Here’s a simple question: If you had to choose between the current three-hour block with LDS Sunday School smack in the middle or a proposed two-hour block with no Sunday School (just kill the whole program), which would you choose? [Not being an HTML quizmeister myself, you’ll have to vote in the comments.] If this were somehow put to the entire active LDS population as a referendum, how would the voting go? I’m guessing 75% would vote for the two-hour block. Now I have heard a lot of chatter on social media about the two-hour block lately, rumors that this is part of the “big changes” that might or might not be coming down at the next General Conference. Since the two-hour block rumor has been around for twenty years, I’m not really getting my hopes up. On the other hand, if you are tired of fasting for world peace or a Firefly reboot, consider putting the two-hour block at the top of your prayer and fasting wish list this month. Stranger things have happened. At this point, I consider LDS Sunday School a lost cause and would not shed a tear if it just went away.
Being realistic, however, I doubt the change will come. I can’t envision LDS leaders actually thinking only two hours of church on Sunday would somehow be better for the Church or the membership than three hours of church. They are unlikely to dispense with the convenient forum that Sunday School gives for issuing constant reminders that God speaks through the mouths of LDS leaders, that leaders don’t make mistakes, that if they do you should follow their counsel anyway, and hey do your
home teaching ministering once a month and keep those checks coming. So rather than do more posts complaining about it (it won’t go away) or griping about the manuals (which won’t change much), I’m planning on a series of content posts on the New Testament (next year’s course of study, just 3.5 months away), starting with Mark. Mark was the first of the gospels to be written. Mark is always a good place to start.
None of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the acts and words of Jesus. His disciples were all illiterate Aramaic-speaking Jews from Galilee or Judea, whereas those who wrote the gospels were literate, were fluent in Greek, and were writing 35 years or more after the death of Jesus. They relied on oral tradition which circulated in early Christian communities. For Greek speakers, these early communities were small gatherings of believers in house churches scattered around the Roman Empire. As I discussed last week, this orally circulating tradition in the form of stories about Jesus was subject to all the weaknesses of human memory and person-to-person transmission of such stories. Note that this model of the early Church is not some fanciful construct of skeptical scholars — it is laid out right in the first chapter of Luke:
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4, NRSV)
What happened in the 35 years between the events depicted in Mark and the writing of the book itself? The Christian message spread to Greek speaking Jews, then to Greek-speaking communities in the Empire outside of Judea, eventually including non-Jewish Greek speakers. This is a really big deal: the early Christian message hopped languages from Aramaic to Greek. The Jewish religious vocabulary that early Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christian inherited from Judaism had to be translated into Greek and, as always happens, was modified in the process. Greek terms like logos and pistis and ekklesia had prior history and usage in Greek that influenced how Christian texts in Greek were read and understood.
In this 35-year gap we also have the letters of Paul as recorded in the New Testament and the collection of Q material that was taken up in Matthew and Luke but not Mark. So the Q source or sources sort of paralleled but was independent of Mark in terms of timing. Q was then selectively incorporated, with some editing, into Matthew and Luke. So was Mark, which was selectively, with editing, taken up into Matthew and Luke. The difference is that Q as a text or collection of texts disappeared, whereas Mark still exists as an independent text. Any modern account of the Q material, such as Burton Mack’s The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins (Harper Collins, 1993), is a reconstruction based on material common to both Matthew and Luke.
What’s most surprising about Paul’s letters is how little they recount about Jesus. He was doing his missionary work and letter writing at the same time that the stories about Jesus that came to be written in Q and Mark were circulating in the early Christian communities. Here is what Bart Ehrman in Jesus Before the Gospels (see last week’s post) says about this:
[O]ne of the most striking features of Paul’s surviving letters is just how little he actually tells us about Jesus’s life prior to his death. There are thirteen letters in the New Testament that claim to be written by Paul. … Suppose you were to mine these letters — take all thirteen of them — for the information they provide about the things Jesus said, did, and experienced between the time he was born and the time he died. How many stories of Jesus would you discover?
Ehrman says the collected information would fit on a 3×5 card. Jesus was: born of a woman, born as a Jew, descended from King David, had brothers, had twelve disciples, preached among the Jews, had a last meal with his disciples the night before he was apprehended, appeared before Pilate, and was crucified. Paul knows two things Jesus said at the last supper (see 1 Cor. 11:23-25) and two other teachings of Jesus (Christians shouldn’t get divorced, 1 Cor. 7:10, and they should pay their preachers, 1 Cor. 9:14). That’s about it.
It’s a bit puzzling that the two biggest stories in early Christianity in the 50s and 60s, the activity and writing of Paul, on the one hand, and the many stories about Jesus that were being told, retold, and passed from community to community and that later came to be written down in Q and Mark, on the other, didn’t have much influence on each other. It’s also worth considering that Mormon teaching relies a great deal on stories pulled from the gospels but doesn’t have anywhere near the same degree of interest in the writings and teachings of Paul. Most people prefer stories over detailed doctrinal discussions, it seems. Maybe Paul should have told more stories in his letters.
I learned more in this message than I did in two years attending 3 hours of church weekly. I am sick of hearing about how a coupe met 20 years ago, and hearing topics taught with a little scriptural influence.
I’m weird, but I love Sunday School. And it’s one of the few times in church I really get to hear women share their most raw opinions.
But my Ward is weird in that we have had awesome Sunday school teachers for a number of years. A day my ward, while not ethnically diverse, is socio-economically diverse and professionally diverse. So there are a lot of different opinions being shared among people that genuinely like and care about each other.
I added a poll for you Dave.
Thanks, MoHe. This is why group blogs are so great.
In my ward it is PH mtg and occasional combined PH/RS meetings that are the “most the convenient forum … for issuing constant reminders that God speaks through the mouths of LDS leaders, that leaders don’t make mistakes, that if they do you should follow their counsel anyway, and hey do your home teaching/ministering once a month and keep those checks coming.”
The critical issue is which organizations get the teachers that are willing (and allowed) to go outside the abominable manuals and do something worthwhile. In my ward, sometimes it’s Sunday School — sometimes not. Accordingly, I can’t participate in the poll because my answer would have to be reduce to a 2-hour block, reduce PH and RS meetings to 15 minutes, reduce sacrament meeting to 55 minutes, revise the manuals and fire any bishop who does not put his best teachers in SS. (Let the ladies do their own thing if they want without requiring the men to sit through what “would have to be a damn fine meeting to be better than no meeting at all.” The guys with kids ought to be spending time with the kids anyway.)
In some other wards I’d go with Dave B’s suggestion. How about a 2-hour block with a shortened sacrament meeting and leave it optional to the local unit what to do with the second hour. I am sick of hearing [in sacrament meeting] how a couple met and married, whether 20 years ago or last month, and where and how many times they moved before they landed here, or what species their favorite pets are, and whether they are lactose or gluten intolerant, etc. Please put that in a ward or EQ and RS newsletter and get back to preaching the gospel, motivating Christian living, and worshiping the Lord.
End of harangue.
Dave B., It is true that current “Mormon teaching relies a great deal on stories pulled from the gospels but doesn’t have anywhere near the same degree of interest in the writings and teachings of Paul.” But early Mormon teaching and writing show a great deal of biblical literacy including the writings of Paul that is now unfortunately not there for many of our people — seriously inhibiting their ability to grasp the Book of Mormon or even parts of the D&C in the context that was assumed and understood by many of those of the 19th century. Oh well, that didn’t always apply either — to continue with possibly spurious quotes from J. Golden Kimball, when he left on his first mission he still “thought the epistles were the wives of the apostles.”
I agree that Sunday School, as presently constituted, can be problematic, dull, and massively over-correlated. And it is clear that it is not considered to be intrinsic to salvation, as attendance is not required to hold a temple recommend. But given the new curriculum that will debut in 2019 and predictable bureaucratic and cultural inertia, I have a difficult time believing that the Sunday School portion of the block will be eliminated completely.
I also strongly doubt that a rotation system (e.g. Sunday School on weeks 1 & 3, priesthood/Relief Society on weeks 2 & 4) would be implemented in order to have a two-hour block. There is too much emphasis on ministering via the priesthood and Relief Society to not have those cohorts meet every week.
That being said, however, I do think that there is another option that would not only be wildly popular (I think 75% support is an understatement) but would also dovetail with recent and soon-to-be implemented changes: a two-hour block that is split 45-30-30 (plus time between meetings) .
This arrangement would underscore the stated desire for streamlining and simplifying; would play right in to the new Sunday School curriculum (which has been discussed elsewhere so I will not go into detail here); and would allow for a variety of other positive changes (e.g. more time with families, better for Primary-age children…and their teachers, easier to sell a two-hour block to investigators, more economical use of church buildings, more streamlined and engaging sacrament meetings, and many, many more).
Our current ward did a 2.5 hour block about a decade ago due to construction issues with the next-closest building, and not only did it not take away from the Sunday experience (it actually enhanced it, IMHO), but it was extraordinarily popular and boosted attendance during the Sunday School hour (aka 35 minutes). We actually kept on that schedule after construction was completed….until we were found out by a visiting general authority….a sad day, indeed. Given that some places globally do a two-hour block already due to distance or lack of available people for callings (not to mention the many apocryphal stories about pilot programs that usually can be traced to unauthorized experiments or facility-based needs), there really is no reason why this should not be announced in October conference.
Do I think this will happen? Probably not; the bureaucratic and cultural inertia I mentioned above, along with the belief that members need more rather than less gospel instruction, probably outweigh other factors for most of the decision-makers at 50 N. Temple. Do I think it could happen? Possibly; it does seem consistent with several of the changes announced over the past couple of years. Do I think it should happen? Absolutely….and I am all-in on the idea of fasting to make this a reality. But at the end of the day, I would probably only give this a 10-15% chance of actually happening.
In lieu of such a change, however, we should make posts like this one mandatory reading/research for Sunday School teachers church-wide (or at the very least, the ones in my ward).
As a Protestant convert, I just have to say that practically the ONLY time I hear the Bible quoted in church is in Sunday School, during the OT & NT years. Just sayin’.
I bet Mormon Heretic could have added the poll even during Gospel Doctrine and not missed anything. 🙂
If the “chop the middle hour” out was taken, I would probably not skip 2nd and 3rd hour so much (I have taken the advice of Kirby at the SLTrib where he said nobody FORCES you to all 3 hours, so stop belly aching and go to church as much as YOU want to.” If more people did that, I bet a change would come sooner.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
It’s not that I like PH discussions any more than Sunday School discussions. And it would be possible to improve what happens with Gospel Doctrine classes. It’s just that none of that is happening or is likely to happen. Seminary, Institute, and BYU religion classes offer a lot more potential for improved material and teaching. Kill Sunday School and come back in ten years with a monthly “Gospel Learning” class or something that brings in better material. It’s the membership as well, not just the curriculum and manuals, that needs a total reboot.
Well, I would choose 3 40-minute meetings instead of 2 hourlong ones. But that’s just me. Also, the ministering checkups and leader worship don’t really occur in Sunday school; they occur in priesthood and Relief Society. Getting rid of Sunday school would only lessen the focus on scriptures.
I love teaching Gospel Doctrine! I’ve pretty much chucked the manual and we just study scriptures in as much context as we can. I wish we weren’t trying to cram so much material into each sunday school lesson so we could carefully examine passages, discuss more context, and make more connections. I have seen class attendance more than double. I’ve had people note that it is the most spiritually nourishing aspect of their sabbath day. I would love to shorten our sacrament meeting and relief society though.
I like sunday school. It’s only formal setting in church where we routinely go through the scriptures and discuss them. I’d vote for skipping priesthood or relief society, though. Or maybe limiting meetings to once a month, where we would actually do the business of quorums and the relief society instead of having a second sunday school lesson disguised as a organisation meeting.
I find the church teaching manuals and curriculum poorly designed/written for Primary as well.
A shorter church schedule would be infinitely better for the children as well. Having Sharing Time AND class time is so repetitive. Singing time and opening exercises (provides public speaking experiences for the kids) is fine.
I recently volunteered to become a Sunday School teacher so that I could do it “the right way” by ignoring the manual. I try to take as many questions from James Faulconer’s “Old Testament Made Harder” as I can, so that we can have a good discussion and hopefully give people something to think about. I also love researching every lesson and finding out more background, more context, more wordplays, and all that. I wish we had more time, or less material to cover each week, so that we could dive deeper and discuss more details. I do try to balance my little lectures with discussions, so that the class doesn’t think I’m droning on and on. For me personally, I am very invested right now in learning more about the scriptures, so, at this particular time and place, I’d love a two-hour schedule that included Sunday School and ditched Relief Society and Priesthood instead.
I read recently about a possible two hour block that severely reduced Sacrament Meeting to approximately half an hour, with the sacrament and then one speaker of not more than 10-15 minutes. That sounds like the ideal compromise to me!
I spent over 40 years in education and I can never understand why the Church insists on long meetings.
The only reason I can come up with is that they work on battering us …if you didn’t get it the first time we’ll just tell you again and again and again…..now that would be ok but after over 60 years in the Church you just glaze over.
For me Sacrament Meeting is far too long and in our country where we have smaller Wards we finish the Sacrament quickly and sometime have 50 minutes to “ fill”…and the talks seem to be the real focus and not the Sacrament. Why not have the Sacrament a hymn after related to the Sacrament and a very short talk .
I am all for 2 hours and given the resources available we could really have some exciting curriculum…..but going on the appalling curriculum we have had I don’t have much faith in what is coming….
The Church seems to address unhappyand urgent issues at glacial pace…..unfortunately
I should add to my comment above that the two hour block that I referenced had both Sunday School and Relief Society / Priesthood after the very short Sacrament Meeting.
Also, thank you for the fascinating message about Mark and the other early writers of the New Testament. 🙂
The number of hours or minutes in the block isn’t the problem or the solution. Brother Joseph used to preach outdoors for hours (hours) at a time, with saints straining to listen to every word- sitting on rocks and logs or even standing. Heber C, Parley P, and others were master orators and inspired persons who captivated audiences as well. The problem with our services is correlation and the milk-toast content that we can no longer stomach and doesn’t inspire. We are bored and agitated – not at the hours, but at the content which creates an affect, but doesn’t hold us intellectually.
Do people complain about the length of Harry Potter films? Star Wars? Lion King? Lord of the Rings? Pirates of the Caribbean? (Ok, Pirates, yes.) But mostly, no, they don’t. They go see every movie. Often several times. Do they have to excuse themselves 2-3 times during the movie to use the restroom? No. Can most children or even grown adults make it through 50 minutes of sacrament meeting without an overactive bladder issue or crippling cottonmouth requiring an all-important 2-second sip at our many water fountains? No, they cannot. In almost all US family wards, every few minutes another child or adult shuffles in or out of the chapel, even (quite rudely) in the middle of talks, prayers, or special musical numbers. Other denominations don’t have this problem.
Sunday School should be a place to learn the scriptures- as many don’t have access to church schools, institute, seminary, etc. Please recognize that we have a strong strain of anti-intellectualism In our culture which would quickly do away with this resource. If you don’t like it- skip it, but don’t advocate to take it away from those that need it or those like me, who seek to improve it and realize it’s full potential. We’ll keep our book-learnin’ whether others like it or not.
Mortimer: Other denominations don’t have as many issues with children being taken out of their services because they don’t expect young children to sit through an hour long service focused on adults. They offer a nursery for very little children that starts before the service. They often offer a parallel service for elementary school kids that is tailored to their needs instead of expecting them to quietly listen to a long sermon. I don’t see why the church couldn’t adopt some of these ideas to make the first hour more relevant for kids and reduce disruption of sacrament meeting.
“None of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the acts and words of Jesus.”
This is Heresy! Also, it’s probably true. I agree with Angel Momma: typical adult lessons do not teach things that people don’t already know. Even seminary and institute classes don’t get into this level of analysis.
The problem I see is that too many people in the church think they already know everything. And the manuals are used to limit discussion as often as they are used to start it.
Two hour block? Yeah, I’m pretty much doing that already. Haha. But seriously, it all depends on the implementation. It would likely be an improvement. But a better improvement would be to get people to open their minds enough so that lessons or comments with material like what is in the OP are acceptable.
What’s puzzling about this post is that the writer is critical of the Sunday School hour and advocates its removal; and then proceeds to demonstrate from his insights what an exceptional Sunday Instructor he could be.
There’s a lot of John Lennon-ish cynicism in the post, and doesn’t leave much room for inspiration.
In all humility: I’m an excellent Sunday School teacher, but I too could live with it being dropped from the Sunday block. Last time I taught Elders’ Quorum, I said “Hey, in keeping with our new emphasis on the long name of the church, all we’re going to do today is discuss scripture stories of Jesus and what we can learn from them.” Worked out great, and we could absolutely have more scripture study in our RS/EQ meetings.
It’s just a different world now. Our attention spans are shorter and we’re more accustomed to quicker, engaging presentations than most of our leadership is capable of giving. That’s not to complain about “this generation,” it’s just an observation. Someone told me that in the 70s or so, the way they experienced General Conference was to go to their ward building and crowd around a single, weakly-powered speakerphone that was dialed into a live broadcast in Salt Lake. It wouldn’t be acceptable to present content that way today, yet we don’t try to think of ways to enhance the experience.
I’ve believed two-hour block rumors before and have been burned. That notwithstanding, I’m believing this rumor. There are a number of reasons I’ve found it more credible this time around (the same people who correctly disclosed the changes from April Conference are saying it, the new curriculum seems to have a home study component, leaders who denied it in the past now just awkwardly hem and haw, etc.) But probably the main reason I find it believable is the supposed rationale. As I understand it, the point is to be able to split very large wards to more manageable sizes without having to build new buildings. Shrinking the block from three to two hours means you can cram more units into an existing building without having to build another one across the street. The Church has experience doing this in very high LDS density areas of Arizona.
I would prefer to keep SS, but I’d lop it off in exchange for a two-hour block.
Regarding Mark, Julie Smith’s commentary on Mark in the BYU NT Commentary series will be published this Fall and promises to be outstanding.
As a proponate for 2 hours, I don’t advocate for getting rid of Sunday School. I’ve learned things in Sunday School that I would have missed otherwise. Just cut the time in half, the same with Priesthood/RS.
As a primary teacher, I can tell you, THE KIDS NEED A TWO HOUR BLOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The lessons are very short and so you have to add fluff to fill time. Then they spend an hour in singing/sharing time which is the same. The kids are bored out of their minds and get wild.
If we had a 30 min class and then 30 min singing time, you could focus your short lesson and songs and move on.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
I’m impressed by how many commenters have warm feelings toward adult Sunday School and have good ideas for improving things. Three 40-minute meetings (well, 35 minutes with 5 minute breaks between) is as good or maybe better than two hour-long meetings.
Tobia, if there were more teachers like you, everything would be going much better in Gospel Doctrine classes.
markablog, you may say I’m a dreamer for proposing a two-hour block, but I’m not the only one. Someday you may join us.
Bro. Jones, it’s not just a generational thing, it’s technology that has changed all of us, regardless of age. It affects teaching when a student can get better info in 30 seconds of Googling that a teacher (or manual) is presenting. It affects sacrament meeting because sitting through a 70-minute meeting with information … presented … so … slowly … over … the … pulpit is just difficult if not painful for most people in 2018. It can affect things positively as well, such as the ease of watching Conference in the Internet Age and having every single manual and lesson available at LDS.org.
Kevin, thanks for making the rumor more credible. The long-awaited day may actually arrive. And I am so looking forward to Julie’s commentary on Mark.
Here’s an idea: go to two-hour meetings and have a 7 pm “Sunday School fireside” in each building for whoever wants to come. Call a good teacher. Attendance is voluntary. People actually read before the come. No Sunday School President to gripe about “teach from the manual!” It’s by building, not by ward, so you get a smaller number of interested adults from each ward but enough to make a nice group for a class.
Hey DaveB, I’d rather have an hour of Sunday school than an hour of Priesthood which is why I’d settle for 30 mins of each.
Priesthood is the worst for having any kind of doctrinal conversations, especially now that High Priests are thrown into the mix. I have respect for my elder but that doesn’t mean they’re always right and their doctrinal understanding is correct.
Here’s another idea: make all local leaders physically attend every Sunday School and Priesthood meeting, every Sunday. Then things would change in a hurry. The present system is like Congress passing laws that apply to everyone except members of Congress.
Several years ago, I was in a smallish military branch that was on a 2-hour block. We met in a shared interfaith chapel, and the two-hour limit was one of the conditions for using the space. We did 1 hour for sacrament meeting, and the second hour gave 30 minutes each to Sunday school and PH/RS. It forced us to streamline our lessons and mind the clock carefully, but it worked wonderfully and was universally appreciated. Every Fast Sunday, we would have a delicious potluck meal after the block. After we moved and started attending a regular family ward, church felt like such a Bataan Death March, and still does. It quickly became apparent that we waste so much time in the 3-hour format, whether in transitions, unnecessary opening exercises, redundant announcements, bad a capella hymn singing, etc. Instead it forced us to focus on what is really important. I didn’t feel like we lost anything spiritually by having shortened SS lessons. Even if we did, we more than made up for it in fellowship and camaraderie.
So, count one more vote for the 2-hour block.
In another ward I was in, the stake president insisted that PH opening exercises always begin with the singing of a hymn, and every verse must be sung. If we happened to land on a long hymn like “I Believe in Christ”, it could easily burn 15 minutes of valuable lesson time. There was no accompaniment, and this group was not particularly musical, but we complied. It was embarrassing and painful, week after week. I think no hymn at all is preferable to a hymn sung badly and begrudgingly. In my current ward, we expend a lot of time with unnecessaries like “ministering moments” and video clips. Also, the general lack of enthusiasm for church makes people less punctual and extends transition times (lingering in the hallways, etc.). Better, shorter lessons can solve this.
Question: if we shortened Sunday School could we also change the curriculum. Can we.spend a month on the Sermon on the Mount or a few weeks discussing Job? I dislike the rush. I dislike the canned “purpose” of the lesson. Can we use other translations besides the KJV or with the KJV? When I lived in Asia and Europe the members had Bibles that made more sense than the KJV does in my own native tongue. My biggest complaint with our church services is sacrament meeting. This year I have lost patience with long meandering talks about self-reliance, missionary work and ministering. I feel we don’t really worship. No one sits still. Most are on devices. So, how can sacrament meeting talks be fixed?
I wouldn’t want to do away with SS or Relief Society — SS for its scriptural curriculum and gendered diversity of perspective, RS for its “safe space” from the guys. One study showed women speak less in a mixed gathering, so I feel RS is important.
I could see rotating between the two, but I see dramatically shortening Sacrament meeting (and maybe shaving a little off the others) as the best option. SM is just not made for kids — or their parents. It would be easier to get kids (and parents) to mentally engage in the sacrament ordinance if it felt different from the sit-still-and-shut-up of the rest of church.
I would miss the rotating speakers, tho. I actually like hearing people’s stories, and I see it as a community-building exercise. (If church were only about ingesting as much instruction as possible, we’d better serve that end with home study.) I’d resolve that by rotating some weeks of teachers. The format of discussion over lecture means most people could handle “teaching.” Knowledge has hardly been a consistently applied prerequisite for teaching anyway.
Shorten Sacrament meeting! An hour of toddler wrangling for parents and uncomfortable fidgeting for the elderly. Those in- between dozing through turgid re-hashing of general conference talks with no interaction to wake us up. 40 minutes max. Partaking of Sacrament and one speaker. Love SS and RS as we get to engage with the How To of the gospel and hear personal experiences drawing us closer to one another and create community. And make youth SS time a seminary session to reduce the mid week pressure.
Whatever happens…..Can we please (for the love of Heaven) banish the word “ministering” from our vocabulary FOREVER?! This has become such a trigger word for me. When it is used I want run out of the church building screaming, foaming at the mouth …..and then willingly throw myself in front of the Stake President’s moving car! Oh, how I’ve come to hate that word….and in such a short time!!
Shorten sacrament. Our small ward has the same speakers, and therefore stories over and over. Several refuse to give talks, not to mention a good 20 min talk takes significant time to prepare. A poor 20 min talk, takes significant stamina to endure! One to two 5-10 min talks, shorten PH and RS, and reduce SS the least.
Dave B: oh, I absolutely agree. I wasn’t trying to just pin things on people of a certain age. Recently, our building lost power during a terrible summer weather season, and the bishop gleefully sent an email saying “We’re not cancelling church! Come and experience worship as the pioneers did in the 19th century!” I rolled my eyes very hard and kept my family home that Sunday. Just because something got us through in the past doesn’t mean there’s virtue in doing something in a way that is unproductive, inefficient, or unsatisfying.
Before I was called into the Sunday School presidency, I had not attended Sunday School for about three years. I agree with the Salt Lake City Tribune’s Robert Kirby, there is nothing stopping one from implementing two hour church.
Now for eight months of the time I didn’t attend Sunday School, my wife and I were the Sunbeam teachers in primary, so we were legit. But as Andy commented, kids need a two hour block. We really did enjoy the Sunbeams, but sharing time was a bridge too far for them. We took lots of breaks (excursions around the church or outside).
I would modify Dave B’s suggestion for making all local leaders physically attend every Sunday School and Priesthood meeting, every Sunday. Instead, I would recommend rotating members of the 1st Presidency and Q-12 into six month sabbaticals to teach Sunbeams in random wards and attend the ward’s Sacrament meeting (preferably sitting behind one of the Sunbeam’s families). They will certainly love the kids, but might start to wonder about 3 hour church.
Loved “Firefly”, dislike the word “ministering” and very much enjoyed my military branch short cycle of 45 minutes for sacrament and two 30 minute sessions after. ONE speaker at Sacrament and you still went through the rotation every three months or so.
When well taught, Sunday School is enjoyable and it mixes ages and genders permitting people who know things to say things.
Sacrament for 30 mins. tops. SS for 30 minutes and RS/Elders for 30 minutes. That should be enough church for anybody! Plus if EVERYONE walked out after about 90 minutes they would have to shorten the meetings. Ask yourself one question, does Jesus really want me in church for 3 hours on Sunday or would he rather have me out serving and visiting my neighbors and others in need, I confess that I have not stayed for the entire 3 hours of church for over a year. I get out and have served neighbors from housecleaning for a sick neighbor, to watching children for a mom whose husband is in the military, to doing needed yard work and adjusting sprinklers for the elderly. It is the one day of the week that I have free. Imagine what we could do as a people if we spent time on soup lines, in homeless shelters, working with habitat for humanity, or visiting the shut ins. It could become the best day of the week.
As a Latter-day Saint myself, I don’t feel conflicted in saying, most members are already unknowledgeable about scripture in doctrine. Do we somehow believe this group is going to make up for it by additional personal study? Those who do regular personal study typically enjoy the Gospel Doctrine/ Gospel Principles hour.
I will never stop fasting for a Firefly reboot.