The little refrigerator magnet that reads “If Mamma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy,” is not just a cute statement. It describes a serious problem. Certainly if Mother is not happy, everyone in the family feels the negative effects. Husbands and children struggle. The entire family is disheartened and a feeling of discouragement prevails in the home. The tool the adversary uses to destroy or at least derail the righteous is discouragement.

We as mothers, especially, need to recognize this fact and keep our guard up to protect ourselves and our families from this insidious influence. As we consider resolutions and goals for the New Year, certainly a worthy one would be to follow the Lord’s admonition to be of good cheer.

Being of good cheer is a virtue. Cheerfulness is a condition, more of the mind than of circumstance, and is worthy of cultivation. Mothers who are of good cheer impart courage, confidence, optimism, hope, and faith in the Lord to their husbands and children. Cheerful mothers draw family members to them. A cheerful mother is likely to decorate her home so it is sunny, comfortable, and homey. The entire family tends to thrive in an environment that is both spiritually and temporally cheerful.

The yellow sunflower is a wonderful symbol of cheerfulness as it blooms prolifically in the hills, along the roadsides, and in our gardens. In Nebraska there are acres of bright yellow fields where sunflowers are grown commercially. It is a delight to see these fields; in the morning all the sunflowers face east and by late afternoon their heads are turned west. They follow the sun.

In Willa Cather’s endearing book, My Antonia, she tells that it was the Mormon pioneers who first planted sunflowers in Nebraska, scattering seeds as they trudged west so their followers along the trail could enjoy the bright, happy flowers. People in that part of the country still refer to sunflowers as “Mormon Flowers.” The symbolism fits; Latter-day Saints are typically people of good cheer. Being of good cheer is a principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

M. Scott Peck, M.D. in his book, The Road Less Traveled, states, “Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Family life is hard. And all for a purpose. Not one of us is at home on this planet; we are all away at school. In speaking of the plan of salvation, mortality, the second estate, is often referred to as the second act. It is a fact that “living happily ever after” is never written into the second act of plays, but rather it is reserved for the third act. The third act in this “play” is eternal life, where we will live happy ever after, if, during this life, we endure to the end in good cheer.

Elder Boyd K. Packer stated: “Marriage is not without its trials of many kinds. These tests forge virtue and strength. The tempering that comes in marriage and family life produces men and women who will someday be exalted.”

It is at home where we are tried and tested the most. It is through family relationships that we encounter life’s best and worst, its highest and lowest; it is where we experience both joy and sorrow — sometimes even in the same hour. It is in the home where we are faced with the most difficult and challenging of all work, but certainly it is a labor of love. Somehow the positive things far outweigh the negative, and hope prevails as we strive to build a home to last forever and endeavor to be blessed with an eternal family.

The tasks of motherhood can seem beyond us at times, and we feel like we should be raising chickens instead of children. There is nothing that can hurt more than to see a child in pain. It is through our children that we as mothers sometimes suffer heartache, even heartbreak. Still, we are admonished to be of good cheer.

John L. Lund, Church Education System instructor, said, “If someone who is close to you (a spouse, a child, a sibling, or a friend) is wayward, you should place your frustration at the feet of the Savior and extend your love to that person. Too often we do it the other way around and take our frustration out on the person and accelerate our service to the Lord to show our love.” An extended program of fasting and prayer can enable parents to lay the burden at the Savior’s feet and then show Christ-like love to a child.

In the remarkable book The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister, Elder Callister explains how righteous suffering in behalf of another can tap into a “form of spiritual gravity that draws and entices all men unto [Christ].” Elder Callister cites fasting as an example of suffering. He states that “suffering in behalf of another seems to have its major impact for good when at least four elements are present. First, the sufferer is pure and worthy... Second, the cause for which he suffers if just... Third, the recipient knows and loves the sufferer. Fourth, the recipient appreciates the cause for which the suffering occurs. When these four elements simultaneously exist, the chemistry for human behavioral change is explosive.”

One of our sons gave us concern as a teenager. Nothing we were doing seemed to be making a difference. I vividly recall attending a stake leadership meeting and being deeply moved as someone read to us the story of Alma the Elder, fasting and praying for his wayward son. I had heard the story many times, but that evening it wasn’t Alma’s son I was hearing about, it was my son.

Suddenly I knew that through fasting and prayer our son would be saved. Therefore, from the time he was fifteen until he was nearly nineteen, I fasted for him one day a week. My husband began attending the temple early Friday mornings, before going to his office, and keeping our boy’s name on the prayer roll.

In due time and very gradually we began to see positive changes in our boy. No heavenly being appeared to him as one did to Alma, but earthly angels were there for him — a wise bishop, an understanding seminary teacher, a great scoutmaster, and a group of good friends, who all said and did just the right things at the right time.

The fasting blessed me as a mother in a number of significant ways. For one, it gave me something to do instead of just worrying. I did not feel as anxious or emotional about the situation as I had previously, so I relaxed a little and related in a more positive way to our son. I was kinder, more patient, more understanding, and more loving. Fasting humbles people, and therefore we as parents were open to information that could help us. We marveled as such information seemed to come from every direction. It particularly came through the Spirit.

Miracles — mostly small ones — took place all along the way. A major miracle happened one evening. After dinner our son announced that he was going with a group of boys to a town just beyond the Utah border. I knew there was nothing good for him there. My husband was not home, so I pleaded with my son not to go. He pushed me aside and left the house. I ran to my room and cried in prayer to my Father in Heaven to protect my boy. Just as I rose from my knees, the front door opened and he came in and simply said, “I decided not to go.” That was the turning point. Things improved rapidly from then on.

Our son’s mission call came as he turned nineteen, and I cried tears of joy for days. All the time he was serving I felt as though I were wrapped in a warm blanket. And I shed more tears of joy when he returned with honor two years later and took me aside and said, “Mother, I gave it my all.”

While we were waiting for the miracles to happen and the blessings to come, the fasting and praying helped me keep things in perspective, which in turn helped me to have peace of mind and be of good cheer as I put my trust in the Lord and His ways. Perspective is a key to being of good cheer.

Sister Kristen Oaks, wife of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, said one day that she was distressed because a young boy she loved did not want to join the youth of his stake in an outing to Martin’s Cove. She was sad because he would not be having that great spiritual experience and she expressed her disappointment to Elder Oaks. He responded, “Don’t worry too much. I didn’t get to Martin’s Cove until I was sixty-five.”

It is important to understand that sometimes, in spite of intense fasting and prayer, the child does not respond as you would like. He seems to be beyond the reach of the Spirit, at least for the time. In such cases, the Spirit can cause a change in the parents and thus they are blessed.

In Robert L. Millett’s book I Will Fear No Evil, Brother Millett reassures parents by saying, “We are able to move on, to move ahead, through gaining perspective, through coming to see things, at least to some degree, as God does.” Gaining this eternal perspective helps make seemingly unbearable things bearable.

It is also essential in being of good cheer to learn to wait upon the Lord. In other words, our timetable for answers to prayers is not always the Lord’s. To illustrate this point, the story is told of a fruit farmer who took his apples to market every October. He was a good farmer and also a faithful member of the Church. It bothered him that a neighboring farmer, also a Church member, but who failed to keep the Sabbath day holy and pay his tithing, always did better with his apples.

Finally the farmer took the problem to his bishop, complaining that his yield wasn’t as good as that of his less righteous neighbor. To this the bishop responded, “God doesn’t settle his accounts in October.”

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him” Isaiah 64:4.

Speaking at general conference in October, 1981, Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated: We are living in a time in which we will see things both wonderful and awful. There is no way we can be part of the last days and have it otherwise. Even so, we are instructed by our Lord and Examplar ‘to be of good cheer.’ D&C 61:36; 78:18.”

Elder Maxwell continued by explaining that Jesus, in order to prepare his disciples for the Atonement he would soon make, gave the Twelve Apostles similar counsel. How could he expect them to be of good cheer in the face of the trying events that would come in Gethsemane and on Calvary? Jesus provided the answer: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world” John 16:33.

Elder Maxwell went on to say: “Because Christ had overcome the world, the Atonement was about to be accomplished! Death would be irrevocably defeated. Satan would have failed to stop the unfolding plan of salvation. All mankind would be given — through the grace of God — immortality. Additionally for those obedient to the commandments, there would be the riches of eternal life.” These realities outweighed the grim but temporary circumstances of the Twelve. Elder Maxwell encouraged us by concluding, “Likewise, this same precious gospel perspective — knowing the Savior has overcome all things — allows all of us to remain cheerful, even in the face of adversity.”

Being of good cheer is part of being valiant in the testimony of the Savior. Elder Maxwell mentioned that during the first unveiling of the great plan of happiness, those of us who favored the plan shouted for joy! We should not now, when we feel mortal pain, doubt our earlier enthusiasm, for as Elder Maxwell pointed out, then “we saw more clearly” than we do now during mortality. And further, the Savior has promised us that he will lead us along and give us “the riches of eternity.” See D&C 38:39.

Yes, it is true: being of good cheer is a virtue. It is definitely a quality worth nurturing year after year. Blessed is the home in which the mother is cheerful.