Halloween! That frightful time of year we embrace with a spirit of good fun means dressing up in costumes and of course eating lots of holiday-themed food. And let's not forget the trick-or-treating.
But while we all spend one day a year approaching fearful sights with a gleeful sort of playfulness, many spend the other 364 days of the year cowering to fear. Can we bring to every day of the year the same sort of playfulness that we bring to Halloween?
We all have our fears. One of the biggest fears many LDS singles have is the fear of never marrying. Whether that fear or another haunts you most, you’ll never conquer your fear by cowering to it. To conquer your fear, you must take and use the power you already have within yourself. You must face your fears.
Believe the Lord
To start, you have great reason for courage. You’re not on your journey alone. Your Heavenly Father has provided a Savior Who loves you so much that He never could abandon you, let alone would. And that Savior Who created the universe is a powerful ally.
If you truly trust in that all-powerful Creator, if you truly have faith in Him, if you truly believe Him, you’ll never feel fear. And that’s simply because you won't be able to. Faith and fear cannot exist in the same space at the same time.
So when the Lord promises He’ll bless you, you can rest assured He’ll fulfill His promises. And He won't just fulfill them in part; He'll fulfill them down to the dot of the last I and the cross of the last T. So great will be your blessing that, when that glorious day finally comes, you’ll wonder how it ever was that you doubted Him.
And many of those promises are not just for the next life but for this life. Yes, a few may have to wait for eternity, but I firmly believe that 99% of us can have their promised blessings here and now in mortality. You may doubt and even laugh as did Abraham's wife Sarah, but the Lord will fulfill every syllable of every word of every promise that He makes to you. Period.
Partner with the Lord
How do you believe that? How do you generate such faith in the Lord and in His promises that you continue to believe fervently even when everything around you seems to say the exact opposite?
First, approach the Lord as did the father with the mentally disturbed son who exclaimed, "Lord, . . . help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). You’re never alone in your journey, so don’t try to go it alone. Walk with Him who gave His all so you could succeed in your ultimate journey.
Second, take action. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that faith is a principle of action. That means you cannot have faith if you just wish and wait. To increase your faith, you must increase your action.
This is why you approach the Lord first. When you partner with Him, He’ll help you understand the next step you need to take in your journey. When you then act on that revelation and take that next step, you walk by faith toward a bright and glorious future, one with the blessings He wants to give you.
Walk with the Lord
Walking by faith doesn't mean never feeling fear, but it can bring courage. And courage means doing what you need to do even though you may feel afraid. When you walk by faith, you can face your fears with the confidence He will never abandon you.
If all of us were to step back and observe the situation, we’d see that all fear does is prevent us from taking the next step in our journey. But whatever your fears are, you still control what response you will provide. Will you allow your fear to control you and cower from your next step? Or will you control you and take that next step?
When you take that next step, your courage grows, your faith grows, and you can walk and take more next steps with more confidence. The more you act, the more your faith grows, the more your confidence grows, and the more you can live with the surety that the Lord will fulfill all of His promises to you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In Western culture we adore people supposedly born with unique talent. Of course, we should congratulate those who have talent. The problem comes when we think those at the top have been born with “it.” That type of thinking leads to so much failure.
We think like this more often than we might realize. Ever heard someone say “I’m just not good at math”? People learn math all the time, and yet some persist in thinking they're “just not math people,” whatever that means. This thinking reflects the fixed mindset, the idea that you either have “it” — the something wonderful you need to succeed — or you don’t.
The fixed mindset has everyone climbing all over each other trying to prove how great they are. They seek to validate their own sense of self-worth in a game of comparisons. Unless you can prove you're better than someone else — that you have “it” — the world teaches you aren’t validated.
The fixed mindset also encourages you to do everything on your own. If you need help, you obviously don’t have “it”. If you’ve ever wondered why some find it hard to accept service from others, it may be because they don’t want to appear like they don’t have “it”.
This one cultural influence frustrates many LDS singles as they try to create families. For example, suppose you have some bad experiences with dating. (OK, so maybe you don’t have to suppose.) Is your normal response to give up because you think you don’t have “it”?
It’s very easy to think, if we weren’t born with whatever wonderful something it is we believe we need to have to succeed, then why even try? After all, it’s obvious you don’t have “it” if you aren’t as wonderful as someone else. So why torture yourself by proving what you fear, that you're unable to have your righteous desires? After all, you just don’t have “it”.
But you don’t need to think that way. Replace the idea of “it” with the idea that talent can be learned. You can then see service from others as an opportunity to learn something new and to improve upon yourself. That makes it easier to embrace.
Learn and grow
No talent of any kind is innate. Learning line upon line is part of the experience we came to mortality to have. Even people who think they aren't “math people” can learn math. I see it every semester with the math classes I teach. Talent can be learned.
And because it is learned, you need to see failure as a chance to improve yourself. Remember that your focus determines your reality. For example, it’s easy to think you're somehow defective because you can’t get a date. And as long as you focus on how “defective” you are, your reality will feel to confirm just that.
But when you focus instead on your efforts, your failure to get a date doesn’t mean something is wrong with you but rather with your effort. Ask yourself, “Why was it exactly that my effort to get a date failed?” and then keep following that trail until you find real answers.
Look to the Lord
Ultimately the Savior has already accepted you. He would not have suffered all He did if you were not worth redeeming. That means you don’t have to prove or validate yourself or even compare yourself with anyone else. You’re already accepted.
And His acceptance is the only one that matters. When you accept that truth, you free yourself from feeling you must have a significant other in order to be accepted. You can more easily be real in your interactions with other people. You don’t have to pretend you're something you really aren’t. That freedom makes life so much more enjoyable.
If you don’t feel that freedom now, then pray for it. The Lord will guide you to embrace your true worth. After all, He knows you're worth it. He’ll help you to feel His love for you if you but ask. When that happens, you’ll realize more fully your own worth. You’ll know more fully that you’re already accepted. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It’s natural to think life would be better if only we had something we don’t now have. We think, I'll be happy when ______ . You can fill in the blank.
And many do. Some think they’ll be happy when they get a new job or a new house. Some marrieds fill that blank with a new baby. Many singles fill that blank with getting married.
These thoughts are natural, and that’s why they ultimately don’t lead to happiness. Happiness never comes from following the inclinations of the natural man or woman. Those inclinations turn your focus inward on yourself.
But true happiness requires you to turn your focus outward on others and contributing to make their lives better. The more of yourself you give in that endeavor, the happier you become. And because you can always contribute to others in some way, you don’t have to wait for happiness.
Avoid the “happiness” trap
Often we place too many conditions on our happiness. By thinking we can’t be happy unless we possess something — be it some material object, social status, or notable achievement — we equate happiness with possessing that something.
And that’s the first part of the trap. As long as you don’t possess whatever that something is, you’ll be unhappy. And because true happiness comes from what you give rather than possess, fulfillment will always elude you.
The second part of the trap comes by thinking you must possess your something because your life plan says it’s “right.” After all, how can you be happy when your life isn’t what you want it to be?
Many singles get caught in this second part of the trap. Thinking you need to have that special someone to be happy is self-defeating. If you’re not happy now, you’re not likely to attract that special someone. People generally don’t want to spend ten minutes let alone their entire life with negative emotions like unhappiness.
Not getting what you think you need to be happy then just feeds the cycle to continue. And releasing your wanting will be hard so long as your life plan tells you it’s “right” to keep wanting it, further reinforcing the cycle.
Find your freedom
But you don’t have to be trapped. You can free yourself by changing your thinking. Quit waiting for some condition to be met. Start understanding the true source of happiness, and start making more effective choices.
Happiness comes from giving your all to the right things. Long-time audience members know the right things are more than just keeping the standards. Of course those standards are right for everyone. But the right things also include your unique contribution to improve the lives of others.
And you can’t just do your right things and expect to be happy. It's what you bring to what you do while doing the right things that produces happiness. It’s how much of yourself you give willingly to doing your right things.
If just doing the right thing would make you happy, everyone at church would be just peachy. After all, church attendance is a right thing. But you can’t just go through the motions to become happy. You must give your all to the right things. That’s why those who contribute while attending church are always happy. They’re giving their all to their right things.
Likewise, simply acting out your part during the marriage ceremony won’t make you happy, however "right" that marriage may be. What will make you happy is bringing your all to that union. Happiness comes from giving your all to the things that are right for you.
Be happy now
Here’s the best part about this definition of happiness. You don’t need to wait to be happy. In His tender mercies, the Lord has placed within your reach the things that are right for you now. You can choose to change your thinking so that you can see your right things all around you. And you can choose to give your all in embracing those right things.
When it comes to being happy, you don’t need to wait. You don’t need a change in your situation. You need a change in your thinking and then you just need to choose to be happy.
Don’t sacrifice the joy of today by focusing on a future that always seems elusive. Focus instead on the contribution you can make today. You can be happy now if you align your thinking and your actions with the true source of happiness. When you give your all to contribute to others in the way that’s right for you, you’ll feel that happiness come into your own life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Yet I decided to focus on the Prophet since we should all know what he said in the most recent General Conference. This did narrow the field considerably, yet it didn’t solve my dilemma; the Prophet spoke four times during Conference. Finally, I settled upon President Nelson’s remarks entitled “The Correct Name of the Church.”
Why this one? Certainly I see parallels between President Nelson’s remarks and the cultural changes I’ve repeatedly supported in the broader LDS culture. But something more here intrigues me. The Prophet spent a good 15 minutes in General Conference talking about something that superficially doesn’t seem wildly important.
“What’s in a name?” the Prophet asks. He then responds, “When it comes to the name of the Lord’s church, the answer is ‘Everything.’”
Leaning on revelation
I didn’t think I’d hear about this topic again when the style guide revisions President Nelson referenced originally appeared. But I’ve long considered them important.
I remember sharing the correct name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while attending my 10-year high school reunion. Living in the Bible Belt where my father was stationed when I was in high school provided me many opportunities to stand tall for my beliefs.
I found more at the reunion. The organizers asked everyone in advance to provide a few sentences to catch everyone else up on what had occurred since graduation. I of course included my full-time missionary service in my blurb.
Eventually conversation at the reunion turned towards my membership in the Church, and people began asking me questions. When one of them used the word Mormon in asking a question, I followed the answer with “But I don’t really use the term Mormon. I prefer to use Latter-day Saint.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” came the reply. “ I didn’t mean to offend.”
“I’m not offended,” I said. “I just have my preferences.” I then shared the same scripture President Nelson shared in his Conference address and explained I wanted to use the name the Savior provided through His Prophet.
Recognizing what’s “inconsequential”
That was my attitude back when President Hinckley was the Prophet. I can remember him speaking about the name Mormon in Conference, saying in effect the Latter-day Saints have taken a pejorative name and made it shine. Now it seems the current Prophet is leading the Church away from that name. Even what was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir recently expunged the word Mormon from its name.
This may be another sifter separating the wheat from the tares. Shortly after President Hinckley spoke in Conference about how ladies should wear only one pair of earrings, one of my Institute teachers criticized him for speaking about something so “inconsequential.”
My teacher’s criticism of the Prophet took him off the covenant path and on the road to apostasy. That “inconsequential” admonition from the Prophet sifted the less faithful out from among the more faithful. We might describe this latest “inconsequential” admonition from the current Prophet similarly.
Using the proper name of the Church requires many more words than some may care to employ. But the promise which President Nelson gave to those who’ll do their best to conform to the Lord’s desire is anything but inconsequential.
Imagine that — “the likes of which we have never seen”!
Centering on Christ through language
Of course, phrases like that carry significance because words mean things. Language matters. And that’s the essence of President Nelson’s argument to use the correct name of the Church.
And that excites me. We need to be more intentional in our language, particularly regarding names and labels. I’ve long advocated replacing family ward with general membership ward (or just general ward) to describe the majority of our congregations. Such a move helps everyone feel included, thus moving us closer to the Christ-centered culture we need.
Indeed, President Nelson encouraged using the correct name of the Church in order to emphasize the Savior. This is the Lord’s church. Including His name when we share the name of His church in any forum recognizes His proper role and centers us more fully on Him.
So what’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Romeo may declare “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet,” but there’s nothing sweet about removing the Lord from His proper place in His Church or in our hearts. Using the correct name of the Church honors Him whose church this is and centers us more on Him. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
This past Sunday I decided to attend a special singles meeting in my stake. I didn’t even know about the meeting until I went to church and saw the announcement in the bulletin: Special Meeting for singles tonight at the stake center.
My question then is probably your question now. What’s a “special meeting for singles”? I had no interest in another fireside, because typically they’re just another helping of Sunday School. I get enough of that at church.
But a “special meeting”? Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued. And so I donned my white shirt and tie later than usual and, at the appropriate time, made my way over to the stake center. As I walked in the door, a gentleman greeted me and asked if I were here for the fireside.
Instantly I cringed. But, tampering down the anxiety attack within me, I replied, “Yes, I’m here for the meeting.” This brother directed me to the Relief Society room.
Singles activities are often sparsely attended, but I guess the same influence that worked on me worked on others. The room was packed! I had to take a seat in the front corner of the room.
Start by listening
I soon learned the purpose of the meeting. The stake presidency was looking through the responses to the recent survey — wait, survey? I thought to myself. What survey? I never got told about any survey! — and now they wanted to take the opportunity to listen.
Hold up! Listen? You actually want to listen to us singles? Hallelujah! There is a God, and He hears and answers prayers!
The meeting then became something free form, with individuals sharing feelings and perspectives on LDS singles life and what singles need. I of course have a lot to say on those topics. But I decided to listen myself. I wanted to learn what concerns were most prevalent so I could make my response more targeted to what people needed to hear.
But I never got the chance to share anything. Many expressed frustrations with the family-centered LDS culture and with leaders who because of ignorance or apathy or whatever other reason aren’t sufficiently supporting singles. By the time I grasped the main themes of others’ comments, the stake president ended the meeting. Apparently there was another meeting to attend. But he did offer some closing words of encouragement before ending the meeting with prayer.
Raise your voice
Not having the chance to share my voice, I quickly approached the stake president as soon as the prayer had concluded. As I shook his hand, I thanked him for listening. Not many leaders actually stop to listen, and I made sure he knew what a rarity his approach unfortunately is.
We spoke briefly about what had just transpired, and I assured him that solutions do exist for all of the frustrations and negative emotions that had just been vented. Those solutions we can find in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, but it takes a new way of thinking to see them. Most people aren’t taught to think in those ways, which is part of the reason why I have my blog and radio show.
I then asked if it were okay for me to email some information that could bring added perspective on others’ comments. He consented, and with that, I had my mission. I knew what I needed to do.
Act in faith
I rushed home and began writing that email. After listing all of the concerns I could remember from others’ comments, I organized those concerns into themes, and then planned my response.
Because much of my response mirrors what I’ve already said on both my blog and the radio show, I decided to provide him with links to the relevant posts and shows. Even with the links, I quickly amassed four pages of material. I’m working on paring that down so it won’t overwhelm.
I still can’t contain my excitement at what transpired. Indeed, I believe many are unaware of the wonderful opportunity within the grasp of leadership and the singles they want to serve. And I feel especially blessed to have leaders who chose first to listen to the people.
Listening opens the door of possibility to establishing the support network that will improve the lives of singles and help to fill their needs. If you’re in a leadership position with stewardship over the singles, I urge you to listen to the people. As you listen, you’ll set the foundation to establish the support network necessary to minister most effectively to LDS singles. As that support network grows, more and more LDS singles will have more and more of their needs met. And that will bring 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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