One of my favorite stories is about a man who was called by God to find the Promised Land. His name is Lehi. At the end of his journey, he says that he and his family lived “after the manner of happiness.” I’ve given this phrase some serious pondering.
This man’s family wasn’t poor. In fact, it is said that they were rather well off. And they packed up their family, left most of their worldly possessions, and spent thirty years on the road (or ocean at times) in search of the place God had prepared for them.
I like camping, y’all, but thirty years in a tent seems like a long time.
Arguably better than being destroyed for not doing what God told you to do, but. . . .
It’s not like those thirty years were a picnic. The family was often hungry. They weren’t able to have fires to keep warm. They somehow had to build a boat that would take them across an ocean in a time when seafaring wasn’t exactly a well-known skill. And don’t forget that birth control wasn’t a thing, so the women were delivering babies in those same tents. (Side note: this man’s best compliment to the women is that they were strong like the men. #goodgrief #dontknowwhatstrongis #hesstillagoodman #womenareamazing )
And perhaps many of us would still look back on this miraculous journey around the world to the place God had prepared with nothing but gratitude, if it weren’t for Nephi’s brothers, Laman and Lemuel. The three were Lehi’s sons. No matter how much love and miracles the Lord paraded in front of Laman and Lemuel, nothing seemed to drive them except fear. And then, they were only obedient long enough to get a job done before they started plotting how to kill their brother again. About the time their dad died (oh, yeah, their mom died, too), these brothers decided they’d had it with the whole business and went off to start their own dynasty of haters.
So here we are back at living after the manner of happiness. When I think about Lehi’s life, it doesn’t strike me immediately as a particularly happy life. He and his family went through some seriously ugly stuff.
But then, I could say the same about most people I know. What is most universal about this life is that none of us leave it unscathed. We all suffer! We all go through tragedy and heartaches and disappointments and trials galore.
Lehi recognized something, and it has always struck a chord with me. Happiness isn’t found in what life hands to you. Happiness is something you recognize by the way you choose to live your life. If you are looking for misery, you will surely find it. If, instead, you choose to focus on the good in life, you can find that too. God is an abundant source. In fact, He is THE infinite source of goodness and love and miracles and joy! And this loving Parent wants nothing better than to shower those things on His children.
There is no better way to live after the manner of happiness than by obeying the commandments as found in the scriptures. Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “We imagine that God has all of His blessings locked in a huge cloud up in heaven, refusing to give them to us. . . In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.”¹
God is good. This isn’t a trite invitation to just get over the awful things you go through. It’s okay to feel grief and sadness and all of those parts of life, too. But don’t stay there. Close your umbrella and feel the happiness God has created especially for you.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Living the Gospel Joyful