Elder Brian K. Ashton compares true happiness and deceit

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Hannah Gasinski
Elder Brian K Ashton urges students to seek true, heavenly happiness in his Dec. 4 devotional address. (Hannah Gasinski)

Elder Brian K. Ashton, Second Counselor of the Sunday School General Presidency, urged students to focus on what really matters in his devotional address on happiness, deceit and “the small things.”

Ashton began his talk with a story about his courtship with his wife, Melinda, who he met his sophomore year at BYU. Ashton had recently returned from a mission and knew immediately that he wanted to marry Melinda, but she wasn’t so sure. Melinda left on a mission after the two met, leaving Ashton in what he considered a major life challenge.

“There were times when I was miserable because I focused on what I didn’t have and I failed to exercise faith in God’s promises,” Ashton said.

Over time, and after reading a passage in Galatians 5:22-23, Ashton learned two valuable lessons about how to truly be happy, even when he didn’t have everything he wanted in life.

First, he learned feeling the Spirit allows for feelings of love, joy and peace. He said it is those feelings that make us truly happy. Second, he learned the Spirit is the source from which these blessings come.

Ashton testified that while the Spirit will not make people happy every moment of every day, the presence of the Spirit will generally result in genuine happiness.

Ashton continued his address by talking about forms of fake happiness offered by Satan in an attempt to confuse people.

“What does Satan do? He tries to deceive us,” Ashton said. “In fact, Heavenly Father has warned us that Satan’s objective is ‘to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will’.”

Ashton shared a story about a friend he had who had recently returned from a mission. She had every intention to live her life at home the same way she’d lived on her mission —keeping the commandments faithfully.

However, as she lived her life she noticed other returned missionaries living differently from her. They went to church each Sunday but outside of church lived “as the world lived.” She followed that pattern of life, thinking that as long as she went to church she would still be spiritually safe. One bad choice led to another and she ended up pregnant.

“Her story highlights that even the best of us can be deceived and become confused
about the source of true happiness,” Ashton said.

Ashton said there are many ways Satan deceives believers, and he could mention only a few. Satan gives lust instead of love, excitement instead of joy, and distraction rather than peace. Ashton said Satan tries to deceive people with counterfeits that can never bring lasting happiness.

Ashton finished his talk by urging listeners to do the little things that will bring the Spirit into their lives and help them avoid fake happiness and find true, heavenly joy.

“Doing the small things changes our hearts. And when our hearts are turned to Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, we can be both physically and spiritually active in the gospel,” Ashton said.

Ashton invited students to read the Book of Mormon every day, and promised that those who did would receive the spiritual power necessary to follow the commandments.

Elder Ashton closed his talk with his testimony.

“I testify that as you do the small things and trust the Lord, you can find love, joy, peace, and happiness regardless of your circumstances. I also testify that this is made possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. All good things come because of Him. He lives. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”