That said, my experience still excites me because it gives me great hope the culture of the larger Latter-day Saint community will soon eliminate what has traditionally provided the greatest challenge in LDS singles life. Just as we know rain will fall when we see storm clouds gather, we can see the cultural signs around us indicating a change is gonna come.
How it’s been
I’ve long spoken on this platform about the challenges LDS singles have traditionally faced. For those who may be new to the audience, the bulk of those challenges stem from our family-centered culture.
Traditionally, LDS culture has centered on family. That means the marker of belonging to that culture is being married with kids, because that’s what having a family has traditionally meant. Because everyone has a deeply seated need to belong to a larger group, LDS singles have struggled to belong when the marker of belonging is something they by definition don’t have.
That’s why for years I’ve called for a change in the culture to one centered on Christ. The marker of belonging in that culture would be discipleship. Such a culture would both support the family while being inclusive of those who are different. No matter your background or your situation, you can work to make and keep sacred covenants that everyone else in the LDS community makes. You can be a disciple. You can belong.
A new hope
I kept affirming my message of cultural change despite the appearance of little if any move in that direction. But that all changed in 2018. That’s when I saw my first glimmer of hope.
That’s because that’s when the Brethren unveiled the ministering initiative. My heart jumped for joy while I physically jumped on my couch at hearing the announcement. I saw then a shift in perspective to see inquiring after the needs of others not as a duty, which is what home and visiting teaching had largely become, but as an opportunity to build the kingdom and grow in discipleship.
That’s exactly in line with the vision I’ve always proposed for the most successful singles groups. They focus on bringing everyone together and making everyone feel they belong. They know it doesn’t matter what people’s background or circumstances are, and they proclaim that knowledge in the way they act and treat others.
Seeing this shift announced in General Conference brought me a new hope that the change I had been talking about for years could be on the edge of unfolding into reality.
The future’s bright
That’s why I was so excited when I saw what appeared at the time to be a change in the home page of the Church website. The layout and content were all focused on Christ as the center. And they combined together to create a unequivocal message of belonging no matter your background or circumstances.
I’ve always believed our Church leaders on the global level have been aware of the singles. Many of the failings LDS singles have cited have root in local leaders who either haven’t understood how to minister effectively to singles or have been so busy with other priorities that ministering to singles simply didn’t happen.
But all of that will be history. Change is gonna come! We can look forward to the future with hope and optimism in a brighter and better day. Our Lord truly knows us and our circumstances. He’ll inspire His disciples to move in a more positive direction while at the same time exercising the compassion of patience in respecting their agency to implement those changes.
Let us also exercise the compassion of patience in respecting the agency of our leaders, both global and local, while also helping them to improve in their ministering efforts towards us and other LDS singles. As we do, we’ll make the ground more fertile for the changes that will come. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
That story greatly resembles dating for many LDS singles. Try as they might nothing they do seems to work. And days like Singles Awareness Day (otherwise known as Valentine’s Day) only highlight the struggles many LDS singles experience daily. In such circumstances, it’s easy to surrender to despair and embrace the pity party. But if you pity anything, you should never pity yourself. Pity the pity party instead.
Recognize your choice
I can talk because I’ve been there. After being single for more than 25 years, I’ve walked the lonely road. I know the heartache when everything you do seems to end in pain. If anyone should have justification to throw a pity party, it should be me.
And yet I’m not throwing one. To the contrary, I’m very optimistic about the future and my future in particular. How can I be so positive amidst so much reason for despair? After all, I’m still single. Nothing has ever worked out for me. True, I’ve had wonderful moments with girlfriends over the years, but it’s all come to nothing but pain every single time. At my age, how can I expect my life will ever be different?
Quite simply, I believe my future is more the product of my choices than my past. I believe fundamental truths which the restored gospel of Jesus Christ teaches me. And my beliefs run more than just skin deep. They permeate the very fabric of my character to define who I am and what I intend to become.
Choose your focus
For example, I believe the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi when he said everything has its opposite (2 Nephi 2:11). Everything includes the obstacles in our dating lives. What’s the opposite of an obstacle if not an opportunity? Thus, with every obstacle comes an opportunity.
Then consider your focus determines your reality. Focusing on your obstacles creates an obstructed reality. You’ll feel unfairly held back and oppressed by circumstances outside your control. But focusing on the opportunity that must exist with every obstacle turns your reality around. You’ll feel liberated and empowered to pursue whatever passion fascinates your imagination.
Either way you’re not one jot more or less single than you were before. But how you feel inside about yourself, your life, and your future is as different as the bright day is from the dark night. I’ve experienced that difference in my own life. And I’ve seen countless others experience it in their lives as well.
Embrace your reality
Those who surrender to the pity party simply fail to see the opportunities and reasons for optimism and hope truly surrounding them. We should therefore pity them for their lack of understanding and perspective and not their circumstances. We all came to mortality to have hard experiences. Indeed, we wanted the challenge because we knew that was the only way we could grow in eternity.
If Singles Awareness Day has you feeling as burned and failing as my experimental churro crisps were, you don’t have to be that way forever, or even for one more single day. Every day, you choose your focus by what you choose to feed yourself. And your chosen focus then brings you your reality.
Don’t throw the pity party. Instead, pity the pity party. Take the truths of the restored gospel deep into your soul. Let the miracle the Savior can and wants to perform inside of you happen. You can embrace pure joy and happiness without being one iota less single.
Of course hard times will come, as they always will. That’s part of the plan. But when you seek out the opportunities instead of the obstacles, the Lord will open your eyes to what truly surrounds you every day. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That’s because if you always get back up and keep pressing forward, sooner or later you’ll achieve your goals and live your dreams. You don’t get that staying down. So if you’ve been knocked down, get back up and let the journey begin again.
Always get back up
It is about the journey, after all. The destination is essential in that it determines the direction; it sets the course for your sails. But no destination ever changed anyone. It’s the journey that does that.
And it does that job well, but only if you embrace it, only if you choose to be changed by it. If you stay down when life knocks you down, you essentially choose to stay separated from the destination embodied in your goals and dreams. You essentially choose to stay unchanged.
But when you get back up after life knocks you down, when you refuse to stay defeated, you choose to be changed by your challenges into something that overcomes those challenges. Is it easy? Of course not. If it were, everyone would be doing it. Most don’t do it because they aren’t willing to pay the price for what they want. They prefer the easy choice of staying down. They prefer the fade out of failure to the surge of success.
Perhaps they console themselves in being normal. Everyone does fail, after all. So failure doesn’t make you defective or deficient. It just says you’re normal.
Even those who succeed start out as failures, and many of them failed over and over ad nauseam. Take Stephen King, for instance, one of the most prolific and popular American authors from the last century. Publishers rejected his first book Carrie 30 times. And when that 30th rejection came, King was so disheartened he promptly placed his draft in the circular file.
Life had knocked King down, and left to his own devices, he would’ve chosen to stay down. But he wasn’t alone. His wife removed the draft from the circular file, handed it back to him, and asked, “Why don’t you try just one more time?” That one more time was all King needed. He published his first novel, and the rest is history.
Every success story I’ve ever encountered goes the same way. Everyone fails initially, and often abysmally. But those who succeed choose not to stay down when life knocks them down. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. They rise and declare, “Let the journey begin.” And off they go to begin again.
Just start over
All of us can do that, and yes, that includes you. And here’s the best part. You don’t need to wait for the first day of the week, month, or year to begin choosing better. Every day offers the opportunity to begin again. So if you’re normal and find yourself knocked to the ground before January is through, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start over again.
Did you fall off that exercise train you committed to ride at the start of the year? Hop back on. If you messed up that diet, forgive yourself and get back on it. Trying to gain a new skill and missed a day or two or more? Pick up where you left off. Struggling with adopting some new positive habit? Keep struggling, keep fighting, and every time you fail keep starting over.
Whatever goal you set for yourself this year, don’t let failure settle you back into staying your old you. Let the journey begin again. Embracing the confrontation with challenge lets you grow into something that transcends your challenge. You’ll probably fail countless times, and that’s OK. Just keep punching. Keep getting back up every time you get knocked down, and eventually you will succeed. You’ll achieve your goals, you’ll live your dreams, and however many failures you had won’t matter at all. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In that context, the future doesn’t look bright at all. I don’t have what most single LDS women seem to want, and my effort at acquiring those traits have been far from successful. In their eyes, I'm a dainty bird that can’t sing well. Why then even bother trying to sing?
Well, you're guaranteed to fail if you don't sing at all. And who knows what goodness your song, though poorly sung, will promote? So even if you sing poorly, still sing.
Choose your advantage
Emotions like hopelessness are real and legitimate. Yet following those emotions to their logical conclusion would lead me to where I cannot go.
In my heart, I know God loves me. I know He wants to bless me with every righteous blessing I desire and more. In fact, looking back on my life, I see He's worked tirelessly to bring me those desired blessings of companionship. He hasn't abandoned me. He has a plan for me and all of His children to progress in this life and in the eternities to come.
So why then, one may well ask, have those desired blessings of companionship not come? Well, in a word, it’s agency. People make choices. And because people aren't perfect, the choices they make aren’t often perfect either. Sometimes you'll make poor choices, and sometimes others will.
Yet the same agency allowing others to choose against you is the same agency allowing you to choose to your advantage. You can choose to improve. You can choose to learn and to practice honing your skills so that you sing better. But that won’t happen if you don’t sing. Even if you sing poorly, still sing.
Rely on Him
But, you may well ask, what good will that do me today? If I don't sing well enough right now, I won't be noticed. And then how will I have my desired blessings?
That's a legitimate question. Many suitors ignore pathways to their success because they're focused on fulfillment in the present rather than on potential in the future. But you get the same result if you never sing at all.
Moroni experienced a similar conundrum. With the abundance of time he had on his hands, he entertained hypothetical what-if scenarios. What if the Gentiles fail to have charity because my weakness in writing kept the scales of their agency from tipping towards charity? Wouldn't it be they didn’t have charity because of my weakness?
That argument mirrors the one we’re considering here. The Gentiles might not have charity whether Moroni writes in his weakness or chooses not to write. So why then write anything at all? Of course, the Lord had a very clear answer:*1
The Lord has worked wonders that make any weaknesses Moroni had moot. What's to say He won't work similar wonders for you and me? Whatever our weakness, God can turn the songs we sing into powerful performances. Even if you sing poorly, still sing.
Never stop singing
And even if you sing poorly, the more you sing, the better you’ll get at it. I remember once as a child being told by one of the other Primary children I didn’t sing very well. I should just shut up and spare everyone.
But I didn’t stop singing. Mostly I would sing to myself when alone — that childhood experience affected me — but I kept with it. Many years later in college, I tried out for a musical, hoping to join the choir. To my great surprise, I got the main part!
Even if you sing poorly, still sing. As they say, “The show isn’t over until the fat lady sings,” and for many of us singles, that moment is still far away. Though you may feel bereft of hope, strive on still. Focus on doing what you can do, keep doing what you can do, and one day you’ll surprise yourself as you exceed your wildest expectations. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That's the place where many of us live, or rather the place where many of us exist as the walking dead, wandering zombies in lives on autopilot. We want a better life, we want to change for the better, and many of us sincerely intend both to do better and to become better. Yet the smallest good deed is always better than the grandest intention.
Don't just dream
Why such resistance to embracing positive change? We keep dreaming but never doing. Why is that?
It's not because we're lazy, at least not for most of us. We're biologically hardwired to operate out of habit. That means we're naturally designed to maintain a status quo, and that means resisting change because change by definition doesn't maintain a status quo.
Dreams, on the other hand, don't threaten the status quo, because dreams don't really change anything. Dreaming doesn't require any change in habits, so your natural design can continue business as usual while you dream to your heart's content.
And so, many of us dream and dream. And the life we have in return is the same and the same. Then when we recognize some undesired feature of this same but actual life, the only response many give is to complain and dream of a different life.
But only when you consciously choose to act against your biological design to operate out of habit and step towards your dreams will they ever begin to come true. Results come from one thing and one thing only — action. To get a result you've never had, you've got to do things you've never done. You must act!
Have a little faith
And the best part is it doesn't take a lot to get a lot. Goodness has such inherent power that a little can go a long way. Seemingly small actions can produce powerful results.
Nephi once wrote, "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things" (1 Nephi 16:29). He was speaking about the Liahona, the small compass that guided him and his company to the promised land. Alma later spoke to his son Helaman about that compass, saying, "because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works" (Alma 37:41). By exercising a little faith, the spindles pointed the way those early sojourners should go.
But because the action needed was small, it was also easy to forget. As Alma explained,
It works both ways. Seemingly small actions can produce powerful results.
With as long as I've been single, I've attended literally thousands of singles activities, but the small handful of treasured memories I have of those that actually made a difference in my life are of the small acts of kindness that others extended towards me. Those seemingly small acts produced a powerful result in me that I still carry with me.
Get to work
Each of us could confess to having similar moments in our lives. Seemingly small acts of goodness someone else extended to us have touched us, lifted us, strengthened us, and encouraged us when we needed it. We all can and should pay that forward.
For me, that's the best aspect of these actions. They're so small anyone can do them. You don't need to be terribly gifted in anything. In fact, you already have all the gifts you need to wield the power within seemingly small actions — the gifts of agency and time. When you choose to fill your time with the seemingly small actions that can make a difference in the lives of others and your own, you can effect real change in your life.
So what are you waiting for? Stop wishing and start working. The smallest good deed is always better than the grandest intention. Only action produces results. When you take the seemingly small actions to share goodness with others or to improve yourself, you move yourself closer to making your dreams reality. And with continued, consistent effort over time, you'll begin to see yourself moving closer to your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But an OK life never rises above mediocrity and won't ever be great or phenomenal. Most settle for mediocrity, but you don't have to accept an OK life. You can be phenomenal. You can live your best life.
To realize the reality you want to have outside of you, you must do the work to change what's inside of you. So stop waiting and start working. Your best life awaits you.
Most people have a limited life because they have limited thinking based on limiting assumptions. And because of how we're all biologically hardwired to operate, those assumptions lead to habits producing the same results most mediocre lives have.
Do you believe you're the victim of choices others make? Do you believe you just aren't good enough to live your dreams? Do you believe your best days are behind you? Do you believe your happiness depends on what happens outside yourself? If so, you're likely not in control of life. Rather, life is in control of you.
But just as you can choose thinking that limits you, you can choose thinking that empowers you. You really can turn your life around because you are a child of the Creator of the universe endowed with His unlimited potential and the wondrous gift of agency. You can and do choose for yourself.
So you can choose to accept responsibility for the choices you've made that have brought you the life you have now. When you do, you begin to own your life. And that's when everything can begin to change for you. You can further that change by deciding what you want, knowing clearly why you want it, and then committing yourself to excellence in literally everything you do.
Get good with you
You need that foundation to effect the changes you want to see outside yourself. Too many people (who usually live limited mediocre lives) think their lives will improve when their external circumstances do. They work directly on external changes, but that's all backwards. To change your life on the outside, you must first change your life on the inside.
That means you must get good with you. You must dig deep enough inside of you to uncover the true root of your problem, the seeds of mediocre thinking sprouting into the mediocre habits producing your mediocre life. You must learn how you were biologically designed to function so you can leverage it instead of continually fighting against it.
We all broadcast an energy to others, and what you have inside determines the quality of that energy. To broadcast an attractive energy, what's inside of you must be attractive. Stop trying to escape singles life and start embracing it and making the most of it. Love yourself but also commit to doing whatever it takes to better yourself. Achieving that balance is the essence of obtaining your best life.
Keep after it
Pursuing that balance won't be easy, because challenges will always threaten your desired transformation. That's why you must continually refresh your thinking and your determination to keep after it.
Believe your best is yet to come, that the blessings you want are real and yours. Let go of trying to manage every detail and just enjoy the ride. Live in the moment, live with intention, and live in possibility while you work for probability. It's balancing the fantastic with the practical.
And the best way I've found to do that is practicing a ridiculous, sickening work ethic. The grind is amply named, and you need to do it every day. Use your agency to choose to keep after it. Never quit. Never surrender. Never stop until you win.
Most people live mediocre lives centered on satisfaction of self because that's what they choose. Those who live phenomenal lives centered on contribution to others have their best life because that's what they choose. Your best life awaits you. When you choose to take control of your life, get good with you, and keep after it, you too can live the phenomenal life that is your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Yet far too many of us LDS singles choose bondage. We choose to keep habits of thinking that hold us back. We choose habits of seeing the obstacles instead of the opportunities. We choose habits of living under the oppression of a victim mentality instead of the liberation of a victor mentality. We are in many ways our own worst obstacle. If only we could get out of our own way!
And that’s the irony of it all. We can get out of our own way. We can break free from the bondage of a lesser life because we are free to choose for ourselves. We simply need to make the right choices.
Don’t discount your gift
I know some of you are scoffing at that idea right now. You’re thinking your freedom isn’t like a light switch you just turn on and off at will. Real life, you’re thinking, isn’t like that. There’s so much affecting your life you don’t control.
I used to think that way, back when I didn’t enjoy my life. What I couldn’t see then that I clearly see now is how my choices in how to think brought me the reality I was living. The way of thinking I embraced in those days discounted my gift of agency.
I didn’t see how my habitual choice to focus on the negative created the negative energy I broadcast to others around me. I didn’t see how my habitual choice to look constantly at my obstacles prevented me from seeing my opportunities. I didn’t see how my habitual choice to embrace a victim mentality kept me from living a life of victory.
The truth is your focus determines your reality. When you focus on the negative, you have a negative reality. When you focus on the positive, you have a positive reality. Because you choose your focus, you also choose your reality.
Choose your habits
And here’s more truth: Most of your choices you don’t make consciously. Rather you choose out of habit.
About 97% of everything you do on a day-to-day basis is simply a habit playing itself out. Habits don’t require you to think about what you do when you do it. You can, but you don’t have to. That’s the beauty of habits. They automate sequences of action so you can actually live life.
But your best life is a life lived by intention, one you consciously choose. Because you choose habitually 97% of the time, you choose consciously only 3% of the time. That suggests you can’t live your best life, but you can because you choose your habits.
When you understand how habit works and then make conscious choices to embrace more effective habits — especially in how you think — you really can choose your life because you choose the elements that together create the life you have.
Own your life
The moment I realized that truth was a pivotal turning point in my life when everything changed for me. I had a life I didn’t want because I chose the elements that combined according to natural law to create the reality I had. And it all came back to how I chose to think.
Sure, those choices were by and large habitual. But I chose my habits. In the very least, by choosing not to improve an existing habit, I by default chose not to embrace a better one.
That moment when I consciously chose to own my life turned everything around for me. That’s because I started making choices that were more conducive to the reality I wanted. And that’s a choice you can make as well because you have the same gift of agency.
Don’t depreciate that gift. Choose to own your life. Choose to break yourself free of the habits of thinking producing a reality you don’t want. You don’t have to live that way. You don’t have to settle. When you learn how to leverage your gift of agency to your advantage, you can live a phenomenal life, irrespective of the choices others make. You can make your life extraordinary. 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 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.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
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