Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is the purpose of life? (Part 1: Finding Happiness)

Why are we here? What do you want out of life? What do you need out of life? Ask a thousand people, you may get a thousand different answers. My limited life experience thus far has helped me answer those questions though. Those answers have given my life direction. I hope that what I share can help all those who are wondering what they want how to life, and maybe even how to go about finding it.

One answer most people give when asked what they want or need out of life is happiness. All of us want to be happy! The pursuit of happiness seems like an honorable and respectable life pursuit to me. It's even scripturally supported as a purpose of life, a reason we are here. 

"Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy." 2 Nephi 2:25
God is a perfect parent.  What parent doesn't want their kids to be happy? We weren't put on this earth to just to suffer, experience trails and heartache. We are here to expierience joy and happiness! How do we go about finding joy though? What do we do to find the joy that God wants us to feel? 

It only takes a couple television programs to know where most of the world turns to find this joy. Commercials advertise fun and happiness packaged in 24-packs of 16oz. cans. Apparently, Bud Light is the "sure sign of a good time." My experience has shown though that there is a distinction between pleasure and happiness that the world fails to make. In my life, I've sought for peace, joy and love. Do these things bring about those feelings? The joy brought on by one night of "fun" for me was never lasting. If I wanted to experience that same feeling again, I would have to do the same thing over. This Talmage quote was life-altering: 

“The present is an age of pleasure-seeking, and men are losing their sanity in the mad rush for sensations that do but excite and disappoint. In this day of counterfeits, adulterations, and base imitations, the devil is busier than he has ever been in the course of human history, in the manufacture of pleasures, both old and new; and these he offers for sale in most attractive fashion, falsely labeled, Happiness.
“. . . Happiness includes all that is really desirable and of true worth in pleasure, and much besides. Happiness is genuine gold, pleasure but gilded brass, which corrodes in the hand, and is soon converted into poisonous verdigris. Happiness is as the genuine diamond, which, rough or polished, shines with its own inimitable luster; pleasure is as the paste imitation that glows only when artificially embellished. Happiness is as the ruby, red as the heart’s blood, hard and enduring; pleasure, as stained glass, soft, brittle, and of but transitory beauty.
“Happiness is true food, wholesome, nutritious and sweet; it builds up the body and generates energy for action, physical, mental and spiritual; pleasure is but a deceiving stimulant which, like spiritous drink, makes one think he is strong when in reality enfeebled; makes him fancy he is well when in fact stricken with deadly malady.
“Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it calls for no repentance, brings no regret, entails no remorse; pleasure too often makes necessary repentance, contrition, and suffering; and, if indulged to the extreme, it brings degradation and destruction
“True happiness is lived over and over again in memory, always with a renewal of the original good; a moment of unholy pleasure may leave a barbed sting, which, like a thorn in the flesh, is an ever-present source of anguish.  (James E. Talmage, Improvement Era, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 172-73.  Quoted in: Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to Holy Scriptures Both Ancient and Modern [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 230.)
This scripture from the Book of Mormon helps us see that we cannot find happiness in doing that which is wicked.
"But behold, your day of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head." Helaman 13:38 
All wickedness has ever brought me is momentary pleasure. True and lasting happiness however comes through obedience to God's commandments. When we obey, then we are blessed with the fruits of the spirit: peace, joy, love... God promises this, and he cannot lie.
"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it." Mosiah 2:41
Righteousness will bring about happiness. God tells us to test him and see!
"Prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." Malachi 3:10 
It's my challenge to everyone to test God to see if your personal righteousness will not bring about the true and lasting happiness that is offered. I have felt it myself. "God is faithful" (1 Cor 10:13). He will not lie to us. This promise is sure. Try it for yourself and see!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Overwhelming Love of the Son of God

Referring to the previous post, I would like to talk about the greastest act of love that God has shown to all of us. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and successfully completed the Atonement. Many understand this to mean that He suffered the penalties of our sins so that we could be forgiven for them, and that He rose from the tomb so that we could overcome death. That is the miracle of the Atonement, that because of this perfect sacrifice, we can overcome the things that keep us from the presence of God. However, the Atonment does so much more for us.

The prophet Abinadi, quoting Isaiah to the wicked King Noah, said: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

One part of that statement that has always struck me more than the rest is where it says that the Savior has "borne our griefs" and "carried our sorrows." One thing I have come to understand is that somehow during the Atonement process, Jesus Christ felt and suffered every negative thing any of us have ever gone through. Every pain or sorrow we have all suffered, however large or small, the Savior felt as he laid on the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane. Why? So that He could know and understand us perfectly, so He could shepherd us through any patch of life.

"For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee." Isaiah 41:13

"But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee..." Deuteronomy 4:29-31

"And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8

Jesus Christ has felt everything any of us have gone through. He suffered our pains, griefs and sorrows so that when we are troubled we can turn to Him. He will always stand by us. He will always help us. He will always show His love for us. Let our Lord take you by the right hand and guide you through this life.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Overwhelming Love of God

I love this famous painting! It is a beautiful depiction of God reaching out to touch the hand of man. I was once fortunate enough to even tour the St. Peter's Basilica and see it in person. Recently though, this image has taken on a whole new meaning to me because of the profound observation a wonderful fellow missionary made.

As I've thought about God's love in my life, I've found that I can relate it perfectly to the picture of God and Adam, as can we all. One thing that we are constantly talking to people about is the immense love that our Heavenly Father has for each and every one of us. We are all His precious sons and daughters. As a perfect being, God's love for us is perfect. He is a perfect parent who knows us perfectly.

Look at the painting. Note how God is fully stretched out, reaching as far as he can to touch the hand of man. Adam however is just laying there, slouched over passively reaching to grasp the hand of his Father. I feel like this is the experience of many of us! God reaches out and does everything He can for each and everyone of His beloved children. If you are not feeling the love or influence of God in your life, all we must do is make a tiny effort to come closer to him. Communicate with Him! If we make the changes in our lives to align our actions with His will, I can promise you will feel  the influence of His Holy Spirit in your life and you will more fully feel God's love! It's my hope that we can all reach back to grab the hand of our loving Heavenly Father. I'm grateful that because of His overwhelming love, we don't have to reach far, but as we come to Him, we will all feel the wonderful joy that will come into our lives!

I know this to be true, because it has been my own experience and I know that all are entitled to these blessings of His divine love. 1 Cor. 10:13 - "God is faithful."