“Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” (President Gordon B. Hinckley)
I recently came across an opinion that believed that enduring to the end contradicts happiness. This opinion believed that one can’t be happy while enduring; therefore, one must choose, and happiness (the world’s definition of happiness) is the better choice. Sentiments like this one are quite common today. Happiness has been redefined to meet the world’s standards. And according to the world, happiness redefined trumps following the Lord’s commandments.
I’m sure that most of us have listened to or read phrases such as, “Doing (fill-in-a-choice-contrary-to-the-commandments) makes me happy, and God just wants me to be happy” or “God would rather see me happy than force me to (fill-in-a-commandment-that-they-are-avoiding).” Of course our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. The Plan of Salvation is also called The Plan of Happiness, and throughout the scriptures the message of the gospel is commonly referred to as “glad tidings.” But this idea that the world’s version of happiness is the kind of happiness that God intends for us is a lie perpetuated by Satan. Satan wants us to think that the temptations he is throwing at us will lead to true happiness. But that is not true. What leads us to true happiness can be found in the words of the scriptures and our modern day prophets, not in the philosophies of men.
As I studied the scriptures, I found that certain actions commanded by the Lord lead us to happiness. The first action that leads us to true happiness is having faith in the Lord. When we have faith, we put our hope in God (Psalm 146:5) and we put our trust in God (Proverbs 16:20, Psalm 64:10). We allow God to comfort us, and when He does, we will find “joy and gladness” (Isaiah 51:3). The Lord promises us that “in me your joy is full.” (D&C 101:36) Faith in God then leads us to the actions of following the commandments, serving others, and gaining knowledge; all actions which lead us to true happiness.
Proverbs 19:18 states that “…he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” In his iconic address, King Benjamin promises that those who keep the commandments will find themselves in a “blessed and happy state” and they will “dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.” (Mosiah 2:41) I can’t imagine a more happier outcome than dwelling with God some day. In order to find happiness in keeping the commandments we must have a desire to follow the commandments (Abraham 1:2). We must also be willing to be obedient (Isaiah 1:19) by giving the Lord our “heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). We are promised that when we do these things, we will “receiveth a fulness” or an abundant life (D&C 93:27).
Making and keeping our baptismal and temple covenants falls under keeping the commandments. We renew our baptismal and all other sacred covenants when we take the sacrament. In my personal experience, my Sunday, and my entire week tend to go better and I am happier when I have taken the sacrament. While we do not renew our temple covenants during future temple visits – we only go through once for ourselves – we are reminded of them when we perform proxy ordinances for the dead. I always leave the temple feeling happier and more at peace than when I entered.
But what about the claims that happiness can and has been found in living contrary to the commandments? The Book of Mormon teaches us that those who live such lives “have joy in their works for a season” (3 Nephi 27:11), however, “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). Mormon wrote that in the end the Lord will not “always suffer them to take happiness in sin.” (Mormon 2:13) So, any happiness found outside of the gospel is essentially a facade created by Satan, it is a temporary happiness that will not last.
In the general Young Women meeting general conference April 1996 President Gordon B. Hinckley elaborated on this:
“[Heavenly Father] wants his sons and daughters to be happy. Sin never was happiness. Transgression never was happiness. Disobedience never was happiness. The way of happiness is found in the plan of our Father in Heaven and in obedience to the commandments of His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Serving others also brings us true happiness. In the 13th chapter of John, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and after doing so taught them this lesson:
“13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
These five verses set the standard for how and who we are to serve. Jesus, our master has served us, so we are then to serve others. Jesus said that neither servant nor master are greater, we are all equal. So our service should be to anyone and everyone. He ends with the promise that we will be happy if we follow his example. How does one find happiness in service? By serving out of love for the person we are serving. In D&C 52:40 we are commanded to remember “the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” Those of us who serve are counted as disciples of Christ.
Another aspect of service would be sharing the gospel with others. As mentioned at the beginning, the gospel is considered “glad tidings,” so if receiving the gospel makes us happy, it would be natural to want to share that happiness with others. In Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life, Lehi tastes the fruit (the word of God, or the gospel) and his soul is filled with joy. Because of that joy Lehi said, “I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.” (1 Nephi 8:12)
In the April 2017 general conference, Elder Yoon Hwan Choi, of the Seventy shared his family’s conversion story. His younger brother joined the Church first, and invited the rest of his family to join the Church. Elder Choi said, “we were happy to find the truth and wanted to share that happiness we found in the gospel of Jesus Christ after we were baptized.” He said that his father was the most excited to share the gospel with others. His father studied the scriptures before work, and went out with the missionaries after work to teach family, friends, and neighbors. After seven months, 23 more of Elder Choi’s family had been baptized into the Church! The following year 130 people had been baptized through Elder Choi’s father’s desire to share the gospel. Now, don’t feel discouraged if your personal missionary efforts don’t reap such numbers. To my knowledge I have not contributed to the conversion of a single person, and I have only contributed to the reactivation of one person. That being said, I share my testimony whenever I can. That’s what Heavenly Father asks of us, His Spirit will do the rest, along with all of us having the agency to choose to follow. And when we do share the truth, regardless of how it is received, the feeling that we get for bearing our testimony is happiness. I love sharing the gospel, it makes me so happy. When I am able to speak – or type – the words that the Spirit has inspired, my heart is filled with joy.
The happiness of hearing and sharing the gospel leads us to the desire to have knowledge. The prophet Abraham wrote that in finding “greater happiness” he desired to progress in many areas, knowledge being one of them (Abraham 1:2). As we find happiness in the gospel, our desire to better understand the gospel will increase, and as we seek that understanding through study and prayer, our happiness will continue.
I would like to emphasize what kind of knowledge I am talking about. I am referring to the knowledge of our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and His gospel. That knowledge will lead us to true happiness. I’m not trying to say that earthly knowledge is bad, it’s not. But without the knowledge of the gospel we can only go so far. The knowledge of the gospel completes all other knowledge. The knowledge that we gain will lead us to understand why we should pray, follow the commandments, serve others, and have faith. So all of these actions that lead to happiness are interwoven together, and it’s almost impossible to do one without doing the others.
Having faith, following the commandments, and serving others leads us to eternal life with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Like King Benjamin taught, dwelling with God is the true state of happiness, which is why the pathway to God is also the pathway to happiness. But what if you are doing all of these things and still feel sad, scared, and alone? That is where enduring to the end comes in, and will be discussed in Part 2.
This is Part 1 of a two part post. Part 2 will be published Monday, July 10, 2017.