What is a virtuous woman? The scriptures give a description and say her price is far above rubies. (Proverbs 21:10-31) In addition, a virtuous woman radiates an aura of light—expressed in faithfulness, purity, humility, and strength. Those around her can see and feel this light, and are uplifted, not intimidated. She does not flaunt her goodness; rather it is a quiet thing. George Eliot’s tribute to a virtuous woman adds a clear dimension of what I’m trying to become. “Her finely touched spirit…spent itself in channels which had no great name on earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculable…For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts…half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited graves.” A virtuous woman is the unsung, feminine hero in every nation of the world. She does not crave or receive applause, but her brilliant legacy makes the world a better place.
Is happiness getting what we want? Is happiness the absence of adversity? Is it a trouble-free pattern of days? Is happiness power? Is happiness health? Is happiness beauty? Is happiness prosperity? I’d answer a resounding NO to each of these. Counterfeits of happiness are being trumpeted before our eyes continually. They have a similar appearance to real joy, but lack depth and enduring power. Happiness is not found in things. It is not found in circumstance. “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping the commandments of God” (Joseph Smith). It’s simple, really. Happiness is following the commandments of God. This authentic happiness isn’t flashed with flare and fireworks. Real joy is quiet and sustaining. “You may pour wealth, honor, influence, and all the luxuries of this world into the lap of man; and—destitute of the Spirit of God—he will not be happy, for that is the only source from which true happiness and comfort can come” (John Taylor).
A wonderful Christian couple adopted 14 children from various countries around the world. Although they experienced the usual problems of a large family—plus extra ones inherent in cultural diversity—they were united, happy, and thriving. The question everyone wanted to know was finally asked: “So, what is your secret? Is it love? Does love hold your family together?” I strained to hear the answer. Of course it would be love. But the sweet mother hesitated before saying, “Love is fragile. Loving feelings come and go. What holds us together as a family is commitment. I promised God that I would never give up on my children—I would keep trying, no matter how hard things got.” My own thoughts continued on. Emotions of love happen easily. We “fall” in love with a newborn baby, or we “fall” in love with an attractive beau. But what makes these feelings last is commitment to hang in there no matter how tough things get. It’s also the answer in marriage and all relationships. True also that commitment is what God asks me to do as the real test of my love for Him. It must be more than sweeping feelings of love or professed allegiance in a passing spiritual moment. It’s the commitment to follow Him and faithfully endure through the ups and downs of life. Instead of allowing difficulties to embitter or estrange, I pledge to pull closer to God. He will help me emerge stronger—better. His miracle is to turn trials into transforming agents of refinement. To demonstrate my love to God, I commit to be a finisher—not a quitter—and be a covenant-keeper to the end of my life.
As a very young child, I remember a specific day sitting up straight on a hard bench in Jr. Sunday school, hands folded in my lap, knees pressed together. For a few moments I listened intently to instruction and yearned with all my heart to be good, hoping that posture and attentiveness would qualify me. But in the many years following—try as I might—there have been missteps and lapses of judgment, immature actions, bungles and stumbles while learning to walk a spiritual path. Gratitude fills my heart that my Savior redeemed me from inevitable separation from God. Christ does for me what I could never do for myself. He forgives my mistakes, lifts my burdens, renews my soul, and transforms my nature. He promises resurrection after death and qualifies me for glory hereafter. In return for so much, I commit to receive the ordinances of salvation, love and serve His children, and continue an attitude of repentance and faithfulness throughout my life. As trials cross my path, my Savior speaks peace to my soul—promising that all things will work together for my good. Mercifully, He measures growth rather than height, and celebrates my baby steps forward. I feel my soul stretching toward His light just as leaves turn to the sun. The symbols of Easter—new birth, resurrection, and eternal life—are the greatest of all Reasons to Rejoice!
Recently the Brookings Institute released the above chart showing the relationship between age and happiness around the world, as measured via the Gallup World Poll (conducted from 2011 to 2013). It shows a U-shaped curve (in orange), with the low point in happiness being at roughly age 40 around the world. Though the poll did not state how happiness was defined, it is a sad commentary on how the world experiences and measures happiness. The scriptures state: “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Heavenly Father wants us to be joyful and happy at all stages of our lives. As we grow in the knowledge of God’s plan for us, we also grow in happiness. “Happiness is the object and desire of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (Joseph Smith). Following the Lord’s plan will produce a steady upward increase of happiness during our entire mortal journey. This curve is shown in black on the above figure.
A minister had not known the deceased man for whom he was to perform a funeral service. So he hurriedly asked the man’s friend to give him a character description. The friend thought for a moment before simply answering, “Well, he really loved his wife.” That’s it? Is that ALL he could say in tribute about his dear deceased friend? But thinking further, I decided that of all distinctions, that one statement encompasses the most important attributes a person can acquire in a lifetime.
How was it so obvious to others that the man really loved his wife? Most likely he demonstrated deference and devotion, kindness and courtesy, fidelity and faithfulness. In a “me-generation” that cries out for finding oneself with all-consuming focus and gratification, these traits are rare and refreshing. In my opinion, learning how to love and how to show love—in every relationship—constitutes the ultimate success in life. The world flashes alluring invitations for selfish thinking, and shouts false definitions of worth and beauty. To detach from these influences and really love one’s spouse through the ups and downs of life—is a magnificent victory—worthy of the highest honor. Alan and I hope to earn the tribute: “They really loved each other” as our greatest acclaim. I smile to imagine our love continuing to grow throughout the eternities, side by side!