Everyone is beautiful
Perhaps most importantly, it really made me think about the perspective driving many LDS dating decisions and the resulting challenge it creates. Far too many filter decisions about not just who to date but who they talk to through the perspective of the natural man or natural woman. Seen only through those eyes, we’ll never see the truth that everyone is beautiful.
A demanding lifetime pursuit
Let’s start with a disclaimer: In the words of Indiana Jones’s father, “I’m as human as the next man.” Conquering the natural man or the natural woman takes a lifetime, so we shouldn’t expect anyone to be completely covenant men or covenant women during their dating journey.
But we can expect improvement. When I compare the man I am today with the man I was 10 or 20 years ago, those men were definitely more aligned with the natural man. I’m not completely a covenant man, but I’ve made gains in that direction, and I’ve got the receipts to back that up.
That said, I still have work to do. That’s part of the value I gained from watching this documentary. When I first saw a full body shot of Lizzie, I recoiled. I wasn’t seeing the beautiful soul of the person within, just the shell of flesh and bone that encased it. The portion of the natural man still within me found that shell repulsive.
A common blind spot
I’d expect most LDS singles to respond similarly because that’s how most people respond. Natural men and women see only the exterior. Those inner qualities of character which have value in eternity have no value to the natural man and natural woman.
When that natural mindset drives dating decisions, LDS singles will always discount worthy potential companions who’d be ideally suited for them because those options aren’t “top shelf.” They could be sitting next to the very person who could make them maximally happy and never know it.
Worse still, most LDS singles aren’t even aware of how natural their mindset is. They equate conquering the natural mindset with keeping the standards, and because they keep the standards, they don’t see themselves as a natural man or woman. That self-image blinds them from seeing how well their dating decisions actually align with the natural mindset. And it’s that mindset obstructing their dating journey. They’re blind, and they think they see just fine.
A more joyful view
That’s where this documentary enters stage right. Natural men value youth and external beauty. Lizzie has neither, so of course she’s single. But as I listened to her story with an open mind and an open heart, I experienced a transformation. I began seeing more and more the beauty living inside her. And that inner beauty colored my view of her exterior. After an hour and 18 minutes, what at first seemed repulsive had become welcome in my inner circle.
What changed it for me can change it for LDS singles in their dating journey. Far too many insist so much on having “top shelf” they won’t even give the time of day to anyone perceived to be less. But the truth is everyone is more. And you’ll never see that vision until you embrace an open mind and heart while spending sufficient time with someone.
Everyone is beautiful. Acting on that belief at first is an act of faith. You act as though you see that truth even though you don’t. Pressing forward in that walk of faith, eventually you reap the reward of your diligence and patience as the vision opens up to you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Living “as though”
Sister Newbold acknowledges a common singles attitude: Identifying yourself by what you don’t have. When you do that, you’ll live in a space where you’re deficient. Sister Newbold’s response is an effective one: Live in a space where you see yourself as you’ll be, because that’s how God sees you. By living “as though” God’s promises are fulfilled, you can be joyful now.
Understand the challenge
Sister Newbold recognizes the difficulty of reconciling as yet unfulfilled promises with the reality of LDS singles life. Her answer is to live “as though” those promises have been fulfilled, though she admits that’s challenging. She writes, “Given that God is a God of promises, it becomes hard at times for me to reconcile why certain promises have not yet been fulfilled in my life.”
I’m sure many singles can relate. I myself felt that challenge a few months ago. In the midst of my most challenging semester of school ever, questions about my patriarchal blessing began to feel more demanding. And given my age, I began to wonder how my promised blessings will ever come to me.
Sure, it’s easy to say, “Well, sometimes patriarchal blessings get fulfilled in eternity.” But that doesn’t apply to the married life the Lord promised me. Very clear and unambiguous language speaks of my temple marriage in this life and actions my children and posterity will take in this life. These and other blessings are promised to me in this life, not the next.
Given I’m in my late 40s and not getting any younger, questions of how those promises would be fulfilled troubled me. At the time, I really struggled with those questions. Now I simply feel a quiet confidence somehow it’ll all happen.
Consider three solutions
Sister Newbold’s answer to that challenge, as mentioned earlier, is to live “as though” promised blessings have arrived. How do we do that? Sister Newbold shares three suggestions.
First, she suggests considering a variety of promises. LDS singles tend to fixate on the marriage they by definition don’t have right now. That focus blinds them from seeing other promised blessings they already have, many of which they take for granted. Recognizing these less appreciated but bountiful blessings invites gratitude and trust God will keep all His promises.
Second, she suggests recognizing God’s hand in our lives. Many in today’s world focus on what they lack, and as long-time audience members will tell you, your focus becomes your reality. Focusing on lack creates a reality of scarcity, which inhibits the ability to feel joy. But focusing on what you have creates a reality of abundance. I really like how Sister Newbold extends that idea to the sacrament.
Third, Sister Newbold suggests helping the Lord keep His promises to others through Spirit-directed service. When you follow the Spirit’s promptings to help others, you can help answer their prayers. You can find joy in being the Lord’s hands.
Trust in Him
Honestly, I appreciate a perspective centered on our focus rather than the traditional and highly unhelpful ”Just hold faithful, and everything will be right in the next life.” Additionally, Sister Newbold readily admits that “trusting in His promises is not always an easy choice.”
She also says “living ‘as though’ will look different for everyone.” I suspect that’s only true in the particulars. I could summarize what that looks like for her as making and keeping as many covenants as she can, in essence living all of the gospel she can. I think that would describe living “as though” for any LDS single.
God will keep every promise made to every one of us. He has thousands of years of experience doing just that for the generations that came before us. And the Spirit can remind us of moments when He’s kept promises in our own lives. So we can trust He’ll keep every as yet unfulfilled promise. When we live“as though” by walking with faith He’ll do just that, we can be instruments in fulfilling His purposes, all the while experiencing the quiet confidence that somehow it’ll all happen for us. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
With great diligence
Everything works that way. We all dream of having our best life, but to have that life, you must pay a price in faith, diligence, patience, and longsuffering in daily doing the small acts that over time will aggregate into a harvest of success. Most people don’t do that because it’s hard. But that’s precisely why it’s worth doing. With great diligence, you can have the positive changes you want in your life.
Diligent in faith
Success isn’t complicated. Do the right things day after day, and eventually you get what you want. But like the seed in Alma’s parable, you don’t reap a harvest overnight. And that’s probably the hardest part of achieving success.
We all have changes we want in our lives. But taking action day after day and not seeing the results you want can wear you down. Many quit the fight too soon. Because only action produces results, quitting the fight means taking no action, which means getting no results. So what can keep you in the fight when it gets hard?
Alma provides an answer. He mentions diligence, but first he mentions faith. And that’s what can pull you through. With a vision of your life after you pay your price for what you want, you can keep on keeping on.
I’ve used that in my PhD program. As I’ve felt the challenge increase, I remember teaching as an adjunct and relive how good it felt to work my dream job. My faith that overcoming my present difficulty will get me closer to the result I seek drives me through the difficulty. So it is with anything in life. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is really the other side of the mountain and not an oncoming train can help you push forward no matter how bleak your present position.
Diligent in patience
As you push on in the darkness of the moment, the difficulty separating you from your desired best life isn’t just in doing what’s needed everyday but also in having to wait for results to materialize. We all want results on our schedule, and our schedule often screams now.
So it’s not surprising Alma, to faith and diligence, adds patience. It takes patience to nourish a seed into maturity. Part of the price you’ll pay for what you want is in patience. You must take the small steps required day after day, continually putting forth effort with faith those results will come, especially when they don’t come instantly.
Faith helps me have patience, but so does celebrating small wins. Recognizing a victory, no matter how small, helps me feel I’m making progress and moving closer to my best life.
Having patience in the overall journey and not just the task before me also helps. When one approach fails, I don’t lose hope. I have faith the approach I need exists, and I keep searching with the determination to do so until I find the approach that will work for me.
Diligent in longsuffering
That attitude necessitates a lot of trial and error, which requires longsuffering. Often you must pay your price over a long time without seeing desired results. Little wonder Alma includes longsuffering in his parable of the seed.
Suffering must be endured; it makes your harvest much more precious. But suffering doesn’t mean you must be miserable. You can have sincere joy while suffering if you strengthen your faith and focus on the blessings and opportunities along your way.
Whatever positive changes you want can be yours if you pay in full and in advance the price you must pay. That requires diligence in doing the small daily actions that over time will accumulate into your success. But you also need faith to see the glory awaiting you, patience to allow the natural workings of the universe to operate, and longsuffering to endure well the time before results come. With those three attributes married to diligence, you can make whatever positive change you want. You can have your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your 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.
Prepare and press forward
Many of us see challenges as we look ahead both for society and ourselves individually. Elder Bednar’s remarks remind us of the essential nature of testing in our mortal experience. Just as tests in school help us compare what we know with what we should know and thereby provide opportunity to grow in knowledge, tests in mortality help us compare what we are now with what we can become and thereby provide opportunity to grow in light and truth. And the best way to pass those tests is to prepare and press forward.
Elder Bednar related how the pandemic revealed the state of his own family’s preparedness for difficult times. In some ways he was prepared, and in others he was wanting.
For those instances in which he and we are found wanting, Elder Bednar pointed to the Savior’s example of incremental increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). I love Elder Bednar’s description of this approach: “a blended balance of intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social readiness.”
As I examine my own readiness in each of those four areas — the intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social — I find I’m not that different from Elder Bednar. In some ways I’m prepared, and in others I’m wanting.
We all are, in fact. That’s why we need to use the time we have now to prepare for what may come. I recall President Hinckley speaking in the April 2001 General Conference Priesthood session about setting our houses in order. Five months later, the aerospace industry took a nosedive from 9/11, and many Saints in that industry lost their jobs. Those who failed to heed a prophet’s warning to prepare suffered when the testing moment came.
I love what Elder Bednar had to say about such preparations.
The difficulties of the pandemic have revealed the state of our own individual preparedness. Now is the time to act on that knowledge and prepare for what may come in those areas where we’re wanting. Elder Bednar issued just such an invitation:
When it comes to action, it’s good to have a plan and better to act. Plans provide the framework for moving forward, but they don’t actually move you forward. Only action produces results. Only action moves you forward.
Elder Bednar told the story of a father who lost his missionary son to a tragic accident. The father shared his family’s feelings at the funeral service — feelings of heartbreak but also feelings of determination to remain faithful. When the moment of trial came, this family showed they were prepared to learn eternal lessons through their suffering. That preparation allowed them to press forward.
We likewise can press forward when our intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social trials come to us if we do the work now to prepare ourselves for those moments. And that means making choices. Elder Bednar shared the following words from Elder Jeffrey R Holland.
He then went on to say
Live the promise
Moments that test us will always come in mortality. As Elder Bednar explained, “the process of proving ourselves is a fundamental part of Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness.” He then promised those who prepare and press forward will be able to pass “the ultimate examination of mortality.”
You can live that promise when you prepare for what will come and then press forward, walking in faith the Lord will support you as you act upon your plans. Preparation doesn’t always prevent or remove hard times. But preparation can make burdens easier to bear. Preparation can provide the eternal perspective needed to learn lessons of eternal import when those trials do come.
So prepare and press forward. You don’t know when all your trials will come, but you do know they’ll come. Assess yourself now, plan to supply what’s wanting, and then take action on those plans. The Lord will do His part as you do yours. You’ll then realize in your life the promised pronouncement: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Step outside yourself
When life seems to go bat nut crazy, you can easily get caught up in the craziness, because it’s easy to accept the reality we’re presented. With that acceptance comes stress. You wonder how the future could ever possibly be bright.
But the truth remains: Your focus determines your reality. When you focus on crazy, you get crazy. But when you include more of what’s around you in your focus, the craziness occupies a lower proportion of the whole, thereby diminishing your stress from the craziness. And the best way to get that expanded focus is to step outside yourself.
Feel the wonder of nature
I’m reminded of an old Native American question: “Who can own the land?” In their world view, people don’t own land. Rather, the Creator provides the land for all.
That perspective draws me out of myself to see the world as a place God created so His purposes for me and all my spirit brothers and sisters could be fulfilled. That view helps me to experience more fully the wonder of the world around me. And having lived across the United States, I’ve seen many marvelous wonders of natural landscape.
I can’t help but be biased towards mountains. Mountains breathe strength and determination into me. They seem like a natural representation for closeness to God. That said, I’ve felt a certain calm watching the tide roll in the shore of a lake or the edge of the ocean. I’ve marveled at the way sunlight bends around the curves of rolling prairies. Even the desert has a beauty all its own.
Only when I step outside myself do I experience the full wonder the natural world offers. Only when I step outside myself do I feel full gratitude to God for creating such a beautiful world for me to live in.
See more as God sees
That perspective of God’s creation invites me to see more as He sees. When I see the world as His creation to fulfill His eternal purposes for me, I naturally recall God did likewise for all His children. God has a plan, and He is in control.
And that plan hasn’t changed. It’s the same plan He’s had all along, the one presented in the council in heaven, the one Satan rejected, the one our Savior supported, the one calling for all of us to experience mortality in this world and with it the opportunity to grow in the eternities into something more than we could ever become otherwise.
Likewise, God retains the same control today He’s always had. He was in control when the same plan He’s always had was presented in heaven. He was in control when He created this world and the rest of the universe. He’s been in control throughout human history. And He retains that same control today.
Live by faith with intention
None of this is to say the challenges the craziness around us presents aren’t real. I’m not advocating we fix rose-colored glasses on our faces. God’s continual control doesn’t mean life won’t ever get difficult. But His control does mean He’ll guide us through troubled times and strengthen us to persevere through difficult days. And we best hear His voice and receive His strength on the covenant path.
So the question then is this: What path will you choose? Will it be the covenant path? Or will you take a different path? The path to happiness is found in living by faith with intention to give your all to all the right things for you. Those right things include making and keeping sacred covenants with God. They also include embracing a personal ministry to share your light with the world around you.
When you step outside yourself, you can more clearly see beyond the challenges current circumstances present. You can feel the wonders in the world around you. You can see your current place in your life more as God sees it. You can live by faith He’ll guide you away from dangers. You can feel His strength as you pursue a life of contribution with intention. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
By and by
Whatever the reason, I'm learning not to question promptings to do good but rather simply to follow them. I'm learning to trust, without seeing the end, that the end will be better than I ever could have imagined it. I'm learning to trust that the blessings I long for most in my life will come, as Elder Holland declared, by and by.
See beyond your pain
It's easy for all of us to get so absorbed in our own trials that we lose perspective. And with that loss of perspective often comes also the loss of another sight — one that sees the way forward.
Many singles feel so burdened by the loneliness and heartache of singles life that all they see in their future is an eternity of loneliness and heartache. Such an outcome should not surprise. After all, your focus becomes your reality.
Singles who know the depth of that despair from seeming ever so out of reach of desired blessings intimately know loneliness and heartache. So of course singles would feel comforted and appreciative of Elder Holland's early and earnest recognition of that familiarity.
But notice what immediately followed. Elder Holland was just as eager and earnest in recognizing the depth of despair many trapped in a lonely marriage feel, seemingly ever so out of reach of escape from their familiarity with loneliness and heartache.
Without recognizing the pain others feel, it's easy to become so absorbed in our own pain that we can't see anything else. Our pain becomes so enlarged we think it not only fills our world but that it is the world.
Trust in Him always
That's one of the comforting aspects of Elder's Holland's remarks. He reminds us that, regardless of our individual situations, we all feel pain. We all ache under the burden of trial. We all long for relief.
Yet we often pray for freedom and relief on our schedule rather than for faith to rely on God's. As we plead with heaven to lighten our load, our pleadings will be answered, though sometimes not how or when we would wish.
As Elder Holland reminds us all,
But then Elder Holland cut straight to the truth at the crux of the matter.
How did people come to believe that all suffering is necessarily bad? Whatever its source, Elder Holland rightly suggests some suffering isn't bad. In fact, I dare to declare some suffering is necessarily good.
Rise above your trouble
No doubt those steeped in their own pain will find it difficult to believe any suffering could be good, let alone necessarily good. As already noted, it's easy to be so absorbed in one's own troubles that it's difficult to see how those troubles could ever be stepping stones to tranquility.
And yet that's precisely why some pain is necessarily good. Henry Ward Beecher once said our troubles are "the tools by which God fashions us for better things." It is through our trials that we become refined and more of our best selves. It is through our trials that we develop the characteristics of godhood. It is through our trials that we come to know God.
How else could He be known? Elder Holland says as much when he declared,
We all have pain in this life. But when we look beyond our own pain to see the pain in others, we find it easier to see our own in perspective. We find it easier to reach out to help others. We find it easier to see meaning and purpose in our own suffering. And we find it easier to trust God through bad seasons as well as good ones. We find it easier to walk in faith and confidence that the promised blessings will come to us by and by. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Better than the grandest
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.
Look to the Savior
Of course, Nephi is a key clue indicating direct applicability to singles. After all, Nephi was a stud of a single adult. Many of the epic faith-promoting stories about him — "I will go and do," for instance, or retrieving the plates from Jerusalem, or the vision of the tree of life — were realized while Nephi was a faithful single adult.
What inspiration has lit the world from that valiant example! We LDS singles can foster a similar influence for good if we will do as Nephi did and look to the Savior.
Look to Him
That's exactly where Elder McCune's remarks went. Addressing the general Church membership and not just the singles, Elder McCune admonishes all of us to exercise faith despite our challenges. As we look to the Savior in those moments, we can feel the love and peace only He can offer.
Elder McCune shares a family experience after his son encountered a life-threatening accident to his brain. In an almost empty hospital, all Elder McCune and his family could do was kneel and pour out their hearts to God. "In the midst of this confusing and painful moment," Elder McCune recounts, "we were filled with our Heavenly Father’s love and peace."
Elder McCune continues,
Many LDS singles sometimes wonder whether the challenges of singles life will ever end. To those with such thoughts, I invite you to look to the Savior and walk in faith.
Follow His servants
Walking by faith isn't easy. Especially in these times when the pandemic has turned the world upside down, many seem intent on walking in fear. We who have the light of the gospel can inspire faith with a focus on the Savior. And we LDS singles can play that part in our day just as Nephi did in his.
Already in my new calling, I've participated in discussions regarding the return to weekly Sunday church services. Many of the Saints have concerns — and rightly so — about the risks of infection. Yet the Brethren have asked local leaders to accelerate the return to regular worship services.
Keep in mind the Church is greatly exceeding what local state and county officials recommend. Yet even with that, many members resist the idea of meeting together. Far be it from me to judge others in these trying times. I certainly don't blame anyone for wanting to stay away.
Yet I would invite these same people I hesitate to judge to look to the Savior and follow His servants in faith. Elder McCune spoke of the support we can find in focusing on and following the Savior.
Nephi was able to do difficult things because he focused on the Savior and walked in faith. As we focus on the Savior and walk in faith, so can we.
Walk in faith
Elder McCune concluded his remarks by addressing the enticements some may experience to leave the spiritual safety of the Church. He first mentions loved ones "who are questioning truth." We don't want to abandon the gospel but also don't want our families torn apart.
I can't really speak from personal experience here, but I do like how Elder McCune responded. He advocated looking to the Savior and remaining faithful to Him and His gospel. It's hard to lift someone to higher ground from below. As Elder McCune declared, "If our true desire is to rescue those we love, we ourselves must stay firmly with Christ by embracing His Church and the fulness of His gospel."
He then addressed those who think we don't really need the Church.
I too bear witness that we singles Latter-day Saints can do difficult things when we look to the Savior, focus on following Him, and walk in faith. It's not easy, but it was never meant to be, because it was meant to be worthwhile. When we look to Him, the Savior's peace and love can fill our souls. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
A new calling
I actually had both of those events happen in the past few days. The new calling came on Sunday. When the stake president texted me to request a meeting, I knew it was about a calling. I just didn't know what calling.
I learned soon enough amidst a mixture of surprise and overwhelm. I expected a calling working with the singles. That just makes sense for a man in my position. But the calling extended to me was totally different. I was called to be the new stake executive secretary.
That the Lord would want me in such a position truly baffles me. Am I the one who should be joining meetings of the stake president with his counselors and meetings of the high council and such not as a participant, mind you, but as an equal contributor? I just never really thought of myself in that way, and so this new calling feels a little intimidating.
But I accepted the calling because I know the Lord governs His Church through revelation. I responded by walking in faith the Lord will support me. In so doing, I have committed to move ever forward.
A worsening condition
If news of a new calling is a blessing, this one wasn't meant to last very long. Later that night I began to feel stomach pain. At the time, it felt like I had just eaten something bad. I wasn't sure what that could have been, but I wasn't overly concerned as I laid myself down to sleep.
A couple of hours later I awoke to an even more intense pain. The pain wasn't so large it debilitated me, but it was large enough to keep me awake. Try as I might, I couldn't get back to sleep.
Tired from a night of almost no sleep, I went to see the doctor first thing in the morning. Considering my previous visit after a near miss of a heart attack, the doctor reaffirmed the earlier diagnosis and extended it to include the possibility of an ulcer.
Actually, it was more of a probability than a possibility; left untreated, my condition would certainly worsen. The pain I experienced was most likely created from bacteria that precedes most ulcers eating away at the wall of my stomach. We can't be sure until the test results come back in.
But we can be sure walking by faith is once more the best response. I have a contribution to make, and I'm not going to quit what the Lord gave me to fulfill because of any medical diagnosis. Certainly the one I received concerns me greatly. But I am determined to walk in faith the Lord will support me. In so doing, I have committed to move ever forward.
A determined response
Life will always bring its ups and downs, but we can live with confidence when we walk in faith. My decision to walk by faith hasn't lessened the overwhelm I feel in my new calling or the concern I feel in my unfolding medical condition. I still have those challenges.
But the point of walking by faith is not to remove our challenges. The point of walking by faith is to strengthen our dependency upon God to see us through whatever life may bring us — all of the ups and all of the downs. With Him, nothing is impossible.
Whatever challenge confronts you right now, I invite you to join me in the response I have given and will continue to give to my challenges. Commit to moving ever forward. Your progress may be slow or perhaps so small that it doesn't really look like progress at all. But by placing your trust in the Lord and walking in faith, you can, in the due time of the Lord, overcome any challenge placed before you. 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 and podcast 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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