Living a Life of Peace, Joy, and Purpose
I will be talking today about a talk by President Richard G. Scott titled Living a Life of Peace, Joy, and Purpose.
“God has given [us] the capacity to exercise faith so that [we] may find peace, joy, and purpose in life. However, to employ its power, that faith must be rooted in something secure. There is no more solid foundation than faith in the love Heavenly Father has for [us], faith in His plan of happiness, and faith in the willingness and power of Jesus Christ to fulfill all His promises.”
President Scott goes on to explain the fundamental principles upon which faith is based. The one which spoke to me the most is,
“Sensitivity to the quiet promptings of the Spirit and courageous implementation of the resulting impressions.”
I believe the Holy Spirit is the most important thing you can have as he will direct you in all things that you should do. Following promptings from the Holy Ghost will build our faith and character more than anything we could substitute in its place. Faith and character themselves go hand in hand.
President Scott says, “God uses your faith to mold your character. And character is the manifestation of what you are becoming. Your character will be the yardstick that God will use to determine how well you have used your mortal life. Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life.”
In Dallin H Oaks general conference talk, The Challenge to Become, he says, "In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something." Our character is a good way to see who we are becoming.
President Scott goes on to say, “Your continuing exercise of faith will forge strength of character available to you in times of critical need. Such Character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation.That is when it is used.”
President Scott then goes into the details of how we use our character to make correct choices. “There are two patterns for making decisions in life: (1) decisions based upon circumstance and (2) decisions based upon eternal truth.”
This reminds me of Kant’s and Stuart Mill’s philosophy of ethics.
Kant’s ethics are comprised in the mind, the origin of action. Kant gives a powerful test in order to determine if a principle, or “maxim,” is worth acting on. This test is stated as follows: “I should never act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law.” Maxims are always in the form of an imperative such as “do X,” or “Don’t do Y.” No reason or rationale is given because none is needed. The clearest example of this is the ten commandments. Kant’s philosophy describes the ethics of eternal truths, things that should always be done.
Mill’s ethics on the other hand is the ethics of actions and outcomes. The terms good and bad are defined by the consequences an action has on the “general happiness.” “General happiness” basically meaning doing good things makes people happy and doing bad things makes people sad or in the words of Alma, “wickedness never was happiness.” Because of this principle, no action can be said to be good or bad in and of itself. Each action must be examined to determine its probable outcome on the general happiness; only by doing this can an action even be considered good or bad.
But as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we know there are actions that are inherently wrong or right in and of themselves. This can be clearly shown through an example. Say a soldier kills an enemy to protect the freedoms their nation provides for them and their family. Despite the fact that the outcome is the best for the "general happiness," most United States soldiers retain the emotional scars incurred for that action. This is precisely because they know at some level that killing is always inherently wrong, and going against that belief is psychologically damaging no matter what the outcome.
Another major caveat in Mill’s ethics is its inherent reliability on probability. This is because no one knows the future and therefore cannot know if an action will or will not increase the general happiness. We may have an idea of what an outcome will be, but until we actually perform the action there is no way of knowing for certain if it was the correct one. Thus we see the validity of the saying “hindsight is 20/20.”
But fortunately for members of the church we do have someone who knows the outcome. That person is with us and is always available to guide and direct us if we choose to listen. That person is the Holy Ghost, who speaks to us in eternal truths. But in order for the Holy Ghost to communicate with us effectively, we have to take the eternal truths and make them our own. President Scott suggest making a personal list of eternal truths and committing to live by them.
“The gospel teaches us to make decisions based upon eternal truth.
Keep the gospel light burning brightly in your home through scripture study, prayer, and the other things you know how to do. Honor and live temple covenants as you receive them. Drink deeply from the fountain of the revealed word of God. Hold fast to His word. Keep the Sabbath day holy. In short, continue to do what you know you should do.”
I have found myself in these situations in many occasions. My conscious says, "You know What to do, so do it!" Listening to this prompting has always led me to greater joy and happiness. So once we have our list of eternal truths the next step is to live them no matter what. President Scott says that one of the dangers we face is “to make small exceptions to the standards by which [we know we] should guide [our] lives.”
We can make rationalizations for why principals we know to be true should not be followed. The one I tend to make is fasting. I find myself thinking, “I am giving a fast offering so I don't need to go without food.” I know this is an excuse, so from this day forward I will be making a concentrated effort to fasting every fast Sunday.
President Scott goes on to talk about service. That we should live our lives “so that the Lord can guide [us] to where He wants [us] to be and to serve.” He goes on to say that “Wherever [we] go, stay tightly connected to the Church and consistently serve in it.”
This was difficult for me when I was younger, when I thought church service comprised of only extrovert activities such as declaring the gospel. But I have since come to realize that there are unique skills I have as an introvert which could also benefit the church.
President Uchtdorf mentioned in an April 2013 general conference talk, "The Church thrives when we take advantage of ... diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples." Each person has a unique personality with their own strengths and weaknesses.
So both introverts and extroverts should use the talents and skills they possess to do their part to benefit the church. If some are not skilled at interacting with others then they should be focusing on giving to the Lord in other avenues. We should be giving to the Lord and building His kingdom with the best we have to offer. For introverts as myself this may include participating in service activities or giving of our time and skills to meet church objectives. For myself, one of my favorite callings was that of a Building Cleanup Coordinator because it meant making checklist, coordinating member schedules, and showing up and physically cleaning the building.
Being an introvert does not mean refusing to talk to others about the gospel. I enjoyed sharing my testimony with my close family members and friends. When my coworkers asked me about my religion, I was able to tell them about my beliefs. When asked by my associates why I believe the things I believe, and do the things I do, I am able to stand up for my faith. No matter what our skill set, if we feel inspired to do something we should always do it. Sometimes I have been given the impression to go outside my comfort zone and help others in a way I would normally not feel comfortable doing. As an introvert though, I find these to be the exception rather than the rule. My wife is an extrovert and finds great satisfaction sharing and interacting with people all the time. Having discussions with others really rejuvenates her. Sharing her experiences and her beliefs with those around her is an ongoing everyday experience for my wife. This is what makes her a wonderful extroverted person and is another reason why I love her.
But no matter what our skills may be we can always find meaning and happiness in life. President Scott goes on to say another principle to live a happy life is to “smile. I don’t mean that you need to be cracking jokes every day,but a good joke now and then is an escape valve.”
I believe this is a good philosophy to live by. A philosophy of positivity helps me find happiness. Daniel, one of the people I home taught several years ago, had a profound influence on my life. He told me that everything is getting better in every way; and that this gave him plenty of reasons to smile. To be honest, I initially thought he was delusional and tried to counter his mindset.
"But what about the moral decay of society?" I asked.
To which Daniel replied, "This is the most righteous LDS generation on the earth."
"But what about unethical laws."
"We have more laws protecting women, children, and all people in all walks of life than ever before in history."
The debate continued on a little further until Daniel finally said, "For every bad thing that has happened you can always find many more good. The good far outweighs the bad."
The scriptures also teach that “all things shall work together for your good.” I have turned Daniel's viewpoint into my own. I believe your focus determines your reality. I believe the world is a wonderful place in which to live, filled with amazing people striving to do good continually. Because I choose to focus on this it has become my reality and I have never felt happier.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen.
 Richard G. Scott. "Living a Life of Peace, Joy, and Purpose - Ensign Feb. 2014 - ensign." 2014. 9 Mar. 2014 <https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/02/living-a-life-of-peace-joy-and-purpose?lang=eng>
 Aaron Klapheck. "Aaron Klapheck's Journal: How to Live a Morally Good Life." 2011. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://aaronklapheckjournal.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-live-morally-good-life.html>
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf. "Four Titles - general-conference." 2013. 9 Mar. 2014 <https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/four-titles?lang=eng>
 "Doctrine and Covenants 90:24." 2012. 25 Mar. 2014 <https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/90.24?lang=eng>