Covenant men and women, on the other hand, value covenants over all else. When an opportunity to gain something desirable for themselves comes along, they choose to make and keep sacred covenants, despite whatever they may lose for themselves. They in essence say, “Something better may come along, but I choose my covenants. Here I stand, and this is it for me.”
Recognize the natural
That difference may seem obvious. But too many LDS singles prioritize self over sacred covenants. I’m not talking about people going inactive or apostate, although you could apply it that way. I’m talking about singles rejecting great candidates simply because they aren’t the absolute “best.”
What drives this behavior? Singles mistakenly assume if they don’t marry the “best” they’ll be condemned to an unhappy future. Approaching dating with this faulty assumption, the natural mindset either ignores or rejects candidates who would make excellent companions and bring a life of real joy and happiness. That’s because natural men and women believe you must have the absolute “best” to be happy.
That natural mindset also drives behaviors that give dating its all too painful reputation. For instance, ghosting wouldn’t exist without the natural mindset. Singles who ghost dating candidates essentially prioritize their own self-gratification. What they want — be it avoiding an uncomfortable conversation or pursuing a more attractive candidate — matters more than how others feel. This doesn’t mean you should always surrender to what others want. It just means you should be respectful of others as you search for the best path for you.
Recognize the covenant
If the grass is always greener on the other side, natural men and women will look to get to that other side. They gladly chase after anything better for them because to them what they want matters most.
In contrast, covenant men and women may see the same something better, but they value covenants above all. So if pursuing something better means breaking their covenants, they don’t pursue it. To them, making and keeping sacred covenants matters most.
Now I’m not advocating marrying just anyone who’s active. You can have standards while prioritizing covenants. Suppose you’re choosing between two dating options: The first rates a 10 on a 10-point scale (with 10 being the best) but consistently pursues self-interest, and the second rates a 7 but consistently keeps covenants already made. The natural mindset urges choosing the first option, because 10 gratifies self more than 7. The covenant mindset also sees 10 is better than 7, but the covenant mindset encourages choosing the second candidate, because the covenant mindset prioritizes making and keeping sacred covenants.
Now what if the second candidate rated a 3 instead? The covenant mindset could turn that candidate away, because a partner who doesn’t bring something to the table and serves as little more than filler material will make it harder to keep the covenants which the covenant mindset prizes. Clearly we need a sense of balance, but prioritizing covenants doesn’t mean other standards have no importance.
In reality, no one of us is entirely natural or covenant. We’re all a combination of both, just as we are all mixtures of good and evil, light and darkness, strength and weakness. The real question is “Which one will dominate your choices?”
Many LDS singles stand in their own way of marriage because they allow the natural man or woman to govern their dating choices. True joy in married life comes from living the covenant mindset that says, “Something better may come along, but I make my stand here. For me, this is it.” This means you could “settle” for an allegedly “lesser” candidate and yet have the maximum amount of joy life offers.
So be a covenant man or a covenant woman who will say, “Something better for me may come along, but I make my stand here. For me, this is it.” When you do, you’ll find your dating life as well as your married life more enjoyable. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
These false assumptions actually create the struggle with knowing who to marry. That’s why singles looking for the presence of yes should instead look for the absence of no.
Take your responsibility
We’re here in mortality to exercise agency. Our choices in this life determine our situation in the next stage of our eternal journey. We therefore bear the responsibility for our choices.
That’s precisely why singles who look for some significant spiritual confirmation often struggle with knowing who to marry. Insisting God provide some unmistakable sign you should marry So-and-so means God carries responsibility for that decision. That’s not how it works, so insisting it should work that way only ends in frustration.
We’re here in mortality to make choices. And we have responsibility for those choices. Pushing that responsibility back to God defies His plan for His children. Insisting on some definite spiritual sign says we don’t accept So-and-so until God tells us marrying So-and-so will work out well. It pushes back to God the responsibility for our choices that rightly belongs to us.
Make your choice
We naturally want the security that would come from God revealing to us So-and-so is someone we should marry. But that’s not how it works. A river journey tends to go smoother when you don’t fight the current by paddling upstream. You can paddle downstream by aligning your assumptions with eternally true principles. Instead of fighting God’s design for mortality by pushing the responsibility for your choices onto Him, go with the way it’s supposed to work by accepting that responsibility.
Revelation from God comes after you make your own decision and then bring that decision you made to God to seek His counsel on your decision. God will then respond with yes, no, or maybe. If He answers yes, you’ll feel the strong, unmistakable impression He approves of your decision. If He answers no, you’ll feel a similarly unmistakable impression He doesn’t approve. And if you don’t get any strong impression one way or the other, He answers maybe, which means He trusts you to make your own decision.
So unless the Lord answers no, you should go forward with your decision. If He answers yes, going forward is obvious. But you should also go forward if He answers maybe. If your choice would take you too far away from where He wants you, God answers no. So when He doesn’t answer no, you can walk forward in faith following through on your decision. Only if He answers no do you need to change course. So all you really need is the absence of no.
Walk in faith
Singles stand in their own way when they insist on the presence of yes when approaching marriage decisions. But that faulty assumption also retards progress at any stage of the dating journey. So unless you get that overwhelming sense of no from the Spirit, you should include more people in your circle of friends, and you should casually date more of those friends more often.
Especially in the early stages of the dating journey, you don’t need to receive revelation for every choice you make. Some might extend that to deciding who to marry. Regardless of how you feel about that idea, looking for the absence of no will have you making more progress more quickly in your dating journey.
So if you’ve been waiting for the presence of yes before you move forward, it’s time to change your assumptions. Stop looking for the presence of yes, and start looking for the absence of no. Walk in faith the Lord will tell you when you’re traveling too far from the path He wants for you. That walk will breathe confidence in your gait as you gain more experience. With that experience, you’ll learn, grow, and make more and more better choices. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But in reflecting upon my situation, I’ve come to realize my faulty assumption. I’ve been assuming I can find peace only outside myself. I want to get away from the fighting that fills our communities. I want to escape the turbulence of these troubled times. I want to resolve the circumstances outside myself that I’ve erroneously connected with how I feel inside myself.
But peace doesn’t come from outside ourselves. Peace comes from within. As a popular song teaches, let there be peace, and let it begin with me. When we take proper action, we can have peace within even though the world around us has anything but.
Your focus determines your reality. So when you change your focus, you change your realty. When you change the way you think, you change your life.
All of us can create a reality of peace in our lives when we focus on what brings peace. And the ultimate source of peace is the Prince of Peace. He suffered our pains and troubles so that He would know how to be compassionate in our hour of need. He died so that we could live.
That life Christ gives isn’t just eternal life in the realm beyond the veil. He gives life here and now in mortality. He can lighten our load and light the way before us. He can lift us when we are low. He can give hope amidst despair. But in order to make His lift, His light, and His love our reality, we must focus upon Him.
The Christmas spirit of peace lives in us when we increase our discipleship to the Prince of Peace. It’s when we ignore His teachings or turn our focus away from the weightier matters of covenant living that we bring ourselves the opposite of peace. Aligning our will with His brings a harmony with truth that makes our hearts a natural home for peace.
And only when we have peace within ourselves can we effectively promote peace outside ourselves. Only a continued walk after the Prince of Peace can inspire others to follow His enlightened example and find peace within themselves.
But deep, lasting peace never comes from just going through the motions. Just as true happiness comes from giving yourself to all the right things for you, deep, lasting peace comes only when you align yourself with all the right things for you.
Of course you should strive to keep the commandments and your covenants. Those things are right for everyone. But beyond the standards reside what’s right for each of us individually — goodness related to your personal ministry and the contribution only you can make in the lives of others.
When you give yourself to those right things that only you can do, you promote peace. You become a city shining on a hill giving goodness, light, and love to an increasingly darkened world desperately in need. And that peace you bring to others can bring greater peace to you as well.
You can’t really share with others what you yourself don’t have. It all starts where the song says it starts. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me.
Peace comes from within, so let each of us align ourselves with God. Let each of us be true to our covenants. Let each of us give what only we can give. Let each of us focus on Christ and feel the peace that comes from following after the Prince of Peace.
Then let us all go forward and share that peace with others. Let us light their lives. Let us give them hope. Let us lighten their load. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me and you. We will find a peace we have never before known when we cultivate peace within our own hearts like we have never before done. And doing that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Many singles hold to that assumption under the guise of having standards. They seem to see themselves acting nobly in a chaotic dating world by adhering to their standard that insists on only the best. But such standards actually impede progress in one’s dating journey. So if you insist on believing you’ll be happy only with the most attractive companion, then you’re letting your standards keep you single.
How does one progress in dating? As I discuss in my upcoming book about dating, to progress to each next stage of the journey, you must make an agreement. No agreement means no progress. Period.
In the first stage of the dating journey, you meet new people and build friendships. In the next stage, you casually date candidates you’ve befriended. These activities require openness to social interactions. Otherwise, you’ll likely never get the agreement you need to progress from friendship to casual dating and on to exclusive dating.
But assuming you can be happy in life only if your partner is the “best” or most attractive type limits those interactions. That faulty assumption will encourage you to engage only with those who meet your standards, because what’s the point, after all, in “wasting your time” with people who simply won’t do romantically because they aren’t the “best”?
Mathematically, it just isn’t possible for everyone to have the “best.” Yet many singles cling tenaciously to the hope they’ll be one of the few to score just such a life partner. After all, no one wants to accept an unhappy and unfulfilled life.
But happiness in marriage doesn’t come from what each partner has. Happiness in marriage comes from what each partner gives to each other. And what you give is a choice.
If your partner has to be the “best” or most attractive sort for you to be happy, then God must have really messed up His plan. Check out these words from then Elder Gordon B Hinckley.
How can God’s plan provide happiness for all His children if 90% of people aren’t the “best” but just ordinary? Mathematically, 90% of singles can’t each have monogamous marriage with someone from the top 10%. At least 80% of singles will be left unhappy if only the “best” makes a happy life. Because God wants all his children to be happy, clearly happiness must be available without having the most attractive partner.
And happiness is available to those couples who place honoring sacred covenants above personal desires by giving themselves fully to each other. Your companion doesn’t need to be the “best” or most attractive for you to give all of yourself to that person. Granted, it’s more easy to do the more attractive your companion is, but it’s not essential for happiness.
The resistance many feel when confronted with such a choice is the natural man or natural woman in each of us. The natural man and woman value self-gratification more than making and keeping sacred covenants. Covenant men and women obviously reverse that value system.
I’m not saying we’re interchangeable parts. You shouldn’t marry just anybody, and having standards does help with decision making. Far too many LDS singles, however, insist on standards around what really isn’t essential for lasting happiness. Elder Gerrit W Gong has taught,
Regardless of how you justify it, when you insist on having only the most attractive type of companion, your standards keep you single. Lowering those standards to accept more candidates into your dating pool doesn’t mean sacrificing happiness. Rather, it increases your chances of obtaining it. So reject the natural man and woman, open yourself to possibility, and you may find the blessings you’ve been seeking have been right in front of you all along. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many LDS singles have habits of thinking that give zero consideration to that truth. Too often they put the cart before the horse by insisting that potential casual dates meet their marriage standards. This practice encourages equating dating with marriage, warping dating for everyone.
Online dating only magnifies that ill perspective. If you don’t make an overwhelming first impression with your profile — and primarily your photo — in the first two seconds, you’re done. Treating people like commodities just keeps everyone single.
Don’t close off possibilities
When you buy a commodity online, you expect what you buy to maintain its quality long after the purchase. A tool that works when you buy it should work years from now. Clothes you buy today should still look good years from now. Media that plays today should play problem-free years from now.
And that’s where treating online dating like commodity shopping breaks down. People aren’t products that never change. People will change over time. The person you marry today isn’t the person you have today but the person you will have 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road.
But of course, none of that enters into our consideration when viewing online dating profiles. We don’t think in terms of potential and the direction people have for their lives. We think in terms of position and how well a candidate can satisfy us today.
In so doing, LDS singles often close themselves off from possibilities to have the very blessings they seek. When considering dating opportunities, we should consider direction more than just position. We need to see others as they will likely become.
Direction is more than position
We came to this mortal existence to grow towards perfection. Traveling on this path towards perfection means that none of us are perfect as we are now.
Yet our Heavenly Father doesn’t condemn us for not having yet completed our journey. He knows we’ll eventually arrive at our celestial destination if we maintain the proper direction. And He knows we can always change our direction.
How often LDS singles fail to take that perspective when dating! We too often prefer someone who provides present satisfaction over someone who’ll provide eternal satisfaction.
Case in point: Most aren’t attracted to overweight suitors. Yet being overweight is merely position. What about direction? There’s a world of difference between the overweight person stumbling through diet and exercise and the overweight person doing nothing except crying over why no one wants to love them as they are. With your help, that person you discount today could be more than satisfactory tomorrow.
Potential to change is not change
Of course, just because someone can change doesn’t mean they will change. For example, perpetrators of physical abuse can change, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them just because they can change. Potential for changing direction isn’t the same as actually changing direction.
That’s why you must examine what people do when assessing their direction. What we do every day determines whether we end in one destination or another. And small changes today can result in large differences tomorrow.
No one’s perfect in this life. We all miss the mark somewhere. But that doesn’t mean we always will. Your actions today can build a case that over time demonstrates a more positive direction, convincing those with eyes to see just what a find you really are.
Seeing others for their potential can reveal doors of opportunity you didn’t know existed. Because no one’s perfect, the eternal companion you seek isn’t perfect. Learning to value others for what they will become because of their direction may help you find that companion who actually fulfills your needs more than you could ever imagine. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We’re all unique enough that my list of needed changes will be different from yours, because my truth about why I’m single is probably different than yours. We both need to face our own truth, but the actual steps we take to apply that shared principle may be quite different.
I can provide tools and teach you how to use them, but I can’t use them for you. You must build your life. And building your best life won’t happen until you own your life and accept that the change you need to make is not just one thing.
Examine your assumptions
The memory of that phone conversation has stuck with me. Maybe it’s because the question asked is a common one. "OK, so what's the one thing I need to do in order to . . . . ?" It seems like an intelligent question to ask, but I've got a serious problem with it.
You see, it's really not that intelligent at all.
Run with me for a moment. The question assumes you need to change only one thing in order to transport your world into a new and higher dimension of existence. Seriously, what sense does that make? I know that’s what we all want, but it’s just not realistic.
Here’s real: I've got more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes and certainly more than most people. And the vast majority of people aren’t that far behind me. We all have many ways in which we can improve.
Ask a better question
Here’s a better question: What is everything I need to do to improve myself? With that answer, you take a more holistic approach towards making needed changes in yourself.
Of course, the answer to that question will likely overwhelm; we’re all so imperfect that the list of needed changes is quite long. I recall the experience I had taking notes during General Conference. The resulting list of changes I obtained overwhelmed me to the point that I didn’t want to take any action. Making any progress seemed hopeless.
That’s why you should ask yourself this best question: What one thing can I do today to improve myself? The answer to that question won’t overwhelm because it’s just one thing. At the same time, this question doesn’t assume you need to do only one thing to improve. The approach is well balanced.
Get to work
Of course, simply knowing what you must do won’t bring the results you seek in life. Results come from one thing and one thing only, and that is action. You must do.
When you take action, you can begin to understand yourself better. You can make better sense of the terrain of LDS singles life. You open yourself to receiving the tools you need. And action leads to a sense of progress that is truly liberating. You may have a lot to do, but conquering the one thing you need to do today will give you confidence from knowing you’re on your way. And that knowledge makes the journey so much more joyful.
Don’t wait to feel free. Don’t wait to feel better about yourself and your life. No matter how much you need to improve, we all need to practice what President Oakes has described as “the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” We make the journey to eternal glory one step at a time.
Never assume your list of needed improvements has only one item. It’s not just one thing. But take that understanding with you as you tackle the one thing you need to do today. Doing so will help you walk by faith. 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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