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The Eternal Smile: A Perspective on Joy

I served briefly with a native Japanese missionary – 26 years old and always (I mean always) smiling. He woke up smiling; he walked and rode his bike with vigor – full speed and smiling; he smiled while he ate; he feel asleep with a smile etched on his face. You’ve heard of “The Never Ending Story”? His was the never-ending smile. When I first heard his story, I couldn’t understand why.

He was the 14th or 16th generation (I forget) oldest son of the local Buddhist priestly line – his father ?s only son – the only heir to a long heritage of spiritual leadership of their town. The aspirations of hundreds of years rested on his shoulders. After he met the missionaries, gained a testimony, then joined the Church, his father publicly and ceremonially acknowledged his dishonorable death, he was expelled from school and fired from his job, and he had to reconstruct an entirely new life from scratch. He worked and saved for multiple years in order to pay for his own mission, then lived on 2/3 of the recommended minimum cost – because that’s all he had been able to save and he was reaching the maximum age for missionary service.

I once heard someone ask him, given what had happened to him, how he could be so happy all of the time. His response: I have found the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How could I not be happy? ? He said he wanted to be a savior for someone else the way his missionaries had been saviors for him.

My mission ended in October, so I gave him my winter coat and boots (he had no boots of his own on the northern, bitter cold island of Hokkaido) a couple of months before I left. I found out a few days before returning home that he had given the coat and boots to an investigator who needed them more ?. That was over 20 years ago, but I will never forget him – never.

**NOTE**: Please, everyone, realize that I am NOT saying that everyone should be as happy as Elder Joh all the time. I understand depression and stress and having kids . . . and I would NEVER want to make it seem like anyone should feel guilty about not smiling all the time. I shared this experience here simply to talk about the overall issue of recognizing the amazing gift of the Gospel – that sometimes gets lost in the crap of our daily lives.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • nanacarol March 8, 2008, 3:11 pm

    That is a really amazing story. Here I have been a member all my life and I have really sad days. And I know why!!!!!
    It is because I forget all the time that I am a daughter of God and that I have an older brother who really cares. I let the everyday cares of the world get to me. Lately I have also decided that I am too selfish. I want more for me. When I look at the Saviors life I see such selfless service. He very rarely thought of himself. I do try and get up every morning and say–today is going to be joyful. Does Satan tempt me on purpose because I have express the desire of my heart?

  • Michelle D March 8, 2008, 3:24 pm

    Wow… That really was over 20 years ago… What I appreciate is how you have internalized the lessons you learned from missionaries and others who taught you about being joyful. It adds a wonderful dimension to your already optimistic outlook on life. Love you, bud!

  • Michelle D March 8, 2008, 3:26 pm

    Um… just realized… for anyone who doesn’t realize it, Ray and I have a thing going on — you know, married for 21 years and counting toward eternity. :twosome:

  • Ray March 8, 2008, 4:40 pm

    I just added a note at the end of the original post. I have been involved in a discussion of depression on another blog, and it hit me that I probably should make the point at the end clear.

  • Lisa March 8, 2008, 5:21 pm

    I am so glad you shared this, I loved it!!! Great perspective. Sometimes I think we undervalue what we really have!!!

  • mollymormon March 8, 2008, 7:02 pm

    Great story! I love hearing about people like that (even though at times they might even make you madder, lol!) Mainly because you know they are truly feeling charity. “Be of Good Cheer” – most oft broken commandment…

  • Ray March 8, 2008, 11:29 pm

    “Sometimes I think we undervalue what we really have!!!”

    Lisa, truer words were never spoken.

  • Yvette March 18, 2008, 7:20 am

    Posted By: nanacarol…Lately I have also decided that I am too selfish. I want more for me. When I look at the Saviors life I see such selfless service. He very rarely thought of himself. I do try and get up every morning and say–today is going to be joyful. Does Satan tempt me on purpose because I have express the desire of my heart?

    I know some people who think that we should be careful of what we say because Satan can hear us. But, I think people can get caught up in the paranoia of “something is after me” and being scared of “bad things” when we should be happy and confident in our faith in Christ. We will all have challenges and temptations–especially if it’s something that you are specifically working on. But the Lord allows us to have challenges to help us become stronger.

    I’ve had similar thoughts about happiness and that I really should be more happy with my life. I have so many blessings in my life–especially the Gospel. So, I decided that I would do some act of service every week. It could be small, but I was going to look for something every week. I’ve been doing it for a couple of months and I’ve been pleased with the results because I do feel more pleasant and my mood has improved. Sometimes it is/was difficult to identify how I could serve in a given week, but opportunities soon presented themselves.

    There are often opportunities at Church where people need a meal or a ride or doing splits with the missionaries etc. I work full time and my weekends are precious because there are always so many errands to run and so much to do, but taking the time to do service has been a blessing. I think that’s why it’s so easy to be so happy while you are serving a mission because you are dedicating your life every day to serving the Lord. Yes, missionaries still have bad days but generally I think if you’re serving with a good attitude, you’re at least happ-IER than you would have been otherwise.

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