God Rules over the Earth

Main idea: The scriptures teach that everything on earth belongs to God and is subject to Him and that He cares about every individual person and is in the details of our lives and in the unfolding history of the world. God rules over the nations of the earth through His spirit, whether we are aware of it or not by upholding the righteous and judging the wicked.  He is the source of all good things in this world and His power is greater than that of the Devil who is subject to the boundaries that have been placed upon him. 

Today, I would like to speak about God’s role as ruler of heaven and earth.  The scriptures teach that everything on earth belongs to God and is subject to Him and that He cares about every individual person and is in the details of our lives and in the history of the world. God rules over the nations of the earth through His spirit, whether we are aware of it or not by upholding the righteous and judging the wicked.  He is the source of all good things in this world and His power is greater than that of the Devil who is subject to the boundaries that have been placed upon him.

In this talk, I will elaborate on the following principles:

  1. Everything on the earth belongs to God and is subject to Him.
  2. God knows and cares for every individual person.
  3. God has planned how His creation will play out to the uttermost detail. He creates and determines the fate of every generation on earth.
  4. God rules among men through His spirit according to the Faith of the people.
  5. God rules over the Nations of the Earth.
  6. God rules on earth, even when we are not aware.
  7. America is a choice land protected by God.
  8. God upholds the righteous nations and destroys the wicked ones.
  9. God is greater than the Devil
  10. God is the source of all Good.

1.) Everything on the earth belongs to God and is subject to Him.

The scriptures teach us that everything on the earth belongs to God and is subject to Him.  In Psalms 24:1 the Psalmist declared:  “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalms 24:1)

In the Book of Mormon, Mormon taught that we are all in the hands of God who has all power.  He wrote: Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?” (Mormon 5:23)

Isaiah compared the people of the earth to clay and God to a potter who molds that clay.  He wrote: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

Not only does God have power over every soul on earth but the riches of the earth are also His to dispense as He pleases.  In D&c 38:39 we read: “…And it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give.”

The prophet Daniel taught us that God has power over the times, seasons and kingdoms. In Daniel 2:21 he taught: “And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)

The doctrine and covenants also teaches us that God is over, in and through all things.  Section 63:59 reads:  “Behold, I am from above, and my power lieth beneath. I am over all, and in all, and through all, and search all things, and the day cometh that all things shall be subject unto me.” (D&C 63: 59)

In D&C 88: 11-13 we learn that it is the light of Christ that is the medium through which God gives life and reveals His law to all things.  It reads:  “And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.” (D&C 88: 11-13)

2.) God knows and cares for every individual person.

While everything on the earth belongs to God, He also knows and cares for each individual person who are His spirit children.  In Psalms 68: 5-6 we learn that God is a father to the fatherless.  It reads: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation…God setteth the solitary in families.” (PSalms 68:5-6)

The scriptures also teach that God dispenses His grace as a way of equalizing the disparate life circumstances we are born into.  In Jacob’s allegory, the branches planted in poor ground brought forth good fruit while those planted in good ground brought forth some bad fruit.  The lesson here is that our life circumstances cannot overpower God’s grace that ensures we live the type of life that is most beneficial for our eternal progression. (Jacob 5)

In the D&C we learn that God provides for His saints. D&C 104:15 reads: “And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. ” (D&C 104:15)  in Section 118:3 the Lord specifically promises His servants that He will provide for their families:  Let the residue continue to preach from that hour, and if they will do this in all lowliness of heart, in meekness and humility, and long-suffering, I, the Lord, give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families. “ (D&C 118:3)

God also provides and cares for us through the people that He puts in our lives. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that the people that surround us have been put there by divine design and not by coincidence.  He said:

“None of us ever fully utilizes the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersectings ‘coincidence.’ This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by ‘coincidence’ but … by ‘divine design.’” (Neal A. Maxwell)

Elder Rasband echoed this teaching as well when he said:  “The Lord’s hand is guiding you. By “divine design,” He is in the small details of your life as well as the major milestones.” (Ronald A. Rasband- By Divine Design)

While God often works through other people in our lives, He also works through His angels.  In Hebrews 1: 14 we learn about the role of angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1: 14)

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni expounds upon this teaching:  “And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him. And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.” (Moroni 7: 31-32)

In the Book of Psalms, we also learn that Angels also surround and protect those that fear God: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” (Psalm 34:7)

The Scriptures are filled with examples of angels directly intervening in the affairs of men to ensure God’s will is done.  For example, before marching on Jericho, Joshua met with an angel who declared he was the Captain of the Lord’s host sent to ensure victory for the Israelites.  The text reads:  “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.” (Josh 5: 13-14)

3.) God has planned how His creation will play out to the uttermost detail. He creates and determines the fate of every generation on earth.

Isaiah taught that God has planned how this creation will unfold from the beginning to the very end.  He says: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure…yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:10-11)

Isaiah also taught that the Lord determined who would be born into each of the generations that would exist on this earth.  He said:  “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.” (Isaiah 41:4)

In the Book of Job we learn that God upholds all the living and every soul is in his hand: Job 12:10 reads: “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12: 10) Further in Job 14:5 the writer declares that God determines the lengths of our lives and we cannot alter His decree.  Chapter 14:5 reads: “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”

The Lord has also prepared the earth to be able to handle and provide for all who will be born into it.  This promise is found in D&C 104: 16-18 which reads: “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. (D&C 104: 16-17)

The scriptures also teach us that God’s plan will ultimately be brought to pass and that His judgments cannot be escaped. In Psalms 139: 7-13 the Psalmist writes about the futility of trying to escape God.  He writes:

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.  Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.  For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalms 139: 7-13)

The scriptures contain numerous other examples of Satan trying to thwart God’s will but not only being unsuccessful but playing right into God’s plan.  For example, Satan thought he was destroying God’s plan by tempting Adam and Eve in the garden but in reality, he was fulfilling God’s plan because the Fall was a necessary part of the plan of Salvation.  When Jesus was being born into the world, Satan acted through Herod to try and destroy Jesus by killing every child in the region.  However, Jesus was protected by angels and Satan’s fury could not frustrate God’s plans.

In the Old Testament, Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery in order to thwart the revelations Joseph was given.  In the end, God used their despicable acts to fulfill the very dreams Joseph was given that he would one day rule over his brothers.  Similarly, an episode from church history also illustrates this point. While translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph ended up losing the Book of Lehi which threatened to frustrate the restoration.  However, God knew this would happen thousands of years before it did and He inspired Mormon to attach the small plates of Nephi to the Larger plates because they covered roughly the same period as the lost Book of Lehi.

Ultimately, God allows us to be part of fulfilling His work for our own benefits, but He doesn’t actually need us to do that.  Jesus declared to the wicked Pharisees who thought that God needed them to fulfill His promises to Abraham: “And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3: 9)

And finally, the Lord Himself declared that He would be victorious over Satan and that His plans would not be frustrated.  In D&C 10: 43 the Lord says: “I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.”(D&C 10:43)

4.) God rules among men through His spirit according to the Faith of the people.  

The scriptures also teach us that God acts through His spirit, according to the Faith of the people.    The prophet Zechariah taught that the Lord often chooses to use his spirit rather than his might to accomplish His will amongst the people on the earth.  He wrote: “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

In the Book of Mormon, we learn that the spirit works according to the faith of the people.  In 2 Nephi 27: 23 it is written: “ For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.” (2 Nephi 27: 23)

In Mormon 9:20 we also learn that God does not do miracles amongst an unbelieving people.  Moroni writes: “And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.” (Mormon 9:20)

In the Book of Mormon, we also learn that the Gentiles rose above other nations because the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon them. 3 Nephi 20:27 reads: “And after that ye were blessed then fulfilleth the Father the covenant which he made with Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed—unto the pouring out of the Holy Ghost through me upon the Gentiles, which blessing upon the Gentiles shall make them mighty above all, unto the scattering of my people, O house of Israel.”

5.) God rules on earth, even when we are not aware

One does not have  to be a member of the restored church to be influenced by the Spirit of the Lord and to be acting according to God’s will.  The scriptures contain many examples of God working through good people who weren’t aware they were even following God.

When the Apostle Paul was teaching the people of Athens on Mars Hill he observed that many were worshiping a God that was unknown to them.  Paul said:  “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17: 23)

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul also taught the believers that those who have not made formal covenants with God are sometimes more acceptable to him than those who have.  He said that the Jews who are circumcised have an outward sign of their relationship with God but if they don’t have a relationship with God in their hearts, what good was the outward ordinance? If a gentile, who does not get circumcised, loves God and keeps the law without knowing it, they are symbolically circumcised and more acceptable to God. (Romans 2: 25-29)

The prophet Isaiah revealed that the Lord had chosen and upheld Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia to accomplish his work and bless the Israelites by declaring the temple would be rebuilt.  Isaiah said: “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” (Isaiah 45: 1-4)

Even though Cyrus did not know what spirit he was following, he was following the spirit of the Lord.  Ezra Taft Benson taught that God deliberately keeps some people outside of the church temporarily so that they can better act to fulfill His purposes on earth.  He said:

“Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the OUTSIDE of His Church to HELP it ALONG,” said the late Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve. “They are among its auxiliaries, and CAN DO MORE GOOD for the cause WHERE the LORD has PLACED THEM, than anywhere else. … Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted … the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1928, p. 59.)

The Lord knows all things from the beginning and has placed His servants in positions that will help Him bring to pass His purposes on earth.  For example, God made Nehemiah the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes so that the King would grant his request to help rebuild Jerusalem when the time was right. (Nehemiah 1-7)  The Book of Esther is about a woman whom God had placed in a position to gain favor with the King so that she could save her people from Haman’s extermination order. God knew Haman would try to destroy the Jews and he prepared Esther in advance to be able to foil his evil plan.

The scriptures also use the language of God “softening or hardening” the hearts of the people to describe how His spirit influences history.  For example, in the D&C 104:81 the Lord promised Joseph Smith that he would  soften the hearts of his creditors so that they would not have any thought or desire to afflict the church.  The text reads: “Therefore write speedily to New York and write according to that which shall be dictated by my Spirit; and I will soften the hearts of those to whom you are in debt, that it shall be taken away out of their minds to bring affliction upon you.” (D&C 104:81)

Ultimately, all who do good follow the Spirit of the Lord for there is no other source of goodness.  In Deuteronomy 4:39 it is declared:  “Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.” (Deut 4: 39)

6.) God rules over the Nations of the Earth

Not only are individuals subject to the will and plan of God but the nations of the earth are as well.  The prophet Daniel said that God has power over time, the seasons and over the rulers of the earth.  Daniel 2:21 reads:  “And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:” (Daniel 2:21)

In his sermon on Mars Hill, Paul taught that God made the nations and has appointed their borders and how long each nation shall exist. In Acts 17:26 we read: “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”

The same doctrine was taught in Deuteronomy 32:8 which explains that “…The most High divided to the nations their inheritance….He separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” (Deut 32:8)

Not only does he establish each nation but the author of Job teaches us that He controls the growth and fate of each nation: “He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.” (Job 12: 23)

Likewise, in Proverbs we learn that: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

Jacob’s Allegory, which was referred to earlier, proves that God has planned out the history of the world from the beginning.  The Allegory predicts the great apostasy, restoration, millennium and the final judgment (Jacob 5).  Similarly the Book of Revelation was written thousands of years ago and refers to Seven Seals that each indicate a period  in the history of the world that God already knows will happen.

In D&C 77:1 we also learn that God has sent forth four angels to each of the four corners of the earth who have power to both save and destroy life.  The scripture reads: “Q. What are we to understand by the four angels, spoken of in the 7th chapter and 1st verse of Revelation? We are to understand that they are four angels sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness.” (D&C 77:1) (See also Zechariah 6: 1-7)

Not only has God given his angels the power to save and destroy life, but the earth itself appears to also be a mechanism for limiting the evil that God will allow on the earth.  In Lev 18:25 the Lord says that the “land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants” because of how wicked the people were.

The spirit of the Lord can even cause the nations of the earth to fear and tremble before His chosen people.  Deuteronomy 2:25 records: “This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.” (Deut 2:25)

John declared that God is greater than any worldly power: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4: 4) Isaiah said that the nations of the earth are less than nothing when compared to the power of God.  He said:  “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” (Isaiah 40:17; see also Dan 4:35)

It isn’t just His covenant people that are accountable to Him but all the nations of the earth are subject to His judgments. Alma taught that the Lord determines how much of His light each nation should be given and holds them accountable to what they have been given: “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have.” (Alma 29:8)

Another example from the scriptures is when Ezekiel prophesied that God would scatter and regather the Egyptians but that Egypt would never be allowed to rule over the nations again.  He said:

“Yet thus saith the Lord God; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered: And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom.  It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.” (Ezekiel 29: 13-15)

The Lord Himself summed it up in D&C 117:6 when he said: “For have I not the fowls of heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth?” (D&C 117:6)

7.) America is a choice land protected by God.

Speaking of establishing the boundaries of nations and exalting some nations above others through the workings of His spirit, the Book of Mormon teaches us that the Americas are a choice land reserved for The Lord’s people.  Lehi taught that America is choice above all other Lands and that it was given to him and his seed as an inheritance for all time and for other groups of people as well (2 Nephi 1:5).  He also taught that none would come to the Americas unless they were led by the Spirit of God. (2 Nephi 1:7)

In 2 Nephi 10:19 it is written: “Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy seed, and them who shall be numbered among thy seed, forever, for the land of their inheritance; for it is a choice land, saith God unto me, above all other lands, wherefore I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me, saith God.” (2 Nephi 10:19)

The Americas have been set apart as a land of liberty to the Gentiles that would inherit it.  In 2 Nephi 10: 11-3 we are further taught: “ And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.  And I will fortify this land against all other nations. And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.” (2 Nephi 10:11-13)

The Book of Mormon also reveals to us that God has been actively involved in the major historical events that have occurred on this continent. It reveals that the Lord inspired the Gentile colonization of the Americas, the American Revolution and the scattering of the Lamanite remnant.

However, with great blessings comes greater accountability.  The Book of Mormon warns the inhabitants of the Americas that if they rebel against the God of this land then they will be swept out of the land.  Ether 2:8 warns: “And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.” (Ether 2:8, 10-12; Alma 37: 25,31)

8.) God upholds the righteous nations and destroys the wicked ones.

The Book of Mormon also teaches us that God is actively involved in supporting and upholding righteous nations and destroying wicked ones.  For example, God revealed the Lamanite war strategy unto Captain Moroni so that the Nephites could defend themselves. (Alma 43)  Another example is the miraculous preservation of the 2000 stripling warriors who were given superhuman capacities to win their battles against the Lamanites.  Helaman, marveling at the miraculous strength of these young warriors, after one particular battle, said:

 “But behold, to my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength; and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war.” (Alma 56:56)

It is the spirit of the Lord that preserves a nation and when that spirit withdraws then men are left in their own strength and they experience a mighty fall.  Mormon recorded the tragic fall of his people when they lost the spirit of the Lord. n Helaman 4:24 he said:  “And they saw that they had become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples.” (Helaman 4: 24)

The same fate that came upon the Nephites comes upon all nations who reject the spirit of the Lord but the Book of Mormon specifically warns the Gentile nations who possess this land.  In 3 Nephi 21: 14-16 it is written:  “Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots; And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds; And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers.” (3 Nephi 21: 14-16)

9.) God is greater than the Devil

While the world is a battleground between good and evil, they are not equal forces as the scriptures declare that God is greater than the Devil.  During His ministry on earth, Jesus exorcised many demons and the scriptures say they were subject to Him.  Jesus gave this power over evil to His followers and those who exercise His priesthood.  After Jesus set apart the quorum of the 70, they went out into the world and did many miracles in His name.  In Luke 10:17 the seventy report back to Jesus and say: “…Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.”

This is in contrast to an episode in the Book of Acts, where some exorcists who did not have the proper Priesthood authority, tried to expel some evil spirits and were overcome.  The episode is found in Acts 19: 13-16 which reads:

 “Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, we adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” (Acts 19: 13-16)

The Lesson here is that one must be acting under proper priesthood authority and in accordance with the will of God to be able to overcome all evil.  However, if one is acting by proper authority the scriptures tell us to “…Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.” (D&C 6: 34)

James also promised that if you submit to God’s will and resist Satan, he will have no power over you. He says: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

In The Book of Job, we learn that Satan cannot do anything to us that God does not allow. In this story, Satan complains to God by saying: “Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?” (Job 1:10) In other words, Satan was complaining that Job’s true faith and obedience wasn’t really known since God was protecting him from temptation and affliction.  In response, God allows Satan to tempt and afflict Job but only within certain limits as He also declares that Satan will have no power to destroy Job.   The key lesson here is that Satan is sometimes allowed to tempt and afflict us but only within certain limits determined by God.

Not only are boundaries put around Satan, but God gives laws and sets boundaries around all of His creations within which they are free to act.  In D&C 88: 38-39 the Lord says: “And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.  All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.” (D&C 88: 38-39)  Further in verses 42-43 He says:  “And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons; And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.”

10.) God is the source of all Good

Another key doctrine taught in the scriptures is that God is the source of all good things in the world.  James taught this doctrine in the New Testament when he said: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1: 17)

In the Book of Mormon, this doctrine is confirmed in the Book of Ether 4:12 which reads:  “And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good.” (Ether 4: 12)  While all good comes from God, the Book of Omni teaches us that all evil comes from the devil:  “For there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord: and that which is evil cometh from the devil.” (Omni 25)

Ultimately, the key to world peace and utopia lies in submitting to the will of God and allowing God’s love to change our hearts and make us into new people.  This Utopia was achieved for a short period of time among the Nephites after the Savior visited them.  This heaven on earth was attributed to the people’s hearts being filled with the love of God.  (4 Nephi 1:15)

Now that we have examined what the scriptures teach about God’s role as ruler of heaven and earth we can detect Satan’s lies and the philosophies of men which include:

Common Maladaptive Beliefs

i.) Any belief that says God is disinterested in our lives or that He doesn’t watch over and care for every minute of every individual’s life.

ii.) God is too busy to know me and care for me.

iii.) Any belief that denies God as the owner of everything and fails to recognize man as a steward only.

iv.) Any belief that suggests that the judgements of God will not come.

v.) Any belief that suggests that Governments and Nations are the ultimate authorities on this earth.

vi.) Any belief that suggests that God has no influence over those who are not part of His church.

vii.) Any belief that suggests that Good and Evil are equal powers or evil is greater than good.

viii.) Any belief that suggests that God will not fulfill His words.

The Nature of Our Fallen World

Main Idea: Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden where there was no suffering and evil.  They initiated the fall from grace by eating of the tree of knowledge which was a deliberate part of God’s plan of salvation.  The “fall” introduced death, decay, suffering and evil into the world which we are all subject to, for our benefit, until the millennium is ushered in by the second coming of Jesus Christ. Until the millennium, this temporary world is a battleground between Good and Evil in which the majority of people love evil more than they love good.  

1.) The Account of the Fall

Adam and Eve were two of Heavenly Father’s most noble children in the pre-existence. In the spirit world, Adam was called Michael the Archangel (see D&C 27:11; Jude 1:9). He was chosen by our Heavenly Father to lead the righteous in the battle against Satan (see Revelation 12:7–9). Adam and Eve were foreordained to become our first parents and were the first human beings placed on this earth after it was created.  In the Book of Moses 4: 26 Eve is referred to as “the mother of all living.”

In the Gospel Principles manual, the conditions in the Garden of Eden are described as follows:

Adam and Eve were not mortal when they lived in the Garden and lived with God and could not die.

God commanded them to have children. He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over … every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Moses 2:28).

God told them they could freely eat of every tree in the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of that tree God said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:17).

Satan, not knowing the mind of God, tempted Eve to eat of the fruit and Eve did eat and Adam chose to do so as well.

Eating the fruit caused Adam and Eve to be subject to both physical and spiritual death and they now knew good from evil and were cast out of the Garden of Eden.

When they were cast out God gave them garments: However, they were taught concerning the plan of God and given commandments. They did not leave without protection and promises, for God provided them with “coats of skins” (Moses 4:27) to cover their nakedness. These coverings represent the protection—both spiritual and physical—that we can enjoy as we follow our Father’s teachings. (Gospel Principles Manual)

For a full account of how the Fall was initiated, see Genesis chapter 3.

2.) The Fall brought great Blessings.

Unlike many Christian sects, members of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ believe that the Fall was a necessary part of the plan of salvation. The fall blessed mankind with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life. None of these privileges would have been available to us had Adam and Eve remained in the garden. The fall also allowed Adam and Eve to have children and to suffer and experience the opposition in all things. This experience of suffering and opposition gives us the necessary experience to appreciate and be able to feel true joy and eternal life.

The prophet Lehi taught his son Jacob that if there were no fall there would have been no progression for God’s children and that the fall was always part of God’s plan.  In 2 Nephi 2: 22-24 Lehi says: 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. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” (2 Nephi 2:22-23).  Later on in verse 25 Lehi concludes:  “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:22–25).

3.) We inherited the effects of the curse that Adam initiated.

The second article of faith declares that: “We believe that men shall be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.”  While we don’t believe in original sin, we do believe that we inherited the effects of Adam’s original transgression which include being subject to suffering, sin, death and decay.  However, we are only subject to these experiences for a short period of time as Jesus Christ was sent to redeem all mankind from the fall (immortality) and to offer eternal life to those who obey His gospel.   In 2 Nephi 2: 24-26 Lehi teaches us:  “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall.” (2 Ne. 2:24–26.)

4) We live in a “Fallen” world subject to death, decay and evil.

The world that we currently live in is often described as “fallen” which means it has been cursed to be subject to death, decay, suffering and evil.  However, the scriptures teach us that our experiences in this fallen world are essential to prepare us to enjoy salvation and give us an opportunity to inherit the ultimate prize of eternal life.  The scriptures describe the fallen state of the world and what we should expect to encounter while living here.  The world at large is a battleground between good and evil and most of the world will oppose God and Christ. While God made man master over the earth, the earth is constantly changing as all things are temporary.

a.) The World opposes God and Christ

In the Gospel of John, the Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples on numerous occasions that the world would be in opposition to His Gospel and Kingdom.  Jesus taught the following principles:

The world will hate Christians: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)

The world does not know God. “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:25)

The World Hated Jesus: “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” (John 7:7)

Disciples of Jesus will be hated just as Jesus was: The servant is not greater than His master so if Jesus was mistreated and hated so will His servants be. (John 15:20)

We live in a world of darkness that rejected the light:  “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5)

The World cannot receive the Spirit. “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:17)

This theme is also repeatedly reinforced by the Apostle Paul in the following scriptures:

Satan is the God of this world and he darkens the minds of his followers: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor 4:4)

The Wisdom of this world is foolishness to God: “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.” (1 Cor. 3: 18-20)

The Gospel is hid, or not known and understood by those that are lost: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.” (2 Cor 4:3)

The scriptures also bear witness that those who try to do good will be opposed by evil.  A story from the book of Acts illustrates the point.   In Acts 16: 16-40,  Paul and Silas met a  soothsayer who was possessed by a devil who was making her masters a lot of money.  When Paul and Silas exorcised the devil, they were put in prison for their good work because evil men were profiting off of the oppression of this woman.

Since many people in the world oppose the works of God, the Apostle James declared: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

In the first epistle of John, this theme is once again repeated as John declares that “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 John 5:19)  In the same epistle, John teaches us that Those that are of the world are loved by the world while those that are of God love the things of God: They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4: 5-6)

And finally, through modern revelation, we know that the world at large still opposes God and Jesus Christ.  In D&C 84: 49 it is written: “And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.”

In D&C 38: 30-33 we further learn that all flesh is corrupt before God and that darkness reigns on the earth.  It reads:  “For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven— Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned; and, behold, the enemy is combined.” (D&C 38: 30-33)

b.) The World is a battleground between good and evil

While there are many forces in the world that oppose God, He has not left his children without the means to overcome those forces.  The Lord provides His children with the light of Christ or “conscience” which reveals God’s law to all who are born on the earth.  He also sends the Holy Spirit to testify of Jesus Christ and bear witness of the truth to all those who desire to overcome evil and darkness.  He establishes His church on the earth through His priesthood authority to administer the ordinances that lead to immortality and eternal life and to reveal His will and laws.

Paul taught the Ephesians that they were engaged in a spiritual battle with the powers of darkness that rule this world.  He taught: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6:12)

In The Book of Moses, we learn that whether or not man would have moral agency was the cause of the great war in heaven.  In Moses 4: 3 it is written that: “Satan… sought to destroy the agency of man.” While Satan lost the war in heaven, he continues to wage war upon God’s children on earth who sided against him.  He has declared war on anybody that belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ.  In Rev 12: 17 it is written: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

In beholding the great destruction that Satan would cause amongst God’s children, John declared woes upon the inhabitants of the earth.  In Rev 12: 12-13 it is written:  “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.  And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.” (Rev 12: 12-13)

The Book of Moses tells us that this great conflict between God and the Devil or Good and Evil began in the pre-existence and continued in the garden of Eden.  Satan was allowed to tempt Adam and Eve to initiate the fall from Grace.  However, once Adam and Eve initiated the fall God cursed Satan who was represented by the serpent.  God’s curse on Satan is described in Moses 4: 20-21 which reads: “And I, the Lord God, said unto the serpent: Because thou hast done this thou shalt be cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life; And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Moses 4: 20-21)

Satan and his angels were cursed to be even lower than the beasts of the field (which have bodies) and to be the enemies of Adam and Eve’s posterity.  However, God put limits on Satan’s power and declared that he would only be able to bruise the heel of Adam and Eve’s children while they would be able to bruise the head of Satan.  The heel contains no vital organs necessary to survive so Satan was only given the power to tempt and afflict but not to destroy.  On the other hand, the children of Adam and Eve were given power to damage the head of Satan which contains the most vital organ of all: the brain.

However, while Satan can never destroy us against our will, we can voluntarily give him the power to destroy us by heeding his temptations and rejecting the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, Satan has been very successful in leading astray countless billions of God’s children throughout the ages.  In Moses 5:13 this sad state of affairs is described: “And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.” (Moses 5:13)

From the beginning of the fall, Satan has established his kingdom in opposition to the kingdom of Christ.  Satan’s kingdom has always operated in darkness and secrecy and the Book of Moses reveals that Satan’s secret societies have existed since the time of Cain: “For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother.” (Moses 5:51)

Prior to the flood, Satan was so successful in establishing his kingdom of darkness that the Lord wept over His creation.  In Moses 5: 55-57 it is written: “And thus the works of darkness began to prevail among all the sons of men. And God cursed the earth with a sore curse, and was angry with the wicked, with all the sons of men whom he had made; For they would not hearken unto his voice, nor believe on his Only Begotten Son, even him whom he declared should come in the meridian of time, who was prepared from before the foundation of the world.” (Moses 5: 55-57)

Ultimately, the scriptures teach us that there are only two shepherds that we can follow: Jesus Christ or Satan.  In Alma 5: 38-39 this dichotomy is laid forth:  “Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.  And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil.” (Alma 5: 38-39)

c.) Temporary Nature of Worldly Things

Another major characteristic of this fallen world is the temporary nature of everything in this world.  The Apostle Peter taught: “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (1 Peter 1: 24-25)

The Apostle James taught in the grand scheme of eternity, our life is very short and is a gift of God.  He wrote:  “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4: 14)  Likewise, in the Book of Job it is observed that: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1)

The wisdom literature of the bible also addresses the temporary nature of our world.  In Ecclesiastes the preacher declared that all the works of man were vain because they do no last:  “There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.” (Ecclesiastes 1:11)

“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (Eccl 1:7) “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Eccl 1:14)

The preacher also observed that the temporary nature of life experiences is reflected in the different “seasons” of life that we experience.  He wrote: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Eccl 3: 1-8)

While everything changes, the author of Ecclesiastes ultimately concluded that there is nothing new under the sun:  “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

However, while nothing in this world will last, we are promised in the scriptures that the experiences we have in this world can lead to lasting joy in the eternal realm where: “Neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt 6:20) if we submit to God’s will and allow Him to consecrate our experiences in this temporary fallen world for our eternal gain. (2 Nephi 2:2)

Common Maladaptive Beliefs

i.) Any belief that denies the fallen nature of our world that makes us subject to death, decay, sin and suffering.

ii.) Any belief that denies the existence of the Devil and the limitations put upon him by God.

iii.) Any belief that denies the existence of good and evil and the battle over our souls on earth.

iv.) Any belief that doesn’t recognize the temporary nature of things in this world.

v.) Any belief that denies the fall was part of God’s plan of salvation.

vi.) Any belief that denies that our experience of sin, suffering, death and decay can be consecrated for our eternal gain.

A Formula For Happiness (Short)

A Formula for Happiness

Defining & Distinguishing Happiness

Good Morning, brothers and sisters, today I have been asked to talk to you about happiness.  William Shakespeare said: “How to gain, how to keep, and how to recover happiness is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive for all they do.”

Let’s start by defining what exactly happiness is and distinguish it from similar concepts.  Happiness is a state of peace, contentment and satisfaction with life that arises from certain happiness practices. Happiness differs from joy, which is a more intense but shorter lasting emotional experience and pleasure, which can be equated with stimulation of the sense organs or activation of the reward center in the brain (nucleus accumbens and basal ganglia).

Many people conflate happiness with pleasure and joy which frustrates their ability to achieve it.  Addictions arise when happiness is sought through compulsive activation of the reward center and dissatisfaction with life results when we have unrealistic expectations about what our lives should look like.

The Happiness Practices

There are several different practices that you can engage in that will maximize your happiness in this life.  These practices include: Faith, Submission, Acceptance, Setting Expectations, Presence, Purpose and Virtue.

1. Trust: Faith & Submission  Overcomes: Doubt, Fear & Pessimism.

According to happiness researcher, Dr. Shawn Shea, one of the foundations of happiness is trust.  He says that happy people have “an attitude of profound trust accompanied by a reassuring feeling of confidence that one can effectively handle whatever life may bring, good or bad.”

This begs the question, what do we trust in?  I would suggest that putting your trust in anything other than God is building your life on a sandy foundation. The first key to happiness is developing a deep and abiding trust in the character of God and in the promises that He has made to those who enter into covenants with Him.

In order to be able to put your trust in God, you need to first ensure that you have built your life on the foundation of gospel principles and are doing your best to keep His commandments.

Jesus taught this principle when he gave the parable of the Wise and Foolish builders. He compared those who base their lives on His teachings to those who build their houses (lives) upon a rock (a solid foundation) so that when the storms come (adversity) the house is not moved.  He compared those who based their lives on anything else to building their houses on sand (weak foundation) so that when the storms come the houses get blown away because they are not built upon a solid foundation. (Matt 7: 24-27)

If you have built your life on a solid foundation, then the promises contained in the scriptures are guaranteed to be yours.  In D&C 82: 10 the Lord says: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”   This means that if you are obedient to God’s will you have a legal claim on the following promises:

  1. Promise 1 – Compensation for all your losses: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,But he shall receive an hundredfold…” (Mark 10:29‐30)
  2. Promise 2 – The Resources to overcome our life struggles: “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  3. Promise 3 – None of your suffering will be in vain but will be used for your gain: “Nevertheless, Jacob, my first‐born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”  (2 Nephi 2:2)
  4. Promise 4 – Protection from Opposition and Evil: “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.” (D&C 6: 34)
  5. Promise 5 – Everything that happens to you will be to your benefit in some way: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)
  6. Promise 6 – You will ultimately transcend your current existence and inherit eternal life: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (D&C 59:23)

If happiness is based on trust, the only sure foundation for a lasting happiness is putting your faith in Jesus Christ.  Anything else you put your trust in will fail you and will ultimately be revealed as a false idol over time.  When you base your life on the foundation of the Gospel and live within the will of God, you enter a state that Joseph F. Smith called “God’s rest.”

2. Acceptance: Accept facticities of life.                          Overcomes: Suffering, Covetousness.

The next key element of the happiness equation is to practice the skill of accepting things about your life that you do not like but that are out of your control.  For example, you cannot control your genetic inheritance, the proclivities of human nature, the characteristics of the fallen world you live in, the beliefs and behaviors of other people, eternal law or the will of God.

Many people rob themselves of happiness because they cannot accept certain facts about their life that they have no control over.  I believe that this was partially what the Lord meant when He commanded us not to “covet.”  To covet means to excessively envy the facts about another person’s life that are different from your own.  When you do not accept what you cannot control, you are in danger of breaking the commandment not to covet.

There are many parallels between the commandment not to Covet and the Buddhist insights into attachment and suffering.  These thinkers had the insight that suffering appears to be the baseline experience of many people which is caused by attachment, aversion and ignorance.  Attachment means desiring things you don’t have (Or Coveting), Aversion means agonizing over things you don’t like but can’t control and ignorance means believing that your happiness is dependent on external events.

They believed that the solution to limiting suffering was to stop coveting what you don’t have, to accept the realities that you can’t control instead of agonizing over them and to give up the delusion that your life circumstances have to look a certain way before you can be happy.

These principles were recently reinforced by our prophet President Russel M. Nelson who taught:

“Saints can be happy under every circumstance. We can feel joy even while having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!  My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.  (Joy and Spiritual Survival)

Not only do we need to accept the unique circumstances of our lives, but we also need to accept the characteristics of reality that we may not like. And one of the characteristics of reality that most people struggle with accepting is the existence of suffering and evil.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi attempts to answer the question of why suffering and evil exists. In 2 Nephi 2: Lehi says: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things….If not so there would have been no purpose in …creation.”  Lehi is saying that there is no existence without opposing forces.  Existence itself arises out of a tension of dualities that give each other meaning and value.

For example, life only has value because death exists. To live in a reality where death is not possible is to live in a reality where existence itself has no value.  In the same way, without the possibility of eternal death, eternal life has no value either.

This leads us to a similar principle, that the heights of happiness you can experience correspond to the depths of suffering you have experienced.  For example, picture how enjoyable a glass of water would be for you right now and compare it to how enjoyable that glass of water would be for you if you were dehydrating in the desert.  Suffering dehydration would enhance your capacity to find joy in a glass of water, just as suffering of any kind will enhance your ability to feel joy in general.

This means that all of the suffering that you have experienced has been making a greater height of joy possible for you in the future.  In D&C 29: 39 the Lord taught: “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.”

3. Expectations: Being Realistic.              Overcomes: Disappointment

After submitting to the will of God, exercising faith in His promises and accepting what you cannot control you can still be unhappy because of your expectations.  Expectations are the “should” statements that you make about the world and other people in it.  These assumptions about how the world should be or how other people should act or what your day should look like are thieves of happiness and harbingers of disappointment.  Elder Uchtdorf addressed the suffering that results from the “should” we put on the world in General Conference last week and said the Germans call this “Weltschmerz.”

These unrealistic expectations have been the cause of much human suffering throughout the ages.  The Roman Emperor and Stoic practitioner Marcus Aurelius recommended lowering your expectations about things in order to be happier.  He said: “Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance.”

This isn’t pessimism but an expression of grace and acceptance of the weaknesses of others and the suffering inherent in human experience.   When you believe that any kind of discomfort in your life is intolerable you are setting yourself up for a lot of suffering.  Accept that discomfort and unanticipated barriers to your goals will arise each day and you will not be disturbed when they come.

Another reason to examine your assumptions about how the world should be is that you are wholly incapable of making such judgments.  The ancient Skeptics taught us to suspend our judgments because left to ourselves, we cannot achieve certainty about anything.  You can never know for certain whether something is truly good or bad for you in the long run.  Only God can tell you that.  For example: You may have just lost your job, but how do you know that won’t set you on the path to your dream job?

One of the most pervasive expectations that we are often seduced by is the belief: “I should be happy all of the time.”  This belief is naïve both to human nature and the nature of happiness itself.

The Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote about this in what he called the “restless strivings” of human nature.  He noticed that people are always setting goals and restlessly striving towards achieving those goals with the delusional belief that once they achieve that goal they will be happy. To many of us our lives are characterized by this belief that: “Once x thing happens” then I will be happy whether that is a new job, achievement, relationship or life circumstance.

However, once you achieve whatever it is you wanted you quickly learn that you are dissatisfied again and set a new goal to restlessly strive towards with the idea that “this time it’s real, this time I will be completely happy once this is achieved.”  However, happiness is not found in the achievement itself but in the striving towards that achievement.

I believe that these restless strivings are part of the nature of our fallen bodies and are described in Genesis when God says to Adam: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground. (Gen 3:19)” It appears that our bodies were designed never to be permanently content, but to always be restlessly striving towards a never-ending set of goals. Living “by the sweat of your brow” is ultimately for your benefit since it prevents complacency and keeps you motivated to repent and improve until you are prepared to meet God. However, ultimately death is a blessing because our bodies are designed to keep striving and not to remain content for long. Our celestial bodies will give us a new nature that is designed to be permanently content but until then we inhabit our cursed bodies for our eternal good.

Modern psychologists have named the tendency of humans to never be completely content as the “hedonic adaptation principle.”  This simply means that we judge new experiences by comparing them to how we feel in the present.  This means that upward trends in your happiness levels only last for a short time because you will eventually get used to it and it becomes the new norm that you compare all new experiences to.  The net result is that your general happiness level remains stable over time.

The human brain is responsive to change and not to stability. We need constant changes in pleasure levels to have meaning.  This means that you want to achieve an optimal level of adversity and suffering, not to get rid of it all together It is the volatile flux of positive and negative feelings that gives life meaning.  Those who have too much ease and not enough challenge in their lives begin to feel jaded and nihilistic.

The Russian Novelist Dostoevsky recognized this and cautioned us not strive after delusional Utopias that cannot be achieved. He said that the utopia can never exist because there is always another mountain to climb. He asked, how do you know when enough is enough? You can always find flaws that you think need to be fixed in order for utopia to really exist.  No matter how good the world gets, you will always have reason to suffer.

So, do we just give up on our restless strivings and seeking after a better world?  Of course not, we should only give up the delusional expectation that permanent happiness is either achievable or desirable.  The key is to learn how to live in the present moment, experience flow and to find joy in striving itself.

President Monson often stressed this principle when he taught us to “find joy in the journey now.”  The Psychologist Richard Davidson called this the “Progress principle.”  He distinguished between two different brain circuits: one that was related to pleasure while pursuing a goal and a separate that becomes activated for a short time once the goal is achieved.  The brain circuit active when pursuing a goal leads to a much longer lasting pleasure than the momentary activation associated with achievement.  Thus, human happiness is much more related to progressing toward a goal than it is about achieving goals.  With this understanding of human nature, it becomes much easier to live in the present moment since we stop looking to the future for happiness.

Understand that happiness is more about an approach to life that involves continuous improvement, exploration and appreciation than it is a final achievement that one earns after finally getting all that one wants. Happiness is ultimately denied to the complacent and the ungrateful.

4. Presence: Living in the moment with wonderment, awe. Overcomes: anxiety etc..

After you have exercised Faith in God’s promises, have submitted to His will, accepted what you cannot change and have established healthy expectations you are better able to live life in the present moment with wonderment and awe.  However, there are a few more barriers that prevent living in the present that include: guilt, shame, bitterness, drudgery and anxiety.

Guilt and bitterness both keep you focused on the past, with guilt focused on past wrongs you have committed, and bitterness focused on past wrongs others have committed against you.  The solution to guilt is to engage in the repentance process and the solution to bitterness is to forgive those who have wronged you. If you repent of your own sins and forgive those who wrong you then the Lord promises that you will have “peace in this life.”  (D&C 59:23)

Shame occurs when you believe you are unworthy of love and connection with other people.  It is often manifested in beliefs such as: “I am not good enough” or “I am worthless.”  The solution here is to interpret your weaknesses and flaws through a Gospel frame, exercise self-compassion and speak to others of your experiences.

The next barrier to living in the present is drudgery.  President Hinckley taught us that “Work without vision is drudgery.”  When you are engaged in aimless, boring work that isn’t developing your talents and for which you don’t see meaning you will have a hard time living in the present moment.  The solution to drudgery is to engage in work that you find meaningful, challenging and that develops your talents.  The opposite of drudgery is a state that psychologists call “flow” which is described as losing all sense of time and being fully engaged in whatever you are doing.

And finally, the last barrier to living the present moment is anxiety or fear. When you experience too much anxiety you are doubting God’s promise that His grace is sufficient for you. The solution to fear is faith, which we have already discussed.

5. Meaning & Purpose: Sense of Progression towards wholeness.          Overcomes:

The next element of the happiness formula is creating a sense of purpose that excites you and gives direction to your strivings.  You need to seek revelation and discover what your unique life mission is, and you need to actively pursue it.  Ask yourself, if a miracle occurred today and I had the life I truly wanted, what would it be?  Write down your vision, pray about it and then break it down into manageable sub-goals that you can measure and accomplish on a regular basis.

The Story of Jonah is a cautionary tale about running away from your foreordained life mission. Jonah was given a clear command to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent but instead he tried to hide from the Lord. He could not escape God, however, as the storm of the sea halted his plan to flee.  Like Jonah, we cannot escape our god given life missions and our way will be halted if we try to.

While there are unique missions that we all have, we also share a common purpose with the rest of humanity.    Human nature is designed to move us from incompleteness to wholeness and happiness is a feedback mechanism that tells us if we are actualizing that potential.

President Dallin H. Oaks taught that Happiness: “Comes from being in complete harmony with our Creator and his eternal laws. Misery is the ultimate state of disharmony with God and his laws.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Joy and Mercy,” Nov. 1991)

If happiness is the purpose of our existence, then the only way to fulfill our purpose and to become like God is to obey those laws that lead to happiness. In D&C 88: 18-20 we learn that the purpose of our souls’ creation was to learn to live the Celestial law:

“Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory; For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.” (D&C 88: 18-20)

In Ecclesiastes, we learn that the main purpose of life is to prepare for judgment day by fearing God and keeping His commandments: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Eccl 12:13-14)

By learning to keep the commandments in this life, we prepare ourselves to live the law of the Celestial Kingdom in the next life.

6. Virtue: Coping with life’s demands.                                      Overcomes: Vice, Bitterness.

And finally, the last element of the happy life is living virtuously.  This means that we develop character strengths that help us meet the demands and challenges of life.  We look to emulate the character traits of Jesus Christ Himself.  The Apostle Paul taught that one of the purposes of the church was: “For the perfecting of the saints…Till we all come…unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph 4: 12-13)

The psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman have developed a comprehensive model of human virtue that is entirely consistent with scripture.  They suggest that there are 6 virtues that include: Wisdom, Courage, Justice, Humanity, Transcendence and Temperance. Each of these 6 virtues breaks down into 24 specific character strengths.

Developing these character strengths are the only real insurance against the vicissitudes of life.  If you base your happiness on the good fortune of circumstance, then the storms of life will inevitably overwhelm you.  The Roman Philosopher Boethius wrote about the dangers of good fortune, he said:  “I know the many disguises of that monster, Fortune, and the extent to which she seduces with friendship the very people she is striving to cheat, until she overwhelms them with unbearable grief at the suddenness of her desertion.”

Good fortune deceives us into thinking we are truly happy, when these conditions are extremely fragile. When fortune changes, we become miserable so we are at the mercy of the wheel of fortune.  This is why Boethius argues that in the end one’s virtue is all one truly has, as everything else is imperiled by the vicissitudes of life.  Thus, only virtue can bring lasting happiness.

I would like to conclude by summarizing the happiness equation I have laid out this morning.  Happiness is a state of peace, contentment and satisfaction with life that is distinct from joy and pleasure.  It is the result of submitting to God’s will, living in harmony with His laws and having faith in His promises.  It comes from accepting parts of ourselves and reality that we don’t like but can’t control.  It is influenced by the expectations we place on ourselves, the world and other people.  It is cultivated when a person is fully engaged in the journey of progressing towards accomplishing their unique life mission and developing a Christlike character.  Happiness is ultimately a feedback mechanism that indicates that you are in harmony with God.

I bear my testimony that God lives, loves us and wants us to be happy.  I testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Redeemer of Mankind and is at the head of this church, which is the only church with the priesthood authority to administer in the ordinances of salvation.   I leave this with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.