Context and General Information
- Lehi, shortly before his death, is speaking a final time to his sons.
- Adam fell that men might be.
- Men are that they might have joy!
“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25
So – read that again. And really pay attention to the last phrase.
Men (and women) are that they might have joy.
Why We Are
This is the reason of being. It’s not just why we are here in mortality on earth. It is why we ARE.
I don’t know if I have ever fully contemplated that. That we ARE to have joy. This is the raison d’être—for each and every one of us.
And think about it. How does it make you feel? To know that God—our Creator—has given us this reason for being: to have joy. It, in and of itself, is a joyful proposition.
Of course, we can’t really ignore the first part of the scripture: Adam fell that men might be. The Fall of mankind is a less joyful prospect. It introduced death, misery, pain, sickness, and sin into the world.
Even in this scripture, we can see that we cannot have one (joy) without the other (the fall). Without the fall, we wouldn’t have knowledge. We wouldn’t have “sight.” This ignorance would preclude us from feeling misery and pain, yes, but it also would keep us from knowing happiness and joy.
And Joy is why we ARE.
So, we have to keep this raison d’être in mind, especially as we suffer and experience life in this fallen, mortal world. We really need to understand more of why we are here (Joy) AND what joy actually means (according to the truth of our God). We need to understand how to discern that which will bring us joy. We need to understand how to have joy. Then, we can use this knowledge and perspective to help us have joy now, even as we go through the difficulties of mortality.
What is Joy???
It’s nice and all to say, “men are that they might have joy!” But the thing is, what is joy? Who is defining it???
If we don’t have a real handle on the true definition of joy, according to the truth of our God, then we might find ourselves looking for joy in all the wrong places. This could then take us down a path of losing trust in Lehi’s simple and sweet statement.
We need to understand that joy is deep contentment and peace. However, we often mistake joy for short term pleasure. In our current society, “joy” isn’t long-lasting, capable of getting you through extreme hardship. Instead, it’s the quick dopamine hit, the quick rush.
Our society seems to imagine joy the same way as advertisers do. (No surprise there!) Think of an alcohol advertisement. (I was going to put one in here, but I hate them all so much because they are full of LIES!). As I just did a search, most of the advertisements include young people (especially women) who are partying, having fun, and ready for sex.
There is nothing wrong with going to a party with friends. There is nothing inherently wrong with having fun. And there is nothing wrong, if you are in the right circumstance of marriage, with being ready for sex. This is a part of the human experience. But we have to understand, these are the dopamine hits. There is nothing wrong with a quick hit of dopamine, either. The moments of pleasure that stoke our dopamine give us a lot of motivation to do anything – good or bad.
The problem is when we start misunderstanding pleasure and joy. When we start chasing the quick dopamine hit, rather than nurturing the long-term happiness hormone of serotonin. Long-term happiness doesn’t come from a party. It comes from consistent good sleep, consistent healthy food, consistent meditation and prayer, consistent service, consistent positive experiences with loved ones.
Joy isn’t “sexy,” fast, or even necessarily fun. Joy is the tortoise while pleasure is the hare.
Pleasure comes from a lack of inhibition, joy from discipline. I realize that this doesn’t sound very provocative -when it comes to joy. If joy is an act of discipline, then why would we want it? The best way for me to illustrate this is through my own experience.
I am hedonistic at heart. I love eating good food. I love sleeping. I am sensual and passionate. I’m a human. We all are a little hedonistic! Why have the spinach shake when I can have a Nutella crepe??? Why wake up and exercise when my bed is so warm and cozy??? Why save money when I want new shoes??? Why stay sexually pure when there are so many cute boys on this earth???
The answer to all of these questions is because pleasure and hedonism isn’t necessarily the path to happiness. And if we sacrifice righteousness for any of these mortal desires, then we may experience pleasure, but happiness and joy is impossible. As Alma taught:
“…Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” – Alma 41:10
So – as I was saying, I tend to be a little hedonistic at heart, but somewhere along the way, the Lord has been merciful and has taught me the joy of discipline. Several years ago, I was going through some really difficult things, and I felt the prompting to go for a run. I was out of shape, and I was living in HILLY Pennsylvania. I went for a run. It was hard. And I was SORE for a week.
But there was something about that run – about putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again. It wasn’t easy, but after an hour, I had run five miles. I had gone uphill and downhill. I had done something hard! I realized that just as I could put one foot in front of the other on this run, I could do it in my life, too. I could get through these challenges I was facing.
After this run, I started to love running! (Well, probably more appropriately jogging, but whatever). I ran when it was 23°F outside. I ran when it was 93°F outside. I ran in rain, sleet, or snow. I ran in cool, crisp breezes during fall when the leaves are orange and the sky is blue. I ran at 5:30 AM, or at 10:20 AM, or at 4:30 PM or even at 7:00 PM…depending on the day and on my schedule.
And you know what – it was never really easy to get up out of bed. I always wanted to be sleeping instead. It wasn’t easy to stop my day and run. It wasn’t easy, after work when I was exhausted, to lace up my sneakers and get in a quick run. But I did. I had learned that I never came home from a run in a bad mood.
Somewhere along the way, I had learned that my hedonistic nature wasn’t always very smart. I had learned that doing the thing that seemed “easy” in the moment was often hard in the long term. I had learned that the seemingly hard thing had very generous dividends.
As I think back on this now, the cumulative experience of running – especially in PA – brings me joy still. Yes! The sweat, the sore muscles, the blisters…are joyful memories! Though running didn’t offer immediate pleasure, the cumulative effect taught me discipline and joy.
This is the kind of joy that the Lord offers to us, too. His joy isn’t immediate pleasure (though we may experience pleasure from time to time). His joy is fruit of cumulative discipline and work that amounts to something. As the Savior said:
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27
The Lord’s joy isn’t the fleeting pleasure that we see in advertisements. When we ponder Lehi’s teaching—men are that they might have joy, we must apply God’s definition of joy and happiness and peace. It may not seem as appealing to our hedonistic side, but it is what we are all actually after.
God’s joy is the rush we feel when we finish a difficult but good task, God’s joy is the love that makes our heart want to explode when we see our little children sleeping peacefully. God’s joy is the quiet peace that fills our souls when we sit at the beach and watch the rolling waves, when we smell the fresh pines in a mountain top, or ponder the intricacies of a simple wildflower.
Ultimately, God’s joy is our joy:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39