Church pews

Church pews

The first hint of a three-hour Sunday consolidated meetings schedule for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came during a manmade event — the energy crisis in the early 1970s.

The First Presidency released information in 1973 on how wards and branches with members who travel great distances can combine meetings into a single of block of time, according to and

To that point, church meetings were split on Sundays, even into other days of the week.

Primary for children in the ward was held at about 4 p.m. on a weekday during the school year and 10 a.m. during the summer, with August off.

Relief Society was held on a weekday around 10 a.m. for eight months of the year.

Priesthood meeting was the first meeting on Sunday mornings.

Sunday School was held with enough of a break for men to return home from Priesthood meeting and come back with their families for Sunday School, which was split into two opening exercises — one for adults and one for children. The sacrament was administered in both. The children met in what was then the Junior Sunday School Room. Featured in the opening exercises for adults were two 2 1/2-minute talks, often given by teenagers.

Sacrament meeting was the last meeting of Sunday. Many chapels had 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. start times. However, some wards had sacrament meeting start as late as 7 p.m.

The First Presidency in 1980 — Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner and Marion G. Romney — started the block schedule in March of that year.

Junior Sunday School was dissolved. Primary, Young Women’s spiritual lessons and Relief Society were moved to Sunday. Sacrament meeting is usually the first meeting of the block for 70 minutes. After a 10-minute break, Sunday School is held for 40 minutes.

Following another break, Relief Society, Priesthood Meeting and young women’s lessons are held for 50 minutes.

Primary lasts for 140 minutes. That organization faced the most changes, with Sharing Time added, where the children sing and listen to a spiritual presentation by a member of the Primary Presidency.

The major objectives of the new schedule in the 1980 instructions from the First Presidency:

“1. Help every Latter-day Saint home become a place where family members love to be, where they can enrich their lives and find mutual love, support, appreciation, and encouragement;

“2. Emphasize home-centered Sabbath activities;

“3. Make more flexible a weekday activity program for all members;

“4. Reduce the amount of travel by Church members and provide opportunities for family members to travel together and participate in Church activities, and

“5. Conserve energy resources and reduce the nonessential costs required for members to participate in Church activities.”

The instructions also state: “Local leaders should use their own initiative to solve specific local problems. Leaders have the responsibility to follow the guidelines for consolidating meetings provided, but they should rely on inspiration to find ways of making the schedule work successfully in their areas.”

Other changes:

• Sacrament trays with individual cups for water began in 1911; before that, many wards used one cup for six or seven people.

• The monthly Fast and Testimony Meeting was moved from Thursday to Sunday in 1896.

• The third day and two sessions of General Conference were canceled. Then-President Spencer W. Kimball cut those two sessions and kept the other sessions to the weekend. Economics and job demands were cited as reasons.

• Stake conferences were changed from quarterly to twice a year. Sacrament meetings used to be held after Stake conference.

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