Part of what enabled him to do this is the Restoration’s fulfillment of the hopes of ancient prophets and saints. They looked forward to the Restoration as a time when all gospel blessings would be enjoined together. Indeed, we who live today have the glorious blessing of the fulness of the Lord’s gospel. And those fruits can enable us to have a perfect brightness of hope for ourselves, our world, and our future.
See the blessings
Elder Holland begins with a list of what he would be looking for in religion were he living in 1820. He and his wife imagined themselves transported back in time with the same spiritual longings that many of the world’s inhabitants have possessed throughout time.
Elder’s Holland’s list provides a wonderful review of the glorious truths restored to humanity — the true nature and character of God, a clearer understanding of God’s plan for His children and especially the role of the Savior in that plan, an additional scriptural witness that enhances one’s understanding of the Lord’s life and ministry, and true priesthood authority to dispense every ordinance required for salvation and exaltation.
Elder Holland saved the crowning blessing for last. In his own words, he would have searched
Indeed, the blessings which the temple extends to bind the living and the dead across eternity truly crown the joy which living the restored gospel offers. As Elder Holland declared,
Elder Holland then directs our attention towards the future. The fulfillment of the hope of ancient prophets and saints for their future can give us hope for the fulfillment of blessings in our future.
Conquering the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps the most immediate of those hopes for the world. But once we overcome that challenge — and Elder Holland assures we will — other challenges will remain, such as hunger, poverty, safer schools, and the eradication of prejudice. And of course, truly conquering those physical challenges will require the adoption of spiritual solutions, what Elder Holland called
Elder Holland then gets deeply personal, and here is where he packs his best punch.
Isn’t that what we all hope for? Many LDS singles hope for a more perfect life, yet marriage never made anyone’s life suddenly perfect. You simply exchange one set of challenges for another.
That said, the hope that marriage can improve one’s life is not unrealistic, especially if one (to borrow a phrase from President Oaks) “marries right.” We LDS singles, no matter our individual circumstances, can and should hope for the achievement of righteous blessings, not only even when that fulfillment seems impossible but especially when that fulfillment seems impossible.
Feel the hope
I suppose that’s why this Conference address touched me. I’m in my mid-40s having never been married. What hope do I have not just of finding the right type of person who would want to marry me but also of having a family of my own, not just one I inherit from a now severed relationship?
I think Elder Holland would say I have every reason to hope. And so do you. The God who has performed miracles in the past can and will perform miracles in our present and our future. I echo with Elder Holland the message of a returned sister missionary in Johannesburg: “[We] did not come this far only to come this far.” Great and glorious blessings await each of us as we stand firm in our faith and continually choose hope over despair.
Truly, the Restoration has blessed us all. The hope of past believers fulfilled gives us hope our present desires for righteous blessings will not be in vain. Choose that faith over fear. Choose that hope over despair. When we walk in the perfect brightness of that hope, we’ll progress towards our best life. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Over the years I’ve occasionally heard LDS singles complain that the Brethren don’t address singles and singles issues very often in Conference. I strongly disagree. True, they don’t always package their content with wrappings identifying their offerings “For Singles.” But if you dig a little deeper and really think about what’s being said, you can find many messages in every Conference that apply to singles.
Such are President Ballard’s remarks. By digging a little deeper, we can find messages that apply to singles. And they all center around the idea of giving control to the spirit over the body.
Remember God’s plan
President Ballard began by reminiscing over the previous year and his Conference address in October 2018 about the 100th anniversary of Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the spirit world.
Note that was October 1918. At that time, war on an unprecedented scale had ravaged the globe for the previous four years, resulting in tens of millions of deaths. And the Spanish flu pandemic was sweeping the globe, driving the death toll even higher. In fact, October 1918 was the deadliest month of the entire pandemic. It truly looked like the end of days.
That’s where President Smith’s vision of the spiritual world so beautifully provides hope. This same hope President Ballard expressed in his most recent Conference address. Our Heavenly Father has an eternal plan for His children — that’s all of us living here on this planet as well as everyone who ever lived or will live on it. That plan provides for reunion — that’s the word President Ballard used — uniting generations of family members together forever.
Treasure family now
What strength and comfort that hope provides! Though death is certain for all and death from COVID-19 is possible for many, God has prepared a way for us to be reunited with those we love most.
He has also provided opportunities for us to treasure those relationships before death. Spending more time sequestered at home provides more opportunities for families to strengthen those treasured relationships. And don’t think that doesn’t apply to singles without families of their own. The only thing stopping us from reaching out to family during this time is ourselves. President Ballard pleaded,
But there’s a caveat: We don’t get a family reunion just because we have love for them. God is as just and orderly as He is merciful and loving. He cannot deny justice when it has its claim (Alma 42:22-25). But President Ballard quotes President Gordon B. Hinckley who tells how we can claim the family reunion we’ll surely seek on the other side of the veil.
Marrying right means marriage for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. Living right is an entirely different matter. Whereas marrying right takes place within a single day, living right takes place every day over an entire lifetime. And while singles by definition haven’t married right (because they aren’t now married), singles can strive every day to live right.
How did President Ballard approach living right? He referenced a talk his grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, gave entitled “Struggle for the Soul.” In that talk, Elder Ballard addressed “the ongoing battle between our physical bodies and our physical spirits.” President Ballard then summarized his grandfather’s talk in one sentence: “The primary battle is between our divine and spiritual nature and the carnal natural man.”
How is that battle going for you? That’s the question President Ballard asked. And in considering how we each might answer that question, he provided some added perspective. He recognized our spirits have existed long before our physical bodies and that we’ve already made righteous choices before entering mortality — what President Ballard called “a proven track record of a successful spiritual nature and eternal destiny.”
He then shared these thoughts:
Living right is really about choosing the spirit over the body. And that’s a choice all of us — single or married — can make every day. We can also choose to strengthen treasured relationships now. And when we do, that will bring us more joy in our journey.
We’re all unique enough that my list of needed changes will be different from yours, because my truth about why I’m single is probably different than yours. We both need to face our own truth, but the actual steps we take to apply that shared principle may be quite different.
I can provide tools and teach you how to use them, but I can’t use them for you. You must build your life. And building your best life won’t happen until you own your life and accept that the change you need to make is not just one thing.
Examine your assumptions
The memory of that phone conversation has stuck with me. Maybe it’s because the question asked is a common one. "OK, so what's the one thing I need to do in order to . . . . ?" It seems like an intelligent question to ask, but I've got a serious problem with it.
You see, it's really not that intelligent at all.
Run with me for a moment. The question assumes you need to change only one thing in order to transport your world into a new and higher dimension of existence. Seriously, what sense does that make? I know that’s what we all want, but it’s just not realistic.
Here’s real: I've got more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes and certainly more than most people. And the vast majority of people aren’t that far behind me. We all have many ways in which we can improve.
Ask a better question
Here’s a better question: What is everything I need to do to improve myself? With that answer, you take a more holistic approach towards making needed changes in yourself.
Of course, the answer to that question will likely overwhelm; we’re all so imperfect that the list of needed changes is quite long. I recall the experience I had taking notes during General Conference. The resulting list of changes I obtained overwhelmed me to the point that I didn’t want to take any action. Making any progress seemed hopeless.
That’s why you should ask yourself this best question: What one thing can I do today to improve myself? The answer to that question won’t overwhelm because it’s just one thing. At the same time, this question doesn’t assume you need to do only one thing to improve. The approach is well balanced.
Get to work
Of course, simply knowing what you must do won’t bring the results you seek in life. Results come from one thing and one thing only, and that is action. You must do.
When you take action, you can begin to understand yourself better. You can make better sense of the terrain of LDS singles life. You open yourself to receiving the tools you need. And action leads to a sense of progress that is truly liberating. You may have a lot to do, but conquering the one thing you need to do today will give you confidence from knowing you’re on your way. And that knowledge makes the journey so much more joyful.
Don’t wait to feel free. Don’t wait to feel better about yourself and your life. No matter how much you need to improve, we all need to practice what President Oakes has described as “the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” We make the journey to eternal glory one step at a time.
Never assume your list of needed improvements has only one item. It’s not just one thing. But take that understanding with you as you tackle the one thing you need to do today. Doing so will help you walk by faith. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Given that Singles Awareness Day — oh, excuse me — Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, it seems appropriate today to talk about something from the program last week that got me thinking. Many of us know how we want life to be. But it’s been said life is what happens while you were making other plans. Life has a way of turning out differently than we planned.
Many singles plan to find the perfect companion — someone they’re meant to be with, someone easy for them to fall passionately in love with and who falls passionately in love with them — and to get married and have a family and live the rest of their lives in a blissful happily ever after.
Then life happens. They notice life doesn’t match their idyllic dream. And that mismatch presents questions of compromise: Should they wait for the one who’s right for them forever, or should they just take the one who’s here right now because the one who’s right for them forever doesn’t seem to be coming and that person who’s right here seems good enough for right now?
Are our dreams portents of a possible future or a cruel joke of mortality? Why do we dream if the dreams never become real? Do they never materialize because they weren’t meant to be or because we aren’t good enough?
You’re not good enough
There’s two ways to answer that question. Here’s the first: Of course, we aren’t good enough. That’s why Christ plays such an essential role in our Heavenly Father’s plan.
If we were good enough, we could secure eternal blessings on our own. We wouldn’t need a Savior. We could simply persevere with hard work to secure our blessings.
But that’s not how it works. Yes, we need to work hard to achieve our goals and dreams. But we’re not likely to achieve them on our own because too often we get in our own way.
And that’s the beautiful part of the Atonement. Elder Bednar put it beautifully when he declared
Christ saves us not just from sin but from ourselves — our mistakes, our imperfections, our propensities to fail, and the natural man or woman residing inside each of us.
You are good enough
There’s another side to that coin, though. It says we are good enough to secure eternal blessings. Last week, I introduced the analogy of the electoral college. In the US, we elect the chief executive with a winner-take-all voting system that appropriates different numbers of votes to each state based on population. All a candidate needs to win is 270 electoral votes. And you can get that without the state with the most electoral votes. The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a case in point.
In like manner, many singles think they need to be perfect to secure their dream companion. Yet we’re all so mired in imperfection that many singles wonder how they could ever be agreeable to an acceptable marriage partner. That happens in the same way the President doesn’t need to win California to become the President. Those who are serious about what marriage really entails generally evaluate other people as a whole package. That means strengths in some areas can compensate for weaknesses in others.
Of course, that doesn’t justify ignoring our weaknesses. We should always do our best to improve in every area of ourselves and then trust the Lord to make up the difference. And Christ can make up the difference because He is the difference — the difference between eternal glory and eternal misery.
Partner with the Lord
In the end, we can best secure the blessings we desire when we partner with the Lord and walk with Him on the proper path towards our blessings. The Spirit will reveal to us the next steps along that path. And the Lord will grant us the courage we need to take those next steps.
Here as in every other way, your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you don’t have and can’t do, your reality becomes filled with lack and inability. That leads to frustration, anger, disillusionment, and despair. But when you focus on what you do have and can do, your reality fills with abundance and possibility. That leads to encouragement, appreciation, illumination, and hope.
Are you good enough to achieve your dreams and desires? Of course you are — when you partner with the Lord. So instead of the pity party many singles have on days like tomorrow, choose instead to partner with the Lord. Counsel with Him to develop an action plan that will get you moving forward. When you move in that direction, you’ll make real progress towards your eternal blessings. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We all know the LDS single who’s so eager to be married that he or she instantly gravitates towards anyone who appears to promise a blessed end to single status. Maybe you’ve even been that single yourself.
I was once all about finding that eternal companion but never actually finding her. I felt like that hamster down at the pet store, always just spinning my wheels and never getting anywhere. And I felt miserable.
I thought I was doing the right thing. After all, our leaders have talked endlessly about the importance of marriage and family. Our LDS culture is centered around family. It made sense to go after it directly.
But that’s exactly the problem. It doesn’t come when you pursue it directly. It comes when you let it come to you.
Understand how it works
We’re all hard wired to operate out of habit. And what we do determines what we get. So if we entertain less effective habits, we’ll keep getting less effective results. And it won’t end until we replace the less effective habit with a more effective one.
Many LDS singles have the less effective habit of making a beeline for anyone appearing to promise hope for marriage. But when you understand how everything works, you’ll realize you need to ditch the beeline.
Here’s how it works. Marriage means the agency of another person is involved. You can’t choose for others. Someone else has to choose you. That means the most you can do is influence that choice.
That’s why you keep hearing platitudes like “Just be yourself” or “Keep working on yourself.” They’re all true up to a point. Doing these things will influence the right person to choose you.
But beyond that point lies the reality where we all live. This most important choice has many influences in addition to the one you exert. And these other considerations outside your control can drown any hope of acquiring desired blessings. Your challenge, then, is to exert your best influence, trusting the Lord to cross your path with someone who will choose you. Are you up to it?
Rise to the challenge
You can best rise to the challenge by letting go of pursuing marriage directly and adopting a personal ministry. This really is your best approach for exerting your best influence.
Here’s why. When you pursue marriage directly, you broadcast to everyone around you you’re all about marriage. No one really wants to marry someone who’s more interested in some personal agenda. So you come off appearing desperate.
When you drop the beeline and adopt a personal ministry, you’re about something bigger than yourself. You let your best self shine while serving others. Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry shakes off the scales of desperation so that others see you as someone interesting, someone worth getting to know better, maybe even share a life with.
Guess what? Now you’re influencing others to decide in your favor.
Other powerful influences exist, yes, but that’s where walking by faith comes in. When you partner with the Lord, He’ll lead you to those with whom your best influence will be more than good enough. That’s because they’ll hearken to the voice of the Spirit when He says, “Give this one a chance.”
Embrace your best self
Many LDS singles live in fear that their desired blessings won’t come. But that’s no way to live. It’s much more joyful to let go of directly pursuing marriage and instead pursue what will influence others to choose in your favor.
Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry can make the waiting more joyful, however long that waiting lasts. Do you want just to endure to the end? Or do you want to thrive?
Of course, you should keep looking for and pursuing opportunities that arise. But your universe won’t be rotating around them. So let go of directly pursuing marriage. Let it come to you. When you devote yourself to your personal ministry, you can embrace your best self. 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.
Have you ever wondered why God’s plan is called the plan of happiness when so many LDS singles just aren’t happy? Some would say that’s because they’re single. After all (goes the reasoning), you need to be married to follow the plan.
Some might cry, “But that’s not my fault! I’m keeping the standards!” To these singles, adherents of the you-have-to-be-married perspective usually respond, “Sorry, but that’s not the plan. In order to be happy, you need to be married and raise a family.”
These answers fail to satisfy many LDS singles. They easily despair many who never married at ever feeling accepted with their subculture. The divorced can encounter a discouragement of their own. Once “accepted,” now they find themselves “unaccepted” because now they aren’t following “the plan” anymore. And they aren’t alone; the widowed can experience their own identity crisis.
But plenty of unhappy married people live in this world, proving marriage alone won’t make you happy. Is following the plan of happiness really the only way to be happy?
Follow the right plan
First, we need to clarify what plan we’re talking about. Within LDS subculture, some things exist because they’re essential parts of the gospel, and others exist because they’re cultural traditions that bear some relation to the gospel but aren’t essential parts of it. That means there’s more then one “plan.”
We all know the plan our subculture hands us. After high school, you serve a mission, go to college, get a job, and somewhere in that mix get married. Plenty of people who follow this plan are happy, but not every follower of this plan is.
If you’re one of these unhappy individuals, you can easily think you need to follow the plan to be happy. But are you even following the right plan?
Yes, God wants you to serve a mission if that’s right for you. But missions aren’t for everyone. And college isn’t right for everyone either. You might do better going to a trade school or learning skills in the School of Hard Knocks.
You can follow this line of thinking for the remainder of the life plan our LDS subculture provides. Many of the milestones in this plan aren’t essential to the gospel. Rather, they exist because our traditions have made them essential to our culture.
What about marriage and family life? Marriage and family help us to grow in ways we can’t otherwise. They help us become what we otherwise couldn’t. That’s at least partly why marriage and family are part of God’s plan of happiness. How could we be truly happy if we couldn’t reach our potential?
And generally, you should encounter these milestones when you’re young. But the exact timing will be different for everyone. God’s plan of happiness is not that we check set items off a list as soon as possible. God’s plan of happiness is that we do what’s right for us when it’s right for us.
That truth reveals the nature of happiness itself. Happiness — not the emotion or feeling but the state of being — comes from giving your all to what’s right for you. Timing contributes greatly to what’s right; nothing can be truly right when the time isn’t.
Because not everything is right for everyone at the same time, God’s plan of happiness is in actuality individualized. It contains some general features that apply to all. But the details depend greatly on the individual.
Partner with the Lord
That’s why you need to counsel with the Lord to know if you’re following God’s plan of happiness. And only you and those with stewardship over you can know that. Only by revelation can you or anyone else know what’s truly right for you.
You can’t be happy without that revelation. How can you give your all to what’s right for you unless you first know what’s right for you? And how can you know what’s right for you except it’s revealed to you? And how can you get that revelation unless it falls within the bounds of your stewardship? That’s why you need that revelation about what’s right for you and why only you and those with stewardship over you can know what’s right for you.
You can be happy without following the life plan our LDS culture provides. But you can’t be happy without following God’s plan of happiness for you. Correctly understood, it’s the only way you can be happy.
When you partner with the Lord, you can know what’s right for you. When you know what’s right for you, you can give your all to those right things. And when you do that, you will be truly happy. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Everyone dreams of living a better life, yet we all respond to those dreams differently. Some while away the days not doing much to move closer to those dreams. Others are doing something, only they’re stuck. Try as they might, they just can’t seem to succeed. Either way, it seems like everyone needs a miracle for their dreams to come true.
And then there’s those I call patient fools. They believe the absence of the miracle they need means it must not be the right time. And so they patiently wait, expecting their miracle to deliver their dreams when the time becomes right.
For many LDS singles, that miracle is finding an eternal companion. Some dream about the day it will happen but never take action to move towards it. Others take action but can’t seem to make any progress. Still others simply wait, thinking the time is somehow not yet right.
Whatever miracle you want in your life, that miracle won’t happen by itself. Someone needs to act, and that someone is you! If you truly want it, you can make your miracle happen.
Dreams inspire us with a vision of possibility. They animate the imagination and stir something within the soul. Yet no dream enters reality on its own. We must take action!
The world didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Under the direction of our Creator, heavenly workers took action. Those workers then returned to report their labors. The miracle that is Earth did not happen all at once but step by step as action was taken.
In like manner, your dreams will never happen unless you take action. Yes, taking action introduces change, and with change comes new challenges and new concerns. But only through action will your dreams become reality.
And you can respond to those challenges and concerns with faith. Partner with the Lord. By returning to Him every day to report the actions you’ve taken, you can receive counsel and direction regarding your next steps. When you take those steps and then return and report again, you can counsel with Him regarding the next steps. By walking consistently in faith, you can make your miracle happen.
Take the right action
Many of us aren’t just sitting on the sidelines of life twiddling our thumbs. No, we’re out there taking action. The problem is we don’t seem to be going anywhere.
The pursuit for eternal companionship leaves many LDS singles feeling like that hamster down at the local pet store. That hamster takes action, exerting tons of energy to run faster and go farther. But in the end, running inside a wheel doesn’t move the hamster that far.
Likewise, many LDS singles exert tons of energy running between conferences and other activities. But in the end, they don’t move very far.
If this describes you, stop running inside a wheel, and start doing the right things for you. You must take action, but not just any action will produce your miracle. You must take the right action. You must do what’s right for you.
I’ve talked before about how the right things are more than just the standards for being active LDS. They include owning your life, opening yourself to possibilities, partnering with the Lord, and embracing a personal ministry by which you bring goodness into the world. Each of these right actions contribute to making your miracle happen.
Take the right action now
Some LDS singles have trouble accepting that truth. They live under the myth that their blessings will come if they just live a righteous life. They’re fine waiting until the “right” time for their miracle when it will just happen.
These patient fools have grown comfortable in their complacency. They fool themselves into thinking their patience is rooted in faith. But faith is a principle of action. Patience truly rooted in faith is not passive, but active!
Patient fools also fool themselves into thinking the time for their miracle isn’t right just because it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve previously described how many LDS singles use the concept of timing as a crutch. Yes, the Lord has a timetable, but just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean the time isn’t right for it to happen. The time can be as right as rain, but miracles require action to happen.
If you truly want it, you can make your miracle happen when you take the required action now. Own your life. Embrace a personal ministry. Partner with the Lord. Counsel with Him regarding your next steps. Work hard and be open to possibility. Then return and report to Him. When you make the right things for you a lifestyle, you can make your miracle happen. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We’ve discussed ways LDS singles can overcome the challenges of LDS singles life. Dating becomes more simple and fun when we act out a proper understanding of the dating journey. Learning to forgive others along the way can lighten the load on our journey. Partnering with the Lord can help us understand our gifts and fulfill our own personal ministry. And holding fast to our covenants while being industrious can help create our happiest time.
Yet all this assumes we assume ownership of our lives. No one will create your best life for you. You must create it.
Fortunately the Lord wants you to have your best life and is willing to help you create it. But first you must accept responsibility for however your life turns out. You must own every part of your life.
You have the power
Owning your life must precede living your best life. Failing to accept responsibility for how your life turns out means assigning that responsibility elsewhere. And that leaves you playing the victim.
Confident people never play the victim. Victimization isn’t a position of power. Victims are victims because they’re powerless. Playing the victim means giving away your power to someone else. And yes, you had power over your life before you gave it away. It’s called agency.
The Lord has declared, “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:28). We make our lives by the choices we make for ourselves. Inasmuch as we choose well, we’ll not lose our reward.
That’s the law of the harvest. We reap what we sow. Any other result would place the universe out of balance, and God would cease to be God.
It is your fault
I know what some of you are thinking. “It’s not my fault no one ever married me.” “It’s not my fault I got divorced.” “It’s not my fault I’m widowed.” In short, “It’s not my fault I’m single.”
Actually, it is. And the sooner you own all of your life by accepting your part in the events that have brought you to where you are, the sooner you can move past your challenges and live life with confidence and satisfaction.
Sure, other people make decisions that directly impact your life. But your decisions — the ones you make for yourself — also impact your life. Those decisions are the only ones you can control. You empower yourself by placing your focus there.
I’m sorry if you’ve never married. But you chose how to present yourself, what attitude to broadcast, and what direction to take in life. You can’t convince me those factors didn’t influence others when they decided against you.
I’m sorry if you’re divorced. But if you’re completely honest, you’ll admit you contributed to your failed marriage. Even if (and given how imperfect everyone is, that’s a really BIG if) you did everything right, who decided to get married? Yes, you married a jerk, but who chose that? You chose to enter a marriage that ended how it ended.
I’m sorry if you’re widowed. But again, who decided to marry your spouse? You chose to marry someone who died before you do. Had you known that would come, you might have chosen differently. But you couldn’t see then all the consequences your choice would have today. We often make such choices in life. And now you have the consequences from your choice.
You can be free
This approach may feel incredibly harsh, but it’s also incredibly empowering and liberating. Having once tasted it, you’ll never want to go back.
Why is owning every part of your life empowering and liberating? If your choices can make an undesirable life, then your choices can also make a desirable one. Your past doesn’t determine your future. Your choices in the present determine your future. You can make better choices and get better results.
Again, the choices of others do affect the course of our lives. But placing any focus there is unproductive because you decide only for yourself. Your choices brought you the life you have today. You must accept that truth to move forward.
Accepting that truth doesn’t mean wallowing in self-pity or punishing yourself constantly for choosing poorly. Just accept your choices had their consequences, learn from the experience, and move on. It’s really no more complicated than that.
Own every part of your life. Don’t allow failure to take responsibility for anything in your life hold you back from having your best life. When you take that attitude, you can move forward with confidence towards that best life. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Last week while discussing Elder Ballard’s most recent Conference address, I spoke about making goals to get married and our need to center our dating efforts on the Savior. Doing that means understanding the fundamentals of dating.
One fundamental principle is recognizing the two types of dating. We often confuse ourselves by not making this distinction. We introduce even more confusion in our dating journey when we try to be where we aren’t. Placing too much seriousness too soon in our journey turns us into our own worst obstacle.
Being in the place where we are means conforming our actions to where we currently find ourselves. Because there are two types of dating, we should act differently in each respective stage. Committed dating will have more seriousness than casual dating.
In fact, when you correctly understand the fundamentals of dating and the two types of dating, you can’t avoid a simple but profound conclusion: Unless the other person is a jerk, a stalker, or a criminal, you should date everyone.
You choose your probability of success
The provision against dating a jerk, a stalker, or a criminal makes sense to most. You shouldn’t compromise your personal safety. But the rest of the conclusion to date everyone else will put many LDS singles into a panic.
If that’s you, please calm down. This just shows you understand neither the fundamentals of dating nor the nature of casual dating.
A casual date is just that — casual. So why make the date serious by putting extensive restrictions on having one? The point of casual dating is to learn more about what you want in a companion so you can narrow down your selections to just one. You’ll then focus on securing the agreement you need to transition to committed dating.
That means your probability of success increases as you increase the size of your casual dating pool. You do that when you lower the restrictions on who can enter. That means dating everyone (with the obvious exceptions, of course).
Feeling is not knowledge
Many of us want to resist this way of thinking. Some may think I’m advising against having standards while dating. Still others may reject the conclusion because they just “know” So-and-so isn’t right for them.
First, you should have standards while dating. Your success, however, will be more likely if you’ll be in the place where you are. Casual dating by its very name suggests a different set of standards than committed dating. You could very well casually date someone who you do not committedly date. In fact, most of us have.
Second, I understand the feeling that comes when considering some people as a potential date. It’s like every cell in your body is screaming “NO!” But feeling is not knowledge. You’ll never know unless (1) an angel or other heavenly messenger gives you the knowledge or (2) you get your own experience. I’m thinking the odds for most of us seeing an angel aren’t that great.
I love this comment from a married woman named Kathryn.
Such examples abound, showing we really don’t know like we think we do. We should stop pre-judging others and open ourselves to new possibilities. Let experience tell the tale. Like Kathryn, you just might be surprised at what you don’t know.
Be in the place where you are
Our LDS subculture has primed us for years to look to temple marriage as a pivotal life moment. And it is. But you’ll never climb the mountain if you constantly stare at the peak without ever looking at the ground directly in front of you.
The best way to complete your journey is to look at the ground where you are and occasionally glance at the peak to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. This is the role of feedback we discussed last week in Elder Ballard’s Conference address.
Once you know you’re moving in the right direction, be where you are. Whatever stage you’re in, that’s the place where you should be. That means your actions show you’re in casual dating if you’re in that stage of your journey.
When you’re ready to move to the next stage of your journey, secure the agreement you need to enter that next stage. Keep focusing on where you are and the very next step you need to take. Your steps will build upon themselves, and eventually you’ll find you’ve climbed the peak.
I have yet to find my eternal companion, but I’ve found some wonderful experiences by opening myself to new possibilities when casually dating. I’ve also had more committed dating experiences because I opened myself more in casual dating. Open yourself to new possibilities. You just might be surprised. And you’ll have more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly 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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