Watch your focus
And yes, I said singles should ask that question of themselves. Your focus determines your reality, so if you don’t like your reality, take a look at your focus. Making that change on the inside can make all the difference in your world on the outside.
And because we’re all designed to operate out of habit, whatever focus we do have we’ll continue to use over and over again. That’s great if your focus creates a reality you want and not so great if your focus creates a reality you don’t want.
But it all starts within, so to change your reality on the outside, change your focus on the inside. If your focus in dating is all about you and what someone else is going to bring you, then you’ll likely attract only those with a similar focus. And the only reason they’ll want you is more because of what they think they can get from you and not so much with who you really are.
Dating isn’t shopping
It’s little wonder we think this way. Modern dating has an increasingly online component, so much so that we bring to dating the same thinking — the assumptions, perspectives, attitudes, and habits — that comprise our online life in other aspects. And pretty much everyone spends a substantial proportion of that life online shopping.
The Internet makes getting pretty much whatever you want so very easy. You look around at options from different offerings, compare prices, read and weigh reviews, and make a purchase. A couple or so days later, your order arrives right at your door. There’s no need to go anywhere. And if what you get isn’t really what you want, you get rid of it.
We do the same thing with dating. We swipe past photos of potential candidates who aren’t cream of the crop, filter profile details, and maybe read what others write. We’d never reach out to a company offering an inferior product; we simply wouldn’t buy. So why would we even think about talking to a dating candidate offering what appears to be an inferior candidacy? The “right” one will arrive on our door in a timely manner and just lift us into bliss, because isn’t that what happens when your relationship is really right?
Find real happiness
Are you catching the focus in this common approach? It treats people like things, which of course trips us up because people are not things. But it’s also all about what you get. And that’s completely backwards because happiness in marriage is more about what you give than what you get.
Long time audience members will know I define happiness as giving your all to all the right things for you. Notice there’s no getting in that definition. It’s all about what you give, and it’s giving all of you to all that’s right for you. Certainly your spouse counts as one of those right things.
Now I’m not suggesting we’re all interchangeable parts who can just marry anyone and be blissfully happy based entirely on what we give. The relationship we’re talking about here is a two-way street; it can’t be all give and no get, for either partner. But too often we focus so much on the getting that we ignore the more major contribution of the giving.
So instead of asking, “What will this person bring?” when evaluating a dating prospect, ask yourself, “What will you bring?” When you focus on getting good with you on the inside and making the changes to make you the best you you can be, in that process you’ll cross paths with someone who’ll want to share the life you’re creating, a life in which you each give to each other the best you each have to give. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Covenant men and women, on the other hand, value covenants over all else. When an opportunity to gain something desirable for themselves comes along, they choose to make and keep sacred covenants, despite whatever they may lose for themselves. They in essence say, “Something better may come along, but I choose my covenants. Here I stand, and this is it for me.”
Recognize the natural
That difference may seem obvious. But too many LDS singles prioritize self over sacred covenants. I’m not talking about people going inactive or apostate, although you could apply it that way. I’m talking about singles rejecting great candidates simply because they aren’t the absolute “best.”
What drives this behavior? Singles mistakenly assume if they don’t marry the “best” they’ll be condemned to an unhappy future. Approaching dating with this faulty assumption, the natural mindset either ignores or rejects candidates who would make excellent companions and bring a life of real joy and happiness. That’s because natural men and women believe you must have the absolute “best” to be happy.
That natural mindset also drives behaviors that give dating its all too painful reputation. For instance, ghosting wouldn’t exist without the natural mindset. Singles who ghost dating candidates essentially prioritize their own self-gratification. What they want — be it avoiding an uncomfortable conversation or pursuing a more attractive candidate — matters more than how others feel. This doesn’t mean you should always surrender to what others want. It just means you should be respectful of others as you search for the best path for you.
Recognize the covenant
If the grass is always greener on the other side, natural men and women will look to get to that other side. They gladly chase after anything better for them because to them what they want matters most.
In contrast, covenant men and women may see the same something better, but they value covenants above all. So if pursuing something better means breaking their covenants, they don’t pursue it. To them, making and keeping sacred covenants matters most.
Now I’m not advocating marrying just anyone who’s active. You can have standards while prioritizing covenants. Suppose you’re choosing between two dating options: The first rates a 10 on a 10-point scale (with 10 being the best) but consistently pursues self-interest, and the second rates a 7 but consistently keeps covenants already made. The natural mindset urges choosing the first option, because 10 gratifies self more than 7. The covenant mindset also sees 10 is better than 7, but the covenant mindset encourages choosing the second candidate, because the covenant mindset prioritizes making and keeping sacred covenants.
Now what if the second candidate rated a 3 instead? The covenant mindset could turn that candidate away, because a partner who doesn’t bring something to the table and serves as little more than filler material will make it harder to keep the covenants which the covenant mindset prizes. Clearly we need a sense of balance, but prioritizing covenants doesn’t mean other standards have no importance.
In reality, no one of us is entirely natural or covenant. We’re all a combination of both, just as we are all mixtures of good and evil, light and darkness, strength and weakness. The real question is “Which one will dominate your choices?”
Many LDS singles stand in their own way of marriage because they allow the natural man or woman to govern their dating choices. True joy in married life comes from living the covenant mindset that says, “Something better may come along, but I make my stand here. For me, this is it.” This means you could “settle” for an allegedly “lesser” candidate and yet have the maximum amount of joy life offers.
So be a covenant man or a covenant woman who will say, “Something better for me may come along, but I make my stand here. For me, this is it.” When you do, you’ll find your dating life as well as your married life more enjoyable. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
These false assumptions actually create the struggle with knowing who to marry. That’s why singles looking for the presence of yes should instead look for the absence of no.
Take your responsibility
We’re here in mortality to exercise agency. Our choices in this life determine our situation in the next stage of our eternal journey. We therefore bear the responsibility for our choices.
That’s precisely why singles who look for some significant spiritual confirmation often struggle with knowing who to marry. Insisting God provide some unmistakable sign you should marry So-and-so means God carries responsibility for that decision. That’s not how it works, so insisting it should work that way only ends in frustration.
We’re here in mortality to make choices. And we have responsibility for those choices. Pushing that responsibility back to God defies His plan for His children. Insisting on some definite spiritual sign says we don’t accept So-and-so until God tells us marrying So-and-so will work out well. It pushes back to God the responsibility for our choices that rightly belongs to us.
Make your choice
We naturally want the security that would come from God revealing to us So-and-so is someone we should marry. But that’s not how it works. A river journey tends to go smoother when you don’t fight the current by paddling upstream. You can paddle downstream by aligning your assumptions with eternally true principles. Instead of fighting God’s design for mortality by pushing the responsibility for your choices onto Him, go with the way it’s supposed to work by accepting that responsibility.
Revelation from God comes after you make your own decision and then bring that decision you made to God to seek His counsel on your decision. God will then respond with yes, no, or maybe. If He answers yes, you’ll feel the strong, unmistakable impression He approves of your decision. If He answers no, you’ll feel a similarly unmistakable impression He doesn’t approve. And if you don’t get any strong impression one way or the other, He answers maybe, which means He trusts you to make your own decision.
So unless the Lord answers no, you should go forward with your decision. If He answers yes, going forward is obvious. But you should also go forward if He answers maybe. If your choice would take you too far away from where He wants you, God answers no. So when He doesn’t answer no, you can walk forward in faith following through on your decision. Only if He answers no do you need to change course. So all you really need is the absence of no.
Walk in faith
Singles stand in their own way when they insist on the presence of yes when approaching marriage decisions. But that faulty assumption also retards progress at any stage of the dating journey. So unless you get that overwhelming sense of no from the Spirit, you should include more people in your circle of friends, and you should casually date more of those friends more often.
Especially in the early stages of the dating journey, you don’t need to receive revelation for every choice you make. Some might extend that to deciding who to marry. Regardless of how you feel about that idea, looking for the absence of no will have you making more progress more quickly in your dating journey.
So if you’ve been waiting for the presence of yes before you move forward, it’s time to change your assumptions. Stop looking for the presence of yes, and start looking for the absence of no. Walk in faith the Lord will tell you when you’re traveling too far from the path He wants for you. That walk will breathe confidence in your gait as you gain more experience. With that experience, you’ll learn, grow, and make more and more better choices. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
This woman says she disavows soul mates. But she also confesses both liking some of her current boyfriend’s traits and wishing he had other traits her former boyfriends have. She says she’s not being picky, but when you refuse to accept good enough I beg to differ. But how do you know when you have good enough?
In my view, this woman stands in her own way. She’s so focused on what her potential partner has today she doesn’t seem to consider what he’ll have tomorrow. How can you avoid confusion when you try to decide for tomorrow using only the indications of today? Here we see the problem with position.
If you marry someone today, you don’t get the person you marry today. The person you marry today is the one you get 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road. It’s not about position; it’s about direction.
I’ve seen this in all my friends who got married. Invariably it’s the same story. Each partner is positioned at different points along the spectrum, which can be for anything from money to children to work ethic to whatever. As the two partners live with each other, each exerts a force on the other pulling the other closer. Eventually, they both end up somewhere in the middle between their original positions.
The most satisfying marriages have each partner pulling the other in a desirable shared direction. When you and your partner want to go in different directions, tension will always be in the relationship. But when you align yourselves to go in the same direction, the energy that went into tension now goes into propelling each of you towards perfection together. Becoming better partners makes you better people.
That’s where I see this woman having her biggest problem. Her considerations don’t seem focused on direction. Her comparison of different boyfriends seems focused on position, like asking, “What can my partner offer me today?”
A focus on position is incredibly shortsighted. Your position today says nothing about your position tomorrow. You could have the best position today, but with a bad direction, tomorrow you’ll be worse off. Conversely, even if you’re in a very bad position today, with a good direction you’ll be in a good position tomorrow. Position means nothing. Direction means everything.
Yet most LDS singles assess dating partners almost universally on position. It’s like using the wrong tool for the job. Sure, you can fell a tree with a pocket knife, but it’d be much easier with a chain saw. Likewise, in making a decision that will affect your life tomorrow, you should consideration where your life will be tomorrow. Direction gives a far more accurate indication of that than does position.
Now I’m not advocating you ignore position. You can’t progress in your dating journey without an agreeable enough partner — that’s a fundamental principle of dating. Often that means your partner should bring something to the table today. Having nothing to offer just doesn’t make anyone agreeable to anybody.
That said, direction always has more importance than position. Yet in our instant gratification microwave world, we’re often not patient enough to assess a quality like direction that takes time to assess. The problem with position is one of patience.
Patience is then the ready solution. Get to know people. Stay in that dreaded “friend zone” with someone, because it’s more important you like rather than love your partner. Spend some more time getting to know more people in the casual dating stage. That experience will help you better assess the direction of each potential partner.
And so it goes for the rest of your dating journey. Prize direction over position by taking the time to assess direction. With that priority, you set yourself up for success because the person you get 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road after you marry will be more aligned with your own direction in life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many singles hold to that assumption under the guise of having standards. They seem to see themselves acting nobly in a chaotic dating world by adhering to their standard that insists on only the best. But such standards actually impede progress in one’s dating journey. So if you insist on believing you’ll be happy only with the most attractive companion, then you’re letting your standards keep you single.
How does one progress in dating? As I discuss in my upcoming book about dating, to progress to each next stage of the journey, you must make an agreement. No agreement means no progress. Period.
In the first stage of the dating journey, you meet new people and build friendships. In the next stage, you casually date candidates you’ve befriended. These activities require openness to social interactions. Otherwise, you’ll likely never get the agreement you need to progress from friendship to casual dating and on to exclusive dating.
But assuming you can be happy in life only if your partner is the “best” or most attractive type limits those interactions. That faulty assumption will encourage you to engage only with those who meet your standards, because what’s the point, after all, in “wasting your time” with people who simply won’t do romantically because they aren’t the “best”?
Mathematically, it just isn’t possible for everyone to have the “best.” Yet many singles cling tenaciously to the hope they’ll be one of the few to score just such a life partner. After all, no one wants to accept an unhappy and unfulfilled life.
But happiness in marriage doesn’t come from what each partner has. Happiness in marriage comes from what each partner gives to each other. And what you give is a choice.
If your partner has to be the “best” or most attractive sort for you to be happy, then God must have really messed up His plan. Check out these words from then Elder Gordon B Hinckley.
How can God’s plan provide happiness for all His children if 90% of people aren’t the “best” but just ordinary? Mathematically, 90% of singles can’t each have monogamous marriage with someone from the top 10%. At least 80% of singles will be left unhappy if only the “best” makes a happy life. Because God wants all his children to be happy, clearly happiness must be available without having the most attractive partner.
And happiness is available to those couples who place honoring sacred covenants above personal desires by giving themselves fully to each other. Your companion doesn’t need to be the “best” or most attractive for you to give all of yourself to that person. Granted, it’s more easy to do the more attractive your companion is, but it’s not essential for happiness.
The resistance many feel when confronted with such a choice is the natural man or natural woman in each of us. The natural man and woman value self-gratification more than making and keeping sacred covenants. Covenant men and women obviously reverse that value system.
I’m not saying we’re interchangeable parts. You shouldn’t marry just anybody, and having standards does help with decision making. Far too many LDS singles, however, insist on standards around what really isn’t essential for lasting happiness. Elder Gerrit W Gong has taught,
Regardless of how you justify it, when you insist on having only the most attractive type of companion, your standards keep you single. Lowering those standards to accept more candidates into your dating pool doesn’t mean sacrificing happiness. Rather, it increases your chances of obtaining it. So reject the natural man and woman, open yourself to possibility, and you may find the blessings you’ve been seeking have been right in front of you all along. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many LDS singles have habits of thinking that give zero consideration to that truth. Too often they put the cart before the horse by insisting that potential casual dates meet their marriage standards. This practice encourages equating dating with marriage, warping dating for everyone.
Online dating only magnifies that ill perspective. If you don’t make an overwhelming first impression with your profile — and primarily your photo — in the first two seconds, you’re done. Treating people like commodities just keeps everyone single.
Don’t close off possibilities
When you buy a commodity online, you expect what you buy to maintain its quality long after the purchase. A tool that works when you buy it should work years from now. Clothes you buy today should still look good years from now. Media that plays today should play problem-free years from now.
And that’s where treating online dating like commodity shopping breaks down. People aren’t products that never change. People will change over time. The person you marry today isn’t the person you have today but the person you will have 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road.
But of course, none of that enters into our consideration when viewing online dating profiles. We don’t think in terms of potential and the direction people have for their lives. We think in terms of position and how well a candidate can satisfy us today.
In so doing, LDS singles often close themselves off from possibilities to have the very blessings they seek. When considering dating opportunities, we should consider direction more than just position. We need to see others as they will likely become.
Direction is more than position
We came to this mortal existence to grow towards perfection. Traveling on this path towards perfection means that none of us are perfect as we are now.
Yet our Heavenly Father doesn’t condemn us for not having yet completed our journey. He knows we’ll eventually arrive at our celestial destination if we maintain the proper direction. And He knows we can always change our direction.
How often LDS singles fail to take that perspective when dating! We too often prefer someone who provides present satisfaction over someone who’ll provide eternal satisfaction.
Case in point: Most aren’t attracted to overweight suitors. Yet being overweight is merely position. What about direction? There’s a world of difference between the overweight person stumbling through diet and exercise and the overweight person doing nothing except crying over why no one wants to love them as they are. With your help, that person you discount today could be more than satisfactory tomorrow.
Potential to change is not change
Of course, just because someone can change doesn’t mean they will change. For example, perpetrators of physical abuse can change, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them just because they can change. Potential for changing direction isn’t the same as actually changing direction.
That’s why you must examine what people do when assessing their direction. What we do every day determines whether we end in one destination or another. And small changes today can result in large differences tomorrow.
No one’s perfect in this life. We all miss the mark somewhere. But that doesn’t mean we always will. Your actions today can build a case that over time demonstrates a more positive direction, convincing those with eyes to see just what a find you really are.
Seeing others for their potential can reveal doors of opportunity you didn’t know existed. Because no one’s perfect, the eternal companion you seek isn’t perfect. Learning to value others for what they will become because of their direction may help you find that companion who actually fulfills your needs more than you could ever imagine. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Part of what enabled him to do this is the Restoration’s fulfillment of the hopes of ancient prophets and saints. They looked forward to the Restoration as a time when all gospel blessings would be enjoined together. Indeed, we who live today have the glorious blessing of the fulness of the Lord’s gospel. And those fruits can enable us to have a perfect brightness of hope for ourselves, our world, and our future.
See the blessings
Elder Holland begins with a list of what he would be looking for in religion were he living in 1820. He and his wife imagined themselves transported back in time with the same spiritual longings that many of the world’s inhabitants have possessed throughout time.
Elder’s Holland’s list provides a wonderful review of the glorious truths restored to humanity — the true nature and character of God, a clearer understanding of God’s plan for His children and especially the role of the Savior in that plan, an additional scriptural witness that enhances one’s understanding of the Lord’s life and ministry, and true priesthood authority to dispense every ordinance required for salvation and exaltation.
Elder Holland saved the crowning blessing for last. In his own words, he would have searched
Indeed, the blessings which the temple extends to bind the living and the dead across eternity truly crown the joy which living the restored gospel offers. As Elder Holland declared,
Elder Holland then directs our attention towards the future. The fulfillment of the hope of ancient prophets and saints for their future can give us hope for the fulfillment of blessings in our future.
Conquering the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps the most immediate of those hopes for the world. But once we overcome that challenge — and Elder Holland assures we will — other challenges will remain, such as hunger, poverty, safer schools, and the eradication of prejudice. And of course, truly conquering those physical challenges will require the adoption of spiritual solutions, what Elder Holland called
Elder Holland then gets deeply personal, and here is where he packs his best punch.
Isn’t that what we all hope for? Many LDS singles hope for a more perfect life, yet marriage never made anyone’s life suddenly perfect. You simply exchange one set of challenges for another.
That said, the hope that marriage can improve one’s life is not unrealistic, especially if one (to borrow a phrase from President Oaks) “marries right.” We LDS singles, no matter our individual circumstances, can and should hope for the achievement of righteous blessings, not only even when that fulfillment seems impossible but especially when that fulfillment seems impossible.
Feel the hope
I suppose that’s why this Conference address touched me. I’m in my mid-40s having never been married. What hope do I have not just of finding the right type of person who would want to marry me but also of having a family of my own, not just one I inherit from a now severed relationship?
I think Elder Holland would say I have every reason to hope. And so do you. The God who has performed miracles in the past can and will perform miracles in our present and our future. I echo with Elder Holland the message of a returned sister missionary in Johannesburg: “[We] did not come this far only to come this far.” Great and glorious blessings await each of us as we stand firm in our faith and continually choose hope over despair.
Truly, the Restoration has blessed us all. The hope of past believers fulfilled gives us hope our present desires for righteous blessings will not be in vain. Choose that faith over fear. Choose that hope over despair. When we walk in the perfect brightness of that hope, we’ll progress towards our best life. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
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.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show 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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