Despite sadness around him—and sin, pride, disbelief, hatred, and jealousy—Jesus was a happy person. Wickedness never was happiness, but righteousness always was happiness. Jesus was a righteous person and, therefore, a happy person.
President Heber C. Kimball, for many years a counselor in the First Presidency to Brigham Young, exclaimed: “I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His Spirit. That is one reason why I know; and another is—the Lord said, through Joseph Smith, ‘I delight in a glad heart and a cheerful countenance’ [D&C 59:15]. That arises from the perfection of His attributes; He is a jovial, lively person.”
But we might think, How can I be a happy person with all these terrible, negative things happening around me? Think of our Heavenly Father and our Savior. They see much more than we do, but they maintain a joyful, positive disposition.
Jesus came to earth to teach us his way, as he said, “that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). He taught, “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
Jesus said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And because he has set an example for us, he is saying to us, “Now you overcome the world so you can be of good cheer.”
In one of his greatest recorded sermons, Jesus describes his character in words, the Beatitudes—or “beautiful attitudes,” we may call them (Matthew 5). “Blessed are ye” or “happy are ye,” he taught, if you are humble in spirit, if you mourn and are compassionate, if you are meek, if you hunger and thirst after righteousness, if you are merciful and pure in heart, if you are a peacemaker, and if you are persecuted because of him. You can be happy and blessed as you develop all these characteristics of the Savior.
True disciples of Christ have an obligation to be cheerful, hopeful, and optimistic about the future. Rather than focus on the negative, God’s Prophet of the Restoration counseled us:
“You have no right to take the judgments, which fell upon the ungodly before the flood, and pour them upon the head of this generation; you have no authority to use the judgments which God sent upon Pharaoh in Egypt, to terrify the inhabitants of America, neither have you any direction by commandment, to collect the calamities of six thousand years and paint them upon the curtain of these last days to scare mankind to repentance; no, you are to preach the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, even glad tidings of great joy unto all people.”
On one occasion I spoke in a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Chehalis, Washington. Right across the street was a Protestant church, and in front of that church was a sign with the following message:
We are called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.
As I reflected on those words, these thoughts came to mind:
1. Many other good-hearted people are with us.
2. Don’t be argumentative, criticizing others; just present the truth.
3. Don’t talk about Satan and his work; talk about the Savior and his work.
4. Be positive, upbeat, and optimistic.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has encouraged us to elevate our attitudes and reactions to what the world deals out to us: “The Lord has probably spoken enough . . . ‘comforting words’ to supply the whole universe, it would seem, and yet we see all around us unhappy Latter-day Saints, worried Latter-day Saints, and gloomy Latter-day Saints into whose troubled hearts not one of these innumerable consoling words seems to be allowed to enter. . . . On that very night [of Gethsemane], the night of the greatest suffering the world has ever known or ever will know, [the Savior] said, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’ (John 14:27). I submit to you that [this] may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed.”
A powerful lesson comes from modern American history. Secretary of State George C. Marshall once told a discouraged staff, “Gentlemen, it is my experience [that] an enlisted man may have a morale problem. [But] an officer is expected to take care of his own morale.” In other words, morale problems are an enlisted man’s privilege; they are not for the officers! We are God’s officers in his kingdom. As with General Marshall’s officers, so with us: we have a duty to be positive; we have an obligation to produce happiness, not just enjoy it.
And besides, a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks! Cheerfulness is wonderfully contagious.
Remember the inspiring message of 2 Nephi 10:20:
“And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off” (emphasis added).
The History of the Church records an extraordinary revelation Joseph Smith received, part of which became Doctrine and Covenants 137. In the very next paragraph after what became section 137, the Prophet describes the following scene:
“I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth . . . in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. The Savior looked upon them and wept.”
When you are feeling down, where are your eyes? They are looking down. Where is your head? It is hanging down. We have to keep looking up. The Savior is up there watching over us. If you will keep your head up and your eyes open, you will know that he is there to help.
President Gordon B. Hinckley was fond of saying, “Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.” How could he, and all other prophets and leaders of the Church, be so positive?
Because they have the big picture. They know what is coming. Despite all the struggles, hardships, difficulties, ordeals, even painful afflictions of this life, they know that the glorious cause of the kingdom of God will triumph. Triumph is just a little umph added to try.
We are on the winning team, so don’t quit the team! Keep on keeping on. As the Savior said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).
Stay with it, do what is right, and be happy—like Jesus.