The prophet Lehi in the Book of Mormon teaches that “men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25) The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “happiness is the object and design of our existence.” To me these are saying that men and women—all of us—exist in order to find joy and happiness. Yet I think there is a general misunderstanding about the nature of happiness in this life. I hear a lot of people say that we’re not meant to experience real joy in this life because it’s just not possible. When we die, and all of our earthly cares and worries are gone, then we can be happy. When we’re finally rid of our bodies and we don’t have to experience pain and physical discomfort anymore, then we can be happy. Frankly, I think these ideas are false. I’ve talked about this a little before in my “Life is Hard” post, but the scriptures tell us that if we don’t figure out how to be happy in this life, we’re not going to magically have it afterwards. Joseph Smith taught, “that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:2) In the Book of Mormon, Jacob explains that at death “they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still.” (2 Nephi 9:16) In other words, the sort of person that we are in our mortal bodies will be the same sort of person we will be without our bodies. The prophet Amulek confirms this: “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis [death], that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.” (Alma 34:34) Therefore, if we are depressed and unhappy in this life, wouldn’t it make sense that we will still be trying to figure out why we are depressed and unhappy in the next life? Now is the time to figure it out. Now is the time to discover how to be happy and how to have joy. “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” (Alma 34:32)
With this understanding, it makes sense to me that I need to work on being happy now, rather than waiting for something to happen or something to be obtained in order for my happiness to magically appear. Thomas Monson has said, “This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.” (Thomas S Monson, “Finding Joy in the Journey”) I have spent time pining away for this illusive and nonexistent future he speaks of, and I have learned that in doing so, I was getting nowhere. I used to imagine myself running full speed along my path, my intention to reach the throne of God and finally obtain “happiness.” But I learned that I needed to slow down, explore the path, greet those who are walking with me, and realize that happiness was there on that path all along. I was just too focused on the goal to see and to feel it. Now I see myself walking instead of running. I’m still moving forward, but I’m paying attention to what is all around me.
“One of the greatest of all God’s revelations is Father Lehi’s teaching that ‘men are, that they might have joy.’ Joy is more than happiness. Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being. It comes from being complete and in harmony with our Creator and his eternal laws.” (Dallin H Oaks, “Joy and Mercy”) King Benjamin invited his people to consider “the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold,” he said, “they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven … [to] dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.” (Mosiah 2:41) So if having joy has to do with being complete and in harmony with my Creator, that just means I need to do my best to be obedient, right? Is it possible to be completely obedient? I believe it is. I agree with author John Pontius who wrote, “…we do have the ability to be perfectly and flawlessly obedient—as Christ was. The beauty and power of Christ’s plan is that as we obey him, he will provide all that we lack. He will close the great chasm we cannot cross by changing us so that we meet the standard of righteousness.” (John M Pontius, The Triumph of Zion)
As you think about these things, I invite you to ask God—whichever God you believe in—if they are true. Do you believe you can find happiness in this life, or are you waiting for it to magically appear? If you believe, then move toward that belief. The more you believe, the more abundantly happiness can be attracted to you.