“I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is our Heavenly Father’s practical guide for happy living,” Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, said at a devotional held at BYU Education Week.
While explaining the profound truth that “the one precious thing that God will never take away from us is our agency,” Sister Jones noted how we frequently and willingly give our agency to others by allowing them to control our emotions, behaviors, and spiritual growth.
Sharing a personal experience, Sister Jones spoke of a beautiful day she was heading to the temple when the birds themselves seemed to “sing in four-part harmony.” Then, she saw the police lights ahead on the road and those in her rearview mirror and realized she was a victim of a speed trap. “And I was guilty,” she added. Still, the “tyranny of the police” wrecked her happy mood. As the police officer handing her a ticket ironically told her, “Have a good day, ma’am,” Sister Jones realized a powerful truth.
Daily experiences such as these can entice us to dwell in darkness, guilt, anger, resentment, or frustration—in effect taking away our agency to live a happy life—or they can entice us toward patience, love, repentance, empathy, light, and spiritual progression.
Sister Jones shared a “simple, straight-forward” yet “magnificently powerful” scripture that demonstrates this truth, quoting Doctrine and Covenants 6:36: “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”
It is only through moments when we are forced to pause and remember our Heavenly Father that we can truly grow. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:
"Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, “Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!”
“We always have the privilege to choose, but we can lose the ability to choose,” Sister Jones said. “We know this life is about progression as we work toward perfections in the life to come.”
Sister Jones then shared a humorous story of a father who chose to be enticed toward patience and love rather than frustration and anger. A woman in the checkout line of a grocery store noticed a squirming toddler who was screaming and misbehaving just in front of her. The toddler’s father kept repeating, “You’ve got this Billy. We’re almost there. Just be patient a little while longer, and there will be a treat for you when we reach the car.”
The woman exclaimed in surprise, “I am so impressed with your patience and how you treat your little boy Billy.” The man then revealed, “My son’s name is Patrick. I am Billy.”
Many of us can empathize with this parent and understand the hundreds of daily interactions that can breed frustration, anger, pain, shame, etc. like the moment when you are cut off on the road, the teen who tries our patience coming home late for their curfew, the illness that just won’t go away, or the family members who just won’t see reason.
In these moments, Sister Jones offers two simple solutions.
1. Pray. We should “talk to the Lord instantly” when these enticements arise and look to Him. Pray for increased love. Pray that this small moment can build eternal moments that will add to our spiritual progression. “Every single prayer is heard by our Father in Heaven. Doubt not, fear not,” Sister Jones said.
2. Praise. Praise God in gratitude for giving us these moments that lead us one step closer to our “spiritual refinement,” remembering that these “enticements” are truly about your relationship with your Heavenly Father, others, and your spiritual growth. “Inherent in every enticement to do wrong is a spiritual enticement to grow. Every spiritual enticement can be a blessing for us if we allow it to be,” Sister Jones said.
“Enticements in our daily lives are inevitable,” Sister Jones said. “They are all there for our spiritual growth if we see them for what they are.”
In choosing to turn to God during these daily moments, Sister Jones said we will be blessed with greater empowerment, control, choice, and will find the little things do not affect us as powerfully any longer.
This type of empowerment is what our Savior exercised when facing Golgotha and crucifixion. As John 19:10-11 states, “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.”
Sister Jones then gave three challenges to help us gain this power and spiritual refinement in our lives:
1. Watch for enticements
2. Treasure your agency
3. Look unto God
As we look for God and opportunities to grow in the simple moments, we will begin to understand these powerful words by President John Taylor:
If men, by taking a wrong course, act imprudently and seek to injure us, shall we seek to injure them? No, we will try to do them all the good we can. “But that is not natural.” But then we ought to be changed from nature to grace. . . .
If there be trouble existing between me and anybody else, I would meet them half way, yes, I would meet them three quarters or even all of the way. I would feel like yielding; I would say, I do not want to quarrel, I want to be a Saint. I have set out for purity, virtue, brotherhood, and for obedience to the laws of God on earth, and for thrones and principalities and dominions in the eternal worlds, and I will not allow such paltry affairs to interfere with my prospects. I am for life, eternal lives and eternal exaltations in the kingdom of God.