I went to a clinic where a doctor ran some tests and came back with a diagnosis I didn’t believe then and still don’t today. But I wasn’t about to argue with the doctor while in pain. I didn’t want to postpone the relief that drove me to see the doctor in the first place.
The doctor prescribed some meds, I followed his directions, and the chest pain went away. But then arrived stomach pains and more intense vomiting. I couldn’t keep anything down. After I vomited everything so I knew my stomach was empty, the stomach pains vanished only to be replaced with abdominal cramps. I didn’t sleep well that night at all.
I’m in recovery now, but as I’ve always been the pensive and reflective sort, I certainly can’t resist reflecting on this experience. As I do so, I can see clear connections between my experience and Elder Gong’s Conference address. All of our lives have been greatly blessed by covenant belonging.
A culture in change
When I first heard his address in Conference, Elder Gong’s description of a gospel culture centered on Christ impressed me. Indeed, true gospel culture is centered on the Savior and solidified by covenants we make to serve Him and each other.
Yet traditionally LDS subculture has centered on marital status as the marker of belonging. And that center has caused countless challenges for many LDS singles. Long time audience members know I once harped endlessly on our need to change the culture. The problem is in how singles think, yes. But the problem is also in how everyone thinks, and that thinking is manifested in culture.
Elder Gong cuts through all of the bunk to the real heart of a Zion culture — making and keeping sacred covenants to become more like Jesus Christ.
God never looked at His children through the lens of marital status. I’m not entirely sure why we as a people ever did, but I rejoice in our culture changing for the better.
A bridge across the gap
I also rejoice that Elder Gong’s message to center ourselves in Christlike covenants is not the first apparently aimed at changing the culture to adopt a more ennobling marker of belonging. Albeit not as directly as I have, various Church leaders have occasionally spoken about the divide between singles and marrieds in LDS culture and our need to bridge the gap.
Elder Gong followed suit in addressing that divide but doing so in a somewhat less indirect manner.
I love that balance between including singles and promoting marriage and family. These two elements were never meant to be mutually exclusive! Those who understand the concept of covenant belonging see that truth plain as day.
A place to belong
You may be wondering now what all of this has to do with my near miss of a heart attack. It’s very simple. I belong as all LDS singles do to a community bound together by covenants to serve the Lord and serve one another.
The day after my near miss, my ministering brother and a member of the bishopric were in my home visiting with me and providing a priesthood blessing. Now, I know that doesn’t happen everywhere. I’ve been in some of those wards where it doesn’t happen. But if you find yourself there, I can assure you it will pass and you will come to a better place if you stay faithful to your covenants and do your best to practice covenant belonging.
The Lord is mindful of all of us. I know He’s been mindful of me. Feeling that love has renewed my desire to be true to my covenants and to exemplify God’s definition of real belonging that we can find therein. And it is by living covenant belonging that we can best feel that love. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
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.
We need a new culture
Like it or not, many Latter-day Saints consider being married with kids as the definition of acceptance within their culture. And since we all want to belong, many LDS singles strive to obtain that mark of belonging. So if you define motherhood to require the bearing of children, then you’re limiting your window within which you will feel accepted.
Clearly, the results observed respecting this issue go back to how people think. If only we could all adopt a new culture that grants acceptance from doing one’s best to make and keep every sacred covenant that one can, we wouldn’t be hearing from the single ladies who are really complaining about how they don’t fit in under the guise of complaining about whatever presentation they saw in church.
That’s easier said than done, but no single woman need wait for the culture to change in order to change the way she thinks about what it means to be a mother. In fact, we should all change how we think about that because we are biologically hardwired to get our sense of normal from the people around us. Single women can more easily adopt a more effective definition of mother when everyone around them does the same.
We need a new definition
And what is this new definition of motherhood everyone should adopt? Being a mother simply means consistently recognizing and then meeting needs in others. That’s something every woman can do, whether single or married.
Think about it in terms of your own mother. If you’re like me and were blessed to have a mother who loved you and always worked every day to show she cared, isn’t that what we best remember about our mothers? Isn’t that what we most treasure about the memories of our mothers, that this woman consistently recognized our needs and worked to satisfy them?
Now if you didn’t have a mother like I had, I’m sorry, but you should still be able to see the point. You don’t need to give birth to children to recognize a need within them and then work to satisfy it. And women are uniquely endowed with a natural ability to do just that, whether or not they’ve given birth to children or not.
We need a new approach
It’s high time we all embraced a broader approach to motherhood. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your focus determines your reality. When you focus on what you lack, your reality becomes filled with lack. That breeds discouragement and despair. But when you focus on what you have and on what you can do, your reality becomes filled with possibility and opportunity. That breeds optimism and hope.
Let’s help single women everywhere by defining motherhood in terms of what all women can do and not just those who have given birth to children or even those who are legally responsible for raising children. Let’s define motherhood as consistently recognizing and meeting needs in others. This is a definition that fits all women based on what they can control (their actions) and not what they can’t (their life circumstances).
When we adopt a broader view of motherhood, we make every woman a mother who strives to serve others in ways that meet their needs. We show greater sensitivity towards those whose life circumstances aren’t what they desire. And we better support them in feeling loved and supported themselves. And that will bring us all 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.
Is the new meeting schedule working? What improvements have we seen from emphasizing a greater effort to study the gospel in the home? And have we lost anything along the way with implementing these new changes?
Some may think it too early to say, but I’m convinced these changes announced by the Brethren as the result of revelation received from the Lord are nothing but good. In fact, I don’t think the word good does them justice. I think they’re outstandingly amazing.
Embrace more effective meetings
First, I have to say I love two-hour church! I wish I had this growing up, on my mission, and in college. But better late than never.
Elder Bednar encouraged us to see beyond the superficial logistical changes in the meeting schedule, and I do see this change as providing more than an “extra” free hour on the Sabbath. Perhaps the most immediate effect I’ve seen thus far is a greater attention to make the most of that second hour. Whether it’s Sunday School or my quorum meeting, I’ve seen my leaders be more intentional about using what time they have, if for no other reason than that they have less of it.
And that’s great. Living with intention precedes joyful living. It’s the antithesis of the living on autopilot which most people practice, a habit leading to mediocrity and a lackluster life. I’ve truly enjoyed my meetings more now that the time spent in them is more precious. That has translated into a closer and deeper interaction with the Spirit, which is part of the reason why we meet together to begin with.
Feel the Spirit more
Now, I don’t know this from personal experience because I don’t have my own family yet, but I’ve heard other ward members testify of greater unity in their family and the joy they’ve felt in fielding questions from their children regarding gospel principles. The Church has always been about strengthening families, and this move in that direction is truly inspired.
Not having my own family, I have an “extra” hour on Sundays, which I typically use in extended personal scripture study. I don’t follow the Sunday School study schedule because I felt prompted to travel a different road. But my life has been blessed as I’ve used this “extra” hour for my own study.
I’ve also heard of singles who have been blessed by gathering together in their own groups to study what their married friends are studying in their homes with their families. I’m not a member of such a group (though I might be if I knew of one that met weekly), but I can imagine the blessings that would come to singles who have that arrangement in their life. They could enjoy the same closeness with the Spirit and to one another that families experience among themselves.
Change in the culture
For me, however, the most exciting change from home-centered church has yet to be seen fully. I believe a cultural change is in the works that will benefit LDS singles everywhere. This change has already been ongoing, but the practice of home-centered church will greatly accelerate it.
Traditionally, LDS culture has centered around Sunday meetings in general membership wards. The mark of belonging has been being married with kids, and so many singles openly display their lack of belonging just by showing up without a significant other. Of course, different wards are more accepting than others, but that’s been the general reality over the past few decades, if not longer.
Enter home-centered church. By centering the worship experience in the home, the Church has effectively marginalized the differences between singles and marrieds that were once glaringly apparent. Now that church has become about supporting what’s done in the home, we’ll now see a change in the mark of belonging within the culture to one centered on Christ and our willingness to make and keep as many covenants with Him as we can. This is great news for LDS singles, because every single can belong in that culture.
The changes announced by the Brethren regarding home-centered church are outstandingly amazing. Many glorious days lie ahead of us. As we follow the counsel of the Brethren to adopt the changes revealed by revelation, the Lord will bless our lives with an outpouring of His Spirit. Our culture will become more inclusive, and we’ll become more united as a people. And that will bring 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.
We all have times when darkness surrounds us so much we can’t see any ray of light offering hope for a brighter tomorrow. That’s life, something all of us experience at one time or another. Of course, there’s always hope because there’s always Christ. The Light of the world can light our way so we can see and take the next step in our eternal journey.
The dawn will always come. The sun will always rise, offering the hope of a new day. Whatever darkness surrounds us is never permanent. In this universe created for our journey in mortality, there’s always hope because there’s always Christ.
As great as it feels to step out of darkness into the light, there’s always someone experiencing a dark time, so whenever we sit in sunshine, someone else droops in darkness. Do we remember our own experience with darkness enough to turn our hearts in compassion towards them?
Sailors looking for the blessed shore in the dark have always sought the lighthouse — the beacon of hope as well as the warning of nearby danger. No matter our own individual circumstances, we all can lift those who despair in the darkness. We can be the lighthouse.
Let your light shine
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Light of the world taught His disciples to shine their own lights, because “a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Certainly our righteous works can shine the light of example for others to follow. But our light can shine also from our attitude, our faith, and our hope that the sun will always rise and bring a new day. We can each believe in the bright and glorious future our Heavenly Father has prepared for each of us in this life.
When we share that attitude, faith, and hope with others, we help them see their full potential. And seeing that potential is the first step to achieving it. Reaching out to others also exemplifies what we all must do to press forward towards achieving that potential, since no one achieves anything meaningful in life alone. We all need a larger community in order to become our best selves and live our best life.
Warn your neighbor
Involving that larger community, however, can present a real challenge. Its greatest blessing is also its greatest bane. You can’t feel a sense of community unless the action occurs in both directions.
If we aren’t reaching out to each other from both directions, one group will inherently feel disenfranchised. It’s common to see marrieds reach out to marrieds. But marrieds also need to reach out more to singles, singles need to reach out more to marrieds, and singles need to reach out more to each other.
A part of that reaching out needs to involve education. We need to help each other to become aware of the connections we have to one another as fellow citizens of the Kingdom. Notice I didn’t say responsibilities or duties. I said connections. We’re all interconnected, even if we don’t feel we are. The challenge is for all of us to begin acting in ways that help everyone feel more palpably those already extant connections.
Shine in the dark
That’s where being the lighthouse can take center stage. When we stop putting each other into boxes, quit looking through generational lenses, and see each other as God sees us, we both see more clearly our connections to others and provide an example for others to see the same for themselves.
And that’s when the real magic happens. When you’re part of a community where each member truly cares about everyone, everyone can draw hope and strength from the love that permeates the group. Everyone both is connected and feels connected.
But that can’t happen until everyone plays their part. Many marrieds are so caught up in their own world that they aren’t likely to take the initiative towards that wonderful unity of the faith. That means we singles must make the first move. We must be the change we seek in the world.
So be the lighthouse. Shine your light of goodness into the world around you. Make your unique contribution that can bring hope and encouragement into the lives of others. When you adopt your own personal ministry to improve the lives of others, you’ll find your own life improved. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
General Conference has ended, and traditionally my task is selecting just one of the many fabulous addresses for the post-Conference program focus of Joy in the Journey Radio. I’ve always struggled with that task. This past Conference was no exception.
And yet at the same time, it was. This latest General Conference was exceptional — truly historic, in fact — in many ways. Consider everything that happened, starting with what occurred before the Conference.
This was the first Conference on the new schedule. The third session now alternates between the General Priesthood meeting and the General Women’s meeting, now no longer held the weekend before Conference. We also started the year with a new method of instruction during the block schedule in which we face and teach each other.
Truly all that was just the tip of the iceberg. Conference began with a solemn assembly. We learned that wards will discontinue high priests groups. Then came the death of home teaching and visiting teaching. Instead, we will now be ministering to others in our wards and branches.
And let’s not forget the announcement of new temples. Perhaps the most historic was the last in President Nelson’s list —“somewhere near a major city in Russia.” Truly, in many ways this Conference was historic. Now it’s our turn to be historic by playing our part in the new changes which our leaders have outlined.
Embrace the reorganization
I’ll say it from the start — I’m rather enamored with these changes. I can see them playing a pivotal role in the evolution of the broader Latter-day Saint community. And at the same time, I feel very strongly we haven’t yet realized all the greatness that lies ahead for us as a people.
Take, for example, the reorganization of local priesthood quorums. Now only those high priests currently serving in a designated leadership position will be members of one stake high priests group over which the stake president presides. All other high priests will join the elder’s quorum of their respective wards.
I can see the vision the Brethren described in older and younger generations each supporting and learning from each other. Yet the larger benefit may well be the change that takes place in our hearts as we knit them together in love and unity. As we put off the generational lenses of our worldly culture and embrace the unity of a true gospel culture, we’ll find our lives enriched as we cannot now imagine.
Embrace the ministering
That unity can and will extend beyond the Melchizedek Priesthood brethren to all adults and youth in our wards. No longer will we go home teaching and visiting teaching. Now we will minister to our wards and branches.
Gone are the days of scheduling last-minute visits to read a message others can well read for themselves. Now we’ll focus on meeting the needs of the people to whom we are called to minister. Now, whether performed by brethren or sisters, by young Aaronic Priesthood holders or now Young Women, we’ll work together to meet one another’s needs.
This next evolutionary step shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, this is what real home teaching and visiting teaching has always been. Meeting the needs of the people has always been the true intent behind these programs. Announcing it as the stated purpose and then coupling it with new language that supports that end will reinforce that intention to wonderful effect.
Embrace the new culture
Perhaps the most exciting result I envision from all these changes is the change in our culture, especially as it concerns LDS singles. I see the day when LDS singles no longer feel like second-class citizens in the Kingdom but rather full-fledged “fellowcitizens with the Saints” (Ephesians 2:19). In fact, I see the changes announced in Conference laying the groundwork for changing the culture for singles within the broader LDS community.
For far too long, LDS singles have existed on the fringes of mainstream LDS society. Centering LDS culture around a status that by definition singles don’t have naturally yields this result.
Now with the new emphasis on meeting the needs of individuals and families, the Brethren are leading us into a new culture, one in which we see each other as the brothers and sisters we really are, one centered around Christ and the covenants we make with Him, and one in which we strive to follow His wonderful example of ministering to the one.
The changes we are about to make are historic. A bright and glorious future awaits us all. If we will embrace history, surrender to love, and seek to minister to one another as the Savior would, we will change the culture because we’ll have changed ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
LDS singles can easily feel like second-class citizens in the family-centered culture of the Church. The continual focus on something we don’t have just makes feeling like we belong and staying positive and optimistic more difficult.
Of course, the Church must teach the doctrines related to the family. How could they not? “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” begins with the solemn declaration “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
Yet teaching the gospel as though everyone has the ideal situation serves more to alienate those who are different than invite them to continue participating. We need to teach the doctrines related to the family while at the same time help those who don’t have that ideal situation to feel fully included in the Kingdom.
The way forward likely includes a recognition that we’re each at different points along the path to the same heavenly home. And we must testify with our actions that, no matter where along the path we may be, all of the gospel is indeed for all of us.
That recognition will carry more weight when we truly care for everyone around us. Words in Sunday School about a wonderful and inclusive ward family mean little when singles are left to confront the storms and other challenges of real life on their own.
Often, lessons about the family focus on the needs of those who are married. Broadening that focus to recognize those who don’t have the ideal family structure in their lives can provide a foundation for inclusion.
Spending some time during lessons applying the family doctrines to singles as well as to marrieds can further that sense of inclusion. For example, we read towards the end of the Family Proclamation,
Whereas marrieds strive to maintain their families, singles strive to create new ones. Why must lessons focus solely on those who already have families? Why can’t they include those who are trying to create them?
For instance, we can include examples of applying the principles in the Family Proclamation to dating. When considering a dating prospect, do we truly prize qualities such as faith, forgiveness, respect, and compassion? Or do we refuse a prospect who may have those qualities in spades but lack the more worldly qualities not mentioned in the Family Proclamation?
My single brethren, how are your presiding skills? D&C 121 is a great start if you need a refresher. How is your ability to provide the necessities of life? Note the word necessities doesn’t include fancy sports cars or weekly shopping sprees at the mall but does include putting a roof over people’s heads, food in their bellies, and a pillow under their heads at night. If you find your ability to provide lacking, what are you doing to improve?
Single sisters, don’t think you’re getting left out here. How are your nurturing skills? Again, if you find your ability lacking, what are you doing to improve?
Let all help all
As a divinely inspired document, the Family Proclamation is filled with wonderful sentences that can both teach the doctrine of the family and help everyone regardless of their situation to feel included in the larger community of the Saints.
However, of all the sentences in the Family Proclamation, I do have a favorite. It’s this one: “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” I love that sentence!
Why do I love that sentence so much? Here the Brethren acknowledge that life is sometimes less than ideal and those who find themselves so situated are still acceptable before God so long as they do their best with what they have.
Note that “individual adaptation” applies to more than just those who find themselves in less-than-ideal situations. It applies to everyone. We’ll never truly live in Zion until all of us labor to help all of us along the path home. That’s because we can’t live in Zion without embracing all of the gospel. And all of the gospel is indeed for all of us.
Ministering to everyone around us and not just those who are like ourselves may be difficult at first. But if pursued honestly, it will bring us more joy in our journey.
Recently I’ve reflected on everything I’ve done since all this started on 12/12/12. I’ve come a long way. The road behind me is filled with accomplishment, much of which I simply didn’t envision back in 2012.
I can’t say all of my blog posts have been classics, but I do have a post for every week since the start of 2014. That’s almost 3 ½ years of weekly posts, most of which have no comments. I said back then I wasn’t doing any of this for acclaim, and that’s still true today. All I’ve ever wanted was real. You don’t need the attention of others to get real.
That post at the start of 2014 is definitely a classic. I’ve produced a few more along the way. One that keeps coming back to me reminisced about a older friend who lives in Seattle.
We conversed 90 minutes about love, concluding no one can really define what love is. We know when it’s there and when it’s not because we can feel it. But it’s impossible to define exactly what love is.
Love means sacrifice
That conversation transformed me. It’s since led me to ponder this question: What does it mean to love someone? Before that conversation, I thought I knew. Since then, I’m not completely sure I do know.
Part of the answer surely lies in sacrifice, forgoing your own desires to help others fulfill theirs. It’s been almost four years since Tashi died, but I still think about her and how my heart broke. Even a blind man can see I loved that cat. But why?
When I first adopted her, Tashi had tremendous trouble eating properly. Every time I fed her, she would eat as though it were her last meal, which isn’t normal for cats. This and other behaviors led me to wonder if a previous owner had abused her. Of course, eating so quickly caused her to vomit later. Every day I had a new mess to clean.
I spent 11 months training Tashi to eat normally. And even then she never completely stopped vomiting, though it was much less frequent than before. Without my sacrifice, my love for her wouldn’t be as deep as it was and still is today.
Love means selflessness
That conversation with my Seattle friend reminds me of the final midsingles activity I attended there — FHE in my friend’s home. The lesson portion evolved into a conversation in which people were sharing their thoughts about how to grow the midsingles group.
Normally I like to listen to others and learn how they see the world. This evening, however, I couldn’t resist sharing my perspective. And knowing this to be my last activity there for the foreseeable future, I held nothing back.
I declared love is meaningful only when it involves people who are different. Talking to others we like and sitting with others we want around us isn’t all that difficult. We get to stay in our comfort zone.
Conversely, talking with others who are very different and sitting with others we don’t want around us does require us to leave our comfort zone. Yet here love truly has meaning because here we act against self-interest.
The Savior taught,
Love means discomfort
I spoke many other words along the same vein that evening. All together they made some visibly uncomfortable. I rejoiced to see that, not because I have some sadistic pleasure in seeing people squirm but because it meant I was speaking truth. I was getting real.
In the end, I invited everyone to surrender to love. I testified that only by surrendering to love would we ever become the truly supportive group everyone talked about becoming.
Since then I’ve seen singles group after singles group struggle with creating a true sense of community. Leaders who consider singles committees as nothing more than activity planning groups don’t help. No one can come together when everyone has their own agenda.
That will never change until we all surrender to love. Only by forgetting ourselves and focusing upon others will we ever create the community of the support network many LDS singles need in their lives.
Yes, surrendering to love is hard. It goes against the natural man and woman. But the rewards of love far outweigh the price we must pay to obtain it. And having those rewards 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 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.
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