Live After the Manner of Happiness
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
April 12, 2014
Roger G. Christensen
Assistant to the Commissioner of the Church Educational System
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) once stated, “We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history.”1 You are living the spirit of that statement today. Your college graduation is an historical moment, and there may be people in the audience today who are truly awed by the fact you made it. It is, however, a time to celebrate. Since you have successfully scaled the educational mountain to this lofty summit, this is a moment in time to be truly happy with what you have accomplished, and there is much to be happy about. The theme of seeking happiness is universal and timeless.
There are many scriptures that are germane to this topic; I will share just three. The first relates to where you are now; the other two relate to your status in the future. Your choices between now and then will determine the measure of happiness you enjoy along the way. The first scripture is in Proverbs: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.”2 The second scripture comes from 2 Nephi: “And ... [they] lived after the manner of happiness.”3 And the third scripture is an insightful summary by Mormon: “He that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still.”4
Consider this: One of the most quoted phrases in the U.S. Declaration of Independence is this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” One should then reasonably ask, “If that thesis is true, what things lead to happiness and what things are opposed to happiness?”5 The answer to both parts of that question is relatively simple; the reality of its daily application can be quite complex.
One response to the first part was given by the Prophet Joseph. He stated, “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.”6 It should be evident from that statement that happiness is not exactly easy nor is it completely free; it takes individual effort and comes at a price. President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) spoke about the cost. He said, “‘What is the price of happiness?’ One might be surprised at the simplicity of the answer. The treasure house of happiness is unlocked to those who live the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and simplicity. … The assurance of supreme happiness, the certainty of a successful life here and of exaltation and eternal life hereafter, come to those who plan to live their lives in complete harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ—and then consistently follow the course they have set.”7
Consistency in living the fundamentals of the gospel throughout your life will secure eternal happiness. Those fundamentals include regular prayer, consistent scripture study, unwavering obedience to the commandments, steadfastly honoring covenants, and the frequent giving of service to others. Diligently fulfilling these basics, however, will not guarantee that your life will be free from challenges. We were sent here to be tested, and our tests will be custom-fit for each one of us. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it, we will have a “customized curriculum”8 to teach us what we need to learn. When tests come, you will need to decide where you stand, and your attitude will determine your altitude. Inflection points in life can be complex, but they help define your character and allow you to see who you really are. The choices are not always easy, but the right choices will allow you to feel joy and happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.9 The question you must ask is will you be true and faithful “at all times and in all things, and in all places?”10
I have long asserted that living the gospel of Jesus Christ is easy, unless there is something else you would rather be doing; which brings us to an obstacle to happiness: the influence of the adversary. Elder Paul V. Johnson, the Commissioner of the Church Educational System, gave a remarkable devotional address at BYU a couple of years ago. In it, he talked about Satan as a master at marketing. Let me share a couple of his insights. “Satan’s ultimate goal is to make each of us miserable like he is.11 Since he can’t impose this misery, he has to find a way to convince us to choose it …What makes it possible for the adversary to make evil and sin seem enticing? …Well, [he has] to lie…The only way he can sell sin is to portray it as something it isn’t. He has to convince people that evil is good, or … that sin is right, that momentary pleasure equates with long-term joy, and that sin leads to freedom and happiness instead of to bondage and misery.”12 In other words, he has to make sin and evil so appealing that he can convince good people who generally live righteous lives to choose, on occasion, to commit sins.13 Don’t fall for his ridiculously flawed marketing scheme! As Sheri Dew has so pointedly expressed, “Sin makes you stupid.”14 Since all of you are smart, as evidenced by your graduation from the university, Lucifer’s approach will likely be more subtle.
In 2012, Elder Marcos Aidukaitis presided at our stake conference and talked about three lies Satan uses to distract us from following the Savior. First, in a moment of weakness, he will try to divert your attention by whispering, “It’s not true.” But when the Spirit confirms that it really is true, Satan tries the next lie. He will retort, “Okay. It is true, but it’s not for you.” Since you will be striving diligently to live the gospel, you will know that it is God’s plan and understand it really is for you, so then comes the third lie. “Okay. It is true and it is for you, but you don’t have to do anything about it now.”
Procrastination may be the most effective tool Satan uses to keep you from living the gospel, doing your duty, and living “after the manner of happiness.” President Monson gave a great assessment of the purpose of life and captured how procrastination can affect all aspects of your life and keep you from attaining your eternal objective, if you let it. He said,
“Our goal is to achieve, to excel, to strive for perfection. Remember, however, that our business in life is not to get ahead of others but to get ahead of ourselves. To break our own record, to outstrip our yesterdays by today, to bear our trials more beautifully than we ever dreamed we could, to give as we never have given, to do our work with more force and a finer finish than ever—this is the true objective. And to accomplish this task, our attitude is reflected in a determination to make the most of our opportunities. We turn from the tempting allurement and eventual snare so cunningly and carefully offered us by ‘old man procrastination.’ Two centuries ago, Edward Young said that ‘procrastination is the thief of time.’ Actually, procrastination is much more. It is the thief of our self-respect. It nags at us and spoils our fun. It deprives us of the fullest realization of our ambitions and hopes. Knowing this, we jar ourselves back to reality with the sure knowledge that ‘this is my day of opportunity. I will not waste it.’”17
As you leave BYU–Hawaii, remember you have much to be happy about. Those here today have been blessed by so much that has gone before and have many opportunities that yet lie ahead. Whatever course you take and wherever your life may lead, always follow the path that will allow you to “be happy still,”18 the path that will lead you back to your Heavenly Father, who desires your ultimate happiness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. Hinckley, Gordon B. “At the Summit of the Ages,” Ensign, November 1999.
2. Proverbs 3:13
3. 2 Nephi 5:27
4. Mormon 9:14
5. United States Declaration of Independence
6. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith , 255–56.
7. Kimball, Spencer W. The Miracle of Forgiveness. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company,1969: 259.
8. Maxwell, Neal A. “But For a Small Moment,” Address given at Brigham Young University, September 1, 1974.
9. See Dallin H. Oaks, “Joy and Mercy,” Ensign, November 1991.
10. Mosiah 18:9
11. See 2 Nephi 2:18, 27
12. Paul V. Johnson, “Free to Choose Liberty or Captivity,” address given at Brigham Young University, November 6, 2012.
14. Sheri Dew, “You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory,” address given at Brigham Young University, December 9, 2003.
15. 2 Nephi 5:27
16. John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 14th ed. (1968), 399
17. Thomas S. Monson, “The Lighthouse of the Lord: A Message to the Youth of the Church,” Ensign, February 2001.
18. Mormon 9:14