We all have those times when we feel the elements of life oppressing us to the point of pure exhaustion. Those experiences are part of mortality. That’s by design.
I know this doesn’t really compare with my trials earlier this year, but I really didn’t want to return to work this week. Having all last week off was most welcome. This semester has been a grueling one for us instructors as well as for our students. We were all ready for a break. But it didn’t seem like enough to me. Even midweek, I’m still struggling to return to the typical swing.
Whatever their shape or size, hard times come to everyone. Many of the challenges we LDS singles face are tailored to our unique circumstances, but guess what? So are everyone else’s. Again, that’s by design. Such days call for added perspective, renewal of purpose, and a return to our journey along the path to our heavenly home.
Add to your perspective
No matter how events in your life unfold, some truths remain constant. God still lives. He still loves you and is still aware of the smallest details in your life. The restored gospel is still true. Prophets and apostles are still living on the earth. Priesthood power and authority are still accessible. And the covenants you’ve made with God are still in effect and full of power provided you’re still faithful.
You also still have the opportunity to start over. Every day is a gift from God because each one brings a new opportunity to try again. Even your worst day is a great day when viewed that way.
I’ve discussed before the importance of recognizing that every trial we endure will eventually pass. I’ve also touched on using our God-given gift of agency to leverage the obstacles before us into opportunities. Looking for how you can grow from your experiences may not make the unpleasant ones less unpleasant, but it will give you added strength to endure them with joy and increased gratitude to God.
Those experiences refine you so you become more like your Heavenly Father. And that prepares you by design to live with Him in a state of eternal happiness.
Renew your purpose
Understanding that design positions you to renew your journey with hope for the future. You weren’t put here to fail. You were put here to succeed, and that gloriously! Knowing opportunity exists amid the obstacles in your path invites you not only to see with new eyes but also to renew your sense of purpose with faith in a loving God Who will provide the tools you need to succeed.
I’ve long advocated LDS singles adopt a personal ministry, a personalized approach to bring goodness into the world. Having a personal ministry allows you to focus on the positive aspects of every circumstance because that brings what you can do into higher resolution.
Many LDS singles feel unfulfilled because they want to progress towards eternal marriage but for one reason or another don’t. Staying stuck means no progress, and no progress means no fulfillment. Personal ministries can help LDS singles to find fulfillment in advancing an agenda designed to benefit their brothers and sisters in their mortal journeys.
Your focus becomes your reality, so when you focus on advancing your personal ministry, your reality finds you an active advocates of positivity rather than a pathetic victim whimpering in a helpless corner of life.
Return to your journey
By throwing yourself into your unique way to increase goodness in the world, you can access a strength available only as you serve others with all your heart. That strength allows you to renew your purpose along the journey home through mortality. You’re never abandoned because heavenly help is always available.
Your journey home in mortality can be divided into the individual days you spend here. Each day is a gift from God bringing the opportunity to begin again. No matter how bad any number of previous days may have been, each morning the sun rises to reveal a clean slate before you. What will we do with that new opportunity?
Even the worst days are great days because every day is a gift from God. He has given you the space and the tools you need to grow and become like Him. And He has given you the agency allowing you to choose for yourself. Each day you get another opportunity. What will you do with yours?
I hope you’ll add to your perspective, renew your purpose, and then return to your journey to your heavenly home with positive energy and optimism for your future. We all have great reasons to hope. Focusing on those reasons will bring all of us more joy in our journey.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s no surprise I’m addressing gratitude. Last Thanksgiving I promoted gratitude as a lifestyle, a way of being that defines who we are. I was all set to dive further into that concept.
But today I feel prompted to move in a slightly different direction. Maybe it’s something I need or (more probably) something someone else needs.
Gratitude is about appreciating what we have, but far too often we LDS singles, influenced by the family-centered culture of the Church, look to escape the singles life we have. It’s hard to appreciate what you have when you’re always looking to run from it.
That means if we LDS singles are going to embrace gratitude as a lifestyle and not just an attitude, we need to be grateful to be single.
You can see it
I can understand singles balking at that prospect, especially if they view singles life as undesirable. And often they’re justified. Who wants to go through life with loneliness, the pain of relationships that were either broken or never took place, and the constant feeling you don’t quite belong at church? No one in their right mind would want any of that.
But gratitude doesn’t mean you stop wanting a better situation for yourself. It means you recognize and cherish the good about your situation. And you can do that regardless of your circumstances.
No matter how bad you may have it, you’ll always have something good in every situation you encounter in life. That’s the design behind mortality.
We often focus on this mortal life as a test with challenges to conquer and assume those challenges are mostly negative. But when we focus too much on overcoming the negative we can miss seeing the positive right there in front of us.
Part of the test in mortality is to distinguish between the bitter and the sweet, the good and the bad. That means we need to be presented with the sweet and the good in order to learn that lesson. In His tender mercy to all of us, the Lord gives us good in every single day.
That’s something to be grateful for.
You can choose it
Because there’s good in every day of every life regardless of one’s circumstances, and we have the glorious gift of agency, we can choose to be grateful for that good. True gratitude doesn’t depend on your circumstances. That’s because it’s a way of being.
Your focus determines your reality. If you look for goodness in every situation, the opportunity in every obstacle, and the tender mercies around you everywhere, then goodness, opportunity, and tender mercies will fill your reality.
If, on the other hand, you constantly see the bad in every situation, the obstacle before you as only an obstacle, and an absence of God’s love even though it’s right there in front of you every single day, then all the negative elements you choose to see will comprise your reality. We choose our reality when we choose our focus.
You can be it
When who we are naturally chooses that better reality, we’ve positioned ourselves to feel gratitude in every circumstance simply because that’s who we are. But if you’re not that way yet, you may be asking, “What’s so good about being single that we should be grateful?”
Speaking for myself, I can come and go as I please. I don’t need to ask for “permission” or tell someone else what I’m doing. There’s been many a weekend when I just got in my car and left.
It’s easier for me to change my life. I just decide what I want and then do it. My married friends need to reach an agreement with their spouse. That’s not always easily won. Changing the course of your ship is easier when that ship is small.
It’s also easier for me to build my career. Not having someone waiting for me at home means I can spend whatever extra time I need at work whenever I want. That’ll put me in a better position for supporting that family when they are there in my home.
If you’re a single parent with kids, none of that probably applies to you. But then you have something I don’t — the constant reminder of God’s love embodied in each and every one of your children.
By no means is my list comprehensive or applicable to all singles, but that’s the point. Gratitude is highly personal, so your combination of elements comprising your gratitude will differ from mine.
What elements comprise your gratitude? When you embrace those positive aspects of your singles life, you’ll feel much better about yourself, your world, and your future. And you’ll have more joy in your journey.
Recently I found myself reading my patriarchal blessing. I didn’t plan it; it just happened. I’m not even sure when I last read my patriarchal blessing, but this particular reading refreshed me.
I’ve been“discussing” with local leaders how they can best support LDS singles. They keep saying things like “Everything will be made right in the next life.” No one disputes that. But seeing as I’m expecting to live for at least another 40 years if not longer, could we please not give up so soon? How about we focus on what we can do to make things right in this life?
It’s almost as if my leaders are really saying, “See? I did something to help them. Now it’s not my problem anymore.” I really hope they aren’t rationalizing their lack of involvement in our lives like that. It won’t look good for any who do that when things do get put right in the next life, if I read Matthew 25 correctly.
Context can change the entire meaning. Perhaps reading my patriarchal blessing in that context heightened the power of my experience for me.
Respecting the sacred
I consider patriarchal blessings to be sacred documents. For me, that means not sharing details with just anyone. I’m extremely selective in who reads it.
That also means not quoting from it in public forums like this. I know many others would and have. I don’t judge them. I just hold myself to my standard which I apply only to myself.
That said, I’ll communicate general ideas from my patriarchal blessing. For example, most patriarchal blessings declare the recipient’s lineage. I have no qualms in saying mine declares my lineage.
I also don’t mind sharing that my patriarchal blessing provides specific counsel for different phases of life. For example, there’s a section on my mission. Every time I read it, I think back to the moments when the promises made there were all fulfilled — and fulfilled completely.
What was old becomes new
There’s also a section about my marriage. In the past, I’ve always been able to read the part about my mission, think about how that part was fulfilled, and then apply that same thinking to the part about my marriage. Generally I’m left with the impression the promises made are still true.
During this recent reading of my patriarchal blessing, the availability of these promises in this life struck me very palpably. It’s not just the strength of the impression convincing me those promises are true. It’s noticing for the first time the meaning behind some of the language of a different part of my blessing.
My patriarchal blessing talks about my children as well as my marriage and what they will become with respect to this nation, meaning the country of my (and presumably their) birth. As I pondered that language, I realized there are no nations in the next life. That means my patriarchal blessing is talking about my children in this life.
But that can’t happen unless I actually have children in this life. And that won’t happen unless I actually get married in this life.
Sometimes the promises of a patriarchal blessing find fulfillment in the next life. So I don’t completely blame small minds from jumping to the conclusion that those promises to someone in my situation are meant for the next life.
That’s why this particular reading touched me so powerfully. After all I’ve endured, what a great comfort to know my loving Heavenly Father is aware of my circumstances! What a tender mercy to feel the strength of His support as He communicates the truth of His promises to me!
Get your own experience
I don’t know if all my future patriarchal blessing readings will result in similar faith building episodes. I certainly hope so. But regardless of whether or not that happens, I still have the memories of faith promoting experiences like this one that have happened. I can leverage them to buoy my faith in a God acutely aware of me.
I’m not the only one of whom God is aware. He’s aware of you also. Properly employed, patriarchal blessings can help you along your journey home.
When was the last time you read your patriarchal blessing? Do you believe the Lord’s promises to you? Do you treasure them within your heart? If it’s been a while, take them out and read them. It may just refresh your soul.
Whether or not that happens, I do know one thing for sure. I know every promise God makes will be fulfilled in its entirety. We just need to stay true and faithful to Him. When we do, He’ll support us along the way, and we’ll have more joy in our journey.
post-Conference topic. Other than the obvious reason for selecting it (I mean, it’s Elder Holland, so need I say more?) I was really impressed with the applications this address has for those called to minister to singles.
We all understand that Elder Holland wasn’t specifically speaking about LDS singles. But General Conference speakers typically don’t speak about any one demographic in the Church. That’s why it’s called General Conference.
However, if you do home teach any singles, hopefully Elder Holland’s remarks will inspire you to take your performance up a notch (or two or three).
Single mothers need it most
The first application of Elder Holland’s remarks to singles is his rather obvious introduction. Single sisters, particularly those with children at home, are the singles who need real home teachers the most.
One single sister I knew while serving as a stake single adult rep had seven children from two prior marriages, the oldest being 15. I made certain her elders quorum president knew she needed real home teachers who could play the role of surrogate father. And I’m grateful he responded.
It’s no accident Elder Holland begins his remarks with a story of ineffective home teachers failing to support a single adult. Being the black sheep in our family-centered culture, LDS singles are easily ignored, neglected, and forgotten. It’s truly tragic, especially when a single sister is straining to raise children all by herself.
Other singles need it too
That’s not to say singles without children don’t need home teachers also. So it’s equally tragic when any LDS single has no home teachers. I’m a case in point. I have no home teachers, even though I’ve asked for them repeatedly. How I wish someone would “watch over [me] always, and be with and strengthen [me]” (D&C 20:53)!
Let me be fair. Each of my multiple requests for home teachers have included the insistence they be real — the kind Elder Holland extols. I want real, and that’s no less true now than when I said it almost three years ago.
That means I’m not interested in receiving home teachers who want nothing more than to check off a box on a monthly to-do list so they can feel good about themselves. What a waste of time! But if they want to support me and strengthen me and encourage me to move forward in my life, then I’ll gladly make time for home teachers.
In the three years I’ve been in my current ward, I’ve constantly made that request. And in all that time I’ve never had home teachers. I’m not quite sure what that means. Does that mean there aren’t any real home teachers in my ward? Or does that mean all the real home teachers have been given “more effective” assignments?
We all need support
I suspect I’m not alone when it comes to home teaching and LDS singles. What do you do if you need home teachers but all your requests for them go unanswered?
You can pray the Lord will open the eyes and the hearts of his servants. I recall the parable of the unjust judge (see Luke 18:1-8). I’m sure not everything for which we could pray qualifies via that parable, but I’m sure asking for the support of real home teachers does.
It’s hard to mention prayer here without fasting. If nothing else, fasting can help us come nearer to God so that we feel more readily the support His love offers. Regular temple attendance can help in that regard as well.
Certainly don’t stop requesting home teachers. Elder Holland provides the model to which every priesthood holder should aspire.
Brethren, the appeal I am making tonight is for you to lift your vision of home teaching. Please, in newer, better ways see yourselves as emissaries of the Lord to His children. That means leaving behind the tradition of a frantic, law of Moses–like, end-of-the-month calendar in which you rush to give a scripted message from the Church magazines that the family has already read. We would hope, rather, that you will establish an era of genuine, gospel-oriented concern for the members, watching over and caring for each other, addressing spiritual and temporal needs in any way that helps.
Now, as for what “counts” as home teaching, every good thing you do “counts,” so report it all! Indeed, the report that matters most is how you have blessed and cared for those within your stewardship, which has virtually nothing to do with a specific calendar or a particular location. What matters is that you love your people and are fulfilling the commandment “to watch over the church always.”
I feel very justified in insisting my home teachers be real.
And of course, if you’re a home teacher, you want to be the kind of home teacher you want to have. It’s called the Law of Restoration (see Alma 41:15). In life we all get what we give.
My final suggestion is patience. If you have imperfect home teachers, at least you have home teachers! We’re all walking construction zones, and that applies whether we’re single or married. Home teachers are not exceptions. Let’s patiently and gently but firmly encourage the priesthood brethren in our wards to be the home teachers we need. We’ll all have more joy in our journey when we do.
I’ve been thinking about the Church’s new videos regarding diversity. Although they spoke in more general terms, last week I praised the Brethren for highlighting an issue challenging many LDS singles. We should all be one in Christ.
Those musings have played in my mind. Just as the Brethren have generalized their message that applies to LDS singles fitting into the culture of the Church, so I have generalized my thinking to applications in my own life and that of the average LDS single.
I use that word average loosely. The LDS singles demographic is wildly diverse. Yet for all our differences, we’re considerably similar. We’re all children of a Heavenly Father Who loves us. We’ve all made covenants to keep His commandments. And most of us want to keep those covenants.
Most of us also want to make an additional covenant binding us eternally to a very special someone. Nevertheless, many of us decrease the likelihood of that event by not dedicating ourselves and our time appropriately.
A wake up call
We LDS singles often say we’ve prioritized making that next essential covenant. But have we really? What does what we do say? That’s the real determinant.
It’s so very easy for life to carry us along, but those who live their best life don’t just collide with the waves. They make waves of their own. A wave maker is far more attractive than a wave taker.
Yet too often we’re so absorbed in the moment we don’t see the forest from the trees. We need an occasional reminder to step back and re-calibrate. This is my wake up call. Let it be yours too.
Examining my life, I have to conclude marriage really isn’t my top priority. My top priority right now is my job. It has been since this summer. I completely understand how that happened, and I freely forgive myself for those choices. But now I need to choose differently to adopt my desired priorities.
The consumption problem
Work isn’t the only inordinate consumer of time. Many LDS singles fill their time with sports or games or media. These activities aren’t bad in and of themselves. In fact, in the proper context, these activities can be very good. The problem comes when we allow consumption to swallow too much of our time.
Modern society promotes consumption. Ours is a world of information overload delivered through a multitude of multimedia platforms. Social media and more traditional media outlets beckon us away from our normal worlds into a place promising ease and pleasure. And considering how hard we all work in that “normal world,” it’s hard to reject the siren song of consumption.
Yet how is the world better when everyone spends the bulk of their personal time consuming content? How much better are our lives because we’ve been absorbed with social media and playing games and watching movies and all the rest?
And for LDS singles, how much more attractive are you because you’ve spent all this time in consumption? Will that special someone really want to share your life filled with so many hours consuming content?
A personal ministry
No one’s really that attracted to someone doing little else than consume. Consumers spend their time taking, and constantly taking doesn’t build a strong foundation for any relationship, romantic or otherwise.
Conversely, producers spend their time making. They make the world a different place, if only in a small way. And if what they bring into the world adds to its goodness, that difference is a positive one. Someone actively bringing goodness into the world is far more attractive than someone actively bringing gratification to oneself. That first life appeals far more.
That’s what adopting a personal ministry can do for LDS singles. Find your own way to bring goodness into the world, an outlet through which you can release passionate creativity and make a positive difference in the lives of others. Consumers take, but producers make.
I could rationalize my job as an educator into my personal ministry. Education makes a positive difference in the lives of students. Yet I know my real personal ministry is developing this forum into a community where LDS singles can feel the support they need to journey on.
A personal ministry can do that for all of us. Consistently bringing goodness into the world will make us more attractive to the eternal companion we really need than anything else so oriented.
Like I said, this is my wake up call. Don’t be a consumer. Be a producer. Adopt a personal ministry today, or recommit yourself to yours if you already have one. We’ll have much more joy in our journey when we do.
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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