Change is gonna come
That said, my experience still excites me because it gives me great hope the culture of the larger Latter-day Saint community will soon eliminate what has traditionally provided the greatest challenge in LDS singles life. Just as we know rain will fall when we see storm clouds gather, we can see the cultural signs around us indicating a change is gonna come.
How it’s been
I’ve long spoken on this platform about the challenges LDS singles have traditionally faced. For those who may be new to the audience, the bulk of those challenges stem from our family-centered culture.
Traditionally, LDS culture has centered on family. That means the marker of belonging to that culture is being married with kids, because that’s what having a family has traditionally meant. Because everyone has a deeply seated need to belong to a larger group, LDS singles have struggled to belong when the marker of belonging is something they by definition don’t have.
That’s why for years I’ve called for a change in the culture to one centered on Christ. The marker of belonging in that culture would be discipleship. Such a culture would both support the family while being inclusive of those who are different. No matter your background or your situation, you can work to make and keep sacred covenants that everyone else in the LDS community makes. You can be a disciple. You can belong.
A new hope
I kept affirming my message of cultural change despite the appearance of little if any move in that direction. But that all changed in 2018. That’s when I saw my first glimmer of hope.
That’s because that’s when the Brethren unveiled the ministering initiative. My heart jumped for joy while I physically jumped on my couch at hearing the announcement. I saw then a shift in perspective to see inquiring after the needs of others not as a duty, which is what home and visiting teaching had largely become, but as an opportunity to build the kingdom and grow in discipleship.
That’s exactly in line with the vision I’ve always proposed for the most successful singles groups. They focus on bringing everyone together and making everyone feel they belong. They know it doesn’t matter what people’s background or circumstances are, and they proclaim that knowledge in the way they act and treat others.
Seeing this shift announced in General Conference brought me a new hope that the change I had been talking about for years could be on the edge of unfolding into reality.
The future’s bright
That’s why I was so excited when I saw what appeared at the time to be a change in the home page of the Church website. The layout and content were all focused on Christ as the center. And they combined together to create a unequivocal message of belonging no matter your background or circumstances.
I’ve always believed our Church leaders on the global level have been aware of the singles. Many of the failings LDS singles have cited have root in local leaders who either haven’t understood how to minister effectively to singles or have been so busy with other priorities that ministering to singles simply didn’t happen.
But all of that will be history. Change is gonna come! We can look forward to the future with hope and optimism in a brighter and better day. Our Lord truly knows us and our circumstances. He’ll inspire His disciples to move in a more positive direction while at the same time exercising the compassion of patience in respecting their agency to implement those changes.
Let us also exercise the compassion of patience in respecting the agency of our leaders, both global and local, while also helping them to improve in their ministering efforts towards us and other LDS singles. As we do, we’ll make the ground more fertile for the changes that will come. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Eyes to see
That’s why it didn’t take me long to identify “Eyes to See” by Michelle D. Craig as the Conference address to use for the program today. In her remarks, Sister Craig spoke of the need we all have both to see others deeply and to be seen deeply by others. And that’s possible for you when you acquire eyes to see.
Stop doing what you shouldn’t
I’ve long spoken about self-talk. We all give messages to ourselves every day out of habit. For most of us, at least 80% of those messages are negative. A constant barrage of negative messaging can hold anyone back from fully living the joy to be had in life.
The cure for that, of course, is embracing habits of positive self-talk. But you’ll find that next to impossible without first deeply seeing yourself the way God sees you. If you see yourself in any lesser light, it’ll be harder to accept your divine nature and heritage as a child of God. And you’ll feel awkward acting on what you don’t really believe.
That’s why I love how Sister Craig began her remarks with the story of Elisha’s servant seeing a threatening army surround him and his master. But the servant set aside his fears when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of his master’s words: “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Sister Craig then declared,
If what you’re doing keeps you from living the joy surrounding you every single day, then the obvious first step to experiencing that joy is to remove the obstacle. Get out of your own way. Stop doing what you shouldn’t, and stop thinking in ways that lead you to do what you shouldn’t.
Start doing what you should
Of course, you can’t just stop the bad you think and do. We’re all biologically hardwired to operate out of habit. Our self-talk and most other thoughts and actions we play out of habit. Our habits feed us the instructions we follow to navigate everyday life.
But habits don’t change just because you stop executing bad instructions. Again, you’re biologically hardwired to have a habit, so when you encounter the trigger connected with that habit you stopped, your brain looks for a habit. Not finding one, it kicks in the default response, which is always to go back to the last habit you had.
That’s why you don’t just quit bad habits. You must replace them with better ones. So once you stop doing what you shouldn’t, start doing what you should. And you can begin by partnering with the Lord and allowing Him to show the way.
Sister Craig shared some beautiful stories of how people were blessed and uplifted when others stopped their normal routines, looked around them, and acted on promptings to go and do. She declared,
See the beauty all around you
When you replace less effective habits of thinking and doing with more effective ones, you position yourself to see and to receive the deep joy that really does surround you every single day. That joy comes when you give your all to your true identity and purpose. But you can’t do that if you don’t first see your true identity and purpose.
So start today to develop eyes to see. Stop thinking and doing what prevents you from seeing yourself and others as the children of God we all are. Start thinking and doing what opens your view to the marvelous truths of the restored gospel and the reality of the Savior’s marvelous Atonement.
With a clearer vision of your true reality, you can press forward with joy amidst any challenge. You can feel better about yourself because you’ll see yourself in the splendid potential for glory bequeathed to every child of God. You can feel better about life because you’ll see the beauty that really is all around you. You’ll see more clearly the Lord’s hand working in your life and the lives of others. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Pity the pity party
That story greatly resembles dating for many LDS singles. Try as they might nothing they do seems to work. And days like Singles Awareness Day (otherwise known as Valentine’s Day) only highlight the struggles many LDS singles experience daily. In such circumstances, it’s easy to surrender to despair and embrace the pity party. But if you pity anything, you should never pity yourself. Pity the pity party instead.
Recognize your choice
I can talk because I’ve been there. After being single for more than 25 years, I’ve walked the lonely road. I know the heartache when everything you do seems to end in pain. If anyone should have justification to throw a pity party, it should be me.
And yet I’m not throwing one. To the contrary, I’m very optimistic about the future and my future in particular. How can I be so positive amidst so much reason for despair? After all, I’m still single. Nothing has ever worked out for me. True, I’ve had wonderful moments with girlfriends over the years, but it’s all come to nothing but pain every single time. At my age, how can I expect my life will ever be different?
Quite simply, I believe my future is more the product of my choices than my past. I believe fundamental truths which the restored gospel of Jesus Christ teaches me. And my beliefs run more than just skin deep. They permeate the very fabric of my character to define who I am and what I intend to become.
Choose your focus
For example, I believe the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi when he said everything has its opposite (2 Nephi 2:11). Everything includes the obstacles in our dating lives. What’s the opposite of an obstacle if not an opportunity? Thus, with every obstacle comes an opportunity.
Then consider your focus determines your reality. Focusing on your obstacles creates an obstructed reality. You’ll feel unfairly held back and oppressed by circumstances outside your control. But focusing on the opportunity that must exist with every obstacle turns your reality around. You’ll feel liberated and empowered to pursue whatever passion fascinates your imagination.
Either way you’re not one jot more or less single than you were before. But how you feel inside about yourself, your life, and your future is as different as the bright day is from the dark night. I’ve experienced that difference in my own life. And I’ve seen countless others experience it in their lives as well.
Embrace your reality
Those who surrender to the pity party simply fail to see the opportunities and reasons for optimism and hope truly surrounding them. We should therefore pity them for their lack of understanding and perspective and not their circumstances. We all came to mortality to have hard experiences. Indeed, we wanted the challenge because we knew that was the only way we could grow in eternity.
If Singles Awareness Day has you feeling as burned and failing as my experimental churro crisps were, you don’t have to be that way forever, or even for one more single day. Every day, you choose your focus by what you choose to feed yourself. And your chosen focus then brings you your reality.
Don’t throw the pity party. Instead, pity the pity party. Take the truths of the restored gospel deep into your soul. Let the miracle the Savior can and wants to perform inside of you happen. You can embrace pure joy and happiness without being one iota less single.
Of course hard times will come, as they always will. That’s part of the plan. But when you seek out the opportunities instead of the obstacles, the Lord will open your eyes to what truly surrounds you every day. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
The problem with position
This woman says she disavows soul mates. But she also confesses both liking some of her current boyfriend’s traits and wishing he had other traits her former boyfriends have. She says she’s not being picky, but when you refuse to accept good enough I beg to differ. But how do you know when you have good enough?
In my view, this woman stands in her own way. She’s so focused on what her potential partner has today she doesn’t seem to consider what he’ll have tomorrow. How can you avoid confusion when you try to decide for tomorrow using only the indications of today? Here we see the problem with position.
If you marry someone today, you don’t get the person you marry today. The person you marry today is the one you get 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road. It’s not about position; it’s about direction.
I’ve seen this in all my friends who got married. Invariably it’s the same story. Each partner is positioned at different points along the spectrum, which can be for anything from money to children to work ethic to whatever. As the two partners live with each other, each exerts a force on the other pulling the other closer. Eventually, they both end up somewhere in the middle between their original positions.
The most satisfying marriages have each partner pulling the other in a desirable shared direction. When you and your partner want to go in different directions, tension will always be in the relationship. But when you align yourselves to go in the same direction, the energy that went into tension now goes into propelling each of you towards perfection together. Becoming better partners makes you better people.
That’s where I see this woman having her biggest problem. Her considerations don’t seem focused on direction. Her comparison of different boyfriends seems focused on position, like asking, “What can my partner offer me today?”
A focus on position is incredibly shortsighted. Your position today says nothing about your position tomorrow. You could have the best position today, but with a bad direction, tomorrow you’ll be worse off. Conversely, even if you’re in a very bad position today, with a good direction you’ll be in a good position tomorrow. Position means nothing. Direction means everything.
Yet most LDS singles assess dating partners almost universally on position. It’s like using the wrong tool for the job. Sure, you can fell a tree with a pocket knife, but it’d be much easier with a chain saw. Likewise, in making a decision that will affect your life tomorrow, you should consideration where your life will be tomorrow. Direction gives a far more accurate indication of that than does position.
Now I’m not advocating you ignore position. You can’t progress in your dating journey without an agreeable enough partner — that’s a fundamental principle of dating. Often that means your partner should bring something to the table today. Having nothing to offer just doesn’t make anyone agreeable to anybody.
That said, direction always has more importance than position. Yet in our instant gratification microwave world, we’re often not patient enough to assess a quality like direction that takes time to assess. The problem with position is one of patience.
Patience is then the ready solution. Get to know people. Stay in that dreaded “friend zone” with someone, because it’s more important you like rather than love your partner. Spend some more time getting to know more people in the casual dating stage. That experience will help you better assess the direction of each potential partner.
And so it goes for the rest of your dating journey. Prize direction over position by taking the time to assess direction. With that priority, you set yourself up for success because the person you get 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road after you marry will be more aligned with your own direction in life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
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 Internet radio show and podcast 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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