Elder Rex D. Pinegar
Member of the First Quorum of the Seventy
Bio not available
Happiness — The Lord's Plan
Elder Rex D. Pinegar
Ricks College Devotional
September 12, 2000
My dear young friends it is a pleasure to be here with you today. Thank you for the warm welcome and for the beautiful prayer at the beginning of this session. I sincerely pray that the Spirit of the Lord will direct my thinking and speaking, and your listening and heeding so that we may all be edified together.
You are a special group of our Father's children. I am confident He desires that you experience happiness and success in your journey through life. My message today is about Happiness.
Everyone desires to be happy. Happiness does not come without personal effort and the availability of truth. How do we find happiness in our time which is full of stress and challenge?
Years ago the Prophet Alma counseled his son, Helaman, to give heed to the word of Christ, for it would point him in a straight course to eternal bliss. He promised Helaman that "the way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever" in the state of happiness. Helaman was then told to take care of sacred things, "that he might look to God and live." If he followed the course outlined by the words of Christ he would be led "into a far better land of promise." (See Alma 37.) So it is with us as it was with Helaman.
Sometime ago I was assigned to a stake conference in San Diego, California. When I arrived in the air terminal lounge my eyes scanned the waiting crowd to find the stake president. Finally I spied a man whom I thought must be him. He was dressed in a dark suit and tie on a hot Saturday afternoon. He was smiling and his eyes met mine with a knowing look. As I reached out my hand to his I asked, "How are you, President?" His response was a quick and pleasant, "I'm happy!" At the time I thought how appropriate his reply had been. We walked to his car and headed for the stake center and the Saturday meetings of the conference.
All day I noticed that he gave the same response to every one who inquired about 'how he was,' "I'm happy!"
That evening as he and I were traveling to his home, he interrupted the silence with this statement: "Elder Pinegar, you want to ask me a question." I asked what he had in mind. He responded by stating that I wanted to know why he said, "I'm happy" to every inquiry about how he was doing. I admitted that the question had been on my mind and invited him to explain. He told me the following experience from his life as a young missionary.
When the stake president had entered the mission field he informed his mission president that he didn't want to be on a mission and asked to be released and sent home. The mission president replied that he could not release the young missionary because he was not the one who had called him; he had been called by the Lord. The missionary would need to stay until the Lord released him. The young man decided to stay, but each time he met or wrote to the mission president he included a request to be released, to be able to return home.
Several months had passed and still the request persisted. One afternoon following a Zone Conference and interview the missionary was surprised to hear the mission president say, "Okay, Elder, today you are going home. Pack your bags. You can go with me when I leave today."
The young Elder was very happy. He went to his apartment, gathered his things, bid his companion and one of the Assistants goodbye and rode away with the mission president. He repeatedly told the president how happy this was making him to be able to go home. The mission president then said something like this:
"Elder you are going home, I'm taking you to my home. I'm turning you over to my wife!."
The missionary quickly responded that he did not want to go to the mission home, he wanted to go to his own home. The mission president did not give in, he merely drove to the mission home where his wife was waiting for them.
As the dejected missionary got out of the car and approached the door of the mission home, the mission president's wife came out. She had a warm smile on her face and reached for his hand with a kind word and asked, "How are you Elder?" He quickly responded that he was not happy and wanted to go to his own home. This wonderfully sweet lady said, "Wrong answer Elder. Now look at me. Smile, and say, 'I'm happy!'" With a half hearted smile, and head bowed he said, "I'm happy." She smiled even more warmly and said she was glad to know he was happy. The young Elder quickly followed with the reply that he was not happy and wanted to go home, to which she responded, "Wrong answer. Now look at me, smile and say, 'I'm happy.'" He obeyed but not with any enthusiasm. They went inside the mission home where she had a nice meal awaiting them after which the missionary retired to a bedroom for the night.
For the next four days and nights the "I'm happy" conversation took place every time the president's wife and the young missionary met. On the fourth night as the Elder walked down the hall of the mission home he saw the president's wife approaching and he knew what was certain to happen. He decided to surprise her. When she reached out her hand in greeting, he smiled and responded with, "I'm happy!" He couldn't help giving a genuine smile. She was so pleased that she said, "Right answer, Elder. Now you are ready to go back to work." He quickly stated that he didn't want to go back to work, he was not really happy and only wanted to go back to his home.
The mission president's wife then invited the young missionary to listen to her counsel. She knew he thought by going home, by getting away from the hard work and responsibility of his mission, he would be happy. She reminded him that he had every blessing that would lead to happiness because he had been taught the Gospe
Happiness. There is no other way to find happiness than through Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. He has prepared the way for all mankind to become happy through obedience to the truth; through the promise of forgiveness upon the conditions of repentance and obedience to the commandments of the Savior. She also reminded the missionary that the Holy Priesthood of God has been restored to the earth and that the keys of its power rests in living prophets and apostles who lead and guide us and serve as His witnesses in the earth. Through these keys of the priesthood, power has been given to bind husband and wife, children and ancestors together on earth and they would be bound in heaven. This plan of happiness was the very message the young missionary was called to teach.
This young missionary was humbled as he realized how very blessed he was to know of our Father's Plan of Salvation. He made a promise at that time that he would never complain again but would pursue the prepared path to happiness with renewed faith and determination. He went back to his labors and completed a successful, happy missionary service. From that time to the present, a period of over 37 years, he had always responded with "I'm happy!" to those who ask how he is doing.
I know something of this man. Life for him has not been easy. Many challenges have come his way, but happiness has accompanied him throughout his life because he has come to understand and pursue the Lord's plan of happiness, the path He has prepared for us..
The Prophet Joseph Smith has said:
"Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; He defined the path as: virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness and keeping the commandments of God."
It is our challenge and opportunity to pursue these qualities along our life's path. To pursue means to follow so as to overtake or capture; to strive to accomplish; to be engaged in an effort to obtain the desired objective. (See "The American Heritage Dictionary," 1994.) To me this means that we can obtain the qualities of happiness spoken of by Joseph Smith through personal desire and effort.
I am going to talk about these qualities.
First, VIRTUE: When one thinks of virtue it may be in terms of purity, moral excellence and righteousness. Virtue is an essential quality of the happy, righteous person, "for often the words of truth seem hard against all uncleanness, but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken." (See 2 Nephi 9:40.)
The dictionary also states that virtue is "an effective force or power to produce a definite result." (By virtue of. . . .) This part of the definition is wonderfully illustrated by the experience of the Savior and the woman with an "issue of blood" which had been going on for about 12 years. As the Savior was teaching in a certain place a woman made her way forward and touched the hem of Jesus's garment. Immediately she was healed. The Savior asked his disciples who had touched him. The disciples were astounded at Jesus' request for there was the press of a crowd about Him. The Savior responded that "virtue" (power) had "gone out of him." The woman, fearing that what she had done would bring reproach or rebuke, came forward and told what she had done. The Savior responded that the woman's faith had made her whole. The power of faith to be healed had drawn upon the power of the Savior's virtue and the miracle was accomplished.
The Topical Guide in our Scriptures gives us these words as they relate to virtue: Chastity, Cleanliness, Goodness, Holiness, Modesty, Strength. On this occasion, strength to heal had 'gone out' of the Savior. He knew the potency of such power when exercised with faith.
Brigham Young said of virtue:
"Treasure up in your hearts that which tends to virtue. . . . Learn the will of God, keep His commandments and do His will, and you will be a virtuous person. Can you understand that? If you can know the will of God and do it, you will be a virtuous person."
President Gordon B. Hinckley recently declared:
"Believe in virtue. Believe in cleanliness of thought, mind, word and deed."
He then gave us specific counsel and warning about safeguarding virtue:
"Stay away from the great and terrible flood of pornography that is sweeping across the earth and makes a few men rich while it destroys many others who become enslaved to it. Stay away from it."
I would add, safeguard your virtue by avoiding fashions which trend toward immodesty.
Joseph F. Smith has counseled us:
"Personal purity and proper thoughts . . . are the basis of all proper action. . . . There appears to be a something beyond and above the reasons apparent to the human mind why Chastity brings strength and power to the peoples of the earth, but it is so. . . .We desire. . .to emphasize the enormity of sexual sins. Though often regarded as insignificant by those not knowing the will of God, they are, in his eyes an abomination, and if we re to remain his favored people they must be shunned as the gates of hell. The evil results of these sins re so patent in vice, crime, misery and disease that it would appear that all, young and old, must perceive and sense them. They are detroying the world. If we are to be preserved we must abhor them, shun them, not practice the least of them, for they weaken and enervate, they kill man spiritually, they make him unfit for the company of the righteous and the presence of God." (Gospel Doctrine, 275-76.)
I believe virtue to also be an attitude, a condition of the soul. A loss of virtue is not a sudden action. It comes gradually when one allows unclean thoughts and images to enter our mind. When we are tempted to abandon the standard of virtue, even at the smallest first step, we should stop and turn to the Lord for help. He has promised that He will help us find a way to escape such temptations.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, whowill 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 beat it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The Lord has promised: "I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation." (D&C 95:1)
When one of my daughters was the age of many of you, she had an experience which has helped our family have faith that the Lord will provide the help we need to escape when we desire to maintain the standards of virtue He has set. Here is her story as she recorded it for me:
Fortunately, my friends came to get me (on a beautiful summer night) to go to the canyon for a barbecue.
Unfortunately, after the barbecue, my friends suggested we go to someone's condo in Park City to watch a particular movie. It was a movie that I had decided beforehand I would never watch. Uh-oh, I thought. What will I do now?
Fortunately, I had to be home by midnight and I told my friends I would have to go home.
Unfortunately, this plea didn't phase the driver of the car, who took Parley's Canyon exit, and away we went (to Park City.) I knew I would need some help out of this situation so I offered a silent prayer.
Fortunately, when we arrived at the condo, the boy, whose parents owned it, realized he didn't have the key with him-we were locked out! I was relieved, thinking my prayer had been answered and we would now have to go home.
Unfortunately, his date shimmied up through a second-story window and let us in the house. Uh-oh, I thought.
Fortunately, when we got inside, there was no VCR. Someone in the boy's family had borrowed it. I was relieved, thinking my prayer had been answered and we'd have to go home.
Unfortunately, we piled back into the car and drove to the nearest video store where the boys rented a video machine. Uh-oh, I thought.
Fortunately, when we got back to the condo and they started to set up the machine, they realized they had not been given a cable for hooking up the video player. I was relieved, thinking my prayer had been answered and we would have to go home.
Unfortunately, they were still not ready to give up. One of the boys went back to the video store to pick up the missing cable. He returned and they were acting triumphant after finally overcoming all the obstacles of the evening. I placed myself in the far corner of the room wondering what to do. It seemed inevitable that the movie was going to be shown. I continued to pray.
Then as the rented cable was connected to the rented VCR. An electric shock and hot sparks sent one of the boys flying across the room. The rest of us fell silent. That boy, looking dazed, said, "Someone doesn't want us to watch this movie!"
Fortunately, without another word, we all piled in the car, returned the video player and movie, and headed for home. I was greatly relieved, knowing my prayers had been answered.
Fortunately, I learned that when you decide to do something the Lord would have you do, He finds a way to help you keep your word-commitment. I had made the decision to do right and I asked Him for His help. He honored that decision and provided the help I needed.
And, Fortunately, she had called her mother to explain why she would be late, and Fortunately, her mother had been praying for her also.
Fortunately, for you and me, the Lord's standard of virtue provides protection, spiritual and physical strength to those who honor it. Virtue is a great source of happiness.
UPRIGHTNESS is the next standard along the path to happiness named by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In the Spring of 1999 following a devastating tornado in Oklahoma, I made a visit to assess the damages and to offer Church Welfare support to the Oklahoma Saints and others for whom I have responsibility as their Area President. I was shocked and saddened to see homes and businesses in ruin and rubble; vehicles demolished and strewn about; trees and shrubbery uprooted. Much of the ground in the path of the tornado was absolutely barren with even the sod torn away.
At the same time I saw something that gave me hope and confidence. I saw people undaunted, courageously picking up the pieces of their lives and their property; people helping one another; people sharing what little they had salvaged with those who had lost everything. A headline in a local newspaper described what I saw:
NOTHING LEFT STANDING BUT THE PEOPLE !
The people indeed were standing firm with personal strength and the courage born of faith in God. They were sharing and smiling. They were upright and upbeat ! They had placed American flags on top piles of rubble; A sign on a totally destroyed home read: "In God we trust."
In Proverbs 10:9, we read, "He that walketh uprightly walketh surely."
When we pursue a life of uprightness on our walk up the path to happiness we will walk surely and safely. We will walk with integrity and honesty. Brigham :Young taught that true happiness can come only on the basis of personal honesty.
Jason Turley was an all-American baseball player in High School. His prowess as a pitcher had captured the attention of several professional teams. He told those who showed an interest in him that he had a few conditions regarding his signing with any team: (1) he would need time off to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before beginning with the team, (2) he would not play on Sunday. The Houston Astros selected Turley and approached him with a contract which included Jason's special conditions of employment.
At the signing ceremony, with the press and Astros' management present, everything went smoothly. The owner of the Astros Baseball Club, however, approached Turley's father with a question: "Surely Jason does not expect us to meet everything he has requested in his contract, does he? After all, we have given him a large bonus for signing with us."
Jason's father told the manager he would have to work that out with his son, but he should expect Jason to hold to the original contract. When the Astros' owner approached young Jason Turley and asked him the same question: Did he really expect the Astros' to allow him to serve a mission before he began to play? Jason did not hesitate to say that they could take the bonus and tear up the contract if there were any doubts that he would be allowed to serve the mission first. The Astros' owner quickly responded that he would honor the contract as written and that it would be a credit to their club to have a young man of such integrity on the team.
Incidentally, when the mission call came for Jason it was to Houston, Texas, the home of the Astros.
A third standard we are to pursue along the path to happiness is FAITHFULNESS.
One of my favorite scriptures is found in Doctrine and Covenants 103:36:
"All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence,faithfulness, and prayers of faith."
Commitment, courage, dedication, dependability, loyalty, obedience, perseverance, steadfastness, trustworthiness, worthiness- these are all words in the Topical Guide that describe the attribute of faithfulness.
A person who is faithful is true to God, to himself/herself, and to his fellow man. He can be relied upon to do what is expected of him. He acts with full integrity of his own free will without coercion or force. He will stay true in times of trial and difficulty; through disappointments and challenges. He will cling to hope and go forward with confidence in the Lord.
Recently, while touring a mission, I met with missionaries which demonstrated many examples of faithfulness and all that the word implies. One of the missionaries is Elder Brad Bagan. He is a quadriplegic. He was injured playing in a neighborhood football game. He has very limited use of his hands. With great determination and persistence he has developed the ability to stand with a walker and pull himself along for short distances. He is a successful and happy missionary and an example of faithfulness to all the missionaries and members in that mission, and to all others who know him. He speaks with boldness and love. The companions who serve with him come to realize that if he, with all of his personal challenges, can successfully and cheerfully do missionary work they have no reason or excuse to keep from laboring themselves with all their heart, might, mind and strength.
Through his demonstration of faithfulness he has shown many the way to victory on the path of happiness.
While this young elder was at the Missionary Training Center in Provo he had the opportunity to go the Provo Temple which is only a few blocks from the Missionary Training Center. Because of his severely debilitating physical condition it took him about two hours to make his arduous journey up the gently sloping hill to the temple on a very cold and windy day.
When the MTC president learned about Elder Bagan's experience he felt very sad and told the Elder he would have been happy to provide transportation for him. Elder Bagan's response was impressive. He told the President not to worry or be concerned about what had happened. "It was worth it."
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the pursuit of Holiness also keeps us on the pathway to happiness. The temple is a place of holiness and being worthy to enter there is essential to our eternal happiness. Whatever effort is required of us to go there will indeed be "worth it."
While in Houston recently I visited the temple during its "Open House" period. The project manager showed me the stone panel that had been set in place on the front of the edifice. Inscribed in the stone are the words: "Holiness To The Lord." These words can be found on every temple.
It is sometimes hard to talk about ourselves in terms of Holiness. We can look to the temple for Holiness in the Lord.
Temples stand as a symbols of our relationship and commitment to Heavenly Father and to His Son Jesus Christ, who are Holy. As we strive to be worthy to enter the House of the Lord we are striving to acquire the attribute of holiness.
President Gordon B. Hinckley is determined to have more and more temples built throughout the world so that all members will have the opportunity to receive the blessings available in that Holy and sacred place. When he became president of the Church in 1995 there were 47 operating temples throughout the world. Today there are 99 dedicated temples with the 100th to be dedicated in a few days.
President Hinckley has said:
"To every man and woman, to every boy and girl, prepare now to go to the House of the Lord. Let a resolution come into your heart that you will put your life in order and bring about such reformation as may be needed to qualify yourself to go to that beautiful House."
The Holy Ghost helps us in our pursuit of holiness and happiness. It is a wondrous, amazing gift that we receive when we are confirmed members of the Church. We can walk in holiness on the pathway to happiness when we live worthy to have that Spirit with us. When we act according to the prompting of the Holy Ghost we are acting in holiness.
The Holy Ghost acts as a cleansing agent to purify and to sanctify a person from all sin. The Holy Ghost witnesses to us the truth of all things. Knowing and following the truth brings the happiness found in freedom from doubt, freedom to act with confidence in what we do.
My daughter, Amy, who, like you, is a college student, said the following in a talk she gave in her ward at Brigham Young University:
In your temporal studies look for the spiritual truths. If we focus on truth, then it will expound our learning. By focusing where we should, we will see that all other things will fall into place. I am sure many of you have felt this same feeling before, but often I have been in a class and we will start to talk about something that rings really true, and the Spirit burns within me. (Sometimes I even start to cry!) The Spirit will testify truth to you if you are looking for it."
As we pursue a life worthy of the Holy Ghost, a holiness will glow within us which will lead us and light up our pathway to happiness.
KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS
The final standard the Lord gave us through Joseph Smith to mark our path in pursuit of happiness is to keep all the commandments.
While serving as a mission president I received a letter from a new missionary. He wrote something like this:
Please send me a list of the important rules. My companion tells me we don't need to keep all the rules, only the important ones. Would you please send me a list of the important ones. Until you do, I intend to keep them all.
The Lord has said that His gifts of the Spirit are for those who love Him and "keep all my commandments, and (for) him that seeketh so to do."(Doctrine and Covenants 46:9)
As we pursue the path of happiness we want to also remember what Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said in his talk to the Young Adults of the Church:
"Enjoy the journey!"
(Church Education System Fireside, 9 November 1999)
It is easier to enjoy the journey when we are seeking to obey all of God's commandments. On our pathway through life we will not always find it easy to be happy. There are many obstacles to overcome and many hills to climb. We will find strength for the journey if we keep the commandments that will keep us from straying off our course.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has quoted these words of newspaper columnist, Jenkins Lloyd Jones:
"Life is like an old-time rail journey - delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."
President Hinckley added:
"Be happy in that which you do."
Happiness in life comes, despite the hardships, the disappointments, our own weaknesses, and in association with our successes, when we truly understand our Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness. He wants us to be happy. Who could be happier than we? - We who know the plan and purpose of life and have the assurance that we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who has already completed the journey. He has promised that as we follow His path in the pursuit of VIRTUE, UPRIGHTNESS, FAITHFULNESS, HOLINESS, and as we strive to KEEP ALL THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD, He will continue to guide us along the path and we will be happy.
I bear witness that we are led by prophets of God; that Jesus Christ is the Great Savior of our lives and is the author of our salvation and happiness. He lives today, knows the path, and will safely, and happily, guide us through. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
© 2000 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
A House of Order
Dr. Mack G. Shirley gave the devotional address at Ricks College on November 24, 1998.