Reporters often note that the Mormons they interview seem generally happy. Sometimes they find this surprising, since Mormons don’t indulge in some of the things people think they need in order to be happy, including alcohol or immoral movies and activities. What makes Mormons happy?
Mormons try to stay focused on the eternal scheme of things and this allows them to happily pass over things that have only mortal significance, particularly those that bring only temporary and often fake pleasure. They find their joy in eternal things such as family, service, and faith.
Mormons believe that this life is just a portion of our eternal lives, and probably the smallest portion. It’s a time to prepare ourselves for Heaven. This isn’t just boring hard work and denial. It means finding out who God knows we can become and then becoming it. It involves building our talents, strengthening our self-control, and serving others. Seeing our progress is exciting and fun. Most of us have talents we enjoy and that are perfectly worthy of eternity. Mormons don’t believe we will be sitting on clouds doing nothing for eternity—how dull! Our talents will go with us, so we enjoy working on them and never find it too late to start a new one.
Mormons believe that family life is forever, so they take great joy in their families. Wanting to create a family strong enough to last for eternity is a lot of work, but with great rewards. They try to put their families first and to find time not just to train their children, but to enjoy them as well. Spouses try to maintain date nights even after marriage and they strive to keep the minor difficulties that often drive people apart from getting in the way of their happiness in marriage.
Mormons know who they are. They are children of God and that identity takes precedence over any other aspect of their identity. It is the central feature of who they are. Knowing they are children of God, that He loves them, brings them joy that overcomes the trials.
It’s not that Mormons have perfect lives. They don’t. Mormons, like everyone else, experiences challenges and bad things. No amount of righteous living can prevent every trial, although a moral lifestyle can prevent many trials. Because they don’t drink, they experience no risk of alcoholism. By not smoking, they dramatically reduce their risk of lung diseases. Not putting themselves into situations where they might dishonor their marriage vows might seem stuffy to some, but they avoid the pain and heartache caused by immorality. Teens who choose to keep the commandments are sometimes teased, but they don’t encounter most of the problems that destroy young lives.
Mormons eliminate many of the trials that are the result of their own sins, but they may still suffer through the sinful choices of others. Some trials are the result of natural laws, such as storms or illness. Some are just accidents. No one escapes every trial and we would not want to.
Mormons understand that trials can serve to help us grow stronger and wiser. They can teach us lessons that can’t be learned in life’s more peaceful moments if we decide to let them be lessons and not just excuses to complain.
Mormons also know they can only appreciate the peaceful, joyful moments of life when they have been through moments that were neither. Someone who has always been happy seldom really appreciates it. The first round of happiness after a trial has more power in comparison. Good health following poor health is more noticed and enjoyed. It provides us with a comparison point and makes us appreciate what we now have.
Mormonism is no guarantee of an easy life. Mormons aren’t happy because their lives are easy. The earliest Mormons experienced great trials. Their homes were often burnt down—repeatedly—and they were forced out into the wilderness—repeatedly. Some were tarred and feathered. Some were arrested multiple times on false charges. Some were killed and so others experienced the murders of their loved ones. Even children died either by murder or because of the hardships forced on them by the evictions and religious discrimination.
Despite all of this, many wrote in their journals that they were happy. They knew something we too often forget today. Happiness comes from within, regardless of our circumstances. It is a choice. When our focus is on eternity, the day to day challenges seem of little importance.
Mormons are happy, then, because they choose to be happy and to focus on being children of God.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.