Book excerpt: Putting happiness on the back burner?

By G. Sheldon Martin

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from the book, "Be Still: Using Principles of the Gospel to Lower Anxiety," by G. Sheldon Martin.

"I will be happy when __________. Fill in the blank: When I go on a mission. When I get off a mission. When I get married. When I finish school. When I have children. When the children are in school. When the children move out. When I’m out of debt. When I have grandchildren. When I retire. When I go on another mission. Or, when I die."

Doctrine and Covenants 138:50 says, “For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.” One day when I was reading this, the thought came into my mind, Even in the spirit world, it’s possible to say, “I’ll be happy when ___________.” “I’ll be happy when I’m resurrected.”

This process never stops. It has the possibility of going on for a very long time.

We will always have more hopes and dreams than we can realize. In fact, I cannot think of a time in my life when I have not thought, I will be happy at the next stage. It seems as though we often live life thinking that the next stop is happiness, and when we get there, we realize that happiness is still one more stop away.

We must learn that happiness can be achieved at each stage in life and not at some distant point in the future. We must be certain that we recognize that there are great and wonderful events in our current life situation. It’s easy to say, “If I could only have lived in the days of Nephi to watch him receive the power to seal in heaven and earth,” or “I wish I lived in the times of Joseph Smith, when the Saints were easy to be entreated.” That’s true to a point, but while there were some Saints who were easy to be entreated, there were certainly others who weren’t. It’s true in every stage of history.

We have a tendency to glorify the past the same way we do the future. See history for what it was, both good and bad, and learn to see your own life for what it truly is, both good and bad. It’s easy to glorify the past or the unknown future.

Sometimes we focus too much on the current trials we are coping with because they are happening to us today. If we do this too much, it keeps us from appreciating the good in every day. Learn to appreciate the phase that you are in.

My son, McKay, plays tackle football. When he was in the second grade, he played his first year. If you have never seen second-grade tackle football, it’s like herding cats. In fact, McKay came up to me halfway through the season and said, “Hey, Dad, am I on offense or defense right now?” He had already run about 12 plays, and I thought, this is a major concern.

One day, he lined up in practice to do his tackling drill, and he went up against this boy in practice who was a giant of a second-grader. This other boy was old for his grade and huge for his age. McKay, on the other hand, was young for his grade and small for his age. McKay lined up head-to-head and got run over. I mean, the other boy didn’t even slow down. He hit McKay hard, and I remember thinking, I hope he’s not injured too badly. The coach called for a water break, and McKay hopped up and ran over to me. He gave me a thumbs up and said, “Dad, did you see how fast I got up when that boy hit me?” I laughed and thought, I have got to remember this and write it in my journal because when he’s 16, I’ll miss this type of response.

I have another son, Kimball. We once had a Primary presentation in our ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in which Kimball participated. One day, he came up to my wife and me, crying, and said, “Mom, Dad, I don’t want to do my part.” He was very upset. We told him, “You don’t have to do your part if you don’t want to.”

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