Of the 15 times he used the words repent or repentance, President Nelson also used the word daily with five of those references. Go back and look if you don’t believe me. One out of every three occurrences is not insignificant. This use of the word daily caught my attention. And in my subsequent pondering, I’ve gained a new understanding and appreciation of repentance. I’ve come to see we really do need to do it daily.
Set the stage
I confess a part of my pondering includes a book from my Sunday afternoon reading — The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister. As I started reading the book, it became very clear to me Elder Callister didn’t write this book quickly. His final product obviously evidences extensive research, consultation with others, and much revision.
Combining this text with President Nelson’s remarks has proved powerful for me. Elder Callister presents repentance as God’s plan for our self-improvement. The Atonement is not just about making us clean from impurity but also about improving us into something more than we were before, and repentance is how we access that power.
If repentance is how we walk God’s road to self-improvement, how we become more than what we are now, then why would we not want that every day? In that regard, President Nelson’s use of the word daily in connection with repentance seems very natural. Said he,
Let’s all follow the Prophet by doing and being a little better every day.
President Nelson spoke of specific areas in which priesthood holders can seek to improve. These included how we dress and groom our bodies and “how we honor the women in our lives.”
But President Nelson said in that regard, “Take an inventory of how you spend your time and where you devote your energy. That will tell you where your heart is.” Although the Prophet applied this idea to a specific application, I think we could apply it equally to any area of improvement we need in our lives.
Do you remember what we discussed a month ago directly following Conference? We focused on Sister Craven’s remarks about being careful as opposed to being casual. Sister Craven spoke principally of our covenants and the spiritual aspect of our lives. I expanded that focus to include every part of our lives. We get from anything what we give to it. We can’t expect quality results when we give casual attention. To get quality, we must give careful attention.
That’s where President Nelson’s remarks take center stage. We don’t need to be perfect all at once. We just need to do a little better today than we did yesterday. And it’s imperative that we do so, because President Nelson declared,
The good news is that we can all start today to turn our lives around. We each can identify one thing we will do today to be a little better than we were yesterday. It’s in doing the small but appropriate things consistently every day that we achieve tremendous results in anything.
Then at the end of the day, we can ask ourselves, “Did I do a little better today than I did yesterday? Am I a little better today than I was yesterday?” If we can answer “Yes” to those questions, we are on the road of repentance. And that road leads to the covenant path that will take us to our heavenly home.
Let us all follow the Prophet. Let each one of us repent and do it daily. As we do better the little things we need to improve, we will be better in whatever role we have in our lives. We’ll be happier people, and our influence for good in the lives of others will be more effective. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Sister Craven begins by describing a sign she once saw advertising happiness for only $15. Of course, the sign was deceptive. The trinkets and souvenirs offered in exchange for that $15 could never bring the true happiness each of us yearns to have.
Sister Craven’s experience describes how many of us are similarly deceived. A casual approach to spirituality may seem inviting and even appropriate. But only by being careful with our covenants and obeying them with exactness can we hope to yield the true joy we seek.
Sister Craven explains,
What a magnificent insight! Sister Craven continues,
The amount of joy we receive from covenant living is in direct proportion to the care and attention we give in living those covenants with exactness. We can unleash true power in our spiritual lives when we reject a casual approach for a careful one.
I remember on my mission hearing my leaders advocate obedience with exactness. What fascinated me as I heard Sister Craven repeat that idea was the thought of expanding that attention to every aspect of our lives. If being careful with our spiritual lives can yield great power, how much more power would being that careful with every aspect of our lives bring?
What would happen if we were just as careful with those who matter most to us? Think for a minute about the people who mean the most to you. Of course, others will always have their own agency, but how much more enjoyable would those relationships be if we exercised great care in the details of those relationships?
And what would happen if we exercised great care with our mind? If we were more insistent on having certain standards for the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the other forms of media that we consume, how much more pure, powerful joy would sweep into our lives? What if we were more careful with improving ourselves — taking a class, learning a new skill, or improving some aspect of our character? What increase in joy would come from that?
How much more power could we procure if we were truly careful with our body? Too many of us are quite casual when it comes to diet and exercise. Too many of us aren’t very careful with personal finances. Too many of us take a casual approach to our careers by allowing the here and now demands of our job to overwhelm any notion of career direction. How much better would we feel about ourselves and our lives if we exercised greater care towards our body?
Act with order and diligence
If you stop to think about all this for a moment, you may conclude as I did. Exercising great care in any one area is work. When you extend that work to every area of your life, the task can quickly feel overwhelming.
The Apostle Paul counseled, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). King Benjamin taught his people similarly. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
In other words, we don’t need to be perfect today. But we do need to exercise care by doing something every day to move towards personal improvement. As we exchange our casual approaches to every aspect of life for more careful ones, we will reap a harvest of joy and power from the seeds we have sown daily. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Given that Singles Awareness Day — oh, excuse me — Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, it seems appropriate today to talk about something from the program last week that got me thinking. Many of us know how we want life to be. But it’s been said life is what happens while you were making other plans. Life has a way of turning out differently than we planned.
Many singles plan to find the perfect companion — someone they’re meant to be with, someone easy for them to fall passionately in love with and who falls passionately in love with them — and to get married and have a family and live the rest of their lives in a blissful happily ever after.
Then life happens. They notice life doesn’t match their idyllic dream. And that mismatch presents questions of compromise: Should they wait for the one who’s right for them forever, or should they just take the one who’s here right now because the one who’s right for them forever doesn’t seem to be coming and that person who’s right here seems good enough for right now?
Are our dreams portents of a possible future or a cruel joke of mortality? Why do we dream if the dreams never become real? Do they never materialize because they weren’t meant to be or because we aren’t good enough?
You’re not good enough
There’s two ways to answer that question. Here’s the first: Of course, we aren’t good enough. That’s why Christ plays such an essential role in our Heavenly Father’s plan.
If we were good enough, we could secure eternal blessings on our own. We wouldn’t need a Savior. We could simply persevere with hard work to secure our blessings.
But that’s not how it works. Yes, we need to work hard to achieve our goals and dreams. But we’re not likely to achieve them on our own because too often we get in our own way.
And that’s the beautiful part of the Atonement. Elder Bednar put it beautifully when he declared
Christ saves us not just from sin but from ourselves — our mistakes, our imperfections, our propensities to fail, and the natural man or woman residing inside each of us.
You are good enough
There’s another side to that coin, though. It says we are good enough to secure eternal blessings. Last week, I introduced the analogy of the electoral college. In the US, we elect the chief executive with a winner-take-all voting system that appropriates different numbers of votes to each state based on population. All a candidate needs to win is 270 electoral votes. And you can get that without the state with the most electoral votes. The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a case in point.
In like manner, many singles think they need to be perfect to secure their dream companion. Yet we’re all so mired in imperfection that many singles wonder how they could ever be agreeable to an acceptable marriage partner. That happens in the same way the President doesn’t need to win California to become the President. Those who are serious about what marriage really entails generally evaluate other people as a whole package. That means strengths in some areas can compensate for weaknesses in others.
Of course, that doesn’t justify ignoring our weaknesses. We should always do our best to improve in every area of ourselves and then trust the Lord to make up the difference. And Christ can make up the difference because He is the difference — the difference between eternal glory and eternal misery.
Partner with the Lord
In the end, we can best secure the blessings we desire when we partner with the Lord and walk with Him on the proper path towards our blessings. The Spirit will reveal to us the next steps along that path. And the Lord will grant us the courage we need to take those next steps.
Here as in every other way, your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you don’t have and can’t do, your reality becomes filled with lack and inability. That leads to frustration, anger, disillusionment, and despair. But when you focus on what you do have and can do, your reality fills with abundance and possibility. That leads to encouragement, appreciation, illumination, and hope.
Are you good enough to achieve your dreams and desires? Of course you are — when you partner with the Lord. So instead of the pity party many singles have on days like tomorrow, choose instead to partner with the Lord. Counsel with Him to develop an action plan that will get you moving forward. When you move in that direction, you’ll make real progress towards your eternal blessings. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Christmas was yesterday, so yes, it’s technically over. But reflecting on my experience this year leaves me wanting something of the essence of Christmas to linger and continue into the coming year.
This past Sunday my bishop shared a few remarks at the end of the ward Christmas program. He recognized some in the congregation were friends of other faiths, and he spoke for a moment specifically to them. He acknowledged some recent changes in the Church, particularly the new meeting schedule starting next year. And then he promised that those who would faithfully attend our worship services each Sunday would find peace for at least that one hour.
In reflecting upon his words, I realize what many of us really want in our lives is peace. We want to get away from the fighting that fills our communities. We want to escape the turbulence troubled times give to us and those we love most. We want to remove the frustrating circumstances life can provide. We all want peace.
As a popular song teaches, let there be peace, and let it begin with me. When we take the proper action inside ourselves first and then promote peace in others, we can have peace in our lives, regardless of our circumstances or what is happening in the world around us.
Follow after peace
I’ve long spoken both on this program and in the blog about how singles can feel peace in a family-centered culture while not having the marker of belonging in that culture. 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.
That principle applies to everyone, not just singles. 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.
The Christmas spirit of peace can continue on in us when we increase our discipleship to the Prince of Peace. It’s when we ignore His teachings or forget our covenants that we bring ourselves the opposite of peace. Aligning ourselves with His teachings and our covenants with Him brings a harmony with truth that makes a natural home for peace.
Once we have peace within ourselves, we can then spread peace to others around us. Our continued walk after the Prince of Peace can inspire others to follow His enlightened example. Once they align themselves with truth, others can have the same peace in their lives.
But deep, lasting peace comes from more than just keeping the standards. Just as true happiness comes from giving yourself to all the right things for you, deep, lasting peace comes when you align yourself with all the right things for you. By all means, 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 come to you as well.
It all starts where the song says it starts. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me.
Let each of us align ourselves with truth. Let each of us keep the commandments. Let each of us be true to our covenants. Let each of us embrace our own personal ministry and contribute what only we can give. Let each of us feel the peace that comes from following more completely 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 if we promote peace within our own hearts and the hearts of others like we have never before done. And when we do that, we’ll have more joy in our 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.
Many LDS singles feel bereft of hope when they don’t see any obvious opportunities for the eternal marriage they desire. Fundamentally, their lack of hope doesn’t differ from anyone else struggling to realize righteous desires. For example, infertility plagues many righteous married couples desiring biological children.
Yet in all cases hope abounds. If you can’t see the way forward, please consider this question: Are you operating out of your memory or your imagination? Your focus becomes your reality, so when you focus on the failures you’ve known, your reality becomes filled with more of those failures. But when you focus on the success you can imagine, your reality becomes filled with possibility.
We all can access redemption in every sense of the word because of Christ and His glorious Atonement. No matter how dark or bleak your circumstances may appear, you always have reason to hope. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
How do you feel this great truth when all around you seems dismal? Almost all of us believe very readily in miracles that Christ performed among a people most of us don’t know in a land far away which most of us haven’t seen. Yet when it comes to believing in miracles performed in our own lives and in our own backyard, we respond more slowly. We need to start believing Christ.
What do you do when things you don't want to happen do in fact happen? Knowing God has apportioned a time when all wrongs will be righted makes patience easier. Knowing a just God won’t wait to right our wrongs when the time to right them is right also encourages patience. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Still, longing can pain the heart in the present moment. Because your focus determines your reality, focusing on your pains always yields a reality of pain. Focus instead on the Savior so that He becomes your reality. Believe Him when He said, “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). His strength can give you strength.
Understand the journey
Christ never taught that all of His promised blessings would be distributed like a buffet lunch — first come are first served and everyone else will just have to wait. He wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. That means you.
Because you're unique in personality and demeanor, so also are the gifts you've been given to help you achieve your full potential. Just as in the parable of the talents, all who improve upon what they've been given, whatever that original amount may be, will receive the joy of the Lord. That joy can fill you now as well as in times to come. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Yes, Christ wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. Yet some saints, because of where they are in their life journey, may not be ready for some of those blessings. So if you're yearning for that special someone and wonder why you don't have the blessing you desire, consider that you might not be ready. Or maybe your companion isn’t ready. Or perhaps the time is right for both of you and you simply need to get busy doing the right things. In any case, Christ can help you take the proper next step. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Expand your vision
If you operate out of your memory, then you're seeing with no more than your physical eyes. That means ultimately you'll have no hope, because you don’t physically see the means to achieve your desires. Even here, there is always hope because there is always Christ.
Christ can help you operate our of your imagination, which means seeing with spiritual eyes. He can help you to see what’s there but not seen with physical eyes. What you want may be right in front of you, but because of how you think, you might not recognize it. Expand your definition of an opportunity, and you’ll see paths you couldn’t see before.
Christ can also help you to see what’s not now in existence because it has yet to be created. What you desire may be something He creates for you. Or maybe you need to create it for yourself. In all cases, Christ will help you to do whatever is needful for you to receive all of the blessings He desires to give to you. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Don’t ever stop living for the righteous blessings you desire. And don’t ever lose hope. No matter your situation, there’s always something you can do to move forward. There is always hope because there is always Christ. When you feel that hope, you’ll have the comfort of knowing the Savior is right by your side to help you along. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Life has a way of feeling wearisome when all you can see is day-to-day drudgery. Combine that with the normal human propensity to get caught up in one’s own world, and you have a sure-fire recipe for hopelessness.
Many LDS singles feel even more burdened when the drudgery they encounter is negative self-talk — negative messages one gives to oneself, often reminders of one’s failings, shortcomings, and inadequacies. When you surround yourself constantly with negative messages, you’re likely to believe yourself.
It’s easiest to get this way when you have two very destructive habits:
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have joy in your journey regardless of your circumstances. That joy comes easiest to you when you truly believe you are good enough.
Watch your mouth
Too many LDS singles don’t believe they’re good enough to secure the eternal blessings they desire primarily because they keep telling themselves that. If that applies to you, here’s some free advice: Stop telling yourself you’re not good enough!
Negative self-talk is one of the most destructive habits for LDS singles. If this is your habit, then stop believing yourself and start believing the Lord. He has declared that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). And why do souls have such great worth? The Lord gives the reason: Because He suffered the Atonement for all (D&C 18:11-12).
Why would Christ have suffered so much if your worth is so little? He wouldn’t have. He suffered tremendously for you because you are worth it.
That message, however, won’t remain with you if you have a habit of negative self-talk. We can’t function without habits because we’re all designed to have them. So unless you replace your negative habit with a positive one, you’ll always go back to your default option, which is the negative habit. That means you must replace any habit of negative self-talk with a habit of positive self-talk.
Our focus becomes our reality. If you’re tired of a negative reality, then stop having a negative focus. Focus on the positive, and your reality will be positive.
Stop the comparisons with others
Too many LDS singles also need to stop comparing themselves with others. As if it were part of our design as human beings, we all seem to gain our sense of normal from those around us. Perhaps that’s why not comparing themselves to others challenges so many.
Engaged in a habit of constant comparisons, we’ll constantly find the flaws in ourselves — the times when we failed, the imperfections that seem to disqualify us, and the moments in which we fell short. Providing ourselves regularly with such a list just creates another channel for negative self-talk.
That’s why comparisons with others never end well. We’re all so different that we’ll always find ourselves wanting somehow when measured against others.
Just as we need to replace negative self-talk habits with positive self-talk habits, we need to replace habits of comparing ourselves to others with habits of comparing ourselves to ourselves. That really is the only fair comparison anyway. Only you have been where you’ve been experiencing what you’ve experienced.
Embrace the truth
Often the “evidences” that we provide ourselves through negative self-talk and comparing ourselves to others — “evidences” that we aren’t good enough — are simply lack of results. We can think, I’m still single, so that must prove there’s something wrong with me. Or perhaps our dating invitations have been rejected. Or perhaps no one’s invited us on a date in some time, or even ever.
When we don’t have the results we want, it’s easy to conclude we aren’t good enough. But concluding you aren’t good enough based on a lack of desired results is faulty logic. You don’t get what you get based on who you are. You get what you get based on what you do. If you want better results, improve your approach.
You really should believe you are good enough if for no other reason than that you are. If you don’t feel that truth inside you, then perhaps you’ve engaged bad habits of negative self-talk and comparing yourself with others for so long that it’s hard to believe anything else.
Start today to embrace habits of positive self-talk and comparing yourself only to yourself. When you do, you can more easily embrace the truth of your own worth as a child of God. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
President Nelson begins his remarks by sharing the story of a tribal king he met in Ghana. This tribal king asked President Nelson to teach him more about Jesus Christ. President Nelson shared the Savior’s visit anciently to America by reading with the king from 3 Nephi.
The king then received the copy of the Book of Mormon from which he and President Nelson had just read. Responding joyfully, the king declared the additional knowledge about Jesus Christ he’d received was more precious to him than diamonds or rubies.
President Nelson then turned the king’s response into a question for us all. How valuable is the Book of Mormon to us? He then extended that question by asking three related ones:
We should all consider these questions.
What would your life be like?
Without the Book of Mormon, I’m pretty certain my life would be very different. I’m not sure what church I would have joined or even if I would be a member of any church. Joseph Smith’s father stayed aloof from the churches of his time and place because they didn’t have the truth he sought. Perhaps I would’ve done likewise.
Either way, I imagine I’d still be searching for the truth. A sincere search for truth, after all, lead me to read the Book of Mormon and seriously apply Moroni’s promise. That experience led to my testimony of not only the Book of Mormon but of everything connected with it — the Restoration of the Lord’s gospel, His Church, and the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith.
Without that testimony, I never would’ve served a mission. And had I served anyway, I doubt I would have stayed in the field very long. Within a week of arriving in Guatemala I began a battle with sickness that lasted much of my mission. My testimony was a bulwark support through that adversity.
What would you not know?
Without the Book of Mormon, I wouldn’t know or appreciate many simple truths restored through its pages, especially the Atonement. Where else do we find such clarity of exposition about the Savior’s ultimate sacrifice in both breadth and depth?
Certainly not in the Bible. The Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price speak clearly about the Atonement, but not with the same breadth or depth as the Book of Mormon.
Not understanding the Atonement, I’d probably be like one of my last mission companions before we met. He worried greatly his imperfections would lead others to reject the gospel and that both they and he would be damned for it. I used the Book of Mormon to help him to understand that the Atonement covers not only what we do wrong but also what we don’t do right. Without the Book of Mormon, I wouldn’t have had the understanding to help myself let alone someone else.
What would you not have?
Without the Book of Mormon, I wouldn’t have anywhere near the confidence level I have today. That’s because I never would’ve served the full-time mission which gave birth to my confidence and self-assertion.
As a teenager, I was the introvert of introverts. You could’ve looked in the dictionary for introvert and found my picture. How did I come out of my shell? The Lord sent me where a 30-year civil war had made much of the people introverted. Helping these people come out of their shell so I could teach them the restored gospel helped me to see I could come out of my shell as well.
What opportunities would I have missed if I didn’t have the confidence to assert myself? What friends and other relationships would I never have experienced without that confidence?
President Nelson’s three questions about the Book of Mormon are worthy of our consideration. How would you answer them? I’ve found my own consideration of these questions spiritually satisfying and enlightening. If you will take the time to reflect on your own answers to President Nelson’s questions, I believe you’ll find the same spiritual satisfaction and enlightenment come to you. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Dating doesn’t have to be so challenging for LDS singles. Once you have a good map of the landscape and know how to use it, your journey improves substantially.
Many LDS singles who lack that understanding often prove to be their own worst obstacle. Too often they put the cart before the horse by insisting that potential dates meet their standards for marriage. This practice fosters a culture in which dating is viewed as synonymous with marriage. Dating then becomes warped in LDS singles life.
That’s not the only way many LDS singles put the cart before the horse. When considering whether to date someone, they often look at potential candidates and assume they’ll always be just as they are right at that moment. If someone is found to be undesirable, it’s then easy to say, “I don’t want to spend eternity with that” and walk away.
In so doing, LDS singles often walk away from the very blessings they seek. In considering dating opportunities, we should consider not just position but also direction. We need to see others as they may become.
Direction is more than position
We came to this mortal existence to grow and become like our Heavenly Father. 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.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged” is the Savior’s teaching (Matthew 7:1). Yet how often do LDS singles fail to apply that teaching to their dating considerations? We confuse position and direction, thinking that person will always be just as we find them now.
For example, most aren’t attracted to overweight suitors. Yet being overweight is merely position. What consideration do we give direction? There’s a world of difference between the overweight person trying to lose weight through diet and exercise and the overweight person doing nothing about it except crying over why no one wants to love them as they are.
The Atonement by its very existence signals the potential for change. Truly believing in that potential means affording more weight towards direction than position when considering dating options.
Potential to change is not change
According more weight to direction doesn’t mean ignoring position. 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 is not the same as actually changing direction.
Our actions determine our direction. What we do every day determines whether we end in one destination or in another. And small changes today can result in large differences tomorrow.
A truly reformed physical abuser will refrain from physical abuse. Repeat offenders are not reformed. They still have the potential to change, but their actions show they haven’t actually changed. Their direction is askew, and in the interest of personal safety, you’d be justified not dating such a character.
On the other hand, a physical abuser who has refrained from physical abuse has a better direction. That person’s actions demonstrate a change in direction has taken place. Both always had the potential to change. But the difference here is one’s actions evidence a change in direction and the other’s don’t.
Embrace multiple experiences
That’s why you should experience multiple casual dates with someone before deciding on the potential for a committed dating relationship with said person. For most aspects of an individual, you can’t judge appropriately with just one date. You need multiple experiences.
Allowing that can help you give that greater weight to direction over position. Without that, it’s much easier to see only position and use that alone as the basis for dating considerations.
No one’s perfect in this life. We’ll all miss the mark somewhere. But that doesn’t mean we always will. Our actions today can add to a body of evidence showing a more positive change in direction. And with time that body of evidence can demonstrate a more positive direction, which will make you more attractive to potential dating partners.
Learning to see the potential in others can reveal doors of opportunity you didn’t before realize existed. Because no one’s perfect, the eternal companion you’re seeking isn’t perfect. Learning to value others for what they may become because of their direction may help you see that the person who you thought would never do as a companion actually fulfills your needs more than you could imagine.
Tolerating imperfection can actually help you find your true love. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
It’s spring once more. Time for warmer weather and putting away that winter coat. And time for spring cleaning.
President Hinckley used to relate the annual tradition his mother would lead. Every spring each child received a portion of the spring cleaning chores to accomplish. Looking back on those days, President Hinckley remarked on the exasperating nature of the labor, but he also extolled the liberation everyone found when the work was done. How refreshing it was to live once more in a clean house!
Many of our own homes could use a little elbow grease. We have dirt brought in from the outside world. And we’ve allowed so much stuff to accumulate around us it burdens our ability to feel free in the space we call home.
Many of us have additional clutter in the homes of our lives. We find ourselves burdened with dirt left from encounters with the world. And we’ve accumulated so much baggage we’re burdened wherever we go.
Yet spring is a joyful season. The change that leaves winter behind reminds us we too can change and leave the winter of our lives behind. We just need to clear the clutter.
Clear the physical
All the different aspects of our lives — body, mind, heart, and spirit — are interconnected. That’s why we need to clear the clutter from each of these spaces in our lives. And there’s no easier place to start than with the physical clutter.
Many years ago I realized I had a lot of stuff. I never let go of anything for fear I would need it once I did. Yet I could also recognized the burden of dragging all this stuff around with me.
I refrained from clearing any of it until I realized something substantial. With my income at that time, if I did need whatever I had surrendered, I could just buy myself a new one. And it would be in much better condition than the one I gave away.
That realization set me working. I began divesting myself of anything which had no sentimental value and I wasn’t really using. I was donating my items to a local thrift store, so I began tallying the cost of each of these items for a tax deduction. I was amazed to see a deduction of $2000!
Clear the other spaces
The real surprise, though, was emotional and mental. I had no idea how much my extra stuff burdened me psychologically until I found myself free of it. Had I known before how free I would feel, I would have done it all sooner.
Of course, some burdens are purely emotional or mental in nature. We regret something we said or did, or we feel the angst of not meeting a standard others seem to meet with ease. We should just as diligently clear out the clutter of unfair comparisons and broken commitments as we would the clutter which needlessly occupies our physical spaces.
The only fair comparison is between who you are now and who you were yesterday. Comparing yourself to others rarely ends well in the short term and never ends well in the long term. You’ll always be chasing after something that isn’t worth capturing even if you could. Far better to live free of the burden of always needing to prove yourself.
And of course, broken commitments always hold us back until we do what we can to make amends. Often that involves making a new commitment. Always it means accepting the Savior’s Atonement. Far better to live free of unnecessary burden, especially when our Lord paid such a dear price to make that freedom possible.
Clear it all
The heaviest burdens to bear are spiritual in nature. Clearing this clutter can require the most effort and offer the greatest reward. And clearing the clutter in one aspect often provides strength and encouragement that makes clearing the clutter in other aspects easier.
I saw this with the experience I described earlier. Feeling the freedom from the burden of so many physical things encouraged me to feel that same sense of freedom in other areas of my life. I found it easier to move on from a failed relationship to which I still clung. The freedom I felt from releasing my physical burden gave me hope of feeling something similar after releasing my emotional burden.
We can free ourselves of any burden if we clear the clutter from our spaces. So what spring cleaning could you use? What burdens do you need to surrender? You often won’t know how burdened you’ve really been until you remove it. Once you do what is necessary, you’ll feel an invigorating sense of freedom. 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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