What seems like something very simple to answer–“What is happiness?” or even, “What makes me happy?”–turns out to be anything but easy. How much do our expectations or pre-conceived ideas about what will make us happy come into play? How does the number of choices we have affect satisfaction with our lives? How much of our happiness level reflects what we experience in the moments of our lives versus how we reflect upon our experiences–the stories we tell about them? How much do our relationships with family, loved ones, and people we enjoy being around contribute to our feelings of well-being? What about a sense of purpose, whether it be on a small and personal scale or something more cosmic in scope? And more specific to Mormon Stories audience members, how tied to our happiness is our relationship to institutions such as the LDS Church? Do people with different temperaments generally find more or less satisfaction within the church–and how natural or important is it to continually renegotiate boundaries between ourselves and institutional forces that might work against the deepening of our self-understanding or our relationship with the divine and other factors that contribute to our contentment and how fully we flourish emotionally and spiritually?
In this two-episode discussion–the questions, ideas, and opinions were too big for just one!–Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Jared Anderson, Greg Rockwell, and KC Kern engage in a far-ranging and sometimes quite intense discussion about happiness in its theoretical and scientific glory, as well as in the more personal push and pull of the panelists’ interactions with Mormonism. These episodes present a lot to chew on, and the panelists each represent four distinct personalities and ways of engaging the church and LDS community in their own pursuits of happiness. But in the end, the only thing that is clear is that happiness is a huge puzzle that all of us must put together for ourselves.
Episode 67 contains the more theoretical portion of the discussions of happiness, what is being shown by scientific and sociological studies, as well as the key role of temperament in someone’s perception of their happiness (and especially as it might relate to spirituality and comfort within institutions that have the capacity to be all-encompassing if one lets them).
Episode 68 features the panelists personal stories and takes on Mormon-specific questions and how they pursue their happiness outside or inside the LDS church through their different ways of relating to it in their own journeys toward joy.
Even at 3-plus hours when you add up both parts, there is still much more to say and wrestle with, so we very much hope you’ll listen and engage in the discussion below!
Links to interesting things that informed much of the general discussion:
Dan Gilbert, “Why Are We Happy?” (TED talk)
Barry Schwartz, “The Paradox of Choice” (TED talk)
Paul Zak: “Trust, Morality–and Oxytocin” (TED talk)
“Pursuing Happiness.” (On Being episode). Discussion of happiness hosted by Krista Tippett and featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Muslim scholar), Bishop Katharin Jefferts Schori (Episcopal Church), and Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (Jewish leader in the U.K.).
Andrew Weil: “Spontaneous Happiness: Our Nature-Deficit Disorder” (originally in Newsweek)
On Iron Rod and Liahona Temperaments
Richard D. Poll, “What the Gospel Means to People Like Me” (Sermon printed in Dialogue in which he introduces the idea of two LDS temperaments: Iron Rods and Liahonas)
Harold B. Lee, “The Iron Rod” (April 1971 General Conference address in which he seems to directly criticize ideas in the Poll talk: “Do the revelations of God give us a handrail to the kingdom of God, as the Lord’s messenger told Lehi, or merely a compass?”)
Richard D. Poll, “Liahona and Iron Rod Revisited” (Remarks published in Dialogue in 1983 in which Poll assesses the impact of his categories in Mormon discussion, as well as how they seemed to be playing out in the church at that time)