Is there anything that you want more than to be happy? You might list several things that you feel you need to make your life complete, but probably the overarching desire, the thing you want most of all, is just to be happy.
This has been mans’ goal since the beginning of recorded history. Mans’ search for happiness is the root behind any great advancement in society—as hopes rose that around the next corner things would get easier, better, and we could finally be happy.
It’s not a surprise that we are so consumed with the desire to be happy. In the Book of Mormon the Lord said, “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25.) We were created to desire and search for happiness—and God means for us to find it.
Even the founding fathers of United States of America gave our pursuit of happiness prime billing in the Declaration of Independence:
“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.”
The problem with a pursuit that is so all-consuming is that we tend to believe we have found it, only to discover that our hopes are false.
Most people would claim that money was an essential element in achieving happiness. You’re unhappy without it, surely you would be very happy with it. However, endless research fails to prove that to be true. In fact, research tends to indicate that money alone is seldom, if ever, our key to true happiness.
David O. McKay, then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or Mormon Church, once made reference to a statement by John D. Rockefeller—then one of the world’s richest men—who apparently had stomach trouble and had purportedly said, “I would rather be able to enjoy a good meal than have a million dollars.” Then with a wink of the eye, President McKay remarked, “Of course, he had a million dollars when he said that.”
It’s easy to make light of the need of money when you have more than enough. But when you see no end to your money troubles and you feel that you are constantly drowning in debt, you can’t imagine any happiness without money.
But beyond a sufficient amount for our needs, money has little to do with true happiness. W. Eugene Hansen, a leader in the Mormon Church wrote “Often it is the work and sacrifice one experiences in obtaining money for a worthwhile purpose that produces the most satisfaction” (“The Search for Happiness,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 81.) He goes on to share a story from his father’s personal history about his Grandmother’s experiences growing up in Brigham City, Utah, in the late 1800s.
“Their family was very poor, having emigrated from Denmark with little more than the clothes on their backs. She wanted so much to have a pair of shoes she could wear on special occasions. To accomplish this worthy desire took a full summer’s work of picking berries and tending children, since money was very scarce and labor was cheap. But the joy Grandmother felt as she obtained those shoes is indescribable, for not only was she able to wear them, but her mother did also. In fact, they had it arranged so Grandmother would wear the shoes to Sunday School in the morning, and then her mother would wear them to sacrament meeting in the evening.”
William George Jordan, American editor and essayist, wrote:
“Happiness does not always require success, prosperity or attainment. It is often the joy of hopeful struggle, consecration of purpose and energy to some good end. Real happiness ever has its root in unselfishness—its blossom in love of some kind” (The Crown of Individuality, 2d ed., New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1909, pp. 78–79.)
Don’t mistake the pursuit of riches as the pursuit of happiness. Money is a needful thing, but it is not the sum of all things. Find happiness in the journey, and you will be doubly blessed in the end.