Nephi admits things were bad. But Nephi doesn’t go into any real details on the wickedness of the people like the writers in the Old Testament do. It helps to know the specifics.
Violence against one prophet named Lehi is one thing. But violence again and again against anyone who will stand and speak the truth is something else entirely. In addition, Nephi doesn’t mention the burning sacrifice of children to Molech. And don’t get me started about Baal worship.
Knowing that context changes everything when you read about Nephi telling his brothers that they're just like the people in Jerusalem.
Nephi was an awesome single adult
This context changes our perception of Nephi as an example of faithfulness. Nephi did and said some really cool things that get quoted a lot. And it all started while he was single.
The record we have of Nephi shows us a young man who transcends all of the mind games LDS singles often play. As we discussed last week, the meaning we ascribe to being single is all mind games.
Because Nephi doesn’t get married until 1 Nephi 16, everything that took place in the first 15 chapters of his record occurred while Nephi was single.
Name them one by one
What did Nephi accomplish while he was single?
Nephi lived in some pretty bad times. But he also didn’t let what he or anyone else thought of his marital status stand in the way of maintaining the proper focus.
When we singles focus on what we don’t have, we impede ourselves from achieving our full potential. Our focus will become our reality, and so we need to focus first on what is most important.
This doesn’t mean we ignore marriage. It just means we don’t focus on it so much that it becomes an obsession. Instead we focus on what we can do in the moment we have.
Let's follow the awesome example of the single named Nephi. The Lord will lead each one of us along as He led Nephi if we continue in faithfulness to Him as did Nephi.
Somehow it seems like the tide of discouragement always comes back into shore. The battle against its waves never stops.
Many LDS singles experience discouragement when confronting the idea that they're somehow deficient because they're single. If you believe this, I’m here to tell you that you're not.
That idea is so inconsistent with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ that we should ship it out of town on the next truck, bus, train, ship, or plane, whichever one leaves first. This insidious belief will rob you of your power to own your life the longer you entertain it, so don’t!
Make conscious choices
Normal human beings compare themselves with others. Certainly Western culture encourages this comparison by insisting that only those on top are truly validated. And our own LDS subculture prizes temple marriage as a rite of passage. The perceived sum of these influences can easily convince anyone that being single means being substandard.
You don’t have to feel that way. You can overcome your challenges more easily when you make conscious choices about what you do and especially about how you think.
Change your reality with your focus
Yes, it bears repeating. Your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you don't have, you'll always feel like you just don’t measure up. And if you focus on that message long enough, you'll lose all hope of ever being accepted. Enter depression stage right.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ tells us a very different story. Christ would not have suffered all that He did for “substandard.” He suffered for all because all are worth redeeming. That includes you.
Don't just follow the herd
It’s easy to follow the herd and just think the way everyone else does. But simply following the herd doesn’t usually lead to a life of joy and fulfillment.
Making conscious choices, on the other hand, usually will. When you consciously choose not just what you do but also how you think, you empower yourself to escape a life lived on autopilot and embrace one filled with true joy and meaning.
Being single is simply a status, just like being tall or short or having blue or brown eyes. It has meaning just like any other status but only the meaning that you ascribe to it.
Associating singleness with deficiency has meaning only because you think they go together. Change the way you think about it, and everything associated with it will change also. When you adopt new and different ways of seeing your world, your whole world becomes new and different.
Do what you can wherever you are
You may not have made all the covenants that you want to make. But you don’t have to focus so much on the one you haven’t made that you depreciate the others.
You can strive to make additional covenants with God while still being grateful for the ones you have made already. You can look for opportunities to acquire a new status while taking advantage of the ones your current status offers you.
You can focus on owning your life. You can embrace a reality filled with real purpose and meaning, irrespective of what anyone may say.
Some of the most admired exemplars of faithfulness did exactly that. I’ll tell you about one of them next week. Oh, and here’s the best part: He provided one of the most widely celebrated examples of faithfulness while he was single. See you next week.
I remember a single young woman who once extolled the “virtues” of the pity party in a Sunday School class. "Pity parties are actually good things," she said. She compared the pity party to a release valve. And expunging all that inner bad actually brings you closer to Christ, or so went her logic.
Anyone else hear fingernails on a chalkboard? Such an abomination comprising old, defunct ways of thinking needs to be stamped out of existence before it infests the place like cockroaches. But in the moment I decided to be diplomatic and hold my tongue.
Now that I'm not in Sunday School, I'm taking off the gloves (though I’ll still be a gentleman).
The real 411 on the pity party
We all know the pity party scene. You feel sorry for yourself because you can’t get what you want. And hopelessness overwhelms you so much that curling up into the fetal position for a future filled with misery and sorrow seems the only option.
When you start to feel that way, you should have huge red lights flashing in your head.
That feeling is a warning you're on the wrong track. Confronting disappointment is part of the mortal experience we all came here to have. Another part is learning how not to be overcome by it.
There is always hope because there is always Christ
There is always hope because there is always Christ. By following His example, you can overcome your difficulties rather than be overcome by them.
And when I say "follow His example," I'm not referencing stale Sunday School lessons about service or keeping the commandments. I mean embracing a new way of thinking so that you can overcome the challenges of your life in the way Christ overcame His.
The Savior's example
When Christ walked on the water (hey, now that's new and different thinking), he invited Peter to follow Him. The storm was howling all around Peter, but he acted in faith.
As long as he clung to old ways of thinking ("you can't walk on water"), Peter would stay in the boat. But when he embraced a new way of thinking ("you can walk on water when the Master invites you to do so"), he saw that it worked. That is, until he began to doubt.
When you feel the storms of life howling around you, you can surrender to that pity party or you can follow the Savior.
Can you see Christ shrinking into a pathetic little clod of pity? I can’t. Yet isn’t that what that pity party makes you? What’s ennobling or inspiring about that? Certainly no one benefits from that, least of all you.
If you can't imagine Christ doing that, what do you see Him doing? I see Him renewing His focus on His mission. I see him focusing on others instead of Himself. I see Him living a different reality because He has a different focus.
That's why I can never accept the pity party. It shifts your focus inordinately upon yourself.
Your focus determines your reality
Feel trapped in a pathetic reality? Then your focus is pathetic. Your focus determines your reality. When you focus inordinately upon yourself and your unfulfilled desires, you darken your reality. Want to change your reality? Change your focus.
The Master's life was meaningful because He filled His life with meaning. He knew what He was all about, and that’s where He kept His focus. Pity parties couldn't touch Him.
They won’t touch you either if you adopt new and different ways of thinking. Moments of discouragement will always come; that's part of the mortal experience we came here to have. But just because you encounter that emotion doesn't mean you have to surrender to it.
So this Valentine's Day, ride a new train. Find a new reality by finding a new focus. Look for someone you can lift. Make a difference in someone's life. Build or repair a relationship that is meaningful to you. Let's all say, "Down with the pity party and up with new and different ways of thinking."
You must make conscious choices to own your life. The reality you construct for yourself is one of the most important of those conscious choices.
In Episode 1 of the Star Wars movie series (yes, I’m an enginerd), Jedi master Qui-Gon Jin wants to train young Anakin Skywalker in the Jedi arts but is forbidden to do so. So he tells Anakin to watch him closely. “Always remember,” he then says, “your focus determines your reality.” That’s some really great advice for all of us, even if you don’t aspire to be a Jedi knight.
An experience with the principle
During sacrament meeting in a former ward, I shared a pew with a young couple and their two very rambunctious and obnoxious boys. When the tray reached our pew, the young father made sure his family received the sacrament. He then passed the tray back to the Aaronic Priesthood holder.
At first I couldn’t believe he had denied me the sacrament. Never have I ever imagined that happening to me. I thought to myself, Does he not know that I am here?
Yet I observed the great effort required to keep one of his sons somewhat settled. His wife was obviously exasperated just as much with the other one. I then realized that I really was oblivious to him.
It wasn’t because he didn’t care. It wasn’t because he was married and I was single. It was because he focused so much on his son that someone sitting not two feet away was outside of his world. His focus had determined his reality.
LDS singles don't need to feel dissatisfied with their lives
Many singles who focus on the eternal companion they don’t have can enter a serious depression. They can become so focused on what they don’t have that they can’t see anything but a dissatisfying condition. They feel forgotten and lost in a sea of people living lives they want but don’t have.
I once felt like that, but not any more. You don’t have to feel that way either. If you want to be a part of your ward’s reality, then get inside their focus. Make meaningful contributions to the lives of other ward members.
You don’t need a calling to make that happen. You need only to recognize a need and then work to fill it. With that focus, your reality will be much more enjoyable.
Your problem is not that you're single
If you think your solution to a dissatisfying life is getting married, think again. And then change the way you think. Your focus determines your reality.
No, changing the way you think won’t make your eternal companion magically appear. I’m not talking about a magic lamp with a genie inside.
And yet I am. When I was incredibly focused on what I didn’t have, that way of thinking wasn’t making me a happy me. And an unhappy me is an unattractive me.
Changing the way I think didn't make me instantly married. My physical circumstances did not change. No attractive woman in a belly dancer costume appeared. I was just as single as I’ve always been.
But changing the way I think did make me instantly more marriageable. The way I perceived my circumstances changed. I felt much better about myself and my future prospects. That change made me a much happier me.
And that happier me translated into a much more attractive me. Why? Because most people don’t want to spend twenty minutes let alone eternity with someone who isn't happy.
Being that happier me means that someone will more likely want to share my life with me, whether or not she wears a belly dancer costume. If all I see in my life is a collection of negative emotion, then how can my reality be anything different? And who would want to share that with me? There is no greatness or glory in darkness.
So what's your reality? Do you like your reality? If you answered no, then what's your focus? Your focus determines your reality. If you want to change your reality, then change your focus to one designed to produce the reality you want.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce 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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