Edited from: Jack H. Goaslind, “Happiness,” Ensign, May 1986, 52
Last summer I saw an interesting picture as I followed a car on the freeway. It was a large station wagon that had obviously endured many road skirmishes. The top rack was loaded with luggage; the seats were loaded with people. Four bare feet hung out the rear window, and elbows and arms hung out the side windows. In the front seat, the mother was wrestling with a feisty child while simultaneously trying to calm an upset infant. The father was desperately trying to negotiate the heavy traffic. It was obviously vacation time for this family. As I surveyed the situation with some degree of empathy, I noticed a bumper sticker which read, “Are we having fun yet?”
I laugh about this scene whenever I recall it. I believe it is amusing because it exhibits a wry insight into human nature. It reveals a very real aspect of the human condition: the largely unfulfilled pursuit of happiness. The implications of the question “Are we having fun yet?” are profound. How many people in this world pursue happiness but find that it eludes them? They contrive pleasures, invent amusements, and invest heavily in recreation. They go abroad in search of this rare gift but fail to see that evidence of it is all around them; the source is within them.
As I have occasion to be with wonderful people throughout the world, I am often moved by the many individuals I meet who are looking for happiness, but not quite finding it. They yearn and strive and endure, but seem to be asking, “Am I happy yet?” I desire to assure you that happiness is real. It can be experienced here, and we can know a fulness of joy in the hereafter. May I share with you some insights about the kind of happiness promised by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lehi’s words to his son Jacob include a profound truth: “All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” 2 Nephi 2:24-25.
Our wise and loving Father in Heaven is concerned for the welfare of his children. He desires to see us happy. The very purpose of our lives can be defined in terms of happiness. 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.” (History of the Church, 5:134.)
The Book of Mormon makes it clear that happiness is our destiny. It speaks of dwelling “with God in a state of never-ending happiness.” Mosiah 2:4. It is also made clear that “all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame, … raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil.” We also learn that we are “raised to happiness according to [our] desires of happiness.” Alma 41:4-5.
The doctrine is concisely summarized by Alma: “Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” Alma 41:10. If we are not pure, we would be miserable in the presence of God and Christ, who are by their very nature happy and joyful and cannot look upon sin with any allowance.
The suffering that results from sin is most tragic because through our own choices we can choose to avoid it. We have that power. We also have the capacity to repent of our sins and to experience the sweet joy of forgiveness. If we are unhappy, let us examine ourselves to see where we need to repent. If we have questions about what we need to do, or not do, we need only listen to our conscience and follow the promptings of the Spirit.
Striving for happiness is a long, hard journey with many challenges. It requires eternal vigilance to win the victory. You cannot succeed with sporadic little flashes of effort. Constant and valiant living is necessary. That is why patience and faith are so often associated in the scriptures. You must “withstand every temptation of the devil, with [your] faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.”Alma 37:33. But remember, faith is not a magical formula. It requires that you make a deliberate decision to do good and then carry out your decision. Do it. Simply do it, and do it long enough that you experience success, no matter how hard it may seem. Your victory over self brings communion with God and results in happiness—lasting and eternal happiness.
As Church members, our mission should be the greatest, noblest mission in the universe—the salvation of souls. President David O. McKay was fond of quoting the poet Robert Browning, who said, “There is an answer to the passionate longings of the heart for fullness, and I knew it, and the answer is this: Live in all things outside yourself by love, and you will have joy.
Service helps us forget our own travails; it enlarges our souls and gives us greater capacity to endure our own trials.
Now, I have spoken of our Father’s plan of happiness by which he guides us into eternal joy. I have talked about overcoming sin through repentance and self-mastery, and I have spoken of taking the edge off adversity through selfless service. Self-mastery and service are keys to our Father’s plan. Christ told his disciples:
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love. …
“These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15:10-11.
The commandments are guides to happiness. I implore you to follow them.
“Are we having fun yet, experiencing true happiness?” I certainly am. I find great joy in life in obeying and serving. I pray that you may also discover the elusive treasure of true happiness through the means that were ordained by our Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen