Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guest Post: Why Can’t Sacrament Meeting End On Time?



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Brandon grew up in the South in a ward that was made up of three counties. After graduating from Florida State, he traveled the world courtesy of his Uncle Sam, and then found a decent living in I.T. He lives with his wife and two kids in Sacramento, California, where they enjoy never being too hot or too cold.

via allaboutmormons.com
Every Sunday, as the minute hand inches past the hour mark, inevitably, my seven year-old will ask how much longer sacrament meeting lasts. With every minute that passes, that question and an ever-escalating series of thoughts pass through my mind.

Exactly how long is sacrament meeting? Isn’t it supposed to be an hour? Maybe an hour and ten minutes? Are the talks really inspired enough to keep us in these hard metal seats in the back of the overflow area? By going over, doesn’t it take time away from the lessons that the Sunday School and Primary teachers have diligently prepared? Why does it take up 44% of the three-hour block and is 44% a significant number?

I decided to tackle the first question, and found this on Mormon.org:

"How long does church last? Our primary family worship service is called sacrament meeting. It’s held in our chapels on Sunday and lasts approximately one hour."

I suppose that saying sacrament meeting lasts anywhere from an hour and ten minutes to an hour and a half would scare off investigators. We already get enough flak when someone asks how long church is and we stare at the ground and mumble that it is three hours. Trying to explain that the three-hour block is a lot less than the all-day system we used to operate under doesn’t exactly help when you are trying to convince your friends to skip the NFL Sunday Ticket to come with you to church.

Yes, I know that in the “real olden days” (not just the 70’s, but back when people who weren’t my ancestors crossed the plains) church would actually last all day. Conference talks weren’t planned and apostles talked for eight or ten hours and everyone was captivated by their speaking.

Not having had the opportunity to live a hundred and fifty years ago, I will have to take their word for it. As much as I try to teach my kids not only the doctrine, but also the culture of the church, with each successive sacrament meeting that runs late, I wonder more and more if each and every member should enroll in Toastmasters to learn how to get their message across succinctly and how to end meetings on time.

I heard a story from a friend of mine about his time at BYU. Apparently, the testimony meetings in the Singles Wards ran on and on. To everyone’s surprise, a guy who was one step short of inactivity (if that really can occur at a church school) went up to the podium and instead of bearing his testimony, folded his arms and offered a brief closing prayer.

While I have considered that avenue, instead I just get out the hymn book and look up the closing hymn, wondering if the chorister will again lead us in all eight verses. For the record, they haven’t asked me to speak since I was the last speaker and ended my talk two minutes before the hour.

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