Get with the program

Our branch in New York did not have a printed program for the members to take as they walked into the chapel each Sunday morning for Sacrament Meeting. I sorely missed it.

For members and visitors alike, that little sheet of cheap white copy paper is invaluable when they need it. When they don’t, which is most Sundays, it seems a waste of effort and resources. Generally, we already know the names and phone numbers of our ward or branch leaders, the bishoprics or branch presidencies, the Relief Society and Primary presidents, the youth leaders. Most of us have no occasion to call on the ward missionaries (that failing is a topic for another time). But just last Sunday, a new sister to our ward came up to me after Relief Society, seeking a bulletin, a program, anything that had the above listed information.

And sometimes the program has additional helpful information: where certain classes meet, what the lesson schedule is, upcoming activities, or even short introductory biographies of members and families. (One of my favorite of these had mistakenly omitted the “s” from the wife’s favorite hobby of scrapbooking. The next week’s humorous correction drew more attention to the anti-scrapbooking bias of the bulletin editor.)

Very little changes in the program from week to week. Yes, the listed speakers and hymns vary, but they are just minor changes within the standard template. Even so, I love finding old programs, the ones tucked away in old scripture cases, accidentally filed with papers that I actually intended to keep, tucked away on a bookshelf, or uncovered in the exercise of archeological fieldwork that is cleaning out from under a bed. I’ll pause and read through it, remembering the ward I was in then, the Relief Society presidency I loved but haven’t thought about for years. Those programs that change so little from week to week chart the gradual development of my life in the church over the years.

Very few programs make it home intact. Most are turned into origami by my two older children. Others become impromptu note pads, coloring pages, or airplanes that are grounded in sweaty little hands until the children can break free of the building.

I wonder if anyone is deliberate about saving their sacrament meeting programs. Are copies of the stake conference programs kept in locally maintained archives? For these pedestrian papers, nothing more that a few names and dates, are primary source materials for future historians of our communities.

I have a small, personal collection of programs. It is a very incomplete archive. They are the ones with our names printed in them as speakers, the ones with snippets of covert conversations recorded in the margins, the ones where the scribbles of children are mixed with their first awkwardly drawn letters, the ones with bright colors or careful drawings superimposed on the blurred photocopy. I think I may start saving some more.

These are a few of our programs from the last month. Most became origami and were lost.

These are a few of our programs from the last month. Most became origami and were lost.


15 comments for “Get with the program

  1. To be honest, those are lovely. The second Joseph Smith one in particular is pretty amazing.

  2. Lovely post. I do the Sacrament meeting program in my ward, and I did it in a previous ward as well. I often feel like it’s a kind of pointless calling, so I’m glad that you appreciate it.

    I have digital copies of all of the bulletins that I’ve done. Maybe I should hand them over to someone for archiving. I had never thought of that before.

  3. I would TOTALLY have put “crapbooking” in a bulletin. On purpose.

    I’ve always kept the programs when someone in my family spoke or sang or something. But, to be honest, when I run across them they usually bring back zero memories. I think, “I sang that?”

  4. In our ward, most of them are given to a family with a 50 year-old son who has Down’s Syndome. He uses them for drawing.

  5. Did you attend the Trumansburg, NY Branch, by chance? I was responsible for the program and had some difficulties with the copy machine.

  6. I’m a holdout on smartphone ownership, so even though the program is emailed to ward members beforehand, I don’t have access to it during the meeting without a hard copy. But it is wasteful, and only rarely do I really need access to that information during the meeting. Maybe it would be better if there were a small number of programs printed and available on a table outside the door for those who really needed them. It is nice having an archive of all the old programs in my email, as I am historically-minded myself.

    Funny story: my aunt, who lives in Washington state, was assigned to do the Sacrament meeting programs for awhile. One day a woman in the ward came up to her and begged her to stop putting pictures of Jesus on the front of the programs because she felt it wasn’t right to throw away any image of Jesus and so the old Sacrament programs were stacking up in her house.

  7. I was in the Huntington Station Branch. We loved it. It was the first bilingual branch we’d ever been in. There was no one assigned to do the programs. I volunteered at one point, but I was given other assignments instead.

    I like the idea of emailing the program to the ward. I’m currently our RS secretary, so I prepare a hard copy of the RS announcements for sisters to pass around with the attendance roll, and then I email it out to all of the RS sisters in our ward.

  8. “I wonder if anyone is deliberate about saving their sacrament meeting programs. Are copies of the stake conference programs kept in locally maintained archives?”

    If you have the luxury of having enough members to have an actual “ward historian,” and if that ward historian is motivated enough to do that job with fervor, there’s a good chance he or she is keeping a year’s supply of former programs. Of course, at the end of the year, the ward historian is probably giving those to the ward clerk so he can compile a ward history and who thereafter has no idea what to do with those programs and so lets them sit in his office for months on end.

    Or so I’ve heard.

  9. The ward bulletin is the ONLY written media that displays the date and time of ward events like dinners and service projects, as well as programs at a stake or regional level such as a special musical performance. Next Sunday we are changing our meerting scheudle to accommodate a special broadcast from Salt Lake to our region; how am I going to know about that without a ward bulletin, if I get to Sacrament Meeting 5 minutes late and don’t hear the announcement?

  10. Good point Raymond. Many people are unable to log onto the calendar for LDS tools to see their activities, some wards still aren’t great about updating it anyway. Emailed announcements can be useful, but they are also easy to miss. And they don’t lend themselves to origami.

    As a follow up note, I found a copy of the ward bulletin for the ward I am currently in from December of 2005. That was four years before we moved here and seven years before the boundary change that put us in this ward. I have no idea how this paper got into my house, but I suspect it may have been slipped into my church bag as a friendly prank from someone in my ward who reads the blog. I really can’t think of any other explanation.

  11. “One of my favorite of these had mistakenly omitted the “s” from the wife’s favorite hobby of scrapbooking.”

    One speaker in SM made it hard to not laugh out loud when he said, ” We all have so many things we have to do in the Gospel, like home teaching, and temple attendance, and scrapbooking…”

  12. My last two wards haven’t had SM bulletins, and I have to say, all in all, I don’t miss them.

    This is, of course, a YMMV issue, but I think leaving it individual and situational is the best approach. Our ward and two other units currently meet in a rented public school building. At the end of the Sunday meetings, we have to return everything to how it was before—the kids will come to class the next day and need to be able to seamlessly transition back. Returning the building to its school-ready state is taxing enough without having to look throughout the auditorium (and the rest of the school) for discarded programs. (Also, we have no copier available to us, so it would be tough to print them out anyway.)

    As for announcements and calendars: the vast, vast majority of our ward (and of our prior ward) are in their twenties or thirties, and have robust online lives. As such, for the demographics of our ward, emailed announcements are more convenient and easier (because we don’t have to search through a pile of papers, only through our Gmail). My parents’ ward, on the other hand, apparently includes people who don’t have email or only check it a couple times a month. If that were your ward, a written calendar probably makes sense.

    (I should note that I haven’t been in a ward with a printed-out ward list in probably my last five or six wards, which, again, makes a lot of sense given the demographics of the wards I’ve been in, as well as the frequent turnover of members.)

  13. When wards use a hard copy, I say, the more information/announcements the better.

    Would also encourage proofreading. I am the organist and was slightly insulted on Father’s Day when it listed that “Sister Chet _____” was the organist.

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