Much to our chagrin and our mothers’ anguish, all of us were born as obscure creatures, mostly hairless, helpless, and hapless and of “no consequence in the world” (Joseph Smith–History 1:22-23). Since that time, many of you have grown hair, some more than your parents have wanted; become helpful in positive ways; and have received some fortuitous wisdom along the way. Others of you have remained in a quasi hapless state, mostly by your own choices. What will matter most from now until the day you die is how you have risen from your initial obscurity to your status in the world–whatever that might be.
What I have personally discovered is my yearbook did not, thankfully, define my ultimate destiny. It may define the ephemeral and the now but not the future and the eternal. My discovery—and rediscovery over the years—is this: With the help of my Heavenly Father and good leaders, I define my way; I create my own happiness.
“To be of good cheer” is a phrase that many of you have heard before and one that we all need to adopt to see life in the way we need to. Before moving to Miles City, my family and I read Dr. Spencer Johnson’s (1999) book Who Moved My Cheese. It was a delightful, thought-provoking book, that helped us transition from Idaho to Montana—new schools and friends for the girls and Joanne and a new college presidency for me—definitely changes for all of us. While we knew that change was self-induced, one thing we learned, though, was that no matter what happened or what choices we made, our happiness hinged solely on our ability to adapt to change. Oliver Wendell Holmes sums up nicely what we should do with change: “We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it,—but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”
Not one of us will escape this life without some sort of challenge or challenges. According to Elder Maxwell, “There is no way that we can be a part of the last days and have it otherwise (Ensign, November 1982, p. 66). That’s why we have come—to gain experiences that we may return to our Heavenly Father, stronger, more faithful, and understanding whose we are—for we are God’s—and ready to create kingdoms of our own.
Many of us will face challenges that are beyond the scope of the rest of us. As we contemplate our own challenges, we must lift up our heads and look around us. For what we will see, if you truly look closely, is that others’ burdens are more likely than not to be heavier than our own. We must believe we are the ones in control of what we do—only with the Lord’s help. We are the ones who create our own happiness, our own cheer. We must adhere to Virgil’s philosophy of old: “They can because they think they can.” Therefore, think away and be successful!
From the holy scriptures we read, “But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever” (2 Nephi 9:18, bold mine).
Can you imagine having our joy forever? That means that you will be eternally happy, primarily because you have inherited the Kingdom of God and will dwell with Him forever and ever, and you know and feel that Heavenly Father loves you. There will never be a doubtful thought. You will not feel depressed or melancholy ever again.
The Lord tells the Prophet Joseph “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23). But the key phrase to have this “peace in the world and eternal life in the world to come” hinges on those who “doeth the works of righteousness.” And yes, the reward is great, even eternal.
Our role in this life is to re-discover that joy, that cheer, that feeling of knowing, that someday we again will shout with joy and cheer because we returned valiant to our Father-in-Heaven. Won’t that be like Alma when he said to his son: “And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20).
Thankfully, the Lord will be there to help us—as He always does: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:6)…..