We Might Have Been Happy – 1 Nephi 17:19-21

19 And now it came to pass that I, Nephi, was exceedingly sorrowful because of the hardness of their hearts; and now when they saw that I began to be sorrowful they were glad in their hearts, insomuch that they did rejoice over me, saying: We knew that ye could not construct a ship, for we knew that ye were lacking in judgment; wherefore, thou canst not accomplish so great a work.
20 And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.
21 Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.
(1 Nephi 17:19-21)

After misinterpreting Nephi’s disappointment in them and assuming that he is discouraged generally, Laman and Lemuel make three points to explain their own dissatisfaction with their circumstances:

  1. Our reasons for leaving Jerusalem were insufficient. We left merely because our father had a dream, or in other words, because of “the foolish imaginations of his heart.” We have no tangible evidence that we needed to leave.
  2. We have suffered a lot and our families have suffered for many years. We would have been better off if we had died.
  3. If we had stayed in Jerusalem, we would have been happy.

Ultimately, as evidenced by all three of these points, their unhappiness stemmed from their inability to get over a decision which had been made many years before and which could no longer be unmade. They were unhappy because they were living in the past. They had been unable to move on, to acknowledge the difficulties in their new life, to recognize the advantages, and to find joy in their journey. Instead, all they could do was identify the inconveniences in their lives and compare them against an idealized recollection of their life in Jerusalem.

And how do they know that they would have been happy? How could they possibly know that? But by saying that, they held themselves back from finding happiness in their current circumstances.

Today, I will find joy in my current circumstances. Rather than second-guess past decisions and imagine how things might have turned out differently, I will recognize the advantages I enjoy and will look with hope and confidence to the future.

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