1. A voice hath spoken from the dust,
Its message pure, without alloy,
Of treasured hope and sacred trust:
Oh, “men are that they might have joy.”
2. Should sorrow come, we’ll not despair,
For He would not that men should pine.
The grief that comes we’ll learn to bear
Until again the sun doth shine.
3. Before the Lord, then, humbly go.
His message will our spirits buoy.
On us his blessings he’ll bestow,
For “men are that they might have joy.”
If you asked the average person on the street what they most wanted, you would probably get a multitude of answers. Money, family, friends, their wife to stop nagging about taking the trash out. If you then asked these people why they wanted these things, the words might be different, but the meanings would be the same: we all want to be happy. No one wants to be miserable, and the things we do each day are, at the heart of them, pointed at providing ourselves with happiness.
We aren’t the only ones who want us to be happy, either. Jacob, in teaching the people of Nephi, stated simply, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). The plan of salvation is designed so that we can be happy. The creation of the world, the garden of Eden, the fall of Adam, his posterity, the spiritual prison and paradise that exist pre-judgment, the judgment, and the degrees of heavenly glory all exist so that we can achieve joy.
Let’s, for a minute, discuss the joy that is intended for us. The highest degree of the celestial kingdom has us sealed to our families and living as gods. Can you think of anything better? God certainly thinks this is the ultimate way to have joy, and I try not to argue with Him. Getting to that place where our joy will be full is going to take some work. We know this. We have to keep the commandments and actively come unto Christ that we may partake in His infinite atonement to even be considered worthy of this joy. And that’s where some people lose sight of the end goal.
This mortal existence is difficult. You are human, so I’m assuming this is no revelation to you. We are plagued with disease, famine, natural disasters, and our own choices. Whether by our own hand or the circumstances we are dealt, we will struggle. We will go through difficult moments. And we will, most likely, hate it. At least, I know I hate it. But doesn’t this clash with God’s ultimate goal for us, this desire He has for us to have joy?
Alma 34:34 states, “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” The word labor means hard work or great effort. If we are going to labor for something, we are going to have to focus and toil as we move toward a goal. And sometimes that’s hard, both physically and emotionally. We cannot expect God to exalt us if we haven’t proven worthy for that exaltation, and that means that we are going to have to show Him that given the choice between His way or the world’s way, we’re going to choose His way. The second verse of this hymn reads: “The grief that comes we’ll learn to bear/ Until again the sun doth shine.”
Adam fell. We know this. And when he fell, he was told, “Because thou hast… eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying—Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou shalt return unto the ground—for thou shalt surely die—for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Moses 4:23-25).
But God is not a terrible God. He is just. And he provided a Savior for Adam and his posterity. “As thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will” (Moses 5:9). And Adam understood this: “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10). God wasn’t just going to hand over joy to Adam. Adam had to work for it. But it was a very real and tangible possibility. Even though Adam had the daunting task of, with his wife, populating a new world, and even though his children didn’t always follow the things he tried to teach them (I’m looking at you, Cain), there was joy in knowing they could return to their Father’s presence and be not only with Him but like Him.
As we struggle and toil, and we work and sweat and learn, let us remember why we are doing this. We are learning. God wants us to learn so that we can make an informed decision: follow Him or not. And may we all choose to follow Him and to inherit the joy that awaits us in His arms.