Last weekend my friend visited with me and we talked about the changes happening in the church, how exciting they were, and how the church will look very different by this time next year. Then he looked at me and said “I haven’t figured out what I should be doing as a single with the extra hour on Sunday.”
That was an easy answer for me. I’m a single mom with three school-aged children. When I watched conference with another single mom, we paused the session and immediately and discussed what we would do. My girls always say they hate school. But what did they do on the first day of school when they got home? They set up a schoolroom in the living room and began playing school! I looked at my friend and said “I’m going to set up a ‘school of the prophets’ here in my living room. I’m going to get a white board and we’re going to set up chairs and we’re each going to have our copy of Come Follow Me and the scriptures and every Sunday we’re going to take turns teaching each other. The girls are going to love it!” (I shared my plans with my girls later and they have asked me on more than one occasion when we can get started.) I also bought a white board and set it up just to get them used to the idea. I find them playing school with it on a regular basis already.
Furthermore, we agreed that ‘gathering’ was a big theme of conference and we felt like single moms and dads should gather with other single moms and dads with their kids and combine for ‘school of the prophets’ some Sundays. They can take turns switching homes, or with the bishop’s permission, use the church building. These ideas felt wonderful and my friend and I agreed that we would combine our 6 kids some Sundays. We would also let our kids take turns teaching the class. Of course we don’t have all of the details ironed out yet, and we don’t know how these sessions will work out, but I believe that this will accomplish some important things:
1. The children will learn that the home is the central place where they will learn the gospel.
2. They will gain confidence in their public speaking and teaching abilities.
3. They will gain an appreciation for and knowledge of the scriptures and the gospel.
4. They will (hopefully) gain similar respect for their parents that they currently have for their secular teachers. (True story, when my kids are really acting up and won’t obey me, I threaten to email or text their school teachers and they straighten up!)
Obviously, numbers two and three will help prepare children for their missions. Number four is my hope and maybe pipe dream! Number one is where the church is leading us. For a multitude of reasons, we are being guided to turn our homes into the central place for gospel learning. It is to become our primary ‘holy place,’ before the church building and the temple. So we need to make our homes even more sacred than they are now. Teaching children formally and informally needs to be happening in the home regularly.
But my friend doesn’t have any children. So what should he be doing with that extra hour? I believe this is where the push for more ‘gathering’ comes in. I think that the prophet wants us to do more informal gathering, away from the church building. I believe that singles without children should have their own ‘school of the prophets.’ They should take turns hosting these schools in their homes with other singles. I can picture them with their own Come Follow Me manuals and scriptures doing the same thing we parents will be doing with our children, but with each other. (Of course, their meetings will probably be a lot less rowdy and there will probably be less crying!)
There are other ways to gather. I have begun gathering singles in my home during the times I don’t have my children. I host Break the Fasts, game nights, and more recently round table discussions for my podcast. (You can find my podcast LDS Unmarried Life at www.annettetalks.com). Every time I gather singles, I come away feeling more camaraderie, unity, and a sense of being a part of a supportive group. I feel like the singles I have come to know through gathering have truly become my sisters and brothers. I know that I can call on any one of them when I need help or a listening ear. I hope they always feel like they can come over, call, text, or reach out in some other way.
I love the changes to the block schedule because this means we can truly make our homes a place of learning and gathering, and singles have a huge part in this, whether they have children, or whether they choose to make their home a hub for other singles without children.