Sunday, November 3, 2013

Living After the Manner of Happiness

As I was reading the scriptures, I came across a verse that said: “men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25). In another place the Prophet Nephi said that they “lived after the manner of happiness.” (2 Nephi 5:27). These scriptures had me wondering if I was happy and if I found joy in the life that I was living? What does it mean to live after the manner of happiness?

President Henry B. Eyring, 1st Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that two of his grandchildren that were planning their weddings asked him for some advice on what they needed to do to be happy. He said:

“Heavenly Father has made each of us unique. No two of us have exactly the same experiences. No two families are alike. So it is not surprising that advice about how to choose happiness in family life is hard to give. Yet a loving Heavenly Father has set the same path to happiness for all of His children. Whatever our personal characteristics or whatever will be our experiences, there is but one plan of happiness. That plan is to follow all the commandments of God.
“For all of us, including my grandchildren contemplating marriage, there is one overarching commandment that will help us to meet the challenges and lead to the heart of a happy family life. It applies to all relationships regardless of circumstances. It is repeated throughout the scriptures and in the teachings of the prophets in our day. Here is the Bible wording of the Lord’s advice to all who want to live together forever in loving happiness:

‘Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
‘Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
‘This is the first and great commandment.
‘And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

“From that simple statement it is not hard to summarize all I have learned about what choices lead to happiness in families. I start with the question, “What choices have led me toward loving the Lord with all my heart and soul and with all my mind?” For me it has been to choose to put myself where I felt the joy of forgiveness through the Lord’s Atonement.” (“To My Grandchildren”, General Conference Address, October 2013)

From that we learn that happiness and joy come from first in loving God, our Heavenly Father with all our heart, might mind and strength and second loving and treating others as we would like to be treated. When you think of those two commandments you do realize that it encompasses everything. It is no wonder that the Savior said: “One these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. If we love God first we would not do anything that would go against his commandments. If we follow that love by treating everyone else the way we would like to be treated, there would be no crimes of hatred, robbery, covertness, adultery, murder, or other social sins and misdeeds. The world would not have war, hunger, poverty or struggle for power and domination. There would be more tolerance, kindness, charity, and appreciation for each other.

Families that lived these two commandments would have more peace in the home. There would not be spouse or child abuse. There would be more love expressed and kindness shown. There would be less divorce and the home would truly become a heaven on earth.

Is this type of life really possible? It sounds impossible, or is it? The scriptures record that two groups of people actually did achieve this level of happiness. One was at the time of the Prophet Enoch who lived a few generations before Noah. Enoch and his people were blessed for the way they kept the commandments and treated each other. The scriptures record this about them:

“…the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish.

“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion.” (Moses 7: 17-19)

The people of Enoch were so righteous that the entire city was taken up into heaven to dwell with God. We also learn that the fate of those who were left behind was to die in the floods that would cover the earth because of the wickedness that was on the earth.

The second civilization to enjoy the happiness that can come from total obedience to these two commandments is found in the Book of Mormon. After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Savior visited the people living here in America. He taught them to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the higher law, as he tried to teach the people in Jerusalem before his death. The people in Jerusalem did not believe and subsequently were destroyed while the people here in America listened and where all converted to the Gospel. Of this people and the type of lives they lived the scriptures tell us:

“… that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. (4 Nephi: 15-16)

These people were so converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that their peace lasted for two hundred years. During those two hundred years they had peace and prosperity in all the land. They were united in keeping the two commandments to love God with all their hearts, might, mind and strength and they loved their neighbors as much and treated everyone with the same love that they had for God.

Both of these examples were thousands of years ago, is it possible to find such happiness today? I believe that it is. The blessings of obedience to those two commandments along with the other commandments will bring the same blessings to us today as it did to those of yesterday for God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; he does not change. The Lord promises us if we obey we will be blessed:

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (Doctrine and Covenants Section 130:20-21)

Elder Marlin K. Jensen, of the Seventy, speaking to the students of Brigham Young University on this principle had this to say:

“Since first making my personal discovery about living after the “manner of happiness,” I have thought deeply about the principles involved and about how timeless and universal they are. The same patterns and elements of daily life that enabled Nephi and his people to be happy 560 years before Christ work equally well today. They fit comfortably at every stage during our lives and in every culture. In a time when “diversity” is so frequently touted as something desirable, it is interesting to note the uniformity and unchanging nature of these principles. Perhaps every purveyor of “new lamps for old” ought not to be heeded.
“These principles of happiness can be lived virtually without cost. It’s almost as if Nephi’s brother Jacob were speaking to this issue as he extended the invitation, “Come, my brethren, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (2 Ne. 9:50). This should tell us something about the very minimal role material things play in a happy life.” (Living After the Manner of Happiness”, BYU Devotional Address, September 19, 1995)

I know that we can all find true happiness and joy in this life as we keep the commandments of God, especially the two great commandments. I have seen it in my own life and the lives of many others. When we obey the commandments of God we are truly happy and when we stray off that straight and narrow path, we only find misery and unhappiness.  The world will only find peace and happiness as we accept and keep these commandments and as we do we too can live after the manner of happiness and have joy in this life and eternal life with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Your questions and comments are always welcome.

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