I've been thinking this week about happiness and how to find it. I'm reading scriptures and talks about finding happiness. Many of the talks I encountered said that living the gospel will lead to a life of happiness, even through our trials.
And while I do believe that striving to follow commandments is more likely to lead to happiness than not following them, I also think its a little hollow to say that if you keep the commandments, you will magically be happy.
Last week in Relief Society, we had a great lesson about gospel principles based on the conference talk from Elder Bednar. And I had a related discussion with a friend at work on the same topic. There's a thing that happens when we talk about certain gospel principles where someone has a "profound spiritual experience" that cemented that principe for them. And I think its fantastic that happened for them. But sometimes it leaves others disappointed when the "profound spiritual experience" doesn't happen for them.
Tithing is the one that demonstrates it most clearly, because money is easy to measure. So many times I've been in a class discussing tithing and someone has told a story of not having enough money to pay the bills and choosing to pay tithing first and their financial crisis was somehow averted. A magic envelope of money magically appears in the mailbox. they forgot about a bonus. the math didn't work but somehow everything came out in the end. They experienced a miracle. The miracle strengthened their testimony of tithing. Its amazing and fantastic.
But what about the person who paid their tithing and didn't get a magic envelope of money? What about the faith of the person who paid her tithing and then had to ask the relief society president for food for her family? Yes, the bishop's storehouse is a blessing and a miracle to that family, but certainly a more difficult one to appreciate than a surprise promotion?
To put it in different terms, how does the single person feel when a married person says "i prayed to find my spouse and then i found him?" Do they think I didn't pray?
What about the terminal cancer patient who receives a blessing of comfort, but not of healing? Is the faith to be healed more valuable than the faith not to be healed?
I guess my point is this: blessings don't come as a cafeteria plan.
We don't get to opt in or out of specific boons from the Lord and its not always a 1:1 ratio of faith to reward. God does bless us when we follow Him, but sometimes the blessings are less tangible. Sometimes the blessings are "Subtle but Significant."
Our friends the Israelites learned this lesson. God freed them from slavery and led them out of Egypt on a journey to the Promised Land. As soon as they grew hungry, they began to complain, saying it would be better to be slaves in Egypt than following the Lord on this journey, because in Egypt they had fish, and cucumbers and melons and leeks and onions and garlic.
Now, there is nothing at all beside this manna before our eyes.
Guys. Manna is magic heaven food. It tasted like honey and it rained down from the sky to feed them in the wilderness. Its a literal miracle every. single. day. But in Egypt they had cucumbers? Cucumbers aren't even good! Numbers 11: 6-9
Laman and Lemuel saw actual angels. AngelS plural. And that wasn't enough to build their faith.
I don't want to diminish the "profound spiritual experience" that gave anyone their testimony of any principle. I've had some of those and they are very important to me. And I think sharing them from time to time can help bolster someone else's faith. But we don't need angels from heaven to deliver a canvas bag labelled $$ to gain a testimony of tithing. It would be great if he did, but there are other ways to earn it. If you haven't had that light switch boon, it doesn't mean there is something wrong with you or that you don't have sufficient faith. Sometimes we need to be looking for subtle miracles that can build the light of our faith like a sunrise on a foggy day.
Getting back to where I started, sometimes happiness is a little more difficult to grasp, even when we are striving to keep commandments. And that's ok.
Everyone's path is different, and maybe your blessings for seeking God come differently. At the end of the day, we are all looking for it. We are on the path together, but we started at different places. Most of us will struggle from time to time. It is the Plan of Happiness, its just not a cafeteria plan.
Feel free to comment below with your thoughts. As long as we are all respectful, I love discussion.