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.
In the most recent General Conference, Elder Jack Gerard of the Seventy spoke of the importance of priorities in life. His remarks, entitled “Now Is The Time,” encourage all of us to place our priorities upon what matters most in life — our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Whether or not you have goals for the new year, now is the time to consider whether the priorities you really do have are the ones you really should have.
Set the right priorities
Elder Gerard begins with an account of chest pains he experienced while traveling. After arriving at the airport, he sought help at a local hospital, wondering if he would reach his final destination. A doctor ran multiple tests and then declared him safe to continue his travels.
Elder Gerard returned to the airport and resumed his journey. As the plane approached his final destination, Elder Gerard learned an ambulance would be waiting to take him to the hospital. The doctor had misdiagnosed his condition, which was much more serious than previously supposed.
After he learned the new diagnosis and that not many patients survive that condition, Elder Gerard’s perspective suddenly shifted. He described his experience with these words:
Indeed, now is the time to consider our direction. Stephen Covey often used the analogy of a ladder when speaking about priorities. He described a man who exerted much effort to climb a ladder leaning against a wall. When he got to the top, what he saw behind the wall made one truth painfully obvious; his ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
It should sound silly to talk about priorities after many of us have made our goals, because priorities rightfully come before goals. We need to establish our direction before we establish what we want to accomplish. Otherwise, we’ll likely find the ladder we climb has been leaning against the wrong wall.
Daily life in our modern world contains so many distractions we can spend our lives wandering aimlessly without any sense of direction or purpose. We need to take time to reflect upon our direction. Unless we do, we’ll easily become “like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
Do the things of greatest eternal importance have the highest priority in your life? If not, it’s never too late to start again. Now is the time to consider your direction.
Elder Gerard reminds us that
It’s so easy to coast and let the waves of day-to-day living just wash over us! But that complacency will never deliver your best life. You get your best life by living intentionally, and living with intention requires awareness of what you’re doing and more importantly why. That means having priorities and a plan of action that supports those priorities.
How else do we ensure our ladder is not leaning against the wrong wall? Priorities determine direction, and direction determines destination.
Rise above distraction
During his remarks, Elder Gerard asked this very practical question: “How do we rise above the distractions of this world and stay fixed on the vision of eternity before us?” He then extolled Christ as the standard by which to judge what’s best and declared “understanding our divine origins is essential to our eternal progress and can free us from the distractions of this life.”
Ultimately, the best way to know what our real priorities should be is to evaluate ourselves and our lives without distraction. That’s where temple attendance can be so refreshing. In the house of the Lord, we can separate ourselves from the distractions of the world. Remembering our divine origins and why we’re here can bring clarity to an otherwise muddled view.
If you wonder whether your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, now is the time to consider what changes you need to make. If you didn’t make any goals for the new year, then by default you decided to let the waves of life carry you where they may. Now is the time for you to own your life and establish the priorities that will determine your direction and ultimately your destination. When you do, you’ll find yourself moving forward more confidently. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Because it’s always good to know what the living Prophet said in the last Conference, my selection wasn’t difficult to make. In “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” President Russell M. Nelson spoke of our increasing need to include personal revelation in our lives. And he did so by sharing experiences with revelation from his own life.
Later he revealed (pun intended) how we can best receive that revelation in our lives.
We all have questions that can be answered and challenges that can be solved with the divine inspiration that comes from revelation. But do we have the power-packed combination President Nelson offered?
Pure and obedient
Increased purity and exact obedience go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. We increase our purity only by aligning ourselves more closely to standards of truth, and that means obeying the commandments with more exactness.
I remember on my mission we were constantly encouraged to be “Ammon missionaries.” Ammon performed every command given him (Alma 18:10) and as a result had wonderful missionary opportunities open to him. Years later, many of the sons of the converts Ammon taught went to battle under Helaman’s command. Mormon ascribes their miraculous preservation in battle to their faith, which they had because “they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21).
How exact are we in our obedience? Are we unable to receive the revelation we need to do wonderful things because our tolerance for impurity is too low? Are we kept from our best life solely by the essential bits of information we might have received had we been more committed?
Seeking and feasting
Just as purity and obedience go hand in hand, so too do earnest seeking and feasting daily from the Book of Mormon. Earnest seekers of answers to questions and solutions to challenges will look to hear God’s voice through many channels. And an obvious channel is the scriptures.
And in no book of scripture can we hear the voice of heaven more clearly than in the Book of Mormon. This book was prepared for us in our day. The ancient prophet Alma the Younger instructed his son Helaman that the Lord was preparing the plates from which the Book of Mormon was later translated “that he may show forth his power unto future generations” (Alma 37:14). I believe part of that “power” is an increased capacity to hear the voice of God provide answers to our questions and solutions to our challenges.
Of course, we don’t always get answers and solutions just for the asking. Some times we’re left to struggle with our questions and challenges because that struggle will help us to grow in a way we other wouldn’t if we received everything on demand. But, as President Nelson promises,
Certainly these blessings come after we do our part. So how are we doing? Are we earnestly seeking for answers while feasting every day in the Book of Mormon?
Committed to temple and family history work
The final part of President Nelson’s power-packed combination is like icing on a cake. Temples are natural places of revelation, and the family history work that supports temple work naturally invites revelation. Both provide ways for us to practice the increased receptivity to revelation gained from increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, and daily feasting in the Book of Mormon.
I confess that lately I’ve been slacking here. There’s no reason why I can’t attend the temple weekly. In fact, I’ve never before had so little excuse not to attend weekly as I live conveniently to two temples. But like most things in life, if you don’t schedule the time to go and then commit to follow that schedule, life can easily crowd out family history and temple service.
That’s why I like President Nelson’s description: “regular time committed.” We need to establish a time when we will go to the temple and when we will participate in some aspect of family history work. And then we need to commit ourselves to follow through on our plans.
What questions do you need answered? What challenges do you need solved? Revelation can help. When we follow President Nelson’s counsel, that blessing can be ours. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
I have a love-hate relationship with RootsTech. I love the energy and excitement which RootsTech generates for family history work. But you can’t really talk about family history work without telling stories about ancestors who did this wonderful thing or left that inspiring heritage. And hearing those stories makes me bawl like a baby every time. Yeah, that’s right. Every time.
Stories connect us to our ancestors and help us discover who we are. Truly our hearts turn towards our fathers when we discover, gather, and share stories of our ancestors with the generations after us. That turning of the children’s hearts aligns very well with our innate yearning for our heavenly home. And that provides for a contribution we need to make.
What will you leave?
When I learned that Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2018 would feature President Oakes, I could hardly contain my excitement. Here we have the General Authority who’s perhaps more closely identified with LDS singles life and issues than any other General Authority.
Of course the presentation was outstanding. President and Sister Oakes told stories, and I broke yet another water main. But they also touched on a theme similar to Elder Uctdorf. The Oakeses emphasized the need not just to provide ordinances for our ancestors but also to retell the stories about those ancestors continuously for the benefit of future generations.
And they brought examples. President Oakes showed copies of journals from some of his ancestors and told how sharing those journals have benefitted his descendants. Sister Oakes described how the journals of her ancestors gave her a wonderful religious education. The testimonies they bore of the restored gospel taught her much.
It made me wonder, “What stories am I leaving for the generations that come after me?” You don’t need to be married to leave a strong testimony or inspire a wonderful heritage of faith and courage. But future generations will never know it unless someone records it.
Who will you follow?
Hearing the stories of our ancestors stirs a longing inside of us. We yearn to be united with those we love who have passed on before us. Yet the same Spirit which prompts us to turn our hearts towards our fathers also invites us to follow the Savior and return to our heavenly home.
Elder Uchtdorf spoke of how God knows each one of us intimately — “your every thought, your sorrows, and your greatest hopes.” He also declared that following the Lord on the path back to our heavenly home will make our lives better. Said he,
Is there any better way to follow the Savior than participating in family history and temple work? Surely the fruits of the Spirit will be ours when we contribute to this wonderful work. And LDS singles can make very meaningful contributions.
What will you contribute?
Those who embrace this cause on their journey home will reach a wonderful realization. Elder Uchtdorf declared this life isn’t about just you or me but all of us. We all feel the yearning to come home, and that puts all of us on the same journey back to that heavenly home.
President and Sister Oakes shared similar principles in their RootsTech presentation. We must be linked together with our ancestors because we cannot be saved without them, nor can they be saved without us.
If such grandiose visions make you question what role you could possibly have in such a cause, consider Elder Uchtdorf’s remarks when he offered these thoughts:
Family history and temple work isn’t just for old people. And I don’t care how much pioneer ancestry you have; there’s work for you to do! We singles can make mighty, meaningful contributions to advancing this work. We can discover, gather, and share the stories of our ancestors in ways that will inspire those who come after us — whether or not they are our literal descendants.
As Elder Uchtdorf testified,
Let us each move forward and embrace our own contribution to the cause. When we do, we’ll work miracles in the lives of others. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Over the years, I’ve thought about Mormon’s description of the Nephite people in Alma 50:23: “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni, yea, even at this time, in the twenty and first year of the reign of the judges.” More recently, I’ve pondered upon these questions:
It’s no surprise to learn Mormon picks this time out of the roughly 1000-year history of his people. His descriptions of Captain Moroni reveal Mormon as a huge fan of the young commander. Giving his son the same name, Mormon likely admired him as a sort of mentor, since they both held the same military position.
But is Mormon really picking this time as the happiest among the entire Nephite history because this is when their equivalent to Captain America had his adventures in mortality? Again, what was it about this time that made it the happiest? Let’s examine that.
Preparing for war
The year 69 AD saw the Nephite nation living under the threat of war. Just two years previous, Amalickiah was defeated after gaining the Lamanite throne by deceit and waging an unsuccessful military campaign to subjugate the Nephites.
Captain Moroni spent the following year preparing his nation for war. He knew Amalickiah would return, and he wanted his people to be ready. They built new, fortified cities as well as fortified those cities already in existence.
Those preparations continued on into the next year, the time when “there never was a happier time.” We don’t know much else about that year. The people were busy preparing for war. How does preparing for war create the happiest time ever?
Mormon’s commentary may provide a clue. He gets sidetracked talking about how Nephite history has verified the Lord’s promises. Troubles always came to the people when they forgot God and abandoned their covenants.
On the other hand, those who remembered their covenants were always delivered. Immediately after this observation, Mormon comments that this time was the happiest ever since the days of Nephi. Could this observation have something to do with creating that happy situation?
Remembering the founder
Nephi himself described his people in his day living “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). What exactly does that mean?
Nephi had separated himself from his older brothers because they sought to kill him. Nephi didn’t leave alone; he took with him “those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God” (2 Nephi 5:6). In other words, Nephi left with those who wanted to make and keep sacred covenants with God.
And what did they do once they established their separate community? Nephi’s words explain it all:
Here Nephi describes two main activities:
We see the same activities among the Nephites in 69 AD. They were certainly industrious as they built new cities and fortified existing ones. And Mormon’s commentary suggests they were probably turning to the Lord. Why else would he have thought to insert that commentary?
Taking a lesson
What lesson here can LDS singles apply to their lives? Even though they lived under the threat of war, the Nephites were happiest when they were mindful about keeping their covenants with the Lord and industrious in meeting their temporal needs. LDS singles can follow that example.
We singles may lack the covenant of marriage in our lives, but we’ve made other covenants at baptism and in the temple. Holding fast to those covenants we have made can provide strength to endure well the challenges of our lives.
Temple service in particular can provide perspective to see the opportunity amidst the obstacles. Nephi mentioned having a temple, and I’m sure it wasn’t just for decoration. We singles should do what we can to include the temple more in our own lives.
We singles can also be industrious in meeting our temporal needs. This industrious attitude can and should extend to our own personal ministries. God gives each of us gifts so we can contribute to His work. By focusing on utilizing those gifts in our own personal ministry, we bless our own lives by blessing the lives of others.
The Nephites lived their happiest time when they filled their days with devotion to the Lord and hard work. We LDS singles can have our happiest time when we follow that example. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Last week while discussing Elder Ballard’s most recent Conference address, I spoke about making goals to get married and our need to center our dating efforts on the Savior. Doing that means understanding the fundamentals of dating.
One fundamental principle is recognizing the two types of dating. We often confuse ourselves by not making this distinction. We introduce even more confusion in our dating journey when we try to be where we aren’t. Placing too much seriousness too soon in our journey turns us into our own worst obstacle.
Being in the place where we are means conforming our actions to where we currently find ourselves. Because there are two types of dating, we should act differently in each respective stage. Committed dating will have more seriousness than casual dating.
In fact, when you correctly understand the fundamentals of dating and the two types of dating, you can’t avoid a simple but profound conclusion: Unless the other person is a jerk, a stalker, or a criminal, you should date everyone.
You choose your probability of success
The provision against dating a jerk, a stalker, or a criminal makes sense to most. You shouldn’t compromise your personal safety. But the rest of the conclusion to date everyone else will put many LDS singles into a panic.
If that’s you, please calm down. This just shows you understand neither the fundamentals of dating nor the nature of casual dating.
A casual date is just that — casual. So why make the date serious by putting extensive restrictions on having one? The point of casual dating is to learn more about what you want in a companion so you can narrow down your selections to just one. You’ll then focus on securing the agreement you need to transition to committed dating.
That means your probability of success increases as you increase the size of your casual dating pool. You do that when you lower the restrictions on who can enter. That means dating everyone (with the obvious exceptions, of course).
Feeling is not knowledge
Many of us want to resist this way of thinking. Some may think I’m advising against having standards while dating. Still others may reject the conclusion because they just “know” So-and-so isn’t right for them.
First, you should have standards while dating. Your success, however, will be more likely if you’ll be in the place where you are. Casual dating by its very name suggests a different set of standards than committed dating. You could very well casually date someone who you do not committedly date. In fact, most of us have.
Second, I understand the feeling that comes when considering some people as a potential date. It’s like every cell in your body is screaming “NO!” But feeling is not knowledge. You’ll never know unless (1) an angel or other heavenly messenger gives you the knowledge or (2) you get your own experience. I’m thinking the odds for most of us seeing an angel aren’t that great.
I love this comment from a married woman named Kathryn.
Such examples abound, showing we really don’t know like we think we do. We should stop pre-judging others and open ourselves to new possibilities. Let experience tell the tale. Like Kathryn, you just might be surprised at what you don’t know.
Be in the place where you are
Our LDS subculture has primed us for years to look to temple marriage as a pivotal life moment. And it is. But you’ll never climb the mountain if you constantly stare at the peak without ever looking at the ground directly in front of you.
The best way to complete your journey is to look at the ground where you are and occasionally glance at the peak to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. This is the role of feedback we discussed last week in Elder Ballard’s Conference address.
Once you know you’re moving in the right direction, be where you are. Whatever stage you’re in, that’s the place where you should be. That means your actions show you’re in casual dating if you’re in that stage of your journey.
When you’re ready to move to the next stage of your journey, secure the agreement you need to enter that next stage. Keep focusing on where you are and the very next step you need to take. Your steps will build upon themselves, and eventually you’ll find you’ve climbed the peak.
I have yet to find my eternal companion, but I’ve found some wonderful experiences by opening myself to new possibilities when casually dating. I’ve also had more committed dating experiences because I opened myself more in casual dating. Open yourself to new possibilities. You just might be surprised. And you’ll have more joy in your journey.
This past weekend I’ve had the best vacation I’ve ever had in my entire life. Most people hearing that declaration will wonder where I went to have such a great time. But my vacation was great not so much for where I went as for what I did.
I went to Afton, Wyoming. “Why would you go there?” some of you undoubtedly wonder. “There’s nothing there.” To which I answer, “Precisely.”
Recently I’ve felt my life dead end in so many ways. I wanted to search my soul and think deeply about my life. I wanted to re-calibrate myself with a sense of hope that all isn’t lost for me. And I wanted a game plan for taking every part of my life to the next level.
For me, that’s all best done surrounded by mountains, fresh air, and as few people as possible. Wyoming’s Star Valley fits that bill to a T.
Start with the temple
My first order of business was a session in the Star Valley temple. This has to be the absolutely smallest temple I’ve ever seen. There’s only one endowment room, one sealing room, and four sessions per day.
I arrived hoping to join the last session. Every seat was already reserved, so the front desk called someone to see what work I might do. I took a seat and waited patiently.
Very soon, a temple presidency member came out and greeted me. We shook hands as I expressed my hope in doing a session. Instantly this kind man put his arm around my shoulder. He thanked me for coming in a way that made me feel truly welcome. Then, turning to the attendant at the front desk, he instructed a space be made for me to attend a session.
He then offered to show me where to go. I accepted, although the building is so small I couldn’t possibly get lost. Early during my session I began to feel a quiet confidence the blessings I desire are still available and the Lord will walk with me towards their attainment. What a wonderful start to my vacation!
Get down to the nitty gritty
I spent the next four days writing in a Moleskine notebook. I wanted to take my life to the next level, and I had a plan for how I would proceed.
I started by listing every part of my life I wanted to take to the next level — my spiritual life, my relationships (both ones I had and ones I wanted), my career, my own businesses, my residence, my finances — literally everything.
Then for each of those individual items, I followed a five step process:
I followed these steps for every individual part of my life, so little wonder I filled 71 pages in my notebook. From those pages I extracted the individual action items (271 in all) that get me started taking my life to the next level.
Feel the power
Admittedly, 271 action items is a lot, but I need do only one item at a time. And having lots to do is great. It gives hope I’ve got endless opportunity to turn my life around, a realization that brings with it great empowerment.
I returned home feeling very powerful and very hopeful I can secure eternal blessings and live the life I want. I now have a new attitude. In that sense, my vacation was truly recreational because I came back re-created. This truly was the best vacation I’ve ever had.
If you feel your life has approached a dead end in any or all its aspects, find your own quiet place to search your soul and get back to basics. You’ll find you can do so much to turn your life around. And that feeling of empowerment will bring you more joy in your journey.
It appears Sno-mageddon is alive and well. Normally when it snows here, it’s gone within a couple of days. Not this winter. Cold and colder temps attend every dumping of snow over previous layers of snow-turned-ice.
For a while I thought we might be getting a break. I’ve been taking advantage of it while preparing to start a new semester. But today, Sno-mageddon struck again, furiously dumping inches of snow within minutes. The college soon cancelled classes.
I’m somewhat disappointed. I certainly want my students safe. But with Monday being a holiday and now today being cancelled, we’ve just passed our first week of the semester without ever having class!
Yet when I learned of the school closure, I didn’t shift into panic mode or even survival mode. I shifted into thrive mode by preparing to take what I’ve been given and shine gloriously with it.
Not here to fail
My experience today resembles LDS singles life. Just as I didn’t anticipate a freak blizzard eliminating class, many LDS singles have met unintended circumstances. We were preparing for a different experience when events beyond our control forced us in a new direction.
Lost opportunities can yield heartache, disappointment, and concern about the future. Yet we can always choose our response.
Many of us struggle to choose optimism. We yearn after hope but feel overwhelmed by despair. I’ve felt that many times in my life. How do you go on when everything around you seems to say you’ll never do anything but fail?
You must awake to this realization: Not everything around you indicates you’ll fail. God certainly doesn’t believe that about you. He loves you. He believes in you. He sent you here to succeed and that gloriously. And He’s constantly pleading with you to believe in those truths. When you do, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
More than surviving
We can get so busy keeping up with life’s demands that we wonder if we’ll ever succeed in having a good life, let alone our best life. Mere survival appears increasingly like a noble virtue.
But do you think God sent you here so you could merely survive? Or did He send you here to thrive?
Thriving is more than surviving. Thriving is living life with zest and optimism. It’s living in the moment, extracting every ounce of joy that moment offers. It’s exuding confidence in the future that faith will not go unrewarded.
I honestly don’t see how any Latter-day Saint — single or married — can experience that without partnering with the Lord for his or her life. That’s best done by seeking Him first.
Yet many of us are seeking first the wrong life partner. We naturally want to belong, so when our culture pairs belonging with marriage, we look for someone who’ll help us belong. Plus we yearn for someone who can take away the loneliness, discouragement, and pain of being single.
That someone is Christ. He taught, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 5:40). Instead of looking first for an eternal companion to alleviate our troubles, we should look first for the Lord Who can do that and more. Instead of seeking first that special someone to take to the temple, we should seek first to walk with the Lord in the temple.
Weather any storm
The Lord’s love provides the strength to weather any storm. Nephi understood this. Bound to his ship’s mast in a violent sea, his wrists and ankles became severely swollen. Yet he didn’t complain nor cease to look to the Lord. Nephi always had trouble, yet he partnered with the Lord. Can anyone honestly think his life was not his best life?
The Lord can lift you to heights you could never imagine alone. Why settle for the companion you might have now when He can lead you to the companion you most need to have, the one you need for your best life?
With the Lord at your side, you can trust all will eventually resolve for your good. That faith allows you to release everything preventing you from living life joyfully in this and every moment. Hope, optimism, and positive energy naturally result from living with the Lord as your first life partner.
Don’t just survive. Thrive! Partner first with the Lord Who will help you to hear the whisperings of His Spirit more fully, see His tender mercies around you every day, and feel His love for you in powerful and undeniable ways. He can make more out of your life than you can without Him. He will bring you to your best life. And that will certainly provide you with more joy in your journey.
Last week I discussed how crazy life can get and how Christ can help us turn our life around by starting over. We always have the opportunity to start over.
That’s why I love sunrises. They’re a daily reminder that no matter how dark things may appear, light is always just around the corner. The dawn will always come. And when it does, it brings with it a chance for a new day.
That new day in life, however, doesn’t just happen. It comes as we make conscious choices to believe in and reach for the light. How do we do that when life seems to sweep us away with the constant drumbeat of the moment? Life can have such a frantic pace sometimes we feel we don’t have time to breathe.
And that’s just it. It’s the pace that’s the problem. How many of us have ever wished for just one more hour in our day? I know I’ve often wished for more than that.
But we have only 24 hours with each day. Learning how to manage our use of that time can help, but in reality that’s only a stopgap. Installing a better drain can help with a bathtub prone to overflow, but turning off the faucet provides a more effective solution.
We need to learn how to stop.
Make the space
Stopping can be a real challenge. When you’ve got children crying for your attention, the advice to stop can seem quite impractical. And yet if we don’t stop some time, we’ll drive ourselves into the ground.
The Preacher said, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). It’s probably not time to stop when your children cry. Sometimes life demands prompt action. Take that prompt action, then find another time to stop. If we don’t take time to care for our needs in life, we won’t have much of a life. And not much of a life isn’t the best life we all deserve to have.
If you are, as Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night says, waiting to have “greatness thrust upon [you],” you’ll be waiting a long time. Your best life comes when you make the right conscious choices.
One of those right choices is making space to stop long enough to refuel. That space won’t appear on its own. As I said last week, life tends to seep in, devouring time and energy. To have a space in which we can stop, we need to clear that space consciously.
Respect the space
Clearing that space can seem difficult. And it may require sacrifice. But it’s the only way we’ll really have anything meaningful in our lives.
For example, I’ve had and striven to use a temple recommend for many years now. But if I don’t clear the space in my calendar to attend the temple, then chances are it won’t happen. Life will present competing and seemingly more important demands. And before you know it, the week or the month will pass without me inside the house of the Lord.
I have to clear space by reserving the time in my calendar to attend the temple. Then I have to respect that space by diverting other demands to either a different spot on my calendar or my circular file. Otherwise, life will crowd in again.
I’ve found I have to do likewise for everything else I really want in my life. I have to clear a space for it and then respect that space. Otherwise, life will crowd in with other, less fulfilling ways to use that space.
Piecing together our best life
Clearing and respecting spaces for the elements of our life is really just a smaller piece of the larger process of designing our best life. Lest we feel overwhelmed with that, let’s remember we can partner with the Lord for anything in life. That includes what next step to take to reach our best life.
The Lord stands ready to help. He provides help constantly through His servants. I regard Elder Lawrence’s talk from the October 2015 General Conference as a classic discourse on partnering with the Lord to learn the next step we need to take and then act in faith to take it. General Conference is once more right around the corner, and I’m so thankful for that.
Of course, none of us need wait for General Conference. We all have access to the Lord’s voice through prayer, the scriptures, inspired Church members, and the temple. Let’s partner with the Lord today to discover what next step we need to take to clear and then respect the space we need to stop. When we stop long enough to refuel ourselves, we can live our best life.
I can't believe that I spaced this. I was supposed to post yesterday, but that didn't happen. I could tell you about all the things that occupied my attention yesterday, but I won't. I got busy and therein got distracted.
I recall hearing a sister speak in sacrament meeting one Sunday. She confessed that she had been busy with so many things that she had allowed her temple attendance to slide. I then reflected on how temple attendance is like anything else in life. If you want to ensure what is most important to you fills your life, you need to make time for it.
I also recall attending the temple once when life was more hectic than it is now. I had just moved after losing my job, and my neighbors decided to throw a party that kept me up well past Pumpkin Hour. And then the next day my energetic nephew decided to be consternatingly contrary.
I needed the peace found only within the House of the Lord. And I didn't want to wait for it. And I also had some questions about where I was in my life at the time. So I showered off all the grime and sweat from cleaning up my old place, put on my nicest suit, grabbed my hat, and away I went.
And I had a rather interesting and unexpected experience.
My time in the temple
First, in my haste to hie me to the House of the Lord, I forgot some very important articles of clothing. I realized my lapse while in the dressing room. I put my suit back on and went back to the front area, thinking I could rent what I needed.
Instead I found myself like one of the five unwise virgins. The temple had been recently renovated; there was now no more laundry and hence no more clothing rental.
I was quite befuddled with what to do next when my eye caught sight of the entrance to the initiatory area. I then realized that I could still have a temple experience. I entered the area and asked if help was needed, and of course it was. The attendant gave me a robe and advised me to return when I had changed my clothes.
This is the part where it gets really interesting. When I returned, the brother directing the initiatory work that evening asked whether I could stay for a half hour or an hour. I selected an hour, to which he replied, "You are certainly an answer to our prayers this evening." He then signaled a place for me to wait while others prepared for the work to be done.
While I waited, I thought about this brother’s comment and the context in which I received it. I had made time for something important to me --- temple attendance --- and in pursuing that I encountered an unexpected experience that answered someone else's prayers. I then realized something that had never before entered my mind.
What I had just experienced was an analogy to the singles life unlike any I had ever encountered.
A new question
I reflected on how my life is nothing like what I expected it to be. I never expected to be as single as the day I came home from my mission for so long. That part is old hat.
But what if that unexpected experience is the answer to someone's prayers? I wasn't sure how to answer that question in part because I had never before considered it. Still single today, I find myself entranced by its ramifications.
What if I am single because me being single is the answer to someone's prayers?
Well, it's certainly not the answer to my prayers. I’ve been praying for the exact opposite for many years now. I like to think that somewhere a spiritual and intelligent single LDS woman is praying that I’ll enter her life, but I don't really know if that is true.
Maybe the one whose prayers are answered is not my future companion. Maybe it’s a couple worried about their child growing older without a spouse. Or maybe a caring leader or even a really good friend with the same concern. Or maybe it’s not connected at all with my companion. Maybe it has to do with me doing something that is easier done while single.
I know the Lord has wanted me to be married for many years now. But given that none of my past opportunities have worked out for me, perhaps the Lord is saving me for some other purpose. Perhaps He is saying, “OK, Plans A through X didn’t work out, so while I am assembling the pieces for Plan Y, why don’t you make yourself useful doing this?”
That's a comforting thought.
When you make time for the important, you arrive where you need to be. I still don’t have all the answers, but I know I am on my way. And walking by faith is not bad at all.
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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