If it Makes You Happy

With the Saints, original intaglio by Daniel Embree ©2008

With the Saints, original intaglio by Daniel Embree ©2008

In Elder’s Quorum today the teacher testified that keeping the commandments makes you happy. He then asked the class what we would say to someone who doesn’t keep the commandments who claimed to be happy. I raised my hand and said, “We could acknowledge their happiness as legitimate. Mormons aren’t the only happy people out there. Others are happy and cheerful even if they don’t live the same way we do, and that doesn’t negate the decisions we may make.” The teacher paused, said, “well,” paused again, “No.” Someone else then explained that if they weren’t keeping the commandments, their happiness couldn’t be real and was only a temporary pleasure. A few others reiterated that and then the lesson quickly moved on to how wickedness never was happiness. Afterwards a member of the Bishopric thanked me for my comment and then used an economic equation (something to do with the cartel collusion principle) to prove that I was wrong. And you wonder why normally I just sit in the back silently reading fmylife.com on my iphone gritting my teeth.

Honestly parents, and future parents, if you want your kids to live by LDS teachings, then this principle is shooting you in the foot. What will you do when your kids meet a nonmember of another lifestyle who is happier than they’ve ever been? Will you tell them that that person’s “I’m happy living this way” testimony is somehow less honest than your “I’m happy living this way” testimony? What will you do when after living every commandment, your son or daughter is depressed? What will you do when your kid drinks a cup of coffee or breaks some other commandment and is still happy? Or is happier? I mean honestly, lastingly, legitimately happy. Your kid, if taught as I was just taught, will then proceed to abandon all commandments and even all Mormonism.

If you want your kids to keep LDS standards, don’t tell them that it is the only way to be happy, because that is a lie and they will eventually figure it out. Instead, tell them you live that way to express your love for God and to keep the promises you made to him. Tell them you live the way you live because you believe that it’s right. Say how you’ve been blessed for doing so, but for God’s sake, acknowledge that Jews, Catholics, Baptists, and even Atheists can be happy (and that Mormons, righteous Mormons, can be depressed) or your child will wake up and find that Santa isn’t the one putting presents under the tree.

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18 thoughts on “If it Makes You Happy

  1. That’s just… appalling. Shame on the teacher, and the quorum, and even the Bishopric member for refusing to allow the thought that someone could be happy beyond the bounds they are setting in place.I’m just shaking my head in disbelief.

  2. Oh, the straight and narrow minded!Its absolutely ridiculous for people in the church to accept other people’s happiness as TRUE happiness that is JUST as real and legitimate as their own. It’s such an ethnocentric perception that is too common in our church. I love your answer to what we should tell our children. Perfect.

  3. Daniel hits it out of the park again.Wish I’d been in that EQ meeting. I would have said, politely and calmly, “What possible basis could you have for blithely dismissing as false the credibility of someone else’s happiness when you don’t even know them or their circumstances? That sounds like arrogance and pride to me, not the true love of Christ.”

  4. I totally agree with you that your EQ was off. I’d like to stand up and correct them sometimes too, and I’m glad you did. Friends I have of other faiths are definitely happy…and not just temporary pleasure. I think the key is to act in accordance with what you know to be true. I think “wickedness never was happiness” applies to those that know that they’re doing something wrong.I do have to say that when I do what I know to be right that I feel happy. And, as I have learned so many times throughout my life but never can seem to help myself, when I do something I know that I shouldn’t I know that I’m not as happy as I could be.I think any group of people, especially EQs, get in the mindset of “yeah…what he said!” People just take an idea and run with it…not always in the right direction or with the right idea. Glad to hear you sprang into action!

  5. Wickedness never was happiness. But neither was righteousness.Happiness is happiness and it comes from its own sources (although, I would have to agree with Jeremy that it is a combination of belief and acting according to that belief to create a productive faith, see generally Lectures on Faith, Lecture 3d.)

  6. This lie kept me in the Church for years. When I finally experienced true happiness outside the Church, I recognized what kept me in it for so long: fear.Of course EQ probably is not the best place to dispel this myth, but I do my part by having frank discussions with many of my friends. One Mormon at a time, that is how this myth will be dispelled.

  7. The funny thing is that I am not Mormon, but a non denominational Christian, sort of, or was (long story) but I have heard the exact same sentiments expressed in my churches. Because, no one can really be “happy” if they are not of that very specific, small, subset of that very specific christian group.Sometimes the argument of whether or not they are “happy” or “have joy” is raised. Because anyone can be happy but to truly have joy, the not fleeting, deep down in your heart and soul kind, you have to be an evangelical christian or Mormon, depending on where you are coming from. Sadly, this issue is less of a Mormon affliction and more a religions (Christians?) thing.

  8. The funny thing is that I am not Mormon, but a non denominational Christian, sort of, or was (long story) but I have heard the exact same sentiments expressed in my churches. Because, no one can really be “happy” if they are not of that very specific, small, subset of that very specific christian group.Sometimes the argument of whether or not they are “happy” or “have joy” is raised. Because anyone can be happy but to truly have joy, the not fleeting, deep down in your heart and soul kind, you have to be an evangelical christian or Mormon, depending on where you are coming from. Sadly, this issue is less of a Mormon affliction and more a religions (Christians?) thing.

  9. This is one of my HUGEST frustrations with the way the church presents itself to its members. The hypocrisy of it, first of all, is that they would NEVER talk like that in front of a non-member or an investigator. They would automatically know what a huge turn off it is to a new person to feel like they are entering an organization who has the market cornered on happiness, when CLEARLY this is not the case.Its so funny to me to reflect back onto the times when I was an active mormon. I knew in my heart that there were happy people outside of the church, but I think I still somewhat bought into the idea that they couldn’t reach the heights of happiness and joy that I could as someone who had the gospel. The only problem is that most of the time I was utterly miserable inside. When mormons say, “they THINK they are happy, but they are not,” or another favorite, “You might be happy now, but you don’t have JOY,” it just makes me want to scream for the mind control police. I really have to hand it to you for making these comments. I do especially love when economic analogies or better yet sports anecdotes are used to prove that mormon doctrine is the only thing in this life that works for people. Thats always just good fun, isn’t it? I think a HUGE step forward for the LDS church would be to find their relevance as a 21st century religion without having to lie to themselves and pretend that their faith is the only one that can breed happiness. It would be such a healthier environment if it could be a “we love it, and it makes us happy, but only you know what makes you the happiest- so take our faith or leave it”. Healthier for everyone! One of my little brothers was so depressed living at home and being made to think that the church was the only way he could be happy, especially since the church was making him terribly depressed and unhappy. I sent him a bunch of books that laid out many different philosophies.. buddhism, atheism, univeralism; just a bunch of thological options. He read all of them but was really drawn to “The God Delusion”. For the first time he said he felt he had something to live for, because the idea that this life is our only chance to live really motivated him to use this life to full effect. Now I’m not an atheist, and I believe in something different, but I just think people should find what makes them happiest and go with it. and NO ONE is an expert on happiness except the person in question, and he in only an expert for himself. Thats it. I really hope that the church can figure this out, or at least behave transparently– be the same even when their is an investigator in the room. That would be good too.

  10. Just to be clear though; this is an issue of the members saying things incorrectly, and not an issue with church doctrine. Members often misreport those ideas even with good intentions.

  11. No, this is an issue with Church doctrine. LDS doctrine explicitly states that people engaging in “wicked” behavior, such as homosexuality, cannot experience happiness in the same degree as someone who abides by LDS teachings. I have found this to be completely untrue.

  12. What should be drawn from that is that you’ll be happier not sinning. I realize that this could create quite a stir. So, what is a sin? According to dictionary.com:1. transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam.2. any act regarded as such a transgression, esp. a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.3. any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense: It’s a sin to waste time.What you seem to be arguing is that you can’t be happy if you are sinning. Truth is, you can be happy if you’re sinning. Nobody could argue against that. In fact, none of us are without sin. We can find happiness while we are sinning. If not, ALL of us would ALWAYS be miserable. That’s just not God’s plan.Now back to “wickedness never was happiness.” The real question is if going against what you know to be right make you happy. P.S. What drew me to follow this blog was that you said that it wasn’t attacking the church. What happened to that?

  13. I think most people are happiest when they follow their convictions. In our community I’ve observed that those with the most angst are those who believe in the church but who find their actions at odds with it. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people who act at odds with church but who believe they aren’t doing anything wrong. People who don’t believe in the commandments.Take coffee as my example. Someone who drinks coffee outside of the church can be just as happy as a member of the church who abatains from coffee. That means (and my point for all of this is) that there is nothing inherently unhappy about drinking coffee, or marrying a member of the same gender, or shopping on the Sabbath. These activities in and of themselves don’t make one happy or unhappy. How you feel about them does. (I’d imagine a straight man marrying a man wouldn’t be very happy).I have never hid my frustrations with or disbelief in the church. Accurately describing my experiences in the church that lead me to feel that way does not constitute an attack. Saying something isn’t true isn’t an attack either. Non attack is not equal to affirmation.

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