Have you ever wondered why God’s plan is called the plan of happiness when so many LDS singles just aren’t happy? Some would say that’s because they’re single. After all (goes the reasoning), you need to be married to follow the plan.
Some might cry, “But that’s not my fault! I’m keeping the standards!” To these singles, adherents of the you-have-to-be-married perspective usually respond, “Sorry, but that’s not the plan. In order to be happy, you need to be married and raise a family.”
These answers fail to satisfy many LDS singles. They easily despair many who never married at ever feeling accepted with their subculture. The divorced can encounter a discouragement of their own. Once “accepted,” now they find themselves “unaccepted” because now they aren’t following “the plan” anymore. And they aren’t alone; the widowed can experience their own identity crisis.
But plenty of unhappy married people live in this world, proving marriage alone won’t make you happy. Is following the plan of happiness really the only way to be happy?
Follow the right plan
First, we need to clarify what plan we’re talking about. Within LDS subculture, some things exist because they’re essential parts of the gospel, and others exist because they’re cultural traditions that bear some relation to the gospel but aren’t essential parts of it. That means there’s more then one “plan.”
We all know the plan our subculture hands us. After high school, you serve a mission, go to college, get a job, and somewhere in that mix get married. Plenty of people who follow this plan are happy, but not every follower of this plan is.
If you’re one of these unhappy individuals, you can easily think you need to follow the plan to be happy. But are you even following the right plan?
Yes, God wants you to serve a mission if that’s right for you. But missions aren’t for everyone. And college isn’t right for everyone either. You might do better going to a trade school or learning skills in the School of Hard Knocks.
You can follow this line of thinking for the remainder of the life plan our LDS subculture provides. Many of the milestones in this plan aren’t essential to the gospel. Rather, they exist because our traditions have made them essential to our culture.
What about marriage and family life? Marriage and family help us to grow in ways we can’t otherwise. They help us become what we otherwise couldn’t. That’s at least partly why marriage and family are part of God’s plan of happiness. How could we be truly happy if we couldn’t reach our potential?
And generally, you should encounter these milestones when you’re young. But the exact timing will be different for everyone. God’s plan of happiness is not that we check set items off a list as soon as possible. God’s plan of happiness is that we do what’s right for us when it’s right for us.
That truth reveals the nature of happiness itself. Happiness — not the emotion or feeling but the state of being — comes from giving your all to what’s right for you. Timing contributes greatly to what’s right; nothing can be truly right when the time isn’t.
Because not everything is right for everyone at the same time, God’s plan of happiness is in actuality individualized. It contains some general features that apply to all. But the details depend greatly on the individual.
Partner with the Lord
That’s why you need to counsel with the Lord to know if you’re following God’s plan of happiness. And only you and those with stewardship over you can know that. Only by revelation can you or anyone else know what’s truly right for you.
You can’t be happy without that revelation. How can you give your all to what’s right for you unless you first know what’s right for you? And how can you know what’s right for you except it’s revealed to you? And how can you get that revelation unless it falls within the bounds of your stewardship? That’s why you need that revelation about what’s right for you and why only you and those with stewardship over you can know what’s right for you.
You can be happy without following the life plan our LDS culture provides. But you can’t be happy without following God’s plan of happiness for you. Correctly understood, it’s the only way you can be happy.
When you partner with the Lord, you can know what’s right for you. When you know what’s right for you, you can give your all to those right things. And when you do that, you will be truly happy. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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