And We Lived After the Manner of Happiness
And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness. 2 Nephi 5:27
We read this and we think that Nephi was having an easy time of life for about thirty years. We're wrong of course. In that thirty years they made swords to protect themselves from attackers. They were still having illnesses, they were still living a mortal life.
What does it mean to live in the manner of happiness?
I think it's always a choice, it's always a decision to see what can make you happy, and then to make more of that. In Nephi's time, they built a temple, and were taught to be industrious, and labor with their hands. They were taught humility and faith and gratitude, And through hard work and humility and faith and gratitude they were still happy after many wars and contentions with their brethren.
Happiness wasn't external. The manner of happiness is a way of living, not a set of circumstances. It's a way we build our view of the world around us, and use our hands, industriously, to change our world.
And it's a very not-natural-man way to live. The natural man is designed from the cells up to be on the lookout for danger. This makes sense because danger can kill us dead. When we started being social creatures the natural man started rating social danger as highly as physical danger. So our natural minds look for danger in any way we can, first and foremost.
The problem is that the internet is full of danger. More than we can ever process. And we aren't good at saying “this danger isn't actually going to hurt me,” or even “this is the fourth time I've read about the same danger, there is still only one danger.” Anything that reduces our sense of danger is deadly if the danger is a tiger that is about to jump on you. You don't lump all the tigers together, you be afraid of each individual tiger. This is quite literally only natural.
But it doesn't work with virtual tigers online. So we need to be better than our natural brains. Supernatural, if you will. We need our minds and spirits to guide us away from the daily tiger report.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Christ defeated the “tigers” of this world. All the dangers, all the social dangers and addictions and stresses. He is not ignorant of COVID-19, nor was he surprised. He is fully aware of our situation and if we put our lives in his hands he can make the best of our lives in this time.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. 2 Nephi 2:25
We are specifically here to have joy. We were made for it. God is our father, and didn't send us here to suffer, but to learn and grow and be like him. We have to stretch, we have to be tested, but we are still here to have joy. It's interesting that the fall of Adam and Eve was requisite for us to have joy. It's important that we understand the nature of joy: it cannot exist unalloyed with trials.
When Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden they weren't turned out on their own. They were specifically taught to make coats of skins to deal with the hard world they were suddenly asked to cope with. This was revelation about a practical matter. We are still invited to ask for, and still able to receive, such revelation.