Of course, the answer is of course. Life has meaning when we fill it with what’s meaningful. These are the best things in life — the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made along the way. And it’s because of Christ we can have these joys now and always. Recognizing the true reason for the season helps us enjoy the best things in life all year round.
The people we love
When we celebrate Christ’s birth, we really celebrate our Heavenly Father’s plan. The birth of Christ into this world demonstrates God’s love as He fulfilled His purposes. He provided the Savior Who made it possible for all of us to return to our eternal home.
Christ also made possible eternal families, both the family we have known and the family we have yet to know. Not only can we spend eternity with God in His home, but all our loved ones can too, never more to be parted.
These promises become all the more precious to me when I think of my sweet mother. After a lifetime of numerous medical challenges, dementia now drives her decline towards her mortal end. With my father approaching the point at which he can no longer care for her, my mother could move next week into a special care facility. I remain thankful to God that she was my mother, that I have many sweet memories of her, and that He sent His Son to make it all possible.
The places we’ve been
The Lord’s hand has also attended me in my travels. He protected me both before and during my mission. He guided me after I returned home. And His hand has sustained me traveling across the country.
I remember the first cross-country trek I made alone by car. When my car broke down in the middle of the Wyoming desert, to whom could I turn? I had only God to rely upon. And He helped me.
Two years ago, I made a similar trek going back the other way. Long time audience members will remember the story I shared. When my car again experienced trouble, it felt as though angels were lifting the car on all sides and propelling it forward. The Lord’s hand was upon me.
The Lord also blessed me in less desperate moments. I recall one Christmas in which I lived near my folks. I left for home a little after sunrise with a back seat full of Christmas presents. I drove a little slower because of the snow and potential ice. No one else was about at that hour, and I recall thinking as I drove amidst the peaceful wintery scene how blessed I was to have that moment and make the memories I was about to make.
The memories we’ve made
I’ve made plenty of other memories through the years. Most of them have been good ones. And I thank the Lord He’s blessed me with them.
I remember several years ago planning a special Christmas breakfast for my mother. She loves blueberries, and so I made a blueberry french toast casserole. She’d never made anything like that before, and frankly neither had I. But it hit the spot with her so much that a second helping wasn’t enough. She went to the kitchen and began eating what was left in the pan. It didn’t bother me; I was just happy helping her to be happy. Today I thank the Lord for that and many other precious memories.
We should all thank the Lord for the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made. These are the best things in life, and the Lord Jesus Christ makes all of it possible. This year, as you celebrate the birth of the Master, may you thank Him for the people you love, the places you’ve been, and the memories you’ve made. You’ll feel more of His love and peace that characterizes the Christmas season. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In his message to the world, President Nelson taught “Counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems.” To help us integrate that teaching into our lives, President Nelson suggested two specific actions:
The social media gratitude journal
Social media has never resonated much with me. I recognize its benefits, like keeping up with family and friends as well as increased communication that otherwise would be difficult if not downright impossible. I’ve just never felt the need to integrate everything about my life with social media. I resonate much more with connections in the real world.
Yet I don’t feel that way about President Nelson’s invitation to use social media as a gratitude journal. Contrary to my usual response, President Nelson’s invitation resonates greatly with me. From the moment I first heard his 7-day challenge, I felt a desire to embrace it. And that desire felt completely natural.
I of course have no idea what will result from my participation in that challenge. Maybe something big will happen. Or maybe not much of anything will appear to happen at all. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that good men and women stand up and push goodness into the world to fight back against the emboldened evil that President Nelson declared in the last General Conference abounds. That goodness begins with gratitude.
Prayers of gratitude
From my own experience, the best way to begin to embrace gratitude is through prayer. I’ve spoken before about my habit of devoting my morning prayers to gratitude, and that one simple change in my daily routine has greatly transformed my life for the better.
About two years ago I adopted a habit of including in my morning prayers only expressions of thanks. I intentionally do not ask for anything; I simply give thanks for what I’ve received. Over time, those prayers have grown to include thanks for blessings not yet received. At first, it was difficult; my mind wasn’t trained to think in strict terms of thanksgiving. But repeated attempts brought that training, and the effect has been life-changing.
Hearing others express gratitude in prayer can open us to a new level of gratitude. I was greatly touched by hearing the Prophet pray and express gratitude for the many blessings we all enjoy everywhere every day. The wonders of nature, the glorious workings of the human body, and the beauty of art, literature, and music all bring joy in life. Focusing on expressions of gratitude invites us to open ourselves more to that joy.
The next step
The Prophet has spoken, and now the next step for all of us is to follow the Prophet. Take his challenge to express gratitude in social media every day for seven days, and then see whether you feel happier. And begin to express more gratitude in your prayers to God.
When we were Primary children, many of us sang, “Follow the Prophet. He knows the way!” I know that President Nelson is the Prophet for us today, and in his recent message to the world, he has shown us the way. That way is gratitude.
Let us each claim the blessings of peace and healing that God wants to bestow upon us. When you let gratitude heal you, you can feel peace in a chaotic world. You can salve the wounds of hate. You can find victory in defeat and abundance in loss. Best of all, you can feel more of the love God has for you as His child. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That one part is completely true. They are torturing themselves. Your focus always determines your reality, so when you focus on what you don’t have, your reality becomes one of lack and emptiness. Because each one of us has agency, we choose our focus. And that means we choose our reality. Indeed, these sisters are torturing themselves. Their wanting serves only to amplify the effect.
Of course, that truth doesn’t excuse married Church members from lacking sensitivity. In recent years, I’ve noticed more married Church members displaying more sensitivity. Nevertheless, not every ward is like that. We still have work to do.
In the meantime, it’s productive for all of us to shift our focus towards what Mother’s Day was intended to celebrate. All of us have a mother who bore us and a mother who raised us. For some those two women are one and the same. But either way, we can each answer this question: “How’s your mother?”
Just as focusing on your lack produces a reality of scarcity, focusing on what you have produces the opposite reality — one filled with abundance and plenty. Your life shifts substantially in the improvement direction when you exchange your expectation for appreciation. It’s all starts with an attitude of gratitude.
So many create disappointment by expecting too much. We want, want, want. And very often what we want, however righteous that desire, centers around something we don’t have. Because our focus always determines our reality, focusing on what we don’t have produces a reality of lack. And the more deeply we want, the more deeply felt that lack becomes.
But exchanging your expectation for appreciation creates something amazing. By constantly expressing gratitude, we can shift our focus towards what we do have. And focusing on what we do have creates a reality of abundance. The more deeply we appreciate, the more deeply felt gratitude becomes. We can bathe in the joy of feeling richly blessed.
Shift your focus
That feeling is completely legitimate because it results from how we’re constructed. Your focus determines your reality. That principle applies to everything, including Mother’s Day. Focus on what you don’t have, and you’ll take no joy in the celebration because your reality will be so full of emptiness you won’t want to celebrate. On the other hand, if you can focus on the good about the day, then you can have a joyful reality you’ll want to celebrate.
I know that can be challenging. As I said before, not every ward displays sensitivity to singles. It’s hard to stay positive when the dream you don’t have but most desire gets highlighted every week at church. I know what it’s like to get constant reminders of what you lack rubbed in your face every week. I know it’s hard.
I also know what hard means. It doesn’t mean impossible. It just means difficult. And difficult can become easy when you partner with the Lord.
The Lord can guide your focus towards the blessings you have today because your mother sacrificed. When you trade your expectation for appreciation, you open yourself to receive more of the joy life has to offer.
And if your relationship with your mother needs work, you can focus on what you can do to improve that relationship. Even good relationships can be improved, so focusing on doing something in that arena is good advice for all of us. Even if your mother has passed on to the other side, you can still find ways to express appreciation and improve your relationship on your end.
So I ask once more, “How’s your mother?” which is really just another way of asking “How’s your focus this Mother’s Day?” Your focus will always determine your reality. So make the positive choice. When you embrace a positive focus, you’ll receive a positive reality. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Here we find foundational principles local leaders can leverage to help LDS singles find their way.
Walk beside singles
We all understand others better when we step outside ourselves and view the world through their eyes. That increased understanding can open your eyes to what many LDS singles need — true friendship.
My last ward was absolutely awful. Usually no one talked to me or even greeted me. They didn’t seem at all interested in having me there. So when the storms of life beat against my door, no one was there to support me. I felt not just alone and unloved but spiritually stinted, like I was trapped in a sort of prison. What a nightmare!
If nothing else, that experience makes me very thankful for my current ward. Ward members greet me, shake my hand, and sincerely ask after my well-being. They’ve responded when I needed help and support. I feel the warmth of their simple love and sincere friendship. What a blessing!
It doesn’t take much to help LDS singles feel loved and supported. When local leaders — whether married or single — walk beside singles in true friendship, those simple acts can readily meet many needs.
Shore up faith
True friends always increase faith in others. Our Heavenly Father wants LDS singles to marry in the temple and raise righteous families who will promote His work on the earth. That won’t happen if singles don’t believe it will. Local leaders can portray faith and confidence in singles’ ability to achieve a righteous marriage.
How are LDS singles supposed to believe those blessings can be theirs when leaders respond quickly with trite expressions like “Well, it’s OK because there’s always the next life.” That’s true, but have you stopped to consider what living that really means? You’re saying it’s OK the experience singles have already had being single continue for another 40 or 50 years, and then they die, and then sometime after that they get their blessing. That’s not a very enticing prospect, even if it is true.
It’s far more enticing to fix one’s sights on examples like Abraham. His promised covenant child came when Abraham and Sarah were both around a century old. Or how about Jacob’s wife Rachel, who for the longest time was barren? I love Genesis 30:22 — “And God remembered Rachel ....” Local leaders who shore up singles’ faith in themselves and their ability to achieve eternal blessings now and not just in the next life provide greatly needed support.
Promote the next essential ordinance
Of course, securing that next essential ordinance of temple marriage takes more than belief or a motivational pep talk. The lives of many LDS singles stagnant in a lack of accountability. Local leaders are well positioned to provide that accountability.
Life has a way of beating us all into routines. We are, after all, hardwired to have habits. That can be helpful but also dangerous, especially if we’re lulled away from progressing towards eternal goals. The longer singles remain single, the more comfortable they can become being single. And with that comes less likelihood they’ll progress towards their next essential ordinance.
Local leaders can stem that tide of indolence with some gentle accountability. If they’ve paid the price to be a true friend, local leaders — and in particular ministering brothers and sisters — can guide singles towards their next essential ordinance with effective questions. “What’s in your way?” is a good example. As they repeatedly ask questions, simply listen, and then stand ready to help as requested, local leaders extend accountability for progression as singles decide for themselves how they will progress.
When they support singles by being a true friend, local leaders can minister more effectively to LDS singles. That will increase the love we all have for one another. That will build bridges of understanding between marrieds and singles. That will develop a stronger unity of the faith. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Some things never change as we get older. There will always be death and taxes. The coolest toys always come out after you grow up. And the grass is always greener on the other side.
At least that how it appears. So many of us look at others and think their lives are much better than our own because they don’t appear to have our problems. If only we could be like them, we think, our own lives would be so much better.
But that’s a lie we should never heed. The truth is everyone has challenges. When you solve one problem, you’ll find a completely new problem just around the corner. Or you’ll merely swap your old problem for a new one. Life wasn’t meant to be problem-free for anyone.
And that’s good. We’ll never grow as we need to grow and learn what we need to learn without opposition. To become what we’re meant to become, we must overcome our challenges. So you shouldn’t want what the other half of the world has. Just keep your half because it’s what you need.
Don’t run away
The longing after what appears to be greener grass on the other side of the fence is often just a desire to escape from our current challenges rather than overcome them. If we simply ran away from those challenges, we’d certainly not progress towards becoming what we’re meant to become.
I know I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I’d decided to run away. For example, on my mission in Guatemala, I constantly battled illness. Had I agreed to come home early, I wouldn’t have had the blessing of teaching the gospel in my own language and to people from different parts of the world in the neighboring country of Belize. I wouldn’t have had the companions I had, each one of whom taught me something. My mission experiences continue to bless me and benefit my life decades after my service.
Facing our trials and working to overcome them have changed us all for the better. We’re better people because we decided not to run away from those experiences but rather to embrace them and allow them to change us into something more than what we were before.
Embrace the opportunity
In addition, those challenges themselves can be blessings in their own right. But we’re not likely to see that as long as we keep wanting to cross to where the grass appears greener. We’ve got to learn to want what we’ve already got. And that means changing the way we think in order to see the blessings our challenges are.
Sometimes that blessing comes as opportunity to bless the lives of others. For instance, my experience being single for more than two decades has, to say the least, increased my compassion for those who struggle with the challenges of LDS singles life. And that compassion is a large portion of the fuel that drives me in producing Joy in the Journey Radio. How many lives have been and will be blessed because of my personal ministry?
If you feel the siren call of grass that appears to be greener, ask yourself who could be blessed because you stayed on your side of the fence. Someone there may need your contribution, a contribution only you can make because only you have your unique personality paired with your challenges.
Confront your challenge
In the end, we are our choices. The grass may indeed seem greener on the other side, but there’s much value in the greenness of the grass we already have. We can all choose to lift where we stand, thereby blessing others while growing from the confrontation with our challenges.
Besides, nothing good comes from wishing we could exchange places with that other half of the world that seems to have a better life. The results we want will never come from wishing because they can come from one and only one thing — action. Better to spend our time confronting our challenges and learning how to overcome them than to waste away wishing for what will never come with the wish alone.
When you choose to keep your half instead of longing after the half someone else appears to have, when you choose to embrace challenges rather than seek ways to escape them, when you choose to see them for the blessings they are in and of themselves, then you’ll see that the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t that much greener after all. That will increase your gratitude to God for His bounteous blessings you already have. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week I talked about my mother's suicide attempt. I also talked about some of the reflections that event inspired. I've searched for the big-picture view not only of what's happening but also of my life up to this point.
And what I see fills me with awe. Obviously I see the trial of my mother's suicide attempt and her subsequent hospitalization. But I also see that trial as the latest episode in a series of trials. And I remember the experience we gain from trials is one of the reasons why we’re here in mortality.
I could start listing what I've endured, but it wouldn't mean much because we all have trials in life. As much as we might feel our particular trial makes us special, it doesn’t. Everyone has trials. And everyone can learn from those experiences. When I realize what I've learned from my trials, I can't help but be grateful for trials.
Essential to happiness
How could I be the man I am today without the trials I've experienced? It's impossible. I’d never have the depth of compassion I have for LDS singles were I not single myself for so long. I’d never have positive energy ruling my life if I hadn’t experienced the self-inflicted negative energy so many LDS singles experience. And I’d never feel the confidence I feel in my future without overcoming the despair of hopelessness.
I could go on, but the point remains. Everything positive about us, anything indicating growth in us, and anything proving we’re better today than we were yesterday is possible because of trials. Without trials, there’s no opposition. Without opposition, there’s no growth. Without growth, we can’t be our best. If we can’t be our best, we can't be happy. And if we can't be happy, then what else is there?
Of course, I'm not actively looking for trials. I've lived long enough to know trouble never has trouble finding each of us eventually. And yes, sometimes trials have negative impacts that overwhelm in the moment. But every obstacle also comes with opportunity — the opportunity to yield something positive from the experience. It's that possibility for the positive for which I'm grateful.
Dependent on the right perspective
As I look back on the trials I've experienced in life, I recognize that the possibility for the positive creates a space necessary for growth and personal enrichment. Life has a way of beating everyone down. And the only way getting beat down could ever be positive is if that action shapes us into something better.
But that only happens if we choose a perspective that allows that to happen. The existence of the opportunity to yield something positive will mean nothing unless we take advantage of that opportunity. We do that by choosing to be positive.
That brings us to gratitude, because gratitude is always the first choice in creating a positive life from whatever trials we each experience. Gratitude breeds appreciation, and appreciation opens the door to faith, hope, and charity. Appreciating what we have leads us to believe we can be further blessed. That gives us hope we will be further blessed and inspires us to bless the lives of others.
But just as gratitude feeds a mentality of abundance, the lack of gratitude feeds a mentality of scarcity. We don't want to share what we have with others out of fear there won't be enough for ourselves. We begin to believe there are no further blessings, and therefore there’s no hope tomorrow can be better than today. In the end, we become very insular and absorbed in self.
Foundational for a new tradition
That's why I'm grateful for trials. It's the School of Hard Knocks that beats me down enough to learn what I need to learn in order to grow. Without the challenges that trials provide, I wouldn't be nearly as motivated to seek after the solutions that transform me into a better man.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and if your day will include any traditional performance, you're likely to mention or at least think about what you're grateful for. That list, no matter how long, usually includes obvious blessings like friends, family, good food, and a warm place to sleep at night, just to name a few.
But this year, can we also be thankful for the trials that have shaped us into something more than we were before? Can we be grateful for lessons learned the hard way and for growth that would come to us in no other way? We’re more open to further blessings when we’re grateful for the trials that provide opportunities for positive growth and enrichment. Being grateful for trials can help us accept that truth. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Today is Valentine’s Day — the day when every man with a significant other must make an expected love offering to his significant other. That could take the form of flowers or chocolate or something else — or even some combination of the above. If you’re in this category, then you know what I’m talking about.
Then there are the myriads of LDS singles who don’t have that special someone in their life. Many of these will be pining away in their lack, yearning to have what they don’t have, and frustrated that the life plan our LDS subculture gives us all hasn’t worked out for them. They focus on what they lack and the belief that they are so much less because of that lack. Because your focus always determines your reality, their reality is one of lack.
Yet not all singles associate Singles Awareness Day with negativity. These hardy souls reject defunct, old ways of thinking and adopt better ways of thinking that produce a better focus leading to a better reality. These singles focus on what they can do, what they can give, and how they can serve. They partner with the Lord in fulfilling a personal ministry. In essence, they ditch the pity party.
Envision a new reality
Some years ago I wrote what I’ve come to regard as a classic blog post on the pity party. If you have any doubt pity parties are dungeons of doom to be avoided, please read that post. You’ll find your time well spent.
More than one Singles Awareness Day has passed since I wrote that post. I can honestly say that I was emotionally stable for each of them. I never felt like crying or surrendering to a pit of despair or even The Pit of Despair of The Princess Bride fame.
In fairness I should acknowledge I had a significant other for at least one of them, and in that event I made sure to satisfy that special someone. But during the other Singles Awareness Days in which I had no significant other (like today), I felt as though the day was no different from any other.
What I’m describing is not apathy or disconnectedness. It’s a reality created by a different focus and a different way of thinking. And I’m not the only LDS single who has them.
Truly believe the gospel
Do we know something pity party advocates don’t? Assuming we’re all LDS, not really. We all know the same basic truths of the restored gospel. The difference is in what we believe.
We truly believe the Lord loves us so much He can’t wait to bless us. The Lord will play His part in realizing our desired blessings. We understand we also have a part to play, but we believe that, in addition to playing His part, the Lord will help us to play ours.
That faith allows us to let go of the frustration associated with wanting what we don’t now have. We believe Him so much that we’re willing to wait on Him.
Instead of focusing on what we lack, we focus on what we have. That focus allows us to see the tender mercies of the Lord surrounding us every day. And it allows us to feel the love of the Lord for us in every one of those tender mercies.
Embrace new ways of thinking
Truly believing the truths of the restored gospel is just the first difference in our beliefs. The second difference lies in what we believe about happiness.
Long-time audience members will recognize my definition of happiness: Happiness isn’t just doing the right things but giving your all to the right things for you. We truly believe that definition of happiness. And we demonstrate that belief by living it.
I devoted the entire radio program last week to this new way of thinking about happiness. We know happiness is a choice. And because we always have a choice regardless of our circumstances, we can always find happiness no matter what life may bring us. We don’t need to wait to be happy, and we aren’t.
No desire to host a pity party can touch us. We’ve effectively ditched the pity party.
You too can ditch the pity party, if you haven’t done so already. You can change your focus from what you lack to what you have. You can change your thinking about happiness. You can choose to trust the Lord and walk by faith.
When you do, you’ll free yourself from all the negative emotions that often attend pity parties. You’ll see that you don’t have to wait to be happy. You’ll rise towards your best self. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which in some respects is hard to believe given how long Thanksgiving decor has garnished many stores. I never liked skipping ahead with holidays nor celebrating them too soon.
I never saw that on my mission in Guatemala. Many people there spend their days collecting what they need to survive that day, whether that’s harvesting corn and beans for food, grinding the corn and making tortillas, or collecting firewood for cooking.
I’m still touched by memories of impoverished people sharing with me what little they had. They don’t need to share with me. I can go home and enter any number of local grocery stores where I can have whatever I want. Yet they still shared with me.
Usually I didn’t really want what they shared. I endured much sickness on my mission, often feeling like something was alive inside of me trying to eat its way out. How was I to know what might make me sick?
Still, I was grateful to be around good-hearted people sharing from their scarcity. And they felt grateful to be able to provide. We chose to be grateful.
One who choose not
Not everyone made that choice, though. I remember meeting a bitter man who always complained that my country didn’t share enough of its wealth. Gratitude was nowhere to be found near this man. He was a pathetic clod of misery.
I never said that to him because of his anger management issues. Unfortunately my companion didn’t share my perspective. One day, when he taunted us as we walked past the tienda where he sat drunk, my companion mouthed back to him. In response, he pulled out a pistol and threatened to shoot us.
My companion quickly bolted. I was set to follow, but something stopped me. A power I couldn’t see physically held me back, and I felt strongly impressed to walk, not run, away.
I complied. The man followed me, waving his pistol and commanding me in drunken slurs to return to my home country. At length, I turned my head and shouted, “Look at me. I am walking away. I’m going home.” He then stopped, turned around, and walked back towards the tienda. I never saw him again. And I’m very grateful for that!
The right focus
This man never seemed grateful for anything. He chose a constant focus on what he lacked and how unfair and unequal his situation was compared to others. Because your focus becomes your reality, he had a reality of lack, unfairness, and inequity. And that made him miserable.
In contrast, many of his countrymen chose to be generous rather than spiteful. They focused on sharing what they had rather than searching for ways to accumulate more for themselves. That focus led to a reality of abundance that inspired gratitude. And that made them happy.
Just as you can choose what you focus on, you can choose to be grateful for what you have. Focusing on what you lack leads to a reality of lack, and that reality makes it harder to choose gratitude. Focusing on what you have leads to a reality of abundance, and that reality makes it easier to choose gratitude.
You can be grateful and happy, or you can be ungrateful and unhappy. It all depends on the focus you choose. Make sure you choose wisely.
The right choice
It’s sometimes not enough to focus on what you have. You also need to avoid comparing yourself with others. Including any element of comparison in your focus invites a reality of competition making it harder to be grateful, especially when you don’t win.
Typically, we don’t win the comparisons we make with others. Those exercises often provide evidence for not believing in ourselves and our own potential. What’s to make us think we can accomplish anything great if we aren’t as good as somebody else? That line of questioning leads to a focus of lack, which in turn leads to a reality of lack, which in turn makes it harder to be grateful.
It all depends on what you choose. You can choose to be grateful when you choose to focus on the positive elements of your life. That will create a reality of positivity that will encourage gratitude. Choosing to be grateful then reinforces that focus on the positive, and the cycle repeats itself, leaving you in a much happier state. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I remembered what he said, but I also remembered what I felt. I felt that perhaps President Monson will not be with us much longer since he didn’t look that great. I felt the need to align my priorities more with foundational truths. I felt the need to try a little harder to be a little better.
As much as those feelings still apply today, reading President Monson’s words four months later brought to me a new feeling. I feel I’ve missed an important aspect of living one’s best life.
It’s part of the plan
Recently I’ve been addressing the theme of living your best life. It’s my only goal for 2017. I’ve recognized that living one’s best life is more about the journey than the destination. It’s about the constant struggle to improve, never settling for status quo — especially when that status quo is mediocrity.
I’ve even acknowledged the role the Lord plays in living your best life by continuing to embrace a longstanding theme of Joy in the Journey Radio. It makes perfect sense we can’t have our best life if we don’t partner with the Lord.
But President Monson’s words helped me realize I must do more than partner with the Lord and constantly seek to improve if I am to live my best life.
President Monson began his remarks by sharing an experience while on assignment at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. The Mormon Pavilion there at the fair showed the now classic Church film Man’s Search for Happiness. President Monson described his impressions of watching a group of attendees — and in particular a gentleman in his mid-30s — respond to the film. He then continued to speak about our Heavenly Father’s plan.
You can’t live your best life unless you live the truth you have.
How often I’ve begun my prayers by expressing gratitude for blessings (“Hallowed be thy name”) before rushing to detail all the help I needed in my life (“Give us this day our daily bread”). That pattern doesn’t match the Lord’s. It skips over an important element: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.”
As I recognized the pattern of prayer in the Savior’s teaching, I understood I had never prayed with the intent of putting the Lord first. The Lord had always been important, but I had never begun my prayer with “Thy kingdom come.” I had always jumped to “Give us this day our daily bread.”
I determined to align the pattern of my prayers more fully with the Lord’s teachings. As I put the Lord first by discussing my participation in His work before bringing to Him anything about His participation in my life, I began to feel closer to Him. I began to feel more like He really was a partner for my life.
Living the truth I had brought me closer to my best life.
Christ is the key
Partnering with the Lord to live our best life is our Heavenly Father’s plan for us in mortality. Christ was never intended to be with us only in those pivotal moments of our journey home. Rather the plan is for Him to be with us for each and every step of that journey.
You can’t have your best life without Christ. That’s because, in order to live your best life, you need to live the truth you have. And it’s by partnering with the Lord for His work as well as for your life that you fully live the truth you have about our Heavenly Father’s plan for all His children.
President Monson declared,
Living the truth — not just having it — and partnering with the Lord for His work — not just for your life — is what the Lord wants for all of us. When you live the truth you have, you can better live your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s no surprise I’m addressing gratitude. Last Thanksgiving I promoted gratitude as a lifestyle, a way of being that defines who we are. I was all set to dive further into that concept.
But today I feel prompted to move in a slightly different direction. Maybe it’s something I need or (more probably) something someone else needs.
Gratitude is about appreciating what we have, but far too often we LDS singles, influenced by the family-centered culture of the Church, look to escape the singles life we have. It’s hard to appreciate what you have when you’re always looking to run from it.
That means if we LDS singles are going to embrace gratitude as a lifestyle and not just an attitude, we need to be grateful to be single.
You can see it
I can understand singles balking at that prospect, especially if they view singles life as undesirable. And often they’re justified. Who wants to go through life with loneliness, the pain of relationships that were either broken or never took place, and the constant feeling you don’t quite belong at church? No one in their right mind would want any of that.
But gratitude doesn’t mean you stop wanting a better situation for yourself. It means you recognize and cherish the good about your situation. And you can do that regardless of your circumstances.
No matter how bad you may have it, you’ll always have something good in every situation you encounter in life. That’s the design behind mortality.
We often focus on this mortal life as a test with challenges to conquer and assume those challenges are mostly negative. But when we focus too much on overcoming the negative we can miss seeing the positive right there in front of us.
Part of the test in mortality is to distinguish between the bitter and the sweet, the good and the bad. That means we need to be presented with the sweet and the good in order to learn that lesson. In His tender mercy to all of us, the Lord gives us good in every single day.
That’s something to be grateful for.
You can choose it
Because there’s good in every day of every life regardless of one’s circumstances, and we have the glorious gift of agency, we can choose to be grateful for that good. True gratitude doesn’t depend on your circumstances. That’s because it’s a way of being.
Your focus determines your reality. If you look for goodness in every situation, the opportunity in every obstacle, and the tender mercies around you everywhere, then goodness, opportunity, and tender mercies will fill your reality.
If, on the other hand, you constantly see the bad in every situation, the obstacle before you as only an obstacle, and an absence of God’s love even though it’s right there in front of you every single day, then all the negative elements you choose to see will comprise your reality. We choose our reality when we choose our focus.
You can be it
When who we are naturally chooses that better reality, we’ve positioned ourselves to feel gratitude in every circumstance simply because that’s who we are. But if you’re not that way yet, you may be asking, “What’s so good about being single that we should be grateful?”
Speaking for myself, I can come and go as I please. I don’t need to ask for “permission” or tell someone else what I’m doing. There’s been many a weekend when I just got in my car and left.
It’s easier for me to change my life. I just decide what I want and then do it. My married friends need to reach an agreement with their spouse. That’s not always easily won. Changing the course of your ship is easier when that ship is small.
It’s also easier for me to build my career. Not having someone waiting for me at home means I can spend whatever extra time I need at work whenever I want. That’ll put me in a better position for supporting that family when they are there in my home.
If you’re a single parent with kids, none of that probably applies to you. But then you have something I don’t — the constant reminder of God’s love embodied in each and every one of your children.
By no means is my list comprehensive or applicable to all singles, but that’s the point. Gratitude is highly personal, so your combination of elements comprising your gratitude will differ from mine.
What elements comprise your gratitude? When you embrace those positive aspects of your singles life, you’ll feel much better about yourself, your world, and your future. And you’ll have 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.
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.
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