Sunday, October 06, 2013

"We Lived After the Manner of Happiness"

In preparation for tomorrow's seminary lesson, I was studying a verse in the Book of Mormon that caused me to pause and assess my state of being and what value I place on activities, material things, relationships and in general life. In 2 Nephi 5:27 it reads, "And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness." The declaration by Nephi, the author of this smaller book within the Book of Mormon, comes just after his separation from his brothers who were seeking his life and at the warning of the Lord to flee from their wickedness. The division also occurs shortly after the death of their prophet father and must have been a great source of sadness and uneasiness. So how is it that Nephi can declare that happiness was their way of life?

We all face challenges, trials and sorrows that impact our ability to have joy in our life. Pres Monson, the current president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, addressed the world today and spoke of his loss earlier this year of his companion, best friend and wife, Francis Monson. His talk was emotional, at times heart wrenching, as he described how she had been ever faithful, always supportive and never backbiting through his service of 50 years in the church as an Apostle. Their 65th marriage anniversary is tomorrow, the 7th of Oct, and as he told of these personal experiences you could feel the sorrow he has for the loss of his beloved wife. Yet, through all of the sorrow, I look at this prophet and can see that he "lives after the manner of happiness," and has joy eternally spring forth from him.

As I read the scripture this evening, I paused and thought about it's meaning and came to the simple and short conclusion: it doesn't mean to be always happy but to live in such a way that enables one to be happy. Righteous, obedient, worthy of the Spirit living brings about this kind of joy.

The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that there is a path that leads to happiness: “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (History of the Church,5:134–35).

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “Happiness comes of righteousness. ‘Wickedness never was happiness.’ (Alma 41:10.) Sin never was happiness. Selfishness never was happiness. Greed never was happiness. Happiness lies in living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (in “Fast-Paced Schedule for the Prophet,” Church News, Apr. 20, 1996, 3).

So what is the key in living after the manner of happiness? Well, I'd summarize it is living righteously, worthy of the Spirit, living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ according to faith and obedience. The simplicity of the statement really masks the effort required to live after this lifestyle. What it doesn't state is how to deal with the sorrow, the grief, the pain and heartache. How do you cope with times when you or your loved ones are pained, hospitalized, spiritually suffering or in bondage from their own sin? In embracing and living the principles of the gospel one must recognize that faith and repentance are at the heart of all gospel principles. We have faith that Jesus will heal our souls, body and spirit, and that all struggles, sorrows, sins, grievances, transgressions and sufferings are swallowed up in His infinite Atonement. Our faith leads us to repent when we are the cause of the sorrow and sin and the happiness comes in feeling His love sanctify us as we come to Him.

Four years ago my wife lost her dear mother, likely her best friend (after me) in this world. Her mother was slowly dying over a 35 year battle with Multiple Sclerosis so her death did not come as a great shock to the family. Yet the sorrow that Rebecca felt at with the mortal loss of her beloved mother was deep and penetrating. She still deeply mourns the loss of her mother at times when she'd love to converse with her about personal decisions, frustrations, joyous moments and life milestones. Through it all the love of the Savior has been the comfort she's needed and has helped her through her soulful pain.

As our family prepared to watch and listen to the 183rd General Semi-Annual Conference of our church this morning, my mother called from the Seattle area to tell me my father is in the hospital with kidney failure. She had spent the majority of the day yesterday at the hospital while they ran a battery of tests on my poor father. His health has been declining rapidly over the last year as he's battled with Parkinson's Disease and a lifetime of depression. As he's been dehydrated and had failed to urinate over the past almost 3 days, an induced hydration produce a horribly brown urine that precipitated further tests. The failure of both kidneys at his age and health is not a positive indication of a healthy outcome. While the thought of his loss in this life brings me sorrow and I'm sure will cause even deeper sorrow over the years to come, knowing he will be relieved of his frail estate and receive a glorious reward in heaven brings my soul peace and comfort. It is only through the hope, faith and understanding of Jesus' great love and grace that I can even fathom having a life of happiness when enduring pain and suffering, especially of a loved one such as my father.

Living after the manner of happiness is not a state of being devoid of sorrow but rather is a mindset, an attitude, a disposition in which we enable ourselves through Jesus Christ to be happy despite our mortality, our frailties, our weaknesses. He has overcome the world for the purpose of bringing His children joy in this life and for the eternities to come. Will we choose to live after this manner and allow His sacrifice to take it's full effect in our lives?
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