JOY: what does it mean (does it really mean what we think it means?)


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I am very frustrated by the way the English word "joy" gets used in gospel discussion and would maybe like to find a different word or just be clearer on what we mean when we say "joy."  To me "joy" is not a productive word because it makes lots of people feel they are failing when they are living the gospel teachings the best they know how but are still not feeling "joyful."

I know there is a lot of discussion about the difference between "happiness" and "joy" - "joy" meaning more durable happiness -- but there seems to be an implication in the church that "joy" is an unending absence of sorrow or stream of contentment that comes from living the gospel to its fullest.  President Nelson's recent talk on joy gives some insight to a possible, better definition of the word saying, "If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?" (emphasis added).    In this case he is not really talking about "joy" in the sense of persisting, current contentment but  talking about how we should focus on the idea of potential  "joy" in the future which thought will give us the strength to endure this life.   In the body of his talk, he seems to suggest that joy is not a persistent feeling but a potential, temporary state amidst affliction. 

I don't think Jesus was "joyful" at the very moment he was bleeding at every pore or having nails put in his hands.  I can believe he may have been anticipating great joy in the future and as a result was able to endure, but was he really feeling "persisting contentment" when he called out "why has thou forsaken me?"   Jesus, the most perfect of us all, is described by Isaiah as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Multitudes of prophets -- from Jeremiah to George Albert Smith -- seemingly had moments of immense anguish.  Did they still have "joy" even in their despair or did they just have a faith in future joy??? 

Should we maybe stop using the word "joy" in gospel discussions and instead find words that better describe the satisfaction the gospel might bring? 

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7 minutes ago, jdf135 said:

I don't think Jesus was "joyful" at the very moment he was bleeding at every pore or having nails put in his hands.  I can believe he may have been anticipating great joy in the future and as a result was able to endure, but was he really feeling "persisting contentment" when he called out "why has thou forsaken me?"   Jesus, the most perfect of us all, is described by Isaiah as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Multitudes of prophets -- from Jeremiah to George Albert Smith -- seemingly had moments of immense anguish.  Did they still have "joy" even in their despair or did they just have a faith in future joy??? 

"Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you ever imagined."

People quibble all the time about achieving some sort of physical immortality, wherein they expect to be able to live in the flesh forever, typically in a fashion that renders them ageless and perfect. 

They don't factor in the prospect of *eternal* life and everything they have to gain on the other side. 

Nor do they factor in the sort of immortality that is achieved when tales of your deeds are still being told generations after your passing. This is a kind of Valhalla unto itself. 

So yes, it's entirely possible that there was a "joy" in the sense of "Do what you must, for I have already won". 

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4 hours ago, jdf135 said:

I am very frustrated by the way the English word "joy" gets used in gospel discussion and would maybe like to find a different word or just be clearer on what we mean when we say "joy."  To me "joy" is not a productive word because it makes lots of people feel they are failing when they are living the gospel teachings the best they know how but are still not feeling "joyful."

I know there is a lot of discussion about the difference between "happiness" and "joy" - "joy" meaning more durable happiness -- but there seems to be an implication in the church that "joy" is an unending absence of sorrow or stream of contentment that comes from living the gospel to its fullest.  President Nelson's recent talk on joy gives some insight to a possible, better definition of the word saying, "If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?" (emphasis added).    In this case he is not really talking about "joy" in the sense of persisting, current contentment but  talking about how we should focus on the idea of potential  "joy" in the future which thought will give us the strength to endure this life.   In the body of his talk, he seems to suggest that joy is not a persistent feeling but a potential, temporary state amidst affliction. 

I don't think Jesus was "joyful" at the very moment he was bleeding at every pore or having nails put in his hands.  I can believe he may have been anticipating great joy in the future and as a result was able to endure, but was he really feeling "persisting contentment" when he called out "why has thou forsaken me?"   Jesus, the most perfect of us all, is described by Isaiah as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Multitudes of prophets -- from Jeremiah to George Albert Smith -- seemingly had moments of immense anguish.  Did they still have "joy" even in their despair or did they just have a faith in future joy??? 

Should we maybe stop using the word "joy" in gospel discussions and instead find words that better describe the satisfaction the gospel might bring? 

There are numberless platitudes, one liners, phrases and words we use in the church that I feel we use in more situations than is called for this leads to ambiguous definitions. I can see “joy” being in that pile.

To me, I understand joy just meaning peace in the direction are going. I am without a doubt happier playing video games than I am at the temple. But the peace and self assurance I get from the temple is essential for my life. Plato t video games does not give me peace or provide a sense  that what I am doing is good.

I would not connect joy and happiness in anyway.

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  • Joy spoken of as the "goal" in scriptures doesn't refer to simply that mortal state of being that we end up smiling all the time. 
  • It also isn't solely confined to that future state throughout Eternity. 
  • It is a myth that this means we're without sorrow (The 3 Nephites still felt sorrow for the sins of man).  And we'll still feel sorrow in Eternity as well, as does God.
Quote

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

  -- Moses 7:28-31

Joy is the link and oneness with Eternity, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  I believe that the time Jesus suffered and bled at every pore was a time when that link was completely severed.  And beyond the requirements of justice and mercy, there was a reason Jesus, Himself, had to experience that complete disconnect.

We in mortality do not experience such separation from the Father.  But there are times when that connection is as tenuous as gossamer.

When we have a connection with the Lord, there is a sense of strength and peace mixed in with whatever emotion-du-jour we may be feeling due to circumstances.  As one recovering from depression, I say with consideration that the thing that prevents some people from ending it the moment they feel depression.  Still, sometimes we feel that the link is so light that we cannot recognize it is even there.  And for practical purposes, it may as well not be.

Joy is linked to all that the Father has.  The Glory of God is Intelligence.  Intelligence is "light and knowledge".  Light is always a question of degrees.  So is joy. As long as we're not in Outer Darkness, there is always some level of light.  The question is how much?  With that light, comes joy.

Quote

An age is called "dark" not because the light doesn't shine, but because men refuse to see it.

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Uncomfortably existential answer:

 Forever is a long, long, long, long time. If we were to live forever in this present state, it would be a hell beyond reckoning. We would soon (in ten thousand years, or two million, or a trillion) seek relief from such pointlessness, even if that meant extinguishing ourselves-- an impossibility.

The Tree of Life is a figure of our eternally self-existent nature. The exaltation that we seek provides meaning and purpose such that the hell of existence is transmuted into an undying source of purpose and inexpressible contentment, which is what the Garden story is about.

Something along those lines. There are holes in this explanation; the whole "hell beyond reckoning" part is shamelessly humanist, for example, and doesn't fit in an LDS religious discussion. But it's fun to think about.

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Thanks for mention of peace.  I think this is a much more appropriate word for how one might feel when living gospel principles. I know it has been used much in the church. I personally feel it should be used much more and possibly in place of the word joy in many circumstances.

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I've thought about this subject for decades.  Whenever it comes up, I always remember something out of Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.  When he was in the Nazi concentration camps, being used as forced labor, the camp had a view of a majestic mountain range.   There he was, starving to death, a slave of the Nazi machine, surrounded by torture, rape, and death, and yet he still gazed up at the mountains in awe, his breath taken by the view.  It wasn't a choice, it surprised him that he was still capable of being struck breathless by natural beauty, even in those circumstances.

Edited by NeuroTypical
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On 5/13/2022 at 3:26 PM, jdf135 said:

I am very frustrated by the way the English word "joy" gets used in gospel discussion and would maybe like to find a different word or just be clearer on what we mean when we say "joy."  To me "joy" is not a productive word because it makes lots of people feel they are failing when they are living the gospel teachings the best they know how but are still not feeling "joyful."

I know there is a lot of discussion about the difference between "happiness" and "joy" - "joy" meaning more durable happiness -- but there seems to be an implication in the church that "joy" is an unending absence of sorrow or stream of contentment that comes from living the gospel to its fullest.  President Nelson's recent talk on joy gives some insight to a possible, better definition of the word saying, "If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?" (emphasis added).    In this case he is not really talking about "joy" in the sense of persisting, current contentment but  talking about how we should focus on the idea of potential  "joy" in the future which thought will give us the strength to endure this life.   In the body of his talk, he seems to suggest that joy is not a persistent feeling but a potential, temporary state amidst affliction. 

I don't think Jesus was "joyful" at the very moment he was bleeding at every pore or having nails put in his hands.  I can believe he may have been anticipating great joy in the future and as a result was able to endure, but was he really feeling "persisting contentment" when he called out "why has thou forsaken me?"   Jesus, the most perfect of us all, is described by Isaiah as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Multitudes of prophets -- from Jeremiah to George Albert Smith -- seemingly had moments of immense anguish.  Did they still have "joy" even in their despair or did they just have a faith in future joy??? 

Should we maybe stop using the word "joy" in gospel discussions and instead find words that better describe the satisfaction the gospel might bring? 

I think Colossians 1:23 captures this more ongoing remembrance of joys past and anticipation of future joy if the current phase is one of struggle (grounded and settled in Christ). Also, living after the manner of happiness, where  "after" refers to both the realization past and current (as appli9cable) as well as the pursuit (2 Nephi 5:27, despite the opposition they faced constantly).

Still, I think that joy is a very real experience and merits recognition. It is possible to find joy in small things and small moments throughout the day; perhaps this is a spiritual gift to be developed.

Those who suffer from clinical depression or have a naturally pessimistic disposition or personality may be able to recognize and ac=knowledge in their experience what someone else might find joyous, though they themselves do not experience it as such. Observing children's reaction to the word around them is one way to do that, or the reaction of older children developing or demonstrating a new skill.

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