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!

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