A Sunday schedule for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consists of families worshipping together, partaking of the Lord's sacrament (similar to communion), listening to spiritually uplifting messages, engaging in meaningful discussion about the gospel of Jesus Christ and visiting the needy.
Thirty years ago this month Church leaders announced a change in Sunday meeting schedules for congregations in the United States and Canada. Consolidation would be expanded worldwide on 4 May. Prior to that time, Latter-day Saints attended three 90-minute Sunday meetings spaced throughout most of the day, in addition to two other meetings during the week. Today, however, meetings are shorter. After the change, all Sunday worship meetings would be contained within a consecutive three-hour time schedule. It has become known as the three-hour block.
Spencer W. Kimball, then president of the Church, explained the purposes behind the schedule change: "The consolidated meeting schedule was implemented largely in order to provide several more Sabbath hours for families ... take time to be together as families to converse with one another, to study the scriptures, to visit friends, relatives, and the sick and lonely. This is also an excellent time to work on your journals and genealogy."
Tracie, a native of Oregon, says she remembers when the schedules weren't consolidated. "We lived in Oregon and had to travel across town to attend meetings. When I was a child in Idaho, Primary was a meeting in the middle of the week. With working parents, it was sometimes difficult to get to church after school."
Significant benefits associated with the change included financial savings for the Church through updated energy practices and for its membership by reduced fuel costs. Fewer round trips to Sunday services had the greatest impact on rural and less developed areas of the Church. For most, however, the benefits were more time with family.
Kurt and Kathy of California say they have more time for visiting friends and neighbors, doing missionary work and calling on those in rest homes who may need a visit. "It gives us more time during the day to be with our family, watch Church videos and Music and the Spoken Word with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, play games and have dinners with extended family."
Heidi from Utah says, "We know that one day [in the week] we can concentrate our attention to reflect and renew ourselves for the coming week." She teaches her children to respect the Sabbath day and participate in appropriate activities.
The three-hour block includes sacrament meeting, a 70-minute worship service focusing on the sacrament, which also includes talks by Church members, singing of hymns and prayers.
Sunday School for adults and teens is 40 minutes of gospel-centered instruction. During this same time children 18 months to 11 years attend Primary. It lasts nearly two hours and includes a generous amount of singing, a snack for the younger ones, lessons and other activities to help the children learn about God and Jesus Christ.
A priesthood meeting for all male members 12 years and up is also held, while a Young Women meeting for girls 12 to 17 and Relief Society (the women's organization) meeting are held. In these meetings additional principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ are taught. Each meeting is customized to members' ages and level of gospel knowledge.