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.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Search for Happiness

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals are happy. Wise parents, teachers, and leaders will teach the rising generation how to find happiness by their words and examples.

            I have often wondered in recent weeks and months about the level of hate and unhappiness in the world around me. I question the speed with which riots happen and the numbers of protests taking place in our nation. Why is there so much unhappiness?

            I opened my news feed recently and found two articles having to do with happiness.
The first article was a talk titled “The Quest for Happiness” given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This talk was given at Brigham Young University-Idaho on September 23, 2014. It was printed in the September 2016 New Era. He begins his talk with this paragraph:

I do not think God in his glory or the angels of heaven or the prophets on earth intend to make us happy all the time, every day in every way, given the testing and trial this earthly realm is intended to provide. As President James E. Faust (1920-2007) once phrased it: “Happiness is not given to us in a package that we can just open up and consume. Nobody is ever happy 24 hours a day, seven days a week” (“Our Search for Happiness,” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 2). But my reassurance to you today is that in God’s plan we can do very much to find the happiness we do desire. We can take certain steps, we can form certain habits, we can do certain things that God and history tell us lead to happiness.”

            In the body of his talk Elder Holland discusses four actions we can take to increase our own happiness and to help others to find more happiness.

1. Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 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. Lots of other philosophies and systems of belief have been tried. Indeed it seems safe to say that virtually every other philosophy and system has been tried down through the centuries of history. But when the Apostle Thomas asked the Lord the question young people often ask today, “How can we know the way?” (and at your age in life that really translates, “How can we know the ay to be happy?”), Jesus gave the answer that rings from eternity to all eternity, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. … And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. … If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:5-6, 13-14)….

2. Choose to Be Happy. Second, learn as quickly as you can that so much of your happiness is in your hands, not in events or circumstances or fortune or misfortune. That is part of what the battle for agency was over in the premortal councils of heaven. We have choice, we have the power to make our own decisions, we have agency, and we can choose if not happiness per se, then we can choose to live after the manner of it. Happiness comes first by what comes into your head a long time before it comes into your hand….

3. Don’t Be Negative, Mean, or Angry. You can never, worlds without end, build your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness. That is what bullying is. That is what catty remarks are. That is what arrogance and superficiality and exclusiveness are. Perhaps we think if we are negative enough, or cynical enough, or just plain mean enough, then expectations won’t be too high; we can keep everyone down to a flaw-filled level and therefore our flaws won’t be so glaring. Happy people aren’t negative or cynical or mean, so don’t plan on that being part of the “manner” of happiness. If my life has taught me anything, it is that kindness and pleasantness and faith-based optimism are characteristics of happy people. A related step along the path toward happiness is to avoid animosity, contention, and anger in your life.

4. Work Hard and Study. …If you want to be happy in school, or on a mission, or in a marriage – work at it. Learn to work. Serve diligently. Don’t be idle and mischievous. A homespun definition of Christlike character might be the integrity to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. So don’t be idle. Don’t be wasteful. Do the right thing at the right time. “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). “Be industrious, and … labor,” including laboring for and serving others, one of the truly great keys to true happiness.

            Elder Holland counsels us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, choose to be happy, don’t be negative, mean, or angry, and work hard and study. He closes his talk by testifying that God desires His children to be happy and will help us as we use our agency to seek happiness.

            The second article concerns the secrets of happiness that we can learn from Hawaiians. A recently released Gallup poll had the headline, “Hawaii Leads U.S. States in Well-Being for Record Sixth Time.” This poll proves that Hawaiians are the happiest people in the United States. Therefore, they can teach me some of the secrets to finding happiness.

            Cameron C. Taylor is the author of the article titled “5 Secrets for Happiness We Can All Learn From Hawaiians.” The author uses the “five principles of aloha: puliki, `aka, aloha, `aina, napo`o `ano o ka la and ohana” to explain Hawaiian happiness.

1. Puliki is the Hawaiian word for “embrace.” Hugs are the Hawaiian handshake, but a Hawaiian hug is much more than a greeting. It is an expression of love, trust, hospitality, and family….

2. `Aka (laughter) is a very important part of Hawaiian life. Hawaiians understand that laughter is one of the greatest emotions and is a pure form of communication with God. Life should be filled with laughter….

3. The literal translation of aloha `aina is “love of the land,” but as with all Hawaiian words, the definition cannot be captured with a few words of translation. The phrase aloha `aina is a connection with God and His creations. Nature is a great gift from our Creator and is much more than physical objects….

4. Napo`o `ana o ka la. While in Hawaii, it is fun to see people gather each night and watch the setting of the sun in silence. Each sunset is an opportunity to watch God as He paints on His heavenly canvas and is a clear reminder of the immensity of God’s power, creations, and grace. Watching the sunset helps us connect with God and helps us hear God speaking to us….

5. Ohana (family) comes from the highly reverenced word `oha. `Oha is a word for the ancient taro root from which all taro has sprung. The taro plant was a staple of life to the ancient Hawaiians and was a main source of food and medicine. The word ohana signifies that all people come from the same root – God….

            The counsel given by Elder Holland and the examples of the Hawaiians support each other. Just as Elder Holland counsels us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Hawaiian principles teach us that God created this beautiful world for us and reminds us of His power and glory with each sunrise and sunset. Just as Elder Holland counsels us to choose to be happy and not be negative, mean, or angry, the Hawaiians teach us to laugh, hug, and treat each other as family. Elder Holland counsels us to work hard and study, and the Hawaiians teach us to enjoy nature. I enjoy nature by working in my yard and studying how to make my gardens more lovely and more productive.

            There is an old saying that shows the importance of using our agency to seek happiness. It is, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by choosing to be happy and teaching this skill to the rising generation.

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