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Solemn and Sagacious Sunday: Happiness

Here is a copy of the talk that I gave in my ward (church) today.


TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This Robert Frost poem was the theme for my High School Graduation.  The valedictorian and salutatorian speeches that were offered centered on the theme that, as graduates, we had the duty to consider the many paths before us and to choose the one that although less traveled by would make all the difference.

In the world there are many paths, but really there is only two.  As in Robert Frost’s poem, we stand at a crossroad with two paths.  One where the leaves have not had time to settle for the travelers who frequent it, and another grassy and not well worn.

These two paths in life are the path of the world and the path of the Lord.

I am often asked at work if I think drinking a beer will send me to Hell.  While this question is rooted in a deep misunderstanding of the gospel, it is typical of those who seek after self-gratification and worldly pleasures.  They don’t understand that my abstaining from alcohol is not for the reward at the end of my journey, but for the reward earned during the journey.  For Robert Frost points out that he could see that the second path had “the better claim.”  It was more grassy and more beautiful.  It was probably less traveled because it required more work.

Elder Benjamin De Hoyos explained that “happiness comes as a result of our obedience and our courage in always doing the will of God, even in the most difficult circumstances.”  When we continue to do God’s will regardless of what seems like the immediate consequences we often find that we are blessed sooner than we expect.  Often we expect the blessing to come in the life after this one or perhaps much later in life, which can very much be the case.  However, the blessings frequently are part of our lives today.

This Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a good example of this principle.  In this story we have a example of two different personalities.  While their faiths or religions aren’t discussed, the metaphor of Christmas can serve as examples of this faith.

Bob Cratchit loved the Christmas Season, and his happy countenance was reflected through out the story.  However, Ebenezer Scrooge loathed Christmas and everything it stood for.  Of these too people Cratchit was the happier man.  And Scrooge was burdened with the chains of unhappiness until his conversion to spirit of Christmas and giving.

When we choose to do right we will find happiness.  For as Alma explained to his son Corianton in Alma 41:10, “wickedness never was happiness.”

While happiness is a result of our choices, happiness is also a choice.  We must choose to be happy regardless of our circumstances.

You have met them.  You might be married to one of them.  You might even be one of them.  But regardless of that, you have met one of them.  You have met one of those people who seem to always be happy.  They have a bright smile on their face and light up a room whenever they enter.

Sister Stevens was in my district at the MTC, and she also served with me in the same mission.  She always had a smile on her face.  She made you feel like you could accomplish anything, and the daunting task of learning a foreign language seemed feasible in her presence.

Sister Chapman was also in my district at the MTC.  But she wasn’t as bright and cheery as Sister Stevens.  The whole district knew that she was struggling with the language.  These whole district would turn to her to complain about how hard it was to learn.

Sister Stevens when she prayed would pray for Sister Chapman to learn the language, because she loved her.  However, Sister Stevens was struggling with the language too.  It was obvious from her difficulty in our practice sessions and other attempts to communicate in Korean.  Yet Sister Stevens made you want to do better and do more.  She made you want to help her to better because she was upbeat and happy.

I am sure that both of these Sisters struggled with learning Korean for their whole missions, but I know that one had a wonderful time in Korea, because she choose to look at the bright side and find happiness in teaching the Gospel, no matter how hard it was for her to share her testimony in Korean.  I hope that Sister Chapman had success too.  But I am afraid that she probably struggled with her mission, because she sought after the hardships in her mission.

Dennis Prager says that “that happiness (or at least acting happy) is a debt we owe to all those in our lives and even to society at large.”

“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  The doctrine of seeking after happiness is one of the 13 basic articles of our faith.  We should seek after happiness, even in the worst of times.

Happiness comes from our pursuit of righteousness, and it is our obligation to be happy for our fellow men.  Because our happiness will lift those around us and encourage them to choose that which is right.  Thus increasing the happiness in the world, which will lead us all back to our Father in Heaven.

I testify that if we seek to be happy regardless of our situation that we will be blessed with a greater desire to serve our Father in Heaven.  And that as we serve our Father in Heaven through righteousness, we will have greater happiness bestowed upon us.  I testify of the truthfulness of obedience and its relationship to happiness in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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