Over the years I’ve occasionally heard LDS singles complain that the Brethren don’t address singles and singles issues very often in Conference. I strongly disagree. True, they don’t always package their content with wrappings identifying their offerings “For Singles.” But if you dig a little deeper and really think about what’s being said, you can find many messages in every Conference that apply to singles.
Such are President Ballard’s remarks. By digging a little deeper, we can find messages that apply to singles. And they all center around the idea of giving control to the spirit over the body.
Remember God’s plan
President Ballard began by reminiscing over the previous year and his Conference address in October 2018 about the 100th anniversary of Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the spirit world.
Note that was October 1918. At that time, war on an unprecedented scale had ravaged the globe for the previous four years, resulting in tens of millions of deaths. And the Spanish flu pandemic was sweeping the globe, driving the death toll even higher. In fact, October 1918 was the deadliest month of the entire pandemic. It truly looked like the end of days.
That’s where President Smith’s vision of the spiritual world so beautifully provides hope. This same hope President Ballard expressed in his most recent Conference address. Our Heavenly Father has an eternal plan for His children — that’s all of us living here on this planet as well as everyone who ever lived or will live on it. That plan provides for reunion — that’s the word President Ballard used — uniting generations of family members together forever.
Treasure family now
What strength and comfort that hope provides! Though death is certain for all and death from COVID-19 is possible for many, God has prepared a way for us to be reunited with those we love most.
He has also provided opportunities for us to treasure those relationships before death. Spending more time sequestered at home provides more opportunities for families to strengthen those treasured relationships. And don’t think that doesn’t apply to singles without families of their own. The only thing stopping us from reaching out to family during this time is ourselves. President Ballard pleaded,
But there’s a caveat: We don’t get a family reunion just because we have love for them. God is as just and orderly as He is merciful and loving. He cannot deny justice when it has its claim (Alma 42:22-25). But President Ballard quotes President Gordon B. Hinckley who tells how we can claim the family reunion we’ll surely seek on the other side of the veil.
Marrying right means marriage for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. Living right is an entirely different matter. Whereas marrying right takes place within a single day, living right takes place every day over an entire lifetime. And while singles by definition haven’t married right (because they aren’t now married), singles can strive every day to live right.
How did President Ballard approach living right? He referenced a talk his grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, gave entitled “Struggle for the Soul.” In that talk, Elder Ballard addressed “the ongoing battle between our physical bodies and our physical spirits.” President Ballard then summarized his grandfather’s talk in one sentence: “The primary battle is between our divine and spiritual nature and the carnal natural man.”
How is that battle going for you? That’s the question President Ballard asked. And in considering how we each might answer that question, he provided some added perspective. He recognized our spirits have existed long before our physical bodies and that we’ve already made righteous choices before entering mortality — what President Ballard called “a proven track record of a successful spiritual nature and eternal destiny.”
He then shared these thoughts:
Living right is really about choosing the spirit over the body. And that’s a choice all of us — single or married — can make every day. We can also choose to strengthen treasured relationships now. And when we do, that will bring us more joy in our journey.
It’s hard not to be concerned about the growing pandemic, especially if one listens to the fearmongers who seem to swarm everywhere. But we need not live in fear. We can live by faith, not fear.
Resist the fear
When I first heard about COVID-19 spreading beyond China’s borders, I began wondering if perhaps this would be the pandemic public health officials have been warning for years would eventually come. As the situation escalated, very quickly everything changed.
Some seem intent on assessing blame, saying many will suffer for the insufficiencies of our initial response. Others clearly intend to use the situation to further their own agenda. I have zero interest in such efforts, since they don’t help anyone deal effectively with the current situation.
Neither will we deal effectively with the current situation if we succumb to Chicken Little Syndrome — surrendering to the fear spread by many that dark days have befallen us and prelude darker days directly ahead. Indeed, as the Lord foretold, “... and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them” (D&C 45:26).
Yet I defy every fearmonger by declaring we need not fear.
Promote the faith
How can I make such a bold declaration? How can I be confident now is not a time for fear when the “evidence” for fear appears all around us? Quite simply, I walk by faith.
And my faith is simple. I know God lives. I know He has a plan for His children, and that includes me. And I know He will keep all His promises and fulfill all His words.
That doesn’t mean we can get away with being stupid. If we ignore the counsel from competent public health officials, we risk infecting ourselves and those we love. We should follow sound instruction and then walk in faith all will be as it should.
Notice I said “as it should.” We don’t always know what “should” be in our lives. But God knows, and we can walk in that faith.
Walking by faith in the midst of fear doesn’t mean believing you won’t be infected because you have faith. But it does mean living with confidence God will not allow events to stray too far from His purposes. That may mean I won’t get ill. But it could also mean I will. After all, I don’t know all of God’s purposes for me.
I do know, however, that in either event I can have confidence God’s plan to bless me with whatever is best for me will unfold. And whatever happens, He will not abandon me. His tender mercies will always surround me.
Shine your light
That faith which fills me can fill you as well. We can all walk by faith, not fear. And the opportunities before us extend well beyond our own selves. Because we have the light of the restored gospel, we can shine our light to others. We can inspire them to walk by faith, not fear.
Can we see beyond ourselves to grasp the opportunity to share the light we have with all around us? We can if we walk by faith, not fear. I had just such a moment yesterday speaking with my landlord and his wife. She expressed a fear to go anywhere outside her house. I gently rebutted her comment with faith, saying if we take proper precautions to limit our exposure, we need not fret. You could feel the reassurance which my simple, gentle faith promoted.
Let us all walk by faith, not fear. Let us radiate faith, lighting the world around us with confidence that, come what may, God will see each of us to our best end. When we do, we can increase faith in the earth. We can expand the boundaries of hope. We can multiply love in the hearts of all people. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Now I’m struggling with page layout problems. What I thought was settled in my word processor apparently isn’t. And when that’s done, who knows what unforseen obstacle I will encounter next?
That said, I’m not discouraged. I know in the end I’ll succeed in publishing my book as well as many more in the future. I just need to keep looking for the next opportunity and then pounce on it.
That’s how anything worthwhile in life works. The world owes you nothing. No one will deliver the life you want on a silver platter. If you want something, you need to go get it.
That’s where most people falter, because going to get it means work, and most aren’t willing to work. After all, most already work just to pay the bills, so the last thing they want is more work. Thus, when the next opportunity to move closer to their dreams and goals appears, they opt instead to watch TV or surrender to social media or diverge into some other distraction.
Such distractions come to all of us. But those who heed their siren call soon find themselves off potential. They waste time they could have spent helping others and moving closer to their dreams and goals. And at the end of the day, their dreams are nothing but wishes.
But we can all choose differently. We can all choose to look for the opportunity to move closer to making our dreams reality. We can choose to exercise discipline and pursue that opportunity even when we’re tired or don’t feel like doing it. And at the end of the day, that choice allows us to rest our head on our pillow with satisfaction because we accomplished something. Even if it’s only something small, we accomplished something.
That gives me hope. I know an opportunity to near myself to the life I want will always come my way. And when it does, I know I can pounce on it and reap the satisfaction that can come only after action.
How do I know opportunity will always come? The Lord loves me and wants me to succeed. I can’t succeed without opportunity. And so the Lord will bless me with opportunity. And because He loves me, He’ll bless me generously with opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. But I have to do the work. So I look for the next opportunity and then pounce on it when I see it.
And I’m OK with doing the work. I own my life. I accept I’ll need to work hard and work smart to get my best life. And I embrace doing what I can to move even a little bit closer to my dreams and goals, because I know the closer I get to my dreams and goals, the sooner I’ll see them become reality.
That’s just as true for you. Every movement towards your dreams and goals, no matter how small, carries with it a momentum. So even small movements count a great deal.
This is, after all, how the Lord works. Small movements produce small momentum, true. But working that small momentum allows a slightly bigger movement, which carries its own slightly bigger momentum that allows an even slightly bigger movement and so on. Before you know it, you’re not just splashing a small street puddle; you’re roaring a tidal wave that totals the coastline!
So what tidal wave will you create? What dreams and goals will you approach? What opportunity will you pounce on today? No matter how large or small, take what steps you can today to move yourself closer to your dreams and goals. Then get up tomorrow and do it again. Then get up the next day and do it again. And keep doing that until you win. When you do, you’ll know the satisfaction of making your dreams reality. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We focus more on cardiovascular exercise when scientific studies galore have shown real weight loss correlates with diet and strength training exercise. Likewise, many of us focus on saving and cutting expenses when real financial improvement comes with increasing our earnings. We focus so much on one side of the financial equation that we miss the effect of the other side. And when you look at both sides, it’s not hard to see it’s bigger in than out.
Do the math
Let’s do a little math. Many people approach improving their finances by cutting costs. Let’s see how well that plays out with this example: Suppose your job pays $35,000/yr. You pay tithing and spend $22,000/yr to live after the state takes its portion.
You were eating out once a week at $10/meal, but now you’ll cut that back to once a month. So you’ll spend $120 for the year instead of $520, a savings of $400. And let’s say you secure a friend to give you the $20 haircut you get every three months. Now you’ve saved an extra $80. And you decide to wear more sweaters in the winter to cut back on your heating bill, saving you another $200.
So overall you’ve saved $1000 for the year. That sounds impressive. After all, most people don’t consider a full grand chump change. But that’s what it is when you consider the effect of increasing your income.
Let’s say you pursue one of the best ways to increase your income — get a new job. Your new gig pays $45,000/yr — a not uncommon increase. Without changing your lifestyle, you’re still spending $22,000/yr to live, but now after tithing and the state, you’ve got an extra $7250/yr. Still think that $1000 you had to scrimp to save isn’t chump change?
In this hypothetical but still very realistic scenario, cutting back gave you an extra 3% in spending power. But getting that new job gave you an extra 21%! The effect of increasing your income greatly outweighs the effect of saving.
Get your hustle on
Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t save for a rainy day. It does mean you shouldn’t rely solely on cutting back to improve your finances. The core of your approach should address what’s coming in, not what’s coming out.
And it’s easier than you think to get a better job. One class in the Church’s welfare program teaches people how to get a job if you’re unemployed or how to get a better job if you already have one. Many who’ve taken the class get results in less than 30 days. Think of it! If you’re willing to do the work, you could be earning significantly more by this time next month.
Transitioning to new employment isn’t the only way to bump your income significantly. Many people who don’t want to replace their current job augment it by engaging in side hustles. They trade time for money (consulting, editing, and yard work are examples) or build a business (like making jewelry or writing a book). Not everyone succeeds in starting their own business, but some people have quit their day job because they created a better one for themselves.
Pursue your options
You’ve got lots of options and lots of opportunity to pursue whichever you feel is best for you. The Lord wants all of us to have prosperity, because then it becomes easier to raise families, serve in the Church and our communities, and help other people. I truly believe your prosperity is an important element of your best life.
So consider your ways in approaching your own finances (Haggai 1:5-7) . By all means, save where you can. Just recognize your influence over your spending power is bigger in than out. What will you do to improve your income? Focusing your efforts there will bring you more and better success. 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 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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