A letter to a single sister
I’m not sure, but as much as Sister Eubank hit the nail on the head, I got a few more items of response in my own “letter” to a single sister.
Focus on what you have
Let’s start by deconstructing the question posed. Read the whole excerpt, and then read the second sentence. It’s pretty clear this sister thinks part of her purpose here in mortality is to have a family and raise a righteous posterity.
There’s nothing wrong per se with adopting that purpose, but there is a potential problem. Being single, this good sister doesn’t have that family or posterity. And when you focus on what you lack, you create a reality of lack, because your focus determines your reality. To create a reality of plenty, focus on your plenty. Focus on what you have.
Sister Eubank does an excellent job of pointing out some of what this sister has. Worthy of everyone’s consideration, here are some ideas:
Keep in mind that all of us have these and other opportunities all around us to bring goodness into the world and make a difference in someone else’s life. It all comes down to two words: personal ministry.
Adopt a personal ministry
Long time audience members should have expected those two words to appear sooner or later. How do you feel more purpose in life? You get a purpose, that’s how! A personal ministry provides that.
So many LDS singles have experiences mirroring that of our single sister friend. They feel empty and stunted in their growth because they’ve adopted the life plan our LDS culture gives them — get married when you’re young and raise a family. When that doesn’t happen, we live with the pain of unfulfilled expectations — that is, until we gain a new expectation.
That’s where a personal ministry comes into play. When you commit to bringing your unique contribution of goodness to the world, you adopt with it a new identity you can act on more fully. Working on your personal ministry can give you a sense of fulfillment and progression when you find discouragement in your dating journey.
Sister Eubank offered much of the same counsel using different words:
Partner with the Lord
There’s one more item I’d like to address. Our single sister friend said, “Family is such a big focus in the Church (as it should be), but when that blessing isn’t given to you, it can be challenging to know where you fit in.” I want to examine seven key words further — “when that blessing isn’t given to you.”
There’s a false assumption behind those words. Marriage is not a lottery in which some are blessed and others aren’t. Results come from action. Those who receive the blessing of marriage and family do so because they obeyed the law upon which that blessing is predicated (D&C 130:21).
Hard as it may be to accept, no matter where you are in your dating journey, you don’t progress without the requisite agreement. So if you’re still single, it’s because you don’t have the agreement you need to progress further.
How do you get the agreement you need? How do you get any agreement? You become more agreeable. You offer more value. That means looking inside yourself for the changes you need to make. Unfortunately, too many of us are looking outside of ourselves for the changes we need.
That can change when we partner with the Lord. He wants us to succeed and will help us when we turn to Him. Sister Eubank testified of the love the Lord has for all of us.
Indeed, the Lord is mindful of you and me. When we come to Him, give Him our pains and struggles, and take upon us our own personal ministry, we can be free of the negative emotional burden which so many LDS singles needlessly carry. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
The eye of faith
That’s why I love Elder Andersen’s remarks. He did just that — adapt the proclamation on the family to those with “other circumstances,” particularly single adults. And he shows that adopting the eye of faith brings the truths of God more clearly into focus.
Gain a clearer perspective
As already stated, Elder Andersen begins with a cursory examination of truth. He reminds us that, although many in the world believe truth to be relative, some truths are absolute and eternal.
We can understand spiritual truths only through spiritual means. Thus, when we view those truths with the eye of the world, we won’t fully understand them. But viewing them with the eye of faith, we can behold the beautiful tapestry God has woven for His children.
Elder Andersen demonstrates this difference by sharing artwork comprised of blocks hanging from the ceiling. Seen from one perspective, the blocks appear scattered and chaotic. But change the perspective by seeing from a different vantage point, and the image of a human eye comes clearly into view.
Prophets help us gain such views. I love the words which Elder Andersen shared of our Prophet before he became the Prophet.
Fit yourself to truth
That vision doesn’t come to those who pick and choose what they’ll accept among God’s words. We need the perspective of the eye of faith to see more clearly and appreciate the absolute nature of some truths. Many of those truths are in God’s plan of happiness for His children. With that segue, Elder Andersen moves towards a particular part of that plan — truths in the proclamation on the family.
I still remember when Gordon B. Hinckley announced the proclamation during the General Relief Society meeting the weekend before Conference. I of course wasn’t in that meeting, but I was receptive to the proclamation first announced in that meeting. Upon reading it, I felt the proclamation was inspired of God.
That doesn’t mean it’s been easy to take the truths of that document into my life. Much of it speaks of a reality outside my situation then and currently. As such, I’ve always had to adjust my view to embrace the contents.
Elder Andersen acknowledges I’m not alone in that regard. Said he,
In addition, my heart went out to Elder Andersen’s single sister friend as he shared a brief portion of this sister’s experience:
I feel this sister’s pain, but I also rejoice she has learned some of the approaches I’ve been advocating in this forum for years.
Come to Christ
Elder Andersen concludes his address by acknowledging some may feel he doesn’t really understand them or their experience. He then says what I wish more leaders would say — “I may not.”
I love his admission of at least potential ignorance. I also love what he says next. Come to the Savior Who does understand and has provided the Atonement that can attend to all of your pain, sickness, yearning, and suffering.
Listen to the promise an Apostle of the Lord makes to those who will come completely to Christ.
Let us embrace the eye of faith. Doing so will open a greater understanding and appreciation of God’s spiritual truths to our view. We’ll also better see and appreciate the tender mercies which the Lord grants to each one of us everyday. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
For every time
I didn’t understand what had occurred until later in the day when I stopped by the Institute building, the social hub for LDS students. Coming through the front doors, I could see everyone gathered in front of the TV in the game room. I entered wondering why everyone was so somber.
That’s when I saw the images of the twin towers bellowing smoke, and in short order, I watched them fall to the ground. I remember the very palpable fear that gripped many of my friends, and I did what I could to listen, to comfort, and to strengthen.
I also remember the news images of people flocking to the churches and bowing their heads in prayer. For a brief moment, the nation set aside its cantankerous political divisions and united in supplication to God.
I suppose that’s to be expected. Many naturally seek prayer in troubled times. But prayer isn’t just for a troubled time. Prayer is for every time.
We read in the scriptures how humanity is slow to reach after God when times are good but quick to reach after Him in times of trouble (Helaman 12:2-3; D&C 101:8). These verses beg the question: Do you reach after Him when times are good?
I’ve spoken before about confining my morning prayers to heartfelt thanks, and I’ve mostly kept to that. This practice has greatly blessed my life. Starting the day with an expression of gratitude has transformed the spirit of my days. That gratitude has also transformed how I think about myself and everything in my life.
Because I don’t ask for anything during my morning prayers, you can imagine what my evening prayers are like. “Lord, I tried today, and I just can’t make it. And unless you help me, I’m not going to make it at all.” My sense of dependency upon God has increased substantially, and accordingly I feel a deeper relationship with Him.
That’s not to say that I or my prayers are perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve always said I have more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes. I am after all a walking construction zone.
I console myself in accepting these truths by realizing that God isn’t finished with me yet. He’s still working to make me fit for the fulness of my potential, a potential which I will fill as I heed His counsel and follow His Spirit.
Of course, it’s easier to heed counsel that one receives, and here I have plenty of room for improvement. “Seek and ye shall find” has another meaning, namely if you don’t seek, you probably won’t find. Reaching after God when times are good means always reaching after His counsel and the revelation that can guide one in life.
Make your change
Maybe you can improve your prayers the same way I can improve mine. Maybe you can open up more to God and seek after His counsel for the steps you need to take next in your life.
Or perhaps you most need a different improvement in your prayers. Maybe you need to express more gratitude. Maybe you need to be more genuine and less rote. Or maybe you just need to pray regularly since you aren’t doing that.
Whatever the improvement (and if you’re like me, you’ll need to improve in multiple areas), consider how you approach prayer. How you approach prayer speaks volumes about how you approach God. And how you approach God greatly influences the depth and quality of your relationship with Him.
So for every time in your life, make sure you include prayer. Working to improve your prayers will deepen your relationship with God and your appreciation for the Savior. That’s a quality you can feel. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Smile like a monkey
At the center of the transformation was a smile. If you don’t feel happy, “fake it until you make it” means smiling to act like you’re happy until you start smiling because you really are happy. And the more the better. That means you don’t just smile. You smile like a monkey with a new banana.
Reach the state
There’s some truth to that idea. Emotions are fickle things; one minute you’re up, and the next you’re down. They come and go with the moment.
That’s why you should focus on being rather than feeling. Far too many focus what they do on feeling happy. But far better than feeling happy is actually being happy, not the emotion but the state.
Outside circumstances can lead us to feel happy. You just won the lottery, or (far more probable) you just achieved a major goal, like getting engaged or receiving a promotion at work or finding someone to buy your old home after moving to a new area or losing those stubborn pounds around your mid-section. Most people in any one of these circumstances would feel happy.
But outside circumstances can change like the wind, and so the emotions we connect to them are likewise just as transient. That’s why you don’t want to focus on feeling happy. You want to be happy.
Align outside and in
But how do you go past the emotion to reach the state? How do we be happy rather than just feel happy?
That’s where “fake it till you make it” comes into play. Just as emotions are tied to outside circumstances, your state is tied to inward circumstances. That means your choices can influence your state.
And strangely enough, those actions begin by adjusting your exterior. You then align your interior to match. To be happy, adjust your exterior to be happy, even if it feels like a show. By persisting in that show long enough, you’ll align your interior to match.
But let’s go one step further. If you can choose, independent of your outside circumstances, to change your state on the inside, why go halfway? Why do anything half baked? Why not go all the way? Why settle for just being sort of happy when you can be beaming happy?
So if you’re going to adopt a happy state by smiling until the smile is genuine, why would you grimace or just crack a smile? Don’t just smile. Smile like a monkey with a new banana.
But what happened to living the gospel? Don’t the scriptures say you can’t be happy if you’re wicked (Alma 41:10)? But if you can just change your state with choices you make, couldn’t the wicked just choose to do that and be happy in their wickedness?
I’ve heard many a Latter-day Saint stand in testimony meeting and testify that the only true happiness in life comes from keeping the commandments. I mostly agree with that. I say mostly because the way some people talk about it, they seem to indicate you can’t be happy without living all the commandments, meaning singles (who by definition are not living the commandment to marry) can never be happy.
I’ve declared many times on this program that LDS singles can experience joy in their lives regardless of their circumstances, and I stand by that declaration. It’s exactly for situations like this that we have the Atonement. Christ will do what you cannot once you’ve done all you can do (2 Nephi 25:23). If you’re doing your best, you can be happy despite the shortness of your own sincere efforts.
So smile like a monkey with a new banana! When you do your best to do what’s right and then you “fake it until you make it,” you put yourself on the road to being happy and not just feeling happy. 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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