This perspective on three popular holidays placed close together on the calendar encourages us to experience the traditions associated with those days not as rote routines but as an invitation to improve upon ourselves. Seen in this light, Thanksgiving then becomes more than just a day to reflect on our gratitude. It’s more than just thank you. It’s an invitation to adopt gratitude as a lifestyle.
Let it define you
Indeed, gratitude properly understood is more than giving thanks. Gratitude is a state of being. When we’re truly grateful, gratitude becomes so infused within us that it defines us. We feel it so intensely we can’t help but broadcast it to all around.
And those around us will want to spend more time around us. Let’s face it; grateful people are simply more pleasant people. They are more easy to please and more quick to please others.
Thus, when it becomes a defining characteristic, gratitude gives birth to many other virtues. Grateful people more willingly have compassion and render service. Grateful people are more humble and more easily taught. Grateful people are more cheerful and friendly.
This is more than just saying thank you when appropriate. This is more than remembering to include thanks in our prayers. This is gratitude as a lifestyle.
Start with prayer
So of course that idea begs the question: How do we adopt a lifestyle of gratitude? What changes can we make so expressions of gratitude become not just a rote activity or compliance with an excepted norm but rather a manifestation of our character?
For me, the answer to such questions lies in a practice I adopted some time ago. When I kneel to offer my morning prayers, I do not ask for anything. Instead, I simply express gratitude.
I struggled at first with this practice. That’s to be expected since I wasn’t used to it. But as I persisted, it became easier for me to think of things for which I’m grateful and to express gratitude for them.
Eventually the practice evolved into expressing thanks for blessings I have not yet received. For example, heading into my recent midterm exams, I of course thanked heaven for being able to study and progress towards a career of my choice, for help in completing assignments, and for assistance in learning as I prepared for my exams. But I also thanked God for the help He would yet offer me.
And He did help me. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, but I did OK. And I again offered thanks, this time for what He had given me.
Embrace the lifestyle
Adopting this practice of expressing only gratitude in my morning prayers has been instrumental in my efforts to adopt a lifestyle of gratitude. Spending the first several minutes of my day immersed in gratitude colors the rest of my day, imbuing it with a spirit of gratitude that influences me in my work and my interactions with other people.
I’ve also felt it inspire other virtues within me, such as a greater tendency to be kind to others, a greater propensity to help others where I can, and a greater faith that the Lord will provide for me. In conjunction with the increase of virtue has been a decrease of vice. I’ve felt less desire to steal or cheat because gratitude has inspired me with feelings of abundance and plenty. And I’ve felt less desire to covet because gratitude has reminded me of the Lord’s tender mercies and His plan to bless me with what I truly need.
Gratitude is more than just thank you; it’s a lifestyle. When we exercise our efforts to adopt gratitude as a lifestyle, the Lord blesses our efforts by blessing us with the fruits of gratitude. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
The scriptural basis for the four-area life model they present for making goals — spiritual, social, intellectual, and physical — really impressed me. I’ve long adopted that model, but I hadn’t made the connection with its scriptural foundation: “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
The Savior experienced the opportunity for growth in mortality we all experience. Linking our own personal development approach with Christ’s is absolutely brilliant. The Savior grew spiritually (“favor with God”), socially (“favor with man”), intellectually (“increased in wisdom”), and physically (“increased in . . . stature”), thereby providing an example for us to follow.
Let’s examine how Joy in the Journey Radio will be helping LDS singles follow that example starting in the coming year. Let’s take a look at what’s next.
Increase in favor with God and man
We’ve always applied the restored gospel to the challenges of LDS singles life. Focusing on Conference addresses and applying them to LDS singles, even when that application is not so apparent, is one such example. Another lies in the Sermon on the Mount study tradition I’ve shared with the audience. Such practices will continue as an important part of the program.
We’ve also delved into the social aspect of some of those challenges, particularly dating and relationships. I want to delve further into this topic in the coming year. But we’ll also examine all types of social relationships, not just romantic ones. Building and maintaining true friendships can bless our lives as well as the lives of others.
I’ve shared one such friendship with a friend of another faith named Dick. This gentleman graduated from college back in the 50s, so he’s definitely not anywhere near me in age. But he’s been a good mentor and friend. In addition to working together professionally, we occasionally had lunch as well as spouts of spirited but friendly banter as we played bocce in his backyard.
Despite the many differences between us, our friendship has truly enriched my life. Seeking after such unusual friends will similarly bless the lives of LDS singles. And so we’ll be learning about social skills that can support that effort.
Increase in wisdom
Many in personal development and leadership circles cite reading as an essential for success. I’m sure that faithful LDS singles read the scriptures, but there’s a whole world of secular knowledge that can enrich our lives and give us opportunity to bless the lives of others through the acquisition of new knowledge and new skills.
The Lord has said, “. . . seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). Earlier in that same revelation, the Lord speaks of learning
Reading is one of the best ways to gain this knowledge. But here in the 21st century, a lot of knowledge transfer takes place with video, especially via YouTube. That means some of the “best books” aren’t printed pages bound together but videos and films. And so occasionally we’ll offer reviews of “best books” LDS singles can apply in their lives, both traditional tomes for reading and videos and films for viewing.
Increase in stature
Finally, we’ll be including more content about the physical area of life, which most people think comprises our physical health and wellness. And indeed it does. But inasmuch as our physical bodies provide a connection between us and the physical world, we could include anything else offering such a connection in the physical arena.
And so we’ll examine topics like exercise and healthy eating. I know some singles dread these topics, so we’ll look at more interesting and engaging perspectives on them. We’ll also look at other connections to the physical world, like personal finances, career, and your home and car.
I feel really excited about what’s next for the program in the coming new year. This course correction will help many LDS singles live their best life. As we together increase in favor with God and man as well as in wisdom and in stature, we’ll transform ourselves into better people who can offer more value in every area of life. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
And there’s lot’s to enjoy (pun intended) in Elder Christofferson’s remarks. Although he didn’t address singles specifically, there’s lots there for LDS singles. Those who open their minds and dig a little deeper can discover that, irrespective of their circumstances, the joy of the saints can be theirs.
Joy in keeping the commandments
Elder Christofferson begins by recounting the experience of Enos in the Book of Mormon who remembered his father speaking often about “the joy of the saints” (Enos 1:3). He then quotes from another Conference talk on joy, this one given by President Russell M. Nelson.
That address, entitled “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” is absolutely classic and necessary reading for all LDS singles. There we find from Eliza R. Snow this gem of a quote : “None but saints can be happy under every circumstance.” I love that we can have joy regardless of our circumstances, but I also love how timeless that principle is. It’s true today because it’s always been true.
Elder Christofferson reaffirms that truth in a new light: “‘The joy of the saints’ denotes the joy of becoming Christlike.” He further taught
Indeed, keeping the commandments brings true joy in life, an experience the wicked will never know until they repent and keep the commandments themselves.
Joy in overcoming sorrow and weakness
Of course, trials and troubles come to everyone in life, not just the wicked. Keeping the commandments will not prevent storms in life. But it will provide added strength to weather those storms and near us to He Who still controls the wind and the waves.
Elder Christofferson points us to Him by quoting His words: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Christ gives us the power to overcome the storms of life, resulting once more in joy only the faithful will know.
I love the illustrative example Elder Christofferson shares. He tells of Jack Rushton, a stake president in California. In 1989, a tragic surfing accident left Brother Rushton paralyzed from the neck down. Not only had he lost control of his limbs, but he could no longer speak or breathe on his own.
Elder Christofferson continues,
Think of that. Here’s a paraplegic, someone whose situation is far worse than mine and probably yours as well. Yet he felt joy in His life by surrendering to the Lord, Who then helped this good brother overcome his misery. Elder Christofferson shares examples of how that works.
Joy in serving as He served
No matter our circumstances, we can come to the Savior Who can give us “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3). The challenges of LDS singles life certainly include the ashes left behind from dreams set aflame, mourning for treasured relationships which died or were never even born, and heaviness from the lonely walk through life without a partner.
Yet Christ overcame all things. This is why we can have joy regardless of our circumstances. Circumstances may bring happiness, but joy comes only from Christ, because Christ is joy.
President Nelson said as much in that classic Conference address all LDS singles should read. Elder Christofferson quotes those passages in his own address. He then shared these salient ideas:
This is precisely why I keep talking about a personal ministry. A personal ministry helps LDS singles focus on bringing goodness into the world and experiencing joy from blessing the lives of others.
Your singleness need not keep you from the joy you were meant to have now. Keep the Lord’s commandments, overcome sorrow and weakness by coming to Christ, and serve as He served through your personal ministry. When you do, you can experience the joy of the saints for yourself. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Hoping we could find a higher road together, I soon learned how cemented she was in her thinking. When she falsely assumed I wanted out and then proceeded to leave herself, I didn’t resist. After all, if months of having me for a boyfriend hasn’t opened your eyes to see I’m worth fighting for, then what ground can I really hope to gain?
That was a sad day for both of us, but I don’t regret my decision in the least. I wanted a life without limitation because only that life can be my best life. That’s a life all of us can have when we commit to accept no limitations.
A little background
Please don’t misunderstand me. My ex-girlfriend was a great woman with many virtues to recommend her. That’s why I pursued her to begin with. And I found many virtues and vices as I came to know her better.
At the end of the day, I had to ask myself where she was taking me. Because the answer wasn’t somewhere I wanted to go, I moved to discuss a course correction. But her staunch refusal to discuss anything quickly killed our relationship.
I don’t blame her for her actions. One day her husband decided he’d had enough of the Church. But instead of just going inactive, he got a hotel room, committed adultery with a prostitute, and then came home and bragged about it.
Obviously, there’s lots going on here we don’t know about. But the breakdown of her marriage and the resulting divorce really messed with this woman’s head. And her pain gave root to her refusal to dream. She’d been hurt so bad she didn’t want to chance getting hurt again.
No relationship with me or any other man was going to give her the therapy she desperately needed and could get only from an objective, licensed professional. And without that therapy, she never would have a truly healthy romantic relationship.
Settling for less
Too many LDS singles who’ve been likewise hurt likewise shut down their dreams. They settle for whatever comes their way just to have something. In reality all they really want is to belong. And the easiest way to belong is to fit the mold, to gain the marker of acceptance.
In LDS society, the marker of acceptance has traditionally been marriage. Thankfully, that’s changing. Yet many LDS singles still engage habitual thinking influenced by the traditional culture.
Add to that a refusal to address serious internal issues, and you got a sure-fire recipe for a secret prison population. These prisoners don’t live behind physical bars all can see; they live behind bars they themselves have forged. Their less effective thinking limits their vision, and their refusal to dream limits their possibilities.
In short, many LDS singles settle for much less than second best, let alone their full, unlimited potential.
Accepting nothing less
That thinking contradicts the teachings of the restored gospel. You are a child of God. The laws of genetics declare you have inherited traits from your heavenly parents, among which is an unlimited potential. God also has a plan for you, and that plan doesn’t end with you remaining in perpetual failure.
God loves you so much He wants you to have joy in this life as well as the next. He’ll help you to live your best life. Accept these truths. Accept no limitations on yourself.
And accept you may need professional therapy to overcome your challenges. Some of us are so screwed up we can’t make it on our own. And that’s OK! The Lord has provided many resources, including professional ones, so we can rise above our challenges and live our best life here, now, today!
Accept no limitations. When you determine your struggle for your dreams isn’t over until you win, you’re on the path to your best life. 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 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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