November 17, 2013
Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name. (Alma 26:35)
From time to time I struggle with depression and I need to hear an encouraging word. I believe the scriptures are the best place to find such encouraging words, and there are many of them. Over the years I have marked many such passages and now intend to add them to The Iron Rod blog. I will call them “Encouraging Words.” This is my first.
November 17, 2013
I’m not a pessimist even though I have been told otherwise from time to time. I am highly optimistic about the future of the righteous and already in mourning for the wicked who refuse to repent. The scriptures include both promises of blessings for obedience, and warnings of highly painful consequences for those who turn against God. In fact, the blessings and warnings are fairly well balanced in scripture because “Wickedness never was happiness,” and God wants us to be happy because we are his children and he loves us. That is why he gave us the scriptures, so that we would better understand the consequences of our behavior. He knows all the consequences of every action, every word and every thought because he is omniscient. We are not. When we try to foresee the future, we are often surprised by the unintended consequences of our thoughts, words and deeds.
I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my life, just as most of us have. And while some of us have suffered more than others, we have all suffered. Some suffering is unavoidable, and we have done nothing to bring it upon ourselves. But some of our suffering is avoidable, and we could have done better if we had been wiser. There is no reason in this life for pessimism. The Plan of Salvation is also called the Plan of Happiness. And we can have great happiness in this life if we follow the path to it. On the other hand, if we follow the road to ruin, we will finally reach that destination too. Keeping both outcomes in mind, and our ability to choose the right, is not pessimism. It is just realism. Optimism, genuine optimism based upon realism, comes from understanding the Plan of Happiness and finding ways to effectively utilize it in our daily life. If we aren’t saying our prayers, studying the scriptures, attending church, loving and serving others, repenting of our sins and keeping the commandments, we do not have enough faith to live the Plan of Happiness, and we will end up living the Plan of Misery by default.
Here is one of the most important scriptures for me in understanding the Plan of Happiness:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did consecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people. And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness. (2 Nephi 5:26-27)
The reasons I rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ is in part because this passage gives me hope that I can make things better for myself and those I love. What could be more optimistic than that belief and hope?