A young girl, who looked to be about 3 years old, played on the beach at a sandy seacoast. She had simple toys: a plastic cup from a soda fountain and a large spoon. She filled the cup with damp sand and, with the help of her father, tamped it down and inverted the molded form onto the ground. She created several turrets of what — certainly in her mind, at least — would become a magnificent sand castle.
Several yards away, a couple who appeared to be in their early 40s helped an elderly woman wade into the surf. They held her by her arms while they unfolded a chair and placed it in the water. The elderly woman, whose age probably fell somewhere between late 80s to mid-90s, sat and kicked her feet in the surf as waves rolled to shore.
At different ends of life’s spectrum, the young girl and the old woman found pleasure in their trip to the beach. They had broad smiles. They had fun. They looked like they were happy.
The person who observed this beachside scene had no way of knowing how long their happiness would last. At the day’s end, would they return to homes filled with happiness? Would the little girl be happy because she would receive continuing love and patient attention from her father? Would the old woman enjoy more hours in the company of the younger couple? In short, would their happiness end when the fun at the beach was over?
Elder Claudio R.M. Costa of the Seventy, speaking during the October 2002 general conference, said that shortly after he was baptized, an old friend asked him what he had found so different in the Church. Elder Costa said he answered, “I have found true happiness.” His friend, he said, replied, “There is no such thing as true happiness — only happy moments.”
Elder Costa said, “I understand that my good friend did not know the difference between fun and happiness. What he called ‘happy moments’ were in fact the moments when he had fun. What he did not know then was that happiness is much more than just fun. Fun is just a fleeting moment, but happiness is a lasting thing.
“Many people in this world do not understand the difference between fun and happiness. Many try to find happiness having fun, but the two words have different meanings.”
Elder Costa recited dictionary definitions: Fun is play, pleasure, gaiety, merriment, source of enjoyment, amusement, to behave playfully, playful, often a noisy activity and teasing. Happiness is contentedness, joy, delight and satisfaction.
“Both fun and happiness are fine, but certainly, happiness is the most worth seeking,” said Elder Costa. “Happiness can encompass fun as well, but fun alone will not assure us true happiness.”
We have fun in short spurts of time, during specific activities or events. We enjoy happiness over the long haul, even — and especially — into eternity. Put another way, fun soon becomes a happy memory; happiness is an eternal experience. It is no wonder that our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation, which He set in place to help us find our way back to His presence, is often called His Plan of Happiness.
It is through the gospel of Jesus Christ that we find true happiness.
Elder Marion D. Hanks (1921-2011) said, “It is well to consider where we are with respect to our Creator. If we are out of touch, if we have moved away from Him, then we are not as happy as we could be. Something is missing. Epictetus said, ‘God hath made all men to be happy.’ And a prophet wrote: ‘ men are, that they might have joy’ (2 Nephi 2:25).
“Wherein have we erred if we are not happy? Why are we less happy than we could be? How can we have more joy?” (April 1972 general conference, “Joy through Christ.”)