One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from President Heber C. Kimball, for many years counselor in the First Presidency to Brigham Young. He said, “I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His Spirit. . . . He is a jovial, lively person.”1

The Father and the Saviorare both happy persons. And they have told us to be happy also, to”be of good cheer” (John 16:33). That phrase appears twelve times in scripture, for example in these six passages:

      “Lift up your head and be of good cheer” (3 Nephi 1:13)

      “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

      “Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2)

      “Be of good cheer . . . for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you” (D&C 61:36)

      “Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (D&C 68:6)

      “Be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours” (D&C 78:18).

Based on those passages I would conclude that we are all supposed to be cheer-leaders! And notice that the expression we use is “cheer up,” and not “cheer down.”

One day my new colleague in BYU’s Department of Ancient Scripture, Dr. Lincoln Blumell, introduced me to something he had just discovered in the treasures of the University’s Special Collections, a gold plate. It’s the only gold plate that Brigham Young University owns, and-wouldn’t you know it-the inscription on the small plate starts out with the two words “cheer up”! It is an appropriate ancient text-message for the Latter-day Saints.

As we all know, our prophets, especially the last two-Presidents Hinckley and Monson-are cheerful men. President Hinckley used to say “don’t be a pickle-sucker!” And he used to say, “Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.”2

I have known all the presidents of the Church from David O. McKay through Thomas S. Monson. My earliest recollections of general conference include hearing President David O. McKay repeatedly say, “I love life!”As I look back on Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson, Howard W. Hunter, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson, I realize that they have all been optimists. Why? How could they be so positive? Because they have “the big picture.” They know what is coming, in the end. They know that this glorious cause will triumph. We are on the winning team. (So an essential message for all of us is don’t ever quit the team!)

General George C. Marshall was one of the great Americans in modern times (five-star general, Army chief of staff, secretary of state, and secretary of defense). During a deteriorating war-time experience, General Marshall told a discouraged staff, “Gentlemen, it is my experience [that] an enlisted man may have a morale problem. [But] an officer is expected to take care of his own morale.”3In other words, morale problems are an enlisted man’s privilege; they are not for the officers.

We are God’s officers in his kingdom. As with General Marshall’s officers, so with us: we have a duty to be positive; we have an obligation to produce happiness, not just enjoy it.

President Howard W. Hunter reassured us:

“I am here . . . to tell you that despair, doom, and discouragement are not an acceptable view of life for a Latter-day Saint. However high on the charts they are on the hit parade of contemporary news, we must not walk on our lower lip every time a few difficult moments happen to confront us.”4

President Hunter shared some actual comments he had received. This comes from a fine returned missionary:

Why should I date and get serious with a girl? I am not sure I even want to marry and bring a family into this kind of a world. I am not very sure about my own future. How can I take the responsibility for the future of others whom I would love and care about and want to be happy?

“Here’s another from a high school student:

I hope I die before all these terrible things happen that people are talking about. I don’t want to be on the earth when there is so much trouble.

“And this from a recent college graduate:

I am doing the best I can, but I wonder if there is much reason to even plan for the future, let alone retirement. The world probably won’t last that long anyway.

[President Hunter continued:] “Well, isn’t that a fine view of things. Sounds like we all ought to go and eat a big plate of worms.

“I want to say to all within the sound of my voice . . . that you have every reason in this world to be happy and to be optimistic and to be confident. Every [person] since time began has had some things to overcome and some problems to work out. . . .We understood that in our premortal existence.”5

“I promise you . . . in the name of the Lord whose servant I am that God will always protect and care for his people. We will have our difficulties the way every generation and people have had difficulties. . . . But with the gospel of Jesus Christ you have every hope and promise and reassurance. . . . Disciples of Christ in every generation are invited, indeed commanded to be filled with a perfect brightness of hope (2 Nephi 31:20).”6

Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave us reasons for optimism:

“An economic depression would be grim, but it would not change the reality of immortality. The inevitability of the second coming is not affected by the unpredictability of the stock market. Political despots make this world very ugly, but they cannot touch that better world to come. A case of cancer does not cancel the promises of the temple endowment.  

“Thus the things of which we can be most certain are also those things which matter most. . . . We can have a bad day but still have a good life. We can have tribulation but see it paled by the resurrection.


. . . All that matters is gloriously intact. The promises are in place.”7

Notice the inspiring message of 2 Nephi 10:20: “And now . . . seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off” (emphasis added).

The History of the Church records an extraordinary revelation Joseph Smith received, part of which became D&C 137.8 In the very next paragraph after what has become Section 137 the Prophet describes the following scene:

“I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth . . . in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. The Savior looked upon them and wept” (emphasis added).

When you are feeling down, where are your eyes? They are looking down. Where is your head? It is hanging down. We have to keep looking up. The Savior is up there watching over us. If you will keep your head up and your eyes open, you will know that he is there to help. Doctrine and Covenants 37:4 says “I am in your midst, and ye see me not.”

The Lord usesthe word “gospel” to describe our Father’s eternal plan of salvation.Gospel means “good news,” not bad news; “glad tidings,” not sad tidings. His plan is called the great plan of happiness, not the great plan of gloominess.

But why do we have to experience such hard trials, even painful afflictions?Welcome to mortality! We’re not here to be comfortable but to be challenged. Has the Father ever had any problems to deal with? The Savior? The prophets?

Before you can understand real joy, you must taste of sorrow. If we understood perfectly well just what is happening to us, and why it is happening, it would not be a real trial. It has to be almost unintelligible to us while it’s happening (though great understanding can come afterwards). Robert Frost penned some insightful lines in a conversation between the Lord and Job. He had the Lord saying to Job that we all go through some seemingly contradictory experience in mortality, some unmeaning sorrow-but it is the essence of the trial that we shouldn’t understand it at the time it happens. It has to seem unmeaning to have meaning, and it will come out all right.9

Indeed, things will always turn out all right in the end, for those who love and trust the Lord. No wonder faith is listed as the first principle of the gospel. It comes first and makes all else work. Robert Frost also said: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” It’s true, we all have to move on, “lump and dump,” and “just get over it!”

Even with happiness being the object of our existence,10 there is purpose in suffering. President Spencer W. Kimball explained:

“Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery.”11

      And in a lighter vein President Boyd K. Packer once quipped:

If you can smile when things go wrong,

      and say it doesn’t matter,

If you can laugh off cares and woe,

      and trouble makes you fatter,

If you can keep a cheerful face

      when all around are blue,

Then have your head examined, bud,

      there’s something wrong with you.

For one thing I’ve arrived at:

      there are no ands and buts,

A guy that’s grinning all the time

      must be completely nuts.12

Remember what the Book of Mormon repeatedly says: “it came to pass,” not it came to stay!

The greatest-Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith-knew sorrow, but they were happy.

Did Jesus ever smile? Third Nephi 19:25, 30 indicate that he did. And one of the reasons I really like Liz Lemon Swindle’s painting of Jesus and the Apostles coming up over a hill in the Galilee (entitled “Come and see”) is that all twelve men have smiles on their faces. When do you ever see that in paintings of Christ? Certainly they had some discouraging, even depressing, moments during His ministry, especially during his final days and hours, but they were happy men and must have laughed on many occasions.

Come and See

I also really like Mark Mabrey’s photograph of his reenactment of Jesus’ baptism that Deseret Book chose to use on the cover of my little book, Happy like Jesus. In the photo John has just baptized Jesus and they are giving each other a heart-felt hug, with big smiles on their faces.

Happy Like Jesus coverPrints available at relectionsofchrist.org

We sing “When Jesus shows his smiling face, there is sunshine in the soul” (Hymn #227). Happiness should be in your face. It should show.

But again we ask, how could God be so happy? Because he lives “after the manner of happiness.”Happiness is a decision. You decide to be happy-no matter what happens!

What brings happiness?

I will describe five things that can make you happy.

  1. (     The Spirit of God brings happiness. Let me tell you what happened to George Goddard, my wife’s great-grandfather, three generations back. George became a prominent businessman in Salt Lake City. He served as secretary to the Presiding Bishop of the Church. Later, he served in the general superintendency of the Sunday Schools of the Church (with George Q. Cannon, president, and the other counselor, Karl G. Maeser). He was a renowned speaker and singer (fifteen years in the Tabernacle Choir). George was appointed secretary of the school of the prophets in Salt Lake City by Brigham Young. When George died, his funeral was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

But let’s back up a moment. Long before they did all those wonderful things in Salt Lake City and all over the Church, George and his wife, Elizabeth, were prospering in his business in a community in England.


They heard the missionaries, loved the message of the restored gospel, and decided to be baptized. By publicly preaching in the market-place, their business collapsed, their family refused to help them, his brother actually gave them fifty English pounds to get rid of them, and they decided to join the Saints in the western Zion. They departed Liverpool with seven small children. Elizabeth had another baby on the ship, but it died and they buried it at sea. Journeying up the Mississippi, another child died at Memphis. Yet another died in St. Louis, then on the journey, mostly on foot, of one thousand miles across the plains, two more died. George and Elizabeth arrived in Salt Lake City with only three of their children.

Looking back on those ordeals, George exclaimed, “All this for the gospel’s sake! If the kind hand of our Heavenly Father had not been with us, and also His Holy Spirit, to cheer and comfort and enlighten our minds, we never could have passed through such an ordeal. . . . One of the great lessons I learned while passing through this experience was, that the possession and enjoyment of the Spirit of God inspires cheerfulness and contentment irrespective of adverse circumstances.13

Another of our ancestors, Catherine Karren Hatch, similarly testified: “If one keeps the Spirit of the Lord, happiness will be your lot no matter how grievous the trials of life may be.”14

(2   Get outside yourself. Happiness comes through others.Only the person who loves is happy.

(3)   Serve as missionaries, and servewith missionaries. There are few things in the world that can make you happier than sharing the gospel.

(4  The scriptures make you happy-again, because they are full of the Spirit, and the Spirit brings happiness.

(5  Temple can make you happy-again, because every Temple is full of the Spirit, and the Spirit brings happiness. Worthiness is happiness. Being clean brings happiness. Covenant-keepers are happy people. The fulness of joy begins in the Temple. The Temple is a prelude, a practice, a dress rehearsal for celestial fullness.

My wife, Marcia Ogden, philosophizes:”See what happens to people when they get a glimpse of God’s world and His life? Closer to the top of the mountain, our views become glorious. Suddenly this world and its attractions-at the foot of the mountain-become trivial by comparison.”15

Conclusion

Keeping the faith means being an optimist.Follow the prophets; follow the Savior – they are all optimists.Jesus said: “Be of good cheer.” You are, therefore, a cheerleader. That is, you are a leader of cheer.

Jesus wants you to be happy, as He is.Satan wants you to be miserable, as he is. Choose to be happy like Jesus!

      And remember-

Heavenly Father is the most powerful Being in the universe.

He is the most righteous Being in the universe.

He is the most intelligent Being in the universe.

He is the most loving Being in the universe.

He is the most forgiving Being in the universe.

He is the most long-suffering Being in the universe.

He is the most disciplined Being in the universe.

He is the wealthiest Being in the universe.

He is the kindest Being in the universe.

He is the holiest Being in the universe.

He is the greatest Being in the universe!

And you are His son or daughter. Along with Jesus, you are an heir of all He has.That is more than awesome.

References

1 Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 4:222.

2 Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Ensign, June 1995, 12.

3 JackUldrich, Soldier, Statesman, Peacemaker-Leadership Lessons from George C. Marshall, New York: Amacom, 2005, 216.

4 Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002, 199.

5 Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 199-200.

6 Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 201.

7 Neal A. Maxwell, Notwithstanding My Weakness, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 57.

8 History of the Church, 2:381.

9 Robert Frost, A Masque of Reason, New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1945.

10Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, 255.

11Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972, 98.

12Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991, 247.

13George Goddard, “Review of an Active Life,” serialized article in the Juvenile Instructor, from January to July, 1882, pages 92 and 75, emphasis added.

14 CatherineKarren Hatch, personal journal, transcribed by Ruth Savage Hilton, 23 (BYU Special Collections).

15D. Kelly and Marcia H. Ogden, The President and the Preacher, 193.