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. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Free to Be Happy

                The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is how to achieve lasting happiness.  We all desire to be happy and enjoy life, and we all chase different methods to achieve happiness.  Yet millions of people are unhappy at any given time.

                The Declaration of Independence states:  “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….”

                Thomas Jefferson and the other Signers recognized that all mankind has the God-given right to be happy.  An ancient American prophet named Lehi taught his children, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:25).

                The late David O. McKay, a prophet in our day, taught that “happiness is the purpose and design of existence.  `Men are that they might have joy.’  Virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping the commandments of God lead to a happy life; those who follow that path re not long-faced and sanctimonious, depriving themselves of the joys of existence.”  (See Pathways to Happiness, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay [1957], xi; as quoted by Craig P. Wilson in “Lasting Happiness,” Ensign, April 2014, pp. 16-21.) 

                In his article Mr. Wilson suggests several traits that are common among people who live happy and meaningful lives.  (1) “Happy people are content with having their basic needs met.  Researchers have found that across cultures around the world, being able to obtain such basics as food, shelter, and clothing (and to acquire perhaps `a little bit more’) produces high levels of long-term satisfaction in people….”

                (2) “Even when they live in a materialistic society, happy people are not ruled by the often mistaken idea that `more is better.’ … The evidence strongly suggests that in contrast to getting caught up in the culture of `wanting it all,’ the practice of simplifying our lives can lead to greater financial peace and overall well-being….”

                (3) “Happy people are involved in something they believe is bigger than themselves.  Whether through involvement in a religious organization or through working in a meaningful job, those who are happiest are able to lose themselves in a worthwhile cause….”

                (4) “Happy people use their personal strengths to bless the lives of others.  What are our personal strengths?  While we might be inclined to think of these as our talents (such as piano playing or woodworking), there are other kinds of personal strengths – what psychologist Martin Seligman calls our `signature strengths.’  These include `integrity, valor, originality, and kindness.’  They are `are moral traits, while talents are nonmoral.’  Dr. Seligman further defines signature strengths as `what parents wish for their newborn (“I want my child to be loving, to be brave, to be prudent”).  … They would not say they want their child to have a job in middle management.’  The more we are able to identify these signature strengths and find creative, meaningful ways to use them to improve life around us, the happier and more fulfilled we will be….”

                (5) “Happy people foster close friendships and family relationships….  Although having acquaintances and casual friends can be rewarding, it is the supportive, close relationships that are essential to happiness.  `The Family:  A Proclamation to the World’ clearly affirms the importance of creating and maintaining loving family relationships.  It also pointedly reminds us that `happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ’….”

                (6) “Happy people focus less on transient, pleasurable pursuits and more on enduring, meaningful ones.  Depression has become increasingly common in all the wealthy countries of the world.  Why is this so?  Psychologist Martin Seligman suggest that one of the culprits is an `over-reliance on shortcuts to happiness.  Every wealthy nation creates more and more shortcuts to pleasure:  television, drugs, shopping, loveless sex, spectator sports, and chocolate to name just a few.’  Noting what little effort a ready-made breakfast required of him, he asks, `What would happen if my entire life were made up of such easy pleasures, never calling on my strengths, never presenting challenges?  Such a life sets one up for depression’….”

                (7) “Happy people strive to become more selfless.  Deciding to forget oneself and reach out to others brings immeasurable blessings to the giver.  Authors Gary Morsch and Dean Nelson explain that `while the scientific evidence shows we are wired toward altruism, there is still a choice involved.  The beauty of the choice is that, when we choose to serve others, something wonderful happens.’  And what kind of wonderful thing might that be?  Morsch and Nelson describe what one group experienced after helping repair a building damaged by a hurricane:  `They felt their lives meant something while they were doing something for someone else.  They had helped someone in a concrete way, and it made them feel alive.  They didn’t say it made them feel good.  Lots of things can do that.  This brought them to life` ….”

                Mr. Wilson closed his account by referencing another story in the Book of Mormon.  After Jesus Christ was resurrected, He visited the people living in ancient America.  For nearly two hundred years following the Savior’s visit, the people lived together in love and consecration and “had all things common among them” (4 Nephi 1:3).  The account continues with this statement “surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Nephi 1:15-16).

                We can become happy.  We have the God-given right to be happy.  In order to be truly happy, we must turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and invite Him into our lives.  We are free to be happy in spite of any negative things in our lives.  We can become truly happy by developing the seven traits listed above.

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