what does "happiness" mean to a Mormon?

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RenLass
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what does "happiness" mean to a Mormon?

Postby RenLass » Mon 15 May, 2006 03:48 pm

My brother's family and my family were all discussing some gospel related stuff yesterday and got to talking about how as members of a church that believes it has the fullness of the gospel, and presumably all that we need that "men mighty have joy", there are still so many who seem to miss out on the joy and happiness of it all. Now I'm not talking about those who are in-active or partially so. Nor am I talking about those who are hiding sins that need to be repented of. I'm talking about normal run-of-the-mill Mormons who say their prayers, read their scriptures, have FHE, fulfill their callings to the best of their ability, and believe in God and Jesus as their Redeemer, and yet still feel blah.

Now granted, many of those that I know who feel this way are homemakers and mothers of young children, but they aren't the only ones. Is it that we don't really understand what joy and happiness are? Are we happy and don't know it? Are we expecting too much of it?

So are YOU happy in the gospel? Do you feel joy in your life? And if so, what is the cause of that joy? How does it feel, how does it affect your life?

If you aren't feeling happy at this time, have you in the past? What makes it come and go? How do we get it back after we have lost it? Why do so many members seem to be missing it? Discuss, please.
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Postby JDJanson » Mon 15 May, 2006 07:38 pm

I so love your very simple questions!!!!

I will think about this, as it does require some thought.

But, my first thought was of when I am doing all the things I know and believe to be what I should be doing i have that happiness, and at the same time feel you are one that lets yourself be happy and experience joy!

I will give this more thought. I am interested to see what other villagers think of your simple questions!
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Postby WiseNLucky » Tue 16 May, 2006 04:42 am

I think there is a big difference between joy and happiness. Joy is a longer term event and happiness is very transitory.

As someone who did not have the gospel his entire life, I can tell you that I am very much more joyful with it rather than without. I cannot imagine anymore not knowing what I know, that I am a child of God, that my Heavenly Father loves me no matter what, that I have a chance of being with my wonderful wife forever if I live up to my covenants. Imagine being that young mother without any of those comforts. There's an old song entitled "Is That All There Is?" that actually makes me cry because I remember what it felt like when I thought that way.

During any given day, I have times of happiness, sadness, tiredness, anger and every other emotion under the sun. Tiredness can quickly lead to feelings of sadness and depression, and no one is more tired than a young mother. I read an interesting article yesterday that stay-at-home Moms have a much higher rate of obesity than women who work outside the home. I would argue that physical fitness is extremely important -- I am so much happier more of the time now that I can be more active since my gastric bypass, and I'm still bigger than a lot of folks are BEFORE they have the procedure. Also, exercise is one of those known endorphin producers -- happy pills so to speak.

The other thing that can take me from feeling sorry for myself to feeling good about myself is that old trite phrase "do something for someone else." A young mother might not have much opportunity (or the result of the doing goes unnoticed and even is expected) but the rest of us do. Nothing makes me feel better than being generous with my time or money.

I would tell someone who is unhappy much of the time to do what they can to regulate it and get professional help, Tom Cruise to the contrary, if they cannot regulate it on their own. I don't know what led you to make this post in the first place but would be happy to provide some cheering up if you need it!!
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RenLass
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Postby RenLass » Tue 16 May, 2006 07:53 am

I don't know what led you to make this post in the first place but would be happy to provide some cheering up if you need it!!
A variety of reasons. My brother is a Bishop and as we were talking about this the other day it came up how many members who look good on the outside are really unhappy on the inside.

I also know members who seem to struggle with the idea of sharing the gospel with others because "why would they want to add that much extra stress to their friends lives?" Members who claim to believe it is true, but in the next breath say how "hard it is to live it".

I know born again Christians who are good, happy people (and not in the annoying way) who live contented with a simple faith that they joyfully share, and I wonder why if we have the fullness of the gospel why we are not as happy or happier than they and why we are not as willing to share our beliefs.

And then, because I have moved in to a new ward I see the comparison. In this ward there is a very strong missionary spirit. So many members seem to share the gospel naturally and without fanfare with their neighbors, co-workers, and friends, and in the ward I came from the only woman I can think of who actively shared the gospel with all around her was thought of as "a little intense" by others I know. It's not that they were opposed to sharing the gospel, they just didn't seem to actively go out of their way to share it.

I realize that happy and joy have two different meanings, but I mean them as a sort of combined word. A happy, joyful person to me is one who is glad to live, contented with life, accepting of the bad as well as the good and able to just keep moving forward with hope.

I'm also curious about the way personality affects happiness. I have a friend who always seems cheerful. There is always a smile on her face. I can't imagine that as a child she was any different. I think even without the gospel she would be just as cheerful.

I also have a freind who is the kindest, gentlest Christ-like woman I know and yet you wouldn't know that just by looking at her face. You have to get to know her to know that inner contentment and peace that keeps her moving forward.

I know another woman who seems fairly happy to all around her and yet struggles constantly with feeling content with life, and it is only if you ask her specifically about gospel related things she lights up with joy and conciously recognizes and acknowledges joy in her life.

So are we born with a joyful personality - can we create our own joyful personality - is the gospel the only true way to a joyful personality - can you have a melancholy personality and yet still feel and be joyful - how can we help others recognize their inner joy - how can we re-find our own inner joy when it has gone dim?

I realize that really covers a lot more topics than just what happiness means to you. But it is something I have been observing and curious about for a long time.
but would be happy to provide some cheering up if you need it!!
As a stay-at-home mom of 5 there is frequently a need for cheering up :D That is why I first came to be addicted to the EDS board. Back when people could respond right after Eric's column I used to laugh just as much over the clever responses as I would from the column itself. Lately though, things have been a little dry around here. Not much giggle room.
Since you are the one who responded, Wise I also wonder about how happiness relates to the lives of women like WiseWoman who deals with such overwhelming trials. Does the gospel give an underlying joy that is there despite the trials? Or does it come and go and have to be fought for? Perhaps you can tell her of this thread and have her respond if she has any thoughts.
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Matt
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Postby Matt » Tue 16 May, 2006 09:03 am

I think this goes back to the recent topic of spirit vs. personality/body. If, as some have proposed, the imperfect body is a filter on the spirit, such that the inputs and outputs are "colored" rather than being delivered unaltered, then it's understandable why someone who is living in accordance with God's laws could still be unhappy in their lives. Clinical depression, generally caused by a chemical imbalance, can still make someone unhappy even if they are living righteously. Some remarkable individuals are able to remain positive dispite incredibly adverse circumstances, but for many of us when the going gets tough, we get sad.

Though there is no real spiritual component to my life, I generally consider myself a happy and optimistic person. All of my temporal needs are met, I get along well with my immediate and extended family, and no one that I care about is struggling with serious medical, financial, or other problems. I am challenged at work and I am working towards important goals.

I don't think, that the answer for all unhappiness is "living the Gospel" as RenLass has pointed out the fact that many people who do so are still not happy. We also must mind our houses here. One should not store of treasures on earth, but one still should attend to their earthly needs. Medical conditions must be treated, relationships must be nourished, and we must find challenges and fulfillment in our day-to-day lives. When we are unhappy, we need to determine the unique cause of OUR unhappiness so that it can be addressed. If we are unhappy because of spiritual neglect, then reading the scriptures more often might be the answer, but if the cause of our unhappiness is temporal, then perhaps the solution is also temporal.
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Postby Momma Snider » Tue 16 May, 2006 11:13 am

I'm with you again, Matt. I remember an article I read one time about depression. He talked about a young mother who was so depressed, and one of the things she was depressed about was that the floor needed mopping. He told her to mop the floor. Of course it's not as simple as that, if a person is overwhelmed with the things they need to do, but I know that when I'm depressed, I don't want to do anything, and the things I don't get done make me even more depressed. Reading scriptures and praying isn't going to get the floor mopped.

I'm with Wise on the happiness v. joy thing. I don't know if I can explain, but I think too many people are worrying too much about being "happy." Find joy in the things that you have, and quit thinking about it so much. Life isn't supposed to be 100% giggles, or even 100% little smiles. If we get 50% sheepish grins, we're doing okay. Change what you can and live with what you can't change. And don't just live with it, accept it.

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Postby WiseNLucky » Tue 16 May, 2006 12:22 pm

Wow, Matt -- great post. You sound like someone I would really like to have as a friend. I bet you are happy and optimistic and people like that are fun to be around.

Ren, I'll see if WW will stop programming her iPod long enough to post. :? If not, I will provide you with my perspective which is pretty good after 25 years of marriage and 30+ years of knowing her.
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Postby Matt » Tue 16 May, 2006 12:40 pm

Thanks for the kind words. Wise. I like you too. :)

I'd also like to add that the previous suggestion to do something for someone else is a great way to bring your spirits up. It's amazing how good it can feel to bake a cake and bring it to your neighbor. I even get a little boost just by taking my next-door-neighbor's garbage out to the street for them on the night before the garbage truck comes by.

I spent most of this Mother's day in filthy grime trying to get the A/C at my brother-in-law's house working. They've had a couple sweltering days and really couldn't afford to have a technician come to the house. Once I figured out the problem and got it working, I felt fantastic. Their family is comfortable now, no one had to spend any money, and I learned a lot about HVAC that I didn't know before.
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Postby WiseWoman » Tue 16 May, 2006 02:00 pm

I don't know exactly what W has told you about my illness, but it's bi-polar I with symptoms of schizo-affective disorder. What that means is that not only am I unhappy at times, but I am also irrational. I become cruel and hurtful to people (usually family). I mean just verbally abusive. When I am like this, even I don't know who I am.

I have asked myself and my Heavenly Father why must I be this way. They can't give me enough pills to control it all, because I'd be a zombie. I'm bad enough as it is. I spill things, run into things, trip and fall. So basically I must deal with the part of my illness that the drugs can't help.

The end result is that I am severely, suicidally unhappy at times. But during this time I can still experience joy. I remember one night I couldn't sleep and was wishing that I didn't exist. Then one of our mastiffs came and wanted outside. I went the sliding door and opened the curtains and looked out. Everything was painted silver. The full moon was shining so brightly that it was almost daylight out. I stumbled my way out to the back yard and just stood there like an idiot, looking at that beautiful moon and letting its light shine on me. Everywhere around was silver, and that wonderful creation contined serenely shining. Even though physically I was ill (that's what mental illness is, a physical condition) and was unhappy, I could feel in the depths of my soul great joy at all of God's creations, even me.

Then the experience was over and I came back in the house, laid down on the couch and contined being unhappy. But it wasn't quite the same. What I had seen didn't cure me, but it gave me something to cling to, to remember. To me, that's the difference between happiness and joy. Even when I'm unhappy and wonder why I'm alive, I can find joy in many places, some typical like reading the scriptures, like doing my church job well, serving others.

Unless someone invents a miracle cure to mental illness, I will always be mentally ill. I will always spend more time unhappy that happy. But I know that through my belief in God almighty, I can still feel joy. WW

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Postby WiseNLucky » Tue 16 May, 2006 03:06 pm

WiseWoman wrote:I will always spend more time unhappy than happy. WW


At the moment, however, she is downright gleeful to be book-shopping for Mr. and Mrs. quidscribis. I'm glad that she is so easily amused.

I just hope she doesn't forget "Twilight."
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Postby megrat » Tue 16 May, 2006 03:53 pm

I am a young stay at home mother and fortunately I don't struggle too much with being happy. I realize there are many difficult things which I haven't experienced, but I do have daily frustrations and annoyances. I think I have one of those personalities like Matt mentioned where I just don't get too bogged down by things and I'm pretty low key. So I think a lot of it is personality.

But the gospel makes a difference too. I remember a talk by Elder Holland where he mentions the Savior's words in the New Testament: "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (Sorry if that's not exact- I'm not taking the time to look it up right now). He said that wasn't just a suggestion, that was a commandment. If we truly have faith in Christ as our Savior and truly believe in the Atonement and Resurrection, we know it will all work out in the end. Robinson's book Believing Christ addresses the same thing. We all know LDS people and non LDS people who stress themselves out trying to be the perfect parent/companion/employee/ Sunday school teacher/whatever. I think one of the most important things I gain from my knowledge of the gospel is an eternal perspective which allows me to balance all that goes on in my life.

I like what Matt said too. I think sometimes we just forget to have a little common sense. There are things we can do to make our lives less complicated. Sometimes there's not much we can do. But what's that saying about having wisdom to change the things we can and accept the things we can't? I think we allow ourselves to get worked up about a lot of things we can't change or that just don't matter.

WiseWoman, I've never personally had to deal with mental illness, but I admire those that live with it and perservere and can find pockets of joy and happiness, even when those times are the minority.

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Postby kread » Tue 16 May, 2006 05:01 pm

I am generally a really happy person. I rarely have bad days. It's more like I might have a bad hour. I think it is because I don't stress very much, and I get over things that go wrong pretty quickly. I'm also not a worrier. I really like myself and enjoy being me.

I agree with what Wise said about physical activity affecting our happiness. I think how we feel physically has a great affect on our moods. I know that when I don't eat well, exercise or sleep enough I feel icky. When I feel icky I more likely to be unhappy.

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Postby JDJanson » Tue 16 May, 2006 05:46 pm

Great posts everyone.

Something said here made me think of how when I was seperated from my husband before getting divorced,I told my bishop, that I was tired of coming to the door of the church, taking a deep breath, and putting on my happy face before walking in!

I think one important lesson I have learned going through that divorce and all that goes with it, that I was not alone. I was not alone is having family issues, I was not alone in taking that deep breath and putting on the happy face. And I was not alone in that the Lord knew ME, really knew ME, and what I was going through, what was in my heart and my mind.
I was assured there were other happy faces in the ward, that were not so happy.
It then made me ask why as LDS people we think we have to be so perfect, and not let others know and help us, what did and does being each others brother and sister really mean? We will not be perfect in this life, another lesson I have learned, but if I am working toward it to the best of my ability then things should be Ok.
Mind you I am a major work in progress.
I also agree about the happy/joy things stated here. I am basically a happy person, but there are those hours, or mins when you are not so happy, for me just the norm, whatever that is? And then like the great example WiseWoman gave of going out into the yard and feeling that joy of seeing the moon and being able to see what the Lord has blessed us with. Maybe we just need to slow down a little and really realize who we are and why we are here more often than we do.
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Postby ImAdhis » Wed 17 May, 2006 09:51 am

Perhaps because we're surrounded by so much of what happiness is "supposed to be" that we don't recognize pure happiness. Happiness for me comes in different forms. Sometimes I feel giddy, sometimes serene, other times brave. Sometimes I feel like there is a sun shining in my mind and sometimes I feel like there's a brook trickling through my thoughts. Only RARELY has happiness felt like a toothpaste commercial complete with a twinkle in my smile and a thumbs-up for the viewing audience.

Happiness is petting a loyal dog and other times it's holding the hand of a person I love while traversing through hell. It's choosing happiness when we are capable of choosing. I don't know how to describe it exactly, but I know how it feels.

There are so many ways to praise the Lord and his goodness that many women feel like they have to be able to do ALL of them (can peaches, sing in the choir, be Primary President, feed the hungry). However, God is not judging to see who has the biggest and shiniest parade float.

I strongly believe in the Law of Attraction: we get exactly what we focus on. If we dwell on the joy and blessings of gospel living, we attract more reasons to rejoice and will greet adversity with hope. If we dwell on the rush-rush of busy days and tasks gone unfinished, we attract more reasons to feel rushed and incompetent.

Even in the deepest darkest trials we experience with our foster children, our minds cling, if only by a pinky finger sometimes, to hope, light, and mercy from God, rather than dwell on the grinding progress of the legal system, the negligence of their birthparents, and the anguish of their/our emotional breakdowns.

Yes, I still become frustrated/sad/angry/bitter but I don't make those emotions my god.
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Postby RenLass » Wed 17 May, 2006 06:49 pm

You guys are great! I am so enjoying reading everyones thoughts on this subject. (It even makes me happy! :wink:)

Matt: Medical conditions must be treated, relationships must be nourished, and we must find challenges and fulfillment in our day-to-day lives.
I think you have hit on what I feel are the three most important steps to happiness. Take care of the physical body. Create loving bonds with both God and friends and family. And find challenges to make you stretch and grow. Stagnation never feels good.
WiseWoman: Everything was painted silver. The full moon was shining so brightly that it was almost daylight out. I stumbled my way out to the back yard and just stood there like an idiot, looking at that beautiful moon and letting its light shine on me. Everywhere around was silver, and that wonderful creation contined serenely shining. Even though physically I was ill ... and was unhappy, I could feel in the depths of my soul great joy at all of God's creations, even me.
Even when I'm unhappy and wonder why I'm alive, I can find joy in many places
You are so poetic! I wanted to be there in the silver moonlight with you. Some of my greatest joys are in nature. My favorite challenge I'm dealing with right now is re-landscaping our front and back yard. I just love it!
JDJanson: why as LDS people (do) we think we have to be so perfect, and not let others know and help us? What did and does being each others brother and sister really mean?
This is the thing I have found out the most with people. Their fear of accepting help.Most of us receive great joy in truely helping someone else, so why don't we allow others that same chance at joy when we need it? Just because we CAN do it all by ourselves doesn't mean we have to or even should. Today i had to tackle my youngest's bedroom. It had gotten way out of control. My friend needed me to watch her two youngest for an hour so they played while I worked. Then when their mother came back she dug in and helped me. We were pulling crap out from under the beds, she was vacuuming, we organized it all. It looks great!

I could have done it all by myself, but how much more fun it was to do it with a friend.
JDJanson: Maybe we just need to slow down a little and really realize who we are and why we are here more often than we do.
I think for the young, overwhelmed mothers, this is a big problem. Where do they find a few moments to slow down? But as WiseWoman displayed, even 3 minutes breathing in the night sky can be refreshing and rejuvenating. Back in California, my Home Teachers family use to give what they called "energy hugs" (what my 10 year old called "holdies") It's just one of those hugs where you don't let go right away. You just hold someone and breath in and out, in and out, and receive of their energy and love. Humans need human touch.

ImAdhis: Perhaps because we're surrounded by so much of what happiness is "supposed to be" that we don't recognize pure happiness
I agree with this too. The media is so much a part of our lives now that sometimes we forget that even the news isn't all there is to reality. It is only a very thin slice of it. As JD said, we need to slow down and remember who WE are, not who the TV or the magazine or the neighbor says we SHOULD be.

So here is a list of some of the things that make me happy or bring me joy:
The night sky
planting flowers
pruning trees
Big hugs
watching TV with a friend
floating in a cool pool on a bright summer morning
Helping a friend
making someone laugh
eating an icecream cone
finishing a good book
getting an e-mail from a friend out of the blue
having someone remember my favorite way to eat MilkyWay candybars (frozen)
eating fresh rasberries with whipcream and brown sugar
dreaming by a fireplace in the winter
lightening and thunderstorms
The way my youngest always kisses me goodbye before school
When the devil reminds you of your past,

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Postby WiseWoman » Sun 21 May, 2006 05:01 pm

I'm having a pretty good day, today. We sustained a new stake president today, and it was both sad and exciting. Church is great! When I go to church, I walk in and the outside world is left there. I feel the love and admiration that each person has for others. This is the best Ward I've ever been in. They seem so kind and loving, I feel a glow of true joy just to be a part of it. And it gives me a wonderful experience to help them get what they need out of the library for their classes. PB

No, I'm not living in a 'fool's paradise' I know there are people that only pretent to be good, and know there are people who don't like me and are frightened of me. But no Ward is perfect, although, this one comes close.

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Postby JDJanson » Sun 21 May, 2006 09:27 pm

WiseWoman, you are just that a wise woman.
I enjoyed your post.
I will be in a new ward soon and want to go in with your attitude.
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Postby angela n » Sun 21 May, 2006 11:08 pm

I've been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately, and he says that joy is impossible to achieve until we throw away the idea that we're Really Important People who Need Recognition. I'm very inclined to agree with him -- the times that I'm the happiest/most peaceful/joyful are the times when I'm so wrapped up in the wonder of God's creations that I'm not thinking of me, or the times I look at myself and realize how silly I am for thinking I'm sooooo important and get a good laugh.
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Postby Strude » Mon 22 May, 2006 06:00 am

megrat wrote:I remember a talk by Elder Holland where he mentions the Savior's words in the New Testament: "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (Sorry if that's not exact- I'm not taking the time to look it up right now).


In case anyone was wondering:

John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Another favorite of mine related to the subject is:

John 16:33 - These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

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Postby WiseNLucky » Mon 22 May, 2006 07:55 am

angela c wrote:I've been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately, and he says that joy is impossible to achieve until we throw away the idea that we're Really Important People who Need Recognition.


Interesting. WW mentioned CS Lewis in the few minutes she was awake during the conference yesterday that she claims to have enjoyed so much. :D They do the sustaining early in the meeting so she was around for that.
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