The Plan of Happiness is central to becoming a Zion person. Happiness is always associated with Zion: “and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”
The Plan of Happiness and Zion
(This article was adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Click here to receive a free sample.)
The Plan of Happiness is central to becoming a Zion person. Happiness is always associated with Zion: “and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”[i] The end purpose of our creation is happiness: “men are that they might have joy.”[ii]
The ultimate definition of happiness is to be like God; the more we approach the stature of God in attributes, knowledge, power, and dominion, the happier we are. Conversely, the definition of misery is to be like Satan. Misery is always associated with Babylon.
To become like God and experience his level of happiness rests on two criteria: (1) Justice—the system of celestial laws that make God who he is and provide him what he has; that is, God’s power and quality of life derive from his obedience to celestial laws. (2) Mercy—the Lord’s love, grace, forbearance, clemency, and pity on us lesser beings, as he patiently works with us to help us to become like him. To a great extent our happiness depends upon God’s merciful interaction with us and our extending mercy to others.[iii]
The Covenant of the Gods
In a premortal council of the Gods[iv] (which preceded the Council in Heaven that we attended), the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost entered into a covenant to work together for the happiness, salvation, and exaltation of the Father’s children.
Joseph Smith taught that an “everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages, according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator.”[v] Our interaction with these three Gods began before the world was created, continues here, and will endure into eternity. Every aspect of our interaction with them has to do with our present redemption and our eternal happiness.
Too often we miss the fact that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost define their dealings with us in terms of relationship. Each one of us is dearer to them than we can comprehend. Motivated solely by their relationship with us, they initiated the plan of happiness.[vi]
In the premortal world, when the Father announced the plan of happiness, we shouted for joy, perhaps because the plan’s far-reaching benefits were so extraordinary.[vii] In that supreme act of love, Heavenly Father offered us the opportunity to become what he is. He held nothing back. His package included indivisible access to and inheritance of the totality of his kingdom, the fulness of his power, the keys to the library of everything he knows, and the ability to become like him in perfections, characteristic, and attributes.
His offer included the quintessential gift of a physical body, and a tabernacle of flesh and bones for our immortal spirits to eternally “act upon.”[viii] He also offered us the invaluable gift of divine education: the opportunity to experience good and evil and the unrestricted gift of agency to choose between them. Finally, he offered us the opportunity to enjoy his lifestyle—eternal marriage and family—with the promise of eternal posterity.[ix]
Happiness Encompasses All That Is Good
Clearly, the plan of happiness offered us all that was good, which is called righteousness. Righteousness, according to Chauncey Riddle, is “that necessary order of social relationships in which beings of knowledge and power must bind themselves in order to live together in accomplishment and happiness for eternity.”[x]
Happiness is wholly dependent upon righteousness, and it is in righteousness that Zion people weld themselves together by solemn covenants so that they become “predictable, dependable, and united so that they can be trusted. They bind themselves to be honest, true, chaste, and benevolent so that they can do good for all other beings, which good they do by personal sacrifice to fulfill all righteousness.”[xi] Thus, being and doing good and being and doing righteousness are synonymous terms; goodness and righteousness are unifying, perfecting, selfless principles that produce happiness.
On the other hand, evil, the opposite of goodness and righteousness, is without discipline, a law unto itself,[xii] a corrupting and self-serving principle that produces misery. Evil defines Babylon.
Heavenly Father structured the plan of happiness so as to mercifully wrest us from Babylon, from our complacency, from our evil tendencies, and from the effects of the Fall. Heavenly Father built into the plan of happiness his promise that he would endow us with the Light of Christ, which is an agent employed by the Holy Ghost to “feel after”[xiii] us and draw us out of Babylon and into Zion. By means of that light, the Holy Ghost would continually offer us opportunities to view ourselves in our “awful state,”[xiv] for the purpose of shaking us loose from Babylon.
Moreover, the Father promised that he would offer each of us an unmistakable witness of the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost, so that we might reconsider our destructive path, repent of evil, and embrace “the godly order of good.”[xv] Clearly, the Father makes every effort to offer us happiness.
Balancing Justice and Mercy
To make the plan of happiness operational, the Father first instigated the covenant of justice,[xvi] that system of laws that he obeyed in order to become who he is and enjoy what he has. That is, by obedience to celestial law he was justified to enjoy the blessings associated with those laws. By living those laws, we, God’s children, can progress and become like him in every way. That is the process that leads to true happiness.
Knowing that his children would break the celestial laws while they struggled to assimilate them in their lives, and knowing that those broken laws would consign his children “forever to be cut off from his presence,”[xvii] the Father decreed a second law, which would have the power to override the consequences of
The covenant of mercy called for the Father to provide an atoning Savior to balance the demands of justice against the purposes of mercy:
And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself [Jesus Christ] atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.[xix]
Mercy would also allow the children of God to receive physical bodies like their Father’s, with the assurance that these eternal gifts would not be cancelled out by death. The Savior’s merciful universal resurrection would make that possible.[xx]
Accessing the benefits of mercy through the Atonement was decreed to be a matter of individual choice. To facilitate that choice, the Father instigated a covenant that we could choose to embrace if we desired to access the Atonement, draw upon its mercy, receive shelter from the demands of justice, and be placed beyond the reach of our enemies.