Saturday, November 5, 2016

2016-11-06 President's Message

Dear Elders and Sisters,

Maligayang Pasko! Merry Christmas! We are already 2 months into the Christmas season in the Philippines. Christmas songs are playing and Christmas decorations are adding an extra sparkle to the season.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Joy to the World." The song is bright, enthusiastic and full of meaning. "Joy to the world, the Lord is come; let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room, and Saints and angels sing..."

In the most recent general conference of the Church, Elder Russell M. Nelson gave a classic talk entitled: "Joy and Spiritual Survival." I will share some excerpts from his talk and then relate it to our missionary work here in the Manila Mission.

He talks about the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi, who "knew opposition, anxiety, heartache, pain and disappointment, and sorrow. Yet he declared boldly and without reservation a principle as revealed by the Lord: "MEN ARE THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE JOY." Imagine! Of all the words he could have used to describe the nature and purpose of our lives here in mortality, he chose the word JOY!

Life is filled with detours and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are here to have joy?

Yes! The answer is a resounding yes! But how is that possible? And what must we do to claim the joy that Heavenly Father has in store for us?

Saints can be happy under every circumstance. We can feel joy even while having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!


When the focus of our lives is on God's plan of salvation...we can feel joy regardless of what is happening--or not happening--in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime when we sing, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come." And we can feel it all year round. For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy!

That is why our missionaries leave their homes to preach His gospel. Their goal is not to increase the number of Church members. Rather, our missionaries teach and baptize to bring JOY to the people of the world!

...It doesn't seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers with an incurable illness or when you lose your job or when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the joy the Savior offers. His joy is constant, assuring us that our "afflictions shall be but a small moment" and be consecrated to our gain.

How, then, can we claim that joy? We can start by "LOOKING UNTO JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith" IN EVERY THOUGHT. We can GIVE THANKS FOR HIM IN OUR PRAYERS and by KEEPING COVENANTS we've make with Him and our Heavenly Father. AS OUR SAVIOR BECOMES MORE AND MORE REAL TO US AND AS WE PLEAD FOR HIS JOY TO GIVEN TO US, OUR JOY WILL INCREASE.

Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God's power into our lives. As in all things, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross." Think of that! In order for Him to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy!

What was the joy that was set before Him? Surely it included the joy of cleansing, healing, and strengthening us; the joy of paying for the sins of all who would repent; the joy of making it possible for you and me to return home--clean and worthy--to live with our Heavenly Parents and families.

A dear colleague recently told me of his past 20 years of heavy trials. He said, "I have learned to suffer with joy. My suffering was swallowed up in the joy of Christ."

Anything that opposes Christ or His doctrine will interrupt our joy.

If we look to the world and follow its formulas for happiness, we will never know joy. The unrighteous may experience any number of emotions and sensations, but they will never experience joy! Joy is a gift for the faithful. It is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ.

He taught us how to have joy. When we choose Heavenly Father to be our God and when we can feel the Savior's Atonement working in our lives, we will be filled with joy. Every time we nurture our spouse and guide our children, every time we forgive someone or ask for forgiveness, we can feel joy.

Every day that you and I choose to live celestial laws, every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours." [End of quotation]

I am thankful for Elder Nelson's teachings, especially his teaching that "the joy we feel has little to do with the CIRCUMSTANCES of our lives and everything to do with the FOCUS OF OUR LIVES.

Elders and Sisters, Now it is time to receive the great joy that comes from focusing your life on the Lord. Now is the time to receive the great joy that comes from sharing the joy of the gospel with others. As a famous author once said: "If you miss the joy, you miss it all!" (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Your calling is not to walk around like a busy businessperson doing your daily tasks. Your calling is to Share the Joy with everyone you can!

In DC 18:15 the Lord says: "And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it shall be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!"

Alma shares his feelings at the end of his missionary service: "Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance, that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding JOY of which I did taste...Yea and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great JOY in the fruit of my labors." (Alma 36:24-25)

I invite you to focus your thoughts, your studies and your life on Jesus Christ. I invite you to pray for joy and happiness in your work. I invite you to thank the Lord with all of your heart for the privilege of serving Him. I invite you to sing the Christmas song: "Joy to the World" with all of your heart during this holiday season!

Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg Ostler