Doom and gloom are everywhere: recession, scandal, gridlock, mad-cow this and debt-limit-extensions that. Unless you are hiding under a rock, you know the air is thick with very real problems.
However, those problems needn’t infect the disciples of Jesus Christ with the Chicken-Little syndrome. While I concede these are tough times, the sky is not falling.
I don’t mean to diminish financial hardship, war, poverty, political gridlock or human suffering. Sadly, these things will be with us for a season. However, we needn’t succumb to doom and gloom as a character trait.
May I suggest two cures for Chicken-Little disease: a positive attitude and gratitude.
While a positive attitude is no shortcut to righteousness, it is a good start on the long climb of discipleship and happiness.
One example from 1944 hits home with my family. Imagine you just received a call from the First Presidency to serve as mission president and mission mom presiding over the New Zealand mission.
The world is at war and you don’t earn a lot of money working in Smithfield, Utah, for Del Monte Foods. Your wife is pregnant with your fourth child but you dutifully accept the mission call and head to Oakland to catch a slow boat to New Zealand. You will be relieving Elder Matthew Cowley, who has been laboring in New Zealand since 1938, and he is stranded in the Pacific due to the war.
Imagine further that when you arrive in Oakland with your young family, you can’t board the boat because a Japanese submarine just sunk a merchant marine ship off the coast of California. The First Presidency asks you to proselyte in Salinas, Calif., until it is safe to travel overseas.
For the next year, you are stuck in California with little money and no mission over which to preside. You are living in a small auto court. Your children are crisped and groomed for the school bus. The bus driver is Jack Williamson, a recent widower who sees your children, inquires about your situation and is prompted to offer his house as free lodging until the end of the war.
After awaiting passage to New Zealand for nearly a year, President A. Reed Halversen and his wife, Luana, board a train to the east coast for the backhanded route through the Panama Canal. The family, with the new baby in tow, arrives in New Zealand during the summer of 1945.
Fast forward to the present day. Sister Halversen is now nearly 98 years young. She recalls the California experience and subsequent mission to New Zealand as among the most precious years in their young family’s life. Why? The answer is simple: a positive attitude.
That attitude stemmed from faith and a sincere desire to please the Lord. My wife’s grandparents made lemonade from lemons and were later blessed to serve as the first president and matron of the Ogden Utah Temple. Theirs is a rich legacy of responding in positive ways to difficult circumstances. So it was with the handcart pioneers; so it can be with our own trials.
President James E. Faust said: "A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness... It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love and well-being" (President James E. Faust, "Gratitude As a Saving Principle," Ensign, December 1996).
We can’t always control present circumstance, but we are the captains of our attitude and the generals of our gratitude.
Economic cycles crest and dip, kingdoms rise and crumble, but in the everyday rhythm of our lives, we need not allow the times and seasons to impede the habit of happiness.
When we think our lot is hard or unbearable, remember that there was a young carpenter from Galilee who bore every grief and all our sins so that we would not have to bear our sins without rescue or our grief without godly comfort.
What evidence have we that the sky is falling? A tiny acorn? As for me and my house, we will look for rainbows in the storm. Besides, even if the sky is falling, we are that much closer to heaven.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law and teaches law and ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor for the QC Chandler Heights Stake, he is active in Interfaith and a U.S. Air Force veteran.