(I was trying to find President Packer’s statement about meetings for second post on 1 Corinthians, and realized it had disappeared from LDS.org. I’ve relocated it on the Wayback Machine, and the link below is correct. The source is no longer a “recent address” so it had disappeared from lds.org)
“Are you using the ward and stake councils effectively as they were intended? Don’t let them become meaningless exercises in organizational bureaucracy. The way some leaders conduct council meetings, you would think they really believe in a fourteenth article of faith:
‘We believe in meetings—all that have been held, all that are now scheduled—and we believe there will yet be held many great and important meetings. We have endured many meetings and hope to be able to endure all meetings. If there is a meeting, we seek after it.’
We hope you do not have a fourteenth article of faith operating in your wards.”– Source at lds.org
President Packer (quoted by Elder Kerr in a Family History Conference devotional in 2004)-
“It takes a pretty good meeting to be better than no meeting at all.”- Lds.org, via the Wayback Machine.
Amen and amen. Now go forth and do thou likewise…
For those of us who are following the 14th article of faith, what can we do differently?
Meetings are to Mormons what self-flagellation is to Jesuits: an act of devotion the participant presumes is pleasing to the Creator simply by reason of the discomfort it causes.
I remember Elder Bradley Foster of the 70 came to our stake and he had a video of how to run a meeting and it was FANTASTIC, sadly nothing changed! I think the participants of the meeting should leave better than when they came in so and so it should be time well spent
James E. Faust: “Meetings do not have to be endless to be eternal.” (https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2007-05-03-the-value-of-self-esteem?lang=eng)
Killing a Mormon meeting once it gets in the system is like killing a government program once it gets rolling — it just doesn’t happen. Sunday School should have died thirty years ago rather than being incorporated in the standard block meetings. PEC and Ward Council have been more or less duplicative for a generation.
The question I have is: what prompted this counsel from the apostles? Were/are bishoprics and stake presidencies regularly calling for additional meetings that are not specified in the handbook, or were/are they just going by the handbook? Because if it is the latter, then it would seem that the apostles could take measures to solve that by changing their instructions to local leaderships.
I remember being in the Sunday School presidency a couple of years ago and being asked to attend a meeting with the bishopric once a month. It was to be an hour long. It seemed like the most pointless meeting. Most business could have been taken care of through email. On top of that, we were supposed to meet separately as a Sunday School Presidency every couple of months to go over business. There was literally nothing to go over. We had four men to ring bells to let teachers know when class was over, substitute for someone if they couldn’t make class, pass out rolls, teach a teacher training class every three months, and recommend new teachers (which we couldn’t do very well, since we didn’t know who had what calling) if someone moved out, stopped coming to church, or had been a teacher for a good while. Perhaps the most productive thing we did as a Sunday school presidency was have the teachers be responsible for their own rolls. Yet I wasn’t quite sure if the bishopric was just going by the handbook or acting according to their own volition.
In addition to his comment about church meetings, Brother Packer’s 1990 talk at a Regional Representative Seminar about the problems created by church’s burgeoning bureaucracy is one of my all time favorites: http://www.angelfire.com/ultra/freemormon/govern.pdf
He took as his theme Joseph Smith’s admonition to “teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves.” Sadly, both Joseph’s counsel and President Packer’s talk are no longer in vogue.
FarSide, reading that talk brought back so many memories! The fall of the Warsaw Pact was indeed a euphoric time. It seemed that the hand of God was directing these political events that we did not expect would happen in our lifetimes, and certainly not as peacefully as the nations left the Soviet bloc. We could see that missionaries would soon be able to go to those Eastern European countries.
And the end of paying budgets, what a happy thing that was! I can tell you where I was sitting in sacrament meeting when I heard that.
One thing that happened during this time (about 1990, and very much in the spirit of fewer meetings) was a couple of major shifts in the Young Women’s program. The Church instructed that there were to be no activities during the week, just the Sunday lessons, girls’ camp, youth conference, and dances. We didn’t have weekly Mutual. I don’t remember if the boys ceased having Scouts for a short time but I don’t think so. It seems that it was the disparity of boys having weekly Scouts and girls having nothing that after about a year caused the instructions to change again. The next instructions were to have small, informal, nonmandatory gatherings for YW. I was the YW president and had them at my house on Friday afternoons. Eventually we went back to a weeknight program with joint meetings with the YM monthly.
In addition, the personal progress program changed. We dropped the old program, a detailed checklist of six areas of focus, and replaced it with the seven values. But at first there were no books, just some vague guidelines, but lots of options. We had fun making up our own goals.
RS has gone through shifting amounts of activities too: weekly homemaking meetings. Then monthly homemaking (HFPE) meetings. Then quarterly, and have smaller neighborhood groups doing programs as needed in your ward. Now the meetings aren’t even named Enrichment meetings, they’re just meetings. And any ward can meet as often or rarely as they want.
My impression is that we now have far fewer meetings than they did in the 1950s and 60s. When I was a kid, my family was at the church almost every day. We had to raise funds for buildings and so had a lot of fundraisers. We had Primary, roadshows, dinners, plays, lots more sports, and many cultural activities. I think the focus now really is on spiritual-focused meetings and less on socializing. There are good and bad sides to that, of course.
Amen! And I’ll add my own favored President Packer quote from April 2012 General Conference:
“There are many things about living the gospel of Jesus Christ that cannot be measured by that which is counted or charted in records of attendance. We busy ourselves with buildings and budgets and programs and procedures. In so doing, it is possible to overlook the very spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Too often someone comes to me and says, “President Packer, wouldn’t it be nice if … ?”
I usually stop them and say no, because I suspect that what follows will be a new activity or program that is going to add a burden of time and financial means on the family.
Family time is sacred time and should be protected and respected. We urge our members to show devotion to their families.”