Sister Clark: We are grateful for the opportunity to speak to you at the beginning of this spring semester on another great day at BYU-Idaho. We love you very much and pray the Spirit will be here with us today that we might feel our Heavenly Father’s love.
President Clark: When I was about four years old, my mother took me shopping in downtown Salt Lake City. While my mother was shopping, I wandered off to explore the store. Very soon I was lost. I can still remember what I felt. I was frightened and worried and very sad. I must have started to cry because one of the clerks found me. It was not long before I saw my mother coming for me.
As my mother held me in her arms, feelings of happiness and joy flooded my little boy heart and soul. I was just a small child, but the Lord blessed me with a taste of the joy and happiness of heaven in my mother’s love and in the safety of her arms.
Sister Clark: That happiness and joy President Clark felt as a little boy is not meant to be a momentary experience in life. Indeed, the Prophet Joseph taught:
“[God] has …given [us] power to … pursu[e] the pathway of holiness in this life, which brings peace of mind, and joy in the Holy Ghost here, and a fullness of joy and happiness at His right hand hereafter. . . .”1
President Clark: No matter what our circumstances are, no matter what happens to us, if we act with faith in Christ to keep those laws, principles, and ordinances that govern joy and happiness in God’s eternal plan, the Holy Ghost will be with us. Happiness and joy will be a foundation in our lives and a part of our very character and identity.
The theme of our message today is Nephi’s description of the way his people lived: “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.”2
Sister Clark: Brothers and sisters, we want you to be happy! We want you to walk the path of holiness, a way of life that will bring you joy and happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. We want you to learn to live after the manner of happiness.
Our talk has three parts. First, we will discuss Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness and the central role of the Atonement of Christ in that plan. Second, we will focus on what we must do to live the plan. Third, we will address the challenges to happiness we face and how to overcome them.
I. The Great Plan of Happiness
President Clark: Before we came to earth, we lived with our Heavenly Father in the premortal realm. We knew Him and loved Him and felt His love for us. That was a time of learning and preparation.3 As the Proclamation on the Family states in language plain and beautiful:
“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. . . . Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”4
Sister Clark: The plan of happiness contains beautiful promises, but we cannot obtain them on our own. In order to be tried and tested, we have to live in a fallen world5 where we have to use our agency. We must choose to obey God’s laws in the face of opposition from temptation, evil, natural disasters, sickness, and death.6 All of us sin, and all of us suffer physical death. Without divine help, we would be separated from our bodies and from Heavenly Father forever because we do not have the power to overcome death and sin.7 We need a Savior, a Redeemer.
President Clark: And so Heavenly Father sent His Firstborn Son to be the Savior of all mankind. Brothers and sisters, the way to life and happiness now and forever is the Lord Jesus Christ. His life, ministry, atoning sacrifice, and glorious resurrection make the great plan of happiness a reality. Indeed, “men are, that they might have joy.”8 Jesus Himself taught this sublime doctrine to His disciples:
“Behold . . . this is the gospel which I have given unto you . . .
“. . . whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
“. . . no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
“Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.”9
Sister Clark: When we act with faith in Jesus Christ to repent of our sins and live the fullness of His gospel, we are living the plan of happiness. Through the power of His atoning sacrifice, the Savior forgives us of sin and purifies and changes our hearts. Through His redeeming love, we have “joy in the Holy Ghost”10 and we become more and more like the Savior and our Heavenly Father. This is what it means to live after the manner of happiness.
II. Living the Plan
President Clark: In order to guide us in this process of becoming, Heavenly Father has given us a divine pattern to follow. That pattern is eternal life, the life that He and His Beloved Son live. Three aspects of eternal life create a powerful plan of action in our quest to live after the manner of happiness. They are: be holy, do divine work, and create a celestial family.
Sister Clark: The Father and the Son are perfect in every way. They are supremely good and holy. The Father said to Enoch, “Man of Holiness is my name.”11 Jesus received a fullness of the Father’s glory and, like Him, embodies a fullness of every virtue, every good thing, including joy and happiness. As Alma taught, happiness is in God's nature.12
President Clark: The plan of action is clear: repent and be cleansed from sin through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Remember, “wickedness never was happiness.”13 Happiness is living the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well:
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”14
Sister Clark: When we drink of the living water, the fullness of the gospel goes down deep in our hearts. As we act with faith in Christ to receive sacred ordinances and keep the associated covenants, we become more holy. The power of godliness is manifest in our lives, and the Holy Ghost blesses us to love as Christ loves and serve as He serves. We become more and more like Him, and happiness becomes part of our identity and our nature.
Do Divine Work
President Clark: Heavenly Father declared to Moses, “[T]his is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”15 It is good to remember that for the Father and the Son, this supernal work of love and service is work! The Father and the Son work as they design, create, plan, organize, direct, govern, watch over, teach, inspire, reveal, and bless. Eternal life is a life of meaningful, sacred, and divine work. It is God’s glory and thus His happiness and joy.
Sister Clark: The plan of action is simple: go to work! Do the divine work the Lord has given us to do. Our work is to love God and obey His commandments with all our hearts.16 Our work is to support our families through diligence and hard effort.17 Our work is to plant and weed and harvest by the sweat of our brow and with all the strength the Lord gives us. Our work is to learn—to grow in knowledge, understanding, and intelligence.18 Our work is to develop our talents and add more talents.19 Our work is to love and serve our brothers and sisters and share our gifts and blessings with them “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”20 Our work is to let the light of Christ shine in us that others may feel and see Him through us.21
When we do our work, “seeking the interest of [our] neighbor and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God,”22 that work will be a source of happiness and joy to us and to those we serve.
Create a Celestial Family
President Clark: The family is central to the plan of happiness because eternal life is family life. God is our Heavenly Father; “we are the [spirit] children of God.”23 God loves His children and cares for them24 by teaching and preparing them for mortal life25—giving them guidance, gifts, blessings, ordinances and covenants, and the power of godliness through faith in His Son.26 There is in the Father’s celestial family a complete and perfect unity of love and truth. The Father rejoices in His righteous children and lives in a fullness of happiness and joy with His eternal family.27
Sister Clark: The plan of action is plain to see: prepare for celestial marriage and an eternal family, no matter when those blessings may come to you. Seek out and find an eternal companion and be sealed for time and all eternity in the holy temple of the Lord. Bring children into your eternal family—love and care for them, teach them the gospel, and help them grow up in light and truth with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The family is the place of mortal life’s greatest joys as well as its greatest sorrows. It is in the creation of a celestial family that we learn to love, serve, and sacrifice. A “celestial marriage [and family] bring greater possibilities for happiness than . . . any other relationship.”28
III. Overcoming Challenges to Happiness
President Clark: Brothers and sisters, when we repent of our sins and live the gospel, when we receive the ordinances of salvation and keep our covenants, when we work hard to support our families, when we increase in learning, when we serve and help others, when we are sealed in the holy temple to a beloved companion, when we create a celestial family and rear children in light and truth—we live after the manner of happiness.
Sister Clark: This does not mean that our lives are full of happiness every minute of every day; we all experience challenges to happiness. Yet, as Elder Richard G. Scott has taught, the challenges we face can be only episodes in a life of happiness:
“Life never was intended to be continually easy. It is punctuated with periods of proving and growth. . . . When you conquer adversity . . . you are rewarded with satisfying happiness. Through that means you will confirm that life can be lived on a continuing foundation of happiness.”29
President Clark: Opposition is part of Heavenly Father’s plan. Sometimes opposition to happiness comes from things that happen to us. Sometimes opposition comes from things we do to ourselves. No matter where the challenges to happiness come from, the questions for us are: do we overcome them, or do they overcome us? As we work to overcome life’s challenges, we gain experience, grow in faith, and add to our foundation of happiness. We want to consider with you today three challenges to happiness that seem especially important for us. We begin with pain and suffering.
Pain and Suffering
Sister Clark: Pain and suffering come to all of us. Illness, accidents, death, natural disasters, depression, disappointments of all kinds, and the actions of others cause physical and emotional pain and suffering. They disrupt our happiness. Our family has faced many such challenges over the years. They seem to come in bunches. Here are some examples:
President Clark: In February of 1998 my mother died unexpectedly of a blood clot in her lung. On the day of her funeral in St. George, Utah, we received word that our son Jonathan had been run over by a truck on a remote highway in Minnesota. The message was that he was alive, but badly injured.
Sister Clark: In May of 2004 our daughter Julia was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph system. She came home from college to undergo several months of chemotherapy. While Julia was home, I was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent major surgery that September.
President Clark: From these experiences, and from many others, we have learned that the pattern of holiness the Lord has given us helps us overcome the effects of pain and suffering. Here are the lessons:
Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ—trust in His love, mercy, and power, and in His timing. Resist thoughts of anger, bitterness, or despair. Act with faith in Christ to do His will, no matter what comes. Remember, the Savior sees the end from the beginning. His will is the very best thing that could ever happen.
Sister Clark: Nurture your personal spiritual and physical strength. When hard times come, we need strength of body and spirit. But hard times often cause us to stop doing the very things that bring personal strength. Don’t stop exercising and eating right. When challenges come, continue to seek holiness in your life. Pray, search, and ponder the scriptures. Worship in the temple. Serve the Lord, and stay close to the Spirit.
President Clark: Serve someone else. It is true that when we suffer we need support and love. Those around us can bless us immensely with their care and concern. However, when we face affliction, we have a tendency to turn inward and become self-absorbed. That is a sure path to misery. Serving someone else gets us outside of ourselves. It opens channels of love, inspiration, and heavenly blessings. It is a sure path to overcoming suffering and finding happiness once again.
Sister Clark: Embrace the plan of happiness. Remember, pain and suffering are part of the plan. Instead of asking questions like, “Why do we have to suffer?” ask, “What does the Lord want us to learn from this experience?” Out of that kind of question comes gratitude for the Lord’s love and tutoring, even when the experience is very hard.
President Clark: Last fall I learned this lesson in a powerful way. In August I had a kidney transplant. I had come to know that this was the Lord’s plan for me. I decided to embrace the plan, including all of the pain and suffering it would entail—the surgery, the hospital, the recovery, the changes in my life—all of it. I was blessed with a deep conviction that this was the Lord’s plan for new life for me, and I chose to embrace that plan.
At the end of the first day in the hospital (after surgery that morning), with a catheter in my neck and with lots of other tubes and catheters in me, I said to Sue, “I have loved every moment of this day.” It hurt. I had a tough road ahead; but Sue was by my side, and the Lord blessed me to feel happiness and joy.
The Mask of Indifference
Sister Clark: The second challenge to happiness is the mask of indifference. People sometimes put on a public face that is blank with no smile, no expression, and no light in their eyes. That face is like a mask that isolates them from other people; it is the mask of indifference. We know from the pattern of divine work the Lord has given us that loving and serving others are important sources of happiness and joy, both in this life and in the eternities. In the plan of happiness, the Lord commands us to be of good cheer and to let our light shine.
President Clark: An important way we do that is to live so that the light of the Spirit is in our eyes and in our countenance. This is divine work and is the way we overcome the mask of indifference. When we have a genuine smile, greet people with a kind word, and reflect our love of God and His children in our eyes and in our faces, we bring light and happiness to those we meet. We also feel good because we express outwardly the truth we feel in our hearts. In this small and simple way, we keep our covenants and do divine work.
Sister Clark: Smiling and greeting people with friendliness, however, runs counter to norms in modern society. It is pretty standard practice in many parts of our country to put on the mask of indifference. The mask reflects fear and a desire not to get involved with people we don’t know. The basic rule of thumb seems to be: if you don’t know the people, don’t acknowledge them; don’t smile, and don’t make eye contact.
President Clark: Our experience at BYU-Idaho has been very different. It is a great blessing to be on this campus where there are so many warm and friendly people whose countenances reflect the light of the Spirit and who greet one another in a spirit of love and kindness. When we walk on campus, it is our practice to greet the people we pass on the sidewalk. It is inspiring to see so many of you with a ready smile and light in your eyes. It makes us happy.
Sister Clark: Yet, we encounter some students who wear the mask of indifference. When we greet such students, sometimes the mask stays on and we get no response. That happens most often when the person with the mask also has loud music blaring in her ears.
Usually, however, the student with the mask recognizes us and reacts. The mask comes off, the student smiles, and the light shines. The light was in there, but the mask hid the light. We are happy when we see the mask drop and the light shine; but we also think to ourselves, “How sad that this wonderful person passed so many fellow students and did not smile, did not say ‘good morning,’ and did not let the light of the Spirit shine.”
President Clark: Brothers and sisters, if we put on the mask of indifference, we disrupt our own happiness and lose opportunities to bring light to others. If you wear the mask of indifference, please get rid of it. If it is your practice to stick music buds in your ears and listen to music while you walk between classes, please stop it. Take off the mask, and unplug your ears.
We don’t want you to put on an act or pretend. We want you to live with the Spirit in your hearts. We want you to share it in these simple ways in a spirit of friendliness and Christlike love. We want you to do divine work.
The Cultures of the World
Sister Clark: We now turn to the third challenge to happiness, the cultures of the world. All of us grow up in a culture of traditions, customs, expected attitudes, values, and patterns of living. The culture we grow up in reflects the influence of our family, our local and regional society, and even our country.
Cultural influences may affect our attitudes and our behavior. Not all of those influences are consistent with the gospel. Cultures of the world very often reflect the desires, appetites, and passions of the natural man. Worldly cultures may cause us to do or say things that disrupt our happiness and the happiness of those around us. Living the divine pattern for creating a celestial family is the way to overcome the influence of worldly cultures. Here are two examples:
President Clark: Example 1––Some young men and women grow up in a worldly culture in which going on a date means that you are “girlfriend-boyfriend.” In this culture dating comes only after a lot of hanging out and includes sexual intimacy. The attitudes and expectations in this culture are inconsistent with the teachings of the prophets and gospel patterns of dating. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks counseled young men:
“Gather your courage and look for someone to pair off with. Start with a variety of dates with a variety of young women, and when that phase yields a good prospect, proceed to courtship. It’s marriage time.”30
Young people caught in a worldly culture of dating may desire to have a celestial marriage; but if they are not very careful, the values of their old culture may slip into their relationships with one another. They may postpone dating and marriage; they may enter into marriage unprepared; they may become unworthy of a temple sealing. The traditions of this culture are a path to poor decisions and terrible unhappiness.
Sister Clark: Example 2––A young man grew up surrounded by a culture in his family and local community in which verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse by husbands and fathers was tolerated and even accepted. In the part of the United States where he grew up, he had seen and heard of many instances of such abuse and had seen it accepted. If that cultural pattern has become part of him, he will bring to marriage attitudes and traditions wholly inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He may have many other good qualities and may desire a celestial marriage; but if he is not very careful, his old culture may slip in and cause contention and even physical abuse of his wife. Such violence may have been common in his culture, but it is evil and will destroy his marriage and his family.
President Clark: We all need to be aware of the worldly cultures that affect us. Cultural influences may be very subtle and hard to detect. We must be careful and check our attitudes and behavior against the gospel patterns of marriage and family and reject that which is wrong. Happily, we are not trapped by the worldly cultures of our past. Through the Atonement of Christ, we can repent and be free of poor attitudes and sinful behavior. If we give our hearts to the Savior, He will help us overcome the world and create a celestial family.
Sister Clark: I express my gratitude to Heavenly Father and to our Savior Jesus Christ for the gift of the plan of happiness. I know that joy and happiness in this life are only available through the pattern They have given us. If we live that pattern, our joy and happiness will be eternal. It is my prayer that we will follow that pattern every day. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
President Clark: My brothers and sisters, Heavenly Father lives and wants us to have true joy and happiness. He loves us so much that He has given us His great plan of happiness, and He has given us His Son. I bear witness of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer. He lives! The way to happiness and joy, now and forever, is in His Church and in Him. It is my hope and prayer that we will come unto Christ, embrace the plan, and live after the manner of happiness. I leave you with my witness and my love, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 17, 2007, p. 213
2 2 Nephi 5:27
3 See D&C 138:56
4 Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995