Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Choose Happiness

2 Nephi 2

We know that we must pass through sorrow to know joy.  But all of us know people who don't pass through sorrow; they stay and wallow in it, become bitter, and are joyless in their lives.  Why?  Why do some people face the greatest obstacles and tragedies and come through stronger, kinder, more empathetic, and happier while others are crushed by the same obstacles and tragedies?

v. 27 Wherefore, men are afree according to the bflesh; and call things are dgiven them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to echoose fliberty and eternal glife, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be hmiserable like unto himself.

The answer lies in who you choose to follow.  Following Christ brings happiness; following the lies of Satan make you miserable like unto himself.

v. 28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great aMediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;

These are the simple steps to following Christ:

1.  Look: He set forth the perfect example of how to live one's life in happiness.  Learn of Him, know Him, and follow that example.

2.  Hearken:  "Hearken" means more than listening.  It means giving one's full attention.  Keep his commandments.  Commandments are not restrictions, they are guidelines that lead to happiness.

3  Be faithful:  Be faithful to His words.  Where do you find His words?  In the scriptures.  Read the scriptures, feast upon them, turn to them in your darkest hours.  Help for every problem can be found there.  Reading scriptures invites the Spirit which gives you peace and comfort even in the midst of the darkest days of your hardest trials.

4.  Choose.  Choose righteousness, choose happiness, choose to live your life according to HIS will.

v. 2 9 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the aevil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to bcaptivate, to bring you down to chell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.

Ah, there is the final key to the puzzle.  Choose to follow the will of the Spirit over the will of the flesh.  Easy to say, but so hard to do, at least at first.  But it gets easier, much easier, because of the intercession of Jesus Christ, because of His atonement.  Because He heals us.  

Think about why we turn to the will of the flesh, why we sin:  It is because there is some hurt, some need that we are trying to fill in our lives.  We try to mask the pain through immediate gratification; some people go to extreme lengths to make it stop hurting.  But as long as we try to kill the pain according to the will of the flesh, the relief is only temporary.

When we turn to our Savior and apply His atonement in our lives, He heals us.  He takes away the loneliness, the self-doubt, the guilt, the pain.  We have no more desire to do evil, because we're not trying to kill the pain anymore.  We have passed through sorrow.  We are free to experience true joy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


2 Nephi 2

v. 15 And to bring about his eternal apurposes in the end of man, after he had bcreated our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the cfowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the dforbidden efruit in fopposition to the gtree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. 

v.16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should aact for himself. Wherefore, man could not bact for himself save it should be that he was centiced by the one or the other.

One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the freedom to choose our actions.  Christ invites all men to come unto Him; He stands ready, waiting, with open arms.  He stands at the door and knocks, but He waits for us to open.  No one is forced to follow Him.  No one is forced to accept His gift of repentance and the atonement.

v. 22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

v. 23 And they would have had no achildren; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no bjoy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no csin.

v. 2 4But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who aknoweth all things.

v. 25 aAdam bfell that men might be; and men care, that they might have djoy.

The only path to happiness is through sorrow.  When God "cursed" Eve, He said He would "greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." (Genesis 3:16).  And to Adam, God said, "bcursed is the ground for thy sake; in csorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." (Genesis 3:17)

Mothers, isn't it true, that our children have the power to bring us so much sorrow?  How many nights have you spent walking the floors with worry, or crying yourself to sleep because of the mistakes of your children?  I just want my children to be happy, and my heart breaks when I see them make decisions that lead to heartbreak for them.  

And yet, is there any greater joy than that found in your children?  Their antics, their smiles, their giggles, their hugs and unconditional love.  The pride you feel in their accomplishments.  The joy when they learn and grow and are happy.

It is better that we should pass through sorrow, better than innocence and ignorance. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Opposition In All Things

2 Nephi 2

v. 10 And because of the intercession for aall, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be bjudged of him according to the truth and choliness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the dpunishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the eatonement

Because of the intercession for all men, Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to judge us, "according to the truth and holiness which is in him."  When He took upon himself all of our sins and sorrows, He became the one person to understand us completely and uniquely.  He understands the circumstances that lead us to the choices we make. 

And let's be honest, the reason we sin is because we are trying to overcome some hurt inside us.  We're trying to fill some hole in our heart, and we mistakenly turn to the promises of the world to fill it.  The ways of the world will always fail us; turning to our Savior and letting Him heal us is the only true way to happiness.

This verse also introduces the doctrine of opposition.

v. 11 For it must needs be, that there is an aopposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

This makes immediate sense when you think about it, and it changes the way you look at life.  Suddenly, trials and difficulties and even past mistakes are no longer "bad" things.  On the contrary, it is only by passing through unhappiness that we can experience happiness.  Have you ever noticed how people who have had extreme difficulties have a greater appreciation for life, how they are more compassionate, how they find joy in the smallest things?  They find joy that other people miss.

Understanding this principle helps me understand the fall of Adam and Eve better.  Often, we think of the garden of Eden as a wonderful paradise where everything was perfect and Adam and Eve lived in happiness.  Their every need was provided for them.  They didn't have to work.  They didn't have any sorrows.  They were completely innocent.

But understanding the principle of opposition, we know that the absence of sorrow doesn't mean happiness.  The absence of sorrow means the incomprehension of happiness.  The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil did not just give them knowledge, it gave them specific knowledge: the knowledge of opposites.  

The idea of living in the garden of Eden makes me cringe.  No knowledge.  No work.  No progress.  Spending my days endlessly picking fruit and petting pretty animals?  Good grief, every day would feel like an eternity.  

Friday, March 18, 2011


2 Nephi 2

v. 8 "Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth,"

Our church is a missionary church.  Why?  Because it is essential for all the inhabitants of the earth to know these things.  How are people to know if we don't tell them?  We're not trying to force our religion on anyone.  In fact, most of us are a little shy in sharing the gospel for the simple reason that we don't want to step on toes.  But, if we do share the gospel with you, there's a reason for it: We care about you.  The gospel makes us happy, and we want to share that with you.  What kind of friend would I be if I didn't at least give you the choice?

"...that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, asave it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah,"

When I read this, I think about the curse that came to Laman and Lemuel when they rebelled against God.  The curse was that they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.  By the fall of Adam, we are all cursed to be cut off from the presence of the Lord.  But through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we may in the flesh approach God and dwell, in various degrees, in His presence again.

"...who blayeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the cresurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise."

Here Jacob is talking about Jesus Christ overcoming physical death through the resurrection.  I find it interesting (and somewhat confusing) that he intertwines physical death and spiritual death in the same verse.  I think his sons must have been similarly confused, because he goes on to explain in greater depth later in this chapter.

v. 9 "Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make aintercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved."

In trying to understand "intercession" better, this verse led me to Isaiah 53:

v. 4 ¶Surely he hath aborne our bgriefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

v. 5 But he was awounded for our btransgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his cstripes we are dhealed.

I love this verse.  It is so sadly beautiful, a reminder of what He went through for me, and a promise that I can be healed.
v. 6 All we like asheep have gone bastray; we have turned every one to his cown way; and the Lord hath laid on him the diniquity of us all.

I love the imagery in this verse.  We are like sheep, and we have all gone astray.  We have turned to our own way, and our way is what causes us to get lost.  The atonement (literally at-one-ment) brings us back to God and returns us to His way.  His way is the good way, the only way that brings happiness in this life and the life to come.
I have this image in my mind of me, a wayward wandering child, walking away from God, and my Savior, Jesus Christ running after me.  He takes my hand and gently, lovingly leads me back to my Heavenly Father.  Every step He leads me in the right direction brings me closer to God.  And the journey there, with my hand in His, is a happy, pleasant one.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Law

2 Nephi 2

v. 5 "And men are instructed sufficiently that they aknow good from evil."

All men know the difference between good and evil instinctively.  A child knows it's wrong to steal a candy bar or hit a sibling.  A business man knows it's wrong to lie to close the deal.  A housewife knows it's wrong to gossip about a neighbor.  Everyone is born with the light of Christ, or a conscience.

"...And the blaw is given unto men."  What is the law?  The knowledge of good from evil.

"... And by the law no flesh is cjustified; or, by the law men are dcut off."

We are cut off because we transgress the law, or rather we all sometimes choose evil over good.  We all sin.

"... Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever."

Temporal refers to the physical.  We are physically cut off from God because in this life, we are not in His presence.  Death is the physical barrier that keeps us from God.  It is a barrier that we cannot overcome on our own.

We are also cut off from God by the spiritual law when we sin.  Sin is a spiritual barrier that keeps us from God.  It too is a barrier that we cannot overcome on our own.

 v. 6 "Wherefore, aredemption cometh in and through the bHoly cMessiah; for he is full of dgrace and truth.

Redemption from both the consequences of temporal and spiritual law comes through our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He overcame both death and sin.

1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
2. a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
3. favor or good will.
4. a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior: It was only through the dean's grace that I wasn't expelled from school.
5. mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace.
6. favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.
7. an allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied: The life insurance premium is due today, but we have 31 days' grace before the policy lapses. Compare grace period.
8.Theology .
a. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of god.
b. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
c. a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces.
d. Also called state of grace. the condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect.
9. moral strength: the grace to perform a duty.
v. 7 "Behold, he offereth himself a asacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto bnone else can the cends of the law be answered.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2 Nephi 2

This passage is so full, so meaty.  Yesterday, I read through it, just to get a taste of it on my palate.  Today, and maybe tomorrow or more, I want to go over it again, savor it, chew on it a little.

v.1-2  Lehi is speaking to his son, Jacob.  He points out that Jacob has suffered many afflictions, but he assures him, that God will "consecrate [his] afflictions for [his] gain."

First of all, it is comforting for anyone going through afflictions to understand the law of compensation, or the fact that God will consecrate your afflictions for your gain.  You are not suffering needlessly.  There is a purpose and a blessing attached.

Secondly, these verses set up the doctrine of opposition that will follow.

v. 3  How will Jacob be blessed?  "Wherefore, (1)thy soul shall be blessed, and (2) thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi;  and (3) thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God."

Wherefore ties into the previous verse and indicates causation.  Three blessings are mentioned, that his soul will be blessed, safety, and he will serve God.  I don't automatically think of serving God as a blessing, but rather as a vehicle for blessings to follow.  And yet, it is a blessing in itself, a way of life that brings joy.  A time-tested way to overcome your own sorrows is to serve someone needier than you.

v. 3  "Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fullness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men." 

Again, wherefore indicates causation.  We see that because Jacob turned to the Lord in his afflictions instead of turning away and letting his heart become bitter, he received the blessings previously enumerated.  And because he received those blessings, he is redeemed because of his faith in Jesus Christ.

v. 4 Here Lehi points out that because of Jacob's great faith, he is blessed just as much as if he had been present personally to receive the ministering of Christ.  "...for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever." 

We are like Jacob in that we are not personally present during Christ's ministry.  Yet, like Jacob, through our faith we can receive the same blessings.  "...salvation is free."  All men may come and receive salvation, if they desire it, if they accept it.  It is a gift, but God does not force His gift on anyone.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


1 Nephi 17:36   Alma 30:44   Doctrine and Covenants 88:41-47   Moses 2:1   Moses 6:63   Abraham 3:24-25

Alma 30:44  ...The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the bearth, and call things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its dmotion, yea, and also all the eplanets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

The beauty and majesty of the earth not only testifies of God, but it testifies that He is such a loving God.  Of course, we needed a place for our mortal experience, a place where we could be tried and tested, a place where we could learn.  But it didn't have to be such a beautiful place, did it?  Certainly, God could have skimped a little. 

But He didn't.  He knew we'd be here for a seemingly long life.  He knew we'd have some hard times.   I don't think I'm the only one who has sought peace and consolation from nature.  When my heart has been heavy, I have often retired to a walk on the beach or through the woods, depending on where I lived.  I felt closer to Him there, and I poured my heart out to Him, and I felt like He listened.  I know He did.

I love to sit outside, even in my own backyard, and feel the sun on my face and enjoy the blue skies.  I like to see the wind rippling the water of our pool.  I love my little visitors, the lizards racing along the concrete wall or sunning themselves in the morning.  I love to hear the songs of birds through an open window as I walk by.  I love, love, love, the smell of orange blossoms in the Spring, the bright colors of flowers blooming, and the sight of butterflies and dragon flies fluttering by.  I like to discover grasshoppers and praying mantises camouflaged in the garden greenery who have given themselves away by a slight motion that catches my eye.  I love walking to get the mail and seeing the snow-capped mountains on the horizon, sometimes bathed in purple with the setting sun.

These things make me smile, involuntarily.  They lift my heart.  They remind me that God loves me, and more importantly, that He wants me to have joy.