From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley
President Hinckley was well known for his optimistic and positive take on life. This section of the manual indicates that this outlook was one that he learned from his parents.From the manual:
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, also of the Quorum of the Twelve, commented: “‘Things will work out’ may well be President Hinckley’s most repeated assurance to family, friends, and associates. ‘Keep trying,’ he will say. ‘Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.’”
See the article ‘A Prophet of Optimism and Vision; in the February 2017 Ensign for more stories and quotes.
How did President Hinckley’s attitude of happiness and spirit of optimism manifest itself in his life and demeanour?
1 Even when many people are negative and pessimistic, we can cultivate a spirit of happiness and optimism.
Optimism and Physical Health
With a large longitudinal sample researchers Maruta, Colligan, Malinchoc, and Offord categorized medical patients as optimistic, mixed, or pessimistic. The researchers found that for every 10 point increase in a person’s score on their optimism scale, the risk of early death decreased by 19%.
Optimism also plays a role in the recovery from illness and disease. Multiple studies have investigated the role of optimism in people undergoing treatment for cancer (e.g., Carver et al., 1993; Schou, Ekeberg, & Ruland, 2005). These studies have found that optimistic people experience less distress when faced with potentially life-threatening cancer diagnoses. For example, Schou and colleagues (2005) found that a superior “fighting spirit” found in optimists predicted substantially better quality of life one year after breast cancer surgery. Optimism also predicted less disruption of normal life, distress, and fatigue in one study of women who were undergoing painful treatment for breast cancer (Carver, Lehman, & Antoni, 2003). In this case, optimism appeared to protect against an urge to withdraw from social activities, which may be important for healing. There is also evidence that optimism can protect against the development of chronic diseases.
Optimism can have an effect on a person’s immune system, as well. In one study, elderly adults were immunized for influenza (Kohut, Cooper, Nickolaus, Russell, & Cunnick, 2002). Two weeks later, their immune response to the vaccination was measured. Greater optimism predicted greater antibody production and better immune outcomes.
Optimism can have profound effects on a person’s physical health. The mere act of expecting positive outcomes and being hopeful can boost a person’s immune system, protect against harmful behaviors, prevent chronic disease, and help people cope following troubling news. Optimism can even predict a longer life. Among psychological constructs, optimism may be one of the most important predictors of physical health.
Optimism and Psychological Health
Evidence suggests that optimism is important in coping with difficult life events. Optimism has been linked to better responses to various difficulties, from the more mundane (e.g., transition to college [Brissette, Scheier, & Carver, 2002]) to the more extreme (e.g., coping with missile attacks [Zeidner & Hammer, 1992]). Optimism appears to play a protective role, assisting people in coping with extraordinarily trying incidents.
Optimism may even play a role in the well-being of caregivers for people with chronic illnesses. Caring for a loved one with a severe, terminal illness can have serious negative effects on psychological well-being. However, optimism appears to protect against the worst of these effects, as optimism has been associated with less depression and greater well-being in studies of people caring for others with cancer (Given et al., 1993), Alzheimer’s (Hooker et al., 1992), and mental disorders (Singh et al., 2004). The association between optimism and coping with other, less extreme difficulties has been investigated, as well. For example, in one study of college freshman, measures of optimism, hope, and well-being were administered immediately upon beginning college (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992). At the end of the semester, measures of well-being were again administered. Optimism at the beginning of college predicted a smoother, psychologically healthier transition to college life, as well as larger groups of new friends.
From the manual:
I come … with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I’m suggesting that we accentuate the positive. I’m asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.
Think about President Hinckley’s counsel to “look deeper” for the good and to “cultivate an attitude of happiness [and] a spirit of optimism”. Why do we need this counsel today? How can we cultivate an attitude of happiness?
2 Rather than dwell on our problems, we can let a spirit of thanksgiving guide and bless us.
Alma 34:38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
‘whatsoever place ye may be in’ – the challenge is for us to remain in an attitude of thanksgiving despite the circumstances that we may find ourselves in. How do we stay grateful when we face difficulties and trials?
From the manual:
With gratitude in our hearts, let us not dwell upon the few problems we have. Let us rather count our blessings and in a great spirit of gratitude, motivated by a great faith, go forth to build the kingdom of God in the earth.
Let a spirit of thanksgiving guide and bless your days and nights. Work at it. You will find it will yield wonderful results.
President Hinckley said that “wonderful results” come when we “let a spirit of thanksgiving guide [us]”. Why do you think these “wonderful results” come? How are you blessed when you have a spirit of thanksgiving?
3 The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a reason for gladness.
In the Bible Dictionary we read:
‘The word gospel means ‘good news’. The good news is that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement for mankind that will redeem all mankind from the grave and reward each individual according to his or her works.’
From the manual:
“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.
“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” (Deseret News, 12 June 1973.)
What are your thoughts about the analogy of life being “like an old-time rail journey”? How does the “good news” of the gospel influence the way you approach that journey?
4 The gospel is a message of triumph to be embraced with enthusiasm, affection, and optimism.
D&C 128:19 Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!
“In September 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith was hiding in the house of Edward Hunter in Nauvoo… Yet it was in the cramped quarters of Edward Hunter’s home that Joseph penned the most majestic hymn of praise of the Restoration.
Perhaps you have been to a symphony and listened to a piece of music that begins with a single, clear note played by a violin or a flute. The single instrument holds center stage for a time and then slowly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, is joined by other instruments. As the piece continues, the music swells as more and more instruments join in until all are playing and the whole hall is filled with the beauty of sound.
Or perhaps you have listened to a great choir perform. Often a single soloist with a clear voice will begin to sing. As with the symphony, that single voice sounds in our ears without distraction. Then, slowly, other voices begin singing until, in a wonderful unity of sound, all are singing as one.
This is the structure of Joseph Smith’s hymn of praise, only it is a hymn not of voice in song or note of violin but in words played upon the soul and recorded in the scriptures. Joseph’s hymn, too, begins with a single voice, ‘a voice of gladness.’ Listen to the words and see if you can hear the other voices join in to sing one unified song of praise for the blessings of the Restoration: (quotes D&C 128:19-23.)
What could have possibly been on Joseph Smith’s mind to bring forth from his pen such a beautiful summation of the Restoration? The central theme of D&C 128:1 is the salvation of the dead through the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Indeed, the verse immediately preceding Joseph’s song of gladness speaks of a ‘welding link . . . between the fathers and the children,’ a link that would be ‘whole and complete and perfect.’ (D&C 128:18.)
Earlier in the letter, and serving as introduction to his song of praise, Joseph Smith told the Saints, ‘[The work of the temple] seems to occupy my mind, and press itself upon my feelings the strongest.’ He assured them, ‘These are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation.’ (D&C 128:1, 15.) Joseph understood that the culmination of the Restoration, the point to which all the voices were leading, was the temple and the redeeming work for both living and dead that would take place within its walls. Without that work, the song of the Restoration would have ‘become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.’ (1 Corinthians 13:1.) Or, as Malachi wrote, ‘The whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.’ (D&C 2:3.) Temple work was the soul of Joseph Smith’s song as it is the soul of the Restoration.” (S. Michael Wilcox, House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 5-7)
What examples have you seen of people embracing the gospel with enthusiasm? If we find ourselves feeling discouraged, how can we regain our optimism? What experiences have increased your optimism about the Lord’s work?
5 With knowledge that we are all children of God, we can stand a little taller, rise a little higher, and be a little better.
Before we came to this mortal world we lived with our Father in Heaven in His realms of glory. We are his offspring, he loves us and wants the best for us. The plan of salvation is designed to return us to his presence. We need to always hang onto our divine identity.
From the manual:
There is also in our society a sad tendency among many of us to belittle ourselves. Other persons may appear to us to be sure of themselves, but the fact is that most of us have some feelings of inferiority. The important thing is not to talk to yourself about it. … The important thing is to make the best of all that we have.
Why do you think there is a tendency to belittle others and ourselves? How can we overcome this tendency? What can we do, as individuals and families, to help others “stand a little taller” and “rise a little higher”?