Procrastination is one way our biological hardwiring maintains our status quo. “Yeah,” it says, “that dream sounds great, but we’ll get to that someday. Right now we’ve got other things we need to do.” And as long as we keep accepting that excuse for not living our dreams, we’ll never live our dreams because they’ll never come true.
There are only seven days in the week, and someday isn’t one of them. When we quit tolerating some day and insist on today, we can move our dreams closer to reality.
I have a dream
That has been the kernel of my struggle for so many years. It’s perhaps the most concise explanation for why I don’t yet have all my dreams fulfilled. I too often tolerate lack of progress. But I also struggle as many others do with fitting everything I want to do into my day.
Part of that comes from having so many dreams that making substantial progress on any of them is difficult. There’s just too many objectives vying for the limited space in my calendar. And abandoning any them is even more difficult because, as I mentioned earlier, I can’t help but dream big — big not just in the extent of any single dream but also in my quantity of dreams.
I dream of an eternal marriage to a wonderful, faithful LDS woman who sees in me my virtues more than my vices. I dream of an LDS culture that fully accepts singles as well as marrieds. I dream of a vibrant LDS singles support network. I dream of a career in higher education through which I inspire the next generation to make the world a better place. I dream of building businesses generating overflowing wealth to support whatever my community needs. I dream of writing books and producing other products that help people live lives filled with more joy and satisfaction.
And my list goes on. Like I said, I can’t help but dream big. All the actions required to bring all my dreams into reality can’t possibly fit inside the fixed space of a 24-hour day or even a single week, month, or year. And so it’s easy to accept that “voice” from my biological hardwiring that says, “You can do that someday.”
Someday never comes
Ultimately, this fight — the fight within each of us — revolves around standards. What standards will we tolerate for the life we’ll live? The dreams we all have of a wonderful future necessitate change; otherwise we wouldn’t have those dreams.
But all results come only from action. Tolerating excuses that our dreams will happen someday keeps pushing the realization of our dreams further and further into the future.
That’s because someday never comes. Choosing to accept the excuse of someday is choosing to accept a standard of living life outside our dreams, and a standard of joy and satisfaction in life far below what they could be. The joy and satisfaction of living our dreams will come only after we choose not to tolerate anything below the standards of our dreams.
Raise your standards
We Latter-day Saints are familiar with standards. We often link them with blessings. Those who live the standards get the blessings that come from obedience. Those who don’t live the standards don’t.
Ultimately, standards serve another purpose. Standards provide boundaries that distinguish who belongs in the community and who doesn’t. In like manner, the standards required for our dreams determine whether we’ll live them or not. When we live by those standards, we move closer to our dreams. When we don’t, we don’t.
If you want to live your dreams, you need to raise your standards. Never tolerate someday. Always tolerate nothing less than progress — even if it’s only a little each day — towards making your dreams reality. When you stop focusing on what others did or didn’t do and start focusing on what you can do, you’ll start to feel the power that comes from moving towards your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’m not sure what it was exactly. It’s not like the situation this sister describes is abnormal, extraordinary, or unusual. Confronting loneliness is part of the reality of singleness. I just felt I should address the question posed in this post.
Don’t ask me to compare the loneliness of the never-married versus the divorced versus the widowed. I don’t even know where to begin there, nor am I entirely certain that comparison would provide any real value.
What I do know is that I’ve had my own confrontation with loneliness and overcome it. I know the depths of despair that can enter the heart from prolonged singleness. I’ve been single for over two decades. I also know the pure joy and hope that fill the heart and soul when you change the way you think and adopt a personal ministry. And I know this is true because I’ve lived that joy and am living it now.
Change your thinking
Most of the comments offered in response to this single mother’s question revolved around two approaches: hobbies and renewal activities. They represent two ways of what I see as fundamentally the same approach. And that approach doesn’t address the real issue at hand.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against hobbies. And I’m certainly not against participating in regular activities that renew the spirit, heart, mind, and body. In fact, having regular renewal rituals is a great way to live life. We all need to recharge from time to time.
Yet neither of these methods proposed to combat the loneliness we LDS singles encounter solve the problem. They’re simply bandages covering the problem with a seemingly healthy and often pleasurable distraction. Avoiding problems will never solve them. Real solutions always require us to act.
That action starts when we change the way we think. We need to discard the notion that we have to be married or have some significant other in our lives in order to be happy. We need to stop conditioning our happiness on the choices of others. And we need to throw off any vestige of any victim mentality we have and replace it with a victor mentality. We need to own our lives, taking full responsibility for whatever results we do have and recognizing the power of our own choices in delivering to us the life we want.
Adopt your ministry
Attitude without action will never bring you achievement. Some people get fired up with positive thinking, but then their lives don’t change because they didn’t really change, especially in the way they think. Changed thinking always leads to changed action, which in turn always leads to a changed reality.
One of the best actions more effective ways of thinking always lead one to take is to adopt a personal ministry. Your personal ministry is that unique contribution of goodness you make to the world, the cause through which you uplift and bless the lives of others. We’ve discussed before on the program how adopting a personal ministry can help LDS singles overcome their challenges. Here are just three of those reasons:
Turn yourself outward
When you think about it, it’s not hard to understand why a personal ministry offers so much benefit for LDS singles seeking to overcome loneliness and other challenges we LDS singles face. It aligns us with the path the Savior trod by turning ourselves outward towards others.
That’s in stark contrast to the bandage solutions mentioned earlier. Again, I’m not against hobbies and renewal rituals. But focusing exclusively here will turn ourselves inward towards ourselves. That’s why they will never really solve the problem of loneliness. Only by turning ourselves outward can we connect with others in ways that remind us we aren’t ever really alone. Only by turning ourselves outward can we connect with the Savior Who fills us with His love that helps us to know we aren’t ever really alone.
If you feel consumed by loneliness, consider your focus. Your focus will always determines your reality. Change your thinking, adopt a personal ministry, and turn yourself outward. You’ll shift your focus towards others and shift your reality away from your problems and into your possibilities. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Interpret others more appropriately
The first lesson took me years to learn. But once I got it, what a difference it made! After all, how you think about yourself largely contributes to how you portray yourself to others.
Most people believe the actions of others reflect their identity. When someone summarily dismisses you, it’s easy to believe it’s because you don’t have any value. Those who believe this fallacy can easily disparage themselves into depression.
But what others say or do doesn’t reflect your identity but rather your effort. If people are passing you by, it’s not because you don’t have value but rather because you don’t offer value. Offering is a choice, one we all can make. Focusing on what you can do rather than on what you lack always produces a more positive reality.
True, not everyone will respond positively to your offering. Some simply won’t see any value in it. But that just means they’re visually impaired. What will you do to help them see? Again, focusing on what you can do produces a more positive reality.
See as God sees
Perhaps the most important choice you can make to help others see your value is to learn to see as God sees. I’ve been learning this lesson over many years, and I’m still learning. But what I have learned so far has improved my life tremendously.
What do you think God sees when He looks at you? We’ve all heard“the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). But why is that? What does He really see when He looks at you?
He sees potential. His sight isn’t confined to the moment, as our sight often is. He sees not just what we are today or even what we were yesterday but we can be tomorrow. Too often, especially when we’re discouraged, we aren’t looking forward to our potential but rather behind to what we were. We tell ourselves so often the lie about our past determining our future that we believe it. If only we could see as God sees!
That’s not likely to happen without partnering with the Lord. When you let Him guide your feet, He can also guide your eyes. We see a marvelous example in Enoch, who initially didn’t see very much in himself (Moses 6:31). But the Lord helped him to see more clearly (Moses 6:35-36), and the result was mountains moved and rivers turned from their course (Moses 7:13). Just as He helped Enoch see his potential, the Lord will help you see yours when you partner with Him.
Loving yourself will also help you see that potential. You know yourself better than most people, so they’ll simply take their cues about you from you. If you’re discouraged about yourself, then most people will follow that lead.
Conversely, if you’re care about you, then most people will follow that lead. When you demonstrate through your actions that you’re worth something, most people will also think you’re worth something and act accordingly. Again, people respond not to who you are but rather to what you do. And you choose what you do.
So choose to learn the lessons that reveal your true beauty. Learn to interpret others more appropriately, see yourself as God sees you, and love yourself. In learning those lessons, you’ll come to see you really are beautiful. You’ll release yourself from an unnecessary burden of despair and depression. You’ll feel more hopeful and optimistic about your future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Put your pieces together
As I reflect back on my life, I can’t accurately pinpoint any one trigger that brought me a phenomenal attitude. The change seems more a process than an event. That said, I can identify some key elements in my transformation.
Without question, developing a more solid relationship with God has been pivotal. You can’t have true joy in your life if you’re not good with you, which means you must know who you are. And that requires knowing who your Heavenly Father is.
When you come to understand who you really are as His child, you’ll realize your power to choose your reality. We do that when we select our thoughts, our self-talk, and our focus, because these produce our reality. When I realized how these elements worked in me, I felt empowered to take control. I could stop settling for mediocrity and start insisting on phenomenal.
Get some attitude
That’s when a new attitude emerged within me. I’ll no longer settle for anything less than a phenomenal life. I won’t settle for giving anything less than my absolute best. No longer will I accept failure or unhappiness or anything less than my best as my normal, and I’ll never give up on myself ever again.
I want phenomenal success. I want phenomenal fulfillment, phenomenal results, and phenomenal relationships. I want phenomenal for myself!
I can’t settle for anything less, because that’s giving up, and giving up is just plain flat out wrong. God gave me my gifts and talents not only to better myself but to better the world. When I refuse to let my light shine, others won’t have the improvement they might have had in their lives.
That’s why I insist on phenomenal in my life. It’s not about me. Giving up on myself and failing to achieve my potential means giving up on those who stand to benefit from that achievement. But when I strive to move closer towards my greatness, I automatically provide positive influence to everyone around me.
And so I can’t accept mediocrity. I’ll never be perfect, I’ll always fall flat on my face, but to quit trying to live my purpose, to fulfill my personal ministry, and to achieve greatness in my life is unacceptable. There are just too many people who would suffer, most of whom I’ve never met and likely never will. But it’s because of them I can’t accept anything less than my absolute best as my normal. I will never settle for anything other than phenomenal.
Make it happen
I have only one life to live. This is it for me. I’ll never get another opportunity to live this life. God gave my unique combination of gifts, opportunities, and personality to me and me only. So this is it. It’s do or die, greatness or bust, phenomenal or nothing. I must make it happen.
And that’s another key element in my transformation. The day I realized my life wouldn’t improve until I owned it was life changing. All the energy I’d wasted wishing my circumstances were better I should have spent wishing I were better. Instead of wishing for less problems, I should have wished for more skills. Instead of wishing the result I wanted would just come to me, I should have been working to make it happen.
Of course, I struggle where everyone else struggles — with the natural man. We’re all our own worst enemy. But working hard is the cost of entry to anything worthwhile. And so I put my shoulder to this wheel because I know people’s lives will suffer if I stop.
The best part is I’m not the only one. What’s possible for me is possible for you. If you want this transformation for you, you can have it. Embrace true foundational principles, do the work you need to do, and you’ll improve your life. And when you truly surrender yourself to that process, you too will have phenomenal. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Elder Uchtdorf’s remarks are no exception. He begins by describing King Solomon’s trappings of worldly success — money, power, fame, prestige. But at the end of his life, King Solomon described his success as vanity. All his advantages weren’t enough to secure his happiness.
Many LDS singles experience something similar. Though they’ve many blessings surrounding them every day, because they focus excessively on the one blessing they lack, they too see life as vanity. They too wonder what really has worth when the blessings they want most continually seem out of reach.
Of course, it need not be that way. Life is wonderful and beautiful. And Elder Uchtdorf describes how we can capture that vision everyday when we believe, love, and do.
Everything starts with belief. That’s why faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel. If we don’t believe, we’ll never receive.
That’s because true belief always motivates to action. You wouldn’t flip a light switch in a room if you didn’t believe the lights would come on. Everything you do is based on a belief that some result connected with your action will occur or could occur.
Elder Uchtdorf agrees. He declared,
I remember a time in my life when I wanted all the trite sayings about having a happy life to be more than just words but something I felt and lived every day. I wanted more than just the same old superficiality, pretending the life I wanted was just around the corner. In short, I wanted real.
I think that point comes into the life of all LDS singles who are single when they thought they wouldn’t be. Whether through divorce or death or just not marrying, LDS singles hunger for real in their lives.
But do you believe — I mean, really believe — you can get it? Do you believe the miracle you want to happen can happen? That it will happen? Belief is always the first step. If you don’t believe, you’ll never receive.
The belief God will perform a miracle for you becomes easier when you feel His love for you. This is why the Prophet Joseph Smith taught one cannot have faith in Christ without a true understanding of God’s character. It’s through God’s love we best realize all of God’s attributes.
That’s because, when we feel God’s love for us, that love simultaneously communicates every other attribute describing God. When you feel God’s love for you, you know more than just that He loves you. You know He’s good because His love is good. You know He’s kind because His love is kind. You know He’s compassionate because His love is compassionate. You know He’s merciful because His love is merciful. You know He’s just because His love is just.
Elder Uchtdorf declared,
John the Beloved spoke truly when he wrote, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8). When you truly believe, you can reach out to Him and taste of His love.
Of course, love like faith prompts us to action. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the man or woman “filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his [or her] family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” When we fully give ourselves to that effort, we can transcend any of life’s difficulties, including the challenges of LDS singles life.
That’s why I’ve long encouraged LDS singles to adopt a personal ministry. When we partner with the Lord, a personal ministry can increase our belief in God and the miraculous blessings He wants to give us as well as provide opportunity for us to love those we serve the way God loves them. And when we allow the love of God to motivate us in fulfilling our personal ministry, we can feel for them the way God feels for them and see them the way He sees them.
Elder Uchtdorf invites,
I add my testimony to that of Elder Uchtdorft that when we truly believe with all our hearts, love God and others with all our hearts, and do the right things for us with all our hearts, we will not just feel happy but be happy. And that will bring more joy in our 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.
In Western culture we adore people supposedly born with unique talent. Of course, we should congratulate those who have talent. The problem comes when we think those at the top have been born with “it.” That type of thinking leads to so much failure.
We think like this more often than we might realize. Ever heard someone say “I’m just not good at math”? People learn math all the time, and yet some persist in thinking they're “just not math people,” whatever that means. This thinking reflects the fixed mindset, the idea that you either have “it” — the something wonderful you need to succeed — or you don’t.
The fixed mindset has everyone climbing all over each other trying to prove how great they are. They seek to validate their own sense of self-worth in a game of comparisons. Unless you can prove you're better than someone else — that you have “it” — the world teaches you aren’t validated.
The fixed mindset also encourages you to do everything on your own. If you need help, you obviously don’t have “it”. If you’ve ever wondered why some find it hard to accept service from others, it may be because they don’t want to appear like they don’t have “it”.
This one cultural influence frustrates many LDS singles as they try to create families. For example, suppose you have some bad experiences with dating. (OK, so maybe you don’t have to suppose.) Is your normal response to give up because you think you don’t have “it”?
It’s very easy to think, if we weren’t born with whatever wonderful something it is we believe we need to have to succeed, then why even try? After all, it’s obvious you don’t have “it” if you aren’t as wonderful as someone else. So why torture yourself by proving what you fear, that you're unable to have your righteous desires? After all, you just don’t have “it”.
But you don’t need to think that way. Replace the idea of “it” with the idea that talent can be learned. You can then see service from others as an opportunity to learn something new and to improve upon yourself. That makes it easier to embrace.
Learn and grow
No talent of any kind is innate. Learning line upon line is part of the experience we came to mortality to have. Even people who think they aren't “math people” can learn math. I see it every semester with the math classes I teach. Talent can be learned.
And because it is learned, you need to see failure as a chance to improve yourself. Remember that your focus determines your reality. For example, it’s easy to think you're somehow defective because you can’t get a date. And as long as you focus on how “defective” you are, your reality will feel to confirm just that.
But when you focus instead on your efforts, your failure to get a date doesn’t mean something is wrong with you but rather with your effort. Ask yourself, “Why was it exactly that my effort to get a date failed?” and then keep following that trail until you find real answers.
Look to the Lord
Ultimately the Savior has already accepted you. He would not have suffered all He did if you were not worth redeeming. That means you don’t have to prove or validate yourself or even compare yourself with anyone else. You’re already accepted.
And His acceptance is the only one that matters. When you accept that truth, you free yourself from feeling you must have a significant other in order to be accepted. You can more easily be real in your interactions with other people. You don’t have to pretend you're something you really aren’t. That freedom makes life so much more enjoyable.
If you don’t feel that freedom now, then pray for it. The Lord will guide you to embrace your true worth. After all, He knows you're worth it. He’ll help you to feel His love for you if you but ask. When that happens, you’ll realize more fully your own worth. You’ll know more fully that you’re already accepted. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Long time audience members know I’m not much for social media. But occasionally I do dip my toe in the pool. And despite the infrequency of my visits, I do notice trends. One I observed recently is the continual appearance of memes that claim to know all about real men.
These memes would have us believe real men always follow the natural hunter instincts buried deep within them. If he wants a woman, so say these memes, a real man won’t hesitate to chase after her. So, they conclude, if a man isn’t obviously chasing after a woman, then that woman should stop hoping for a relationship with said man because clearly the man isn’t interested.
Seeing something like this once, I just shake my head. But several appearances make a trend. And that concerns me more, especially since these folks don’t seem to know much about real men.
Real men are imperfect
Our modern society likes to idealize everything. But that’s nothing new. Ancient Greek statues consistently show figures of perfect proportions even though the distribution of body shapes in their society was undoubtedly not very different from our own. We could say likewise about the Romans.
So it’s no wonder that some would think real men are perfect. After all, no one dreams of living forever with imperfection. Everyone dreams of living forever with perfect.
But perfect doesn’t exist in mortality because every mortal is imperfect. The Brethren have repeatedly taught that the perfect marriage is not the union of two perfect people living happily ever after but rather the union of two imperfect people working together towards perfection. That means real men are imperfect.
Real men have issues
These imperfections will often manifest as some issue. And that issue could prevent a man from publicly indicating any interest in a woman. Primordial instincts may make men the hunter gender, but primordial instincts don’t take precedence over the psychological forces of the present day.
Real men have imperfections. Real men have issues. Some of the those issues we created in each other. Women who complain about not receiving any invitations to go out and then reject casual dating invitations have trained many men into inaction. Likewise men whose actions teach that perfection is a prerequisite to being loved have trained many women to devalue themselves.
The idea that men always go after what they want can’t possibly describe real men. That’s an idealized fantasy which makes no allowance for the reality that everyone’s imperfect. To get to know a real man — I mean, really know him — you need to know his reality: his real hopes, his real dreams, his real challenges, and his real imperfections.
The story has been told of a Latter-day Saint who was inspired to look up a scripture referenced in a sacrament meeting talk. Having that smartphone handy, this citizen of Zion executed the task right then and there. Soon thereafter, this same member received an email from a fellow ward member that went something like this: “I used to admire you, but that was before I saw you use your smartphone in sacrament meeting. I can’t believe you would do something so irreverent.”
Sometimes things are not what they appear to be. Likewise, real men don’t always display the idealized behavior. They’re imperfect people with issues.
Real people want real
Everything said here about real men could also be said about real women. Real women are imperfect and have issues. And you’ll never know a real woman until you know her reality.
In the end, real people want real — real relationships with real people; real compensation from a real career; and real rewards from a real life that really moves them closer to their goals and dreams. They recognize the reality of their challenges but also the reality of their potential to grow and conquer those challenges.
Over four years ago, I declared my desire for real. I still hold that desire today. I’ve long since tired of the typical LDS singles life that has me doing the same things over and over while moving me no closer to my goals and dreams. I want real. And that’s something you’ll never get from social media memes that don’t understand what real really is.
When we see real men and women for what they really are — people with real imperfections and real issues in the real world — we begin to recognize they aren’t all that different from us, because we too have real imperfections and real issues in the real world. As we come to embrace that reality, we also embrace the beauty found in the wonderful tapestry that’s the core of God’s work in this real world. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Life knocked me down earlier this week. While waiting for a student who had an appointment to see me, the text I didn’t expect appeared in my phone. My father announced my mother’s decision to stop eating and drinking. She just wanted to die. After reading that message, I just wanted to die.
My mother has been battling a host of medical conditions for a few years now, most prominently anxiety as a mental disorder and mystery pains no one can properly diagnose. The anxiety turns every mole hill into a mountain. So her mystery pains have become an insupportable burden.
My mother has several doctors, each one adding (and frequently changing) their contribution to the soup of medications she takes daily. The bulk of those doctors, overburdened by long patient lists, often seem more interested in processing my mother through a system rather than listening to her and helping her with her concerns.
I can understand why she just wanted to end it all. Yet it broke my heart to think of her following through on her decision. Emotionally I felt like a bus had run me over. I found it hard to do anything productive. My world seemed at a standstill.
I visited with my mother the next morning. She seemed worse than ever, but had an appointment to see one of her doctors. My time being limited, I tried to use what I had to best advantage.
I always hug my mother when I visit, but this time I hugged her tighter, held her closer, and told her how much I loved her. Then I couldn’t help myself from breaking into tears. The mere thought of losing her simply crushed me.
Later I learned about her doctor visit. There’s something about walking into a doctor’s office and asking for help to die that captures the doctor’s attention. After a lengthy discussion, the doctor was able to convince my mother to submit to some more tests and exercise patience while he searches more intently for a solution to her mystery pains.
I joined with the rest of the family in thanking the Lord for His merciful hand.
Pondering on experience
As they’ve have played themselves out, these events have highlighted the opportunity for reflection. Of course, I know my mother will one day die; death comes to everyone. It’s the thought of it happening so soon that knocks me over.
Many LDS singles are so wrapped up in the pursuit of their own blessings they don’t think about losing the blessings they already have. They’re so busy looking for that one special love that they let opportunities to strengthen their love for the family and friends already in their life pass by and expire.
That’s not a singles thing; that’s a human thing. It’s normal to craft a world for oneself and then get lost in that world. But the events of this week have brought me to question if I’m busy enough with the greater, weightier matters and too busy with matters of lesser importance.
Am I focusing first on those elements that matter most? Do the people I care most about know I love them in word and in deed? Or have I been too occupied in other pursuits to attend to those relationships?
My pondering upon recent events leaves me with a few powerful lessons that apply to us all.
I don’t know when that special someone will become a part of my life. But I know I already have several someones who are special to me today. We all do. When we put first things first, we don’t need to wait for love. We can feel love in our lives today and every day, no matter how long it takes for that eternal companion to join us. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
I’ve read James’s famous discourse about faith and works many times. It’s an absolute classic. If you haven’t read it, check out James 2:14-26.
This classic discourse on faith and works has always been one of my favorites. Yet in one reading not too long ago a new interpretation of these verses came to me. I saw them as I had never seen them before. And this new interpretation makes an absolutely classic discourse even more classic.
What did I see? Many singles leaders, especially those serving on stake committees, confine their responsibilities to planning activities. They believe filling blank spaces in a calendar is the extent of their responsibility. If any of the singles they claim to be serving have legitimate needs, these leaders believe that the Lord will somehow provide for them. Their job is just to provide a program.
Yet simply filling blanks in a calendar is very much like faith without works. They’re both dead.
“What doth it profit?”
I love how James opens his remarks about faith and works. He describes someone without clothes and starving who is told to be “warm and filled” yet not given clothes or food. Then James asks, “What doth it profit?”
Obviously, nothing. And that same answer remains when the same question is posited about the attitude of many single leaders who think their only job is to plan activities. OK, you planned all these great activities. Now, what does that mean to the single adult who grieves over the death of a loved one? Or how about that newly divorced single who still feels the death of a marriage that was thought to last forever? What about the LDS single struggling with issues of identity after losing a job?
Just calendaring events isn’t going to mean anything to any LDS singles who have real needs in the real world. So what does it profit that you planned all these activities? Just as well wishes will never clothe and feed naked, starving people, so filling blanks in a calendar will never by itself meet the needs of LDS singles.
“Justified by works”
Yes, you can shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18) Action is what brings real change into the lives of people. And action comes through works, not just faith.
True, faith in its pure and true form will lead to action. But faith without action means nothing. To meet the needs of the people, we must act. You can show me your faith that the Lord will provide for the needs of LDS singles without you lifting even one finger to act in that direction, and in return I will show you my faith that the Lord will provide for the needs of LDS singles by working myself to meet what needs I can.
I love the example James provides in Abraham. He produced works in offering his only son Isaac upon the altar, works motivated by faith. And through those works, his faith was perfected.
In like manner, singles leaders who focus mainly on filling a calendar see singles activities as an end in themselves. But the truth is just the reverse; activities are the means to the end of meeting the needs of the people. Activities provide the platform from which leaders and individual LDS singles can minister to the singles in their midst. And in so doing, their faith becomes perfected through their works.
“The body without the spirit is dead”
James provides the perfect ending to his classic discourse on faith and works with a simple analogy involving the body and the spirit. The body dies once the spirit departs. In like manner, faith dies once the works that should attend it cease.
Also in like manner, singles groups can feel absent of life when leaders focus primarily on filling blanks in a calendar. These leaders often wonder why attendance is so small and what can be done to turn things around. We talked last week how to turn ailing singles programs around, but a key part of that transformation is the necessity for leaders to adopt the attitude we are discussing here and now.
You must do more than just fill a calendar. You must fill your hearts with compassion and extend your hands to those you serve. You must focus on using the activities you plan as a means to the end of ministering to them and helping to meet their needs. When you do, you’ll inject life into your singles groups and light into your own life. 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 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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