In the Book of Mormon there’s a scripture that’s been on my mind a lot lately:
Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. (Alma 41:10)
That phrase “wickedness never was happiness” has been on a loop in my head. It’s not safe to assume that the Lord means that anyone who goes against His will is miserable and those that follow His will are in a constant state of happiness. In fact, there’s a number of reasons why that’s not a safe assumption. Here’s a few:
- All of God’s children are at different levels of understanding and therefore have different understandings of His will.
- Heavenly Father’s timing should always be considered. One of my favorite quotes is by Elder Richard G. Scott, he says: “Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.” This suggests that misery/discomfort/sadness can happen to anyone, not just the disobedient.
- People can seem happier or more sad than they really are (see: all social media). Duplicity seems to be a very common trend today.
It’s not until I examine the rest of the scripture (and not just those four words) that I begin to understand what Alma is teaching. The happiness Alma is talking of is not a momentary feeling, a feeling even the disobedient can have. Rather the use of the word “restoration” would mean repairing something that is broken and returning it to a more perfect condition. We are all broken from the happiness the Lord offers us because of the Fall. This type of happiness is not an immediate one, but rather a future mending and return to an eternal happiness, which can only come in eternity through the Atonement of Christ.
Being righteous does not automatically bring happiness, like some sort of drug. Personally, being righteous has only provided me with blessings and small glimpses of eternal happiness. In fact, I believe the best blessing I get from being obedient is that my resiliency increases. Resilience is defined as:
The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
When I’m obeying the commandments as best as I can, striving to follow His will, and keeping His timing in mind is when I am most able to bounce back from sorrow to joy. Life is full of challenges: death of loved ones, losing jobs, divorce, illness, injury, just to name a few. I am thankful that Heavenly Father continues to bless me with an ability to be resilient and to capability to move forward during the challenges in life.
So, yes, wickedness never was happiness. Not eternally speaking. And, no, righteousness doesn’t guarantee a non-stop life of bliss and smiling. But, choosing to follow Christ assures us that we can make it through mortality resiliently and eventually live in a state of eternal happiness.