Monday, February 27, 2006

A Merry Heart

Monday, February 27, 2006 Observation:

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

I was lying in bed the other day working on my laptop computer; still trying to recover from a sore on my bottom, when Jo Anne turned on the speakerphone so I could listen and speak to a sister in our Ward who is undergoing chemotherapy for a serious cancer problem.  Her surgery was painful and the subsequent chemotherapy has caused her to be very sick much of the time.  This has been going on for months now.  As we talked to her Jo Anne made the comment that she sounded like the healthiest and happiest person in town.  Her affliction is serious and painful but she has chosen to have an attitude of faith and hope and cheerfulness.  It was always a delight to visit with her before her struggle with cancer and it is even more a delight now because of her "... merry heart..."

We enjoy being around people who are positive and happy.  However, I know that you cannot force yourself to be happy.  I must admit to having been very depressed for a long period of time after my accident many years ago now.  It took the passage of time, much fasting and prayer, scripture searching, and trying to be of service to others in my own unique way before joy, peace, and happiness became a part of my life once again.  Truly, I have discovered through my life's experience that a "merry heart" is like medicine and that a broken spirit does "dry up the bones".  If our spirit is broken we must seek with all our hearts the healing power of the Savior which can mend that which is broken like nothing else can. 

I believe being happy and positive is one of the most important traits that any leader can possess.  When Elder John K. Carmack called me to be the President of the Irvine, California Stake he didn't have much time to instruct me in my duties as stake president.  To this day however, I remember his parting counsel: "Your main responsibility as stake president is to be an ambassador of goodwill!" He couldn't have given me better advice.  Another general authority after having spent several days in our stake said: "Never call brother -- -- as a bishop.  I have never seen him smile once since I have been here."

I was doing some random reading the other day and came across a classic talk that President Hinckley gave to the CES teachers and administrators on September 15, 1978.  The talk is entitled "Four Imperatives for Religious Educators".  All four imperatives are important for teachers and leaders but it was his last imperative -- so much a part of what he is -- that rang so true to me.

"And now, finally, enjoy your work. Be happy. I meet so many people who constantly complain about the burden of their responsibilities. Of course the pressures are great. There is much, too much, to do. There are financial burdens to add to all of these pressures, and with all of this they are prone to complain, frequently at home, often in public. Turn your thinking around. The gospel is good news. Man is that he might have joy. Be happy! Let that happiness shine through your faces and speak through your testimonies. You can expect problems. There may be occasional tragedies. But shining through all of this is the plea of the Lord: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

  "I enjoy these words of Jenkin Lloyd Jones, which I clipped from a column in the Deseret News some years ago. I pass them on to you as I conclude my remarks. Said he: 'Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal, is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. Most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.'  [ Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Deseret News, June 12, 1973.]

"I repeat, my brothers and sisters, the trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride; and really, isn’t it a wonderful ride? Enjoy it! Laugh about it! Sing about it!"  [Four Imperatives for Religious Educators, President Gordon B. Hinckley]

President Hinckley has a way with words, doesn't he?  He is the essence of his fourth imperative to religious educators.  Has there ever been anyone more positive or happy than President Hinckley?  This important character trait has enabled him to be one of the greatest leaders of this dispensation.  We would do well to follow his marvelous example of being happy and positive.

I for one do believe life has been a wonderful ride, in spite of some "delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts".  I guess ultimately, we really should just thank the Lord for letting us have the ride.


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