I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon Church, as many people call it. I am what is called a ‘convert’ to the Church, which means that I was taught the gospel by missionaries and I joined as a young woman, of my own free will and choice.
My family, who are not Mormons, strongly disagreed with my choice. Though it’s been eighteen years since I made it—and they no longer question whether or not I am happy—still they regularly ask, “How can belong to a church that restricts your freedoms so much?” Because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a strong code of ethics, the Word of Wisdom which guides our physical habits, and a strict code of conduct for its members, my family assumes my freedom is also restricted and I am following the rules blindly.
But I do not choose to follow blindly, I choose to follow because in doing so I have found a greater happiness, a more reliable source of peace and contentment than I ever had before I joined the Church.
In 1987 Glenn L. Pace, a leader in the Mormon Church, spoke about this very thing. When considering people who “look happy and free,” he counseled:
“Don’t mistake telestial pleasure for celestial happiness and joy. Don’t mistake lack of self-control for freedom. Complete freedom without appropriate restraint makes us slaves to our appetites. Don’t envy a lesser and lower life” (“They’re Not Really Happy,” New Era, Mar 2002, 28.)
Book of Mormon prophet Lehi had an amazing dream one night. In his vision, he saw a great and spacious building, which scripture teaches us represents the pride and temptations of the world:
“And I … beheld … a great and spacious building; …
“And it was filled with people, both old and young, … and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who … were partaking of the fruit” (1 Ne. 8:26–27).
Mormons have a phrase we repeat often: “Choose the right.” You’ll often see members of the Church wearing rings with the symbol CTR on them—they wear these to remind themselves to choose the right in every situation, wherever they may find themselves.
We need to remind ourselves to choose the right because everywhere we go, there is temptation to enter that great and spacious building. It isn’t always easy to choose the right, to follow the Word of Wisdom, or to be obedient to the counsel of leaders. But we know that as long as we do what is right, we are more free: less burdened by guilt and free from the chains of sin.
That freedom allows us to be who we were created to be. It allows us to be happy. The prophet Joseph Smith said:
“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.)
My family continues to ask why I would restrict myself so much by being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And I continue to respond the way I always have: I feel more free now than I ever did before. I am happier now than I ever was before. I testify to you that if you will choose the right, to follow that path that which is marked by virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness and keeping the commandments of God, you will be happy too.