Audience members may find the personal approach more interesting, but that may require revealing deeply personal information. That might be OK about myself, but other close family members? That could be disastrous. Focusing on the less obvious applications to LDS singles avoids those problems, but it may not be as interesting for many audience members.
Those who know me well won’t be surprised at my immediate response to find a way to have both. Let’s see how I do with that.
Results follow action
President Oakes begins his remarks by sharing what I call the Parable of the Squirrel and the Dog. College students watched a dog slowly inch his way towards an unsuspecting squirrel near a tree. When the unsurprising capture of the squirrel in the dog’s mouth appeared, it was too late to save the poor creature. Everyone knew what would happen, but no one did anything to prevent it.
Of course, the point of the parable is to look ahead and take appropriate action. As President Oakes remarked,
That may seem obvious, but it’s application is less ubiquitous. How many LDS singles are like those students watching the dog? They see the years go by, they see themselves no closer to the temple marriage they desire, and yet they do nothing. They think the blessings they desire will magically appear because they’ve been righteous.
Results come from one thing and one thing only, and that’s action. If you take one action, you get one result. If you take another action, you get another result. If you take no action, you get no result.
Examine your thinking
That realization undoubtedly frustrates many LDS singles who know nothing is happening for them but don’t know what to do to change that. And the change they’re looking for often resides outside themselves.
Of course, that pursuit usually augments rather than resolves the frustration. That’s because the place to begin to change your world and your life is not outside yourself. True positive change starts from within. You have to begin to think about yourself in new and different ways before you can live your life in new and different ways. And you must reinforce that thinking with appropriate self talk.
Unfortunately, the self talk of LDS singles reinforces thinking that produces undesired results. They place artificial limits upon their potential, resulting in a standard of living far below their possibilities.
That’s why I love President Oakes’s counsel:
If the messages that you give yourself say something different, then seeing different results in your life shouldn’t shock you.
Consider your sacrifice
To get different results, you need to take different actions. Often that means sacrifice. Consider the greatest achievements in any field of endeavor and find one that didn’t involve some sacrifice. You can’t do it because sacrifice is part of the price we must pay for high-quality results.
What are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want? Many successful people will tell you they needed to sacrifice treasured relationships to achieve their success. When those relationships are with family, I wouldn’t call their achievements success. So I ask, What less important thing could you sacrifice to get the more important results you want?
I love President Oakes’s comments about a Columbian couple who traveled five days by bus to Peru so they could be married in the temple.
You get what you give. When you consider the habits you have in how you live your life and how your pursue your goals and dreams, what could you sacrifice to get what you want?
The answers to that question might just give you the breakthrough you need to change your approach to one that yields better results. When you get off the couch and start moving, you can find your way better. Then, when you partner with the Lord, His light will illuminate your path. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
All this sounds good, you may be thinking, but how do you make this work? The answer is simple but also requires consistent, persistent effort. And it starts by saying down with the dating forum.
I’m certainly not the first to call it out the problem of the dating forum. But most people do that less effectively. They present the problem as a preamble to a laundry list of complaints.
I wish I’d never been guilty of that because complaining does nothing to inspire the positive changes we LDS singles want to see in our world. Humble examples have far greater power to instigate positive change than common complaints.
It starts when we say down with the dating forum. But it doesn’t end there. We must describe what we want to see, not what we don’t. Our focus determines our reality, so when we focus on what we don’t want — what many often congregate into the content of their complaints — our reality becomes something we don’t want. Turn that around, focus on what you do want, and the desired positive reality must come.
Recognize the role of habit
Here’s why that approach works. It’s all goes back to the role of habit in our lives. When you understand how you’re biologically hardwired to function, you can function much better.
People often complain about the dating forum because it’s a habit. That means when they complain, they’re on autopilot. And often the responses people give in return are also habitual. Yadda yadda goes in one ear and out the other. And nothing changes.
But everything can change when we change ourselves. You don’t break a less effective habit simply by taking it away. We’re all hardwired to have a habit, which means we must have a habit. Even if that habit hinders or hurts us, we must have a habit. That’s why you break a less effective habit only by replacing it with a more effective one.
Instead of habitually complaining about our undesired reality, we should start habitually describing the reality we want. We need to teach people the specific actions they can take to create a community of caring LDS singles who look after the needs of others before their own.
Start showing the way
But it can’t end there if we want to complete the change. Leaders, both single and married, must show others their desired reality by example. They must do the things they encourage others to do in building the support community they want to see.
Our Savior used this very approach in teaching His disciples. Often He would teach by mixing words with action. He would teach a principle and then put that principle into action.
LDS singles leaders can do the same. It’s one thing to tell singles they need to be more welcoming to those who show up to an activity. It’s something entirely different to tell singles that and then show them that by putting that principle into action yourself. When they hear you describing the interest you want them to have in others over themselves and then see you practicing yourself what you want them to do, you break down barriers within them. You make it easier for them to break their less effective habit by adopting a more effective one.
So down with the dating forum. Down with the activity club. And up with the support community. The joy we can experience as LDS singles will flow into our lives more readily when we more readily adopt within ourselves the positive changes we want to see in others. We can show others a better path to follow, and we can lead the way by following that path ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Interpret others more appropriately
The first lesson took me years to learn. But once I got it, what a difference it made! After all, how you think about yourself largely contributes to how you portray yourself to others.
Most people believe the actions of others reflect their identity. When someone summarily dismisses you, it’s easy to believe it’s because you don’t have any value. Those who believe this fallacy can easily disparage themselves into depression.
But what others say or do doesn’t reflect your identity but rather your effort. If people are passing you by, it’s not because you don’t have value but rather because you don’t offer value. Offering is a choice, one we all can make. Focusing on what you can do rather than on what you lack always produces a more positive reality.
True, not everyone will respond positively to your offering. Some simply won’t see any value in it. But that just means they’re visually impaired. What will you do to help them see? Again, focusing on what you can do produces a more positive reality.
See as God sees
Perhaps the most important choice you can make to help others see your value is to learn to see as God sees. I’ve been learning this lesson over many years, and I’m still learning. But what I have learned so far has improved my life tremendously.
What do you think God sees when He looks at you? We’ve all heard“the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). But why is that? What does He really see when He looks at you?
He sees potential. His sight isn’t confined to the moment, as our sight often is. He sees not just what we are today or even what we were yesterday but we can be tomorrow. Too often, especially when we’re discouraged, we aren’t looking forward to our potential but rather behind to what we were. We tell ourselves so often the lie about our past determining our future that we believe it. If only we could see as God sees!
That’s not likely to happen without partnering with the Lord. When you let Him guide your feet, He can also guide your eyes. We see a marvelous example in Enoch, who initially didn’t see very much in himself (Moses 6:31). But the Lord helped him to see more clearly (Moses 6:35-36), and the result was mountains moved and rivers turned from their course (Moses 7:13). Just as He helped Enoch see his potential, the Lord will help you see yours when you partner with Him.
Loving yourself will also help you see that potential. You know yourself better than most people, so they’ll simply take their cues about you from you. If you’re discouraged about yourself, then most people will follow that lead.
Conversely, if you’re care about you, then most people will follow that lead. When you demonstrate through your actions that you’re worth something, most people will also think you’re worth something and act accordingly. Again, people respond not to who you are but rather to what you do. And you choose what you do.
So choose to learn the lessons that reveal your true beauty. Learn to interpret others more appropriately, see yourself as God sees you, and love yourself. In learning those lessons, you’ll come to see you really are beautiful. You’ll release yourself from an unnecessary burden of despair and depression. You’ll feel more hopeful and optimistic about your future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Those tips at the end are the real icing on the cake. They’re very detailed and specific — not to mention they suggest actions I’ve been recommending for years, like sitting next to people. But the real delight is seeing the Church change its culture to be more inclusive of everyone, especially singles.
Of course, that change won’t happen on its own. And we LDS singles can help that along. When we include everyone — at church, at singles activities, and in our lives — we can bolster the movement to create a culture in which everyone can feel they belong.
The Liahona article focuses on interactions at church, and rightly so. It’s in the title of the article, which appears in an official Church publication. What I really appreciate are the calls to action and their applicability to anyone, single or married.
For example, the article advises, “Don’t always sit by the same people in church.” We’re all creatures of habit, so it’s not surprising everyone has “their spot” in the chapel. But as I’ve changed my seat week to week, I’ve noticed I get different perspectives from sacrament meeting that make it more enjoyable. And sitting by different people provides opportunity to interact with different people.
That’s just one example of a single adult applying one tip. We could provide many such examples for the other tips because we singles have ample opportunity to take action. We can change the culture within LDS society such that our traditional challenges will either disappear or be greatly minimized.
At singles activities
Of course, the tips offered for fostering inclusion at church apply just as readily to our singles activities. Many would agree they’re needed just as much there. I think they’re needed there even more.
With a few exceptions, singles activities are typically poorly attended. That’s because we’ve transformed what should be a platform for ministering to one another into a meat market. This is why I’ve decried the dating forum mentality.
We all know the drill. When new people show up, instantly everyone in the room evaluates them for dating potential. Since most people aren’t superstars on the surface, no one shows interest in having them there, and they’re left to fend for themselves to meet any needs for friendship and sociality.
I and many other LDS singles have experienced this. But we have the opportunity to be the change we seek. Instead of complaining about the meat market, we should employ our energies into creating the culture of inclusion we need. When inspired by sincere love, our actions can transform singles programs focused on calendaring activities into singles groups focused on meeting individual needs by including every single one.
In our lives
And it shouldn’t stop there. The Prophet Joseph once taught, “A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” When the spirit of inclusion infuses within us a desire to love people at church and singles activities, we can’t help but extend that love to everyone else in our lives.
For example, the Liahona article advises, “When we enter our church building, we can look around and observe whom the Lord would have us bring into our circle of friendship that day.” We can and should do that everywhere. Doing so will bless us as well as others, filling our lives with joy.
Whether at church, at singles activities, or in our lives, let us do more to include everyone. We will create the culture that transcends our current challenges. And we will fill ourselves and those around us with the love of God. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Nothing can separate us from God’s love because God’s love is that great. In my own life I can look back and see instances where I was separated from romantic love. But I have never been separated from God’s love. God’s love is clearly much, much greater.
In the end, we know the proper place for everything in our life when we put first things first. And so we can find the proper place for romantic love when we put God’s love first in our lives.
Put things in perspective
So many LDS singles yearn for that special someone to come into their life and whisk them away to a world of never ending happiness. It makes for a great story, so good, in fact, that it forms the basic narrative of every hailed love story since at least medieval times.
Given our inundation with this unrealistic tale of boy meets girl, it’s easy to focus on finding “the one” in the belief that success in that search will make life worthwhile. Indeed, life is more rewarding when shared with that special someone. The problem comes in thinking that life is worthwhile only if it includes that special someone. And many singles fall into that trap.
This is where Paul’s counsel becomes invaluable. It helps us to put things in perspective. Recognizing that God’s love is greater than any romantic love leads naturally to recognizing that a relationship with God is greater than any romantic relationship.
Put God first
This doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition. We don’t have to choose between a relationship with God and a relationship with a romantic partner. Why not have both?
Each of those relationships can improve the other, making the whole of life even better. When our romantic relationship improves our relationship with God, our relationship with God returns to improve our romantic relationship. This is the ideal that can lead to our best life.
And we get there by putting God first. Improving that relationship will increase our ability to receive revelation. And it is revelation that can tell us what changes we need to make in ourselves and what vocation we should pursue and what employment we should accept and where we should live and all the other details that combine to place us in the right state at the right place in the right time to meet the right type of person.
Feel the love
Of course, all of this doesn’t happen at once. But God will not abandon us when we turn to Him. And because nothing can separate us from His love, we can feel that love every day as we journey towards our desired blessings.
You can feel God’s love as He sends His Spirit to console and comfort you. You can feel God’s love as He provides opportunities for you to pursue your desired blessings. You can feel God’s love as He opens your eyes to see those opportunities and encourages you to take them. You can feel God’s love as you make the changes that His revelation instructs you to make, changes that will make you more attractive to the right type of person for you.
When you put first things first, everything falls into its proper place. You really can have the romantic relationship you desire. When you put building your relationship with God first, He will help you build the romantic relationship you yearn to have and that He yearns to bring into your 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 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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