I’m thankful President Oaks publicly declared those ideas. I’m also thankful he focused on eternal principles throughout his remarks, especially the principle of moral agency. The Constitution certainly isn’t perfect, but it does support that society most free to exercise agency. Thus, we should all be defending our Constitution, despite its flaws and limitations.
Understand the threats to agency
President Oaks began his remarks by establishing his authority. A former clerk to the chief justice of the US Supreme Court, law professor, and justice on the Utah Supreme Court, he’s certainly more than amply qualified to have a platform.
But the qualification he listed last and “most important” intrigued me most. He’s been an Apostle of Jesus Christ for 37 years. As President Oaks described, that means he’s “responsible to study the meaning of the divinely inspired United States Constitution to the work of His restored Church.”
Here he segues into a discussion of moral agency. God inspired the Founding Fathers to assemble a system of government that would maximize the exercise of moral agency. And as we know, agency is key in our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan for His children. Defending the Constitution therefore promotes God’s plan of happiness.
President Oaks then mentioned some of the threats to the undergirding principles of the Constitution. Said he,
The threats to the Constitution, and by extension to our Heavenly Father’s plan, are very real and very much growing.
Learn and perform your duty
So can we do about it? What should we do to defend the Constitution? President Oaks provides some answers. I love how he starts by encouraging optimism, declaring “we should trust in the Lord and be positive about this nation’s future.”
Founded in faith and positive thinking, we should pray for leaders in all nations and then seek to exercise a righteous influence civilly, peacefully, and legally. Also, in these divisive times, “we should seek to moderate and unify.”
These days, everyone loves to talk about their rights and what they’re entitled to receive. But few speak of their duties and what they should give. It’s people performing their duties that make the rights of all available. That’s why I applaud President Oaks in listing three duties every good citizen has.
That power-packed list reveals more I need to do to support the Constitution. And I love how President Oaks reiterated King Benjamin’s counsel not to do everything at once (Mosiah 4:27). We all have different seasons in life, and the combination of actions appropriate in one season may not be appropriate in another.
Get busy doing your part
Let’s truly celebrate Independence Day by defending our Constitution. Perhaps the best place for you to start is where I’m starting — by reading and becoming more familiar with the actual document itself. Or perhaps you need to consider running for a position in an upcoming election. Or maybe you need to call or email an elected official about a current issue.
What you do today may not be what you do tomorrow, but we should always be doing something. The threats to the Constitution President Oaks described have grown precisely because far too many of us have been doing nothing in civic life. We’ve been busy focusing on our careers, our loved ones, and our own lives, and enough responsible people have been so absorbed in that busyness that we’ve allowed irresponsible people to hold office.
The Constitution has imperfections, but one thing it does right is give ultimate power to the people. Let’s celebrate the birth of our nation by learning about and then committing to safeguard that power. And the best way to safeguard it is to exercise it civilly, peacefully, and legally. When we persist in so doing, we can enjoy the fruits of freedom to exercise the moral agency essential to God’s plan and preserve that gift for the next generation. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Take God’s approach to the Creation, for example. He knew what He wanted, and He took action to make it happen. He didn’t sit around believing everything would somehow work out just because He was righteous. He took action that brought about what He wanted.
Likewise, you can sit around and pretend the blessings you want will come simply because you’re righteous. Or you can follow God’s example and take action to create your best life.
Own your life
I love how the Creation starts the scriptural record. That placement reinforces the metaphor that story is for creating your best life. And anyone can follow God’s example to do just that.
God didn’t simply start creating. He worked from a plan requiring action. In so doing, God took responsibility for producing desired results. And He remained resolute in executing that plan. How is simply staying on the covenant path hoping your blessings come “when the time is right” working from an action plan? That choice places responsibility for how your life results in God’s hands. That’s not the example God set.
To follow God’s example, own your life. Don’t push responsibility for the results in your life to anyone else. You take responsibility for your results in your life. Every result you want in life comes by obedience to its respective principle (D&C 130:20-21). Only action produces results. So get your action plan together and start taking action.
Include the right people
Many LDS singles stop here. They just don’t know the specific actions they need to take in order to produce the result they desire. It’s hard to have a plan when you don’t know what to put in the plan.
Again, let’s “look to God and live” (Alma 37:47). God had helpers during the Creation. He gave them His vision of what He wanted, and then He worked with them as they together performed the Creation. God didn’t work alone and didn’t force anyone to do what He wanted. Instead, He exercised His influence and respected agency.
You shouldn’t go it alone, either. Make sure you include the right people in your action plan who’ll help you achieve your results. Of course, the most important helper in your plan should be the Lord. When you partner with Him, He can help you make more out of your life than you can without Him.
And there’s others you should consider. Family, friends, and Church leaders can provide valuable support along your journey. Especially helpful is an advocate, someone who provides counsel, support, and accountability for specific actions. Some will trust their bishop or a ministering brother or sister with that role. Others might look to a sibling or special friend. Still others might find that help in Joy in the Journey Radio, and we’re here for you if that’s your choice.
Do you see how just going through the motions of being righteous and waiting for the “right time” doesn’t match how God acts? Following His example of taking ownership, developing a plan, and then securing a team to work towards a common result will more likely produce the best life we all seek.
And yes, not everyone will be on board. Some people will disappoint you, but let’s again look to God’s example. He always respected agency. He never forced anyone to help Him achieve His plan. Instead, He chose to act in ways that would influence others positively in their choices. You can do likewise. As you achieve your potential by making needed changes in you, you can radiate an energy that will influence others positively in their choices.
So quit sitting on the sidelines and get in the game of life! You’ll never score any points unless you’re on the field. Don’t sit around pretending the blessings you want will come simply because you’re righteous. Follow God’s example, own your life, get your plan together, and take action to create your best life. When you take responsibility for your results and then take the right actions, you’ll get the right results. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Early in the broadcast I got the feeling there was an elephant in the room no one was talking about. As time progressed, it seemed participants danced around the edge of that elephant while never wanting to go so much as near it with a 50-foot pole. And here’s all the answers they gave in just two words: more church. For LDS singles in pain, more church is not the answer.
Service should heal, not cover
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not against church. I’m just recognizing for anything in life there’s less effective thinking and more effective thinking. Often broadcast participants approached the more effective perspectives LDS singles need but then refused to go all in, opting instead to dance around the edges.
Here I am watching them approach a more effective perspective, cheering them on, shouting, “Yes! Yes! Now dive on in!” only to watch them sit on the dock, smile, and say, “Just stay on the covenant path. It’ll all work out!” It left me with the amplified mixed feelings cited earlier.
Take service, for example. Service is great, but service alone is not the answer. Yes, it’s true far too many singles are far too self absorbed. Your focus determines your reality, so if you’re super focused on your problem, you’re reality will be super problematic. When you focus on the obstacle, you create a reality of obstruction, limitation, and frustration.
Service can and should be part of the solution. But just going through the motions doesn’t flip your focus, and that’s what’s needed to flip your reality. The way many push service in counseling singles turns it into a bandage, and singles feeling pain want healing, not a bandage. It’s more effective to show how service can help solve the problem. But how do you do that when you won’t even go near the elephant in the room with a 50-foot pole?
Community should be felt, not just mentioned
The idea of community is another example of broadcast participants approaching a great idea and then just dancing on the edges. I love Sister Eubank in this broadcast because she speaks from a place of experience; she’s actually living LDS singles life. But even she seemed to stop short.
I was all giddy when early in the event Sister Eubank started talking about how she loves belonging to a community. “Yes!” I screamed. “Now dive in! Talk about how we need to create and grow that sense of community! Talk about personal ministries!”
But she didn’t dive in. She backed off, leaving me to wonder what if any sense of community I and many other LDS singles can expect with the other LDS singles who live where we do. Very often, that answer is none, further feeding my mixed feelings about the broadcast.
We need more effective thinking
I’m not trying to tear down. I extremely appreciate and celebrate the Church, which hasn’t done much for this specific demographic, for finally doing something more. I just wish they’d do something more effective and not just something more.
Certainly the broadcast touched multiples times on how singles can find more joy in their journey. But many singles won’t be helped by platitudes that simply dance around the edges of more effective thinking. By itself, more church is not the answer. We’ll dive deeper in the program today into all that.
The solutions we seek won’t come at the same level of thinking that produced our problems. We need higher, more effective thinking. Service and staying on the covenant path are certainly parts of that, but they won’t get singles far who don’t live with intention and take actions designed to encourage the results they want.
Happiness is giving your all to all the right things for you. When you partner with the Lord, He can show you all that’s right for you and support you in giving your all to that all. Doing that will bless your life and the lives of those you touch. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
What an appropriate background for a broadcast tailored to singles! Many singles believe they need a miracle to move the mountains in their lives. As I studied his address in preparation for the broadcast this weekend, I could see how very appropriate President Nelson’s remarks were for singles. Truly, faith can move mountains no matter the challenge.
Start where you are
Many singles wonder how the blessings they yearn to have can ever be theirs. I love how President Nelson’s response to that reality begins with basic principles: “Everything good in life—every potential blessing of eternal significance—begins with faith.” Deny not the power of God, and your faith unlocks God’s power in your life.
I then really love how he goes to Alma’s discourse on faith in the Book of Mormon. Alma doesn’t ask us to hit a home run our first time up to bat. He simply asks us to experiment. All he asks us to do is to try.
And you don’t need anything more than what you have right here right now. President Nelson quotes Alma’s encouragement to “exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe” (Alma 32:27). You don’t need the whole toolbox of perfection. Just step forward with the portion you already have, even if that portion is simply the desire to have a portion.
And here’s the beautiful part: You don’t need to be perfect to change your life. You have everything you need to take the next step right now towards the better life you want. It starts when you believe that truth. President Nelson began his remarks on faith with that very idea. As he taught,”
The place to start is wherever you are, and you can do that today.
Isn’t that’s exactly how many singles view the challenges before them, as the tallest mountain ever? Yet Christ can give anyone the power to scale that mountain.
That happens for you when you exercise faith in Him. Faith is a principle of action, and that means you must do the work to get the result you want. President Nelson acknowledged as much when he declared,
He then lists five steps to increase faith and the access it provides to God’s power.
Whatever mountain stands before you, don’t focus on the obstacle. Look instead for the opportunity. Stand tall seeking ways in which your growing faith — even if it’s no more than a desire to have a greater portion — can grow more. As the Savior taught, “Seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).
Faith really can move mountains. Nothing is impossible for the Lord, and He will grant you access to His power when you have faith in Him. When you do, He’ll show you the changes you need to make to secure the righteous blessings you desire. He’ll support you as you progress towards those blessings. And one day you’ll have them every one. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But you get to choose your identity. You choose who and what you’ll be. Understanding this principle is key to making positive changes in your life. If you want to live your best life, learn how identity precedes behavior.
Understand the source
You always act consistent with who you think you are. And you’ll always feel good about yourself when who you think you are is who you think you should be.
This is self esteem, how well your self image (how you see yourself) matches your self ideal (how you think you should be). When you live up to what you think you should be, how you see yourself matches how you think you should be, yielding high self esteem. Conversely, when you see yourself very differently than what you think you should be, your self image and your self ideal don’t match. That mismatch creates a dissonance you feel as low self esteem.
Matches don’t require exactness. You don’t need to see yourself exactly as you idealize yourself. You can see yourself as mostly there and have a healthy self esteem provided you forgive yourself for coming up short. Lacking that forgiveness leads to a rigid disposition that prevents a robust sense of mental health. As in other areas of life, you don’t need perfect, just good enough.
Understand the choice
Understanding these ideas sets the stage for positive change. But to effect that change, you need to add agency into the mix.
You choose whether or not you have self-esteem. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter how well your self image matches your self ideal. That’s not the way it works. We’re all built to operate based on the match between our self image and our self ideal. But you can choose your self ideal. And you can choose to bridge whatever gap exists between your self image and your self ideal.
Our culture hands us norms that we then adopt in constructing our self ideal. For many singles, for example, that includes being married by a certain age. If you aren’t married by then, it’s easy to get down on yourself because your self image (seeing yourself as single) doesn’t match your self ideal (you should be married by now). Low self esteem leads to feeling worthless, and you won’t think any effort worthwhile when you see yourself as worthless.
But you can choose your self ideal, one that doesn’t necessitate being married by a certain age. And you can choose to bridge the gap by taking action — learn the fundamentals of the dating journey and then change yourself to become more agreeable to a potential partner.
Make your choice
When it comes to bridging the gap, Christ is the ultimate bridge builder. His Atonement allows all to cross the chasm between how we see ourselves in mortality and what we can be in the eternities. Christ can help you achieve your greatest potential.
He does this by transforming you inside, effectively changing your identity. He lifts your vision towards a higher standard and provides strength to lift your performance to match that standard. In essence, he changes your self image to match a higher self ideal.
In contrast, the world would have us lower our standards to match lower performance. Rejecting covenant living may appease the natural man and woman, but only covenant living yields the fulfillment of eternal growth. Settling for low performance always invites a medium of mediocrity. Christ wants to raise us out of that mire into a more glorious state of being.
We all want positive change in life, but you won’t act inconsistent with how you see yourself. Identity precedes behavior. So partner with the Lord and let Him lift your self image to eternal heights and strengthen you to do the daily tasks your positive change requires. Laying your daily brick will eventually result in the very fine structure that is your best 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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