Most of us are familiar with the words of Nephi: “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness”. The fact that he said this in the midst of extreme hardship causes us to wonder what the real meaning of living after the manner of happiness is. With the help of scriptures, Church leaders, and other respected individuals, we offer these evidences of what it might mean in our lives.
1. We have the blessings of the temple.
Temples are being built all over the world. They offer the saving ordinances of the gospel that cover us with protection against the evils of the world. One of the first things the Nephites did after separating themselves from their enemies was to build a temple (2 Nephi 5:16). What a blessing that must have been to them. What a blessing it is to us. Attending the temple brings peace and comfort to all who take advantage of this glorious gift.
President Thomas S. Monson described temple blessings as follows: “As we go to the holy house, as we remember the covenants we make therein, we will be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation. The temple provides purpose for our lives. It brings peace to our souls—not the peace provided by men but the peace promised by the Son of God when He said, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’” Enjoying the blessings of the temple is one way we are living after the manner of happiness.
2. We have eternal truths to live by.
What a blessing it is to have the scriptures and Church leaders to show us the way. How blessed we are to have the commandments of God to guide us. In his book To My Friends Elder Jeffrey R. Holland states, “Above all else, ultimate happiness, true peace, and anything even remotely close to scriptural joy are found first, foremost, and forever in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Elder Holland went on, giving us the clue to happiness that the Lord gave to the Apostle Thomas. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. . . . And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. . . . If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:5-6, 13-14). And He keeps His promises—whether it’s today, tomorrow, or after this life—He always keeps His promises. Our part is to live His commandments and then ask with faith, seeking to do His will, and the blessings will come. Having the assurance that He will bless us in exactly the way that is best for us is living after the manner of happiness.
3. We have the Holy Ghost to guide us.
Members of the Church are promised the guidance of the Holy Ghost if they are striving to do what is right. This gift is given to each of us at the time of our baptism. Elder David A. Bednar stated, “Receiving the Holy Ghost starts with our sincere and constant desire for His companionship in our lives.”
He then reminded us that “Several years after the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young and shared this timeless counsel: ‘Tell the people to be humble and faithful and [be] sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach [you what] to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. . . .It will whisper peace and joy to their souls, and it will take malice, hatred, envying, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right’” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 98).
What a comfort to know that we have such a power available to guide us along this earthly journey. By inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives we can more fully find ourselves living after the manner of happiness.
4. We know the importance of work.
Knowing how to work hard is one of life’s most important elements in finding happiness. It would not be surprising to one day see a scripture that said, “laziness never was happiness.”
Years ago Elder J. Richard Clark said, “Work is a blessing from God. It is a fundamental principle of salvation, both spiritual and temporal. When Adam was driven from his garden home, he was told that his bread must be produced by his physical toil, by the sweat of his brow. Note carefully the words: ‘Cursed shall be the ground for thy sake’ (Moses 4:23; italics added), that is, for his good or benefit. It would not be easy to master the earth; but that was his challenge and his blessing, as it is ours.”
When we work hard and accomplish a goal, the good feeling is hard to describe. Tackling a garden full of weeds is hard work, but when it’s done we are filled with a feeling of happiness. We are reminded of such a time a few months ago when we were teaching our six-year-old grandson, Jaxon, a lesson about work. We measured off a piece of a weed-filled garden and challenged him to get every weed in that small patch. He took it on. When he was done, he stood there looking at his cleared patch and, with a huge smile, said, “This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”
When we work hard we can’t help but admire how great it looks. Doing hard things, working up a sweat and accomplishing something worthwhile, whether mentally or physically, is living after the manner of happiness.
5. We rejoice in the happiness of others.
Elder Holland, in his previously mentioned book, said, “. . . learn this truth: You can never, worlds without end, build your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness” ( p. 201). When we went through a period of sorrow over not being able to give birth to our children, it was difficult to be happy for newly pregnant friends. It wasn’t until we could feel genuine happiness over their blessings that we started to feel joy in our own hearts. Paul’s advice is worth following: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice.” (Romans 12:15)
Robert Louis Stevenson further enlightens us: “To be rich in admiration and free from envy, to rejoice greatly in the good of others, to love with such generosity of heart that your love is still a dear possession in absence or unkindness—these are the gifts which money cannot buy.” This is living after the matter of happiness.
6. We know the power of repentance.
Even though Latter-day Saints are on the path to perfection, we are well aware that we are not there yet. We also know that when we make mistakes or commit sin, we can repent. That is a glorious understanding. We have been warned that “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). Knowing that, our goal is to avoid wickedness.
We have all seen the sorrow that either we or someone we love has experienced over serious sin. We recall a dear friend who found himself in just such a situation. What a glorious day it was for him and his family when he made the change and had all blessings restored. There could not have been a happier feeling that day and every day since.
We believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ. He suffered for our sins, making it clear that we don’t have to suffer if we repent and change our ways to His ways. Repenting and enacting the power of the atonement in our lives is living after the manner of happiness.
7. We rise above ridicule.
We live in a time when the Church is being ridiculed for its stand on moral and social issues. As in days gone by, we know we must rise above the ridicule and remain faithful to our beliefs. It happened in the early days of the restored Church, and back in the days of the ancient apostles after Christ’s death and resurrection. No dispensation seems to be able to escape it. Peter, who suffered for his faith, told us plainly how to handle persecutions that come. He said, “. . . .if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:14 – 15).
If we bear testimony of the truths we know and then live by these precepts, as Peter said, “happy are ye”. Standing up for what is right will always bring peace to our hearts. Even if we stand alone, that’s living after the manner of happiness.
8. We live abundantly, regardless of how much money we have.
As Latter-day Saints, we are taught to be resourceful in using our income and finding ways to enjoy whatever we have. Part of the fun comes from not only enjoying it, but by not complaining about what we don’t have. That doesn’t mean we don’t seek to improve our living situation. It just means we don’t base our happiness on money and possessions.
Our daughter-in-law, Renee, has a philosophy we admire. She said, “When the kids ask for something we don’t have the money for, we don’t’ say ‘we can’t afford it.’ That sounds hopeless. Instead we say, ‘maybe later.’ That holds out hope and is living more in the abundant life.”
Paying tithing opens the way for us to experience living that abundant life. We have found in our own lives that by paying tithing, even in the hardest times, we have always had what we need. President Henry B. Eyring said, “Those who have kept the commandment of tithing can testify that the blessing of peace is real and precious.”
Feeling and expressing gratitude for what we have minimizes our longing for more and opens the way to receive even more of what Heavenly Father has in store for us. In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive —to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Acknowledging and enjoying what you have is living after the manner of happiness.
9. We love our family.
At a recent stake conference we saw people living after the manner of happiness. We saw the smile on the face of a little girl as she snuggled on her daddy’s lap. We saw his smile as he held her close. Couples were sitting close, husbands with their an arm around their wife and couples holding hands. The look of contentment and love as they listened to words of counsel from the speakers spoke volumes. Being in the right place, loving your family is a key to happiness.
In a news article about Elder Richard G. Scott’s life we read, “In his April 2011 conference talk, Elder Scott shared a tender lesson he learned from his wife. After being away on business for almost two weeks, he returned home with a four-hour window before a meeting. He opted to use the time to repair the washing machine. But his wife insisted he spend it with the children.
“I can play with the children anytime,” Elder Scott said. “I want to help you.”
“Richard, please go play with the children,” his wife said.
“When she spoke to me that authoritatively, I obeyed,” Elder Scott said. “I had a marvelous time with our children. We chased each other around and rolled in the fall leaves. Later I went to my meeting. … The next morning about 4 a.m., I was awakened as I felt two little arms around my neck, a kiss on the cheek, and these words whispered in my ear, which I will never forget: ‘Dad, I love you. You are my best friend.’
“If you are having that kind of experience in your family, you are having one of the supernal joys of life.” (Deseret News Sept. 23, 2015 A7) Being with and loving your family is living after the manner of happiness.
10. We know this life is not the end.
Attending a funeral can put all of life into perspective. Every human being knows that just as surely as we are born, we will die. How sad it would be if we thought this life was the end, that we would never see our loved ones again.
We know through scriptures and modern prophets that not only will we live again, but we will have resurrected perfected bodies. President Boyd K. Packer, when President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “Your spirit is young and vibrant and beautiful. Even if your body is old and diseased or crippled or disabled in any way, when the spirit and body are put together in the Resurrection, then you will be glorious; then you will be glorified.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The 20-Mark Note,” Liahona, June 2009, 23) The promise in Revelation 21:4 brings great comfort: “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.”
The gospel provides a way for us to be with our families eternally. The temple sealing ordinance makes that possible. “This means that if we are faithful to our covenants, our family relationships will continue for eternity.”
This sure knowledge of what is to come in the life hereafter helps us live after the manner of happiness.
Though we have trials and tribulations these 10 evidences are a testimony that we, like Nephi, are living after the manner of happiness. This comforting peace can be ours now and for all eternity.
[Gary Lundberg is a practicing marriage and family therapist in Provo, Utah. He and his wife, Joy, are the authors of books on creating happy family relationships. Visit their website at https://www.garyjoylundberg.com/]