To nearly 22,000 college-age young adults gathered in BYU's Marriott Center Sunday, March 7, President Thomas S. Monson outlined steps to the path of happiness.
The fireside, sponsored by the Church Educational System and carried by the Church's satellite network to various meetinghouses throughout North America, came at the conclusion of Barrier Awareness Week at BYU. The week's activities called attention to the physical, social and emotional barriers that confront or inhibit access to a full and active life by those who have disabilities of various kinds. In recognition of the week's activities, a choir from the BYU 8th Stake provided sign language interpretation of the fireside's opening and closing hymns."Every one of us desires to be happy," President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, said in his fireside address. "The Prophet Joseph Smith captured our true feelings when he declared: `Happiness is the object and design of our existence and will be the end, thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is: virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness and keeping all the commandments of God.' "
President Monson reviewed the five points of the path that the Prophet Joseph enumerated, and labeled each as its own path:
- The path of virtue. President Monson gave a dictionary definition of virtue as "conformity to a standard of right, a particular moral excellence, the beneficial qualities of courage, strength - even valor." He referred to a series of posters and wallet-size cards the Church developed years ago under the heading "Be Honest With Yourself." One message in the series was: "Virtue is its own reward."
"Temptation is part of life and will be experienced in one way or another by every traveler through mortality," President Monson said. "However, the Apostle Paul, acknowledging this truth, gave us this assurance: `There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.' (1 Cor. 10:13.)
"It has been said that conscience warns us as a friend before it punishes us as a judge."
- The path of uprightness. To define this path, President Monson quoted Job 1:2, which describes Job as a man who was perfect and upright, who feared God and eschewed evil.
President Monson said Job's life was beset by problems. He lost his possessions and family, and was tortured with pain. Yet he rejected the invitation to curse God; instead, he bore his testimony: "I know that my redeemer liveth." (Job. 19:25.)
President Monson spoke of the work of a psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger, who stated that mental health and moral health are identical, and the only way today's suffering, struggling, anxious society can hope to prevent ills is by recognizing the reality of sin. President Monson spoke of Dr. Menninger's publication, Whatever Became of Sin? The publication, President Monson said, is "a plea for mankind to stop and look at what we are doing to ourselves, to each other and to our universe."
After relating a story from his boyhood in which he told of how one of his friends tested and increased his physical strength by swimming against the current in the Provo River, President Monson said: "I'm certain our duty and responsibility is frequently to swim upstream and against the tide of temptation and sin. As we do so, our spiritual strength will increase, and we shall be equal to our God-given responsibilities."
- The path of faithfulness. This path connotes allegiance, loyalty and adherence to promises, President Monson said. For Church members, revering sacred covenants - such as those of baptism, of the priesthood and marriage - is a requirement for happiness.
"There is no resting place along the path called faithfulness," President Monson declared. "The trek is constant, and no lingering is allowed." He pointed out there are forks and turns in the road, and the traveler cannot hope to reach his desired destination if he does not make decisions purposefully. To illustrate, he quoted from Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," in which Alice asked the Cheshire Cat which path she should take. The cat asked, "Where do you want to go?" Alice replied, "I don't know." "Then," said the cat, "it really doesn't matter, does it?"
Continuing, President Monson added, "We know where we want to go. Do we have the resolution, even the faithfulness, to get there?"
He related the experience of John Helander of Goteborg, Sweden. John, he said, has physical disabilities that make it difficult for him to coordinate his motions. At a youth conference in Kungsbacka, Sweden, John took part in an 800-meter race he had no chance to win. The other runners bolted far ahead, and the winner crossed the finish line before John completed his first lap in the two-lap race. The race was over, yet the spectators remained in the stadium. When John, the only runner remaining on the track, finally crossed the finish line, the cheers echoed for miles.
"Each of us is a runner in the race of life," President Monson said. "Comforting is the fact that there are many runners. Reassuring is the knowledge that our eternal Scorekeeper is understanding. Challenging is the truth that each must run. But you and I do not run alone. The vast audience of family, friends and leaders will cheer our courage, will applaud our determination as we rise from our stumblings and pursue our goal. The race of life is not for sprinters running on a level track. The course is marked by pitfalls and checkered with obstacles."
- The path of holiness. "He who conquered death and atoned for the sins of the world, even Jesus Christ, invited each of us to follow His divine example," President Monson said. "
Follow me' became His kind instruction.Come, learn of me' was our personal invitation to the learning that lasts beyond life and which endures through eternity."
President Monson related how President N. Eldon Tanner, when he was a branch president in Alberta, called students who had gone to Edmonton to attend college into his office and talked about the purposes of education and the goals of the Church. President Tanner said to the students: "If you will work hard on your studies during the week, live the principles of the gospel, and attend to your Church duties on Sunday, I will promise you that you will graduate from the university. And what is more important, I will promise you that you will be a better and a happier person than if you don't attend Church." Many students, President Monson observed, bear humble and grateful testimony that President Tanner's promise was fulfilled.
- Keep all the commandments of God. This path, President Monson observed, is comprehensive. " `He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.' (John 14:21.) That is no small promise," President Monson said. "There is no need for any of us to walk alone. We can look up and reach out for divine help."
Of the Prophet Joseph Smith's statement on what leads to happiness, President Monson said: "Let us walk these clearly defined paths. To help us do so we can follow the shortest sermon in the world. It is found on a common traffic sign. It says, `Keep right.' "
He said that advice was followed by a man named Joe, who was asked to get up at 6 a.m. and drive a child with disabilities 50 miles to a hospital. Joe didn't want to do it, but he didn't know how to say no. When the tearful mother placed the child on the seat next to him, Joe assured her that everything would be all right and drove off quickly.
"After a mile or so," President Monson related, "the child inquired shyly, `You're God, aren't you?'
" `I'm afraid not, little fellow,' replied Joe.
I thought you must be God,' said the child.I heard mother praying and asking God to help me get to the hospital so I could get well and play with the other boys. Do you work for God?
Sometimes, I guess,' said Joe.But not regularly. I think I'm going to work for him a lot more from now on.' "