Last week I extolled the virtue of exercising patience with leaders who mostly don’t understand our LDS singles experience. Patience is often a conscious choice, one not made out of habit. Patience helps us to live more in the moment.
Living in the moment is where we find the true joy of living, regardless of our individual circumstances. Life doesn’t have to be everything we want it to be for us to enjoy it. That joy starts when we consciously choose to live in the moment.
Living in the moment means being present in the now. Too often LDS singles aren’t present in the now. Rather they’re present in the future — a future when an eternal companion provides them with the rite of passage that brings acceptance within LDS subculture.
But living in the future (and one which for many LDS singles never seems to come) forfeits the joy of living found only in the present moment. The joy of living now comes only by living in the now. And that’s true regardless of your circumstances.
You need a choice, not a plan
I remember a singles conference where one speaker talked about living in the moment. She encouraged intentional living. Living with intention can lead you to own your life. And I’m a big fan of owning your life.
Then the speaker defined intentional to mean having a plan. The joy of living in the moment, she declared, comes from following a plan.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Due to our design as human beings to follow habits, I define intentional to mean choosing consciously. Living with intent means you choose in the moment to do what you do. Conscious choices in the moment refuse to let your habits simply play themselves out, allowing you to embrace life and all the true joy of living.
You don’t need a plan for any of that to unfold for you. All you need is to use the one gift from God we all have — agency. You simply make a conscious choice.
Make the happy life
Happiness comes not from just doing the right things but from giving your all to the right things. That giving your all is a conscious choice. And when you choose that path with full awareness and intent to pursue it, the true joy of being alive can come to you.
Life on autopilot offers comfort and a sense of stability, but true joy isn’t found in comfort and stability alone. True joy comes from consciously embracing the right things.
I use that word embracing intentionally. You can’t just execute a routine of righteous activity and expect happiness to find you. The happy life doesn’t find you. You have to make it. That requires choosing the right things with intention. That means breaking out of the habit of routine living. And that means embracing the right things in your life.
Choose to lift yourself
Too often we LDS singles don’t. Eager for acceptance within a culture that prizes marriage and family as the door to belonging, we LDS singles often focus on the future to that eternal companion we all yearn to have.
Yet your focus always determines your reality. Focusing on what you don’t have now always fills your reality with a heightened awareness of what you don’t have now. A life that feels lacking is never enjoyable.
However, the same principles work in the other direction. Focusing on what you do have now fills your reality with gratitude. You begin to see how richly the Lord has blessed you. Life starts feeling plentiful.
That focus on what you have now is key to living in the moment. Focusing on the present and not the future is a conscious choice that helps you live with intention. And the gift of agency from a loving Heavenly Father brings that choice within reach of us all.
You don’t need a plan to live with intention. You need simply to focus on what you’re doing in the present moment. Then you can breathe with confidence. You can walk with boldness. You can let go of everything drawing your focus to the future and bring your focus to the present moment. When you make these choices consciously, you open yourself to a life you can savor regardless of your circumstances.
Righteous intentional choices lift what you do to a new level because in so doing you give your all to the right things. And when you give your all to the right things, life in return gives back to you all the joy and satisfaction of a life well lived. You’ll always get what you give, so give your all to the right things and get the life that’s right in all ways for you.
If you’re an LDS single who hasn’t heard some ignorant, insensitive remark from our married friends in the Church, then you better buckle up. Your ride is about to get a little bumpy.
We’ve all been there. From asides in casual conversation to statements in class lessons, we LDS singles have been made to feel not completely accepted because we don’t have our own family. Often we hear some variation of “get with the program.”
Last time I checked, the “program” is making and keeping as many covenants with God as we can. Of course we should strive to make every covenant possible. But sometimes that means doing the best you can in this mortal life — however far that gets you — and then trusting in the Lord to make up the rest.
Still, some of our married friends constantly hit a nerve. We want to tell them a thing or two. Sometimes I have, using references to a place where the sun doesn’t shine.
But that was before I changed my way of thinking. Now I just tell myself “Babes in sacrament meeting.”
The parable of babes in sacrament meeting
If you’ve been to a general membership ward (note I avoid the atrocious term family ward), you’ve rarely if ever experienced an administration of the sacrament in silence. That’s because little children often break that silence.
This last Sunday was no exception for me. The children seemed especially restless. And I recalled just a couple of weeks ago when a child cried out, “No, Mom! That’s mine!” It all adds to an atmosphere that at least superficially seems like anything but reverent.
Of course, no one blames the child. We might cast a nasty look at a parent of a particularly obnoxious child and think, “Hey, why don’t you do something about your kid?” But we never blame the child.
And we all know why. The child is innocent. The child doesn’t know any better. It makes no sense to hold children to a standard which they cannot reasonably meet.
Likewise, many of our married friends, and particularly our leaders, have no idea what we LDS singles experience. Because they married young, they don’t know what it’s like to be older and single in the Church. And older could mean you’re 25, 35, 45, or more.
It’s not fair for us to expect them to avoid saying and doing insensitive things when they simply don’t understand completely what we experience. The LDS singles experience must be had to be understood. Because many of our married friends never really experienced that, they simply don’t understand. So why should we respond to their insensitivity with the expectation that they should understand? That’s not reasonable. They’re babes in sacrament meeting.
Seek first to understand
I’m not saying our married friends shouldn’t try to understand us singles. Nor am I advocating we singles quit trying to be understood. The desire to be understood is a basic human need. At the same time, we aren’t likely to be understood when we don’t first seek to understand others.
Gandhi was right when he said we must be the change we seek in the world. The insensitivities we LDS singles experience within our subculture will not cease until we LDS singles take the lead by following the Savior and exercising patience. We need to remember babes in sacrament meeting.
When we exercise patience with our leaders and other married friends in the Church while seeking first to understand them, we clear a space that invites them to understand us. Good-hearted people will respond by filling that space with desires to understand us. The godly desire to understand then outweighs the natural desire to be understood.
Those who haven’t lived our LDS singles experience cannot fully understand it. But that doesn’t prevent others from achieving a partial understanding. Certainly, if we are to live in Zion, singles and marrieds need to be reaching after all the understanding of each other possible. We should never use failure to achieve totality to justify not trying to achieve what part we can.
The change we LDS singles truly seek in our culture — one in which our married friends help us to feel truly a part of the fold of God — must start within us. It’s time for us to quit sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to change and start making that change happen. It’s time for us to stop criticizing others for what they cannot reasonably do and start looking inside ourselves for the seeds of patience and understanding that will sprout a better experience for everyone.
Let us look to the Savior and follow His example of patience. And it can all start with four simple words: Babes in sacrament meeting.
We’re almost halfway through the first month of the year. Have you broken your New Year’s resolutions yet?
Many of those I’ve heard making New Year’s resolutions sounded quite positive. And that got me thinking. Most people really do sound positive when making resolutions. People tend to feel encouragement in having a blank slate.
But then they feel the onset of reality as they begin to fill that slate. And before long, the resolutions made with hope don’t evoke the changes so wished for. Why is that?
I think it’s because resolutions are nothing more than wishes. Wishes don’t lead to greatness, but goals do. And so does partnering with the Lord in establishing and working towards goals.
Resolutions, on the other hand, are just wishes because there’s no plan, just a declaration of desire. That’s the first reason why I think most resolutions don’t last outside the first two weeks of the year. Wishes without a plan don’t inspire anyone to reach for greatness because they don’t really demand any use of agency beyond expressing a simple sentiment.
LDS singles are no different from anyone else when it comes to relying on habits in daily living. We’re all designed to operate out of habit. That’s why when some new way of doing anything comes along, we feel suspicious and apprehensive. Our natural design as human beings influences us to shy away from any interference with our habits.
But no one lives fully without living intentionally. That means making conscious choices about your actions. And often those actions reside well outside the bounds of habit.
It’s so easy to fall back into the complacency of wishes. But if you want to embrace life and turn yours around, you need to make conscious choices to own your life and set goals that move you towards the changes you want.
The best goals are SMART. SMART means Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. What does that mean?
Specific means clearly defining the change you want. Losing weight is not specific. Losing 15 pounds is specific.
Measurable means having a standard against which to compare your performance. Spending more time with a loved one is great but not measurable. How much time is more? An hour? A minute? Spending at least one hour each week with So-and-so is measurable; you can count the time you spend each week and compare it to a standard.
Actionable means keeping your goal within your control. Every year many LDS singles make the bad goal to get married. Getting married is good and very desirable but relies on the agency of another person. A better goal would be to work on something inside your control that will make you more marriageable.
Realistic means having a plan you can reasonably complete. Losing 15 pounds in a year is very reasonable. Losing 15 pounds in a week is not.
Timely means having a deadline. Writing in your journal at least 4 times a week is specific, measurable, actionable, and realistic, but not timely. Writing in your journal at least 4 times a week during February is.
Being SMART helps us refine our goals but not determine what they should be. Here’s the second reason why I think resolutions fail many people. They often take people in the wrong direction.
By wrong direction, I mean a direction that’s wrong for them. A goal that’s very right for one might not be so right for another. We need to embrace goals fitted to us and our particular life situation.
That’s where partnering with the Lord comes in. Christ can make more out of our lives than we ourselves can. When we fully receive His marvelous Atonement, we embrace the power by which all personal improvement is made.
We know the Atonement can cleanse us from sin. And we also know the Atonement can heal us and sustain us along the bumpy road of mortality. But the Atonement also turns weaknesses into strengths. And isn’t that what achieving goals is all about?
If you’re making and striving towards goals, you’re on the road to achievement. But if you’re partnering with the Lord to make and achieve your goals, you’re on the road to inspirational greatness. That’s a life fully lived, a life far greater in influence and far deeper in joy than we could ever make on our own.
January may be halfway over, but the year is still just beginning. If you haven’t made partnered with the Lord to make the goals that are right for you in 2016, there’s still time. Make the conscious choice today to own your life and partner with the Lord. Then you’ll be on your way to experience the joy of living fully.
Everyone’s talking about the new year upon us. There’s all kinds of conversations. Some people have the usual list of resolutions. Others just want to simplify their lives. Yet a sense of hope 2016 will be better than 2015 underlies many conversations.
Not every one is hopeful, though. Many LDS singles wonder if they really do have any hope of achieving righteous blessings. Will this year really be any different than last year?
That’s why I found an excellent Ensign article about being positive so appropriate. I recommend it to everyone, single or married. What I like best about it is its underlying message. Although not directly stated, the article strongly implies an important truth. If you aren’t positive in your outlook, then you’re just not living the restored gospel.
Your focus determines your reality
I remember some years ago a Sunday School lesson taught in a former ward on the East Coast. I remember the instructor saying unhappy people are unhappy because they aren’t living the gospel. I remember him saying if only they’d repent, they could be happy. And I remember feeling like he targeted me even though he never said my name.
Yes, living a lifestyle of sin won’t bring happiness. We all know Alma 41:10. But just because wickedness never was happiness doesn’t mean the reverse is also true. Sometimes unhappiness isn’t related to sin.
Sometimes unhappiness comes from the way we approach life. While I appreciated the interest in me, albeit a tongue-in-cheek one, I knew my standing before the Lord. I thought being single in a family-centered culture made me unhappy. But I was wrong.
My unhappiness came from my focus. I had lots for which to be grateful, but instead of constantly expressing gratitude to God for His bounteous blessings towards me, I focused on what I lacked. And so my reality became one of lack.
That’s natural law. It’s the way God created the universe. When you constantly focus on the negative, your reality becomes negative. And a negative reality means your focus is negative.
But if a negative reality comes from a negative focus, does a positive reality come from a positive focus? The restored gospel of Jesus Christ answers with a resounding “Yes!”
There’s always hope because there’s always Christ. We sometimes sing “The Lord is my light.” How can that be true for us if we don’t feel the glory of His light chasing the darkness out of our lives? If you aren’t feeling it, then are you really living the restored gospel?
I know some of you have your defenses up. Yes, you go to church and say your prayers and read scriptures every day and otherwise do what identifies you as an active Latter-day Saint. But if you’re just going through the motions, you’re not digging deep enough to feel the real power of the restored gospel.
I wanted real on Day 1 in 2014, and I still want it today in 2016. I’m done with just going through the motions. I’m done with living a life of mediocrity. “Men [and women] are that they might have joy,” (2 Nephi 2:25), and so this man wants to embrace life. This man wants to experience all of the joy God wants for all His children and makes available to them every single day.
Being real means more than just going through the motions. Happiness comes not from just doing the right things but from bringing your all to the right things. If you don’t feel inside of you the truth of the hope and optimism enshrined in the gospel, then how much of yourself are you bringing to the right things?
Give your all
Your life doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. If you aren’t feeling the hope that really exists for you because of Christ, you can. Just give your all to the right things.
One of those right things is gratitude. I don’t care what has happened to you. God has blessed you abundantly. Begin with that truth, and you’ll begin to see the windows of heaven have always been open for you. When you make gratitude a lifestyle, you’ll have a lifestyle of seeing the blessings all around you. Your focus always determines your reality.
There’s much more we can do. I’ve talked about them on my blog, and I’ll continue talking about them now on my radio show. The restored gospel gives us great reason for hope and optimism. You can feel that positive energy every day, no matter how much life may knock you around. It all comes back to how you think and how you approach life. Give your all to those right things, and 2016 and every year thereafter can be gloriously wonderful and joyous.
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.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
Posts by Month