FOR LATTER-DAY SAINTS, there's a lot to "guard against" these days — pride, pornography, debt, obesity. And since I'm always willing to give advice, let me add one more thing.

We need to guard against mistaking things that "stimulate" us for things that "invigorate" us.

So many films, concerts and spectacles create a sensory overload. We leave them feeling drained. We're like washcloths wrung out and hung up to dry. And we think that's a good thing.

It's just stimulation. Drugs are stimulating. So are pornography, pastries and high praise.

Invigoration, however, is something very different.

Think of the 19th-century Saints spending a full day raising a barn or building a house, then cranking up the fiddles and fifes at night for a rousing hoedown.

Where did they get all that energy?

They got it because they weren't focused on themselves. They were serving their God and their friends. And that yoke was easy, the burden light. Forgetting themselves put a bounce in their step. It "invigorated" them. Made them more alive.

I'm not talking about feeling driven or "pumped up," but about feelings of vitality and purpose, a vigor that doesn't overload the senses, it heightens them.

I like what writer Oswald Chambers had to say about such things. When Jesus said, "I will give you rest," writes Chambers, he didn't mean "I will put you to bed and hold your hand and sing you to sleep," but "I will get you out of bed, out of the languor and exhaustion, out of being half-dead while you are alive."

The key, says Chambers, is to get past being self-conscious.

When we feel stimulated, we're being self-centered.

We feel truly invigorated when we move outside of ourselves.

I've heard actors talk like that. They can lose themselves in a role to the point they feel — as one friend told me — they're on stage "sitting in a big rocking chair."

Naturally, we will all have times when we'll feel drained. The body does run down. But how many times have I seen bishops, after a grueling 15-hour day at church, head for home humming a tune?

I've seen stake patriarchs, after giving a blessing that would leave lesser men in a stupor, seem filled with electric current when they finish, their internal batteries so charged they practically tingle.

Most people, Henri Nouwen wrote, are simply looking for ways to keep themselves entertained until they die.

Entertainment, like so much else today, is just another form of stimulation. It will eventually leave you flat.

Enlightened service, however, perks you up.

You'll find that "peace like a river" the spirituals talk about — a river that is flowing, powerful, dynamic, tranquil and deep.

And when you find the latter, you wonder what you ever saw in the former.


Jerry Johnston is a Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in the Mormon Times section.


E-MAIL: [email protected]