What Is Real Love and Happiness?


Neal A. Maxwell
If you listen to the world, you’ll hear all kinds of false claims about morality. But the gospel offers an unchanging standard of truth.

What Is Real Love and Happiness?

Suppose you read the following ad in a respected magazine: “Radium is restoring health to thousands. Just a light, small, comfortable radioactive pad, worn on the back by day and over the stomach at night. … Thousands have written us that it healed them of … heart, liver, and kidney trouble.”

You would not believe it, would you? Now suppose you heard a nationally known psychologist say on TV that since the old standards of chastity, virtue, and marriage don’t fit the way many people now live, we ought to lower the standards.

Both claims have actually been made. The magazine ad appeared in 1930. The TV statement was made just a few years ago. No sane person today would believe the radiation claims. The laws and effects of radiation have been scientifically studied, and even we nonscientists understand radiation is not something to fool with.

Unfortunately, the claim made by the psychologist—and many others—is a different matter. Millions of people are buying the rationale that chastity is outdated. At least the ad for the radium “cure” openly told people they could try it now and pay later. However, in any promotion for promiscuity, “pay later” is hidden in the fine print, if it is owned up to at all.

Once, we were ignorant of radiation’s harmful effects. No more! And with our lower ways, we mortals still do not know all of God’s reasons for the seventh commandment, chastity before lawful marriage and fidelity afterward. But we know enough! Certain advantages of keeping this commandment are very obvious:

  1. 1.

    You will be in harmony with the Lord. Your relationship with him will be preserved and enriched, helping you to retain his spirit. In each sacramental service, do we not plead to have his spirit always with us?

    When your thoughts are virtuous, your confidence will “wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). To be confidently “at home” in his presence is a blessing far surpassing our present understanding. There is a vast difference between that joy and mere pleasure, even innocent pleasure.

  2. 2.

    You will discover and retain the blessing of deserved self-esteem. By understanding your own worth, you will be able to truly love your neighbor. “Let every man esteem his brother as himself” (D&C 38:24).

  3. 3.

    You will verify that there is more genuine individuality in those who are more holy. Sin, on the other hand, brings sameness! Sin shrinks us, reducing us to a bundle of addictive appetites. In these last days, the capacity of man to love will “wax cold” because of iniquity (see Matt. 24:12). How tragic, when there is never enough love to go around!

  4. 4.

    You will be free from the heavy burden of guilt. “Despair cometh because of iniquity” (Moro. 10:22). Free from guilt, you are not turned inward with self-pity. Instead, you can turn outward in genuine service.

  5. 5.

    You will be kept from a very real harm. Reports indicate that “as many as 43 million Americans may have acquired incurable sexually transmitted viral infections” (Deseret News, 7 Oct. 1991, p. 7A).

    Such diseases, including AIDS, make clear medically what has always been clear spiritually: the only safe pattern of physical affection is within the bounds of marriage—especially a marriage of two consistent commandment keepers. Abstinence from sin is better than moderation or even repentance. Prevention is better than any cure!

  6. 6.

    You will develop a personal wholeness and serenity, which will greatly bless you in both courtship and marriage and in all of your life. The one you choose to love will be respected by you as an individual and not merely as an object of physical attraction and gratification. Your relationship can be as deep, rich, and broad as eternity.

Notice how many of the blessings of chastity apply to the here and now, not just to the future time of marriage or to the Day of Judgment. Chastity is more than teeth-clenching abstinence. Properly lived, it is a happy state of mind—peace of mind—which allows us to receive guidance, reassurance, and comfort for our present daily life, now as well as the future. Instead of focusing on pleasing ourselves, we can focus on serving others.

The Book of Mormon describes what happened when a whole society lived clean lives: “And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Ne. 1:16).

To help you keep the Lord’s law of moral cleanliness and enjoy these sweet blessings, consider these observations and suggestions:

  • Resist the phony arguments of the world. Stand fast, and you will find that others will rally, too.

  • Since you don’t let people walk around your house with muddy feet, do not let them walk through your mind with muddy feet. Avoid the filth and ooze of pornography in every form—verbal as well as visual. Those covered with such slime can never take wing until it is cleaned off.

  • Build your own strong, personal link in a chain of chastity and fidelity. Pass along that heritage to your children, so they can pass it to their children. You will be drawn together in the strongest kind of bond, showing by your actions that you believe in the commandments in spite of what is going on in the world around you. Momentum isn’t just for sports!

  • Do not company with fornicators. Why? Not because, as C. S. Lewis wrote, you are too good for them, but because you are not good enough! Remember that bad situations can wear down even good people.

  • Along with the traditional predatory, selfish male there is now the predatory, selfish female. Both, driven by appetite, have a false sense of being free, but only in the same sort of empty way in which Cain said “I am free”—after killing Abel! (see Moses 5:33). Love is neither a contest nor a conquest. This would be “contrary to the nature of happiness” (Alma 41:11).

  • We should not hold the people of the world in contempt. But where the world would try to shame us for our standards, we must disregard that scorn and view such derision with contempt. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4).

  • Where the impulse to do wrong appears, act against it while it is still weak and while your will is still strong. Keep “anxiously engaged” in good things. Idleness feeds selfishness by insisting, again and again, that it is ourselves we must think of pleasing.

  • Where mistakes have been made, remember we have the glorious gospel of repentance. The soul may first need to be scalded by shame for real cleansing and healing to occur. But the miracle of forgiveness awaits all who are seriously sorry and who will follow the necessary steps.

If you are truly interested in happiness, remember that “despair cometh because of iniquity” (Moro. 10:22). The commandments, including the stern but sweet seventh commandment, are guardrails along the path, designed not only to keep us from misery but to lead us to happiness here and now, while preparing us for everlasting joy. After all, as the Prophet Joseph taught, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.” This is why God’s plan is rightly called the “plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8).

[photos] Photography by John Luke; props by David McDonald

[illustration] Flee from sin, as Joseph did. Like him, you’ll be blessed for staying pure. (See Gen. 39:7–12.)