The three-hour block is getting shelved. Beginning in January 2019, Sunday meetings for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will only be two hours long. The change was announced during the Saturday morning session of general conference, but the Church has released more information since then. As Elder Quentin L. Cook described in his general conference address, we are shifting to a “home-centered” and “church-supported” approach.
So what will Sunday meetings look like next year? Elder Cook said (as transcribed by the Newsroom),
The Sunday Church meetings will consist of a 60-minute sacrament meeting each Sunday, focused on the Savior, the ordinance of the sacrament, and spiritual messages. After time for transition to classes, Church members will attend a 50-minute class that will alternate each Sunday. Sunday School will be held on the first and third Sundays. Priesthood quorums, Relief Society, and Young Women meetings will be held on the second and fourth Sundays. Meetings on the fifth Sunday will be under the direction of the bishop. Primary will be held each week during this same 50-minute period and will include singing time and classes.
The Newsroom reported that a First Presidency letter has already been distributed to local leaders, along with a helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions. This 5-page document is where we get the nitty gritty details of what to expect. (All quotes below are from the FAQ sheet.)
As stated before, this is a home-centered approach. Families are encouraged to use the Come, Follow Me curriculum in their personal and family study.
A study of the scriptures, supported by the new resource Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families, is the suggested course of gospel study at home. This rich resource provides a variety of study options for individual and family adaptation and aligns Sunday School and Primary curriculum with home study.
Interestingly, Church leaders state that informal study groups are allowed.
Informally, and as organized by those who so desire, young single adults, single adults, single parents, part-member families, new members, and others can gather to enjoy sociality and to strengthen one another through gospel study.
Aside from getting shorter, sacrament meeting isn’t changing very much.
Allowing the ordinance of the sacrament to be the sacred center of members’ worship on the Sabbath requires careful planning, including minimal announcements and consideration of speakers, hymns, and musical numbers. Ward choirs may participate as local circumstances allow. Sacrament meetings begin and end with a hymn and prayer. A hymn also precedes the blessing of the sacrament.
Due to the potentially confusing alternating schedule, local leaders are encouraged to keep in frequent contact with ward members.
During the week, leaders are encouraged to invite members to worship together on Sunday. They can send an invitation via email, text, social media, or other means, reminding members of the meeting schedule for the next Sunday, including topics for discussion.
As mentioned before, Sunday School for youth and adults will be held on the first and third Sundays. Because the home-based program is based on weekly lessons, each Sunday School class will cover two weeks worth of lessons. The class will not begin with any sort of prayer, but will start out with any announcements from local priesthood quorum or auxiliary leaders. Then, “[a]fter a brief welcome and a reminder of the Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families home study materials for that day and the following week, the teacher should begin the gospel instruction and discussion.” The class will end with a prayer.
Also, apparently the name “Gospel Doctrine” is out. It’s just “Sunday School.” The Gospel Principles class will no longer meet the second hour, nor will any other optional Sunday School classes.
Other courses, such as those for strengthening marriage and family, temple preparation, missionary preparation, and family history, will not be held during the second hour. However, at the bishop’s discretion and based on local needs, these courses may be taught at other times for individuals, families, or groups.
Young Men and Elders Quorum
Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood quorums will no longer meet together for opening exercises. On the 2nd and 4th Sundays, they will go directly to their respect quorums. Lessons for the Young Men will still be based on the “monthly gospel topics found in Come, Follow Me—For Aaronic Priesthood.”
There will no longer be First-Sunday Council meetings for Elders Quorum. Lessons will be based on general conference addresses. No opening hymns or opening prayers, but the meeting will end with a prayer.
Young Women and Relief Society
Similarly, the Young Women and Relief Society organizations will not meet together for opening exercises (it was only an occasional occurrence in the wards I’ve been in, anyway). However, the young women will also not meet together for any sort of opening exercises, going instead directly to their respective classes. Now that’s a change. Lessons for the young women will still be based on the “monthly gospel topics found in Come, Follow Me—For Young Women.”
Just like with Elders Quorum, there are no longer any First-Sunday Council meetings for Relief Society and the lessons will be based on general conference addresses. Again, no opening hymns or opening prayers, but you’ll have a closing prayer. (Side note, permission is specifically granted to Relief Society sisters and young women that hymns may still be used to “enhance a lesson as appropriate.”)
Primary will be held every week, but sharing time is out. At the beginning will be 5 minutes for a prayer, scripture (or article of faith), and a talk. Then there will be 20 minutes of singing time using “music that supports the scriptures studied in class.” After a 5-minute break, the students will then have a 20-minute class period. The lesson will be taken from Come, Follow Me—For Primary which follows the weekly home study schedule. If there is a larger Primary that requires juniors and seniors to meet separately, the schedule will just be swapped like normal (one will have singing time first, the other will have class time first).
We are supposed to use the term “teacher.”
…[W]e invite leaders and members to use the term teacher (and not discussion leader, facilitator, or moderator) when referring to those who have been called and set apart to teach in the priesthood and auxiliary organizations of the Church.
Lead image from the Church’s Newsroom.