It wouldn’t be so bad if we’d stop comparing ourselves unfairly. Whether against other people or some idealized standard, many Latter-day Saints feel they fall short of what and where they should be.
And many of those Latter-day Saints are single. They look at their lives and think they should be married by now. It’s then easy to jump to the conclusion that something must be wrong with them and that’s why they’re still single.
Other LDS singles reach a corollary conclusion with just as much erroneous logic. They believe they’re not good enough — not handsome or pretty enough, not funny enough, not cool enough, not whatever enough. If only they were a more attractive person, they reason, then they wouldn’t be stuck in their single status.
That’s why I love Elder Holland’s remarks. He reminds us that we are good enough, that we don’t need to bridge today the entire distance between where we are and where we want to be, that our journey can be joyful if we improve our approach to it. We can be perfect . . . eventually.
That last word eventually is key. It reminds us that our journey is more than just a few steps. Our journey comprises many, many steps — more than we can possibly take in this mortal life. Perfection, the final result of reaching our final destination, won’t come in this life.
Why then give us the commandment to be perfect? Elder Holland believes at least one reason is to give glory to God and show what we can achieve in the eternities to come. Knowing the perfection of God can create gratitude that our imperfections need not be the end of us. God in his perfection will make up for what we lack.
Of course, that doesn’t justify ignoring our covenants. Elder Holland explains,
How often do we LDS singles criticize ourselves for whatever failings we have? When we let go of our need to be perfect now, we’ll find it easier to let go of our repeating patterns of self-criticism.
Look for good enough
Elder Holland reminds us that “except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing.” He then advocates avoiding excessive expectations for achieving perfection in others as well as in ourselves.
That got me thinking. Many LDS singles expect perfection in the eternal companion they seek. They create this ideal that very few if any could actually reach. After all, you don’t want to spend eternity with imperfect. But by limiting their prospective candidate pool, they limit their probability of success. They make it harder to find that eternal companion.
Elder Holland reminds us that no one is perfect. That means the eternal companion you’re looking for is imperfect. If you go about looking for perfection, you’ll not likely find your eternal companion because that imperfect person will never fit your insistence on perfection.
Since the person you seek is not perfect, then you should really be looking for good enough. That doesn’t mean you have no standards. Good enough implies that some standards have been met. You just don’t want so many standards that you reduce your likelihood of success too much. Having standards that are too exacting can yield the same result. Balance is the key.
When we partake of the sacrament each week, we do not pledge to be perfect. We do not witness we’ll take upon ourselves the name of Christ, always remember him, and keep his commandments. We witness we are willing to do these things (see D&C 20:77).
That pledge of willingness allows space for slips and failings. We strive for perfection while at the same time forgiving both ourselves and others for shortcomings.
If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need saving. So we don’t need to be perfect to be saved. We just need to be good enough — good enough to receive the gift of grace that bridges any gap. And if we just need to be good enough, then that’s all anyone else needs to be as well.
I love Elder Holland’s concluding remarks:
May we all stop looking for perfection in this mortal life while never stopping to strive after it as part of our more eternal journey. When we do, we’ll have more joy in our journey.
post-Conference topic. Other than the obvious reason for selecting it (I mean, it’s Elder Holland, so need I say more?) I was really impressed with the applications this address has for those called to minister to singles.
We all understand that Elder Holland wasn’t specifically speaking about LDS singles. But General Conference speakers typically don’t speak about any one demographic in the Church. That’s why it’s called General Conference.
However, if you do home teach any singles, hopefully Elder Holland’s remarks will inspire you to take your performance up a notch (or two or three).
Single mothers need it most
The first application of Elder Holland’s remarks to singles is his rather obvious introduction. Single sisters, particularly those with children at home, are the singles who need real home teachers the most.
One single sister I knew while serving as a stake single adult rep had seven children from two prior marriages, the oldest being 15. I made certain her elders quorum president knew she needed real home teachers who could play the role of surrogate father. And I’m grateful he responded.
It’s no accident Elder Holland begins his remarks with a story of ineffective home teachers failing to support a single adult. Being the black sheep in our family-centered culture, LDS singles are easily ignored, neglected, and forgotten. It’s truly tragic, especially when a single sister is straining to raise children all by herself.
Other singles need it too
That’s not to say singles without children don’t need home teachers also. So it’s equally tragic when any LDS single has no home teachers. I’m a case in point. I have no home teachers, even though I’ve asked for them repeatedly. How I wish someone would “watch over [me] always, and be with and strengthen [me]” (D&C 20:53)!
Let me be fair. Each of my multiple requests for home teachers have included the insistence they be real — the kind Elder Holland extols. I want real, and that’s no less true now than when I said it almost three years ago.
That means I’m not interested in receiving home teachers who want nothing more than to check off a box on a monthly to-do list so they can feel good about themselves. What a waste of time! But if they want to support me and strengthen me and encourage me to move forward in my life, then I’ll gladly make time for home teachers.
In the three years I’ve been in my current ward, I’ve constantly made that request. And in all that time I’ve never had home teachers. I’m not quite sure what that means. Does that mean there aren’t any real home teachers in my ward? Or does that mean all the real home teachers have been given “more effective” assignments?
We all need support
I suspect I’m not alone when it comes to home teaching and LDS singles. What do you do if you need home teachers but all your requests for them go unanswered?
You can pray the Lord will open the eyes and the hearts of his servants. I recall the parable of the unjust judge (see Luke 18:1-8). I’m sure not everything for which we could pray qualifies via that parable, but I’m sure asking for the support of real home teachers does.
It’s hard to mention prayer here without fasting. If nothing else, fasting can help us come nearer to God so that we feel more readily the support His love offers. Regular temple attendance can help in that regard as well.
Certainly don’t stop requesting home teachers. Elder Holland provides the model to which every priesthood holder should aspire.
Brethren, the appeal I am making tonight is for you to lift your vision of home teaching. Please, in newer, better ways see yourselves as emissaries of the Lord to His children. That means leaving behind the tradition of a frantic, law of Moses–like, end-of-the-month calendar in which you rush to give a scripted message from the Church magazines that the family has already read. We would hope, rather, that you will establish an era of genuine, gospel-oriented concern for the members, watching over and caring for each other, addressing spiritual and temporal needs in any way that helps.
Now, as for what “counts” as home teaching, every good thing you do “counts,” so report it all! Indeed, the report that matters most is how you have blessed and cared for those within your stewardship, which has virtually nothing to do with a specific calendar or a particular location. What matters is that you love your people and are fulfilling the commandment “to watch over the church always.”
I feel very justified in insisting my home teachers be real.
And of course, if you’re a home teacher, you want to be the kind of home teacher you want to have. It’s called the Law of Restoration (see Alma 41:15). In life we all get what we give.
My final suggestion is patience. If you have imperfect home teachers, at least you have home teachers! We’re all walking construction zones, and that applies whether we’re single or married. Home teachers are not exceptions. Let’s patiently and gently but firmly encourage the priesthood brethren in our wards to be the home teachers we need. We’ll all have more joy in our journey when we do.
As I read his address, I began to see more of the profundity behind the simple truth that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father. Elder Hallstrom repeatedly proclaims throughout his remarks that this identity should be the preeminent one in our lives. And that caught my attention, because often I’m not convinced it really is, especially for LDS singles.
Remember the true center
The culture of the Church centers on family. I wish it centered on Christ. After all, everything else about the Church does. The doctrine, the scriptures, the priesthood, the ordinances — everything about the Church centers on Christ except for the family-centered culture.
That’s why the mark of belonging is being married with kids. And you need both elements to belong, hence the struggles of childless married couples as well as singles to feel like they really fit in.
If the culture centered on Christ, then the mark of belonging would be discipleship of the Savior. That’s one reason why Elder Hallstrom’s address resonated with me.
What if we saw each other not through the lens of martial status but rather that of divine lineage? What unity could we develop with that perspective? How much better prepared would we as a people be to receive the Lord when He comes again? Our Lord has said, “If ye are not one, ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). I don’t know about you, but I want to be the Lord’s.
Remember your divine heritage
Early in his remarks, Elder Hallstrom shares, “A correct understanding of our heavenly heritage is essential to our exaltation.” Why is that? Let me answer with another question. How do we really understand our purpose here in mortality unless we understand where we came from? Knowing we’re children of God promotes faith in Him that our existence here is part of a much grander plan to make us glorious beyond description.
That perspective can help us face the storms of life. Elder Hallstrom referenced many of those storms when he said,
In real life, we face actual, not imagined, hardships. There is pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual. There are heartbreaks when circumstances are very different from what we had anticipated. There is injustice when we do not seem to deserve our situation. There are disappointments when someone we trusted failed us. There are health and financial setbacks that can be disorienting. There may be times of question when a matter of doctrine or history is beyond our current understanding.
Certainly that list of trials describes life for many LDS singles. And so the questions Elder Hallstrom poses are just as pertinent. What is our response when confronting difficulty? Do we forget our divine heritage and cower in fear before the very experiences that we need to grow and claim the glory that is our birthright? Or do we remember our divine heritage and embrace the challenges before us, looking for the opportunities in the experiences that form part of the plan our Heavenly Father has instigated for our eternal destiny?
Elder Hallstrom shares a remark made by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland while teaching about this principle. Said Elder Holland, “You can have what you want, or you can have something better.” What a perspective!
We live in a world that can cause us to forget who we really are. The more distractions that surround us, the easier it is to treat casually, then ignore, and then forget our connection with God.
Unfortunately, for many LDS singles the family-centered culture of the Church can be a part of that world causing them to forget who they really are. We LDS singles can focus so much on the marital status we don’t have that we forget the much more meaningful identity we do have. Remembering that identity can help us better access our Lord’s Atonement, which can strengthen us as we encounter the pains, the heartbreaks, the injustices, and the disappointments that come to us in mortality.
And here’s the best part. If we LDS singles would focus more on our discipleship than on our marital status, we could change the culture that presents us with one of our greatest challenges. We could influence its center to move towards Christ. We could all — single and married — come together and truly be one. We could increase our power as a people to stand firm in support of our covenants and the truths of the gospel, including the institution of the family.
So remember who you are. That divine heritage can help you to reach for the light and have more joy in your journey.
Afterwards single ladies posted those remarks on social media with some inclusions of their own. “Yeah, you need to get busy and do your priesthood duty!” That for me 20-year-old refrain doesn’t inspire anything positive and is inspired more by issues within them rather than any issue I have.
That’s why I absolutely loved Elder Holland’s remarks at the conclusion of General Conference entitled “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You.” Conference indeed presents high ideals, from which many of our own personal situations seem far removed. How ever can we bridge the gap?
Elder Holland reminded us how the Atonement makes our improvement possible and that trying is what counts, even if we sometimes fail. As I’ve said before, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.
See the similarities
I struggled for many years with dating. Because I own my life, I take responsibility for how my life has turned out. That means the story I tell to explain why I’m still single lays the fault on me. It’s not that I didn’t want to be married. I just didn’t have the right attitude or project the right image to attract the type of woman I really wanted.
True, most of my dating invitations failed miserably. For many years I felt trapped because my eternity seemed completely outside my control at the mercy of others who could never see the real me. But because I now own my life, I accept I wasn’t doing a good enough job of showing the real me to them.
What always annoyed me were the ladies who always threw marriage quotes from General Authorities in my face. When I did manage to work up the courage to ask them out, they rejected my invitations in ways that made me feel completely worthless.
Ladies, if you want us brethren to ask you out more, then you need to own your life and approach us more effectively. I understand you’re frustrated in not receiving the dating invitations you want. You feel trapped because your eternity seems completely outside your control at the mercy of others who don’t seem to see the real you. That’s not very different from the experience I and other single LDS men have had.
Can we all come to a place where we start to see the potential in each other rather than the problems? Can we see each other the way God sees us, as brothers and sisters on the same eternal journey who have much more in common than we do different? I answer with a resounding yes. And Elder Holland’s recent conference talk shows us how.
What a glorious perspective! Too often we focus on the destination and consider ourselves as “less” because we haven’t yet arrived. Yet God sees us as “striving to be more” and so should we! It’s about the journey and not the destination!
Elder Holland continues:
Just because we don’t see the way forward doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It is there. And when we partner with the Lord, He will not only help us to see the reality of the blessings we want but also provide help to secure them. After all, He created this world in which we are journeying!
I love this perspective from Elder Holland:
Let’s extend that grace to our neighbor. Let’s see each other more as God sees us. Let’s divert our energy from criticizing others for their failings to helping them overcome the obstacles that impede their journey home. In so doing, we’ll accelerate our own journey to the same heavenly destination.
Tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you because today He will do wonders with you and within you when you partner with Him, rely on His marvelous Atonement, and keep trying. May God bless each one of us so to do.
My mother has been diagnosed with anxiety as a mental illness. So hearing a General Authority — and an Apostle no less — openly embrace mental illness as the subject of his address needless to say piqued my curiosity.
But I also found some wise counsel that applies to many of us LDS singles.
Focusing on depression
Elder Holland mentions an array of mental disorders but then narrows his remarks to depression. He then quickly defines what he means by that word:
But today I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively—though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking!
I think that this description applies very aptly to many LDS singles today. I saw it at a recent singles fireside held in my stake. Only a handful of people were in attendance, and I quickly ascertained why no more than a handful had made an appearance. Everyone seemed so discouraged as to be half dead! Ironically, the subject of that fireside was hope, and I freely admit that I left with most of my own hope and optimism stripped from me.
Fortunately, Elder Holland had very much the opposite effect.
Believe in miracles
I devote several parts of my upcoming book to this very subject. And I can sum it all up — there is always hope because there is always Christ. Elder Holland says no less.
Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Elder Holland advises us to seek help when our problems persist.
If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.
We singles too often don’t ask for help. Maybe it’s because our leaders very often don’t understand what we experience, especially if they married while they were young. Or maybe it’s because we singles spend too much time focused on what we want that we remove ourselves from being able to help. If we filter everything through dating considerations, we won’t associate much if at all with those who aren’t “marriage material”. Very often those who need our help the most are those who we know the least, or those we want to know the least.
The sun is always shining
As much as the challenges of LDS singles life I've witnessed discourages me, I'm continually amazed at how optimistic I am for the future. So I'm glad that Elder Holland reminded us that
Also let us remember that through any illness or difficult challenge, there is still much in life to be hopeful about and grateful for. We are infinitely more than our limitations or our afflictions!
Sound familiar? Where have we heard that before? Oh, yes! You are not your circumstances!
It also reminds me of some of the weirdest weather I've ever experienced. I remember one day driving in Northern Idaho and suddenly encountering a blinding snowstorm. I had to slow down because the snow was coming down so thick and fast.
And yet the funny thing is I could see the sun shining at the same time!
Too often when difficulties come we see only the blizzard and how it obstructs us or makes our journey more difficult. Yet the sun is always shining. We can see it if we'll look for it. God still loves us, and we can feel that love more fully when we open ourselves to it.
Our focus becomes our reality, so when we focus on the storm, guess what our life feels like? But when we focus on the sunshine, guess how we feel then?
I love the way Conference messages intertwine with my life experiences to root me further in gospel truth. How thankful I am for Conference!
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.
Posts by Month