So much of your happiness is in your hands, not in events or circumstances or fortune or misfortune.
I wish to comment on Nephi’s phrase about living “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). It suggests a quest for happiness, not necessarily happiness itself.
I do not think God in His glory or the angels of heaven or the prophets on earth intend to make us happy all the time, every day in every way, given the testing and trial this earthly realm is intended to provide.
But my reassurance to you today is that in God’s plan we can do very much to find the happiness we do desire. We can take certain steps, we can form certain habits, we can do certain things that God and history tell us lead to happiness.
In short, your best chance for being happy is to do the things that happy people do. Live the way happy people live. Walk the path that happy people walk. Here are at least a few ideas about how one might live “after the manner of happiness.”
1. Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Above all else, ultimate happiness, true peace, and anything even remotely close to scriptural joy are found first, foremost, and forever in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lots of other philosophies and systems of belief have been tried. Indeed, it seems safe to say that virtually every other philosophy and system has been tried down through the centuries of history. But when the Apostle Thomas asked the Lord the question young people often ask today, “How can we know the way?” (and at your age in life that really translates, “How can we know the way to be happy?”), Jesus gave the answer that rings from eternity to all eternity:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. …
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. …
“If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:5–6, 13–14).
What a promise! Live my way, live my truth, live my life—live in this manner that I am showing you and teaching you—and whatsoever you ask will be given, whatsoever you seek you will find, including happiness. Parts of the blessing may come soon, parts may come later, and parts may not come until heaven, but they will come—all of them.
2. Choose to Be Happy
Second, learn as quickly as you can that so much of your happiness is in your hands, not in events or circumstances or fortune or misfortune. That is part of what the battle for agency was over in the premortal councils of heaven. We have choice, we have the power to make our own decisions, we have agency, and we can choose if not happiness per se, then we can choose to live after the manner of it. Happiness comes first by what comes into your head a long time before it comes into your hand.
For example, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:45). That is not only good counsel against the modern plague of pornography, but it is counsel for all kinds of gospel thoughts, good thoughts, constructive thoughts, hopeful thoughts. Those faith-filled thoughts will alter how you see life’s problems and how you find resolution to them. Think and speak and act positively. That is what happy people do.
3. Don’t Be Negative, Mean, or Angry
You can never, worlds without end, build your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness. That is what bullying is. That is what catty remarks are. That is what arrogance and superficiality and exclusiveness are. Perhaps we think if we are negative enough, or cynical enough, or just plain mean enough, then expectations won’t be too high; we can keep everyone down to a flaw-filled level and therefore our flaws won’t be so glaring. Happy people aren’t negative or cynical or mean, so don’t plan on that being part of the “manner” of happiness.
4. Work Hard and Study
One last suggestion when there are so many others we should consider: Nephi said that in an effort to find happiness in their new land after their 30 years of trouble, “I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (2 Nephi 5:17). By contrast, those from whom they fled became “an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety” (2 Nephi 5:24). If you want to be happy in school, or on a mission, or in a marriage—work at it. Learn to work. Serve diligently. Don’t be idle and mischievous.
God Wants You to Be Happy
My testimony to you is that God, your Eternal Father in Heaven, is always encouraging and applauding your pursuit even more lovingly than I. He wants you to be happy, to have true joy. The Atonement of His Only Begotten Son provides the right path and, if necessary, a new start on it, a second chance, a change in our nature if necessary. Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)—no one comes to true happiness except by Him.
From a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional given on September 23, 2014.