But there’s another perspective of propriety. LDS singles can hold bitterness in their hearts towards someone they fault for their singleness. Never married singles can begrudge dating relationships that never worked out or simply never happened. Divorced singles can blame a former spouse. Widowed singles can embitter themselves towards whatever caused their spouse to die. Yet regardless of the cause, embittered singles can have beauty for ashes when they embrace the Savior and forgive.
It begins with awareness
Perhaps Sister Yee’s address spoke to me because I have my own need to forgive. My stake does absolutely nothing for singles. My leaders have responded to my pleadings by calling a stake rep who does absolutely nothing. They seem tolerant of a status quo in which sorely needed blessings are not received.
Naturally, what results inside me is a roller coaster ride, and I’m not talking about my pancreatitis (although I could be)! I know I shouldn’t hold a grudge, and so I want to resist the conclusion that my leaders simply don’t care. At the same time, I struggle to see any evidence that they do care. I’m left resisting a bitterness launching itself at my door, eager to enter, and I’m tiring.
In that context, Sister Yee’s recounting of the Old Testament story of Abigail seems apropos.
I like that phrase — “the weight of a warring heart.” It’s so poetic and yet so profound.
It happens with belief
If awareness is the first step towards forgiveness, the second must surely be belief. You must believe it’s possible for you to forgive before you’ll ever attempt it. If you truly believed it would never happen, you wouldn’t even try.
This is where many who need to forgive stop. They somehow link forgiveness with the other person, the object of their bitterness and hurt, rationalizing that since said person will never comply with whatever their judgment demands, forgiveness simply isn’t possible. That link becomes especially strong when that other person offended egregiously.
But forgiveness isn’t about the other person; it’s about you. It’s about stopping the canker of bitterness from blinding your vision and consuming your heart. It’s about healing the cancer that would steal your soul. Holding a grudge never punishes the other person; it punishes only you.
That’s why I found Sister Yee’s personal testimony about forgiveness so moving. Her experiences encourage belief that forgiveness is possible, even when the hurt cuts very deep.
Her confession that she “still has work to do” makes relating to her experience much easier for me. And her hope for herself give me hope for myself.
It continues with choice
Yet the part of Sister Yee’s address I appreciate the most appears towards the end, where she reminds us of the importance of timing and adapting that timing to the individual. Not everyone heals at the same rate, and so we should be tolerant as others pursue their path of coming to Christ in their own way.
That admonition to avoid judgments of timing is best applied within yourself. Extend kindness to yourself and allow your heart to take the time it needs to open to the Savior and experience the miracle of forgiveness. That kindness you extend to yourself by not insisting on a particular timetable promotes the healing you need. As Sister Yee testifies,
That last part is, I think, the key part of the journey of transformation the Savior promises. Unless you give to others what you have been denied, you’ll never be fully healed. Many LDS singles have been given ashes in their lives, but to receive beauty for your ashes, you must give beauty to others, for you always get what you give.
So release the weight of your warring heart, believe forgiveness is possible, be kind with yourself, and give to others what you’ve been denied. When you do, you will find beauty from the ashes of your life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
What impressed me about Sister Porter’s approach was her use of singles to exemplify her ultimate message of the valuable contribution LDS singles can make in their world. It’s a message we’ve been promulgating here at Joy in the Journey Radio by encouraging LDS singles to adopt a personal ministry. We all can powerfully influence those around us for good, and we’ll make that difference in others’ lives when we heed the lessons at the well.
You determine your future
I love the introduction Sister Porter gives to her remarks. She was happily married and serving with her husband in the Church in Eastern Europe. Then her husband’s health took a turn for the worse, and in short order she found herself single.
I don’t know if she actually thought of herself as single. She didn’t mention that in her address, and I know many who’ve lost a spouse to death still consider themselves married by virtue of their temple covenants. If your spouse is not in this life living with you, you may be married for the purposes of eternity, but for the purposes of this life, you’re single.
You also have a wonderful opportunity to effect much good. It starts when you realize your past and present circumstances don’t determine your future. In referencing her unexpected return to singlehood, Sister Porter shared,
The woman at Jacob’s well exemplified this attitude, which applies just as much to men as it does to women. She did not allow her past or present condition to determine her future. She chose to testify of the Savior, and her choice blessed many others.
You have the power
Likewise, LDS singles can chose to embrace a new future by making the higher choice. Too often LDS singles play the victim, thinking that their past is prologue and nothing they do will make any difference.
But that’s true for you only if you decide it is. You’ve been blessed with agency, the second most underappreciated gift of God. And it’s the second most underappreciated gift of God because so many simply don’t realize the power that’s in them because of this gift.
Sister Porter recognized it. After quoting D&C 58:26-28 and emphasizing that last phrase in the verses — “for the power is in them” — she declared,
You’re not in this alone! No matter your past or present circumstances, you can choose to let your light shine, share your goodness with others, and put a dent in the universe. With the creator of heaven and earth at your side, why choose anything else?
You make the difference
This is how great ends come out of small beginnings. The Lord is the Master Gardener, the one best suited to help you grow into the fullness of your potential. He can transform the seemingly meager contributions you make into extraordinary differences.
Sister Porter shared three examples from the Master’s teachings that demonstrate this effect, one involving salt, one involving leaven, and one involving light. Each of these items in even seemingly small amounts makes a tremendous difference in their separate contexts.
Likewise, though your efforts may seem small and inconsequential, you can make a tremendous difference in your world. Your salt can flavor the lives of others, your leaven can lighten their loads, and your light can disperse the darkness surrounding them. As Sister Porter taught,
Heed the lessons at the well and make the higher choice. When you do, the Savior can turn your seemingly small service into the difference others need in their lives. In easing the burdens of others, you’ll find your own burdens eased. In helping others grow, you’ll find your own growth. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Sister Newbold acknowledges a common singles attitude: Identifying yourself by what you don’t have. When you do that, you’ll live in a space where you’re deficient. Sister Newbold’s response is an effective one: Live in a space where you see yourself as you’ll be, because that’s how God sees you. By living “as though” God’s promises are fulfilled, you can be joyful now.
Understand the challenge
Sister Newbold recognizes the difficulty of reconciling as yet unfulfilled promises with the reality of LDS singles life. Her answer is to live “as though” those promises have been fulfilled, though she admits that’s challenging. She writes, “Given that God is a God of promises, it becomes hard at times for me to reconcile why certain promises have not yet been fulfilled in my life.”
I’m sure many singles can relate. I myself felt that challenge a few months ago. In the midst of my most challenging semester of school ever, questions about my patriarchal blessing began to feel more demanding. And given my age, I began to wonder how my promised blessings will ever come to me.
Sure, it’s easy to say, “Well, sometimes patriarchal blessings get fulfilled in eternity.” But that doesn’t apply to the married life the Lord promised me. Very clear and unambiguous language speaks of my temple marriage in this life and actions my children and posterity will take in this life. These and other blessings are promised to me in this life, not the next.
Given I’m in my late 40s and not getting any younger, questions of how those promises would be fulfilled troubled me. At the time, I really struggled with those questions. Now I simply feel a quiet confidence somehow it’ll all happen.
Consider three solutions
Sister Newbold’s answer to that challenge, as mentioned earlier, is to live “as though” promised blessings have arrived. How do we do that? Sister Newbold shares three suggestions.
First, she suggests considering a variety of promises. LDS singles tend to fixate on the marriage they by definition don’t have right now. That focus blinds them from seeing other promised blessings they already have, many of which they take for granted. Recognizing these less appreciated but bountiful blessings invites gratitude and trust God will keep all His promises.
Second, she suggests recognizing God’s hand in our lives. Many in today’s world focus on what they lack, and as long-time audience members will tell you, your focus becomes your reality. Focusing on lack creates a reality of scarcity, which inhibits the ability to feel joy. But focusing on what you have creates a reality of abundance. I really like how Sister Newbold extends that idea to the sacrament.
Third, Sister Newbold suggests helping the Lord keep His promises to others through Spirit-directed service. When you follow the Spirit’s promptings to help others, you can help answer their prayers. You can find joy in being the Lord’s hands.
Trust in Him
Honestly, I appreciate a perspective centered on our focus rather than the traditional and highly unhelpful ”Just hold faithful, and everything will be right in the next life.” Additionally, Sister Newbold readily admits that “trusting in His promises is not always an easy choice.”
She also says “living ‘as though’ will look different for everyone.” I suspect that’s only true in the particulars. I could summarize what that looks like for her as making and keeping as many covenants as she can, in essence living all of the gospel she can. I think that would describe living “as though” for any LDS single.
God will keep every promise made to every one of us. He has thousands of years of experience doing just that for the generations that came before us. And the Spirit can remind us of moments when He’s kept promises in our own lives. So we can trust He’ll keep every as yet unfulfilled promise. When we live“as though” by walking with faith He’ll do just that, we can be instruments in fulfilling His purposes, all the while experiencing the quiet confidence that somehow it’ll all happen for us. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
That vote of no confidence really punched me in the gut. Initially I was in a daze, uncertain of my path forward. But as time lifted that fog, I began to gain some clarity and regain some perspective. If you feel that way, know that all is not lost. There’s always hope because there’s always Christ. That hope says you can change for the better. And you can keep that optimism when you treat every day like it’s your birthday.
Live like a kid
At my age, birthdays just don’t seem as special to me as they did when I was a kid. I’ve been there, done that, got the shirt and the hat, plus I chair the membership committee. (Would you like to join? We have jackets!)
And that’s part of the problem. Something about becoming an adult sacrifices that childhood perspective of optimism and possibility on the altar of pessimistic reality. We’re more prone to point out barriers to justify why we won’t or can’t achieve than to believe that achievement is possible and look for a way to overcome the obstacle.
We also lose the joy of childhood. The adult perspective is so often serious. Kids naturally approach their day looking for fun. They don’t worry much beyond the present; they live in the moment. Certainly there are times when we need to buckle down and do some serious work. But we could all benefit from introducing an element of fun into what we do and living in the moment.
That’s what birthdays are all about for kids. They get absorbed in enjoying the moment. If we lived life like a kid, maybe some of our obstacles would disappear because our overly serious perspective that created them would be gone.
Treat each day special
Treating every day like it’s your birthday also recognizes the special gift each day really is. Too often we go through our days playing out habits that carry us from one moment to the next. And that lull of life lacks the joy each day can and does bring.
That’s why a life on autopilot will never lead you to your best life. There’s nothing to savor in simply going through the motions. Very often, we go through those motions without any awareness of what we’re doing. That’s how we’re biologically hardwired to operate.
Treating every day like it’s your birthday breaks you out of that mold. Because it’s not something you normally do, it doesn’t conform to routine or habit, which takes what you do out of the shadows and into the light of awareness. Being fully aware of what you’re doing does two things: (1) It opens you to the joy to be found in each moment of living, and (2) it increases your sensitivity to possibilities, allowing for creativity in finding solutions to overcome obstacles.
Overcome your current challenges
Applying these ideas to my current challenge, I can see a path ahead. I need to find someone knowledgeable I can trust to give me objective counsel and help me construct a plan going forward. And strangely I feel excited about that.
Treating today like it’s my birthday brought me there. I’m looking for the joy instead of wallowing in the mire of misery. I’m embracing optimism in a brighter future that I can forge. I’m opening myself to the hope that always is because Christ always is. I’m tempering the responsibilities of adulthood with the perspectives of childhood.
So treat every day like it’s your birthday. You’ll invite yourself to open more to possibility. You’ll do more to take care of yourself. You’ll experience more creativity as you embrace more optimism. And you’ll live your life more hopeful of the future that has you living your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Yet whatever the cause or extent of injustice, there’s hope. Though not speaking directly to singles, Elder Renlund taught the best way for singles to confront the injustice in their lives — find peace in Christ. He knows our wounds from infuriating unfairness and can heal our hurt. When we embrace the Prince of Peace, we can have faith He’ll right every single wrong.
The peace we seek in a world of infuriating injustice begins inside. Once we get good with ourselves on the inside, we can then turn to help others on the outside. And in helping others become better, we ourselves become better.
That process can’t begin anywhere but on the inside. The strength needed to follow the Savior’s example in serving others comes only from within. Only by getting good with you on the inside can you be in position to strengthen and uplift others.
That requires dealing with unfairness in your life productively. Of course, Christ offers the most productive way of confronting any challenge in life. And so, Elder Renlund points us to the Savior:
The Lord understands what it’s like to carry your burden. He can make your burden light because He’s already carried it. His life wasn’t exactly free of injustice, and the Atonement brought to Him whatever suffering you’ve experienced that wasn’t in His life. He willingly carried all that burden because of His love for you.
And because of that love and willingness to accept your sufferings — burdens which weren’t at all fair He should carry — you can trust Him He’ll support you in this present world and someday somehow correct whatever injustice you experience.
He’ll also help you find advantage in that injustice. As the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi taught, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Every obstacle you face must therefore also come with its opposite. What’s the opposite of an obstacle but an opportunity? So there must be an opportunity with every obstacle.
Likewise, every injustice must come with its opposite. If an injustice is something horribly wrong, then its opposite must be something fantastically right — a delight, a joy, a thrill, a gratification. So every injustice must come with a gratification.
The gratification that comes might not relate at all to the injustice. But one gratification we can all have from whatever injustice we experience is that which comes from supporting someone else in similar circumstances. Elder Renlund spoke of this:
Your injustice gives you an experience by which you can extend compassion and support to others with similar experience. The never-marrieds who experience injustice in the search for eternal companionship as well as those experiencing injustice in divorce or being widowed can reach out to other LDS singles with similar experience. You can leverage your injustice to lift others higher.
That means every confrontation you have with injustice presents you with a choice. You can retreat into yourself and become embittered. Or you can give of yourself and become empowered.
You make your choice with your focus. Focusing on how wronged you’ve been creates a reality of wrong, which leads to bitterness. Focusing on how you can leverage the injustice to help others creates a reality of hope, which leads to empowerment.
We all know which choice is better. As Elder Renlund counseled,
Though the injustice you face may make it easy to feel the Lord has abandoned you, He hasn’t, nor will He ever so long as you turn to Him.
Only the Prince of Peace can grant a fullness of the peace we all seek in the face of injustice. So whatever injustice you face in your life, take the Lord at His word that someday someway He’ll right every wrong you experience, and give Him your burden. When you do, He can heal you and help you leverage your pain for your gain in helping others. Instead of becoming bitter, you become better. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Christ is of course the ultimate source of hope for anything good in this life or the next. No matter your background or situation, there is always hope because there is always Christ. That doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges, but it does mean every problem has some solution in Him. With hope in Christ, you can joyfully rise above any challenge.
Hope has power
I especially like President Ballard’s reliance upon eternal principles of truth. He doesn’t really talk about singles until halfway through his address. He spends the first half laying out the foundational principles that support his remarks on singles. That’s significant.
Equally significant is his repetition of what Elder Gong shared earlier. The majority of LDS adults are single. The public recognition of this demographic change precedes a new thrust by the Church to change LDS culture. Leaders might not describe it that way, but the Church is certainly publicly reaching more after those who by definition don’t have the traditional marker of belonging in LDS culture, namely being married with kids.
And it’s more than just Conference talks. Have you seen the Church website lately? The website has been promoting an upcoming broadcast for singles over 30, the first ever Church-wide broadcast tailored entirely and specifically for this demographic. There’s also an excellent article in the latest Liahona providing practical advice on helping singles feel more included at church.
This is the power of hope in Christ. How long have I discussed in blog posts and this radio program the need to embrace a Christ-centered culture in which the mark of belonging is discipleship? For the past seven years I’ve expressed my faith such a change would come, even amidst the challenges of feeling included in a culture that didn’t always welcome me. And now I rejoice to see the Lord rewarding the faith I and many others have held all this time.
Hope means action
President Ballard extolled singles everywhere to have such faith. Said he, “I speak of hope in Christ not as wishful thinking. Instead, I speak of hope as an expectation that will be realized. Such hope is essential to overcoming adversity, fostering spiritual resilience and strength, and coming to know that we are loved by our Eternal Father and that we are His children, who belong to His family.”
How does one achieve such hope? It comes by faith in Christ who grants that hope to those who wait patiently upon Him. Because faith is a principle of action, so is waiting upon the Lord.
President Ballard said as much. He declared,
I love his declaration of increased hope through needed contribution, a concept we’ve long discussed here — the need for singles to have a personal ministry. When you devote yourself to sharing your unique goodness and light with others, you focus on what you can do. That focus in turn creates a reality of possibility and potential, which naturally leads to hope.
Hope is yours
President Ballard shared other principles that engender hope — the truth no blessing will be denied those who keep covenants, the assurance blessings will be ours though we don’t know all the details, the inclusion of exaltation in God’s plan for all the willing, and faith the Lord will eventually right every wrong experienced in mortality. Each of these principles encourage us to hold to the promise of better days ahead.
And that promise is true. It’s not just wishful thinking. Better days are ahead! Whether those days come tomorrow, two years from tomorrow, or two centuries from tomorrow, better days will come. Faith helps us to see those better days, and hope helps us hold true until those days arrive.
There is always hope because there is always Christ. Let your hope in Christ kindle a fire of faith that promised blessings will be yours. Let your hope in Christ inspire you to share the light of your goodness with others. As you embrace your own personal ministry, you’ll see that light grow ever brighter and brighter. 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.
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.
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.
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 and podcast 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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