Chapter 26: Happiness and Social Enjoyment

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 183–91


President Brigham Young knew that true happiness comes only through righteous living, but he also knew that much enjoyment in life can come through wholesome recreation and entertainment. He was fond of the theater, dancing, and other social amusements and provided opportunities for the Saints to enjoy these pastimes, believing that they were important to the people’s well-being. In Salt Lake City he supervised the building of the Social Hall, in which were held dances and theatrical performances. In referring to the Social Hall he stated: “That is our fun hall, and not a place in which to administer the sacrament. We dedicated it to the purpose for which it was built. … You know what spirit attends that room. There we have had governors, judges, doctors, lawyers, merchants, passers-by, etc, who did not belong to our church, and what has been the universal declaration of each and every one? ‘I never felt so well before in all my life at any party as I do here;’ and the Saints do not feel as well in any other place of amusement. … Every thing in its time, and every thing in its place” (DNW, 26 Mar. 1862, 1).

Teachings of Brigham Young

True happiness is found in righteousness and service.

What principal object have human beings in view? Happiness. Give me glory, give me power, give me wealth, give me a good name, give me influence with my fellow-men, give me all these, and it does not follow that I am thereby made happy; that depends altogether upon what principle those acquisitions were gained (DBY, 235).

We are all searching for happiness; we hope for it, we think we live for it, it is our aim in this life. But do we live so as to enjoy the happiness we so much desire? (DBY, 236).

Where is happiness, real happiness? Nowhere but in God. By possessing the spirit of our holy religion, we are happy in the morning, we are happy at noon, we are happy in the evening; for the spirit of love and union is with us, and we rejoice in the spirit because, it is of God, and we rejoice in God, for he is the giver of every good thing. Every Latter-day Saint, who has experienced the love of God in his heart, after having received the remission of his sins, through baptism, and the laying on of hands, realizes that he is filled with joy, and happiness, and consolation. He may be in pain, in error, in poverty, or in prison, if necessity demands, still, he is joyful. This is our experience, and each and every Latter-day Saint can bear witness to it (DBY, 236).

How do you feel, Saints, when you are filled with the power and love of God? You are just as happy as your bodies can bear (MSS, 15:48).

The whole world are after happiness. It is not found in gold and silver, but it is in peace and love (DBY, 235).

What will give a man joy? That which will give him peace (DBY, 235).

If the heart is cheerful, all is light and glory within; there is no sorrow (DBY, 235).

When man is industrious and righteous, then is he happy (DBY, 235).

It is a mistaken idea in the inhabitants of the earth to conclude that it will not do for them to yield obedience to the commandments of heaven, lest it should abridge them in their comforts and in their enjoyments; for there is no real peace, there is no real happiness in anything in heaven or on the earth, except to those who serve the Lord. In his service there is joy, there is happiness, but they are not to be found anywhere else. In it there are peace and comfort, but when the soul is filled with joy, with peace and with glory, and is perfectly satisfied therewith, a person even then has but little idea of that which is in store for all the faithful (DNW, 15 July 1857, 4).

We are made to enjoy all that God enjoys, to inherit all he inherits, to possess all the power that he possesses, all the excellency with which he is endowed—all things are to be brought into subjection to him by his faithful children, that they may enjoy all things with him; these considerations bring peace to the heart that is opened to understanding (DBY, 237).

There is only one way for Latter-day Saints to be happy, which is simply to live their religion, or in other words believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every part, obeying the gospel of liberty with full purpose of heart, which sets us free indeed. If we will, as a community, obey the law of God, and comply with the ordinances of salvation, then we may expect to find the happiness we so much desire (DBY, 236).

As I have frequently thought, and said, when duty requires I am happy in going from home and I am happy in returning, for it is my greatest joy and comfort to do what the Lord requires of me and what I know to be my duty, no matter what it is if the Lord requires it of me. This course gives joy and peace (DN, 6 Feb. 1856, 4).

Truly happy is that man or woman, or that people, who enjoys the privileges of the Gospel of the Son of God, and who know how to appreciate his blessings (DBY, 236).

We want to see every countenance full of cheerfulness, and every eye bright with the hope of future happiness (DBY, 236).

I say, if you want to enjoy exquisitely, become a Latter-day Saint, and then live the doctrine of Jesus Christ (DNSW, 30 June 1874, 1).

The person who enjoys the experience of the knowledge of the Kingdom of God on the earth, and at the same time has the love of God within him, is the happiest of any individuals on the earth (DBY, 235).

American Fork brass band 1866

American Fork, Utah, brass band, 1866. The Saints loved music, and almost every community had a band.

Recreation in the proper spirit can increase our physical and spiritual well-being.

We are to learn how to enjoy the things of life—how to pass our mortal existence here. There is no enjoyment, no comfort, no pleasure, nothing that the human heart can imagine, with all the spirit of revelation we can get, that tends to beautify, happify [make happy], make comfortable and peaceful, and exalt the feelings of mortals, but what the Lord has in store for his people. He never objected to their taking comfort. He never revealed any doctrine, that I have any knowledge of, but what in its nature is calculated to fill with peace and glory, and lift every sentiment and impulse of the heart above every low, sad, deathly, false and grovelling feeling. The Lord wishes us to live that we may enjoy the fulness of the glory that pertains to the upper world, and bid farewell to all that gloomy, dark, deathly feeling that is spread over the inhabitants of the earth (DBY, 237).

Is there anything immoral in recreation? If I see my sons and daughters enjoying themselves, chatting, visiting, riding, going to a party or a dance, is there anything immoral in that? I watch very closely, and if I hear a word, see a look, or a sneer at divine things or anything derogatory to a good moral character, I feel it in a moment, and I say, “If you follow that it will not lead to good, it is evil; it will not lead to the fountain of life and intelligence; follow, only, the path that leads to life everlasting” (DBY, 237).

It is the privilege of the Saints to enjoy every good thing, for the earth and its fulness belong to the Lord [see D&C 104:14], and he has promised all to his faithful Saints; but it must be enjoyed without spirit of covetousness and selfishness—without the spirit of lust, and in the spirit of the Gospel; then the sun will shine sweetly upon us; each day will be filled with delight, and all things will be filled with beauty, giving joy, pleasure, and rest to the Saints (DBY, 237).

To make ourselves happy is incorporated in the great design of man’s existence. I have learned not to fret myself about that which I cannot help. If I can do good, I will do it; and if I cannot reach a thing, I will content myself to be without it. This makes me happy all the day long (DBY, 236).

Then learn to be happy when you have the privilege (DBY, 235).

We are now enjoying our pastimes. We often meet together and worship the Lord by singing, praying, and preaching, fasting, and communing with each other in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Now we are met in the capacity of a social community—for what? That our minds may rest, and our bodies receive that recreation which is proper and necessary to keep up an equilibrium, to promote healthy action to the whole system (DBY, 240).

I have frequently told the people at our places of recreation, if they cannot go there with the Spirit of the Lord, they had better stay at home (DBY, 240).

In all your social communications, or whatever your associations are, let all the dark, discontented, murmuring, unhappy, miserable feelings—all the evil fruit of the mind, fall from the tree in silence and unnoticed; and so let it perish, without taking it up to present to your neighbors. But when you have joy and happiness, light and intelligence, truth and virtue, offer that fruit abundantly to your neighbors, and it will do them good, and so strengthen the hands of your fellow-beings (DBY, 240).

We should seek wholesome entertainment that is consistent with gospel standards.

I built [the] theater to attract the young of our community and to provide amusement for the boys and girls, rather than have them running all over creation for recreation. Long before [it] was built I said to the Bishops, “Get up your parties and pleasure grounds to amuse the people” (DBY, 243).

Is there evil in the theater; in the ball room; in the place of worship; in the dwelling; in the world? Yes, when men are inclined to do evil in any of these places. There is evil in persons meeting simply for a chitchat, if they will allow themselves to commit evil while thus engaged (DBY, 243).

Upon the stage of a theater can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and the follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and a just dread of its consequences. The path of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed, and how to shun it (DBY, 243).

Tragedy is favored by the outside world; I am not in favor of it. I do not wish murder and all its horrors and the villainy leading to it portrayed before our women and children; I do not want the child to carry home with it the fear of … the sword, the pistol, or the dagger, and suffer in the night from frightful dreams. I want such plays performed as will make the spectators feel well; and I wish those who perform to select a class of plays that will improve the public mind, and exalt the literary taste of the community (DBY, 243–44).

If you wish to dance, dance; and you are just as much prepared for a prayer meeting after dancing as ever you were, if you are Saints. If you desire to ask God for anything, you are as well prepared to do so in the dance as in any other place, if you are Saints (DBY, 243).

[However,] those who cannot serve God with a pure heart in the dance should not dance (DBY, 243).

I want it distinctly understood, that fiddling and dancing are no part of our worship. The question may be asked, What are they for, then? I answer, that my body may keep pace with my mind. My mind labors like a man logging, all the time; and this is the reason why I am fond of these pastimes—they give me a privilege to throw everything off, and shake myself, that my body may exercise, and my mind rest. What for? To get strength, and be renewed and quickened, and enlivened, and animated, so that my mind may not wear out (DBY, 242).

There are many of our aged brethren and sisters, who, through the traditions of their fathers and the requirements of a false religion, were never inside a ball-room or a theater until they became Latter-day Saints, and now they seem more anxious for this kind of amusement than are our children. This arises from the fact they have been starved for many years for that amusement which is designed to buoy up their spirits and make their bodies vigorous and strong, and tens of thousands have sunk into untimely graves for want of such exercises to the body and the mind. They require mutual nourishment to make them sound and healthy. Every faculty and power of both body and mind is a gift from God. Never say that means used to create and continue healthy action of body and mind are from hell (DBY, 242).

If you want to dance, run a foot race, … or play at ball, do it, and exercise your bodies, and let your minds rest (DBY, 243).

Those that have kept the covenants and served their God, if they wish to exercise themselves in any way to rest their minds and tire their bodies, go and enjoy yourselves in the dance, and let God be in all your thoughts in this as in all other things, and he will bless you (DBY, 242).

Our work, our every-day labor, our whole lives are within the scope of our religion. This is what we believe and what we try to practice. Yet the Lord permits a great many things that he never commands. … The Lord never commanded me to dance, yet I have danced: you all know it, for my life is before the world. Yet while the Lord has never commanded me to do it, he has permitted it. I do not know that he ever commanded the boys to go and play at ball, yet he permits it. I am not aware that he ever commanded us to build a theater, but he has permitted it, and I can give the reason why. Recreation and diversion are as necessary to our well-being as the more serious pursuits of life (DBY, 238).

I am satisfied that those persons who stamp, clap hands, whistle, and make other noisy and boisterous demonstrations in the theaters, so untimed and uncalled for, have but little sense, and know not the difference between a happy smile of satisfaction to cheer the countenance of a friend, or a contemptuous sneer that brings the curses of man upon man (DBY, 241).

[But] let our minds sing for joy, and let life diffuse itself into every avenue of the body; for the object of our meeting is for its exercise, for its good (DBY, 240).

Suggestions for Study

True happiness is found in righteousness and service.

  • Why do human beings seek happiness? Why do so many people seem unable to find it? Where can we find true happiness? How can the gospel provide happiness even to those “in pain, in error, in poverty, or in prison”?

  • Many people believe that obeying God’s commandments will restrict their freedom and make them less happy. What situations have you experienced or observed that demonstrate that the opposite is actually true—that obedience to the commandments makes us happy, while disobedience makes us unhappy?

  • How do you feel knowing that you are “made to enjoy all that God enjoys” and that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want you to be happy?

  • What did President Young say is the only way for Latter-day Saints to be happy? How does living the gospel make you happy?

Recreation in the proper spirit can increase our physical and spiritual well-being.

  • Why do you think President Young encouraged recreation? (See also D&C 136:28.) How can our recreational activities “fill [us] with peace and glory, and lift every sentiment and impulse of the heart”?

  • What obligations must we fulfill before participating in recreation, if our activities are to bless us spiritually as well as physically?

  • President Young taught that recreation must be done in the proper spirit. How can we ensure that we have the Spirit of the Lord with us in our recreation?

We should seek wholesome entertainment that is consistent with gospel standards.

  • Why is it important to participate in a variety of activities, including entertainment and recreational activities? What did President Young say are some specific benefits of music, dancing, and the theater? What does he say to those who believe that the theater and the ballroom are places of evil?

  • What should be our criteria for selecting appropriate entertainment? How can you ensure that “God [is] in all your thoughts” even when you are participating in entertainment or recreational activities? How can parents set a good example for their children by the type of entertainment they choose?

  • Why is recreation “as necessary to our well-being as the more serious pursuits of life”?

  • How can you help provide safe and wholesome recreation and entertainment for yourself, your children, or others in your community?