We’re all on a journey. Boiled down, that journey is one of making sense out of our lives. We’re all just feeling along for the path that leads to happiness1. Something essential to note is that we are all enshrouded by a fog of sorts2, which clouds the way on our journey and necessitates sincerity and diligence in seeking out the right path, the one that actually can deliver what we seek. This care wouldn’t be necessary if there was but one path and one voice vying for our devotion. But there are many voices, all demanding we worship them3. And not all lead to the same end.
These voices stand as the Sirens of old, calling for us to enjoy the journey after their fashion4, failing to note, as many in advertising do, the hazards and consequences of buying their brand of “happiness”5. For many however, the sleek packaging and bold sales assertions are assurance enough to convince them that indeed, THIS path will lead them to happiness. This is the the fog of which I spoke, the mist, the “smoke and mirrors” as they say. And this is why we must be proactive in examining the paths we take and the voices we heed.
The One Voice
Amid all the voices, there is a quiet one that speaks peace & comfort. It cannot be heard if we are active in listening to the vast endless noise that surrounds us daily6. It’s much too delicate to force its way into our lives. Its a voice that’s respectful of our desires and thus requires an invitation, and sincerity. Because it’s quiet, we too must be quiet if we are to hear it. It’s a voice that when heard can whisper good feelings to our hearts and calm clarity to our minds7. The language of this voice is love8. We can be sure we feel it when we are filled with love for those around us. We know we have found it when we desire good for our fellow man9.
Important to me, this pleasant voice fills us with love for ourselves, with hope and with assurance that the path we’re on is the one that truly leads to happiness & peace10. The best part is that this remains true even when the voice is delivering reprimands or course corrections. Sirens, on the other hand, deliver either debilitating laden shame or avoidance infested apathy, but never peace coupled with the capacity to mount confidently the trials that we face as does the One True Voice.
This quiet voice that strengthens, teaches, comforts, guides, encourages, motivates, calms and clarifies is called by many names, but it is the Source of all truth and thus happiness11. It is the One Voice we must learn let lead us. I call it the Holy Ghost or Spirit, but honest people in all religions and walks of life have felt its guidance and are happy because they listen and follow it. Through patience and practice in inviting, asking, listening & following we open up a world that can ONLY be seen by those who have walked this path. The key to opening the door to this world is prayer.
Prayer at its most basic level is communication with the Source of Truth. In prayer we extend an invitation to the Source to be with us, to guide and lead us. This puts us in a place to hear its gentle words. In prayer we also bring to the table the questions that perplex us and that hold us back from peace and joy. We seek for softer hearts that allow us to see sweetness in what we are impressed upon to do, instead of fearing or feeling burdened12. We also will often need courage and strength if we are to act on what we learn. This because these guidances are often stretching, but extremely rewarding if followed13. Action is vital, because truth only becomes part of us as we live it and a life of truth is the only way to happiness. So, the principle of intent to act underscores the attitude we need have while we pray. When we resolve to act on what we come to learn through the quiet tutelage of the Spirit, even if practically it seems we need do another, we learn both how the Spirit speaks to us and how to trust in the One True Voice.
When we put ourselves in tune to hear the One Voice, the Holy Ghost or Voice of the Lord, that voice that fills a void in us that no other can, we are led and a whole new world of opportunities opens up for us! Much of our discontent and sadness stems from trying to fill that hole inside of us with that which the Siren’s tell us to fill it14. When we mistakenly follow the wrong voice to fill or mask our emptiness, it crowds out the only thing that can fit, the Only Source of real peace. I realize now that this is why I am being led to simplify my life. It’s to silence the incessant voices that drown out my ability to hear the Spirit. It’s to give place for the One Voice. The truth however is not had in simplification alone, but in the relationship I can then develop with the Truth, with God. Simplifying is a means to a much greater end, and many who do so find real peace. But again, this is because they can then commune with the Spirit so as to guide their lives towards happiness. When one connects with heaven, all other solutions at once take on meaning. Things that didn’t work before begin to work. It’s as if the breath of life is given to our efforts to give them new effectiveness & ability to serve us.
So then, what is it that will fill us, satisfy us and lead us to happiness? In essence, it is knowing God, the Source of Truth15. To know Him we must seek Him diligently16, sincerely17 and early in our priorities18. Why is this? Because again, He gave us our agency to choose and respects it so much that He only takes captain of our ship if we desire it19 and ask Him to do so20. In addition, to “know” someone in the biblical context was a pretty intimate experience. To know Him fully we must walk in his ways21. Summary: In short, to know God we must desire, seek, ask & act.
When in touch this way with the Great Source of Truth, when we are on the path of getting to know Truth we find confidence and peace of mind in life even amid the storms22. This is not because our problems have mystically dissolved or because there are no other voices still clamoring for our attention, but because we now know in whom to trust23 and we have become stronger through faithfully acting on the insights and promptings we have received. We trust because we’ve learned to discern or decipher the One Voice from all others and we have an assurance, built of experience, that it will not lead us astray. We know that this Voice is different from the Sirens. While the Sirens may promise the same peace, we know they cannot deliver it. And while there have been times we didn’t understand the whys in the instruction of the Spirit, we were always given peace in knowing that we were being led in right way. We knew this because we felt deeply and meaningfully happy. THIS is the true peace in life, not “arriving,” but in knowing that on our journey we are led by guide that wants our happiness and will not fail to lead us down the path that will facilitate that happiness 24.
But, “it’s been so long. I don’t feel like I know how anymore,” you say? Perhaps you feel distant or like it’s too late for you, like you’re too far gone? Maybe you feel like you can no longer relate to the person you once were when you were taught to pray and doing it regularly?
No worries! If you sincerely are seeking happiness you have a God that wants nothing more than to welcome you home25. If you are lost he will find you26.He sis a God of love…in fact, your Father. He will run to you when he sees you coming. He will take you as you are, wherever you are, no matter who you are. And when the God that gives you life meets again with you, he will help lift you to greater happiness. You are NEVER too far gone27. He only wants your complete happiness, but not at the expense of forcing you to come to him.
Here are some ideas to help you rethink prayer and reestablish that connection with the Source of Peace.
Prayer’s easy, you can do it anywhere: in your head, out loud, on paper, in a box or with a fox, it really doesn’t matter. You’ll typically start off by acknowledging The Source of all Truth from whom you seek answers. It’s kinda like looking at a friend when you’re having a conversation with them, it just establishes who you’re talking with. Then just start up a conversation! Share your feelings. Open up about your frustrations. Confide in him your doubts. If you’re angry, express why. Do you feel lost? Tell Him. How about lonely? He’s listening.You can tell him ANYTHING and should.
It seems like such a common experience to forget who we are. The unhappiness that stems from that, while not always immediately apparent, always seems to settle down upon us in some form of “I feel like I’m just missing something” kind of experience. Prayer is all about remembering who we are and who God is.
Realizing that He knows all, sees all, has all power, is completely just, merciful and loves us more than anyone ever can can give us confidence to pray to our Father in Heaven. Prayer is the process of submitting our desires to Him so they can take them and purify them, change them28. Through seeking regularly this “change of heart” we slowly begin to desire only those things that lead to happiness 29. Why is this? Because the desires we feed are the ones that grow. So even if your desire to be happy is small at present, start by asking what you can do now that that will TRULY make you happy. Then thank Him and act upon the impression you receive 30. You most likely will not receive something grand or huge. The Lord of Truth works by small and simple ways to bring about great things in our lives 31. And this is also how he teaches us, one lesson of trust at a time 32. So, even if it’s to call up a friend and see how they are doing, feel grateful that you just had an experience with getting to know the Spirit. It’s by doing this over and over again that we walk by faith, having the Spirit light our path just enough to know what to do right now. This is known as the talent of spirituality and is a learnable skill just like any other. Thus, it grows with practice.
An vital principle that many stumble on that of obedience. It is only through obedience that can we be happy. You see, obedience is not a trap door. It’s not a chain or a cage. Take for example obedience to the laws of gravity and of flight. This allows us to soar high and travel much faster and farther in a shorter period of time. Similarly, a kite, while tethered to a string is able to reach much higher than if it were allow to “be free”. All soaring in personal happiness comes through obedience to the laws that rule the skies of joy33.
To Wrap it Up…
Because of the darkness that surrounds us all to one degree or another, we can quite easily fall into confusion about life, fear of the unknown and ultimately wandering around looking unsuccessfully for resolutions to our challenges in life. But while none escape the mists of darkness34, none are left without a guiding light that’s never further away than a sincere prayer. Our Father in Heaven is the very Source of the guidance we need to keep from being deceived by the floods of voices that rush in and call us in every direction as we struggle to find meaning, answers and peace. If you desire these the peace that no voice can deliver but one, humble yourself to seek God’s Spirit. Follow the lessons you learn, for they are intimate proofs that God loves you. In this place you will find comfort, confidence, motivation (even if you lack it now) and so many more good gifts he seeks to share with you.
It is my firm belief that God loves you and me more than we can even imagine. I also have sought many times the Spirit of which I’ve spoken. When I am sincere God does not hold back the heavens from revealing his love and leadership. It is this relationship that gives meaning to everything I do and when I wander, I feel the gentle tug to return, like a child standing at my side, softly imploring me with innocent, but wise eyes. I know my Savior lives. He is God’s son and came to make everything I wrote of here possible. I share my gratitude to him for his love for me and for comforting me in my darkest moments. My invitation: Reach out to him. He will calm your raging seas. He is the Source of all Truth, Light and Love.
God bless loved ones!
With all my heart,
RyanReferences & Notes:
- Happiness is often referred to in many different ways: salvation, eternal life, joy are all ways to refer to this [↩]
- “It is imperative to note that this mist of darkness descends on all the travelers—the faithful and the determined ones (the elect, we might even say) as well as the weaker and ungrounded ones.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Safety for the Soul,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 88–90, http://new.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/safety-for-the-soul?lang=eng) [↩]
- James E. Faust, “Voice of the Spirit”, Ensign, June 2006, 2–6, http://new.lds.org/ensign/2006/06/voice-of-the-spirit?lang=eng [↩]
- “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/28/7-8#7 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/28/22#22, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/26/22#22 One danger in continuing in our sins is that our desires so often change to fit our choices; therefor, while there’s always a way out (as Pres Uchtdorf testifies) we may, after long, have very little desire, hope or faith to look for it. [↩]
- See YouTube Video, “Voice of the Spirit” on http://www.ryanmendenhall.com/blog/2010/09/04/simplifying-stuff.htm [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/6/22-23#22, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/9/7-9#9 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_jn/4/8#8 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/ether/4/12#12 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/moro/10/5#5 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/moro/10/22#22 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_ne/2/16#16 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_ne/3/7#7 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/41/10#10, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/moro/10/22#22 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/john/17/3#3 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/88/63#63, [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/jer/29/13#13 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/deut/4/29#29 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/29/4#4, http://www.ryanmendenhall.com/blog/2010/09/08/desire-determines-destiny.htm [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/james/4/3#3, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_jn/3/22#22 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/john/7/17#17 [↩]
- Richard G. Scott, “Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind”, Ensign, Nov. 2004, 15–18, http://new.lds.org/ensign/2004/11/peace-of-conscience-and-peace-of-mind?lang=eng [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/4/19#19 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_ne/17/13#13 [↩]
- Parable of the Prodigal Son: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/luke/15/11-32#11 [↩]
- The Story of Amazing Grace: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfoCSmw-EaE [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/isa/1/18#18 [↩]
- “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” (Mere Christianity, 1952) [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/mosiah/5/2#2, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/13/12#12 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/32/27-28#27 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/37/6#6 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/28/30-31#30 [↩]
- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/130/20-21#21 [↩]
- http://new.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/safety-for-the-soul?lang=eng [↩]
- After All We Can Do After All We Can Do by Elder Claudio D. Zivic I heard a friend ask this last week, "how long must I continue trying so hard?" and quickly thought, well, that's easy to answer; we should do all that we can do for the WHOLE of our mortal lives. That's what life is all about,…
- Simplicity Storms & struggles Sadness & strife These are but gifts Blessings of life We ride the cycles of happiness and sorrow. With every rotation we learn more of what it is to be human, to have strains, to have challenges, to have difficulties. To recognize that these down times are but part of the whole…
- O Remember, Remember O Remember, Remember by President Henry B. Eyring I've read over President Eyring's talk before and it has really touched me. Again, I've gotten out of the habit of sitting down at the end of the day and writing how I've seen the Lord's hand in my life that day. However, I know that when…
- Good, Better, Best Good, Better, Best Elder Dallin H. Oaks Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles I found Elder Oaks talk directly applicable to me this week. I've been in a what may be termed a "spiritual tailspin." And it's just so easy, much easier that I ever thought possible, to just keep doing everything the same…
- Out of Small Things Elder Michael J. Teh Of the Seventy Talk Audio "We need to enlarge the circle of our influence" - This reminds me to break free from any cliques that we can quite easily establish and seek to include all. "To some degree we all depend on each other to be able to make it back…
- Clean Hands and a Pure Heart Clean Hands and a Pure Heart Elder David A. Bednar "The purpose of our mortal journey is not merely to see the sights on earth or to expend our allotment of time on self-centered pursuits; rather, we are to 'walk in newness of life', to become sanctified by yielding our hearts unto God, and to…
- My Words Never Cease I'd like to dedicate this post to my friend Charles. It's been a little while since I took some time to get out of myself. The other week I stepped out of my usual self-absorbed role to wear the hat of a missionary again. Our ward mission leader had asked for several ward members to…