ON THOUGHTS AND ADVERSITY
In 1 Nephi 17:1, Nephi described the adversity he and his family went through as they traveled in the wilderness after their exodus: "And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness."
Yet his prevailing thoughts were overwhelmingly positive and hopeful. Immediately following these words, Nephi exclaims:
"And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings. And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness."
(1Nephi 17:2-3.) It is amazing that Nephi was so positive under these conditions, while Laman and Lemuel murmured in dissatisfaction and misery. This scriptural passage fits the promise given by President Monson that, "The Lord shapes the back to bear the burden placed upon it." As a single parent, you may have felt the miracle of receiving unnatural strength to bear the burdens of parenthood alone. You may have been given miracles that allow you to feed your children better than you thought you could while being both mother and father in some ways. Your ”wilderness" is no less real than the one Lehi's family wandered in.
The truth is, most of you mid-singles are survivors. You have figured out how to survive trials and trauma. Your bigger problem, in many cases, is figuring out how to thrive and be happy. And make no mistake, they are entirely different skill sets.
Your brain is wired for survival. It stays on alert for danger. It does not distinguish between physical and emotional peril. In fact, it desperately wants acceptance and belonging. In primitive times, being rejected by your tribe would probably mean starvation and vulnerability to predators and the elements. Your brain knows this and intuitively responds with fear when you are rejected by someone you may have offered love (or to possibly create love). This survival instinct is very powerful, and it has a tendency to override our happiness. It often keeps us survivors stuck in anxiety. Happiness depends, in no small degree, on being able to switch off that survival instinct in situations that do not truly require it. If you are like me, you may have found that all of your prior success in life was based on fear. I think I got through law school and motivated myself to study by fearing failure. That is one example. There are thousands. If you try to find a deeper and more healthy source of motivation, it can feel like giving up your security blanket. You may cling to your anxiety and pain even harder for awhile.
Nephi demonstrated this skill when he focused on the blessings of the Lord, and showed faith in Him to take care of his family in the wilderness. The result was that he could relax into his situation, celebrate the blessings of the Lord, and create inner peace that his older brothers could not. Nephi demonstrates this positive quality again in the same chapter, stating, "notwithstanding we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore; and we called the place Bountiful, because of its much fruit.” (1Nephi 17:6.) He "exceedingly rejoiced" notwithstanding great afflictions.
We often hear people say things like, " I am not a pessimist. I am a realist." They will then go on to paint a very gloomy picture of life or their circumstances -- not even realizing that most of it is interpretation rather than fact, and it's just a story they are telling themselves.
What kind of stories do mid-singles tell themselves?
"There are no good men out there."
"Women are all drama queens and crazy."
"Dating is hard and it's not worth the struggle."
"No one finds me attractive."
"I am past my prime and not beautiful / handsome anymore."
"Men are only after one thing."
"All women want is a guy with money."
"Being a single parent is hard because you're totally on your own."
"I have no time to take care of myself, because my whole life is about other people."
We could go on, but this is enough to illustrate the point. Are these Nephi kinds of words, or Laman and Lemuel kinds of words? Do these beliefs lead to happiness or to misery?
Let's try on some different beliefs:
"God has a loving plan for me, and everything I've suffered is taking me to a better place."
"My losses have prepared me for a better love."
"I have many friends in my life, and there are plenty of other people who are willing to be my friends and lend mutual love and support."
"There are many good single men in the church."
"There is an abundance of amazing women in the church."
"Most people want to love and be loved, aside from material things."
"Sex is a beautiful and holy part of married life, and I eagerly await the arrival of this gift."
"I owe it to myself and my children to take good care of myself, and to show love and compassion to myself as a child of God."
Which of these thoughts is more elevating? Which is more calculated to lead to happiness and peace? Do you feel more peace when you believe that you are on your own in a cruel world, or when you believe that a loving God has a plan for you, and you are surrounded by friends who love and support you? You might even ask yourself which of these sets of beliefs is more in harmony with how the gospel sees us as children of God with the potential to become like Him. Nephi understood that gratitude for God's blessings, and seeing them as abundant, created more joy and light.
As mid-singles, many of you have learned to survive. You have already won that medal. You have learned to survive by feeling anxious and fearful, and trying to solve everything that is wrong. Now, move into the light and learn better how to be happy and thrive by shifting your thoughts from fear and lack to abundance, joy, and love.
During my mid-single years, I often heard the phrase "I hate dating." I even heard it from people who were actively making an effort to date -- maybe even especially from those people. If I asked the reasons, I heard disparaging comments about the opposite sex, feelings about having hearts broken in the past, negative comments about "playing games," and comments about how "phony" and "contrived" the process is.
In one way or another, all of these comments come down to fear. These include fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of emotional pain, fear of invalidation, fear of being deceived by a partner and hurt, or fear of not being able to "play the game" right and win the prize. Inevitably, dating is an emotional risk and it feels unsafe. (It's also exciting for the same reasons.)
How do we confront these fears and make dating more joyful and less fearful?
1. The Apostle John wrote, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18.) Isn't this true? It may have been written 2000 years ago, but it is true in 21st century dating that "fear hath torment." I am suggesting that the primary remedy for fear and torment is to love your dating partners. You might be thinking, "I don't know her yet. How can I love someone I just met?" I'm not suggesting getting carried away with romantic feelings and making commitments when you have barely met someone. I'm talking about genuine, Christlike love. Care about him or her as a person. Ask authentic questions about his or her life. Focus on the other person instead of your own fears. Focus on getting to know him or her and discovering what is special about that other person. Focus on finding genuine ways to build him or her up. Focusing your attention on the other person's gifts and goodness is the way to love him or her, even early in a relationship.
2. Focus on authenticity and be vulnerable. For some of you, this will trigger thoughts like, "but my ex-husband was a narcissist," or "I can fall in love easily and I need to remain suspicious to protect myself." No, you don't. That is fear talking. It is a fear of being vulnerable. You can never build high enough walls to protect you from getting hurt again. The best way to see who the other person really is, is to cultivate an authentic relationship, not a guarded or contrived one. As Paul wrote, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." (1 Corinthians 13:1.) Do you know any "sounding brass or tinkling cymbal" people -- who are very impressive talkers but void of real love? Such hearts are exposed in an authentic relationship. If you are only playing games and keeping your own defenses up, the other person will do the same thing and you will have a superficial dating relationship and not really get to know the person at a deeper level. That's how you get fooled. Take the lead in creating an authentic and vulnerable relationship. That is your best defense against marrying a narcissist. Focus on love and the fear of being fooled will dissipate.
3. Drop the excuses. If you think the dating process is "phony" and "contrived" change it. There is not some big governing body that sets the rules for dating. "How it works" is determined by the two people involved. Our social customs are not so rigid as to prevent authenticity and vulnerability. When you are dating, you and your partner make the rules. If it ends up being phony, it is because you made it that way. Honestly, it is such a relief to drop the pretense and stop trying to impress, and just have a real conversation with another real person.
I've heard every excuse in the book for why people don't date, and I know it's not for me to judge any individual. I only encourage you to seek for the things you really want. For most Latter-Day Saints who understand the plan of salvation, I think an eternal marriage is our highest aspiration -- second only to our relationship with God. As President Kimball said, "Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person." So why do many of us pretend we don't want something that we fervently do want? Fear. We do it in many areas of life. If you don't get that job you really wanted, you might be inclined to tell people, "I didn't really want it that much anyway” to make it okay. Any other time we are not chosen for something we really want, we make it okay by saying "I didn't really want it." For many of us, we tell ourselves that we don't want to get married because that's safer than getting our hopes up and being disappointed or embarrassed. So we make excuses instead. As Jesus said:
"Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." (Luke 14:15-20.)
"I have to focus on my kids right now."
"I have to get my business up and running first."
"My church calling takes all of my spare time."
"I am not good at marriage."
Instead of making excuses, admit what you really want. Be authentic and real. If you are afraid of getting hurt, say so. It will feel a lot better than pretending you aren't interested, playing hard to get, or telling people you are apathetic or don't care Of course you care. You are talking about your eternal destiny. Confront your fears with love and not with walls.
ABOUT GRATITUDE. Yesterday Cathy
and I went to lunch as part of celebrating our third anniversary. I remarked to her that one of the advantages of being a divorcee is that I take our marriage less for granted.
I got married the first time when I was 26 years old. We had a child 11 months later. To some degree, I was going through the motions of what American Latter-day Saints do. I graduated from high school, served a mission, went to college, and got married when I was in graduate school. It's kind of the life plan we all expect to follow. I loved my first wife and my family, but I think I kind of just expected it would always be there for me. I took it too much for granted. Perhaps I thought what I was doing and the way I was living was just normal. But normal isn't special.
Having a lengthy marriage and then getting divorced woke me up to the fact that we are not simply entitled to marriage. Our spouses ALWAYS have choices. Even if you feel really solid with someone, that is partly a result of their devotion and conscious choice to be with you. That is a great blessing and a high honor. We should really never take it for granted. We should celebrate it every day, and not just on anniversaries.
Cathy and I dated for a good chunk of 2016 and were "just friends" for all of 2017. At the end of that year (literally the last day of the year) I wrote her a letter and asked her to date me for marriage. I didn't know it at the time, but she was dating two good men, who both had serious intentions, and trying to decide between them. So I complicated her life. Even with the great options she had and even though we had stopped dating a year prior, Cathy chose me. I don't take that for granted. She could have chosen otherwise. So I consider it a great blessing that she chose me.
Before I even met Cathy, I learned that we can only enjoy something to the extent that we are grateful for it. Our enjoyment is directly proportional to our gratitude. I enjoy my marriage and the love that we share so much because I am deeply grateful for it. I am grateful for another chance at life and happiness in marriage. I am grateful for someone to love everyday in a special way. I am grateful for the kind of family life that I once took for granted as being "just normal." Because I feel abundantly blessed, I feel abundantly happy. That is the secret my friends.
Be grateful for what you have. Be happy for others when good things happen to them. Be enthusiastic and embrace your life for its possibilities. Life is not merely to be endured. It is to be lived. So take chances, have adventures, love deeply, and live it well.
Lilies are our symbol for Love In Later Years. They have three true petals and three sepals, which are the same color, shape and size of the petals they are there to protect. We relate the three petals to Peace, Progress, and Pairing and the three sepals to Resilience, Intention, and Faith!
Resilience protects peace, and it is the first step in becoming whole as a mid-single. Healing from adversity, heartbreak, and disappointment rather than remaining stuck, is essential to obtaining and protecting inner peace.
Intention protects progress, by getting purposeful about efforts and actions. This moves mid-singles in the direction of their desires and deliberately cultivates what is in their highest good. Intention and progress also means investing in loving relationships so that in the latest years, we will have the assurance of eternal love and the blessing of warm memories. Consider the famous line from An Affair to Remember, “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories. We’ve already missed the spring.”
Faith protects pairing, opening doors to the love of God -- which ultimately leads to love of self and love of others, our two greatest commandments and the source of our greatest joy! Having faith that our loving Father in Heaven knows our deepest desires can provide peaceful reassurance that a power greater than our own is at work in our lives. This is what our Savior said about lilies:
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin... if God so clothe the grass of the field...shall he not much more clothe you?... your Heavenly Father knoweth what ye have need of... seek ye first the kingdom of God... and all these things shall be added unto you."
St. Matthew 6:28-33
To us, the LILY represents the glorious blessings of a loving Father who knows what we need and has the power to provide it. May the LILY of resilience, intention, and faith bloom in every season of your life!
Jeff & Cathy discuss the challenges and blessings of mid-single life. As highlighted in our most recent General Conference, single adults have now become the majority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During our mid-single years, we each felt like a minority in our church – many mid-singles feel like they don’t fit in. Little did we know that we were all in a class that was becoming and now IS the majority of our adult members! President Ballard and Elder Gong both cited in their talks at General Conference in April 2021, that more than 50% of our adult members are either-divorced, widowed or not yet married.
President Nixon talked about “The Great Silent Majority” of Americans, the same applies to mid-singles. Why are we silent? 1. Because we are busy and have a lot on our minds and on our plates 2. We may not feel comfortable speaking up 3. We just plain aren’t there because some of us become less active. Why? We are dealing with painful emotions. We don’t like being talked about. Divorced men tend to get treated with suspicion and women tend to get pitied. Transitioning to celibacy from marriage is hard. We may feel less relevant in a family oriented church as we adjust to less traditional family units.
We have compassion for all of those concerns it is worth living a covenant life despite all the challenges associated with it. 5 good reasons to stay on the covenant path and to start speaking up:
- There are more of us than we thought and there is strength in numbers.
- There are more opportunities to date within the Church than ever before.
- The eternal blessings of being sealed in the temple are just as real now as in our twenties.
- There is power and strength in our covenants to withstand the turmoil in these last days. Standing in holy places gives us support while we are without a spouse.
- We can give our much needed perspective and compassion as people who have experienced loss and grief in ways that no one else can.
Our Church and communities need your voice! You are the great silent majority. It’s time to not be silent anymore. Allow your voices to bless and build the Kingdom of God.
LILY Pod Episode 1: The Silent Majority
The greatest example of God’s love for His children is found in the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. Love is a powerful gift that we all came to earth to develop and our Savior is the perfect example. When asked the greatest commandment, Jesus answered: “… Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22: 37-39). Loving God, ourselves, and our neighbors is at the root of all other commandments.
“Perfect love casteth out fear” (Moroni 8:16). Mid-singles are no stranger to fear that comes from loss associated with painful breakups, divorce, or death of a spouse. This can lead to self-doubt, self-loathing, and sometimes even self-destructive behaviors. We can also go looking for love outside ourselves, wanting a partner to validate our worth instead of first finding love and compassion for ourselves. Our worth is a constant, no earthly experience can ever change it. All we need to do is remember our divine worth and allow God’s love to help us conquer our fears.
God sent us here with all the love we will ever need inside of us. As we tap into His love, we find an infinite well-spring of heavenly help to support us as spiritual beings in our mortal journey. “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:8). As we cultivate love in us, we stand in holy places and our access to the spirit is supported by the high vibrational energy of love where God resides.
“There was no contention because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (4 Nephi 1:15). This offers a beautiful vision of what marriage and family life, and even the world around us, has the potential to be in a future filled with love!
“Love in Later Years” involves all of the most important elements of love – love for God, love for ourselves by receiving the love He has bestowed on us, and sharing that love with those around us. Yes, we encourage dating and finding a forever companion, but love in later years is so much more than that. It’s about developing the root of all other commandments, which is love. Life, with all its challenges and blessings, is more joyful as we carry the love of God in our hearts.