Friday, July 27, 2012

Misery & the Plan of Happiness

I have noted lately a very strange aspect of LDS culture.  It’s simply that we seem to enjoy misery.  I’m not sure why this is, because we teach that accepting and living the gospel plan brings peace, joy and ultimate happiness.  So I ask, why this obsession with misery and suffering? It is that we feel that in order to be ‘righteous’ we must suffer?

Let me illustrate my point:

Go to any meeting, testimony meeting, talk, what have you and you are likely to hear stories of sadness, heartache, devastation, frustration, sadness and despair.  Everyone does it…we don’t give it a second thought. After all, it is inspiring to tell of people who overcome heartache and tragedy and embrace the gospel, or who have suffered for the sake of the gospel. I’m just saying that in our LDS culture we just seem to really obsess about it…to the point of being off-putting. Where is the fun in telling the story of a person who easily accepted the gospel, that their family was happy to see them embrace the good news and all went smooth and wonderful?  That’s no fun! (Sarcasm)

I just wonder if this focus is a little misplaced.  After all, we are told that we exist so that we can have JOY (2 Nephi 2:25)…yet somehow we don’t seem to be a ‘joy-full’ people.

Maybe we are making life harder than it needs to be?  One popular saying that I’ve heard repeated a lot is “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” (usually on a picture of Christ…implying that HE said this)…the reality is that Christ did say it would be easy: Matthew 11:30 “For my yoke is EASY and my burden is light.”

If you ask me, we should be the happiest people on the planet.  Going to Church should be something that we look forward too.  We should be thrilled to teach and share the gospel, even speak in sacrament meeting because our hearts are so full of peace, happiness and thrills that we can’t contain it.

Truth is, we aren’t though.

One of my favorite example of this focus on the negative is our undying devotion to the Handcart Pioneers, especially the Martin & Willey Handcart Companies.  I don’t mean to be irreverent, or put these brave people down, but this particular page in history has entirely distorted our view of the trek west, fueled mostly by the current ‘re-enactments’ of these events for youth TREK activities.  The facts are that the vast majority of the pioneers came west in wagons pulled by oxen.  Of the original group in 1847, none died on the plains.  In fact, most of the nearly 70,000 pioneers who made the westward journey actually had a pretty good experience.  Handcarts were an experiment that came late in the game (around 1856 I believe) and only 5 companies actually traveled this way (about 3,000 people).  3 of those companies made it here mostly  fine, because they left when they were supposed to.  It was a sort lived experiment that Brigham Young put a stop to as quickly as he could because of the danger to the people.

To talk to people today, you’d think that all 70,000 pioneers suffered and died in droves pulling handcarts across the plains.

Again, let me clarify that I believe that those people who did suffer had an astonishing experience.  To some, it destroyed their testimonies of the gospel and made them give up. To others it cemented their resolve to follow the Savior.  It is definitely a unique page in our history, no doubt about that.

Here in America we live in an increasingly negative and pessimistic society.  We are bombarded by negative messages all the time.  We seem to thrive on it.  This is why I quit watching the nightly news and have completely tuned out of talk radio.  It’s so overwhelmingly negative that it starts to rub off and make you bitter and fearful.

But the gospel teaches us the opposite, doesn’t it?

I believe that the Warrior thinks along positive terms.  He has a ‘can-do’ attitude that leads to victory on the battlefield and in life.  He isn’t ignorant.  He is very aware of current events and conditions, but he doesn’t let them affect or distort his perception.  He knows that he is on the Lord’s errand and that leads him in faith to smile and carry forward. He understands that negativity, fear and pessimism are tools of Satan and they are pitfalls to be avoided. He leads the way in doing good things.  He knows and does his Duty to God. This is the way of the gospel in the heart of a Warrior.  To hear a warrior teach, is exciting.  The spirit moves him to action and life is an adventure. Joy, happiness and energy are his companions and he draws out the best in those around him.

So my challenge this week is to move away from the tales of misery and woe, and let’s get excited about the gospel.  Let us (the Warriors) be the “humble seekers of happiness” (Alma 27:18) that our Joy may be the fullest. Let’s make it contagious so that it spreads across the earth!

Top Ten tips on how to do this:

1)    Turn off the TV.  The longer I live, the more convinced I become that this is one of our greatest enemies not only to our spirit but to the physical well being of our bodies.  Look up the health risks of sitting.
2)    Avoid talk radio like the plague.  TV News isn’t much better.  It is all overwhelmingly negative and you can get better information reading information on the internet.  Reading also makes you smarter.
3)    LOOK FOR THE GOOD.  In all things.
4)    Avoid Gossip.  Even in Church meetings we tend to gossip a lot.  If you can’t do something to help someone, then why discuss the issue?
5)    Fill your life with uplifting music, art, books, and other entertainment.  Avoid dark, depressing, fear-filled media.  It will ultimately make you that way.
6)    Get physically fit (gee, haven’t I said that a lot on this Blog?) Exercise hard and eat healthy.
7)    Get active.  Do things for others.  It’s hard to wallow in negativity when you are serving and helping others.
8)    Make a daily habit of reading the Book of Mormon.
9)    SMILE
10)    Remember that PAIN is inevitable, but SUFFERING is optional.

If we can do this…we can change the world.