Solemnity and Joy- Summary

Recently I considered the different rituals we observe in life, and the different attitudes we have towards them. We have cheerful birthday parties and solemn sacraments, happy chatting around the newborn baby and soft condolences in the funeral hall, times where we are expected to be joyful and times where we are expected to be solemn.
And as I thought about these different moments I had a sensation that this was good. It seemed right to me that some times were reserved for solemnity and some for joy. I wanted to explore that concept further, though, and I began this study to examine the correct application of each expression. I also wanted to consider the incorrect application of each expression, too.
At the end I gained a greater vision of what gospel life is supposed to look like. I saw how a disciple who has a full appreciation of all the different walks of life would feel moved by them in a natural and healthy way. Here are a few of the main takeaways I had from this study.

The Value of Joy

We are meant to experience joy. We are meant to feel truly and deeply happy. Angels came to declare “glad tidings,” Israelites were commanded to have feasts and celebrations, and Jesus encouraged his disciples to glory in his presence. We do not have to shy away from our genuine happiness.
In fact, the word gospel means the “good news.” It is brought to cheer us from the otherwise certain doom of our fallen world. It gives us hope in a better life. It is an expression of love from a Father who wants to save us. It empowers us to become a better, truer version of ourselves.
What sort of response could be appropriate for all of this except joy? Those that have the realities of these messages in their hearts have a cheerfulness as their natural resting state. Though they may still experience sorrows, though at times they may be caught in waves of grief, beneath it all is a resting state of gladness.
Numbers 10:10- Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God.
Luke 2:10-11- And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

The Value of Solemnity

But we are also meant to have solemn moments. Just because all challenges will end in victory does not mean that the pain before that triumph is negligible. It really does hurt, and that really does matter. Jesus knew that Lazarus was going to rise from the tomb, but that did not make him impervious to the pain of temporary loss. He wept.
And while we are told God will “wipe away our tears,” it is not as though our sorrows are cheaply swept under the rug. They are significant, and they are only healed by a significant process. The overcoming of our death and sorrow comes at great cost. It comes through a Savior that endured all of those hurtful moments in his own body and spirit so that he could overcome them and know how to cater to us in them.
And that brings us to the other great reason for solemnity: sacred reverence for what great deed has been done for us. Of course we often feel a sadness when we observe the sacrifice of Jesus, but even deeper than that is our quiet awe for it. We feel the great gravity of it, and we wish to show it proper respect.
John 11:34-36- And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
Alma 7:11-12- And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

The Fulness of Life

So life has joy. It has a happy ending and many sweet moments along the way. We can show our joy without shame. But also we are meant to embrace the sad and somber moments that give life its gravity. Between our joys are times to pause, reflect, and even shed a tear.
There are inappropriate times for a joke and there are hypocritical displays of somberness. We should not try to make light of heavy matters, nor should we try to make heavy of light matters. The full-hearted disciple is perfectly capable of experiencing the full spectrum of emotion.
Because, after all, coming to Christ is meant to bring us to a life that is full and rich. The soul is not to merely meant to be expanded in a single direction, as we learn in Ephesians 3 it is meant to feel “breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” Thus if there is a sector of life that we are denying to ourselves, then we are not embracing the completeness that God intended. All these different slices of life are part of the whole. God has always meant for us to have the whole, but we cannot receive it without embracing the separate parts.
John 10:10- The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Ephesians 3:17-19- That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Solemnity and Joy- Ecclesiastes 7:6, Doctrine and Covenants 88:69

For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

Remember the great and last promise which I have made unto you; cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you.

COMMENTARY

For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool
Cast away your excess of laughter far from you
Thus far we have considered the worthiness of both joy and solemnity, the different times that call for each. It also seems worthwhile now to mention the inappropriate application of each. Today we will look at inappropriate laughter.
There is nothing wrong with being happy, enjoying a moment of good feelings, smiling, laughing, and pleasantly being with those we love. But I’m sure we can all think of situations where others or ourselves have taken it too far. Consider, for example the screeching, forced laughter of someone trying to get everyone to look at them at a party.
That behavior reminds me directly of this verse from Ecclesiastes. It is an older expression, but the crackling of thorns is in reference to how throwing thorns on a fire would result in an immediate and loud blaze, which quickly consumed all of its fuel and then died out without providing any lasting heat. It was flashy, but it was worthless for heating whatever you had in the pot.
True joy means something, it bubbles out in warm laughter that has a real depth beneath it. But raucous screeching has nothing of substance behind. It comes only from a place of desperate vanity. It flashes, it crackles, it calls for attention…and then it evaporates into emptiness.

Solemnity and Joy- Revelation 21:3-4

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

COMMENTARY

There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain
I mentioned before that times of mourning are not the only reason for being solemn, but they certainly are a reason. All of us live in a fallen world, and now and again the reality of that impresses deeply on our hearts. We gradually come to appreciate the hard facts of life. Concepts like death and decay become more than just concepts, we start to feel the reality of them, the totality of them, and the certainty of them. How can we not be solemn then?

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes
The miracle, it would seem, is that we can still be happy in the face of such heavy fates. It is wondrous that we are beings of hope and not despair. All our senses perceive a complete end in the image of a corpse, but the spirit inside denies any end. Never mind what illusion the body shows, the spirit knows that it is made of more eternal stuff.
In the fallen world we have doom and despair. It is real and it is sobering. But in this fallen world are also infinite souls which solemnity can have no permanent hold on. Our souls are in the hands of their Father, and He wipes away the transient tears to uncover the natural, eternal joy that remains beneath.

Solemnity and Joy- Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

COMMENTARY

To every thing there is a season
A time to be born, and a time to die
A time to kill, and a time to heal
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh
A time to mourn, and a time to dance

We have been discussing the need for times of solemn reverence and also times of unfettered rejoicing. Is it any wonder that we would need both, given the fractured, dual-natured world we live in? As these verses illustrate, we pass through all manner of different experiences, the entire spectrum of good and bad. We get to welcome new babies but also bury old friends. We build things, but we must break things as well. We have times of health, but also times of pandemic. To deny an entire side of this reality for the other would be deluded.
Does living in the gospel give us a hope for a happy ending, and does that hope instill us with an abiding joy and peace? Yes, but Jesus still wept when Lazarus died. And are there times when we are treated unfairly, hurt and offended, some of us even killed unjustly? Yes, but Stephen still passed away rejoicing, surrounded by the glory of his God and Savior.
We are complex beings in a complex world. There is not only space for the entire spectrum of emotion within us, it is necessary for us to embrace them all. We should let each have dominion over its proper season.

Solemnity and Joy- 2 Samuel 6:14-16, 20-21

And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord.

COMMENTARY

And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And Michal saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart
Today we have the example of King David when he was caught in the rapture of praising God. He had just concluded a campaign against the Philistines and capped it off by bringing the Ark of the Covenant back into the heart of Israel.
He was evidently very joyous in this moment and took to dancing “with all his might.” Biblical commentaries have stated that this sort of vivacious dance was by no means an unusual practice, but that it was typically performed by a priest. This is likely why Michal felt the king was debasing himself by performing it, she felt he was acting beneath his royal station.

Michal came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, therefore will I play before the Lord.

A rift grows between the two of them, but David maintains his reasoning for showing such levity: it was done as an honor to God, and when honoring God called for joyous cavorting, that was simply what David was going to do.
As I have already stated, sometimes honoring God calls for quiet dignity, and that is what one should observe in those moments. But sometimes it calls for displays of rapturous joy, and in such cases there is no evil in embracing that spirit. Of course that doesn’t mean we loosen our morals and become obscene, but we are welcome to freely display our joy without shame.

Solemnity and Joy- Luke 5:29-34

And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.
But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?

COMMENTARY

But their scribes and Pharisees murmured saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? Why do the disciples of John fast often, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
Thus far I have considered a few examples that call for solemnity and sacred introspection. But just because solemnity is called for in some situations, does not mean it is always the right thing for every situation.
The Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples for having a moment of joy, for not remaining forever in a state of solemnity. These verses do not describe the behavior of Jesus and his disciples in great detail, but there is nothing to suggest that they were being crass or profane, simply enjoying a moment of innocent levity. It bothered the Pharisees, and I have certainly known a few stiff-collared Christians that it would bother as well. Our view is too narrow if we do not appreciate the role of joy in this gospel, too.

Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
Jesus’s response was to describe his presence with his disciples as being similar to a groom with his loved ones during the wedding. It was a time of celebration and excitement, a time for being happy, and all the more so when this particular groom was also the son of God! How could one not flow with happiness when they were able to talk and eat with their own Savior?
I am sure that when Christ comes again there are going to be moments of tearfully acknowledging his sacrifice for us, and there will be moments of solemnity as we watch him heal the sick and wounded, but unquestionably there are also going to be moments of vibrant celebration! And that is not only permissible, it is right.

Solemnity and Joy- Question

Recently I was considering the role of solemnity in the gospel. In many spiritual rituals there is an expectation for a quiet, reverent demeanor. There are situations in life that bring with them a deep gravity. But at the same time there isn’t anything inherently wrong with mirth or laughter either. We are told that the gospel is a message of gladness and it is meant to be a delight to us.

Sometimes it is right to be very quiet and still and other times it is right to dance and laugh. Sometimes we should be serious and sometimes we should celebrate. With this study I want to examine the interplay of these two emotions in the gospel.

I will look at examples of both of these emotions in the scriptures, and the contexts that called for them. I will also consider situations where each would be inappropriate and why. I will be asking myself what the underlying purpose of solemnity is and what the core function of joy is.

In the meantime, have you ever had a situation that you felt was too sacred for loud words and raucous laughter? Why do you suppose that sort of behavior would have tainted the mood? What memories do you have of pure joy? Why was it good in those moments to laugh and be lighthearted?

Give Thanks- Summary

There are a lot of things to be grateful for. I specifically tried to choose things for this #givethanks campaign that were universal, that anyone could still feel appreciation for, no matter how many trials are going on in their lives right now.

Certainly there have been a lot of trials for people this year. Not only in the form of large, international disruptions, but also in the quiet, personal tragedies that are an inevitable part of life. And from our trials it is all too easy to either become cynical and jaded, or else to hide our pain down deep where it will fester. The fact is that we should both be able to feel the weight of our sorrow and embrace the reality of still being very, very blessed.

In our lives we have both trials and blessings. And we have both of them in the exact same moments. It doesn’t do to deny either for the sake of the other. Even as we mourn our losses, we can also have joy for the things that we can never lose. The things that do not break or expire. The things that are promised for eternity.

The balanced heart knows its own sorrows, but its resting state is one of joy.

Give Thanks- Children

I am grateful for children.

I’ve always been able to understand these small persons much better than their adult counterparts. Children’s rules are far simpler, their criteria for being accepted into the group are far less cryptic.

A friend once pointed out to me how delightfully straightforward children are when expressing their needs. They have no shame in asking for our affection. Where we adults try to “drop hints” about what we want, children simply come out and say when they require a hug, or a kiss, or a snuggle.

I also love how their natural state is one of happiness and play. They are able to have fun for the pure joy of it, without trying to turn it into a competition or a money-making scheme. They do what they love, simply because they love it.

Without a doubt, children are the best people I know.

#givethanks

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