Imagine you have a beautiful little girl. Her hair is silken, her eyes sparkle, her voice is a song to your ears. She is such a precious child and you want nothing but the best for her. She deserves every happiness she can obtain in life.
Your dear child decides that what she most wants is to go deep sea diving in dangerous, shark-infested waters. The thrill of it makes her feel alive, she says. It will make her ultimately happy, she claims.
When you counter her requests with heaps of evidence that prove that such a venture would probably cost her her life, she declares that she would be the one to beat the odds because it’s so important to her. Even if she did die, she would be happy for that moment and so it would be worth it.
Now, as a loving parent, would you think her chosen course of action was a prudent one? Would you encourage her and help her achieve her dream? Would you kiss her goodbye as she climbed on that boat and sailed out to sea?
Or would you do everything you could to dissuade her, to protect her, knowing that her greater happiness lies in living a long life safe from the potential life-altering pain and injury of swimming with man-eating sharks?
Oftentimes, we don’t always desire that which is good for us. Imagine if all our desires were granted to us… We would likely be far from happy.
James E. Faust once said, “Instant and unrestrained gratification of all our desires would be the shortest and most direct route to unhappiness. The many hours I have spent listening to the tribulations of men and women have persuaded me that both happiness and unhappiness are much of our own making” (“Our Search for Happiness,” Ensign, Oct 2000.)
The prophet Joseph Smith detailed the only reliable path to happiness when he told us, “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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 255–56).
Even though “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25), it doesn’t mean that everything is going to go smoothly or that all we will experience is happiness and joy. The Book of Mormon also tells us, “for it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11).
No one, no matter how righteous, will experience happiness every moment of every day. But perhaps the happiest among us have learned that in order to be happy, they must learn to recognize elements of happiness and treasure them while they last.
So perhaps you could tell your daredevil child to look to smaller, less thrilling ways to find her happiness… It might not get her adrenaline pumping in quite the same way as swimming with sharks, but surely the quantity of happiness she would experience over a lifetime would outweigh the fleeting moments of pleasure she might feel on her adventure.
This post was originally published in June 2008. Minor changes have been made.