Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Power of an Invitation

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to go on a 20-mile bike ride, mostly uphill, with my brother, but I'm not entirely sure why I'm going. It's not so I can log a bunch of miles for May Is Bike Month. I haven't been very competitive about that this year. It isn't for the challenge. I've done similar rides before, so I won't be setting any records. I'm not even doing it for fun, because a bike ride that long, on a day that's supposed to get pretty warm, doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me. I suppose I'm only going because my brother invited me.

Any of the aforementioned reasons would be good and valid ones. I'm sure I'll have fun while I'm out there (assuming we complete our ride before the heat of the day sets in), I'll enjoy the challenge, and logging all those miles when I get home will feel like a real accomplishment. At the end of the day, I'm sure I'll be glad I went, even though, if not for my brother's invitation, I wouldn't be going at all.

Invitations to come to church or church activities can be similarly powerful. There are many good reasons to go to such functions, but sometimes, those reasons don't seem like enough on their own. Sometimes, people know they should go to a church event, and they may even know that they'd enjoy it if they did go, but they still might not make the decision to go unless a friend or neighbor invited them.

Going on that bike ride will be an enriching experience, but it took a personal invitation to convince me to go. I wonder what enriching experiences our friends would be willing to join us in, if we were willing to invite them.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Because I'm Supposed To

Sometimes, I do things only because I feel that I'm supposed to do them. My heart isn't always in it. Those things tend to be like chores to me, though that's a bad analogy, because I often find doing chores like sweeping and washing dishes strangely rewarding. I do them partly for the joy of getting the job done.

However, there are other things that, for me, are much more tedious than doing housework. These things, I often do only because I know I'm supposed to do them. Duty is my only motivation in completing these tasks. I don't really enjoy much about doing those things, and I don't think I have much to look forward to down the line, either, except maybe blessings for doing the right thing even when I didn't feel like it.

I know this isn't the best way to live. In life, there will always be tasks that we have to do, even though we don't enjoy or look forward to them, but there are also always things we could enjoy about them. I could look for the payoff of doing these tasks, and when I find them, I could focus on that. It would give me more motivation and it would help me to have more positive emotions than negative ones. That's a thing I should do, so I should do it, even if only because I'm supposed to.

In the meantime, I hope I get credit for doing good things, even when my attitude about doing them isn't wonderful. Actually, I'm sure I do, but I wonder how much credit I get for dutifully doing things I don't enjoy, compared to how much credit I would get for doing those things if I found something I could enjoy about them. At first thought, I would guess that I would get more credit for doing things even though I don't want to do them. But that means that if I learned to enjoy them, then I would stop getting this much credit for doing them. That would mean trading eternal credit for temporary enjoyment, which is certainly a bad trade. So, if I get more credit for dutifully doing things I don't enjoy than I would get if I did those things and enjoyed it, that means I have an incentive to deliberately not learn to like doing those things. That would mean that it would be better for me, in the long run, to not learn to enjoy doing the right thing.

This seems to go against God's plan. I'm sure that He would rather that I learn to enjoy being righteous, and to do it because I want to do it rather than because I'm supposed to. I'm sure I'll get blessings for doing my duty either way, but if I can find a way to enjoy doing my duty, then I can earn my eternal happiness, and enjoy some temporary happiness as well.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Balancing Temporary and Eternal Happiness

The fact that pleasure isn't the purpose of life, and joy is, doesn't mean we can't have both. Not all pleasures are evil. Not everything that adds to our temporary happiness detracts from our eternal happiness. A person can live righteously and still have fun.

Case in point, today has been and is continuing to be a busy day for me. I've done a lot of good and productive things, both for myself and for my family. I've done laundry, filled our yard waste bin with removed sod, made my bed, and swept upstairs. I also plan on doing some dishes and some grocery shopping (we're low on milk). Even though the day is only half-over, I've already done several hours of good, solid work.

This evening, however, I plan on wasting several hours playing card games, and in my opinion, that's okay.

My mom is fond of encouraging her children to "be good and productive." This is good advice, but while I believe it's important to always be good, I don't think it's necessary to always be productive. We may take time to play and rest. Mom is also fond of encouraging us to find balance, and that, I think, is also good advice. Fun is okay, but work is important, though neither entirely precludes the other. People can have fun while working or after they work, as I plan to do tonight. There is a lot of work to be done, but I believe that people can and should take some time to have fun or enjoy other pleasures as well.

Similarly, we can do everything that we need to do, spiritually, and still enjoy what time we have on Earth. God wants us to keep the commandments and fulfil our callings, but I think He also wants us to occasionally take some time to relax and have fun. He designed the Sabbath to be a day of rest, but if Sundays aren't restful enough to suit our needs, we may need to get our rest, and certainly our recreation, in on other days.

Many people often feel that there isn't time for rest and recreation or that having fun is a waste of time, but I believe that people need balance in their lives. If obtaining balance requires a shift in priorities, I think that's what needs to happen, even if that means that some things don't get done. Finding a proper balance between work, rest, and recreation is important to our spiritual health. Some people play too much and should work more. Some people work too much and should rest more. We all need to strive for balance.

I believe that such a balance can be achieved and that it'll reward us with an optimal amount of happiness. While some people try to maximize their happiness by having as much fun as possible before they die, and other people try to maximize their happiness by being as righteous as possible while neglecting to rest and have fun, I don't think that either method will give a person the greatest amount of happiness they could possibly have. We can maximize our eternal happiness and still have some temporary happiness as well. Finding or making time for wholesome rest and recreation will allow us to have a good deal of happiness now and still allow us to have a great deal of happiness later. God wants us to be happy, both now and in eternity, and I'm sure that if we play our cards right (pun intended), we can.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Joy Is!!"

According to  that quote from President David O. McKay, "Pleasure is not the purpose of life. . . Joy is!!" But what is joy? How should we define it? And what does this mean in the context of the oft-quoted statement from Joseph Smith, stating that "Happiness is the object and design of our existence"?

I would guess that joy is a more specific, more permanent form of happiness. Happiness can be fleeting and elusive, but joy tends to endure. In contrast, fun and pleasure create a temporary sensation of happiness. Those who go through their lives seeking pleasures try to keep that temporary happiness going as long as possible, but it makes more sense to spend one's efforts creating a lasting feeling of joy.

God wants us to be happy, both now and in the eternities. Because He has an eternal perspective, He encourages us to do things that will contribute to our eternal happiness, our joy, even when they don't contribute to our happiness now. God's commandments are designed for our eternal happiness, not for temporary pleasure.

People who disregard God's commandments and seek pleasures instead sometimes seem to be happier than those who try to keep the commandments, and it's possible that they are happier - for now. Because they're focussed on maximizing their current happiness, they sometimes succeed in doing so. They enjoy many more pleasures than righteous people do, and they seem to have more fun. But though they experience high concentrations of short-term happiness, the total amount of happiness they experience will be much smaller than that of those who keep the commandments.

The reason sinners have less total happiness than righteous people is because the happiness sinners experience doesn't last, whereas the happiness of the righteous lasts forever. Multiplying a great deal of happiness by a short amount of time will get you a certain amount of total happiness, but multiplying a lesser amount of happiness by an infinite amount of time will give you an infinite amount of happiness, and that it what God wants for us.

The purpose of life is to get the greatest possible amount of happiness. If we're only considering this mortal experience, then it might seem that the best way to get the greatest amount of happiness would be to do whatever we want - to have fun and seek pleasures. But when we consider that this life isn't all that there is, and that our eternal happiness depends on our temporal choices, then it becomes clear that the best way to maximize our happiness is to invest in our eternal future. Pleasure-seekers get more happiness in the moment, but God-seekers gain more happiness overall. That's why pleasure isn't the purpose of life, but joy is.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Pleasure Is Not the Purpose of Life"

This is kind of a dumb picture for this quote. That looks like a rather pleasant activity to me. But I get what this image is trying to say. Not to point any fingers (at myself or anyone else), but too many people are too obsessed with seeking pleasures. They spend so much time enjoying life, or "enjoying" life, that they don't fulfil the actual purpose of life.  They may even be going against it. One of the purposes of life is to become righteous and morally strong, but many of the pleasures of the world fly in the face of those ideals. There are good things that we can take pleasure in, but there are also things that give us pleasure that are not good for us. And spending too much time seeking pleasure, even wholesome pleasure, can be bad for us eternally.

Whether we like it or not, God didn't send us to this planet so we could have a good time. In fact, almost the opposite is true. Yes, there are pleasant things in life, and God intends us to be happy, both in this life and in the next, but much of life is unpleasant, and that is an essential element of God's plan. We are meant to grow strength and wisdom through struggle and hardship. That is why we are here. Arguably, there will be plenty of wholesome pleasures in heaven and all the time in the world to enjoy them. But in the meantime, our time on Earth is limited, and God didn't intend for us to waste that time excessively seeking pleasures.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Look For The Good!"

 There's a lot of good things and bad things in life. We can choose to focus on the good things or the bad things in our lives, and that's what we'll see more than anything else. Sometimes, it's hard to think positive, but when we consider our blessings, we come to learn that we have too many blessings to count. If we focus on those blessings, it won't make the bad parts of our lives disappear, but it will make them seem less prevalent. There is good and bad in everything. If you look for the good, you'll be able to find it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

When We Don't Get Revelation

Yesterday, in Young Men's meeting, we talked about personal revelation. We talked about how to receive it and how to recognise it. We talked about how great a blessing it is. But because God doesn't always grant us personal revelation in every circumstance, we also talked about what it might mean when that happens.

We often go to God with our questions. Often, we're asking for directions for our lives. When we ask God what we should do and don't seem to get an answer, that could mean a handful of things. It could mean that we're not really in tune with God at that moment, and there's something that we need to repent of. It could mean that God has already given us the answer to our question, either directly or through His prophets, and we simply need to look it up. Another thing it could mean when God doesn't give us direction is that He wants us to make the decision ourselves.

God gave us agency, the freedom to choose, and He sent us to Earth to use it. We are here, in part, to practice making decisions and to learn from the decisions we make. This education doesn't come easily when we let God make our decisions for us. We might learn from the "choices" we end up making, but we won't learn how to make good choices for ourselves.

My favorite of the possible reasons why God might not give a person personal revelation regarding an important decision is because He trusts that person to make a good decision. We don't always know exactly what we should do, but as we suffer along not getting divine direction for each decision we make, we eventually learn how to make wise decisions. Eventually, we may even get to the point where we can make decisions that are about as good as our decisions would have been if we had heavenly guidance. We aren't anywhere near that wise most of the time, but in some instances, if we really study a decision out before making it, we may not need to receive personal revelation in that case because we'll be able to make the right decision even without it (though it would still be wise to ask for it).

Personal revelation is such a blessing that we can sometimes feel lost without it, but not receiving revelation isn't always a bad thing. True, sometimes when we don't receive revelation, it's because something is wrong and we need to fix it, but other times, when we don't receive revelation, it means that something's alright, and that God trusts us to make a good decision, even without His help. Often, we put our faith in God by asking for, and accepting, His direction, but sometimes, by withholding His counsel and letting us make our own decisions, God puts His faith in us.