Each time I read 2 Nephi 5:271 I am intrigued by Nephi’s words we lived after the manner of happiness. These words are especially insightful when you consider the circumstances Nephi and his family found themselves in. After reading this scripture again last month as part of my individual study, I decided to do some additional study on the topic of happiness and especially living after the manner of happiness. In light of the current global pandemic, the timing could not have been better!
Is it possible today to live after the manner of happiness? Absolutely! Is there confusion and chaos all around us? Yes! But does that really have anything to do with our happiness?
In a BYU-Idaho devotional a few years ago, Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us that the first thirty years of the Book of Mormon were quite the opposite of what would normally be described as happy. He said, “The first 30 years of Book of Mormon history do not present a pleasant story. After the abrupt necessity of abandoning their entire earthly fortune, leaving Jerusalem hastily on the eve of international conflict, crossing the Arabian peninsula in the most adverse of circumstances, building a boat without any prior experience in doing so, crossing an ocean with would-be fatal conflicts breaking out repeatedly and landing in a primitive, unknown new land with all the hardship such a settlement would entail, the hostility within the family of Lehi and Sariah became so intense that the two halves of their family split asunder, with one group fleeing yet farther into the wilderness, fearing for their lives lest they fall victim to the bloodthirsty quest of the other. As they plunged into unsettled terrain to seek safety and fashion a life for themselves as best they could, the prophet-leader of this Nephite half of the family says they now tried to live ‘after the manner of happiness.’ In light of what they had just been through for thirty years and with what we know yet lay in store for them in the trials almost constantly ahead, such a comment seems almost painful. How could any of this be described as anything remotely like ‘happiness’?”2
Although our own list of trials most likely won’t come anywhere close to Nephi’s, we all have experienced heartache, loss, betrayal and unexpected changes in our lives. No one is exempt from times that would be difficult, if not impossible, to describe as happy. But Elder Holland emphasized, “Nephi does not say they were happy, though it is evident they actually were. What he says is, they ‘lived after the manner of happiness.’ … There is a wonderful key in that phrase that can unlock precious blessings for you. … Your best chance for being happy is to do the things that happy people do. Live the way happy people live. Walk the path that happy people walk. And your chances to find joy in unexpected moments, to find peace in unexpected places, to find the help of angels when you didn’t even know they knew you existed, improves exponentially. … Above all else, ultimate happiness, true peace, and anything even remotely close to scriptural joy are found first, foremost, and forever in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.”2
President Spencer W. Kimball similarly taught, “The treasure house of happiness is unlocked to those who live the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and simplicity. … The assurance of supreme happiness, the certainty of a successful life here and of exaltation and eternal life hereafter, come to those who plan to live their lives in complete harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ—and then consistently follow the course they have set.”3
Richard G. Scott said, “Recognize that enduring happiness comes from what you are, not from what you have.”4
This surely was the case with Nephi and his people. Earlier in Chapter 5, Nephi indicated that they “did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things.”5 And even as they were trying to build their new life, they “did build a temple.”6 They knew that to live after the manner of happiness it was necessary put the Savior at the center of their lives!
Living that way filled their lives with hope.
“Hope,” taught Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “has the power to fill our lives with happiness. … Hope is … the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. In the language of the gospel, this hope is sure, unwavering, and active. … With hope comes joy and happiness. With hope, we can ‘have patience, and bear … [our] afflictions.’”7
I love the reminder that hope is active. We have to do something! With an active hope in Jesus Christ, no matter what is going on in our lives, we can live after the manner of happiness.
Neal A. Maxwell taught about active hope when he said, “Those … who ‘plow in hope’ not only understand the law of the harvest but they also understand what growing seasons are all about.”8 This active hope propels us not only to act and sustains us if we are patience in our “growing seasons.” We must plant hope in the Savior if we want to reap peace and happiness. True happiness only comes because of Him.
Elder Maxwell continues, “The more we know of Jesus, the more we will love Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will trust Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will want to be like Him and to be with Him by becoming the manner of men and women that He wishes us to be, while living now ‘after the manner of happiness.’ Therefore, with the help of the Holy Ghost, we can glorify Christ by repenting and thereby accessing the blessings of the astonishing Atonement which He provided for us at such a stunning cost! So, brothers and sisters, given what Jesus died for, are we willing to live with the challenges allotted to us?”8
Trials are a necessary part of this earthly life. We knew that before we came here. And we have a loving Heavenly Father who has never expected us to bear those trials alone. We will never live after the manner of happiness if our lives are filled with despair. Despair is the opposite of hope. President Uchtdorf warned, “Doubt, despair and failure … can cause us to forfeit choice and precious blessings. The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.”7
Many are feeling such despair right now. Oh, how we should follow President Uchtdorf’s advice to harness the infinite power of hope! He reassures us that hope “is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion, and of fear.”7
From the moment President Nelson addressed us as our new prophet, he has asked us to make our homes sanctuaries of faith, increase our ability to receive personal revelation, increase our temple worship, learn and live the gospel of Jesus Christ, and come to know the Savior better. When we strive to do each of these, we truly are living after the manner of happiness! This is active hope!
President Uchtdorf said, “The things we hope in sustain us during our daily walk. They uphold us through trials, temptations, and sorrow. Everyone has experienced discouragement and difficulty. Indeed, there are times when the darkness may seem unbearable. It is in these times that the divine principles of the restored gospel we hope in can uphold us and carry us until, once again, we walk in the light. We hope in Jesus the Christ, in the goodness of God, in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, in the knowledge that prayers are heard and answered. Hope sustains us through despair. Hope teaches that there is reason to rejoice even when all seems dark around us.”7
Although there is despair all around us, we have great reason to hope. Nearly twenty years ago, Neal A. Maxwell said, “The world is ‘in commotion,’ but the kingdom is in forward motion as never before!”8 That perfectly describes what is happening now. The world is in commotion! For many the future is very uncertain. But we can feel peace as we live after the manner of happiness by following the prophet of God. He has told us, “Life is filled with detours and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are here to have joy[.] … The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. … For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy!”9
How blessed we are to be led by a living prophet! The kingdom of God is indeed moving forward at an unprecedented pace.
A few days ago, President Nelson sent out a video to help us live after the manner of happiness during this strange and trying time. He told us, “My dear friends, our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ know us, love us, and are watching over us. Of that we can be certain. These unique challenges will pass in due time. I remain optimistic for the future. I know the great and marvelous blessings that God has in store for those who love Him and serve Him. I see evidence of His hand in this holy work in so many ways. So, during these uncertain times, be comforted by this promise from the Savior. He said, ‘I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say.’ I promise you that joy is always within the reach of everyone who will hear Him and obey His laws. I love you. I pray for you. And I promise that you will receive comfort and peace as you continue to hear Him.”10
At a time when we are being constantly reminded to take care of ourselves physically and distance ourselves from unseen dangers, let’s not forget to take care of ourselves spiritually, always guarding against anything that can be spiritually harmful.
May we “live the way happy people live” and “walk the path that happy people walk” so that we can “find joy in unexpected moments, … peace in unexpected places, and … the help of angels.”2 I know that true happiness is found in living the gospel of Jesus Christ and walking the covenant path back to our heavenly home.
1. 2 Nephi 5:27
2. Living After the Manner of Happiness – Jeffrey R. Holland
3. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball – Chapter 1
4. Making the Right Decisions – Richard G. Scott
5. 2 Nephi 5:10
6. 2 Nephi 5:16
7. The Infinite Power of Hope – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
8. Plow in Hope – Neal A. Maxwell
9. Joy and Spiritual Survival – Russell M. Nelson
10. My Message of Hope and Love for You – Russell M. Nelson