As I listened to President Russell M. Nelson announce the major “organizational adjustments” to “fortify our members and their families,” I sighed. While most of the membership of the Church rejoiced in reducing the Sunday block of meetings from three to two hours, I anticipated what was to come as a nearly not-so-young single adult.
I anticipated receiving the curriculum and having to read between the lines to see how I could make it work for me. I anticipated rolling it out with sugary-sweet enthusiasm that largely ignored the pain many singles stuff down to appear more faithful. More than anything, I anticipated the stretching.
It’s just what single adults do in a family-centered religion. We stretch ourselves to try and fit a bit more comfortably, like a puzzle piece that has gotten wet and must be smooshed into place, though the picture will never seem quite right. Sometimes, this stretching is healthy and rewarding. Sometimes, it’s extremely painful and alienating.
Where would “home-centered” church fall? Only time would tell, but I wasn’t hopeful. However, looking back, I’ve been heartened and pleasantly surprised.
The curriculum for individuals is powerful and at the forefront. I’ve been a part of many thoughtful, vulnerable discussions with ward councils about how to ensure our ward of young single adults feels included and cared for. There’s been honest, earnest, and inspired efforts.
Yet, as I’ve prepared to take on this higher law of study and worship, I find myself asking a much deeper question than, “What does home-centered church mean for singles?” Instead, I’ve started to ask:
“What does home mean for singles?”
I think this the heart of the new curriculum. What is home and how do we build one? More importantly, how do we build a home centered on Jesus Christ? Two-hour church and all of the new materials isn’t just about studying more efficiently, studying with unity, or learning to be self-sufficient on the Sabbath. I believe it’s about preparing ourselves to receive Jesus Christ. In the end, that is what everything in the Church leads back to.
The key to receiving Christ and preparing for his coming is to live his gospel. One of guiding principles for the new curriculum is, “The home is the best place to teach, learn, and apply principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
I’d heard this phrase before. I knew exactly where it came from. It is from Preach My Gospel and I’d studied it many times as a missionary. Here is the full section:
Because families are ordained of God, they are the most important social unit in time and in eternity. God has established families to bring happiness to His children, allow them to learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and prepare them for eternal life. The home is the best place to teach, learn, and apply principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A home established on gospel principles will be a place of refuge and safety. It will be a place where the Spirit of the Lord can abide, blessing family members with peace, joy, and happiness.
In this context, it’s easy to see why single adults of any age might struggle with the concept of home. Building these things feels impossible when a family, the very foundation of a home, is not something you have. When I think about it, I haven’t seen others expressing pain about having to study the new curriculum alone. But I have seen the pain about feeling untethered, forever stuck in limbo, and persistent feelings of loneliness.
You could live alone. You could have roommates who are always moving, disrupting any sense of permanence and commitment. You may not like your roommates. You may have roommates who live close to their parents or other family members and are not interested in trying to interact with you. Your family could live far away or be disinterested in visiting you.
You may have wonderful friends, a supportive ward, and a fulfilling life. Yet, can the four walls in which you live become a refuge and a safety when it is just you? How can you find peace, joy, and happiness specifically in a home setting while recognizing nothing can replicate a spouse or children?
I believe the answer is yes, though the how and the why will look different for everyone. The levels of longing for the traditional family structure are also very different. However, as we prepare for a new year of implementing God’s word and ministering, I’ve pondered on three simple ways single adults can build Christ-centered homes.
Dedicate Your Home
Did you know dedicating a home is a specific priesthood ordinance? The Church handbook states:
Church members may dedicate their homes as sacred edifices where the Holy Spirit can reside and where family members can worship, find safety from the world, grow spiritually, and prepare for eternal family relationships. Homes need not be free of debt to be dedicated. Unlike Church buildings, homes are not consecrated to the Lord.
This can be done through the power of the Melchizedek priesthood through a ministering brother, Church leader, or family member. If you are single and have not had your home dedicated, consider it. If you have, offer up a specific prayer asking for that blessing to be effectual and powerful as we transition into the new home-centered church focus.
Make It a Refuge
For many, this quote from President Thomas S. Monson sums up what is so precious and powerful about a home:
Our homes are to be more than sanctuaries; they should also be places where God’s Spirit can dwell, where the storm stops at the door, where love reigns, and peace dwells.
If you want to build a home to be a refuge for you, start by making it a refuge for others. Invite others into your home as an act of ministering and love. Let others know your door is always open. As you serve others, a spirit of safety will begin to develop and those blessings will be returned to you.
Make It Sacred
When something is sacred, we treat it differently. Find ways to make your house sacred. Creating a clean, clutter-free space where you can worship without distractions can help invite a spirit of reverence and communion with God. Think about what sort of media is in your home, how you talk to people in your home, what is on the walls, and what you do when you are inside of it. Small adjustments to invite the Spirit can make a major difference in how we feel. Of course, we should never take it to an extreme and become so focused on cleanliness or perfection that we become harried and distracted from the true purpose.
Being single is one of the hardest aspects of my life, but I am grateful for God’s plan for me. I strive to find the blessings of this season of my life and use my time to do God’s will. Anyone who seeks for a feeling of home can find one through God. Nothing can replace a family, a spouse, or children. However, peace is available if we are willing to make sacrifices and dedicate ourselves to Jesus Christ.
If you are single and have received inspiration on what you can do to follow the prophet’s counsel to focus on home-centered church, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.