We are right in the middle of saying goodbye to all the missionaries. We are visiting each zone one by one, giving a last training, our words of council and advice, having a question and answer time and then talking about the transition of getting a new mission president. We are calling it, “Muffins with the Mullens”, because then we are eating some really delicious muffins to end our last training.
President Mullen is giving his last doctrine training on choosing to be happy. I have had so many layers of learning about happiness this last 3 years. I don’t think I’ve written about it before, (I can’t believe it, but I’ve looked and looked and can’t see that I’ve written any of my experiences about this), so I’m going to start at the beginning and write a little of my process of learning about happiness and how that works with the Lord.
When I came on this mission I was very happy. Within a few months I noticed I was feeling more weighed down and burdened. I was studying and came across the saying by Joseph Smith, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.” I thought a lot about this. Really? Why am I feeling so weighed down then, especially when I’m trying to do so many good things? What am I missing?
That week a scripture also popped into my mind, 2 Ne 2:25, Men are that they might have joy. Really? Is that true? I know I’ve thought about life as needing to progress, learn, grow, change and become perfected so that I can live with God. How does happiness play into that? I reasoned that all learning, growing, progressing and becoming perfected is to live with God again so that we can be happy. It doesn’t sound like we are just working in this life so we can be happy in the next, we are actually meant to be happy in this life. I wondered, how do I find joy in all this work and duty?
Then I had this little spiritual epiphany in church that week. I was sitting down and looked over at the sweet little Baer family. I looked right at their little girl, who was about 2 years old at the time, and she had the most sweet, loving, trusting look on her face. She looked absolutely burden less, carefree and perfectly happy. The thought came to me, “we are to become like little children.” God wants us to be as happy and joyful as those sweet little children. They looked so free and burden less. It hit me. God wants me to be like that. That is why He has provided a Savior. So I can feel like that now. I knew I needed to use the atonement and cast my burden on His care; not be so weighed down with thoughts of there is so much to do, am I getting it all done, and is it all good enough.
I went to pray after church and immediately went into my old routine thinking, “What do I need to do, what should I have done, didn’t do, etc. I thought, “No, God doesn’t want me to just do my duty, work hard, be responsible, fulfill my calling and obligations. He wants me to be happy, he actually cares how I feel.
I felt so different as this sunk into my heart. I learned so much about God in that moment, about love and about my own parenting pattern. If I really believe God loves me then I can know he doesn’t just care about what I do, but how I feel. That means He feels merciful when I can’t give anymore, forgiving when I am weak and understanding when I didn’t get it all done. HE loves me, I’m not earning his love by the things I’m doing. He is kind. Most of you are probably thinking, duh, well of course to all of that. But me and my personality had a huge ah ha moment.
Then I saw a DVD about Christ at a baptism we went to later in the week. I saw Christ accept the pain and pressure of the atonement, and wondered if He was happy in that moment, it seemed so hard and painful; not a joyous moment. But I remember Pres Holland saying Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ wanted to perform the atonement for us. It made Christ joyous to achieve and perform His Father’s will and His own foreordination.
A few months later I was reading 3 Ne 11:37,38 while the sacrament was being passed. It is the verses about becoming a little child….repent and become as a little child. It was so ironic that I was sitting in front of the Baer children. I could hear them humming and singing softly as the bread was being passed. It was the most beautiful, spiritual moment. These beautiful children, who were so free and happy were singing and humming during the sacrament. It was so sweet. That is what the sacrament does for us. The thought struck me, I’ve always thought of this scripture as saying become like a child: teachable, humble, forgiving, easily entreated, and believing. But in that moment I realized we are to become like that so that we can be happy. A child comes clean and free, loving himself, loving others and expecting everyone to love them. God wants us to be like that.
Ok this may be long, but one more story and then my point about Don’s training. This also happened early on in our mission. It was a transfer weekend and that Saturday was so busy. I worked out and got ready quickly, because the week had been so busy I hadn’t done any of the cooking or shopping yet. I went shopping for 2 ½ hours, (it reminds me of cooking and shopping for youth conference every 6 weeks), hurried home after picking up Don from the office and cooked with Helen for 4 ½ hours. Then I worked on the Spokane Word, (the mission newsletter), made dinner, prepared my talk for stake conference and went to speak there, came home to finish the newsletter and sent it to Sister Dean, counseled a sister missionary on the phone for about 40 minutes, made sure my numbers were right for housing for the departing and incoming missionaries and then found myself folding a load of whites at 11pm I was trying to get done before Sunday hit. The thought came to me that I hadn’t read my scriptures yet. AGG!! I thought, “I’ve been serving God all day, surely I’ve done enough and I don’t now need to read my scriptures too. It will be ok to miss a day.” I heard these words in my mind, something I had never thought of before, “Melonie, now it is my turn to bless you for all you have done. Reading scriptures is not something you do for me, it is what you do so I can bless you, give to you, fill you, strengthen you and speak to you.” “If you don’t read it is ok, it is your choice, I don’t condemn you, I just can’t bless you.”
It hit me. This is true. So many times I’ve thought of things like scriptures, temple attendance, prayer, etc. as things I do for God to be crossed off the list; one more thing to do, and hope he’ll bless me for it. But the Lord was teaching me, this is a misperception; I don’t do these things to be obedient so he will bless me, doing these things are the blessing: he will enlighten me while I’m reading, speak words that will help me, give me feelings of strength, knowledge I didn’t have before while I’m reading, etc.
It reminded me of a testimony that a friend Liz gave years earlier in a sacrament meeting. She spoke of receiving promptings to write a nice note, visit a friend, help a neighbor, or some other kind act. She felt guilty when she hadn’t obeyed the promptings because she was so busy. She had the spirit teach her one day that the Lord wasn’t berating her for not obeying those promptings, she had just missed out on the blessing of that warm memory, strengthened relationship, increased feelings of love or the increased confidence that obeying promptings brings.
This testimony was so powerful to me because I’m always one to turn things into a job, duty, responsibility and work. In that moment I understood a little more about how God is trying to bless us. He prompts us to do things so we will be blessed. It’s just a little twist but it made a huge profound difference for me. In my mind I had been working to serve the Lord and cross those things off the list so that He would be happy with me. In reality he prompts me to do those things for me, not for Him. He wants me to be happy, he wants to bless me, not just have me work.
Ok now fast forward a year and a half to yesterday and one more thought about happiness. In President Mullen’s training he was talking about Happiness is the design of our existence. There are eternal laws, and all commandments and principles God gives to us is to be happy and reconciled to Him and obedience to these laws. Commandments, prayer, scriptures, faith, principles of self discipline, sacrifice, and forgiveness, are all principles that when lived by we will be reconciled to God and it will be happiness. They are for us, not for God. God does nothing except for the benefit of the world. Everything is to bring us to happiness. The only true happiness is to be reconciled to God because everything he asks is for our good; for our happiness.
When we fight against God, His commandments and His will, we just fight against our own happiness. I have seen captions of stories in the media that are so accusing against anyone who believes in Christian values. These people are haters against anyone who would say there is good, right, and correct behavior. They say people who profess belief in values are bigots, hypocrites, judging and intolerant. But the very behavior they are attacking, they are exhibiting, times 10. It makes me kind of laugh/cry inside. How can someone be so old in age and be so totally self unaware-when they are so intolerant as they scream about intolerance, judging as they rant about being judged, hateful as they spew out hate. It’s just weird how blind haters can be to their own behavior. They hate and fight all in the name of a worldly good. It is so ironic to me. What they are fighting against is the very thing that would bring love, peace and happiness to their lives.
Ok I lied, one more thought about happiness, I really want to say two more things but I know I may be rambling now. This is it. I haven’t been too happy at the thought of going home. It’s kind of overwhelming. We have to face a lot of things back home that are not easy. But I have thought to myself that God will make us happy when we get there, because it is His will that we finish here and go home. So I’ve just tried not to think about it; a great technique, and trust the Lord that we will be happy when we get there. But yesterday as I was thinking about God and his desire for us to be happy I thought about our situation going back home of: moving, what to do with our house, looking for a job, caring for the health of my parents, and putting our family back together. It occurred to me that the Lord wants me to be happy. I said the words, “I’m happy to be going home and I’m happy to be in the situation we are in.” As I said it I actually felt that way for a minute. The spirit did a work on my heart and I felt a godly perspective of it’s good to look for a job and be empty nesters with a great, big huge house. I couldn’t go any further than that. But I thought, I just need to change my mind. I know with God I can be happy. I’m going to really work on this in the next two weeks and see what the Lord can do with me.