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 know I was. I was always looking but always just spinning my wheels, like that hamster down at the pet store. I was all about finding that eternal companion but never actually finding her. And I felt miserable.
I thought I was doing the right thing. Our leaders, after all, have always talked endlessly about the importance of marriage and family. Our culture is centered around the family. It made sense to go after it directly.
But that’s exactly the problem.
How it works
We all have habits; it’s how we’re hard wired to operate. But if we entertain less effective habits, we’ll keep getting less effective results in life. And it won’t end until we replace the less effective habit with a more effective one.
One less effective habit many singles have is 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, not just the one you exert. Other considerations outside your control can drown out any hope that the blessings you desire will be yours.
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?
Meet the challenge
I’ve posted before about how you rise to that challenge. Letting go of pursuing marriage directly and adopting a personal ministry is your best approach for exerting your best influence.
Here’s why. When you pursue marriage directly, you broadcast to everyone around you that you are all about marriage. No one really wants to marry someone who is more interested in some personal agenda. So you come off appearing desperate, not busy being who you really are.
When you drop the beeline and adopt a personal ministry, you’re about something more than just you. 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 them 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
Living your life in fear that your blessings won’t come is no way to live. The much more joyful route requires you 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 time of waiting more joyful, however long that waiting lasts. Do you want just to endure to the end? Or do you want to thrive?
Let go of directly pursuing marriage. Let it take care of itself. Of course, you’ll keep looking for and pursuing opportunities that arise. But your universe won’t be rotating around them. You’ll be more able to continue your eternal journey joyfully no matter what others choose. So embrace your best self. Devote yourself to your personal ministry today.
A Time magazine article has been circulating. To explain the modern dating crisis, Jon Birger wrote a book and then an article for Time magazine to promote that book. The lengthy article like his book concludes on observations of two religious communities: Latter-day Saints and Jews.
His main conclusion? Many ladies are single simply because the numbers are stacked against them. According to Birger, demographics is the real problem.
Some LDS singles will instantly believe Birger. “Yeah,” they’ll say, “it’s not my fault. There just aren’t enough guys to go around.”
I have a different perspective, mostly because what Birger describes doesn’t match my experience of being single for the past 20 years. Birger has laced his argument with faulty assumptions and erroneous logic.
Your probability of success can increase
Let's start here:
At first glance, the state of Utah—60 percent Mormon and home of the LDS church—looks like the wrong place to study what I like to call the man deficit. Like several other western states, Utah actually has more men than women. Utah’s ratio of men to women across all age groups is the fifth highest in the nation. But lurking beneath the Census data is a demographic anomaly that makes Utah a textbook example of how shifting gender ratios alter behavior. The LDS church actually has one of the most lopsided gender ratios of any religion in the United States.
Seriously? That assumes the ladies will always say yes. I haven’t been single for 20 years because they always said yes.
The sex ratio is especially lopsided among Mormon singles. Many individual LDS churches—known as “wards”—are organized by marital status, with families attending different Sunday services from single people. Parley’s Seventh, one of Salt Lake City’s singles wards, had 429 women on its rolls in 2013 versus only 264 men, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.
Again, not entirely true. At 37, you probably won’t have six biological kids, but you could still have some. The rest could come by adoption or marrying someone who already has them.
Successful people accept the world as they find it, not as they wish it would be. Accept the demographics, yes, but then find a way to the other side of your obstacle.
We need to reformat ourselves with new thinking and then reboot! Don’t just lay down and stop looking for the way forward in your eternal journey. True Latter-day Saints keep on trying.
So if your numbers are stacked against you, change your thinking and broaden your approach:
You make the difference
Birger doesn’t recognize any interplay between possibility and probability. To him, single LDS men are single because they have too many choices. If you’re a single LDS woman, well, you’re just screwed — and not in the good way. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Single BYU men are keenly aware of the lopsided numbers, said Wheelwright, who is a leader of Ordain Women, a feminist organization seeking the appointment of women to the LDS priesthood. “In the dating market, the men have all the power,” Wheelwright said. “Men have all these options, and the women spend hours getting ready for dates because their eternal salvation and exultation depends on marrying a righteous, priesthood-holding man.”
Seriously? You’re going to Ordain Women to make your point? Yeah, they’re, like, totally mainstream LDS .... NOT!
The numbers don’t make the difference. The difference you choose to make in the lives of others does. Making that difference consistently makes you a more attractive prospect. Period.
Faulty assumptions feed false conclusions
Birger saves his wildest and most entertaining assertion for last.
Psychologists Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord argued in Too Many Women?— the pioneering book on lopsided gender ratios—that women are more likely to be treated as sex objects whenever men are scarce. That is precisely what Mormon women now experience.
Birger erroneously assumes that Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake are no different than Latter-day Saints everywhere. As an outsider, all he sees is conformity. So it’s easy for him to think we’re all the same.
But we’re not. There’s a very different culture in Utah, and Salt Lake City especially, that makes living there very different from living anywhere else in the country.
The vast majority of the single LDS women I’ve known all over the country don’t do plastic surgery. Birger generalized his observation to “prove” his conclusions. But faulty assumptions never produce sound conclusions.
We tell our story
If you want to believe Birger that your single status is not your fault, go ahead. See how well that works out for you. Believing you’re the powerless victim of demographic statistics serves more to keep you single than to get you married.
You can have a worthy temple marriage, but you need to face your truth. Demographics describes only the playing field, not how you play the game!
You can choose to change yourself to influence others to decide in your favor. And you can choose to find new opportunities for your blessings, opportunities God anxiously wants to give you because He loves you immensely.
Numbers don’t tell the whole story. We tell the whole story by our choices. I choose to believe God when He promises. I choose to look for opportunities to come into my life. And I choose to open myself to new and unexpected ways those opportunities will appear.
Living this way doesn’t bring me instantly the blessings I’ve yearned after these past 20 years. But living this way is certainly much more enjoyable than the alternative. And that’s the most meaningful statistic of all.
It must have been Mother’s Day, one of those days that’s just really hard for singles. And it was a rare time in my life, because I was scoffing at a hymn.
Sacrament meeting was concluding, and we were singing Hymn #300 “Families Can Be Together Forever.”
Many singles struggle with any reminder of how they don’t fit in. Kind of like that classic line from The Princess Bride — “And thank you for bringing up such a painful memory! While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice over it? We’re closed!”
Of course, the hymn is very appropriate for Mother’s Day. I mean, how do you address that day without talking about families?
But on this particular day, which was a few years back, I was scoffing at it. What was my hangup? It was the chorus:
Fam’lies can be together forever
What a load of tripe, I thought to myself. I’ve been single for years. All I’ve seen are women who want nothing to do with me. The Lord hasn’t shown me Jack!
Only with the clarity of hindsight do I see now what escaped me then. How I was too particular too soon in the dating process. How I put the cart before the horse by thinking the most innocent of acts like simple conversation or sitting together held some special eternal significance. I got worked up over nothing. Sounds like a really good Shakespeare play ....
And I see my hypocrisy as I yearned for a good woman to give me more of a chance while at the same time not giving much of a chance to the many eligible candidates who crossed my path. I wasn’t judging others by the standard I wanted them to use in judging me.
Making the change
Looking back now on that closing sacrament meeting moment, I’m struck by how much I’ve changed. Then I felt bitter and cynical. Now I feel confident and optimistic. What happened?
It wasn’t getting my girlfriend, because I felt optimistic before I met her. In fact, my positive outlook is a big part of what she finds attractive in me.
It wasn’t any outward circumstance. My employment and bank account have both been on roller coasters.
So what made the difference? Hitting rock bottom in my life. I think I had to go there before I came to believe — I mean really believe — that we all have every good reason to hope in a bright and glorious future. Hitting rock bottom brought me to surrender to God, and He then brought me to believe more fully in Him and His Son.
At that bottom point, I asked myself what I believe. Do I believe in the restored gospel or not? Because if I do, then it’s time for it to get real in my life. No more going through the motions. No more easy answers that placate me for the moment.
That’s when I started partnering with the Lord in a way I really hadn’t before. Before it was no more than “See, I’m thinking of going this way, but what do you think?” But after hitting rock bottom it became “I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this without Thee. I don’t know the way. Please help me.”
Following the resultant promptings increased my faith and confidence in God, which in turn transformed my partnering efforts even more. “I don’t deserve Thy many blessings, so I am grateful for Thy mercy. I’ve done as Thou hast shown me. Help me see the next step.”
That chorus line no longer feels like tripe to me. Do I know all the details of His plan? No. I don’t know the end from the beginning. But I trust in He Who does, I know the next step to take right in front of me, and I know He’ll help me take it.
I feel much better now when we sing “Families Can Be Together Forever.” So if you feel like I used to feel, examine your relationship with God. How dependent on Him do you really feel? If you find yourself lacking, start anew. Come into confidence, and let the light of His love show you the next step you need to take to unfold His plan for your life.
No, this isn’t a new take on an old Journey song. But it does address a similar theme.
We all have dreams about how we would like our lives to be. Yet we often despair when it appears our dreams are just pixie dust and wishful thinking. It’s easy to be negative and cynical. But that choice never leads to happiness or any sense of personal fulfillment.
Holding onto belief really is hard work . . . especially when everything around you seems to support disbelief.
How do you hold to your dreams when it seems all hope is lost?
Focus on true happiness
Your focus becomes your reality. Last week I posted about the hope Christ offers to all the faithful. When you focus on the Savior for your blessings, your reality holds many opportunities to move forward. No matter your situation, you can always do something to move your life forward.
When it seems your reality doesn’t contain a path forward, then you need to evaluate your focus. Just because you can’t see the way forward doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The blood which Christ shed for you is far too precious to mean you’ll never have the righteous blessings you desire. He died so you could live — both in the future with God and your loved ones and in the present as you journey to that heavenly home.
Feeling that full measure of happiness in your present reality requires a focus placed upon true happiness. As I’ve posted previously, happiness doesn’t come from merely doing the right things. Happiness comes from giving our all while doing the right things.
Always do something, even though it seem small, to move forward. Your dreams truly die only when you let them. And you let them when you quit living for them.
Partner with the Lord
Not always feeling the passion for your dreams? Partnering with the Lord makes that easier. As you counsel with the Lord, He’ll help you understand what you need to do to enjoy the blessings He wants you to have.
Often embracing the way forward means making changes. When you partner with the Lord, you’ll have the courage and strength you need to embrace those changes and become everything you were meant to become. How can you be marching anywhere but to glory when you partner with the Lord?
Partnering with the Lord can also help you refine your dreams, bringing them closer to what would be best for you. Maybe some of what you dream isn’t very realistic for you. You need to consider what’s probable and not just possible. After all, anything is possible, but not everything is probable. When you partner with the Lord, He’ll help you know what paths hold the greater probability of success.
Or maybe what you think would be best for you really isn’t. Because God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:6-9), we all need to partner with the Lord to determine the way that will be best for us. That best way could change as the circumstances of our lives change. But partnering with the Lord allows us to make course corrections if and when they are needed.
Feel the confidence
Holding to a seemingly impossible dream can be difficult. Walking by faith in patience with the Lord can ease the burden of longing and not having. Through the power of His marvelous Atonement, Christ provides the confidence that the righteous blessings we dream of having will in fact one day be ours. And that’s a confidence you can feel.
If you don’t feel that confidence, then start partnering more with the Lord today. Bring Him your troubles. Suggest possible solutions if you have them. Or just share whatever comes to mind. Then seek His counsel. Ask Him for help where you don’t know what to say or do. He will respond if you ask in faith.
When I partner with the Lord for my own life, often my prayers resemble conversations. A voice or idea or impression will come into my mind, and I respond as if another person were speaking to me. This continues back and forth until I understand the way forward — or at least the way forward for the time being. I then can move forward in confidence that somehow everything will work out. I focus on giving my all to the things the Lord showed me are right for me.
And I can keep on dreaming. And so can you. All the righteous blessings of the restored gospel can be yours if you keep living for that dream and partnering with the Lord to lead you there.
As I posted last week, conscious choices can help us be happy now. Yet many singles, not seeing any obvious opportunities for marriage feel bereft of hope.
Fundamentally, their lack of hope doesn’t differ from anyone else with righteous desires that appear difficult to fulfill. A good example is the righteous married couple who trying but unable to have biological children.
Yet in all cases hope abounds. No matter how dark or bleak your circumstances may appear, you always have reason to hope. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Focus on Christ
How do you feel this great truth when all around you seems dismal? Almost all of us believe very readily in miracles that Christ performed among a people most of us don’t know in a land far away which most of us haven’t seen. Yet when it comes to believing in miracles performed in our own lives and in our own backyard, we respond more slowly. We need to start believing Him in everything.
Gospel truth encourages that belief. Many wrongs fill this life. Knowing God has apportioned a time when all wrongs will be righted makes patience easier when things you don't want to happen do in fact happen. Knowing a just God won’t wait to right our wrongs when the time to right them is right also encourages patience. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Of course, understanding those truths doesn't always appease the longing that pains the heart in the present moment. Because your focus determines your reality, focusing on your pains yields a reality of pain. Focus instead on the Savior so that He becomes your reality. His strength can give you strength.
We're all on a journey
Christ didn't teach that all of His promised blessings would come only after death. Nor did He teach that those blessings would be distributed like lunch on a buffet table — first come are first served and everyone else will just have to wait. He wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. That means you.
Because you're unique in personality and demeanor, so also are the gifts you've been given to help you achieve your full potential. Just as in the parable of the talents, all who improve upon what they've been given, whatever that original amount may be, will be received into the joy of the Lord. That joy can fill you now as well as in times to come. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
In addition, we find each other at different points in our life journey. Christ wants all to enjoy all the blessings promised to the faithful. Yet some of the faithful, because of where they are in their life journey, may not be ready for some of those blessings.
In the case of marriage, both parties must be ready in order for the arrangement to bring a fullness of joy into the lives of both parties. If you're yearning for that special someone and wonder why you don't have the blessing you desire, consider that you might not be ready. Or maybe your companion isn’t ready. Or perhaps the time is right for both of you and you simply need to get busy doing the right things. In any case, Christ can help you. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Expand your vision
If you're seeing with no more than your physical eyes, then ultimately you'll have no hope, especially if you don’t physically see the means to achieve your desires. Even here, there is always hope because there is always Christ.
Christ can help you to see with spiritual eyes. He can help you to see what’s there but not seen with physical eyes. What you want may be right in front of you. But because of the way you’ve been thinking, you may not recognize it as such. When you expand your definition of an opportunity, you’ll see paths you couldn’t see before.
Christ can also help you to see what is not now in existence because it has yet to be created. What you desire may be something He creates for you. Or maybe you need to create it for yourself. In all cases, Christ will help you to do whatever is needful for you to receive all of the blessings which He desires to give to you. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Don’t ever stop living for the righteous blessings you desire. And don’t ever lose hope. No matter your situation, there’s always something you can do to move forward. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
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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