We all know the LDS single who’s so eager to be married that he or she instantly gravitates towards anyone who appears to promise a blessed end to single status. Maybe you’ve even been that single yourself.
I was once all about finding that eternal companion but never actually finding her. I felt like that hamster down at the pet store, always just spinning my wheels and never getting anywhere. And I felt miserable.
I thought I was doing the right thing. After all, our leaders have talked endlessly about the importance of marriage and family. Our LDS culture is centered around family. It made sense to go after it directly.
But that’s exactly the problem. It doesn’t come when you pursue it directly. It comes when you let it come to you.
Understand how it works
We’re all hard wired to operate out of habit. And what we do determines what we get. So if we entertain less effective habits, we’ll keep getting less effective results. And it won’t end until we replace the less effective habit with a more effective one.
Many LDS singles have the less effective habit of making a beeline for anyone appearing to promise hope for marriage. But when you understand how everything works, you’ll realize you need to ditch the beeline.
Here’s how it works. Marriage means the agency of another person is involved. You can’t choose for others. Someone else has to choose you. That means the most you can do is influence that choice.
That’s why you keep hearing platitudes like “Just be yourself” or “Keep working on yourself.” They’re all true up to a point. Doing these things will influence the right person to choose you.
But beyond that point lies the reality where we all live. This most important choice has many influences in addition to the one you exert. And these other considerations outside your control can drown any hope of acquiring desired blessings. Your challenge, then, is to exert your best influence, trusting the Lord to cross your path with someone who will choose you. Are you up to it?
Rise to the challenge
You can best rise to the challenge by letting go of pursuing marriage directly and adopting a personal ministry. This really is your best approach for exerting your best influence.
Here’s why. When you pursue marriage directly, you broadcast to everyone around you you’re all about marriage. No one really wants to marry someone who’s more interested in some personal agenda. So you come off appearing desperate.
When you drop the beeline and adopt a personal ministry, you’re about something bigger than yourself. You let your best self shine while serving others. Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry shakes off the scales of desperation so that others see you as someone interesting, someone worth getting to know better, maybe even share a life with.
Guess what? Now you’re influencing others to decide in your favor.
Other powerful influences exist, yes, but that’s where walking by faith comes in. When you partner with the Lord, He’ll lead you to those with whom your best influence will be more than good enough. That’s because they’ll hearken to the voice of the Spirit when He says, “Give this one a chance.”
Embrace your best self
Many LDS singles live in fear that their desired blessings won’t come. But that’s no way to live. It’s much more joyful to let go of directly pursuing marriage and instead pursue what will influence others to choose in your favor.
Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry can make the waiting more joyful, however long that waiting lasts. Do you want just to endure to the end? Or do you want to thrive?
Of course, you should keep looking for and pursuing opportunities that arise. But your universe won’t be rotating around them. So let go of directly pursuing marriage. Let it come to you. When you devote yourself to your personal ministry, you can embrace your best self. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’m sure we’ve all encountered time management in one form or another. But time management is really a misnomer; no one really manages time. As much as some of us yearn to do it, you can’t create another hour in your day. Everyone gets the same 24 hours. What you manage, then, is yourself. How will you choose to spend those 24 hours each day?
Sooner or later, as Elder Godoy points out, we’ll all have a "one more day" realization that we must use wisely the time we have. Yet what impresses me most about Elder Godoy’s remarks about time management is his inclusion of sacrifice in the choices we make regarding our time.
Plan your sacrifice
Very often we plan the tasks we need to fulfill our responsibilities and achieve our goals. Yet how often do we plan our sacrifice? If we know what we’d do if we had only one more day to live, why not plan our day like that? Why not eliminate what would not fill our final day and include what would?
Elder Godoy declared, “We all have a ‘today’ to live, and the key to making our day successful is to be willing to sacrifice.” I never thought before about purposefully including sacrifice in my daily or weekly plans. Yet it makes more and more sense the more I consider it.
I also appreciate Elder Godoy’s review of the etymology behind sacrifice:
What things do you need to make sacred in your life? To what things do you need to bring honor? Planning to fulfill your responsibilities and achieve your goals is great. But deliberately planning to include sacrifice is greater; these can enrich your life and provide personal strength.
Spend the time
Much of what we know we should do — daily prayer, daily studying the scriptures, attending church, etc. — is a sacrifice. The time we spend in these worthwhile activities is always amply rewarded. But these aren’t the only sacrifices we can embrace.
Temple attendance has always been a sacrifice for me. I’ve lived where the nearest house of the Lord required me to drive two or more hours. Certainly attending the temple under those conditions represented a great sacrifice for me. Yet I now live within a half hour of two temples, and I find regularly attending either one of them difficult. So many other needful activities press upon me that attending the house of the Lord is a real sacrifice.
Performing the family history research that supports temple work is another sacrifice we can intentionally choose, as is also holding weekly family home evening. Many LDS singles forego FHE, viewing it as something for those with families. But I’ve found using Family History Evening to spell FHE is a sacrifice that brings many blessings, including a strengthened faith that comes from living all of the restored gospel I can live.
Elder Godoy declared, “The sacrifices our loved ones make for us refresh us like cool water in the middle of the desert. Such sacrifice brings hope and motivation.” I believe that applies to sacrifices made on both sides of the veil.
See one more day to be faithful
As wonderful as those sacrifices are, Elder Godoy rightly remarked that “any sacrifice we make is small compared to the sacrifice of the Son of God.” Because of His ultimate sacrifice, the great plan of redemption is operative in the lives of all who will embrace it.
Elder Godoy asked, “How can we honor that infinite sacrifice? Each day we can remember that we have one more day to live and be faithful.” I love that response! We have the days we have because of the Savior’s sacrifice. How appropriate that we respond to His gift of time with our own gift of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and faithfulness to all our covenants!
And how appropriate was Elder Godoy in quoting President Howard W. Hunter.
Consider the sacrifices the Spirit whispers to you that you should make in your life. Then plan your sacrifice. Consciously dedicate the time needed to make sacred that needful act and give honor to it. When you do, you’ll give honor to your own life and receive for your sacrifice the blessings of heaven. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
I’ve read James’s famous discourse about faith and works many times. It’s an absolute classic. If you haven’t read it, check out James 2:14-26.
This classic discourse on faith and works has always been one of my favorites. Yet in one reading not too long ago a new interpretation of these verses came to me. I saw them as I had never seen them before. And this new interpretation makes an absolutely classic discourse even more classic.
What did I see? Many singles leaders, especially those serving on stake committees, confine their responsibilities to planning activities. They believe filling blank spaces in a calendar is the extent of their responsibility. If any of the singles they claim to be serving have legitimate needs, these leaders believe that the Lord will somehow provide for them. Their job is just to provide a program.
Yet simply filling blanks in a calendar is very much like faith without works. They’re both dead.
“What doth it profit?”
I love how James opens his remarks about faith and works. He describes someone without clothes and starving who is told to be “warm and filled” yet not given clothes or food. Then James asks, “What doth it profit?”
Obviously, nothing. And that same answer remains when the same question is posited about the attitude of many single leaders who think their only job is to plan activities. OK, you planned all these great activities. Now, what does that mean to the single adult who grieves over the death of a loved one? Or how about that newly divorced single who still feels the death of a marriage that was thought to last forever? What about the LDS single struggling with issues of identity after losing a job?
Just calendaring events isn’t going to mean anything to any LDS singles who have real needs in the real world. So what does it profit that you planned all these activities? Just as well wishes will never clothe and feed naked, starving people, so filling blanks in a calendar will never by itself meet the needs of LDS singles.
“Justified by works”
Yes, you can shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18) Action is what brings real change into the lives of people. And action comes through works, not just faith.
True, faith in its pure and true form will lead to action. But faith without action means nothing. To meet the needs of the people, we must act. You can show me your faith that the Lord will provide for the needs of LDS singles without you lifting even one finger to act in that direction, and in return I will show you my faith that the Lord will provide for the needs of LDS singles by working myself to meet what needs I can.
I love the example James provides in Abraham. He produced works in offering his only son Isaac upon the altar, works motivated by faith. And through those works, his faith was perfected.
In like manner, singles leaders who focus mainly on filling a calendar see singles activities as an end in themselves. But the truth is just the reverse; activities are the means to the end of meeting the needs of the people. Activities provide the platform from which leaders and individual LDS singles can minister to the singles in their midst. And in so doing, their faith becomes perfected through their works.
“The body without the spirit is dead”
James provides the perfect ending to his classic discourse on faith and works with a simple analogy involving the body and the spirit. The body dies once the spirit departs. In like manner, faith dies once the works that should attend it cease.
Also in like manner, singles groups can feel absent of life when leaders focus primarily on filling blanks in a calendar. These leaders often wonder why attendance is so small and what can be done to turn things around. We talked last week how to turn ailing singles programs around, but a key part of that transformation is the necessity for leaders to adopt the attitude we are discussing here and now.
You must do more than just fill a calendar. You must fill your hearts with compassion and extend your hands to those you serve. You must focus on using the activities you plan as a means to the end of ministering to them and helping to meet their needs. When you do, you’ll inject life into your singles groups and light into your own life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
After church on Sunday, a member of the stake high council asked me if I were going to attend the singles activity later that day. I confided that I haven't been attending because I don't feel welcome. Why should I dress up in a stuffy shirt and tie to sit on benches that aren't that comfortable only to be all alone? I can wear a T-shirt and sweat pants on my couch and be just as alone but far more comfy. So why go?
In the ensuing conversation, I learned that he recognized the people hold the perspective of the dating forum. I then shared with him some of what I’ve shared about the dating forum and the activity club many times in this forum. We quickly came to agreement there, but then he simply repeated his invitation without any resolve to change anything. I said I’d think about it. Of course, I didn't go.
I did think about that conversation, though, during the following days. Those thoughts led to an important realization: Clearly we see the problem in how singles view activities, but the problem will never be solved unless we take action. But exactly what action is anyone supposed to take? I’ve done this before and so know what to do. But do my local leaders? Based on the conversation I had Sunday, it doesn’t seem so.
What can be done to turn around a local singles group so that people choose the support network over the dating forum and the activities club? That's the very question I’m going to answer right now.
Get buy-in from leadership
The first thing you need to do is get buy-in from leadership. Nothing happens in this church unless leadership is on board. So you've got to get the vision of the support network yourself. And then you must sell that vision to leadership.
And by leadership, I mean both married and single members serving in leadership positions. Everyone from the stake presidency to the high council to the bishopric to any singles leaders serving on both stake and ward levels must adopt the vision of the support network. Anyone who thinks their responsibility is just to calendar activities doesn’t have the vision. You've got to work with them until they adopt the support network.
You’ll know they have the vision when they start playing their part in the support network. Those attending activities will actively greet and welcome everyone they can. They'll talk to people, helping them feel somebody cares enough to be interested in them. They'll also look for those sitting by themselves, offering to sit with them or inviting them to join a larger group seated together.
Get buy-in from the people
Once leadership is on board, you’ve got to secure buy-in from the people. That means you instill the vision of the support network in every single adult so that they do the same things leaders do — connecting with people and helping them feel supported.
Too often we think those in leadership positions do things no one else does. In some respects that's true, but more often than not, leadership is something everyone should display. Leadership is a choice, not a position.
And leadership in spreading the vision of the support network is something every single adult should practice. Otherwise, you'll never have the support network. The arrangement of everybody helping everybody happens only when everyone reaches out to everyone. It can't be just those in leadership positions. Everyone has a part to play because everyone matters.
Accept nothing less than glory
Support networks take time to build because you must change the way people think. And because we’re hardwired to follow habit, you're going to meet some resistance both from leaders who think their job is to do nothing more than plan activities and from singles who think in terms of the dating forum or the activities club.
That's why part of leadership’s role is to instill the vision of the support network in everyone. You must tell people directly what you're trying to accomplish. You must show them what can happen when everyone gets on board with the vision. And you must invite them one by one to play their part in making that vision reality.
It won't be easy, and it will take time. But it is possible. I know because I’ve done it. So be patient. Keep working. Love the people. Accept nothing less than glory, and in time you’ll see the support network start to take hold. You'll see people reaching out to each other. You'll see the needs of people being met. You’ll see that you can turn it around. And you'll feel more of the Savior's love for one another. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Sometimes your dreams can seem so far away as to be unreachable. So much remains to be done, and so much of that lies outside your control, that you wonder how you’ll ever arrive. How could the blessings you desire ever be yours?
Very often there’s a real difference between how things feel and how things really are. Sure, nothing worth having comes easy. But sometimes the obstacles before you can seem bigger than they really are. Only by stepping out of your comfort zone and rising to your challenges do you see how big they really are.
And that's when you find what you thought was insurmountable really is doable. You just have to get started and take it one step at a time. By consistently doing the small things that move you further in your journey, you can conquer any challenge set before you. You can go the distance.
What drives those who achieve phenomenal results in life, those who make their dreams reality? It’s vision. Vision is different than sight. Sight depends on what you see with your physical eyes. But vision depends on what you see with your spiritual eyes — the eye of faith.
You begin by seeing yourself in a different way. As we’ve frequently discussed, that requires you to think in new and different ways. If you surround yourself with negativity, if your self talk is consistently negative, you'll find it hard to believe in possibility. You'll find it hard to believe that your life could be any different than how it has been. Only when your self talk is consistently positive and you surround yourself with positive energy will you be thinking in ways that allow you to see a brighter tomorrow for yourself.
But just seeing yourself differently isn’t enough. You must believe that vision can become reality and that it can be yours — because the truth is that can! Such belief comes from faith — faith that you’re a child of God and that he loves you, faith that He wants you to succeed, faith that He’ll help you realize your dream and become everything you’re capable of becoming.
When you have a vision of what you can become, that vision can drive you to do incredible things. But you must make the conscious choice to do what is necessary every day to move yourself closer to the realization of your vision. You must adopt a habit of consistently doing what is necessary.
The so-called little things in life are really the big things. It's the small actions performed every day that move us closer, inch by inch, to the reality our vision shows us. Observed in one moment of time, those little actions may seem insignificant. But collectively over time, those small actions done every day can comprise a considerable sum.
That's why you need the determination to do what’s necessary every day. Never surrender. Results come from action and nothing else. When you fail to act, you don’t make the small contribution that over time adds up to a considerable sum. Only by denying the natural man or woman who wants you to coast, to be satisfied with a life beneath the reality your vision shows you can you overcome mediocrity and achieve your fullest potential and the phenomenal life you dream of having. You must be determined never to surrender.
But that determination can turn to frustration unless you begin to see the opportunities amid your obstacles. Every obstacle comes with at least one opportunity. Most people, however, never see that opportunity because they're too prone to look only at the obstacle.
As I’ve said many times, your focus determines your reality. If all you see is the obstacle in front of you, then your reality will be one of obstruction. But when you focus on seeking out the opportunity that comes with every obstacle, your reality will be one of opportunity. And as the Savior once taught, “Seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).
Only by gaining the vision of what your life can be and then resolutely moving towards it, though you move only inches a day, will your dreams ever become reality. But that's what walking by faith is all about. It's not living life based on what you see with your physical eyes. It's living life based on what you see with your spiritual eyes.
When you walk by faith, taking each step with vision and determination to do what’s necessary and find the opportunity, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your dreams will one day be your reality because you choose to go the distance. 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 now I produce 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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