What is your vision of a better life? Silken beaches, bottomless checkbooks, endless entertainment? A prophet of God has said that "Men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). God’s plan of happiness has nothing to do with lazy hammocks and unfettered desires.
A better life is the life God intended for us. Such a life includes the following three keys:
1. Time and Choice. The depth of our schedule may determine the width of our choices. Correct choices free us from over programming the clock and calendar.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson recounts the film "Man’s Search for Happiness," narrated by Richard L. Evans: "Life offers you two precious gifts — one is time, the other freedom of choice, the freedom to buy with your time what you will...Every day, every hour, every minute of your mortal span of years must sometime be accounted for....and prove yourself able to choose good over evil, right over wrong, enduring happiness over mere amusement" (Elder D. Todd Christofferson, "Reflections on a Consecrated Life," Ensign, November, 2010, quoting "Man’s Search For Happiness," pamphlet, 1969, 4-5).
The most miserable people I know are those who fill their time with self-pleasing. Only when they choose God do they realize the very joy they mistakenly seek in "a far country" (Luke 15:13).
2. Potential. Realizing our potential is foundational to happiness. In the parable of the talents, every man "is given according to his several ability" (Matthew 25:15, emphasis added). For each of us the day of reckoning will come. We will reap what we sow. Given much, we must grow much and bless many.
When we waste time, we waste potential. On this subject, Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy recently counseled the Saints in the Phoenix area about endless hours of video-gaming. He said, "We may conquer the virtual world, but there is no virtual heaven."
No one ever gained a professional degree or attained any worthy goal without sacrifice. Reaching our potential is hard and challenging. Nothing precious is nothing prized.
Our ultimate potential is to become "perfect, even as (our) Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). That should give us great spiritual hope.
3. Seek-Find. Of all the worthy things we could seek, there is none greater than the gift of the Holy Ghost.
In the parable of the friend at midnight (Luke 11:5-13), a man awakens his friend seeking bread for a traveler whom he must feed. Through persistence, the friend gives the needed bread despite the inconvenience of the late hour.
The Savior then teaches the oft-quoted scripture, "Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find" (verse 9). Jesus concludes the parable with this lesson: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13).
With the Spirit’s guidance we are able to seek that which the Lord wants for us. The moment we understand that principle is the moment a better life blossoms within us.
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We cannot always choose our present circumstance nor control the bad things that happen to us. We can, however, have a better life when we use our precious time and choices to fulfill our eternal potential. By seeking righteousness we receive a life of expanded choice, of focused time, and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
While I might whimsically define a "better life" as a languorous day filled with breezy wants, God defines the better life as love, service and righteousness. Those are choices worth seeking, time worth spending, and potential worth reaching with God’s incomparable help.
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