But in reflecting upon my situation, I’ve come to realize my faulty assumption. I’ve been assuming I can find peace only outside myself. I want to get away from the fighting that fills our communities. I want to escape the turbulence of these troubled times. I want to resolve the circumstances outside myself that I’ve erroneously connected with how I feel inside myself.
But peace doesn’t come from outside ourselves. Peace comes from within. As a popular song teaches, let there be peace, and let it begin with me. When we take proper action, we can have peace within even though the world around us has anything but.
Your focus determines your reality. So when you change your focus, you change your realty. When you change the way you think, you change your life.
All of us can create a reality of peace in our lives when we focus on what brings peace. And the ultimate source of peace is the Prince of Peace. He suffered our pains and troubles so that He would know how to be compassionate in our hour of need. He died so that we could live.
That life Christ gives isn’t just eternal life in the realm beyond the veil. He gives life here and now in mortality. He can lighten our load and light the way before us. He can lift us when we are low. He can give hope amidst despair. But in order to make His lift, His light, and His love our reality, we must focus upon Him.
The Christmas spirit of peace lives in us when we increase our discipleship to the Prince of Peace. It’s when we ignore His teachings or turn our focus away from the weightier matters of covenant living that we bring ourselves the opposite of peace. Aligning our will with His brings a harmony with truth that makes our hearts a natural home for peace.
And only when we have peace within ourselves can we effectively promote peace outside ourselves. Only a continued walk after the Prince of Peace can inspire others to follow His enlightened example and find peace within themselves.
But deep, lasting peace never comes from just going through the motions. Just as true happiness comes from giving yourself to all the right things for you, deep, lasting peace comes only when you align yourself with all the right things for you.
Of course you should strive to keep the commandments and your covenants. Those things are right for everyone. But beyond the standards reside what’s right for each of us individually — goodness related to your personal ministry and the contribution only you can make in the lives of others.
When you give yourself to those right things that only you can do, you promote peace. You become a city shining on a hill giving goodness, light, and love to an increasingly darkened world desperately in need. And that peace you bring to others can bring greater peace to you as well.
You can’t really share with others what you yourself don’t have. It all starts where the song says it starts. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me.
Peace comes from within, so let each of us align ourselves with God. Let each of us be true to our covenants. Let each of us give what only we can give. Let each of us focus on Christ and feel the peace that comes from following after the Prince of Peace.
Then let us all go forward and share that peace with others. Let us light their lives. Let us give them hope. Let us lighten their load. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me and you. We will find a peace we have never before known when we cultivate peace within our own hearts like we have never before done. And doing that will bring us more joy in our journey.
In his message to the world, President Nelson taught “Counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems.” To help us integrate that teaching into our lives, President Nelson suggested two specific actions:
The social media gratitude journal
Social media has never resonated much with me. I recognize its benefits, like keeping up with family and friends as well as increased communication that otherwise would be difficult if not downright impossible. I’ve just never felt the need to integrate everything about my life with social media. I resonate much more with connections in the real world.
Yet I don’t feel that way about President Nelson’s invitation to use social media as a gratitude journal. Contrary to my usual response, President Nelson’s invitation resonates greatly with me. From the moment I first heard his 7-day challenge, I felt a desire to embrace it. And that desire felt completely natural.
I of course have no idea what will result from my participation in that challenge. Maybe something big will happen. Or maybe not much of anything will appear to happen at all. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that good men and women stand up and push goodness into the world to fight back against the emboldened evil that President Nelson declared in the last General Conference abounds. That goodness begins with gratitude.
Prayers of gratitude
From my own experience, the best way to begin to embrace gratitude is through prayer. I’ve spoken before about my habit of devoting my morning prayers to gratitude, and that one simple change in my daily routine has greatly transformed my life for the better.
About two years ago I adopted a habit of including in my morning prayers only expressions of thanks. I intentionally do not ask for anything; I simply give thanks for what I’ve received. Over time, those prayers have grown to include thanks for blessings not yet received. At first, it was difficult; my mind wasn’t trained to think in strict terms of thanksgiving. But repeated attempts brought that training, and the effect has been life-changing.
Hearing others express gratitude in prayer can open us to a new level of gratitude. I was greatly touched by hearing the Prophet pray and express gratitude for the many blessings we all enjoy everywhere every day. The wonders of nature, the glorious workings of the human body, and the beauty of art, literature, and music all bring joy in life. Focusing on expressions of gratitude invites us to open ourselves more to that joy.
The next step
The Prophet has spoken, and now the next step for all of us is to follow the Prophet. Take his challenge to express gratitude in social media every day for seven days, and then see whether you feel happier. And begin to express more gratitude in your prayers to God.
When we were Primary children, many of us sang, “Follow the Prophet. He knows the way!” I know that President Nelson is the Prophet for us today, and in his recent message to the world, he has shown us the way. That way is gratitude.
Let us each claim the blessings of peace and healing that God wants to bestow upon us. When you let gratitude heal you, you can feel peace in a chaotic world. You can salve the wounds of hate. You can find victory in defeat and abundance in loss. Best of all, you can feel more of the love God has for you as His child. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In addition to the scriptures-Spirit-assimilation model we discussed last week, the Prince of Peace provides additional aids and comforts. Elder Neil L. Andersen spoke of such aids in his address from the last General Conference entitled “Spiritually Defining Memories.” These memories recall moments in our lives when the Spirit provides strong confirmation that God knows and loves us individually. They provide courage in times of concern and faith in times of fear. They help us to know that God knows that we know He will not forsake us.
Follow the prophets
Elder Andersen began his remarks by recounting the experience of Joseph Smith with his spiritually defining memories of the First Vision. The Prophet Joseph faced persecution and hardship because of both his experience and his witness of that experience.
But God never forsook him. Even when he rode towards his assassination, he remarked, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men” (D&C 135:4). He knew that God knew that he knew God would not forsake him.
Elder Andersen then jumps to an experience from our current Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. Some years ago while President Nelson was a practicing heart surgeon, an elderly stake patriarch pleaded with him to perform a surgery he desperately needed. The then-Dr. Nelson describes vivid pictures of how to perform the needed operation which came clearly into his mind during the surgery. As Elder Andersen relates, “he knew that God knew that he knew he had been directed.”
Elder Andersen provided more examples from both his own life and others he knew. What strikes me about each of these experiences, including the ones from modern-day prophets, is that God always individually tailors whatever offering He provides.
As I accept Elder Andersen’s invitation to reflect on my own spiritually defining memories, I can see the same holds true for me. Throughout my life, and especially as a single Latter-day Saint, God has always individually tailored His offerings to me. I know that God knows that I know He loves me and is aware of me and my circumstances.
I remember one moment in which I felt particularly discouraged. As is sometimes my habit, I was listening to Internet radio as I worked. But in this moment, discouragement clouded my concentration, preventing me from focusing as well as I could on my task.
Then the Internet radio station began playing a song I had never before heard. It spoke powerfully to the deepest parts of my soul, reaffirming my eternal worth and potential. In that moment, I knew that God knew that I knew He treasured me and has always wanted so very much to bless me.
Elder Andersen provides this description:
God supports us in our eternal journey with spiritually defining memories.
Ultimately, our ability to have those experiences that provide spiritually defining memories in our lives depends first on the will of God — because if He wants something to happen, it will, and if He doesn’t, it won’t — and secondly on our willingness to hear Him. President Nelson has recently invited us “to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?” as well as “to take steps to hear Him better and more often.”
The row we LDS singles have can be hard to hoe, but with the Lord at our side there is nothing we cannot accomplish. The better we hear Him, the more we’ll feel His love and support. He’ll bring spiritually defining memories to our remembrance, and He’ll graciously grant us more experiences that make more spiritually defining memories. As Elder Andersen counseled,
What spiritually defining memories are yours? As you reflect on those sacred transmissions of love from your Heavenly Father, you will feel more of His love for you. You’ll position yourself to hear Him better. You’ll know that He knows that you know He loves you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I started my scripture study on scripture study last week. And while I’m nowhere near finished, I found a verse that exemplifies the role I want my daily scripture study to play. It’s inside a very simple formula for peace in life:
The scriptures are an obvious repository of knowledge about the Prince of Peace. And while they aren’t the only repository, the scriptures should be the first resource we consult when our peace in life is challenged.
That’s part of what I want daily scripture study to provide. I want to feel my knowledge and intellectual mastery of gospel principles expanding. I want to feel spiritually nourished. That doesn’t happen for me with a simple rote reading activity because I’ve progressed beyond satiation with simply milk. I need meat!
And the scriptures have lots of meat, particularly for those willing to search for it, because many of the golden treasures in the scriptures aren’t lying on the surface for just anyone to pick up. To get the gold, you have to dig. And digging means interacting with the scriptures in one way or another.
Those in educational circles would call this active learning. You’re reflecting on the meaning of words or looking for patterns or identifying themes or making connections between different verses based on their use of the same word or pattern, often with the purpose of answering a question or accomplishing some objective.
Of course, peace in life requires more than increasing our intellectual mastery of the gospel. Study does provides the foundation, but the foundation is not the entire edifice. Knowledge is not power; power comes only when we act on our knowledge. To build on the foundation scripture study should provide, we must listen to what we learn.
To listen means simply to hear, but it also means to follow and to comply with. And if the Spirit is the true teacher, as is often said, then the real learning comes as we hear the voice of the Spirit and follow what that voice tells us to do. After all, true comprehension comes by doing.
I take all this to mean I need to incorporate time for listening into my scripture study ritual. After all, hearing and receiving instructions requires time. My focus cannot be checking off the box next to this daily ritual appearing on my to-do list. After all, your focus determines your reality. My focus must be on acquiring the information the Spirit conveys to those who listen.
That brings us to the third element in the peace formula — “walk in the meekness of my Spirit.” I understand this phrase to mean more than simply following instructions. It means incorporating truth into one’s lifestyle.
The ultimate purpose in gaining mastery of gospel principles is to deepen discipleship, to become a more effective servant of the Prince of Peace Who we have covenanted to serve. And the promise to those who follow this three-step process of learning, listening, and walking is peace in Christ.
What a wonderful promise! For me, the best part is it’s not conditioned on marital status. We LDS singles can have peace in the midst of our challenges. It all starts with a solid scripture study ritual, then continues with sensitivity to the Spirit and adopting the truth we learn into our lifestyles. You might say peace comes from scriptures, Spirit, and assimilation.
Obtaining peace from the Prince of Peace won’t necessarily eliminate our troubles. But it will help us to approach them with confidence and faith that all is in the hands of a loving Heavenly Father. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Fortify it all
That statement, of course, begs the question: What are those right things? They’re the same right things I’ve used before to define happiness — giving your all to all the right things for you. That’s more than just keeping the standards. That means everything that’s right for you.
Of course, we need to build a fortress that provides spiritual safety. Any other victory in life would be hollow with spiritual vulnerability. It won’t matter in the end what else we’ve chosen if we haven’t chosen Christ.
That said, we need fortification for all other areas of life. What are we doing to fortify our most important relationships? What fortifications are we building to protect our minds? And how are we fortifying our physical bodies, our personal finances, and our careers?
Elder Rasband declared,
Do you think Satan highlights our disappointments only when those disappointments are spiritual? You’re awfully naive if you do.
Get the spiritual first
The key to fortifying every aspect of our lives lies with first fortifying the spiritual. As Elder Rasband taught, “For our safety, we must build a fortress of spirituality and protection for our very souls, a fortress that will not be penetrated by the evil one.” Once we have the spiritual fortifications in place, every other fortification can and will follow.
Partnering with the Lord is essential in constructing that bulwark. We’ve all heard the Prophet teach we won’t spiritually survive the coming days if we can’t receive revelation. Elder Rasband referenced that teaching in his own remarks. The Lord can show us what next steps we need to take.
Elder Rasband continued,
That’s a key concept — building faith in the Lord on the inside so you can build your fortress for protection on the outside.
Get good with you
All of this depends on you getting good with you. When you combine personal righteousness with clarity of identity and purpose, you attune yourself to the celestial frequency of revelation. Without that clarity, excessive internal static will override the revelatory signal you need to receive.
Once you get good with you, everything else will follow. You’ll know better how to protect your most important relationships. You’ll know better the messages you need to feed your mind. And you’ll know better how to protect your job, your finances, and your health. In the very least, partnering with the Lord can lead you to a resource you need to find answers.
For every part of your life, build your fortress. Partner with the Lord, get good with you, and get the revelation you need to prepare for what is to come. You’ll feel the peace and security that can come in no other way. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Christmas was yesterday, so yes, it’s technically over. But reflecting on my experience this year leaves me wanting something of the essence of Christmas to linger and continue into the coming year.
This past Sunday my bishop shared a few remarks at the end of the ward Christmas program. He recognized some in the congregation were friends of other faiths, and he spoke for a moment specifically to them. He acknowledged some recent changes in the Church, particularly the new meeting schedule starting next year. And then he promised that those who would faithfully attend our worship services each Sunday would find peace for at least that one hour.
In reflecting upon his words, I realize what many of us really want in our lives is peace. We want to get away from the fighting that fills our communities. We want to escape the turbulence troubled times give to us and those we love most. We want to remove the frustrating circumstances life can provide. We all want peace.
As a popular song teaches, let there be peace, and let it begin with me. When we take the proper action inside ourselves first and then promote peace in others, we can have peace in our lives, regardless of our circumstances or what is happening in the world around us.
Follow after peace
I’ve long spoken both on this program and in the blog about how singles can feel peace in a family-centered culture while not having the marker of belonging in that culture. Your focus determines your reality, so when you change your focus, you change your realty. When you change the way you think, you change your life.
That principle applies to everyone, not just singles. All of us can create a reality of peace in our lives when we focus on what brings peace. And the ultimate source of peace is the Prince of Peace. He suffered our pains and troubles so that He would know how to be compassionate in our hour of need. He died so that we could live.
That life Christ gives isn’t just eternal life in the realm beyond the veil. He gives life here and now in mortality. He can lighten our load and light the way before us. He can lift us when we are low. He can give hope amidst despair.
The Christmas spirit of peace can continue on in us when we increase our discipleship to the Prince of Peace. It’s when we ignore His teachings or forget our covenants that we bring ourselves the opposite of peace. Aligning ourselves with His teachings and our covenants with Him brings a harmony with truth that makes a natural home for peace.
Once we have peace within ourselves, we can then spread peace to others around us. Our continued walk after the Prince of Peace can inspire others to follow His enlightened example. Once they align themselves with truth, others can have the same peace in their lives.
But deep, lasting peace comes from more than just keeping the standards. Just as true happiness comes from giving yourself to all the right things for you, deep, lasting peace comes when you align yourself with all the right things for you. By all means, strive to keep the commandments and your covenants. Those things are right for everyone. But beyond the standards reside what’s right for each of us individually — goodness related to your personal ministry and the contribution only you can make in the lives of others.
When you give yourself to those right things that only you can do, you promote peace. You become a city shining on a hill giving goodness, light, and love to an increasingly darkened world desperately in need. And that peace you bring to others can come to you as well.
It all starts where the song says it starts. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me.
Let each of us align ourselves with truth. Let each of us keep the commandments. Let each of us be true to our covenants. Let each of us embrace our own personal ministry and contribute what only we can give. Let each of us feel the peace that comes from following more completely the Prince of Peace.
Then let us all go forward and share that peace with others. Let us light their lives. Let us give them hope. Let us lighten their load. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me and you. We will find a peace we have never before known if we promote peace within our own hearts and the hearts of others like we have never before done. And when we do that, we’ll have more joy in our journey.
Many LDS singles feel bereft of hope when they don’t see any obvious opportunities for the eternal marriage they desire. Fundamentally, their lack of hope doesn’t differ from anyone else struggling to realize righteous desires. For example, infertility plagues many righteous married couples desiring biological children.
Yet in all cases hope abounds. If you can’t see the way forward, please consider this question: Are you operating out of your memory or your imagination? Your focus becomes your reality, so when you focus on the failures you’ve known, your reality becomes filled with more of those failures. But when you focus on the success you can imagine, your reality becomes filled with possibility.
We all can access redemption in every sense of the word because of Christ and His glorious Atonement. No matter how dark or bleak your circumstances may appear, you always have reason to hope. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
How do you feel this great truth when all around you seems dismal? Almost all of us believe very readily in miracles that Christ performed among a people most of us don’t know in a land far away which most of us haven’t seen. Yet when it comes to believing in miracles performed in our own lives and in our own backyard, we respond more slowly. We need to start believing Christ.
What do you do when things you don't want to happen do in fact happen? Knowing God has apportioned a time when all wrongs will be righted makes patience easier. Knowing a just God won’t wait to right our wrongs when the time to right them is right also encourages patience. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Still, longing can pain the heart in the present moment. Because your focus determines your reality, focusing on your pains always yields a reality of pain. Focus instead on the Savior so that He becomes your reality. Believe Him when He said, “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). His strength can give you strength.
Understand the journey
Christ never taught that all of His promised blessings would be distributed like a buffet lunch — first come are first served and everyone else will just have to wait. He wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. That means you.
Because you're unique in personality and demeanor, so also are the gifts you've been given to help you achieve your full potential. Just as in the parable of the talents, all who improve upon what they've been given, whatever that original amount may be, will receive the joy of the Lord. That joy can fill you now as well as in times to come. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Yes, Christ wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. Yet some saints, because of where they are in their life journey, may not be ready for some of those blessings. So if you're yearning for that special someone and wonder why you don't have the blessing you desire, consider that you might not be ready. Or maybe your companion isn’t ready. Or perhaps the time is right for both of you and you simply need to get busy doing the right things. In any case, Christ can help you take the proper next step. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Expand your vision
If you operate out of your memory, then you're seeing with no more than your physical eyes. That means ultimately you'll have no hope, because you don’t physically see the means to achieve your desires. Even here, there is always hope because there is always Christ.
Christ can help you operate our of your imagination, which means seeing with spiritual eyes. He can help you to see what’s there but not seen with physical eyes. What you want may be right in front of you, but because of how you think, you might not recognize it. Expand your definition of an opportunity, and you’ll see paths you couldn’t see before.
Christ can also help you to see what’s not now in existence because it has yet to be created. What you desire may be something He creates for you. Or maybe you need to create it for yourself. In all cases, Christ will help you to do whatever is needful for you to receive all of the blessings He desires to give to you. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Don’t ever stop living for the righteous blessings you desire. And don’t ever lose hope. No matter your situation, there’s always something you can do to move forward. There is always hope because there is always Christ. When you feel that hope, you’ll have the comfort of knowing the Savior is right by your side to help you along. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Anyone who knows me knows that Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love sharing good food with those I love. I love seeing everything lit up at night. I love the magic and feeling of goodwill that fills the air. With Christmas just a few days away, I’m loving it.
Of course, remembering the real reason for the season holds its own pleasures. Remembering His mercy, patience, and longsuffering towards me always overwhelms me. I know what an unprofitable servant I am. But I love Him because He loves me despite all my failings and imperfections.
Pondering on that love fills me with peace. That’s not unexpected at this time of year when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. Yet not everyone feels that peace during Christmas. They’re too focused on their own cares and relieving themselves of the stress associated with satisfying those cares to feel at peace.
With all the busyness that accompanies the holiday season, we must not be too busy to reflect upon the peace the real reason for the season provides. Amidst all the hustle and hurry of the season, we need to stop long enough to feel His peace.
Some people go through the entire Christmas season without ever feeling peace. What’s the point of anything we do at Christmastime if in the end we never feel His peace? Christ is the real reason for the season. But there won’t be any real reason to anything we do in that season if in the end we don’t feel peace.
That’s why I’m cutting this short. I’m encouraging you to use the time you would normally spend consuming my content to reflect on the real reason for the season and feel His peace. We can have that peace with us always when we follow the Prince of Peace by honoring our covenants and sharing the light of His love with others. When we do, we can feel that love lighting peace within ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
When I was a boy, I loved riding my red bicycle. Then one day my father suggested we take the training wheels off my bike. I was really confused. How could my dad want me to fall flat on my face?
Despite my staunch resistance, my dad more staunchly and patiently persisted in moving me forward. He offered to hold the bike while I rode. My little kid brain couldn’t understand how that solved anything. I could pedal faster than he could run, so how would he keep up to balance the bike? Surely facial scars were in my near future.
But my dad simply waited and did the deed while I watched Saturday morning cartoons. When I realized he was outside with my bike, I rushed to find him fastening the last nut after removing the training wheels. My dad tried to curtail my obvious angst by suggesting I now give riding my bike a try with his help.
Reluctantly I mounted the bike. Because deep down I trusted that my dad really didn’t want to hurt me, I began riding down the street. I soon realized my dad wasn’t holding the bike, and I wasn’t falling on my face!
I couldn’t understand it, but it was incredible. I was happier riding that bike than I had ever been, and since then I’ve never even so much as thought of using training wheels again.
This experience applies directly to LDS singles trying to navigate life.
Although my kid brain couldn’t understand it, I later learned that forward motion balances a bike without training wheels. Moving the bike forward supplies the forces needed to keep the bike in balance. To prevent myself from falling on my face, I just need to keep pedaling.
Very often we LDS singles feel we’ve fallen flat on our face. We see others getting married and wonder where our blessings are. Or we experience a very painful loss of a marriage we thought would last forever. We wonder how our lives won’t end up with us falling flat on our face forever.
The way to prevent that is the same in life as it is on the bike without training wheels. We need to keep moving forward. It’s the forward motion that keeps the bike and our lives in balance.
Bad situations are part of mortality. Dwelling on the negativity of your bad situation will perpetuate imbalance. Your focus always becomes your reality. So look ahead to better times and move forward towards them.
That may be challenging if you feel like you’ve never been successful. I used to think I’d never succeed at dating because I didn’t look like a movie star and wasn’t otherwise “good enough.” But that focus on my failures brought me a life filled with failure because your focus always becomes your reality.
How do you improve your focus? Everyone has experienced success somewhere. Use that success to leverage success at small wins in new areas. Those small wins can help propel you to greater success with bigger wins.
Don't go it alone
Sometimes you simply won’t have the strength to go it alone. That’s OK because you’re not supposed to do life alone. Reach out to the Lord and partner with Him. Just as my dad initially held my bike so I could take the leap of faith I needed to ride without training wheels, so the Lord will hold you so you can take your leap of faith. That’s what partners do, and the Lord loves you more than any other partner you could ever have.
You’re not here in this world by chance. You’re here as part of a noble plan designed to promote your growth into something so amazingly incredible you can’t really imagine it. And guess Who designed that plan? A Heavenly Father who loves you so immensely that anything less than your growth into an exalted, celestial being would never be His ultimate objective.
You’re not here to fail. You’re here to succeed, and that gloriously! The way to succeed is to keep moving forward. The obstacles in your path may seem huge, but the power of the Lord’s Atonement is greater than any power any other opposition may offer. Partner with Him and keep moving forward.
Just as I learned to balance my bike without training wheels by continuing to move forward, so LDS singles can balance their lives without a spouse by continuing to move forward. Partnering with the Lord can help you to know what you need to do to move forward and provide the strength you need to do it.
So what are you waiting for? Partner with the Lord today, and enjoy the serenity of a life in balance.
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.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
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