Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. (Alma 41:10)
There is an “absolute” stated in this scripture: Wickedness never was happiness. I’m not sure it is safe to assume that the Lord means that anyone who chooses to go against God’s will is permanently, completely, miserably and always unhappy. People’s level of understanding ought to be taken into consideration. God’s timing ought to be considered. The fact that people can seem happier or more sad than they really are ought to be considered. Throw in the fact that Alma is discussing the doctrine of “restoration” (which is typically future-thinking) as opposed to momentary, immediate happiness and there’s even more to consider. And the list goes on… Certainly I do believe that purposely choosing to go against one’s understanding of the will of God will not lead to the deep happiness that most humans desire, but there is a lot to consider there.
But that isn’t the misunderstanding I want to discuss.
I want to talk about an assumed truth that is often gathered out of Alma 41:10. Because wickedness never was happiness, some people assume that Mormons believe that righteousness always is happiness. That just may be a dangerous misunderstanding…
I don’t know any thoughtful, ponderous, experienced Mormon who believes that choosing to do what is right assures a constant state of happiness. Can you imagine the danger in counting on that? I know that most of the people I know who are consistently striving to do God’s will have many, many moments of frustration, trial, discouragement, misunderstanding, and just plain sadness. In fact, on the surface, it is hard to tell who is really striving to follow Christ and who isn’t. I suppose that is just one reason we are not the judges of those around us. Overall, I do believe that keeping God’s commandments will contribute to our happiness. But here are some things that are even easier to discern in our own lives:
- Righteousness leads to an assurance of God’s promises (D&C 82:10).
- Righteousness leads to an inner peace. (John 14:27).
- Righteousness leads to the promise and blessings of the Holy Ghost (John 14:16-18).
- Righteousness leads to understanding (John 7:17).
- Righteousness leads to assistance with overcoming temptation (1 Nephi 15:23-24)
- Righteousness contributes to our overall and eventual happiness (Mosiah 2:41, Alma 50:23, 4 Nephi 1:16)
There is one other blessing I’d like us to contemplate when it comes to striving to do God’s will. I believe that righteousness contributes to a person’s resiliency. “Resilience” is defined as:
The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress(and)An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
I believe that when we are striving to follow Christ, we are strengthened in our ability to bounce back from the trials of mortal life. God helps us regain our shape, so to speak, after we’ve been stretched by the things that just happen while here on earth. People lose jobs. People lose family members. People get sick. People get divorced. People lose fingers. And, God helps people bounce back and move forward and thrive, even under these circumstances.
So, yes, wickedness never was happiness. Not eternally. And, no, righteousness doesn’t guarantee a non-stop life of bliss and smiling. But, choosing to follow Christ assures us that we can make it through mortality resiliently and eventually live in a state of happiness that we often catch a glimpse of in this life…