LDS Singles

Thriving and Growing as an LDS Single


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Elder Gerrit W. Gong on being a perfectionist in dating

gerrit-w-gong-10.jpg  From an Ensign article, here. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior commands us: “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word for perfect can be translated as “complete, finished, fully developed” (in Matthew 5:48, footnote b). Our Savior asks us to become complete, finished, fully developed—to be perfected in the virtues and attributes He and our Father in Heaven exemplify.2

Let us see how applying the doctrine of the Atonement may help those who feel they need to find perfection or to be perfect.

Perfectionism

A misunderstanding of what it means to be perfect can result in perfectionism—an attitude or behavior that takes an admirable desire to be good and turns it into an unrealistic expectation to be perfect now. Perfectionism sometimes arises from the feeling that only those who are perfect deserve to be loved or that we do not deserve to be happy unless we are perfect.

Perfectionism can cause sleeplessness, anxiety, procrastination, discouragement, self-justification, and depression. These feelings can crowd out the peace, joy, and assurance our Savior wants us to have.


What helps those who battle perfectionist tendencies? Open-ended, supportive inquiries communicate acceptance and love. They invite others to focus on the positive. They allow us to define what we feel is going well. Family and friends can avoid competitive comparisons and instead offer sincere encouragement.

Another serious dimension of perfectionism is to hold others to our unrealistic, judgmental, or unforgiving standards. Such behavior may, in fact, deny or limit the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement in our lives and in the lives of others. For example, young single adults (insert: or older) may make a list of desired qualities in a potential spouse and yet be unable to marry because of unrealistic expectations for the perfect companion.

Thus, a sister may be unwilling to consider dating a wonderful, worthy brother who falls short on her perfectionist scale—he does not dance well, is not planning to be wealthy, did not serve a mission, or admits to a past problem with pornography since resolved through repentance and counseling.

Similarly, a brother may not consider dating a wonderful, worthy sister who doesn’t fit his unrealistic profile—she is not a sports enthusiast, a Relief Society president, a beauty queen, a sophisticated budgeter, or she admits to an earlier, now-resolved weakness with the Word of Wisdom.

Of course, we should consider qualities we desire in ourselves and in a potential spouse. We should maintain our highest hopes and standards. But if we are humble, we will be surprised by goodness in unexpected places, and we may create opportunities to grow closer to someone who, like us, is not perfect.

Faith acknowledges that, through repentance and the power of the Atonement, weakness can be made strong and repented sins can truly be forgiven.

Happy marriages are not the result of two perfect people saying vows. Rather, devotion and love grow as two imperfect people build, bless, help, encourage, and forgive along the way. The wife of a modern prophet (insert: Camilla Kimball) was once asked what it was like being married to a prophet. She wisely replied that she had not married a prophet; she had simply married a man who was completely dedicated to the Church no matter what calling he received.4 In other words, in process of time, husbands and wives grow together—individually and as a couple.

The wait for a perfect spouse, perfect education, perfect job, or perfect house will be long and lonely. We are wise to follow the Spirit in life’s important decisions and not let doubts spawned by perfectionist demands hinder our progress.

For those who may feel chronically burdened or anxious, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I define perfection and success by the doctrines of the Savior’s atoning love or by the world’s standards? Do I measure success or failure by the Holy Ghost confirming my righteous desires or by some worldly standard?”

For those who feel physically or emotionally exhausted, start getting regular sleep and rest, and make time to eat and relax. Recognize that being busy is not the same as being worthy, and being worthy does not require perfection.5

For those prone to see their own weaknesses or shortcomings, celebrate with gratitude the things you do well, however large or small.

Read the rest of the talk here.

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Face to Face with Elder Holland: lots for singles

This was a conversation between Young Singles Adults throughout the world and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Carole M. Stephens from the Relief Society General Presidency , and Elder Donald Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy. The questions and answers throughout the evening were all just as applicable to singles of any age as they were to the YSA. I give it Five Stars. Give it a listen.


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Sheri Dew on the Atonement and Being Single

Read text of entire talk here

Watch entire talk on YouTube

Sheri Dew

photo from LDS.org

There Is Power in the Atonement of Jesus Christ
Until I was in my thirties, I thought the Atonement was basically for sinners—meaning that it allowed us to repent. But then I suffered a heartbreaking personal loss and began to learn that there was so much more to this sublime doctrine.

My solution initially to my heartbreak was to exercise so much faith that the Lord would have to give me what I wanted—which was a husband. Believe me, if fasting and prayer and temple attendance automatically resulted in a husband, I’d have one.

Well, the Lord hasn’t even yet given me a husband; but He did heal my heart. And in doing so, He taught me that He not only paid the price for sin but compensated for all of the pain we experience in life. He taught me that because of His Atonement, we have access to His grace, or enabling power—power that frees us from sin; power to be healed emotionally, physically, and spiritually; power to “loose the bands of death” (Alma 7:12); power to turn weakness into strength (see Ether 12:27); and power to receive salvation through faith on His name (see Mosiah 3:19). It is because of the Atonement that, if we build our foundation on Christ, the devil can have no power over us (see Helaman 5:12).

There is power in God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ—power that we may access through the word, the Holy Ghost, the priesthood, and the ordinances of the holy temple.


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Facing Fears in Dating: from a BYU Devotional

Fear in Dating
from a BYU Devotional, “Daddy, Is Jesus Real?” Overcoming Fear through Faith in Christ
Scott Esplin, BYU Dept. of Church History, Jan 19, 2016

shield-492992_640.jpgI invite you to reflect on the last time you experienced the feeling of fear. Was it wondering if you’d be accepted into one of the many competitive degree programs here at Brigham Young University? Or waiting to see if the girl you asked out wants to go out again? Or worse yet, wondering what to do if she does? For me the feeling is as recent as sitting on this stand, looking into the faces of so many, and knowing that, through the miracle of technology, thousands more are watching this message.

Like you, I can testify that the feeling of fear is real. Indeed, of this powerful emotion, Elder Bednar taught in last April’s General Conference:

Notably, One of the first effects of the fall was for Adam and Eve to experience fear. This potent emotion is an important element of our mortal existence.

Today I want to visit with you about overcoming the fears that are an essential part of our experience in this Earth life.

One of my favorite classes to teach here on campus is the Doctrine and Covenants, because I find it highly relevant in my own life and in the lives of my students. In a well-known episode from the text, Oliver Cowdery, the primary scribe for the translation of the Book of Mormon, was offered the opportunity of the lifetime: to join Joseph Smith as a translator of that sacred book of scripture. Oliver was instructed,

“Ask that ye may know the mysteries of God, and that ye may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up according to your faith, and it shall it be done unto you.”

(unsure on source, text of talk still unavailable)
Shortly thereafter, when Oliver failed in his attempt to translate a portion of the Book of Mormon, the Lord explained the reasons for his failure, outlining several causes:

 5 And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you.  Doctrine & Covenants 9:11

I’ve long wondered what it was that Oliver feared that he did not continue as he had commenced. Knowing that the project was of eternal importance, did he fear making a mistake, and thus marring the sacred publication?

I was the age of most of you when this scriptural episode came to have special meaning to me. I was in grad school here at BYU, and began asking out a particular girl. And, as things progressed, I became scared. Fear caused me to not continue as I had commenced. I was afraid of making the wrong decision; one that I knew was important and, ideally, eternal. My poorly thought out solution to this fear was to stop asking the girl out. As weeks turned into months, I buried myself in other things, all the while praying if I should pursue the relationship that I clearly wasn’t doing anything to nurture.

Finally one Sunday I was in church here on campus when I finally made up my mind: I would pursue the relationship. What would be the worst that could happen? “Maybe I would get married,” I thought. I called her apartment, only to learn that she had gone home that weekend. I left a message for her to call me when she returned, which, incidentally, is ideal for someone gripped by dating paralysis. The last thing a young man really wants to do is talk.

That afternoon my dad called. “Have you heard the news?” he asked. The girl was engaged.rings-877936_640

She returned my call later that night. “Scott, I heard you called.” “Yes, I was just calling to congratulate you on your engagement” was my response. Fear of the future had kept me from continuing what I had commenced, and the time had passed. I thought often about that experience, and the Lord’s instruction to Oliver Cowdery concerning fear, the next six years of my single life.

So how do we overcome fears, act in faith, and move forward towards an uncertain future? Eleven years ago last fall I was dating my wife Janice. The week before Thanksgiving I invited her to come home with me to Southern Utah for the holiday weekend. She accepted. And then, once again, I became really scared. I’d taken girls home on road trips before. And for those familiar with Interstate 15 between Provo and Southern Utah, usually by about the town of Nephi, they became the longest weekends of my life.

I started to think of the ways I could uninvite Janice. With fear swirling in my head, I came to campus on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Preparing to teach my class that day, I stumbled across these words at the beginning of Doctrine and Covenants Section 67.

1 Behold and hearken, O ye elders of my church, who have assembled yourselves together, whose prayers I have heard, and whose hearts I know, and whose desires have come up before me.

As a 30 year old Elder, I had a desire, and had been praying for a long time that I might find a spouse and begin an eternal companionship. I could relate to these early saints. The Lord continues:

 2 Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands, and the riches of eternity are mine to give.

In my office at the Joseph Smith Building that morning, the thought struck me: maybe marriage is one of the riches of eternity, and maybe it is God’s to give. The revelation then warns:

3 Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.

I realized if I didn’t face my fear of an uncertain future, I might never receive the blessings the Lord had in store for me. night-819579_640.jpg

I took Janice home for Thanksgiving, and the weekend went wonderfully. Returning to Provo, however, my worst fears of carrying on an extended conversation with a girl were realized: a snowstorm forced the closure of Interstate 15 and the two of us were stranded together in the car between the Utah towns of Beaver and Fillmore for several hours with no choice but to simply talk to each other. As our three hour road trip turned into seven, I realized that if we could survive this time together, maybe we could also face my fears of eternal marriage.

From these experiences I learned a valuable lesson: as you experience faith to overcome future fears and uncertainty, you will see God’s hand in your life. In fact, just a few short verses later in the Doctrine and Covenants, in Section 67, the Lord promises:

 10 And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.

I now look back on those years of post-mission single life, and like the saints in the Doctrine and Covenants, realize that God was in my midst, and I couldn’t see him. There were lessons I needed to learn, primarily about overcoming fear, coupled with experiences both my wife and I needed to have, that eventually prepared us for each other and our future together. As I stripped myself of fear, the day came that I could see God’s hand, and receive the riches of eternity, but they only came as I exercised faith.

Facing fear in our life isn’t limited to dramatic experiences involving unknown future events like relocating at the command of the Lord or finding an eternal companion. Indeed, the happiness of some is crippled by fears of past failures and the foreboding worry that the present and future can never become bright again.

This is an excerpt. Listen to or watch the entire devotional address here.

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from the Mormon Channel: A Conversation with Elder Dallin H. Oaks and his wife, Kristen

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This “Conversation” between Sheri Dew and Elder and Sister Oaks on the Mormon Channel had so much good stuff for singles in it that I thought it a great idea to share it. I’ve had some extra down time while not feeling well this week, so I was also able to give a rough outline of what the broadcast contains. Content that is particularly applicable to singles is italicized and in bold. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing if you can.

If you weren’t already aware, Sister Kristen McMain Oaks is Elder Oaks’ second wife (his first wife passed away) and Kristen was single until she was in her 50’s, so she has a lot to say about being single. She also has her own blog called “My Home Can Be a Holy Place.” 

0:00 Introduction
4:30 Elder Oaks on his mother
8:50 Kristen on her early days: convert to the church, going to primary with her friends
11:15 Elder Oaks on “work first, play later” and his work ethic; what he does in his free time
Kristen on Elder Oaks’ “projects” and togetherness
Elder Oaks’ mother again, on what he learned from her about women and motherhood. “Women can do anything that men can do.”
14:35 Kristen Oaks on marrying Elder Oaks and becoming a part of his large family, and what she’s learned in the ten years of being married to an apostle.
15:35 Kristen on remaining single longer than “normal.” Also, advice to people who are in circumstances not of their choosing.
“The waiting is really sanctifying.”
Challenges are sanctifying (Sister Dew)
17:50 Elder Oaks on losing a spouse and healing
1. sure knowledge of resurrection
2. I had peace that I had done everything I could for my wife (in a medical way, Priesthood blessings etc.)
3. I had been true to my covenants
Also, he wrote a history of his wife’s life. Took him about a year. Helped him process his grief and helped him heal. Helped bring the family together more.
20:00 comments on Elder Oaks’ address on divorce and marriage
How to avoid marrying the wrong person, time in courtship, time seeing them in different situations
Kristen and Elder Oaks on marriage and their courtship
23:00 increasing challenges of getting married
Excerpt and comments on Classic CES fireside from Elder Oaks on hanging out
Simple, inexpensive, and frequent dates
Women: don’t encourage “freeloaders”
To go on a date is not implying a continuing commitment
Letters Elder Oaks has received since that address
27:25 more on dating
Men frightened of young women’s accomplishments
Shy young men
Advice to Jenny Oaks Baker from Marjorie Hinckley
32:15 Elder Oaks’ law school days and what drew him to the law
Foundation the law has given him
34:00 Sister Dew on Elder Oaks’ ability to speak with boldness
Kristen Oaks: he’s very exact in his speech but he’s also tender; she’s also grateful for how he follows the Savior. Elder Oaks: worried to do what is right and not to please other people, and to do it as well as it could be done by me.
39:00 on Elder Oaks becoming President of BYU at age 38, what he learned from the experience, learning from Belle Spafford and other church leaders at the time
42:10 address in 2009 at BYU Idaho on Religious Liberty
45:25 Kristen on some of the criticism received because of that address, and what she learned from it about the Lord wanting us to be truthful, how criticism is hard for her (she was very honest about this)
47:00 the global nature of communication and how it affects Elder Oaks’ remarks
48:50 pervasive nature of pornography, address in General Conference in April 2005;
Counsel for parents, “soft” pornography, counsel for everyone in general, comparison of viewing pornography to smashing a compass while on a ship, love your kids and talk with them, having family dinner together and other “simple” solutions
56:00 “Good, better, best” in terms of family relationships
Bear your testimony to your kids/grandkids. Give kids of yourself.
1:02:20 Marriage and counsel for couples when there are rough spots on the road
Same goals, totally united on where they want to go and what they want to accomplish. Able to tolerate each other on different styles of doing things. They have separate bank accounts and their own toothpaste tubes. Fought about how to rake the leaves, but never fought on the Word of Wisdom. Pray on their knees morning and night. Heavenly Father same foundation, same direction, be flexible about other things than aren’t important.
1:04:58 Advice for those who have busy spouses; on looking past busyness and finding the joy
1:07:00 Advice on studying the Gospel
1:08:45 Moments, experiences, patterns that helped them in the development of their testimony
Testimony and tithing
1:10:50 Elder Oaks: what does it mean to speak for the Lord? (and immense responsibility, the single greatest worry he has, heavy burden, very intense process)
1:14:30 On the time the Oaks spent in the Philippines; how it changed their thinking on the Church in the developing world, which is half the world
1:23:00 The role that women play in the Church
1:26:15 What it means to be an Apostle to the Lord Jesus Christ
1:27:46 On members of the LDS Church being Christian, and how to respond when someone thinks we’re not
1:29:30 What is the one thing you would like to be sure everyone knows about your husband (Elder Oaks), and for Elder Oaks, about your wife Kristen
1:31:00 Parting feelings about the Lord and His Gospel


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Recognizing the Spirit in Dating: Part 2

You can read Part 1: Jennifer and Parker’s story, here

light-bulb-1002783_640.jpgMy voice teacher in college, whom I looked up to. once said that it takes a lifetime to discern between emotion and the Spirit. Emotion can be overwhelming, whether it’s positive emotions or negative. Sometimes the positive emotions we get swept up in can be particularly hard to tell from the Spirit. Emotions, temptations, and fears can play just as much a part in confusing us in dating as they do with any other aspect of our lives.

Things that can get in the way understanding promptings in our dating lives:

-Overwhelming emotions

When I was a kid, my older sister had a copy of a book by Brenton G. Yorgason called From First Date to Chosen Mate that I would guiltily sneak into her room sometimes to read. She was seven years older than me and that made her stuff….cool. Later I inherited the book and didn’t have to sneak to read it anymore.
One section of it that I really appreciated was the section on “real love” versus “infatuation.” To sum up, some of the counterfeits of love found in infatuation, you may already guess: you like how you look with that person, you like how they make you look to others, they fill an emotional need for self-esteem, etc. You can still get a used copy of it on Amazon. 
Or, this blog post, “7 Signs That You’re Not Really in Love”on Family Share by Yordanka Pérez does a pretty good job of summing up the same idea. We like to think that we’re not affected by our emotions as much as we are sometimes, but emotions can be powerful and something we always need to work at to be aware of in our relationships.

-Mental Dating

Speaking of pressing forward in faith, “Mental Dating” is a term that I learned from a friend who is a therapist with a Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA.  It’s what a lot of us do when we meet someone attractive who strikes our fancy: we think about what they might be like, and in the extreme, spend a lot of time thinking about it. It’s not a truly productive form of work for your dating life. I’m not claiming that some escapism in the form of entertainment or even daydreams don’t have their place, but we need to realize that sometimes when we engage in “mental dating” in our heads, the made up scenarios on the stage in our mind may be replacing reality via the lack of interaction that we’ve actually had with them. I can pretend in my mind that, for instance, that actor Chris Pine is my best friend and woos me the same way he does Anne Hathaway’s character in Princess Diaries II, but it does not mean that if I met him in real life that we would or could or would even want to interact in that way. And we may find ourselves “understanding” this when it comes to Hollywood crushes, and yet we’ll let it mess with our minds with that handsome man or charming woman we met at church or an activity. In our minds they already have a slew of qualities that we’re looking for, yet we’ve never been on a date with them to actually find that out. In contrast, the person you’ve never talked to may have qualities you’re not aware of until you actually do talk to them and get to know them.

-Misunderstanding Stewardship

The Spirit leads us to do good things, and sometimes things we’re afraid to do. However, it won’t take away from the God-given plan of agency. The Doctrine and Covenants talks about God’s use of “stewardship,” something that is applied throughout the Church and in our own families. We can receive a positive answer about someone else: that they may be good for us or even a good marriage partner. However, we do not have stewardship over others when it comes to answers they receive for themselves. I may find that Heavenly Father gives me favorable impressions via the Holy Ghost about someone else, but as that person is looking at their possibilities, I may not be the best for them. Heavenly Father may not let me know that I am right for them. I believe this may be one of the most confusing kinds of answers we can receive that may take more picking apart and time to think over after receiving. For me, I’ve decided that it’s not the feeling that I need to concern myself over, but rather, “What did the feeling/prompting really mean?”  (Positive promptings about someone else may mean that getting to know them is a good idea, but not necessarily that they’re “the one.”) And that once I can set aside the overwhelming emotions associated with dating and relationships, I can once again have heaven’s help in helping me interpret answers with humility: with my heart and my head, and come to some conclusions that follow all of God’s laws, including the stewardship of others, without feeling like the misinterpretation of the answer means that must be a foolish, silly person. God loves us. Always use that lens of His love.

So what things will help us recognize the Spirit? Obviously church leaders and the scriptures are full of advice on this.

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Trujillo, Peru Temple

Some positive advice from leaders

From the recent “Face to Face” for the youth with Elder Rasband, Sister Bonnie Oscarson, and Brother Owen. (And yes, it was geared towards the youth, but it contains great stuff for us older people too.) One of the youth asked a question about recognizing the Holy Ghost, and this was some of the advice they received. You can find this about 22 minutes into the broadcast:
-Act on small promptings and over time you’ll get better at recognizing the Spirit, and the Lord will trust you with more. There is always room for all of us to improve on recognizing the Holy Ghost: if it invites you to do good, it’s the Holy Ghost.
Elder Rasband, quoting the Young Women/Young Men theme for 2016: “Press Forward with steadfastness in Christ. Feast Upon the Words of Christ.” That will help you feel the Spirit more often. (See more on this below.)
Sister Oscarson: The Holy Ghost may come as a thought, a feeling, or a clear thought: move forward and trust he’ll give us corrections on individual promptings if need be. (Think Nephi getting the plates from Laban.)
Sister Oscarson: Moroni 7:16

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

Words of a Prophet

President Monson said recently in General Conference that “I reiterate what we have been told repeatedly—that in order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures. Communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer is vital. We cannot afford to neglect these things, for the adversary and his hosts are relentlessly seeking for a chink in our armor, a lapse in our faithfulness. Said the Lord, ‘Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.'(D&C 90:24)” If we aren’t doing are part with our prayers and scripture reading, to improve and learn, how can we expect more blessings when it comes to receiving the Spirit? Conversely, by doing all we can in these areas, we can expect blessings.

Galatians 5: 22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Press Forward

Elder Neil A. Andersen said in a commencement address to BYU Hawaii in 2013:

Developing spiritual strength doesn’t come from leaning back; it comes from pressing forward, constantly seeking more light and knowledge from heaven… We cannot rest. Press forward.

As was said by Elder Rasband and Sister Oscarson, sometimes we receive just a little bit of light and we need to trust it and “try it out” by moving forward with it, believing that Heavenly Father will give us more when it is needed.

Have Patience

And from Elder Richard G. Scott:

I have discovered that what sometimes seems an impenetrable barrier to communication is a giant step to be taken in trust. Seldom will you receive a complete response all at once. It will come a piece at a time, in packets, so that you will grow in capacity. As each piece is followed in faith, you will be led to other portions until you have the whole answer. That pattern requires you to exercise faith in our Father’s capacity to respond. While sometimes it’s very hard, it results in significant personal growth.

He will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. However, His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. Hence, you should find periods of quiet time to recognize when you are being instructed and strengthened. His pattern causes you to grow.

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