LDS singles can easily feel like second-class citizens in the family-centered culture of the Church. The continual focus on something we don’t have just makes feeling like we belong and staying positive and optimistic more difficult.
Of course, the Church must teach the doctrines related to the family. How could they not? “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” begins with the solemn declaration “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
Yet teaching the gospel as though everyone has the ideal situation serves more to alienate those who are different than invite them to continue participating. We need to teach the doctrines related to the family while at the same time help those who don’t have that ideal situation to feel fully included in the Kingdom.
The way forward likely includes a recognition that we’re each at different points along the path to the same heavenly home. And we must testify with our actions that, no matter where along the path we may be, all of the gospel is indeed for all of us.
That recognition will carry more weight when we truly care for everyone around us. Words in Sunday School about a wonderful and inclusive ward family mean little when singles are left to confront the storms and other challenges of real life on their own.
Often, lessons about the family focus on the needs of those who are married. Broadening that focus to recognize those who don’t have the ideal family structure in their lives can provide a foundation for inclusion.
Spending some time during lessons applying the family doctrines to singles as well as to marrieds can further that sense of inclusion. For example, we read towards the end of the Family Proclamation,
Whereas marrieds strive to maintain their families, singles strive to create new ones. Why must lessons focus solely on those who already have families? Why can’t they include those who are trying to create them?
For instance, we can include examples of applying the principles in the Family Proclamation to dating. When considering a dating prospect, do we truly prize qualities such as faith, forgiveness, respect, and compassion? Or do we refuse a prospect who may have those qualities in spades but lack the more worldly qualities not mentioned in the Family Proclamation?
My single brethren, how are your presiding skills? D&C 121 is a great start if you need a refresher. How is your ability to provide the necessities of life? Note the word necessities doesn’t include fancy sports cars or weekly shopping sprees at the mall but does include putting a roof over people’s heads, food in their bellies, and a pillow under their heads at night. If you find your ability to provide lacking, what are you doing to improve?
Single sisters, don’t think you’re getting left out here. How are your nurturing skills? Again, if you find your ability lacking, what are you doing to improve?
Let all help all
As a divinely inspired document, the Family Proclamation is filled with wonderful sentences that can both teach the doctrine of the family and help everyone regardless of their situation to feel included in the larger community of the Saints.
However, of all the sentences in the Family Proclamation, I do have a favorite. It’s this one: “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” I love that sentence!
Why do I love that sentence so much? Here the Brethren acknowledge that life is sometimes less than ideal and those who find themselves so situated are still acceptable before God so long as they do their best with what they have.
Note that “individual adaptation” applies to more than just those who find themselves in less-than-ideal situations. It applies to everyone. We’ll never truly live in Zion until all of us labor to help all of us along the path home. That’s because we can’t live in Zion without embracing all of the gospel. And all of the gospel is indeed for all of us.
Ministering to everyone around us and not just those who are like ourselves may be difficult at first. But if pursued honestly, it will bring us more joy in our journey.
The world teaches that only one thing matters in dating — physical attraction. We LDS singles like to think of ourselves as being impervious to worldly influences, but the truth is a far cry from that fantasy.
What are we really trying to accomplish by engaging (pun intended) the dating process? If you know a higher purpose in dating than to create righteous families, I’m all ears. But seeing that the family is central to God’s plan, I don’t know how you can seek to live all the gospel of Jesus Christ without seeking to create your own righteous family.
Words just say but actions shout
It’s great to say “I believe” with words. It’s better to say “I believe” with actions. Many of our dating actions say we value fulfilling selfish desires or placating our own personal egos more than creating righteous families.
Some of you may not want to hear that, but I warned you when I published my philosophy that I would call it like I see it.
If we’re truly honest, we must admit that many of our dating choices aren’t really about creating righteous families. When we decide that other people are not worth befriending or even talking to because they don’t turn our hormonal engines on, our focus is clearly centered elsewhere. Same goes when we decide that the size of someone’s wallet should determine whether or not we get to know that person better.
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
As far as a list of qualities to seek in a companion, I think that says it all. Note that physical attraction is not on that list. Nor is a fat wallet. I’m not saying don’t consider those things. I’m saying give more weight to what matters more. Modern-day prophets have helped us know what matters more.
We should be looking for role models rather than supermodels.
That means two things: First, you should be a role model yourself. And second, you need to give others more of a chance.
Be a role model yourself
We all tend to attract to us the type of people we are deep inside. For example, drug addicts tend to have other drug addicts for friends. The list goes on and on. So if you want to have a role model in your life, you need to strive to be one yourself. That way your chances of attracting a role model will increase.
Give others more of a chance
CAUTION: As you strive to become more of a role model yourself, you will inevitably trip and fall flat on your face over and over again. Welcome to the human condition.
Guess what? Your companion is probably having a similar experience. You won’t likely see that just by observing outside appearances. The qualities referenced earlier in the Proclamation on the Family aren’t very discernible on the outside.
That means we all need to give others more of a chance.
Direction is more important than position. So our actions should give it greater weight. Yet too often our actions give greater weight to position. They say, “If you aren’t perfect enough right now, then you never will be.”
By filtering too soon in the process we discount many candidates who would make an excellent companion. We really are our own worst obstacle when we turn away others before we really know what we’re refusing.
Your focus determines your reality
Your focus determines your reality, so if you focus on feeding your own fantasies and unrealistic expectations of a marriage companion, your reality will lack significance and be filled with endless frustration, whether or not you attain your desires for marriage.
However, if you focus on being the best role model you can be, then your reality will be filled with other role models. And while like the Savior they may not appear to be desirable, one of those role models may be just what you're really looking for.
It’s high time we say with our actions and not just with words that we value role models over supermodels.
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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