Before I get started, check out the Book of Mormon Forum Blog Hop happening at We Talk of Christ… There are several really great posts here about the Book of Mormon.
So…I get excited about the literary elements of the scriptures. I get excited about connections, symbols, lists, and themes. Obviously, I’m kind of a nerd, but maybe you are, too. 🙂 And if you aren’t excited yet, hopefully this scripture study series will convert you…
A theme is a broad, sweeping idea. It is often found repeatedly in the scriptures. Today, the theme we’ll be studying is wickedness never was happiness.
“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.
And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” – Alma 41:10-11
A few points from these two verses:
- We cannot expect to live this life in sin and then live in happiness the next. It just doesn’t work that way
- Wickedness never was happiness.
- We are currently in a natural, carnal state. This state is in the “gall of bitterness.” Sounds rough, and sometimes I don’t feel like I am suffering so much. But the reason why Alma says this is because we are separated from God. Now, I think that when we do things that are good, and we covenant with God, then we make connections to Him. Thanks to Christ, we are able to be atoned. So, we can experience happiness. But when we live as fallen men and women and give into our natural, carnal selves, we cut ourselves off from God, and that is a bitter place to be.
- The nature of God is happiness.
As I read these two verses, I realize that I often do not define happiness the way that Alma does here. Sometimes, I’m led to believe that happiness is what feels good. Which is why I hesitate on doing dishes. It is why I gobble up brownies. Yet, happiness is putting off the natural man (what feels good) and turning to God. We turn to God by putting off the natural man and yielding to the promptings of the Spirit through the atonement of Christ. (See Mosiah 3:19.)
This is true, too. As often as I give into my natural desires, I feel like I’m pleased momentarily. Then the pleasure goes away, and I’m left with the fact that I just ate five brownies, and now I can’t remember what the chocolate tastes like, but I know I don’t feel well physically or emotionally. Or, I put off doing something that I should – like dishes. I go and have fun, but am left with the stress of a messy home and a big mess that’s harder to clean than it needed to be.
“But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” – Helaman 13:38
This scripture emphasizes the theme that wickedness never was happiness. Seeking for happiness by following the appetites of natural man will result in failure. It is impossible. It isn’t because happiness doesn’t exist. We just can’t find happiness in sin because that’s now where happiness is.
For example, you can search for a polar bear in the Caribbean sea, but you won’t find one. Does that mean that Polar Bears don’t exist? No! You just have to look in the right place.
“But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” – 1 Timothy 5:6
When we seek only for pleasure, then we become dead while we’re alive…so…we’re basically zombies. Of course, here, Paul means that we are spiritually dead while physically alive. And what good is it for us to die spiritually? Instead, we should seek the Lord, and become alive in Christ.
“But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.” – Mormon 2:13
Here, the consequence of the theme we’re studying is fully illustrated – in reality. The Nephites were completely wicked. They mourned. This mourning wasn’t a result of their conscience or repentance. They were sad because they lived sad lives. They were sad because that was their only option. They had shut their lives off from the Light, life, and love of the Lord. The only thing left was coldness, death, and misery.
I guess an example would be, if you had a fire, and you didn’t feed it, over time, it would die out. It wouldn’t get cold all at once, though. The fire would still burn. It would get smaller, but the coals would still smolder. Eventually, all of the fire would be gone, and the ashes would cool. You would then be left without any light or heat. You are left in the cold – not because the fire refuses to burn, but because you refuse to feed it.
I don’t want to end on a sad or depressing note, so one last scripture:
“And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.” – Mormon 7:7
We can be found guiltless. We can dwell in the presence of God and experience happiness which hath no end. We just need to desire to give up our natural desires (which takes a lifetime, I really think) and choose to accept Christ’s atonement by covenanting with Him. It is simple and do-able. We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to be made perfect in Him. Then, we will be able to experience the happiness and blessings that He has in store for us.
Eternal Happiness – sounds pretty cool, actually.
You can find tomorrow’s assignment here.