Dear Church, We Need Our Sabbath Day Back

Like many Mormons, I am made for the Sabbath. Like many of you, I’m exhausted and yearn for a weekly day of rest. Sadly, I rarely get one and that’s a problem.

Theologically, the Sabbath celebrates God’s enthronement as Lord of Creation. The work is done and God rests in His temple (the Earth). The elision of this Jewish Sabbath with the Christian Lord’s Day is something to discuss elsewhere, but given the mandate offered by Doctrine and Covenants 59 and 68, Mormons are committed to a Sabbath as both a day of rest and a day of worship. In my experience of Mormonism (throughout my whole life and in three countries), we have let worship (defined as talking) overcrowd rest. I think the balance needs to be restored.

The problem is a modern one and has to do with the terrible busyness of our lives: six days do we labour and on the seventh . . . we labour again. I work full-time for five, sometimes six days in a week. My wife works. My children are busy. We do not live extravagant lives — we both work because it would be very difficult to afford respectable housing in the United Kingdom without two incomes; this may be lamented, but it is what it is — and our children do about half of what they could do. And still we are busy. If I am not working on Saturday, I am busy (as is Rebecca) doing the life chores we do not have the time to do during the week.

And then to Sunday. A typical Sunday for me sees me at church from 8 until 2 and then often back again in the evening. If we have Stake events, they are an hour’s travel each way. My calling certainly adds to the hours, but I am not an outlier. My mother, who isn’t as busy at church, has always called Sunday the “most exhausting” day of the week. I used to enjoy a walk on a Sunday afternoon but have recently found myself collapsed on the sofa instead.

At this point, some of you are no doubt thinking of writing a comment making fun of such first world problems or are ready to talk about your days growing up on a farm, milking the cows at four in the morning. Don’t. The stress and pressure of modern life is not nothing, even if we have the comforts that make it all look trivial. All of this masks real and crippling stress for many people.

Most Sundays I really crave a Sabbath day, a day of rest. This is not a craving for a lie-in with the papers. I want to go to church but we have let it get out of control, building hour upon hour of talk upon talk as if it is some holy thing. It isn’t. I have noticed that for even the most pious of the Saints, their happiest Sunday is the Sunday they are given a guilt-free break from church: snow days, sniffly children, General Conference. Don’t say you don’t believe me. What’s that feeling you get when you wake up on General Conference Sunday and contemplate a morning in your pajamas? Happiness. Don’t lie. The angels know when you lie.

And so to some suggestions for giving a day of rest back to the Mormon people (or giving us one if we’ve never really had one):

1. The obvious one and the perennial Bloggernacle joke: 2 hour block! That extra hour really would make a big difference.

2. If we are going to insist on three hours, change the culture to allow executive meetings to take place during that time (thus saving another trip to church for PEC/Bishopric/Ward Council). Also, you already have two hours’ contact time with the youth on a Sunday — why on earth do you need to bring them back for a BYC or a fireside?

3. Sunday evenings should be held as sacrosanct as Mondays.

“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest” (Mark Buchanan).

Comments

  1. Mark Brown says:

    For me, one of the big questions is what to do with choir practice. It is an important part of our worship — more important than 90% of our sermons, for sure — but good ward choirs do not spring forth ex nihilo. Maybe do ward choir practice during the third hour? That would also increase participation.

  2. I’ll do you one better and advocate for one hour on the dot. Sacrament Meeting does not need to be 1hr 15m plus the sometimes inevitable runover. Announcements, Sacrament, Prayers, Hymns, and one small talk could easily be 1/2 hr. Add an additional 1/2 for Nursery/Primary/YM/YW/RS/PH and we’re good to go.

    Sunday stress especially for those with demanding callings is definitely a problem. For those of us who have no family in The Church those 3 straight hours also takes away time with our families. Going for 3 hours might _seem_ like a holy idea but it is starting to feel like worship of a golden Idol–the clock.

    In short, I agree. We need the Sabbath back.

  3. Yup.

  4. Amen.

  5. You bring up some interesting points. Given my career choices I am constantly working when many aren’t. Before I had any heavy Sunday callings, the Sabbath was wonderful. Nothing beats an afternoon nap. As life got busier and my wife and I started a family I slowly started to see my Sundays disappear. I prayed about it for a long time. I suddenly realized that even though my Sunday was full, the time that I was putting into my spiritual growth paled in comparison to the work I was putting into my other commitments. I considered scaling back on work but we just can’t afford it living in a city. One day, while studying the scriptures, I came across D&C 84:33-34. I truly resonated with the term “renewing of their bodies.” I prayer for strength and the ability to magnify my calling. Slowly I have been noticing more and more energy during the week to support my spiritual growth. I would never assume that my revelation would apply to anyone but me but I can promise that The Lord will take care of those who are trying as hard as they can. Whether that means being released from a calling, getting a promotion, or just being sustained in our trials I can’t say but, I truly value the little time that I am able to devote to my spiritual growth and I know Heavenly Father values it as well.

  6. I’m okay with the 3-hour block, but I do sometimes wish for Sunday evenings free…

  7. A two hour block would make a significant difference. Additional meetings need to be reduced and seen as optional.

  8. Don’t forget your home/visiting teaching! Depending on your situation that’s another 1-3 hours of travel and (for me, anyway) forced and awkward socialization.

    I like the idea of a one hour block (Shoot, let’s let it run over to 1:15 if we need) followed by a communal meal and open socialization time. In my experience, the best part of church meetings is foyer time, so let’s build on that.

    /unrealistic dreaming

  9. And you know the old joke– Mormons need the other six days to recover from their “day of rest”.

    My thought is a hybrid of Mark’s, eor’s, and yours, Ronan– keep the 3 hour block, but dump Sunday school for adults and instead use it for meetings, choir practices, etc. And I would keep it as the center hour in the block– I think this would ensure short, to the point, effective meetings. Really, in this day and age, can’t a lot of stuff be done via email, phone, and text? (Maybe I’m just showing my ignorance here.) And yes, let’s make sacrament one hour.

    Reminds me of this gem I found yesterday while preparing an Articles of Faith lesson:
    The 14th Article of Faith
    We believe in meetings-all that have been scheduled, all that now are scheduled, and we believe that there yet will be many more great and important meetings. We have endured many meetings and hope to be able to endure all meetings. If there is a meeting, we seek after it.

  10. I second Casey’s communal meal. We did something similar in a young adult ward billions and billions of years ago, and it was wonderful.

  11. Amen amen and amen.

  12. Ronan! Did you hear me just cheer? It was loud enough to reach you I think.

  13. When the bishop with whom I served in a bishopric said that we would begin executive meetings at 7am on Sunday morning, so as to finish before the three-hour block that began at 10am, and refused to listen to the reasonable objections that, first, three hours of extra meetings was a lesson in inefficiency, and, second, that after-church business would then see some of us spending seven consecutive hours at the church from an early hour on a Sunday (and then to return, from time to time, after dark), I simply stopped going to executive meetings altogether. Someone in each ward has to try to live the gospel.

  14. If I could have a non committal make out session with everything you just wrote, I would.

  15. My Sundays currently are not too bad since my calling as a Sunday school teacher is not overly burdensome. But what RJH said in the OP about talking having replaced worship really resonated with me. Outside of the ten minutes the sacrament is being passed, church does not feel like worship to me (and I know I only have the luxury of those ten minutes because I do not have small children). I went to catholic mass last Easter and felt like I had worshipped God for the first time in many years. RJH’s reminder that the sabbath was created to recognize The Lord of Creation struck me. I would like to find a way to do that each Sunday. Perhaps a nice walk in the park is in order after I finish preparing my lesson…about the creation.

  16. While on holiday I visited Church in Kassel/Germany once, and was told Stakeconference usually is in Hannover. A 4 hour drive one-way,….
    A stake-meeting the same, talk about a days worth of church and not having had a single meeting yet.

  17. Craven Moorehead says:

    We don’t know how to worship, so we have decided to sacrifice hours instead. If we could somehow recapture (ore re-learn, or learn) how to have a communal worship service, I think the time issue would solve itself. As it is, we continue to insist on the hair shirt of the three hour block.

  18. Martine S says:

    Amen! But no chance of it happening. I keep hearing that BKP and others will never get rid of SS–which, in my experience, GAs never attend btw. I solved the issue for myself by cutting out RS. My stake only this month put our wards on the Sacrament Meeting first schedule, so now I leave early. I’ve been on this schedule before in another ward but it’s been nearly 20 years. After one month I realize I hate this schedule; I much prefer ending the block as a family, in the chapel. This way everyone leaves through different doors and you can’t find anyone you might need to talk to. For families with kids, I’m sure getting everyone together from the 4 corners–and in our building, 4 levels–must be frustrating.

  19. melodynew says:

    I love your suggestions, RJH.

    My favorite Sabbath (when it happens): Christmas Sunday – one hour sacrament meeting, then home to spend the day with family, gift-giving, eating and napping. I suspect that even with what many of us experience as a conglomerated pagan, commercialized, Chocolate Santa-filled day, we worship Jesus Christ in our hearts. That always feels good.

    My second favorite Sabbath: Testimony through hymns. No scheduled speakers. Ward members spontaneously come to the pulpit and offer their favorite hymn, select a favorite verse or two, briefly share why it is meaningful, then the congregation sings it. Hallelujah! Let’s do that and go home – filled with the spirit and with love for our neighbors.

    What I miss most with our current Sabbath model is true worship. I’m tired of “meetings.” I’m tired of “talks.” For me, true worship is in itself restful. If our sabbath services where focused on worship rather than a certain meeting structure, perhaps we would all find more rest on the day of rest. Music, poetry, inspired sermons, sacramental silence . . . These are inherently restful. I’m not sure how to help create a different experience for the church as a whole, but fewer hours at church, with greater emphasis on worship would make me profoundly happy.

  20. melodynew says:

    Looks like a few of us were composing comments at the same time. Worship. Yes.

  21. I agree with much of what has been said here. I’ve been concerned for some time that the church really wants us to be so absorbed in callings and activties that going inactive is difficult. The problem with this approach is it detracts from time at home, with family, and everything else the church says is most important. It also forces us to be isolationist in our faith communities, which is NOT a recipe for success in missionary work.

    Sundays, in particular, have become the day for cramming in all of the church duties (work on callings, presidency meetings, home teaching, etc.) for which there is no time during the rest of the week. After years of serving in callings that required lots of travel and extra meetings, I’ve taken the position that unless somebody provides a meaningful agenda for a meeting in advance I don’t attend. I have no time or interest to sit in unplanned, aimless meetings. I’m not a jerk about it. I simply say that I have competing demands on my time and that I’m willing to make sacrifices to attend meetings if truly necessary.

  22. Norman Wright says:

    As I am currently living in Utah, the travel bit does not resonate as much as it did when I lived in other places. That is, however, an important issue for Church leaders in many places around the world as they decide when to schedule meetings and which are absolutely necessary. Do we need to do home and visiting teaching in person? Do we need the full contingency of face to face meetings. This is also, however, an issue that leadership should track regardless of travel time. If a ward has a membership that is already burdened with many commitments, do we really need a choir? Surely there are things we can do to be more efficient in our worship.

    On the other hand, in my own life Wordsworth resonates. “The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;” While not presuming to comment on the lives of others (ok, I see it all around me whether living in Utah or elsewhere) I am seeking greater balance in my life this year. Does having the kids in four different activities bring results that I value? Does serving on this community board really make a difference? Is my attendance at that particular work meeting significant to accomplishing my job? Inevitably I will need to give up some activities and let go of parts of my cherished public persona in favor of that which matters most.

    Thanks RJH for the supportive reminder to examine my life.

  23. Yes! You are so right!

    I’m all for a two-hour block, but would be sad to see Sunday School go. I would rather see an end to RS lessons, which are often fluffy and heavy on the gender roles. To make both crowds happy, though, couldn’t they make a two-hour block that alternated between Sunday School one week and RS/Priesthood the next?

    Also, I’ve met many, many non-members that are interested and excited about the gospel until they learn that we go to church for three hours a week, plus bonus meetings. And then they decide that, nope, Mormons actually are crazy.

    On the topic of bonus meetings. I served in a YW presidency in the South several years back, one that met with the bishopric weekly, until we got a new bishop, who cancelled this meeting. He said, “Look, sister, we could schedule an hour every week to discuss each of our seven young ladies, during which we would invent problems for them that they don’t have. Or, you can just call me and let me know if something is up that I need to know about. Which would you prefer?” I liked that bishop.

  24. All these comments from overworked men and nobody has yet suggested that it sure would be nice to double the workforce by giving women some of these time-sucking callings? At least if there were more people able to do the work, labor-intensive calling rotations would neither last so long nor come around so often.

    So, open callings up to all adults, cut out 60-90 minutes of Sunday meetings, hold virtual planning/executive meetings, and focus on giving families more opportunities to be together once a week.

  25. I have a solution: professional clergy.

  26. Amen and amen. Sunday School tends to be the bane of my existence – that can go. I love Casey’s communal meal suggestion. Hinckley said once or twice that every member needs a friend, and communal meals would be a great way to actually make friends at church. I’m ready for this, can we start today?

  27. Also @Kyle – why non commital? I’m ready to commit fully to this post.

  28. melodynew says:

    Paid clergy. How ’bout that! This settles the women and priesthood issue too: equal educational requirements, equal pay for equal work, women in positions of authority for personal interviews and disciplinary councils. . . who knew “this one weird trick” could solve so many problems in the church?

  29. PS we already have a paid clergy.

  30. There isn’t actually anything in the handbook that stipulates that sacrament should be an hour and fifteen minutes long, or that you must have three talks. Like a lot of things, there are a lot of myths of what the church programme/hand book stipulates in the church, people misinterpret or feel like that they have to conform to a set schedule, like some kind of business meeting. Some of the best sacrament meetings have been when only 1 speaker shows up, and the bishop is cool with finishing 20 or 30 minutes early. Everyone then is more happy to stay and talk with each other after, instead of rushing home cause they’re starving or stir crazy. Seems to me that we can edify each other far better when we are less strict about programmes.

    We need to be careful that we don’t get too caught up in business attitutudes that seem to constantly creep into what the gospel is really all about. Yes we need some kind of structure, but it shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule.

  31. Thanks for a careful and heartfelt post, Ronan. I absolutely agree about not multiplying meetings, but I like the 3-hour block. I think the constant in-person meetings for management purposes are sort of lunatic, and I haven’t ever been a big fan of these “extra” meetings on calendars. For me, though, the 3 hours give me time for usual worship in Sacrament meeting, an hour with my wife talking scriptures, and an hour with other men thinking through parenthood and maleness. Plus 2 full hours of my kids being watched by others. But if someone tried to take >30min beyond that from us I would resist.

    One thing that worries me about the less time-intensive mode that most of us here would prefer is that much of the stunning vitality of our tradition for the last century or so comes from the incredible temporal sacrifices people make. I’d love to think through ways that we could maintain our vitality while using time more carefully.

    Lately, I have been toying with thinking through how to reintroduce agape feasts on some reasonable scale. Perhaps that could take the place of some of these extra management meetings. My main worries there are a) extra burden on women, and b) our contemporary cultural struggles with sincerity.

  32. Smb, perhaps what we’re really objecting to then isn’t the concept of three hours of worship but rather management style and purposeless meetings.

  33. Years ago, I decided that I would never attend Stake activities – no firesides, no Special Broadcasts, no Stake Conference. It’s been wonderful. I am not opposed to the *idea* of a paid clergy, either – except my concern that it would possibly attract hyper-righteous, micromanaging control freaks who would feel “called” to ministry. Would we audition these clergy and hire them as a ward, or would they be assigned? (Via Central Control in SLC, or by some variation on the old patronage systems – by Stake Presidents or Area Authorities.)

    I would happily sacrifice Relief Society lessons, and thus the 3rd hour. Relief Society should be about *doing* anyway. Perhaps Sunday School could be an hour of quiet scriptural study and small group discussion, rather than what it currently is in my ward – an attempt at facilitated discussion that invariably ends up dominated by the three or four loudest voices in the class. And while I’m whining, could we stop having so many Sacrament talks that are just regurgitations of Conference talks? What a dream. And yes on the communal meals, although sadly that’s really only an option if you have the 1:00 block or some unusual meeting situation.

  34. Yes, please.

  35. smb,

    As I say in suggestion #2 (and then #3), three hours is fine as long as it stays 3 hours. Many Sundays can be double that because we hold the block as sacrosanct and then add extra stuff on the top. If you’re in the ward choir, maybe have a PEC meeting before church, and then come back for a youth fireside, it may be six hours. At that point, the day of rest is dead and buried. All of those things could be incorporated into the three hours.

    We also have to be careful to not unnecessarily burden our lay leaders, who, especially as if they live outside of Utah, are likely to be spend their entire church lives in a busy calling and often live a decent journey away from the chapel. The Mormon experience should be tooled to not be a huge drain on the young men’s president in Belgium, not the EQ instructor in SLC, who really ought not to have his view of “incredible temporal sacrifices” taken into consideration in this conversation.

  36. Also, to link these “incredible temporal sacrifices” with sitting in a warm chapel hearing people talk (and talk and talk) for hours is really the heart of our problem, isn’t it?

  37. Amen, and Amen!

  38. Still having the old cognitive dissonance about “our” Sabbath: the Lord’s day; the Sabbath was made for man; rest from “wordly” pursuits; etc.

  39. Attended Sacrament Services at a Care Center, that lasted for 30 minutes, it included everything that takes place in a ward worship services. The difference was, that the talks lasted 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, they were some of the best sermons, and I left filled with the spirit of Christ. Of course it would take longer to perform the passing of the Sacrament in a ward, but isn’t that the real purpose for attending is to renew our convents.

  40. Perhaps, instead of a communal meal after the services, we could make the communal meal at the beginning of our worship services in truth a communal meal. Partaking until we are full (not over-filled though, don’t wanna sleep through Sunday School). With hymns and talking to each other concerning the welfare of our (a collective ‘our’) souls. So, instead of Linger-Longer potatoes (which are really funeral potatoes-you can’t fool me) and marshmallow fruit cocktail salad we should all bring bread and feast the way we read about in the scriptures.

  41. As someone who is a new sunbeam teacher, two hours of primary is killing them and me. I’ve always taken it for granted, but no more.

  42. I so agree. One hour of church please.

  43. Ron Madson says:

    After sitting through another Priesthood lesson on Sabbath day observance last year, I began to feel the walls closing in; do this or don’t do that. I then had an epiphany as to how “I” had to find peace and liberation from bondage—I needed to go on my first Solo Sail with my MacGregor sailboat–today!. So I motored out to the middle of Utah Lake, put up the main sail, and then un-flurled half of the Genoa Jib and watched the mild winds immediately fill the sails. Warm sun mingled with cool breezes. I sailed into the early evening and following my every turn were the shadows of my sails on the water. The sailboat effortlessly glided over the water. The sun set on the mountains creating a purple glow in the East and a red sky in the west. A Zen like feeling set in as I locked my sails in place, and then, like a second wind for a runner, that sailor high set in when I became one with the water, the wind, and the sail boat. There seemed to be no time but the present moment all afternoon and evening. Hours passed, the sun disappeared over the west, and it seemed like one seamless moment. It has taken me decades to finally see the beauty of the Sabbath and embrace its truth. I hope to no longer dishonor the Sabbath personally or inflict any form of bondage on others. I think it would only be right to share this same liberation by taking someone sailing with me next Sabbath

  44. Ron, Sabbath sailing sounds wonderful.

  45. I don’t mind the 3hr block. Sunday School lessons are great in our ward and I always leave with much more knowledge than I walked in the door with. R.S. it’s the bonding with t he sisters and here is where those of use with more knowledge can teach those in the church that are new to the gospel and stuggling with an issue or two. I know we live in a world that is rush rush rush and we all have to make our own decisions on what gets our attention. But coming from Calif where you wake up in the morning in a panic on how are you going to get everything done to a rual area of Indiana is so great. The slower pace was just what the doctor ordered. So good luck to the rest of you figuring out how best to handle all the sabbath activities just remember the actual taking of the sacrament (while reviewing your life with the atonement) is the main reason we go to sacrament meeting. Heck, once you have fulfilled that activity the rest is gravy and if you want to go home, go home.

  46. I’m going to be (surprisingly to myself) somewhat of a contrarian on this subject. The feel of the comments here seem to suggest to me a misunderstanding of the principle of enduring to the end. If there are aspects to living the life as a Latter-Day Saint that are not easy, is this a “complain about it” situation? Those members of the Church who skip meetings to spend more time with the family that I know about are invariably those who seem not to be “all in” members. It certainly appears to be that there is a great separation of wheat and tares lately. No time for cutting corners or becoming luke warm.

  47. I agree with you, James. Thank you for commenting.

    Also, who is Ron Madsen and where can I find him?

  48. Christians do indeed need to be “all in,” James.

  49. James it isn’t about being “all in” members or not. It is about the plain fact that so many of these meetings are completely unnecessary. They could be trimmed, made virtual, or incorporated in to the block. All in doesn’t have to mean that you miss an entire day of restful worship, time with your family, and silent contemplation by yourself to fulfill some business model.

  50. In the early days of the church meetings would go on and on and on for hours, but they included an outpouring of the spirit and lots of spontaneity. Our own meetings rarely resemble that.

    Growing up we traveled 45 minutes each way and my dad had hours of meetings afterward so I usually stayed and attended the other ward’s meetings (there was no overlap and there was even an hour break in between). Maybe I can count that as prepayment.

  51. @bob
    “exhaust yourselves in the work of the Lord”
    Wouldn’t exhausting ourselves be running faster than we have strength?

  52. Having several years of not being physically able to attend a 3 hour block, I have found that church-at-home has brought many beautiful spiritual experiences.

    What is sad, is that no matter how often I offered, no one ever accepted my invitation to walk the 12 blocks from the church building, to our apartment, for a RS lesson, or other activity. My visiting teacher came monthly, and I was given a list of sisters who only wanted letters as contact, but there wasn’t much contact, unless I had a surgery, and someone as bringing food that included things I was allergic to.

    We were considered inactive because I physically could not go to a church building, and my husband was unwilling to leave me alone. No one ever offered to come sit with me, so he could go. (I suggested this to several ward leaders, but they decided that it was a lack of faith, rather than a commitment to taking care of me, that kept him “away from church responsibilities.”) We would have loved to have ward members join us for the weekly lessons I prepared for our (private by lack of additional people) worship services, and we felt that having our home ready to welcome The Lord, or any of His followers who might show up, was part of being ready for those meetings.

    I now can get through sacrament, and usually sacrament meeting, and I have noticed that the talks are all regurgitations of sacrament talks, with almost no personal experiences thrown in today’s talks on missionary work were especially excruciating. I felt like going up at the end and saying that I have had six close friends join the church, and if I had harassed them the way the people who spoke suggested, mind of them would have known me enough to be interested in learning more. Inviting people to “something gospel related, at least once a month,” is not the way we prove we to them and Christ that we “love them like ourselves.” We show we love them by actually being interested in them, and loving them in ways that feel loving. Accepting their invitations is most likely to feel loving to them.

    Sorry for the rant, but I think that this regurgitate the conference talk that wasn’t so great in the first place, is part of what takes away from us actually learning from each other. There is a huge difference between sharing your own conversation story, and telling people how a GA thinks people should be converted. Sigh.

  53. Bob, I came home from early morning bishopric today to nurse a sick child so that my wife could attend to RS business in the ward. That gave me some time to write this post. You know nothing about my “exhausting myself” in the work or not, you obnoxious twerp.

  54. I haven’t read all of the comments yet so forgive me if I ask or say something redundant.

    As a fairly new member (baptized in June ’13) with a non-member husband, I always read my scriptures on Sundays but I definitely don’t always make it to church. I feel totally fine about that but I’ve felt that it strongly upsets or concerns other people in my ward. I try to make it to sacrament meeting about twice per month but I feel zero need to attend Sunday School (there’s no way I can learn the material through skits or the other “fun” ways it often ends up being delivered) or RS (which is usually someone reading from a printout of a previously delivered talk and someone else going over a lengthy list of opportunities for us to cook and bake). My spirit doesn’t feel renewed or refreshed by the whole three hour block so take what I need and then choose things that do feel like worship and praise (I read scriptures and do walking meditation but the man with the sailboat has the right idea!). Usually I can find something uplifting, enriching, or educational about sacrament meeting (in addition to communion, of course) but the others leave me stressed and/or resentful and take away from my home life. I’m all for enduring til the end in that following Jesus can sometimes be awkward and challenging and uncomfortable but I don’t include suffering through two extra hours of meetings that just feel bureaucratic and showy.

    I guess why question is- is there some sort of requirement that one must attend all three hours or nothing? If I’m going to get the big church stinkeye for not attending all three, I’d just as soon opt for none because I don’t think Jesus intends for us to be micromanaged. The insinuation that knowing your own needs for quiet and reflection makes you a lukewarm or “not all-in” member seems ridiculous to me and emphasizes what feels like a focus on suffering through a rigid bureaucracy for the sake of suffering rather than having a heart filled with Christ. Why is attending just one such an issue?

  55. The Church needs Bobs, I suppose.

  56. Finding ways to rest on Sunday is a great goal. But the church is not responsible for us being over extended 6 days of the week. Probably best to prune the vineyard of activities where we spend our time.

  57. Twin Peaks, Washington, could have done without their Bobs.

  58. You all should move here! C: I’m in a tiny branch in the south of Finland and: We have 2 HOUR BLOCK! Because everyone lives so far away. Or because our meeting space is tiny. I don’t actually know why. Two sundays a month are Sunday School, two Sundays are Priesthood/RS, and on fifth Sundays we… are all a bit confused. Also, if you feel like your presidency/missionaries/priesthoodlypeople need to meet during the second hour, you meet (we did this as a YW presidency today). There are hardly any extra activities (RS does evening things once a month but they switch up which town that belongs to the area of the branch to do them in) with the Christmas party and the summer trip every year being big hits. It’s considered totally understandable when people skip Stake stuff, which is about three hours away driving (the general rule is “at least one from a presidency should go to the training stuff if at all possible”). Stake conference is pretty cool though, kind of like a road trip adventure combined with meeting friends in the other wards. We have meals together quite often after Church, and overall the whole branch feels like a family. But of course there are its own problems to the setup, just like there are in everything. But I’ll let you come visit to find out what they are ;)

    The thing is that different things work for different people. I joined the church in a big ward in England and I started liking the women in church only after being to RS enough many times to see that they weren’t quite the perfect plastic dolls that they looked like. I agree that there are better and worse ways to do the different classes and meetings, and I think we need to cultivate a culture where the person putting the class/meeting/activity/thingy together can trust that she is getting inspiration from the Spirit to do things a certain way (especially if she wants to do it a little differently than usual) and be able to trust that all the other members support her in that, and won’t gripe about it being “wrong” or “not the way we usually do it” or such. How is that culture cultivated? No idea >_> Probably involves talking a lot and listening to other people (not sure how effective that would be, a lot of the commenters here – and people in general – don’t seem to like doing that :P )

  59. If we do get rid of an hour, let’s get rid of RS/EQ. I hardly *ever* learn something new. Sunday School offers much more of a possibility to learn and feel enriched. Plus, like the previous commenter said, less chance of gender role fun :/

  60. shushbetou says:

    “We don’t know how to worship, so we have decided to sacrifice hours instead. If we could somehow recapture (ore re-learn, or learn) how to have a communal worship service, I think the time issue would solve itself. As it is, we continue to insist on the hair shirt of the three hour block.”

    I find myself thinking too often… We have forgotten how to worship as a Church. I’m afraid nonmembers will find this approach sterile, efficient, cold.

  61. I am humbled when I read not only the OP, but all the comments and see how truly fellow church members are yearning for true worship. I am too, although I’m honestly not even sure WHAT it entails. I do know that I have started attending holiday-type services with the Catholics and episcopalians, just for the sense of actually celebrating a sacred day in worship (I’m particularly looking forward to the Easter season).

    But it also makes me feel more committed than ever to my relief society sisters. I have the blessing of teaching once a month. I am going to make it a matter of special prayer each month to present the lesson in a way that might enhance the sisters’ worship, both on Sunday and every day.

    I have often heard people excuse our lack of real worshipful services with “well, we worship everyday, not just Sunday.” But I think that misses the point. Worshipping as a community is a meaningful part of the human experience.

    My dearest wish would be to perform service on Sundays rather than attend meetings. With a couple to several hundred people attending– do you realize what we could accomplish for the needy? I think that service to others (and not just serving each other in the church) is the highest form of worship.

  62. Ron Madson says:

    Melodynew—thanks for the shout out–and it is Ron MadsOn with an “O” and my posts can be found in the Mormon Worker blog fwiw.

    One of my favorite “sabbath day” stories is when HD Thoreau was describing Easthman village and their Sunday Laws. Apparently, that town had a law that during Sunday worship hours anyone found in public not in church was subject to being arrested and placed in the stocks in front of the church. Thoreau quipped (as best as I can remember) “The town wanted to show that the penalty for not hearing the weekly sermons was greater than having to actually sit and hear them.”

  63. Coffinberry says:

    To the one commenting about giving women time sucking callings… they already do that…I’m a woman, and im collapsed on the couch after 8 1/3 hours of sabbath service. But it wasnt any busy work. Loving serving and caring for the temporal and spiritual needs of 220+ women ages 19 to 94 takes much time. But it is so needed. I think this is what is meant by sacrifice.

  64. Ron Madson says:

    RJH, you said “Sunday sailing sounds wonderful.” It is. It has taken me decades to discover that it is more important that I sail the wind rather than my dogmas. And if you are ever in Utah and want to sail let me know. It is a pure pleasure to take out others. And a shameless plug for the Marina that me, my brother and son, Josh Madson purchased last year you can find our marina at lindonmarina.com That is a picture of my sailboat out on Utah lake on the website.

  65. J. Stapley says:

    There was a time when the Lord’s Supper was a communal meal.

  66. melodynew says:

    Ron Madson, the last time I sailed was forty years ago on Chesapeake Bay. I fell in love with the wind. And the sails. I may just beg a trip around the lake with your crew one of these days, God willing.

    RJH, this is a great post. One of my fellow ward members and I had a lively discussion at church about it today.

    On another note, our Gospel Doctrine teacher, Stephen Robinson, brought God the Mother into the discussion of the creation and Garden of Eden story. All in all it was a lovely two hours at church. I missed RS to come home and make sure the soup wasn’t boiling over. . . really perfect day. Except for the not sailing part.

  67. oy. the Lord’s work is exhausting.

    Last sunday I had ward council at 10:30, husband had highpriest group leadership meeting at 11:30 so I race home gather everyone who is hopefully, magically ready, and race back to church by 1…church is 20 minutes away. Hopefully I have a pianist today fro primary, if not, I beg, figure out in sacrament meeting who is there and if any teachers are missing, start planning in my head which classes we can combine or who we can ask to sub. Go nurse the wrestling baby in the stinking nursing room, she falls asleep so it takes longer, so I rush into primary hoping my counselors have set up the extra 30 chairs we need. survive primary with 60 children. gather up my own 10 children and go home. thank God I had dinner in the crock pot and then cuddle on the couch for…20 minutes until husband has to leave to take the teens to their stake meeting, he gets back to leave again to go home teaching and I leave to visit a highly autistic child and his fabulous family to see what we can do to let him know the Lord loves him. We aren’t sure if he will ever be in primary…but he has his own assigned primary teacher and we are taking him for a tour of the building to see how he feels. that and sitting next to the one little sunbeam who didn’t need to go to the bathroom were my favorite parts of the day.

    In two months the HPGL wants husband to take a turn going to ward council , so we would both be there. husband is thinking of respectfully declining. SOMEONE has to be home part of the morning to get the little people ready!

    so ya. exhausted.

    I’m trying not to think about today…no pianist again, three substitutes needed, another person released…linger longer (stay after church and eat sugar which is basically a fasting glucose test for my little people).

  68. Amen! This is a topic of much discussion in our home. My typical Sunday at church is from 5:45 am – 4:00 pm. I am not the Bishop but the Ward Clerk. My wife’s typical Sunday at church is from 8 am – 4 pm and then often church meetings/youth firesides in the evenings. By the end of many Sunday’s we are both exhausted and severely stressed out. Most Sundays we get home and just collapse on the couch and don’t give the quality time to our kids that I would like to. We have a young family and this is a burden on our family. Many Sundays, as my wife and I attend some of the same bonus meetings, or for weekday/Saturday Stake Meetings we must get babysitters to watch our kids. It’s crazy!

    I do not mind serving in the church and understand it takes a lot to run a large congregation. Sometimes though after being in the same meetings my wife and I wonder if anything was accomplished in the meeting we were just in or if it was just held because that’s “what we do”. Some of the meetings I attend are definately not necessary.

    To run large congregations unfortunately meetings are needed. We often discuss how there must be a way to be more efficient, less time consuming, more productive in our meetings (must every meeting really begin with a Hymn and spiritual thought?). Also let’s cut down on the unnecessary meetings and respect peoples time with their work and families. I feel boundaries are crossed many times and people in the church forget about the time we take away from people when we call a meeting.

    Can the organizing be accomplished by email, phone conversations, group text threads vs a formal church meeting with all that goes along with it?

    By the way, we had Stake Conference today and what should be a light day of meetings. Stake Conference and then go home. Our Bishop called a meeting today to occur after Stake Conference was over. Families of Bishopric members were not thrilled with this…

  69. Wheat Woman says:

    After 25 years of marathon Sundays that entailed early-morning bishopric meetings, choir practices, BYC, and myriad other reasons to be at the chapel, my husband and I put our collective feet down. We will not attend meetings before the three-hour block – ever. And we will only stay after church if there is a meal served.

  70. I like to think of myself as a supportive wife. My husband works extremely hard during the workweek and is so exhausted by Saturday that he barely had the energy to do anything as a family. Last year, our ward started at nine. This meant that with his calling, he had to be at the church at 6 a.m. For meetings. They wouldn’t ever get out until right before sacrament meeting started. Not only that, but there were a couple members of the bishopric that were a half hour late to these six in the morning meetings on a regular basis and meetings wouldn’t start until they were all there. (SO rude). Now our ward is at 11, but the meetings are still starting at 6:30 and still not getting over until about 10:45. I’m sorry, but what on earth could take up that much time very single week? Frankly I think it’s ridiculous. Then after church it is more meetings. My daughter and I hardly see him now. When he gets home he falls asleep which is very understandable. I know there has to be a better and more efficient way to get the information and communicate these things without the 8 hour church days. Email? Text? Phone calls? Come on, it’s 2014. I of course always support him and pray for him to find the strength and energy to get through the week, but our Sundays have no rest in them. It is only adding more stress and something needs to be changed.

  71. nstanford says:

    For 3 years I had the blessing of attending a semi-organized church unit in an African nation. For the first year we had sacrament meeting only. It started whenever a quorum showed up, included the sacrament, one talk, and a snack/socializing afterwards. Pure heaven! Then someone decided to add Sunday school. That was fine… We still only met for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Later we decided to alternate between Sunday school and RS/priesthood since there were new male members needing some priesthood training. All three of those configurations were just fine. And still gave us time to rest and travel to our meeting (about an hour each way). I’m all for allowing for adaptations that fit the reality of members and where they live, whether those adaptations are sanctioned or not!

  72. Wonderful and extremely valuable post and comments, Ronan. Thank you for expressing this problem so articulately and preaching the Lord’s Sabbath at the same time. As disciples of Jesus Christ we could benefit a lot from reigniting our worship and then celebrating a proper sabbath.

  73. Sacrament Meeting: 50 minutes. 1 youth speaker, 1 adult speaker
    Transition: 10 minutes, as usual
    Primary/Sunday School/RS/Priesthood/YW/YM: 1 hour
    — Primary: 1/2 hour class lesson, 1/2 hour sharing+singing time
    — Youth: alternate Sundays gender separate and together
    — Adults: alternate Sundays gender separate and together

  74. This post struck a nerve with me today. Today is my boy’s birthday. I have been a bit sick lately and I brought a couple of my children home early to make my son a birthday dinner. My wife got home with the rest the kids, ate quickly and took off again for more meetings 45 minutes from home. Here we are coming up on 9PM and my kids are still waiting for their mother to have cake and ice cream.

    I have to say my patience with this church is really beginning to grow thin. As I deal with these issues I try to focus more on Jesus Christ yet the more I look for my savior in the three hour block the more I realize he is not there other than a brief mention in the sacrament prayers. The music is becoming more and more devoid of spirit, excitement or emotion. I am finding I am more appreciative of the more “Christian” style services with a wide range of music and instruments and musical styles and guess what? I feel the spirit in that type of worship service in fact my 3 hour block feels more like a stuffy MLM meeting in comparison.

    So I still go and even have callingd but they are losing me rather quickly… And this lip service about family and the day of rest is a bunch rubbish to put it nicely.

  75. It’s all optional, really. And the Sabbath day is the Lord’s, not ours.

  76. People used to be a lot more involved in church stuff than they are now. Weekday meetings, no block on Sundays, road shows, raising money for every activity, raising money for and actually building new buildings, temples, etc. I think saints of earlier generations had a more physical attachment to church, and they also had fewer distractions. That said, I totally agree, there is way too much talking, way too many quotes, too many meetings. My husband is the bishop. He was gone from 6 am to 7:30 pm today. One of the challenges in our ward is that most of our members live right around the poverty level, and most of them don’t have cars. We don’t live in Utah where everyone can walk to church. So on Sundays he has multiple welfare issues to take care of, and people need to meet with him after church, otherwise he would spend multiple weeknights going to their houses. Then he had BYD tonight, which I really support. Very few of our youth attend the same schools, and the opportunity to socialize, in a kind of spiritual context, with dinner, seems to benefit them quite a bit.

  77. Annoying post.

  78. Steve Evans says:

    Annoying comment!

  79. Ron Madson says:

    J. Stapley’s comment as to the Lord’s supper being communal meal is so appealing. This past summer I attended a Mennonite church service in Orem of all places (first branch in Utah County). I have an affinity for their teachings since becoming big fan of John Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas. Their meeting was short and beautiful–songs, praying, and the preacher/leader sat in congregation during most of service except when he briefly spoke–he exemplified their teaching that this is not a corporate or hierarchal structure in that their “leader” explained afterwards to me that he had no role but to serve and they chose to exercise no authority or compulsion–it felt like the congregation was deciding naturally the worship. Then the longest part of the meeting was after the short service they brought out the tables, food and we visited as a family would.

  80. I think it really depends on your calling. I personally love the 3 hour block. My calling only requires my services during Primary and not too much time during the week so.. I’m sure it’s very different for those that have a lot of meetings and such. If I were to change anything.. I would love for sacrament meeting to only be an hour long but.. I do have small children :)

  81. Paid clergy and social workers for our ward please. We could also use paying some musicians to put more time into making great performances and involve the members more. In that regard, I’m with Steve Evans. Today was ward conference and at the hour mark, the bishop told us it was going to be an hour and a half. As a parent with kids, I found this level of unprofessionalism ridiculous. My boy had had it as had my girl so we went out in the parking lot and played catch for the balance of the meeting.

    I wouldn’t mind three hours if we had a snack after sacrament. These could be items to be purchased with proceeds to go to worthy causes.

    For some odd reason in our stake, they keep the kids in the classrooms until the parents come pick up. I hate that primary workers have to do this extra baby sitting and always make sure that I’m Johnny on the Spot picking up kids afterward. Other churches pay their child care workers but we’ve really gone off the deep end with this “no paid clergy” mantra. Make it professional. Hire people to handle the intractable welfare issues, hire back the janitors, and up the game on the primary workers with some sort of compensation.

    Like the percussionist commenter, I work nights and thus don’t go to meetings. I also am typically unavailable for music on big Sundays as I’m engaged elsewhere. I would love to be able to prepare something amazing and hire awesome players and singers for Sundays.

    As far as other meetings, go, I just don’t.

    Thanks to the person who linked this on Facebook.

  82. “Weekday meetings, no block on Sundays, road shows, raising money for every activity, raising money for and actually building new buildings, temples, etc. I think saints of earlier generations had a more physical attachment to church”

    Alicia, I wouldn’t mind spending more time at the church building if that’s what we were doing. I believe in a discipline of work, that sweating and building callouses on the outside refines our spirits on the inside. I do NOT believe nor has it been my experience that sitting through three largely indistinguishable hours of talks that are just regurgitated general conference talks refines our spirit or reflects any meaningful discipline or discipleship. I don’t think it knits my hearts together with my fellow saints, and I don’t think it knits my heart to God’s.

    I got more heart-knitting out of taking my whole family including kids over to help a new ward member unload their moving truck than I’d gotten in the previous 3 months of church. My children learned from the example of their parents and the other dear ward members who showed up. I got to know the other ward members in a depth I hadn’t before, and of course we got to know the new family. Similar togtherness emerges from roadshows and meals, fundraisers and camps.

  83. Let us pray that those saints in the units where the church is experimenting with alternative (shorter) services are singing their praises loud and clear up the chain. Of course we can all just do what we often to do to resist and skip meetings by hanging out in the halls or finding reasons not to go – L has the sniffles guess I better stay home! Or maybe we could vastly increase the flexibility of our priesthood and ordain women or at least open up more roles to them.

    Though I will agree along with others that I don’t mind three hours in the wards that have good talks, lessons and discussions. Its deadly though when the manuals and regurgitating talks we already read or heard is the MO. Those fortunate enough to own IPads, smartphones etc. can at least do something more productive while pretending to read their manuals.

  84. In Amman, Jordan we had a reduced block- down to 2 hours flat! It made sundays lovely. (50 min. Sacrament, 20-30 min sunday school, and 20-30 minute Primary) I taught sunday school and was in the primary presidency, but due to the shorter time period I could hold attention spans and still have a productive lesson. It was so much less stress. Kids were happier, teachers were happier, parents were happier.

  85. Amen.
    For the moment our Sabbath isn’t too bad, but that’s mainly because all the additional meetings are held weekday evenings, which means my husband is hardly ever home then. As a family we mostly avoid ward & stake events/ activities unless they are of particular interest, and won’t be finishing too late, and stake conference is followed by an extended family get together, as there are a number of my siblings as well as my parents in the same stake, but different wards, so anyone trying to insist on additional meetings that day will certainly be out of luck.
    But yes, I’d like to see more of a day of rest. When especially stressed about this a piece of music I always turn to is Lux Aeterna from the John Rutter Requiem, beginning “I heard a voice from Heaven…”. I really love the section that repeats “they rest from their labours”. (Indeed I listened to it again, immediately after reading your post last night). Of course this is referring to after death, but hey, I can dream – and it isn’t as though our doctrine allows for much resting then either…
    The worshipfulness of our services is something I addressed over on W&T last year in my post “Worship v. Instruction”. Add me to those who want to see more meaningful worship and less talking.

  86. Being on Greenwich Mean Time means that I miss much of the live conversation, so it’s interesting to come back and read the comments. Some observations:

    1. This post seems to have struck a nerve. Many of us are tired, really tired, and not in a spiritually satisfying way. There is a difference. For example, we had a PEC before Christmas in which we nixed the meeting and went out to visit the old people in the ward. That was tiring but holy and happy service. No-one wants that to stop. It is a hallmark of true religion and represents Mormonism at its best.

    2. It really is regrettable to see people equating sitting in meeting after meeting and listening to talk after talk as somehow high service to God. If Mormonism really has sanctified the sitting down on one’s behind in a warm room as wearing oneself out for the Lord, then we are well and truly lost.

    3. Also, those calling for us to wear ourselves out on Sundays seem to be ignoring the rather obvious first rule of the Sabbath: it is a day of rest. It is no good interpreting that to only mean a day of rest from our secular vocations either. That separation did not exist for God in Genesis 1, and still he rested. Humans need to rest. The end. This is a post mostly about paring down our efforts on Sunday, not what happens during the rest of the week.

    4. As usual, the costs of a Mormonism designed in Utah are born most highly by the overstretched members in small wards out in the colonies.

    5. The command to worship God, to rest from our labours, and to serve our brothers and sisters are not threatened in any way by a wistful desire to not be so frazzled on a Sunday. By worshipping a Mormon culture norm — meeting-meeting-class-class-talk-talk-talk-meeting-home-dinner-meeting = Sabbath rest and worship — and not being willing to acknowledge its shortcomings, we are risking idolatry.

    Have a good week everyone and may your Sabbaths be restful.

  87. To understand my perspective, you’ll need to understand my situation first; I live in Utah, therefore travel to my ward is never a problem. I work a typical Monday-Friday 7-3:30 shift getting weekends to myself. I currently live in an apartment complex meaning I don’t have many house repairs or chores other than the everyday clean up. I am not married yet, (happily engaged and planned to be wed March 26) as is saying I also do not have any kids. I attend church for the 3:15 minutes or so every Sunday, I have no callings in the church and no one has given me any home teaching assignments. (I believe this is because I have moved so frequently and have not yet fully established myself in a church in a long time.) I am living the life of “rest.” I can happily tell you the grass is not always greener on the other side. Worship should not have a timetable, worship is about personal individual growth based on what it is that individual needs and what God knows that need to have at that time. Coming from this unique perspective of having TO MUCH REST, I can happily tell you I want to live your lives one week, I want to enjoy the growth that comes from going to a meeting at 7:00 am or that face to face connection you can only get from home teaching. If you in your life feel over worked and that your energy has been spent, if you feel you need to reach out to the church leaders and encourage a shorter session then please feel free it is your free will, however I would encourage instead of a change in the church to look first for a change within your understanding of exactly what it is you are giving up. There are three sides to every coin, and I personally enjoy the 3;15 or so minutes I spend at church rubbing shoulders with some of the finest men I have ever known. Let this be said last, however not at the lest that I can see where you and every person who has made a comment is coming from and I say take that mental/spiritual health day if that is what you need to grow, take that walk in the park on a Sunday evening, do what you need to do to feel whole, but also try and see that with work comes blessings and with blessings comes growth and with growth comes the understanding of why we are here.

  88. Zach, I appreciate your perspective, but I think you are, as are others, conflating meetings with “work.” Not one person here is advocating for a day of leisure on Sundays (apart from maybe Ron and his boat). I cannot say this too many times.

    *Six* days must we labour, bringing “blessings” and “growth” as you put it, but on the seventh day, we must rest, as did God.

    (And do not build another straw man — by “rest” I am also not advocating for a morning in bed or one hour at church.)

  89. Great post. Love the idea of communal dinner (although the RS would be responsible for it) maybe once a month at a minimum. I can see the benefit of it and the opportunity to really meet and speak with one another at church and truly fellowship (instead of mandated correlate fellowship- ie VT and HT). – all the talk of paid clergy – no way!!! I compare these people to people who wanted a king in the Book of Mormon. Who wants a paid clergy?! Terrible idea. Two hour block is perfect. Three is torture for kids and primary teachers. Longer meditation time during sacrament passing.

  90. I love that RJH just implied that England = the Colonies. :)

  91. Meldrum the Less says:

    I didn’t devote an entire Sabbath to reading all the comments above about needing my Sabbath back; I looked at quite a few, but forgive me if this is redundant. I wish to point out that you and each of you can take YOUR Sabbath back any time you want, even next week!

    If you desire a 1 or 2 hour block program then select the 1 or 2 hours currently available that you desire and leave during the rest. If you want to spend less time in planning and leadership meetings then don’t attend and be open about it. If your calling has become too demanding then show some maturity and resign. If you desire a communal meal then get a couple of your like-minded friends to bring a simple lunch and picnic together on the front lawn. Others will join you. Some churches hold meetings only twice a month (even some Amish) and the other Sundays are reserved for family worship together. You can implement this approach if you believe it would be better for your family.

    Most larger wards have people falling over each other trying to be given those heavy callings (so they have an acceptable excuse to get away from their families or spouses or whatever). Smaller wards are never going to implement everything, not even close, so it won’t matter that much if one person does a bit less. (Small wards need to stop pretending they are stronger than they really are). A neighboring ward of mine seems to be stumbling along as usual now for several months without anyone willing to be the EQP. My ward had zero Aaronic priesthood for most of 2 years, until they baptized an immigrant family with 2 teenage boys last week. (Imagine joining the family-centered LDS church in a ward where you become the only YM). We will see how that works. (They might send them to another ward with more youth and if I was their mom I would do just that on my own volition).

    You may or may not be wise to take it further at your ward level … Some things I have found to be more questionable: A leader tries to get me and my friends having a warm gospel discussion in the foyer to attend the scheduled tedious class and I told him he was disrupting my class and asked him to say the closing prayer. Getting your friend who does the ward bulletin to put in an announcement for a pot luck dinner that the bishopric has determined is not to be held. Teaching a special class for those who showed up at church because they forgot it was stake conference. Not recommending this, but pointing out doable examples not far outside the box that worked for me.

    The programs of the church are only as much or as little as we make them and if it isn’t working for you then do what works. That is the real Mormon Pioneer spirit. Don’t be confused by some who were foolish enough to pull handcarts across Wyoming in November blizzards with inadequate clothing, but follow the example of those who properly prepared and made it in August with far fewer problems. Which ancestor should one admire most? The Meldrums who came in the first company in 1857 or the Martins who led the last? (Notice that they phased the handcarts out after those now over-celebrated disasters). Stop pulling your modern day handcarts, folks.

    Too much interaction at our church resembles parent-child relationships. Parental leaders tell us member children what to do and we accept it with childish trust. But then we become perplexed and stressed if it doesn’t work. Sometimes pouting or being mischievous or passive aggressive like little children. We need to insist upon adult-adult relationships at the ward level. Conflict will occur when we abandon the child role and you take an adult role and a church leader takes a familiar parent role while interacting with you. We have a name for this behavior in the Mormon lexicon, unrighteous dominion.

  92. Ron Madson says:

    Meldrum, you are speaking my language. I agree fully that it is healthy and wise to take ownership of one’s sabbath. It was set apart for each of us to be set free from any form of bondage. I will take your exhortation to take control even further with this just as long comment to essentially second what I believe you are saying:

    What is the history/genesis of the sabbath? This is how I chose to answer that question. As in Egypt the taskmasters of this world would have their hirelings/slaves etc. work everyday as long as possible. The Lord of Host was like the first Union boss who spoke up for the common worker and declared a day of “liberation” from oppression. Like a jubilee, the Sabbath was to be a liberation from the bondage of others. The last time we had a priesthood lesson on Sabbath, the teacher had me read a quote from GA Smith about not “playing” on the Sabbath; and then someone read a quote from Pres. Kimball who told us not to “lounge” about; and then the mandate to go church 3 hours, do this or don’t do that. Now the walls were closing in on me—-that suffocating feelings that comes at times at church where there are only a few windows letting some limited light while the ever present, immovable walls and roof stand like sentinels to block out more light than what is allowed in. Then the teacher invited us to consider what we should do or not do on the sabbath personally. I started thinking of Jesus and His declaring a year of Jubilee and liberation of the oppressed and captive and His demonstrating over and over again that the Sabbath was for “man” and not “man for the sabbath”—a sabbath corn picking Deity that demonstrated how a liberated man really approaches this day despite the constant protestations from his church’s spiritual guides. I finally realized during the lesson that we have created our own specialized forms of guilt ridden “spiritual” bondage. For me that yoke had to be broken.

    So I chose to set an example to my family to seek as much liberation, freedom, and even leisure as possible on the Sabbath. To seek liberation from anything I consider bondage is how I show gratitude to the Lord for setting me free. If attending three hours is leisure/ freedom for you then for go for it. If not then go one or two hours or every other week–whatever you find liberating. Hike, travel, read, sleep, swim with grandkids, have huge get togethers. If church meetings can not compel you by their quality and pure enjoyment then don’t go. If I attend or compel my family to attend when we have no desire to do so out of joy in worship or out of some sense of fear/duty in not attending, then I dishonor the sabbath in going and place upon myself and family a yoke of bondage.

    and who is to say that worship does not occur in what others call leisure? For example, for me Sailing is worship time with those I sail with. When I solo sail I sometimes commune with my deceased sister and parents and others that have parted. Worship needs to permeate into all our activities if we so desire, and we can show our family how it is done and free them from the bondage of thinking that worship must be in buildings and at set times.

  93. I’ve actually longed for a paid clergy numerous times because it would be so helpful to talk to a person with some training in theological matters, someone who could answer my questions, or at least handle them a little more patiently and knowledgeably. But I suppose that’s a pipe dream.

    Like many here, I also long for something that feels like real worship. I suspect it would involve more and better music and less and better speaking. With our current schedule, though, that’s probably another pipe dream. At the moment, church feels so draining to me – an empty series of meetings that focus on rules and laundry lists of to-do’s that I no longer have the energy to care about. I try to attend at least sacrament meetings most weeks, but I have to admit it’s an effort.

    I want to be all-in for Jesus, and for the better part of two years I’ve struggled and agonized over what that means. After countless prayers and anguished nights, I’ve come to feel that being all-in for Jesus does not necessarily mean being all-in for the church, at least not for me. So I find ways to worship Him in other aspects of my life – often when I’m enjoying His creations, like Ron, or trying to help a friend or stranger. And somehow that feels more real and meaningful to me.

  94. No paid clergy. Better to spend the money on an organist.

  95. Don’t get me wrong, I still think a two hour block would be a lot better. Also we already have a paid clergy, it’s called CES. Sorry but I’d rather take these lumps than have CES on the Sabbath!

  96. John Harrison says:

    Here is a simple suggestion to give us a mere taste of a Sabbath: On Fast Sundays eliminate all meetings other than the Fast and Testimony Meeting. No bishopric, no PEC, no Sunday School, no Relief Society, no Priesthood, no Primary, and no Young Women’s. A one hour F&T meeting and then “fast” from all other meetings and duties.

    I actually have a proposal for 1.5 hour church which includes this rule for Fast Sundays (and NO church on 5th Sundays) but this rule alone would do a lot.

  97. Amen!!! I think a restructure is what the church needs. I love how my friends go to church. Adults attend their worship meeting, the kids go to sunday school and the youth attend their meetings at the end of either a 1 or 2 hour block church is over. what can’t this been done.

  98. If the religious highlight of the week is called “the block,” you’re on to a loser. If one of the centrepieces of said “block” is “the talk,” the losing multiplies.

  99. Mark B. speaketh the truth. Really good music would make a huge difference in our capacity to understand what worship is and maybe actually do it sometimes.

  100. Meldrum the Less said everything I was thinking and more. It pains me to see so many comments by adults who seem trapped and overwhelmed by poorly planned church commitments which take them away from their families and time for quiet pondering and meditation.

    I have come to believe that continually saying yes and showing up to those meetings and shouldering too much of the burden in auxiliaries is a form of dishonesty. We are told over and over that our families come first. If we say yes to doing things that take us from them too often, and keep on doing so, how is anyone going to know that it’s too much? Our actions are dishonestly saying one thing to our leaders/other members while we suffer and hide the truth.

    We have 6 kids, 2-14, and another on the way. Dh is YM pres. I would never say yes to a busy calling, and my bishop would never offer me one. This is enough for us for now. My two youngest don’t stay in primary/nursery reliably, and keeping them safe and cared for during the meetings is more than enough work.

    I have been feeling stressed and overwhelmed on Sundays just from getting kids ready and cared for at church. I don’t attend SS or RS because my kids are at a stage where they need me. I don’t get much out of Sacrament meeting because I’m working to keep my kids happy and quiet so we’re not a distraction to others. I live out of town and haven’t made many friends in the ward. If I talk about not feeling spiritually renewed on a Sunday, people say hang in there, it will get better, have faith and do your duty and endure to the end, etc. It’s like if I walked by someone living on the street in winter who said they were starving and cold, and I said cheer up, spring will be here soon, endure faithfully and things will get better. That doesn’t help. Spiritually, I feel like I’m living on the streets sometimes. I don’t have a place that spiritually feels like home.

  101. Seems like there are at least 2 different types of meetings involved in the typical sabbath-meeting overload being discussed:

    (1) The 3-hour block of Sacrament meeting, Sunday School/Primary, Priesthood/ReliefSociety/YW/Primary, intended for all ward members;
    (2) Other leadership, planning & optional meetings, to be attended by a smaller subset of members.

    But regardless of whether the 3-hour block (Category 1 mtgs.) is being retained or modified in one’s particular geographic region of the church, local leaders have a lot of control over the scheduling of Category 2 meetings.

    I remember when the 3-hour block schedule was instituted churchwide. I remember it being specifically stated that the purpose was not just to reduce energy or transportation costs. It was also to allow members to spend more time at home with their families on Sundays. And that the time freed up by consolidating general meetings was *not* supposed to then be filled up by leadership meetings.

    The only documentation I’ve found on this so far is:

    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1980/03/news-of-the-church?lang=eng

    The article doesn’t describe all the aspects I mentioned above, so maybe what I remember came instead from the Church News back then. But in relation to this thread, it does say some interesting things. Such as:

    *******
    “The purpose of the consolidated meeting schedule is (1) to reemphasize personal and family responsibility for learning, living, and teaching the gospel and (2) to allow Church members more time for personal gospel study, for service to others, and for meaningful activities. The major objectives of the new schedule are to—
    “1. Help every Latter-day Saint home become a place where family members love to be, where they can enrich their lives and find mutual love, support, appreciation, and encouragement.
    “2. Emphasize home-centered Sabbath activities.
    ******

    and also this:

    ******
    Guidelines for Leadership and Other Meetings

    “1. High priority should be given to individual and family needs and to those areas of service and activity that relate to the home.
    “2. Neither administrative and other meetings nor activities should prevent individuals and family members from caring for basic individual and family responsibilities.
    “3. Emphasis should be upon actual service with a minimum of time used in preparation for service.”

    Leaders scheduling special meetings are to consider these questions:
    “Does the schedule preserve an adequate block of time for all families and individuals on Sunday so they can give attention to gospel study, personal spiritual development, gospel teaching in the home, and appropriate acts of Christian service?” And, “Are leaders able, as much as possible, to go to and return from the Sunday block of meetings with their wives and children?”
    ******

  102. MikeInWeHo says:

    This might be the most depressing series of comments I have ever read in the Bloggernacle. It makes me thankful for the path my life has taken though. I just don’t understand why people tolerate being so exhausted out of religious obligation.

  103. C’mon Mike, we’ve had WAY worse than this!

  104. if I wanted to increase my spirituality I can think of dozens of things I would want to cut out of my life both out of the church and in the church before I got to moving to a 2 hour block.

    I actually like the block meetings, although there are a lot of other things that can be cut out to simplify our lives.

  105. In my old Ward in London we had Munch & Mingle once a month.We each would bring a dish of food-not anything that needed cooking just something simple.As the Ward is very much a multi-culture one we had fabulous food.It brought us closer together,helped to feed the hungry- we had a lot of low-income families in the Ward so any left-overs went home with them.It was set-up/cleared away in alphabetical order so everybody in theory participated.
    I was baptised in 1970 when we had Sunday School in the AM & Sacrament in the evening MIA was on a Tuesday evening & RS ran on a Thursday morning & again in the evening for working sisters.Primary was on a Saturday & Seminary early on a Saturday AM.My Ward had been built by the members.Fast Sunday we had Fast & Testimony meeting after Sunday School & no evening meetings although usually there would be a Fireside in somebody’s house.It was a home from home & I loved growing up there.
    I love RS it helps to unify the Sisters.It’s Primary I feel sorry for I can remember serving in Nursery and the number of people who would ask “Where have you been”? You felt invisible.
    Personally I hate three hours of Church -it’s an ordeal at times particularly for those with small children & when you factor in travel time it leaves little time for personal scripture study,prayer or a nap.

  106. retailored and bespoke says:

    Ronan,

    — why on earth do you need to bring them back for a BYC or a fireside?

    You have a talk at the Hyde Park ward on this site. I lived on Chelsea Manor Gardens for years, close to this and it is a little stretch for you to have speech on this site on a Sunday night what that statement.

    Sorry, I spoke poorly. It is a long stretch.

  107. So opt out. You have agency, you know what’s important in your life. Don’t let an organization (even the church) micromanage your affairs.

  108. Nephi Hatcher says:

    Or the church can pay clergy at bishop level or “above”. A more dedicated system with people who can give a more educated input than their life’s journey of wisdom which often is wrong.

    My personal favourite. Just don’t go to church. Much more relaxing. Less stressful!! Less pressurising is every form. You get more time with your family. Time to worship when and as you please. And in my case a plethora of blessings in all forms.

    Nothing beats waking up at 10am every day refreshed to do what you feel is best for your progression in life.

  109. Being able to take a break from church and say ‘no’ to callings is the best thing you can do for yourself.

  110. Yes. I didn’t mind the 3-hour block that much (I’m good with boredom) until I got called into primary and then nursery. Now I loathe church. I seriously dread Sundays. I work at a very difficult and isolating job 6 days a week, so I often get through an entire week without talking to another adult. Then on Sundays I go to church and spend 2-2.5 hours babysitting screaming kids. I don’t have any friends at church and it’s hard to make them since I’m the only childless woman in my ward, my husband is inactive, and I’m never in Relief Society or Sunday School.

    Back when I was in a singles ward, the bishop would always lecture us for standing around and chatting between Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School. But honestly, chatting was the best part of church! You get to find out what’s going on with people, who needs help, and so on, and it makes people feel happy and included. Whenever I’ve gone to other Christian churches with my friends, there’s usually a designated “meet and greet” time before or during service, and a “mingle” afterward. It’s really nice. I say we make church more about the community than about duty.

  111. We’ve got unique challenges, being a church with a lay ministry. One of which is that some people, often the capable, good souls who serve in leadership, get run into the ground with busyness. Which is one reason I think ordaining women would be so good for the church. Let the empty-nested women take on some of the weight that the young dads are currently pulling. They’ve got the time, the wisdom and experience, and would do a great job of it.

  112. Our stake has “Family Saturday” marked as the first Saturday of each month. This was intended to be a single day of the month during which families could spend time together without being hauled in different directions for church activities. In 2013, we didn’t have a single Family Saturday that wasn’t pre-empted by “more important” church functions. I’ve suggested that we remove the Family Saturday label from the calendar, but leadership seems to think it’s important for some strange reason.

    I’ve had some Sundays take over 15 hours for meetings and travel to/from said meetings. This past week, a family I home-teach got more of my time than my wife did. We seem to have this idea that if we don’t have every possible minute scheduled with meetings, service, activities, and duties, we will quickly hitch ourselves to sin like a trailer.

    The gospel is simple. Church is hard.

  113. I totally agree with the need to move to a two hour block with a one hour Sacrament Meeting. We almost never fill the last 15 minutes of Sacrament Meeting and a member of the Bishopric has to speak each week or call someone up from the congregation (which creates a lot of bad feelings in the ward). When the church went to the block schedule it was to eliminate mid-week meetings. Over the years, the church has filled up the week with meetings in addition to the three hour block on Sunday. Enough is enough! Having the third hour for planning meetings and ward choir would be great! Eliminating the additional Sunday evening meetings and firesides would be a relief!

  114. Last spring I came down with pneumonia and was laid up for 6 weeks. And what did I miss the most? Church. Of course, I’m an old lady. I don’t have kids to get up and get ready. I do have to be there on time, though, as I lead the singing in Sacrament Meeting. But I can see cutting church down to two hours. One hour for Sacrament Meeting, another hour for Sunday School/ Priesthood/RS, all rolled into one. We generally have good talks in Sacrament Meeting in my ward. Yesterday two members of the EQ Presidency spoke on short notice, and one of the speakers actually moved me to tears (I asked him afterwards to e-mail me a story he told). We have excellent GD teachers, so I wouldn’t want to drop SS, but if we combined it with RS and Priesthood, we could eliminate one manual. At the beginning of SS, the RS President, EQ President and HPGL could make any pertinent announcements. I like to sing in the Ward Choir, but it’s at 2, so I go home for a time, then come back, which is a pain. I would prefer to have it immediately following the block, but the people with kids don’t like that idea. However, being a single senior citizen, I do get plenty of rest on Sundays.

    I wouldn’t mind getting together for a meal after the block. A friend of mine told me that every fast Sunday in her ward they have a pot luck dinner. We used to have linger longers once a month under a previous bishop, and they were real food, not just treats, but under our current bishop whenever we have one, which is not often, it’s cookies.

  115. Here’s an idea: Reduce home teaching/visting teaching to once/quarter or less.

    I’ve never been on the giving or receiving end of visiting teaching, so I’ll speak only to what I know. I can scarcely think of a program that is less frequently executed as intended and less valued by both those giving and receiving it as monthly home teaching. Both teachers and teachees are putting up with the excessive standard for these visits almost purely for the sake of fulfilling a perceived obligation. Often, these visits are crammed into Sundays already flush with meetings, some of which, as noted above, serve little purpose and frequently accomplish nothing.

    Before anyone goes to their default story of how a wonderful and dedicated home teacher did this or that, let me concede that the program can have it’s place. But I’ll also point you to the dismal track record of even the most devout wards and stakes consistently fulfilling their monthly visits. Why is that? I’d suggest that the great majority know inside that the frequency of the program, particularly when combined with all the other church stuff a typical member is subjected to, is unnecessary–much more trouble than any worth it generates. You can read the darn message yourself in a magazine you that you probably already have in 5 minutes and save everyone the trouble.

    I’ve seen the best of the best when it comes to home teaching. Even when it’s executed by the most dedicated, capable soul with all the right intentions, the isntances when the monthly visits are consistently valued and anticipated are RARE. It’s past the time to put the monthly standard out of it’s considerable misery.

  116. I hate the talk of a paid clergy! So much growth takes place from being allowed to serve in the church. We not only serve because of what we have to offer but also for what we have to learn. My husband was just released as bishop. When he was put in his calling we had 3 children, the oldest 4, the youngest 8 weeks. My husbands job not only required him to work M-F but his work responsibilities also took him out of our home 4 to 5 nights per week. I had no idea how we could do what was being asked! We put it in the Lords hands. It was not easy but we did it and we were truly blessed for our sacrifice. During his service we added 2 more children and my husband was blessed with 3 different job promotions. I am thankful that our Heavenly Father allows us to be stretched thin…I truly believe the greatest blessings received and lessons learned come from those times we can no longer rely on ourselves but fall on our knees and plead with the Lord for his help to do what is being asked.

  117. Stina has a terrific line: “Make the church more about community and less about duty.” That isn’t just a great idea, but one that will likely become increasingly necessary for the church to survive and thrive.

    While there certainly exists a contingent of “all in” members who proudly wear their “all in-ness” like a hall pass into heaven, the church could benefit greatly by emphasizing how it can give its members a consistently uplifting experience on Sundays. This would be a welcome switch from an ongoing focus of reminding members of how wonderful the gospel is, almost in passing, then brow beating people into fulfilling their duties.

    Here’s the deal. The church is facing a considerable problem in that an ever-growing contingent of members have encountered or are encoutering a crisis of faith. Yes, I’m one of those. The genie is out of the bottle with a number of doctrinal and historical issues that, in the not-too-distant-past, people could go a life time without learning. Nowadays, anyone with a keyboard and internet connection almost can’t help hearing about issues that make a literal acceptance of what I was taught as a young Latter-day Saint very problematic.

    Many folks are hearing these things and leaving. Many, for a myriad of reasons, remain, but often in an altered capacity. What to do with these members? And is brow beating the faithful core that persists with time consuming obligations, which may not always be productive or necessary, the best course to take?

    I submit that a greater emphasis on strengthening the community through an agenda that is more uplifting and renewing would solve a host of the problems the church faces and will continue to face. Failing to achieve this will likely bring a continuance, if not an acceleration, of some major challenges the church currently faces.

  118. Euro member says:

    It seems like we measure our devotion and our spiritual gross in time or in words or in callings. We measure quantity instead of quality; these are business ways of measuring. The Lord doen’t measure quantity: see the widow’s mite in the new testament or the parabole of the workers in the vineyard.

  119. This thread brings to mind one of the few conference talks I can recall over the years. Glenn L. Pace gave a talk in the priesthood session in 1987. It was titled, “They’re not really happy.” The following are the first few paragraphs:

    “It is my desire to have a heart-to-heart chat with you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood especially those among you who came to this meeting reluctantly, or perhaps would not have come at all, were it not for a mild threat or a small bribe from your father or priesthood leaders.

    When our children were younger and we would be on our way to Sunday church meetings, occasionally we would pass a car pulling a boat. My children would become silent and press their noses against the windows and ask, “Dad, why can’t we go waterskiing today instead of to church?”

    Sometimes I would take the easy but cowardly way out and answer, “It’s simple; we don’t have a boat.” However, on my more conscientious days, I would muster up all the logic and spirituality available to a patriarch of a family and try to explain how much happier our family was because of our Church activity.

    I first realized I wasn’t getting through when on a subsequent Sunday we saw a family laughing and excited as they loaded their snow skis onto their car. One of my teenage sons said with a sly grin, “They’re not really happy, huh, Dad?” That statement has become a family joke whenever we see someone doing something we cannot do. When I see a teenager driving a beautiful, expensive sports car, I say to my sons, “Now there’s one miserable guy.”

    After serving in five bishopbric’s and on the stake high council before the age of thirty-seven, I came to the conclusion the church has a tendency to wear out its some of its most dedicated members to the point of driving them to inactivity. In fairness, let me add that I had many wonderful experiences in serving others during that period of my life. In retrospect, there was considerable time was wasted in unproductive administrative meetings and not nearly enough time dedicated to actually ministering to those in need.

    President Hinckley, after the introduction of two new members of the quorum of the seventy said,” The reason these men are here today is because of their faithful church service throughout the years. Now that we have worn them out on one side, we are going to turn them over and wear them out on the other side.”

    After being worn out on one side and then the other and one crisis of faith later, It has been three years since I last attended church. I can say that for me, spending time with my family skiing on Sunday, whether in the snow or water, makes us really happy. This it what works for us now as a family. Things may change down the road and we my find ourselves in full activity someday; or maybe not. Everyone should do what works for their family, in and outside of the church.

  120. There was a suggestion about a communal meal a number of comments ago — this can indeed be a great thing, but not always uniformly so. In a young single adult ward I attended, we did this each fast Sunday after church, and it was probably one of the most stress-inducing church moments for me, as an 18-year-old introvert. People would sit with their particular group of friends, it felt like a fishbowl, and I hated the feeling that there wasn’t a place at any of the tables for me, not fitting solidly into one friend group. I got through it each fast Sunday, and did find a place at a table each time, but it was definitely not something I enjoyed. I think this was in part the result of youthful anxiety, and it was probably good for me to learn to deal with this, but even today I still freak out inwardly, for a second, when we have a big ward dinner in the cultural hall and I step into that buzzing room. I think as a culture we’re often into the “bigger is better” mode — get everyone together into a big room, wouldn’t that be great(!) — but for some this can be incredibly awkward and stress-inducing. By contrast, I love the strand in the gospel placing emphasis on ministering to individuals, individually. Although I know this adds to the workload of those who choose — or only have time — to do their home and visiting teaching on Sundays, I can attest that this can be real Christian service to those who otherwise feel unconnected with the larger “communal” group — which is indeed many of us, at some point in our lives.

  121. Matt Rasmussen says:

    The three hour block isn’t the problem. For years we’ve had meetings and training at work that last three hours, including union employees. People can handle their bio breaks and personal phone calls.

    The problem is that most leaders (both men and women) don’t know how to run and act in a presidency/council meeting or track and follow up on details. There are wonderful, spiritual people called to serve everywhere but that doesn’t make them instantly effective. We often take over an hour in the meetings I’m in to accomplish ten minutes worth of work. (Both on a Branch and Stake level.) What a difference it would be if the church commissioned a few of those “Mormon innovators” we hear about to develop a way to train unit leaders to become effective.

  122. Ron Madson says:

    Matt is on to something. Our problem is we are a church only masquerading as a business –or is it the other way around? I can never keep that straight. We need more management training. Maybe make having an MBA or equivalent training as pre-requisite to being called as a BP, SP or GA.

  123. Many of the church’s non-worship meetings could easily be done via Skype, Google hangout, etc., thereby eliminating the time and expensive of a trip to the meetinghouse.

  124. gerben de bruin says:

    I am an active member of the church,living in the netherlands.When we go to church on sundays we have to travel an hour.Home teaching at least 1 travel hour,stake priesthood meetings always travel 2 hours.i am the elder quorum president and my wife the young women president.Yes, church takes a lot off time.Also we have 5 children en our own building company.I can understand this discussion,but i also like the blessings me and my family get for the time we spend in and around church

  125. Meldrum the Less says:

    The biggest problem with a paid clergy is that you can’t easily get rid of them. Could you imagine having ME as your minister at my worst knowing I was going to give your funeral eulogy? As it is I only last 5 years max (probably a lot less). My daughter claims she has never heard a sermon that could not be improved by being boiled down to under 5 minutes long. I vote for paid musicians, but I have a conflict of interest. My daughter plays in a praise band most Sunday mornings for several hundred dollars a pop. Last week the lead guitarist couldn’t make it and they let my daughter with her violin lead it and I thought it was wonderful.

    A friend converted a Methodist woman and married her several years ago. Her mother was in charge of the communal meal every Sunday at a Methodist church for about 500 people for many years. I was trying to start up monthly Linger-Longers with the hope of eventually making them weekly and she was interested in helping me. She told me that as you continue doing this it develops a sort of life-cycle. You have cycles of people bringing too much food and then too little food. Cycles of too simple and too elaborate. But the key event is when several church members come down with bad cases of “Moroni’s revenge” and the board of health traces it back to unsanitary practices at the church meal. At that point one or more well-meaning cooks is publicly identified and mortified. Then the church gets serious about taking a professional approach, investing in better equipment and better trained cooks while discouraging people from embarrassing the whole church with their private lack of culinary cleanliness. I vote for professional cookery at the communal meal. Tell the speakers if they go over 5 minutes, no chocolate pudding for them.

  126. As I’ve said before, Meetings are to Mormons what self-flagellation is to Jesuits—pious acts presumed to be pleasing in the eyes of the Creator simply by reason of the discomfort they cause.

  127. I agree whole heartily that there should not be extra meetings on Sundays. Sunday is a time for family. This is so important. Growing up my dad worked 3rd shift which is 10 at night to about 7 or 8 in the morning. He would stay up on Sunday to go to church and spend some time with us before he had to go back to bed. When my mom became RS pres that limited time was cut even shorter because she had meetings she had to go to. I think that needs to be changed. People in leadership positions have families that need them. I don’t think we should cut sunday school, RS/priesthood/YM/YW. More often than not the lessons involved are not for the people hearing them, but for the people teaching them. I have been both a SS teacher and a RS teacher and I have learned so much from preparing lessons and the discussions that have taken place. I think we really need to prioritize our time and really think if these extra meetings are really necessary.

  128. Amen. I was a Relief Society president for 2 years and often I would come home on Sunday and spend the rest of the day working- paperwork, emails, visits, phonecalls, after going to ward council, presidency meetings and the 3 hour block. You never leave fewer than 30 minutes late because someone needs to talk to you. Never in my life have I struggled with the conflict I had of simply not wanting to go to church because it was so stressful. Some weeks I would just come home and cry.

  129. I would wholeheartedly agree with what George M. has said. In my province of Canada we have the STP principle going one. 2/3 of our stake pres. have served in a stake pres.before. I can count about 10 brethren who are on their 2nd time serving as a Bishop or Branch President. I know SO many inactive kids coming from the stake stalwarts, all 3 of the stake pres. have inactive kids. There seems to be a theme of reactivate a guy by giving him a calling, he does it poorly and then when he is released they go back to being inactive. The sister missionaries asked me, their ward mission leader, how long the Bishop has been a member of the Church and I told them about 40 years and they said they took him with them to teach and they said he doesn’t seem to know the doctrine, what am I supposed to say? I knew from other experiences with him and others it’s like um….actually….

    We have a semi active High Councilor over missionary work. He attends the Catholic Church in the aft. sometimes. A few weeks ago we had a ward mission leader training mtg. on a sunday night, it was 2 hours long. It was horrible and pointless. He wanted to go over who attends ward council and correlation mtg, Turns out just one f the WML’s didn’t know how to do his calling so we all were hauled into this mtg and the guy who needed it didn’t say anything at all. Now we are supposed to attend another one in a nearby city, leave the stake centre at 8am, travel the 2-3 to the chapel have this meeting and all told be gone from 8am to 6pm. Are you freaking kidding me? Jesus himself would have to be at this meeting for me and from the sound of it the other WML to attend. Sometimes I literally cannot stand being a member and dealing with just plain old unecessary crap. Awful, pointless meetings led by people who don’t care and don’t care enough to learn how to do their jobs. Now we are supposed to be getting a Temple, which will bury us because the egotistical Stake Pres. said yes to Pres. Monson when he phoned and asked him if we could support it and of course he said yes. He is the 4th stake pres. we have had since the stake was started and they make decisions that they never really have to live with the consequences of because they all moved away as will this one shortly.

  130. Fulfilling leadership callings in the church is very demanding in general. As a culture, we Mormons feel if we are extended a calling that we MUST accept it, or suffer the eternities with guilt. IMHO each person should be informed what to expect and request some time to contemplate whether or not they will be able to fulfill the calling. Many will argue against this, but to expect someone to blindly accept a leadership calling because, “you were prompted by the Holy Ghost three times”, is unfair. Yes, God qualifies those who He calls, but we are also encouraged to study these things out in our minds. Turning down a calling doesn’t mean you’re a sinner, it could mean you are trying to be honest with your fellow man. Just sayin’…don’t be hatin’!

  131. I went to an international ward in Budapest, Hungary that was so small they couldn’t support the full 3 hour block. 2 hours was AMAZING and they switched between RS/EQ and Sunday School for the second hour. You get some great time to do gender specific teachings (caveat- I appreciate there is some time to address the different difficulties of each gender, which are real for many reasons, though I think both can veer into sexist territory very quickly) but also combine for some variety. Overall, I think what would be most beneficial is smaller congregations and shorter meetings. It would lessen the burden on bishoprics in particular (who get so worked from large congregations), but it would have a rippling effect for other callings. I find it much easier to concentrate on the one when there’s not 300+ people swimming around, not to mention actually meeting and knowing people. I was Primary President for 24 kids (which riddled me with so much anxiety) and if I had the primary of 150 kids in my dad’s ward, I would have drowned. Being spiritually responsible for so many people is absolutely draining for us mere mortals and I think parsing down the size of wards would alleviate a lot of this anxiety, help us be more attentive to each other, and actually concentrating on worship instead of running a huge congregation with all its auxiliaries and functions.

  132. This is why we have a prophet who is a seer and a revelator and a mouthpiece for The Lord!!! This is not up for debate, not should it be. The prophet SPEAKS FOR THE LORD. Your bishop or relief society president didn’t decide that we should have a three hour block. It came from the leaders of the church, the apostles of The Lord. Members of the church support and sustain the prophet and general authorities and look for ways to abide by their teachings, not find ways to argue with the logistics!

  133. Awesome. Ronan, your reply?

  134. In regard to Dixie’s comment. Bruce R. McConkie responds to Eugene England in a letter chastising him for teaching the Adam God theory:

    “It is axiomatic among us to know that God has given apostles and prophets “for the edifying of the body of Christ,” and that their ministry is to see that “we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph. 4:11-16.) This means, among other things, that it is my province to teach to the Church what the doctrine is. It is your province to echo what I say or to remain silent. You do not have a divine commission to correct me or any of the Brethren. The Lord does not operate that way. If I lead the Church astray, that is my responsibility, but the fact still remains that I am the one appointed with all the rest involved so to do. The appointment is not given to the faculty at Brigham Young University or to any of the members of the Church. The Lord’s house is a house of order and those who hold the keys are appointed to proclaim the doctrines.”

    And from a 1945 New Era magazine article that has been “echoed” by other church leaders since then:

    “When the prophet [s] speaks, the thinking has been done.”

  135. After years of mostly trolling the ‘nacle, finally a post, or least some comments about sailing. There is no other truth. I mean to die toothless on an island or drown in the open ocean somewhere. I have a few kids to get off to something first and then my wife can either join me on the sail or we’ll hook up again in the next life. I do not mean to be sitting around in the eternities talking about dying in my sleep.

    I have sailed many Sundays in the ocean and I find God most in the open ocean or the tops of mountains. Orange carpet (admittedly mostly gone now) and church are a thick glass through which to find him. On the other hand, I don’t usually have anything better to do on land-locked Sundays so I attend in an effort to find something and sometimes I do.

  136. @George M & @Dixie: perfect… the general authorities are to make sure the doctrine stays pure. Whether we have a 3 hour block, the format of ward council, etc. are definitely not doctrine but a matter of policy/practice which can/should change to meet local needs and current conditions.

    @Zefram got it right, the purpose of the change to the consolidated block schedule was to allow more family time on Sunday, a point that seems largely lost 35 years later.

    My personal experience is that there is sufficient rest and family time on Sunday if and only if neither my wife or I have callings that require extra Sunday meetings. With ward-council sort of callings in particular then Sunday gets quickly overwhelming. Added to the disrupted naps for little ones (esp. when the block is in the afternoon), Sundays are the day of the week my wife dreads. I wish it was not so, and things will hopefully change as our kids get older (but then there will be youth firesides, etc. to pile on).

  137. One of the several things I enjoy about BCC is the relative freedom we each have to express our opinions on gospel topics. I’m hoping I can express mine with the same respect I believe I give to others.

    First, let me say that I live in Utah where my ward building is a short 5 minute walk from my house. My wife and I only have two children, both now teenagers. I’ve served in leadership callings for the past 20 years in our ward and stake (including high council and bishopric). I detest unnecessary leadership meetings and unnecessarily long leadership meetings.

    I certainly feel for those members who have health challenges, who live far away from their ward buildings, who have other challenges in their lives that make it difficult, as a practical matter, to attend all of the three hour block.

    Having said all that, I enjoy the 3 hour block. It flies by, often too quickly. That is especially true with my current calling of teaching gospel doctrine. I would not vote for a longer block, but neither would I vote for a shorter one. I would like to steal 15 minutes from sacrament meeting and add it to sunday school, however.

    I do sympathize with those families/members whose Sundays begin, e.g., at 6 a.m. and end at, e.g., 7 p.m. That is too much. I struggle to sympathize with others in my same circumstances (healthy, live near the ward, etc.) who complain that they just can’t endure 3 horrible, long hours. I believe that one of the benefits of my attending church is not my benefit at all–it’s a benefit to others. I don’t mean that I have anything to offer people of myself, but rather that my presence in church contributes to an atmosphere of strength for those who might be struggling a bit.

    As indicated above, I have been blessed with circumstances that make it easy for me to attend the full block. As such, I think it would be selfish of me to complain about the boring content or length of the block. Do I ever get bored in church? Frequently. But I think it’s good for me to be there, to give myself an opportunity to learn, to feel the spirit, to occasionally teach others, and to add strength to “the body of saints.”

    I do not mean to judge those who do complain, but it seems that the overwhelming majority of opinions expressed in this piece are negative, and I would not want an outside observer to come away with the impression that there is nothing to be gained by attending church. Sure, if I disciplined myself I could probably experience great moments of reverence toward God and man while hiking in the mountains, etc. But if that’s my sole form of worship–of religious experience–then I am only thinking of myself and not of the others who are trying to worship the traditional or orthodox way. Plus, I believe this is Christ’s church, and that if he really thought we should all worship him in the mountains he would have made that known by now (“humanity” of our leadership notwithstanding).
    .
    I want to re-emphasize my loathing for lengthy leadership meetings. I get irritated every time I hear about a bishop who insists on having 3-4 hour meetings each Sunday. They need to be a bit more compassionate to the other leaders, and just plain more sensible. That’s ridiculous.

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