Day 6: The Nature of Happiness

1 Nephi 17:21

The other day as we were planning our Book of Mormon-themed costumes for the ward Halloween party, I started throwing out suggestions; we could all be Book of Mormon missionaries, we could each be a member of Lehi’s family. My oldest daughter piped up and suggested she be Laman. My husband and I both gently shook our heads with  knowing smiles and said, “No, you don’t want to be Laman.”

Nobody really likes Laman and Lemuel but, in reality, we each have some Laman and Lemuel in us. Whether we sometimes feel like God’s requests are too much, too heavy, or too difficult, we humans are prone to murmuring and disobedience. Laman and Lemuel are like a type for humankind. So when I read 1 Nephi 17:21 this time around I immediately recognized myself in this typically Laman and Lemuel moment.

Nephi has been commanded to build a ship, everybody needs to help, and the now contented Laman and Lemuel who are enjoying Bountiful by the sea suddenly revert to their old schtick. “We have suffered in the wilderness” all these years, so many afflictions, everything was better in Jerusalem, “we might have been happy.” Laman and Lemuel insist on believing that happiness is something external to them and that only certain conditions will CAUSE them to be happy. “We might have been happy” if we had stayed in Jerusalem, kept our gold and silver, not been uncomfortable, had enough to eat, been with our righteous friends back home, and on and on. “We might have been happy” felt eerily familiar.

How many times in the midst of a difficult or stressful time in my life have I thought, “I could be happy right now if only: my husband had a job, we didn’t have to live with family, my children were more obedient, there were more time in a day, my infant had teeth, we had more money….” The trouble with this “grass is greener” mentality is that this line of thinking goes really far south really fast. The other problem is that it’s fallacious. Satan wants us to believe that THINGS and external conditions make us happy when in reality, true happiness comes from personal righteousness (i.e. obedience to God) and an internal choice to be happy.

If you are having trouble begin happy, I invite you to reflect on this anecdote from the Book of Mormon and identify ways you can increase your happiness through personal righteousness and choose to be happy.

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