In a State of Happiness (Mormon 7:7)
Elder David A. Bednar
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
January 6, 2004
Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. And welcome to Rexburg in January!! I am grateful for this chance to worship with you as we begin another new semester at Brigham Young University-Idaho. I pray for and invite the Holy Ghost to be with me and with you as together we “. . . seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
Today I want to discuss with you basic components of “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8,16), the meaning and role of happiness in the plan, and the relationship between happiness and obedience. We also will discuss the implications of what we learn about happiness and obedience for you as young women and young men who live on the earth at this time.
In this the dispensation of the fulness of times, many plain and precious truths have again been restored to the earth concerning the divine plan of happiness and our eternal destiny as sons and daughters of the Eternal Father. The great plan of happiness is designed to bring about man’s immortality and eternal life. The plan includes the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement, along with all God-given laws, ordinances, and doctrines. The plan makes it possible for all people to be exalted and live forever with God (2 Nephi 2, 9). The scriptures also refer to this plan as “the plan of salvation” (Alma 24:14; Alma 42:5; Moses 6:62), “the plan of redemption” (Alma 12:25; Alma 22:13; Alma 34:16), and “the plan of mercy” (Alma 42:15, 31).
In particular, the restoration scriptures—the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—contain a wealth of knowledge about the plan of happiness. Please turn with me in the Pearl of Great Price to Abraham 3:24-26.
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
In these three verses we are introduced to the fundamental and essential elements of the great plan of happiness. The primary purpose for the creation of the earth was to prepare a place whereon the Father’s children would be proved to see if they (meaning you and me) would do all things whatsoever “the Lord their God shall command them.” We further learn that those who kept their first estate, meaning those spirits who were faithful in the premortal existence, would have the opportunity to be added upon by obtaining a physical body and through their experiences in mortality—and that those who kept their second estate, meaning those who were faithful in mortality, could have glory added upon their heads throughout eternity.
I find verse 25 especially interesting. The very purpose of the creation and of our mortal existence is to see if you and I will do and become whatever the Lord instructs and commands us to do and to become. We have been endowed with agency—the capacity of independent action—for the precise purpose of obeying God and seeking righteousness. We have not been blessed with agency to do whatever we want whenever we will. Rather, according to the plan, we are to exercise our agency in doing and becoming whatever God commands. For that purpose the earth was created. For that purpose you and I are here in the second estate.
The Role of Happiness in the Plan
Please now consider the relationship between the great plan of happiness and the law of obedience. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that:
Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five, 1842–43, p. 255).
Note the connection between happiness, which is the very object of the plan of happiness and of our mortal existence, and obedience to the commandments of God. Obedience is central to becoming and being and remaining happy.
The Prophet further explained:
But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness—and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five, 1842–43, p. 256).
All that our Father gives to us and all that He requires of us is designed to promote the very happiness that is the object of the plan and of our existence. Obedience is neither a chore nor a burden; rather, it is the source of true happiness in both mortality and eternity. We do not yield or give up our happiness when we obey. Obeying causes happiness. Obedience frequently is referred to as the first law of heaven; it is also the key which opens the door to the happiness intended for God’s children in the great plan of happiness.
Please now turn with me in the Book of Mormon to Mosiah 2:41:
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it (emphasis added).
I want to draw our attention to three key elements in this scripture. First, the words blessed and happy in this verse essentially are synonymous. In other words, to be blessed is to be happy and to be happy is to be blessed. We often correctly refer to happiness as a mood or an attitude or an emotion. But this verse helps us understand that happiness also is a state of being blessed as a result of keeping the commandments of God.
Brothers and sisters, the essence of what I hope to communicate this afternoon is built upon this one basic principle: to be blessed is to be happy and to be happy is to be blessed. Consider this relationship among obedience and blessings and happiness as we read together Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21:
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings [and happiness] are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing [and happiness] from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated (emphasis added).
This relationship also is highlighted in Doctrine and Covenants 132:5:
For all who will have a blessing [and happiness] at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing [and happiness], and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. (emphasis added)
Second, notice in Mosiah 2:41 how the verse emphasizes that those who keep the commandments “. . . are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual . . . .” Let me suggest that this phrase points to the second estate or “here and now” blessings that flow from obedience. And third, the anticipated or third estate and eternal blessings associated with keeping the commandments are featured in the line “. . . if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness . . . .” Simply stated, brothers and sisters, keeping the commandments invites both proximate and future blessings and happiness into our lives.
In our study of the scriptures, we quickly recognize that the Book of Mormon is the handbook for happiness. The word happiness is used 28 times in the standard works, and 26 of the 28 verses that contain the word happiness are found in the Book of Mormon. One reference to happiness is found in the Doctrine and Covenants, and one reference is found in the Pearl of Great Price. Thus, all scriptural references to happiness are found in the restoration scriptures.
Please consider and reflect upon these remarkable teachings from the Book of Mormon:
And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness (2 Nephi 2:13, emphasis added).
And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness (2 Nephi 5:27, emphasis added).
Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness (Alma 27:18, emphasis added).
Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness (Alma 41:10, emphasis added).
Clearly, in the restoration scriptures in general and the Book of Mormon in particular, we find many plain and precious truths that have been restored about the great plan of happiness and the spiritual state of happiness to which we all should aspire.
Happiness and Obedience and the Youth of the Church
In October of 1997 Elder Neal A. Maxwell visited our campus to speak in a devotion