When life seems to go bat nut crazy, you can easily get caught up in the craziness, because it’s easy to accept the reality we’re presented. With that acceptance comes stress. You wonder how the future could ever possibly be bright.
But the truth remains: Your focus determines your reality. When you focus on crazy, you get crazy. But when you include more of what’s around you in your focus, the craziness occupies a lower proportion of the whole, thereby diminishing your stress from the craziness. And the best way to get that expanded focus is to step outside yourself.
Feel the wonder of nature
I’m reminded of an old Native American question: “Who can own the land?” In their world view, people don’t own land. Rather, the Creator provides the land for all.
That perspective draws me out of myself to see the world as a place God created so His purposes for me and all my spirit brothers and sisters could be fulfilled. That view helps me to experience more fully the wonder of the world around me. And having lived across the United States, I’ve seen many marvelous wonders of natural landscape.
I can’t help but be biased towards mountains. Mountains breathe strength and determination into me. They seem like a natural representation for closeness to God. That said, I’ve felt a certain calm watching the tide roll in the shore of a lake or the edge of the ocean. I’ve marveled at the way sunlight bends around the curves of rolling prairies. Even the desert has a beauty all its own.
Only when I step outside myself do I experience the full wonder the natural world offers. Only when I step outside myself do I feel full gratitude to God for creating such a beautiful world for me to live in.
See more as God sees
That perspective of God’s creation invites me to see more as He sees. When I see the world as His creation to fulfill His eternal purposes for me, I naturally recall God did likewise for all His children. God has a plan, and He is in control.
And that plan hasn’t changed. It’s the same plan He’s had all along, the one presented in the council in heaven, the one Satan rejected, the one our Savior supported, the one calling for all of us to experience mortality in this world and with it the opportunity to grow in the eternities into something more than we could ever become otherwise.
Likewise, God retains the same control today He’s always had. He was in control when the same plan He’s always had was presented in heaven. He was in control when He created this world and the rest of the universe. He’s been in control throughout human history. And He retains that same control today.
Live by faith with intention
None of this is to say the challenges the craziness around us presents aren’t real. I’m not advocating we fix rose-colored glasses on our faces. God’s continual control doesn’t mean life won’t ever get difficult. But His control does mean He’ll guide us through troubled times and strengthen us to persevere through difficult days. And we best hear His voice and receive His strength on the covenant path.
So the question then is this: What path will you choose? Will it be the covenant path? Or will you take a different path? The path to happiness is found in living by faith with intention to give your all to all the right things for you. Those right things include making and keeping sacred covenants with God. They also include embracing a personal ministry to share your light with the world around you.
When you step outside yourself, you can more clearly see beyond the challenges current circumstances present. You can feel the wonders in the world around you. You can see your current place in your life more as God sees it. You can live by faith He’ll guide you away from dangers. You can feel His strength as you pursue a life of contribution with intention. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many singles hold to that assumption under the guise of having standards. They seem to see themselves acting nobly in a chaotic dating world by adhering to their standard that insists on only the best. But such standards actually impede progress in one’s dating journey. So if you insist on believing you’ll be happy only with the most attractive companion, then you’re letting your standards keep you single.
How does one progress in dating? As I discuss in my upcoming book about dating, to progress to each next stage of the journey, you must make an agreement. No agreement means no progress. Period.
In the first stage of the dating journey, you meet new people and build friendships. In the next stage, you casually date candidates you’ve befriended. These activities require openness to social interactions. Otherwise, you’ll likely never get the agreement you need to progress from friendship to casual dating and on to exclusive dating.
But assuming you can be happy in life only if your partner is the “best” or most attractive type limits those interactions. That faulty assumption will encourage you to engage only with those who meet your standards, because what’s the point, after all, in “wasting your time” with people who simply won’t do romantically because they aren’t the “best”?
Mathematically, it just isn’t possible for everyone to have the “best.” Yet many singles cling tenaciously to the hope they’ll be one of the few to score just such a life partner. After all, no one wants to accept an unhappy and unfulfilled life.
But happiness in marriage doesn’t come from what each partner has. Happiness in marriage comes from what each partner gives to each other. And what you give is a choice.
If your partner has to be the “best” or most attractive sort for you to be happy, then God must have really messed up His plan. Check out these words from then Elder Gordon B Hinckley.
How can God’s plan provide happiness for all His children if 90% of people aren’t the “best” but just ordinary? Mathematically, 90% of singles can’t each have monogamous marriage with someone from the top 10%. At least 80% of singles will be left unhappy if only the “best” makes a happy life. Because God wants all his children to be happy, clearly happiness must be available without having the most attractive partner.
And happiness is available to those couples who place honoring sacred covenants above personal desires by giving themselves fully to each other. Your companion doesn’t need to be the “best” or most attractive for you to give all of yourself to that person. Granted, it’s more easy to do the more attractive your companion is, but it’s not essential for happiness.
The resistance many feel when confronted with such a choice is the natural man or natural woman in each of us. The natural man and woman value self-gratification more than making and keeping sacred covenants. Covenant men and women obviously reverse that value system.
I’m not saying we’re interchangeable parts. You shouldn’t marry just anybody, and having standards does help with decision making. Far too many LDS singles, however, insist on standards around what really isn’t essential for lasting happiness. Elder Gerrit W Gong has taught,
Regardless of how you justify it, when you insist on having only the most attractive type of companion, your standards keep you single. Lowering those standards to accept more candidates into your dating pool doesn’t mean sacrificing happiness. Rather, it increases your chances of obtaining it. So reject the natural man and woman, open yourself to possibility, and you may find the blessings you’ve been seeking have been right in front of you all along. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
They’ll also need an experience to move them in that direction. Think Ebenezer Scrooge here. He was all business and no fun. But it wasn’t just Christmas Day that turned him around, because he constantly turned his heart away from the joy that day could bring with his oft repeated “Humbug!” It was the experiences with the spirit of his former business partner followed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future that turned him around.
And one of the first things he did after resolving to keep Christmas always in his heart was to laugh.
There’s a lesson there for all of us. Laughter isn’t just an option in life but essential to true enjoyment in life. You need to laugh to live — really live and relish life. You need to laugh because your life really does depend on it.
Built to laugh
That may seem extreme to some, almost as extreme as being all business and no fun. Yet some thought upon the subject will lead to the inescapable conclusion your life really does depend on laughter.
After all, what is your life? If you define life in terms of a mediocre existence, then you might make the case that your life doesn’t depend on laughter.
But is that the life you really want? Do you really want to live on autopilot, just going through the same motions over and over, day after day? Don’t you want a life you can savor and truly relish?
Of course you do. You keep feeling the tug of that dream because you’re biologically hardwired to live it. We are built to be social creatures, and laughter connects us with other people. It’s also a natural stress reliever. Certainly your best life will enable you to manage the stress everyone encounters in life.
Taken in moderation
Of course, anything taken to excess is usually detrimental. Laughter is no exception. Taken too far, we can forget ourselves. I’ve seen social environments get so jovial people say and do things they otherwise wouldn’t.
Moderation is the key. Taken in moderation, laughter can spread joy, hope, and positive energy. It says we don’t have to choose between business and fun; we can have both. We can attend to our responsibilities, make serious progress towards our dreams and goals, and enjoy ourselves along the way.
Part of that result comes from incorporating that enjoyment into what we do. Appropriately placed, laughter can both promote and manifest that enjoyment. But I believe another part lies in setting aside time with the purpose of experiencing laughter in our lives.
Devoted with a day
That’s what’s really great about Belly Laugh Day. It’s a day devoted to laughter. And it’s perfectly placed in the middle of winter when skies overhead in many areas are typically gray and gloomy. That is, in fact, what inspired the creation of the holiday to begin with.
Whether or not you know about it, and regardless of how you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) it, Belly Laugh Day provides an excursion into laughter. You may be an Ebenezer Scrooge who is all business and no fun, or you maybe you’re stressed under so many demands at present you feel more like crying than laughing. Either way, celebrating Belly Laugh Day can teach and remind us we need to laugh to live. Your life really does depend on it.
How will you incorporate more laughter into your life? Will you read a funny book? Or watch a funny movie? Maybe you’ll join the audience for a stand-up comic. However you take your elixir, a little laughter can lighten your load. 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.
Fortify it all
That statement, of course, begs the question: What are those right things? They’re the same right things I’ve used before to define happiness — giving your all to all the right things for you. That’s more than just keeping the standards. That means everything that’s right for you.
Of course, we need to build a fortress that provides spiritual safety. Any other victory in life would be hollow with spiritual vulnerability. It won’t matter in the end what else we’ve chosen if we haven’t chosen Christ.
That said, we need fortification for all other areas of life. What are we doing to fortify our most important relationships? What fortifications are we building to protect our minds? And how are we fortifying our physical bodies, our personal finances, and our careers?
Elder Rasband declared,
Do you think Satan highlights our disappointments only when those disappointments are spiritual? You’re awfully naive if you do.
Get the spiritual first
The key to fortifying every aspect of our lives lies with first fortifying the spiritual. As Elder Rasband taught, “For our safety, we must build a fortress of spirituality and protection for our very souls, a fortress that will not be penetrated by the evil one.” Once we have the spiritual fortifications in place, every other fortification can and will follow.
Partnering with the Lord is essential in constructing that bulwark. We’ve all heard the Prophet teach we won’t spiritually survive the coming days if we can’t receive revelation. Elder Rasband referenced that teaching in his own remarks. The Lord can show us what next steps we need to take.
Elder Rasband continued,
That’s a key concept — building faith in the Lord on the inside so you can build your fortress for protection on the outside.
Get good with you
All of this depends on you getting good with you. When you combine personal righteousness with clarity of identity and purpose, you attune yourself to the celestial frequency of revelation. Without that clarity, excessive internal static will override the revelatory signal you need to receive.
Once you get good with you, everything else will follow. You’ll know better how to protect your most important relationships. You’ll know better the messages you need to feed your mind. And you’ll know better how to protect your job, your finances, and your health. In the very least, partnering with the Lord can lead you to a resource you need to find answers.
For every part of your life, build your fortress. Partner with the Lord, get good with you, and get the revelation you need to prepare for what is to come. You’ll feel the peace and security that can come in no other way. And that will bring you more joy in your 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.
I remember as a missionary reciting D&C 4 every day. I recited it so often I could do it in my sleep. Now, after being home more than two decades, I’d need a little prompting to get through it, especially verse 6.
Notwithstanding, I’ve always been impressed with the idea embodied in verse 3: “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3). Think of that. Desire is the only requirement to serve. We don’t need any special talent or skill, or look a certain way, or come from a particular part of town. We just need the desire to serve.
Over the past year, the Church has emphasized ministering to one another. We’ve each been called to serve in a higher and holier way, but we’ve always been called to refine our devotion to God through service to our neighbors. And all we need is the desire to serve.
Lately the program has touched on the need for LDS singles to adopt a personal ministry. All that requires is the desire to serve. And we all have some cause we can serve, because we’ve all been called to care.
Choose to serve
Why do singles adopt the personal ministry they do? I mean, no one’s forcing them to adopt anything. I’ve just been encouraging it since 2016 because I want to help LDS singles everywhere live happier, more joyful lives.
And that’s just it. Joy in the Journey Radio is my personal ministry. I embraced it as such because I wanted to. And so has every LDS single who’s adopted a personal ministry. They adopt their personal ministry because they want to.
That desire to serve propels any meaningful effort. And that’s an essential ingredient for happiness. Happiness is giving your all to the right things for you. When you give your all to the personal ministry that’s right for you, you can’t help but be filled with happiness.
Choose to be happy
That means happiness is a choice. We choose to be happy irrespective of our circumstances. If that sounds impossible or just plain wrong to you, please open your mind while you walk with me a bit.
Happiness comes from giving your all to the right things for you. A personal ministry is one of those right things. All you need to embrace a personal ministry is the desire to serve in that way. That’s a choice. And because you choose to want what in the end brings happiness, happiness must itself be a choice.
Now, just going through the motions won’t bring happiness. Life on autopilot can never bring happiness. Only when we give our all to what’s right for us will we find the happiness we crave.
It’s that choice to give your all to the right end you choose that unlocks the happiness encapsulated in every moment of living. And you can choose that regardless of your circumstances.
Embrace the simple solution
We sometimes speak of choices as belabored events lasting stretches of time, but the actual choice takes less than a second to occur. Why then wait to be happy?
The choice to adopt a personal ministry takes less than a second. The choice to give your all to the right thing in front of you right now takes less than a second. The choice to be happy takes a less than a second. Why then don’t more of us just turn it all on?
Pride masquerading as disbelief often obstructs our way. We don’t believe it could be that simple. We want to believe it’s more complicated because that would explain why we didn’t see it before. We don’t want to appear to be idiots.
But we aren’t the first to travel that road. The Old Testament tells of a servant who wisely advised his unbelieving master, the captain of the Syrian army, to put away his pride and follow the simple instructions of the prophet: “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:13) That captain washed and was cleansed. Likewise, we should not discount the solution before us because of its simplicity.
In fact, the beauty is in the simplicity. When you truly believe it can be that simple, when you feel God’s love inviting you to make that choice, and when you do what that requires — choose to give your all to all the right things for you — then you’ll find all the happiness that God has wanted you to have all along. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It’s natural to think life would be better if only we had something we don’t now have. We think, I'll be happy when ______ . You can fill in the blank.
And many do. Some think they’ll be happy when they get a new job or a new house. Some marrieds fill that blank with a new baby. Many singles fill that blank with getting married.
These thoughts are natural, and that’s why they ultimately don’t lead to happiness. Happiness never comes from following the inclinations of the natural man or woman. Those inclinations turn your focus inward on yourself.
But true happiness requires you to turn your focus outward on others and contributing to make their lives better. The more of yourself you give in that endeavor, the happier you become. And because you can always contribute to others in some way, you don’t have to wait for happiness.
Avoid the “happiness” trap
Often we place too many conditions on our happiness. By thinking we can’t be happy unless we possess something — be it some material object, social status, or notable achievement — we equate happiness with possessing that something.
And that’s the first part of the trap. As long as you don’t possess whatever that something is, you’ll be unhappy. And because true happiness comes from what you give rather than possess, fulfillment will always elude you.
The second part of the trap comes by thinking you must possess your something because your life plan says it’s “right.” After all, how can you be happy when your life isn’t what you want it to be?
Many singles get caught in this second part of the trap. Thinking you need to have that special someone to be happy is self-defeating. If you’re not happy now, you’re not likely to attract that special someone. People generally don’t want to spend ten minutes let alone their entire life with negative emotions like unhappiness.
Not getting what you think you need to be happy then just feeds the cycle to continue. And releasing your wanting will be hard so long as your life plan tells you it’s “right” to keep wanting it, further reinforcing the cycle.
Find your freedom
But you don’t have to be trapped. You can free yourself by changing your thinking. Quit waiting for some condition to be met. Start understanding the true source of happiness, and start making more effective choices.
Happiness comes from giving your all to the right things. Long-time audience members know the right things are more than just keeping the standards. Of course those standards are right for everyone. But the right things also include your unique contribution to improve the lives of others.
And you can’t just do your right things and expect to be happy. It's what you bring to what you do while doing the right things that produces happiness. It’s how much of yourself you give willingly to doing your right things.
If just doing the right thing would make you happy, everyone at church would be just peachy. After all, church attendance is a right thing. But you can’t just go through the motions to become happy. You must give your all to the right things. That’s why those who contribute while attending church are always happy. They’re giving their all to their right things.
Likewise, simply acting out your part during the marriage ceremony won’t make you happy, however "right" that marriage may be. What will make you happy is bringing your all to that union. Happiness comes from giving your all to the things that are right for you.
Be happy now
Here’s the best part about this definition of happiness. You don’t need to wait to be happy. In His tender mercies, the Lord has placed within your reach the things that are right for you now. You can choose to change your thinking so that you can see your right things all around you. And you can choose to give your all in embracing those right things.
When it comes to being happy, you don’t need to wait. You don’t need a change in your situation. You need a change in your thinking and then you just need to choose to be happy.
Don’t sacrifice the joy of today by focusing on a future that always seems elusive. Focus instead on the contribution you can make today. You can be happy now if you align your thinking and your actions with the true source of happiness. When you give your all to contribute to others in the way that’s right for you, you’ll feel that happiness come into your own life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
This has been called the age of the knowledge worker. The great heroes of the age are all intellectual giants. We elevate those with superior intellect to the top of the mountain and then stand at the base looking up in awe and admiration.
That's why I know it sounds amazing. How can we be hardwired not to think? Well, for most of what we do, automation just makes sense.
Have you ever had to use your brain all day? Remember how your head ached? Why would your brain hurt if it was doing what it’s designed to do? It wouldn’t. Your head aches because it spent too much time operating outside its intended design.
Understanding how you’re designed to work can help you live your best life more easily, avoiding the frustration that attends life. It all starts by understanding that you’re hardwired not to think.
Life on autopilot
Imagine what life would be like if you had to think about every breath you took in order to breathe. You wouldn't have time for anything else. So yes, automation has its benefits.
But automation also has its detriments. Automating means doing that for everything. We’re designed to operate out of a set of instructions. And that set of instructions is habit.
Because most of what we do is automated and the instructions for that automation are our habits, we act out of habit for most of what we do. And here’s the kicker: That means we do what we do without really thinking about it.
Notice our design is just to follow instructions. There’s no evaluation of the instructions in the operational design. We’re hardwired to follow a set of instructions, not pick and choose which instructions to follow.
This scenario sets the stage for much frustration in life. We’ll follow the instructions in habit regardless of the effect those instructions have upon us. Thus, many go through life experiencing failure after failure when they’re simply acting out of less effective instructions encoded in their habits. Those who aren’t self aware enough to realize what’s happening will just keep doing what they do without thinking about it.
In many ways, we really are our own worst obstacle.
Life by intention
But it doesn't have to be that way. The same process that produces a negative effect can produce a positive one. You just need to replace the less effective instruction with more effective instruction. You need to adopt a better habit.
This is more than just quitting a bad habit. When all you do is quit a habit, your brain (hardwired to have a habit) goes looking for one. And the default selection is always the last habit you had. So to get rid of a less effective habit completely, you must replace it with a more effective one.
To do that, live life intentionally. Consciously choose what you do. To go where you want to go, you must steer the ship of your life. You must consciously choose your direction. You must live with intention.
I know that sounds simplistic, but so many of us don't do that. Again, we’re hardwired not to think. That means our default selection is to follow a habit rather than make conscious choices. Many who just “go with the flow” find their lives unsatisfying. But what they’re really dissatisfied with are their habits.
Life with joy
What does all this have to do with LDS singles life? Everything! Many LDS singles dissatisfied with their lives don't realize they’re really dissatisfied with their habits. They keep looking outside themselves for why they're single, when the answer they seek is really inside them.
You don't have the results you want when you don’t do what you need to do. Instead of blaming others when your life isn’t what you want, own your life and blame yourself. Take ownership of your choices and the role they played in leading you to the life you have now. Examine your habits and replace less effective instructions with more effective instructions. In short, reformat and reboot yourself.
When you own your life and take charge of your choices, you position yourself for success. You can consciously eliminate the less effective habits you follow without thinking — habits that keep you from the success you want — and replace them with more effective habits that will deliver the results you desire.
It's not an overnight ordeal, but if you consistently stay at it, you can start seeing changes in your life. You can see yourself moving towards the blessings you desire. When you give your all to that process of continuously trying to incorporate into your life what’s right for you, you'll find happiness. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Have you ever wondered why God’s plan is called the plan of happiness when so many LDS singles just aren’t happy? Some would say that’s because they’re single. After all (goes the reasoning), you need to be married to follow the plan.
Some might cry, “But that’s not my fault! I’m keeping the standards!” To these singles, adherents of the you-have-to-be-married perspective usually respond, “Sorry, but that’s not the plan. In order to be happy, you need to be married and raise a family.”
These answers fail to satisfy many LDS singles. They easily despair many who never married at ever feeling accepted with their subculture. The divorced can encounter a discouragement of their own. Once “accepted,” now they find themselves “unaccepted” because now they aren’t following “the plan” anymore. And they aren’t alone; the widowed can experience their own identity crisis.
But plenty of unhappy married people live in this world, proving marriage alone won’t make you happy. Is following the plan of happiness really the only way to be happy?
Follow the right plan
First, we need to clarify what plan we’re talking about. Within LDS subculture, some things exist because they’re essential parts of the gospel, and others exist because they’re cultural traditions that bear some relation to the gospel but aren’t essential parts of it. That means there’s more then one “plan.”
We all know the plan our subculture hands us. After high school, you serve a mission, go to college, get a job, and somewhere in that mix get married. Plenty of people who follow this plan are happy, but not every follower of this plan is.
If you’re one of these unhappy individuals, you can easily think you need to follow the plan to be happy. But are you even following the right plan?
Yes, God wants you to serve a mission if that’s right for you. But missions aren’t for everyone. And college isn’t right for everyone either. You might do better going to a trade school or learning skills in the School of Hard Knocks.
You can follow this line of thinking for the remainder of the life plan our LDS subculture provides. Many of the milestones in this plan aren’t essential to the gospel. Rather, they exist because our traditions have made them essential to our culture.
What about marriage and family life? Marriage and family help us to grow in ways we can’t otherwise. They help us become what we otherwise couldn’t. That’s at least partly why marriage and family are part of God’s plan of happiness. How could we be truly happy if we couldn’t reach our potential?
And generally, you should encounter these milestones when you’re young. But the exact timing will be different for everyone. God’s plan of happiness is not that we check set items off a list as soon as possible. God’s plan of happiness is that we do what’s right for us when it’s right for us.
That truth reveals the nature of happiness itself. Happiness — not the emotion or feeling but the state of being — comes from giving your all to what’s right for you. Timing contributes greatly to what’s right; nothing can be truly right when the time isn’t.
Because not everything is right for everyone at the same time, God’s plan of happiness is in actuality individualized. It contains some general features that apply to all. But the details depend greatly on the individual.
Partner with the Lord
That’s why you need to counsel with the Lord to know if you’re following God’s plan of happiness. And only you and those with stewardship over you can know that. Only by revelation can you or anyone else know what’s truly right for you.
You can’t be happy without that revelation. How can you give your all to what’s right for you unless you first know what’s right for you? And how can you know what’s right for you except it’s revealed to you? And how can you get that revelation unless it falls within the bounds of your stewardship? That’s why you need that revelation about what’s right for you and why only you and those with stewardship over you can know what’s right for you.
You can be happy without following the life plan our LDS culture provides. But you can’t be happy without following God’s plan of happiness for you. Correctly understood, it’s the only way you can be happy.
When you partner with the Lord, you can know what’s right for you. When you know what’s right for you, you can give your all to those right things. And when you do that, you will be truly happy. 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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