father in Heaven must come first. Nothing in this world can take His place. Recognize His hand in all things. Respect and honor Him. Learn to worship Him through selfless service to others. Worship Him in family prayer and family home evening. We fail to worship Him when we give preeminence to sports, academics, entertainment, wealth, vanity, or anything else of this world.

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

When we take upon ourselves the name of Christ through the covenant of baptism, we become known as His children and promise to keep His commandments. When we break the promises and covenants we make to Him and do not repent, we take His name in vain.

Thou shalt honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Learn to set apart one-seventh of our time to learn of Him, to take our minds from the burdens of daily work, and to remember Him. As we dedicate this time to Him, it concentrates our hearts and our minds on the real purpose of our existence and takes us out of the world. It is a day to become as He is, to worship Him, and to minister to others as He did.

“Honour thy father and thy mother.”

We should learn to obey our Father in Heaven through honoring, respecting, and obeying our earthly parents. We need to honor family ethics and establish rules of conduct. The Lord gave the children of Israel the promise that their days would be long upon the land the Lord had given them. The same promise is valid today.

“Thou shalt not kill.”

We are created in the image of God. The union of the flesh with the spirit can bring us a fulness of joy. Strive to respect the sanctity of human life, to revere it and cherish it. Human life is the precious stepping-stone to eternal life, and we must jealously guard it from the moment of conception.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

Our bodies are temples of God, wherein the Spirit of God can dwell. We need to understand the sacred nature of the family, the beauty of marriage, and the godlike nature of procreation which our Father in Heaven has given us. We enter into a partnership with Him in the creation of life. This power must be respected, protected, and exercised only within the sacred bonds of marriage. It is a celestial power that, if abused, will be taken away.

“Thou shalt not steal.”

Learn to be honest and to respect that which belongs to others, especially that which belongs to our Father in Heaven. Pay a full tithing and give generous offerings. As we stamp our actions with honesty, we will be filled with the Spirit and power of God.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

Always tell the truth. Tell things as they really are, to build, to find the good in others, and to be positive and complimentary. Truth is more precious than any earthly possession. Truth is the essence of our existence. As we tell the truth, our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God and our fellowman (see D&C 121:45).

“Thou shalt not covet.”

We are children of a Heavenly Father, who loves us. As we feel our parents’ love, we will feel His love and will be grateful for their good name and for the name of Christ, which they bear and which we bear. As we feel the love of our Heavenly Father, we will feel no need for the possessions of others, and we will measure personal progress and not compare ourselves to others. As we keep the Ten Commandments, we express our love to God, and with the active application of these eternal principles, we express our love to our fellowmen. These are eternal laws of happiness that, if followed, will lead us back to our Father in Heaven and to the joy our Father in Heaven desires for us.

[photos] Photography by Welden Andersen