happiness
Week 43 is scheduled for study Oct. 19-25, 2020. The lessons this week don’t directly address the title of this lesson, but they do discuss how to find happiness, how to guarantee eventual sorrow, how to be faithful, and how to get answers to questions.

Day 1

3 Nephi 27:1–12 – The Church of Jesus Christ is called in His name.

The Lord commanded His disciples to write the things they experienced (see 3 Nephi 27:23–24). As you study, write down the spiritual experiences you have.

In an effort to try to see the Savior’s point, made in today’s lesson, I decided to try an experiment to imagine what would happen if I tried to call myself by another name. You see, I believe that when the Savior tells us to call his church by his name, it is not because he likes to hear his name said often. The covenants we all make to become a member of his church require that we take upon ourselves his name. We pray in his name. We exercise all the duties and privileges of his priesthood in his name. We are supposed to become his spiritual sons and daughters, members of his own family. Can you think of any good reason for calling the name of Christ’s church after the name of any other person or thing?

Let’s pretend for a moment that your family name is Merrill. Your heritage comes through that name, your inheritance, and your identity. But for some reason you decide you want your family to be known as The Place of the Holy Sepulcher. What is going to happen to your identity, your reputation, and the public’s opinion of you when you start introducing yourself as belonging to The Place of the Holy Sepulcher? Continue the practice for years. That name will appear on legal documents, at the bottom of your letters, and on your leases and agreements. After a while, how many people will even know that your last name is actually Merrill? Where is your identity now? Will you think with reverence back on your Merrill ancestors? Will you feel like you live to bring honor to your family name, or will your allegiance be for The Place of the Holy Sepulcher, the name by which you are known among all who have met you?

All our identity is tied up in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Our covenants bind us to him. Our priesthood blessings come from him. Even our very inheritance is only available through him. The name of the church to which we have become members is his church, with his covenants, and his promises of eternal blessings. If his church was to be known by any other name it is logical that sooner or later we would lose our focus on him as the church took on a separate identity from the other name we chose to live by.

This exercise has taught me, or at least given me a small glimpse at the importance of why we need to cherish and value the name of Christ we live by. Having his name in the name of the church reminds us who the source of all our blessings is, and why remembering him is so important. Our sacramental prayers each state the fact that we must always remember him if we want to always have the Holy Ghost to be with us. Even the word Christian tells the world we belong to Christ. It is indeed a privilege to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Day 2

3 Nephi 28:1–11 – As I purify my desires, I become a more faithful disciple.

The Lord commanded His disciples to write the things they experienced (see 3 Nephi 27:23–24). As you study, write down the spiritual experiences you have.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” My guess is that we have all had this question posed to us multiple times in our lives. How many of us actually knew at an early age exactly what we wanted to be? Chances are that very few of us knew, as children, what we wanted to be when we grew up. And how many of us have followed through on our stated desire to be a doctor, a firefighter, etc.? What I claimed I wanted to be when I grew up changed as I was exposed to new professions and fields of study.

My point here is that just as our chosen profession isn’t usually known when we are children, but becomes more clear as we grow and mature, so too does our spiritual journey take many twists and turns as we grow and mature in the gospel. The manual talks about needing to purify our desires to become a more faithful disciple. The purification of our desires is not a simple process. It isn’t something that is a choice, followed by a change, and voila your desires are purified.

When a new convert joins the church they only have the faintest glimmer of understanding of what is actually available to them spiritually in Christ’s church. Like a new baby, they have no clear comprehension of what lies before them on their road back to their spiritual home. It is through the experiences, the trials, the blessings and the joys of living the gospel life that these things are gradually revealed to each of us. What the new convert hoped for on the day of their baptism is (hopefully) not the same thing they hope for 10 years down the road of their mortal journey in the gospel life.

When we were young and thought we knew what we wanted to be when we grew up, most of us underwent many modifications to those desires. And it is not enough to want something and expect it to just happen. Desires must be backed up by action to come true. This is why we go to school, receive training, learn the vocabulary of our chosen field, etc. These practices all help us become and then be successful in what we chose to become. The same process happens in the gospel.

It isn’t enough to say I want to go to the celestial kingdom. I must learn the character and attributes of the people who are worthy to live there. Church government needs to be studied, wisdom in how to serve others needs to be learned, and I have to learn how to live as Christ lives. This is a lifelong endeavor, and it requires that it be done with forethought and deliberate intention. Becoming Christlike cannot happen by mistake.

Plan on the needed changes to your desires happening in incremental steps. As the Spirit reveals to you what needs to be added to your character or what needs to be removed from your character you will gradually become more like Christ. It is this process of deliberate and methodical change that creates the faithful disciple. Those who think that being faithful can be a matter of just doggedly performing their church duties will be shaken to the core when someone genuinely challenges their faith. To remain faithful we must become attached at the hip to the Holy Spirit. He must become our constant companion.

Day 3

4 Nephi 1:1–18 – Conversion to Jesus Christ and His gospel leads to unity and happiness.

The Lord commanded His disciples to write the things they experienced (see 3 Nephi 27:23–24). As you study, write down the spiritual experiences you have.

There are only two philosophies that rule the world. The Lord promises us that He will change us inside, so we are able to change what happens on our outside. His teachings take the proverbial slums out of us, leaving us to use our newly found hopes and knowledge to change the environment in which we live. The world operates by imposing external controls in an effort to find peace and happiness.

When the manual says “conversion to Jesus Christ and His gospel leads to unity and happiness” we are left to struggle with which philosophy we really adhere to. All our lives we have been taught by society that happiness and peace comes from isms – socialism, capitalism, communism, despotism, and so forth. There isn’t a single example of success from any of these philosophies that is capable of bringing people the kind of hope, joy, and lasting happiness that the gospel of Christ has the capability of bestowing.

The difficulty is that a sustained example of Christ’s gospel in action has only happened twice in recorded records, and the people were not able to sustain that happiness for more than a couple hundred years. The first example was the city of Enoch, and the Lord took the entire city up into heaven. I would call that a resounding success. The second example was in the Book of Mormon, and eventually the people rebelled against the light and knowledge given them from the Spirit and descended into warfare that totally destroyed their society. But they were happy as a people for more than 200 years.

We may only have two examples of whole societies believing in Christ and his gospel at one time, but we have many examples in the scriptures of the people living the gospel for brief periods of time, and during those times they were very happy.

I find it interesting that those who seek for righteousness in their lives are able to accept the flaws of others. They are patient and kind. Their society actually gives of their own possessions to lift others out of poverty, for they believe what the scriptures say that there will always be poor among us as long as the world shall stand. Those who seek for righteousness also seek to feel what others feel around them. They seek for understanding of others’ behaviors and become more and more tolerant in their nature. This is what creates unity among the people.

Those who reject the teachings of Christ and embrace the teachings of the world seek to excel and advance above and beyond their neighbors. They use pride to glory in their own accomplishments, and are troubled by the accomplishments of others. They seek to be special and set apart from all others. This causes divisions and strife among the people as one group vies for dominance over another. Over time the humanity and value of certain groups of people become discounted as unimportant, and some groups even decide that the world will be happier for themselves if they kill every member of the other group. This is why wickedness, the absence of righteousness, always eventually leads to war and death.

These aren’t special cases I’m talking about, but the natural result that comes from embracing either of the two main philosophies that govern our mortal life. Either we follow God’s commandments or we adhere to the teachings of the world. Knowing this happens as naturally as the sun rising in the morning, we should gain a greater sense of appreciation for the commandments of God. They are our only source of true and lasting happiness, even in times of trial, sorrow, and difficulty. The more faithfully we adhere to His commandments and His way of living, the greater the happiness that will flow into our lives. It truly is a matter of accepting the truth of the laws of nature and not trying to live and find happiness outside of those laws of happiness, “for wickedness never was happiness.”

Day 4

4 Nephi 1:19–49 – Wickedness leads to division and sorrow.

The Lord commanded His disciples to write the things they experienced (see 3 Nephi 27:23–24). As you study, write down the spiritual experiences you have.

Today’s lesson is an extension of yesterday’s lesson. Just as obedience to God’s commandments brings us happiness and joy, it is in the nature of not living by His commandments that pain, suffering, and sorrow flow into our lives. I think the Lord’s point is that there is only one way in all the universe to find true and lasting happiness, and that is the way presented to us in the gospel. Any other path through life will not result in what we all intrinsically want, and that is a sense of happiness, belonging, and peace.

Even for those who are obedient to the commandments the joy we seek is only promised in full in the next life. We can’t expect that during our test we will experience all the benefits of having passed the test. Those benefits can only be awarded to those who have done what was required to receive those benefits. That is just common sense.

If you haven’t read President Benson’s talk on pride referenced in the manual, it is important that you read it. It is the best treatment on the sin of pride ever written.

FHE/Personal Scripture Study

3 Nephi 28:17–18, 36–40 – Finding answers

There are two main points I would like to address for today’s lesson. First is about asking questions in general, and second is about getting answers to those questions.

There seems to be a segment in the church who have acquired the notion somewhere along their learning path that has taught them that questioning doctrine or the Brethren is a sign of outright apostasy, and is to be shunned or avoided at all costs. The truth is that nothing could be further from the truth. Asking questions because you want to understand something is a fundamental basic in the gospel of Christ.

Look again at the verses listed for this lesson. What was Mormon, the compiler of the Book of Mormon, and a major prophet, doing? He was seeking clarification, because he didn’t understand something he had been taught in the gospel. Mormon was doing what the Savior has repeatedly told all of us to do. When he was confused he followed the Savior’s plea to ask, knock, and seek. You can’t do any of those things without saying out loud, “I don’t understand. Please explain this to me.”

The difference between those who ask and remain faithful in the church and those who ask and leave the church is that those in the first category continue to believe while they search, ponder, pray, and study it out in their mind. Those who question then promptly give up on their faith, because in their mind there appears to be a contradiction of some sort, give up on the teachings of the gospel without giving the Lord a chance to work with them and lead them to the answers they need. This is what makes reading anti-church literature so dangerous. It isn’t that much of that literature is simply a painted interpretation of the facts. It is that once we start reading anti literature we overwhelm ourselves with so many questions that the doubts begin to outweigh our faith, and we spiritually take a nosedive into a state of confusion that can easily lead us out of the church.

Answers are available, but we need to know some of the rules of seeking answers and getting answers. Are you aware that prophets as far back as Brigham Young were asking God for clarification on the question of blacks and the priesthood? Every president of the church had to deal with that question at some point during his time as prophet, yet it wasn’t until 1978 before the Lord definitively declared the stance of the church on that vital issue. Answers come in the Lord’s own way and in His own time. We must be willing to do all in our personal power to seek and be worthy for answers, but still be willing to wait until the Lord is ready to give us those answers.

My mother taught me to have an imaginary shelf for all my questions that weren’t getting answered right away. When I come across an issue I don’t understand, I study it out and see what various prophets have said about it. If it is found in the scriptures then I study those as well. I try to reason the issue out in my own mind, based on what I currently know about the gospel then, if I still can’t feel comfortable about the answers I am getting, I put it on the “shelf.” At some future time I take that issue down and reexamine it. If I still don’t feel comfortable with it, it goes back on the shelf. Eventually, enough change takes place in me, or in the world around me, that when I remember that issue I put on the shelf all those years ago, I suddenly realize it makes sense, and I can see why it is the way it is.

This concept of continuing to believe, even when we don’t understand, is an important one. There will always be questions we won’t get answered in this life. If we give up just because an answer doesn’t come immediately, we will inevitably end up short changing ourselves by throwing away our faith that paved our path back to our eternal home.

Questions are a vital part of the gospel of Christ. The basic lessons in the manuals, and the basics of the written word can’t hold all answers to every situation and doctrine. Much of the gospel has to be personally revealed through the Holy Ghost to each individual. What we find is that what the prophets and the scriptures say will back up what the Spirit reveals to us, even if they don’t address the issue directly. Part of our maturing process in the gospel is our ability to wrestle with doubt and questions, yet persevere in righteousness anyway. This is what it means to walk the covenant path. This is what it means to hold out faithful until the end. The Lord wants us to come to Him with questions, because He wants to reveal truth to us in abundance. But that truth must be fought for and be a hard-won victory. For our own good He cannot just hand out the mysteries of the universe, for we must prepare ourselves to receive them and live them as they come, and that takes change on our part.

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BoM Week 43

(3 Nephi 27-4 Nephi)