It is a commonly held belief among Mormons that obedience to the commandments is always accompanied by happiness. For many this is seen as a law of the universe, as certain as the law of gravity. There are several problems with this. First, it is not strictly true; while believers can have hope for happiness as an eventual result of obedience this does not shield them from the suffering that is a natural part of life (though they are often spared the unnecessary suffering that comes from poor choices). Secondly, if to be righteous is to be happy, then it would follow that anyone who experiences sadness must be unrighteous; at least that is a twisted conclusion that could be made from the “righteousness = happiness” belief. This may result in undue shame for those who experience a natural level of sadness and conclude they must be doing something wrong. Lastly, being happy, while obviously pleasant, is not always preferable. When something tragic happens in life, such as the loss of a loved one, it would not be right to respond with happiness. The sadness of grieving is a sign of how much we care about the one we lost. LDS doctrine even affirms that God himself sometimes weeps for the suffering of his children.
The next time you are feeling down, remember that sadness is a part of life, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad person.
Scott Parker, CSW