John 1:1-4 — (part 3) Joy and Friendship are the Products of Truth/Light/Love — LeGrand Baker

In the first two parts of this discussion I have shown that truth, light, and love all share the same properties, that the fullness of truth is equivalent to a fullness of light, which is equivalent to a fullness of love, so they are different ways the scriptures have of describing the same thing.

Here, I wish to show that a fullness of truth/light/love is equivalent to a fulness of joy which can only reach a fulness when it is reciprocated as eternal friendship.

The place to begin our discussion must be the most inclusive statement of all. There is no equivocation in Lehi’s declaration that equates the purpose of the fall, the purpose of the Atonement, and joy as the purpose of our lives,

25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall (2 Nephi 2:5-26a).

No doubt, Nephi understood the full ramifications of his father’s utterance. An angel had also taught him the relationship between joy, the Savior’s Atonement, and the power of the ordinances that give us access to them.

18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
24 And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him.
25 And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.
26 And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!
27 And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove (1 Nephi 11:1-36).

As with all else in this mortal world, one must learn to recognize and appreciate that kind of love/ joy and its source. The Lord promised the Prophet Joseph’s brother Hyrum,

12 And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy (D&C 11:12-30).

When Mormon described the Ammon’s experience with the Lamanite king and queen, he equated God’s light with the joy which was “infused into his soul.”

6 Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God (Alma 19:6).

The Lamanite king and queen were “overpowered with joy,” sank to the earth, and received marvelous visions (Alma 17-19 and 27:17).

Again, when Mormon told us about Nephi and Lehi’s experience in the Lamanite prison, he described their “joy which is unspeakable” when they were “in the midst of a flaming fire” The fire is the shechinah which is the light of Christ made visible to spiritual eyes. {1}

44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words (Helaman 5:44-45).

Peter taught the Saints that their persecutions were only temporary. Then told them of the promises that were theirs if they kept their covenants. “Unspeakable joy” is one of the steps that leads to “the salvation of your souls.”

7 That the trial of your faith [pistis = covenants], being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end [the object or conclusion] of your faith [pistis = covenants], even the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:7-9).

Joseph Smith used that same phrase when he described his reaction to the First Vision. There are four accounts of the First Vision that can be attributed directly to the Prophet. Here are excerpts from two of them.

I kneeled again, my mouth was opened and my tongue loosed; I called on the Lord in mighty prayer. A pillar of fire appeared above my head; which presently rested down upon me, and filled me with unspeakable joy. A personage appeared in the midst of this pillar of flame, which was spread all around and yet nothing consumed. Another personage soon appeared like unto the first: he said unto me, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” He testified also unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God. I saw many angels in this vision. I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication.

In another account the Prophet adds,

And my soul was filled with love, and for many days I could rejoice with great joy, and the Lord was with me but I could find none that would believe the heavenly vision. {2}

The quality of the joy we experience and radiate is determined by the quality of the truth/love/light that defines who we are. Joy is contagious and can infect the people around us. It can influence and enhance the quality of truth/love/light of the people with whom we associate. People who exude the light of joy gravitate to their same kind of people. That is an eternal principle (D&C 88:40). For that reason, the joy of the gospel is a very powerful missionary tool. In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, we observed,

Our very lives testify that this is true. As we acknowledge the eternal reality of a dear friend we become more alive. We begin to rediscover the eternal truth of who and what that friend was, is, and will be. That recognition opens a window through which we can get a glimpse of our own eternal Self. The light that emanates from the soul of one’s friend penetrates just a bit of the veil that clouds our memory of our own past eternal self. It reveals a shining new aspect of a forgotten portion of who and what we were before we came into this world. It does that by teaching us who our friend was and how dearly we loved him. As we re-experience the light that is his personality and goodness; we feel again the love we shared for each other before we came into mortality. The friendship brings more truth, light, and love that blend anew into a unity of joy. It gives new vibrance to our lives and helps us overcome the loneliness of this otherwise dreary world. Thus the friendship makes both beings more complete—more of what and who we were. The friend’s light seems also to extend a beckoning hand even beyond the veil of death that obscures the hope of our eternal future. {3}
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Friendships are the cohesive power that gives meaning to truth/light/love/joy. Love/charity is the light/power that exudes from righteous persons. But if one only sent out their love with nowhere for it to go it would ring hollow and be meaningless. It would be equally meaningless if one could not be the recipient of other people’s love.

Eternal life is about eternal relationships. We use the promise of the eternal continuity of our family togetherness as a way of describing celestial glory. However, that is not all. Salvation is also about an eternal duration of our appreciation of our Selves, and our relationships with our friends, as well as of our relationship with the Savior and his Father.

(Similarly, the limited nature of one’s relationship with family, friends, and God is also a valid way of describing the characteristics of those who inherit the terrestrial and telestial glories, or no glory at all.)

Absolute joy is celestial because there is no aloneness there. One of the great powers of God is his ability to love everyone, and to focus that love on just the one without diminishing his love for all the others. For us, that is the essence of parenthood, but it is also true friendship, because it is the ultimate description of charity. However, loving others is not enough. In all valid friendships, one must love and also be willing to be loved.

One of the great stumbling blocks that prevent us from loving is pride. Pride is our accepting an self-defined illusion as our reality. It is an unsubstantial mask behind which we hide our Self from our self as well as from others. Crouching behind that facade that only we perceive as real, we pretend we are invulnerable — and thereby we preclude both our ability to love and to be loved. Our reality can give and receive love, but a mask cannot.

For some it is difficult to be loved as our real Selves, because that requires our being real — exposed, vulnerable, and naked – not nude which means to be unclothed, but naked with means to be unmasked.

The scriptures focus on our willingness to accept love just as they do on our need to give love. A characteristic of this life is that receiving love seems dependent upon someone else giving it. Consequently, many feel lonely. However, as is well known, the best antidote for loneliness is to find someone to be nice to. For Latter-day Saints, that often translates into doing temple work or engaging in family history which can be done even at home.

Not long ago I wrote a short essay called “Ether 12:27 – weakness, strength, and humility; & pistis, hesed, and charity.” Its ideas belong as part of this one, so I invite you to read it. To find it search “Ether 12:27″ in this website.

There, I pointed out that in the scriptures God’s love for us is a covenant relationship, just as is our love for him. And that the scriptures also use that same language to describe our friendships with each others — as covenant relationships.

A New Testament word that gives a priesthood connotation to our friendship relationships, and that even transcends our mortal and post mortal veils, is “fellowship.” Paul spoke of the “fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” The Greek word translated “mystery” was used by Paul to represent the early Christian temple service {4}

7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Ephesians 3:7-12).

In what is surely one of the most beautiful testimonies ever written, John the Beloved invited all the Saints to be a part of that eternal fellowship.

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:1-7).

The Savior also invited his apostles — whom he called his friends — to be part of that eternal fellowship.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35).
…..
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (John 15:1-27).

Those words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” are usually read as a prophecy and an explanation of the Savior’s impending death, but they may have had a double meaning, one that applied to the apostles. Another valid reading “lay down his life” might be “to commit one’s life to serving his friends (Strong # 5087).”

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FOOTNOTES

{1} See shechinah in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

{2} Both quotes are from Dean C. Jessee, “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (BYU Studies, Spring, 1969, 275-96), 287-91. I have quoted all four in Joseph and Moroni, pages 4-8. You will find it under “published books” in this website.

{3} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, 802-03; paperback 565-66.

{4} Strong # 3466. “musterion, ‘mystery’ (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites).” I use the old first edition of Strong because some of the newer versions tend to be too politically correct.

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