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.
I have a love-hate relationship with RootsTech. I love the energy and excitement which RootsTech generates for family history work. But you can’t really talk about family history work without telling stories about ancestors who did this wonderful thing or left that inspiring heritage. And hearing those stories makes me bawl like a baby every time. Yeah, that’s right. Every time.
Stories connect us to our ancestors and help us discover who we are. Truly our hearts turn towards our fathers when we discover, gather, and share stories of our ancestors with the generations after us. That turning of the children’s hearts aligns very well with our innate yearning for our heavenly home. And that provides for a contribution we need to make.
What will you leave?
When I learned that Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2018 would feature President Oakes, I could hardly contain my excitement. Here we have the General Authority who’s perhaps more closely identified with LDS singles life and issues than any other General Authority.
Of course the presentation was outstanding. President and Sister Oakes told stories, and I broke yet another water main. But they also touched on a theme similar to Elder Uctdorf. The Oakeses emphasized the need not just to provide ordinances for our ancestors but also to retell the stories about those ancestors continuously for the benefit of future generations.
And they brought examples. President Oakes showed copies of journals from some of his ancestors and told how sharing those journals have benefitted his descendants. Sister Oakes described how the journals of her ancestors gave her a wonderful religious education. The testimonies they bore of the restored gospel taught her much.
It made me wonder, “What stories am I leaving for the generations that come after me?” You don’t need to be married to leave a strong testimony or inspire a wonderful heritage of faith and courage. But future generations will never know it unless someone records it.
Who will you follow?
Hearing the stories of our ancestors stirs a longing inside of us. We yearn to be united with those we love who have passed on before us. Yet the same Spirit which prompts us to turn our hearts towards our fathers also invites us to follow the Savior and return to our heavenly home.
Elder Uchtdorf spoke of how God knows each one of us intimately — “your every thought, your sorrows, and your greatest hopes.” He also declared that following the Lord on the path back to our heavenly home will make our lives better. Said he,
Is there any better way to follow the Savior than participating in family history and temple work? Surely the fruits of the Spirit will be ours when we contribute to this wonderful work. And LDS singles can make very meaningful contributions.
What will you contribute?
Those who embrace this cause on their journey home will reach a wonderful realization. Elder Uchtdorf declared this life isn’t about just you or me but all of us. We all feel the yearning to come home, and that puts all of us on the same journey back to that heavenly home.
President and Sister Oakes shared similar principles in their RootsTech presentation. We must be linked together with our ancestors because we cannot be saved without them, nor can they be saved without us.
If such grandiose visions make you question what role you could possibly have in such a cause, consider Elder Uchtdorf’s remarks when he offered these thoughts:
Family history and temple work isn’t just for old people. And I don’t care how much pioneer ancestry you have; there’s work for you to do! We singles can make mighty, meaningful contributions to advancing this work. We can discover, gather, and share the stories of our ancestors in ways that will inspire those who come after us — whether or not they are our literal descendants.
As Elder Uchtdorf testified,
Let us each move forward and embrace our own contribution to the cause. When we do, we’ll work miracles in the lives of others. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Lately we’ve been discussing the challenges of LDS dating. We can more easily overcome these challenges when we understand the different stages of the journey (for example, that there are two kinds of dating), when we choose to be where we are, when we apply dating standards and not marriage standards to dates, and when we respectfully tell the truth despite what others think of us.
Yet even after embracing all of these concepts, dating can still feel like an emotional roller coaster. That’s just how it is. You can’t have great reward without encountering great risk. And sometimes that will leave your heart in pieces.
That’s why we all need a personal circle, a group of people who sincerely care about us and will support us when we need it. I’ve written before about the need for singles groups to forsake the activity club, reject the dating forum, and become a support network. I’ve also discussed how stakes and wards can play a larger role in supporting LDS singles. I still believe in all that.
I also believe you shouldn’t wait for others to fill needs you have today. Own your life. Find your own personal circle. And when you hold the family and friends you need a little closer, you’ll find angels have joined in for a group hug.
Know who’s in
As disciples of Christ, we should always seek to help those around us. But that doesn’t mean we need to develop a deep friendship with everyone around us. Partnering with the Lord can help you know who should be what in your life.
Because we gain our sense of normal from those around us, we need to be very cautious about who we admit into our personal circle. That’s where partnering with the Lord can help. He knows the influence we need to live our best life. He also knows who can best exert that influence upon us.
Just as important as including the right people in your personal circle is excluding the wrong people. And sometimes you’ll be related to them. Excluding people from your personal circle doesn’t mean turning your back on them forever. It just means being very cautious about what time you do spend with them.
Once we know who’s in our personal circle, we should make regular deposits into their emotional bank accounts. We should never take these people for granted. And yet, too often we do.
I recall being at home for the holidays towards the conclusion of my graduate school program. My relationship with my major professor had deteriorated substantially. I knew I’d be charged for another semester unless I could complete my thesis and successfully defend it before the new semester started.
As we knelt in prayer before my return to campus, my mother pled with the Lord to help me finish my program. I didn’t think much about that at the time. But not long after returning, my deteriorated relationship with my major professor worsened to a breaking point.
As I walked towards my major professor’s office to quit, the memory of my mother praying for me filled my mind. I suddenly felt a strengthened resolve to keep going. I finished my degree program soon thereafter.
In the years since, that advanced degree has greatly blessed my life financially, occupationally, and socially. I have friends I wouldn’t otherwise have. And it’s all due to my mother’s prayer. Clearly my mother is inside my personal circle, and I make regular deposits into her emotional bank account.
Find the means
Of course, we can’t deposit love in others’ emotional bank accounts without the means to do so. Determine what means you need so you can maintain those important relationships inside your personal circle.
Sometimes that means sacrifice. I could just text or call my mother, but I always make time to visit her in person. Sometimes being with her in person is itself the emotional deposit.
Some have argued I should move on with my life. I don’t entirely disagree with that. But I don’t want to forfeit the opportunity to make more memories with my mother while she’s still cogent. Forsaking those opportunities will bring me regret for the rest of my life. I’d rather not live with that.
Make the changes you need to make to have the personal circle you need to have. Then make regular deposits into the emotional bank accounts of each one in your circle. When you hold the people you love a little closer, you will find angels have joined in for a group hug. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
LDS singles can easily feel like second-class citizens in the family-centered culture of the Church. The continual focus on something we don’t have just makes feeling like we belong and staying positive and optimistic more difficult.
Of course, the Church must teach the doctrines related to the family. How could they not? “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” begins with the solemn declaration “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
Yet teaching the gospel as though everyone has the ideal situation serves more to alienate those who are different than invite them to continue participating. We need to teach the doctrines related to the family while at the same time help those who don’t have that ideal situation to feel fully included in the Kingdom.
The way forward likely includes a recognition that we’re each at different points along the path to the same heavenly home. And we must testify with our actions that, no matter where along the path we may be, all of the gospel is indeed for all of us.
That recognition will carry more weight when we truly care for everyone around us. Words in Sunday School about a wonderful and inclusive ward family mean little when singles are left to confront the storms and other challenges of real life on their own.
Often, lessons about the family focus on the needs of those who are married. Broadening that focus to recognize those who don’t have the ideal family structure in their lives can provide a foundation for inclusion.
Spending some time during lessons applying the family doctrines to singles as well as to marrieds can further that sense of inclusion. For example, we read towards the end of the Family Proclamation,
Whereas marrieds strive to maintain their families, singles strive to create new ones. Why must lessons focus solely on those who already have families? Why can’t they include those who are trying to create them?
For instance, we can include examples of applying the principles in the Family Proclamation to dating. When considering a dating prospect, do we truly prize qualities such as faith, forgiveness, respect, and compassion? Or do we refuse a prospect who may have those qualities in spades but lack the more worldly qualities not mentioned in the Family Proclamation?
My single brethren, how are your presiding skills? D&C 121 is a great start if you need a refresher. How is your ability to provide the necessities of life? Note the word necessities doesn’t include fancy sports cars or weekly shopping sprees at the mall but does include putting a roof over people’s heads, food in their bellies, and a pillow under their heads at night. If you find your ability to provide lacking, what are you doing to improve?
Single sisters, don’t think you’re getting left out here. How are your nurturing skills? Again, if you find your ability lacking, what are you doing to improve?
Let all help all
As a divinely inspired document, the Family Proclamation is filled with wonderful sentences that can both teach the doctrine of the family and help everyone regardless of their situation to feel included in the larger community of the Saints.
However, of all the sentences in the Family Proclamation, I do have a favorite. It’s this one: “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” I love that sentence!
Why do I love that sentence so much? Here the Brethren acknowledge that life is sometimes less than ideal and those who find themselves so situated are still acceptable before God so long as they do their best with what they have.
Note that “individual adaptation” applies to more than just those who find themselves in less-than-ideal situations. It applies to everyone. We’ll never truly live in Zion until all of us labor to help all of us along the path home. That’s because we can’t live in Zion without embracing all of the gospel. And all of the gospel is indeed for all of us.
Ministering to everyone around us and not just those who are like ourselves may be difficult at first. But if pursued honestly, it will bring us more joy in our journey.
I mentioned last week how much I love Christmas. I can’t really remember when I started loving Christmas or recognized it was my favorite holiday. I think it’s always been that way.
Of course, kids love Christmas. And as a kid, I loved Christmas. The presents, the decorations, the dinners, the special treats to eat, and the debates with my father about why children should be allowed to open one present early and how leaving cookies and milk out for a myth was just wasteful are among my cherished memories.
OK, so the debates about Santa really took place when I was a teenager. They’re still cherished memories because of the life lessons I learned.
Now that I’m an adult, I think more about traditions. And the older I get, the more I hunger for real. You can’t get more real than with small acts that point towards Christ. These truly light the world. And they make the memories that matter most in the end.
Keep the good you’re given
Two traditions from my childhood Christmases involve my mother. As Christmas approached, we’d list all the things we wanted to eat. Then on Christmas Eve, we’d go get it.
Ordering more than we could eat in one setting was the whole point; it gave my mother a break from the kitchen for a few days. We’d all help prepare a huge Christmas morning breakfast, but thereafter we simply ate leftovers from our Christmas Eve feast.
The second tradition came when we opened presents on Christmas morning after everyone helped to clean up after breakfast. Mother would always be first to open a gift. My father insisted on both traditions every year to show respect to my mother. He made no secret of why.
After moving away from home, I kept these traditions as best I could. The memories are sweet and remind me of the respect for women my father taught me. They always remind me of how Christ always honored His mother.
Find the good you can give
Over the years, I’ve tried to develop other traditions pointing to the Savior. One year I decided to make loaves of bread and give them away. Making bread from scratch involves some work, but that was the point. Christ is the bread of life Who we should always work to remember.
I had this tradition only one year. The loaves I made took far more work than I imagined, and the end product was not that great. As it was, I appreciated the learning experience, and the intended result was realized.
And I didn’t stop looking for new traditions. The one I have now — my 40-day Sermon on the Mount study — seems especially suited towards my current situation in life as a single adult. I’ve described before the growth this study provides me. Were it not for that, I might have adopted a form of the Church’s current Light the World campaign into a yearly tradition. All in all, the traditions I have and might have had all point to Christ.
Through the years, my traditions have helped me make memories that matter precisely because they point to the Savior. By acting on His teachings, we can all make memories that matter.
My brother doesn’t always visit for the holidays, so I was glad he came this weekend. While here, he approached me about a dysfunctional but distinctively designed pocket watch our grandfather owned.
Given my interest in everything about her father, Mother had given the watch to me. I don’t have room to detail here the experiences that connect me to this man who died before I was born. But I don’t blame my mother for giving the watch to me.
However, my brother claimed Mother promised him the watch. I said he could have it, but he didn’t take it, saying things shouldn’t be more important than people.
Last night as he prepared to go, I noticed he still hadn’t taken the watch. I felt strongly impressed to slip it into one of his bags and did so without hesitation. I don’t know what will result, but reflecting on it has helped me feel closer to the Master Who taught others to give everything for righteousness.
We can all follow inspiration. As we do, we point others to the real reason for the season while making memories that matter. I don’t know of a better way to do that than by living the truths Christ taught. No matter our current situation in life, when we walk more decidedly the path of discipleship, we can’t help but have more joy in our journey.
Last week I discussed our need as LDS singles to make conscious choices to nourish ourselves. We need to fortify ourselves against the storms of life that will surely beat upon us — and not because we’re single (although being single in a family-centered culture is its own special trial) but because we’re eternal beings having a mortal experience.
I discussed in some detail the four aspects of ourselves (the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body) requiring nourishment. For some reason, the idea of nourishing our heart through family history work impresses me particularly. Maybe it’s just the idea I should be nourishing my heart this way.
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I need to do more in that area. That’s pretty easy to say about anything, though, true as it may be.
Maybe it’s because this time of year I normally have a trip with my dad. That annual tradition we started not that long ago petered out this year. That meant we didn’t get to spend the quality time together we anticipated.
Maybe it’s because RootsTech 2016 just took place last week, and I didn’t get to go. Missing that annual jaunt to the hive nest of Mormondom wouldn’t be so disappointing if it weren’t for what I would be missing with it. Attending the largest family history conference in the world fills the air with a certain excitement. And the presentations in the past have been outstanding. One of them gave birth to Joy In The Journey Radio.
Seeking quality time
RootsTech has traditionally offered a wide spread of session offerings to cater to many family-history-related interests, providing my father and I with some quality father-son time. We have some overlapping interests but many diverse interests.
So we would share our lists of the sessions we wanted to attend. Often only one of us would attend a session interesting us both in order to allow the other to attend another session. We would then swap notes later in the evening while partaking of the downtown Salt Lake dining scene.
That’s part of the excitement I missed this year. I’ve always believed that family history, a work done for families, should be done by families. Attending RootsTech with my dad and engaging in discussions resulting from the presentations we each saw made being a part of that work more alive to me. And just having that time with my dad made it all the more special.
Missing the tradition
RootsTech 2016 happened, but not for my dad and I. We ended up not going this year. Looking at the offerings, I didn’t feel any special pull to attend the sessions. Many of their offerings seemed pared down in comparison with past years.
I also knew my mother (who no longer drives) would be more likely to let my dad go if I were to stay home with her in case she needed anything. So I volunteered to stay home. It was just as well because I had tons of work I ended up taking vacation in order to complete.
But the final word from my mother didn’t allow my father to go out of town and leave her. So my dad didn’t get to go either. I thought perhaps we might watch some of the sessions online. RootsTech broadcasts parts of the conference via live streaming on their website. I didn’t get to watch anything, though, as I had too much work calling my name.
Following the promptings
Replaying these memories, I realize what’s working inside of me. Partly it’s a longing for the anticipated yet absent quality time with my dad. I need to make some arrangements to do something else with my dad to compensate.
But it’s also the spirit of Elijah. For some reason, I need to increase my participation in this work. The Lord has promised added protective power to those who participate in this work, and perhaps this is why I’m prompted in this direction. It could very well be something else. I don’t know. And I don’t have to know to follow the promptings.
Family history work is for everyone. We LDS singles should be a part of this work. However the Spirit prompts you to participate, follow those promptings. The Lord is trying to bless us, and as we follow the promptings He provides, we can have joy in our journey regardless of our circumstances.
If you’re an LDS single who hasn’t heard some ignorant, insensitive remark from our married friends in the Church, then you better buckle up. Your ride is about to get a little bumpy.
We’ve all been there. From asides in casual conversation to statements in class lessons, we LDS singles have been made to feel not completely accepted because we don’t have our own family. Often we hear some variation of “get with the program.”
Last time I checked, the “program” is making and keeping as many covenants with God as we can. Of course we should strive to make every covenant possible. But sometimes that means doing the best you can in this mortal life — however far that gets you — and then trusting in the Lord to make up the rest.
Still, some of our married friends constantly hit a nerve. We want to tell them a thing or two. Sometimes I have, using references to a place where the sun doesn’t shine.
But that was before I changed my way of thinking. Now I just tell myself “Babes in sacrament meeting.”
The parable of babes in sacrament meeting
If you’ve been to a general membership ward (note I avoid the atrocious term family ward), you’ve rarely if ever experienced an administration of the sacrament in silence. That’s because little children often break that silence.
This last Sunday was no exception for me. The children seemed especially restless. And I recalled just a couple of weeks ago when a child cried out, “No, Mom! That’s mine!” It all adds to an atmosphere that at least superficially seems like anything but reverent.
Of course, no one blames the child. We might cast a nasty look at a parent of a particularly obnoxious child and think, “Hey, why don’t you do something about your kid?” But we never blame the child.
And we all know why. The child is innocent. The child doesn’t know any better. It makes no sense to hold children to a standard which they cannot reasonably meet.
Likewise, many of our married friends, and particularly our leaders, have no idea what we LDS singles experience. Because they married young, they don’t know what it’s like to be older and single in the Church. And older could mean you’re 25, 35, 45, or more.
It’s not fair for us to expect them to avoid saying and doing insensitive things when they simply don’t understand completely what we experience. The LDS singles experience must be had to be understood. Because many of our married friends never really experienced that, they simply don’t understand. So why should we respond to their insensitivity with the expectation that they should understand? That’s not reasonable. They’re babes in sacrament meeting.
Seek first to understand
I’m not saying our married friends shouldn’t try to understand us singles. Nor am I advocating we singles quit trying to be understood. The desire to be understood is a basic human need. At the same time, we aren’t likely to be understood when we don’t first seek to understand others.
Gandhi was right when he said we must be the change we seek in the world. The insensitivities we LDS singles experience within our subculture will not cease until we LDS singles take the lead by following the Savior and exercising patience. We need to remember babes in sacrament meeting.
When we exercise patience with our leaders and other married friends in the Church while seeking first to understand them, we clear a space that invites them to understand us. Good-hearted people will respond by filling that space with desires to understand us. The godly desire to understand then outweighs the natural desire to be understood.
Those who haven’t lived our LDS singles experience cannot fully understand it. But that doesn’t prevent others from achieving a partial understanding. Certainly, if we are to live in Zion, singles and marrieds need to be reaching after all the understanding of each other possible. We should never use failure to achieve totality to justify not trying to achieve what part we can.
The change we LDS singles truly seek in our culture — one in which our married friends help us to feel truly a part of the fold of God — must start within us. It’s time for us to quit sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to change and start making that change happen. It’s time for us to stop criticizing others for what they cannot reasonably do and start looking inside ourselves for the seeds of patience and understanding that will sprout a better experience for everyone.
Let us look to the Savior and follow His example of patience. And it can all start with four simple words: Babes in sacrament meeting.
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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