Personal Promises- Galatians 3:26-27, 29; Mark 10:39, Matthew 3:16-17

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

COMMENTARY

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise
We have spent some time examining the covenant blessings, which we noted were given through Abraham to all his generations. To inherit eternal life we must come through that same covenant lineage, which is made possible to all of us by being adopted through Jesus Christ.

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ
Being adopted through Jesus Christ requires being baptized into him. Thus all that have this baptism will, by default, inherit the blessings of Abraham.

And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
Note that this is not just any baptism, though. Language like “baptized into Christ” and “the baptism that I am baptized with” seem to suggest that we are supposed to have the same experience with our baptism that he did. And what exactly was that baptism experience?

And the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Jesus, it turns out, was a direct descendant of Abraham. Therefore he already had all of the same covenant promises by default. But God is not a God of “by default.” When Jesus was baptized it was accompanied by a personal declaration of divine approval.
This is the baptism experience Jesus intends for us. Not some impersonal wetting and an assumption of blessings received, but rather a direct and personal affirmation from God Himself.
If you have already been baptized and it lacked this sort of grandeur, don’t feel bad. That was my situation as well, but I learned that this moment of affirmation will still come. It will come, but only when you are ready and the time is right.

Personal Promises- Exodus 18:17-18, 21-22; Matthew 21:33-35

And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.

Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

COMMENTARY

And place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens
One of mankind’s most ingenious inventions is that of delegation. Many rulers have expressed a desire to maintain direct interaction with those that they are responsible for, but this becomes a literal impossibility once the populace grows too large. Eventually there simply are not enough hours in a day to maintain guidance for every individual.
Moses faced this exact dilemma as he sat in judgment over the people of Israel. He was instructed to put in place a hierarchy of judges, worthy individuals who could mediate over all the smaller disputes and only bring to Moses the particularly difficult cases.
This solution was both beneficial to Moses and also to the people. Everyone could receive mediation, and ideally it would be as if from the hands of Moses himself.

There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard…and let it out to husbandmen…and the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
“Ideally” was the key word there. Because while delegation has its benefits, it does also have its drawbacks. It is inevitable that at some point a steward will make a different judgment than the leader would have. Some stewards will be more capable than others, while others will be misguided. And, as in the extreme case of Jesus’s parable, some stewards might even be wholly corrupted.
In short, delegation will eventually lead to outcomes that stray from the wishes of the ruler, even in extreme ways. It is still the method by which God’s imperfect, mortal, time-constrained servants try their best to care for His flock; but it simply has to be coupled with something that is more guaranteed.

Finding Our Purpose- John 18:37, Exodus 4:10-12

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.

And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

COMMENTARY

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world
And Moses said unto the Lord, I am not eloquent, I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue
I think there is a very interesting contrast here between Jesus affirming his divine calling and Moses questioning his. Jesus’s words seem so imbued with confidence, Moses’s with doubt.
I think many of us can relate better to Moses. The entire premise of this study is that each of us has a divine purpose to discover, but frankly I know many people who doubt that they do have one. “Certainly Jesus had one, and sure Paul did, too. But little old me?…”
But wouldn’t we also say that Moses unquestionably had a divine role to play? And he doubted it just as firmly as the rest of us.

Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say
I find it very meaningful that God does not coddle Moses here. He does not say to him “Now, now, Moses. You speak just fine, stop worrying about it.” Because I don’t think Moses is being falsely modest here. Moses really does have a limitation and it really does make him unfit for this calling. Or at least it would if he were fulfilling the calling alone.
And that’s the point God makes to him. Moses isn’t being asked to go and come up with speeches and miracles on his own. He could not do that. Instead he is supposed to be a mouthpiece. God will be doing the talking through Moses. “I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”
Many times we think we have to possess a certain level of talent before God can make use of us, but all we have to do is be a vessel for His infinite capabilities. That much Moses was able to handle and so can we.

Finding Our Purpose- Matthew 5:16, 1 Corinthians 12:26

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

COMMENTARY

And whether one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works
Can you imagine a world where all of the petty competition and comparison are gone? In today’s world we have insecurities that make us jealous of others’ accomplishments, when we should be rejoicing with them. Or if not that, we are repulsed by that idea of jealousy and over-correct into a false humility, not daring to appear “special” ourselves.
I’ve expressed this in previous sections, but it is alright for you to be special, and it is okay for others to be so as well. We do need to be humble, we do need to give God the praise for our talents, and we must never use our abilities to make another feel that they are somehow “worse” than us.
But, none of that means that we are supposed to dim the wonderful light that God has given us. Having a purpose to fill and a talent to show makes the world brighter and helps others to see more clearly. When one is vibrantly living out the purpose for which they were made it helps everyone.
Children are remarkable in how they are able to be both fearlessly proud of themselves, and fiercely proud of others. I am convinced that this is one of the aspects of children Jesus had in mind when he commanded us to be like them.

That They Might Have Joy- Summary

Studying the gospel can be a most satisfying experience. After all, it is meant to be “good news,” and to bring us “tidings of great joy.” It is specifically designed to make us happy and give us hope. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in those joyful places?

In my experience those mission statements of the gospel are not empty promises. The ideas of peace and joy truly do pervade its verses, and the pattern of life for achieving them are well detailed. The common desire of all mankind is to find abiding happiness, and I am convinced that the gospel provides the best, even the only, path to achieving it.

We Are Meant to Have Joy

We very often try to mask our desires. We don’t want to appear selfish by daring to say we want something or the other. In fact we often see the path of discipleship as being one of restraining our indulgences. It is easy to see where the stereotype of religious people being stuffy and passionless arises from! But nothing could be further from the truth. True disciples are all about the pursuit of happiness.
Do we suppress our carnal desires, yes, but for the purpose that we may be truly happy. The short-lived, guilty indulgences that bring momentary happiness are always followed by abiding sorrow, and there is nothing “stuffy” in circumventing those pitfalls. Instead we pursue deep and living joy, and we pursue it vigorously.
Indeed that is God’s entire intention for us. He made us to be ridiculously, inexplicably, rapturously happy! You are supposed to feel good, you are supposed to feel fulfilled, and you are supposed to feel it always.
2 Nephi 2:25- Men are, that they might have joy
Psalm 149:5- Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds

The Joy We Seek Can Only Come From God

We are a creative and ingenious species, always looking to invent new things. That is good, it is by design, it is how we progress and improve as a race. But sometimes we take it to the point where we are trying to reinvent the wheel, looking for new solutions to an already-solved problem.
As God is the author of our very existence, He is also the final authority on what we were made for. The workmanship of a perfect creator will only ever be able to find fulfillment and completeness when it satisfies the ends to which it was created. I, myself, have found that my abiding joy comes as a result of living the purposes for which God has made me.
Though we may try to find joy in other paths, it simply cannot work. Our greatest joys will only occur when following God’s precepts. And to that end, God has cleverly placed a conscience in each of us, by which He guides us whether we know Him or not. I do believe that when we stand before God in the flesh we will finally recognize how He was behind every abiding joy we ever perceived in life.
Doctrine and Covenants 88:19- For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father

God Gives Us Joy That Doesn’t Make Sense

As part of this study I chose to examine the joy I have personally been feeling of late. I wanted to place its source, because it caught me off guard. I frankly didn’t feel like I was justified in feeling as good as I have.
As I conducted this study it dawned on me that inexplicable joy is one of the fundamental promises of the gospel. I should therefore expect unexpected happiness when I try to follow my Savior. This sort of peace and joy will never make sense so long as we view it by worldly metrics, because it does not emanate from a worldly place. The joy that God gives is spiritual, and therefore can only be understood spiritually.
Trusting in the dawning of that joy therefore requires faith. You won’t be able to calculate its coming, so you simply will have to hope that the promise of it will be fulfilled. I can give my testimony that it does.
John 14:18- I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you
John 14:27- Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you

That They Might Have Joy- Psalm 34:18, 94:18-19; John 14:18

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

COMMENTARY

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart
Previously we observed that those whose hope is based in heaven are less likely to feel distressed by the setbacks of the world. But that isn’t meant to suggest that the faithful must never experience sorrow. Indeed, even Jesus wept when he heard of the death of his friend Lazarus.
Even with the hope of heaven, there are still some moments that will make us sad down to the soul. To express sorrow in these moments does not show a lack of faith, and there is no shame in mourning life’s tragedies.

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you

The gospel is a message of gladness, but it does not promise that we will never feel sorrow again. What it does promise is that we never have to be alone in that sorrow. We can be sad, but we can also be comforted.
Many have noted, and I would agree, that that promised comfort feels comes as a companionship. It feels like some invisible friend is sitting with me in my hardest moments. And through those moments I have discovered that one may feel sorrow and joy at the same time.

That They Might Have Joy- Acts 16:23-25, John 14:27, Hebrews 10:34

And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

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.

For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison…And at midnight Paul and Silas sang praises unto God
There are several stories like these in the scriptures, ones where the disciples are persecuted and yet remain in utmost joy. When we read these accounts we might have one of two responses:

  1. Wow, I wish I could have abiding joy like that. My own emotions seem so fickle, coming and going depending on my circumstance. Is there any way I can be happy even when my world is turned upside down?
  2. Well that’s just weird.

Now don’t feel bad if you find yourself in that second category. Truly the joyful singing of Paul and Silas after being beaten and imprisoned is irregular. It is, because it defies the common order of things, and there’s no shame in recognizing that fact. And that recognition naturally leads to an important question. Are they madmen, then, or they have found a way to live outside the systems of our common world?

Peace I leave with you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you
For ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing that ye have an enduring substance
There is a simple reason why our emotions seem to be so fickle. It is because they are usually based upon the things of the world, and the world itself is fickle. Nothing earthly can be guaranteed, they come and go without warning, and with them so do our emotions.
Jesus invites us to know a more enduring peace, a joy based on a substance that is constant. Abiding joy can only come by being based upon abiding things. Something that is necessarily outside of this world, something that cannot be undone by this world. When one ties their emotions to that more eternal source, then it doesn’t matter what happens in this world anymore, the joy remains. Now they are truly free.