Last week I extolled gratitude for the good in our lives despite the life storms howling about us. This experience dovetails nicely with my recent scripture study.
When King Benjamin assembled the people for his final address, they came offering sacrifice to obey the Law of Moses but also to offer thanks (Mosiah 2:3-4). Verse 4 ends with “that they might rejoice.” When the storms of life come beating down our door, we naturally don’t feel like rejoicing. I have to believe these people had problems too, so what gave them hope to rejoice? King Benjamin had taught them to keep the commandments. And that’s where we can find reason to rejoice, too.
We all know what makes an active Latter-day Saint. Plenty keep that standard and are quite miserable. You can find them in many meetinghouses every Sunday. Clearly, happiness must be more than just keeping the standards.
And it is. Happiness comes by giving your all to the right things and not just doing the right things. When we truly keep the commandments, that’s exactly what we’ll do. And the longer I live, the more right I believe that to be.
Happiness means more
Of course, keeping the standards is one of those right things to which we should give our all. It’s just not the only thing. What lack we yet if we keep the standards and happiness still eludes us?
We need to align our thinking with true principles. Just keeping the standards won’t do that for us because our brains are naturally hardwired to follow the instructions encoded in habit. Without conscious choice, we’ll simply go with the flow wherever life takes us. We’ll live each day just playing out our habits. And life on autopilot isn’t much of a life.
How many of us LDS singles have lives like that? Do you go to activities and conferences and the like over and over again feeling like you’re not making any real progress? If all you do is go through the motions, of course happiness eludes you. That sort of life never can bring happiness.
Faith means more
That’s where aligning your thinking with true principles comes into play. When you replace negative self-talk with more positive messages that encourage faith in Christ, you’ll start creating on the inside the reality you want to live on the outside. And when you partner with Christ in that effort, He’ll help make that reality more wonderful than you ever could on your own.
Faith in Christ means more than believing He died for your sins. Faith in Christ also means believing He loves you so much He eagerly seeks opportunities to provide you with your righteous blessings.
I’ve wasted years of my life in negative self-talk that trained me to disbelieve in the Lord’s promises to me. All that time He truly wanted me to have the blessings I claimed to want. But I could never claim them because the misalignment in my thinking encouraged others to use their agency against me.
Instead of using those experiences to learn and grow, I found fodder for more negative self-talk. I saw only “proof” I was too imperfect to have my righteous blessings. I developed this habit through my own choices. And for years that habit held me back from the joy I might have had all along.
You can rejoice more
Since aligning my thinking with true principles, I see my life in a whole new light, and it feels so much better. I know the Lord loves me and wants me to enjoy my righteous blessings. And He wants to bless me now, not years from now or in the next life. He’s been trying to give me those blessings for years precisely because He loves me. His love for me is part of who He is. That doesn’t change or diminish with time.
Christ’s power can help us overcome any obstacle, any hardship, any setback, and any pain. When you truly begin to believe the Lord wants to bless you now, you stop focusing on why you aren’t deserving and start looking for the ways your blessings might come. And when you partner with the Lord in embracing a personal ministry, you start finding more and more of those opportunities crossing your path.
We all have great reason to rejoice, even amidst the storms that howl about us. Christ’s disciples anciently called out, “Master, the tempest is raging,” and He silenced the storm. The winds and waves still obey Him. Reach out to Him, partner with Him, and start giving your all to all the right things for you. Your life won’t be perfect overnight, but you’ll bask more in the joy God wants you to have in your journey there.
My life right now is hectic. I’m teaching a summer physics class that’s working me to the bone.
A colleague gave me two sets of lecture slides, but they won’t do. They contain no student activities or in-class demonstrations. Using them means talking for all of each 3-hour class session. That would be an easy way out, but my throat wouldn’t appreciate it, and neither would my students.
But wait! There’s more. The textbook goes all over the map, attempting to cover more content than really feasible, especially for a summer class. So I must discard everything not truly essential and arrange the material so my students can learn better in the shortened time frame. So I really have to make my own slides.
All that affects the labs. Because my lectures don’t mirror the textbook, I’m using only those labs directly related to my lectures. That leaves some blanks in the schedule, so I’m developing some lab activities to fill in the blanks.
And then there’s the homework. The online product the school purchases to manage that is atrocious. Because I’m redoing the lectures, I have to filter the homework questions that product provides, removing all the ones not related to my lectures. Then I must create my own questions to replace what I removed. But the online product has removed questions I created and replaced them with questions I removed! That means more work for me.
In essence, I’m creating a summer class while teaching it. And it’s extremely taxing on me in every way.
Amazingly blessed in trial
Add that to the severe life storms I’m weathering right now, and you get a hard row to hoe. But the Lord hasn’t forgotten me. His recent tender mercies have helped to lift my burdens, though I still have them.
I heard the sweet whisperings of the Spirit recently as I was proceeding to the lab to work on developing a couple of lab exercises. And I felt extremely blessed.
Sure, working my fanny off really wears me down. But when I’m in class or lab with the students, I’m so alive. Compared with my past jobs, I know teaching college is the right job for me. I’m not making anywhere near what I made in industry, but I’m exponentially more happy. And it was the Lord who brought me to my current job. I am so amazingly blessed.
As I walked to the physics lab, I also realized I have a key to that lab. Let me say that again. I have a key to a physics lab. Translation: I, an incurable enginerd, have unrestricted access to an engineer’s playground. I can go whenever I want and assemble whatever equipment to perform whatever experiment I want. I could never do that in industry. I really am so amazingly blessed.
The sweet whisperings of the Comforter brought me those realizations. Even with all the burdens of the life storms I’m weathering right now weighing me down, the Spirit brought to me feelings of sincere gratitude for some things that are actually going really good in my life. I’m so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Guided in gratitude
Our focus really does determine our reality. If we LDS singles immerse ourselves in a dim view of the future and constant self-talk “proving” why we aren’t worthy of anything glorious, then how could we be filled with any sense of hope? How could we not be anything but depressed?
I’m so grateful the Lord guided me on the path leading to my blog and now my radio program. It’s certainly been a bumpy ride, but I’ve learned so much about myself, about life, and about the many opportunities and tender mercies the Lord provides to all of us each and every day. We LDS singles have every reason to be optimistic and hopeful.
Indeed, though the storms of life batter us about, we can still seek out the good. In that regard, we can follow Nephi’s example:
And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea. And after we had been driven back upon the waters for the space of four days, my brethren began to see that the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent of their iniquities; wherefore, they came unto me, and loosed the bands which were upon my wrists, and behold they had swollen exceedingly; and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof.
When we look to the Lord in gratitude for the many good things surrounding us every day despite the extremities of the storms which howl around us, He will lift us. He will inspire us. He will show us our path. He will give courage to take the next step. And in His time, He will calm the storms around us, just as He did for Nephi.
Look to the Lord in gratitude. He will open your eyes to see His bounteous tender mercies which surround you every day. And He will help you to feel the truth that there is always hope because there is always Christ.
With Father’s Day looming, my mind has turned towards this yearly reminder of my single status. Just this past month during Mother’s Day, another traditional reminder of single status, I remember feeling more okay than I have in past years. I also remember my Mother’s Day monologue. I extolled our need to expand our definition of motherhood to include more than having your own child.
I’ve been thinking about applying that broader perspective to fatherhood. Initially, it doesn’t seem to fit as well. I’m not really sure why. It just seems that, for me to be a father, I need to have my own child. And that’s really not the way it should be.
Maybe I’ve just been single too long. Intellectually, I see the broader perspective towards motherhood should apply also to fatherhood. It’s just connecting with that perspective emotionally that gives me trouble.
A tale of two callings
Very soon after returning from my mission, I was called to teach Primary. These were days before Church policy insisted that two adults be with the children. The thought of handling a bunch of 8-9-year-olds alone intimidated me. Nonetheless, I accepted the calling.
I recall one particularly rambunctious boy. I did my best to corral him, but I often felt like I did nothing more than babysit.
Then one day, the boy’s father thanked me. He told me he didn’t know what I was doing, but every week on the way home after church his boy just had to tell everyone what he was learning in Primary. I was reaching him in a way the father wasn’t.
I didn’t know what to say. I certainly didn’t know what I was doing to elicit that effect. But it felt gratifying knowing I really was doing something meaningful.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I was called again to Primary, this time to assist with the 11-year-old Scouts. At the time I was running my own tutoring business, so assisting during weekly Scout meetings meant sacrificing prime opportunity for earning income. Nonetheless, I accepted the calling.
I soon learned the other leaders had their own agenda that didn’t involve my help. Week after week, I attended meetings only to sit and do nothing. Eventually, I grew tired of sacrificing my opportunity to earn needed income. I declined continued service.
Reflecting on my previous experience, I didn’t think I’d done anything meaningful when I had. Could that also be the case here? Perhaps. But I’ll never know it. With the earlier calling, I have evidence of my positive contribution. With this later one, I have no evidence. No evidence doesn’t mean I didn’t make a difference. No evidence simply means I can’t make a fair judgement on that question.
What do these experiences mean for the question at hand? Can I make an emotional connection with a broader definition of fatherhood?
That seems to require more positive experiences like the one I had with that earlier calling. I struggle with the emotional connection because I don’t have enough experiences to connect me emotionally with others for whom I could be a father figure.
Of course, the remedy to that is simple. I need to get more positive experiences! And God is already helping with that. He led me to my current job teaching college classes. Could I not be a father figure for my students? Could I not contribute positively to their lives in a manner similar to a father? I know it’s not the same, but couldn’t it still count for something?
When holidays remind us of our single status, we LDS singles know what we’re going to encounter at church — an extra helping of the usual message “You’re not like us marrieds!” That’s one of the big reasons why many LDS singles stay home from church on days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Been there, done that, so I understand. But I’m going to church this Father’s Day. I won’t get more positive experiences by staying home. I need to be where opportunity is if I want to increase my probability of capturing it. And it’s not inside the four walls where I sleep at night.
There is always hope because there is always Christ. He has provided us all opportunities to contribute positively to others. What will your contribution be?
Of course we should always seek to live gospel ideals. But we don’t need to have children to be fathers and mothers. We just need to exercise those virtues in contributing positively to others.
And whatever your contribution, give it your all. You’ll have greater access to the true happiness that comes more from giving than from having. And that makes the journey home all the more joyful.
Last week I discussed a June 2016 Ensign article entitled “Taking the Bus to Kolob” in which author John Barney describes his road to marriage at age 43. I also mentioned the wealth of discussion topics for singles in this one article.
Last week I focused on how John’s thinking helped keep him single. This week I focus on another aspect of John’s article: the Proclamation on the Family.
Like John did initially, many LDS singles tune out when they hear mention of the Proclamation. They think it doesn’t apply to them. After all, the Proclamation is about something singles by definition don’t have, right?
Not really. This prophetic declaration applies greatly to LDS singles. But you need eyes to see before you can see.
Learning to see
I decided long ago I wasn’t going to let my single status prevent me from living as much of the gospel as I could. That’s how FHE became Family History Evening. When I approached the Proclamation on the Family with that attitude, my appreciation for this wonderful revelation increased substantially.
Let’s start with my favorite part, a sentence towards the very end of the document.
Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.
Certainly being single qualifies as “other circumstances.” So what individual adaptation can I make? I started reading with new eyes.
The beginning of the proclamation very clearly declares God loves me.
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.
Not only am I loved, my existence has purpose. I’m destined for greatness because God has decreed it. And I fail only when I quit. So long as I keep trying, the full measure of my eternal potential will always be within my reach.
The next paragraph takes those ideas one step farther.
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.
My ultimate destiny is to live God’s life. This mortal existence is a step towards preparing me to achieve that potential. The experience I gain here — including the crazy roller coaster ride called LDS singles life — is preparing me for that glorious future.
This was the plan from the start — not necessarily that I’d be single for 20+ years but that I’d gain experience in mortality. This is God’s plan for all His children.
Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
We tend to focus on that last part. No surprise there, given our family-centered culture.
Yet the Proclamation says the temple makes two things possible. The first is that the temple helps “individuals return to the presence of God.” I may not be married, but I have made covenants in the temple. If I stay true to those covenants, I will one day return to my Heavenly Father. And He will be so happy to see me.
This is what the temple itself teaches. Once I pass through the veil and enter the celestial room, I’ve arrived. I’m in the room representing the place where God dwells. There’s no special anteroom where only the marrieds go. We really are on the same journey, and we really are in this together.
Coming together through family
I’ve just brushed the tip of the iceberg. There’s more in this document — much more — but I’m leaving you to find it. So often LDS singles view this document as divisive because they think it doesn’t apply to them. And quite frankly, many marrieds take the same view.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. John eventually realized “what a dumb thing” that was to think. Hopefully all of us have that realization, if we haven’t had it already. As we seriously search and ponder the Proclamation on the Family, we all — singles and marrieds — will begin to see how this document unifies us in the faith.
My circumstances might prevent me from living some parts of the gospel. Clearly, as a single adult, many aspects of married life are not mine to enjoy right now. But I’m not going to allow my circumstances to prevent me from living the rest of the gospel, the parts I can live today. Looking at the Proclamation on the Family through the lens of what I can do provides perspective that encourages faith and optimism.
The Proclamation on the Family really is for everyone. May we all begin to see the unity proclaimed in this revelation so that we all, singles and marrieds, can come together, be one, and get busy building Zion for real.
The June 2016 Ensign contains a fascinating article entitled “Taking the Bus to Kolob.” In it, the author John Barney relates his experience of finding his eternal companion at age 42. If you haven’t read it yet, you really need to do that. I’ll wait right here until you get back.
John’s article is great on so many levels. There’s so much I can discuss in depth — maybe two months worth of programs in this one article. I hardly know where to begin.
First: My Heavenly Father loves me. I can’t deny there were times during my lonely sojourn that I felt some bitterness toward God. I felt that I must have missed my opportunity to have a family due to some sin on my part, or maybe just because I was too shy at the wrong moment. It frustrated me to think there might have been some point along the way that the person I was to marry was there, but for lack of being able to hear the whisperings of the Spirit, I missed her because I was somewhere between sin and repentance. I tried not to believe this was the case, but those unhealthy and unholy thoughts would sometimes creep into my mind and lead to self-pity.
Did you catch that big clue in the third sentence? “... I must have missed my opportunity....” And just as revealing is the next clue in the next sentence: “... there might have been some point along the way that the person I was to marry was there, but for lack of [perfection in me], I missed her....”
My opportunity. The person. I blew my one real chance of having the one match for me because I’m just not good enough.
How many of us LDS singles think this way? The author points out how “unhealthy and unholy” these thoughts are. Now I want to point out how that thinking perpetuates singleness.
Start believing truth
There’s not just one opportunity for you to secure the blessings God eagerly wants to give you. God loves you so much He sent His Only Begotten Son to die for you. Love that strong, and you get only one real chance at happiness? Please!
And then there’s the whole one-and-only-one-person-you’re-meant-to-be-with idea. Sounds a lot like a soulmate to me, something President Kimball denounced as fiction. There’s actually a group of individuals each of whom could make an excellent companion for you. You just need to make the right agreements with someone in that group.
God loves you and me so much He eagerly provides multiple opportunities for us to secure our righteous blessings. If Plan A fails, He goes right to work on Plan B. If Plan B fails, He starts Plan C. And down the alphabet He goes.
But that’s not all. Because there are multiple people who could make excellent partners for you, there are multiple opportunities for you to secure your eternal blessings. So stop believing your ship has sailed. Start believing another ship will make port in your harbor and look forward to that opportunity so you can seize it!
Don't look back
Only when John “really and truly gave up” did he situate himself for success. That’s because in “giving up” he let go of all the thinking holding him back. He was now ready to receive what God always wanted Him to have.
Notice in that earlier quoted paragraph how much the author was looking backwards. “I must have missed my opportunity . . . some sin on my part . . . I was too shy . . . wrong moment . . . there might have been some point . . . for lack of being able . . . I missed her.” No wonder John felt self-pity and bitterness. There’s no way he could move forward while he kept looking back.
You can’t drive a car very well if you’re in reverse and constantly looking in the rear view mirror. Your life won’t progress very well either with that approach. Only when you accept the past for whatever it is and face forward will you begin to move forward.
That’s what “giving up” did for John. It turned his focus away from the past, and that positioned him for the next opportunity God created for him. How did John get to be friends with his future wife’s sister in the first place? And who brought that snowstorm? Don’t tell me God didn’t have a hand in creating opportunity.
Align with truth
I don’t care who you are or what you’ve been through. You have every reason for hope in a bright and glorious future in this life. And you have every reason to be optimistic about that future. You can focus less on the failures of the past when you believe in that bright future and focus on it. After all, your focus determines your reality. And you must believe before you receive.
God loves you. He loves you so much He’s constantly working on the next opportunity that can deliver you your righteous blessings. He’s even providing many tender mercies for you in the interim. So get your head screwed on straight. Align your thinking with truth so you can see that opportunity when it comes and seize the blessings God wants you to have today.
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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