Mortality: Your Pursuit of Happiness

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Ed PinegarDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

March 23, 2006
Ed J. Pinegar
Visiting professor of religion

I feel like it's time to die. Both those eulogies were just lovely. I wish I could see you. I know that you're there, and I'll prove that you're there. Talofa! (Continues with other languages' greetings and "I love you" phrases concluding with "Aloha!") For all those languages I didn't learn this morning, I want you to know that I love you and I am honored to be in your presence. You are the divine children of God the Eternal Father, with capacities to return to his presence, to have a life like him. He will give you all things if we but choose to be obedient here in mortality.

Mortality and your pursuit of happiness:

We were faithful in our first estate and so we came to this earth to be tested. In Abraham chapter three verse twenty-five, the Lord said, "We will send them down to prove them, whether they will obey or not." Your test is going on right now. Sometimes we worry about our assignments in school and the things that we have to do. But you must remember that you and I are in a fallen state called mortality and need the help of the grace of God, through his beloved son, that we might return to his presence, for we cannot do it alone.  Now sometimes when people say we're in a fallen state they say "well you're flesh or you're weak or you're simple." That is not the case. Being in a fallen state merely means that you're mortal. You're innocent. You're a duel being. You can choose. Being mortal does not make one wicked.

Premortally we were with our brothers and sisters. We were spirit children of God the Father, Elohim. A war began, and in that war, some of our brothers and sisters, who were also spirits chose to disobey God the Father and follow Satan. And they were cast out. And we wept. And the heavens wept for those who did not chose righteousness.

You see, moral agency is an eternal variety. It has always been there and will never be taken away. It is a gift from God. Agency is so powerful that we read in Second Nephi the following, "There must needs be opposition in all things. If not, my first born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore all things must needs be compounded in one; wherefore if it should be one body as must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery." Father Lehi went on to say in verse twenty seven of Second Nephi chapter two, "Wherefore, men and women are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." We are free to choose.

Unfortunately, many choose not to be their best. We sometimes become a "natural man" or a "natural woman." A natural man is one who does not repent. A natural man is one who follows the devil. A natural man is one who chooses wickedness rather than righteousness. Now, in Mosiah 3:19 the Lord said, you can overcome this natural man if you "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit" and "becometh a saint, through the atonement" of the Lord Jesus Christ, "and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble," sweet, kind, smiling, helpful, happy, kind, loving, thoughtful, sweet, brave, clean and reverent, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave. I mean, we can do it all when we are a saint. We can choose to be happy. And you'll hear that again and again today.

But long ago, long ago, when father Adam and Eve gave birth to their children, after partaking of the fruit and were in a fallen state, the Lord came and taught them the plan of redemption. And after they made these things known unto their children it reads in Moses, 5:12 one of the saddest scriptures of all scriptures, "And Satan came among them saying, 'I am also a son of God." And he commanded them saying, 'Believe it not.'" "Don't believe this plan of redemption, this plan of happiness, this plan of salvation. Don't believe that." And they believed it not. And they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual and devilish." Because they loved Satan more than God. How can we love Satan more than God? When we love things, positions, titles, stations, anything of the world is of Satan, is inspired by the devil. Only the things of God bring us closer to him. To be spiritually minded is eternal life. Now, Amulek, Alma's great companion, you might wonder what he looked like: Amulek was six foot 4", 225 pounds, slightly balding, had a high raspy voice. You're paying attention, that was just a test. He said, "Now is the time to prepare to meet God." Now is the time to prepare to meet God. The prophet Joseph Smith said, "the design of your existence is to be happy." I like that. And it begins with choices to be positive, to choose wisely, to uphold standards. Think long term, never immediate aggrandizement. In Alma chapter 29, verse 18 it talks about those truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness. Have you ever thought of having a goal to be happy? You write goals to write the paper for Brother Ed due on April 5th, don't forget the questions for the final exam on April the 12th. Don't forget applications in Book of Mormon on April 17th. You write all those important goals down. And they're important. That's a matter of an A, B or a C after all. Grades do matter. But they just don't matter as much as the things of God. Doing your best is what matters in getting your grades.

Well, are we going to pursue happiness? King Benjamin, who was also six-foot-four and balding said, "if you will keep the commandments, you will enter an estate of never ending happiness," never ending happiness. Happiness is in keeping the commandments. Now, when Father Lehi saw the tree of life vision it was so wonderful that Nephi begged the Lord, "oh please let me see." And in first Nephi chapter eleven he pondered and was caught away in a high mountain and the vision was opened up. But recorded back in first Nephi chapter 8 verse 10, it talks about the fruit of the tree. "Now the fruit of the tree was desirable above all other things to make one happy." The fruit of the tree is desirable above all other things to make one happy. Now remember, that's the design of your existence. Now, the fruit of the tree is the love of God. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. That whoso should believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Nephi mentions, speaking of Christ, "He doeth nothing save it be for the benefit of the world," because he loves the world, even lays down his life for the world. You see, the love of God is personified in the Lord Jesus Christ. Who is the love of God? It is Jesus Christ. Come unto Christ and be perfected in him. Why are missionaries so cock-eyed happy? Why are you converts so cock-eyed happy? Because you come unto Christ and receive that happiness, that love of God in your life. It is the only way to be truly happy. Earlier in the Book of Mormon, the Nephites "lived after the manner of happiness." That means they lived with a constant mindset of the love of God in their hearts, Christ in their lives, partake of his goodness. It did not matter what it was, everything was consumed and pondered and prayed in their hearts with that one thing in mind: "receive the love of god in your heart."

Now there was a group of people; in 4th Nephi we learn about this wonderful group. And I don't even have it marked because I should have it memorized: "There was no contention in all of the land because of the love of God which did dwell in their hearts." There were no envyings, nor strives, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness (that's lusting), and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God." The people who were here when the Lord visited partook of the Love of God, and they were happy for hundreds of years. Happiness came about because they partook of the love of God. They chose the better part.

Now, you and I are here. The question is, can we live after the manner of happiness? After all, doesn't Heavenly Father realize how hard it is to live on earth? All the trials, tribulation, tests, low GPA, dating problems, she doesn't like me, why doesn't she like me? Cause you're not using Old Spice, that's why. Old Spice is the one! I don't make money for that, it's just that I use it. Have you noticed how the girls just look at me with that, "Wow!" It's not my hair, you can tell that. Could it be finance problems? Trouble seems to follow us no matter what it does. It rains every day! Did you notice how today, I prayed for the sun for the devotional. I didn't, it just came. Trouble seems to follow us. And it deepens with all kinds of severe trials. We're victims through no fault of our own, pain caused by others. My roommate drank my milk out of my side of the fridge! All kinds of problems: sin, sin, sin, resulting in the loss of the spirit. I willfully chose to be disobedient and I didn't go to devotional and I don't know what I'll do! You chose. In all of this I, like you, sometimes suffer. I withdraw. I was even talking to my sweetheart this morning about, you know, when I'm with my classes and I'm upbeat, and I'm not thinking about myself, I'm on fire, I'm happy and life is good! But as soon as I start to think about myself my trials, tribulations, tests, any problem that I might have, I look in instead of out, the love of God is only when you look out. If you look in you become selfish and selfishness is the first cousin of pride. The question is, can you chose to be happy with all of this going on around you? The answer is, a resounding YES! Say yes. Yes! Well that was ok, I guess.

Yesterday in our class, I have wonderful, wonderful students, and I have these five mature prophetesses who come to our class. And so I said, "Students, let's listen to what these mature sisters can tell us." I said, "what makes you happy?" This was over two-hundred years of advice. They said, "righteous choices brings me happiness." Now think about that. Righteous choices brings happiness. Another one said, "I'm happy when I serve and forget myself." There's that truism coming again. Another one said, "I'm happy when I'm letting the light of Christ shine through my actions, when I know I am influencing others for righteousness." Golly aren't you excited? Just think, as soon as devotional is over today you can just go out and help everybody be happy. You just are gonna be—you, did you know!?... Did you know that you are responsible for the happiness of every living soul you come in contact with? That is true. I would not lie, for liars go to the bad place. Wo unto the liar for he shall be thrust down to Mm! [motioning downward]. So now you know this is true.

One of the sweet sisters quoted J.R. Dummelow,  who said in the commentary on the Bible, the following, "Blessedness" — or how happiness; blessed means how happy — "is an inward fountain of joy in the soul itself which no outward circumstance can seriously affect." In my notes, I have written down, in another way, "there is no external thing that can bring you eternal happiness. Happiness is only inside your heart and your soul, with the love of God." Another one said, "I am happy when my life is in line with what is right, and when I have charity for others." Another one said, "charity comes from gratitude for small and simple things: a touch, a smile, a kiss. Counting my blessings and feeling my Savior's love brings happiness." I would add to these the beatitudes. Third Nephi, chapter twelve, the sermon at the temple: "Blessed are ye..." The word blessed means how happy, "How happy are you if you listen to the words of my prophets. How happy are you if you are struggling and you are poor in spirit and you come unto me. How happy are you, if you mourn, I will comfort you. How happy are you if you will hunger, and thirst after righteousness. Do you really feast upon the words? Or do you just kind of glance at them; "Well that's, yeah, that's pretty good, yeah, that's nice." Every night my sweetheart and I feast upon the words, for they will tell us all things what we should do. The words are the iron rod. The iron rod is the word of God. The iron rod takes you to the tree of life. The fruit is the love of God. The love of God is happiness. How do you get there? Hold to the ___? You're good. Now, the question is, will we do it? Will we choose to do it? Tonight when you get ready to go to bed and say, "oh I'm so tired, I'll read tomorrow." No, no, no, no, no. You read tonight! You read tonight. You read every night. You read, you feast, you feast upon the words. Look at me. Well—Proteins! Carbohydrates! Small amounts of animal's tissue, vitamins, minerals, air, water: that is me. And this morning I had just a touch of fruit. And I'm looking to be thinner and more appealing. But you know what? My spirit does not eat proteins, carbohydrates or anything like that. My spirit only metabolizes one thing, and that is the word of God. The word of God from his prophets, from the sacred canons, from inspired teachers, from sacrament meeting. It's the word of God that will lead us to the tree, and we partake of it, and we can be happy.

Oh, so much of the time we look outside ourselves to find happiness; outside the Lord. We think, I'll never forget when we were first married and I said, "oh someday I'll build you a house honey, and we'll be happy and have a new house." And for the first nine years of marriage we moved ten times. We didn't have much. We did have a lot and finally, October, 1965 we got into our new little house. It was a pretty good sized house. I got in the house and looked at my house and asked my wife, "are you happy?" I had waited nine years to be happy. When we could have a house, all of the sudden I realized the house did not bring me happiness. What a dummy! Wasted nine years waiting for that sense of happiness. Now I was happy during that time. But I had been ascue. I had looked at the wrong target. I had not valued that which mattered most. I was a good boy. Shucks, I was a bishop, they're fairly active. But I didn't see clearly! Don't ever let your vision be clouded by things of the world: of positions, of stations, of possessions, to titles, or honors, or fame, or fortune, or money. It is external and it will not last. Oh, have I realized since then: happiness is within. Happiness is within! Happiness is within. I remember when I thought basketball was life eternal. Golly. Beat UCLA: Yeah! Kill those—Oh! those prideful and wicked thoughts. Coach Wagner, I'm sorry if you're here today. You don't even play basketball in the hereafter. And all you golfers, tough luck. We have important things to do up there like love and serve and help people be happy.

Well, how are we going to do this? How are we going to do this? We've got to start today. We've got to start setting our goals and making our plans to pursue happiness by possessing the gift that is free: the love of God. And choose, when things are going tough, to internalize it. So, knowing that sooner or later, things will be OK because of the love of God. Remember this, when I read you Second Nephi two: There will be down times, there will be hard times, there will be heart breaks and heartaches. Else we couldn't have happiness. But when you have the eternal perspective, like one of my students said in class, "if you have the eternal perspective, then it's easier to choose to be happy, knowing that sooner or later, things will be better." So, it's kind of interesting. Returned full-time missionaries, what do they say at the pulpit? "It was the happiest two years of my life." Why do they say that? They say it because it's true that's why. Sure it was hard! Sure it was tough! But it was the happiest two years of their lives. Now, if you're gonna make it a goal. Many of you out there are married. I will give you a goal from President Hinckley, our beloved prophet, whom I love with all my heart, who called us to be mission presidents, who laid his hands upon my head to confer the power of Elijah. President Hinckley said, "If you will make your first concern the happiness and well-being of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy and your marriage will go through all eternity." I had to look up the word sublimate. It means to channel or divert. So now let me say it again, "If you will make your first concern the happiness and well-being of your companion, [channeling or diverting] any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy and your marriage will go through all eternity." You see, when you channel and divert anything away from you, you are overcoming selfishness, the killer of every marriage that is destroyed. Selfishness is the killer. You want to be happy in marriage? You seek to make your companion happy. You seek to make her or him happy. Whatever can bring them joy, you seek to do that. Shucks! My wife loves to go on walks and I went on a walk last night with her. You know what happens when I go on a walk? My back hurts! But I don't care! Because I know deep down in, she holds my hand and we go look at the ocean and think how beautiful it is. Then we walk home and I know she loves it, and so I love it because she loves it. You will know that people care about you when you care about they care about. Pretty good one! You think about it. When you care about what they care about they know that you care about them.

For the rest of us who are yet to marry: deal with life in a positive, proactive manner. That's a goal. These are goals we're setting. We struggle. I struggle. You struggle. But we can do it. You can choose, and remember that sooner or later things will be better. And remember this, if happiness was not having a broken leg, most all of you should be happy right now. But if it was a broken leg that made you unhappy, once the leg has been set, it still has to heal. Be patient with the Lord to receive the love of God in happiness. Be patient with the Lord for He will heal you. When you think of bad days and regular days, think of the Prophet Joseph. How much did he suffer—suffer, suffer, suffer? Yet he is the one who said, "the design of our existence is to be happy." The pioneers crossing the plains, do you think they said, "Oh! tomorrow's going to be a great day! Walk 26 miles, no shoes, frostbitten feet! Oh this is going to be fun!! Haha!" No, the pioneers didn't do that. But they gathered around and sang Come, Come Ye Saints, after William Clayton wrote that magnificent hymn. Come, come ye saints. No toil nor labor fear. But with joy, wend your way!" Death. Death comes to all. Just remember this: death is not the end of life, it is a transfer to another place. Sin is the killer. Not death.

Another one that hurts: sin of loved ones that you care about and you try and help them be happy. I talked to students who struggle with parents who are not members and we pray and we pray that they might come unto Christ. Sometimes you feel unloved, unappreciated. Never forget, God loves you, Christ loves you, and you really are loved.

"Remember the goodness and mercy of god in all things and in all times and you shall be happy." We can choose. Now today, you can choose again. The happiest people are those who are serving. Today, when the devotional ends, the center section will flee to the exits. And there my students, who I love all my heart (I truly love you), will share with you two Pass Along cards, one about the Savior and one about a family. And then you pray about who you can share it with over the next week or two, so they too can be partakers of the heavenly gift.

My brothers and sisters, I pray with all my heart this day that we will choose, choose to be happy by partaking of the love of God in our hearts. Of this I testify with deep love for you, for my Savior, for my God, for my companion, for my entire family and for all that God does here upon the earth, I bare witness of its goodness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.