Saturday, May 7, 2011

Don’t Worry! Be Happy! (???)

Being happy, cheerful, positive (as we are often counseled) is all well and good—to a point. And what is that point? Perhaps to the point of awareness of the tragedies, misery, pain, and grief that fills the lives of so many of our fellow human beings (and other creations). Awareness too, that much of the sorrow need not be—if we really loved our neighbor and lived the Golden Rule. Of course, there is much happiness and joy (which we should celebrate), but does it not seem significant that a chief description of our divine mentor is “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” [1] How many of our scriptural prophets might also be described with the same appellation.

There surely is a balance somewhere,[2] yet the following story might give us pause in these latter days as we get caught up in the personal pursuit of happiness (too often defined as prosperity).
4 And the LORD said unto him [the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side], Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. 5 ¶ And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. 7 And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. 8 ¶ And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem? 9 Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not. 10 And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head. 11 And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me. (Old Testament Ezekiel 9:4–11; emphasis added)
Perhaps we need a little more sighing and crying; awareness thereof in others (in both rich and poor); and commitment to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”[3]

Consider the déjà vu from circa 83 BC:
12 Yea, he [Alma] saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted. Now this was a great cause for lamentations among the people, while others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ's sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy; (Book of Mormon Alma 4:12-13)
How do we individually measure up to New Testament Romans 12? And do we find any companionship in these latter days with "the men that sigh and that cry" from Ezekiel 9:4?

[1] Old Testament Isaiah 53:3; Book of Mormon Mosiah 14:3
[2] The Lord himself counsels: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (New Testament John 16:33). A seeming contrary perhaps—that in the midst of tribulation, we can find peace and good cheer—the working out of opposites and opposition?
[3] Doctrine and Covenants Section 81:5