Last week I assaulted the faulty assumption that eternal companions are found only at Church-sponsored singles activities. I also introduced how seeing singles groups as dating forums prevents us from following the Savior. It also creates second-class citizens within the Kingdom.
What’s more important? Extolling the LDS subcultural rite of passage of eternal marriage? Or serving the people around us to meet their needs?
Obviously serving others. And yet far too many of us singles habitually choose the alternative. We need to reformat and reboot ourselves with a more effective habit.
Constantly basing our participation in activities on dating prospects communicates that achieving acceptance for ourselves within LDS subculture is more important than meeting the needs of other people. Is that the path the Master calls us to travel?
Right there many singles feel a tension. They assume that meeting the needs of others will leave their own needs unmet. Can we simultaneously meet everyone’s needs, including our own?
People are more important than programs
The answer is a resounding YES! But we need to commit to being our best selves and then make conscious choices to act accordingly. Part of that means communicating with actions that people are more important than programs. When we reverse that, we create a group of second-class citizens.
Programs can reference our own personal agendas as well as a slate of Church-sponsored activities. Viewing singles activities as dating forums places our own personal agenda above the people around us. We’ll act in ways directed towards securing a date for ourselves. To the others we don’t talk to, don’t sit with, or don’t associate with, this inward focus communicates a very clear message: These others aren’t acceptable.
From there it’s not far for those others to think they really are worthless. After all, many of us, single or married, have poor habits of self-talk. Self-talk is incredibly powerful, determining much of how we think, which determines the results we get in life. When you think you’re worthless, you’ll feel worthless and act worthless.
Hence grows a crop of second-class citizens within the Kingdom. They feel the pressure that marriage determines acceptance within our LDS subculture, they want to be married so they can fill their needs which marriage is designed to fill, and yet they need acceptance from the very people whose actions communicate rejection.
We need to drop the personal agenda, however righteous that may appear to be, and surrender to the Savior’s call of love.
Embracing the truth makes you free
Do we really believe people are more important than programs? Then let’s act accordingly. I know the guilt that comes with the realization that we haven’t been true to our best selves can imprison us. But the best choice is always to embrace the truth. When we do, the Savior sets us free.
If you feel guilty because you’ve been attending singles activities with the primary purpose of finding a spouse, please stop feeling guilty and start moving forward. Acknowledge the past, yes, but look forward to the future. Be true to your best self. Make the conscious choice to support those around you.
To those who discern the truth but lack the courage to embrace it, I simply say this: Have a little faith. The Lord wants to bless you, and He is especially eager to bless those who assist Him with His work. When you make supporting those around you your primary purpose in participation, regardless of whether or not they satisfy any personal agenda you may have, the Lord will bless you with opportunities to achieve your righteous desires.
Consider the alternative route, the way most of us singles go about it. We either pursue others we want to date or stay where we feel “safe.” Because we seek our own interests first, we don’t feel supported when we need support. And most of the time we don’t get what we directly pursued anyway.
That’s one of the great secrets. The marriage process is correlative, not causal. You’re more likely to get married by focusing on being your best self than with a focused campaign to achieve it.
That’s why I say just have a little faith. Make your primary purpose supporting others. Reflect your best self. Then you’ll be your most attractive you. And that helps the Lord help you to attain every righteous desire of your heart.
Let’s stop creating second-class citizens within the Kingdom and start creating the community called Zion. Let’s drop our own personal agendas and lift those around us who need our love and support. Only by surrendering to love do we become our best selves. And when you realize how much freedom that life has, you’ll wonder why you didn’t surrender to love sooner.
I’ve learned a few things from being single for almost two decades.
For instance, I’ve learned that life holds more joy when you own your life. If your life isn’t what you want it to be, then quit blaming others and start working on yourself.
I’ve learned that we need to be the change we seek in the world. It’s so easy to point to others when discussing changes, but it’s far more productive to point to yourself. Changing yourself first provides the most effective invitation for others to change themselves.
I’ve also learned to value authenticity. After literally hundreds of singles activities, I’m tired of doing the same old routine over and over again. I want real.
Real is not a fireside with a message so generalized that it could apply to anyone, single or married. Real is not a conference where people sit around in workshops that mirror the unfruitful fireside. And real is not an activity in which everyone is only looking for a companion.
Yeah, I get why people do that. They think getting married will solve their single “problem.” Whether it’s our LDS culture or the challenges of single parenthood or some combination of factors that drives them, many LDS singles determine their participation in activities according to the dating prospects offered.
And that’s such the wrong attitude.
Drop the personal agenda
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I’m looking for my companion. But I attend activities to strengthen and support others, not to find a spouse.
Sure, I’m hoping my special someone attends the next activity I attend. What single wouldn’t want that? There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a righteous blessing.
However, making that desire our exclusive focus leads to everyone’s detriment. An inward focus ignores the needs of others as well as the simple call of Christ to surrender to love. We need to drop our personal agenda, however righteous that agenda may be, and contribute positively of ourselves to others.
That’s not what most singles do. They base their decisions — whether to attend, who they talk to, who they sit with, etc. — on dating considerations. Their focus is inward.
But the path of the Savior is focused outward. He said we must lose our life in order to find it.
Do we really believe that? Do we have the faith that the Lord will provide for us if we forget ourselves and surrender to love? What do our actions say?
Expand your assumptions
I’m fully aware my proposal here is anything but easy. The same could be said about the Savior’s path of discipleship. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worthwhile.
What makes it hard? Lacking faith is an easy answer. If we dig deeper, we’ll find some faulty assumptions. The most common one? Singles activities are the only place to find a quality companion.
That’s just so narrow-minded.
You don’t really know how you’ll meet your eternal companion. Yes, Church-sponsored activities provide a good environment for that special encounter. But you could cross paths with that special someone in a church meeting. I know several couples who met while serving in callings that required them to work together.
The Internet has rightfully developed a bad reputation for dating given all the losers trolling online. Yet lots of people still find their special someone online. This isn’t just dating sites. It’s also social media, Facebook being the most prominent example.
Some people find their companions outside of church. They meet while volunteering to serve the community or participating in groups with a shared interest like running or some hobby. I know one couple who met in a dance class. How’s that for romantic?
And let’s not forget the temple. I know what you’re thinking, but my grandfather met his second wife in the celestial room. No lie. And seriously, what better place to meet an eternal companion?
There are so many possibilities for meeting your eternal companion. Yet most of us assume singles activities in the church are our only recourse. That just isn’t true.
The saddest part of such a faulty assumption is what we lose. When focus on self becomes easier, focus on others becomes harder. And so does heeding the Master’s call to surrender to love. Our failure to heed that call leaves the needs of many of our single brothers and sisters unmet.
There’s more that results when we treat singles activities as dating forums. But that’s for next week. This week, I’d like us singles to examine ourselves and our motives. Why do we attend singles activities? Do we have the faith to forget ourselves and focus on supporting others when we attend a singles activity? The Master is calling you to surrender to love. What will you answer?
I’ve posted previously concerning the need to watch our language. And I’m not talking profanity here. The words we use reflect our thinking. The words we use reveal how we think about our world.
Such is the case with the increasingly common expression family of one.
OK, yeah, I get it. No one wants to risk giving offense. Everyone wants to be sensitive. So when a culture that revolves around family has ever more adherents who have no family of their own, it’s not hard to see why an expression like family of one is growing in popularity among the accepted.
I wish that phrase could find the next bus, train, ship, or plane out of town. And I prefer it to take whichever one leaves first.
Getting back to basics
How do we support the family when our language supports a watered-down notion of what it means to be a family? Every reference to family I see in the scriptures, in the General Handbook of Instructions, and in the words of modern-day prophets and apostles points offers no accommodation for a “family” of just one person. Whether that is a husband and wife, or a couple with one or more children, or a single parent with one or more children, a family by definition requires at least two people.
That means there is no such thing as a family of one.
I don’t want people who want to interact with me walking around on eggshells in an effort to avoid offending me somehow. I’d rather have them display sensitivity by seeking to understand my situation as a single adult.
And I’d rather that we all use language that reflects our shared commitment to support the family as the basic unit of eternity.
Confrontation can bring . . . blessings?
Really believing that requires us to take action when we see this “sensitive” expression appear. My most recent experience involves my stake president.
Recently my stake president spoke in the sacrament meeting in my ward. And he used those three little infamous words. I knew he is usually at the stake center on Wednesdays to give temple recommend interviews, so I decided to appear and confront him about it.
After explaining my concern to him, I emphasized that I wasn’t attempting to trap him in a corner. I sought understanding. Why would he use that expression? And how does that expression strengthen the family?
I suppose a man in his position could have responded in several different ways. The route he chose amazed and humbled me.
When challenged with a question of propriety on his part, he immediately went back to basics. He began thinking out loud as he worked his way through a rational approach consistent with the scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets. When he reached a conclusion that a family of one wasn’t consistent with the idea of the family which Church leaders support, he immediately admitted his mistake and apologized.
My respect for this man grew exponentially. Clearly in his heart was a desire to do whatever was right.
Repeating my earlier assertion that I wasn’t looking to back him into a corner, I asked him why he used the phrase. He again meandered his way to the final answer: It just slipped out. He wasn’t watching his words as carefully as I was.
He then turned the question on me regarding what language we should use. I have no problem with the idea that a family requires more than one person. Ideally we should all be helping everyone to make and keep as many sacred covenants as we can. With respect to singles, that means supporting them and walking with them in their journey to make eternal marriage covenants.
My stake president then did just that with me. He asked me about my dating life, and we had a frank discussion about my own obstacles and what I could do to overcome them. He then asked if he could give me a priesthood blessing. I consented, and the blessing I received strengthened and encouraged me.
This is what it means for married members to walk with the singles. This is what supporting one another in our eternal journey is all about. And that’s something that eggshell expressions like family of one will never achieve.
Helping one another
It all starts with vision. But whether it involves building Zion or loving our neighbor, we will communicate and reinforce whatever vision we have with words. That’s why language matters. When it comes to supporting the family, let’s boldly support the eternal ideal. Let’s project an image based on the ideal definition. And then let’s all help one another in our individual journeys to make that definition as real as we can in our own lives.
This week I’m going to share a struggle I’ve entertained for some time. I don’t have complete answers. But I’ll share what I’ve found so far.
I’ve felt a tension between two extremes. On one hand, we hear people need to be independent and able to meet their own needs. On the other hand, we hear people need a larger community. Like so many other things in life, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle, but where exactly? I’ve struggled to find that location. And considering the question in terms of singles — those who have no one but themselves but are trying to become a part of something bigger — increases that struggle considerably.
Your own person
Leaders support single members by helping them draw near to the Lord, strengthen their testimonies, and take responsibility for their own spiritual, social, and temporal well-being.
That’s beautiful. That suggests a balanced approach of some community and some individuality, with the ultimate accountability placed on the individual. So right on.
Sooner or later you need to act your adult age and own your life. That means accepting the good and the bad, everything that your life is and has become. Facing that truth is a hard row to hoe. But it leads to so much freedom and joyful living that to encourage anything less would cheat you.
We’ve entered this mortal probation with purpose. We aren’t here to have everything handed to us. We’re here to make choices for ourselves. When any community attempts to provide all our needs, that “help” actually hinders our growth because we aren’t choosing for ourselves as we were intended. Instead, we abdicate our power to others outside of ourselves. We choose to be acted upon rather than to act.
That’s a large part of why the ultimate responsibility for meeting the needs of an individual rests with that individual. Only by making choices for yourself and then acting in conformity with those choices do you feel empowered to create something worthwhile with your life. Having the community meet all of your needs simply can’t supply that empowerment.
Part of a community
That doesn’t mean that the community itself doesn’t hold great, even essential, value. You can’t meet all your needs on your own. No one can.
We all have the need to socialize with others. It’s hard wired into our design as human beings. We all have times in life when we need someone else, be it a friend or family member, to cheer us on or lift us up because we struggle to do so on our own. And we all need to feel loved. You can make yourself feel pampered, satisfied, even important. But you can never make yourself feel loved. That has to come from someone outside yourself.
Seriously, if we didn’t need the community at all, then why even have wards and stakes? Why would the family be the central unit of eternity if we needed no one outside of ourselves? Clearly, God intended a different arrangement for us to thrive in life.
Striking the balance
And that’s what I’ve really been struggling with here — striking the balance so that everyone thrives in life. We don’t want to disempower anyone by doing for others what they can and should do for themselves. At the same time, we need to help and support those who have difficulty doing it alone.
That support will differ with each individual. I think that was part of my problem. I was looking for a solution that would work for everyone. But there isn’t one. The approach each person needs most will be unique to each person.
That means you need familiarity with the person who needs help. And that’s hard to do above the local ward level. I’ve touched before (and no doubt will again) on some of the separations between singles and marrieds within the Church. What roles should everyone play so that individual singles feel like they belong to the family-centric community of the Church?
I’m becoming more and more convinced that singles wards are not the answer. I also feel we singles can do much to help ourselves. I’ll be posting about these ideas during the coming year, so feel free to join in the discussion. I’m looking forward to finding some answers together.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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