“I have tried for five months now to feel real joy like I felt everyday while serving my mission.  I rise early, I study my scriptures, I pray often, sometimes all day, but I just can’t seem to feel it.”  The young man standing before me introduced himself as Pierre. (name changed) He had just finished a session at the Paris temple.  He looked sharp, spoke with charisma, and eventually shared his disappointing experiences from his institute classes.  “We just seem to repeat the same primary answers to the same primary questions.” I was taken aback; it seemed almost as if the RMvirus had spread from my returned missionary students at the Institute and religion classes all the way to France. 

When I was here fifty-three years ago, I had never met a missionary born in France, let alone a returned French missionary.  This young man had served in Canada and was now pursuing his life and education as most returning missionaries do.  The church’s progress here has been obvious to one separated from it for so many years.  Mature wards with inspired leaders, resident French General Authorities, vibrant youth groups, and a temple full of active worshipping members and local temple servants, all give evidence of a growing maturing kingdom of God on earth. 

Here, now, was evidence of the same kind of spiritual infections that eat at the best of us back home in Utah.  This insidious virus is also frighteningly contagious as one disappointed disciple after another discover and infect each other over the internet and begin to forget what they knew and had.  Then they stop living their covenants until they can acquire more certainty only to find that certainty is illusive in mortality and has no shelf-life.[1] While the etiology of the RMvirus seems infective, we will see that that with its predominate symptomatic loss of joy and crescendoing doubt, the cause is rooted in a misunderstanding of spiritual health practices, subsequent faulty expectations, and root omissions in one’s daily spiritual diet.

This young man, while wisely continuing his covenant life, was meeting with people from other religions in desperate hope that he could spread the break-through message of the restoration and thereby find the joy of his mission again.  He was preparing for a meeting with a local protestant group and wondered how he could smoothly transition from student to teacher in a way that they would listen.  I complimented him on his motives and suggested that there was something else at the root of his “ana-joy-osis[2]” that we could explore after I shared a personal story.

Many years ago, as a post-graduate student, I was recruited by the president of a meditation club on campus.  We were in the same classes, so it was easy to talk and share.  I listened and empathized…he didn’t push but was always selling the benefits of the meditation philosophy.  I was working as a TV cameraman at a local station, so I arranged a roundtable talk show interview-discussion of this meditation technique taught in the club with one of their international representatives passing through town.  The technique was being marketed as a business plan for stressed executives.  My friend eventually rose through the qualifying levels of the organization.

One day our discussion took a surprising turn.  Each time he had shared with me, I had empathized and woven the principles into the gospel truths that resounded with him internally.  But this time, he was troubled.  He had been reading the training material for the coveted level he had finally reached only to find it talking about reincarnation.  Reincarnation introduced elements of religion contrary to his expectations.  But he could now see the connection, as the whole organization was driven by an Indian Maharishi[3] with connections to Hinduism. As had been our custom, I asked him what he liked about reincarnation.  He shared with me what his training materials said and how it taught that we all had a life before our current birth and would have a life after.  That resonated with him…he believed it.  So, I asked him what was bothering him.  He shared that it seemed to him that if reincarnation were a reality then this life would have a diminished purpose in that we could do as we wished because we would have unlimited life experiences over the ages.  Though I knew that there were many different versions of reincarnation philosophies, I simply agreed that that seemed like a problem to me too. 

I asked, “What if there were a way that the idea of pre and post mortal life could be combined with personal responsibility and accountability?”  He agreed that the idea made sense but then he dropped the subject and we continued our discussion about chemistry or something else.  Almost a year later, as class ended and we stood to leave, we greeted each other across the large classroom.  He then launched into a humorous complaint, “You frustrate me, Frogley!”  I responded with, “What did I do wrong this time?”  He laughed and said, “We have been talking and sharing for months, but you have never joined our organization.  You listen and understand what we do and teach better than any of us, it seems.  In fact, I would say that you seem to be hiding a much greater truth that encompasses all we teach about the nature of man and his purpose, but you never share it with me! Why? Are you hiding something?” 

I laughed and responded, “You are right, I do already know all about the truths we have enjoyed sharing together, and yes, there is a greater encompassing truth, but I haven’t been hiding it. I have just been waiting for you to ask…to want to know, not just tell.  When you are ready, I am ready!”  He stood, mouth agape.  It took a few seconds to regain his composure and then said, “I AM ready!”  So, I said, OK, 7:00pm at my house, some friends will be there too to add to the discussion.”  That evening, as we knelt and he offered the closing prayer to a God that he hadn’t yet known in mortality, the Spirit was so strong that he had to stop praying and just weep.  Even under the threat of divorce and other family pressures, we entered the waters of his baptism together two weeks later.

Pierre was touched but wondered, “What if they ask questions or bring up issues I can’t answer.  Sometimes, I find that people in other religions have beliefs that seem logical and anchored in scripture.”  I agreed and asked, “Do you really think that we have the only logical, scripture based theology?”  Then I shared something that has helped with such conversations. It was something that I heard from Elder Hafen years before.  Paraphrasing his teaching; God does not hold himself responsible to make the gospel evidences so air-tight that we can’t disbelieve.  Rather in the presence of counterarguments, He provides sufficient evidence to keep the playing field level so that we can then choose what to believe.  The weight sits upon the use of our agency to choose from among several believable, logical paradigms.[4] 

To further illustrate, another story seemed appropriate;

After meeting once to twice a week for several months with an anti-Mormon minister, we decided to end our study sessions. We had been studying the many historical and doctrinal questions raised over the years that were used against the church to foster doubt in the minds of faithful members.  We had searched source material, verified quotes, and considered counterarguments.  He later wrote me a letter saying that he discovered that for every argument used against the church one could, with historical context, reframe it as an evidence supporting the church. So, he was going to have to re-exam everything he thought. He said that he now knew that contradicting positions could be logical, but that belief is a choice that needs testing by experience and divine direction to know what is true.

Pierre, nodding, was again was thoughtful for several moments about his own doubts and his pending meeting.  He then remembered, “What is the central issue that you said I needed to know to feel joy?”  My question surprised him, “What is joy?”  He wasn’t quite certain which direction to take, so I sent him to Alma 19:6:

“…the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul…”

He looked quizzically at me, so I asked, “What is this divine light?”  Again, he struggled to distill all that could be said into a coherent response.  I encouraged, “If joy is simply the emotion we feel when being filled with light, it would seem to be a good idea to understand what God means by “the light of the glory of God, especially if you haven’t felt it since returning home.”  Now he was hooked and hungry, so I invited, “Let’s turn to DC 88 and read”:

“Jesus Christ, his Son—…ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun (moon, stars, earth, and us) and the light of them, and the power thereof by which they were made…which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.” DC 88:6-13

Now DC 93:

11 I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.

21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn;

22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same…

23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;

28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.

32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.

33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

“So, I asked, what is the relation between light and joy?”

He pondered the passages and said, “It looks like our own natures consist of light, the light of Christ which seems like a governing and organizing influence of what is called truth which together make up our intelligence.  We are then sent here with a mortal body to acquire and aggregate more light, experiencing more joy, until like Christ, once resurrected, we receive a fullness of it which then allows us to experience a fullness of joy.  Wait, isn’t that what Lehi said, “Man is that he might have joy,” or in other words, light? 

“That makes sense, doesn’t it?  Now look back and see if you can see the relationship between light and grace.”  He scanned the verses again, wondering, “If verse 11 says that Christ received a fullness of “grace and truth” but then later in 28 and 36 uses “light and truth. Is grace divine light!!?  Wait, wasn’t there something here about the process of how Christ received a fullness of light and joy?” 

Yes, those early verses were about Christ receiving light from His Father, but when broken down into a process, John uses the word grace verifying what you just discovered:

12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;

13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;

Importantly, this section personalizes this process for our reception of light.

20 …if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.

As we instrumentally share His divine light or grace, we receive more until a fullness.  This now makes a passage back in DC 88 all the more enlightening for those hungering to re-enter this “grace stream”.[5]

76 Also, I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth.

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

As he read, I asked, “Who is the teacher here in verse 78?”  He stopped and pondered then looked tearfully into my eyes with new understanding, “As we teach we are taught…we receive grace or light and hence joy!” 

He responded with, “I would love to just go teach the gospel, but I was sent home to earn some money, get a degree, and start a family.  Someday I want to go back and teach the gospel like you are but for now that will have to wait. But do I have to wait for joy too?”  I invited him to look at an invitation that might solve his dilemma.  Could we read, Matthew 11:28-30 slowly together even though I know that you think that you know this scripture?”

28 ¶ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

A life without joy qualifies for “heavy laden.”  The opposite offered here is “rest”, but you are not looking to relax…what else could rest mean?  There is a hint in DC 84:24:

24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.

I could see the wheels turning as he said, “Sorry if this seems random but my brain is making connections all over the place. Here is that idea of glory or light again.  Is it possible that all the talk about a day of rest is really a day of light, of grace, if we really observe the Sabbath?  Wait, the sabbath is really an invitation to let him increase our light or our joy by stepping into what you have called the “grace stream”!!  So, is the Sabbath the only day when I can feel joy again by teaching and serving?”

“No,” I responded, “You hesitate to take up His yoke on other days because your own is so demanding right now, right?  You plan on a time in your life when you can retire from your yoke so as to take up His yoke of saving people, if I understand?  After all, trying to manage two yokes would probably ruin your effectiveness in both, right?  But wait, what is a yoke if it isn’t something that ties two people or animals together.  It is all about synergy. So, His invitation is to enter the yoke with Him so that He pulls with you.  But I think you are hesitating because what you would like right now is for Him to enter your yoke with you and help you pull your load, right?”  He was nodding like someone had finally understood his struggle and loss of inner peace.  I suggested to him, “Look, there are two things about the yoke that we really need to understand.  The first is here in the next verse;”

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

“Now, I know that isn’t persuasive enough for you to take on more than you already have.  You have experienced setting your schooling and dating aside to take up His yoke for two years and then found that your mission was so hard that the idea of an easy yoke just isn’t very credible.  But, let’s remember who is talking and try to understand what He is really saying.  If the word “easy” seems to be inconsistent with your experience, then you would be happy to know that the Greek translation is actually different.  The word in Greek used in the original is “Chrestos.” The first definition is “pleasing,” the second is “about people.”  What that means to me is that while “pleasing” is consistent with our experience in accepting the yoke, the knowledge that His yoke is about people not one that is system, money, or otherwise focused…His yoke is really just a re-focus of yours.  Whatever our yoke is; it becomes His the moment our goal and focus is to use our daily to-do’s to better people.  The more we receive His direction in doing so the more His grace is required to do it in His way so we become His recipients first so we can become His instruments towards those around us. 

Secondly, you know that a yoke doesn’t allow one of the partners to rest while the other works, right?  That would just result in a big circle with one pulling and the other resting or holding back.  Synergy requires the equal efforts of two or more.  So, the Savior is limited by how hard we are pulling…grace comes while we are doing our pulling…fully or partially-He matches or enables our efforts.  By synergy the results are many-fold what we could ever do alone.  We assume that “my burden is light,” is a word play on “my yoke is easy” but now that we know that “easy” should be “about people” then perhaps the word “light” could be “grace” or that divine enabling power that not only enables our efforts, edifies others but also accelerates our becoming from one level of grace to the next, “from grace to grace.”  Let’s suppose that you are taking a math class that is consuming your time and efforts.  You might consider asking Father, “Is there someone that is struggling in class that I could help?”  Or perhaps you are employed doing construction work.  Can you see that with a little extra time, you could respond to Father’s direction in the mentoring or at least partnering with another whose name comes to mind or whose needs become obvious to your waiting mind?

Satan takes away light by using sin and family tradition[6] to create the light-loss that results in this diseased state. All disease follows three stages: a cause, a condition, and symptoms.  This RM virus, rather than being the result of an infection, like so many other epidemics, is rather a symptom of a greater cause, giving rise to the condition so many conclude that “the church must not be true.”  The cause is a lack of understanding of one of the essential elements of our spiritual health, giving rise to a loss of light or at least a pause in its accumulating growth within.  Like certain vitamins that must be consumed daily, instrumentally sharing God’s grace prevents the symptom of a lack of joy, too often diagnosed as doubt which can then lead to the diseased state of apostasy,  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…”

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you THAT you may be instructed…DC 88:78. Be and instrument but not a know-it-all. AND YE SHALL FIND JOY. 😉

[1] 3 Nephi 5:1-3 And now behold, there was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets who had spoken; for they knew that it must needs be that they must be fulfilled. And they knew that it must be expedient that Christ had come, because of the many signs which had been given, according to the words of the prophets; and because of the things which had come to pass already they knew that it must needs be that all things should come to pass according to that which had been spoken. Therefore they did forsake all their sins, and their abominations, and their whoredoms, and did serve God with all diligence day and night.

This is followed by: 3 Nephi 6:17 just four years later:

…this, the thirtieth year, they were in a state of awful wickedness. Now they did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them, for it had been taught unto them; therefore they did willfully rebel against God.

[2] Latin prefix ana=without or absent; Latin suffix osis=abnormal condition of…; Root=Joy

[3] Wikipedia: In Ancient India, Maharshi is a  Sanskrit word, written as “महर्षि” in Devanagari (formed from the prefix mahā- meaning “great” and r̥ṣi meaning “seer”), meaning a member of the high class of ancient Indian scientists, popularly known in India as “Rishis”, or “seers”, especially those who do research to understand and know Nature and its governing laws.

[4] The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. There must be grounds for doubt as well as for belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads. The option to believe must appear on one’s personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension… what we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love.  That is why faith, the choice to believe, is, in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance.

Terryl & Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, 2012, 4.

[5] This is a metaphor that inserts us into the stream of grace between Father and those that we serve instrumentally.  As such grace streams through us to others.  In my observations he does more to change us by working through us than by working on us.

[6] DC 93:39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.