Stake and ward leaders as well the singles themselves all play a part in ministering more effectively to LDS singles. However, some local leaders are unwilling to change their thinking about how best to minister to LDS singles. Exercising patience with reluctant leaders follows the path the Savior marked.
While it may take years to realize, positive change inevitably awaits all who pursue it with diligence and patience. That may not appear apparent while traversing the path. Not able to see the end from the beginning, we can easily lose heart.
Other realities of LDS singles life can provide a similar view. Unable to see the end we desire after years of trying, we can feel to give up on ourselves and our righteous desires.
In such moments, we would do well to remember the Psalmist’s words: “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalms 37:4).
The eternal plan
Our Heavenly Father sent each of us to mortality so we could have growth experiences we couldn’t otherwise have. He never accepted this plan grudgingly. He embraces it because He wants to bless us more than we could possibly imagine.
Not seeing the end from the beginning, we can easily forget that truth. But we wouldn’t need to walk by faith if we could see everything. Exercising trust in the Lord is part of the necessary process we need to grow according to His plan.
We can more easily trust in the Lord when we delight in Him. If a righteous activity feels more like drudgery than delight, that’s a sign we need to change ourselves. To receive the glorious end, we must stay on the right path.
But we also need to maintain the right perspective. We must believe in order to receive. That means acting in faith, nothing doubting, that our righteous desires for this life are possible, irrespective of our past experiences. That belief comes easier when we delight in the Lord.
The parable of the strawberry jam
The greatest blessings always come according to (1) the Lord’s timetable and (2) our diligence in doing the right things for us.
As a boy, I spent some summers on my grandmother’s farm. Her homemade strawberry jam on homemade bread was delightful. But to get that delight, the strawberries first had to grow in the garden. Then I had to do the right things with the berries — pick them, clean them, and combine them with the right ingredients in the right amounts. Any deviation diminished the joy I experienced when that slather of strawberry jam entered my mouth.
Our road to eternal blessings is very much like that road to homemade strawberry jam. We must allow natural processes to take their course. Sometimes we need to grow before we’re ready to receive what we want. Sometimes others need to grow. Other times, we need to wait for the right person to cross our path. In any event, we need patience while the Lord works to bring us the opportunities for our blessings.
Once the time is right, we must do the right things. You don’t get jam in the garden; you get jam in the jar after doing the right things with the berries. Likewise, righteous blessings will never be ours unless we do the right things with the timely opportunities the Lord provides for us. That means more than just keeping the standards. It means doing what’s needful to get what we want.
Nearness to Him
We can know what those right things are for us when we partner with the Lord. He can reveal to us what we need to do to move ourselves closer to righteous blessings. That relationship can also provide the strength needed to walk by faith. It all comes more easily when we delight ourselves in Him.
Nephi understood what it meant to delight in the Lord. He wanted to be not just in the Lord’s presence but so close he’d be encircled “in the robe of [His] righteousness” (2 Nephi 4:33). Could Nephi have gained the strength to set the example he did because he delighted in the Lord?
We have many opportunities to near ourselves to the Lord and delight more in Him. General Conference is just around the corner. Prayer, fasting, scripture study, and temple attendance all provide opportunities to near ourselves to the Lord and delight in Him when we approach the activity with the proper attitude.
In any event, the Spirit can help us understand what right actions are best for us today. When we heed that still, small voice, we’re bound to have more joy in our journey.
Continue in patience
Last week we discussed how LDS singles can maintain a positive focus in their lives. We included seeking ways to serve others, particularly our local leaders and other LDS singles.
We also emphasized one special way to help local leaders — educate them in how to minister more effectively to LDS singles. I wrote a book describing specific actions for ministering more effectively to LDS singles. Sharing this free book with local leaders can help bridge the gap between figurative night and day.
Yet many may still resist change. They may prefer the comfortable status quo, even though they can perform the specific actions outlined in my book in the course of what they’ll do anyway.
How do we reach such leaders? How do we help them to improve their thinking so the lives of LDS singles can improve? We follow the example of our Lord and Savior.
Christ confronted local leaders who refused to see the world differently. He always responded with a quiet yet confident patience that provided room for repentance.
The story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3-11) provides an excellent example. Intent on trapping Him, the scribes and Pharisees brought before the Lord an adulterous woman. At first He made no reply.
They pursued a response and got one: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Knowing their own sins, the accusers removed themselves. Christ affirmed the law while also allowing for mercy.
I don’t suggest confronting our leaders with their sins. Rather I’m suggesting we follow the Savior’s initial response. He wasn’t quick to state His judgement. In fact, He didn’t state anything at first. He simply allowed space for the conversation to change.
We LDS singles can exercise a similar patience. In encouraging our local leaders to embrace more effective ministering to singles, we can give pause. We can make a space that invites calm and compassion. And just as Christ returned to writing on the ground after responding, we can return to doing our part to minister more effectively while our local leaders take the time they need to come around.
The Savior again exemplified responding with patience when He healed a man with a withered hand (Matthew 12:9-13). The Pharisees, seeing both men in the synagogue, asked the Lord,“Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?” (Matthew 12:10), again with the intent to entrap Him.
Christ again responded perfectly, asking rhetorically whether they would rescue their sheep on the sabbath. Christ then continued, “How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (Matthew 12:12). He then acted on that reasoning by healing the withered hand.
We LDS singles can likewise reason with our local leaders. Afterwards, we should exemplify that reasoning with our actions. In this way, we follow the path of the Savior by extending mercy and compassion towards our leaders.
The Savior later taught this same principle to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Our local leaders can know our faithfulness is strong when we exercise patience while they take the time they need to come around.
Still, some local leaders might seem uninterested in change. Treating singles committees as nothing more than activity planning groups and otherwise letting singles fend for themselves may appear to satisfy them. Will such ever come around?
Again, the Savior provides the answer. In his parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), Christ tells the story of a young man who, fixed in his own approach to life, demanded his inheritance, which he then spent in riotous living. His inheritance depleted, he came to work feeding swine which ate better than he did.
Then the scripture records, “And when he came to himself, . . . he arose, and came to his father” (Luke 15:17, 20). Some people, including some local leaders, simply choose to learn only within the School of Hard Knocks. They won’t change until presented with the reality of their failure. The Law of the Harvest makes no exceptions. Their actions (or lack of them) have produced their results (or lack of them). In life, we all get according to what we do.
Such babes in sacrament meeting need our patience while they take the time they need to come around. That time may prove more difficult, but we can leverage such experiences to draw closer to our Lord and Savior. We can receive added strength to endure well. We can continue to pray for, fast for, and seek opportunities to serve our leaders. With diligence and patience in following the Master, we’ll see miracles happen. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Get anxiously engaged
For years LDS singles have snickered while reading D&C 58:27-28. After all, this is the famous scripture about “being engaged.” Given our family-centered LDS subculture, everyone gets the joke.
Like all jokes, there’s an element of truth here. Marriage is an important element of our Heavenly Father’s plan. Where the joke ends, though, is where the reality begins. Yes, LDS singles should be engaged to be married, or at least actively engaged in becoming so. But the power to do that is not entirely within them because the agency of others is involved. Dwelling on that reality fills many LDS singles with frustration.
Of course, D&C 58:27-28 is really about taking more action in promoting goodness within our spheres of influence. And that is within the power of every individual. Living our best life beckons us to dwell in this valley focused on what we can do and what we have instead of what we can’t do and what we don’t have.
Keeping that positive focus may prove challenging. Yet three areas of emphasis can help LDS singles to maintain that positive focus on bringing goodness into the world.
Engage a personal ministry
Adopting your own personal ministry is one of many themes this program has embraced. Find your own corner of God’s garden you can tend, and devote yourself towards nurturing blossoms from that ground.
By giving yourself to whatever noble cause is right for you, you align what you can do and what you have with an outward outlook. As you help others to tackle their problems, you will find increased strength and capacity to tackle your own.
And an unanticipated bonus may await. By focusing on the positive and bringing goodness into the world, LDS singles make themselves more attractive to a potential eternal companion. They may even meet said companion in the course of pursuing their personal ministry.
Regardless of whether or not that happens, life offers more joy for LDS singles when they embrace a personal ministry.
Engage your local leaders
LDS singles bring even more goodness into the world when they seek to serve their local leaders. As we discussed last week, local leaders will be more inclined to help LDS singles when those singles seek to help them.
LDS singles can especially help their local leaders by teaching them how to minister more effectively to LDS singles. Local leaders who minister more effectively can bless many lives. But that can’t happen if they don’t first understand exactly how to minister more effectively.
This is where we LDS singles can play an important role. We LDS singles can educate our leaders. It’s for that very reason I wrote a book on how to minister more effectively to LDS singles. This book shows everyone — stake leaders, ward leaders, and the singles themselves — what part they play in more effective ministering to singles.
Using this book to help our leaders is very simple. Download the book yourself and then give them a copy. Or send them a link which they can use to download their own copy.
And here’s the best part: The book is absolutely free. I never intended to profit from the book. I wrote it solely to improve life in our wards and stakes for singles. No price tag should guard the gate to that knowledge.
Engage other LDS singles
Of course, that book isn’t just for our local leaders. It’s also for us LDS singles. The support networks many LDS singles need will never exist unless we LDS singles improve our own attitudes and perspectives. That best happens when we engage each other in discussions and conversations that change minds, touch hearts, and transform lives.
Think of the goodness withheld from our world when we attend singles activities with the primary purpose of satisfying our own agenda. I’ve discussed previously the perils of the Dating Forum as well as the pitfalls of the Activity Club. We need the outward focus of the Support Network as we seek to follow the Savior.
We do that by helping other LDS singles change the way they see singles activities. We can also foster that change by inviting other LDS singles to join us whenever we recognize and take opportunities to help other LDS singles.
Whether by adopting a personal ministry, serving our local leaders, or supporting other singles, LDS singles have many options for improving their lives through improving the lives of others. Focusing on bringing goodness into the world, whatever the area of emphasis, ennobles us and strengthens us to withstand the challenges of our own lives. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Walk with them
I truly believe the global leaders of the Church care about singles. But somehow that doesn’t always translate down to the local level. Many LDS singles find themselves constantly ignored, or at best tolerated, in their wards and stakes.
Although ministering to singles can easily get lost in the bustle of everything vying for our leader’s time and attention, many local leaders simply don’t know how to minister effectively to singles. In an effort to help remedy that deficiency, lately I’ve been discussing how our leaders can minister more effectively to LDS singles, first at the stake level, and then at the ward level.
Last week I explored how singles can provide our local leaders with a great example by ministering to each other. After all, our local leaders will be more inclined to help us if we’re seen to be busy helping ourselves as much as possible.
While we LDS singles are about helping each other, what’s to say helping our leaders shouldn’t be a part of that effort? If our leaders will be more inclined to help us when they see us doing what we can to help ourselves, how much more inclined will they be to help us if they see us doing what we can to help them?
See what you need
I’ve discussed the great need of many singles to have someone to walk with them. I believe having someone to walk with us is the greatest unmet need we LDS singles as a collective community have.
Life is hard, but it’s even harder when you’re left to walk that journey alone. Our Heavenly Father instituted marriage in part to provide a measure of support. Spouses can help each other and ascend together towards their heavenly home. We singles have the same celestial destination but no spouse to support us. And when all effective ministering to us from all parties is lacking, that need for support is all the greater.
That’s why home teachers and visiting teachers play such a crucial role in ministering to singles. They’re best positioned to be that someone to walk with the singles under their charge. Visiting singles should never be to complete a perfunctory assignment. Rather the focus should point towards building a genuine supportive relationship with another human being. In essence, it’s being a real friend.
Give what you need
But the friendship street runs both ways. We singles can easily get absorbed in the focus of what we fail to have when the more important focus is often what we fail to give. Expecting a true friend to come into our lives when we ourselves aren’t being that true friend to others is an exercise in futility.
As with all human relationships, it’s the little things that often matter most. We should seek out the ways, small though they may be, that we can provide assistance to those around us. Others will more readily want to connect to someone who is helpful than someone who is insular.
As we singles do the little things that encourage others to build the relationships with us we need to support us in our journey through mortality, finding those who will be willing to do the heavy lifting when the time comes will be easier. That’s natural law — the Law of Restoration.
Alma explained very well this law:
If you want something to come into your life, then bring that same something into the lives of others. In life, you get what you give.
Get what you give
Obeying the Law of Restoration is very empowering. It places control for our lives into our hands. As we focus on doing what lies within our power, we open ourselves to the positive energy attending those who truly enjoy life.
Focusing on doing what lies within our power also encourages us to own our lives. You’ll never have the fullness of joy you can enjoy right now without taking responsibility for how your life has resulted. Only when you own your life do you open yourself to enjoying your present situation in life despite its myriad of imperfections. And it will always have imperfections.
If you’re one of many LDS singles who wish that those in your ward and stake would walk with you, then you need first to walk with them. Doing what lies in your power to send out what you want to receive will make receiving it more likely. It will help you to own your life. And it will bring you more joy in your journey.
Ministering by singles
Lately I’ve been discussing how our married friends in leadership can minister to LDS singles more effectively. It all started two weeks ago when I shared what stake leaders can do to minister to singles. Then last week I focused on what ward leaders can do and how home teachers and visiting teachers play a pivotal role in walking with singles.
Yet a focus exclusively outside of singles ignores a major component in ministering effectively to singles. We LDS singles can do much to support one another and lift ourselves to higher ground.
Yes, stake and ward leaders are busy people with enough commitments pulling them in different directions that singles can easily get forgotten. But I firmly believe another obstacle impedes our leaders from doing more to help LDS singles. They don’t see us doing much to help each other.
Seeing the separation
Honestly, who can blame them? If you don’t see people who need help doing what lies in their power to help themselves, how motivated will you be to help? It’s human nature to feel it easier to help those who are showing by their actions they’re doing what they can to help themselves.
Of course, our culture plays a role as well. For many years, singles have their own activities and often their own wards. These factors combined with marriage as a rite of passage within the culture encourage our married friends to think of singles as a group that doesn’t quite belong. It makes it very easy to think, “Well, you singles can do your thing over there, and if you ever get married, then you can join us in the main group over here.”
The end result is that many of our married friends in our wards and stakes see us more as time and energy saps than as the children of God we truly are. Understanding how to minister effectively to singles can help with that. Doing the little things that truly help singles doesn’t take much time or energy.
Seeing the situation
That perspective of seeing singles as a group apart from the main allows leaders to rationalize more easily a disengagement from the lives of singles. And who can blame them for having that perspective when we singles ourselves have disengaged from other singles’ lives?
I know there are exceptions, but the rule across the Church is that singles who attend activities aren’t there to support others but rather to seek out a personal agenda. They’re there to check out the dating scene or, for those who have tired of dating, to enjoy themselves.
I’ve spoken before about how the dating forum and the activity club each encourage us to focus inward when we should follow the Savior’s example and focus outward. Building a support network helps us to obtain and maintain that outward focus.
What if every LDS single who arrived at an activity was warmly welcomed? What would happen if all singles could feel loved and supported by their own? How much goodness would then result? And how much potential are we wasting by not reaching after that?
Seeing the solidarity
We LDS singles don’t have much moral authority for arguing that our leaders should support us if we aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities we ourselves have to help each other. We have activities to fill needs, not to fill a calendar, and to provide space for singles both to give and to receive support, not just to accomplish a personal agenda.
Yes, we want to find our eternal companion, and yes, we’ll always be looking and wondering if So-and-so we just met is that one. That’s human nature. The trick is not to allow that good agenda to crowd out the better or best agenda of building a community in which we all love and support each other.
When we congregate to support each other before seeking our own personal interests, we better follow the example of the Savior. We also better align ourselves with the true purpose of our journey in mortality — to learn how to become more like Him. How can we do that without seeing others the way He sees them and seeking to serve them the way He would serve them?
In the end, we get what we give. When we give first priority to fulfilling the needs of others, we set an ennobling example for others, including our married friends, to follow. When all of us — married and single — come together into a community of saints who care for each other regardless of status or situation, then many of our needs will be met just by being who we are. And that will bring more joy in our 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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