On Being Happy: Reflections On The 40th Anniversary Exponent II Issue
A few months ago when the young, male missionaries were over for dinner, we discussed the upcoming general conference. The boys had just attended a mission conference where the mission president asked them who their favourite general authority was. The boys reflected that each missionary there had a favourite speaker, and they laughed and felt closer to each other when they learned that others shared the same favourite. At this dinner, we all agreed that each general conference speaker was worthy, and would bring spiritual insights to the table. But we also agreed that there were one or more “favourites” who we were looking forward to learning from.
Every issue of the Exponent magazine is like this for me. I look forward to each worthy contribution of art, word, poem and song, and feel uplifted as so many of the contributions stay with me, bringing me peace, making me feel un-alone, and loved. Often the contributors who are previously unknown to me bring me the biggest enlightenment and delights, and I feel like I am making new friends of them as I read their words. But then there are my favourites. A handful of women whose words I save, I save them to read when the children and husband are away, for a time when I can invite them, and they spirit they bring to me. They know me, even if I have never met them. They teach me things that I often didn’t know I needed to learn. They heal me with prophetic wisdom that can only be administered by the spirit. They are my sisters, and I love them.
Lavina Fielding Anderson is one of these women. And this essay is one of those essays. Lavina writes:
“In the by-no-means extensive research that have done into nineteenth-century saints, I have been struck repeatedly by their hunger for spiritual gifts and manifestations and by their willingness to pray directly for them.”
This observation is manifested as the author takes us through her study of the Doctrine and Covenants, and her own seeking of what spiritual gifts we each have to offer, find….and ask for. Lavina manifested her testimony of prayer, fasting and service – and that as we are committed to these things, we gain in spiritual power; this power is not reserved to be used only under the exoskeleton of the church, but it a personal power that brings us closer to Christ, and directs us to the work that God would have us do.
It made me think of a Baha’i woman I met once. I was reeling with adjusting to moving to a new country, feeling lonely, confused and abandoned. She patiently listened to my woes, pointed me in direction of similar products to those I missed from home, and became a friend. In the course of our communication, she said that she felt that helping others to adjust was her “calling.” I was confused why a non-Mormon felt a calling– and asked for more information. She said that she felt like it was her calling from God. It did not come from within the structure of religion or church, she sought what God would have her so, and felt as though God’s calling of her was to help those in transition from one country to another.
Her words struck me, but I realised she had been placed by God to help me. She recognised her spiritual gift and sought out accomplishing it independent of government or religious organizations. She did as she felt God had commanded her. This woman set an example for me in seeking out responsibilities from God that are beyond what the church and her clergy might assign me. And, after much prayer, thought and seeking, I found what I believe is my personal calling from God, and like my Baha’i friend, I believe my calling is to help others in a particular circumstance to find happiness.
I believe that this is exactly what Lavina is teaching us in her essay, that we are to seek for more spiritual blessings, and that we are to ask for spiritual gifts so we can be of better service in His kingdom. In this, we are happy, we are meant to be happy, and we are meant to be happy because of our relationship with the Lord. More from Lavina’s essay:
“The Lord promised Joseph and Oliver that they should “both have according to your desires, for ye have both joy in that which ye have desired” (D&C 7:8). It is significant to me that their joy confirmed the righteousness of their desire, that their joy was the reason the Lord granted them their desire. It reinforces my idea that the seeking of happiness is a spiritually healthy thing to do and corroborates my experience that happiness characterizes righteousness”
These words are reminders that I need to hear, and are one of the many reasons why she, and other Exponent writers are my favourites. They inspire me to be a better person, a better woman, and a better saint. These words also remind me that I am meant to be happy. In this, I found great and satisfying happiness in reading Lavina’s teachings, and in the words shared by many of my other “favourites” in this celestial magazine. I hope you feel inspired to share in these gifts as well; I am confident that as we read of others’ spiritual gifts and seek inspiration from their words that we will accomplish so much more than if we only wait for an assignment or calling to come from a second-hand source.
I hope to teach these things to my daughters; and I hope to inspire you to do the same—the draw closer to Christ, to seek your personal calling from God, and to ask for the spiritual gifts that will help to bring you and others greater happiness.
Is righteousness happiness to you? Do you feel called to assignments in addition to those consigned to you within church administration? Who are some of your favourite writers/speakers?