Draw Water with Joy

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The Joy of Our Salvation is a collection of talks from BYU’s 2004 Women’s Conference.  Maybe you were able to attend, maybe not.  If not, do you wonder what you missed?  This compilation of twenty-five essays will take you there.  I found the selected talks extraordinary.  I delighted in them, felt elevated, laughed out loud, cried a bit and even slowed down enough to mull over what I had learned.  If you need a “feel good” book with some refreshing honesty, candidness and humor, this is for you.  The contributors for this special collection are women (and a few men) who ponder past the ordinary, try to live above the mundane, and choose joy in both the usual and unusual experiences of life.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12: 2-3)

These words from Isaiah were the theme for the Conference.  How and where do we find joy?  It is obviously part of Christ’s gospel.  The scriptures are replete with references about joy.  We exist in this mortal state with the supreme purpose of having joy.  The Lord wants us to be merry when praising Him, glad of heart and of good cheer.  He expects us to rejoice in truth and let our souls delight in eternal things.  How do we measure up when it comes to joyful living?  Are we choosing joy?  Are we drawing water from the well with joy?

Essays included in this volume will help you answer these questions.  For me, simply reading the book was a joyful experience.  I felt happier, renewed in my desire for more constant joy in life.  Sandra Rogers, who wrote the first essay, says, “Joy is not accidental.  It isn’t given to lucky winners like a lottery prize.  We choose it” (9).

Consider the words of an apostle of the Lord, Elder Dallin H. Oaks.  “Joy is more than happiness.  Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being.  It comes from being complete and in harmony with our Creator and his eternal laws” (5).  Sandra Rogers continues,  “The joy we have in mortality comes when we are briefly united with heaven while still on earth” (5). 

The Caliber of Contributors

They choose the very best.  Women’s Conference draws some of the most gifted speakers, educators and writers.  They may not consider themselves as such but their essays are proof they belong.  The book includes contributions from Mary Ellen Edmunds, Camille Fronk, Ardeth G. Kapp, Donna Smith Packer, Kathleen H. Hughes, Louise Plummer, Elaine S. Marshall, Cecil O. Samuelson and Heidi S. Swinton, to name a few. 

Maybe it’s the more casual venue in which these individuals are speaking, but what struck me as most enjoyable was the barefaced honesty.  Each proffered their own personality and style, giving us a peek into their real self, weaknesses and all.  This candor and sincerity brings them to a very human level at which all women can say, “Hey!  I’ve felt that way too!”  Isn’t that one of the main points of Women’s Conference – to identify and relate with each other, glean strength from one another, teach and edify one another?

The palpable spirit with which each author wrote moved me.  It was obvious that much time, meditation and spiritual preparation was given to the organizing of their words.  The Holy Spirit inspired these women and men to deliver messages that would strengthen us against adversity within our personal lives and families.  Topics range from personal prayer and scripture study, to peace, adversity and delighting in plainness.  Even motivating children and modesty are discussed openly with excellent suggestions.

Words are powerful.  They can conjure certain imagery for us when used in a particular way or grouped in certain phrases.  Language can forcibly stir us; turn our hearts in pivotal fashion.  That is the joy of these essays.  Some are poetic in nature, others more conversational, like kitchen table talk.  But each is plucky, thought provoking, and delivers a much-needed truth. 

A Few Snippets

Below are a few snippets from the included essays – a brief sampler of joy.  They are more full, more delicious, when read in context so I hope every Latter-day Saint woman will get their hands on a copy of this book.  You will be uplifted, and I believe, changed, in the reading of it.  Enjoy!

“We are born with a naturally sunny, optimistic, cheerful disposition.  Feeling joy and happiness doesn’t mean we’re always laughing our heads off, although laughter is very therapeutic!  …I was told that Picabo Street, the great Olympic skier, wants to become a nurse and work in the ICU so she can answer the phone with Picabo, ICU.’…Isn’t it like a dose of good medicine when we laugh together?  It feels unifying!” – Mary Ellen Edmunds

“I have learned that, regardless of circumstance, for some people there is no joy; for others there is only joy. Some of us experience catastrophe in our lives; others create catastrophe in our lives. For some, there are a few bad days; for others there are only bad days.” – Elaine S. Marshall

“When Christ proclaims, Be of good cheer,’ He is not requesting a naive, Pollyanna-like response to life’s cruel twists and turns.  Nor is He promising a pain-free life of constant bliss.  Trial is no respecter of persons…’In this world your joy is not full,’ He taught us, but in me your joy is full.’  How else do we learn that true satisfaction is found only by turning away from the world and coming to Christ?” – Camille Fronk

“We criticize each other for too many kinds of things – how we wear our hair, how we raise our children, whether we work or don’t work.  We must stop doing this to one another.  There is a commandment and a principle in operation here. Judge not, that ye be not judged’ (Matthew 7:1) is the commandment, and the principle is that we do not have inspiration for another’s life if it is not within our stewardship.” – Kathleen H. Hughes

“The joy is not in arriving, but in getting better each time a new challenge is thrown your way, each time you learn in a new situation.  Joy comes not from having a pain-free life but from conquering the obstacles, even when they are painful.  If our children can see us enduring well and finding laughter, humor and joy in the process, I think, some of this will rub off on them.  It will take many conversations, sometimes late at night, early in the morning, and all the times in between, but it is worth it.

” – Gayle Clegg

“I believe that, if it were possible, the adversary would keep us busily engaged in a multitude of good things in an effort to distract us from the few vital things that make all the difference…I love Michael McLean’s song Hold On, the Light will Come.’  As we look at our busy lives we might sing, Let go of some things so the light can come.'” – Ardeth G. Kapp

“Prayer is an intimate conversation with a loving Heavenly Father, who listens when I’m crabby, when I’m sleepy, when I’m rebellious, and even answers with a little humor. I’ve learned that God doesn’t speak in English or German or Swahili; He teaches us through His own divine language.  And for me to worry whether I’m speaking eloquently or grammatically is of no concern to Him. It doesn’t matter if I stammer my way through a prayer with awkward phrasing. The Lord has borne our sorrows and griefs, our rage, our imperfection, and or weaknesses so that we can be with Him.” – Louise Plummer

“Scripture is the Lord’s medium for inducing active immobility.  It contains the living water that cleanses, refreshes and restores.  When we open scripture, time stops.  By definition, we cannot reflect and act at the same time.  Meditation allows us to step back from the river of history. Here timelessness begins; the journey is suspended – change ceases and we can reflect on the changeless, and this is the beginning of how we are changed ourselves.” – John R. Rosenberg

“Because of the divine nature of women, we seem to be very sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.  In the home, mothers need to act as the receiving station for the communications from a loving Father in Heaven.  It is vital that you remain worthy and alert.  You must avoid getting too stressed or busy for the quiet promptings of the Spirit.” – Donna Smith Packer

“Our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ make our personal salvation and exaltation with a fullness of joy possible by their grace through the Savior’s Atonement…whatever our limitations.  Gratefully, the compensations of the eternities equalize the limitations of mortality when we do what we should and can.” – Elder Cecil O. Samuelson