You see it in almost every fairy tale “And they lived happily ever after”. For us, it can seem that “happily ever after” is only available to those who live in fairy tales. In reality, it is our goal in life to attain. Elder Gerrit W. Gong helps us understand this in his “Happy and Forever” address. He states “True, enduring joy and eternity with those we love are the very essence of God’s plan of happiness.”
What does “happily ever after” mean? For me, it means that I have lived my life in such a way as to obtain “all that [the] Father hath” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:38). Obviously that is not attainable in this life. However, “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32).
What have we been given to help us achieve this “happily ever after”? Elder Gong states “We have a profound opportunity and gift to discover new spiritual understanding, love, repentance, and forgiveness with each other and our families, in time and eternity.” The next year, I will focus on discovering new spiritual understanding as we study the New Testament in Come Follow Me. I want to “immerse [myself] more completely into Jesus’s life, His teachings, His majesty, His power, and His atoning sacrifice” (Elder Neil L. Andersen, Drawing Closer to the Savior, October 2022 General Conference).
How will I immerse myself more completely? I mentioned in a previous post that Cheryl and I have started to prepare for next year’s study by obtaining a journal edition of the New Testament along with other study aids. I also have the Messiah series of books written by Bruce R. McConkie that I will be reading along with the Come Follow Me curriculum. These tools will help me to put down in words the things I will learn from my study. They will also help me to focus on my studies so that the Spirit can more fully enter into my life and help me draw closer to the Savior.
The ultimate goal is to qualify for life where God and Christ dwell. This is where our true “happily ever after” exists. This is where we can eternally progress and experience all that the Father hath.
In order to obtain our happily ever after, we have to pass through this mortal life and be tested so that we can prove “to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]” (Abraham 3:25). However, God has not left us without doctrinal principles to aid us in this quest.
The first of these doctrinal principles is the resurrection. Three days after Christ died on the cross he took up His body and joined it to His spirit ushering in the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection is a free gift from Christ to all who are born on this earth. We cannot live with God without a resurrected body. This allows us to receive a “fullness of joy” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:17).
Atonement and Repentance
The second principle is atonement and repentance. Christ, in the garden of Gethsemane suffered for our sins. His Atonement paid the price for those sins for all who will repent and come unto Him. How can we ever be happy if we have guilt for our wrongdoings? I know that the guilt of sin is heavy. I have experienced it many times. I have also experienced the joy of having that guilt lifted from my shoulders through the repentance process. I cannot put it into words better than President Russell M. Nelson did at the April 2019 General Conference:
Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.President Russell M. Nelson, We CanDo Better and Be Better, April 2019 General Conference
There is one other component to atonement and repentance that we must remember. Elder Gong puts it this way “as we offer the miracle of His grace and forgiveness to each other, the mercy we receive and the mercy we offer can help make life’s injustices just.” It is not only important for us to repent, but we must also forgive others. There are times when this is not easy.
Growing up I experienced bullying firsthand. It was not fun to be picked on or teased or made fun of. It did not help my self-esteem or give me confidence in myself. However, the one thing it did do was put a chip on my shoulder. I became paranoid that people were “out to get me”. I did not trust easily and even saw bullying in the tiniest acts that in reality were harmless. I’ll never forget the day when a coworker and friend finally pointed it out to me. He told me “you know, not everyone is out to get you.” I was stunned and realized for the first time that I had allowed the bullying to make me cynical of others’ intentions and motives. That moment began to change the way I looked at others and helped me to lift a burden I didn’t realize I had been carrying. Still, it wasn’t until several years later that I was able to fully forgive those that had bullied me. Sometimes it takes time to forgive others and relieve yourself of the burdens you have taken on.
Mercy and Justice
“With perfect mercy and justice, He encircles in His arms of safety the humble and penitent.” God knows us. There is no hiding who we are and what we do from Him who sees all. He understands everything that influences and affects us. There is no variable in our life’s equation he can’t account for. This knowledge and understanding allows Him to perfectly judge us. Any weaknesses or disabilities or attractions will be taken into account before we are judged.
The above does not mean we can just cruise through life. We must act. We cannot procrastinate repentance, for instance, relying on the mercy of God. When we have committed sin, and we know we have committed sin, then we must repent.
I have three special needs children. Through no fault of their own, they each have unique challenges in their lives. Knowing that God will take into account their special needs when it comes to the judgement is a huge relief in my life. My other children may not have special needs, but I also know that God will take into account the environmental factors that have affected them. He will look into their hearts and see their desires. He will do the same for each one of us.
The only way we can fairly be judged is for there to be a balance between mercy and justice. God knows that balance and will apply it individually to each one of us. Judgement is individual. God will not group us together and judge us collectively. We will get personal attention in our judgement and will know that the pronouncement is just. Even if that judgement is not what we strived for, we will feel of God’s love for us and He will share in any pain we feel for the judgement we receive.
Jesus Christ served as our proxy when He took upon Him our sins. He paid the price for our mistakes and transgressions. We need not ever know the pains he experienced in the garden or the cross because of His sacrifice.
God has given us the opportunity to be a proxy for those who did not receive the saving ordinances of the gospel when they were alive. This allows us to “become more like [Christ]” in that we are doing for others what they currently cannot do for themselves.
I have done work for family members in the temple. I have felt them there and know that they are grateful for my efforts in being their proxy for the saving ordinances. I look forward to the day when I will see them again and be able to share in the experiences of life.
Elder Gong tells us that we as proxies also receive blessings. “As we serve others, the Holy Spirit of Promise can ratify the ordinances and sanctify both giver and receiver. Both giver and receiver can make and deepen transforming covenants, over time receiving the blessings promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
God will forgive who he will. He has commanded us to forgive all. This is not easy sometimes as I’ve talked about above. However, there is a feeling of relief and a lifting of a burden when we forgive others. We have the opportunity every day to forgive someone. Most of the time for me it happens when driving.
There was a route to my youngest daughter’s school I would take every day. The school she goes to is a multi-grade campus where Junior High and High School share. The Junior High has an entrance to the school that was in the route I used to take. The road is a four-lane road and inevitably both lanes that are in the route would stop to let cars turn left in front of them. This was in the middle of the flowing traffic without a traffic sign or light. I know people are trying to be nice, but it would make me upset and I admit I would blow the car horn to get people moving. Every time I would realize that I was in the wrong and needed to repent of the anger I felt. I would also need to be more forgiving as the people who stopped to let the others turn left were being compassionate to their fellow commuters.
“We find heaven’s sociality in each other. God’s work and glory include bringing to pass happy and forever. Eternal life and exaltation are to know God and Jesus Christ so, through godly power, where They are we shall be.” Happily ever after is attainable through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we draw closer to Christ and adhere to the doctrinal principles given us in the plan of happiness, we can receive our resurrected body and live with God and Christ.
Tips for Teaching
When discussing this address, you may want to include some of the following:
- Discuss with the class what “happily ever after” means. Allow the class to define the term and then discuss ways in which to achieve it.
- Go through the doctrinal principles and discuss how each one helps us to our happily ever after.
- Ask how members of the class can “discover new spiritual understanding”. Discuss ways in which personal study can be enhanced.