happiness
Scheduled for study Feb 3-9, 2020. How to live after the manner of happiness is not spelled out in this week’s lessons. Yet everything that is talked about contributes to our understanding of how to be happy. It is up to each person who studies these chapters to make the connection for themselves.

Day 1

2 Nephi 2 – I am free to choose eternal life.

The scriptures can open the door to personal revelation. As you read 2 Nephi 1-5, you may find that the Lord has something specific that He wants to teach you.

Today’s lesson is the outline of the plan of salvation we are promised by the Introduction to the Book of Mormon. I have written an extensive article discussing today’s chapter. You can find it here:

The crucial point to today’s lesson has to do with our moral agency. We need to remember that if the Lord were to interfere with our agency in even the tiniest way, His judgments of us in the future would be tainted by interference. So when the scriptures tell us in clear and plain terms that whether we receive eternal joy and happiness or eternal misery and damnation it is a result of our own choices, believe it. As much as our Father in Heaven and our Savior would love it if we all willingly chose to follow them and receive the joy that comes from their way of living, they are fully aware that many of God’s family will reject the happiness they could have received, because they really don’t want the responsibilities and burdens carried by the highest forms of happiness.

One of the principles of happiness is that with happiness and joy come responsibilities. If we reject the highest forms of responsibilities, we also reject the highest forms of happiness. What level of happiness we finally receive in the resurrection will reflect what we were willing to accept and live by in mortality. It truly is our choice – the receipt of joy or the receipt of misery – eternal life or eternal damnation. We cannot blame God for our choices, because He will never interfere with our right to make those choices for ourselves.

Day 2

2 Nephi 2:22–29 – The Fall and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are essential parts of Heavenly Father’s plan.

The scriptures can open the door to personal revelation. As you read 2 Nephi 1-5, you may find that the Lord has something specific that He wants to teach you.

You cannot have a coin with only one side. And just as a coin must have two sides, neither the Fall of man nor the redemption of man could have happened alone. Both the Fall and the Atonement were necessary for our salvation. The Fall begins the process and the Atonement (ending with the resurrection) completes it.

Don’t get me wrong. When I say the Atonement completes the action begun by the Fall, I don’t mean everything having to do with these two events is in the past. As long as there are children still coming to earth from our premortal home both the Fall and the Atonement will be active and working in the lives of mortals on earth. By complete I mean that the work has been completed to open the door for all mankind’s salvation.

We need to remember that our Father in Heaven is working in eternity. He does not operate in a linear fashion like we do in our time in mortality. For us there must always be a beginning and an end, and something that happens later doesn’t usually have the ability to affect something that came before it, since it is already in the past. With God, who sees the future as if it is today, there is not a problem with the concept of forgiving people of their sins in Adam’s day because of a payment for sins that would occur many centuries in the future. He knows it will happen, so He forgave the sins of those who were fallen from grace, but hadn’t yet, technically or physically, been redeemed from their fall from His grace. This means that people in Adam’s day were still forgiven of their repented sins, even though they were obedient to laws that wouldn’t be fulfilled for several millennia in the future.

It is the Fall and the Atonement combination that provides all of us with the mortal experience and the opportunities for exaltation we learn about in Church. Without either one of these events, the whole plan of salvation would fail to deliver on its promises to redeem all of God’s children and offer exaltation to all those who were obedient to the commandments and made covenants with God. Below is a link to an article on gospelstudy.us that discusses the Fall and the Atonement in greater detail.

Day 3

2 Nephi 3:6–24 – Joseph Smith was foreordained to restore the gospel.

The scriptures can open the door to personal revelation. As you read 2 Nephi 1-5, you may find that the Lord has something specific that He wants to teach you.

I have a challenge for you for today’s lesson. I had to do this challenge myself before I could write anything about Joseph Smith. Think of just how many sunsets you have been alive to witness in your time on earth. Do you have any kind of idea how many of those sunsets you have actually stopped to admire and try to appreciate for its uniqueness? This is the trouble I was having with trying to appreciate the specialness that is Joseph Smith.

After decades of study about what happened to Joseph Smith during his lifetime, rehearsing all his accomplishments, and reading account after account of his trials and victories, his life can become like we sometimes think of the birth of Jesus – we can recount all the facts, but it takes something special to once again touch our heart and soul to realize just how unique and important to us the man really was.

When we think about important people, like Noah, Adam, Moses, and others, where does Joseph Smith rank among such an elite body of individuals? We are taught that next to Jesus himself, no one has done more for the salvation of mankind than Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3). Now that is a claim! Do you believe it? Do you feel the power of that statement? Let’s look at some of the statements Lehi made about the importance of Joseph Smith as a savior of his (Lehi’s) own posterity. All of these quotes come from the reading assignment for today’s lesson.

seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.

Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.

he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him. And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work.

he shall be great like unto Moses

But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.

Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.

out of weakness he shall be made strong,

Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded;

And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.

I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it.

And the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins.

After saying all of that about Joseph Smith, Lehi followed these comments with what will happen because of the work Joseph would do for Lehi’s posterity and for the world.

And it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust; for I know their faith.

And they shall cry from the dust; yea, even repentance unto their brethren, even after many generations have gone by them. And it shall come to pass that their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words.

Because of their faith their words shall proceed forth out of my mouth unto their brethren who are the fruit of thy loins; and the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers.

Lehi ends his comments to his son Joseph with this description of the man named Joseph who would rise up in the last days to bring salvation to Lehi’s posterity and to the world.

And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.

When we think of Joseph Smith being the prophet of the Restoration, I am guessing that what we are referring to (at least I am always referring to) him being the prophet of the restoration of the gospel Christ taught that was lost through apostasy throughout the Mediterranean basin. In the past it has never even crossed my mind that he is also the prophet of the restoration of all the covenants made to the people of Lehi and all the prophets back to Adam. Every prophet was promised that after Israel rejected their Savior and were scattered, that a prophet, a choice seer, would be raised up to restore all the covenants made by God with His people, and to begin the process of gathering scattered Israel back into the covenant fold. He would also begin the process of bringing back all the laws and covenants given to man from the beginning of time to prepare the people on earth for the second coming of the Savior of the world.

This restoration isn’t just about restoring the covenants of the Church Christ started in Israel 2,000 years ago. This restoration is the restoration of all of God’s laws and covenants since the days of Adam and include the covenants of every dispensation. This is an ongoing process, and it was begun by Joseph’s first vision in that sacred grove.

Joseph Smith is more than just A prophet. Joseph is THE prophet of the Restoration, the beginning of the restoration of all the covenants ever to be made available for the salvation of the human race. We should be in awe when we think how closely connected with this great man we truly are. When I thought about when he lived, I realized that my grandparent’s grandparents walked with him, talked with him, and were loved and taught by him. We are so blessed to live in the time when this greatest of prophets walked the earth and taught the world the eternal truths of the gospel.

If we each take a few minutes and think about the blessings we now enjoy because of Joseph Smith’s humility, courage, and efforts to commune with God, the Spirit will help us to feel the power and privilege that was invested in the man called Joseph Smith. And all of those blessings and covenants he received have been given to the world to enjoy.

Day 4

2 Nephi 4:15–35 – I can turn to God in my weakness.

The scriptures can open the door to personal revelation. As you read 2 Nephi 1-5, you may find that the Lord has something specific that He wants to teach you.

If ever there was a lopsided depiction of a person’s soul in the scriptures it is Nephi’s description of himself. All through 1 Nephi he is nothing but faithful. Not once does his own record show that he faltered or doubted, worried, or resented what his visionary father demanded of him. Nephi was absolutely faithful in all things, even when the prophet, himself, complained and doubted the Lord. Yet in 2 Nephi 4 Nephi has these verses that makes him sound just like the rest of us. Here is the passage.

17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins;

Sound familiar? We recognize the goodness of God, but it seems that the more we recognize His mercy and kindness, the worse we feel about our own behavior. That is interesting that it is those who are oblivious to their sins and shortcomings who are also oblivious to God’s grace. The closer we draw to the Lord, the more acutely aware we become of not only His goodness to us, but of our failings before Him.

Is it a bad thing that we come to recognize our failings before God? How else can we repent of them if we can’t see them or don’t feel any sorrow for them? I believe that what Nephi is describing in these verses is an eternal truth, that the closer we draw to God, the more aware we become of what we still need to repent of and fix in our lives. This sensitivity is a blessing from the Lord to help us make progress. We only become aware of our failings and shortfalls because we become desirous of repenting of them.

Notice that Nephi’s sorrow for his sins is ultimately swallowed up in his joy in his Savior and the goodness of God. This is the promise we have from the Lord, that those who come to Christ and repent of their sins will have their  sorrows swallowed up in the joy God will provide for them. The sorrows don’t go away, at least not yet, but we are so busy counting our many blessings that our weaknesses can’t hold a candle to the sheer joy of recognizing and counting all the blessings heaped upon our heads by the Lord. I believe the day will come, at some point in the far future, that we will have repented of so many of our shortcomings that our main sensation will be the joy we have in the Lord, for His abundance will completely overshadow our lack.

Day 5

2 Nephi 5 – Happiness is found in living the gospel.

The scriptures can open the door to personal revelation. As you read 2 Nephi 1-5, you may find that the Lord has something specific that He wants to teach you.

I saw a meme in Facebook that expressed the sentiment that just because life hands you a cactus, it doesn’t mean you have to make yourself miserable by sitting on it. Look at the people of Nephi. They were alone in a strange land. They had no other cultures than their own to interact with. Half of the family wanted to kill them on sight, and they had to defend themselves with bloodshed to protect their own families. Nothing was easy. They had to make everything themselves. It wasn’t like they had inventions and nice things that had been passed down to them by their forefathers. No, they had to make everything themselves.

Yet for all there was to complain about, the people of Nephi built themselves a temple and adorned it with the best they could produce to please the Lord. They were obedient to the commandments, and they loved their families, and listened to the prophets. Despite their circumstances they were living after the manner of happiness. The manner of happiness being the life we live when we stay close to the Lord’s servants and to the scriptures. Yes, there are always hardships, but that doesn’t mean that life is unduly raw or unfair. It just means we need to perhaps be a little more creative in our solutions.

The Nephites, Israelites broken off the trunk of the Israelitish tree, were prospering and finding joy in this life, even with all the disadvantages and problems they had to tackle. There is no reason for any of us not to be able to find joy in this life. We just need to prioritize the commandments of the Lord first, and He will align everything else for us.

Day 6

2 Nephi 5:20–21 – What is the “curse” that came upon the Lamanites?

The scriptures can open the door to personal revelation. As you read 2 Nephi 1-5, you may find that the Lord has something specific that He wants to teach you.

To curse someone is to pronounce that they will be afflicted, tormented, scourged, or plagued in some way. It is a pronouncement, or wish, of misery or evil upon that person. We think of cursing someone as an act of willful hatred or extreme dislike. Yet when God curses His children can we really believe it is because he dislikes or hates us? When our Father in Heaven pronounces a curse it is a statement of fact. His curses are never driven by true anger or hatred.

Just as God pronounces blessings upon those who keep His laws, so too does He pronounce punishments (some would call these curses) upon those who disobey His laws. These pronouncements are not driven by passion, but as an expression of the outcome of eternal laws – blessings being pronounced in a spirit of love, and curses pronounced with a spirit of sorrow for those children who refuse to accept the happiness God desires for them. Just as obedience to God’s laws always bring a state of never-ending happiness, so too does disobedience to those same laws bring or generate misery. That is the nature of the laws under which the universe is governed. These are universal outcomes.

The true curse of disobedience comes from being cut off from the spirit of God. It is behavior that ultimately leads to the second death, being separated from God, the source of all happiness, for eternity. In the case of the Lamanites, their parents taught them to live in a state of rebellion against all that God represents. They pronounced their own curse upon their posterity by teaching them to hate God and His servants.

Anyone who has wandered away from the truth early on in their life then came back after their children were raised, have seen this for themselves. Their children were raised in the world, without respect or obedience to God’s commandments. Even though their parents may have returned, they must be converted afresh, as though they had never had the gospel truths in their family before. I have met many parents who mourn over their “lost children” who have taught the subsequent generations to reject the truths of the gospel message. The grandparents may have returned to activity in the Church, but their children and grandchildren often live without God for generations to come. This is the true curse given to Laman and Lemuel’s posterity.

Their promise though was that because those children weren’t given a chance to choose the right, eventually, their posterity would be taught the gospel and be given a chance to return to a covenant state with God, so they could experience the happiness and joy only obedience to the commandments can bring. Even today the curse itself follows anyone living anywhere in the world who reject God’s servants and the message of happiness they bring.

Scripture Study and Family Home Evening

2 Nephi 5 – living “after the manner of happiness”

Have you defined what it means to you to live “after the manner of happiness”? Can we agree that seeking after worldly pleasures is not what this means? But if living after the manner of happiness doesn’t mean seeking for wealth, fame, or influence/power then what does it mean?

Exercise

List the priorities of your religion. What do you believe should be the most important things in your life?

When you have at least 5 items on your list, decide for each item either yes or no, does this increase my happiness in life?

Go back and figure out how that item you chose increases your happiness. I challenge you to write down how that principle or practice increases your personal or family happiness.

Remember that what is very important to you may not be what is very important to someone else, so there are no absolute right or wrong answers here. These answers are personal in nature, for these principles or practices are what drive your behavior in the Church.

Principles, laws, and practices all have the potential to bring you happiness. Compare your list with at least one other person, or just contemplate your own list and think about why you are committed to living by those things that you believe bring you lasting happiness.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

BoM Week 06