Take a lesson from a farmer
Many don’t believe that. They assume life is the collection of circumstances outside their control. But that’s why many people aren’t all that happy.
Your focus determines your reality. Because you can choose what you focus on, you can choose your reality. True, most don’t choose their circumstances, but that never stopped anyone who lived joyfully from living joyfully. These people lived their best life because they made different choices with the same circumstances.
Some of us should take a lesson from a farmer. Farmers don’t choose their circumstances. They have the soil and the water that’s available. Their seeds for planting are whatever they are. The weather will be whatever it will be. So much of what’s needful for the harvest is outside their control. Yet with hard work in what they can control, they produce bountiful harvests year after year.
In like manner, we haven’t chosen many of the circumstances of our lives. What we have is what we have, and it’s often all we have. But if we work hard in what we can control, we can produce harvests of truly joyful living year after year. This is what I call your best life.
Embrace what you control
I can hear many of you now. What exactly can we control? Here’s my answer: Standards, attitude, approach.
It starts with standards. You’ll never design your best life without knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not. The best delineations between what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t are made after partnering with the Lord to get good with you. Once you know and accept who you really are and what your personal ministry should be, you can best draw that line between what you’ll accept in your life and what you won’t. The more clear you make that definition, the more able you’ll be to live the life you intend.
Once you know exactly what you want, you need resolve to do whatever it takes to get it (within the realm of covenant living, of course). You need the attitude of the victor and not the victim. That attitude will fire your imagination to design a life you’ll truly enjoy and pull you through to that fulfilling end when the road there gets tough.
Of course, attitude without action will never bring you achievement. To live a life you design, you must take action. Working smart as well as working hard requires attention to one’s approach. Too often we think what we seek must come in one specific way. But much of life is not path-dependent; there’s often more than one road leading to the top of the mountain. And sometimes the road that’s best for us to travel is not the one we expect.
Get clear and get going
With these three elements in place — standards, attitude, and approach — you can decide what you want your life to be and feel the joy that comes from working to make it happen. Usually that means taking small steps every single day to inch yourself closer to the life you dream.
That’s where many of us fall short. We don’t do the little things everyday that can near us to our best life. Then, after a larger block of time has passed, we can’t help but notice we’re left standing on the pier because our ship has long since sailed.
That’s where being clear about your standards, attitude, and approach holds its best value. Once you’re crystal clear on those elements, what you need to do everyday will be obvious. Performing those seemingly small and insignificant actions everyday will collect to create the very significant life you design for yourself.
So what are you waiting for? Get clear, and then get going. None of this happens overnight. But as you move closer to the life you design for yourself, you’ll feel the joy that comes from making progress. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’ve been thinking recently about what I do here — this program, the blog, and everything connected to it. I’ve had such hopes and plans for helping LDS singles everywhere live better, more joyful lives. I still do.
Bit by bit, it’s all coming together. I’ve come so far since that very first blog post on 12/12/12. I’ve come so far from that first blog post on this website, the post in which I declared my desire for real in my life. I’ve come so far from providing audio clip readings of my posts. And I’ve got farther yet to go before I’m done.
These accomplishments and dreams inspire me. Yet my mind turns to those who could have such accomplishments and dreams but don’t. They don’t believe they’re meant for anything extraordinary. They don’t see how anything approaching greatness could ever involve them. The future they see holds no promise, no hope, and no joy.
If that describes you, I hope you listen closely to the program today. I have a special message just for you. And it’s this: Don’t you dare give up on yourself.
Choose your joy
I know the depths of depression, the darkness that can envelope a soul in despair so devoid of hope that one wonders how life could ever be joyful for any but the luckiest among us. But I also know that vision doesn’t have to represent anyone’s reality. You can choose your joy.
Once, my sense of “logic” would find such statements repugnant, not to mention incomprehensible. What I see now that I didn’t see then are the faulty assumptions underneath that thinking. Just because others believe something doesn’t make it true. Nor does it mean you have to believe it. You can believe what you want to believe.
And you can believe that what you believe and how you think will ultimately determine your reality. That’s how our brains are biologically hardwired. You can choose to think more effectively, to give yourself messages filled with positive energy, to put controls around your emotions, to choose your joy. You can choose your reality.
Let your light shine
Because you can choose your reality, you can choose to be a victim, or you can choose to be a victor. You can choose to wallow within your own self-absorption. Or you can choose to look outside yourself to how you can bless the lives of others.
Think of what that means. We all posses the awesome potential for bringing goodness into the world, for making a real difference in the lives of others. That means you have that potential. You can inspire others to shine their lights bringing goodness into the lives of others when you shine your light bringing goodness into their lives.
But what would happen if you choose not to shine your light, not to make your contribution of goodness into the world? Would others falter because they never had the light you could shine? Would someone surrender to negativity because he or she didn’t have quite enough reserves to resist, reserves that would have been sufficient with your contribution?
The Master taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). What distance between God and individual men and women will not be shortened when you choose not to make your contribution?
Partner with Him
That’s why you should never dare to give up on yourself. It’s not about you; it’s about all of us. So when you give up on yourself, you’re giving up on the people who stand to benefit from the contribution you could make, a contribution only you can make. When you give up on yourself, you give up on all of the rest of us.
When many of us look our meager offerings, we wonder how so much could ever hang in the balance. How could our contribution ever be so important? The Lord’s disciples thought this way when they saw they had only five loaves and two fishes (see Matthew 14:17). How could so little feed so many? And yet in the hands of the Master it did. Likewise, the Master can work miracles in the lives of others as you follow His direction to give your contribution.
Don’t you dare give up on yourself! When life looks bleak, partner with the Lord. He will heal you so you believe in yourself and your contribution. He will lead you to those who need your contribution. And His hands will transform your contribution into miracles in their lives. You can bask in their love for you and for the Lord when you make that contribution you can make. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Most people settle for mediocre lives. They become comfortable inside a status quo. That’s human nature — establish a habit and then stay inside that “safe zone.”
Yet that safety lies well beneath the potential we all have to accomplish extraordinary achievements. Greatness abounds in all of us because we’re all children of the greatest measure of greatness in the universe — our Heavenly Father.
Nevertheless, so many of us live every day beneath our potential it’s insane. Instead of contributing goodness to others, we wander within ourselves. Instead of spending time in service to others, we spend time in service to ourselves voraciously consuming content via the Internet, video games, movies, and other forms of entertainment. Instead of taking control of our lives, we simply react as the waves of life toss us to and fro.
Too many of us are just standing on the sidelines of life waiting for extraordinary blessings. That’s not the way life works. To have your best life, you must skip the sidelines and get in the game of making other people’s lives better.
Find your useful passions
We all have talents we can leverage to improve others’ lives, and very often using these talents elicits passion within us — a passion for excellence, a passion to contribute, a passion to serve, and a passion to be the best we can be.
That passion becomes useful when it drives you to use your talents to fulfill a personal ministry bringing goodness to others. Your useful passions can carry you beyond your troubles into a life of joy if you let them. By adopting a personal ministry, you can transcend the challenges of LDS singles life and live your best life.
How do you find your useful passions? Start by separating yourself from daily distractions to gain clarity of vision. The temple is great here, but you should also have somewhere in your home where you can reflect without distraction. Then look inside yourself and ask what you do the best with the least amount of effort. Those are your talents.
How can you use those talents to bring goodness into the lives of others? Which of those ways would you do even if it brought you no personal gain or benefit? Those are your useful passions. They will fuel you to carry out your personal ministry despite the obstacles in your way. And when life overwhelms, postponing your efforts, your useful passions will always bring you back to sit at the table of contribution.
Turn it on
Surely the Lord wants you to make your contribution — one only you can make. Only by following His example of making that unique contribution will you live your best life. When you partner with Him, the Lord will help you discover your useful passions. And once you know what you need to do, get busy. Don’t let others wait for the blessings they’ll receive because of your contribution of goodness.
Throughout his career, my father has supervised others. Often when inquiring after an undone task, he’s heard,“I haven’t got around to it yet.” In response, my father would obtain small wooden discs and write the letters T-O-I-T on them. Then whenever someone would tell him, “I haven’t got around to it yet,” my father would give that person one of his special wooden discs and say, “There’s your round ‘to-it.’ Now get to work!”
Once you’ve identified your personal ministry, turn it on and get to work. “We all have work,” the hymn teaches. “Let no one shirk. Put your shoulder to the wheel” (Hymns, #252). When you allow your useful passions to drive your personal ministry, you can more easily find your life by losing it (see Matthew 10:39).
Stay in the game
Of course, life has a way of distracting or sometimes outright knocking us off course, thereby obstructing our personal ministry and restricting our contribution. When that happens, we’ve got to get back in the game.
Life will always present challenges. That’s by design; it’s partly why we’re here. But if you know who you are, if you’ve identified your useful passions, and if you have a personal ministry, then keep on keeping on that road of service. Your contribution may not change the world, but it will mean the world to those whose lives you change for the better.
Don’t just sit on the sidelines of life waiting for your best life to come to you. Make your best life happen! Skip the sidelines and find your useful passions that can fuel your own personal ministry. When you lose yourself in that effort, you’ll find your best life, because you’ll become the best version of you that you can be. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
counterfeits, Sister Michelle Craig spoke of counterfeits in the women’s meeting of the last General Conference. Though I'm not a woman, I read the talks from that session after Conference, just like the sisters have been doing with the priesthood session for years. And I found Sister Craig’s address entitled “Divine Discount” quite applicable for LDS singles everywhere.
Recognize the gap
Everyone at one time or another feels they exist beneath their own capacity. Depending on our chosen perspective, recognizing that gap can motivate us to action or paralyze us into inaction. Action feeds divine discontent, a yearning that propels us to reach higher and become something more than we were before. Inaction feeds disillusioned discouragement, Satan’s counterfeit for divine discontent.
As Sister Craig shared,
How many of us have heard that message before, that we aren’t good enough? Of course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ says we are good enough. But if we still have habits of negative self talk, it can be all too easy to believe Satan’s lying counterfeits.
Action is the key
Sister Craig teaches the importance of action. When the Prophet Joseph felt concerned as a boy about his shortcomings, he asked, “What is to be done?” (JS-H 1:10) and then acted in faith. He went to the scriptures, responded to the invitation in James 1:5 to “ask of God” and ushered in the Restoration.
Likewise, when we feel the gap between what we are and what we would like to become, we should take action. In my own life, I’ve found that staying inactive just breeds more disillusionment and discouragement. It’s easier to talk yourself into deeper negative emotions like doubt, despair, and hopelessness when you aren’t doing anything. But when we do something — anything — that action can open the door of possibility, which can help us to believe our tomorrow can be brighter than our today, that our lives really can improve. That belief is the first step to hope, encouragement, and happiness.
We embrace another source of inaction when we entertain endless debates over whether the promptings we receive to do good come from the Spirit or our own thoughts. Again, action is the key. When we receive an idea to bring goodness into the world, we should focus less on the source of the idea and more on executing it. Sister Craig tells a wonderful story about a seamstress named Susan who followed a prompting to make a tie for President Spencer W. Kimball but then backed off while en route to deliver it. President Kimball’s wife Camille saw Susan at that critical moment and invited her forward, telling her “never [to] suppress a generous thought.” Sister Craig loves that, and so do I. “Never suppress a generous thought.”
Sister Craig continues,
I love that perspective on time management. How often in our focus on getting things done do we miss the opportunity to make people’s lives better? Becoming something more is about the quality of what we are and not just the quantity of what we can accomplish.
Trust in the Lord
Of course, becoming more is meaningless if it doesn’t near us to the Lord. Sister Craig taught that divine discontent will lead us to humility and a recognition that with Christ we can be and do anything. Such a recognition opposes Satan’s counterfeit message that we’re not enough, that we’ll never achieve our righteous desires or accomplish anything worthwhile in this life.
I love Sister Craig’s perspective on the miracles the Savior performed. They “often begin with a recognition of want, need, failure, or inadequacy,” but when individuals gave the Lord their all anyway, He provided the miracle.
Sister Craig expounds,
We can achieve our righteous desires if we approach the Lord in humility, give our all to whatever instructions He reveals to us through the Spirit, and then rely upon Him to make the miracle happen. Whenever we feel we are far beneath our potential, divine discontent can bring us closer to the Lord as we act in faith, follow promptings to do good, and trust in the Lord. And doing that will bring us more joy in our journey.
I’m sure we’ve all encountered time management in one form or another. But time management is really a misnomer; no one really manages time. As much as some of us yearn to do it, you can’t create another hour in your day. Everyone gets the same 24 hours. What you manage, then, is yourself. How will you choose to spend those 24 hours each day?
Sooner or later, as Elder Godoy points out, we’ll all have a "one more day" realization that we must use wisely the time we have. Yet what impresses me most about Elder Godoy’s remarks about time management is his inclusion of sacrifice in the choices we make regarding our time.
Plan your sacrifice
Very often we plan the tasks we need to fulfill our responsibilities and achieve our goals. Yet how often do we plan our sacrifice? If we know what we’d do if we had only one more day to live, why not plan our day like that? Why not eliminate what would not fill our final day and include what would?
Elder Godoy declared, “We all have a ‘today’ to live, and the key to making our day successful is to be willing to sacrifice.” I never thought before about purposefully including sacrifice in my daily or weekly plans. Yet it makes more and more sense the more I consider it.
I also appreciate Elder Godoy’s review of the etymology behind sacrifice:
What things do you need to make sacred in your life? To what things do you need to bring honor? Planning to fulfill your responsibilities and achieve your goals is great. But deliberately planning to include sacrifice is greater; these can enrich your life and provide personal strength.
Spend the time
Much of what we know we should do — daily prayer, daily studying the scriptures, attending church, etc. — is a sacrifice. The time we spend in these worthwhile activities is always amply rewarded. But these aren’t the only sacrifices we can embrace.
Temple attendance has always been a sacrifice for me. I’ve lived where the nearest house of the Lord required me to drive two or more hours. Certainly attending the temple under those conditions represented a great sacrifice for me. Yet I now live within a half hour of two temples, and I find regularly attending either one of them difficult. So many other needful activities press upon me that attending the house of the Lord is a real sacrifice.
Performing the family history research that supports temple work is another sacrifice we can intentionally choose, as is also holding weekly family home evening. Many LDS singles forego FHE, viewing it as something for those with families. But I’ve found using Family History Evening to spell FHE is a sacrifice that brings many blessings, including a strengthened faith that comes from living all of the restored gospel I can live.
Elder Godoy declared, “The sacrifices our loved ones make for us refresh us like cool water in the middle of the desert. Such sacrifice brings hope and motivation.” I believe that applies to sacrifices made on both sides of the veil.
See one more day to be faithful
As wonderful as those sacrifices are, Elder Godoy rightly remarked that “any sacrifice we make is small compared to the sacrifice of the Son of God.” Because of His ultimate sacrifice, the great plan of redemption is operative in the lives of all who will embrace it.
Elder Godoy asked, “How can we honor that infinite sacrifice? Each day we can remember that we have one more day to live and be faithful.” I love that response! We have the days we have because of the Savior’s sacrifice. How appropriate that we respond to His gift of time with our own gift of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and faithfulness to all our covenants!
And how appropriate was Elder Godoy in quoting President Howard W. Hunter.
Consider the sacrifices the Spirit whispers to you that you should make in your life. Then plan your sacrifice. Consciously dedicate the time needed to make sacred that needful act and give honor to it. When you do, you’ll give honor to your own life and receive for your sacrifice the blessings of heaven. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
I have a love-hate relationship with RootsTech. I love the energy and excitement which RootsTech generates for family history work. But you can’t really talk about family history work without telling stories about ancestors who did this wonderful thing or left that inspiring heritage. And hearing those stories makes me bawl like a baby every time. Yeah, that’s right. Every time.
Stories connect us to our ancestors and help us discover who we are. Truly our hearts turn towards our fathers when we discover, gather, and share stories of our ancestors with the generations after us. That turning of the children’s hearts aligns very well with our innate yearning for our heavenly home. And that provides for a contribution we need to make.
What will you leave?
When I learned that Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2018 would feature President Oakes, I could hardly contain my excitement. Here we have the General Authority who’s perhaps more closely identified with LDS singles life and issues than any other General Authority.
Of course the presentation was outstanding. President and Sister Oakes told stories, and I broke yet another water main. But they also touched on a theme similar to Elder Uctdorf. The Oakeses emphasized the need not just to provide ordinances for our ancestors but also to retell the stories about those ancestors continuously for the benefit of future generations.
And they brought examples. President Oakes showed copies of journals from some of his ancestors and told how sharing those journals have benefitted his descendants. Sister Oakes described how the journals of her ancestors gave her a wonderful religious education. The testimonies they bore of the restored gospel taught her much.
It made me wonder, “What stories am I leaving for the generations that come after me?” You don’t need to be married to leave a strong testimony or inspire a wonderful heritage of faith and courage. But future generations will never know it unless someone records it.
Who will you follow?
Hearing the stories of our ancestors stirs a longing inside of us. We yearn to be united with those we love who have passed on before us. Yet the same Spirit which prompts us to turn our hearts towards our fathers also invites us to follow the Savior and return to our heavenly home.
Elder Uchtdorf spoke of how God knows each one of us intimately — “your every thought, your sorrows, and your greatest hopes.” He also declared that following the Lord on the path back to our heavenly home will make our lives better. Said he,
Is there any better way to follow the Savior than participating in family history and temple work? Surely the fruits of the Spirit will be ours when we contribute to this wonderful work. And LDS singles can make very meaningful contributions.
What will you contribute?
Those who embrace this cause on their journey home will reach a wonderful realization. Elder Uchtdorf declared this life isn’t about just you or me but all of us. We all feel the yearning to come home, and that puts all of us on the same journey back to that heavenly home.
President and Sister Oakes shared similar principles in their RootsTech presentation. We must be linked together with our ancestors because we cannot be saved without them, nor can they be saved without us.
If such grandiose visions make you question what role you could possibly have in such a cause, consider Elder Uchtdorf’s remarks when he offered these thoughts:
Family history and temple work isn’t just for old people. And I don’t care how much pioneer ancestry you have; there’s work for you to do! We singles can make mighty, meaningful contributions to advancing this work. We can discover, gather, and share the stories of our ancestors in ways that will inspire those who come after us — whether or not they are our literal descendants.
As Elder Uchtdorf testified,
Let us each move forward and embrace our own contribution to the cause. When we do, we’ll work miracles in the lives of others. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
I wasn’t surprised to learn of President Thomas S. Monson’s passing. I was surprised he didn’t go sooner. He didn’t look that great when we last saw him in Conference. It amazes me he lasted as long as he did.
But the Lord governs the life span of His prophets just as He governs His Church. And President Monson’s time has come.
Thousands viewed his body in the Conference Center before his Church-broadcast funeral service, also held in the Conference Center. Generous and well-deserved praise reminded us who President Monson was. His body was then taken to the cemetery for a private service with family.
All of this is most appropriate. Somehow, though, I find myself more reflective now than when President Hinckley died. Then I was a little disappointed to see President Hinckley go. I wanted him to stay just a little longer.
Now with President Monson’s passing, I’m relieved his suffering has ended. But I find myself wondering about legacy.
Those who came before
Each modern-day prophet I can remember seems to have a legacy. The earliest prophet I remember is Spencer W. Kimball. He encouraged us to“lengthen our stride” and do more today to forward the Lord’s work.
Then came Ezra Taft Benson, best known for his classic discourses on the Book of Mormon and pride. Though with us briefly, Howard W. Hunter encouraged us to make our temple recommend the great seal of our Church membership.
Then Gordon B. Hinckley wore the mantle, and was he ever versatile! It’s partly why I like the man so much.
We saw accelerated growth in the numbers of full-time missionaries and temples. Particularly impressive to me was not only the reconstruction of the Nauvoo temple but also President Hinckley’s insistence that the dedication be shared with the entire Church. And then there’s the Conference Center and the Orchestra at Temple Square.
Plus, who can forget the 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace? And I rejoiced when President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund. Having served my mission in Guatemala, I knew first hand how desperately needed that program was.
President Hinckley tried to do more in every way he could. It was as though he was the culmination of the legacy of the prophets who came before him.
The man himself
And President Monson? When I think about his legacy, what comes to mind? Honestly, when I think about President Monson, I simply see a good man.
That may not seem like much, especially by comparison. But what made him a good man? Why do I have that image of him?
Perhaps it’s because he simply loved people and did what he could to serve them. If President Monson had any theme as the Prophet, it would have to be loving service.
The Mormon Channel has placed an excellent biography of President Monson’s life on YouTube. Although produced back in 2013 and very brief, the video does effectively convey the theme of loving service which President Monson exemplified in his life.
Towards the end of the video, we see President Monson reflecting on his own life. He said something that particularly struck me.
That’s a pretty good summary of his life. How many of us would meet that standard if we were called to be measured today? I’m not sure how well I would measure up.
Those who come after
I am sure, however, the Lord’s timing is spot on. As I watched the presentations of the new First Presidency during the gathering in the Salt Lake temple annex as well as the press conference, I felt the sweet, gentle confirmation of the Spirit that Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and Henry B. Eyring are the men the Lord wants to fill these roles at this time.
I confess I was half expecting President Nelson to call the same counselors who served under President Monson. But surprised doesn’t mean disappointed. President Oakes and President Eyring are each well-seasoned servants who have more than adequate preparation for their new callings.
And I look forward to having a more energetic Prophet in President Nelson. Can you believe he’s 93 and still goes skiing? Whether or not you believe that, certainly President Nelson hasn’t sought his new role. While watching him speak both in the Salt Lake Temple annex and the press conference, President Nelson humbly repeated over and over that this is the Lord’s Church and He is at the head guiding and directing its affairs.
President Nelson also encouraged Church members to stay on the covenant path, which may turn out to be the theme for his tenure as the Prophet. Whether or not that holds true, we’ll always be blessed when we follow the Brethren. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
The Christmas season is now in full swing upon us once again. It’s time once more for yuletide cheer and merriment. This is my favorite time of year.
Of course, along with the traditions we each practice with the season, we should always remember the reason for the season. Good thoughts and deeds are always appropriate and even more so as we remember He who gave us the best example of good thoughts and deeds.
It was He who taught “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). To that end, last year the Church promoted a campaign aimed at sharing the light we have with everyone around us during the Christmas season. Appropriately, it was called Light the World.
This year the Church has renewed that campaign. And I can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the real reason for the season.
As it did last year, Light the World focuses on individual action. The Church provides leadership in the form of short videos explaining ways to light the world during each of the 25 days of Christmas. These videos and the corresponding calendar show how we can individually light the world.
I just love this bare-bones campaign. It fosters an effort that depends upon us for success. And that encourages us to live the gospel — really live it by putting it into action.
The Master taught, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Our actions tell everyone who we really are. For what will we be known? Will those around us know us for the goodness we have? How can that happen if we don’t share the goodness we have?
Lighting the world will also light our world. Only by putting the gospel into action by living it will we ever know how real it really is. Only by setting that example can we light the way for others to know that for themselves as well.
I love the gospel more when I live to set that good example. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know God is good and will bless us abundantly. That goodness is easier both to see and to feel when we actively participate in spreading that love to others.
People don’t light candles to hide them but rather to provide light so all may see (Matthew 5:15). In like manner, we should freely bring goodness into the world so that others can see and feel the love of God in their lives. When we do, we can’t help but love our lives more.
Just like last year, the Church has provided help with their Light the World calendar. Each day has suggestions of ways to spread goodness and thereby light the world. In addition, we can adopt our own ideas for action.
I’ve discussed previously my tradition of closing out the year by studying the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve felt love in my heart grow as I’ve taken daily action in response to my Sermon on the Mount study. Most of my actions have been small in nature, but the added light I feel inside of me has been substantial. How can any honest soul not love that?
That seems to be at least some of the intention behind Light the World, and I love it. We make the gospel more real by actually living it. And anyone who has read my posts since 2014 knows I’m all about real.
Of course, that reality doesn’t have to stop with the coming of Christmas Day, nor should it. We can feel God’s love every day by continuing to share that love with others every day. The Church’s Light the World calendar is a great aid during the 25 days leading to Christmas, but what’s to stop any of us from making our own calendar for every day of December and any other month of the year? Only ourselves.
It’s only by living true principles that we come to feel their reality in our lives. It’s only by giving love to others that we can feel the full extent of love in our own lives. We can choose for ourselves what light we will give to others. When we live true to that conviction to bring goodness into the world every day, we’ll have more joy in our journey.
Lately we’ve been discussing the challenges of LDS dating. We can more easily overcome these challenges when we understand the different stages of the journey (for example, that there are two kinds of dating), when we choose to be where we are, when we apply dating standards and not marriage standards to dates, and when we respectfully tell the truth despite what others think of us.
Yet even after embracing all of these concepts, dating can still feel like an emotional roller coaster. That’s just how it is. You can’t have great reward without encountering great risk. And sometimes that will leave your heart in pieces.
That’s why we all need a personal circle, a group of people who sincerely care about us and will support us when we need it. I’ve written before about the need for singles groups to forsake the activity club, reject the dating forum, and become a support network. I’ve also discussed how stakes and wards can play a larger role in supporting LDS singles. I still believe in all that.
I also believe you shouldn’t wait for others to fill needs you have today. Own your life. Find your own personal circle. And when you hold the family and friends you need a little closer, you’ll find angels have joined in for a group hug.
Know who’s in
As disciples of Christ, we should always seek to help those around us. But that doesn’t mean we need to develop a deep friendship with everyone around us. Partnering with the Lord can help you know who should be what in your life.
Because we gain our sense of normal from those around us, we need to be very cautious about who we admit into our personal circle. That’s where partnering with the Lord can help. He knows the influence we need to live our best life. He also knows who can best exert that influence upon us.
Just as important as including the right people in your personal circle is excluding the wrong people. And sometimes you’ll be related to them. Excluding people from your personal circle doesn’t mean turning your back on them forever. It just means being very cautious about what time you do spend with them.
Once we know who’s in our personal circle, we should make regular deposits into their emotional bank accounts. We should never take these people for granted. And yet, too often we do.
I recall being at home for the holidays towards the conclusion of my graduate school program. My relationship with my major professor had deteriorated substantially. I knew I’d be charged for another semester unless I could complete my thesis and successfully defend it before the new semester started.
As we knelt in prayer before my return to campus, my mother pled with the Lord to help me finish my program. I didn’t think much about that at the time. But not long after returning, my deteriorated relationship with my major professor worsened to a breaking point.
As I walked towards my major professor’s office to quit, the memory of my mother praying for me filled my mind. I suddenly felt a strengthened resolve to keep going. I finished my degree program soon thereafter.
In the years since, that advanced degree has greatly blessed my life financially, occupationally, and socially. I have friends I wouldn’t otherwise have. And it’s all due to my mother’s prayer. Clearly my mother is inside my personal circle, and I make regular deposits into her emotional bank account.
Find the means
Of course, we can’t deposit love in others’ emotional bank accounts without the means to do so. Determine what means you need so you can maintain those important relationships inside your personal circle.
Sometimes that means sacrifice. I could just text or call my mother, but I always make time to visit her in person. Sometimes being with her in person is itself the emotional deposit.
Some have argued I should move on with my life. I don’t entirely disagree with that. But I don’t want to forfeit the opportunity to make more memories with my mother while she’s still cogent. Forsaking those opportunities will bring me regret for the rest of my life. I’d rather not live with that.
Make the changes you need to make to have the personal circle you need to have. Then make regular deposits into the emotional bank accounts of each one in your circle. When you hold the people you love a little closer, you will find angels have joined in for a group hug. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week I described the best vacation I’ve ever had. It imbued me with a new attitude and zest for life. I feel I have endless opportunity to bring my life to the next level.
Some of those opportunities I found by identifying knowledge I lack. For example, to improve my relationships with family members, I can acquire better communication skills. I decided to look for a book or other resource that can help me learn those skills.
We often think about school when thinking about learning. But sometimes the learning we need is in the local library. We can often create our own “courses” to acquire the knowledge and skills we need with the resources which many libraries provide to their patrons for free.
Regardless of the venue, we all need to be learning something in order to take any aspect of life to the next level. There’s even value in learning something simply for the sake of learning. Simply put, if you’re not always learning, then you’re missing out on opportunities to get more out of your life.
We believe in learning
We Latter-day Saints inherently believe in continuous learning. It’s encoded in our religion. After all, “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36).
In a great treatise on truth, the Lord describes acquiring light so that it grows “brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). He later extolled, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). We also have His admonition to “study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people” (D&C 90:15).
We don’t have to learn everything at once, “for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength,” but we must be diligent in applying ourselves, “that thereby [we] might win the prize” (Mosiah 4:27). As the Prophet Joseph learned while translating the Book of Mormon, “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end” (D&C 10:4).
And we have the assurance our diligence will be rewarded, “for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (3 Nephi 14:8). Embracing learning in every stage of life can open new pathways to live our religion more fully and deepen the measure of our faith.
We have endless opportunity
Every stage of life also provides endless learning opportunities. We can acquire new knowledge for our current stage in life or transition into the next. We can also learn for its own sake.
I’ve known several single sisters who saw the need to return to school. Providing for their family required earning more income, which they weren’t getting outside of a career path which a college degree would open for them.
It certainly wasn’t easy. Just working and raising their children is challenge enough. Adding school into that mix was no picnic, but they squared their shoulders and did what was necessary to conquer the challenge before them.
Other LDS singles need simply to learn more about their current career path. Rather than change careers, they need to learn skills that can make them more valuable in the marketplace. If that describes you, seek advice from successful professionals in your field. If you do what they do long enough, their success can be yours.
The world is filled with so much to learn about. It’s hard for people on the learning train to get bored. But if they ever do, they can always sit in another car and keep enjoying the ride.
Embrace your opportunity
What do you need to learn to take your life to next level? What do you need to learn to improve your relationships or your employment? What do you need to learn to grow and embrace the blessings your Heavenly Father has prepared for you?
And let’s not forget learning just for the sake of learning. Learning for its own sake is great for enhancing curiosity. And it’s curiosity that opens the doors to greater joy in living.
Whatever you need to learn, when you partner with the Lord, you can counsel with Him on how you should proceed. In my life, I’ve often found that the resources I need to learn what I need to learn cross my path if I share my concerns with Him and then proceed about my way with an open mind. Embracing those opportunities has greatly enriched my life.
In short, learning simply enhances the value of living. And that brings 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 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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