What does “my religion makes me happy” and “the plan of happiness” really mean?

This is a question I explored in a book I wrote about a sheltered society in which people are expected to be seen as happy:

  • I am happy because that is what I want to be, and what I believe becomes reality (and this includes believing I am happy).
  • Happiness is the result of me doing right and appreciating all the good in my life.
  • My example of happiness helps others, and I feel and share the happiness of those around me.
  • I won’t do anything that detracts from my happiness, and won’t associate with the unhappy and discontent.
  • I won’t chose to be anything less than happiness, and I know greater happiness is yet to come from my devotion.

Another way to put this would be:

  • I tell myself I am happy because this is what I am expected to be and to be believe I am, and I do not want to not live up to that expectation.

  • I tell myself if I do right and am grateful then I will be happy, although I never live quite perfectly enough to fully achieve this.

  • I will show others a smile and tell them I am happy even if I am not, otherwise others may think that I am unhappy living my religion which would be wrong. When I see others looking happy (who may also be pretending) it reminds me how happy I should look too.

  • I will tell myself that if I have any private unseen moments of unhappiness that it is because of something I am not doing (although I cannot possibly do everything that is expected of me). If others do not follow my philosophy I must stay away from them, because they must be unhappy not following the same philosophy as me, and if I listen to or pay attention to their reasoning I may succumb to their influence and lose what happiness I have (or try to have).

  • I will tell myself that if I am not completely happy it is because I have chose not to be on some level and should maker better choices that will restore my happiness. But if I am not happy I can look forward to being happy at some future time.

The Plan Of Happiness

When I was a youth in the Church we’d speak about “the plan of salvation” and how we’d be saved from death and hell (whatever that meant – as everyone was resurrected anyway and the telestial kingdom was meant to be so wonderful you’d kill yourself to get there).

At some point the phrase “plan of happiness” began being more commonly used. I understand the change – the church didn’t want to focus on the negative you were being saved from, but rather on the joy you’d supposedly get by doing everything you are told to.

The problem is that the church keeps you busy doing things that don’t make you happy in this life – so that you can spend eternity doing the same sort of things – just on a bigger scale (more responsibilities & obedience, less freedom & diversity):

The pre-mortal world was about meetings, planning, conflict with your siblings, and lack of choice. The spirit world is about missionary work – giant meetings that seemingly go on until the millennium according to some versions – and vicarious ordinances. The celestial kingdom is about creating billions of children and putting them through the same pattern – including watching almost all of your children never return to you. Where is the happiness in that?

While in the church I had moments of happiness – playing with my children, a joke with a friend, a moment doing something I enjoyed – but my depth and breadth of experiences and happiness has grown tremendously since being out of the church (once I adjusted). In the church I sometimes faked it for others:

I told / showed / pretended I was happy:

  • … because I am working toward it (living the supposed plan of happiness)
  • … because I really truly want to be happy (faking it until I make it)
  • … because I want my children / spouse / other members to think the church is making me happy
  • … because I’ll focus on the supposed worse unhappiness I’d have if I wasn’t in the church (supposedly I’d be on drugs and have diseases if I wasn’t Mormon – even though 99% of the world isn’t)
  • … because this is as much happiness I can expect so I should be content with it (greater happiness would probably come because of what the church calls sin and ultimately leave me more unhappy)