No fun in the afterlife?! You’ve got to be kidding me! I love to have fun. Pranks, jokes, amusement parks, games, sports, you name it! But is it really true that these things won’t exist in the afterlife? I was shocked (I still am, to be quite honest) when I heard Elder Bednar hint that they won’t be in an address he gave to BYU students last December.
Now, I’m not saying that I believe in some fairytale vision of what Heaven is going to be like. I.e. double rainbows, endless chocolate ice cream, grandma’s feather bed (all to myself, thank you very much), or the return of the unicorn—even though this would all be very nice. I’m also not set on the idea that the Celestial Kingdom is going to a solemn gathering place where we walk around using our “reverent arms” or our “inside voices” all the time. So what’s the deal?
“Men are that they might have joy,” right? And if we are to experience joy here, then surely we’ll enjoy it there, too. But maybe joy and fun aren’t the same and that’s what Elder Bednar was hinting at.
Aren’t Joy and Fun the Same Thing?
What do you think? Is joy the same as fun? Certainly, we feel joy when we are laughing and having fun with our friends and family. But does it also work the other way around? When we’re feeling joyful after being forgiven of sins, would we also say that we’re having fun? I don’t think so. And I don’t think Elder Bednar thinks so either.
You might be wondering why the distinction between these two even matters. Why do you think it might matter? I would argue that it’s important to understand because we can come to know God through our feelings.
Since Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are divine Beings, I think it’s safe to assume they also experience divine feelings. Feelings like joy, sorrow, love, wrath, mercy, and justice. The Fall of Adam and Eve teaches us that our emotions are God-given. And if so, they must be given to us to help us to learn about God and draw closer to Him.
And how do we feel when our relationships with God and Jesus Christ are good? Joyful! It’s an awesome feedback system, isn’t it? First, joy encourages feelings of closeness which inspire more feelings of joy! And so the cycle goes.
Yet, there’s another important reason that we should understand this distinction between joy and fun: to help us fulfill the measures of our creation.
The Purpose of Fun in Mortality
So what exactly did Elder Bednar say in his devotional address? Did he really say that there wouldn’t be any fun in the afterlife? Yes, he did—or at least something like that.
But before you get your tail feathers all riled up (like I did), there’s something you should understand. Joy and fun are definitely different, but they’re also both important to our experience here in mortality. Otherwise, why would experience it? Like joy, fun in mortality has a divine purpose.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about bringing families together. The prophets have counseled us for decades about how to do this:
“Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repretance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
You heard it here, folks! Successful families are maintained by having fun together. Wholesome recreational activities help us to form memories together, attachments to each other, and lasting friendships.
And like I said before, we can feel joy when we’re having fun. In fact, in some cases, having fun and feeling joy can kick-start that beautiful joy cycle that helps us come closer to Heavenly Father. So while fun may not directly help us come closer to Heavenly Father, it definitely plays a part in doing so.
The Differences Between Joy and Fun
Okay, let’s get to the bottom of this whole deal, shall we?
Here is what Elder Bednar had to say about the differences between true joy and fun:
Joy is primarily spiritual; fun is primarily temporal
Joy primarily is enduring; fun primarily is temporary
Joy primarily is deep and rich; fun primarily is shallow.
Joy primarily is whole and complete; fun primarily is partial
Joy primarily pertains to mortality and eternity; fun pertains only to mortality
Additionally, Elder Bednar said, “[Joy] is a spiritual gift and a state of being and becoming.” So when we look at the differences between joy and fun, we should see that joy is a condition we experience while fun is just an experience.
The true and lasting joy that Elder Bednar speaks of here comes through living the gospel of Jesus Christ. I.e. by exercising faith, repenting, and obeying the commandments.
Lastly (and thankfully), the joy that we experience during mortality doesn’t have to be a one time deal. In fact, it can accompany us where ever we are and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Feeling spiritual joy is crucial to our spiritual survival.