Friday, June 19, 2009

Shortening the Three Hour Meeting Block

She Said:

I grew up a PK (preacher's kid) which is similar to being the child of a Mormon Bishop, but for your whole life. I learned early what it was like to hang around the church for hours. Both Dr. B. and I love church meetings, and in our early years we thought nothing of going to two wards' full 3-hour schedule of meetings. But these days, the long hours are starting to wear on me. Am I getting a little ADHD in my old age? Or is it that I've heard it all before, and there is nothing new under the sun?

For many years rumors have circulated that church meetings were to be pared down to 2 hours. Usually the rumors have it that Sunday School would be the meeting to go, with members expected to provide scripture study in the home. I don't think these rumors will ever come to fruition, but I want to explore whether it would be a good thing to cut down on our Sunday services.

In today's fast-paced world, 2 hours is a long time to sit still and listen to a lecture-type format. It is especially difficult for families with children. Small children might be better served with a shorter, more varied program during the Primary time. A 30-minute classroom lesson, 15-20 minutes of singing, and a 5 or 10 minute Sharing Time message sounds like a perfect schedule for ages 3 to 11. This would also be less of a burden on all of the many members that it takes to keep a Primary fully staffed.

Adults might appreciate the format, too. One thing I miss about my Protestant upbringing was the coffee hour that followed our meetings. While I wouldn't necessarily suggest something similar for Mormons, I think that if our meetings were shorter, we might be chipper enough to socialize for a while afterwards, instead of rushing everyone home. For me, a big part of going to church is the fellowship, and even with our 3-hour blocks, we don't experience much of that, unless we're skipping our classes.

The biggest disadvantage I see to cutting out Sunday School would be less gospel study. But as it stands now, I think our Sunday School time is ineffective and boring. Any scriptural learning that takes place could easily be replaced by more emphasis in Sacrament Meetings on centering talks around scriptural topics, and a few additions to PH/RS. Perhaps special manuals could be prepared to assist families in setting up a Sunday School hour in their home. Many families would do a fine job at this, although I realize that for some it might take too much effort and fall by the wayside. I'd love to see small group scripture study classes during the week for those who are interested in coming together for discussion.

Do you see any other disadvantages to cutting our Sunday services by an hour?

He Said:

From time to time I hear that the Church is considering doing away with Sunday School so we as parents can better teach our kids the gospel. If it is anything like FHE that means we may or may not have more time for sleeping since FHE is a hit and miss proposition at my home. I think it will be sporadic for parents to actually use a manual and teach their kids as BiV suggests. I would probably try it out for a year or two or even five but it would probably be a very uneven treatment for my various kids. Over the course of several years the manual would get boring. I guess they could throw in the Preach My Gospel or some other manual to liven it up but for all intents and purposes they would need more than one manual because parents and kids would get bored. I suspect they would have us use the priesthood manuals which is way over kids heads just to save on correlation.

My oldest three children born during my youth experienced more concentrated gospel study which included three attempts at reading the Book of Mormon with one successful completion in an eighteen year period. I think a Sunday School manual might work for one or two cycles but for my eight children there would be gaps in their religious education. At least in a formal Sunday School class there is a week after week attempt to get them to engage with the gospel. Sometimes even when they are being obtuse the gospel seems to sink in. Between primary or young men or young women and sunday school with seminary my children have learned the gospel. I personally would hate to see it go for their sakes.

In my case the gospel doctrine class is a big snooze. I have to shut my mouth to keep from monopolizing the class. Nine times out of ten I know more than the teacher who many times preaches false doctrine or the gospel according to them. I have read most of the statements of the general authorities and can quote them til I'm blue in the face. Students and the teachers don't appreciate a know it all. I wish there were a beginner, intermediate, and advanced gospel doctrine class since one class doesn't fit all. I humble myself by sitting through these classes week after week. I always remember J. Rebuen Clark Jr. on his death bed saying he wants to remain faithful. To me getting through a gospel doctrine class for the fifth cycle is enduring to the end.

An interesting thing about the consolidated three hour block was it was supposed to free people up to do more Christian acts and do more gospel related things. However the only thing I noticed was that home teaching shifted in to the slot. Prior to that it was done mostly on week nights. Eventually it became an expectation that on the last Sunday of the month home teachers would want to come over. I resent my home teachers coming over on Sunday because it cuts in to my rest time and my occasional hymn singing. Every few months I like to sing out of pitch from the hymnbook and subject any child I don't see singing to having to sing with me.

I have visited a lot of LDS over the years and most of them seem to enjoy Sunday as a time for socializing with members. A few of the more stalwart invited us over for dinner a few times a year. Youth like to go to each others houses and hang out and end up eating with them occasionally so there is a lot of interaction during the primary and mutual years. In the last ten years I probably remember having a whole family over to our house for dinner or parties less than five or six times a year that leaves forty-five weeks for resting, remember on the seventh day even the Lord rested.

I personally like the earliest morning block so it can free me up to either do genealogy when I am in a quasi-righteous mood or to watch the Big Love, the Chicago Cubs game or the World Series of Poker when I am in a who cares mood. If there were a two hour block I might do the same amount of genealogy which runs in cycles. When my wife is in to it I am more gungho when she isn't I have a hard time now that my eyesight is diminishing. It is a back breaking tedious process to crank a microfilm reel or to even search on Ancestry or Family Search.

Mostly I just spend the time sleeping around eating lunch/dinner so I can be rejuvenated for the coming work week. Unfortunately I spend a lot of time taking my eight children to different firesides, bishop youth discussions or over to friends homes. The latter I try to not do and make the other kids in the ward come to our house. Once in a blue moon my son and I go home teaching to one of the three families. An extra hour means we could go earlier home teaching since we could get our nap in sooner or on the other three weeks I could watch more gospel movies or the Big Love which is tangentially LDS related. Don't worry, I change the channel if I think there is any sex happening to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

Take the Poll:


  1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I voted to keep it the same length--but that's really because I can't imagine cutting any of the meetings.

    GD can be very frustrating...but I think it is more effective overall than a family-based sunday school program would be. We had a great teacher for the last year, but he is moving and the new guy It will be interesting.

    I work in YM so I have a special affinity for third hour. I can't imagine what it would be like for my young men if we didn't have that time. Our ward is very spread out and parents tend not to want to drive their kids to anything, so we consolidated as much as possible so we aren't spending half our lives driving around picking up boys and then taking them home again. I guarantee that the three hour block (plus an hour on Wednesday night), is the only spiritual contact for 90% of my boys.

    And hey, if we start doing coffee hour after a shorter meeting my minister friend will switch churches!

  3. I would vote for the church to get rid of the gender-segregated meeting. Your Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox cousins all do just fine without regular, mandatory gender-segregated meetings, and you can too. Gender in Mormon theology is definitely a bigger deal than it is in traditional Christian theologies, but I'm not sure it's a big enough deal that it requires its own hour every Sunday.

    I visit sacrament meeting and Sunday school with my husband once a month, but I never go to Relief Society. It just doesn't interest me.

  4. I agree that the meeting block is a bit too long, but I don't want to give up either Sunday School or the 3rd hour. Perhaps switching between them would be a good idea. Have a two hour block, and one week have the second hour be Sunday School, and the next week have it be MP/RS/YM/YW.

  5. I wouldn't mind cutting the block down to two hours either, only, i'm with the others who couldn't decide which one to cut. I was recently released from Sunday school teacher for the 12-13 year olds. I think it is a really important time for them to learn the basics of the gospel. I know my students really enjoyed it and I think they learned a lot of stuff they weren't learning at home. Partly because they felt they could ask me anything. I was made Young Men's President after that. Again, I think that it is a really good time for the youth to learn things they aren't learning at home or in Sunday school.

    As an adult, I can't stand our Sunday school teacher and don't really want to go to Gospel Doctrine. At least not with that teacher. I can see the Gospel Doctrine class for adults getting eliminated, but not the Sunday school for the youth.

    This creates a real dilemma for me.

  6. I'm not sure there's an area to vote. SS is needed and RS and PM is needed. I could do without RS and not cry a bit over it but some really need it in their lives. But the church has changed so much since I grew up. From 1945 to 1978 it was wonderful with Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting at night. RS was on a weekday where it should be and Primary was on a weekday after school where IT should still be. Those kids need something during the week. Now they've shoved it all together in a hurryhurryhurry mode and I hate it. Always have since they changed it. They should have just left it alone .... OR .. used the shoved together meetings plan for those areas in the world it would have come in handy for the best.

  7. The only meeting I actually enjoy anymore is sacrament, but I know cutting that far down will never happen. I'd get rid of PH/RS. For me that third-hour lesson is completely unnecessary. And I'm also with Jack on the gender segregation.

  8. Personally, I find value in all three "blocks", but I find that each one seems to be about ten minutes too long. So, I'd cut off ten minutes from each, and have church be 30 minutes shorter.

  9. I'm currently in a ward that does exactly what Paul S. suggested - our whole block is 2 1/2 hours. It's temporary because we have 3 wards meeting in a much-too-small building. It's wonderful.

    Personally, if I had to get rid of one meeting it would be Relief Society/priesthood. I feel like all the important things that happen within those organizations take place outside of Sunday meetings - visiting teaching, home teaching, service projects, social activities. The Sunday lessons feel like a repeat of Sunday School.

  10. As Zion's Youth in Latter-daysJune 24, 2009 at 1:02 AM

    Do not call it block of meetings, call it Coming unto the Lord. :)
    I really do love our church, and each time I go I feel elevated on so many levels. I feel great and it all seems right to me. I wish church will be extended by an hour, but that could be alot to askof the members.

    I am 14 and keeping my mind and life pure is a very hard challenge. Going to church gives me strength, inspiration and rest from my troubles. It feels so good to come unto the Lord. Nothing can compare.

    Please pray for me and I hope my comments have helped. Thanks

  11. I think that it would be a good idea to shorten the combined meetings to 2 hours. In the mission field we were taught to keep discussions short and sweet, around 45 minutes. This enabled people to remain attentive and active in the discussion. Sacrament meeting could be reduced to 45 minutes, 30 minutes for Sunday school and 30 minutes for Priesthood/Relief Society. The remaining 15 minutes would be for singing, prayers, and time for transitioning between classes. Three hours is too long and makes it more of an endurance meeting rather than a spiritual recharge.

  12. Found this really old blog and couldn't agree more. Church meetings are too long. Primary children sitting through almost two hours of sharing time and classes is pretty long. 45 minutes to teach a lesson to young men is asking a lot of both parties, teachers and listeners. Not only does it take the spirit out of the lesson as an untrained teacher tries his/her best to stretch a lesson on faith way past its usefulness (which every person has had 1 million times by the time they are 14) but there are few teachers gifted or trained well enough to perform such a task. 45 minute sacrament and 30 minutes for sunday school and preisthood/relief society is plenty. It is not time that is lacking in our lessons, it is mostly spiritual experiences from my experience. Shorter and sweet.

    Not only that, but we could make the lessons a little deeper. I can't hear another lesson on tithing and the same stories anymore without just leaving the class and wandering the hall. No, i am not the only one. Most humans can only take the same lesson so many times as they sit in hard folding chairs for 45 minutes to an hour.

  13. Sorry to dredge up a very old post, but this is a topic that’s very close to my heart. As our ward’s lead family history consultant, I hope the second hour never goes away. There are so many great Sunday School classes: our ward has a Strengthening Your Marriage class, a self-reliance class, I have personal overseen the development of our Introduction to FamilySearch class and am just beginning to develop our advanced family history class. And yet, I *really* miss Gospel Doctrine. It’s been some five years since I’ve been able to attend, and I’d love to be able to go again.