Virtual Church

Has anyone else in the BCC community besides me seen Worship Hour on KBYU TV?  It airs in the morning and again in the afternoon on Sundays.  Where I live it is only available on satellite TV, so I hadn’t seen it up until a few weeks ago.

It is an interesting program.  It shows what we would recognize as part of sacrament meeting, the part between the administration of the sacrament and the closing prayer.  As the program begins, young men are shown blessing and passing the sacrament, and a voiceover explains what is happening.  Then the bishop stands up, thanks the Aaronic priesthood holders for their reverence, and announces the speakers and musical numbers.  The program is filmed in a typical ward building, and anyone who has ever attended church in Utah will immediately feel right at home.  The interior of the chapel looks just like every other chapel you have seen.  And although I haven’t lived in Utah for decades, I can still recognize the way my tribe speaks, and it is music to my ears.  When the bishop announces that Br. Olsen will speak to us, he says Olt-sen.  Br. Olt-sen then stands to speak and makes the obligatory attempt at humor by announcing that he was assigned the topic of forgiveness and he has tried to practice forgiveness all week long by forgiving the bishop for asking him to speak.  And when the choir sings Our Savior’s Love, they pronounce the first word so it sounds exactly like _are_.  “Are Save-yerrrr’s love”.  “Are hearrrrts rejoice”. 

But there are some other things which are not typical.  First, even though the show is called Worship Hour, it only lasts a half hour.  Half hour church.  HALF HOUR CHURCH!  The talks were superb —  short, well-prepared, and full of personal testimony, not quotes from conference or the magazines.    There were two talks and two musical numbers, so the time was about evenly divided between speaking and singing, and the songs featured arrangements which are not found in the hymnal.  Also, the bishop noted that one of the speakers, a woman, served in the ward as Sunday School secretary.  I have never seen that before, and have always been told that we do not call men and women to serve together in presidencies.  But this was in Provo and it was shown on KBYU, so I know it must be true.  Perhaps the most atypical part of the meeting was that when the camera pans the congregation, almost everybody  you can see there is middle-aged.  There are very few children and teenagers, and nobody gets up to take a crying infant to the foyer.  I also noted ironically that even on the Sabbath the bills must be paid and Mammon must be served, so we saw commercials for dehydrated food storage and boot camps for wayward teenagers.

 I wonder who KBYU is trying to reach with this program?  I can see how it would be a wonderful service for shut-ins who cannot attend services in their wards.  But there is also an element of outreach, since the narrator explains what is happening with the sacrament.  If anyone else has seen this program, I’d like to hear what you think of it.


  1. I see it as both for those who can’t make it to church, and also for those who might be curious about the Church. When I had seen it, I hadn’t seen the narrative…must have caught it in the middle.

  2. I’ve assumed it was “sample church” to allow people to see what it might be like if they attended.

    BTW, we’ve had sisters in our wards (several of them) serve as SS secretary.

  3. When I was SSP in a Provo singles ward, it was pretty much the practice to have a sister as SS secretary. For some reason, the president and counselors had to be men.
    Oh, the good old days, where I was in a ward with a Sunday School Presidency (or heck, even a Sunday School President).

  4. my mother in law and father in law watched it whenever they couldn’t make church-dad was paralyzed and had other issues and it was fairly often for them to be home.

    1/2 hour church is SO dreamy

  5. Some girl says:

    “When I was SSP in a Provo singles ward, it was pretty much the practice to have a sister as SS secretary. For some reason, the president and counselors had to be men.”

    Yeah, at BYU I was the Stake Sunday School secretary, but the rest of the presidency were men. It was kinda lame actually. Nothing more gender-stereotypical than having a female serve as secretary to a bunch of executive men (though I do believe calling the SSP “executives” is stretching things…).

  6. I’d be curious to find out whether they still produce new episodes. Years ago (early 90s?), my parents were somehow invited to speak on the program. As recently as a few months ago, they still rerun the episode, which gives us kids a good opportunity to poke fun at my parents’ dated clothing and hair.

    My mom said it was awkward to have a camera running up and down the aisle while she bore her testimony.

  7. Mark D. says:

    I have yet to see a Sunday School presidency do anything more substantive than find substitute teachers…

  8. makakona says:

    mark, they also bark at you for standing in the hallway with your loud and squirmy one year old instead of being in class.

    that i can recall, i’ve never seen a male sunday school secretary outside of a singles ward.

    the show sounds interesting. would come in handy on a day like today, where i shouldn’t be at church, but feel like i’ll be missing something all week if i don’t go.

  9. MikeInWeHo says:

    The BYU TV web site describes it thus:
    These special worship services are produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also benefit those who are not affiliated with the LDS Church. If you need a lift or can’t attend your own religious services, tune in each Sunday for a brief message and hymns.

  10. Mark Brown says:

    m&m, I think you are right. This program is directed to LDS people and also anybody else. Mike, thanks for the info confirming this.

    britt, yes, it was interesting to me to see how much better talks can be when they are short, 4 to 5 minutes maximum. You really can have a good meeting in a half hour.

    One of the benefits of participation in the bloggernacle is that I have vicarious experiences through others. I’ve never, ever seen a mixed presidency in any church organization, and the explanation has always been that working together in a presidency causes people to form close relationships, which then leads to fornication and adultery. I wonder why it’s OK for SS but not for Primary, for instance. Couldn’t a man be Primary secretary? And why couldn’t a woman with teenage sons be the YM secretary?

    MikeInWeHo, you ought to tune in sometime. I think you would like it.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve never seen it, but I’d like to. I’ve heard of these programs, and always imagined they were a little bit like the Mass for Shut-Ins program, only with more of an outreach angle.

    I have heard that they film these things on Saturdays, and that various units are assigned to provide people to sit in the congregation. My understanding is that this program has been very popular.

  12. “I have yet to see a Sunday School presidency do anything more substantive than find substitute teachers…”
    When I was SSP we had eight teachers who each taught every other week; since it was a singles ward with a lot of turnover, we had a lot of teachers go through. Other than working with the bishop to figure out who would be good teachers (which usually involved evaluating a test-run), and running teacher training, it was an extremely easy job. Plenty of interaction with ward leadership and some great teachers, with minimal responsibilities.

  13. It also goes to show that we don’t really need 3-hour Church meetings.

  14. Wow, I’m most interested in a woman being SS secretary. Who knew?

    As a mother of 3 boys, I like the idea that I could be called to be the YM secretary (or something). I’d like to be around when they’re that age. It kinda freaks me out that the church divides by gender so much. When I have to go tell my husband something as priesthood is getting started, I feel like an alien, the only woman in a sea of men.

    But, at least I’m wearing pants like they are. :)

    (end threadjack)

  15. Well, first, I’m assuming you’re talking about BYU TV, and not KBYU. (KBYU is a PBS station in Provo, while BYU TV is a satellite broadcast that is totally unrelated to KBYU.) Anyway, the program is not “Worship Hour” but “Worship Service.”

    Some things that I’ve noticed about the program:

    The chapel is so much nicer that most LDS chapels, especially those that exist outside of Utah. (i.e. most chapels I’ve been in don’t have fancy brass chandeliers or a nice pipe organ or beautiful wood trim – the buildings built in the last 10 years or so are quite nice, but the Stake Center used for this program is obviously in a well-to-do Utah neighborhood.)

    The “Ward Choir” is made up of different people every week. I’m assuming the responsibility was farmed out to other area Wards and Stakes. It’s a huge struggle to get any Ward choir to sing once a month, let alone once or twice each week! Additionally, having the choir seated on the stand for the whole meeting is much less disruptive to the reverent atmosphere.

    The Bishop is really sincere, and his counselors never conduct. I think the spirituality of most Sacrament Meetings would be greatly enhanced by an improvement in the demeanor (and preparation!) of the Bishopric member who’s conducting.

    The talks are an appropriate length, and always well-prepared. Others have already commented on this, and also on the good balance between talks and music.

    The one thing that bothers me, though, is that it reinforces the notion that the Sacrament is part of the business portion of the meeting, and not part of the worship portion.

    P.S. I’m a counselor in my Ward’s Sunday School Presidency, and we really don’t have much to do. Back in “The Old Days” the Sunday School Presidencies were much busier, with all that went on in those days: opening exercises, the Sacrament, the Sacrament Gem, talks, etc. These days there’s just not much to do other than make sure there are teachers in all the classes.

  16. When we had church at home, we could get through everything, including Primary, in under an hour. That was great.

  17. I was the Sunday School secretary in one ward we lived in. All I remember doing is collecting roll.

  18. Re: Women in YM’s — women can serve as members of the scout committee — “the activity arm…” — as well. Many scouts’ moms have served very effectively there in wards I’ve been in.

  19. MikeInWeHo says:

    OK, I watched the last twenty minutes (as I was preparing food for my little Oscar party later). The clothes look dated; would guess the video was at least ten years old. I really liked the last talk. It made me miss going to church. Wish there were more of this kind of thing available for the inactive/ex/emeritus Mormon diaspora, but more current. Why couldn’t BYU TV just stream a regular Sacrament Meeting every week?

  20. Antonio Parr says:

    The kicker for me is that this type of broadcast reveals us at our best, and yet the reality of too many Sundays is the increasing tendency to shy away from the wisdom of ancient scripture and/or mediations on the Life of Christ for whatever was said in last month’s General Conference. “I have been asked to speak on Elder so-and-so’s most recent General Conference address on ‘__________'” are, to my ears, the saddest sound** in all of Mormonism, as an assigned talk on someone else’s talk tends to strip the speaker of the opportunity to provide personal testimony and/or personal reflections on the Savior, both of which are vital to a Sacrament Meeting.

    At their best, Sacrament Meetings lift me and make me think “wouldn’t it be great if it were like this all of the time?”, and, at their worst, I find myself weighted down by cultural trends that all but drown out the things that matter most. Glad to see that at some level the people behind the broadcast referenced my Mark attempt to promote the ideal.

    **Disclaimer: I love General Conference, and look forward to every April and October (although I wish that we would celebrate Easter on Easter, and have General Conference the week before or after . . . ) for the opportunity to hear inspired talks and beautiful music.

  21. Researcher says:

    Why doesn’t BYU-TV stream a regular sacrament meeting? Perhaps so they don’t preserve moments like the one several weeks ago after our ward choir finished a spirited rendition of “I Believe in Christ.” My two year old stood up on the bench and yelled, “Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!”

    Back in the mid-80s when I visited Salt Lake City with my grandmother, we went to the Tabernacle Choir Broadcast and then attended a worship service at the Assembly Hall. If I remember correctly, it was like the one on BYU-TV with no sacrament. Do they still hold that on Sundays?

  22. We have an elderly woman in our ward who is in a scooter. She watches this most weeks, rather than bring the scooter out.

  23. #22 — Antonio — I used to make assignments for people to speak in sacrament meeting. We always gave them a reference talk as a starting point for their talk, but also made clear (or so we thought) they were not to speak “about the talk”, but about a particular subject, with the talk as a starting point (Please use scriptures and your own experience…”) and STILL many would say, “I’ve been asked to talk about Elder X’s talk in the last conference.”


  24. I was also SS secretary in a BYU ward. Since there were a plethora of teachers, the SS presidency never even had to find subs, but someone was VERY serious about data on who was attending church and how often so I was actually the only member of the presidency that did any work, or so it seemed to me.

  25. My observations:

    The members are packed into the pews so tightly that they can barely move
    The young boys tend to wear ties
    The adults are perfectly attentive (no reading, sleeping, disciplining children)
    The children are perfectly attentive (no children rolling under the pews, whining, crying, fighting, standing on the pews, playing with action figures and other toys, or kneeling on the floor to color)
    The chapel is eerily silent

  26. I live in the East, I ‘ve been in a ward where the Sunday School Secretary was a female.

    Is that a real ward or is it just acting w/wards taking turns to do a mock sacrament meeting- ie in which the “tv-ready” criteria could be maintained (ie no noisy kids,etc)

    I’d heard of an LDS sacrament service on tv but haven’t seen it.

  27. I think the worst words to ever lead a talk with are, “I’ve been asked to speak about/on…” I figure that if I can’t tell what your talk was on by the time you are done, you’ve really botched your presentation.

    But that may just be me.

    I don’t have access to BYU TV, so I haven’t seen this, but I can see how it would be useful for those who are unable to attend regularly. I don’t think it would be useful for those who want to know what a Sacrament meeting is like, due entirely to the lack of typical features, like those listed by Justin (25).

  28. makakona says:

    what happened to the tiara post???

  29. I live far, far away from BYU television, so I haven’t seen the show. But I’d like to note that I appreciate Antonio Parr’s comment in no. 20.

  30. MikeInWeHo says:

    Anybody who is reading BCC can view BYU TV. Go to and you’re there.

  31. makakona says:

    not i, mike! some of us read on phones that can’t handle :)

  32. Michael says:

    FWIW, the last ward I was in had a Sunday School president who would have quarterly teacher improvement meetings in his home. He’d take a typical lesson from the manual, and have us all give descriptions of how we’d teach that lesson, cover personal stories that might help teach that principle, and make sure we were bearing testimony of Christ on a regular basis. He’d emphasize how we should not, or must not, try to teach the entire lesson, but we were supposed to focus our attention on one or two segments of the lesson that would most help the class members. On Sunday, he would also visit various classes and then send e-mails during the week to let us know what things in our lessons had been particularly effective. (I don’t know if he sent criticism, I never got any from him.) We would also contact him if we needed a substitute, and he would either find one or do it himself. If he was the substitute, he’d make sure he knew where we’d left off the previous week, and ask if we knew of any special concerns that the class might have.

    But, he didn’t last very long in that calling. He was a former Stake President, and now he’s teaching the Gospel Doctrine class himself.

    When I was in school, I worked nights in a group home for mentally disabled adults. The bishop let me know that the two-stake region had a special Sunday night Sacrament meeting that I was welcome to attend. It was typically thirty or so people – nurses, police officers, and other people with bad work schedules. A different ward would have rotating jurisdiction over it each week – somebody from the bishopric would preside/conduct, and they would bring a priest, a deacon, a pianist, a director, and a couple of speakers. Church would be over in an hour. It ran 7 to 8 PM on Sunday night, and I really enjoyed it.

  33. I think the “Worship Service” show was first produced by the LDS Church in the late ’80s, for broadcast on the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN). I remember watching it back then on cable TV in California. VISN was sponsored by an interfaith group of lots of churches, with the idea of having religious programming which did not directly proselyte but also which didn’t bash other churches. The Sunday programming also included Catholic masses and Protestant services. The worship programming from all churches was intended to be visitor-friendly.

    Unfortunately, the network’s ratings weren’t good. Years later, what remains of VISN is now the Hallmark Channel. For Wikipedia’s take on this, check out

    I think when BYU-TV began broadcasting 24/7 on satellite TV, they had lots of empty airtime to fill up, which is why we can watch “Worship Service” episodes again 10+ years later.

  34. Here’s a Church News article from 1990, describing the show and how it was produced, also confirming it was filmed on Saturdays:

    Also, in regard to the 5-10 minute talks in these services, it looks to me as though some of the talks were edited to make them shorter.

  35. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 33
    Oh wow, that brings back memories. VISN was really good, a truly ecumenical religious network that respected widely divergent views. Isn’t is sad to realize it failed, and that the whole concept would be almost unimaginable now?

  36. Jessie T. says:

    My grandmother in NC watches this program on her satellite dish. She is decidedly non-Mormon. She was raised a Quaker and is determined to stay that way. But she does enjoy Worship Service and watches Music and the Spoken Word…well…religiously, I guess. She also watches all 4 sessions of General Conference. Sometimes I think she’s a better Mormon than I am.