In an earlier blog post, I told about my teenage son who said to me one day, “How do I know if I’ve felt the Spirit?” – so I panicked and went into my office and wrote a book. Recognizing and understanding the feelings of the Spirit is a lifelong pursuit, and oftentimes the feelings are so subtle, that we’re not sure we’ve felt anything at all. My previous post talked about the “burning in the bosom” feelings. In this post, we’ll talk about feelings of joy and happiness. Here’s an excerpt from “How Do I Know if I Know?”
Feelings of Joy
Lehi told his son Jacob, “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). When the Spirit of the Lord is present, people are happier. You can see it in their faces, in the way they carry themselves, and in their lives. If it’s really true that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10), then doesn’t it make sense that God, who is righteous, pure, and holy, would be happy? And wouldn’t we feel happy when we feel His Spirit?
Heber C. Kimball taught:
I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, 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.” That arises from the perfection of His attributes; He is a jovial, lively person, and a beautiful man (Journal of Discourses, 4:222).
To me, one of the happiest places on the planet is not a Southern California amusement park (although I like that, too), but the temple. I always feel calm, serene, peaceful, and happy within the walls of the temple. I’ve also noticed how many smiling faces I see there. The feeling is strong, and it’s quite a contrast with being almost anywhere else on earth. It is a testimony to me. Sometimes I wish I could just sit there all day.
Many people, when they leave the temple doors and make their way to the parking lot, give a heavy sigh and say, “back to the real world.” Elder John H. Groberg heard someone use that expression, and responded:
I understand your feelings, but actually, it is the other way around. You are not leaving the temple and going back into the real world, you are leaving the real world (the temple) and going back in the unreal (temporary) world. Only that which lasts forever is real. That which is done in the temple lasts forever; therefore, the temple is the real world. Most of what we experience “out there” such as sickness, wealth, poverty, fame, etc., lasts for only a short period of time, so it is not the real world. (Refuge and Reality, Deseret Book, 2012, 3-4).
The feeling within the temple is a testimony of the temple. Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to visit the temple and participate in baptisms for the dead. If so, I suspect you already know it feels different from any other place in the world. Adjectives that come to mind are: still, quiet, calm, serene, comfortable, peaceful.
Is “Happy Valley” a Place or a People?
A recent website ranked Brigham Young University as the “7th happiest” college in the nation. Why would that be? The students felt they were part of “something bigger,” and that contributed to their happiness. As a graduate of Brigham Young University, I can attest that it is another one of my favorite places on earth. For me, it just feels good being on campus. But maybe you could chalk that up to so-called “school spirit.” Is it the campus or the buildings that cause these happy feelings? Or is there something going on in the hearts of the people?
Less than an hour north of BYU is another school I attended called the University of Utah. Eric Weddle is a Latter-day Saint who currently plays football for the San Diego Chargers, but at one time, he was a freshman cornerback for the University of Utah. As his freshman year commenced, he began to notice something about certain of his teammates, who seemed to be unusually happy, even during the strenuous football workouts.
It was during one of these torturous sessions that Eric noticed Morgan Scalley with a smile on his face, as if he were actually having a good time. Scalley’s cheerful disposition boggled Eric’s mind. “He was jumping around, laughing and yelling like it was fun. Why was he so happy?” Eric said. “I learned there was something more to him, something special.”
What was that “something more,” that “something special”? Eventually, Eric’s questions led to an appointment with the missionaries. Eric’s Latter-day Saint friends were afraid the lesson didn’t go very well, but to Eric, it was awesome. “I was as happy as can be. It was the calm feeling I felt. I felt like what they were saying was true.” (See Trent Toone, No Excuses, No Regrets, Deseret Book, 2013, 103-105). Eric was eventually baptized by another teammate, Justin Hansen.
Remember, it all started with Eric noticing how happy someone was, seeing that his friend had “something more.” The students interviewed at BYU felt they were part of “something bigger.” Eric Weddle recognized “something more,” “something special.” So, whether it’s “something special,” “something bigger,” or “something more,” it is something! And it is recognized by others. The “something” described here is evidence of the Spirit of the Lord, a witness of the Holy Ghost, and a testimony of truth.