Everyone is striving to be happy but the number who truly achieve that goal is limited.
Lehi, a Book of Mormon prophet, has said that men are that they might have joy. There is a great difference between joy and pleasure. To a certain degree, at least, joy and happiness are synonymous.
Why aren’t people happy? Too many adopt the theory that happiness is dependent upon the obtaining of material things and the enjoyment of worldly pleasures: the accumulation of wealth, the achievement of fame, the ownership of palatial homes and earthly possessions, etc.
A wise man of old relates in Ecclesiastes his efforts to find profit from his labors. He said he gave his heart to seek out and search by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven. He mentioned that he had seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, said he, all was vanity and vexation of spirit.
He sought mirth, the enjoyment of pleasure, and behold, he said, this also is vanity. He builded him houses, planted vineyards, made gardens and orchards, employed servants and handmaidens, and had great possessions of cattle. He obtained singers and instruments, musicians and music, and whatsoever his eyes desired, that he obtained. Then he looked at all the works that his hands had wrought and on the labor that he had performed, and behold, he said, all was vanity and vexation of spirit.
After all his thinking and his accomplishments and efforts, his final conclusion is set forth in the following language:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Eccl. 12:13–14.)
Who are the happy people today? Not those who forsake the Lord and devote themselves entirely to the pleasures of life and the physical things of the world. The truly happy people are those who have faith in the Lord and keep the laws of the gospel, those who forget self in their desire and effort to bless others.
Our Heavenly Father loves his children. He wants us to be happy, and he has shown us the way. I recall a lecture given in the Salt Lake Tabernacle some years ago in which the speaker said that, in reading the four Gospels, he discovered that Jesus, in referring to God, always called him Father: our Father, your Father, my Father, the Father; and that in these four Gospels Jesus used the word Father 148 times in referring to God.
Many of us are fathers—fathers of the mortal bodies of our children. The greatest treasures we have are our children. When they are happy and successful, we are happy. When they depart from the straight and narrow path, the hearts of the parents are saddened.
Our Lord has told us by revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding the worth of souls:
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
“For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
“And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.
“And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth.” (D&C 18:10–13.)
The Lord has restored the gospel, which is the true plan of life, salvation, and exaltation. He has given us no law, advice, counsel, or commandment that is not for our blessing and happiness.
As an illustration, every one of the Ten Commandments, if lived, will bring joy and satisfaction. This does not mean we will not have problems. The Lord has said that all things work together for the good of him who loves the Lord. Some people take the view that the Ten Commandments are outmoded. It is true that they are not adopted into the lives of some people, but the commandments that were given by Jehovah on Mount Sinai are light, are truth, eternal truth, and failure to observe them brings the opposite of joy and happiness. The same may be said of all truth given us by the Lord. Wickedness never was happiness and never will be. (See Alma 41:10.) It has been said: “It is a statistical fact that the wicked work harder to reach hell than the righteous do to enter heaven.”
The Psalmist has said: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Ps. 107:8.)
Since the beginning of this dispensation, the Lord, through his latter-day leaders and prophets, has been warning the people of the approaching storms. He has warned of the dangers involved in the use of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and other harmful things. He has warned against the lowering of the moral standards and against all kinds of iniquity. We have been told that we must have respect for law and order, yet the people of this nation and other nations have arrived at a condition where crime is increasing at a rapid rate. “The whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.” (D&C 84:49.)
We are fast approaching the time—and perhaps have reached it when our lives are in danger from hoodlums, gangsters, and other evil-minded persons, when lawlessness is so commonplace that our properties, our holdings, our rights and privileges, are in jeopardy. When we destroy the principles of honesty, integrity, and morality, our civilization is most certainly on the verge of losing the power to preserve itself. According to the history of the past, other nations reached great eminence and power, but because of the wickedness of their people, they lost the glory that they formerly had. Such was the case with ancient Greece, Rome, and the civilizations that once flourished on this American continent.
In the Book of Mormon we read of the establishment of the Lord’s church upon the Western Hemisphere by Christ himself after his resurrection, and in speaking of the conditions that prevailed, the following is recorded:
“And it came to pass 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 Ne. 1:15–16. Italics added.)
After about 210 years had passed away following the coming of the Savior, “they [the people] did deny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness.” (4 Ne. 1:27.) As a result of their wickedness there were wars and contentions, and finally destruction came upon the descendants of Lehi who occupied this continent.
One of the dangers facing the world is the deterioration of the home and the family. Latter-day Saints look upon the family as the greatest institution of civilization. Subversion of this great institution can do nothing less than bring destruction upon the world. The plan of life and salvation teaches that marriage is for time and eternity.
The very purpose of life is that we might take upon ourselves mortality, that we might prove ourselves to see if we will do the things that the Lord has commanded us. And one of the things that the Lord has commanded us to do is to multiply and replenish the earth, that we might have joy in our posterity, not only in this life but throughout all eternity. When Eve was given to Adam as a wife and helpmate, there was no death. It was an eternal union, and it must needs be that the family relationship continue throughout eternity if we are to have eternal joy. The eternity of the marriage covenant can be made possible in the temples of the Lord by those having proper authority from the Lord to perform that holy ordinance.
This is a glorious world in which we live. It was created by God through his only Begotten Son, with its heavenly bodies and their functions. The earth with its abundance of flowers, its adornment of beautiful trees and shrubs; the majestic mountains; the mighty oceans; the sun and its great functions; the stars and planets in the heavens—yes, they are all the handiwork of God. All these things bid us have joy. Man, however, is the greatest of all God’s creations. The Lord God told Moses: “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) Man is God’s son, his daughter. All these other things are just provisions for the accomplishment of his great purpose.
There is a difference between immortality and eternal life. We cannot accomplish the immortality of our souls; that has been brought to pass by the atonement of our Redeemer and Savior. Immortality is to live forever, but immortality does not necessarily include eternal life. Eternal life does include immortality. Eternal life is to live with God in his celestial kingdom, in his presence. That is a very important part of our mission, but we can have eternal life only through the exercise of our free agency and through obedience to the gospel plan. This is the principal purpose of our coming here, that we might overcome, that we might keep the commandments the Lord has given us, and that we might render service in his kingdom. Only by doing these things will it be made possible for God to accomplish his work—the purpose for which the world was created and the purpose of our existence upon this earth. We must yield obedience to the will of God, his gospel, the power of God unto salvation.
One has true joy when he knows that he pleases God, and again, when he is assured that God is pleased with him.
The day will come when the Lord shall compensate every man according to his work. His arm shall be revealed. May we adopt and follow the true road to happiness, which is to fear God and keep his commandments and thereby attain the great goal given us by the Lord, namely, life eternal and everlasting joy in the presence of our Heavenly Father and his Beloved Son, I humbly pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.