How it works
Here’s how the 40 days work. Every day, the schedule lists a portion of the Sermon on the Mount to study for that day. That might be a single verse or several verses.
The schedule provides the section as recorded in Matthew and 3 Nephi as well as other relevant references for comparison. The end result is a foundation of scriptures to compare at the start of the daily practice. You read, compare, examine, and reflect.
Then you commit to applying during the course of that day what you’ve learned. You go through your day, completing your commitment. At the end of the day, you “return and report” by reflecting on your experience and writing about how it changed you.
Then the next day, you repeat the process with a new verse or section of verses as detailed in the schedule. You do this for 39 days. On Day #40, you reflect upon and write about your experience as a whole.
The next level
I can’t speak highly enough of how this tradition has helped me draw closer to my Savior and become more truly His. It’s not just study. It’s a continual process of learn, do, and reflect that creates a journey similar to an ever expanding spiral staircase.
I’ve always shared this tradition with others. But this year my growth requires me to invite others to walk each of the 40 days with me. By walking as a group together, we can strengthen and support each other.
To that end, I’m announcing some changes for Joy in the Journey Radio. First, I’ll provide for free the schedule for the 40-day journey. Look to the end of the monologue blog post.
Second, to help those who want an extra aid, I’ll provide a workbook as a guide for walking through each of the 40 days. Everything you need for each step of each day will be there, including side-by-side scripture comparisons, space for writing, and suggested commitments for application. Because Amazon provides the best way to provide this workbook in the most useful format, you’ll have to buy it. But I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow.
Third, I’m going to devote the Joy in the Journey Radio Facebook page to this tradition. During each of the 40 days, I’ll post the relevant scriptures along with something extra like my commitment for that day or some thoughts about the verse(s) for that day. Others can then share what they learned or experienced, allowing everyone to be strengthened by each other’s journey. And as always, joining and participating in the Facebook group is free.
Let’s walk together
I’m not sure how I’ll manage this group in addition to all of my other responsibilities. My calling and my schooling by themselves take significant time. But I feel strongly I need to pursue this, and so I step out with faith the Lord will provide for me.
Day #1 is November 22, so don’t delay getting involved, especially if you want the workbook to guide you along. Get the schedule and join the Facebook page. You’ll see what I call the holy trinity of holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day) in a whole new light. And deepening your discipleship is a great way to end the current year and begin a new one.
For all of us, 2020 has been an absolutely crazy year. So come join me in adopting a new tradition. Let’s end 2020 together by engaging a journey that will deepen our discipleship, bring us closer to the Savior, and help us feel more of His love as we strengthen and support each other. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
As is characteristic of the prophets we've seen thus far in the 21st century, President Nelson spoke multiple times this past Conference. But one address stood out to me as I considered the focus for the program today. President Nelson's address entitled "Hear Him" focused on the Savior in a way that addresses the craziness which now seems to engulf the world. And in light of recent reflections regarding the Savior and what makes the good we bring to the world truly matter, it is ever more vital that we do indeed hear Him.
That sounds a lot like what he said in his first Conference address as President of the Church.
So it shouldn't surprise us that President Nelson mentioned the Holy Ghost as a way to hear the Savior.
When I think of a place to receive revelation and feel the influence of the Spirit, the temple comes quickly to mind. Although the pandemic has restricted most of us from being in the house of the Lord, President Nelson looked ahead to when they will one day reopen.
"And, finally," President Nelson declared, "we hear Him as we heed the words of prophets, seers, and revelators." With that opportunity just a few days away, I'm glad it won't be long now to hear from our inspired leaders as they point the way to the Savior.
But notice that President Nelson didn't say we hear the Savior as we hear His servants. No, he said we hear the Savior when we heed His servants. To heed means more than just to hear.
President Nelson also used the word hearken. He observed that "the very first word in the Doctrine and Covenants is hearken" and then defined hearken to mean "to listen with the intent to obey" before declaring
I like that idea of being more intentional about hearing the Lord. Making conscious choices and acting with intention is key to unlocking much of the joy that surrounds us every day. Our best life comes to us not be accident but by design when act with the intention to have it.
Likewise, we hear the Lord more clearly when we act with the intention of hearing it. Listening with that desire to obey whatever we receive is key to having that right and proper intention.
Of course, listening with the desire to obey makes the next step obvious once we actually do hear. We must obey and heed what we have heard. We must apply our newly acquired knowledge. We must act and obtain the results possible only through action.
President Nelson was quite clear what some of those results would be.
I don't think I've ever been more eager for Conference to arrive than I am after experiencing what 2020 has offered. And a good portion of that eagerness comes from faith that hearing, hearkening to, and heeding the Lord's voice as spoken through His anointed servants will bring the blessings President Nelson has promised and so much more. And that will bring us more joy in our 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.
Sister Craven begins by describing a sign she once saw advertising happiness for only $15. Of course, the sign was deceptive. The trinkets and souvenirs offered in exchange for that $15 could never bring the true happiness each of us yearns to have.
Sister Craven’s experience describes how many of us are similarly deceived. A casual approach to spirituality may seem inviting and even appropriate. But only by being careful with our covenants and obeying them with exactness can we hope to yield the true joy we seek.
Sister Craven explains,
What a magnificent insight! Sister Craven continues,
The amount of joy we receive from covenant living is in direct proportion to the care and attention we give in living those covenants with exactness. We can unleash true power in our spiritual lives when we reject a casual approach for a careful one.
I remember on my mission hearing my leaders advocate obedience with exactness. What fascinated me as I heard Sister Craven repeat that idea was the thought of expanding that attention to every aspect of our lives. If being careful with our spiritual lives can yield great power, how much more power would being that careful with every aspect of our lives bring?
What would happen if we were just as careful with those who matter most to us? Think for a minute about the people who mean the most to you. Of course, others will always have their own agency, but how much more enjoyable would those relationships be if we exercised great care in the details of those relationships?
And what would happen if we exercised great care with our mind? If we were more insistent on having certain standards for the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the other forms of media that we consume, how much more pure, powerful joy would sweep into our lives? What if we were more careful with improving ourselves — taking a class, learning a new skill, or improving some aspect of our character? What increase in joy would come from that?
How much more power could we procure if we were truly careful with our body? Too many of us are quite casual when it comes to diet and exercise. Too many of us aren’t very careful with personal finances. Too many of us take a casual approach to our careers by allowing the here and now demands of our job to overwhelm any notion of career direction. How much better would we feel about ourselves and our lives if we exercised greater care towards our body?
Act with order and diligence
If you stop to think about all this for a moment, you may conclude as I did. Exercising great care in any one area is work. When you extend that work to every area of your life, the task can quickly feel overwhelming.
The Apostle Paul counseled, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). King Benjamin taught his people similarly. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
In other words, we don’t need to be perfect today. But we do need to exercise care by doing something every day to move towards personal improvement. As we exchange our casual approaches to every aspect of life for more careful ones, we will reap a harvest of joy and power from the seeds we have sown daily. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Recently I found myself reading my patriarchal blessing. I didn’t plan it; it just happened. I’m not even sure when I last read my patriarchal blessing, but this particular reading refreshed me.
I’ve been“discussing” with local leaders how they can best support LDS singles. They keep saying things like “Everything will be made right in the next life.” No one disputes that. But seeing as I’m expecting to live for at least another 40 years if not longer, could we please not give up so soon? How about we focus on what we can do to make things right in this life?
It’s almost as if my leaders are really saying, “See? I did something to help them. Now it’s not my problem anymore.” I really hope they aren’t rationalizing their lack of involvement in our lives like that. It won’t look good for any who do that when things do get put right in the next life, if I read Matthew 25 correctly.
Context can change the entire meaning. Perhaps reading my patriarchal blessing in that context heightened the power of my experience for me.
Respecting the sacred
I consider patriarchal blessings to be sacred documents. For me, that means not sharing details with just anyone. I’m extremely selective in who reads it.
That also means not quoting from it in public forums like this. I know many others would and have. I don’t judge them. I just hold myself to my standard which I apply only to myself.
That said, I’ll communicate general ideas from my patriarchal blessing. For example, most patriarchal blessings declare the recipient’s lineage. I have no qualms in saying mine declares my lineage.
I also don’t mind sharing that my patriarchal blessing provides specific counsel for different phases of life. For example, there’s a section on my mission. Every time I read it, I think back to the moments when the promises made there were all fulfilled — and fulfilled completely.
What was old becomes new
There’s also a section about my marriage. In the past, I’ve always been able to read the part about my mission, think about how that part was fulfilled, and then apply that same thinking to the part about my marriage. Generally I’m left with the impression the promises made are still true.
During this recent reading of my patriarchal blessing, the availability of these promises in this life struck me very palpably. It’s not just the strength of the impression convincing me those promises are true. It’s noticing for the first time the meaning behind some of the language of a different part of my blessing.
My patriarchal blessing talks about my children as well as my marriage and what they will become with respect to this nation, meaning the country of my (and presumably their) birth. As I pondered that language, I realized there are no nations in the next life. That means my patriarchal blessing is talking about my children in this life.
But that can’t happen unless I actually have children in this life. And that won’t happen unless I actually get married in this life.
Sometimes the promises of a patriarchal blessing find fulfillment in the next life. So I don’t completely blame small minds from jumping to the conclusion that those promises to someone in my situation are meant for the next life.
That’s why this particular reading touched me so powerfully. After all I’ve endured, what a great comfort to know my loving Heavenly Father is aware of my circumstances! What a tender mercy to feel the strength of His support as He communicates the truth of His promises to me!
Get your own experience
I don’t know if all my future patriarchal blessing readings will result in similar faith building episodes. I certainly hope so. But regardless of whether or not that happens, I still have the memories of faith promoting experiences like this one that have happened. I can leverage them to buoy my faith in a God acutely aware of me.
I’m not the only one of whom God is aware. He’s aware of you also. Properly employed, patriarchal blessings can help you along your journey home.
When was the last time you read your patriarchal blessing? Do you believe the Lord’s promises to you? Do you treasure them within your heart? If it’s been a while, take them out and read them. It may just refresh your soul.
Whether or not that happens, I do know one thing for sure. I know every promise God makes will be fulfilled in its entirety. We just need to stay true and faithful to Him. When we do, He’ll support us along the way, and we’ll have more joy in our journey.
I can't believe that I spaced this. I was supposed to post yesterday, but that didn't happen. I could tell you about all the things that occupied my attention yesterday, but I won't. I got busy and therein got distracted.
I recall hearing a sister speak in sacrament meeting one Sunday. She confessed that she had been busy with so many things that she had allowed her temple attendance to slide. I then reflected on how temple attendance is like anything else in life. If you want to ensure what is most important to you fills your life, you need to make time for it.
I also recall attending the temple once when life was more hectic than it is now. I had just moved after losing my job, and my neighbors decided to throw a party that kept me up well past Pumpkin Hour. And then the next day my energetic nephew decided to be consternatingly contrary.
I needed the peace found only within the House of the Lord. And I didn't want to wait for it. And I also had some questions about where I was in my life at the time. So I showered off all the grime and sweat from cleaning up my old place, put on my nicest suit, grabbed my hat, and away I went.
And I had a rather interesting and unexpected experience.
My time in the temple
First, in my haste to hie me to the House of the Lord, I forgot some very important articles of clothing. I realized my lapse while in the dressing room. I put my suit back on and went back to the front area, thinking I could rent what I needed.
Instead I found myself like one of the five unwise virgins. The temple had been recently renovated; there was now no more laundry and hence no more clothing rental.
I was quite befuddled with what to do next when my eye caught sight of the entrance to the initiatory area. I then realized that I could still have a temple experience. I entered the area and asked if help was needed, and of course it was. The attendant gave me a robe and advised me to return when I had changed my clothes.
This is the part where it gets really interesting. When I returned, the brother directing the initiatory work that evening asked whether I could stay for a half hour or an hour. I selected an hour, to which he replied, "You are certainly an answer to our prayers this evening." He then signaled a place for me to wait while others prepared for the work to be done.
While I waited, I thought about this brother’s comment and the context in which I received it. I had made time for something important to me --- temple attendance --- and in pursuing that I encountered an unexpected experience that answered someone else's prayers. I then realized something that had never before entered my mind.
What I had just experienced was an analogy to the singles life unlike any I had ever encountered.
A new question
I reflected on how my life is nothing like what I expected it to be. I never expected to be as single as the day I came home from my mission for so long. That part is old hat.
But what if that unexpected experience is the answer to someone's prayers? I wasn't sure how to answer that question in part because I had never before considered it. Still single today, I find myself entranced by its ramifications.
What if I am single because me being single is the answer to someone's prayers?
Well, it's certainly not the answer to my prayers. I’ve been praying for the exact opposite for many years now. I like to think that somewhere a spiritual and intelligent single LDS woman is praying that I’ll enter her life, but I don't really know if that is true.
Maybe the one whose prayers are answered is not my future companion. Maybe it’s a couple worried about their child growing older without a spouse. Or maybe a caring leader or even a really good friend with the same concern. Or maybe it’s not connected at all with my companion. Maybe it has to do with me doing something that is easier done while single.
I know the Lord has wanted me to be married for many years now. But given that none of my past opportunities have worked out for me, perhaps the Lord is saving me for some other purpose. Perhaps He is saying, “OK, Plans A through X didn’t work out, so while I am assembling the pieces for Plan Y, why don’t you make yourself useful doing this?”
That's a comforting thought.
When you make time for the important, you arrive where you need to be. I still don’t have all the answers, but I know I am on my way. And walking by faith is not bad at all.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
Joy in the Journey Radio encourages the free discussion of ideas but reserves the right to remove and/or block comments which do not conform to LDS standards.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
Posts by Month