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DON - Is there a difference between being happy and filled with joy? in scriptures these two words are used often but wonder if they are the same or not? if not whats the difference?
JOEL - Sometimes these things come down to a person's particular deffinition of words. Some equate the word happiness with joy and then differentiate the two from what we would call pleasure.
To start with I am going to relate happiness more with pleasure and joy as a different feeling or condition, which perhaps could also be described as "eternal happiness".
Through scripture study and what church leaders have said I have come to the realization that there is a difference between the moments of happiness or pleasure that a person might experience from day to day and the degree of joy that one feels inside all the time. The dictionary definitions of happiness and joy are fairly similar. But the scriptural or spiritual meanings of the two words are, I believe somewhat different.
The dictionary describes happiness as good fortune, a state of well being and contentment. This state of happiness or well being can mean different things to different people.
Happiness is buying a new house.
Happiness is getting a raise in salary,
Happiness is getting yourself out of debt
To a student happiness is an A on a test
To an athlete happiness is scoring the game winning goal,
There are many things that make us happy; things that give us a feeling of well being, as the dictionary puts it. And each person has their own list of things that make them happy or give them pleasure.
What then is joy?
The Lord has told us in the Book of Mormon. “Adam fell that men may be, and man is that he may have joy.” (2 Neph. 2:25)
This tends to suggest that one of the most important reasons for our very existence is that we are able to experience this joy.
The Standard works are full of scriptures that describe joy. In Mormon 7:7 it describes joy as "being one in God, in a state of happiness which hath no end."
D & C. 11:13 - The Lord said "I will impart unto you my spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy."
Joy is a realization that your sins are forgiven and having faith in Christ:
Mosiah 4:3 - "The spirit of the lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins and having peace of conscience because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ.."
After having read and studied the scriptures here is a list of what I believe brings us joy.
Joy is knowing that you are a child of God .
Joy is knowing that God lives and loves you.
Joy is knowing and understanding who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us.
Joy is knowing that you have received forgiveness for your sins.
Joy is receiving answers to prayers through the Holy Ghost.
Joy is having a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and knowing the reason for why you are here on this earth.
Joy is knowing that you have the help of God and the Holy spirit to help you get through the tough times.
Joy is knowing that you can be with God in heaven living in a state of eternal happiness.
We could make some comparisons between the two words to illustrate their differences. Some time ago during a family home evening we were talking about this very subject and my wife said something rather profound. She said:
"Happiness is something that comes from without, joy is something that comes from within."
Happiness is a fulfillment of physical or emotional desires, Joy is a fulfillment of spiritual desires.
Happiness is getting what you want. Joy is appreciating what you already have.
You feel happy when someone does something nice for you. You feel Joy when you do something nice for someone else.
Happiness is something limited to our earthly experience, joy is one of those things you take with you when you leave this earth.
Happiness is temporary, joy is eternal.
The eternal nature of joy was best illustrated to me by my then 5 year-old daughter. I took her to the store one day because she had just received some birthday money from her grandmother and of course immediately wanted to spend it. After I had collected a few groceries we got in line at the checkout stand, and I noticed that she had nothing in her hands. "Weren't you going to buy something I asked?" "I just can't find anything good" she responded dejectedly. "How about one of these candy bars?" I offered, trying to be of some help. She agreed it was a good idea and made her choice. But then a very thoughtful look came over her face. Suddenly her eyes lit up, she returned the candy bar to its place on the rack, and ran off towards the back of the store shouting, "I'll be right back!"
Soon, she returned, her face beaming, proudly displaying a book she found. "Why did you decide on the book instead of the candy bar?" I asked. Then she explained, "Well I like candy bars, but it would have made me happy for only a short time. I wanted something that would make me happy for a long time." I gave her a hug as I realized she was well on her way to understanding the eternal nature of true joy.
Joy is not something that is given to us, it is something that we personally must grow and develop within us. We are in control of how much joy we feel inside.
Even though we all experience things that may make us feel angry or sad or frustrated at times, if we have this joy inside we will be able to deal with these things with an attitude of hope and faith, knowing that God will help us get through these tough times.
We still need to experience those moments of happiness and pleasure so we can have some fun in this life and not get bored.. But we need to maintain a proper balance of doing those things that make us happy and doing the things that build and strengthen the joy inside.
Many people overly concern themselves with only the things that make them happy or give them pleasure for the moment and neglect those things that create lasting joy. They run from one fun thing to the other in a desperate attempt to always keep themselves happy. Some even turn to those things that can be harmful to the body and spirit of themselves or those around them such as drugs, alcohol, immorality. But as we all know "Wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41: 10)
These people are the ones who live by the slogan, "Eat, drink and be merry". And that sounds pretty good to a lot of people. Especially when you compare it to what I call the LDS slogan which is, "Fast, abstain, and endure to the end."
But when the tough times come those who have no joy inside tend to give up and feel great despair and hopelessness. If they aren't having fun all the time, life is not worth living.
I have been to many funerals, both religious and non-religious and have noticed a great difference in the attitude and expressions of emotion at both. Those who do not have a strong faith in God are wailing and crying out with great grief and sorrow and feelings of bitterness and anger.
On the other hand I have been to funerals for loved ones of those who know and understand Gods plan who are a little more in control because they are able to fall back on this joy they have inside to help them through the mourning and can sometimes actually turn a funeral service into a very spiritual experience.
After the 49ers won the Super Bowl, Steve Young was talking to his mother on the phone and said, "I've achieved my football dream." Then after a short pause, he said "But if we would have lost, I could still be happy."
The scriptures also tell us of many things we can do to grow and maintain joy. They tell us that If we repent (D&C 18: 13, Mosiah 4: 3) and keep commandments of God (Mosiah 2: 41) , study scriptures (Alma 44: 5), give service to others we will have joy.
If we study and ponder the gospel and share our testimony with others, we will have joy. If we really get to know Jesus Christ., if we pray and listen for answers through the Holy Ghost we will have joy (Mosiah 4: 20). If we live with an attitude of thankfulness to our Heavenly Father for all He has given us we will have joy. And if we help bring someone into the church "how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" (D&C 18: 15).