The gospel has the answers
I freely admit my ignorance. I’ve never been married or a parent, so I don’t fully understand the challenges of single parenting. But I do understand singleness and recognize several principles Brother Romney shared that apply to all LDS singles, regardless of age or circumstance.
First, and perhaps most importantly, the restored gospel holds the solutions to life’s problems. You’ll see many of those solutions only after adopting the perspectives the restored gospel encourages. Far too many LDS singles think a solution will eliminate their problem so they can live more comfortably. Often real solutions instead allow you to leverage your problems so you can grow and become more than you were before.
Brother Romney brought out that perspective beautifully. The hope, joy, and strength which he found as a single father came from “small, simple things” like family prayer, expressions of encouragement, magnifying callings, and seeking direction from inspired leaders. Our Heavenly Father has a plan of happiness for you. That plan might not resemble the one you’d make, but His plan will best help you attain maximum happiness.
You’re not in it alone
In his article, Brother Romney raised an excellent question: “I was a father trying to raise daughters on my own. . . . How could I help them prepare to become women?” This variation on the more common theme of “How can I meet the challenge when I don’t seem fit for it?” has troubled many LDS singles.
Yet the answer again lies in perspective. No matter your situation, you’re in this alone only if you want to be. Brother Romney found many resources of support for his situation, including family members, neighbors, and ministering brothers and Church leaders. We all have more resources than we think we do. We just need to apply the Savior’s teaching: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).
Brother Romney rightly mentions that “not everyone will experience this same level of support.” Wards are people, and people are all at different points of progression along the eternal path. Some just haven’t yet progressed that far.
Notwithstanding, the Lord won’t leave you comfortless. He’s provided people around you, sometimes in and sometimes out of the Church, who’ll help in some way. You just need ask, seek, and knock. As Brother Romney acknowledges, “until we let others know the gaps we see . . . those individuals may not understand how they can help.” The squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease.
The Lord knows you intimately
Ultimately, the Lord won’t abandon you. He loves you too much to do that. Not only will He walk by your side, the Lord will provide a strength to persevere only He can provide.
The same Lord Who’s assembled a plan for your maximum happiness, restored His gospel offering needed perspective, and provided resources to support you is also intimately aware of you. He knows what you need in the moment you need it.
He knows how overwhelming your specific combination of challenges and circumstances can feel. He submitted Himself to all things “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). Through the enabling power of His Atonement, Christ can help you do what you otherwise could not.
No matter the challenge, whether it be raising daughters as a single dad, raising sons as a single mother, or simply finding joy in LDS singles life, you can partner with the Lord and leverage your challenges to grow and become something more than you were before. When you do, you’ll grow so much you’ll transcend your challenges. What once seemed overwhelming will be no more than an afterthought. And all along the way, you’ll feel the strength of the Lord abiding with you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
The suggested action for today carries the title “Let Your Love Shine” and encourages tagging three loved ones with a “top 3 things I love about you” message and invitation to do likewise. The three I wish to highlight don’t use social media, but I’ll highlight them all the same because I believe you can’t best feel your love until you let your love shine.
The cat comes first
First on my list is my cat Tashi. She died about eight years ago as unexpectedly as she’s impacted my life since.
Last weekend while speaking with a friend grieving the recent death of her cat, I shared how I still feel Tashi with me, even though she hasn’t been with me physically for over eight years. That’s the first thing I love about Tashi. Our relationship was so strong I still feel her with me despite her death. Hearing my experience seemed to comfort my friend, suggesting perhaps she too could experience something similar.
Tashi knew how to comfort me. She’d waltz into my lap as I sat discouraged, seat herself against me, and then look up at me as though saying, “How can you be sad when I’m here?” It amazes me she never failed to do that when I needed it.
And she was such a character. I remember one Christmas when she chose her stocking for the fireplace that year. It’s a humorous story I’ll detail later in the program.
Next comes my mother
My mother’s the second of my top three. I’ve spoken about her before, most recently when I surprised her for her birthday. Her condition has since worsened, but my love for her hasn’t.
My mother always thought constantly of her children. Every day she worked hard for our benefit. I remember one morning thinking I could delay my usual departure for the school bus. My mother called out a reminder to get going. But I delayed, missed the bus, and walked back in shame to confront my mother. Predictably upset, she still drove me to school.
I love how that support was constant. Years later I was preparing to return to campus after the holidays to finish my master’s program. Just before I left, my mother and I knelt in prayer. I still remember her prayer for me, and it was the memory of that prayer that gave me the strength I needed to finish my program. She’s always supported me through the years.
And I love that my mother taught me life skills, especially cooking. I can’t list all the times having that knowledge has helped me, but I can list teaching me how to cook among the many ways she’s blessed my life.
Then comes Uncle Darryl
Then there’s Uncle Darryl. He’s actually my great great uncle. I never knew him well, but he’s had a profound influence on me.
I love that influence, especially the respect it engenders for veterans. Uncle Darryl’s WWII experience left him so traumatized he couldn’t talk about some things for the rest of his life. His sacrifice in defense of freedom lasted some 65 years.
I also loved his welcoming nature. I could always come by unannounced, and he’d stop and entertain my visit. What an example of gifting love through attention! And he always seemed sincerely interested in me, even towards the end as his faculties slipped.
I won’t be tagging anyone since none of these three loved ones use social media. But I love them each. And I love the Lord Who blessed me with love from them and many others. Letting my love shine for them today is a small gift I can give in return.
If you haven’t given that small gift today to three loved ones in your life, take a moment now and let your love shine. You’ll feel more of the essence of the Christmas season. You’ll invite others to embrace that spirit in following the Lord Whose expressions of love provide the reason for the season. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That’s why I’m making this trip despite the inconvenience. I want to make memories while I can. I want to make memories a priority.
With my mother’s birthday approaching, it’s the perfect time to do this. Still, I’m not sure what to expect in this trip. As I said, I haven’t flown in eight years.
It’s not that I don’t like travel. It’s just most of my travels have been accessible by car. I say most because, when I started my PhD program, I could have flown instead of driving across the country.
But had I done that, I would have missed the opportunity to visit with one of my aunts who died just last month. As I drove across the country, I made it a point to plan my route so that I would be able to visit with her. And I’m glad I did that, because now that she’s passed on I no longer have that opportunity to make memories with her (at least not in this life).
Now I see a similar situation with my mother. I’m not saying she’s about to die. I’m saying I love this sweet woman who has done so much for me over the years, and I want to take advantage of the opportunity I have now to make memories with her while I can.
That’s a good approach to take not just with loved ones but with everything in life. When we die — and we’re all going to die — we don’t take much with us beyond our desires, our knowledge, and our relationships. Focusing ourselves here, then, should take priority in our lives.
I’ve found it’s always good to step back every once in a while and evaluate where I am in my life. How am I doing? And am I going in the right direction?
If you haven’t evaluated yourself recently, then take a moment now to do so. Just ponder on those questions I just asked for the next few minutes and reflect on your answers to them.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself wanting in multiple areas. That’s OK. Just determine what you need to do to improve, and then decide to do it. If you need tools or resources to support you, then go get them and put them in place. If you don’t know how to do anything along the way, then partner with the Lord and let Him guide you to the who and what you need when and where you need them.
Overall, your life is what you make of it. You only get one, so what will yours be?
Too many of us take for granted the opportunity we have to make memories with the family and friends we love. In the busyness of living our lives, it’s easy to think we’ll always have the opportunity to make memories.
But you never know when you’ll no longer have that opportunity. Accidents happen every day. A festering medical condition could suddenly worsen. An act of violence could unexpectedly shorten someone’s life. Who knows what might happen? You may not have the time you think you do.
Don’t waste the opportunity you have to make memories while you can. Your life is what you make of it, and you only get one. Make your life one filled with the blessings of treasured memories with loved ones that will yield satisfaction and joy for years to come. Make memories your priority. You’ll then spend more of your limited time building the relationships that matter most. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Of course, the answer is of course. Life has meaning when we fill it with what’s meaningful. These are the best things in life — the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made along the way. And it’s because of Christ we can have these joys now and always. Recognizing the true reason for the season helps us enjoy the best things in life all year round.
The people we love
When we celebrate Christ’s birth, we really celebrate our Heavenly Father’s plan. The birth of Christ into this world demonstrates God’s love as He fulfilled His purposes. He provided the Savior Who made it possible for all of us to return to our eternal home.
Christ also made possible eternal families, both the family we have known and the family we have yet to know. Not only can we spend eternity with God in His home, but all our loved ones can too, never more to be parted.
These promises become all the more precious to me when I think of my sweet mother. After a lifetime of numerous medical challenges, dementia now drives her decline towards her mortal end. With my father approaching the point at which he can no longer care for her, my mother could move next week into a special care facility. I remain thankful to God that she was my mother, that I have many sweet memories of her, and that He sent His Son to make it all possible.
The places we’ve been
The Lord’s hand has also attended me in my travels. He protected me both before and during my mission. He guided me after I returned home. And His hand has sustained me traveling across the country.
I remember the first cross-country trek I made alone by car. When my car broke down in the middle of the Wyoming desert, to whom could I turn? I had only God to rely upon. And He helped me.
Two years ago, I made a similar trek going back the other way. Long time audience members will remember the story I shared. When my car again experienced trouble, it felt as though angels were lifting the car on all sides and propelling it forward. The Lord’s hand was upon me.
The Lord also blessed me in less desperate moments. I recall one Christmas in which I lived near my folks. I left for home a little after sunrise with a back seat full of Christmas presents. I drove a little slower because of the snow and potential ice. No one else was about at that hour, and I recall thinking as I drove amidst the peaceful wintery scene how blessed I was to have that moment and make the memories I was about to make.
The memories we’ve made
I’ve made plenty of other memories through the years. Most of them have been good ones. And I thank the Lord He’s blessed me with them.
I remember several years ago planning a special Christmas breakfast for my mother. She loves blueberries, and so I made a blueberry french toast casserole. She’d never made anything like that before, and frankly neither had I. But it hit the spot with her so much that a second helping wasn’t enough. She went to the kitchen and began eating what was left in the pan. It didn’t bother me; I was just happy helping her to be happy. Today I thank the Lord for that and many other precious memories.
We should all thank the Lord for the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made. These are the best things in life, and the Lord Jesus Christ makes all of it possible. This year, as you celebrate the birth of the Master, may you thank Him for the people you love, the places you’ve been, and the memories you’ve made. You’ll feel more of His love and peace that characterizes the Christmas season. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It wasn't very long, and I don't remember much of what it said. But what my grandfather wrote at the end has stayed with me. He essentially wrote, "I don't know if anything I've said is helpful, but if it is, keep it. Throw the rest away."
In the ensuing years, I've marveled at the wisdom my grandfather gave me in such a compact package. It's part of the heritage I've received from all my grandparents. All have passed on, but their contributions to me remain with me. And it's those contributions that fill my heart with gratitude as I remember grandparents.
Remember the paternal
His wife a real Nosy Nellie, but she also had a kindness of her own while insisting others adopt a vigorous work ethic. She died of cancer while I was on my mission, but I had a special experience at the time through which I understood that she had moved to a better place.
Remember the maternal
I never knew my mother's father — at least not in this life — because he died while my mother served her mission. But I've had a special experience through which I've come to "know" him in a real and connected way.
He lived as a sharecropper growing some soybeans but mostly tobacco. His neighbors could never understand how my grandfather could be a Latter-day Saint and grow tobacco for a living. When asked about it, my grandfather would reply, "I don't smoke it or chew it. I just grow it." He was a down-to-earth, simple man who believed in hard work and worked hard with his own hands to support a growing family.
His wife was the only woman I've ever known who cooked better than my mother. Apologies to my other grandmother, who never would have tolerated something like that said in her presence, but it's true. She was also one of the kindest people I've ever known. The summers my brother and I spent on her farm are among my most cherished childhood memories.
Pay it forward
I've got so many memories flooding my mind now that I can't possibly describe them all in this monologue. But these memories form the bulk of the heritage my grandparents bequeathed me, a heritage I carry with me to this day and hope one day to bestow upon the children I still hope to have.
It's little wonder then why we have a day to commemorate the contribution of grandparents. What is a wonder is why the holiday isn't more well known. Everyone knows about Mother's Day and Father's Day. But I didn't know about Grandparents' Day before this year.
This Sunday, let's remember grandparents. What legacy have your grandparents left you? What memories of them influence you today? If they're still here, take some time on Sunday to thank your grandparents for whatever positive difference they made in your life. And if they're not, then do as I'm doing and reflect on the difference they made.
Either way, when you remember grandparents, you keep them alive in your heart. You carry the heritage they left behind, making it easier to leave that heritage to those who live after you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Over the years I’ve occasionally heard LDS singles complain that the Brethren don’t address singles and singles issues very often in Conference. I strongly disagree. True, they don’t always package their content with wrappings identifying their offerings “For Singles.” But if you dig a little deeper and really think about what’s being said, you can find many messages in every Conference that apply to singles.
Such are President Ballard’s remarks. By digging a little deeper, we can find messages that apply to singles. And they all center around the idea of giving control to the spirit over the body.
Remember God’s plan
President Ballard began by reminiscing over the previous year and his Conference address in October 2018 about the 100th anniversary of Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the spirit world.
Note that was October 1918. At that time, war on an unprecedented scale had ravaged the globe for the previous four years, resulting in tens of millions of deaths. And the Spanish flu pandemic was sweeping the globe, driving the death toll even higher. In fact, October 1918 was the deadliest month of the entire pandemic. It truly looked like the end of days.
That’s where President Smith’s vision of the spiritual world so beautifully provides hope. This same hope President Ballard expressed in his most recent Conference address. Our Heavenly Father has an eternal plan for His children — that’s all of us living here on this planet as well as everyone who ever lived or will live on it. That plan provides for reunion — that’s the word President Ballard used — uniting generations of family members together forever.
Treasure family now
What strength and comfort that hope provides! Though death is certain for all and death from COVID-19 is possible for many, God has prepared a way for us to be reunited with those we love most.
He has also provided opportunities for us to treasure those relationships before death. Spending more time sequestered at home provides more opportunities for families to strengthen those treasured relationships. And don’t think that doesn’t apply to singles without families of their own. The only thing stopping us from reaching out to family during this time is ourselves. President Ballard pleaded,
But there’s a caveat: We don’t get a family reunion just because we have love for them. God is as just and orderly as He is merciful and loving. He cannot deny justice when it has its claim (Alma 42:22-25). But President Ballard quotes President Gordon B. Hinckley who tells how we can claim the family reunion we’ll surely seek on the other side of the veil.
Marrying right means marriage for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. Living right is an entirely different matter. Whereas marrying right takes place within a single day, living right takes place every day over an entire lifetime. And while singles by definition haven’t married right (because they aren’t now married), singles can strive every day to live right.
How did President Ballard approach living right? He referenced a talk his grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, gave entitled “Struggle for the Soul.” In that talk, Elder Ballard addressed “the ongoing battle between our physical bodies and our physical spirits.” President Ballard then summarized his grandfather’s talk in one sentence: “The primary battle is between our divine and spiritual nature and the carnal natural man.”
How is that battle going for you? That’s the question President Ballard asked. And in considering how we each might answer that question, he provided some added perspective. He recognized our spirits have existed long before our physical bodies and that we’ve already made righteous choices before entering mortality — what President Ballard called “a proven track record of a successful spiritual nature and eternal destiny.”
He then shared these thoughts:
Living right is really about choosing the spirit over the body. And that’s a choice all of us — single or married — can make every day. We can also choose to strengthen treasured relationships now. And when we do, 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.
Is the new meeting schedule working? What improvements have we seen from emphasizing a greater effort to study the gospel in the home? And have we lost anything along the way with implementing these new changes?
Some may think it too early to say, but I’m convinced these changes announced by the Brethren as the result of revelation received from the Lord are nothing but good. In fact, I don’t think the word good does them justice. I think they’re outstandingly amazing.
Embrace more effective meetings
First, I have to say I love two-hour church! I wish I had this growing up, on my mission, and in college. But better late than never.
Elder Bednar encouraged us to see beyond the superficial logistical changes in the meeting schedule, and I do see this change as providing more than an “extra” free hour on the Sabbath. Perhaps the most immediate effect I’ve seen thus far is a greater attention to make the most of that second hour. Whether it’s Sunday School or my quorum meeting, I’ve seen my leaders be more intentional about using what time they have, if for no other reason than that they have less of it.
And that’s great. Living with intention precedes joyful living. It’s the antithesis of the living on autopilot which most people practice, a habit leading to mediocrity and a lackluster life. I’ve truly enjoyed my meetings more now that the time spent in them is more precious. That has translated into a closer and deeper interaction with the Spirit, which is part of the reason why we meet together to begin with.
Feel the Spirit more
Now, I don’t know this from personal experience because I don’t have my own family yet, but I’ve heard other ward members testify of greater unity in their family and the joy they’ve felt in fielding questions from their children regarding gospel principles. The Church has always been about strengthening families, and this move in that direction is truly inspired.
Not having my own family, I have an “extra” hour on Sundays, which I typically use in extended personal scripture study. I don’t follow the Sunday School study schedule because I felt prompted to travel a different road. But my life has been blessed as I’ve used this “extra” hour for my own study.
I’ve also heard of singles who have been blessed by gathering together in their own groups to study what their married friends are studying in their homes with their families. I’m not a member of such a group (though I might be if I knew of one that met weekly), but I can imagine the blessings that would come to singles who have that arrangement in their life. They could enjoy the same closeness with the Spirit and to one another that families experience among themselves.
Change in the culture
For me, however, the most exciting change from home-centered church has yet to be seen fully. I believe a cultural change is in the works that will benefit LDS singles everywhere. This change has already been ongoing, but the practice of home-centered church will greatly accelerate it.
Traditionally, LDS culture has centered around Sunday meetings in general membership wards. The mark of belonging has been being married with kids, and so many singles openly display their lack of belonging just by showing up without a significant other. Of course, different wards are more accepting than others, but that’s been the general reality over the past few decades, if not longer.
Enter home-centered church. By centering the worship experience in the home, the Church has effectively marginalized the differences between singles and marrieds that were once glaringly apparent. Now that church has become about supporting what’s done in the home, we’ll now see a change in the mark of belonging within the culture to one centered on Christ and our willingness to make and keep as many covenants with Him as we can. This is great news for LDS singles, because every single can belong in that culture.
The changes announced by the Brethren regarding home-centered church are outstandingly amazing. Many glorious days lie ahead of us. As we follow the counsel of the Brethren to adopt the changes revealed by revelation, the Lord will bless our lives with an outpouring of His Spirit. Our culture will become more inclusive, and we’ll become more united as a people. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Life knocked me down earlier this week. While waiting for a student who had an appointment to see me, the text I didn’t expect appeared in my phone. My father announced my mother’s decision to stop eating and drinking. She just wanted to die. After reading that message, I just wanted to die.
My mother has been battling a host of medical conditions for a few years now, most prominently anxiety as a mental disorder and mystery pains no one can properly diagnose. The anxiety turns every mole hill into a mountain. So her mystery pains have become an insupportable burden.
My mother has several doctors, each one adding (and frequently changing) their contribution to the soup of medications she takes daily. The bulk of those doctors, overburdened by long patient lists, often seem more interested in processing my mother through a system rather than listening to her and helping her with her concerns.
I can understand why she just wanted to end it all. Yet it broke my heart to think of her following through on her decision. Emotionally I felt like a bus had run me over. I found it hard to do anything productive. My world seemed at a standstill.
I visited with my mother the next morning. She seemed worse than ever, but had an appointment to see one of her doctors. My time being limited, I tried to use what I had to best advantage.
I always hug my mother when I visit, but this time I hugged her tighter, held her closer, and told her how much I loved her. Then I couldn’t help myself from breaking into tears. The mere thought of losing her simply crushed me.
Later I learned about her doctor visit. There’s something about walking into a doctor’s office and asking for help to die that captures the doctor’s attention. After a lengthy discussion, the doctor was able to convince my mother to submit to some more tests and exercise patience while he searches more intently for a solution to her mystery pains.
I joined with the rest of the family in thanking the Lord for His merciful hand.
Pondering on experience
As they’ve have played themselves out, these events have highlighted the opportunity for reflection. Of course, I know my mother will one day die; death comes to everyone. It’s the thought of it happening so soon that knocks me over.
Many LDS singles are so wrapped up in the pursuit of their own blessings they don’t think about losing the blessings they already have. They’re so busy looking for that one special love that they let opportunities to strengthen their love for the family and friends already in their life pass by and expire.
That’s not a singles thing; that’s a human thing. It’s normal to craft a world for oneself and then get lost in that world. But the events of this week have brought me to question if I’m busy enough with the greater, weightier matters and too busy with matters of lesser importance.
Am I focusing first on those elements that matter most? Do the people I care most about know I love them in word and in deed? Or have I been too occupied in other pursuits to attend to those relationships?
My pondering upon recent events leaves me with a few powerful lessons that apply to us all.
I don’t know when that special someone will become a part of my life. But I know I already have several someones who are special to me today. We all do. When we put first things first, we don’t need to wait for love. We can feel love in our lives today and every day, no matter how long it takes for that eternal companion to join us. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
We all feel the influence of language in every aspect of life. That’s because encoded in language are ways of thinking about and perceiving the world around us.
For example, we call a container containing cookies a cookie jar because that’s what it does. A cookie jar is a jar that contains cookies. Likewise, we call that small wedge placed in the gap underneath a door to hold it in place a door stop. That’s because that’s what it does; it stops the door from swinging.
Language reflects how we think about and perceive our world. So if we want to improve our thinking, we must improve our language. That’s just as true about LDS singles life as it is anything else. Given the widespread use of less effective language regarding singles, many of us need to wash our mouth out.
Enough with “singles program”
Singles program provides a good example. That word program suggests all singles need are activities and all leaders need to do is organize activities. Singles planning committees shouldn’t concern themselves with outreach or friendshipping. Just throw singles together and they’ll naturally pair off, right?
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — singles don’t need a slate of activities as much as they need true friends who’ll walk with them along the road of life. I don’t remember the literally thousands of singles activities I’ve attended. However, I do remember when a friend reached out with kindness or compassion. Those times are memorable because they contain what matters most.
That’s why we should replace singles program with support networks. Support networks describe what singles really need — friends who support each other along the road of life. Changing our language in just this one way will change our thinking about how we all should relate to singles. And what goodness such a perspective of support can bring to the world!
Out with “family of one”
I’d shout “Hallelujah!” if that one phrase were the only one requiring elimination from our vocabulary. But, alas, there’s more.
I once posted about an experience with my stake president who used the phrase family of one while speaking in sacrament meeting. As I questioned him about it, his responses garnered my respect. He willingly admitted he made mistakes and that his use here was one of them.
In the three years since that encounter, I can’t remember hearing family of one, which suggests it may be going the way of the dodo bird. That’d be fantastic if true. I don’t want people to walk on proverbial eggshells just to talk to me. I understand a family by definition requires at least two people. And I’m perfectly OK with that.
The Church seems to have caught a ride on that train. Recently the General Authorities have been speaking of individuals and families. This practice — using individuals and families instead of family of one — rightly promotes the family. Its continuance gives me hope other vile vocabulary choices will find extinction.
Down with “family ward”
And, in my view, no LDS phrase is more vile than family ward. Oh, what screeching of fingernails on a chalkboard I hear every time someone uses this pernicious expression!
And that expression is pernicious. It provides an identity crisis alienating many LDS singles from the Church. Just like cookies jars get their name from what they are and what they contain, so too do family wards get their name from what they are and what they contain. Family wards are congregations for families; the name alone says singles don’t belong there. No matter how much our married friends may insist to the contrary, language by its nature reveals how we truly think and perceive the world.
I’ve suggested before we should replace family ward with general membership ward, because that’s who really belongs in these congregations — the general membership of the Church. In my ponderings since, I can understand many wanting a shorter expression. This too is in the nature of language. Using general ward conveys the same meaning — that the general membership of the Church belongs there.
In all we do, we should be meeting one another’s needs. Using support networks communicates that intention more effectively than singles program. Trying to be sensitive by watering down the meaning of family with the phrase family of one doesn’t really serve anyone well. And using general ward communicates we all really do belong better than family ward.
Language matters. It reflects how we think about and perceive the world. If your language needs some improvement, then wash your mouth out. Use soap if needed. When we improve the language we use, we improve the way we think about and perceive our world. And that will bring us 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 and podcast 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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