What we are learning
But I really wasn’t capturing the full depth of those words. Maybe I needed some time and distance as well as some more experience with the world to appreciate what he gave all of us. Indeed, you could say that’s one thing I’m learning. And after the program today, perhaps we all can say it’s one among many of what we are learning.
Addressing the global pandemic, President Nelson shared four lessons he hoped we’ve all learned and won’t forget. I sense a greater sense of optimism in his words now than I did six months ago. That optimism increases my appreciation for his first lesson: The home is the center of faith and worship.
I think most of us recognized the prophetic nature of the 2018 announcement regarding home-centered church. But I’m not sure that was true before COVID hit. I certainly didn’t recognize the significance of some of my pre-COVID promptings. For instance, shortly before the first lockdown I felt impressed to purchase white tablecloths. What do I need white table cloths for? I thought to myself. When am I ever going to use a white tablecloth?
I found out soon enough. What a blessed privilege was mine to partake of bread and water in memory of my Lord and in my own home! I truly felt closer to my Heavenly Father in those moments than I had in any worship service in a chapel.
In response to such an experience, President Nelson asked,
Considering what we need to do to increase the security and serenity of our own homes would be time well spent.
Needing each other
President Nelson’s second and third lessons, that we need each other and your priesthood quorum is more than just a meeting, seem especially intertwined. We really do have a unique opportunity to leverage the present pandemic to unify God’s children like the world has never before seen.
But that will become reality only if, as President Nelson asked, our shared trial has drawn us closer to one another. These days it seems the pandemic is driving us farther apart. But if that’s true, it’s because we’ve forgotten the two commandments President Nelson declared could guide us — first, to love God, and second, to love our neighbor.
I especially love President Nelson’s teaching that
Flip that around, and see the profundity of the Prophet’s teaching. Why has God sent us to earth in families and wards and stakes? He wants us to work together and help each other. Why has He asked us to serve and minister to each other? He wants us to work together and help each other. Why has He asked us to live in but not be of the world? He wants us to work together and help each other. One could apply that answer to this question: Why has God organized priesthood holders into quorums? Priesthood is indeed more than a church meeting.
Hearing the Savior
President Nelson’s final lesson from the pandemic ties the others together. The home is the center of faith and worship. We need each other. Your priesthood quorum is more than just a meeting. And we hear Jesus Christ better when we are still.
As I just mentioned, the pandemic seems to be driving us further apart. We seem more agitated and contentious than ever. President Nelson confirmed we’re living in prophesied days of commotion and fear. He didn’t declare that commotion would be temporary. Rather, it’ll increase.
But we need not be in commotion. If we can be still, we can hear the Savior’s voice speaking peace and confidence to us. As President Nelson taught,
Making time for quiet reflection will become more and more essential as the world becomes more and more contentious. If we will do as the Prophet instructs, we will see the fulfillment of his promise that “the future is bright for God’s covenant-keeping people.” And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Stop droppin’ f-bombs
Language reflects thinking
Now this isn’t the f-bomb many of you are thinking of. This was in sacrament meeting, after all, and the speaker radiated mainstream Mormondom. But how can you understand what I’m talking about without me being just as profane? Since I can’t think of any other way to do it, here goes. The f-bomb she dropped was family ward.
Yes, that phrase is profane. Words mean things. Language matters. And anyone who thinks it doesn’t — that this is just some petty concern — just doesn’t understand how language works and its effect upon people.
Simply put, the language we use reflects the way we think. It expresses culture. And as we’ve discussed often on the broadcast, the traditional culture of the LDS community has revolved around being married with kids. Some singles have kids, but by definition no single is married. So using a phrase like family ward just perpetuates a culture which excludes singles.
The nature of language
This isn’t something that’s just in the heads of LDS singles. Nor is it solely a product of how singles think, something that can be corrected with a change in perspective. For those who think it is, let me tell you about the cookie jar.
Yes, I said the cookie jar. Why do we call the cookie jar a cookie jar? The simple truth is because it’s a jar in which we place cookies. If you take the lid off a cookie jar, you expect cookies to be inside. That’s why it’s called a cookie jar. If there were peanuts inside, you’d call it a peanut jar. If there were bolts inside, you’d call it a bolt jar. That’s just the nature of language. Calling a container a cookie jar is like saying that is where cookies belong.
Family ward works the same way. It says families belong in that congregation, implying that people without full families don’t belong. Again, this isn’t just in singles’ heads. It’s the nature of language, which reflects how we think. And I’ve seen that play out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered marrieds who merely tolerated my presence in their ward. Their attitude definitely said, “You can come here if you want, but you really belong over there in that singles ward. If you do go there and get married, then you can come back and join us here in the main group.”
A higher level of thinking
As I sat there in sacrament meeting, I wondered how I should approach the speaker about her f-bomb. I didn’t really know her personally, nor did I have much opportunity to know her. She and her husband has just moved into the ward. As young as they are, I wanted to believe she said what she said out of ignorance.
In the end, I felt good about approaching her through an email message to her husband. I tried to be delicate and firm at the same time, in the end offering the suggestion to replace that f-bomb with general membership ward or, if that was too much of a mouthful, shorten it to general ward. I also expressed willingness to entertain other suggestions.
I never got a reply to the email. But I can surmise based on comments she made in later weeks in Sunday School that she realized how insensitive she’d been and wanted to change. And I felt satisfied with that.
If you’re still using that vile expression, please stop droppin’ f-bombs. The language we use will reflect what we truly embrace in our thinking. Let’s embrace a more inclusive culture within our LDS community by using language that reflects truly inclusive thinking. When we do, we’ll grow from seeing each other more as God sees us. We’ll benefit more from the contributions we make into each other’s lives. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Live without regret
Looking back on my decision and its outcome, I still have no regrets. But I also have something else, something that I didn't anticipate. Looking back on my trip and my lack of regret for it got me thinking. Why can't it be that way for everything in my life? Why can't I simply decide to live without regret?
Begin with the end
I don't regret my trip because from the start I saw it for what it is. I don't know the future, but I know that, if that opportunity to see my mother would be the last to make memories while she could still recognize me and I didn't take it, I would regret it for the rest of my life. I refused to live with that regret. And so I embraced my travel with the end in mind.
And that's the key. Stephen Covey's first habit of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind. That speaks to the need to be self-aware. After all, you can't begin with the end you aren't aware of.
That's more than just an awareness you want a life without regret. It's an awareness of the choices you can make today that promote or prevent that end. I didn't know and still don't know whether the opportunity I just took is the last to be with my mother while she still recognizes me. But I do know the potential it had to become such. And I refused to tolerate that possibility.
Become aware and act
It's really not any more complicated than that. Gain an awareness of yourself and the potential your choices have to lead you towards or away from the end you want. And then act accordingly.
That's not just for living life without regret. That's for any end you want in life. Adopting an end in which your life has no regret is just a good place to start. It will give you courage to go farther and pursue your fullest potential, a life without regret, the life that is your best life.
The path that leads you there will of course have challenges. I faced resistance before making my journey to see my mother. My advisor expressed disapproval with my decision to travel home. But I held firm and shared my rationale for my decision. He understood, and we made plans for what would happen after my return.
I don't think everyone will have that experience. Sometimes things won't work out. Sometimes you'll stand your ground, and your challenges will overcome you. But you can always hold your head high knowing you chose to live your life without regret.
Make your choice today
I've made plenty of choices that brought regret into my life. I've known regret in both the short and long term. And now I know it doesn't have to be that way. I can live without regret.
So can you. You can live without regret if you will gain the awareness you need of yourself and your choices to know the end you want and then make those choices that will lead you to that end. That decision won't remove the regret you already have from past choices. Only Christ and His Atonement can do that. But you can decide to embrace the Atonement, just as you can decide that from this moment forward you will live without regret.
So live without regret. Life is too beautiful and time too precious. Don't squander them with choices that will bring regret in any amount. Know yourself, know what you want, and go after it. And every day you don't have it, keep going after it. Don't apologize, don't make excuses, and don't delay any longer. Start living your life without regret today. You'll savor the wonder of living more fully. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
You don’t need a plan
I remember years ago hearing a speaker at a singles conference talk about living in the moment. She encouraged intentional living, saying living with intention can lead you to own your life. I’m a big fan of owning your life, so I was with her that far.
Then the speaker defined intentional to mean having a plan. The joy of living in the moment, she declared, comes from following a plan. And that’s where she lost me, because I couldn’t disagree more.
To act with intention requires a conscious choice. Living with intention therefore means living in the moment. When you consciously choose in the moment what you do, you refuse to let your habits simply play themselves out. That act allows you to embrace life and all the true joy of living.
You don’t need a plan for any of that to unfold for you. All you need is to use the one gift from God we all have — agency. You simply make a conscious choice.
What happiness really is
Happiness comes not from just doing the right things but from giving your all to all the right things for you. Giving your all is a conscious choice. When you choose that path with full awareness and intention, the true joy of being alive can be yours.
Most don’t live like that. They live on autopilot, a life filled with comfort and a sense of stability. But true joy isn’t found in comfort and stability alone. True joy comes from consciously embracing the right things.
I use that word embracing intentionally. You can’t just execute a routine of righteous activity and expect happiness to find you. The happy life doesn’t just come to you because it’s somehow your right or because you’re somehow deserving of it just because of who you are. To get the happy life, you have to make it. That requires consciously choosing the right things. That means getting out of autopilot and its routine living. And that means embracing all the right things for you.
Make your happy life
In the end, your focus always determines your reality. Focusing on what you don’t have and can’t do always brings a reality of scarcity and helplessness. And a life that feels lacking and helpless is never enjoyable.
But the same principle works in the other direction. Focusing on what you do have and can do brings a reality of abundance and empowerment. As you begin to see how richly the Lord has blessed you, you feel gratitude come to you. And life starts feeling joyful.
That focus on what you have now and can do now is key to living in the moment and making the happy life you want. Focusing on the present and not the future is a conscious choice that helps you live with intention. And the gift of agency from a loving Heavenly Father brings that choice within reach of us all.
The happy life doesn’t find you. You find it by making it. And that starts when you start living with intention. Righteous intentional choices lift what you do to a new level because in so doing you give your all to the right things. And when you give your all to the right things, life in return gives back to you all the joy and satisfaction of a life well lived.
You’ll always get what you give, so give your all to the right things for you and get the life that’s right in all ways for you. You can breathe with confidence, walk with boldness, and bring your focus away from the future and more to the present moment. You’ll then open yourself to a life you can savor regardless of your circumstances. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Your time is now
Something’s missing here. It’s this truth: Results come only from action. If you don’t have the results you want, you’re not taking the right action. So instead of rationalizing your way out of doing what you need to do, learn what action you should take, and then take it. Your time is now.
Give your all aright
Life won’t always go as desired. When it doesn’t, don’t just say, “Well, it must not be the Lord’s timing.” Concluding so prematurely will keep you from the real solutions you need.
Too many LDS singles use the concept of the Lord’s timing as a crutch to excuse themselves from further involvement in their own eternal progression. We all want to believe we can get what we want without making any changes in ourselves, that we just need to keep the standards and then the Lord will just deliver our desired companion when the time is right. It’s an enticing yet deceptive argument.
The universe doesn’t work that way. To reap the harvest, you must sow the seed for that harvest. To get a different harvest, you must sow different seed. And you choose what seed to sow. You can make you more attractive to your hoped for eternal companion. Giving your all to the right things always produces the right results.
Seek to do more
Ultimately, happiness is not about doing the right things but rather giving your all to the right things. Without question the standards are some of those right things. So is holding to the iron rod.
And so is eliminating habits that encourage potential companions to decide against you. So is changing the way you think so your approach to life broadcasts an attractive rather than repulsive energy. So is conquering your fears holding you back from achieving your potential. So is partnering with the Lord so you can know what steps you need to take today to turn your life around and capture all the joy He wants you to have right now.
Rushing to conclude the Lord’s timing isn’t right just because you’re still single blinds you from seeing all you can do that’s right for you. You’ll never get right results without right action. No matter how much you’ve done, there’s always more you can do.
Results come from action and only from action. Stop using the Lord’s timing as a crutch to justify inaction. You don’t get results from anything but action. Someone must act for you to get results. That someone is you, and your time is now.
Partner with the Lord
That undoubtedly irritates some of you, especially if you’ve sincerely given your all to secure your companion. And I’m not discounting the Lord’s timetable for each of our lives. He knows not only what’s right but when it’s right.
That’s why you need to partner with Him. When you do, you’ll know what you should do with the time you have now. For most LDS singles, now is the time to take action to move towards eternal blessings. It’s not just about keeping the standards. It’s changing the way you think so you embrace a new way of being that makes you more attractive.
That’s the real secret. Marriage is best pursued indirectly, not directly. When you choose to make the right changes in you, you drastically increase the likelihood someone you want will want you. Partnering with the Lord will help you know what changes are best for you to make today that will attract a brighter tomorrow.
The Lord does have a right time for each of us to receive eternal blessings. But unless you’ve got revelation your time isn’t now, you’re choosing to be single when you use the concept of the Lord’s timing to justify your own inaction. For most LDS singles, your time is now. So get busy giving your all to all the right things for you. When you do, you’ll move yourself closer to the blessings you desire. 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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