After reaching the promised land, Nephi took his family and others away from his quarrelsome and disbelieving brothers into the wilderness. There they worked hard at creating a new civilization. In spite of the challenges they faced, the Nephites were content. Nephi wrote simply, “We lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Ne. 5:27).
We all desire happiness. But some don’t know how to obtain it. They think happiness requires material possessions or a life of ease. Prophets of God continue to teach that happiness comes from making right choices. President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, explains: “Happiness and unhappiness are much of our own making. … Our search for happiness largely depends on the degree of righteousness we attain, the degree of selflessness we acquire, the amount and quality of service we render, and the inner peace that we enjoy” (“Our Search for Happiness,” Liahona, October 2000, 2, 8).
The stories on the following pages demonstrate how members have followed the prophets’ counsel and have found true happiness.
A Dish of Seviche
As a member of the high council of the Piura Perú Central Stake, I was asked to speak about charity, the pure love of Christ, in the sacrament meetings I visited. As I spoke, I mentioned the account in the New Testament of a rich man asking Jesus, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” I emphasized this part of the Lord’s answer: “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me” (Luke 18:18, 22).
I was also impressed by Jesus’ promise that He will reward those who give to the poor, treating acts of charity as if they had given directly to Him: “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in” (Matt. 25:35).
One day several months after giving these talks, I was hungry and went to a food stand where one of our members worked. I ordered seviche, a typical Peruvian dish consisting of fish prepared with lemon. After I sat down to eat, I became aware that someone was standing behind me. I turned around and saw an old man, dressed in an old but clean suit and wearing a wool hat. He had a white beard and used a cane.
He said nothing, and I went on eating. But then, suddenly, a thought came into my mind: What blessing can you expect if you don’t apply what you teach? Remembering my sacrament meeting talks, I looked at the old man again. “Would you like a dish of seviche?”
He said nothing, only continued to stare at me. I was sure I had never seen him before, and I went back to eating.
A few seconds later he spoke, “Could you possibly give me some money for lunch?”
“A lot of people might use the money to buy liquor,” I replied. “I will pay for something to eat.”
After a moment’s pause, he said, “That would be fine.” So I ordered a plate for him.
The old man sat down at another table and was served. When I had finished my own food, I paid my bill and his. I wondered if I should say good-bye to him, but he was enjoying his seviche so much he didn’t even look at me. So I started on my way home.
I had not finished taking the first step when I felt a clear and penetrating impression of heaven’s gratitude for my actions. So strong was the impression that my eyes clouded up with tears of joy. I thought of the words, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”
When I got home, I went into my bedroom and knelt in prayer. I thanked God for His all-embracing love.
Had I Misjudged?
I arrived at the Salt Lake Tabernacle early Saturday morning for general conference. As an usher, I was to be there before the doors opened at 6:00 A.M. for the first session. Most of the seats were filled by 7:00, but there were a few single seats here and there. Many times these seats were filled by visitors to Temple Square who would wander in not fully understanding what was happening. They were normally dressed in casual attire, and often, feeling out of place, they would soon get up and leave.
I remember one young man, however, who was sent to my section along the south balcony. I had one vacant seat on the top row. As he approached, I could tell he was not there specifically for conference. He was dressed in a somewhat shabby flannel shirt and wrinkled pants. His hair was not combed and looked as though he had not washed it in several days. He also had a strong tobacco odor about him.
After greeting him and showing him to the vacant seat, I immediately received several stares and other expressions of disapproval from those around him. It was obvious they had come to hear the messages from the Brethren and were not pleased to have to endure the smell of tobacco for the next couple of hours. I thought to myself, He’ll soon realize what is happening and leave. Then these people can relax and enjoy conference. Fifteen minutes passed, then 20. The session would begin soon. Once the lights dimmed, I realized this young man was not going to leave, and I began to sympathize with those around him.
During the session, I watched the young man. He was listening more closely than many of those around him. Others’ heads nodded as they dozed. He sat intently listening to every word. Each message was being devoured by a hungry soul seeking nourishment.
What touched me most was when the congregation stood to sing the closing hymn, “The Spirit of God” (Hymns, number 2). The young man stood with the rest. He joined in singing all the verses without a book or paper, never missing a word. As he sang, tears flowed down his cheeks. Oh, how I have misjudged this young man, I thought. He knew exactly why he was there. And he was touched by the Spirit that had brought him there in the first place. Others noticed what I had, and the looks on their faces told me they felt as ashamed as I did.
The greatest lessons I learned during that conference session came not from the Lord’s anointed but from a humble young man seeking something he had lost. I learned that I shouldn’t judge others and that lessons learned in our youth can be rekindled by the Holy Ghost.
Call Those Missionaries
In 1972 my husband, Giuseppe, and I—both originally from Italy—decided to immigrate with our young family to Australia. At that time we knew nothing of the difficult but wonderful spiritual journey still ahead.
As our three children began to grow up, I became concerned about their religious education. I had been reared in Italy’s dominant religion, and I was familiar with a number of others. But I didn’t feel any of them were right for my children.
One sunny day in 1980, I took the children to the park. As I sat under a tree watching them play, I began to think once again about which religion to teach them. I looked up into the sky and uttered a brief, sincere prayer. “Father in Heaven,” I said, “I am so confused about all these religions. I want to teach my children the truth. If the true Church is on this earth, I ask Thee to help me find it.”
Two days later I was talking to a neighbor when I saw two young missionaries walking down the street. My heart beat hard, and I heard a voice inside me say, Call those missionaries. My neighbor tried to dissuade me, but the voice was insistent: Talk to them. So I did.
I discovered that they belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Something about them impressed me, and although I didn’t speak English well and they didn’t speak Italian, I invited them to my home.
The missionaries told us that the true Church had been restored and that it had a prophet and apostles, just as in Christ’s Church anciently. They told us about the Prophet Joseph Smith, about how he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and organized the Church under divine authority. It all made perfect sense to me, and a wonderful spirit enveloped us. I felt that Heavenly Father was answering my prayer.
The missionaries began visiting us. When they had finished the discussions, they asked if we wanted to be baptized. I was excited about being baptized, but Giuseppe was not as sure. Nevertheless, he and I and the two oldest children became members of the Church.
One week later some of my husband’s friends had a long talk with him. They got him to drink alcohol, and they said a lot of negative things against the Church. He came home angry and told me he didn’t want to have anything to do with the Church. He said the children could not go to services, and if I went by myself, he would not let me in when I came home.
I felt very confused. I went into the bedroom and curled up on the bed. I thought about everything my husband had said. Then I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help me.
I soon fell asleep and had a beautiful dream. In my dream, I was with a large group of people. Half were on the left, and half were on the right. In the middle was a figure in white with two missionaries. The missionaries were wearing name tags that read, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They began walking toward me, and I knew that I was not to worry, that I had made the right decision.
I woke up crying, but I felt great peace and joy. I tried to tell my husband about the dream, but he didn’t want to hear anything about it. I was more convinced than ever that I had found the true Church.
I also knew the Lord would not forsake me. So when Sunday came, I gathered my courage and went to church with the children. When we returned home, we found the house locked and all our belongings outside. I was worried for the children’s sake, but I also felt we were being protected. I checked all the windows and found one that wasn’t locked. My son Luciano crawled in and opened the front door, and we took our belongings back in. From that day on, my husband and I had many arguments about the Church. In spite of this difficulty, my children and I continued to be fully active.
Two decades have now passed since we joined the Church, and we have been blessed in many ways. Two more children were born into our family. The year 1996 was especially wonderful. Luciano went on a mission to Italy, and our eldest grandson was baptized. And if that was not enough, Heavenly Father touched my husband’s heart concerning the Church. In December 1999 our family was sealed in the Sydney Australia Temple.
I have learned that Heavenly Father does hear our prayers. I also know that if we have faith in Christ and are determined to grow spiritually, we will, in time, receive all the righteous desires of our hearts, whether in this life or the next.
“I’m Trying to Be like Jesus”
When I became part of a new ward in Guatemala, I was surprised at a call to serve in Primary. I had not worked with children for a long time and was happy to accept the call.
Among my first duties was preparing the children for their annual sacrament meeting presentation. Of all the music I needed to teach the children, my favorite became “I’m Trying to Be like Jesus” (Children’s Songbook, 78–79). The problem was, I couldn’t seem to memorize the words well enough to teach them.
One afternoon I set aside some time to listen to the music while concentrating on the words. As I repeated the words over and over, I began to recognize the deep meaning of the doctrine they expressed. A warm, wonderful feeling grew inside me. My eyes filled with tears, and a lump formed in my throat. Still, although I spent several days trying to learn the song, I couldn’t do it. I started to feel desperate. Why can’t I get this song right? I asked myself. Why is it so hard for me to learn? And then, unexpectedly, I answered my own question: Perhaps it’s because I’m not really trying to be like Jesus.
At that moment I committed myself to acting more as the Savior would have me act—to be, as much as possible, like Him. I continued to practice the song every day, but in addition I practiced its message. From that day to this, I have tried being kinder and more gentle, more loving, and more helpful. On my face is a warm smile, and on my lips are encouraging words. I visit the sick and give to the needy. Each month I go out into my community with a backpack of clothes, toys, and cookies, looking for those in need. Each day I try to find some way of showing my love to a friend or neighbor. Each morning I wake up happy, knowing the day will give me more opportunities to follow my Savior.
Today, I know the song well. I know it because, with all my heart, “I’m trying to be like Jesus; I’m following in his ways.”