What Is, Is Right
Seeing into the nature of things, we discover the possibility of a great happiness veiled behind the most unthinkable turn of events. Brigham Young offers some mind-altering ideas:
I am happy; I am full of joy, comfort, and peace; all within me is light, for I desire nothing but to do the will of my Father in heaven. I delight not in unrighteousness, but in righteousness and truth. I seek to promote the good and happiness of myself and those with whom I am associated. We have the privilege of securing to ourselves that eternal bliss that can never fade away. …
You need never expect to see sorrow, unless your own conduct, conversation, and acts bring it to your hearts. Do you not know that sorrow to you can exist only in your own hearts? Though men or women were in the mountains perishing— though they be in overwhelming depths of snow freezing to death, or be on a desolate island starving to death for want of food—though they perish by the sword or in any other way, yet, if the heart is cheerful, all is light and glory within; there is no sorrow within them. You never saw a true Saint in the world that had sorrow, neither can you find one. If persons are destitute of the fountain of living water, or the principles of eternal life, then they are sorrowful. If the words of life dwell within us, and we have the hope of eternal life and glory, and let that spark within us kindle to a flame, to the consuming of the least and last remains of selfishness, we never can walk in darkness and are strangers to doubt and fear.11
Perhaps to make his point, Brigham overstated to a degree in saying that no true Saint could have sorrow. The Savior Himself had sorrows, and many true Saints are called into situations where they feel pain, dismay, sorrow, confusion, and grief; and they are called to comfort each other as Love bids them do and as part of their baptismal covenant (see Mosiah 18:8–9).
But still, he has made a profound observation that can change our life. Brigham teaches at least five important ideas here:
1. He is able to enjoy a fulness of happiness because he has given up his own will—he has been swallowed up in the Lord’s will, and that has enabled him to find acceptance, even joy, in what the Lord puts on his path. We might understand from his words that it is often insistence on our own will that blocks our perception of joy.
2. The source of his joy rests in the intent of his heart to promote his own good and happiness, as well as that of his associates.
3. Sorrow can exist only in one’s heart, suggesting that sorrow is a function of thinking, not of circumstances. It is how we interpret what is happening to us that either liberates us or imprisons us. If we interpret what is happening as something that should not be happening, and we can’t change it, then we will suffer. If we can accept that-which-cannot-be-changed as a reflection of what God would have unfold, then we can have peace. We might assume, “Of course, God is too benevolent to want or allow suffering.” But have we misunderstood benevolence?
4. Possessing the fountain of living water, the principles, and the words of eternal life makes a cheerful heart possible even in the midst of the unthinkable, because it is in the nature of things that underneath it all, behind it all, there is a secret happiness. This is not just a clinging to positive ideas, but the transcending effect of the residence of the inner Spirit of happiness with its felt experience.
5. That is, the words of life kindle the flame of eternal life inside us as they consume the last remains of our selfishness (the greatest source of our suffering), allowing us to walk in the light—clean, trusting—and to have no doubt or fear.
On another occasion, Brigham commented on the price of freedom from the consternating darkness of the mortal probation, on the kind of mental and emotional adjustments we might make to enjoy the living Light in our soul. He spoke on the degree of submission we must achieve to things-as-they are, to What Is:
It is said that if we do right we shall overcome. I will tell you one mark you have got to come to in order to do right. If you can bring yourselves, in your affections, your feelings, your passions, your desires, and all that you have in your organization, to submit to the hand of the Lord, to his providences, and acknowledge his hand in all things, and always be willing that he should dictate, though it should take your houses, your property, your wives and children, your parents, your lives, or anything else you have upon the earth, then you will be exactly right; and until you come to that point, you cannot be entirely right. That is what we have to come to; we have to learn to submit ourselves to the Lord with all our hearts, with all our affections, wishes, desires, passions, and let him reign and rule over us and within us, the God of every motion; then he will lead us to victory and glory; otherwise he will not.12
This passage provides additional details about what we would have to do to feel
1. We would have to acknowledge the Lord’s hand in all things—to give up the idea that things happen randomly to us.
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments. … But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world,and eternal life in the world to come” (d&c 59:21, 23).
Job understood this principle of submission to What Is: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:21–22).
2. We would have to submit to the Lord’s hand in His testing of our level of consecration. The Lord’s purpose seems to be from time to time to make it hard to stick with Him—so that, if we do stick, we gain something indispensable. Truman Madsen comments on the meaning of the call to sacrifice:
We are called upon to love God first and over all. The moment that pattern is followed he seeks in us the one thing that we do not really want to give up. Many of us will say that we do not have that kind of faith.