Most of us love carousels. We ride them as kids, and then keep on riding them as adults. Waiting for our turn, we watch the ponies and other animals go by, choosing the one we most want to ride. We take pictures of our smiling children as they, too, fall under the spell of the musical, up-and-down, whirling wonder.

Years ago merry-go-rounds had an exciting feature– a ring-dispensing lever that jutted out just within reach of the outside riders. The most popular animals were the “jumpers”—the ones that actually go up and down. On the outer rim were stationary animals, far less popular. So in the late 1800s, to encourage riders to choose those outer edge animals, a little lever was installed, down which rolled a series of rings. As riders went by, they would reach out to grab a ring—usually made of inexpensive metal. But about once every ride, a brass ring would roll down the lever and if you were lucky enough to grab that one, you could win a prize, usually a free ride on the carousel.

There are only a couple of these carousels in existence today, but the concept of “grabbing the brass ring” for a wonderful prize, has remained. It has come to symbolize reaching for something more, and daring to live life to the fullest.

Sadly, there are riders on life’s merry-go-round who never reach for any ring. They’ve fallen into a boring routine and convinced themselves that life’s greatest joys are somehow for somebody else.

And it’s easy to do. Life is demanding. It’s filled with the drudgery of survival. Even worse are the setbacks that sometimes thrust us into despair, and “what’s the use” attitudes that make us drag about even lower. We hear people say, “Carpe diem” and think, “Yeah, right now I’m seizing this laundry basket” or we’re balancing two jobs, a house full of sick kids, and just trying to stay afloat. Grabbing the brass ring seems like reckless abandon. That carefree, joyous outlook doesn’t jive with a pile of problems.

So how can we inject happiness and hope back into our lives? First of all, we need to realize we are worthy of joy. We need to remember whose children we really are, and what God wants for us. We need to make inner peace and contentment things we expect for our efforts.

And then we have to realize what really brings that rush of elation—not an extra ride at an amusement park, not material wealth or public acceptance. It’s not even the absence of adversity. The real brass ring is the warmth of God’ approval, and the bliss (yes, bliss) of temple covenants. If our goal is that lilt in our step, that smile on our face, we have to look for it where God has promised it, not where Madison Avenue tells us to find it.

I think this is the secret to jazzing up our lives and not feeling trapped in a rut. Best of all, it’s completely free and available to everyone. You can have trials and challenges, yet still feel the comfort of the Holy Ghost. You can be exhausted from a day of changing diapers and scrubbing toilets, yet still know you’re working your way home to the Celestial Kingdom. You can have discouraging days as a missionary, yet still feel in your heart that your efforts are accepted by your Savior.

We’ve all met people who seem undaunted by the weight of their problems. They amaze us with their cheery outlook and determination to be happy despite difficulties. These people are not oblivious to their setbacks; they’ve made a choice to focus upon the things that bring lasting joy—usually serving others and obeying God. Sometimes this sweet peace distills upon us slowly, with one small effort each day to reach out and help those around us, instead of indulging in self-pity. But it does come.

Just as carousel riders kept their eye on the prize, we also must keep our eye on the prize—the genuine trophy of Exaltation, not the counterfeit acclaim of mortality. When we correct our definition of a brass ring—and make it a glistening, eternal gold one—the monotony of mortality falls into perspective, and doesn’t seem to crush our hopes. In fact, it’s distinctly apart from our hopes. Dreary tedium is there, and must be dealt with every day, but it doesn’t shadow or crowd our objectives, because we’ve shrunk it to its proper space—a very small one in the corner. We give our routine duties the attention they need, but our hearts and minds remained focused on a far more exciting conquest, the ultimate prize, Eternal Life.


Hilton’s LDS Nursery Rhymes is available at the BYU Store, or at Amazon. You can find her other books here.

She is also the “YouTube Mom” and shares short videos about easy household tips and life skills at this channel.

And be sure to read her blog.

Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.