We all want joy. And we know the formula for getting it. Yet we often muddle along in misery instead of climbing toward joy.
Intriguingly the research on optimal human experience says that people are likely to experience different varieties of joy when they savor experience, use their talents, undertake a cause, or exercise. Yet many people choose nightly television over joy and growth even though watching television tends to put people in a mildly depressive state.
Television hardly seems like a demon. In fact, Moses was probably not thinking of idle television viewing when he challenged His people:
“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Every evening each of us chooses to enlarge our souls or coast along in the vast media wasteland. Maybe nightly choices of television bring us closer to spiritual and intellectual death while nightly choices of growth and service fill us with life. We can turn off the television and enjoy nature, work on a project, visit a neighbor, or take a walk. Any one of those is likely to bring joy—which is spiritual life.
I suspect that the Book of Mormon was describing the vegetative state induced by modern media when it warns of latter-day perils:
“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 28:21).
In writing this article my intent is not to rant against television but to describe a remarkably predictable process for flooding our souls with refreshing joy. Are you interested in joy? Consider the scriptural invitation:
“. . . nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more. (D&C 78:18–19)
There is hardly anything that will refresh our souls more than the “attitude of gratitude.” When we receive all things with gratitude, we are made glorious—and not just in some distant future, but right now.
Do you want a stiff jolt of joy? Sit down and record those things for which you are grateful. After recording those that come easily, push yourself to frame challenges as blessings. See what happens. Don’t qualify your gratitude: “Well, sometimes I’m glad for my parents, but . . . .” Cut loose. Find the good and celebrate it.
I tried this process myself just this morning. May I share the results with you? You may not be interested in my blessings, but perhaps you will feel the power of gratitude as you watch a fellow traveler trot toward joy as he tallies heaven’s bounty.
There is the risk that you will say, “Well, you have blessings, I have none.” I will not deny that I am blessed. But gratitude is a state of mind. It is the choice to see the roses among the thorns of mortality. So here are a few of my thank you’s to friends, family, and heaven.
Flooded by joy
I am grateful for great ancestors. Especially I am grateful for those who left letters, photos, and journals—even scribblings. Beyond those who have left identifiable evidence, I know that unknown others left traces of faith and goodness that distill into my soul unnoticed.
I am thankful for Harold E. Wallace for whom I am named. I revere his name. I am thankful for hundreds of teaching moments including the times that he took me “for a malt” and ended up equipping me with back-to-school clothes.
I am thankful that, when Grandma Wallace scraped frosting off her cake, she recognized a boy who loved frosting. And, when I spent the night at her house, she made extra bacon for breakfast. Grandma knew how to show love to a little boy.
I am thankful for all the times I heard Grandpa J. Percy Goddard recite “This is the domiciliary edifice erected by John” at family gatherings. he—and those before him—provided their descendents with a serious gospel focus and an appreciation for joy.
I am thankful for grandma Verna Lisle Wright Goddard who died when I was only a baby but left a rich legacy of believing and loving.
I am thankful for an extended family—aunts, uncles, cousins—full of grace, kindness, and exuberance.
I am grateful for a spiritual childhood home that taught me in my youth the true principles and meaning of life. Not only do I know that Orson and Bea are right, I also know they are good.
I am thankful for siblings who tolerated my telestiality and have taught me through their remarkable talents and goodness. They had reason to expect more of their big brother but they share cheese enchiladas and pecan brittle with me without resentment.
I am thankful for teachers like Rhea Bailey and Ray Gilbert who saw and noted something good in a goofy boy.
I am thankful that my family valued and modeled education. We were always encouraged to learn.
I am thankful for in-laws, Dale and Marilyn, who filled their family with examples of generosity.
I am thankful for the beloved children Father has sent to Nancy and me. They are treasures! As if they were not enough, each of them has brought a blessed addition to the family as they have married.
I am thankful for grandsons who remind us of the miracle of life and the blessing of joy as they gather furry caterpillars.
I am thankful for the chromosomal translocation I have that made conception difficult and every child more blessed.
I am thankful for the dozens of miscarriages Nancy and I have had and the way Father transformed our disappointment into faith. I am less likely today to demand that Father explain His doings to me. “When God sorts out weather and sends rain, Why, rain’s my choice.”
I am thankful for foster children who humbled us with the realization that we don’t have all the answers to life’s tough questions.
I am deeply indebted to sweet temple workers who knew me well enough to be judgmental but, following the Master’s gracious example, greeted me with loving smiles and warm embraces.
I am grateful to (and humbled by) those I have offended who have forgiven me.
I am thankful to those who haven’t forgiven me. They have taught me about the very real consequences of my thoughtless, careless or even wicked acts.
I am thankful to those like our many students and our friend in Midland who have looked past my imperfect teaching to my earnest beliefs. They are like the patient children who continue to love their dog in spite of slobber, chewed furniture, fleas, and an unruly and energetic tail.
I am thankful for friends like Clif, Irv, Jeff, Myke, DeArmon, John, Sue, Mary, Sandy, and others who have chosen to spend time with me and have found good in me despite abundant reason to be annoyed.
I am grateful for people who have given me a chance in life, people like Phil Ellis, Cory Maxwell, John Covey, Maurine Proctor, and many others.
I am grateful to prophets, leaders, and teachers who have pointed toward the bright lights of the City of God—people like Nephi, Bishop Brown, Alma, Howard W. Hunter, Aunt Ruth, Neal A. Maxwell, Jeffrey R. Holland, Gordon B. Hinckley, Grant Jacobsen . . . . There are too many to name.
I am thankful for wise and perceptive writers who have opened their minds and hearts so we might be warmed and blessed, people like Frederick W. Farrar, Richard Cracroft, Stephen E. Robinson, Eugene England, Hugh Nibley, Catherine Thomas, and Stephen Covey.
I am everlastingly thankful for my wife, Nancy Thacker Goddard, a mild, gentle, sweet soul, who has done more—save Jesus only—for the salvation of my imperfect soul than any other person who ever lived on earth.
I rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ who not only empowered the Great Plan of Redemption, but who sustains my life, and lives to bless us all. The landscape is littered with His abundant goodness. He is the Light and Life of the world.
I thank Father for a perfect plan and perfect love.
Give [gratitude], and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over . . . . For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:38)
Try it and see. Rummage around your soul for gratitude and see if joy is not the result.