Most people, one would surmise, want to be happy; many spend a lifetime actively seeking happiness. However, the number of individuals who actually achieve that goal seems to be greatly limited.
Early in the Book of Mormon, Lehi declared, "…men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25).
From Lehi's straightforward proclamation, we can see that Heavenly Father desires His children to acquire joy. Happiness is often a synonym for joy. Why, then, is happiness so elusive?
One reason might stem from a simple matter of semantics: Many people think that the word "pleasure" has the same meaning as the word for "joy" or "happiness." In their pursuit of happiness, they take a route that leads only to pleasure, which, in most cases, has a shorter shelf life than joy or happiness.
Many avenues bring sought-after pleasure. The most easily identifiable are material possessions: bigger or more lavish homes, expensive automobiles and costly apparel, to name a few. Other avenues to pleasure might include prestige or fame.
It is possible that people who have these elements in their lives are genuinely happy; however, it is likely that achieving these pleasures was not their primary aim. They use their material possessions and social or business positions to help others.
As we read in the book of Ecclesiastes: "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase; this is also vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Further, Ecclesiastes teaches that unless a man's soul is filled with good, his riches, wealth, honor and posterity are vanity (see chapter 6).
In the final chapter of Ecclesiastes, we find a summary of what is most important: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Is it not plainly laid out for us that those individuals who have true happiness are the ones who not only have faith in the Lord but also obey His commandments and live their lives in a manner that will bless others?
When we realize our ultimate duty is to fear God and keep His commandments and then do so, our path to happiness will unfold before us.
The word "duty" — with its count of a mere four letters — has a monumental role in our lives.
Every individual who has achieved success and happiness in his or her life most likely has known what his or her duty was and worked to fulfill it.
No greater example is there than that of the Savior in fulfilling His duty by atoning for the sins of mankind.
Great people of the scriptures — from the prophets, apostles, disciples, missionaries and faithful servants through the ages — knew and fulfilled their duty. In latter days, we need only turn the pages of modern scriptures or history to see examples of people who fulfilled their duty: prophets and pioneers, trailblazers and teachers, missionaries and men and women of faith.
From Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration, to President Thomas S. Monson, the 16th President of the Church and our prophet today, we have examples of great men who not only have seen their duty but also have embraced it.
In an address during priesthood meeting of the October 2006 general conference, President Monson said:
"I love, I cherish the noble word 'duty.'
"The legendary General Robert E. Lee of American Civil War fame declared: 'Duty is the sublimest word in our language. … You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less'" (in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations , 620).
Being true to our duty shows that we are true followers of the Lord. Staying true to our duty is the only way to obtain happiness.