counterfeits, Sister Michelle Craig spoke of counterfeits in the women’s meeting of the last General Conference. Though I'm not a woman, I read the talks from that session after Conference, just like the sisters have been doing with the priesthood session for years. And I found Sister Craig’s address entitled “Divine Discount” quite applicable for LDS singles everywhere.
Recognize the gap
Everyone at one time or another feels they exist beneath their own capacity. Depending on our chosen perspective, recognizing that gap can motivate us to action or paralyze us into inaction. Action feeds divine discontent, a yearning that propels us to reach higher and become something more than we were before. Inaction feeds disillusioned discouragement, Satan’s counterfeit for divine discontent.
As Sister Craig shared,
How many of us have heard that message before, that we aren’t good enough? Of course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ says we are good enough. But if we still have habits of negative self talk, it can be all too easy to believe Satan’s lying counterfeits.
Action is the key
Sister Craig teaches the importance of action. When the Prophet Joseph felt concerned as a boy about his shortcomings, he asked, “What is to be done?” (JS-H 1:10) and then acted in faith. He went to the scriptures, responded to the invitation in James 1:5 to “ask of God” and ushered in the Restoration.
Likewise, when we feel the gap between what we are and what we would like to become, we should take action. In my own life, I’ve found that staying inactive just breeds more disillusionment and discouragement. It’s easier to talk yourself into deeper negative emotions like doubt, despair, and hopelessness when you aren’t doing anything. But when we do something — anything — that action can open the door of possibility, which can help us to believe our tomorrow can be brighter than our today, that our lives really can improve. That belief is the first step to hope, encouragement, and happiness.
We embrace another source of inaction when we entertain endless debates over whether the promptings we receive to do good come from the Spirit or our own thoughts. Again, action is the key. When we receive an idea to bring goodness into the world, we should focus less on the source of the idea and more on executing it. Sister Craig tells a wonderful story about a seamstress named Susan who followed a prompting to make a tie for President Spencer W. Kimball but then backed off while en route to deliver it. President Kimball’s wife Camille saw Susan at that critical moment and invited her forward, telling her “never [to] suppress a generous thought.” Sister Craig loves that, and so do I. “Never suppress a generous thought.”
Sister Craig continues,
I love that perspective on time management. How often in our focus on getting things done do we miss the opportunity to make people’s lives better? Becoming something more is about the quality of what we are and not just the quantity of what we can accomplish.
Trust in the Lord
Of course, becoming more is meaningless if it doesn’t near us to the Lord. Sister Craig taught that divine discontent will lead us to humility and a recognition that with Christ we can be and do anything. Such a recognition opposes Satan’s counterfeit message that we’re not enough, that we’ll never achieve our righteous desires or accomplish anything worthwhile in this life.
I love Sister Craig’s perspective on the miracles the Savior performed. They “often begin with a recognition of want, need, failure, or inadequacy,” but when individuals gave the Lord their all anyway, He provided the miracle.
Sister Craig expounds,
We can achieve our righteous desires if we approach the Lord in humility, give our all to whatever instructions He reveals to us through the Spirit, and then rely upon Him to make the miracle happen. Whenever we feel we are far beneath our potential, divine discontent can bring us closer to the Lord as we act in faith, follow promptings to do good, and trust in the Lord. And doing that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Halloween! That frightful time of year we embrace with a spirit of good fun means dressing up in costumes and of course eating lots of holiday-themed food. And let's not forget the trick-or-treating.
But while we all spend one day a year approaching fearful sights with a gleeful sort of playfulness, many spend the other 364 days of the year cowering to fear. Can we bring to every day of the year the same sort of playfulness that we bring to Halloween?
We all have our fears. One of the biggest fears many LDS singles have is the fear of never marrying. Whether that fear or another haunts you most, you’ll never conquer your fear by cowering to it. To conquer your fear, you must take and use the power you already have within yourself. You must face your fears.
Believe the Lord
To start, you have great reason for courage. You’re not on your journey alone. Your Heavenly Father has provided a Savior Who loves you so much that He never could abandon you, let alone would. And that Savior Who created the universe is a powerful ally.
If you truly trust in that all-powerful Creator, if you truly have faith in Him, if you truly believe Him, you’ll never feel fear. And that’s simply because you won't be able to. Faith and fear cannot exist in the same space at the same time.
So when the Lord promises He’ll bless you, you can rest assured He’ll fulfill His promises. And He won't just fulfill them in part; He'll fulfill them down to the dot of the last I and the cross of the last T. So great will be your blessing that, when that glorious day finally comes, you’ll wonder how it ever was that you doubted Him.
And many of those promises are not just for the next life but for this life. Yes, a few may have to wait for eternity, but I firmly believe that 99% of us can have their promised blessings here and now in mortality. You may doubt and even laugh as did Abraham's wife Sarah, but the Lord will fulfill every syllable of every word of every promise that He makes to you. Period.
Partner with the Lord
How do you believe that? How do you generate such faith in the Lord and in His promises that you continue to believe fervently even when everything around you seems to say the exact opposite?
First, approach the Lord as did the father with the mentally disturbed son who exclaimed, "Lord, . . . help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). You’re never alone in your journey, so don’t try to go it alone. Walk with Him who gave His all so you could succeed in your ultimate journey.
Second, take action. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that faith is a principle of action. That means you cannot have faith if you just wish and wait. To increase your faith, you must increase your action.
This is why you approach the Lord first. When you partner with Him, He’ll help you understand the next step you need to take in your journey. When you then act on that revelation and take that next step, you walk by faith toward a bright and glorious future, one with the blessings He wants to give you.
Walk with the Lord
Walking by faith doesn't mean never feeling fear, but it can bring courage. And courage means doing what you need to do even though you may feel afraid. When you walk by faith, you can face your fears with the confidence He will never abandon you.
If all of us were to step back and observe the situation, we’d see that all fear does is prevent us from taking the next step in our journey. But whatever your fears are, you still control what response you will provide. Will you allow your fear to control you and cower from your next step? Or will you control you and take that next step?
When you take that next step, your courage grows, your faith grows, and you can walk and take more next steps with more confidence. The more you act, the more your faith grows, the more your confidence grows, and the more you can live with the surety that the Lord will fulfill all of His promises to you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In Western culture we adore people supposedly born with unique talent. Of course, we should congratulate those who have talent. The problem comes when we think those at the top have been born with “it.” That type of thinking leads to so much failure.
We think like this more often than we might realize. Ever heard someone say “I’m just not good at math”? People learn math all the time, and yet some persist in thinking they're “just not math people,” whatever that means. This thinking reflects the fixed mindset, the idea that you either have “it” — the something wonderful you need to succeed — or you don’t.
The fixed mindset has everyone climbing all over each other trying to prove how great they are. They seek to validate their own sense of self-worth in a game of comparisons. Unless you can prove you're better than someone else — that you have “it” — the world teaches you aren’t validated.
The fixed mindset also encourages you to do everything on your own. If you need help, you obviously don’t have “it”. If you’ve ever wondered why some find it hard to accept service from others, it may be because they don’t want to appear like they don’t have “it”.
This one cultural influence frustrates many LDS singles as they try to create families. For example, suppose you have some bad experiences with dating. (OK, so maybe you don’t have to suppose.) Is your normal response to give up because you think you don’t have “it”?
It’s very easy to think, if we weren’t born with whatever wonderful something it is we believe we need to have to succeed, then why even try? After all, it’s obvious you don’t have “it” if you aren’t as wonderful as someone else. So why torture yourself by proving what you fear, that you're unable to have your righteous desires? After all, you just don’t have “it”.
But you don’t need to think that way. Replace the idea of “it” with the idea that talent can be learned. You can then see service from others as an opportunity to learn something new and to improve upon yourself. That makes it easier to embrace.
Learn and grow
No talent of any kind is innate. Learning line upon line is part of the experience we came to mortality to have. Even people who think they aren't “math people” can learn math. I see it every semester with the math classes I teach. Talent can be learned.
And because it is learned, you need to see failure as a chance to improve yourself. Remember that your focus determines your reality. For example, it’s easy to think you're somehow defective because you can’t get a date. And as long as you focus on how “defective” you are, your reality will feel to confirm just that.
But when you focus instead on your efforts, your failure to get a date doesn’t mean something is wrong with you but rather with your effort. Ask yourself, “Why was it exactly that my effort to get a date failed?” and then keep following that trail until you find real answers.
Look to the Lord
Ultimately the Savior has already accepted you. He would not have suffered all He did if you were not worth redeeming. That means you don’t have to prove or validate yourself or even compare yourself with anyone else. You’re already accepted.
And His acceptance is the only one that matters. When you accept that truth, you free yourself from feeling you must have a significant other in order to be accepted. You can more easily be real in your interactions with other people. You don’t have to pretend you're something you really aren’t. That freedom makes life so much more enjoyable.
If you don’t feel that freedom now, then pray for it. The Lord will guide you to embrace your true worth. After all, He knows you're worth it. He’ll help you to feel His love for you if you but ask. When that happens, you’ll realize more fully your own worth. You’ll know more fully that you’re already accepted. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We all know the LDS single who’s so eager to be married that he or she instantly gravitates towards anyone who appears to promise a blessed end to single status. Maybe you’ve even been that single yourself.
I was once all about finding that eternal companion but never actually finding her. I felt like that hamster down at the pet store, always just spinning my wheels and never getting anywhere. And I felt miserable.
I thought I was doing the right thing. After all, our leaders have talked endlessly about the importance of marriage and family. Our LDS culture is centered around family. It made sense to go after it directly.
But that’s exactly the problem. It doesn’t come when you pursue it directly. It comes when you let it come to you.
Understand how it works
We’re all hard wired to operate out of habit. And what we do determines what we get. So if we entertain less effective habits, we’ll keep getting less effective results. And it won’t end until we replace the less effective habit with a more effective one.
Many LDS singles have the less effective habit of making a beeline for anyone appearing to promise hope for marriage. But when you understand how everything works, you’ll realize you need to ditch the beeline.
Here’s how it works. Marriage means the agency of another person is involved. You can’t choose for others. Someone else has to choose you. That means the most you can do is influence that choice.
That’s why you keep hearing platitudes like “Just be yourself” or “Keep working on yourself.” They’re all true up to a point. Doing these things will influence the right person to choose you.
But beyond that point lies the reality where we all live. This most important choice has many influences in addition to the one you exert. And these other considerations outside your control can drown any hope of acquiring desired blessings. Your challenge, then, is to exert your best influence, trusting the Lord to cross your path with someone who will choose you. Are you up to it?
Rise to the challenge
You can best rise to the challenge by letting go of pursuing marriage directly and adopting a personal ministry. This really is your best approach for exerting your best influence.
Here’s why. When you pursue marriage directly, you broadcast to everyone around you you’re all about marriage. No one really wants to marry someone who’s more interested in some personal agenda. So you come off appearing desperate.
When you drop the beeline and adopt a personal ministry, you’re about something bigger than yourself. You let your best self shine while serving others. Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry shakes off the scales of desperation so that others see you as someone interesting, someone worth getting to know better, maybe even share a life with.
Guess what? Now you’re influencing others to decide in your favor.
Other powerful influences exist, yes, but that’s where walking by faith comes in. When you partner with the Lord, He’ll lead you to those with whom your best influence will be more than good enough. That’s because they’ll hearken to the voice of the Spirit when He says, “Give this one a chance.”
Embrace your best self
Many LDS singles live in fear that their desired blessings won’t come. But that’s no way to live. It’s much more joyful to let go of directly pursuing marriage and instead pursue what will influence others to choose in your favor.
Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry can make the waiting more joyful, however long that waiting lasts. Do you want just to endure to the end? Or do you want to thrive?
Of course, you should keep looking for and pursuing opportunities that arise. But your universe won’t be rotating around them. So let go of directly pursuing marriage. Let it come to you. When you devote yourself to your personal ministry, you can embrace your best self. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Occasionally I step into social media. What I see usually doesn’t strike me as all that meaningful, further convincing me to limit my social media participation.
Still, what I sometimes see makes me think. And sometimes I see something like that often enough that I feel compelled to say something. In one form or another, it’s an incarnation of the meme you see here.
I have no issue with imparting advice. Social media seems especially adept for that, and I’ve certainly done as much repeatedly in my blog and on my program. Just last week I gave advice to local leaders on how to partner in order to minister to singles. So giving advice doesn’t annoy me.
What annoys me is the advice being given. Let’s dig a bit deeper into what we have here.
Standing in the way
On the surface, the advice seems to make sense. Step out of your rose-smelling world and take a whiff of reality. Guys chase after what they want, so if he’s not chasing you, he’s not interested in you.
But that logic rests on a false assumption. Yes, guys chase after what they want, provided they have no issues standing in their way. Last time I checked, guys are human beings with lots of imperfections.
I’m fully qualified to speak here because I am a guy and (hard as it may be for some of you to believe) I do have imperfections. In fact, I’ve never claimed to be anything less than a walking construction zone.
I can recall many moments when I failed to chase an interesting woman. Mostly I abdicated my own agency to some unresolved issue because I did not own my life.
When I was younger, I feared getting rejected. I know some women scoff at that very real issue, but having lived through it I can tell you repeated rejection does horrible things to a man’s psyche and his sense of self. Simply discounting that reality prevents understanding and keeps many of us — men and women — single longer than we need to be.
Understanding a better way
We’re called adults, but the truth is we all mature at different rates, at different times, and in different ways.
When I was in my 20s, fear could easily block my path. I hadn’t yet matured beyond my fear. I didn’t really realize what an illusion fear really is. Thus, I would often fail to take advantage of opportunities to secure the blessings I longed to have.
What would have happened, though, had someone reached out and helped me to overcome my obstacles? How different would my life be today? How many more righteous families would exist today?
Rejecting a potential candidate simply for having an imperfection seems incredibly immature (and especially when you phrase it like that). But last time I checked, women are human beings, too. They have their own imperfections. They’re walking construction zones in their own right.
Our journey would be much more enjoyable if we replaced judgment with love and a quickness to reject with an eagerness to understand. That doesn’t mean we don’t have standards. But it does mean we lend support to those who, as they are right now, fail to meet those standards today. True friendship means extending understanding and support to reach a higher standard.
Besides, being willing to help one another along the road to perfection characterizes the best marriages. If we can’t help each other while we’re single, even when a relationship has no romantic aspect to it, what can we expect from marriage?
Helping along the way
Instead of spreading pseudo-common-sense based on faulty assumptions that serve more to keep us separated, let’s spread understanding based on fortifying love — the kind of love embodied in the Atonement of our Lord and Savior. His example of reaching out to the one and showing compassion for individual needs and concerns should inspire our interactions with one another. That applies to men and women alike.
And who knows? Perhaps in encouraging someone to overcome personal issues, you may find the very companion you are seeking. What at first may not have captured your attention because he or she was “obviously” not right for you may unveil itself to be more than you ever hoped of having and calling yours.
Again, we can have standards in our search for eternal companionship, as well we should. But we should not abandon others simply because they don’t meet those standards. We should instead abandon the rashness to judgment that blinds us from seeing others as they truly are. Helping each other along the way, whether or not offering that help provides us with any immediate advantage, will surely bring us more joy in our journey.
is the very real result of choices you and others have made. But that doesn’t mean you’ve lost a glorious future. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Many LDS singles easily feel their hopes of a temple marriage reside far outside their reach, if they even exist at all. Yet our reality abounds with opportunities for us to have the blessings we desire. We simply need eyes to see what’s really there around us.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf testified of that. His April 2016 General Conference address entitled “He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home” reminds us of the hope all of us can have in a bright and wonderful future.
God can rebuild you
President Uchtdorf recounted his childhood experience living near Dresden, Germany, during World War II. Bombing totally devastated that city. President Uchtdorf particularly noted the destruction of the Lutheran church the Church of Our Lady. The war reduced this once grand monument to rubble.
Yet 70 years later, the city now stands completely renewed. This includes the Lutheran church. Some of the old stones were used in its reconstruction. President Uchtdorf describes the sight of these stones within the structure as “‘scars’ [which] are not only a reminder of the war history of this building but also a monument to hope — a magnificent symbol of man’s ability to create new life from ashes.”
President Uchtdorf then remarks,
No matter how derailed you feel your life may be, you can get it back on track. Through the Atonement, Christ can heal anyone and restore anything. But He won’t violate individual agency. We need to choose Him to effect His marvelous Atonement in our lives.
Of course the Savior will. That’s the whole purpose behind His Atonement — to rescue us from an impossible situation separated from God. While not on the same scale, many LDS singles experience their own individual impossible situations. “With all my deficiencies, how could anyone want to marry me in the temple?” “How can I ever rebuild my life after losing my marriage to divorce?” “How can my life have any meaning now that my spouse has died?”
No matter the question, choosing Christ is the answer. That’s because choosing Christ is always the answer to life’s difficult questions. Centering our lives around Him provides us with the perspective we need to journey home.
And because He’s already feeling after you, you’re sure to find and feel His love once you choose Christ. President Uchtdorf proclaimed,
You are made of more glorious matter than what your earthly eyes can see. No matter how lost or despairing you may feel, the eternal God of the universe Who has always and will always love you is still in control. Your eternal destination has not changed. Although earthly circumstances may necessitate a different path than what you anticipated, that eternal destination is still within your reach.
So reach after it. Abandon your doubts and embrace your faith. Forsake your fears and face the glorious future awaiting you. When you choose Christ, He’ll stand by you for each step you can take and carry you for each step you cannot. Choose Him today and start to experience the hope that can lead to more joy in your journey home.
We think like this more often than we might realize. Ever heard someone say “I’m just not good at math”? People learn math all the time, and yet some persist in thinking they're “different”. This thinking reflects the cultural notion of “it”, the idea that you either have “it” or you don’t.
The insidiousness of Western culture
From cradle to grave, Western society teaches us to compare ourselves with others and to believe that those on top must have “it”. How else, the culture reasons, could they have succeeded?
What results from this thinking? Everyone keeps climbing all over each other trying to prove how great they are. They seek to validate their own sense of self-worth within the culture. Unless you prove that you're better than someone else — that you have “it” — Western culture teaches that you aren’t validated.
The cultural notion of “it” also encourages you to do everything on your own. If you need help, you obviously don’t have “it”. This notion explains why so many of us find it hard to accept service from others. Because of our cultural programming, we don’t want to appear like we don’t have “it”.
"It" discourages righteous families
This one cultural influence frustrates many LDS singles as they try to create families. For example, suppose you have some bad experiences with dating. OK, so maybe you don’t have to suppose. Is your normal response to give up because you think you don’t have “it”?
Wired as we are by our culture, we very easily think, If we weren’t born with whatever wonderful something it is that we believe we need to have to succeed, then why even try?
We also compare ourselves with others or some hypothetical ideal and think we don’t measure up. Often in such instances we quit without ever really trying. It’s obvious you don’t have “it” if you aren’t as wonderful as someone else. So why torture yourself by proving what you fear, that you're unable to have your righteous desires? After all, you just don’t have “it”.
Turn the tide with the truth
It doesn’t have to be that way. Replace the idea of “it” with the idea that talent can be learned. You can then see service from others as an opportunity to learn something new and to improve upon yourself. That makes it easier to embrace.
No talent of any kind is innate. Learning line upon line is part of the experience we came to mortality to have.
Even people who think that they aren't “math people” can learn math. I saw it all the time in a former life as a night school instructor. Talent can be learned.
And because it is learned, you need to see failure as a chance to improve yourself. Remember that your focus determines your reality.
For example, it’s easy to think you're somehow defective because you can’t get a date. And as long as you focus on how “defective” you are, your reality will feel to confirm just that.
But when you focus instead on your efforts, your failure to get a date doesn’t mean something is wrong with you but rather with your effort. Ask yourself, “Why was it exactly that my effort to get a date failed?” and then keep following that trail until you find real answers.
You are already accepted
Ultimately the Savior has already accepted you. He would not have suffered all He did if you were not worth redeeming. That means you don’t have to prove or validate yourself or even compare yourself with anyone else. You are already accepted.
His acceptance is the only one that matters. When you accept that truth, you free yourself from feeling you must have a significant other in order to be accepted. You can more easily be real in your interactions with other people. You don’t have to pretend you're something you really aren’t. That freedom makes life so much more enjoyable.
If you don’t feel that freedom now, then pray for it. The Lord will guide you to embrace your true worth. After all, He knows that you're worth it.
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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