Many of us see challenges as we look ahead both for society and ourselves individually. Elder Bednar’s remarks remind us of the essential nature of testing in our mortal experience. Just as tests in school help us compare what we know with what we should know and thereby provide opportunity to grow in knowledge, tests in mortality help us compare what we are now with what we can become and thereby provide opportunity to grow in light and truth. And the best way to pass those tests is to prepare and press forward.
Elder Bednar related how the pandemic revealed the state of his own family’s preparedness for difficult times. In some ways he was prepared, and in others he was wanting.
For those instances in which he and we are found wanting, Elder Bednar pointed to the Savior’s example of incremental increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). I love Elder Bednar’s description of this approach: “a blended balance of intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social readiness.”
As I examine my own readiness in each of those four areas — the intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social — I find I’m not that different from Elder Bednar. In some ways I’m prepared, and in others I’m wanting.
We all are, in fact. That’s why we need to use the time we have now to prepare for what may come. I recall President Hinckley speaking in the April 2001 General Conference Priesthood session about setting our houses in order. Five months later, the aerospace industry took a nosedive from 9/11, and many Saints in that industry lost their jobs. Those who failed to heed a prophet’s warning to prepare suffered when the testing moment came.
I love what Elder Bednar had to say about such preparations.
The difficulties of the pandemic have revealed the state of our own individual preparedness. Now is the time to act on that knowledge and prepare for what may come in those areas where we’re wanting. Elder Bednar issued just such an invitation:
When it comes to action, it’s good to have a plan and better to act. Plans provide the framework for moving forward, but they don’t actually move you forward. Only action produces results. Only action moves you forward.
Elder Bednar told the story of a father who lost his missionary son to a tragic accident. The father shared his family’s feelings at the funeral service — feelings of heartbreak but also feelings of determination to remain faithful. When the moment of trial came, this family showed they were prepared to learn eternal lessons through their suffering. That preparation allowed them to press forward.
We likewise can press forward when our intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social trials come to us if we do the work now to prepare ourselves for those moments. And that means making choices. Elder Bednar shared the following words from Elder Jeffrey R Holland.
He then went on to say
Live the promise
Moments that test us will always come in mortality. As Elder Bednar explained, “the process of proving ourselves is a fundamental part of Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness.” He then promised those who prepare and press forward will be able to pass “the ultimate examination of mortality.”
You can live that promise when you prepare for what will come and then press forward, walking in faith the Lord will support you as you act upon your plans. Preparation doesn’t always prevent or remove hard times. But preparation can make burdens easier to bear. Preparation can provide the eternal perspective needed to learn lessons of eternal import when those trials do come.
So prepare and press forward. You don’t know when all your trials will come, but you do know they’ll come. Assess yourself now, plan to supply what’s wanting, and then take action on those plans. The Lord will do His part as you do yours. You’ll then realize in your life the promised pronouncement: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). 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.
You’ll be hard pressed to achieve that result without adopting a new way of thinking that matches your new landscape. In pre-pandemic times, one might hear of souls going the extra mile of the extra mile, literally working themselves to the bone in the name of service to others. Now with the pandemic in place, some have continued that way of thinking, going that extra mile of the extra mile while sheltering in place and social distancing.
But that old way of thinking that giving all of yourself was somehow a virtue was unhealthy before the pandemic. And it’s still unhealthy now. You can’t help others to climb unless you yourself are standing on higher ground. You can’t nourish others when you yourself need nourishing. Yes, other people and meeting their needs matter. But you matter too.
Strive for balance
That idea falls right in line with following after your bliss. Your best life is the one with the best boundaries for you, boundaries that demarcate a balance between what you should do for others and what you should do for yourself.
And balance is not necessarily about equalizing the proportions those areas occupy in your life. It’s about making sure each area is appropriately sized so that they can sufficiently support the other.
Giving service to others satisfies basic needs we all have for sociality. Supporting others in their times of stress can give us strength in dealing with our own stress. But caring for ourselves requires us to meet all our basic needs. You can hardly say your approach is balanced when you neglect other needs to care exclusively for just one need.
That’s where following after your bliss can help you achieve the balance you need between caring for others and caring for yourself. Many out of balance in the service arena feel guilty if they aren’t continually giving of themselves to others all the time. Their life is unbalanced because their thinking is unbalanced. By following after your dreams and helping others you encounter along that path as you can, you establish a healthy balance between doing for others and doing for you.
Avoid both extremes
Of course, not everyone unbalanced is unbalanced in that way. Some go to the other extreme, focusing so much on themselves that they give little if any thought to others. And they structure their lives accordingly. Just chronicle the activities they regularly embrace in their day, and their excessive focus on themselves becomes obviously apparent.
It’s really easy for singles to fall into this practice, especially if they don’t have any children. And avoiding that practice certainly isn’t helped by living in a pandemic requiring social distancing and sequestering. The healthy focus on caring for self can be mutated into an unhealthy consumption of self.
The solution here is the same. Follow after your bliss and help others you encounter along that path. This approach will help you establish a healthy balance between doing for others and doing for you.
In all our efforts to achieve that healthy balance, we should remember that what constitutes a healthy balance for one person may not be that healthy for another. While we all have the same basic needs, the amounts we need to satisfy those needs can differ greatly.
Pandemic may have changed the landscape, but it has not changed our ability to thrive. When we change our thinking to match the landscape in our lives, we allow ourselves to meet better our current challenges, whatever they might be.
So take a step back and evaluate how you’ve structured your life. How much do you give to others? And how much do you give to yourself? Others matter, yes. But you matter too. Those who know their proper balance between caring for others and caring for themselves set themselves up for success. Pandemic or no, they will thrive on the road to their best life. And that will bring them more joy in their journey.
I went to a clinic where a doctor ran some tests and came back with a diagnosis I didn’t believe then and still don’t today. But I wasn’t about to argue with the doctor while in pain. I didn’t want to postpone the relief that drove me to see the doctor in the first place.
The doctor prescribed some meds, I followed his directions, and the chest pain went away. But then arrived stomach pains and more intense vomiting. I couldn’t keep anything down. After I vomited everything so I knew my stomach was empty, the stomach pains vanished only to be replaced with abdominal cramps. I didn’t sleep well that night at all.
I’m in recovery now, but as I’ve always been the pensive and reflective sort, I certainly can’t resist reflecting on this experience. As I do so, I can see clear connections between my experience and Elder Gong’s Conference address. All of our lives have been greatly blessed by covenant belonging.
A culture in change
When I first heard his address in Conference, Elder Gong’s description of a gospel culture centered on Christ impressed me. Indeed, true gospel culture is centered on the Savior and solidified by covenants we make to serve Him and each other.
Yet traditionally LDS subculture has centered on marital status as the marker of belonging. And that center has caused countless challenges for many LDS singles. Long time audience members know I once harped endlessly on our need to change the culture. The problem is in how singles think, yes. But the problem is also in how everyone thinks, and that thinking is manifested in culture.
Elder Gong cuts through all of the bunk to the real heart of a Zion culture — making and keeping sacred covenants to become more like Jesus Christ.
God never looked at His children through the lens of marital status. I’m not entirely sure why we as a people ever did, but I rejoice in our culture changing for the better.
A bridge across the gap
I also rejoice that Elder Gong’s message to center ourselves in Christlike covenants is not the first apparently aimed at changing the culture to adopt a more ennobling marker of belonging. Albeit not as directly as I have, various Church leaders have occasionally spoken about the divide between singles and marrieds in LDS culture and our need to bridge the gap.
Elder Gong followed suit in addressing that divide but doing so in a somewhat less indirect manner.
I love that balance between including singles and promoting marriage and family. These two elements were never meant to be mutually exclusive! Those who understand the concept of covenant belonging see that truth plain as day.
A place to belong
You may be wondering now what all of this has to do with my near miss of a heart attack. It’s very simple. I belong as all LDS singles do to a community bound together by covenants to serve the Lord and serve one another.
The day after my near miss, my ministering brother and a member of the bishopric were in my home visiting with me and providing a priesthood blessing. Now, I know that doesn’t happen everywhere. I’ve been in some of those wards where it doesn’t happen. But if you find yourself there, I can assure you it will pass and you will come to a better place if you stay faithful to your covenants and do your best to practice covenant belonging.
The Lord is mindful of all of us. I know He’s been mindful of me. Feeling that love has renewed my desire to be true to my covenants and to exemplify God’s definition of real belonging that we can find therein. And it is by living covenant belonging that we can best feel that love. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Now I find myself at another crossroads. My father has surgery tomorrow to remove his returned skin cancer. My brother might visit this weekend, which may be the last time we see each other for awhile since I’m preparing to begin a new job on the East Coast. And yet with all these changes about me, one thing remains unchanged. I’m still not a father.
Pondering on a prophet
I remember sitting in the stake center as a young man watching President Ezra Taft Benson address the single men of the Church in General Conference. As he declared that the time would come when those who ignored fatherhood would feel and know their loss, I remember thinking to myself, That won’t be me! I’m going to follow the prophet.
As time passed, however, that commitment challenged me. Sure, I could’ve married one of numerous desperate LDS women. But they interested themselves more in being a wife and mother than in being my companion because that was the only identity they could accept for themselves. My conscience couldn’t accept joining with someone who saw me as filler material, a means to their own end.
Now my mind ponders that prophetic counsel I heard so many years ago as a young man. Am I any closer to compliance? Or have I allowed other pursuits to lull me into a more comfortable place where I substitute the greater growth from fatherhood with the lesser growth of other pursuits?
Searching for balance
Clearly, we single LDS men must walk a fine line. Obsession with marriage will drive us increasingly crazy while driving away quality candidates. At the same time, we can’t become so absorbed in the activities we use to stay that obsession that we don’t progress towards a happy and healthy marriage. We need balance.
Note I said happy and healthy. We’re not interchangeable parts. Compatibility is important. At the same time, compatibility is not a litmus test. The success of any union depends more on the choices of the participants than on any intrinsic characteristics. Again, we need balance.
I think about that balance as I ponder my father’s surgery tomorrow. That surgery isn’t all that different from the previous one, which he survived just fine. Yet when he announced the return of his cancer, my father encouraged my siblings and I to consider what would be done to help Mother should he pass away soon. I find myself balancing his fear against my optimism that everything will work out for the best.
Declaring mighty faith
The faith inviting me to live in that realization encourages me onward with optimism. No, I’m not a father . . . yet. I don’t know how the Lord will bless me, but I know He loves me and will support me as He always has. That knowledge sustains me as I walk by faith through mortality.
I’m also not the same person now I once was. Sure, I’m just as single now as when I came home from my mission, but I’m not the same man that stepped off that plane bringing me home. In more ways than not, I’m a much better man. And as I strive to be phenomenal in every aspect of my life, I’ll become more and more irresistible to that woman with whom the Lord intends to bless me.
I’m still not a father. But that won’t be true forever. The Lord will not abandon me. Nor will He abandon any of you. So if Father’s Day has brought you to serious reflection, be the victor and not the victim. Partner with the Lord, and let Him lead you along. Your path ahead is glorious. When you see with eyes of faith, you’ll recognize the brightness of that light. You’ll capture the optimism born of hope in that bright future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In the most recent General Conference, Elder Jack Gerard of the Seventy spoke of the importance of priorities in life. His remarks, entitled “Now Is The Time,” encourage all of us to place our priorities upon what matters most in life — our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Whether or not you have goals for the new year, now is the time to consider whether the priorities you really do have are the ones you really should have.
Set the right priorities
Elder Gerard begins with an account of chest pains he experienced while traveling. After arriving at the airport, he sought help at a local hospital, wondering if he would reach his final destination. A doctor ran multiple tests and then declared him safe to continue his travels.
Elder Gerard returned to the airport and resumed his journey. As the plane approached his final destination, Elder Gerard learned an ambulance would be waiting to take him to the hospital. The doctor had misdiagnosed his condition, which was much more serious than previously supposed.
After he learned the new diagnosis and that not many patients survive that condition, Elder Gerard’s perspective suddenly shifted. He described his experience with these words:
Indeed, now is the time to consider our direction. Stephen Covey often used the analogy of a ladder when speaking about priorities. He described a man who exerted much effort to climb a ladder leaning against a wall. When he got to the top, what he saw behind the wall made one truth painfully obvious; his ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
It should sound silly to talk about priorities after many of us have made our goals, because priorities rightfully come before goals. We need to establish our direction before we establish what we want to accomplish. Otherwise, we’ll likely find the ladder we climb has been leaning against the wrong wall.
Daily life in our modern world contains so many distractions we can spend our lives wandering aimlessly without any sense of direction or purpose. We need to take time to reflect upon our direction. Unless we do, we’ll easily become “like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
Do the things of greatest eternal importance have the highest priority in your life? If not, it’s never too late to start again. Now is the time to consider your direction.
Elder Gerard reminds us that
It’s so easy to coast and let the waves of day-to-day living just wash over us! But that complacency will never deliver your best life. You get your best life by living intentionally, and living with intention requires awareness of what you’re doing and more importantly why. That means having priorities and a plan of action that supports those priorities.
How else do we ensure our ladder is not leaning against the wrong wall? Priorities determine direction, and direction determines destination.
Rise above distraction
During his remarks, Elder Gerard asked this very practical question: “How do we rise above the distractions of this world and stay fixed on the vision of eternity before us?” He then extolled Christ as the standard by which to judge what’s best and declared “understanding our divine origins is essential to our eternal progress and can free us from the distractions of this life.”
Ultimately, the best way to know what our real priorities should be is to evaluate ourselves and our lives without distraction. That’s where temple attendance can be so refreshing. In the house of the Lord, we can separate ourselves from the distractions of the world. Remembering our divine origins and why we’re here can bring clarity to an otherwise muddled view.
If you wonder whether your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, now is the time to consider what changes you need to make. If you didn’t make any goals for the new year, then by default you decided to let the waves of life carry you where they may. Now is the time for you to own your life and establish the priorities that will determine your direction and ultimately your destination. When you do, you’ll find yourself moving forward more confidently. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
You must believe
People make resolutions with the best of intentions. In fact, those good intentions drive us to create the resolution. We see something we want in our lives, or maybe something we want out of our lives, and we resolve to change.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so good intentions alone are insufficient to achieve greatness. Good intentions reflect good desires, and as such they make a good start. But you must also believe in the change you want for yourself.
If you don't believe, you won't receive. Without believing that what you want for yourself is possible, you won't even try. You’ll quit before you start. And you’re guaranteed not to achieve anything if you don’t try.
But you must believe in more than possibility. You must believe what you want for yourself is probable. And you must believe in yourself and your ability to make what you want more probable. That’s of course easier to do when you partner with the Lord. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
You must plan
Once you believe the attainment of your desires is not only possible but also probable, you must take action, starting with a plan. What steps will you take to achieve your desires?
How we achieve our goals may not happen exactly the way we envision. In fact, they very often don't. But a good plan provides concrete action you can take. It gives permission and direction to be busy doing. And that's essential, because results come from one thing and one thing only — action.
The best plans provide specific actions you can take. Clearly defined, simple tasks conform well to how the brain is hardwired. Our brains are hardwired not to think but to execute clear, simple instructions. When you break your plans down to that level, you align yourself with how you’re built. And that significantly improves your probability of success.
The best plans also consider environment. Your brain is hardwired to determine normal by assessing your surroundings. Let’s say you want to lose weight. If the people usually around you have some pounds to shed themselves, then your brain will think being at that weight is normal, and it will be harder for you to lose weight because most of us don't want to be abnormal; we want to fit in and belong to the group. You must also consider potential distractions in your environment. Again, if you want to lose weight, make sure your food stores don't contain anything that will work against you.
Finally, the best plans consider psychology. Many who are overweight use emotional eating to compensate for something they lack. They use the pleasures of eating to feed their emotional needs (pun intended). If you try to lose weight without addressing deeply seated psychological influences, it's more probable you won't succeed. Your plan must include healthy ways to address your emotional needs that can support you in achieving your goals.
You must act
With a good plan in place, the only thing left is to do. Results come from one thing and only one thing — action. Action plus attitude equals achievement.
Your past attempts ending in failure can provide lessons for success. A failed attempt doesn't mean you’re a failure; it just means your approach is a failure. Direction determines destination, so make a slight change in your approach — in the direction you take — and you can arrive at an entirely new destination. Anything you can imagine you can have. Anything you can dream you can live.
A new year is now upon us, and with it comes new opportunity to improve upon ourselves and to live our best life. When we believe, plan, and act, we can achieve anything. Now is the time for you to rise up and claim your best life. When you do, you give others permission to rise up and claim their best life. That makes life better for everyone. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’m sure we’ve all encountered time management in one form or another. But time management is really a misnomer; no one really manages time. As much as some of us yearn to do it, you can’t create another hour in your day. Everyone gets the same 24 hours. What you manage, then, is yourself. How will you choose to spend those 24 hours each day?
Sooner or later, as Elder Godoy points out, we’ll all have a "one more day" realization that we must use wisely the time we have. Yet what impresses me most about Elder Godoy’s remarks about time management is his inclusion of sacrifice in the choices we make regarding our time.
Plan your sacrifice
Very often we plan the tasks we need to fulfill our responsibilities and achieve our goals. Yet how often do we plan our sacrifice? If we know what we’d do if we had only one more day to live, why not plan our day like that? Why not eliminate what would not fill our final day and include what would?
Elder Godoy declared, “We all have a ‘today’ to live, and the key to making our day successful is to be willing to sacrifice.” I never thought before about purposefully including sacrifice in my daily or weekly plans. Yet it makes more and more sense the more I consider it.
I also appreciate Elder Godoy’s review of the etymology behind sacrifice:
What things do you need to make sacred in your life? To what things do you need to bring honor? Planning to fulfill your responsibilities and achieve your goals is great. But deliberately planning to include sacrifice is greater; these can enrich your life and provide personal strength.
Spend the time
Much of what we know we should do — daily prayer, daily studying the scriptures, attending church, etc. — is a sacrifice. The time we spend in these worthwhile activities is always amply rewarded. But these aren’t the only sacrifices we can embrace.
Temple attendance has always been a sacrifice for me. I’ve lived where the nearest house of the Lord required me to drive two or more hours. Certainly attending the temple under those conditions represented a great sacrifice for me. Yet I now live within a half hour of two temples, and I find regularly attending either one of them difficult. So many other needful activities press upon me that attending the house of the Lord is a real sacrifice.
Performing the family history research that supports temple work is another sacrifice we can intentionally choose, as is also holding weekly family home evening. Many LDS singles forego FHE, viewing it as something for those with families. But I’ve found using Family History Evening to spell FHE is a sacrifice that brings many blessings, including a strengthened faith that comes from living all of the restored gospel I can live.
Elder Godoy declared, “The sacrifices our loved ones make for us refresh us like cool water in the middle of the desert. Such sacrifice brings hope and motivation.” I believe that applies to sacrifices made on both sides of the veil.
See one more day to be faithful
As wonderful as those sacrifices are, Elder Godoy rightly remarked that “any sacrifice we make is small compared to the sacrifice of the Son of God.” Because of His ultimate sacrifice, the great plan of redemption is operative in the lives of all who will embrace it.
Elder Godoy asked, “How can we honor that infinite sacrifice? Each day we can remember that we have one more day to live and be faithful.” I love that response! We have the days we have because of the Savior’s sacrifice. How appropriate that we respond to His gift of time with our own gift of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and faithfulness to all our covenants!
And how appropriate was Elder Godoy in quoting President Howard W. Hunter.
Consider the sacrifices the Spirit whispers to you that you should make in your life. Then plan your sacrifice. Consciously dedicate the time needed to make sacred that needful act and give honor to it. When you do, you’ll give honor to your own life and receive for your sacrifice the blessings of heaven. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
With the new year soon upon us, it’s time once more for making resolutions most of us won’t keep. It’s been said as many as 90% of all New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.
Obviously proclaiming a resolution isn’t enough. Without resolve, any resolution is little more than a wish. And it’s that lack of resolve that separates many of us from the lives we want.
That’s precisely why 90% of all New Year’s resolutions never see reality. Every moment we each have a choice. We can choose to move closer to our goals and dreams, or we can choose something else. It doesn’t matter what that something else is. Lack of results for any reason is still lack of results.
We’ll never live the life we want until we take action. The most transformative actions are the small ones in the small moments that fill each and every day. We need to have enough resolve to make the right choice in each of those small moments.
Actually, we need make the right choice only once. There’s no need to deliberate in each and every moment of choosing. We can choose wisely once and then exercise the resolve to follow through with that choice thereafter.
For many that follow-through is the weak link in the chain. Why do we lack the resolve to follow through on our choices? Or put another way, why are we so content with lives so very much beneath our potential?
I’ve pondered that question for some time now. Year after year I continue to be just a single as when I came home from my mission more than two decades ago. And that’s just the most important of my goals and dreams. Apparently some of my other dreams elude me as well. OK, fine — most of my other dreams remained unrealized.
Why? I’m too easily satisfied. I don’t have the resolve to achieve more because in the small moments — the moments when I need to follow through on my decisions to move closer to my goals and dreams — I find myself sufficiently satisfied. After all, why exert yourself through the pain of sacrifice when the reward presently before you is good enough?
Raise the bar
The answer, then, is setting a higher standard. What in the past has passed for good enough must now never be good enough. I need to demand more from myself before I’m satisfied.
Adopting a new standard will require new ways of thinking. I must remember what the future will bring if I don’t raise the bar. Do I want more of the same life I’ve had? That’s what I’ll get unless I change. The same choices made over and over again always lead to the same reality.
If we want a new reality, then we must adopt a new way of thinking. We must think differently about our own standards of acceptability in our own performance. What level of performance really is good enough?
If we don’t have the results that move us closer to our goals and dreams, then we’re settling for something less. We need to raise the bar before feeling satisfied. We must pursue the path to meet that bar. And we must do it come what may.
Find the balance
Raising the bar and pursuing its corresponding path will certainly take resolve. Yet we must have balance in our approach. We don’t want to become so obsessed with achievement that we miss the joy along our journey.
We can find that balance in faith. We don’t journey alone. Christ loves us so much He simply couldn’t be uninterested in helping us. By partnering with the Lord, we can make the right choices in the right moments and enjoy our journey along our chosen path.
If we keep raising the bar, sooner or later we’ll find our limit. We can’t go any further because we have nothing more to take us any further. At that point, we can accept our limitations and rest confident the Lord will make up the difference so long as we do our best within our limitations. The past is the past; we cannot change it. We can only resolve to do better as we raise the bar and then keep trying to keep that resolve for the higher standard.
As we give our all to Him, the Lord will give His all to us. That will make all the difference because He is the difference. Partnering with Him in our journey will help us make our lives more than they ever could be otherwise. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
It wouldn’t be so bad if we’d stop comparing ourselves unfairly. Whether against other people or some idealized standard, many Latter-day Saints feel they fall short of what and where they should be.
And many of those Latter-day Saints are single. They look at their lives and think they should be married by now. It’s then easy to jump to the conclusion that something must be wrong with them and that’s why they’re still single.
Other LDS singles reach a corollary conclusion with just as much erroneous logic. They believe they’re not good enough — not handsome or pretty enough, not funny enough, not cool enough, not whatever enough. If only they were a more attractive person, they reason, then they wouldn’t be stuck in their single status.
That’s why I love Elder Holland’s remarks. He reminds us that we are good enough, that we don’t need to bridge today the entire distance between where we are and where we want to be, that our journey can be joyful if we improve our approach to it. We can be perfect . . . eventually.
That last word eventually is key. It reminds us that our journey is more than just a few steps. Our journey comprises many, many steps — more than we can possibly take in this mortal life. Perfection, the final result of reaching our final destination, won’t come in this life.
Why then give us the commandment to be perfect? Elder Holland believes at least one reason is to give glory to God and show what we can achieve in the eternities to come. Knowing the perfection of God can create gratitude that our imperfections need not be the end of us. God in his perfection will make up for what we lack.
Of course, that doesn’t justify ignoring our covenants. Elder Holland explains,
How often do we LDS singles criticize ourselves for whatever failings we have? When we let go of our need to be perfect now, we’ll find it easier to let go of our repeating patterns of self-criticism.
Look for good enough
Elder Holland reminds us that “except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing.” He then advocates avoiding excessive expectations for achieving perfection in others as well as in ourselves.
That got me thinking. Many LDS singles expect perfection in the eternal companion they seek. They create this ideal that very few if any could actually reach. After all, you don’t want to spend eternity with imperfect. But by limiting their prospective candidate pool, they limit their probability of success. They make it harder to find that eternal companion.
Elder Holland reminds us that no one is perfect. That means the eternal companion you’re looking for is imperfect. If you go about looking for perfection, you’ll not likely find your eternal companion because that imperfect person will never fit your insistence on perfection.
Since the person you seek is not perfect, then you should really be looking for good enough. That doesn’t mean you have no standards. Good enough implies that some standards have been met. You just don’t want so many standards that you reduce your likelihood of success too much. Having standards that are too exacting can yield the same result. Balance is the key.
When we partake of the sacrament each week, we do not pledge to be perfect. We do not witness we’ll take upon ourselves the name of Christ, always remember him, and keep his commandments. We witness we are willing to do these things (see D&C 20:77).
That pledge of willingness allows space for slips and failings. We strive for perfection while at the same time forgiving both ourselves and others for shortcomings.
If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need saving. So we don’t need to be perfect to be saved. We just need to be good enough — good enough to receive the gift of grace that bridges any gap. And if we just need to be good enough, then that’s all anyone else needs to be as well.
I love Elder Holland’s concluding remarks:
May we all stop looking for perfection in this mortal life while never stopping to strive after it as part of our more eternal journey. When we do, we’ll have more joy in our 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.
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