Another Reason Why Active LDS People (and Active People in Other Faiths) Tend to Be Happier

While I’ve called for understanding, patience, and even a touch of guarded empathy for those leave the Church or choose to become less active in their faith, I believe that they and their families will find more happiness and joy by living and embracing what I consider to be the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some who leave the Church or drop into inactivity may complain of all the sacrifices the Church had demanded, both in time for service as well as money such as tithing and fast offerings. Yes, Latter-day Saints are asked to be a giving people, freely giving of our time for service and our money for charitable purposes, including building up the kingdom of God and helping others in need. Utah, a heavy LDS state, is the most charitable state in the nation by far in term of percentage of income given. For members who abandon the Church, I hope they find happiness elsewhere, but if their idea of happiness is being free from all the opportunities for service and charitable giving that the Church provides, they may not find the happiness they seek. This is my extrapolation, anyway, from an insightful speech given by a Roman Catholic speaker at BYU recently.

Arthur C. Brooks is President of the American Enterprise Institute. His speech, “Why Giving Matters,” has been printed in the latest BYU Magazine. Terrific read. I’ll admit that he almost lost me in the first two paragraphs with his praise of John D. Rockefeller, of whom I’m not terribly fond. Glad I was able to get past that and keep on reading. Please read the whole article, but here is one excerpt that I like. It begins after he discusses his investigation into the link between giving and prosperity, showing from multiple perspectives that that the act of giving or volunteering appears to bring significant financial benefits to the giver. It’s not just that rich people have more to give and thus give more – the results are much more suggestive of giving as an apparent cause of increased prosperity. It was counter-intuitive and perplexing.

The more I ran the numbers, the more I kept getting this crazy result. But still I refused to believe it. In desperation I finally went to a colleague who specialized in the psychology of charitable giving. “I’m getting this result I can’t understand,” I told him. “It doesn’t make sense. It’s like the hand of God or something on the economy, and I can’t believe it’s true.”

“Why don’t you believe it’s true?” he asked me. “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”

This shook me a bit, but just for a second. “Yeah, but I’m also a social scientist,” I shot back. “We’re not supposed to believe those things. I need a more earthbound explanation.”

“Well, I’ll give you one,” he said. “We’ve known this for 30 years in the psychology profession. You economists— you worry about money all the time, and money is boring. We worry about something that people really care about—the currency by which we really spend our days—and that’s happiness. We’ve known for 30 years that people who give get happier as a result.”

Now I knew from teaching at a business school that the best way to run a successful business is to hire happy people. If you want to be a productive person, work on your happiness. Happy people show up for work more, work longer hours, work more joyfully, and are happier with every aspect of their productive lives. Happiness is the secret to success. Charity brings happiness, and happiness brings success.

People who give to charity are 43 percent more likely than people who don’t give to say they’re very happy people. People who give blood are twice as likely to say they’re very happy people as people who don’t. People who volunteer are happier. You simply can’t find any kind of service that won’t make you happier.

Studies show that when people give, it lowers their levels of stress. People who do their jobs with less stress tend to be more productive and successful. Throughout our lives, if we can find ways to relax, we will profit from it.

Outsiders frequently comment on the apparent happiness that active Latter-day Saints have, and my admittedly biased observation suggests that those who were active and give up on the Church seem to have lost something. Some stay active in giving and serving, and based on the link between giving and happiness, they may fare well, and I hope they do. Those who give less and serve less may find less happiness, I fear, all else being equal (this neglects the potential role of spiritual gifts and the divine claims of the Gospel).

Bottom line: For your own good, if you choose to be inactive and to leave the Church, don’t forget to keep pay tithing and keep up your home or visiting teaching. Or something of the sort.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

11 thoughts on “Another Reason Why Active LDS People (and Active People in Other Faiths) Tend to Be Happier

  1. Jeff, I've joked about it before, but you list reasons that it would actually be a good idea: For home teachers to take tithing slips and donation envelopes from the ward to the inactive members that they home-teach.

    It would drive the RfMers crazy, but it makes sense.

    Tithing is the closest thing to "buying blessings." No one wants to admit it, and the delivery of the blessing is not guaranteed to be immediate, but the tithing verse in Malachi sure seems to state it.

  2. That Brooks article was great, and timely. I was able to mention it while giving the Priesthood lesson on Charity. I'm thinking that if God knows you're doing good things with what you have, He's going to send you more. Of course, most of us proceed like Brooks assumed, which is that we think we should wait to give until after we get more.

  3. "Utah, a heavy LDS state, is the most charitable state in the nation by far in term of percentage of income given."

    I assume that includes tithing, correct?

  4. Mr. Brooks' talk was FANTASTIC, probably my favorite since I've been here!

    There was also an article in the Daily Universe today about, a website (not endorsed by the Church) with the goal of helping struggling members stay strong.

  5. is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it encourages people who don't believe to stay active in the church. But on the other hand, the web site appears (to me at least) to give assent (or tacit approval) to the idea that the foundational claims of the church aren't true (ie, whether or not the Book of Mormon is what it says it is, and whether or not Joseph Smith was called of God to be a prophet, etc.)

    The message of that web site seems to be: "Okay, the church isn't true, but it's good to stay in it anyway." Huh?

    Maybe I'm disappointed that that web site doesn't do enough apologetics, and doesn't do enough to "create room for faith". It's like they're saying "Go ahead, disbelieve, it's okay, we don't either."

    They appear to be watering it down too much, or "protestantizing" Mormonism with the so-called "middle way".

    It's one thing to believe or disbelieve in something, everybody has an innate right of conscience. But it's quite another thing to encourage others to disbelieve. That crosses a line, in my opinion.

  6. The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.

  7. Bookslinger, I totally agree. I just read the DU article, I didn't actually visit the site until after I posted my previous comment. I was not that impressed, much better execution is needed for it to truly be successful.

  8. Just becuase a drunken man is laughing, doesn't mean he is happy…and just becuase a sober man isn't laughing doesn't mean he isn't. Happiness is created by what you do with your life, and lasts a lot longer than inebriation. You definitly don't have to be a member of the church to life a rightious life and partake of the promised blessing associated with it. The LDS faith does promote rightous living which is definitly associated with the happiness that comes from it.

  9. Aaron, please re-visit the thesis and try again, here I'll help: "The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."

    No duh you can distinguish drinking with religion, the example illustrates the point, it is not the point itself.

  10. Did you ever read my reference to the study by some Wall Street journalists who concluded, statistically, that people who "get ahead" in life always do four things:
    1. graduate from high school
    2. get married and stay married
    3. never be without a job, no matter how small
    and the kicker: 4. participate in organized religion.

    Religion is an economic practicality. Not only that, but…

  11. Jeff, I'm not a Mormon myself but have worked very closely with many of them in the pro-life movement. I have always admired the family values they possessed. I see what you are saying about people who have dropped out of Church because of the "demands" they felt. Sometimes, they are just looking for an excuse to leave. It is always hard to uncover the root reason for every single person. At any rate, let us all keep striving to live our faith to the fullest and inspire others to do that same!
    God bless you brother.
    Sean McVeigh

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