After describing at length the curses that had come upon his brothers’ families because of their disobedience to God’s commandments, the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi contrasts the lives of his own people with one sentence: “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.” (2 Ne. 5:27).
The longer I live, the more I come to realize how perfectly practical God’s commandments are. He does not issue directives to us out of whim or capriciousness. Instead, knowing the pathway to happiness, He provides us with detailed directions as to how to keep our wheels on the road. Contrary to the concept of God propounded by many, His intent is not that we deny ourselves of the good things of life and austerely worship Him. Yes, He expects obedience, but His commandments are designed to bring us joy.
Living “after the manner of happiness” means living in harmony with God, with our fellow man, and with our internal moral compass. It does not suggest a life of comfort, and we should not delude ourselves into believing that if we are faithful we will become immune from hardship. But when such trials inevitably come, our sufferings will not be compounded by feelings of guilt and anxiety, feeling that we have brought such difficulties upon ourselves through disobedience. Nor will we face such hardships alone, because our obedience to the laws of happiness will have led us to the companionship of loving family members and loyal friends who will come to our rescue. Most importantly, we will be blessed with the comforting presence of the Holy Ghost, who will sustain us, ease our pain, and enhance our capacity to endure.
Tears and trials are essential aspects of our earthly existence. We cannot escape them. But even though opposition and discomfort are a part of our Heavenly Father’s plan, He has given us instructions that will help to ensure that our tears are limited to those that are naturally incident to mortality, and that we do not have to learn through direct experience that “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10).
So many of life’s hardships are self-inflicted. Lousy behavior leads to a lousy life. Living after the manner of happiness is a matter of deciding that we no longer wish to suffer the consequences of bad decisions. It means trusting that our loving Father in Heaven has our best interests in mind, and that He is pointing the way to a joyful and abundant life.
That path will have its rainy spots, uphill climbs, and mists of darkness. But we are promised that there will be more good days than bad, and that at the end of the journey our happiness will be magnified exponentially when, surrounded by our loved ones, we partake of the of the fruit of the tree of life, “whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” (1 Ne. 8:10).