Finding Happiness
Great Books for Families
By H. Wallace Goddard

Convergence Between Science and Scripture

I am amazed the way good science unfailingly points us back to gospel truth. I see that convergence consistently in my study of the science of human development and relationships.

For example, the description of the best parental control technique (called “induction” in research) sounds very much like the Lord’s recommendations in D&C 121: 34-41.  As the self-esteem psychobabble is displaced by good science, the findings converge on the recommendations for discovering and using our gifts found in D&C 46. The revolution in marriage led by John Gottman points us to Paul’s great discourse on charity in I Corinthians 13.

This same convergence of truth with Truth can be seen in the remarkable discoveries in human well-being described by Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness (2002). Seligman describes three levels of happiness and the process for attaining them.

Beginning Happiness

The first level of happiness Seligman calls the “pleasant” life. This happiness is created by savoring. “Basking, giving thanks, marveling, and luxuriating are all means to amplifying pleasures” (p. 110).

I believe God is promising something akin to Seligman’s pleasant life when He commands to: “. . . live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38). Many more passages recommending gratitude might be amassed. God has always recommended that we be grateful. And when we are more grateful, we are happier.

Intermediate Happiness

The second level of happiness in Seligman’s review of research is what he calls the “good” life which is attained by regularly using our strengths. “This is something you can learn to do in each of the main realms of your life: work, love, and raising children” (p. 13).

God recommends the same behavior except that He uses a more apt term for strengths: gifts. This word reminds us that our abilities are god-given. God teaches us that “to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby” (D&C 46:11-12).

Advanced Happiness

The highest happiness, according to Seligman, is much like the second level. We enjoy the “meaningful” life when we regularly use our strengths in service of a cause. Seligman doesn’t specify a cause. It could be serving God, strengthening our families, or protecting the environment. Living for a cause makes our lives more meaningful.

God is more specific. He says that “all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God” (D&C 46: 26). The ultimate use of our gifts is to bless His children.

For anyone who has even a passing interest in psychology, Seligman’s book is a good choice. It is insightful and practical. It may be the best psychology book I have read in years. Perhaps the surest test of its credentials is that it recommends the same behaviors that God recommends.

Martin E. P. Seligman (2002). Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press.

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