In the most recent General Conference, Elder Jack Gerard of the Seventy spoke of the importance of priorities in life. His remarks, entitled “Now Is The Time,” encourage all of us to place our priorities upon what matters most in life — our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Whether or not you have goals for the new year, now is the time to consider whether the priorities you really do have are the ones you really should have.
Set the right priorities
Elder Gerard begins with an account of chest pains he experienced while traveling. After arriving at the airport, he sought help at a local hospital, wondering if he would reach his final destination. A doctor ran multiple tests and then declared him safe to continue his travels.
Elder Gerard returned to the airport and resumed his journey. As the plane approached his final destination, Elder Gerard learned an ambulance would be waiting to take him to the hospital. The doctor had misdiagnosed his condition, which was much more serious than previously supposed.
After he learned the new diagnosis and that not many patients survive that condition, Elder Gerard’s perspective suddenly shifted. He described his experience with these words:
Indeed, now is the time to consider our direction. Stephen Covey often used the analogy of a ladder when speaking about priorities. He described a man who exerted much effort to climb a ladder leaning against a wall. When he got to the top, what he saw behind the wall made one truth painfully obvious; his ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
It should sound silly to talk about priorities after many of us have made our goals, because priorities rightfully come before goals. We need to establish our direction before we establish what we want to accomplish. Otherwise, we’ll likely find the ladder we climb has been leaning against the wrong wall.
Daily life in our modern world contains so many distractions we can spend our lives wandering aimlessly without any sense of direction or purpose. We need to take time to reflect upon our direction. Unless we do, we’ll easily become “like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
Do the things of greatest eternal importance have the highest priority in your life? If not, it’s never too late to start again. Now is the time to consider your direction.
Elder Gerard reminds us that
It’s so easy to coast and let the waves of day-to-day living just wash over us! But that complacency will never deliver your best life. You get your best life by living intentionally, and living with intention requires awareness of what you’re doing and more importantly why. That means having priorities and a plan of action that supports those priorities.
How else do we ensure our ladder is not leaning against the wrong wall? Priorities determine direction, and direction determines destination.
Rise above distraction
During his remarks, Elder Gerard asked this very practical question: “How do we rise above the distractions of this world and stay fixed on the vision of eternity before us?” He then extolled Christ as the standard by which to judge what’s best and declared “understanding our divine origins is essential to our eternal progress and can free us from the distractions of this life.”
Ultimately, the best way to know what our real priorities should be is to evaluate ourselves and our lives without distraction. That’s where temple attendance can be so refreshing. In the house of the Lord, we can separate ourselves from the distractions of the world. Remembering our divine origins and why we’re here can bring clarity to an otherwise muddled view.
If you wonder whether your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, now is the time to consider what changes you need to make. If you didn’t make any goals for the new year, then by default you decided to let the waves of life carry you where they may. Now is the time for you to own your life and establish the priorities that will determine your direction and ultimately your destination. When you do, you’ll find yourself moving forward more confidently. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
You must believe
People make resolutions with the best of intentions. In fact, those good intentions drive us to create the resolution. We see something we want in our lives, or maybe something we want out of our lives, and we resolve to change.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so good intentions alone are insufficient to achieve greatness. Good intentions reflect good desires, and as such they make a good start. But you must also believe in the change you want for yourself.
If you don't believe, you won't receive. Without believing that what you want for yourself is possible, you won't even try. You’ll quit before you start. And you’re guaranteed not to achieve anything if you don’t try.
But you must believe in more than possibility. You must believe what you want for yourself is probable. And you must believe in yourself and your ability to make what you want more probable. That’s of course easier to do when you partner with the Lord. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
You must plan
Once you believe the attainment of your desires is not only possible but also probable, you must take action, starting with a plan. What steps will you take to achieve your desires?
How we achieve our goals may not happen exactly the way we envision. In fact, they very often don't. But a good plan provides concrete action you can take. It gives permission and direction to be busy doing. And that's essential, because results come from one thing and one thing only — action.
The best plans provide specific actions you can take. Clearly defined, simple tasks conform well to how the brain is hardwired. Our brains are hardwired not to think but to execute clear, simple instructions. When you break your plans down to that level, you align yourself with how you’re built. And that significantly improves your probability of success.
The best plans also consider environment. Your brain is hardwired to determine normal by assessing your surroundings. Let’s say you want to lose weight. If the people usually around you have some pounds to shed themselves, then your brain will think being at that weight is normal, and it will be harder for you to lose weight because most of us don't want to be abnormal; we want to fit in and belong to the group. You must also consider potential distractions in your environment. Again, if you want to lose weight, make sure your food stores don't contain anything that will work against you.
Finally, the best plans consider psychology. Many who are overweight use emotional eating to compensate for something they lack. They use the pleasures of eating to feed their emotional needs (pun intended). If you try to lose weight without addressing deeply seated psychological influences, it's more probable you won't succeed. Your plan must include healthy ways to address your emotional needs that can support you in achieving your goals.
You must act
With a good plan in place, the only thing left is to do. Results come from one thing and only one thing — action. Action plus attitude equals achievement.
Your past attempts ending in failure can provide lessons for success. A failed attempt doesn't mean you’re a failure; it just means your approach is a failure. Direction determines destination, so make a slight change in your approach — in the direction you take — and you can arrive at an entirely new destination. Anything you can imagine you can have. Anything you can dream you can live.
A new year is now upon us, and with it comes new opportunity to improve upon ourselves and to live our best life. When we believe, plan, and act, we can achieve anything. Now is the time for you to rise up and claim your best life. When you do, you give others permission to rise up and claim their best life. That makes life better for everyone. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Christmas is right around the corner, and as long-time members of the audience know, Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And we know why. There’s the time with family and friends, the food, the presents, the lights everywhere, and the general feeling of goodwill, just to name a few.
In addition, many of us will have our own slight adjustments to that list because we each have our own traditions for celebrating the season. Those traditions create memories that can last a lifetime. We can reflect back and relive the goodness of those moments, an experience bringing us joy again and again.
Yet we truly treasure those old memories when we allow them to motivate us in creating new memories to treasure and recording them in some way that allows us to bring these memories to future generations. By creating new memories as well as the means to share those memories with those coming after us, we truly treasure our memories of the season.
Relive past memories
We can all capture joy by reflecting back on treasured memories of past Christmases, particularly those that involve family traditions. Some of my most treasured memories of Christmas as I grew up involved two special traditions: Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning breakfast.
Dinner on Christmas Eve was a huge smorgasbord. We would list everything we wanted to eat — pizza, sandwiches, fried chicken, Chinese, whatever. We’d intentionally get more than we could possibly eat in one setting so we’d have leftovers over the next 2-3 days and my mother wouldn’t have to cook. It was my father’s annual present to my mother.
But we needed to have Christmas breakfast before getting to that point, and that was also a feast in its own right. We’d have waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns — pretty much anything you’d want for a big breakfast. And just like the night before we’d have leftovers to eat the next couple of days.
What make these memories so treasured for me is that they required us to work together. Our Christmas Eve smorgasbord usually required 2-3 of us each traveling a different route to secure a portion of the whole feast. And we’d each take turns helping to fix parts of Christmas breakfast so each of us could shower and dress to get ready for it all. By the time we were all dressed and ready, so was breakfast.
Share past memories
Of course, treasured memories will die with us unless we create a channel to transmit them across the generations. It’s great that my treasured memories bring goodness into my life whenever I relive them. But how much more goodness can I bring into the world by recording my memories so that future generations can share in my joy?
Modern technology provides many options for all of us to record the memories we make each Christmas season. I’m something of an old school fan here; I prefer handwritten journals. But there’s plenty of other options. You can record audio conversations with family members, or take photos of family being together, or record video of family members participating in family traditions. Modern technology makes it really easy to capture the moments that make great memories.
And you don’t have to settle on just one channel for preserving and transmitting memories. Again, modern technology makes it super easy to utilize multiple channels. Some careful planning can maximize your readiness to capture the memory making moments you don’t anticipate as well the ones you do.
Don’t miss the opportunity
However you choose to proceed, don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of your moments. The memories that bring us joy from years past and the memories that will bring us joy in years to come arise from the actions we take now. We truly treasure the memories we have today by working to make more memories we’ll have tomorrow.
And we amplify the goodness contained in those memories by creating channels for sharing it with future generations. Don’t make the mistake of allowing your circumstances to decide your level of activity. Even if you’re single without any direct descendants, don’t think there aren’t others in succeeding generations who’ll be interested in knowing more about your goodness. Like light that shines for all to see, the goodness we each have can make memories everyone can treasure for years to come.
So treasure the memories you have by making new ones and recording them in some way for future generations. When you do, you’ll expand the goodness you experience in our your own life and transmit that goodness to those who come after you. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Last week I talked about my mother's suicide attempt. I also talked about some of the reflections that event inspired. I've searched for the big-picture view not only of what's happening but also of my life up to this point.
And what I see fills me with awe. Obviously I see the trial of my mother's suicide attempt and her subsequent hospitalization. But I also see that trial as the latest episode in a series of trials. And I remember the experience we gain from trials is one of the reasons why we’re here in mortality.
I could start listing what I've endured, but it wouldn't mean much because we all have trials in life. As much as we might feel our particular trial makes us special, it doesn’t. Everyone has trials. And everyone can learn from those experiences. When I realize what I've learned from my trials, I can't help but be grateful for trials.
Essential to happiness
How could I be the man I am today without the trials I've experienced? It's impossible. I’d never have the depth of compassion I have for LDS singles were I not single myself for so long. I’d never have positive energy ruling my life if I hadn’t experienced the self-inflicted negative energy so many LDS singles experience. And I’d never feel the confidence I feel in my future without overcoming the despair of hopelessness.
I could go on, but the point remains. Everything positive about us, anything indicating growth in us, and anything proving we’re better today than we were yesterday is possible because of trials. Without trials, there’s no opposition. Without opposition, there’s no growth. Without growth, we can’t be our best. If we can’t be our best, we can't be happy. And if we can't be happy, then what else is there?
Of course, I'm not actively looking for trials. I've lived long enough to know trouble never has trouble finding each of us eventually. And yes, sometimes trials have negative impacts that overwhelm in the moment. But every obstacle also comes with opportunity — the opportunity to yield something positive from the experience. It's that possibility for the positive for which I'm grateful.
Dependent on the right perspective
As I look back on the trials I've experienced in life, I recognize that the possibility for the positive creates a space necessary for growth and personal enrichment. Life has a way of beating everyone down. And the only way getting beat down could ever be positive is if that action shapes us into something better.
But that only happens if we choose a perspective that allows that to happen. The existence of the opportunity to yield something positive will mean nothing unless we take advantage of that opportunity. We do that by choosing to be positive.
That brings us to gratitude, because gratitude is always the first choice in creating a positive life from whatever trials we each experience. Gratitude breeds appreciation, and appreciation opens the door to faith, hope, and charity. Appreciating what we have leads us to believe we can be further blessed. That gives us hope we will be further blessed and inspires us to bless the lives of others.
But just as gratitude feeds a mentality of abundance, the lack of gratitude feeds a mentality of scarcity. We don't want to share what we have with others out of fear there won't be enough for ourselves. We begin to believe there are no further blessings, and therefore there’s no hope tomorrow can be better than today. In the end, we become very insular and absorbed in self.
Foundational for a new tradition
That's why I'm grateful for trials. It's the School of Hard Knocks that beats me down enough to learn what I need to learn in order to grow. Without the challenges that trials provide, I wouldn't be nearly as motivated to seek after the solutions that transform me into a better man.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and if your day will include any traditional performance, you're likely to mention or at least think about what you're grateful for. That list, no matter how long, usually includes obvious blessings like friends, family, good food, and a warm place to sleep at night, just to name a few.
But this year, can we also be thankful for the trials that have shaped us into something more than we were before? Can we be grateful for lessons learned the hard way and for growth that would come to us in no other way? We’re more open to further blessings when we’re grateful for the trials that provide opportunities for positive growth and enrichment. Being grateful for trials can help us accept that truth. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
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.
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.
Sometimes your dreams can seem so far away as to be unreachable. So much remains to be done, and so much of that lies outside your control, that you wonder how you’ll ever arrive. How could the blessings you desire ever be yours?
Very often there’s a real difference between how things feel and how things really are. Sure, nothing worth having comes easy. But sometimes the obstacles before you can seem bigger than they really are. Only by stepping out of your comfort zone and rising to your challenges do you see how big they really are.
And that's when you find what you thought was insurmountable really is doable. You just have to get started and take it one step at a time. By consistently doing the small things that move you further in your journey, you can conquer any challenge set before you. You can go the distance.
What drives those who achieve phenomenal results in life, those who make their dreams reality? It’s vision. Vision is different than sight. Sight depends on what you see with your physical eyes. But vision depends on what you see with your spiritual eyes — the eye of faith.
You begin by seeing yourself in a different way. As we’ve frequently discussed, that requires you to think in new and different ways. If you surround yourself with negativity, if your self talk is consistently negative, you'll find it hard to believe in possibility. You'll find it hard to believe that your life could be any different than how it has been. Only when your self talk is consistently positive and you surround yourself with positive energy will you be thinking in ways that allow you to see a brighter tomorrow for yourself.
But just seeing yourself differently isn’t enough. You must believe that vision can become reality and that it can be yours — because the truth is that can! Such belief comes from faith — faith that you’re a child of God and that he loves you, faith that He wants you to succeed, faith that He’ll help you realize your dream and become everything you’re capable of becoming.
When you have a vision of what you can become, that vision can drive you to do incredible things. But you must make the conscious choice to do what is necessary every day to move yourself closer to the realization of your vision. You must adopt a habit of consistently doing what is necessary.
The so-called little things in life are really the big things. It's the small actions performed every day that move us closer, inch by inch, to the reality our vision shows us. Observed in one moment of time, those little actions may seem insignificant. But collectively over time, those small actions done every day can comprise a considerable sum.
That's why you need the determination to do what’s necessary every day. Never surrender. Results come from action and nothing else. When you fail to act, you don’t make the small contribution that over time adds up to a considerable sum. Only by denying the natural man or woman who wants you to coast, to be satisfied with a life beneath the reality your vision shows you can you overcome mediocrity and achieve your fullest potential and the phenomenal life you dream of having. You must be determined never to surrender.
But that determination can turn to frustration unless you begin to see the opportunities amid your obstacles. Every obstacle comes with at least one opportunity. Most people, however, never see that opportunity because they're too prone to look only at the obstacle.
As I’ve said many times, your focus determines your reality. If all you see is the obstacle in front of you, then your reality will be one of obstruction. But when you focus on seeking out the opportunity that comes with every obstacle, your reality will be one of opportunity. And as the Savior once taught, “Seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).
Only by gaining the vision of what your life can be and then resolutely moving towards it, though you move only inches a day, will your dreams ever become reality. But that's what walking by faith is all about. It's not living life based on what you see with your physical eyes. It's living life based on what you see with your spiritual eyes.
When you walk by faith, taking each step with vision and determination to do what’s necessary and find the opportunity, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your dreams will one day be your reality because you choose to go the distance. 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.
If you’re struggling with LDS singles life, and particularly with dating, then you need to examine your attitude and your approach. Your results in life always come from what you do. And what you do inside yourself (your attitude) and outside yourself (your approach) comes from your choices. We’re all choosing the life we want.
Many LDS singles without the life they want need to adjust both attitude and approach. We touched on some aspects of a more effective approach two weeks ago when we discussed the proper role of revelation in dating. Then last week we addressed aspects of a more effective attitude. Neither of these discussions was comprehensive, but they do contain good starting points for positive change.
Here’s another aspect of both attitude and approach: Many LDS singles make assumptions about their world which their habits then use as the basis for action. But it’s like the old saying goes — garbage in, garbage out. A more effective attitude and approach begins with more effective assumptions.
Everything goes back to the way you think. That’s why a periodic reformat and reboot is good; you need to step back, examine your assumptions, and clear your head of anything faulty or less effective.
Question your assumptions
Sometimes what we think is significant really isn’t. Many LDS singles reject opportunities for success because their assumptions about what was important or even essential guided them along a different path. Their assumptions blinded them into thinking what really was an opportunity wasn’t an opportunity.
For example, most singles think the age of their special someone is within 5-6 years of their own. Why? Because they assume that’s what they should want. But often it’s not experience guiding them to adopt that assumption; they’re just being good “sheeple” in following the herd.
Thankfully, President Hinckley’s parents didn’t follow that assumption. They were separated by 13 years of age. And their union produced a prophet!
Life will never fully unfold for you until you start questioning your assumptions. When you let go of what you think you need but really don’t, you open yourself to more possibility. And that increases your probability of achieving success.
Don’t discount the good
Many LDS singles interact with other singles only insofar as it serves their agenda. Once someone no longer serves their agenda, they cease all interactions with that someone.
This faulty approach is itself based on faulty assumptions: Spending time and money on people who won’t progress with you towards marriage is a waste. That assumes people matter only insomuch as they help you achieve what you want. In the end, all that really matters is getting the goal.
When you spell it out, it’s not hard to see how ridiculous those assumptions are. People have inherent worth as children of God. Everyone matters. Yet many of us don’t have the self-awareness necessary to realize how ridiculous our own assumptions are.
Yes, lovers should be friends first. But friendship alone has intrinsic value. Who couldn’t use more support in facing the challenges of LDS singles life?
Every relationship you have, romantic and otherwise, offers knowledge and experience that can help you have a better relationship with that special someone when that person comes into your life. By discounting the good many potential friends have to offer, you make life harder than it needs to be. And you might be staying single longer than needed as well.
Look for the flecks
Elder M Russell Ballard once told the story of a young man who went to California during the Gold Rush to seek his fortune. He eagerly panned for gold nuggets like the ones he had heard about before coming west. But after weeks of effort, he had found nothing.
Then one day he met an older gentleman who had spent many days prospecting and found enough gold to fill a small bag. The young man was discouraged to learn that gold was not the nuggets for which he searched but rather many tiny flecks. After hearing his discouragement, the older gentleman responded that those flecks had made him a wealthy man.
If we assume the eternal companion we seek is a gold nugget, then we may be joining that young man in disappointment. Most people aren’t gold nuggets; they have imperfections aplenty. Yet they also have flecks of gold mingled among those imperfections. Choosing to give those gold flecks more weight than the imperfections can make us wealthy indeed.
When you clear your head of faulty assumptions, you can more easily meet with your success. Embracing all experience opens the door of possibility, increases your probability of success, and helps you to find much more than you ever imagined you could. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week we discussed President Nelson’s remarks from the most recent General Conference about increasing the revelation we receive in our lives. By following the Prophet’s counsel, we can find answers to questions and solutions to challenges.
Many LDS singles rightly seek revelation during their dating journey. However, many become their own worst obstacle when they seek too much revelation too soon.
These singles ask the obvious question: Is this person “the one”? That question seems appropriate for exclusive daters contemplating engagement. But many ask that same question before they get anywhere near the Exclusive Dating stage. They’re in the Casual Dating stage or even still in the Friendship stage.
I understand why they do it. They don’t want to waste their time with someone who ultimately won’t give them what they want — a temple marriage. And they don’t want the emotional pain of heartache after investing in a relationship that dies. But I also understand why this approach turns LDS singles into their own worst obstacle.
So much of the thinking in LDS subculture is binary. Everything’s either good or bad, black or white. There’s no room for gray.
This narrow perspective drives LDS singles to see every dating prospect in extremes. Everyone is either potential marriage material or an acquaintance. Why waste time and money, the thinking goes, on someone who won’t be with you in the end anyway?
It’s little wonder we don’t really know what friendship is anymore when we discard further association with others once their failure to satisfy our personal agenda becomes evident. Getting to know other people is never a waste of time. Who couldn’t use more support while traveling the road of LDS singles life?
Cutting off association with others once all hope of romance dies sends the message that our worth comes from our ability to provide marriage. Yet our worth really comes from our status as children of God. Building genuine friendship with others — especially when they can’t really help us any — is the mark of a true friend. And more true friends means more support when relationships we do hope will work out don’t.
Asking “Is this the one?” too soon introduces excessive seriousness in our dating journey. Everyone retracts, becoming extremely cautious about everything they do because they don’t want to be tied to any undesirable commitments. And that restricts progress in our dating journey.
We also tend to misinterpret our experience with revelation when we ask such a serious question too soon. What will be the answer to such a question? More often than not, it’ll be “No.” We then assume that means this person isn’t “the one” and proceed to sever all relations. In actuality, it’s far more likely that “No” simply means “No, you’re going about this all wrong.”
I once met an attractive woman at a singles conference. We really seemed to click. But a couple of emails later, she told me she prayed to know whether I was “the one” and God told her to stop talking to me.
Please! Revelation properly used in dating is about confirming choices we make, not instructing us with what to do. Her choice was in no way informed. We never went on a single date!
And what resulted from her choice? No one won. Both of us remained single longer than we needed to be, and neither one of us gained a new friend. In many ways, we really are our own worst obstacle. If only we could get out of our own way!
Be where you are
We can promote rather than frustrate our progress in our dating journey by respecting where we are. Before the Exclusive Dating stage, there’s no elevated commitment level. Any commitment between people dies with the end of the date activity.
With such low levels of commitment, asking a very serious question like “Is this the one?” has no place until time with the more serious commitment of the Exclusive Dating stage prompts consideration of progressing even further. No wonder the answer to that question asked too soon is more often “No.” The Lord is trying to tell us, “No, you’re going about this all wrong!”
Why can’t we just focus on where we are in our journey and enjoy that place? Dating is supposed to be fun, and it can be when we set aside our expectations, enjoy getting to know others, and build friendships rather than rushing everything towards the end goal.
Don’t be your own worst obstacle. Save serious questions for later stages of the journey when the level of commitment demands that level of seriousness. When you do, you’ll free yourself to enjoy more every part of dating. 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 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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