It’s Conference time again, and I can hardly wait!
Church in my ward has turned into a real trial. So many people, all married, have talked from the pulpit week after week about how wonderful the ward is because others were there to help when the needed them.
I really am happy about that. But when the storms of life came crashing on my door, who was there to help me?
It’s not just occasionally; it’s a consistent pattern of neglect spanning over three years. From where I sit, it seems like my ward is just a club for married people. The last time I talked with my bishop about my feelings, he told me, and I quote, "I don't know what to do with you."
Hey, I love the honesty. What I don't love is that he left it at that. He's shown no interest in looking for the answer, or even an answer.
That's why I reached out to my stake president. And that's where things got really trying.
Where my efforts got me
I explained my circumstance to my stake president via email. Initially he asked for some time before replying, and that’s fair. After all, stake presidents are busy men.
When I finally got my reply, he told me my "singleness" was all in my head and that in the next life everything would be put right. He then claimed I needed more scriptures and service in my life. He also encouraged me to look to Moroni as an example of a faithful single before sharing with me his desires that I stay faithful also, as though I'm in danger of going inactive any moment now.
But that's not the biggest kick in the pants. He said the stake was giving the responsibility for ministering to singles to the wards because that's "more effective."
That means when I need help to weather life's storms, I’m left with the man who’s already told me he doesn’t know what to do with me and leaves me to figure things out on my own. And in some twist of logic I still can't wrap my head around, that arrangement is "more effective" at meeting my needs.
No disrespect to the mantle my leaders carry on their shoulders, but I've never before felt like they’re so disconnected.
Where the rubber hits the road
Let’s be very clear here. I’m not declaring my leaders have fallen or anything like that because I don’t believe that. I simply believe they’re good men who are also ignorant. They’re babes in sacrament meeting. Meanwhile, I’m still sitting in church suffering the injustice of my situation while those who carry “more effectively” the responsibility of helping me do nothing.
This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where I need Conference.
Of course, I own my life. But I’m also tired. Tired of doing life alone. Tired of reaching out only to be told trite phrases and left to my own devices. Tired of constantly hearing how marrieds get help while single me doesn’t.
I need the uplift from Conference. I need the renewed perspective from Conference. I need the spiritual regeneration from Conference. I need the burning hope from Conference. Simply put, I need Conference. I’m so ready for it.
What to do next
I know I need to practice what I preach. And I will. That’s why I’m going to educate my local leaders.
If my local leaders really are babes in sacrament meeting, then like babies they do what they do because they don’t know any better. They need someone to educate them. And if I who know so much about how to approach LDS singles issues don’t do it, then who will? If I keep silent, my local leaders will continue to endorse the current approach which produces no meaningful results. Nothing will change if I stay silent.
I need Conference to show me how to approach that, though. How would the Lord have me do it? As I pray and search the scriptures, I can feel God’s love for me. But as far as any specific answers go, I’m clueless.
Of course, I’ll also be alert for the usual promptings of how to chart the course of my life for the next six months. What changes do I need to make in me so that I become more of what the Lord wants me to become?
Yes, I’m glad it’s Conference time again. I need everything it offers right now. And despite my love for Tigger, I’m sure, as I think about the vast population of LDS singles I’ve been serving for many years, that I’m not the only one.
Last week I helped a student review a recent math exam. Focusing on her grade of 48%, she told me how much of a failure she was.
“Oh, no, you’re not!” I immediately contradicted. “All this shows is your approach didn’t work. Now, let’s find a new one.” We then discussed her learning preferences while I interjected cautions to watch her self-talk.
“If you keep telling yourself something’s hard,” I said, “then it’ll never be easy because you’re training your mind to think of that something only as being hard. You can change your course by changing your story. Tell yourself you haven’t learned it yet and then focus on that yet. Tell yourself it’s possible to learn how to do this.”
With a willingness to believe a different life experience was possible, we analyzed the exam questions she missed. “You’re making the same type of mistake over and over again,” I observed. “This is great, because you’ll get huge gains in improvement from changing just one habit.” After we discussed some practical steps she could take, she left eager to embrace a brighter future.
Failure reflects approach not identity
Many LDS singles are just like that student. When her efforts failed, she told herself she was a failure. Likewise, when our efforts don’t produce our desired blessings, we LDS singles tell ourselves similar stories.
How quickly many rush towards negative thinking after a setback in dating! The date we just had didn’t go as well as we hoped, or maybe it never happened because an invitation was rejected or never even received. Whatever the situation, we tend to think our result reflects who we are.
But our results reflect what we do, not who we are. You’ll always get a small flame when you light a match, no matter who you are. Failure to light the match comes from using a less effective approach. What we do, not who we are, produces our results.
Thus, when we obtain undesired results, we need to doubt our approach, not our identity. What can I do differently to obtain better results? What changes do I need to make in myself? Questions such as these help us to confront our challenges more positively.
Our stories carry power
Our approach includes the stories we tell ourselves. I observed that truth with the student I helped last week. She continually struggled with math because that’s what her story taught her to believe. And she believed it.
Likewise, we LDS singles often tell ourselves stories that impede our progress towards eternal blessings. If we keep saying dating is hard, even though it isn’t, we’ll always struggle with it. If we keep saying we don’t have any opportunities, we’ll never see the opportunities the Lord provides every single day. Our stories carry power.
We can leverage this power to our advantage with the word yet. Including yet in our stories helps us to focus on possibility. Do we tell ourselves stories that bend our belief towards hope our tomorrow really can be different than our yesterday? That’s an important change to make in ourselves so that our approach yields better results. “I haven’t succeeded in dating yet” is much more energizing than the demoralizing “I’ve never succeeded in dating.”
We are creatures of habit
We turn stories of our failure into habits by telling them over and over again. Because we’re biologically hardwired to follow habits, we then keep focusing on our failures. This pattern leads us to more repeated failure. Less effective habits keep us standing in our own way of achieving the eternal blessings we desire.
But we can step out of our own way by replacing less effective habits with more effective ones that will bring us more joy in our mortal journey.
Instead of habitually thinking our results reflect our identity, we can habitually think our results reflect our approach. We can habitually question what changes we need to make in ourselves. We can also habitually tell ourselves more positive stories, ones that empower us to believe in possibility and move forward with energy and optimism.
Earlier today I happened upon that student I helped last week. Her entire demeanor was much improved. I asked if she’d implemented any of my suggested changes in her approach. She joyfully responded she had and scored 83% on her practice exam. I rejoiced with her in her success.
We LDS singles can experience similar success in our own lives as we change our approach for eternal blessings. We make all the difference in the results our efforts bring with the stories we tell ourselves. Make sure the stories you tell yourself support a positive, optimistic approach to your challenges. With that habit in place, you’ll experience more joy in your journey.
We’ve all fallen short at times. No one’s perfect. We’re all works in progress.
Yet too often we focus on our imperfections. We wonder how we could ever obtain eternal blessings when we just aren’t good enough. We’re not tall enough or thin enough or funny enough or beautiful enough or strong enough or whatever enough. We can go insane focusing on what we lack.
Because your focus becomes your reality, focusing on what you lack produces a reality of lack. It’s impossible to feel competent when you always focus on how you fail to achieve. It’s impossible to feel optimistic when you always focus on pessimism.
But the reverse is also true. It’s impossible to feel incompetent when you always focus on what you’ve achieved and what you can do. It’s impossible to feel pessimistic when you always focus on optimism and reasons to believe in a bright and glorious future.
We each have a choice every single day regarding the perspective we’ll embrace. I choose to say “Enough with enough!”
It’s half full and half empty
We’ve all heard how perspective in life is like a partially filled glass of water. Is the glass half full or half empty? Seeing the glass as half empty brings pessimism. Seeing the glass as half full brings optimism.
I agree our focus determines our reality. That’s why I say the glass is both half full and half empty. Yes, we want to be positive. But ignoring our problems just isn’t smart.
Nature teaches that weeds will infest your garden unless you act appropriately. Likewise, ignoring the problems in the garden of your life allows those weeds to grow and fester.
Yes, look to the positive. Then take the energy and optimism that perspective gives you to tackle the negative. See the opportunities in your obstacles. Believe in possibility, and make changes in yourself so you increase your probability of success.
You’re already enough
Of course, you should see the glass as half full before you see it as half empty. That approach fortifies you to overcome your challenges.
We can all easily answer what’s wrong with our lives. But what good is in your life? When you follow the advice of the hymn and count your blessings, you’ll start to see how much good you really do have in your life.
As wrong as you may feel your life is going, there’s always something going right. Last summer I faced the loss of a very special relationship. Yet in the midst of that experience, the Spirit directed my attention to how much I loved my job and how much it allowed me to contribute to improving the lives of others. While it felt like one part of my life was going very wrong, another was going very right. Focusing on that right part helped me to feel how blessed I really am.
Amplifying positive perspectives and experiences in your life grants strength to confront and overcome your challenges. Of no perspective is that more true than of the Atonement.
That consummating act of the Lord’s pure love proves you’re already enough. Would He have suffered and died as He did if you weren’t? Of course not. Additionally, the Atonement means He’ll never abandon you. He provides you with many tender mercies every single day. He’ll always be there to help you know your next step and have the strength to take it.
You are a conqueror
With that strength, you can conquer any challenge before you. You can transform any setback into an advantage. You can find opportunities in any obstacle. Rather than ignoring the “half empty” aspects of your life, you can confront them with confidence and come off conqueror.
What obstacle keeps you from your eternal blessings? Are you not funny enough? Say “Enough with enough!” and partner with the Lord to know how to work on improving that skill while searching for that someone who thinks your skill level is enough.
Are you not beautiful enough? Say “Enough with enough!” and partner with the Lord to know how to work on improving yourself while searching for that someone who thinks you are enough.
And so it goes with any area in which you think you aren’t enough. Say “Enough with enough!” Then partner with the Lord to know what changes you need to make in yourself and get to work.
You weren’t sent here to fail. You were sent here to succeed, and that gloriously. Stop focusing on how you aren’t good enough. Say “Enough with enough!” And then get to work on changing you. When you do, you can change your life and have more joy in your journey.
As I read his address, I began to see more of the profundity behind the simple truth that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father. Elder Hallstrom repeatedly proclaims throughout his remarks that this identity should be the preeminent one in our lives. And that caught my attention, because often I’m not convinced it really is, especially for LDS singles.
Remember the true center
The culture of the Church centers on family. I wish it centered on Christ. After all, everything else about the Church does. The doctrine, the scriptures, the priesthood, the ordinances — everything about the Church centers on Christ except for the family-centered culture.
That’s why the mark of belonging is being married with kids. And you need both elements to belong, hence the struggles of childless married couples as well as singles to feel like they really fit in.
If the culture centered on Christ, then the mark of belonging would be discipleship of the Savior. That’s one reason why Elder Hallstrom’s address resonated with me.
What if we saw each other not through the lens of martial status but rather that of divine lineage? What unity could we develop with that perspective? How much better prepared would we as a people be to receive the Lord when He comes again? Our Lord has said, “If ye are not one, ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). I don’t know about you, but I want to be the Lord’s.
Remember your divine heritage
Early in his remarks, Elder Hallstrom shares, “A correct understanding of our heavenly heritage is essential to our exaltation.” Why is that? Let me answer with another question. How do we really understand our purpose here in mortality unless we understand where we came from? Knowing we’re children of God promotes faith in Him that our existence here is part of a much grander plan to make us glorious beyond description.
That perspective can help us face the storms of life. Elder Hallstrom referenced many of those storms when he said,
In real life, we face actual, not imagined, hardships. There is pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual. There are heartbreaks when circumstances are very different from what we had anticipated. There is injustice when we do not seem to deserve our situation. There are disappointments when someone we trusted failed us. There are health and financial setbacks that can be disorienting. There may be times of question when a matter of doctrine or history is beyond our current understanding.
Certainly that list of trials describes life for many LDS singles. And so the questions Elder Hallstrom poses are just as pertinent. What is our response when confronting difficulty? Do we forget our divine heritage and cower in fear before the very experiences that we need to grow and claim the glory that is our birthright? Or do we remember our divine heritage and embrace the challenges before us, looking for the opportunities in the experiences that form part of the plan our Heavenly Father has instigated for our eternal destiny?
Elder Hallstrom shares a remark made by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland while teaching about this principle. Said Elder Holland, “You can have what you want, or you can have something better.” What a perspective!
We live in a world that can cause us to forget who we really are. The more distractions that surround us, the easier it is to treat casually, then ignore, and then forget our connection with God.
Unfortunately, for many LDS singles the family-centered culture of the Church can be a part of that world causing them to forget who they really are. We LDS singles can focus so much on the marital status we don’t have that we forget the much more meaningful identity we do have. Remembering that identity can help us better access our Lord’s Atonement, which can strengthen us as we encounter the pains, the heartbreaks, the injustices, and the disappointments that come to us in mortality.
And here’s the best part. If we LDS singles would focus more on our discipleship than on our marital status, we could change the culture that presents us with one of our greatest challenges. We could influence its center to move towards Christ. We could all — single and married — come together and truly be one. We could increase our power as a people to stand firm in support of our covenants and the truths of the gospel, including the institution of the family.
So remember who you are. That divine heritage can help you to reach for the light and have 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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