Church-Hacker #7: The End Time

This week’s Church-Hacker was submitted by BCC reader Raymond, and should immediately be instituted in every ward throughout the church.

Why is it acceptable to go over the allotted time in meetings, but taboo to end early? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

It kills me whenever I see a teacher nervously look at the clock wondering how to “fill” more time. Just stop. No one will complain if we finish early. Another recurring problem is teachers who can’t stop until they get through their material. We appreciate the effort you put into preparing your lesson, but we’d appreciate it even more if you stopped on time. I tune out the teacher as soon as it’s time to leave anyway.

This silly custom of ending late is particularly problematic at the conclusion of the three-hour block. Poor Sunbeam teachers and Nursery leaders are left to babysit exhausted or unruly children because the parents are still trapped in meetings. And the older children wander the church unsupervised until their parents can find them. Shouldn’t parents be the first ones, not the last ones, to finish their meetings?

I propose that Relief Society, Elders Quorum, and High Priests all finish five minutes before the end of the three hour block, so that parents can pick up their children on time.

All in favor?


Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (the church-hacking guidelines are here.) See all entries in this series here.


  1. Chris Gordon says:


    I can remember Pres. Hinckley giving a talk short enough to end a Sunday afternoon conference session early. I’m a little more forgiving of an instructor who goes a minute or two over the hour because of great discussion or testimony going on than an instructor who’s hurrying through their prepared remarks.

    I’m currently blessed with a bishop who has no qualms about ending early. The talks are done? Great! Let’s move on. None of this bogus, “Let’s pick some random members out of the crowd to share an impromptu testimony,” or “Guess I’d better give some thoughts shot from the hip”!

  2. I teach Gospel Doctrine, and occasionally end early. One time I even ended almost 15 minutes early, although I think Sacrament meeting went short that day, so I had extra time on the beginning. I try to plan my lesson to get a good discussion going, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

  3. I had a stake president who would always speak last at stake conference, and who always spoke for about a full hour, meaning stake conference would run 30 minutes over. No 3-hour-block issues, but try keeping unruly children calm in a single meeting that runs for 2.5 hours (and sometimes longer).

    If a teacher continually goes over time, one can always complain to the bishop or other local leader to attempt to get the problem fixed. When the stake president’s the one in the wrong, what do you do? Try to contact the area presidency?

  4. A ward I was in asked for parents to have their children wait five minutes after closing during sacrament meeting so primary teachers could go off and be prepared before the sea of mini-masses congregated into chalk throwing fights and/or eating competitions. It lasted for two weeks. That being said, I am all for having the RS, EQ, and HP all finish five minutes early or at the very least make it more socially acceptable to simply walk out of a class if the teacher runs over.

    Raymond, if you ever get your own planet in the afterlife–can I stop by and visit sometime? This is just too great of an idea to dismiss.

  5. Matthew Chapman says:

    We ended Sacrament Meeting ten minutes early last Sunday.

  6. This year, we have been having sacrament meeting last and it’s great. We start on time with a full complement of people and we have not run over *at all.* Even the high council speakers cut it short to end on time. Unfortunately, we will probably go back to the standard schedule next year when we switch times with the other wards.

  7. David P. says:

    amen and amen. i think teachers who do this… are typically inexperienced teachers who lack the confidence to end when their lesson is over. also, teachers who rigidly hug to the manual for their questions and discussion topics are also more likely to go over.

    i’ve found that it takes some time to get comfortable saying, “we didn’t get to go over everything” and then just bearing your testimony of what you’ve already discussed. less experienced or confident teachers feel like they need to over compensate by covering everything, lest someone feel like they were “derelict in duty.”

  8. The beauty of being a primary teacher is if I end early it means paper and crayons for everyone! I never have any qualms about finishing early, if I’m done I’m done.

  9. aye!

    Does it matter that I’m still doing the singles-ward thing, and there aren’t any children–er, people under the age of 18 in my ward?

    The best advice ever given by my mission president: If you’re asked to speak for 15 minutes, prepare a 13 minute talk. If you’re asked to speak for 10 minutes, prepare a 8 minute talk. Always shave two minutes off the allotted time, just in case. The idea was to make sure the “main” speaker had the most amount of time, but I’m all for getting out early.

  10. Woohoo! I agree with this!!

    I’m amazed that general authorities can speak well in conference for less than 18 minutes and yet members in sacrament meeting need half an hour. I agree with #7 David P who suggests it’s really inexperience to blame. That’s probably true. But even less experienced teachers would feel better about ending on time if they see other more experienced teachers do the same thing.

    I remember Theodore M Burton’s speaking at a zone conference on my mission. He stood at the pulpit and squinted at the clock in the back of the chapel. He said, “Elders, if you want speakers to end on time, make sure your clock is big enough for the speaker to see!” That’s good advice, too.

    And while we’re at it, how hard is it to know when a class is supposed to end? Why does an experienced GD teacher ask so often, “When is our class over? How much time do I have?”

  11. Mark B. says:

    Unless you’re the latter-day reincarnation of Demosthenes, you’re wasting your breath if you go over time. All the evidence you need for that can be seen any Sunday as the congregation mentally “checks out” when the clock hits the ending time.

  12. Droylsden says:

    Amen. To all of this. I once had a Sunday School teacher who said her goals were these four E’s, listed from least to most important: 1) entertain, 2) educate, 3) edify, and 4) end on time.

  13. I was once a nursery leader, and my ward actually started doing this about a month after I was called. It made the end of nursery so much easier! RS, EQ, and HP got out at the first bell, and everyone else got out at the second bell, and people actually came and got their kids before chaos broke loose. I think this needs to end up in the next version of the handbook.

  14. Droylsden, I’m going to steal that.

  15. Steve_G says:

    This is a timely post. Just this last Sunday I visited my brother’s ward. Their stake had just had a youth trek and the ward ahead of us was still in sacrament meeting 40 minutes after they should have been released. My brother’s ward all waited in the foyer and barely had enough time to find seats for their own meeting to start. I couldn’t help thinking, I’m sure glad my brother isn’t in that ward. Unfortunately my brother’s ward followed the example of the prior ward and ended 30 minutes late. As we exited we had to push past all the people waiting in the foyer for their own sacrament meeting to start. The 5 or 6 youth who got up and spoke did great. There was absolutely nothing that the final 2 adult speakers said about the trek that couldn’t have been said in 5 minutes each. Instead they felt the need to blabber on, and even had the audacity to not feel bad about it, because the previous ward did the same.

  16. We recently had a High Council speaker who was speaking with his wife and were to take all the speaking time in Sacrament meeting. She only spoke for 5 minutes, leaving him about 45 minutes time to speak.
    “Excellent”, I thought “we’ll finish early today.”
    I was conducting that day so I announced him as the final speaker and then said “After [Speakers name] has taken the TIME HE NEEDS we will close by singing….” etc
    Anyway, he speaks for the whole 45 minutes! He obviously only had material for 15 minutes and I counted 10 people asleep in the rows in front of me. He then went over time and which point he got a swift tug on his jacket from me and finally wrapped it up. I might have remembered what his talk was about if he spoke for his prepared 15 minutes. Now all I (and probably everyone else) can remember is that it was the talk where the guy spoke forever. They’ll also remember that the next time he speaks in the ward as well making us wonder how long it will be for instead of concentrating on the message.
    I’ve had meetings finish 25 minutes early on a couple of occasions and no one has ever complained. So I always finish my remarks early if I am speaking last, even if it only saves a minute or two.
    (FYI: we have Sacrament last, so anything over 3 hours of church is too much for most people)

  17. Raymond says:

    #4 The Nursery leader in my ward sent a letter to parents asking them to come get their kids on time even if that means walking out during the lesson. Unfortunately, we are too chicken to do it. But I think the leaders of the organizations could interrupt the lesson and say, “It’s 12:00, parents are excused” or maybe announce that the bell being rung means parents can leave. And yes, all are welcome at planet Raymond.
    #13 That’s awesome!

  18. Raymond says:

    #16 I want to move to your ward. I had a ward in college with Sacrament Meeting last, and the Bishop would hold us captive talking to us after the meeting was over EVERY WEEK!

  19. This subject (like so many of these Hacker topics) is a great one for a ward council, where all the key players are there. Our HP group is often kept honest, time-wise, because a certain HP has a reputation with the Primary kids for giving them candy, so they congregate outside our door if the meeting is running long, and they are not shy or quiet…

  20. Michael says:

    Worst talk ever – High Council speaker got up, the week before General Conference, and covered every talk from the previous General Conference. Went 25 minutes over. Just stood there with the Ensign and recapped all the stories, all the topics, and in most cases, just read word for word.

    Talks like that make the Baby Jesus cry.

  21. Best talk ever..we were already 5 minutes over and the Bishop announces that the last speaker should still give his talk. He stands up and says “In the words of Abraham Lincoln, Be honest, be honest, be honest” and sits back down. He has called us to repentance, made it memorable and inspired us with his creative obedience.

    A big amen from here.

  22. Chris Gordon says:

    Kudos to you #16 for being one of the few bishops I’ve ever heard from with no fear of interrupting a speaker for the sake of time. I’ve always heard of such things, even the drastic measure of cutting off the mic, but I’ve never witnessed them.

  23. observer fka eric s says:

    i have to teach third hour this sunday. this OP has motivated me to do an experiment. i’m going to teach as long as i possibly can. i’m going to just keep going and see what happens, who sticks around, who bails, how long i can stave off kids from primary pushing in the door to see dad, etc.

  24. Sabrina says:

    When I returned home from my mission, they scheduled one youth speaker to talk before me and gave me the rest of the time. We also had sacrament meeting last. When I expressed concern about speaking for that long, the counselor in the bishopric told me, “You can use the whole time if you’d like, but no one ever complained if church got out a little early.” We finished 15 minutes early and I think he was right. I heard no complaints :)

  25. This would be great policy, true, but why wait? I practice this. When I teach, I end on time or early absolutely every time. Without fail. At 12, I leave class regardless of whether they are done or near it. I have been in nursery and I know how hellish it is to be left in that room with kids who have cleaned up and been told their parents are coming. Soon. I’m sure. Any minute. I promise they did not leave you….

  26. Romney - Huntsman 2012 says:

    It all depends on your perspective. A General Authority gave a 5 hour zone conference on my mission and it was great.

  27. I’m sure missionaries who had important meetings with investigators, and who really cared about their people, didn’t think it was great.

  28. Romney - Huntsman 2012 says:


    Actually, as far as I could tell, the entire mission was sitting on the edges of their seats, taking notes.

  29. My mission president went way, way over on his homecoming talk. It was great for the RMs who were there to see him speak, but I imagine the ward members weren’t too thrilled about it. For me, speaking way over the allotted time is a sign of disrespect. It says, “What I have to say is more important than any other priorities you might have–more important than spending time with your families, more important than keeping other meetings you’ve committed to, more important than the Sunday School lesson.”

  30. R-H 2012–
    Assuming they had other commitments, it’s a shame they didn’t keep them. Of course, if they were like we were, and kept the entire day of zone conference free, more power to them.

  31. Romney - Huntsman 2012 says:

    I would think that a returning mission president might have something interesting to say after 3 years of running a mission.

    But that’s just me.

  32. #3 Tim – I’ve discovered the sure-fire way to get a long-winded SP to stop talking: Complain to his wife. This happened in my last stake. The SP would habitually go WAY overtime in all meetings, including early-morning priesthood meetings, which meant all our wives/kids were left waiting at home wondering when we’d be coming back to pick them up and drive them to church. The SP’s wife got several complaints (from some of the stranded wives, probably) and she totally shut him down. At stake conference, he told us outright that his wife had threatened him with serious marital consequences if he spoke one minute past the hour. It was wonderful.

    On another note, I suggest a new calling for the ward: Sacrament Meeting Timer. It would be like the timer role in Toastmasters meetings. The person holds up a green card to give the 2-minute warning, a yellow card for one minute left, and a red card when you’re out of time. It’s extremely subtle and effective. Just have the SMT sit in the front row each week with a watch and some brightly colored cards. Problem solved (hopefully).

  33. Aye!

  34. bubbatis says:

    When I tell people if you talk up to the time the a class or meeting should end it is not possible to ever finish on time. Everyone laughs, but no one ever takes my advice.

  35. Chris Gordon says:

    In the end, the macro-issue here is a lack of training, guidance, and support on the part of leaders. In Sunday School, this is the job of the Sunday School president and no teacher should be offended from notes from the SSP, even if those notes are, “Brother/Sister Jones, could you make an extra effort to end class on time?” If the teacher’s doing so out of lack of confidence or know-how, here’s the opportunity to help them along. Same goes to auxiliary presidents, and same goes for the bishopric. In fact, I wish more bishoprics spent some time giving coaching and instruction to speakers other than “Here’s your topic. Please plan for 10-12 minutes.”

  36. When I was a bishop and a Sacrament Meeting speaker either did not show up (less rare than I would have hoped) or finished early, I always just let the meeting end early. This resulted in at least two occasions when Sacrament Meeting ended 30 minutes early and, from the pulpit, I instructed Sunday School, Primary, Relief Society, Priesthood, and other teachers and leaders to also end their meetings 30 minutes early so that everyone could go home from church 30 minutes early. No one ever complained.

  37. During my time in an elder’s quorum presidency, I had a policy of end the lesson 5 minutes early. If the teacher was getting close, I would politely raise my hand and tell them to start wrapping things up. It was polite and fairly effective.

    In out byu ward, my roommates and I would set alarms on our watches for the end of church and “forget” to turn them off for 5-10 seconds if the teacher was still going. Also effective, but much less polite.

  38. Kevin Barney says:

    Here’s a blog post I wrote where I described how I learned the need to end on time by hard personal experience:

  39. Starfoxy says:

    The building I was in as a child had a little red light on the podium that the bishop could turn on from his seat to signal that it was time to quit talking.
    We once had a high council speaker say “Hmm, a little red light just turned on up here. I dunno what it means so I’ll just put my books over it.” and continued to speak for another 15 minutes.

  40. Coffinberry says:

    I was the concluding speaker Sunday in our ward. I had been asked to speak for 15 minutes; when I timed my talk it was at 17, so I trimmed out some more.

    Imagine my concern when the youth speaker, other speaker, and rest hymn were done and there were still 40 minutes left on the clock! We have Sac. Mtg. first, and overlap with an earlier ward.

    I spoke v e r y slowly, and stretched my talk out to 25 minutes. Our meeting ended about 11 minutes early. It made for some chaotic hallways outside the Primary and Nursery! The other ward will probably complain to the stake about it.

  41. Our ward consistently ends RS 5 minutes early. Our last RS pres ran a tight ship and it became an uncomfortable thing to watch the teachers nervously watching the clock to make sure they didn’t go over (they had to finish ten minutes before the hour). Our new RS pres is more laid back, but still makes an effort to end early. It’s SO nice to get through the narrow halls to kids’ classes before they become jammed.

    Also, because my calling keeps me after RS for a bit, my husband just gets up and leaves priesthood 5 minutes early no matter what’s going on so he can be there to meet the kids. If enough people did that I bet the meetings would start ending.

  42. Aye! Amen! Where do we sign the petition!
    @Romney – Huntsman 2012 The missionaries who were happy sit through the 5 hour zone conference probably didn’t have antsy children waiting down the hall for them. And if they did, hopefully part of the 5 hours was spent discussing “The LDS Missionary and the Law of Chastity.”

  43. Swisster says:

    Agree. Set all clocks (except the Primary clock) 5 minutes fast! No toddlers wandering unsupervised in the parking lot, please.

  44. Nice, Swisster…an actual church hack!

  45. I get up and leave to pick up my children from nursery and primary. I consider it bad manners on MY part if I don’t. I encourage anyone else who is stuck in a late meeting to do the same. I even did this when I was the RS pianist. I remember once getting up to collect my kids and they assumed I was going to play, so I said I need to pick up my kids but agreed to play one verse only. Seems to work like a charm because the meeting rarely goes late. I can’t remember the last time I had to get up and leave before the hymn.

  46. The clocks in my ward set themselves. No lie. You change the time and they start moving their own hands to the correct time.

    Personally when I’m teaching I try very hard to end 3 minutes early. That leaves enough time for a long winded prayer. I have been known to end 15 minutes early when nobody seemed interested in discussing the material.

  47. I’ve tried to find a source, but I am not coming up with anything. In the back of my head there is a quote that I had associated with Bruce R. McConkie saying something similar to the idea that there is no meeting so sacred that it can’t end on time. Also that it is better to end 10 minutes early rather than five minutes late. Childhood fantasies, perhaps.

  48. this was discussed in EQ once along the lines that picking up kids after the meetings is a priesthood duty (seriously?) and that any fathers who needed to ditch out early were certainly welcome if not encouraged to do so. I disagree with the priesthood responsibility as it is a PARENT responsibility to ensure the safety of their children. So yeah – this is a great church hack… fact is though that people just need to get over being ‘rude’ or whatever – if you need to leave at 12pm or 4pm or whatever, just get up and leave – plenty of other church-goers aren’t similarly bothered, and I bet a few of them even consider themselves temple worthy even though they may miss Bro or Sis Soandso ramble on at the end of the lesson once it ticks into OT.

  49. Kevin Barney says:

    As a missionary I’d have loved to sit through a five-hour meeting–that would mean I wasn’t out tracting. So I don’t think we can compare missionary meetings to the family variety.

  50. Jenny in NC says:

    Oh you’ve touched on one of my biggest pet peeves of all time: meetings going over! (Equally annoying in the business world, I might add.)

    The worst situations are meetings that don’t have a defined end time, such as primary training meetings. I went to one last year that lasted nearly 2 hours. I was livid and about swore to myself that next time I would walk out. I also get very nervous in Relief Society meetings (a.k.a. Enrichment meetings) where they ask “a few sisters to take a minute to share their thoughts.” They usually ask sisters who really like to hear themselves talk. When I was Primary President I started having our weekly meetings one hour before church started, so we had to end on time. Otherwise one of my counselors would talk for hours and hours.

    One other comment. I am currently the Primary chorister. The Primary Presidency recently asked me to lead the children in singing after Primary, to keep them reverent until their parents pick them up. (Can’t let the kids go on their own–safety issue!) Sometimes we have kids there for 10 minutes–because their parents classes don’t get out on time, or their parents are chatting in the hallway. I told the Presidency as nicely as I could that I didn’t think that extended reverence/singing was a good idea. Kids know when church is over, and they won’t sit quietly one minute past finishing time. Who can blame them?

  51. If the prophet, the Lord’s own mouthpiece, can always end his conference talks on time, then I’m sure everyone else can too.

    In our ward, we have sacrament meeting last, and we have a cramped funky chapel that is uncomfortable after about an hour, so when the visiting high council members or the blubbering habitual testimony giver go over the hour, it’s a major irritant.

    One time our stake was being reorganized and a GA was the final speaker, well the new stake presidency talked for so long that the GA, who everyone wanted to hear from, was only given 5 minutes to talk. He bore a short testimony and sat down in time for the song and prayer so the meeting could end on time. Of course, the good brother who was giving the prayer couldn’t pick up on the GA’s example and proceeded to give a 15-minute prayer/sermon.

    I sure hope he got rebuked.

  52. Jenny, I have to agree with you that the singing idea isn’t a good one. It sounds like just the excuse some parents need to keep chatting rather than put the priority on getting the kids. I say let them loose. If the parents are that concerned about a safety issue, they can leave their class promptly as so many others in this thread have suggested and pick up their kids.

  53. Latter-day Guy says:

    Jenny in NC, I’ve got a calling in Primary too, and while I enjoy it, I do feel badly for the kids sometimes.

  54. I love this church hack!

    For me, speaking way over the allotted time is a sign of disrespect. It says, “What I have to say is more important than any other priorities you might have–more important than spending time with your families, more important than keeping other meetings you’ve committed to, more important than the Sunday School lesson.”

    Yes! Tim, you totally nailed it. I don’t care how wonderful a talk or lesson is–once it runs over the end of the meeting, in my book it becomes the worst ever because the teacher/speaker is showing a total lack of respect for his/her audience/class. If a returning mission president has 3 hours worth of talk to give, let him schedule a 3 hour fireside some other time for interested parties to attend. Don’t hijack a meeting with an already specified length and make it go hours beyond that.

  55. I thought everyone knew that the Spirit leaves at the time that the meeting is meant to finish at. The spirit is a busy person, and punctual so can’t have their schedule interfered with. ;) So why keep teaching/speaking when the spirit has left the building?

  56. Thanks, Ziff.

    A fireside is the perfect venue for that.

    As far as zone meetings go–staying for a long zone meeting certainly trumped tracting, but not scheduled appointments. (In fact, in my book, almost anything constructive trumped tracting).

  57. David P. says:

    i love every single one of these comments. i thought i was the only person with a zeal for punctuality. i hate the stigma of “mormon standard time” like we’re a bunch of sloppy idiots who can’t get our crap together to get to an event on time, nor end on time.

    keep on truckin.

  58. Emily U says:

    Like jks, I just get up and leave when it’s time to pick up my kids, whether the teacher has stopped speaking or not.

  59. When I was at BYU, just after my mission, my room mates and I attended our first Fast & Testimony meeting in the new ward. The meeting went over 40 minutes over. I kept expecting the Bishop to stand up and announce that the people on stand could finish but no more would be allowed up. They just kept coming. Well after the allotted time had passed, people kept getting up. Drove us insane. So we vowed that if the same thing happened next month, we would get up at the correct time and leave. It happened again. So we left. Got a lot of stares. Next month, it happened again. We got up. As did about half the ward.

    Fast & Testimony meeting ended on time the month after that.

  60. Lon, haven’t you read what President Kimball wrote about civil disobedience?

  61. StillConfused says:

    I walk out if they are not done on time. I consider it disrespectful to go over time. Jesus will come back before you expect it not later.

  62. What Mormon has ever said, “I wish that Sacrament meeting had lasted longer? I wish we didn’t get out early? I wish General Priesthood Meeting could go longer?”

  63. My youth Sunday School class is held right next door to the chapel. I already have to prepare for a 50 minute class because the kids are there immediately after the Sacrament Meeting closing prayer. On a couple of recent occasions, Sacrament ended at 11:00 instead of 11:10 and I had the little darlings for an hour. Actually I love teaching that class and the kids are great, but you can’t turn them loose early. I would probably be ex-communicated for that.

  64. “No meeting is unimportant enough to start late; no meeting is important enough to run late.”

    “It takes a really good meeting to be better than no meeting.”

    I’ve had 20 minutes for an assigned talk and shortened it to 2 minutes in order to end on time. I also have walked out of meetings at the appointed time – and, in my current calling, I’ve spoken with the person in charge when a meeting has gone significantly over time.

    I agree totally with Tim – that going past a scheduled time when people have other things to do with the time you take away from them is disrespectful. It says, “My time and message are more important than anyone else’s time and message.” It’s more than just disrespectful, actually.

  65. Can I vent?!?! At our last ward conference sacrament meeting went 40 minutes over, including a talk where the high counselor chided Sunday School teachers for ending on time. But the act that sent me overboard was when the RS meeting featuring the stake president went 30 minutes over at the end of the block. Not only were the husbands/children going nuts, the elderly gospel doctrine class of the next ward was fatiguing in hall waiting for their room. So rude.

  66. Several months ago the RS/Priesthood and Sunday School blocks were flip-flopped in our ward. The teacher was discoursed without any apparent knowledge of the time passing. Then you could start hearing the chaos in the hallways as children clamored about with little supervision. “It’ll only take a few minutes to wrap up,” the teacher promised, “Is it alright if I continue?” “NO!” the every person in the room replied in one voice. I don’t even remember if he got a chance to say anything else before another Sunday School leader quickly stood up, said a quick prayer, and then we were out of there.

    So maybe we just need someone to stand up ~60seconds before the end of class and just start offering a closing prayer regardless of if the speaker or teacher is done yet :)

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