Your Sunday Brunch Special #5. Block Meeting Schedule.

———————————
Office of the First Presidency
February 1, 1980

To all General Authorities, Regional Representatives, Stake, Mission and District Presidents, Bishops and Branch Presidents.

Dear Brethren:

In order to provide more time for giving attention to
family life, individual study, self-improvement, and Christian
service, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve have
approved a consolidated schedule of Sunday meetings and weekday
activities for members of the Church.

Our anticipation is that the consolidated meeting schedule
will also support energy-saving efforts and assist members in
reducing costs associated with travel to meetings and other
activities. Energy use in Church buildings should be
reduced.

A greater responsibility will be placed upon the individual
members and families for properly observing the Sabbath day.
More time will be available for personal study of the scriptures
and family-centered gospel study. Other appropriate Sabbath
activities, such as strengthening family ties, visiting the sick
and homebound, giving service to others, writing personal and
family histories, genealogical work, and missionary work should
be carefully planned and carried out.

It is expected that this new schedule of meetings and activities
will result in greater spiritual growth for members of the
Church. Every Latter-day Saint home should become a place where
family members love to be, where they can enrich their lives and
find mutual love, support, appreciation, and encouragement.

This schedule will also give more weekday time for family
members, as citizens, to take part in improving their community
and strengthening the processes by which people of integrity are
elected to public office.
———————————-

The opening paragraph of the letter gives four reasons for the change:

1. More attention to family life,

2. individual study,

3. self-improvement,

4. and Christian service.

I think these purposes were part of the consequences of an expanded correlation agenda. It is obvious that stacking auxiliary meetings on Sundays put bishoprics in direct proximity to every church organization. This along with various assignment and budgetary changes removed what autonomy auxiliaries still had. The idea that church instruction would be tightly controlled and unified — with materials geared to a roughly 6th grade education in terms of comprehension by teachers — was part of the motivation behind the changes.

I was a pretty green bishop’s counselor at the time of this letter, so I saw both sides of the divide. Administering that initial change was fascinating along with behind the scenes financial changes. I will say a little more about this at some point, but for now, I’m REALLY curious about what you think.

For you geezers, maybe you can comment on the change. For the whippersnappers, do you see the schedule as facilitating the goals outlined in the letter? Immediately previous to the consolidation, Sundays looked like morning priesthood meeting, later a Sunday School (including a Junior Sunday School where all met together like a combined Jr-Sr primary to receive the sacrament). Then an afternoon sacrament meeting of 1.5 hours give or take. Primary, MIA (YM-YW), Relief Society met on weekdays. Sunday’s got pegged for “firesides” and other sorts of things. Activities could be wonderfully extensive and involved. Present-day teens have no clue despite the eventual surge in youth/YSA/seminary/institute activities.

Some people think the initiative was a factor in negative trajectories for a number of key measurements (personally I think those trajectories were mediated by other forces). I’ll consider some stats in a later post.

Comments

  1. Geezer here.

    The schedule change occurred while I was in college so I’ve never been sure whether the contrast I see between before and after is due to the schedule itself, or to the difference between childhood and adulthood. There was a rhythm to Sunday (to the whole week, really) that I’ve never been able to recreate under the block schedule. Sunday had a feel to it that was largely due to that schedule — you ironed clothes, polished shoes, and washed hair on Saturday because there wasn’t time on Sunday morning; Sunday was divided into a definite schedule of small (two or three hour pieces): the first wave was getting the boys and men off to Priesthood, then getting the next wave ready for Sunday School. You came home and prepared and served Sunday dinner, which had to be carefully planned because of the time limits. Then there was a short afternoon for napping and relaxing, followed by a return to church, followed by a light supper and Disney on TV if you were a kid or going out again to a fireside if you were a teen. Might sound inefficient now, but that’s what we were used to and it worked.

    Now I have long stretches of unplanned time before or after church, and it’s a struggle to use those hours in a Sunday kind of way. Dunno about you, but unless I’ve left lesson prep to the last minute, I can’t study the scriptures for six hours straight. Everybody seems to want to do home and visiting teaching on Sunday now, which I don’t like at all, and there seems to be a resistance toward any other kind of community activity because Sunday is “family time” — by which I think most people mean watching TV with their feet on the coffee table and a plate of finger food on their laps.

    Then there’s also the rhythm of the week that has changed because you aren’t headed to the church every other day. People seem to find weekday activities oppressive now, but it didn’t feel oppressive way back when. Honest.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    That’s really interesting; I never thought of the block as a factor in consolidating priesthood correlation over the auxiliaries, but it makes sense.

    There’s a part of me that laments the loss of the full church life that existed pre-block schedule, but at this point I wouldn’t want to go back to it. I have a rich, full life outside of the Church and don’t want the Church to fill my every social need. (That probably does tend to weaken my connection to the Church somewhat.)

    Now f they would just reduce the time footprint of the 3-hour block…

  3. The Marxist in me continues to believe that, whether it is something the church leadership could ever consciously recognize amongst themselves or not, the block schedule is primarily explainable in structural/material/economic terms. More women entering the workforce (thus less able to run Primary on Wednesdays), more dual-career families (ditto), more priesthood leadership working overtime at their (primarily management-oriented) jobs, more people living in the suburbs (requiring more driving time), more consolidation of ward boundaries and sizes (also requiring more driving time), etc. I’m sure the block schedule had plenty of entirely innocent, reasonable, non-economic justifications behind it, but as a piece with the church’s general retreat from providing a more comprehensive, socially-organizing church life for Mormons, it’s best understood as another step the church culture’s long, gradual, and by now nearly complete adaption to the modern American (more busy, more individualistic, more “efficient”–nice language there, Ardis) capitalist way of life.

  4. #3 – do you think some of the economic reasons you stated for the consolidation of the ward block might actually be results from the consolidation? If a family’s time is no longer consumed all week by church responsibilities – women no longer having to teach Primary during the week, men not being needed all week long, people not having to drive to the church several times daily and weekly – then maybe women felt they had time to go get a job, men could spend more time at work b/c they weren’t scheduled to be at the church, ward boundaries were extended b/c no one had to drive to the church more than once or twice a week.

  5. britt k says:

    as a mother with young children I am SO grateful for the block. That many transitions with little people is hard. So many naps interupted, so many meals squished here or there.

    Living 20 minutes from our building isn’t bad…but with this many trips a day and gas and the travel time. Imagine this scheulde in a small branch in a place in which transportation was a constant problem. How many people really could make it? I wonder if part of this was a result o the international church growing and recognizing that there are place in which people have things to do…like bringing in water from a well…or cooking without a microwave.

    I’d rather plan around one three hour block.

  6. Coffinberry says:

    Not-quite geezer here. My childhood was in a largish ward in Indianapolis, where the rhythms of life were just as Ardis described. But by 1980, I was a teenager in a tiny branch in Tennessee, and for all intents and purposes we were already on a block schedule because people had to drive so darned far to church. In that sense, it didn’t feel like all that much of a change.

    As an adult, my observation is that we’ve crept back into the over busy over scheduled Sunday life we had before this change. I get irritated at how all the time that was supposed to be family time is now owned by the church… Today, for example, starts with a musical number rehearsal at 10:30, then the block, then choir practice, the I’ve gotta direct a seminary choir rehearsal, then seminary graduation. There is no tome in there any more for quiet family time, let alone a nap.
    Before our kids were old enough to drive (or even safely bike alone) nearly every weeknight was full of something relating to a calling or our kids church responsibilities, enrichment, youth volleyball or basketball, activity days, scouts, stake leadership meeting (Cub Roundtable and District committee meeting), ward temple night, ward activities, Mutual…. When you put that on top of community and school events, it was extremely overwhelming. I am grateful to have grown out of that phase, but I’m still jealous of the Sunday time with the family.

  7. I’m under 40 and my parents were inactive prior to the block schedule. Their current ward has enough people who can’t afford the gas to drive 40 minutes one-way to the building for Sunday, let alone 4+ times a week. The missionaries in that ward only have enough mileage to make it halfway through the month as it is.

    The previous schedule sounds totally inefficient.

  8. Natalie B. says:

    I find the letter’s reference to energy costs especially interesting. Transportation to and from church is still a major issue where I live, and I don’t think our area could survive without a block schedule.

  9. Geezer alert! There were already societal changes going on that helped push this. Even being male, I was aware from my Mom of the tensions between working women and stay-at-home moms. There was a clear divide between Tuesday or Thursday RS during the day, and the “Night RS” for working sisters. That put quite a burden on RS presidencies having to manage two productions per week, sometimes on the same day.

    But like Ardis (approximate same geezer age). I occasionally wax nostalgic for those Sunday full-day schedules, especially Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, which my brother and I (when real little kids) were convinced was in color – because it said so, even if we had a black and white TV all through the 60s. But after age 12 and deaconhood, add to that schedule my early morning (5 a.m.) paper route that my Dad graciously drove me around and my little brother helped, before we came home and got ready for priesthood.

  10. Jes (#4) and Grant (#9),

    I agree that there were clearly a large number of “societal changes” going on which generated an argument for the block schedule change, and it’s likely that some of those changes were inter-penetrative: that is, the block schedule was a response to these socio-economic developments, but it also became a further contributor to those same developments. Like most social transformations, there probably isn’t an absolutely clear, single causal domino that caused all the others to fall. You can credit material and structural forces without necessarily being forced into having to answer that chicken-or-the-egg question.

    E.D. (#7),

    I agree: the pre-block schedule really was inefficient…given, of course, the assumption that you live good distance away from the church building, that you have to drive to church, and that you have other things going in your life besides church. In other words, assuming that you live a) outside of Utah and/or b) have relocated your family to the suburbs and/or c) you and your family don’t engage in work, education, or entertainment where you immediately live. Pre-block, the old pioneer/communitarian/agrarian ideal that your local neighborhood church community was your life, without much distance between that and where you worked, went to school, or entertained yourself was still, I think, at least theoretically operative. And in that case, it wouldn’t be inefficient at all.

    For what it’s worth, I’m 42, and can remember the early morning priesthood meetings my father left to, and evening sacrament meeting, and Primary on Wednesdays. I’d be lying if I said I had strong, positive memories of those days, but I don’t have negative ones either…and I know that I my mother didn’t complain about dealing with bored, tired kids through the three long hours back then, also. (As for the Wonderful World of Disney stuff, for us it was coming home from evening church, grabbing an evening snack, and watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, which as awesome television which you whippersnappers have missed out on.

  11. In light of comments britt k (#5) and ED (#7), and Russell’s response (#10), could the 3-hour block have also in part been an incredibly delayed reaction to the growth of the church outside of Great Basin mormon communities? The church had been in the red trying to build chapels for members around the globe just 2 decades before this consolidation. Maybe it finally hit home that it was impossible to have auxiliaries function as they had in Utah for those outside of the mormon belt. Another random thought: the first non-American GA (who didn’t gather) was called only 5 years before this change. I’m sure there were other GAs who had at least grown up outside the mormon-belt, but I wonder if the problem of traveling to church really sunk in.

    Oh, and I’m a “whippersnapper”; this went down before I was born.

  12. Another thought: I like how people referred with fondness to the pre-3-hour-block time in church. It makes sense to me that such a set up could be fantastic assuming the members all lived very close to each other.
    The church is now better utilizing technology; the new online directories with photos and maps being a great example. How cool would it be if the church decided that wards in which the membership population density was large enough would go back to the old schedule? They could pick some minimum density and a threshold percentage of the ward that must fall in said density. Even with the craziness of modern life with parents filling the children’s schedules to the max, if the ward membership lived close enough to each other, I think it could work. Maybe.

  13. Youngish geezer here. I was in the Teachers Quorum at the time of the schedule change. We lived in Central California only about 5 miles from the church. Most of the ward members lived between 5 and 10 miles away, so it was not a great distance. But I do remember well that at least 50% of the time when it was time to start getting ready to leave for early evening Sacrament Meeting we would decide not to go for one reason or another. Usually it was because my mother was too tired, or we kids moaned about it too much. Even the fact I had priesthood responsibilities did not get us to Sacrament Meeting more often. Usually I would do Sacrament duties during the Sunday School earlier in the the day and call it at that.
    After the schedule change, we had no excuse to not attend the whole block, and so a practical result was our attendance at Sacrament Meeting shot up.
    We were not the only ones that struggled to get back to church for early evening Sacrament Meeting. The times we did go I would say only a third of the people that attended earlier in the day were there.

  14. Sorry for the barrage of incoherent comments; I’m doing this while changing diapers and trying to get the kids ready for the 3-hour-block. To address the questions in the OP, I think that if the church actually had those (the 4 listed by WVS) as the purposes for the change and not the many other reasons listed in the comments, then it hasn’t worked. It would have only worked with the assumption that the membership wanted to do more service and scripture study so badly that they’d already prioritized their lives to do so and the church was the big hold-up.

    In my own observations, the 3-hour-block has mostly given extra time to watching TV and scheduling all possible church meetings (including home teaching visits) on Sunday. That way we can get all the religious stuff done on Sunday and have 6 days off.

  15. Sonny (#13): Central California? Teen in 1980? Are you from Del Rey? I grew up Sanger and assuming I’m right, I worked for your parents for a few years. Great people.

  16. Great comments, Geoffsn. I love your idea of different wards, in response to levels of density and activity, having the option of going back to the old schedule–or, who knows? Maybe some other kind of schedule entirely! But that would require that we have a significantly less centralized, uniform church ecclesiastical structure than in presently the case. And your final observation…

    The 3-hour-block has mostly given extra time to watching TV and scheduling all possible church meetings (including home teaching visits) on Sunday. That way we can get all the religious stuff done on Sunday and have 6 days off.

    …is, I think, dead-on accurate–though let’s not forget the upside of “getting all the religious stuff done on Sunday”; the fact that many people can testify to increased activity following the block schedule means that many of us (myself included) probably really don’t mind having all the annoyances blessing of church placed on one day.

  17. Geofsn,
    Yes, that would be me! Forgive me but please email me because I’m still not sure who you are. My email is my first name dot last name at gmail dot com.

    I also should have mentioned that when I say my mom sometimes was too tired it was because we kids were sometimes such complainers about going back in the evening that we would wear her down, particularly after all she had done for us during the day to that point.

  18. Geoffsn,
    Up until today I would have bet my life savings that I never would have seen Del Rey mentioned on BCC (and we’re not referring to Marina Del Rey)

  19. Sunday was fun before the 3-hour block. We stood around a bit and visited after church, got to know each other. Now we all race for home after the block having been at church all we can stand.
    Lessons for RS were interesting lessons illustrating gospel principles with literature, music and art. Young women today have no idea what they are missing.
    I hear ‘well, the block is great. We get it all over with at once. I never regarded sacrament meeting, for example, to be something to be ‘gotten over with’. I looked forward to it. Now I just look forward to getting out of there.
    It’ll never go back…change always seems to stick. But it’s a shame. Those parts of the church where it’s economically better to have a block, ok, have a block. But there are thousands of people who’d enjoy their meetings more if they were in the old style.

    Judy M

  20. Forgot to mention something. The block was supposed to get all the meetings thru with on Sunday. The kids now still have scouts, still have some girl’s meetings (can’t remember the name of it), the teens have Mutual, the women have Enrichment nights or whatever the new name is. I think most have more meetings now than before.
    Judy M

  21. Julie M. Smith says:

    I wish all wards had a meal after church. That isn’t entirely relevant to this post, perhaps, but I think that socialization over a meal would accomplish much good.

  22. ByTheRules says:

    Whippersnapper with a cane…..

    The change may also have been a missionary boon.

    Can you imagine a missionary now trying to get investigators to a full slate of meetings if done on the old schedule?

  23. Left Field says:

    I wouldn’t want to go back to all that travel, particularly for those who live a long distance from the church. But weeknight Primary was great. You could have physical, often outdoor activities. Primary teachers were often sisters who didn’t make it to church on Sunday. Now, I think they just don’t come at all.

    But the best part was the gap between Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting. I often remember my family going for Sunday dinner with other members of the ward, or having them over to dinner with us between meetings. As a youth, I remember bishopric members or other youth leaders inviting me to go home with their family for a dinner and a (formal or informal) interview, and hang out with their family. Then I would go back with them to Sacrament Meeting and then go home with my family. Sometimes home teaching could be accomplished via the between-meetings dinner invitation. The consolidated schedule was implemented near the end of my mission, but before consolidation, I remember frequently going home with ward members for dinner, tracting near their home, and then returning with them for evening Sacrament Meeting. Sometimes the ward mission leader would have all the elders and sisters over for dinner, and hold missionary correlation meeting at his house.

    There’s a lot to be said for the efficiency of consolidation, but I miss the socializing with the saints that seemed to be fostered by the between-meetings dinner.

  24. I dont remember the change to the block as I was born in 1980, but I do remember when our ward changed from sacrament meeting at the end of the block to the beginning of the block. What was that all about? Can someone explain that one to me?

  25. I was 10 when the switch happened.
    We lived in rural Washington state, 16 miles from the church. The old schedule was torture for my whole family. First, imagine putting 64 miles on your car every Sunday after gas had almost tripled in price.

    We used to love fast Sunday because unlike “slow Sundays” we didn’t have to go back to church in the evening.

    The pre-block schedule was an anachronism from the Wasatch Front that was not practical in the rest of the world.

  26. Georgy, there were a couple of options outlined for the block schedule. Sacrament meeting first was probably the most common in my experience, but having the SM last was also done, particularly when multiple wards use the same building. It made it easier to overlap blocks so that more meetings could occur in “prime-time.” Stakes had some flexibility in how the scheduling was done.

  27. I should probably say that I experienced the switch while on a post-doc in Texas. There was divided opinion (and experience) of the benefits/desirability. I share some of Ardis’ and others thoughts about the block and have to admit that my Sunday life is perhaps both less and more focused. Less in terms of the initial stated goals of the change and more in the sense that everything gets done on Sunday. I have not gone home teaching on a weekday (regularly) for many years.

  28. You can do VT on Sunday?

    I understand doing HT as Sundays are probably the only day of the week most families are together. But VT? Is this a common practice I’ve skipped out on?

  29. I think activity rates were probably a key consideration as some have mentioned. At the turn of the twentieth century, priesthood meetings, like RS meetings were during the week and participation rates were painfully low (enter the Priesthood Reform Movement). The moved the meetings to Sunday in the first decade and same a pretty quick rise in participation.

  30. Russell,
    “it’s best understood as another step the church culture’s long, gradual, and by now nearly complete adaption to the modern American (more busy, more individualistic, more “efficient”–nice language there, Ardis) capitalist way of life.”

    I’ll buy that to some extent–certainly, the church functioned differently in a preindustrial world than it did during the industrialization and than it does now (Jim Lucas discusses the different versions of the United Order that came at different times, and points out that they may well have been responding to different economic conditions).

    But I’m not so sure it’s an American thing–during my time in Brazil, people would have had an equally difficult time going back and forth to church (perhaps even more difficult, given how few people had access to cars).

    I see it as a (belated) recognition that the Church is not a Utah church. In 1980, it was probably in reference to the diaspora from Utah; in my ward in Chicago, for example, we have exactly two families with more than one car, and many without any car. But our building is a fifteen minute drive outside of our ward boundaries (and parts of the ward it’s inside the boundaries of are still a half hour drive). As people have said, going back and forth is groovy when you could walk to church, but without that kind of Mormon density, I certainly wouldn’t want to do it. (FWIW, I was 4 when the change happened, either in Connecticut, where apparently the ward boundaries were huge, or Southern California, where, though smaller, there was significant travel time for some. But I can’t speak with any knowledge to what people thought about the change at the time.)

  31. Okay, so in case you have missed it, I am considerably younger than most of you (born in 1983, which means some of you are old enough to be my parents, and some may even be old enough to be a grandparent), but my parents joined the church in 1977, and I’ve heard stories about the change. For them, living in central Illinois, the greatest difficulty was traveling the far distances to church, and so the combined block schedule was seen as a recognition that travel costs were high and the church leadership understood that, outside the Rocky Mountains, most members could not simply walk a few minutes (if even) to get to church.

    As to the query regarding the official purpose:

    More attention to family life: I see many LDS families that devote their Sundays entirely to time with families. It was not until I was in college that I realised it was okay to spend my Sunday afternoons with those who would help me keep the Sabbath holy.

    Individual study, self-improvement, and Christian service: I don’t think the combined block has had any effect on these, particularly the last, because the emphasis has been so completely focused on “family time” – the next time I have a lesson on the Sabbath, I will bring these up and see what kind of response we get!

  32. I do wish more emphasis was placed on civic service. I’ve always thought it might be a good idea to give members callings that extend beyond the ward, like calling a member to volunteer with a local food bank or after-school program.

    In my ward, many capable members who would have much to offer the community at large are often given almost meaningless callings when they could be making significant contributions to their community.

  33. I’m familiar with some of the material presented by the first presidency to the quorum in support of the block meetings.

    The idea that church instruction would be tightly controlled and unified — with materials geared to a roughly 6th grade education in terms of comprehension by teachers — was part of the motivation behind the changes. — ugh. That had very little to nothing to do with what was in mind.

    I never thought of the block as a factor in consolidating priesthood correlation over the auxiliaries that had nothing to do with the material I was familiar with.

  34. When I served a mission in Russia in the early 90’s, they had the block schedule, but condensed everything down to a 2-hr block instead of the familiar 3-hr block. Not quite sure why, and I know they have gone to the 3-hr block now. But the 2-hr block was really nice, and it made church when I got home from my mission seem interminably long.

  35. The block consolidation happening in 1980 makes a lot of my early memories make SO much more sense. I couldn’t figure out why going to church in a chapel in about 1980 felt like such a new to me. I was six and it was right after my parents divorced, and I honestly don’t have a memory of going to Sacrament meeting before that. I just remember Sunbeams, in which we played a lot–which was probably Sunday School. My mom was a member and my dad wasn’t, and we lived 15 miles from the church during the 70s, so it would make sense that if Mom went to Sacrament, she would have left us little kids behind at home with Dad rather than deal with us on her own in the middle of bedtime.

  36. Such a new *experience* to me. Missing a word there.

  37. Swisster says:

    I was 8 when things changed and only vaguely remember taking the Sacrament twice on a Sunday. I wish the 3-hour block allowed time for what some other churches call “fellowship,” instead of rushing me off to class so quickly.

  38. Stephen, the fall after the change I took a job in another state. My stake pres. (who had close ties in SLC) in the new place communicated some of this material regarding various considerations. Perhaps that explains the orthogonal information. I’d be very interested in your source material however.

  39. Richie, that’s really interesting. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard rumors of an impending 2hr block. I could go for it I think.

  40. I enjoyed the old schedule when I was a kid. We lived a few blocks from the church, then the same distance when they built the second one in our small town.

    My family would be considered less active now if it weren’t for the block schedule – for strictly financial reasons.

  41. I was in college in 1980 and missed the move to the block, I guess. I just don’t remember it’s happening and by the time I got married and went to a “real” ward later in the year, it was in place. Further, if memory serves, the wards and branches I attended in Germany on my mission were already on some block plan.

    As a kid, we lived a half hour from the church and my covert folks made the trip twice a day many days (early morning seminary and whatever auxiliary meeting was that day), plus the mulitple trips on Sunday. My favorite part of the “old” Sunday schedule was getting to go to a friend’s house between meetings (or have one come home with me).

  42. The switch to a 3 hour block was necessary for practical reasons, and as several have mentioned, the old schedule seems to have been a leftover artifact of pioneer Utah. I have my doubts that the goals the brethren stated in that letter have been realized, but it was necessary all the same. Like some of the other geezers, I found a certain amount of warm nostalgia for the old days, and the ebb and flow of Sundays in thinking about the pre-block era. The descriptions of eating popcorn on Sunday night and watching the old Disney show–and in my household Bonanza–almost brought a tear to my eye! But the more I think about it, the more I think it is nostalgia for my youth and a bygone era rather than the old schedule itself. There were aspects of it that sunday schedule that were tortuous. My dad was a Bishop during many of those years of my youth. He left home at 6AM, and we often did not see him again outside of church until late evening.

  43. With sacrament meetings at 9 a.m. or 1 p.m., we rarely get to sing some of my favorite hymns now, such as “Abide With Me ‘Tis Eventide.”

  44. Ken (#42) I wonder if a lot of the nostalgia for the old block schedule is really just nostalgia for youth. Reminds me of this daily show clip: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-january-5-2010/even-better-than-the-real-thing

  45. Zefram reminded me of Sunday School hymn practice. That could be fun if you had a director with a bit of humor.

  46. by old block I meant pre-block schedule of course

  47. My Parents joined the Church here in Canada in the ’60’s and by 1980 had 4 kids and they have told me that the new system was a welcome relief. Mainly because of travel and the cost. I think now that we have more time we can fall into the Zoramite syndrome where we think that Church is just 3 hours every sunday, you go say and do a bunch of fairly nice stuff and then that is it and you go home and nothing has changed and your life isn’t the better for going. You compartmentalize your life and you don’t infuse any real practical help for your other areas of life, it is just going through the motions. Pretty soon you can wake up and say why bother and you have an area like here where it is like 30% activity.

  48. I was around for the spilt day in our Chicago (Logan Square) ward as a young adult (M-Man?) then later the transition to the block after college in SLC. I am NOT a geezer!

    I concur the split day was based on Utah centric practices. Many teens / early 20’s in Chicago were students and actives from part member families. We took advantage of the ‘off time’ to socialize at nearby apartments, weekly pot luck type meals, and shared goofing around. After the evening sacrament meeting, we continued the festivities watching the seditious Smothers Brothers followed by Mission Impossible (this tape will self distruct…..) Not sure it that would have happened with the block.

    The best part of this was it happened organically. It grew from something unorganized; not part of a program. That’s why it worked so well.

    As for the block meeting being a impetus for more women to work outside the home, that pressure was on it’s way before 1980. The economic situation, equality issues of the 60’s and 70’s set all that in motion.

    Well that how I remember it. Or maybe it’s how I think I remember it……

  49. John Mansfield says:

    In the category of “more attention to family life,” my wife’s parents would sometimes leave the children with a sitter during sacrament meeting. In 1993, I moved to a stake that had what they called a children’s session, which was a nursery run by the stake primary during the Sunday morning session. A year or so later, a letter was received from Salt Lake City instructing that it be discontinued because (approximating from memory) “there is great value in families attending conference together.”

    Songs like “Abide with Me” and “Abide with Me; ‘Tis Eventide” were mentioned above. Besides not ever leaving sacrament meeting at twilight, we don’t really leave at all. We shift to something else, so any song with a bit “God Be with You till We Meet Again,” we’re going out into the gloomy world now, doesn’t fit.

  50. I was a young executive secretary to our bishop in 1980 on the Wasatch Front, so I remember the change well. I enjoyed some parts of the old block program, but as others have indicated, it really was a response to the reality that the old schedule just didn’t work outside of the church’s 1900 footprint. There were also issues with weekday relief society, and the divide between SAHM and working mothers. In terms of family time, we did have more of it after the change, particularly on Sundays, and that lingers on with our adult kids who often visit with us on Sunday afternoons, and every Fast Sunday is family pot luck with kids, grandkids, a niece and her husband that live here in Washington.

    I would also agree that we have not really increased Christian service, as recommended in the letter explaining the changes. But the thing I miss most in the block program is the Sunday School singing practice time in opening exercises. This has led, I believe, to the leaden, unenthusiastic singing we often see at church, and our reliance of a handful of familiar hymns. I wish there was a way to bring that back.

  51. charlene says:

    I moved to Baltimore in 1973 where they were piloting the block schedule. I don’t know if this was locally initiated. We met in a Baptist church (no LDS building until about a year later), and the gas shortage included not only high prices but looonnng lines or closed stations. They also piloted calling couples as home teachers so there wasn’t so much time that families were separated. I thought both new practices were wonderful.

    Then in 1980, back in SLC, one industrious sister continued the weekday evening RS. I loved that too, mostly because I loved her.

    As others have stated, I miss the song practice time and the cultural refinement RS lessons.

  52. I don’t remember what year it was, but it was definitely some time in the early 90s that I remember attending a primary session of stake conference in Peoria, IL. I only remember going once or twice, though.

    I also remember attending Sunday School opening exercises throughout my early teens where we had an opening prayer, spiritual message, and a practice hymn. That couldn’t have had anything to do with the block schedule itself, although I think it may have been a long-held relic of the days when the Sunday School was much more formalised than it is now. (I recently finished an anthology of articles from “The Instructor” and now long for the return of the days when Sunday School was considered a serious program that needed highly qualified teachers, not just warm bodies to read a manual.)

  53. Alex, I went to U of I from 1992 to 1996 and I believe I knew your parents (depending on how old you/your siblings were in 93, I might have been one of their primary teachers). I went to that ward before the Urbana Branch was organized in 94, and the Sunday School practice thing was introduced sometime in 92 or 93 as far as I recall. It was done in some wards but not in others. It wasn’t a holdover from pre-block, though, I’m pretty sure.

  54. #52 — there was a period after consolidation when we still had a brief opening exercise for Sunday School. I remember because I was the SS president in those days. I thought it kind of silly, but we did as we were told. And in time we were told to discontinue the opening exercises. (I assume it was church-wide, though I suppose it’s possible it was only my Provo stake that was doing it.)

  55. Assuming you’re not one of those people who are swamped with meetings on Sundays, the block schedule does afford more time to devote to items #1-4, if you are so inclined. If you are not inclined, it just affords more time for you to watch TV or whatever. But it’s not like having all the church meetings spread out makes you more likely to spend time with your family, read the scriptures, improve yourself, or provide Christian service, either, so I’m glad we have the block, just in case I ever decide to be a better person; it will just be more convenient.

  56. stacer – my family have lived in the Peoria area since the early 1980s. However, you may have known my wife’s parents, who have been in Champaign since 1988. (I would give you their names, but they are rather protective of their anonymity online.)

  57. No worries, Alex. And I’m from the Peoria stake originally, so that might be where I know the last name from.

  58. gillsyk says:

    Christian / community service needn’t occur on Sunday to have been facilitated by the block plan. Consolidating our church activities (music practice, HT, VT, etc) on Sunday in theory frees time in the rest of the week too — whether to volunteer at the homeless shelter or literacy service or political campaign.

    I too have very fond memories of pre-block church in So. Calif: families standing outside the chapel visiting after church, singing “farewell” songs in evening Sacrament meeting, extended hymn singing during song practice. We developed connections to fellow church members, and those are much harder to build now.

  59. Chad Too says:

    Just a few months shy of being a teenager when this happened. My Utah ward (Centerville 5th represent!) seemed to just take this in stride. I remember the 1985 introduction of the new hymnbook causing more consternation than the block schedule.

  60. D. Fletcher says:

    My often-repeated complaint about the consolidated schedule: each meeting is now too short (particularly Sunday School) and the combination is too long (for sitting).

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