We can make this bold proclamation in spite of all contrary conditions
The title of our opening song today, Joy to the World, has been on my mind since early this morning when I read from the Book of Mormon, Alma 36, the chapter wherein Alma recounts his conversion to his son Helaman. The words he uses to describe his former sinful condition include fear, pain, torment and inexpressable horror. The one word he uses, five times in three verses, to describe his new condition is joy, exquisite and sweet joy. The contrast could not be more dramatic: from one end of the soul continuum to the other in a matter of seconds.
Testimony of Two Tales
This dramatic conversion and transformation reminds me of two incidents.
First, Christmas 1977, San Diego, California. My wife and I had just purchased our first home, a small starter home located in a tough neighborhood in Southeast San Diego, moving in just two days before Christmas. Tragically at the end of the day of the move Pam miscarried what would have been our second child. It was a devastating loss for both of us, and it foreshadowed six more miscarriages in the future and it totally overshadowed the happiness and hope we had felt that day in moving into our own home.
The next morning, the day before Christmas, Pam and I were exhausted, and I was in the depths of despair. While unpacking boxes that bright morning, I found a sign, Joy to the World, and hung it on the outside of our home in an act of defiance of death and affirmation of life.
Miraculously, I was filled with joy, and abundance, even though in our poverty the only gift that we could afford that year was a Tonka truck for our two-year-old, Andy.
Second, just last week before Church, I asked Sister Joan Gehring about losing her husband, Jay, and then having her daughter die in her arms, during the past month. As she related her feelings, I couldn’t help but focus on the bright light that shined through her tears. I knew that the Holy Spirit was not only comforting and strengthening her but was also giving her peace and joy. In fact, she mentioned that she and Jay had travelled to the beaches of Normandy in 2014 to participate in the 70th anniversary of D-day. There a woman, a total stranger, fell at his feet in an act of worship to thank him for his heroic military service and sacrifice. Joan told of the great joy that Jay felt for having received the gratitude of this one soul.
I feel to testify this day of the joy to the world—and the joy to us, the work weary—that comes as a result of our selfless service and sacrifice in temple work, missionary work, and in every other aspect of so-called church work . . . and in other fields. Even if only one soul is saved, even if only one soul shows worshipful gratitude, how great shall be our joy.
I testify today, under the influence of this fast and in the fullness of the Spirit, that you too shall have people—perhaps hundreds, even thousands and millions—fall at your feet in an act of worship for your selfless service in their behalf . . . especially for the vicarious temple ordinances of baptism, initiatory, endowment, and sealing and for missionary service resulting in their conversion to the restored gospel and church and their salvation in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
If you could see, as I have seen, this movie-like scene of joy to the world being played out in celestial theaters galaxy-wide, you would renew your faith and redouble your service.
Because of Christ we can proclaim Joy the World, regardless of any past, present or future condition. For the dregs shall pass: what remains is the refined residue of pure joy.