"Take a few seconds and text yourself that emoji," said Susan Ward, the associate dean of faculty development at BYU-Idaho. It's uncommon for a BYU-Idaho devotional speaker to ask the audience to text themselves an emoji, but that's exactly what Sister Ward did during her talk about joy.
"If your emoji was a happy face, then great," she said. "If it was a different kind of face, it can serve as a reminder. A reminder to take some time to consider how you can act to feel happy and joyful."
In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Sister Ward explained why it is so important to have joy in our lives, "First and foremost, I'm a mother," she said. "And as a mother I've seen how important it is to recognize how we're feeling inside. A lot of people try to ignore how they're feeling inside and put on the good face. But it's important to recognize how we're feeling inside and then if we're not feeling all that happy, the things that we can do so we can be happy."
During her talk, Sister Ward outlined three things that can keep us from joy in our lives: the mortal condition, the poor choices we make, and the poor choices of those around us.
She taught that it is natural to suffer. We have disease, mental illness, sickness and disability because of our physical bodies. But, "At some point we have to make a conscious decision about how we respond when these things happen to us and to those around us," she said.
When she spoke about our own poor choices she talked about the importance of repentance. She said said Jesus Christ performed the atonement so we can repent, which then helps us feel joy, "Please, if there is in your life some poor choice which prevents you from feeling joy inside, repent," she said. "Literally, repentance can take a person from the depths of sorrow and self-loathing to feelings of great happiness."
Sister Ward also explained why the poor choices of others can prevent us from feeling joy. She said when the poor choices of those close to us affect us, we must choose how to respond to those choices and to our loved ones. She gave an antidote to feelings of anger or sadness: gratitude. She said when a friend made poor choices that affected her, it was gratitude that helped her feel joy again. "The act of feeling gratitude overwhelmed and pushed away the anger and other negative feelings."
She also said she has to be patient with her loved ones when they make poor choices, especially as her children go through the teenage years.
At the end of her talk when she asked students to text themselves an emoji she confessed she texted two emojis to herself, a happy face and a worried face, "Most of the time, I feel happy," she said. "But just below the surface, ready to bubble up, are some worries, which have the potential to consume me and impact the joy that I feel. However, I am determined to not let those worries do that to me."
You can listen to her full devotional address below.