the General Conference addresses. I always have a hard time picking just one. Returning again and again to Conference is a great idea.
As I recently returned to Conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund’s remarks entitled “Through God’s Eyes” spoke to me again. Reading his words, I found a powerful message I wish many of our local leaders would receive when ministering to us LDS singles.
But seeing Chad’s parents as they saw their dead son shattered that emotional distance. Elder Renlund’s own words say it best.
Then Elder Renlund delivered the crux of his message:
How I wish our local leaders could see us LDS singles as God sees us! Too often no one mourns with us when we mourn or comforts us when we need comforting. It’s easy to say they do that because they’re so focused on family. As true as that may be, I think a larger reason for their inactivity in our lives is they simply don’t see us as God sees us.
Seeing as God sees
Too many leaders reduce singles committees to activity planning groups. They think all they need to do is provide a fireside, a dance, a conference, or some other activity. Then they can rest easy, having “done their duty.”
As wonderful as many of these activities are, not a single one helped me when my cat died, or when I needed a job, or when my girlfriend broke up with me. When the storms of life came to me, I needed support. I needed others to reach out to me and put their arm around me and help me to keep walking. Who was there for me? Not my ward or stake leaders. And neither were any of their agents.
My experiences in different parts of the country convince me that many other LDS singles have the same problem. And I think it’s because our local leaders see us more as numbers on a membership report rather than children of God trying to get back to the same heavenly home they are. And I think they see themselves more as activity sponsors than as ministers of the Good Shepherd to a beloved part of His flock.
Turning the tables
Pointing the finger of blame at others is really easy. But for every finger we point at others, there are three more pointed back at us.
So let’s turn this question around. What are we doing to see our leaders and other married friends in the Church as God sees them? Are we using the same lenses of compassion and concern we want them to use when viewing us? Our complaints about their failure to support us won’t go far if we aren’t supporting them.
Elder Renlund gives some good counsel in this regard. Said he,
I say we go one step further. We should pray that not only we ourselves be filled with this love but also our ward and stake leaders. We should plead with God to open their eyes to our situation and their hearts to our suffering. We should cry for heaven’s help in supporting them and call angels to incline our leaders in our direction. And we should plead with God every day for this.
The changes we want to see in our culture won’t happen unless we look within and change ourselves first. We have to start seeing our leaders as God sees them if we want them to see us as God sees us. And we LDS singles have to start seeing each other, our fellow LDS singles, as God sees all of us.
Only after we adopt that perspective will we see clearly the path we need to take to invite others to come together and live in Zion for real. I pray that we will all adopt this vision and continue to pray for the changes we need in ourselves so that the changes we need in others can come more readily.
We singles know better than most that life doesn’t always go the way you want it to go. I’m sure I could find a story about someone who’s been forced into a totally different life because an accident left him or her paralyzed from the neck down. And whoever tells it to me would probably be saying, “See, you don’t have it so bad. It could be worse!”
I’m not really interested in finding that story. I’ve got plenty of that story in my own life because I’m a single adult. What LDS single hasn’t experienced severe discouragement at being forced into an unanticipated life because of how others used their agency? That’s true regardless of if you’ve never been married, are divorced, or are widowed.
It’s extremely easy to focus on how others used their agency when considering the life you have now. But that focus doesn’t improve the life you have now. That’s because it can’t. To do so would defy natural law.
Your focus always becomes your reality. Focusing on how others used their agency to your disadvantage will make you feel disadvantaged. You’ll see yourself as a victim. That perspective robs you of the power you have to turn your life around.
Yes, you can turn your life around. I don’t care what has happened to you. How do you do it? By practicing the ABC’s of owning your life.
It starts with attitude
Everything in life starts with attitude, so of course owning your life starts here. Attitude is the guide that channels your focus, and your focus becomes your reality. That means your attitude becomes your reality.
You always have a choice regarding your attitude. That means by choosing your attitude, you also choose your reality.
Owning your life then means what I’ve always said it means — taking responsibility for how your life has resulted. When you realize that power of agency in creating your best life, taking responsibility for how your life has resulted becomes much easier.
God loves you so immensely He gave you a mortal existence to help you achieve your potential. That means blessings and tender mercies inundate the path of your journey. Those two ideas together mean God loves you so much He has blessings for you beyond your wildest imagination!
When you approach life with an attitude of faith, you’ll see a lot more sunshine than rain cloud. The world is your oyster. Go get your pearls!
It continues with balance
Of course, owning your life doesn’t mean going overboard with a positive attitude. Owning your life encourages a balanced approach to living.
When you own your life, you take responsibility for how your life has resulted. If you’re responsible for your life, then you don’t really care how others use their agency. You care only for how you use yours. After all, others aren’t responsible. You are.
As I’ve discussed previously, the road to marriage is not causal but correlative. The agency of another person is involved. All you can do is influence the outcome you want. You influence best when you embrace a balanced approach.
Who’s really more attractive? The people so focused on marriage they seem to be about that and nothing else? Or the people approaching life with balance and thus aren’t focused obsessively on any one thing? That right there says it all.
It solidifies with caring
All the attitude and balance in the world won’t make much difference, though, if you don’t care about what you do. Caring joins attitude and balance together. You’ll won’t want to own your life if you don’t care about what you do.
Conversely, when you own your life, you care about what you do. And that broadcasts to other people that your life is real. Real life is always more attractive because everybody hungers for real. Real is something worth caring about and hence worth joining. Real life is also more joyful than the alternative life on autopilot. And that joy helps you to maintain the attitude and balance necessary to own your life.
If your life isn’t what you want it to be, then have a care and own your life. Start making changes in your attitude, your balance, and your caring. You’ll be much more attractive to the companion you hope to bring into your life, and you’ll enjoy your journey much more regardless of when that companion enters your life.
Last week I discussed our need as LDS singles to make conscious choices to nourish ourselves. We need to fortify ourselves against the storms of life that will surely beat upon us — and not because we’re single (although being single in a family-centered culture is its own special trial) but because we’re eternal beings having a mortal experience.
I discussed in some detail the four aspects of ourselves (the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body) requiring nourishment. For some reason, the idea of nourishing our heart through family history work impresses me particularly. Maybe it’s just the idea I should be nourishing my heart this way.
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I need to do more in that area. That’s pretty easy to say about anything, though, true as it may be.
Maybe it’s because this time of year I normally have a trip with my dad. That annual tradition we started not that long ago petered out this year. That meant we didn’t get to spend the quality time together we anticipated.
Maybe it’s because RootsTech 2016 just took place last week, and I didn’t get to go. Missing that annual jaunt to the hive nest of Mormondom wouldn’t be so disappointing if it weren’t for what I would be missing with it. Attending the largest family history conference in the world fills the air with a certain excitement. And the presentations in the past have been outstanding. One of them gave birth to Joy In The Journey Radio.
Seeking quality time
RootsTech has traditionally offered a wide spread of session offerings to cater to many family-history-related interests, providing my father and I with some quality father-son time. We have some overlapping interests but many diverse interests.
So we would share our lists of the sessions we wanted to attend. Often only one of us would attend a session interesting us both in order to allow the other to attend another session. We would then swap notes later in the evening while partaking of the downtown Salt Lake dining scene.
That’s part of the excitement I missed this year. I’ve always believed that family history, a work done for families, should be done by families. Attending RootsTech with my dad and engaging in discussions resulting from the presentations we each saw made being a part of that work more alive to me. And just having that time with my dad made it all the more special.
Missing the tradition
RootsTech 2016 happened, but not for my dad and I. We ended up not going this year. Looking at the offerings, I didn’t feel any special pull to attend the sessions. Many of their offerings seemed pared down in comparison with past years.
I also knew my mother (who no longer drives) would be more likely to let my dad go if I were to stay home with her in case she needed anything. So I volunteered to stay home. It was just as well because I had tons of work I ended up taking vacation in order to complete.
But the final word from my mother didn’t allow my father to go out of town and leave her. So my dad didn’t get to go either. I thought perhaps we might watch some of the sessions online. RootsTech broadcasts parts of the conference via live streaming on their website. I didn’t get to watch anything, though, as I had too much work calling my name.
Following the promptings
Replaying these memories, I realize what’s working inside of me. Partly it’s a longing for the anticipated yet absent quality time with my dad. I need to make some arrangements to do something else with my dad to compensate.
But it’s also the spirit of Elijah. For some reason, I need to increase my participation in this work. The Lord has promised added protective power to those who participate in this work, and perhaps this is why I’m prompted in this direction. It could very well be something else. I don’t know. And I don’t have to know to follow the promptings.
Family history work is for everyone. We LDS singles should be a part of this work. However the Spirit prompts you to participate, follow those promptings. The Lord is trying to bless us, and as we follow the promptings He provides, we can have joy in our journey regardless of our circumstances.
This week I’m taking vacation so I can work. Work is piling up at my job, I’m neglecting activities needed for my own businesses, and even things in my personal life are slipping.
I need some space to unearth myself. And my solution for getting it is taking a break from my usual commitments, clearing out the clutter, resetting my priorities, and starting anew.
We all have times like this. Many marrieds in the Church think we singles have so much time on our hands because we don’t have families of our own. That’s obviously not true for single parents. They have constant double duty. But the lives of LDS singles who don’t have children can be just as busy, as my recent experience testifies.
Last week I extolled our need to live in the moment to get all of the joy out of life. I did so with the full understanding that sometimes life happens, making it difficult to live in the moment. With so many good things pulling us in different directions, it’s easy to get swept away in the cares of right now. How can you have the presence of mind to live in the moment?
Make a space
I heard a speaker in sacrament meeting give a great answer to that question. She described the challenges of being a young mother who needed to attend to her children while also being able to engage regular scripture study. Obviously young children require a great deal of attention, so how do you find that balance?
Her answer was to arise early enough before her little ones awake so she can focus on immersing herself in the scriptures before they cry for attention. In other words, she made a space in which she could live consciously without other interests tugging on her.
Sometimes living with intent is hard. It’s really easy to allow the concerns of right now to sweep us away. And sometimes those concerns yell so loudly and incessantly it’s hard to find any joy in the moment.
Yet we can’t get so busy with the everyday that we don’t fill our souls. We can’t stay happy in the moment unless we stop long enough for the Lord to feed us. And that requires us to make conscious choices to be fed and nourished.
It's about the journey
forward . . . That’s how winning is done!” Living fully isn’t about reaching an ideal. It’s about struggling to reach that ideal. It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.
Sometimes moving forward means standing still. When life seems to crowd in around us, we need to choose consciously to stop and clear the space we need to nourish ourselves. And every aspect of us needs nourishment.
Our most important aspect to nourish is the spirit. Regular prayer and scripture study can work wonders. But we need to clear sufficient space and be conscious in our approach for them to be most effective. Just going through the motions won’t feed our souls.
Likewise we need to nourish the heart. Quality time with family and friends as well as engaging regular opportunities for service make life meaningful and enjoyable. Again, going through the motions won’t nourish us.
We also need to nourish the mind. Reading good books rounds our character and encourages us to emulate virtue. So can worthy cultural events. But in order to reap the benefit, we need to clear the space they need to exist.
And we can’t forget to nourish the body. This means embracing healthy eating habits and regular exercise. But it also means having healthy financial habits and improving the skills needed for our career.
Of course, how you choose to nourish yourself is your choice. Just make sure your choice is yours. Do what you do not because of how it will look to others but because of how it looks to you.
Make the time to fill your soul. Life will always try to knock you down, but you can better weather the storm with the inner strength that comes from nourishing all the aspects of yourself.
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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