Saturday, April 26, 2008
Now Let Us Rejoice!
Mormons are becoming known all over the world for their humanitarian service. We show up in mass after hurricanes, floods, fires and we donate and assemble newborn kits, school kits, hygiene kits, quilts and anything else that is needed around the world. But that isn’t all, we turn out in neighborhoods whenever there is sickness, accident or even just to welcome new neighbors. We exchange home baked bread, cookies, casseroles, and make sure every family has plenty of ham and funeral potatoes after a death of a loved one.
Those of us who have grown up in the Church are very aware of the compassion and helpfulness of our brothers and sisters in the gospel and recognize this wonderful trait as a defining feature of our religion. When I was eleven, our house caught fire and neighbors and friends met our every need. Kind people supplied food, lodging, emotional support, and washed the smoke out of everything we salvaged from the fire. It was an amazing experience that left a lasting impression on my young mind.
As I grew older, I discovered that this ability to “weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15) and the desire to “bear one another's burdens, that they may be light,” and “to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”, (Mosiah 18:8-9) are the marks of a good Christian. But in the New Testament, Paul also said that a good Christian should “Rejoice with them that do rejoice,” (Romans 12:15). I’m not so sure we are as good at that.
I noticed on the Relief Society website the other day a criticism of the Good News Minute. Some one said that it had turned into a brag session. Maybe that is true, but it has been my experience that if someone expresses a negative reality such as “I’m sad,” or “I’m lonely,” or “I just failed my math exam,” everyone is empathetic and goes out of their way to help. But if someone states a positive reality such as, “I’m happy,” or “I’ve got friends,” or “I got an A on my exam,” we call it bragging and turn away from them.
We have a need in our culture to learn to rejoice and to let others rejoice in their good fortune. It is a way of showing gratitude. Yes, sometimes rejoicing can turn into boasting, but wallowing in bad fortune can also turn into self-pity. The solution isn’t to label all good fortune boasting and try to stop others from rejoicing. The solution is to learn to share in the joy around us. As we do this it may surprise us how rejoicing with others increases our own joy.