I want to live after the manner of happiness, don’t you? In fact, I’d hazard a guess that happiness is the lifelong goal of every person who lives. Except I think we too often believe, mistakenly, that happiness is to be found in success, riches, possessions, admiration, or the like. But that just isn’t so.
Happiness is to be found in our families, in our relationship with God, in our ability to look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day and like what we see. Oh, perhaps you won’t like the extra weight you are carrying, or the pimples that are popping up on your face so late in life, or the wrinkles that belie your age, but you can like the light that shines from your eyes—and that light can shine brighter if we have walked in the footsteps of the Lord.
When describing the lifestyle he and his people lived, Nephi said that: “And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things” (2 Ne. 5:10.)
I can testify from personal experience that living righteously and keeping God’s commandments makes us happy. Alma, another Book of Mormon prophet, summed it up when he said, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10.) How many times have you done something you knew shouldn’t do? And how often did you later wish you hadn’t done that thing? If you’re anything like me, the answer is “too often.”
In an address given to Brigham Young University students, Marlin K. Jensen, said:
“From the depths of my soul I testify that Satan wants us to believe we are an exception to God’s rules, that somehow our transgressions are more noble and justifiable than anyone’s have ever been. But that is a lie. And not only do we offend God by breaking His laws; we also offend ourselves and others, and thereby experience heartache, suffering, and misery—the exact opposites of happiness” (“How to Be Happy,” New Era, Aug 1999, 4).
There was a time in my life when I truly did believe that I was an exception to God’s rules. I was a victim of other peoples’ bad choices—how could I be expected to do what was right when so many in my life had done me wrong? I felt justified in being bad because being good didn’t seem to get me anywhere.
I would have to write a whole book to explain how I came to see the error in my thinking, but suffice it to say, I had that precious “aha” moment wherein I finally came to see that in choosing to continue my bad behavior, I only continued to hurt myself. It was only when I started to do what I knew was right, to follow God’s commandments, that I began to feel my burden lifted and to feel hope.
Now, after seventeen years of practicing righteous behavior, I can honestly say that “wickedness never was happiness.” Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not perfect—not even close. But I am somewhat further down the road of obedience than I once was and I am happier for it.
If you feel burdened by wrong choices, either your own or those of others, I encourage you to turn your face to God. Seek to do what He commands as outlined in the scriptures, and I promise He will lift your burdens and reward you with happiness to cheer your days.
This post was originally published in July 2008. Minor changes have been made.