Saturday, August 17, 2013

You Don't Have to be Mormon (or Christian) to Experience Pure Joy

Perhaps I'm breaking the cardinal rule of "what happens in Relief Society, stays in Relief Society" (Relief Society is the service organization for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), but I'm going to share anyway.

My wife shared with me the story of an experience she had at a recent "women's night out" through our local LDS congregation. At the event, a woman who had recently left the LDS Church and become Atheist had come to partake of the fellowship of her neighbors and friends as well. In some of the conversation of the night, one woman there asked her, "so, why did you leave the Church?" Reluctantly, but perhaps also grateful they were genuinely interested, she answered that she had decided she didn't believe in God any more, and had become Atheist.

I'm not sure if the resulting conversation happened with her, or outside of her presence, but it shocked me a bit to hear my wife talk about what they said (to my wife's credit, she was defending this lady). She said some of the ladies there couldn't believe that this nice lady could really experience "true joy" and still be Atheist. They didn't believe she was genuine, and some even insinuated she might be lying to herself about the joy she was experiencing. This mentality needs to stop!

I don't believe pure joy is limited to Mormons. In fact, I don't believe it's limited to just Christians, or Muslims, or Bhuddists or any one religion. I've been around enough non-Mormons and even ex-Mormons and non-Christians to know that there is joy everywhere, and some even experience more than I have in this lifetime. If this were not the case, did Ghandi not experience joy in bringing peaceful freedom to his people? Are my fellow Mormons prideful enough to suggest they have experienced more joy than Mother Teresa? The fact is, it is not the prideful, but the meek that shall inherit the earth, and every Mormon and Christian out there knows this.

I'm reminded of the Christian story of The Good Samaritan (which Mormons believe as well). In it, a man was beat and left to die on the side of the road. He was passed by a Priest and a Levite, neither wanting to touch a man that was as defiled as possibly dead. Yet, the Samaritan, of a group quite hated by the Jews, was the one who stopped and brought back to heal back to good health. It was regarding this man that Jesus Christ said to "go and do likewise."

Christ Himself said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." It is not by believing in God that one serves and receives joy. It is by serving and receiving joy that one comes to know God. The "God part" is not required to receive joy!

I'm troubled that there are many of my fellow Mormons and Christians out there that believe joy cannot exist without a belief in God, or an active participation in His Church. Joy exists in service. It exists in loving one another, and being willing to lay down our lives for our friends, no matter who they are and what their faith (or lack of) is! I have no doubt that this innocent lady, who actively participates and serves in her community regardless of who her fellow man is or believes, experiences more joy than perhaps many of those that were judging her after-the-fact.

May we all follow in her example.

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