Sophie Lefens is a young single college student at Brigham Young University. Upon graduating and then entering graduate school this year, she shares her thoughts on Bishop Caussé’s talk “We Are the Architects of Our Own Happiness” from a fireside given in 2012.
This fall I begin graduate school, which means I’ll be teaching a college course to 20 new freshmen. In preparation I’ve been thinking back to my first day of college and all that has happened since then. In these past years, my friends and I have made endless drafts of life plans, many of which fell through as our ideals collided with reality. My consciousness changed and stretched, and every experience shaped my understanding of reality.
When I think of this time spent stumbling into adulthood, what also comes to mind are the countless prayers, with my head in my hands, pleading to the Lord for peace and clarity and courage to continue building the life I so deeply want and believe in. In a 2012 devotional, Bishop Gérald Caussé urges us to be “the architects of our own happiness.” He tells us to act and not be acted upon. I believe this, but the more life experiences I have the more I see how inadequate my definition of happiness has been. A recurring conversation I’ve had with many friends this past year is that no one told us how hard life so often is. It can sometimes feel like the world is shouting at me, tying my mind into endless tiny knots. In my small life I’ve watched sorrow and hopelessness leave people numbed and hollow for months, sometimes years. I’ve seen people break in front of me, their physical frame no longer able to hold whatever pain is aching inside. There is a lot of darkness in the world. But we are not left alone. Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of our souls, offers us light and relief.
The most abiding happiness I feel in my life comes as I yield my heart to the Savior and His healing power. As I become sanctified in mind and heart, my ability to love the people around me more purely increases. This is my truest joy.
But sanctification is not the result of disengagement and withdrawal from the world. This earth is overflowing with the good and virtuous, and it is our responsibility to seek out these things. Hugh Nibley writes, “If every choice I make expresses a preference; if the world I build up is the world I really love and want, then with every choice I am judging myself, proclaiming all the day long to God, angels and my fellowmen where my real values lie, where my treasure is, the things to which I give supreme importance.” We craft our own lives. This is an empowering and ennobling truth. Yet even in our best attempts to do so, things can fail miserably. In every interaction with the world we are exposed and vulnerable, but it is in these moments God’s grace is made available to us.
The reverence I feel toward the Savior is an acknowledgement of my own fragility. I know I need Him. I know through Him I can receive the strength I need to live abundantly. How can this not humble me? As I acknowledge the Lord’s mercy in my own life, it becomes easier for me to extend a human-sized portion of that same mercy to the people around me. With an acute awareness of my own weaknesses, judging and criticizing the people around me seems an absurd thing to do.
I’ve noticed that when I feel like life is about to knock me out, if I turn to the Lord, my heart becomes tender, sometimes painfully so. But in this rawness I become more sensitive to the people around me and I begin to see them not only as whole individuals but also as divine beings. As life whirls around me and I grasp for solid ground, I become more sensitive to the things in life that truly resonate with divinity. And I become better at discerning truth from its counterfeits. I begin to walk through the world more gently.
But these changes of mind and heart come gradually and often much slower than I’d like. Still, whatever concerns are spinning in my head, I rest in knowing that through the Lord, my heart is becoming more aligned with what is eternally good. I often feel weak and unsure, but with radical trust in an infinite God, I begin another day.
Hugh Nibley’s “Zeal without Knowledge” originally appeared in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, summer 1978.