Yet a recent experience caused me much reflection on both my own transformation to optimism and how we can all help those singles wont to wallow in their own mire come Friday.
An unexpected experience
Last Saturday, the newest member of my ward was baptized. The service reminded me of my own mission, and I cried as the Spirit brought past sacred experiences to my remembrance.
As I left, I noticed across the parking lot a sister missionary who’d previously been in the ward. She had obviously returned to attend the baptism. Just before her transfer, she and her companion gave me a very special gift. They snuck up to my apartment door and plastered it with paper hearts sharing messages of love, hope, and encouragement.
I never had the chance to thank them, because the very next day transfers came, and elders arrived in place of both sisters. Seeing that sister now in the parking lot, I called out to her and confided that what she and her companion left for me that night before their transfer meant a great deal to me. I then thanked her.
What happened next surprised me. She told me I should be thanked because I’d helped her tremendously. She didn’t go into details — I’m still insanely curious — but then she said something that later drove deep reflection. She said, “You’re awesome.”
A meditated realization
What surprised me was less that she said it (although yes, I wasn’t expecting to hear that from anyone, let alone a sister missionary) or that she was really sincere in saying it (which she was) and more that I found it hard to hear.
That realization caused me much reflection. I’m very comfortable with myself and enjoy my own society immensely. So why wouldn’t I believe I’m awesome? (And why is there an obnoxious song from The Lego Movie playing in my head right now?)
Seriously, why would that message be so hard for me to hear? After some deep reflection, I concluded it was hard for me to hear because I’d grown too accustomed to hearing the exact opposite.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Looking back over more than two decades of being a single Latter-day Saint, the vast majority of the messages I received from single LDS ladies were negative. They didn’t affirm my divine worth nor recognize the goodness of a heart that had sacrificed and suffered much. That’s not to say there weren’t those few who gave me positive messages (there were) or that I made my own mistakes worthy of negative messaging (I did). Rather it simply means I heard negative messages so often, especially in the dating arena, I came to believe them.
A more joyful life
I don’t believe them any more. My view today is much more optimistic. But what would my life have been like had I received more positive messages from other single sisters more regularly? And what of the other LDS singles who are now what I once was? What of those who are prone to throw that pity party on Friday because they don’t have a valentine of their own?
If you’re among that crowd, please know you have agency. That means you choose everything for yourself, including what to believe. I struggled for a long time with negative messages until I realized my agency means I get to choose everything for myself, including what to believe. Just because someone else believes something doesn’t mean I must believe it also. I don’t have to believe what I don’t want.
It’s the same for you. When others send you a negative message, don’t believe them! Instead, believe you have great worth (because you do) and God loves you so much He has prepared glorious blessings for you (because He does and He has). Then share that love with others and skip the pity party. Let your messaging reaffirm the worth of every individual. Then you’ll feel your own worth reaffirmed. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
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.
Christmas was yesterday, so yes, it’s technically over. But reflecting on my experience this year leaves me wanting something of the essence of Christmas to linger and continue into the coming year.
This past Sunday my bishop shared a few remarks at the end of the ward Christmas program. He recognized some in the congregation were friends of other faiths, and he spoke for a moment specifically to them. He acknowledged some recent changes in the Church, particularly the new meeting schedule starting next year. And then he promised that those who would faithfully attend our worship services each Sunday would find peace for at least that one hour.
In reflecting upon his words, I realize what many of us really want in our lives is peace. We want to get away from the fighting that fills our communities. We want to escape the turbulence troubled times give to us and those we love most. We want to remove the frustrating circumstances life can provide. We all want peace.
As a popular song teaches, let there be peace, and let it begin with me. When we take the proper action inside ourselves first and then promote peace in others, we can have peace in our lives, regardless of our circumstances or what is happening in the world around us.
Follow after peace
I’ve long spoken both on this program and in the blog about how singles can feel peace in a family-centered culture while not having the marker of belonging in that culture. Your focus determines your reality, so when you change your focus, you change your realty. When you change the way you think, you change your life.
That principle applies to everyone, not just singles. All of us can create a reality of peace in our lives when we focus on what brings peace. And the ultimate source of peace is the Prince of Peace. He suffered our pains and troubles so that He would know how to be compassionate in our hour of need. He died so that we could live.
That life Christ gives isn’t just eternal life in the realm beyond the veil. He gives life here and now in mortality. He can lighten our load and light the way before us. He can lift us when we are low. He can give hope amidst despair.
The Christmas spirit of peace can continue on in us when we increase our discipleship to the Prince of Peace. It’s when we ignore His teachings or forget our covenants that we bring ourselves the opposite of peace. Aligning ourselves with His teachings and our covenants with Him brings a harmony with truth that makes a natural home for peace.
Once we have peace within ourselves, we can then spread peace to others around us. Our continued walk after the Prince of Peace can inspire others to follow His enlightened example. Once they align themselves with truth, others can have the same peace in their lives.
But deep, lasting peace comes from more than just keeping the standards. Just as true happiness comes from giving yourself to all the right things for you, deep, lasting peace comes when you align yourself with all the right things for you. By all means, strive to keep the commandments and your covenants. Those things are right for everyone. But beyond the standards reside what’s right for each of us individually — goodness related to your personal ministry and the contribution only you can make in the lives of others.
When you give yourself to those right things that only you can do, you promote peace. You become a city shining on a hill giving goodness, light, and love to an increasingly darkened world desperately in need. And that peace you bring to others can come to you as well.
It all starts where the song says it starts. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me.
Let each of us align ourselves with truth. Let each of us keep the commandments. Let each of us be true to our covenants. Let each of us embrace our own personal ministry and contribute what only we can give. Let each of us feel the peace that comes from following more completely the Prince of Peace.
Then let us all go forward and share that peace with others. Let us light their lives. Let us give them hope. Let us lighten their load. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me and you. We will find a peace we have never before known if we promote peace within our own hearts and the hearts of others like we have never before done. And when we do that, we’ll have more joy in our 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.
Birthdays are a particular time of year for everyone. But for many LDS singles, birthdays remind them they’re another year older and no less single. That particular aspect gives me pause as I see another birthday approaching me.
I get reflective around birthdays. I think about my experiences over the past year. I think about the relationships I have as well as the ones for which I am still searching. Most of all, I think about how I've changed. Am I a better person than I was a year ago?
I'd like to think I am. But in truth I’m never quite sure. There is one thing, however, about which I am sure. Whatever comes my way, I know the Lord has prepared me for it. I know that the hardship, whatever it may be, will only leave me stronger so long as I choose not to be defeated by it. I know I’ve been prepared for such a time as this.
My mother’s condition drives part of my reflections. I've spoken before about my mother in this forum. But now things have taken a severe turn for the worse. A few days ago, my mother tried to kill herself.
Although it failed to end her life, her attempt has rocked the world of all who know and love her. It's not the dying part that's disturbing. Everyone dies eventually. It's her choosing to leave all of us that's disturbing.
I don't think anyone can really know exactly what's going on in anyone else's head. But I do feel the pain my mother has experienced over the past few years – pain the doctors can't diagnose and have never treated effectively – drove my mother to her disturbing choice. Whether or not that drove her, I don’t blame her.
That said, I can't begin to describe all the emotions that have run through me. But I can begin to have faith that the Lord is still in control and ultimately won't allow anything to veer too far outside His plan.
Feeling after faith
Of course, along with the emotional roller coaster come reflective moments. The reflection I would engage normally with a birthday around the corner is now deepened. And that's not altogether a bad deal.
My first impression is to follow Nephi's example and say I don't know the meaning of all things but I do know the Lord loves me (see 1 Nephi 11:17). And I feel fine with that. My experiences as an LDS single that lead me not to need to know the end from the beginning with regards to my eternal companion translate very well here. Trust in the Lord in any context is still trust in the Lord.
I also know my experiences in learning how to respond positively to the challenges of LDS singles life have made me a better man. And those improvements have prepared me for this moment in which I need to be strong not only for myself but also for others I love.
For instance, I’ve supported my father as he struggles with these events. More than anything, I’ve provided a listening ear. But I’ve also translated what I've learned from being single so long — the knowledge gained from experience that has made me a better man — into the lives of others as well as my own. The result is a new perspective that provides strength, hope, and courage for everyone.
Shining a light
To say things could be better is the understatement of the year. Yet overall I don't feel discouraged or depressed. I have the quiet confidence within me everything will somehow result in good for everyone.
Many of us tend to get so caught up in our own lives we don’t see the great tapestry God is weaving with us. He is preparing each of us not only for the challenges we’ll face ahead. He is preparing each of us to be a light that can shine brightly for those whose hope is dimming. He’s preparing us for times such as these.
People do not light candles to hide light but rather to let light shine so that all may see (Matthew 5:15). We all have goodness to share, gifts the Lord has endowed within each of us not only to help ourselves grow but also to help others along in their journey. When we share those gifts with others, we give the light of hope to others and the light of courage to ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
We all have times when darkness surrounds us so much we can’t see any ray of light offering hope for a brighter tomorrow. That’s life, something all of us experience at one time or another. Of course, there’s always hope because there’s always Christ. The Light of the world can light our way so we can see and take the next step in our eternal journey.
The dawn will always come. The sun will always rise, offering the hope of a new day. Whatever darkness surrounds us is never permanent. In this universe created for our journey in mortality, there’s always hope because there’s always Christ.
As great as it feels to step out of darkness into the light, there’s always someone experiencing a dark time, so whenever we sit in sunshine, someone else droops in darkness. Do we remember our own experience with darkness enough to turn our hearts in compassion towards them?
Sailors looking for the blessed shore in the dark have always sought the lighthouse — the beacon of hope as well as the warning of nearby danger. No matter our own individual circumstances, we all can lift those who despair in the darkness. We can be the lighthouse.
Let your light shine
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Light of the world taught His disciples to shine their own lights, because “a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Certainly our righteous works can shine the light of example for others to follow. But our light can shine also from our attitude, our faith, and our hope that the sun will always rise and bring a new day. We can each believe in the bright and glorious future our Heavenly Father has prepared for each of us in this life.
When we share that attitude, faith, and hope with others, we help them see their full potential. And seeing that potential is the first step to achieving it. Reaching out to others also exemplifies what we all must do to press forward towards achieving that potential, since no one achieves anything meaningful in life alone. We all need a larger community in order to become our best selves and live our best life.
Warn your neighbor
Involving that larger community, however, can present a real challenge. Its greatest blessing is also its greatest bane. You can’t feel a sense of community unless the action occurs in both directions.
If we aren’t reaching out to each other from both directions, one group will inherently feel disenfranchised. It’s common to see marrieds reach out to marrieds. But marrieds also need to reach out more to singles, singles need to reach out more to marrieds, and singles need to reach out more to each other.
A part of that reaching out needs to involve education. We need to help each other to become aware of the connections we have to one another as fellow citizens of the Kingdom. Notice I didn’t say responsibilities or duties. I said connections. We’re all interconnected, even if we don’t feel we are. The challenge is for all of us to begin acting in ways that help everyone feel more palpably those already extant connections.
Shine in the dark
That’s where being the lighthouse can take center stage. When we stop putting each other into boxes, quit looking through generational lenses, and see each other as God sees us, we both see more clearly our connections to others and provide an example for others to see the same for themselves.
And that’s when the real magic happens. When you’re part of a community where each member truly cares about everyone, everyone can draw hope and strength from the love that permeates the group. Everyone both is connected and feels connected.
But that can’t happen until everyone plays their part. Many marrieds are so caught up in their own world that they aren’t likely to take the initiative towards that wonderful unity of the faith. That means we singles must make the first move. We must be the change we seek in the world.
So be the lighthouse. Shine your light of goodness into the world around you. Make your unique contribution that can bring hope and encouragement into the lives of others. When you adopt your own personal ministry to improve the lives of others, you’ll find your own life improved. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many LDS singles feel bereft of hope when they don’t see any obvious opportunities for the eternal marriage they desire. Fundamentally, their lack of hope doesn’t differ from anyone else struggling to realize righteous desires. For example, infertility plagues many righteous married couples desiring biological children.
Yet in all cases hope abounds. If you can’t see the way forward, please consider this question: Are you operating out of your memory or your imagination? Your focus becomes your reality, so when you focus on the failures you’ve known, your reality becomes filled with more of those failures. But when you focus on the success you can imagine, your reality becomes filled with possibility.
We all can access redemption in every sense of the word because of Christ and His glorious Atonement. No matter how dark or bleak your circumstances may appear, you always have reason to hope. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
How do you feel this great truth when all around you seems dismal? Almost all of us believe very readily in miracles that Christ performed among a people most of us don’t know in a land far away which most of us haven’t seen. Yet when it comes to believing in miracles performed in our own lives and in our own backyard, we respond more slowly. We need to start believing Christ.
What do you do when things you don't want to happen do in fact happen? Knowing God has apportioned a time when all wrongs will be righted makes patience easier. Knowing a just God won’t wait to right our wrongs when the time to right them is right also encourages patience. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Still, longing can pain the heart in the present moment. Because your focus determines your reality, focusing on your pains always yields a reality of pain. Focus instead on the Savior so that He becomes your reality. Believe Him when He said, “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). His strength can give you strength.
Understand the journey
Christ never taught that all of His promised blessings would be distributed like a buffet lunch — first come are first served and everyone else will just have to wait. He wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. That means you.
Because you're unique in personality and demeanor, so also are the gifts you've been given to help you achieve your full potential. Just as in the parable of the talents, all who improve upon what they've been given, whatever that original amount may be, will receive the joy of the Lord. That joy can fill you now as well as in times to come. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Yes, Christ wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. Yet some saints, because of where they are in their life journey, may not be ready for some of those blessings. So if you're yearning for that special someone and wonder why you don't have the blessing you desire, consider that you might not be ready. Or maybe your companion isn’t ready. Or perhaps the time is right for both of you and you simply need to get busy doing the right things. In any case, Christ can help you take the proper next step. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Expand your vision
If you operate out of your memory, then you're seeing with no more than your physical eyes. That means ultimately you'll have no hope, because you don’t physically see the means to achieve your desires. Even here, there is always hope because there is always Christ.
Christ can help you operate our of your imagination, which means seeing with spiritual eyes. He can help you to see what’s there but not seen with physical eyes. What you want may be right in front of you, but because of how you think, you might not recognize it. Expand your definition of an opportunity, and you’ll see paths you couldn’t see before.
Christ can also help you to see what’s not now in existence because it has yet to be created. What you desire may be something He creates for you. Or maybe you need to create it for yourself. In all cases, Christ will help you to do whatever is needful for you to receive all of the blessings He desires to give to you. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Don’t ever stop living for the righteous blessings you desire. And don’t ever lose hope. No matter your situation, there’s always something you can do to move forward. There is always hope because there is always Christ. When you feel that hope, you’ll have the comfort of knowing the Savior is right by your side to help you along. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Sooner or later, everyone encounters hard times. It’s called mortality, and it’s part of the reason why we’re here. Overcoming challenges allows us to learn in ways we could not otherwise learn and to become what we otherwise could not become.
If we focus too much on our challenges, however, we can easily succumb to feelings of overwhelm and discouragement, even despair. Some people escape their doldrums by remembering that there is always someone who is worse off than they are. For some LDS singles who have struggled for years without promised blessings, it may seem difficult to believe that anyone has had it worse than they do.
And yet there are those who have had it worse. The scriptures provide an excellent example in Abraham. When you come to realize how much worse he had it, you can find the courage and resiliency to keep walking by faith. After all, most of us can’t touch Abraham’s experience.
By the standards of any age in world history, Abraham had a challenging life. He was once placed on an altar to be sacrificed, only to have an angel save him. He was constantly on the move, and in one of those places to which he moved, his brother died. He had to deal with apostasy in his father, a problem since he longed to have what his father’s ancestors had — priesthood authority passed down from father to son. Having a father who continually returned to idol worship didn’t really help much in that respect.
And yet, like life for all of us, it wasn’t all bad. He obtained priesthood authority from someone more righteous and more advanced in years than his father. He grew to become a rather wealthy man, leading a house with many servants. And somewhere in that mix he married Sarah, a wife he dearly loved.
But try as they might, infertility entered and would not leave. Whatever hopes Abraham had for a son to inherit from him must have slowly faded as the years went by one after the other with no change anywhere in sight. It’s understandable why Abraham fathered a son through Hagar, one of Sarah’s handmaidens. It seemed to be the only way to produce an heir.
Then came the Lord’s promise. After so many years of wanting and not having, Abraham received a promise from the Lord that he would have a son through his wife Sarah. He was 62 years old.
His wife Sarah was ten years his junior, so it’s no surprise that she laughed at the thought of giving birth to a son. Abraham also had his doubts. Those doubts would continue as they each got older. It was during this time that Abraham had a son through Hagar. What seemed incredible when the promise was made seemed even more so with each year passing thereafter.
But the Lord reaffirmed His promise would be fulfilled. And we all know how the story ends. Sarah did give birth to Abraham’s son Isaac. Sarah was ninety years old. Abraham had lived a full century.
I’m not suggesting that we need to live a full century before we see the fulfillment of the promises the Lord has made to each of us. Instead, I’m suggesting we live in faith, faith born from reflecting on Abraham’s position relative to our own.
Abraham was 62 years old when he first received the promise of a son and 100 years old when that promise was fulfilled. That means he had to wait 38 years for the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to him. That’s a long time to wait.
And I’m willing to wager (though I’m not a betting man) that most of us waiting for the fulfillment of our own blessings have a ways to go before we can touch Abraham territory. I myself have been single for more than two decades. As long as that has been to endure, it’s only about half of what Abraham endured. Clearly, I can’t touch this.
Most LDS singles are in that same boat. As long as you’ve each waited for the fulfillment of your desired blessings, you haven’t waited anywhere near as long as Abraham had to wait. So you can’t touch this either.
The Lord pulled through for Abraham. He’ll pull through for each of us. As we continue to walk in faith that all of His promises will be fulfilled, He will send us many tender mercies to support us. We can feel the confidence that we will receive our promised blessings. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
This past weekend I’ve had the best vacation I’ve ever had in my entire life. Most people hearing that declaration will wonder where I went to have such a great time. But my vacation was great not so much for where I went as for what I did.
I went to Afton, Wyoming. “Why would you go there?” some of you undoubtedly wonder. “There’s nothing there.” To which I answer, “Precisely.”
Recently I’ve felt my life dead end in so many ways. I wanted to search my soul and think deeply about my life. I wanted to re-calibrate myself with a sense of hope that all isn’t lost for me. And I wanted a game plan for taking every part of my life to the next level.
For me, that’s all best done surrounded by mountains, fresh air, and as few people as possible. Wyoming’s Star Valley fits that bill to a T.
Start with the temple
My first order of business was a session in the Star Valley temple. This has to be the absolutely smallest temple I’ve ever seen. There’s only one endowment room, one sealing room, and four sessions per day.
I arrived hoping to join the last session. Every seat was already reserved, so the front desk called someone to see what work I might do. I took a seat and waited patiently.
Very soon, a temple presidency member came out and greeted me. We shook hands as I expressed my hope in doing a session. Instantly this kind man put his arm around my shoulder. He thanked me for coming in a way that made me feel truly welcome. Then, turning to the attendant at the front desk, he instructed a space be made for me to attend a session.
He then offered to show me where to go. I accepted, although the building is so small I couldn’t possibly get lost. Early during my session I began to feel a quiet confidence the blessings I desire are still available and the Lord will walk with me towards their attainment. What a wonderful start to my vacation!
Get down to the nitty gritty
I spent the next four days writing in a Moleskine notebook. I wanted to take my life to the next level, and I had a plan for how I would proceed.
I started by listing every part of my life I wanted to take to the next level — my spiritual life, my relationships (both ones I had and ones I wanted), my career, my own businesses, my residence, my finances — literally everything.
Then for each of those individual items, I followed a five step process:
I followed these steps for every individual part of my life, so little wonder I filled 71 pages in my notebook. From those pages I extracted the individual action items (271 in all) that get me started taking my life to the next level.
Feel the power
Admittedly, 271 action items is a lot, but I need do only one item at a time. And having lots to do is great. It gives hope I’ve got endless opportunity to turn my life around, a realization that brings with it great empowerment.
I returned home feeling very powerful and very hopeful I can secure eternal blessings and live the life I want. I now have a new attitude. In that sense, my vacation was truly recreational because I came back re-created. This truly was the best vacation I’ve ever had.
If you feel your life has approached a dead end in any or all its aspects, find your own quiet place to search your soul and get back to basics. You’ll find you can do so much to turn your life around. And that feeling of empowerment will bring you more joy in your journey.
Recently I found myself reading my patriarchal blessing. I didn’t plan it; it just happened. I’m not even sure when I last read my patriarchal blessing, but this particular reading refreshed me.
I’ve been“discussing” with local leaders how they can best support LDS singles. They keep saying things like “Everything will be made right in the next life.” No one disputes that. But seeing as I’m expecting to live for at least another 40 years if not longer, could we please not give up so soon? How about we focus on what we can do to make things right in this life?
It’s almost as if my leaders are really saying, “See? I did something to help them. Now it’s not my problem anymore.” I really hope they aren’t rationalizing their lack of involvement in our lives like that. It won’t look good for any who do that when things do get put right in the next life, if I read Matthew 25 correctly.
Context can change the entire meaning. Perhaps reading my patriarchal blessing in that context heightened the power of my experience for me.
Respecting the sacred
I consider patriarchal blessings to be sacred documents. For me, that means not sharing details with just anyone. I’m extremely selective in who reads it.
That also means not quoting from it in public forums like this. I know many others would and have. I don’t judge them. I just hold myself to my standard which I apply only to myself.
That said, I’ll communicate general ideas from my patriarchal blessing. For example, most patriarchal blessings declare the recipient’s lineage. I have no qualms in saying mine declares my lineage.
I also don’t mind sharing that my patriarchal blessing provides specific counsel for different phases of life. For example, there’s a section on my mission. Every time I read it, I think back to the moments when the promises made there were all fulfilled — and fulfilled completely.
What was old becomes new
There’s also a section about my marriage. In the past, I’ve always been able to read the part about my mission, think about how that part was fulfilled, and then apply that same thinking to the part about my marriage. Generally I’m left with the impression the promises made are still true.
During this recent reading of my patriarchal blessing, the availability of these promises in this life struck me very palpably. It’s not just the strength of the impression convincing me those promises are true. It’s noticing for the first time the meaning behind some of the language of a different part of my blessing.
My patriarchal blessing talks about my children as well as my marriage and what they will become with respect to this nation, meaning the country of my (and presumably their) birth. As I pondered that language, I realized there are no nations in the next life. That means my patriarchal blessing is talking about my children in this life.
But that can’t happen unless I actually have children in this life. And that won’t happen unless I actually get married in this life.
Sometimes the promises of a patriarchal blessing find fulfillment in the next life. So I don’t completely blame small minds from jumping to the conclusion that those promises to someone in my situation are meant for the next life.
That’s why this particular reading touched me so powerfully. After all I’ve endured, what a great comfort to know my loving Heavenly Father is aware of my circumstances! What a tender mercy to feel the strength of His support as He communicates the truth of His promises to me!
Get your own experience
I don’t know if all my future patriarchal blessing readings will result in similar faith building episodes. I certainly hope so. But regardless of whether or not that happens, I still have the memories of faith promoting experiences like this one that have happened. I can leverage them to buoy my faith in a God acutely aware of me.
I’m not the only one of whom God is aware. He’s aware of you also. Properly employed, patriarchal blessings can help you along your journey home.
When was the last time you read your patriarchal blessing? Do you believe the Lord’s promises to you? Do you treasure them within your heart? If it’s been a while, take them out and read them. It may just refresh your soul.
Whether or not that happens, I do know one thing for sure. I know every promise God makes will be fulfilled in its entirety. We just need to stay true and faithful to Him. When we do, He’ll support us along the way, and we’ll have more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly 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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