Church-Hacker #10: Church in Reverse

BCC reader Katie W. says we should go to church backwards. What the what?

Several years ago our stake reversed the order of meetings. We now start with RS/PH, then Sunday School, and last is Sacrament Meeting. No class goes overtime when Sacrament meeting is the finale; it just doesn’t happen, it is too obvious that a teacher isn’t letting class out in a timely manner if the class members straggle into Sacrament meeting.

At first people were getting to RS/PH/Primary/YM/YW a little late, but when the leaders started on time, folks started getting the idea that their children would miss their assignments, and announcements would be made whether they were there or not. A miracle occurred as after a few months, people were getting there on time. Sacrament always starts on time and ends on time except for the rare occasions when we get out of Sacrament meeting 5 minutes EARLY. Families are not late for Sacrament meeting or trailing in from the parking lot.

The other benefit of this schedule is that people and their guests do not bolt from Sacrament and skip their other meetings immediately following a blessing or missionary talk. When Sacrament meeting is over, everyone leaves since the block is over.

As hard as change can be, this change has become a favorite. Try it, you’ll like it.

Another benefit I can think of is that a greater percentage of members get the sacrament each week instead of coming late and missing it (and the Aaronic priesthood is probably better able to prepare/administer it). Thoughts? Would this work in your ward?


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  1. Until a recent ward reorganization, we went to church “backwards,” too. I much prefer it, chiefly for the reason Katie states. Now, with our ward meeting from 1 to 4 p.m., and with sacrament meeting first, it’s all too easy to bolt when I’m not teaching Sunday School and when RS is yet another trite lesson on how superdooperglorious it is to have a family.

    Since I grew up with Sunday School in the morning and a second trip to Sacrament Meeting in the late afternoon, this actually doesn’t seem as backwards to me as beginning with Sacrament Meeting anyway!

  2. The university branch I went to before graduating to the family ward had their schedule in reverse as we share the building (they start at 10 with RS, we start at 9 with Sacrament). Overall I liked the reverse better for three reasons:

    1) You were given plenty of time to chat before sacrament meeting started. No pressure to say “HI” to your neighbor.

    2) If I was late, I was more inclined to hurry. If I know I’m going to be missing the whole point of church I tend to take my time. However if I knew I was going to open the door only to have a room full of ladies stare at me while I took a seat…

    3) Instead of feeling like I was building up to RS, I was building up to Christ. It felt like the sacrament, atonement, everything really, was much more emphasized.

    I know we’re told to prepare before we come to church but in reality, who has the time to thoughtfully pray when you’re busy chasing down kids? Oh, and the number of “I Love My Roommate” Fast and Testimony sessions was zilch (don’t know if this had any correlation with being mentally prepared but I would like to think it was more than just the group of people).

  3. We already do it in this order (not sure “backwards” is the correct phrase) as do all the units in our stake.
    We have considered switching to sacrament first, seeing it as an advantage to families with young kids who wouldn’t be as restless, having not already been though 2 hours of church. However, we preferred the sacrament last option and the stake presidency wanted to keep it uniform throughout the stake anyway.
    We still get a few that only turn up for sacrament, but they would probably be the same ones that would bolt after the meeting if it was first.
    Personally I prefer sacrament meeting last. Having it last feels as if you are building up to the sacrament ordinance, and the whole reason we are there in the first place. Also, it is nice to finish with everyone together and gives extra opportunities to mingle afterwards rather than try to track down other family members etc.

  4. I’ve had it both ways in various wards. My observation is that having Sacrament Meeting last is very difficult with children as they are at the end of their tolerance level by the time the third hour of meetings rolls around.

  5. Chris Gordon says:

    I admire the ward that was able to overcome the culture of tardiness by giving announcements regardless. We’ve had the reverse meeting schedule 2 out of the 4 years I’ve been in my current ward due to building sharing and we were NEVER able to push through that.

    Katie W.: do you notice that sacrament meeting is more or less rowdy when it’s the last hour? In our case it was definitely more rowdy with the kids wound up from primary (to say nothing of the fact that in our particular case it was right in the middle of nap time for the little ones).

    In general, though, I agree. I think it’s a good setup for a lot of reasons. Also makes it easier for investigators to get to a 10:45 sacrament meeting as opposed to a 9 AM sacrament meeting if that’s all they’re willing/able to be in for.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve never had the reverse block. Some of my rlelatives in Utah have it that way, but we’ve always had the sacrament first block. I think the reverse schedule does sound appealing, largely for the reason Ardis gave–it would remind me of my youth when we came back for sacrament in the early evening. Sacrament meeting always seemed more important, more spiritual, more special in thos pre-block days, and this might be a way to approximate that feeling within the constraints of the block format.

  7. Karen M. says:

    Our stake just moved away from this schedule and I was so glad. I don’t think it really deterred anyone from being late. In fact, I think more people skipped RS/PH than would have otherwise. We also live in a very full ward, so there was no way to get seat in the chapel unless you left class early. And I have small and not-so-small children. Sacrament meeting at 3pm (when you have 1pm church) is pretty painful. Even my older kids had lots of trouble sitting through that last hour. If you really want to suggest this schedule, at least consider putting some pb&j on the sacrament bread for the hungry kids.

  8. Half the wards in the town where I grew up always did this, because it made building sharing easier (we had four in one building at one point). I didn’t know there was a “normal” order of meetings.

    I think the reversed schedule is better. It is SOOO much easier for the primary and nursery leaders to deal with children fresh from breakfast, rather than children who’ve already sat through Sacrament meeting and are getting hungry for lunch. On the flip side, it’s a little harder for the parents when they have tired, hungry kids during Sacrament Meeting, but at least they’re dealing with only their OWN kids.

    The only place I have seen this not work well is in small branches abroad. Our little branch in Italy just was not able to attain critical mass of members when Sacrament meeting wasn’t first. Same in Chile on my mission. Primary or YW/YM teachers just wouldn’t show up, even RS started a half hour late, and half the ward didn’t straggle in until Sacrament Meeting had already started anyway.

    But for cultures where punctuality is more the norm (i.e. not Latin America or the Mediterranean), it’s probably a good idea to have reversed order meetings.

  9. My memory may be a bit muddled on the matter, but I think that’s the order we always had Church in in my home ward in Germany – Sacrament meeting last. I like it. And if I remember correctly, it is also really not uncommon to have that way in many wards in Germany (probably Europe?).

  10. A neighboring stake does the block in reverse. Apparently its been proven that it markedly improves Sacrament Meeting attendance.

  11. The primary prefers it too because the kids are more well behaved in the first half of church when they are “fresh”. It also means kids don’t come to primary ready to play and act out after having to sit on their hands for an hour of sacrament.

    Conversely, it does lead to “reverence complaints” by some that kids are a little too excitable during sacrament meetings, but really that’s often the fault of the complainer, unless the parent is little a kid get really crazy. It’s expected a child is going to make noises during a long meeting they don’t understand and even more expected for the adult to be able to look past it.

    It also puts the sacrament meeting as the culmination/progression of everything that happened that day rather than just showing up and having the right attitude after rushing through traffic, dealing with whatever crisis in the family is happening that day, etc. to get to church.

  12. Josh B. says:

    I have it reversed right now. People still bolt after Sacrament Meeting, but to go home. There is a lot less socializing though in the last hour.

  13. I went through this about 3 different times when I was going to school in Rexburg. For university students, it was great. For family wards, the reaction was mixed. Either they would love it (like me) or they would be dealing with fussy restless kids. The best part about it was that it allowed everyone a chance to talk BEFORE sacrament meeting, it allowed for the focus to be on sacrament (and not preparing a lesson, not that I’ve done it….ahem….), and allowed for the Bishopric to conduct their business during the 2 hrs before (and thus, get home a bit earlier).

    It could be a problem with children and fussiness, though. YMMV

  14. We’re doing this in 2011 to accommodate both wards and the branch the meets in our building.

    I agree with the OP and really prefer this setup.

  15. “I’ve had it both ways in various wards. My observation is that having Sacrament Meeting last is very difficult with children as they are at the end of their tolerance level by the time the third hour of meetings rolls around.”

    Er, yeah, that’s it … my children are restless.

  16. I’ve had both, and I can see the benefits and drawbacks of each. I like having sacrament meeting first because it makes the rest of church feel like church. Somehow, RS and SS feel less churchy when held first. On the other hand, sacrament meeting being last has the advantage that if it runs late, it doesn’t cut into class time.

    (Oh, and as an aside, NewlyHousewife, using the term “graduation” to refer to the transition from a singles’ ward to a geographically based ward of people of diverse ages is demeaning to single people. It initializes us and treats us as deficient.)

  17. Er… that should say “infantilizes”. Stupid autocorrect.

  18. I had never before considered that someone could be demeaned by “initializing” them. And to think, all the missed opportunities to offend people by “initializing” them!

  19. Oh, sorry. Please disregard. Here’s a pat on the head.

  20. (I apologize)

  21. It was so worth it for the last few comments!

  22. Agreeing with others that the reverse schedule is often good for many ward members, but it’s hard on kids. And they’re pretty good at making their displeasure known. One other reason I didn’t like it was that there was only ever a handful of women in RS when church started. I felt like it make our RS much less unified because people just weren’t there.

    But I loved that church always ended on time. We never went past 4 PM in an entire year. Being able to go home at the end was apparently far better incentive for speakers to end on time than going to Sunday School.

    When my parents were in Russia, their branch president would switch the schedule at his pleasure, in an effort to get people there on time, and to stay for the entire three hours. I don’t know how successful his plan was though.

  23. To those who are saying that Sacrament Meeting last makes it difficult on the kids, let me state unequivocally that what you are experiencing is called PARENTING. Three hours of a kid sitting and behaving is not likely to occur without a little (or a lot of) guidance and training.

    So here are your choices: either YOU as a parent get to deal with the child’s potential misbehavior in Sacrament Meeting (called “parenting”), or a Primary Teacher gets to do it in a different hour.(called “passing the buck”). Personally, i like the part where the Primary Teachers get to teach ‘fresh’ kids, and parents get to parent.

  24. Karen M. says:

    Um, some of us are parents AND in Primary. And let me state unequivocally that sitting through sacrament meeting is much harder on kids than playing games and singing in Primary and eating snacks in nursery. Thanks for the parenting advice though.

  25. Guess I passed the buck all those years I was taking care of everyone else’s kids in nursery while mine went to Primary.

  26. Chris Gordon says:

    @23, “Paging Brother Bitterman. Brother Bitterman to the white courtesy phone.”

  27. Reading the post and comments it seems that there are definitely pros/cons/preferences for either schedule so one will work for some and not for others and every ward/branch will have made up of both so the schedule doesn’t really matter. Factors influencing personal schedule preference may include whether families have children to deal with, lessons or other meetings to prepare for, health issues that limit the time (or attention) they can spend on meetings, etc.

    The key is, as I see it, that we place the importance on Sacrament Mtg. that it should have as much as we can. There are days when it wouldn’t matter whether it was first or last, we’re just not engaged. The external factors, which include schedule, influencing what we get out of the meeting (or add to it) are secondary to the internal factors (spiritual preparedness, desire, etc.).

  28. observer fka eric s says:

    When sac is last, the whole building smells like spaghetti because the last ward will do break the fast. This makes my stomach growl, the deacons sneak into the kitchen and eat the food in the oven and fridge, and then the RS prez gets chaffed.

  29. My ward has always had Sacrament meeting last. It seems much better that way to me, and as a parent I never had that much trouble with my kids during sacrament meeting, with a couple of exceptions. Once when he was 2, my son just got fed up with his church clothes and started flinging them off in all directions. Another time, we left the meeting right after the sacrament for some reason and for the next year or so my daughter would beg to leave right after the sacrament was over. But overall, having sacrament meeting last is much better, though I have noticed that people are late for PH/RS. But in my mind, that’s better than people walking in late to sacrament meeting.

    As for getting a good seat: in my ward people go into the chapel during the break before SS and put their bookbags or diaper bags or scriptures or whatever on the benches to save their place. It’s kind of an odd tradition, but it works.

  30. Last week I went in to the church kitchen to see if there was anything worth stealing. There was not. All I could find was a can of peaches in a cupboard. I don’t like fruit at room temperature. I put them in the freezer, and went to Sunday School, intending to come back during Priesthood opening exercises to eat them chilled. It wasn’t until the middle of the lesson in High Priest Group that I had a panicked vision of my peaches exploding in the freezer. I bolted the room to save the peaches. They were delicious. I didn’t go back to High Priests, however, so I don’t know if anyone finished teaching my lesson.

    So, my question is, how would a reversed meeting schedule impact my eating?

  31. it's a series of tubes says:

    @23: “unequivocally”, huh? Nice. Thanks for the PARENTING advice.

  32. I was kidding about me teaching the lesson. But the rest of the story is true.

  33. observer fka eric s says:

    @gst – High Priest are the only ones that can and will each peaches. So it had to be bait to see which HP is the weekly culprit in the kitchen ;) Good job RS.

  34. @23
    I would like to state unequivocally that I love stating things unequivocally. In fact, starting now, if your comment in this thread doesn’t say something unequivocally, I will delete it.

  35. How about on Fast Sunday we take the Sacrament, give our testimonies, and then GO HOME!

    (All those in favor please signify by raising the right hand . . all opposed by the same sign. Thank you.)

  36. Aaron (35), don’t make me make an example out of you…

  37. And I don’t like it when people get snotty about having their food stolen from the church kitchen. It’s called the Law of Consecration, b****. Deal with it.

  38. Keri Brooks, is it demeaning to call people at church b*****es? Please advise.

  39. I unequivocally state that my 4 kids will learn the gospel just as well with church only being 1 hour, once a month.

  40. Our ward has done it both ways. We had a higher incidence of folks skipping priesthood/RS and Sunday school when we reversed, and the kids were unrulier.

  41. P.S.

    Everything I state is stated equivocally unless unequivocally stated otherwise.

  42. Why not go the whole hog and reverse the order of sacrament meeting too, so that the Lord’s Supper is the culmination of everything? My family likes to tell a story about when my grandfather was a bishop in Salt Lake City and tried to get permission to use soda crackers and Tang for the sacrament, with the idea of jolting his ward into paying attention to what they were doing. His SP wouldn’t go for the crackers and Tang, but he did let my grandfather switch around the meeting so that the speakers came before the ordinance. My dad says it was one of the most spiritual sacrament meetings he can remember, and it’s not hard to see why. If the sacrament is the whole reason for church, why do we preface it with the least spiritual, least worshipful quarter of an hour imaginable (referring to ward and stake “business”)?

  43. Since it’s always fun to jump on the disfavored commenter, I’ll jump on Jim (23) too. He apparently cannot distinguish between a child’s tolerance for a class, which might involve physical activity, games, questions and answers, etc., with that same child’s tolerance for sitting through a meeting filled with old people speaking words that a child can scarcely understand.

    (Oh, and by the way, my children were all perfect angels during sacrament meetings, due in the most part to their extraordinary mother.)

  44. #42 – I think having the sacrament last in the meeting is a fabulous idea. A few months ago, I attended a mass (it was prior to my graduation from a Jesuit university). I love how communion was last and everything in the mass led up to it. It was clear what the main point of the mass was, and it blew any sacrament meeting I’ve attended out of the water in terms of spirituality.

  45. Our previous ward tried it for a year. Sacrament attendance went down slightly and the other meeting attendance dropped quite a bit.

    I have little children …so I’m not in favor.

  46. I like the reversed order of meetings (we’ve been in both kinds of wards), but when I saw the headline, I assumed it would recommend ending sacrament meeting with the sacrament. Glad the comments finally got around to that. I kinda like that idea.

  47. One of my wards in BYU went Sacrament meeting – RS/Priesthood – Sunday School. It was GREAT. I especially enjoyed the camaraderie shared amongst the half of the ward walking down the hill back to our apartment complex after second hour.

  48. Sacrament meeting last was my little version of hell. Of course, it might have been b/c church was 2:30-5:30 and I was 8 months pregant and taking 3 children to church on my own. Sure, it’s no big deal if people miss the announcements in RS/EQ when they’re late, but what if you have to drop your kids off in Primary before you can go teach your YW lesson, but their teacher is not there because he/she is late that day or they are trying to drop their own kids off in their classes – you can’t just leave them unattended in a classroom, and I didn’t have a spouse there who could help get the kids settled so I could go teach. And then you pick up your kids from Primary and they’re totally excited to tell you all about their lessons and what they did that day, but you have to shush them up so you can quickly get in the chapel and sit down and somehow keep them reverent so people like Brother Manning don’t think you’re a terrible parent.

  49. Jim Donaldson says:

    I think the order matters less than the time of day that the meeting is held and how it meshes with the routine of young children. If any meeting is held over the kids’ normal lunch time or nap time, you are going to have some troubles.

    Because we share primary and youth programs with the other ward in our building, the wards switch meeting order every year. After years of this, I don’t think it effects reverence, unruliness, or attendance either way. People have their preferences, but it is mostly related to the time, not the order.

  50. I propose something actually revolutionary: sacrament meeting in the middle! Ok, this would probably mess up primary so it isn’t a doable schedule.

    As a child we always had sacrament meeting last. It was a heresy to suggest it could be any other way. Now there are two acceptable schedules and as best I can tell Church HQ has no preference between them:




    As far as I can tell the reason is that people would skip SS if it were on either end and feel more pressure to go to PH/RS and Sacrament Meeting. In temple recommend interviews I’m only asked about PH and Sacrament meeting attendance, never SS.

  51. Chris Gordon says:

    @Jes (48), well said. And God bless you. :) And it’s going to mean so much to your kids someday that you were where you needed to be on Sundays.

  52. #42: Rather than soda crackers and Tang, he should have gone hog-wild and used wine like Christ or Joseph Smith :-)

  53. Jenny in NC says:

    We had the backwards schedule last year (as well as other years in the past) and I don’t like it. Because:
    1) I am the Primary chorister and I was expected to show up 10 minutes early to sing with the early kids before primary started. THAT MUCH magnification of my calling made me very grumpy.
    2) The Primary Presidency was not very organized, so I ended up singing for 15-20 minutes until they were finally ready to start.
    3) There was a mad dash to find a seat in sacrament meeting, so I couldn’t lay claim to my favorite pew. (Towards the middle on the left side of the chapel.)
    4) The reverence before sacrament meeting was abysmal as families tried to find each other in the chapel.

  54. Steve Evans says:

    Jenny, are you really in NC? If so, would you be able to ship me a few cases of Cheerwine?

  55. Better to have restless, at the end of their tolerance children be with OTHER PEOPLE during the third hour.

  56. I will say that my parenting (as measured by the behavior of my four children) is as bad during the 1st hour as it is during the 3rd hour of church… and I mean that unequivocally.

  57. The reverse meeting schedule seems to require higher attendance (or at least that people be on time) because of the many moving parts. As some of the other folks have pointed out, the many callings we have involving minors create a good deal of codependency. And then there are other players that must be involved too (e.g. the librarian) to get reverse church rolling on time. So the reverse meeting schedule can be a great incentive to getting people to church on time because otherwise the whole system can go awry. The danger is that if you have a few people not showing up or showing up late (which can happen with even the best of intentions), this can negatively impact a lot of people.

    Contrast this with sacrament meeting which requires about 3 people to get started: an organist, a chorister, and some guy in a suit jacket looking very formal. Combined with the problems of getting kids to sit through the most boring part of church when they are on their last nerve (as well as getting the adults, including myself, to do so), I think that reverse sacrament meetings are not a viable option for units with large children/youth populations.

    As had been said though, they can work quite well in singles wards and other wards where the demographics are more favorable.

  58. Ann Porter,

    The third hour dynamic is entirely different if the kids are in Primary, which is geared towards them, versus Sacrament Meeting, which is definitely not geared towards small children. Frankly, I often wonder who Sacrament Meeting is in fact geared towards. My current answer is that it is for the (attempted) benefit of the speakers. In general other than the central ordinance it isn’t for the benefit of the audience.

  59. observer fka eric s says:

    viewed from a children-management perspective, isn’t having sacrament meeting first for a ward that meets 1 – 4 essentially (and unequivocally) the same as having sacrament last?

  60. For the benefit of those that seek Cheerwine:

  61. StillConfused says:

    When I first got divorced I lived in a humble ward that was backwards. And the bishop was adamant that when the speakers were done, Church was dismissed. So we often got out 15 minutes early. I actually went to RS and SS more in the backwards church. The problem with the frontwards churches is that after sacrament meeting, I am usually so bored / annoyed at having to sit / whatever, that I have pretty much maxed out on the amount of Jesus I can handle for the day.

  62. Wow, comment #23 makes me want to punch things. Mostly in their crotches.
    I have a boy on the autism spectrum, including a sensory processing disorder. Church is a hellish nightmare on good days. If we were to have sacrament meeting last I’m sure brother Manning would have me taken out to the stake ball diamond and stoned for my unequivocably abysmal parenting. Never mind that the “problems” are neither my fault for being a sucky parent, nor my boy’s fault for being a freak.. He just can’t do it. Can’t, not won’t. Sigh.

  63. Kristine says:

    Right there with ya, Bee. We are sooooo due for a “This is What Autism Looks Like at Church” tutorial around here. (And Part II: I Hope You Feel Terrible about the Ignorant, Unkind Things You’ve Been Thinking about Spectrum Kids’ Parents All These Years)

  64. I think if I were working in Primary, I would be on my last nerve by the time sacrament meeting rolled around. Of course, I’m often on my last nerve even when sacrament meeting is first. So no one should plan their schedules around me.

    I do think my kids would do even worse in third-hour sacrament meeting than in first-hour sacrament meeting, regardless of what time of day it was (though they’d be extra, extra bad if it were afternoon church). Having sacrament meeting last was fine before I had kids. Now that I have kids, sacrament meeting is sort of hell anyway, but I can only imagine it would be super-duper hell if we’d all already been at church for two hours. The other thing I worry about is sacrament meeting going overtime (there’s no reason why it wouldn’t) when we’ve already been there three hours. That would make us seriously cranky. SERIOUSLY. That’s just our family, of course. Take our family out of the equation, and I have no opinion.

    I do like the idea of doing the sacrament ordinance last…in theory. I’m sure that in practice the change would make my autistic 8-yo CRAZY. :)

  65. 61 and 62, there’s an article in August’s Ensign that talks about Autism. It’s right after another article that discussed down syndrome (or they’re at least within 20 pages of each other). I don’t know if it’s better or worst that both seem to only focus on the mother’s perspective if you’re just looking at the pictures like I am (aren’t dads affected by this just as deeply).

  66. What magical ward is this that usually ends sacrament meeting five minutes early?
    We have sacrament meeting last and it’s an irreverent scene before it starts as everyone jams into our too small chapel and then sets up folding chairs in the gym for the unfortunate stragglers. Then we almost always end 10 minutes late, 15 if the high council is speaking.

  67. Sorry, I misread. You did say it was rare to end early, probably as rare as it is for us to end on time.

  68. Joseph S. says:

    I grew up with this order. For me, this is normal. The Sacrament Meeting-first schedule is the weird one.

  69. #61, 62 – amen and amen. And while we’re at it, how about if we stop judging the kids (and their parents) who are ADHD, OCD and others. We are so fortunate in our ward to have a number of challenged kids (including my own) and wonderfully supportive members who are patient, kind and accepting. There may also be those who aren’t; fortunately I don’t know who they are. (Perhaps I have a #23 lurking in my ward, too, that I don’t know about.)

  70. Eric Russell says:

    For the record, the use of the word “graduation” to refer to aging out of a YSA ward is very common in the singles community and, insofar as I was aware until this moment, entirely benign. In fact, the term is euphemistic in intent. It obviates the need to make an explicit reference to age and, as such, singles generally appreciate the existence of the term. Of course, if someone had a personal disliking to the term, no one would think less of them for not using it. But expecting the rest the community to stop using the term because of personal distaste is, I think, entirely unrealistic. I think one would find more success taking offense to the identification of our twelve year old young women as insect broods.

  71. I usually refer to the advent of my marriage as dropping out of the singles ward.

  72. It's Not Me says:

    I’ve heard the complaints about kids being more fussy when sacrament is last. The wards in our stake have had sacrament last since the block schedule came out. I’ve been to a number of wards where sacrament is first and I have not noticed any difference in the children. I just don’t buy it.

    I like sacrament last because it’s the most important meeting and the culmination of the other meetings. It feels strange to me to have sacrament meeting first.

  73. It's Not Me says:

    BTW, we sometimes end sac meeting a little early, sometimes a minute late, but in 20 years only once have we gone 15 minutes late, and that was when the last speaker got up on the hour and the bishop told him to go ahead and give his talk. He was dense enough to take the bishop very literally, and gave his entire talk, as prepared, including preplanned pregnant pauses. It was extremely awkward.

  74. We used to be like this in our ward until last summer. We never had the benefits as per the OP; people wouldn’t come to church until Sacrament. As EQP, I found better attendance in our quorum meetings on the years when we had Sacrament first.

  75. That would be my expectation, that people would feel more free to skip their other meetings, especially if they got up late. I mean, that’s probably what I would do, if my husband weren’t there to kick us out the door every week.

    As a single person, I much preferred having sacrament meeting last. I was also more righteous then, so I still would have gone to my other meetings and would never have gotten up late. Having a family has made me much more selfish and lazy.

  76. Kristine says:

    “I think one would find more success taking offense to the identification of our twelve year old young women as insect broods.”

  77. A former ward did this before, and I think it works well in areas without a LOT of small children. Our ward was really young, and by the time those kids had been through primary, they couldn’t sit still anymore. Sacrament meeting was always noisy. I usually don’t like the “mother’s lounge” but I was happy to escape to it, since I could actually hear the speaker that way.

    They changed it, and the level of reverence in sacrament meeting went up exponentially. I prefer sacrament meeting first.

  78. Hi … #23 here again. VERY interesting comments. I find myself a little more educated than I was yesterday.

    So if I may interrupt the villagers with the pitchforks and torches long enough to explain and perhaps even to apologize …

    For the record, I got to deal with my own young autistic boy in church for a few years once upon a time, so I believe i know at least a little about difficult kids and the issues involved in reverence. I taught primary once upon a time too.

    My comments were not fueled by personal judgmentalism; they were not directed at anyone in particular and definitely included no insinuation of those dealing with disabilities. My comments were an observation that Sacrament meeting as a last meeting of the day provides a unique opportunity for parents to teach not only reverence but endurance in long meetings (a skill that will serve them well through their many years of Mormonism).

    — And yes, it was also an observation that, unfortunately, there seem to be SOME parents (and sadly, a little more prolific in our church than out, I think) who feel that THEIR children’s misbehaviors are somehow the shared responsibility of the whole ward. (Note: I didn’t say “YOU are that parent;” I simply note that it exists in noticeable numbers.)

    At any rate, if my pointing out this personal observation has hit a little too close to home, and you took offense, I sincerely apologize. That was NOT my intent. I don’t know you, and I don’t know you child, but I trust you have matters well in-hand without anyone’s meddling comments, least of all mine.

    I do have to say, this particular forum comment thread has been educational for me. It has reminded me rather poignantly that in religious circles (and especially in LDS culture), there is NO such thing as open discussion of an idea without someone taking personal offense and assuming the discussion was about them. Must be a remnant of all of that Missouri persecution or something. It becomes clearer to me over time why our lessons in church are more about giving the innocuous “Sunday School” answers instead of discussing the actual “rubber-meet-the-road” mechanics of making the principles of the Gospel somehow fit in our imperfect lives.

    So again I apologize for any of my comments that may have offended. I certainly won’t make the mistake of doing so in this forum again.

  79. In general other than the central ordinance it isn’t for the benefit of the audience.

    Alas, the best laid plans aft gang agley. I keep getting benefit out of sacrament meeting despite the intentions of whomever it is decides these things.

  80. Adam G.,

    That is because you are a better person than I. Also, “gang aft”, rather than “aft gang” I believe. In any case it would be interesting to know how the current format of song, prayer, announcements, song, sacrament, some combination of mediocre speakers, song, prayer came to be and why. I also wonder how it is that some people get so much out of what I consider to be terrible talks while I just get frustrated. In fact, in my conversation with many members, they seem to be unable to even contemplate that a talk could be terrible. The answer probably circles back to my first sentence.

  81. Stephanie says:

    The wards in our stake have had sacrament last since the block schedule came out. I’ve been to a number of wards where sacrament is first and I have not noticed any difference in the children. I just don’t buy it.

    There may not be much difference in the end result as viewed from another pew, but I bet there is a huge difference in the effort on the part of the parent(s) to get that end result.

    I would hate this backwards schedule. When I was in UT visiting my in-laws’ ward that uses this schedule, I (and my entire family) skipped the first two meetings and just went to Sacrament meeting. It helped that I didn’t have a calling I had to be at, but there was no way I was going to do it if I didn’t have to.

  82. Stephanie says:

    Maybe instead of always demanding that parents “do their job”, we as a society and culture could be a little more helpful in creating conditions that make it a little easier. Being a parent is exhausting, and I am really getting tired of constantly being told to just “do it better”. How about a little consideration instead?

  83. Kristine says:

    “My comments were an observation that Sacrament meeting as a last meeting of the day provides a unique opportunity for parents to teach not only reverence but endurance in long meetings (a skill that will serve them well through their many years of Mormonism). ”

    It might have gone better if you had actually said that.

  84. Jim – #78,
    I’ve had similar thoughts to your sometimes, It’s really easy to look at someone with their misbehaving kids and think, “if they’d only do a little better. They should discipline their kids more, or not bring so many treats, or not let them run around, or be more consistent with them, or train them to endure long meetings, etc,” The problem is:

    1. We have no idea the circumstances involved – the problems of the kids or the problems of the parents. The parent could have depression or ADD or had strict parents and are determined not to parent in the same way, or… The children could have autism or ADD or just be a super active child, or be defiant, or … You also can’t see what happens in the daily life of that family. There might already be a fight just to get the child to come to church and the parent chooses not to make life more miserable by insisting on particular behavior at church.

    2. It’s always easier to see the weaknesses in other parents than our own. I might be really good at getting my children to behave in Sacrament Meeting, but terrible at sitting down and talking to them. Both teach good things. One is visible to people at church, the other is not. How many of us are good at all of the aspects of parenting?

    I realize you probably already know those 2 things, but I think that’s why you got jumped on for trying to make a comment about SOME people, SOME of the time. There’s just no way to make a judgment call without judging people and there’s no way to judge people without offending someone.

    It’s possible to talk about actual “rubber-meets-the-road”, nuts and bolts aspects of living the gospel. You share, “this way worked for me because x, y, z”. And then you sit back and let people decide for themselves if that will work for them. And withhold judgment if they decide they have priorities that are different than yours.

  85. #78 Jim, send all those whining children to the bench directly in front of or behind me, please. I’d love to be surrounded by them. Now that I have no toddlers any more (my youngest is 10, and my oldest is 30) and no grandchildren, either, I’d be thrilled to help a stressed out mom or dad help with their kids, whether sacrament meeting is first or last. There are no pitchforks on my bench, either for children, their parents or even for you.

  86. The only proposal missing from this great set of comments is the obvious one:

    A two-hour block instead of three, alternating RS/PH and SS every week.

    Seriously. Pause to consider it. Why not?

  87. Ben, #86, I could kiss you. Seriously, indeed– why not?? WHY NOT??? Won’t someone PLEASE tell me Why. Not.?!?!

    Jim, #78, your apology is accepted and I should like to extend one of my own. I am not surprised you feel like leaving this blog and never returning, from the way you were jumped on. And in a place where we all claim to be Christians, too! Shame on me. I am sorry. I do like your longer explaination much better, and in general I adree with you.

    I guess for me I took so much offense because with our struggles in parenting, I am judged every where I go. You couldn’t imagine the rude comments and ruder looks I get from people, not just at walmart or the park or disneyland; but at CHURCH. At *@$^@#&^ CHURCH! The one place I am supposed to be welcomed and loved and shored up and protected. It was almost a relief to finally get an autism diagnosis so that I could say to people, “See? SEE?? I am NOT a bad parent, he is NOT a bad child. Just different. Dammit.” I guess after all the judgement I feel I get everywhere I go with my son, I chose to bite back here on an anonymous forum when that judgement seemingly struck again, and I am sorry that I misunderstood the meaning you were trying to get at.

    We live and learn, right?

  88. Ben,

    Here’s my proposal, a schedule that varies by what week of the month it is:

    1st Sunday: Just fast & testimony meeting. Schedule it for 1:30, end early if you have a 5 minute pause.

    2nd Sunday: 45 minute sacrament (ordinance, a youth speaker, and an adult speaker), 5 minute break, 40 minute PH/RS

    3rd Sunday: 45 minute sacrament meeting, 5 minute break, 40 minute Sunday School

    4th Sunday: see 2nd Sunday

    5th Sunday (when they occur): no church.

    This makes more efficient use of buildings and leaves time for all the various meetings. There could be more of an expectation that talks and lessons would be high quality as there would be fewer of them. Plus everyone gets an occasional break without feeling guilty.

  89. I think there’s value in an hour of combined scripture study each week, and in an hour of meeting as PH/RS. Same goes for meeting as a smaller primary class and as a bigger group.

    We might not use that time in ways that are valuable or effective, but hey, that’s the central premise of Church-Hacker.

  90. If we don’t use that time in a way that is valuable then is there any value there?

  91. No, but blame (and adjust) the execution instead of the format

  92. Why’s that? Why is it ok to critique one rather than the other? Isn’t it possible that the format itself is sub-optimal? Is it also possible that even a great format could use some shake-up every few decades to keep it fresh and us working to make it great? Or are you simply saying that questioning the format isn’t the point of this series.

  93. Yeah, you’re right. The point of my comment 89 is that, in instances where the time isn’t used well, I chalk it up to executional shortcomings instead of shortcomings in the format. I get the appeal of a two-hour block, too. But when Gospel Doctrine and PH/RS are done well, they warrant weekly meetings IMO.

    If I had my druthers, I’d keep the three-hour block and go with Aaron’s suggestion in #35: Fast Sunday involves a 1-hour testimony meeting, followed by a day of no other church meetings whatsoever. A rest from our normal “restful” sabbaths.

  94. I’m disturbed that you didn’t care for my 5th Sunday suggestion…

    I guess my question is at what point does the buildup of executional shortcomings as you call them entail a shortcoming of the format? If we have a format that most wards are unable to make good use of it that the fault of the ward or of the format? Again, I’m probably hyper-critical. Most LDS that I talk to do not agree that there are problems in either execution or format and are shocked that I perceive any such things.

    I do think that this series is great and I like the idea of doing the changing what we can (the execution) but I don’t see why that effort should preclude examining the format as well.

  95. I certainly agree with your suggestion to examine the formats. It’s outside the scope of this series (I’m trying to limit suggestions to things we could actually do in our wards), but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss it in the comments. :-)

  96. Katie Walther says:

    This is Katie again, answering the question posed to me about my take on kids’ behaviors. I taught Primary for four years with Sacrament meeting last. I found that kids often get to church having been rushed from home and as much as we as parents would like to arrive in a reverent and put together mood, usually there is some leftover stress from getting a family out the door and to church on time, dressed in their best (hey, even getting everyone with shoes on is a miracle) and ready to learn. As a primary teacher, I liked getting the kids right from home with all their energy and planned my lessons as active as possible, playing every game, moving around the room and generally giving them a chance to NOT sit for two hours. By the time sacrament rolled around, I believe many of the children in our ward are actually better ready to sit for an hour after two hours away from their siblings, and the interactions with their friends and new lessons in their brains to think about. There is a full ten minute break between Primary and Sacrament and the bathrooms and drinking fountains are busy not to mention a few snacks being consumed. I really appreciate all the interesting experiences that have been shared on this topic and can see that culture, health, and ward and facility size impact the effectiveness of schedules.

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