Conference provides a great opportunity to reflect and recommit ourselves to a better path. But truth be told, every single day holds the same opportunity. Each day provides a new opportunity to consider your ways and act to change your life.
Consider your time
We all have the same 24 hours each day, but we all choose to spend it differently. And how you spend your time reveals what you value most in life.
Me? I’ve always been a big fan of sleep. There’s no way it’s overrated. It’s fantastic! But you can pursue many things to excess, and sleep is no exception. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the admonition in D&C 88:124 to “arise early.” I’m actually still working on that.
But I’ve found, when I can do it, an early start radically changes the entire day. I’m way more productive, producing more value more easily. I feel more focused and energized throughout the day. And at the end of the day, I’m just more satisfied with myself.
I don’t get those benefits if I prioritize personal playtime and consuming content, and neither will you. If you want your best life, you need to answer these questions: Do you devote more time to worthy causes or frivolous pursuits? Are you the captain of your life’s ship, or do you just float wherever the waves of life take you?
Consider the consequences
Speaking of sleep, what does “retire to thy bed early” mean? I think we each must find our own way. For myself, the sooner I get to sleep, the easier it is to beat the sun up. My body simply takes what sleep it needs, so staying up late doesn’t help me “arise early.” And if I don’t get up early, I won’t get the resultant benefits.
In fact, getting up late usually means getting the exact opposite. I get tons more desire to play and waste the day. If I do manage to drag myself into some productive pursuit, I’m anything but focused. My mind goes all over the map. At the end of the day, I’m left with nothing but the shame of having wasted the day.
On my mission, I heard an African story. Every morning a gazelle awakens. He knows his best chance of escaping the tiger hunting him is to get as much of a head start as he can. But every morning that tiger also awakens. He knows his best chance of eating that day depends on catching the gazelle before he starts running. Thus, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a gazelle or a tiger. When the sun comes up, you had better be running.
Consider your needs
Your sleep schedule is just one of many ways you should consider. We should all reflect on what we need to get where we each want to go and then consider getting what we don’t have but need. Sometimes that means gaining new knowledge. Sometimes that means acquiring a new tool. Sometimes that means having the right people in your life. Your Heavenly Father, the Lord, and the Spirit are indispensable members of that support team. Don’t forget to include them in your plans for success.
In the end, you won’t get the most out of life unless you live intentionally. Only by choosing your activities with intention can you get the most juice for your squeeze. And the best intention for your time includes your own personal ministry by which you contribute to making the world a better place.
So consider your ways. Are you making the most of every day? Are you living with intention? I can’t say I always have. But I can say I’ve experienced real joy in living when I’ve consciously chosen how to spend my time to achieve worthy goals. And I’m grateful to be reminded of the opportunity each day brings to consider my ways and make changes where necessary.
If you haven’t considered your ways recently, do so now. You’ll open the door to feeling more satisfied with yourself each and every day. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’m thankful President Oaks publicly declared those ideas. I’m also thankful he focused on eternal principles throughout his remarks, especially the principle of moral agency. The Constitution certainly isn’t perfect, but it does support that society most free to exercise agency. Thus, we should all be defending our Constitution, despite its flaws and limitations.
Understand the threats to agency
President Oaks began his remarks by establishing his authority. A former clerk to the chief justice of the US Supreme Court, law professor, and justice on the Utah Supreme Court, he’s certainly more than amply qualified to have a platform.
But the qualification he listed last and “most important” intrigued me most. He’s been an Apostle of Jesus Christ for 37 years. As President Oaks described, that means he’s “responsible to study the meaning of the divinely inspired United States Constitution to the work of His restored Church.”
Here he segues into a discussion of moral agency. God inspired the Founding Fathers to assemble a system of government that would maximize the exercise of moral agency. And as we know, agency is key in our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan for His children. Defending the Constitution therefore promotes God’s plan of happiness.
President Oaks then mentioned some of the threats to the undergirding principles of the Constitution. Said he,
The threats to the Constitution, and by extension to our Heavenly Father’s plan, are very real and very much growing.
Learn and perform your duty
So can we do about it? What should we do to defend the Constitution? President Oaks provides some answers. I love how he starts by encouraging optimism, declaring “we should trust in the Lord and be positive about this nation’s future.”
Founded in faith and positive thinking, we should pray for leaders in all nations and then seek to exercise a righteous influence civilly, peacefully, and legally. Also, in these divisive times, “we should seek to moderate and unify.”
These days, everyone loves to talk about their rights and what they’re entitled to receive. But few speak of their duties and what they should give. It’s people performing their duties that make the rights of all available. That’s why I applaud President Oaks in listing three duties every good citizen has.
That power-packed list reveals more I need to do to support the Constitution. And I love how President Oaks reiterated King Benjamin’s counsel not to do everything at once (Mosiah 4:27). We all have different seasons in life, and the combination of actions appropriate in one season may not be appropriate in another.
Get busy doing your part
Let’s truly celebrate Independence Day by defending our Constitution. Perhaps the best place for you to start is where I’m starting — by reading and becoming more familiar with the actual document itself. Or perhaps you need to consider running for a position in an upcoming election. Or maybe you need to call or email an elected official about a current issue.
What you do today may not be what you do tomorrow, but we should always be doing something. The threats to the Constitution President Oaks described have grown precisely because far too many of us have been doing nothing in civic life. We’ve been busy focusing on our careers, our loved ones, and our own lives, and enough responsible people have been so absorbed in that busyness that we’ve allowed irresponsible people to hold office.
The Constitution has imperfections, but one thing it does right is give ultimate power to the people. Let’s celebrate the birth of our nation by learning about and then committing to safeguard that power. And the best way to safeguard it is to exercise it civilly, peacefully, and legally. When we persist in so doing, we can enjoy the fruits of freedom to exercise the moral agency essential to God’s plan and preserve that gift for the next generation. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
The major challenge for me wasn’t the test itself. For me, it was keeping up with everything else. I still had to attend class, submit homework, prepare for exams, and complete all other responsibilities. Overwhelmed, I turned to the Lord for help. The resulting experience has prompted me to wonder if I really understand what it means to partner with the Lord.
I’ve discussed partnering with the Lord before. The essential idea has always been to embrace the Lord as a partner for your life. No matter how good you are, He can make more out of your life than you can. So it just makes sense to counsel with Him and receive guidance as you make your way through mortality.
Yet my qualifying exam showed me an aspect I’d not before considered. As I collected journal articles related to my assigned topic, I began writing summaries of the articles so I could compare and identify any trends as well as gaps in the current research. But the shear quantity of content to summarize so overwhelmed me that by Day 5 it looked like I wouldn’t meet deadline. How could I write a research proposal when I hadn’t even read enough to know what research gaps existed?
Not knowing where to stand, I went to my knees and pleaded with the Lord for help. I’ve offered such pleadings before, but this time was different. This time I surrendered myself completely to God, declaring a sense of dependency upon Him I truly felt inside. I could succeed only with Him. I needed Him to reveal what I should write and to guide me in finding the supporting material for that proposal among all the many articles I had collected.
That sense of dependency took what I thought partnering with the Lord was to another level. I felt it so strongly tears freely accompanied my cries for help. I truly believed what I declared — without Him to support me, I would surely fail.
I remained on my knees after concluding my prayer, listening for His voice as I wiped the tears from my face. At length I arose and returned to my desk, ready to begin working. I didn’t know what to do, but I was willing to do.
It was in that moment ideas began flooding into my mind. I began to understand the direction I should take. As I acted on those ideas, more ideas came. Though the hour was late, I felt a resurgence of strength and energy fill me, allowing me to keep working on implementing the ideas coming to me.
Before long, I had a rough outline. I worked all the next day to finish and then submit the written proposal. I had a similar experience with the presentation, both in preparing and delivering it. Soon afterwards, I received notice I passed the exam.
That same experience played out as I fulfilled my other responsibilities. I continued praying with that same sense of dependency. Not only were my prayers answered, but I began to feel closer to the Lord than I’ve ever felt.
Pondering upon these experiences has led me to realize more what partnering with the Lord really means. It means feeling so dependent upon Him you must have His contribution to succeed. It means laying bare all you have, feel, think, and can see as evidence making the case for your dependency upon Him. And it means rising to your feet after falling to your knees and walking forward in faith He will provide according to your need.
Though my experience was directed towards my studies, I recognize how this same process can apply to every area of life. Don’t wait to feel the security and support the Lord is eager to give the willing. Partner with the Lord anew, and take your relationship with Him to another level. You’ll receive what you need to move forward, and you’ll feel closer to Him than you ever have. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That said, my experience still excites me because it gives me great hope the culture of the larger Latter-day Saint community will soon eliminate what has traditionally provided the greatest challenge in LDS singles life. Just as we know rain will fall when we see storm clouds gather, we can see the cultural signs around us indicating a change is gonna come.
How it’s been
I’ve long spoken on this platform about the challenges LDS singles have traditionally faced. For those who may be new to the audience, the bulk of those challenges stem from our family-centered culture.
Traditionally, LDS culture has centered on family. That means the marker of belonging to that culture is being married with kids, because that’s what having a family has traditionally meant. Because everyone has a deeply seated need to belong to a larger group, LDS singles have struggled to belong when the marker of belonging is something they by definition don’t have.
That’s why for years I’ve called for a change in the culture to one centered on Christ. The marker of belonging in that culture would be discipleship. Such a culture would both support the family while being inclusive of those who are different. No matter your background or your situation, you can work to make and keep sacred covenants that everyone else in the LDS community makes. You can be a disciple. You can belong.
A new hope
I kept affirming my message of cultural change despite the appearance of little if any move in that direction. But that all changed in 2018. That’s when I saw my first glimmer of hope.
That’s because that’s when the Brethren unveiled the ministering initiative. My heart jumped for joy while I physically jumped on my couch at hearing the announcement. I saw then a shift in perspective to see inquiring after the needs of others not as a duty, which is what home and visiting teaching had largely become, but as an opportunity to build the kingdom and grow in discipleship.
That’s exactly in line with the vision I’ve always proposed for the most successful singles groups. They focus on bringing everyone together and making everyone feel they belong. They know it doesn’t matter what people’s background or circumstances are, and they proclaim that knowledge in the way they act and treat others.
Seeing this shift announced in General Conference brought me a new hope that the change I had been talking about for years could be on the edge of unfolding into reality.
The future’s bright
That’s why I was so excited when I saw what appeared at the time to be a change in the home page of the Church website. The layout and content were all focused on Christ as the center. And they combined together to create a unequivocal message of belonging no matter your background or circumstances.
I’ve always believed our Church leaders on the global level have been aware of the singles. Many of the failings LDS singles have cited have root in local leaders who either haven’t understood how to minister effectively to singles or have been so busy with other priorities that ministering to singles simply didn’t happen.
But all of that will be history. Change is gonna come! We can look forward to the future with hope and optimism in a brighter and better day. Our Lord truly knows us and our circumstances. He’ll inspire His disciples to move in a more positive direction while at the same time exercising the compassion of patience in respecting their agency to implement those changes.
Let us also exercise the compassion of patience in respecting the agency of our leaders, both global and local, while also helping them to improve in their ministering efforts towards us and other LDS singles. As we do, we’ll make the ground more fertile for the changes that will come. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
How it works
Here’s how the 40 days work. Every day, the schedule lists a portion of the Sermon on the Mount to study for that day. That might be a single verse or several verses.
The schedule provides the section as recorded in Matthew and 3 Nephi as well as other relevant references for comparison. The end result is a foundation of scriptures to compare at the start of the daily practice. You read, compare, examine, and reflect.
Then you commit to applying during the course of that day what you’ve learned. You go through your day, completing your commitment. At the end of the day, you “return and report” by reflecting on your experience and writing about how it changed you.
Then the next day, you repeat the process with a new verse or section of verses as detailed in the schedule. You do this for 39 days. On Day #40, you reflect upon and write about your experience as a whole.
The next level
I can’t speak highly enough of how this tradition has helped me draw closer to my Savior and become more truly His. It’s not just study. It’s a continual process of learn, do, and reflect that creates a journey similar to an ever expanding spiral staircase.
I’ve always shared this tradition with others. But this year my growth requires me to invite others to walk each of the 40 days with me. By walking as a group together, we can strengthen and support each other.
To that end, I’m announcing some changes for Joy in the Journey Radio. First, I’ll provide for free the schedule for the 40-day journey. Look to the end of the monologue blog post.
Second, to help those who want an extra aid, I’ll provide a workbook as a guide for walking through each of the 40 days. Everything you need for each step of each day will be there, including side-by-side scripture comparisons, space for writing, and suggested commitments for application. Because Amazon provides the best way to provide this workbook in the most useful format, you’ll have to buy it. But I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow.
Third, I’m going to devote the Joy in the Journey Radio Facebook page to this tradition. During each of the 40 days, I’ll post the relevant scriptures along with something extra like my commitment for that day or some thoughts about the verse(s) for that day. Others can then share what they learned or experienced, allowing everyone to be strengthened by each other’s journey. And as always, joining and participating in the Facebook group is free.
Let’s walk together
I’m not sure how I’ll manage this group in addition to all of my other responsibilities. My calling and my schooling by themselves take significant time. But I feel strongly I need to pursue this, and so I step out with faith the Lord will provide for me.
Day #1 is November 22, so don’t delay getting involved, especially if you want the workbook to guide you along. Get the schedule and join the Facebook page. You’ll see what I call the holy trinity of holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day) in a whole new light. And deepening your discipleship is a great way to end the current year and begin a new one.
For all of us, 2020 has been an absolutely crazy year. So come join me in adopting a new tradition. Let’s end 2020 together by engaging a journey that will deepen our discipleship, bring us closer to the Savior, and help us feel more of His love as we strengthen and support each other. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
That's the place where many of us live, or rather the place where many of us exist as the walking dead, wandering zombies in lives on autopilot. We want a better life, we want to change for the better, and many of us sincerely intend both to do better and to become better. Yet the smallest good deed is always better than the grandest intention.
Don't just dream
Why such resistance to embracing positive change? We keep dreaming but never doing. Why is that?
It's not because we're lazy, at least not for most of us. We're biologically hardwired to operate out of habit. That means we're naturally designed to maintain a status quo, and that means resisting change because change by definition doesn't maintain a status quo.
Dreams, on the other hand, don't threaten the status quo, because dreams don't really change anything. Dreaming doesn't require any change in habits, so your natural design can continue business as usual while you dream to your heart's content.
And so, many of us dream and dream. And the life we have in return is the same and the same. Then when we recognize some undesired feature of this same but actual life, the only response many give is to complain and dream of a different life.
But only when you consciously choose to act against your biological design to operate out of habit and step towards your dreams will they ever begin to come true. Results come from one thing and one thing only — action. To get a result you've never had, you've got to do things you've never done. You must act!
Have a little faith
And the best part is it doesn't take a lot to get a lot. Goodness has such inherent power that a little can go a long way. Seemingly small actions can produce powerful results.
Nephi once wrote, "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things" (1 Nephi 16:29). He was speaking about the Liahona, the small compass that guided him and his company to the promised land. Alma later spoke to his son Helaman about that compass, saying, "because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works" (Alma 37:41). By exercising a little faith, the spindles pointed the way those early sojourners should go.
But because the action needed was small, it was also easy to forget. As Alma explained,
It works both ways. Seemingly small actions can produce powerful results.
With as long as I've been single, I've attended literally thousands of singles activities, but the small handful of treasured memories I have of those that actually made a difference in my life are of the small acts of kindness that others extended towards me. Those seemingly small acts produced a powerful result in me that I still carry with me.
Get to work
Each of us could confess to having similar moments in our lives. Seemingly small acts of goodness someone else extended to us have touched us, lifted us, strengthened us, and encouraged us when we needed it. We all can and should pay that forward.
For me, that's the best aspect of these actions. They're so small anyone can do them. You don't need to be terribly gifted in anything. In fact, you already have all the gifts you need to wield the power within seemingly small actions — the gifts of agency and time. When you choose to fill your time with the seemingly small actions that can make a difference in the lives of others and your own, you can effect real change in your life.
So what are you waiting for? Stop wishing and start working. The smallest good deed is always better than the grandest intention. Only action produces results. When you take the seemingly small actions to share goodness with others or to improve yourself, you move yourself closer to making your dreams reality. And with continued, consistent effort over time, you'll begin to see yourself moving closer to your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It wasn't very long, and I don't remember much of what it said. But what my grandfather wrote at the end has stayed with me. He essentially wrote, "I don't know if anything I've said is helpful, but if it is, keep it. Throw the rest away."
In the ensuing years, I've marveled at the wisdom my grandfather gave me in such a compact package. It's part of the heritage I've received from all my grandparents. All have passed on, but their contributions to me remain with me. And it's those contributions that fill my heart with gratitude as I remember grandparents.
Remember the paternal
His wife a real Nosy Nellie, but she also had a kindness of her own while insisting others adopt a vigorous work ethic. She died of cancer while I was on my mission, but I had a special experience at the time through which I understood that she had moved to a better place.
Remember the maternal
I never knew my mother's father — at least not in this life — because he died while my mother served her mission. But I've had a special experience through which I've come to "know" him in a real and connected way.
He lived as a sharecropper growing some soybeans but mostly tobacco. His neighbors could never understand how my grandfather could be a Latter-day Saint and grow tobacco for a living. When asked about it, my grandfather would reply, "I don't smoke it or chew it. I just grow it." He was a down-to-earth, simple man who believed in hard work and worked hard with his own hands to support a growing family.
His wife was the only woman I've ever known who cooked better than my mother. Apologies to my other grandmother, who never would have tolerated something like that said in her presence, but it's true. She was also one of the kindest people I've ever known. The summers my brother and I spent on her farm are among my most cherished childhood memories.
Pay it forward
I've got so many memories flooding my mind now that I can't possibly describe them all in this monologue. But these memories form the bulk of the heritage my grandparents bequeathed me, a heritage I carry with me to this day and hope one day to bestow upon the children I still hope to have.
It's little wonder then why we have a day to commemorate the contribution of grandparents. What is a wonder is why the holiday isn't more well known. Everyone knows about Mother's Day and Father's Day. But I didn't know about Grandparents' Day before this year.
This Sunday, let's remember grandparents. What legacy have your grandparents left you? What memories of them influence you today? If they're still here, take some time on Sunday to thank your grandparents for whatever positive difference they made in your life. And if they're not, then do as I'm doing and reflect on the difference they made.
Either way, when you remember grandparents, you keep them alive in your heart. You carry the heritage they left behind, making it easier to leave that heritage to those who live after you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In addition to the scriptures-Spirit-assimilation model we discussed last week, the Prince of Peace provides additional aids and comforts. Elder Neil L. Andersen spoke of such aids in his address from the last General Conference entitled “Spiritually Defining Memories.” These memories recall moments in our lives when the Spirit provides strong confirmation that God knows and loves us individually. They provide courage in times of concern and faith in times of fear. They help us to know that God knows that we know He will not forsake us.
Follow the prophets
Elder Andersen began his remarks by recounting the experience of Joseph Smith with his spiritually defining memories of the First Vision. The Prophet Joseph faced persecution and hardship because of both his experience and his witness of that experience.
But God never forsook him. Even when he rode towards his assassination, he remarked, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men” (D&C 135:4). He knew that God knew that he knew God would not forsake him.
Elder Andersen then jumps to an experience from our current Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. Some years ago while President Nelson was a practicing heart surgeon, an elderly stake patriarch pleaded with him to perform a surgery he desperately needed. The then-Dr. Nelson describes vivid pictures of how to perform the needed operation which came clearly into his mind during the surgery. As Elder Andersen relates, “he knew that God knew that he knew he had been directed.”
Elder Andersen provided more examples from both his own life and others he knew. What strikes me about each of these experiences, including the ones from modern-day prophets, is that God always individually tailors whatever offering He provides.
As I accept Elder Andersen’s invitation to reflect on my own spiritually defining memories, I can see the same holds true for me. Throughout my life, and especially as a single Latter-day Saint, God has always individually tailored His offerings to me. I know that God knows that I know He loves me and is aware of me and my circumstances.
I remember one moment in which I felt particularly discouraged. As is sometimes my habit, I was listening to Internet radio as I worked. But in this moment, discouragement clouded my concentration, preventing me from focusing as well as I could on my task.
Then the Internet radio station began playing a song I had never before heard. It spoke powerfully to the deepest parts of my soul, reaffirming my eternal worth and potential. In that moment, I knew that God knew that I knew He treasured me and has always wanted so very much to bless me.
Elder Andersen provides this description:
God supports us in our eternal journey with spiritually defining memories.
Ultimately, our ability to have those experiences that provide spiritually defining memories in our lives depends first on the will of God — because if He wants something to happen, it will, and if He doesn’t, it won’t — and secondly on our willingness to hear Him. President Nelson has recently invited us “to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?” as well as “to take steps to hear Him better and more often.”
The row we LDS singles have can be hard to hoe, but with the Lord at our side there is nothing we cannot accomplish. The better we hear Him, the more we’ll feel His love and support. He’ll bring spiritually defining memories to our remembrance, and He’ll graciously grant us more experiences that make more spiritually defining memories. As Elder Andersen counseled,
What spiritually defining memories are yours? As you reflect on those sacred transmissions of love from your Heavenly Father, you will feel more of His love for you. You’ll position yourself to hear Him better. You’ll know that He knows that you know He loves you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
As I read the specific aspects of the fast President Nelson proposed, I remembered my own participation in that worldwide fast. President Nelson said, “Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son hear us!” But that raised this question: Did God hear us? How effective was the worldwide fast?
To answer that question, I searched for evidence regarding the specific points in President Nelson’s invitation. What I found gives me hope and a strengthened testimony in the power of fasting in opening the heavens for help.
Examining the trends
President Nelson declared the first purpose of the fast was “that the present pandemic may be controlled.” And so I searched Google this morning for “covid 19 deaths worldwide” and obtained an informative chart. It shows the general trend of COVID-19 related deaths rising around mid-March. But then after April 10, the general trend becomes more constant.
We see something even more hopeful for those living in the US. A similar search in Google for “covid 19 deaths us” produced another chart. Again, COVID-19 deaths rise after Spring Break. But after April 10, the general trend actually decreases!
Now, what drives that decrease is a separate question, one I’m not tackling here given my limitations of space and time. But did the fast lead to a control of the pandemic? As I’ve often told my statistics students, correlation is not causation. Just because two events happen at the same time doesn’t mean one causes the other. But is it a coincidence that the turning point for the trend in both of these curves is around April 10, the same day as the worldwide fast organized by God’s living prophet? I think not.
Hearing the stories
The second pleading President Nelson invited us to make in the worldwide fast was that “caregivers [be] protected.” What can we say about that?
We often think protection means physical safety, especially in a pandemic context. But protection could apply holistically to include other areas such as emotional and psychological health. In that light, I searched for stories relating what support health care workers have received. The American Hospital Association has a page on its website dedicated to stories about health care workers serving on the front lines of the pandemic. And these stories are amazing.
What I find especially encouraging is the HERO registry, an initiative launched by the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina. The registry collects stories from health care workers so that administrators and public health officials can better understand and work to solve the problems health care workers face both in real time and over time.
For me, the especially encouraging aspect of this effort is its launch date — April 13, just three days after the worldwide fast. Again, just because two events occur together doesn’t mean one causes the other. But again I ask, “Is this coincidence?” And again, I think not.
Looking forward in faith
President Nelson’s invitation for a worldwide fast ended with two final pleadings: one for “the economy [to be] strengthened, and [one for] life [to be] normalized.” So what about these aspects? Did God hear us in these?
Well, what measure should we use to assess economic strength? Whatever we choose isn’t going to tell us much; it’s only been about a month since the worldwide fast. In that time, we’ve seen the devastation of many economic sectors resulting in record unemployment numbers. And what exactly does “life normalized” mean? What standard do we use for “normal”? However we define our terms, many of the issues affecting the economy and daily living have yet to find resolution. And so we look to the future with hope that God will resolve these issues to the satisfaction of His purposes.
What we see so far after the worldwide fast gives us hope that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled. He will prepare the way for His promised blessings. Indeed, fasting can open the heavens for help. Looking for the ways in which God hears us gives us greater encouragement to look for ways in which we can hear Him. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Yet a recent experience caused me much reflection on both my own transformation to optimism and how we can all help those singles wont to wallow in their own mire come Friday.
An unexpected experience
Last Saturday, the newest member of my ward was baptized. The service reminded me of my own mission, and I cried as the Spirit brought past sacred experiences to my remembrance.
As I left, I noticed across the parking lot a sister missionary who’d previously been in the ward. She had obviously returned to attend the baptism. Just before her transfer, she and her companion gave me a very special gift. They snuck up to my apartment door and plastered it with paper hearts sharing messages of love, hope, and encouragement.
I never had the chance to thank them, because the very next day transfers came, and elders arrived in place of both sisters. Seeing that sister now in the parking lot, I called out to her and confided that what she and her companion left for me that night before their transfer meant a great deal to me. I then thanked her.
What happened next surprised me. She told me I should be thanked because I’d helped her tremendously. She didn’t go into details — I’m still insanely curious — but then she said something that later drove deep reflection. She said, “You’re awesome.”
A meditated realization
What surprised me was less that she said it (although yes, I wasn’t expecting to hear that from anyone, let alone a sister missionary) or that she was really sincere in saying it (which she was) and more that I found it hard to hear.
That realization caused me much reflection. I’m very comfortable with myself and enjoy my own society immensely. So why wouldn’t I believe I’m awesome? (And why is there an obnoxious song from The Lego Movie playing in my head right now?)
Seriously, why would that message be so hard for me to hear? After some deep reflection, I concluded it was hard for me to hear because I’d grown too accustomed to hearing the exact opposite.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Looking back over more than two decades of being a single Latter-day Saint, the vast majority of the messages I received from single LDS ladies were negative. They didn’t affirm my divine worth nor recognize the goodness of a heart that had sacrificed and suffered much. That’s not to say there weren’t those few who gave me positive messages (there were) or that I made my own mistakes worthy of negative messaging (I did). Rather it simply means I heard negative messages so often, especially in the dating arena, I came to believe them.
A more joyful life
I don’t believe them any more. My view today is much more optimistic. But what would my life have been like had I received more positive messages from other single sisters more regularly? And what of the other LDS singles who are now what I once was? What of those who are prone to throw that pity party on Friday because they don’t have a valentine of their own?
If you’re among that crowd, please know you have agency. That means you choose everything for yourself, including what to believe. I struggled for a long time with negative messages until I realized my agency means I get to choose everything for myself, including what to believe. Just because someone else believes something doesn’t mean I must believe it also. I don’t have to believe what I don’t want.
It’s the same for you. When others send you a negative message, don’t believe them! Instead, believe you have great worth (because you do) and God loves you so much He has prepared glorious blessings for you (because He does and He has). Then share that love with others and skip the pity party. Let your messaging reaffirm the worth of every individual. Then you’ll feel your own worth reaffirmed. 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 Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
Joy in the Journey Radio encourages the free discussion of ideas but reserves the right to remove and/or block comments which do not conform to LDS standards.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
Posts by Month