Flip it around
LDS singles are rife with boxes. We have your YSA and your SA, your midsingles, your senior singles, and your in-between singles. Whatever happened to coming together and being one?
It went the way of the dinosaur because singles groups are perceived to be about finding an eternal companion. The larger LDS culture centered on being married with kids drives that perception of singles groups. No wonder so many LDS singles who want to fit into the larger culture view singles life as something to escape.
And no wonder so many LDS singles find LDS singles life so challenging. People respond not to reality but to their perception of reality. If we see singles life as something undesirable, then we won’t want it. We’ll run away from it. Additionally, our focus determines our reality. So if we’re focused on how undesirable our situation is, then our reality will be undesirable.
But we can flip that around. If we can perceive the good and indeed the pure joy to be found in singles life, then we respond differently. We see something desirable, something we run towards and not away from. And when we make that our focus, then our reality becomes something desirable in itself.
Start inside you
Of course, all of this becomes much easier to do when the people around us are acting in ways that encourage us to focus on the right perceptions. That’s why we all need to say enough with the boxes. It’s much easier to be united when everyone around us has the mentality of truly coming together and being united.
And it all starts inside each one of us. We need to exemplify to others how they should be. Otherwise, they’ll just keep on keeping on with their habits of thinking that make life harder for everyone.
I’ve discussed previously the three main perspectives that LDS singles take with singles groups:
How does that happen? First, you must get leadership on board. They must perceive your singles group as a support community and not a dating forum or activity club. Once they have that vision, singles leadership must communicate that vision to the other singles. They do that by overtly talking about it and practicing it. And it’s truly beautiful to behold when you can get this going.
Throw your boxes away
Again, the biggest obstacle will be the propensity to put people and even programs into boxes. “Singles groups are just about giving singles a place to congregate,” say some. “They’re on their own for anything more.” Such persons relegate singles groups into a box in which a true support community doesn’t fit.
If we truly believe in singles groups as support communities, we’ll throw our boxes away. So what if the midsingles and senior singles have different interests? Do we really have to have the same interests to support each other?
Adopting the support community perspective means changing ourselves fundamentally within. It means laying aside our own agendas so we can serve and truly give of ourselves to others. It means forgoing the pursuit of our own needs as we surrender ourselves to love and the pursuit of meeting the needs of others. The miracle is that doing this actually ends up meeting our needs in the end.
Enough with the boxes! When we all have that same perspective, we can transform our singles groups into true communities of support because we will have discarded the perspectives that blind us to the needs of others. We can come together and truly love one another. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Here we find foundational principles local leaders can leverage to help LDS singles find their way.
Walk beside singles
We all understand others better when we step outside ourselves and view the world through their eyes. That increased understanding can open your eyes to what many LDS singles need — true friendship.
My last ward was absolutely awful. Usually no one talked to me or even greeted me. They didn’t seem at all interested in having me there. So when the storms of life beat against my door, no one was there to support me. I felt not just alone and unloved but spiritually stinted, like I was trapped in a sort of prison. What a nightmare!
If nothing else, that experience makes me very thankful for my current ward. Ward members greet me, shake my hand, and sincerely ask after my well-being. They’ve responded when I needed help and support. I feel the warmth of their simple love and sincere friendship. What a blessing!
It doesn’t take much to help LDS singles feel loved and supported. When local leaders — whether married or single — walk beside singles in true friendship, those simple acts can readily meet many needs.
Shore up faith
True friends always increase faith in others. Our Heavenly Father wants LDS singles to marry in the temple and raise righteous families who will promote His work on the earth. That won’t happen if singles don’t believe it will. Local leaders can portray faith and confidence in singles’ ability to achieve a righteous marriage.
How are LDS singles supposed to believe those blessings can be theirs when leaders respond quickly with trite expressions like “Well, it’s OK because there’s always the next life.” That’s true, but have you stopped to consider what living that really means? You’re saying it’s OK the experience singles have already had being single continue for another 40 or 50 years, and then they die, and then sometime after that they get their blessing. That’s not a very enticing prospect, even if it is true.
It’s far more enticing to fix one’s sights on examples like Abraham. His promised covenant child came when Abraham and Sarah were both around a century old. Or how about Jacob’s wife Rachel, who for the longest time was barren? I love Genesis 30:22 — “And God remembered Rachel ....” Local leaders who shore up singles’ faith in themselves and their ability to achieve eternal blessings now and not just in the next life provide greatly needed support.
Promote the next essential ordinance
Of course, securing that next essential ordinance of temple marriage takes more than belief or a motivational pep talk. The lives of many LDS singles stagnant in a lack of accountability. Local leaders are well positioned to provide that accountability.
Life has a way of beating us all into routines. We are, after all, hardwired to have habits. That can be helpful but also dangerous, especially if we’re lulled away from progressing towards eternal goals. The longer singles remain single, the more comfortable they can become being single. And with that comes less likelihood they’ll progress towards their next essential ordinance.
Local leaders can stem that tide of indolence with some gentle accountability. If they’ve paid the price to be a true friend, local leaders — and in particular ministering brothers and sisters — can guide singles towards their next essential ordinance with effective questions. “What’s in your way?” is a good example. As they repeatedly ask questions, simply listen, and then stand ready to help as requested, local leaders extend accountability for progression as singles decide for themselves how they will progress.
When they support singles by being a true friend, local leaders can minister more effectively to LDS singles. That will increase the love we all have for one another. That will build bridges of understanding between marrieds and singles. That will develop a stronger unity of the faith. And that will bring us more joy in our 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.
Birthdays are a particular time of year for everyone. But for many LDS singles, birthdays remind them they’re another year older and no less single. That particular aspect gives me pause as I see another birthday approaching me.
I get reflective around birthdays. I think about my experiences over the past year. I think about the relationships I have as well as the ones for which I am still searching. Most of all, I think about how I've changed. Am I a better person than I was a year ago?
I'd like to think I am. But in truth I’m never quite sure. There is one thing, however, about which I am sure. Whatever comes my way, I know the Lord has prepared me for it. I know that the hardship, whatever it may be, will only leave me stronger so long as I choose not to be defeated by it. I know I’ve been prepared for such a time as this.
My mother’s condition drives part of my reflections. I've spoken before about my mother in this forum. But now things have taken a severe turn for the worse. A few days ago, my mother tried to kill herself.
Although it failed to end her life, her attempt has rocked the world of all who know and love her. It's not the dying part that's disturbing. Everyone dies eventually. It's her choosing to leave all of us that's disturbing.
I don't think anyone can really know exactly what's going on in anyone else's head. But I do feel the pain my mother has experienced over the past few years – pain the doctors can't diagnose and have never treated effectively – drove my mother to her disturbing choice. Whether or not that drove her, I don’t blame her.
That said, I can't begin to describe all the emotions that have run through me. But I can begin to have faith that the Lord is still in control and ultimately won't allow anything to veer too far outside His plan.
Feeling after faith
Of course, along with the emotional roller coaster come reflective moments. The reflection I would engage normally with a birthday around the corner is now deepened. And that's not altogether a bad deal.
My first impression is to follow Nephi's example and say I don't know the meaning of all things but I do know the Lord loves me (see 1 Nephi 11:17). And I feel fine with that. My experiences as an LDS single that lead me not to need to know the end from the beginning with regards to my eternal companion translate very well here. Trust in the Lord in any context is still trust in the Lord.
I also know my experiences in learning how to respond positively to the challenges of LDS singles life have made me a better man. And those improvements have prepared me for this moment in which I need to be strong not only for myself but also for others I love.
For instance, I’ve supported my father as he struggles with these events. More than anything, I’ve provided a listening ear. But I’ve also translated what I've learned from being single so long — the knowledge gained from experience that has made me a better man — into the lives of others as well as my own. The result is a new perspective that provides strength, hope, and courage for everyone.
Shining a light
To say things could be better is the understatement of the year. Yet overall I don't feel discouraged or depressed. I have the quiet confidence within me everything will somehow result in good for everyone.
Many of us tend to get so caught up in our own lives we don’t see the great tapestry God is weaving with us. He is preparing each of us not only for the challenges we’ll face ahead. He is preparing each of us to be a light that can shine brightly for those whose hope is dimming. He’s preparing us for times such as these.
People do not light candles to hide light but rather to let light shine so that all may see (Matthew 5:15). We all have goodness to share, gifts the Lord has endowed within each of us not only to help ourselves grow but also to help others along in their journey. When we share those gifts with others, we give the light of hope to others and the light of courage to ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
This past Sunday I decided to attend a special singles meeting in my stake. I didn’t even know about the meeting until I went to church and saw the announcement in the bulletin: Special Meeting for singles tonight at the stake center.
My question then is probably your question now. What’s a “special meeting for singles”? I had no interest in another fireside, because typically they’re just another helping of Sunday School. I get enough of that at church.
But a “special meeting”? Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued. And so I donned my white shirt and tie later than usual and, at the appropriate time, made my way over to the stake center. As I walked in the door, a gentleman greeted me and asked if I were here for the fireside.
Instantly I cringed. But, tampering down the anxiety attack within me, I replied, “Yes, I’m here for the meeting.” This brother directed me to the Relief Society room.
Singles activities are often sparsely attended, but I guess the same influence that worked on me worked on others. The room was packed! I had to take a seat in the front corner of the room.
Start by listening
I soon learned the purpose of the meeting. The stake presidency was looking through the responses to the recent survey — wait, survey? I thought to myself. What survey? I never got told about any survey! — and now they wanted to take the opportunity to listen.
Hold up! Listen? You actually want to listen to us singles? Hallelujah! There is a God, and He hears and answers prayers!
The meeting then became something free form, with individuals sharing feelings and perspectives on LDS singles life and what singles need. I of course have a lot to say on those topics. But I decided to listen myself. I wanted to learn what concerns were most prevalent so I could make my response more targeted to what people needed to hear.
But I never got the chance to share anything. Many expressed frustrations with the family-centered LDS culture and with leaders who because of ignorance or apathy or whatever other reason aren’t sufficiently supporting singles. By the time I grasped the main themes of others’ comments, the stake president ended the meeting. Apparently there was another meeting to attend. But he did offer some closing words of encouragement before ending the meeting with prayer.
Raise your voice
Not having the chance to share my voice, I quickly approached the stake president as soon as the prayer had concluded. As I shook his hand, I thanked him for listening. Not many leaders actually stop to listen, and I made sure he knew what a rarity his approach unfortunately is.
We spoke briefly about what had just transpired, and I assured him that solutions do exist for all of the frustrations and negative emotions that had just been vented. Those solutions we can find in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, but it takes a new way of thinking to see them. Most people aren’t taught to think in those ways, which is part of the reason why I have my blog and radio show.
I then asked if it were okay for me to email some information that could bring added perspective on others’ comments. He consented, and with that, I had my mission. I knew what I needed to do.
Act in faith
I rushed home and began writing that email. After listing all of the concerns I could remember from others’ comments, I organized those concerns into themes, and then planned my response.
Because much of my response mirrors what I’ve already said on both my blog and the radio show, I decided to provide him with links to the relevant posts and shows. Even with the links, I quickly amassed four pages of material. I’m working on paring that down so it won’t overwhelm.
I still can’t contain my excitement at what transpired. Indeed, I believe many are unaware of the wonderful opportunity within the grasp of leadership and the singles they want to serve. And I feel especially blessed to have leaders who chose first to listen to the people.
Listening opens the door of possibility to establishing the support network that will improve the lives of singles and help to fill their needs. If you’re in a leadership position with stewardship over the singles, I urge you to listen to the people. As you listen, you’ll set the foundation to establish the support network necessary to minister most effectively to LDS singles. As that support network grows, more and more LDS singles will have more and more of their needs met. And that will bring more joy in your 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.
After church on Sunday, a member of the stake high council asked me if I were going to attend the singles activity later that day. I confided that I haven't been attending because I don't feel welcome. Why should I dress up in a stuffy shirt and tie to sit on benches that aren't that comfortable only to be all alone? I can wear a T-shirt and sweat pants on my couch and be just as alone but far more comfy. So why go?
In the ensuing conversation, I learned that he recognized the people hold the perspective of the dating forum. I then shared with him some of what I’ve shared about the dating forum and the activity club many times in this forum. We quickly came to agreement there, but then he simply repeated his invitation without any resolve to change anything. I said I’d think about it. Of course, I didn't go.
I did think about that conversation, though, during the following days. Those thoughts led to an important realization: Clearly we see the problem in how singles view activities, but the problem will never be solved unless we take action. But exactly what action is anyone supposed to take? I’ve done this before and so know what to do. But do my local leaders? Based on the conversation I had Sunday, it doesn’t seem so.
What can be done to turn around a local singles group so that people choose the support network over the dating forum and the activities club? That's the very question I’m going to answer right now.
Get buy-in from leadership
The first thing you need to do is get buy-in from leadership. Nothing happens in this church unless leadership is on board. So you've got to get the vision of the support network yourself. And then you must sell that vision to leadership.
And by leadership, I mean both married and single members serving in leadership positions. Everyone from the stake presidency to the high council to the bishopric to any singles leaders serving on both stake and ward levels must adopt the vision of the support network. Anyone who thinks their responsibility is just to calendar activities doesn’t have the vision. You've got to work with them until they adopt the support network.
You’ll know they have the vision when they start playing their part in the support network. Those attending activities will actively greet and welcome everyone they can. They'll talk to people, helping them feel somebody cares enough to be interested in them. They'll also look for those sitting by themselves, offering to sit with them or inviting them to join a larger group seated together.
Get buy-in from the people
Once leadership is on board, you’ve got to secure buy-in from the people. That means you instill the vision of the support network in every single adult so that they do the same things leaders do — connecting with people and helping them feel supported.
Too often we think those in leadership positions do things no one else does. In some respects that's true, but more often than not, leadership is something everyone should display. Leadership is a choice, not a position.
And leadership in spreading the vision of the support network is something every single adult should practice. Otherwise, you'll never have the support network. The arrangement of everybody helping everybody happens only when everyone reaches out to everyone. It can't be just those in leadership positions. Everyone has a part to play because everyone matters.
Accept nothing less than glory
Support networks take time to build because you must change the way people think. And because we’re hardwired to follow habit, you're going to meet some resistance both from leaders who think their job is to do nothing more than plan activities and from singles who think in terms of the dating forum or the activities club.
That's why part of leadership’s role is to instill the vision of the support network in everyone. You must tell people directly what you're trying to accomplish. You must show them what can happen when everyone gets on board with the vision. And you must invite them one by one to play their part in making that vision reality.
It won't be easy, and it will take time. But it is possible. I know because I’ve done it. So be patient. Keep working. Love the people. Accept nothing less than glory, and in time you’ll see the support network start to take hold. You'll see people reaching out to each other. You'll see the needs of people being met. You’ll see that you can turn it around. And you'll feel more of the Savior's love for one another. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Yet the Prophet’s remarks weren’t the only ones which inspired and impressed themselves upon me. President Dallin H. Oaks’s address entitled “Small and Simple Things” reminded me of the great power of small actions performed consistently over time.
To be clear, I’ve always liked President Oaks. His logical approach to addressing any question has always resonated with me. And he’s been a real champion for LDS singles. Some of the most classic discourses for singles have come from him.
Considering that admiration, I’m always impressed with his remarks. But something was different for me this around. As President Oaks spoke, I felt an urgent need to consider what small and simple things I have in my life.
Ask the questions
President Oaks began by sharing two photographs each showing a tree with a root that had slowly grown underneath an adjacent sidewalk and cracked it. He observed that “the thrusting power that cracked these heavy concrete sidewalks was too small to measure on a daily or even a monthly basis, but its effect over time was incredibly powerful.”
President Oaks then mentioned many of the small and simple things that can uplift us (like prayer, scripture study, and repentance) as well as those small and simple things that can hold us back. He of course mentioned the Word of Wisdom and pornography in this regard. But I remain impressed with the other areas he included in his cautions:
For good or ill, those small and simple things we embrace consistently will shape us into who we become. President Oaks quoted Brigham Young when speaking on this point.
All this begs questions for each of us. What small and simple things do I have in my life? Will they lead me where I want to go? And what ones should I have to help me achieve my goals and dreams?
Consider the time
Whatever we decide to incorporate into our lives will have little if any effect if we don’t perform it consistently. The half-hearted, occasional, or sporadic effort won’t produce change. Consistency is the key that unlocks success.
What really struck me about President Oaks’s remarks is his holistic perspective. Of course he mentioned the small and simple things we’d expect, like prayer and scripture study. But he also talked about other things, like how we spend our time.
So many of us spend so much time in consumption. We constantly seek to be entertained. We often think more about how we can satisfy our own desires than how we can help someone else.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a good time and enjoy ourselves. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be spending so much time consuming at the expense of time producing. Excess consumption practiced consistently will not make you any better, nor will it improve anyone else’s life. And if no one’s life is better because of how you spent your time, how can that not be considered a waste of time?
Embrace your daily practice
Many of President Oaks’s examples of small and simple things describe our environment. And indeed, much of our environment we make with what we choose.
Lately I’ve been discovering the choices I make in the first and last hours of the day largely determine my environment during the day. There’s nothing hugely momentous that I practice in either of these hours. I of course have prayer and scripture study but also embrace exercise, reading, language study, and meditation.
Taken together, my daily practices form only about 8% of my day. But I’m starting to feel effects growing within me from my consistency in performing these small and simple acts every day, including increased confidence, increased desire to work, greater feelings of gratitude and abundance, and of course less distance between myself and my Heavenly Father.
What small and simple things do you have in your life? Are they helping you to become everything you’re capable of becoming? Or are they preventing you from improving? The Lord has said, “Out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). When we consistently practice the small and simple things that uplift, we can achieve the impossible. And that will bring us more joy in our 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.
We all feel the influence of language in every aspect of life. That’s because encoded in language are ways of thinking about and perceiving the world around us.
For example, we call a container containing cookies a cookie jar because that’s what it does. A cookie jar is a jar that contains cookies. Likewise, we call that small wedge placed in the gap underneath a door to hold it in place a door stop. That’s because that’s what it does; it stops the door from swinging.
Language reflects how we think about and perceive our world. So if we want to improve our thinking, we must improve our language. That’s just as true about LDS singles life as it is anything else. Given the widespread use of less effective language regarding singles, many of us need to wash our mouth out.
Enough with “singles program”
Singles program provides a good example. That word program suggests all singles need are activities and all leaders need to do is organize activities. Singles planning committees shouldn’t concern themselves with outreach or friendshipping. Just throw singles together and they’ll naturally pair off, right?
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — singles don’t need a slate of activities as much as they need true friends who’ll walk with them along the road of life. I don’t remember the literally thousands of singles activities I’ve attended. However, I do remember when a friend reached out with kindness or compassion. Those times are memorable because they contain what matters most.
That’s why we should replace singles program with support networks. Support networks describe what singles really need — friends who support each other along the road of life. Changing our language in just this one way will change our thinking about how we all should relate to singles. And what goodness such a perspective of support can bring to the world!
Out with “family of one”
I’d shout “Hallelujah!” if that one phrase were the only one requiring elimination from our vocabulary. But, alas, there’s more.
I once posted about an experience with my stake president who used the phrase family of one while speaking in sacrament meeting. As I questioned him about it, his responses garnered my respect. He willingly admitted he made mistakes and that his use here was one of them.
In the three years since that encounter, I can’t remember hearing family of one, which suggests it may be going the way of the dodo bird. That’d be fantastic if true. I don’t want people to walk on proverbial eggshells just to talk to me. I understand a family by definition requires at least two people. And I’m perfectly OK with that.
The Church seems to have caught a ride on that train. Recently the General Authorities have been speaking of individuals and families. This practice — using individuals and families instead of family of one — rightly promotes the family. Its continuance gives me hope other vile vocabulary choices will find extinction.
Down with “family ward”
And, in my view, no LDS phrase is more vile than family ward. Oh, what screeching of fingernails on a chalkboard I hear every time someone uses this pernicious expression!
And that expression is pernicious. It provides an identity crisis alienating many LDS singles from the Church. Just like cookies jars get their name from what they are and what they contain, so too do family wards get their name from what they are and what they contain. Family wards are congregations for families; the name alone says singles don’t belong there. No matter how much our married friends may insist to the contrary, language by its nature reveals how we truly think and perceive the world.
I’ve suggested before we should replace family ward with general membership ward, because that’s who really belongs in these congregations — the general membership of the Church. In my ponderings since, I can understand many wanting a shorter expression. This too is in the nature of language. Using general ward conveys the same meaning — that the general membership of the Church belongs there.
In all we do, we should be meeting one another’s needs. Using support networks communicates that intention more effectively than singles program. Trying to be sensitive by watering down the meaning of family with the phrase family of one doesn’t really serve anyone well. And using general ward communicates we all really do belong better than family ward.
Language matters. It reflects how we think about and perceive the world. If your language needs some improvement, then wash your mouth out. Use soap if needed. When we improve the language we use, we improve the way we think about and perceive our world. And that will bring us more joy in our 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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