What is joy?

If men are, that they might have joy, then what is joy?

Other writers have written about the scriptural meaning of the words joy and happiness and debated what Lehi’s statement really means. Is joy a synonym for some other positive emotion? Certainly this scripture – and therefore, our way of being as Latter-day Saints – would be very different if the word joy were replaced with self-esteem, or pleasure, or euphoria, or amusement.

And where does it rank with other emotional experiences? Is it just a possibility among many, or is it a commandment? And how can we be expected to be joyful when we live in a world where pain and suffering exist? We naturally have times when we feel tired, or angry, or discouraged, or sad. Are we allowed to experience and acknowledge those emotions? What about anxiety or depression? Are we breaking a commandment just because we don’t feel the way we should? That hardly seems fair.

After my own search of joy-related scriptures, I find that joy is far richer – and more attainable – than we give it credit for. Joy is not only possible, but within reach – in this life as well as the next – and arises from in a variety of situations: spiritual conversion, exaltation, celebration, appreciation, relief and restoration just to name a few. Joy isn’t something you either have or you don’t. It isn’t limited to an emotional state; it requires both being and doing. We obtain joy by being what God wants us to be (grateful, trusting, faithful, hopeful) and doing what he wants us to do (seeking, receiving, enduring, praising).

That said, following the example of the Apostle Paul, here is my attempt to define joy:

Joy endures suffering and triumphs over misery,
And wipes away tears and gives relief;
Joy repents and forgives;
Joy is humble and generous,
Wonders at God’s grace and tender mercies,
Delights in others’ blessings,
Seeks after goodness,
And finds that which is lost.
Joy does not give up, but
Meets challenges,
Lives righteously,
And gives life purpose and meaning;
It praises the Lord,
Loves the Lord,
Trusts the Lord,
And fills the soul.
Joy sings the song of redeeming love.

And you can feel it now.

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