That said, my experience still excites me because it gives me great hope the culture of the larger Latter-day Saint community will soon eliminate what has traditionally provided the greatest challenge in LDS singles life. Just as we know rain will fall when we see storm clouds gather, we can see the cultural signs around us indicating a change is gonna come.
How it’s been
I’ve long spoken on this platform about the challenges LDS singles have traditionally faced. For those who may be new to the audience, the bulk of those challenges stem from our family-centered culture.
Traditionally, LDS culture has centered on family. That means the marker of belonging to that culture is being married with kids, because that’s what having a family has traditionally meant. Because everyone has a deeply seated need to belong to a larger group, LDS singles have struggled to belong when the marker of belonging is something they by definition don’t have.
That’s why for years I’ve called for a change in the culture to one centered on Christ. The marker of belonging in that culture would be discipleship. Such a culture would both support the family while being inclusive of those who are different. No matter your background or your situation, you can work to make and keep sacred covenants that everyone else in the LDS community makes. You can be a disciple. You can belong.
A new hope
I kept affirming my message of cultural change despite the appearance of little if any move in that direction. But that all changed in 2018. That’s when I saw my first glimmer of hope.
That’s because that’s when the Brethren unveiled the ministering initiative. My heart jumped for joy while I physically jumped on my couch at hearing the announcement. I saw then a shift in perspective to see inquiring after the needs of others not as a duty, which is what home and visiting teaching had largely become, but as an opportunity to build the kingdom and grow in discipleship.
That’s exactly in line with the vision I’ve always proposed for the most successful singles groups. They focus on bringing everyone together and making everyone feel they belong. They know it doesn’t matter what people’s background or circumstances are, and they proclaim that knowledge in the way they act and treat others.
Seeing this shift announced in General Conference brought me a new hope that the change I had been talking about for years could be on the edge of unfolding into reality.
The future’s bright
That’s why I was so excited when I saw what appeared at the time to be a change in the home page of the Church website. The layout and content were all focused on Christ as the center. And they combined together to create a unequivocal message of belonging no matter your background or circumstances.
I’ve always believed our Church leaders on the global level have been aware of the singles. Many of the failings LDS singles have cited have root in local leaders who either haven’t understood how to minister effectively to singles or have been so busy with other priorities that ministering to singles simply didn’t happen.
But all of that will be history. Change is gonna come! We can look forward to the future with hope and optimism in a brighter and better day. Our Lord truly knows us and our circumstances. He’ll inspire His disciples to move in a more positive direction while at the same time exercising the compassion of patience in respecting their agency to implement those changes.
Let us also exercise the compassion of patience in respecting the agency of our leaders, both global and local, while also helping them to improve in their ministering efforts towards us and other LDS singles. As we do, we’ll make the ground more fertile for the changes that will come. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
It helps me to remember I am not on my journey through life alone. But it helps even more to vocalize that to someone.
A couple of weeks ago I had an extended conversation with my stake president. Given my calling as his executive secretary, my recent struggles with singleness especially concerned him. But I found that vocalizing my faith to someone who shares it filled me with an extra measure of strength that I previously did not know.
And how I needed that strength! It’s one thing to believe the promises of the Lord when you seem to have all the time in the world. But as you age and that window of youthful opportunity gets smaller and smaller, it gets harder and harder to believe.
But whatever difficulty or ease we each may have in believing does not change the essential truth of His promises. That thought gives me courage, and so it can to you as well. The Lord will fulfill every single one of His promises to you [pun intended]. So great will be your blessing that, when that glorious day finally comes, you’ll wonder how it ever was that you doubted Him.
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?
You must first approach the Lord. We must walk in the ways of the Master Who still has power to calm the waves and the storms around us. Then you must take action. You can’t just wish and wait, expecting your blessings to come. To increase your faith, you must increase your action. To believe Him more, you must walk more in the covenant path.
As I reflect upon my own performance, I quickly see my shortcomings. That’s not surprising given my lifelong status as a walking construction zone. But perfection is not about performance; it’s about persisting towards proximity to Christ. As we keep trying to follow Him and come closer to Him, He gives us strength to endure well the time before our blessings come, whether that time be short or long.
In the post from two years ago, I said, “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?”
The moments I experience now try me more than the moments I encountered two years ago. But reading those words from two years ago now gives me added strength to endure well my more trying moments in the present and added hope my moments in the future will still be brighter and more glorious than I could ever imagine.
The Lord will grant you the tender mercies you need to face your fears just as He has for me. He will help you to trust Him. And when you truly trust Him, you can walk by faith even if your path is upon the very water that waves against you in the storm. When you trust Him, He will show you your diligence and patience will not go unrewarded. When you trust Him, He will make you more and more equal to whatever challenge confronts you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
And that's quite an accomplishment. Most of my posts contain just under 800 of my own words each, so by that estimation I've written about 278,400 words. That's more than a quarter million words! It just goes to show you don't know how far you've come until you stop and consider.
Look back and ahead
I had no idea what I'd accomplished with my word count until I stopped to consider it. I don't think I imagined that result when I published the first few hundred words with that first post in 2014. The only thing I imagined was never backing down. And look what that attitude brought.
We all have potential for greatness. But if you're like most people, that potential is largely untapped. I haven't completely untapped my greatness, but as just described, I've started. And I did it by consistent, persistent effort. I did the work to lay the "bricks" in my "building" one at a time. Now, years later, I can look back at the wonderful edifice I've built.
I can also look ahead to the "building" I'll yet have, because what I see today is hardly finished. That's no different from any of us, really. We're all walking construction zones, filled with more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes. The encouraging part is that God isn't finished with us yet.
Lay your "brick" for today
If I trust that Master Architect to accomplish His grand design, all I need to do is what's right before me today. I have the "building" I have because over time I laid the next "brick" when I needed to lay the next "brick."
And in laying that "brick," I thought hardly anything about future "bricks." I focused simply on the work to be done now, the work that was right in front of me. That work was laying a single "brick" in place.
I'm reminded of something Will Smith said about success in an interview with Charlie Rose.
That's all I've done with the Joy in the Journey Radio blog. I didn't set out to write over a quarter of a million words. I just set out to write a few hundred each week. That was the work that was right in front of me each week. And now, years later, I can look back at the "wall" I've constructed from the accumulation of "bricks" laid for every week after 2013.
Stay slow and steady
In reality, anyone can do this. My accomplishment isn't the only one that can be broken down into individual "bricks." Any greatness you dream of having can come the same way. In fact, there's no other way it can come.
So what are the small, seemingly inconsequential tasks you need to perform to achieve your dreams? What "brick" do you need to lay today (and every day) to build the future you want? If you don't know how to answer that question, perhaps you should stop and consider that.
While you're at it, consider how far you've come already, and schedule appointments with yourself to consider it again at regular intervals into the future. Our modern age has us expecting everything instantly, but that's not how real progress works. You need occasionally to consider how far you've come to remind yourself of what you have done and motivate you towards what you can yet do.
It may not be quick, but slow and steady will win your race. Consider how far you've come. Then look to the work you need to do today and throw everything you have into doing that work the best you can. Do that every single day, and before long you'll begin tapping into your potential and living your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But it's all really good discussion that touches on many interesting points. And that got me thinking. Pondering that and other LDS singles posts leads me to conclude that, when it comes to dating, natural is the enemy.
Recognize the natural
You might wonder what that means. After all, these days anything natural is in vogue. It's associated with purity, innocence, and goodness. How can natural be the enemy?
You don't need any mental gymnastics to answer that question in a dating context. You need only understand the differences between natural men and women and covenant men and women.
The Book of Mormon beautifully expresses that difference. We don't usually discuss Mosiah 3:19 in terms of dating, but it possesses perfect applicability. Consider each of these words carefully, for this one verse teaches bibles worth of truth:
How do these words apply to dating? Increasingly in the world, natural men and women have destroyed dating and with it the families that might have resulted. Thinking primarily of self and following natural behavioral drivers have removed many partners from the dating scene and complicated it for those who remain.
Know the difference
We Latter-day Saints covenant to be in the world but not of it. That doesn't mean the world doesn't influence us. In fact, the behavior I see some LDS singles displaying smacks very plainly of a worldly, natural mindset.
Enticement drives the choices of natural men. Put enough enticement in front of him, and he'll pretty much follow the carrot at the end of your stick. Of course, all men aren't alike; some enticements enchant some men more than others. But the concept holds true for all natural men.
Experience, namely the state of feeling desired emotions, drives the choices of natural women. We all know natural women; they have backup boyfriends, always look to "trade up" if they can, and are ruthless with other women who they see as their competition for their desired experiences with men.
Conversely, covenant men and women value covenant living over their natural drivers. They seek to make and keep covenants. Covenant men still feel the natural tug of enticement, and covenant women still feel the natural tug of experience, but they don't follow after it. They choose to value covenant living over the natural focus on self.
Put off the natural
Natural men and women value self over covenants. The natural woman stays single by insisting on dating only perfect men who can provide her desired experience with emotion. Since most men aren't that, the natural man struggles with the lack of enticement, eventually opting out of dating to seek enticement in other avenues.
Thus, following natural inclinations results in rejecting opportunities to marry sufficiently good companions and create families that can further the Lord's purposes for this world. The natural man and woman are indeed enemies to God.
In reality, no single one of us (pun intended) is completely a natural person or a covenant person. We are each a mixture of both — good and evil, light and darkness, covenant keepers and covenant breakers. What we choose to value determines how much we are of each.
Will we follow our natural desires when dating? Will we insist on having only the best when an "average" option can deliver not only the maximum amount of joy it's possible to experience but also make available the covenants we need for exaltation in the eternities to come? Will we view dating and marriage through the lens of self or through the lens of the family we will create out of that union and the generations that will follow after us?
In so many ways, natural is the enemy. And it will always be the enemy unless the natural man or woman values covenant living over self. Only valuing covenant living opens the heart to the Savior and His marvelous Atonement, which can transform us from natural men and women into covenant men and women. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
As I read the specific aspects of the fast President Nelson proposed, I remembered my own participation in that worldwide fast. President Nelson said, “Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son hear us!” But that raised this question: Did God hear us? How effective was the worldwide fast?
To answer that question, I searched for evidence regarding the specific points in President Nelson’s invitation. What I found gives me hope and a strengthened testimony in the power of fasting in opening the heavens for help.
Examining the trends
President Nelson declared the first purpose of the fast was “that the present pandemic may be controlled.” And so I searched Google this morning for “covid 19 deaths worldwide” and obtained an informative chart. It shows the general trend of COVID-19 related deaths rising around mid-March. But then after April 10, the general trend becomes more constant.
We see something even more hopeful for those living in the US. A similar search in Google for “covid 19 deaths us” produced another chart. Again, COVID-19 deaths rise after Spring Break. But after April 10, the general trend actually decreases!
Now, what drives that decrease is a separate question, one I’m not tackling here given my limitations of space and time. But did the fast lead to a control of the pandemic? As I’ve often told my statistics students, correlation is not causation. Just because two events happen at the same time doesn’t mean one causes the other. But is it a coincidence that the turning point for the trend in both of these curves is around April 10, the same day as the worldwide fast organized by God’s living prophet? I think not.
Hearing the stories
The second pleading President Nelson invited us to make in the worldwide fast was that “caregivers [be] protected.” What can we say about that?
We often think protection means physical safety, especially in a pandemic context. But protection could apply holistically to include other areas such as emotional and psychological health. In that light, I searched for stories relating what support health care workers have received. The American Hospital Association has a page on its website dedicated to stories about health care workers serving on the front lines of the pandemic. And these stories are amazing.
What I find especially encouraging is the HERO registry, an initiative launched by the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina. The registry collects stories from health care workers so that administrators and public health officials can better understand and work to solve the problems health care workers face both in real time and over time.
For me, the especially encouraging aspect of this effort is its launch date — April 13, just three days after the worldwide fast. Again, just because two events occur together doesn’t mean one causes the other. But again I ask, “Is this coincidence?” And again, I think not.
Looking forward in faith
President Nelson’s invitation for a worldwide fast ended with two final pleadings: one for “the economy [to be] strengthened, and [one for] life [to be] normalized.” So what about these aspects? Did God hear us in these?
Well, what measure should we use to assess economic strength? Whatever we choose isn’t going to tell us much; it’s only been about a month since the worldwide fast. In that time, we’ve seen the devastation of many economic sectors resulting in record unemployment numbers. And what exactly does “life normalized” mean? What standard do we use for “normal”? However we define our terms, many of the issues affecting the economy and daily living have yet to find resolution. And so we look to the future with hope that God will resolve these issues to the satisfaction of His purposes.
What we see so far after the worldwide fast gives us hope that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled. He will prepare the way for His promised blessings. Indeed, fasting can open the heavens for help. Looking for the ways in which God hears us gives us greater encouragement to look for ways in which we can hear Him. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Part of what enabled him to do this is the Restoration’s fulfillment of the hopes of ancient prophets and saints. They looked forward to the Restoration as a time when all gospel blessings would be enjoined together. Indeed, we who live today have the glorious blessing of the fulness of the Lord’s gospel. And those fruits can enable us to have a perfect brightness of hope for ourselves, our world, and our future.
See the blessings
Elder Holland begins with a list of what he would be looking for in religion were he living in 1820. He and his wife imagined themselves transported back in time with the same spiritual longings that many of the world’s inhabitants have possessed throughout time.
Elder’s Holland’s list provides a wonderful review of the glorious truths restored to humanity — the true nature and character of God, a clearer understanding of God’s plan for His children and especially the role of the Savior in that plan, an additional scriptural witness that enhances one’s understanding of the Lord’s life and ministry, and true priesthood authority to dispense every ordinance required for salvation and exaltation.
Elder Holland saved the crowning blessing for last. In his own words, he would have searched
Indeed, the blessings which the temple extends to bind the living and the dead across eternity truly crown the joy which living the restored gospel offers. As Elder Holland declared,
Elder Holland then directs our attention towards the future. The fulfillment of the hope of ancient prophets and saints for their future can give us hope for the fulfillment of blessings in our future.
Conquering the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps the most immediate of those hopes for the world. But once we overcome that challenge — and Elder Holland assures we will — other challenges will remain, such as hunger, poverty, safer schools, and the eradication of prejudice. And of course, truly conquering those physical challenges will require the adoption of spiritual solutions, what Elder Holland called
Elder Holland then gets deeply personal, and here is where he packs his best punch.
Isn’t that what we all hope for? Many LDS singles hope for a more perfect life, yet marriage never made anyone’s life suddenly perfect. You simply exchange one set of challenges for another.
That said, the hope that marriage can improve one’s life is not unrealistic, especially if one (to borrow a phrase from President Oaks) “marries right.” We LDS singles, no matter our individual circumstances, can and should hope for the achievement of righteous blessings, not only even when that fulfillment seems impossible but especially when that fulfillment seems impossible.
Feel the hope
I suppose that’s why this Conference address touched me. I’m in my mid-40s having never been married. What hope do I have not just of finding the right type of person who would want to marry me but also of having a family of my own, not just one I inherit from a now severed relationship?
I think Elder Holland would say I have every reason to hope. And so do you. The God who has performed miracles in the past can and will perform miracles in our present and our future. I echo with Elder Holland the message of a returned sister missionary in Johannesburg: “[We] did not come this far only to come this far.” Great and glorious blessings await each of us as we stand firm in our faith and continually choose hope over despair.
Truly, the Restoration has blessed us all. The hope of past believers fulfilled gives us hope our present desires for righteous blessings will not be in vain. Choose that faith over fear. Choose that hope over despair. When we walk in the perfect brightness of that hope, we’ll progress towards our best life. 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.
Yet a recent experience caused me much reflection on both my own transformation to optimism and how we can all help those singles wont to wallow in their own mire come Friday.
An unexpected experience
Last Saturday, the newest member of my ward was baptized. The service reminded me of my own mission, and I cried as the Spirit brought past sacred experiences to my remembrance.
As I left, I noticed across the parking lot a sister missionary who’d previously been in the ward. She had obviously returned to attend the baptism. Just before her transfer, she and her companion gave me a very special gift. They snuck up to my apartment door and plastered it with paper hearts sharing messages of love, hope, and encouragement.
I never had the chance to thank them, because the very next day transfers came, and elders arrived in place of both sisters. Seeing that sister now in the parking lot, I called out to her and confided that what she and her companion left for me that night before their transfer meant a great deal to me. I then thanked her.
What happened next surprised me. She told me I should be thanked because I’d helped her tremendously. She didn’t go into details — I’m still insanely curious — but then she said something that later drove deep reflection. She said, “You’re awesome.”
A meditated realization
What surprised me was less that she said it (although yes, I wasn’t expecting to hear that from anyone, let alone a sister missionary) or that she was really sincere in saying it (which she was) and more that I found it hard to hear.
That realization caused me much reflection. I’m very comfortable with myself and enjoy my own society immensely. So why wouldn’t I believe I’m awesome? (And why is there an obnoxious song from The Lego Movie playing in my head right now?)
Seriously, why would that message be so hard for me to hear? After some deep reflection, I concluded it was hard for me to hear because I’d grown too accustomed to hearing the exact opposite.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Looking back over more than two decades of being a single Latter-day Saint, the vast majority of the messages I received from single LDS ladies were negative. They didn’t affirm my divine worth nor recognize the goodness of a heart that had sacrificed and suffered much. That’s not to say there weren’t those few who gave me positive messages (there were) or that I made my own mistakes worthy of negative messaging (I did). Rather it simply means I heard negative messages so often, especially in the dating arena, I came to believe them.
A more joyful life
I don’t believe them any more. My view today is much more optimistic. But what would my life have been like had I received more positive messages from other single sisters more regularly? And what of the other LDS singles who are now what I once was? What of those who are prone to throw that pity party on Friday because they don’t have a valentine of their own?
If you’re among that crowd, please know you have agency. That means you choose everything for yourself, including what to believe. I struggled for a long time with negative messages until I realized my agency means I get to choose everything for myself, including what to believe. Just because someone else believes something doesn’t mean I must believe it also. I don’t have to believe what I don’t want.
It’s the same for you. When others send you a negative message, don’t believe them! Instead, believe you have great worth (because you do) and God loves you so much He has prepared glorious blessings for you (because He does and He has). Then share that love with others and skip the pity party. Let your messaging reaffirm the worth of every individual. Then you’ll feel your own worth reaffirmed. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But I chose to refrain from any action, and that gave me the space needed to take a second perspective and reflect. Like many widows and widowers who’ve married in the temple, this older brother didn’t think of himself as single. Yet that’s exactly what he was. And that means he’s part of the audience for Joy in the Journey Radio!
Reflection brought me to another conclusion. Why was this individual derailing the meeting? Because he was taking the first opportunity presented to him to fill an unmet need. He’s not the first to do so, but he could be the last if LDS singles everywhere get an outlet to fill that need.
Secure your release valve
We all have pressure building within us from the stresses of life. Add in the pressures from the challenges of LDS singles life, and you have a real pressure cooker. Without a release valve to vent the steam building inside us, we could easily crack or even explode.
And so taking care of ourselves means getting and regularly using an outlet. This could be a blog, a journal, or talking with a family member or friend. Whether it occurs in an analog space or a digital one, an outlet provides a healthy way of dealing with the pressures mounting from the challenges of LDS singles life.
Unfortunately, many singles don’t think ahead to prepare in this regard. The result has played itself out time and time again. They take whatever first opportunity comes their way as their release valve. Everything comes gushing out, overwhelming most who hear the onslaught. They in turn respond by avoiding that subject with the single adult, thereby closing off a potential means of supporting that single adult.
Attend to your habits
You don’t have to be that way. With some awareness of the mechanisms operating within you, you can prepare for your needs and live a healthier, happier life. This is beyond getting an outlet to vent. This is understanding why you need to vent at all.
That means understanding habit, because habit governs most of what we do, including how we address our need to vent. Our widower friend in the gospel study class had difficulty because his habit matched a different reality. He still had the habit of conversing with his wife to vent, even though his wife is no longer here.
That’s the thing about habits. They continue to operate even when they don’t match the local landscape, even if the circumstances under which they were created no longer apply, and even if performing the actions encoded in those habits cause discomfort or even pain. We are biologically hardwired to operate out of habit.
And so we see many widowed and divorced singles facing difficulty because they continue to operate out of habits matching a married reality that no longer exists. They all need to replace the habits they made when they were married with habits that better match their new landscape.
Minister to the need
I wanted to talk with our widower friend after the meeting, but I had to rush to other commitments. I did look for him at church but didn’t see him. I’ll keep looking until I find him. After all, he needs to get an outlet. And he needs the new perspectives Joy in the Journey Radio can bring.
That’s something more of us LDS singles could do to support each other. We can recognize our shared need to get an outlet and then be that outlet for the singles around us. This is one way we can build our singles groups into the communities of support they should be.
Ultimately, though, you’re responsible for yourself and your care. So get an outlet. Provide yourself with the release valve you need and use it regularly. Take care of yourself, and then you’ll be better able to take care of others. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Now I find myself at another crossroads. My father has surgery tomorrow to remove his returned skin cancer. My brother might visit this weekend, which may be the last time we see each other for awhile since I’m preparing to begin a new job on the East Coast. And yet with all these changes about me, one thing remains unchanged. I’m still not a father.
Pondering on a prophet
I remember sitting in the stake center as a young man watching President Ezra Taft Benson address the single men of the Church in General Conference. As he declared that the time would come when those who ignored fatherhood would feel and know their loss, I remember thinking to myself, That won’t be me! I’m going to follow the prophet.
As time passed, however, that commitment challenged me. Sure, I could’ve married one of numerous desperate LDS women. But they interested themselves more in being a wife and mother than in being my companion because that was the only identity they could accept for themselves. My conscience couldn’t accept joining with someone who saw me as filler material, a means to their own end.
Now my mind ponders that prophetic counsel I heard so many years ago as a young man. Am I any closer to compliance? Or have I allowed other pursuits to lull me into a more comfortable place where I substitute the greater growth from fatherhood with the lesser growth of other pursuits?
Searching for balance
Clearly, we single LDS men must walk a fine line. Obsession with marriage will drive us increasingly crazy while driving away quality candidates. At the same time, we can’t become so absorbed in the activities we use to stay that obsession that we don’t progress towards a happy and healthy marriage. We need balance.
Note I said happy and healthy. We’re not interchangeable parts. Compatibility is important. At the same time, compatibility is not a litmus test. The success of any union depends more on the choices of the participants than on any intrinsic characteristics. Again, we need balance.
I think about that balance as I ponder my father’s surgery tomorrow. That surgery isn’t all that different from the previous one, which he survived just fine. Yet when he announced the return of his cancer, my father encouraged my siblings and I to consider what would be done to help Mother should he pass away soon. I find myself balancing his fear against my optimism that everything will work out for the best.
Declaring mighty faith
The faith inviting me to live in that realization encourages me onward with optimism. No, I’m not a father . . . yet. I don’t know how the Lord will bless me, but I know He loves me and will support me as He always has. That knowledge sustains me as I walk by faith through mortality.
I’m also not the same person now I once was. Sure, I’m just as single now as when I came home from my mission, but I’m not the same man that stepped off that plane bringing me home. In more ways than not, I’m a much better man. And as I strive to be phenomenal in every aspect of my life, I’ll become more and more irresistible to that woman with whom the Lord intends to bless me.
I’m still not a father. But that won’t be true forever. The Lord will not abandon me. Nor will He abandon any of you. So if Father’s Day has brought you to serious reflection, be the victor and not the victim. Partner with the Lord, and let Him lead you along. Your path ahead is glorious. When you see with eyes of faith, you’ll recognize the brightness of that light. You’ll capture the optimism born of hope in that bright future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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