Happily Ever After…

“Today in celebration of the birthday of my son Matthew, our family and some friends enjoyed together a Malcolm tradition, ‘Birthday Work Day.’ Matthew organizes us all, clad in our work clothes, and we as a group move together from home to home in our little community and serve each other, completing work projects that will benefit each other. One of the main efforts of today was to work on a walkway between our homes. I was not able to personally contribute much, but I was out there in a motorized chair with the united company giving moral support and guidance wherever it was helpful. I enjoyed the greatest benefit as I observed the industrious use of time together, seeing smiles, hearing laughter, and observing the satisfaction of everyone present, a job well done in harmonious love. There are great blessings involved with working together for common good, leaving our own personal interests aside for a small moment in time to see to the benefit of all. Such is the true happiness of community.”

Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 24 February 2024

I have had much time over the last couple of months to think about what it is to live happily. I do not wish for a single life event to define the entirety of my mortality, but such an experience edging so closely to death’s door, and leaving me with disabling injuries through which I am passing in healing’s process, have certainly become a part of who I am, and my personal witness of understanding and truth. I have ever considered myself a happy person, always observed happiness in the world around me, but more confined in my activities and abilities, I have been blessed with a greater sensitivity and awareness of happy living than ever before.

What a wonderful thing to live “after the manner of happiness.” As described by Nephi, following his forced separation from threatening brothers, his people did live an industrious life, laboring with their hands, acting in the day in preparations for many tomorrows, growing crops and raising stock and constructing buildings. They were even a temple building people. Most importantly they “…did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things” (2 Nephi 5:10). As a result of their upright, obedient and industrious lifestyle Nephi wrote of them, “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27).

Living after the manner of happiness was a choice that the people of Nephi made. They chose righteous, industrious and obedient living and happiness followed freely. It was a gift from God, a natural result, and that is the best kind of happiness, real joy that cannot be bought nor sold. This joy only comes with His presence, the divine gift.

In contrast we observe the manner in which lived the people of his brethren. They had not been a righteous people. Nephi and his family and friends needed to depart from them for fear of their very lives. They were not only breaking the laws of God and harming themselves, but Laman and Lemuel had reached a point where they were determined to kill their own brother. With his life in danger the Lord commanded Nephi to take his family and friends to a place where they could be safe and worship God in liberty.

Laman and his people had been commanded of God to give heed to the words of Nephi, God’s chosen prophet. The Lord declared, “Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy (Nephi’s) words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord” (2 Nephi 5:20). That was the great curse. It comes to all those who are disobedient, who refuse to live after the manner of happiness. And thus real happiness is denied. Nephi writes of his brethren, “And behold, they were cut off from His presence. And He had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against Him” (2 Nephi 5:20-21).

“The Temple of Nephi” by Michael T. Malm

A lifestyle followed their unwillingness to keep God’s commandments. While the Nephites were industrious and living after the manner of happiness, the Lamanites became idle, living day to day, and not finding peace and joy in the rest of God’s presence. As easily as flowed happiness and industry to the people of Nephi, the opposite fell upon the families of Laman and Lemuel. “And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety” (2 Nephi 5:24).

It is the same for the wicked and the righteous today. As mischief fell upon those of old, even to the withdrawing of the Lord’s presence, so it is in our day to all those who choose unrighteousness and disobedience to the Lord’s commands and the counsel of His servants. If we fail to keep God’s commandments, if we choose to be disobedient, to live idle lives of mischief and subtlety, we will choose the curse upon ourselves, the Lord will indeed withdraw His Spirit, and like those of old, darkness will follow and we will cease to enjoy real happiness in life.

Since the accident that left me struggling, and encumbered my Monica with more burdens of care for me and work responsibilities I previously managed, we have found ourselves worn and tired, struggling for strength in adversity. Nevertheless, as we have striven to endure, and overcome with faith in the Lord and personal effort, we have found blessings of greater happiness and peace revealed in the every days of our lives. A few days ago Monica and I, exhausted from struggles, were gazing out a window of our home which overlooks a play area which we and our children constructed for our younger kids and grand children to enjoy. We saw our daughter and daughter-in-law’s with their children, fellowshipping and laughing in happiness together, their little ones playing joyfully. Our weary eyes brightened, smiles perked, and our arms extended clasping hands. I said to Monica, “This is happiness, what we envisioned, all of our dreams come true.” With a warm embrace our burdens suddenly felt lighter, and happiness filled our hearts.

Let us keep the light of Christ in our eyes and His countenance upon us. Let us choose to be blessed through obedience and worthy industry. Let us strive to be a “pure and delightsome” people, ever obedient, always faithful, ever repenting, that through His divine mercy we might one day stand without spot in the light of God’s love and by His grace. Until that day may it be ours to enjoy the divine gift of God’s presence through His Spirit, to live in His light, and “after the manner of happiness,” happily ever after. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.