Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Parable of the Candy Bar and Other Thoughts on Happiness

A friend and I were recently discussing our different views about life. He does not consider himself to be religious. His family and upbringing were not religious at all, although he was raised in a loving home and taught good values. I, on the other hand, was raised in a devoutly religious environment and have adhered to my faith for my entire life.

My friend sees some things that he likes about the lives of members of my church. Specifically, he admires the importance placed on families and on strengthening marriages and families. He is not interested in what he perceives as all the rules and restrictions that our faith places upon us.

In our most recent conversation on the subject, he expressed that since I had never had the kind of life that he does, free from such restrictions, I don't know what I'm missing. I, of course, responeded that he doesn't know what he's missing! He is content with his life and sees no need for more than what he has.

I have been thinking a lot about our discussion since, and came up with my own analogy to explain to him the difference as I see it. We'll call it the parable of the candy bar. Most of you will find this to work for you, although McArthur, Nicolette, and Erika (who don't like chocolate,) will have to adjust the analogy a bit!

It is possible to have a good life without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, particularly if you espouse principles in common with Christianity such as helping others, honesty, kindness, loyalty, etc. People all over the world can testify of that. I will liken these lives to the insides of a candy bar. In the Snickers bar pictured above, the nougat, nuts, and caramel might represent a very good life without the Gospel. But there is something missing; in the candy bar, that something is chocolate. Chocolate adds richness, greater flavor, depth, and dimension to the candy bar. It elevates the candy experience beyond that of nougat, nuts, and caramel alone.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the chocolate on the candy bar of my life. It enriches my life, it gives me an understanding of the purpose of life, it helps me to have perspective beyond the here and now, and gives me the opportunity to experience true, lasting happiness. This happiness is greater than that which can be attained without the Gospel because of the peace that comes through the atonement of Christ.

The "restrictions," or commandments, are given for our benefit and our happiness. If we keep the law of chastity, we can avoid the pain and anguish of out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and infidelity. In addition, our monogamous relationships within marriage are enhanced by the fact that intimacy is something that we share exclusively with our spouses. If we keep the Word of Wisdom (the law of health, which calls for us to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, coffee, and tea,) we can be free of addiction and can avoid being driven by the substances that would enslave us and compromise our judgment. If we pay tithing, we are blessed both temporally and spiritually, and we learn to be unselfish and less materialistic. I could go on, but the point is that the chocolate couldn't be without the commandments. The joy would not be complete without the blessings that come from obedience to God's will.

The scriptures are full of counsel to be happy and guidance for how this can be achieved:

"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God." (Mos. 2:41)

"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." (Prov. 29:18)

"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:17)

“[God] never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of His law and ordinances. "--Joseph Smith, Jr. ( History of the Church, 5:135. )

"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 all the commandments of God"--Joseph Smith, Jr. (HC 5:134­35).

The long and the short of it is that God intends for us to be happy in this life as well as the next. True and lasting happiness is found in coming unto Christ and in obedience to His commandments. If you're only eating the nougat, caramel, and nuts, you're not getting the whole Snickers Bar!


Anonymous said...

I must say I would never "snicker" at your parable. In fact I will probably steal the concept and use it in a talk. Man is that he might have (an almond) JOY. Maybe not as good as a Snicker bar, maybe better, still covered in chocolate.


My Ice Cream Diary said...

What a fun, and good way to look at this. I've often had trouble getting very good non religious people to get this point. Yes, their life is good, but what if it could be just that much better? What if they could have the chocolate? Thanks for this post.

Nicolette said...

Again, beautifully stated. I loved your testimony on Sunday about this topic, and this just added to it. And even though I don't like chocolate, I can imagine the scrumptious goodness that it adds to the rest of the candy bar:)

Erika said...

you're funny. Good job. maybe it it was sugar cookie dough I'd get it a little better :-) lol

Rebecca said...

This is a wonderful analogy. Do you mind if I use it for Family Home Evening?

Martin said...

To me the gospel is much like the sugar in a candy bar i.e the essential ingrietient.

The candy bar's raison d'etre is to provide a sweet treat. Remove all the sweetness and it ceases to be a candy bar, and no longer serves any purpose.

A socially moral society (made of entirely of people like-minded to your friend), absent the gospel, quickly becomes one of self interest and fads. Much like the post Socrates Athens, people simply live to see some new thing.

Restrictions on behavior are what civilized socities require of people that choose to live together. We can each choose to act in such a way as to debase ourselves or, by excercising restraint, enoble ourselves.

If we each lived like hermits, or migrant shepards, this self interested lifestyle would work, however I would not be happy living like that.

Paul Simon may be an island, but when we live together in cities, and nations there must be controls. i.e behavior determined to be anti-social msut be punished, and behavior that is pro-social and must be subsidized.

Which actions fall into which category has been strongly influenced by religion, but this is appropriate. Moses recieved the ten commandments, so that the Isrealites would have laws by which they could live peacefully in close proximity.

Imagine if there was no taboo on stealing or adultry, or bearing false witness - no one would ever leave thier tent to go to work.

In western nations Christianity is the social glue. The idea that our lives continue beyond the grave, is a strong factor toward influeing people to act beyond thier own self interest.

Non-religious people, like your friend should admire our values, they are reaping the social benefits of our collective self-restraint.

Michal said...

looks like you need to start your own blog! lol:) but seriously, thanks for adding to the conversation.
by the way, this post was not meant to demean my friend in any way. he doesn't know any differently, and i was just trying to figure out a way to explain it.

Aubrey said...

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the chocolate on the candy bar of my life."

I am going to use that! It made me laugh and it works really well.

When you started talking chocolate, my mind flickered back to Russia---Fazzer vs. Hershey's chocolate. (I remember you telling me once that a comp of yours preferred Hershey's to the sinful delights of swiss chocolate. We both balked at the thought!)

That could be a good analogy too. Hershey's is fine, and sweet and not unpleasant--just like many a life without the full gospel--but it is nothing compared to the richness of good euro chocolate--or the richness of a life steeped in the gospel.

Hmmm...I think I need to go have some chocolate now!

Martin said...

Its like the Simpsons where the self help guru tells everyone in Springfield to follow Bart's example, and just do what makes them happy.

What was the result? Chaos. One kid behaving irresponsibly is one thing, but when everyone abandons "restrictions" you get mobs of people spitting off a freeway overpass onto oncoming traffic.

And just as Bart find he is unhappy living like that, so to would your friend flee a neighborhood filled with people that had no restrictions, and happily live among the righteous.

This is what the scriptures talk about when they say people will come to Zion in the last days.

It will be the place where you don't need to take up arms against your neighbor.

Oh and "vision' in the proverb you mention means prophet or seer.

Martin said...

On a more whimsical note - do you know that they now have a candy bar that is a finger of butter covered in chocolate!

mindyluwho said...

Love the parable and since Snickers are one of my very favorite candy bars, this post resonated with me!