It’s that time of year again. The time when Mormons hit the rumor mill. Normally this is pretty silly. Even the shocking rumors are pretty small in the scheme of things. However it seems clear that Pres. Nelson is doing some major reforms to Church structure. If last spring surprised people by getting rid of both home teaching and separate quorums this week probably will bring even more surprises. I suspect we’ll be getting more changes per year than we typically got in a decade. So here’s my list of rumors, how likely I think they are, and what the implications might be.
2 Hour Block – Likely but not certain. I was a big skeptic of this one. The Church has done lots of test runs of this over the years and the costs always outweighed the benefits. I’m hearing it now from so many sources many that it seems unlikely to be mere rumor.
It’s not entirely clear how they’ll do it, but most sources are suggesting an end to Sacrament talks and a slight shortening of Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society. Honestly that’s the only way I could see it working. I know a lot of people are saying they’ll just get rid of Sunday School or have Sunday School three times a month and PH/RS once a month. The problem is Primary. Even with splitting Primary up into Junior Primary and Senior Primary there frequently aren’t enough class rooms. If you only have Sunday School then you’re effectively putting all the kids together which just seems unworkable.
The biggest problem with a 2 hour block, no matter how desired by many, is the problem of education. Let’s be honest. Most people right now just don’t read their scriptures regularly or have regular lesson based Family Home Evening. (Heck, I’m guilty of not doing enough lessons myself) The question is whether kids will get enough teaching if Church is reduced. But it’s not just a problem with kids. We have lots of areas where there are many converts who need to learn about the gospel and doctrines. The legitimate worry is that by reducing Church the membership becomes more ignorant. We’ll also lose that training that helps people become more comfortable with public speaking that can pay off when people are put in leadership positions.
Expanded Role for Women – Unlikely but possible. I think this will come eventually. There’s lots of activities, particularly done by the Aaronic Priesthood, that technically don’t require priesthood office. Deacons pass the sacrament but what they are doing is really no different from when you pass the tray to the person beside you. There’s no reason we couldn’t have young women helping out. Likewise ushering is typically done by Teachers or Priests but could easily be done by young women. Note this isn’t saying women get the priesthood or some major doctrinal innovation. This is just a small policy change already permitted by our existing doctrine.
Related to this are women’s blessings. This might seem like a more major change but actually women anointed with oil and gave blessings up to around the Second World War. Typically women would anoint women especially for things related to childbirth where it was seen as inappropriate for men to give blessings. (In those days the anointing wasn’t always to the head) This one seems a bit more improbable compared to allowing girls to usher or pass the sacrament. However it is well within historic practice. Again it’d just be a policy change with no major revelations required.
Changing Mission Age – Possible It was only a few years ago that the Church changed the mission age to 18. This in turn has led to some big decreases in missionary effectiveness. Now technically the change was just to allow young men to go earlier without pushing that age. However in practice the past five years has seen a presumption that every young man go on a mission at 18. I could see just an emphasizing that they go when they are mature enough and encourage some to go at 19 or even 20 – 22. However it’s also quite possible that they just change the age to 19 again even though that’d cause a huge temporary reduction in numbers.
Changing Missions – Unlikely. I know some have speculated a major rethink of missions is in order. Many don’t realize that the current system is largely a product of the post-war era and really didn’t get going in mass until Pres. Kimball became President. A lot of the older or recently deceased apostles didn’t go on missions simply because it wasn’t as common when they were young. A rethink might significantly decrease missionary numbers or make various type of service missions more common. Other changes might be allowing for different mission lengths like six months, one year or even three years. More close ties between Stake missionaries and full time missionaries might also be possible. (I’ve mentioned how I had a full time companion as a one month Stake Missionary when I was young)
The problem of course is that we have a duty to preach the gospel. While there are problems with our current approaches, if we change things too much that’ll make things worse not better.
New Scripture – Unlikely. This would include major doctrinal revelations, such as what some want on feminist or LGBT issues. I suspect some major revelation, if only to clarify some issues of salvation, is coming. But I can’t see it happening this fall. It’s also possible that older revelations get added to the D&C or Pearl of Great Price. Especially with the Joseph Smith Papers project we have a lot of Joseph’s lesser known revelations that could be published.
Dropping Stake Callings – Possible. I’ve heard this one from a few sources as well. The idea is of paring back many Stake callings so that more people are available for ward callings. This might take the form of outright dropping many calls like the Stake Sunday School callings or just consolidating many callings to the High Council.
The problem with this is that while it’s popular in strong Mormon areas like Utah it’s deeply problematic for Stakes with weaker wards or branches. Often Stake callings can significantly help these smaller units. The counter argument would be that this could be done by the High Council or having more training meetings.
Any ideas you think are reasonable? I suspect we’ll get some other big changes beyond the 2 hour block which sounds likely. I’m just not sure what they’ll be.
Yikes, I hate being the first cynical commenter, but if the current state of our Sabbath day educational efforts is producing an “educated” membership, we’re not losing anything if we drop those classes. Griping about Sunday School manuals have been done to death, so I won’t repeat it here. As for Primary: my kid is incredibly frustrated with the Sharing time curriculum — at its best it can be an effective vehicle for…learning Primary songs? At it’s worst, it’s a room full of yelling kids who don’t want to sing and a teacher who doesn’t allow enough “wiggle” activities.
If the shortening of church meetings opens up opportunities for voluntary scripture study, service, and fellowship groups, then I’m all for it.
That sounds more like a problem with the Primary Presidency. It’s an extremely hard calling – arguably among the hardest in the Church. However if Sacrament talks are cut that probably means Primary presentations are cut, which radically shifts how songs are handled. Right now most of singing time is preparing for the next Primary presentation in Sacrament.
The problem is that if Church gets shortened, few will use that time for scripture study IMO.
There is a whole lot of inertia to overcome before the General Authorities make a change resulting in a two-hour block. Most are fairly old and the subconscious thought that attending church should be a burden and a sacrifice is still deep within most of them. They were raised thinking church is a sacrifice and sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven. Much like walking 10 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways, made them the men they are today.
There’s a lot that’s great in church. All the ingredients for teaching true principles, in addition to administering the ordinances.
But the reality is that most members haven’t taken ownership of their spiritual development. And agency is the only way that happens. Not sitting through another class expecting spoonfed revelation. Nor reading more on blogs than from the prophets past and present.
So in some ways the best growth* can only come from serious pruning and letting the church grow back in its place.
The root is strong. The branches have waxed old and now bring forth no fruit or bad fruit in many cases. Sadly even in the case of great people desiring to keep their covenants and do what’s right (sorta).
It’s all back to agency. We’ve inherited something (church organization) and what are we doing to merit that inheritance? What are we doing as stewards of it? What are we doing to live up to our duty to rebuild for the needs of every new generation?
Sadly, a combination of apathy, love of the world more than God, harsh judgment of fault (perceived or real) of ancestors, my-will-be-done-isms, misapplied conservativism strangling out needed local revelatory changes is thwarting the stewardship and evolutionary changes needed for that inheritance to grow.
When you line up the course of action on any potential issue, most potential solutions can fall into one of those aforementioned categories. And depending on the situation, any one of those categories could be the right one.
But all too often we implement exactly the wrong one.
I see great leadership in the church. Great members. We’re all growing and the Lord is patient with us. But we could be doing so much more…
With that being the case, how could the answer be anything but a heavy pruning?* And I’m not talking the excommunication kind in case anyone had the wrong idea.
*the alternative is new growth grafted in — missionary work (and to a major degree children). That would strengthen the old branches doing the work and rejuvenate the tree.
2 hour blocks and LGBTQ revelations won’t change the dynamic one bit.
A few I’ve heard:
* The frequency of youth activities (Activity Days, cub scouts, YM and YW) will be determined at a stake level (rather than mandated weekly)
* Stake callings will be consolidated to the Stake presidency and High Council only, freeing up the other individuals to serve at the ward level.
I suspect that the variability in the 2-hour block rumors is due to the Church running a variety of pilot programs with different schedules, which would generate reliable conflicting rumors.
Rumors that I have NOT heard, but would like to, include:
*mandated emphasis on Christ and Atonement at Easter and Christmas
*do away with monthly “open mic” Fast and Testimony meeting.
* Expand RT seminary and professional instructors to all areas with enough membership to justify it.
* Senior missionary quotas on Wasatch Front/SE Idaho units requiring each stake to have the equivalent of 2 couples per ward serving at all times.
* Also, sell off the BYUs and use the proceeds to expand the Perpetual Education Fund.
“If the shortening of church meetings opens up opportunities for voluntary scripture study, service, and fellowship groups, then I’m all for it.”
There are 16-18 waking hours in every Sunday, 3 of which are taken up by the average church meeting. I know I don’t usually do scripture study and service in the other 21, but I could — that’s plenty of time, even with a really good nap. (I do usually try to read a book.) Our stake’s youth do a regular stint of Sunday meal-serving at the Salvation Army, even with a 3-hour meeting. We could probably all be doing more Sabbath service on our own.
If the 2-hour meeting happens, it happens, but I’ll believe it when I see it — and it probably won’t help us become more educated and righteous as a people. We could be doing that already. We have more scripture, scholarship, and knowledge, more easily accessible, than anyone has ever had. We have no excuse. (And yet knowing that, I still have a pile of unread books…)
Clark, I think F&T meeting is important but if the reports of getting rid of talks in Sacrament meeting are true, that’d be included in that. Although they may move something like it to Sunday School or Priesthood.
I completely agree with the Church having better Easter programs. Although admittedly most wards don’t even do Christmas well.
There’s going to be no selling off of BYU (nor do I think they should – although heaven knows I have lots of criticisms of the institution).
@dangermom: that stake youth activity sounds awesome. Our stake does precisely nothing like it on a regular basis. Our ward has more frequent service opportunities but they tend not to be on Sunday and local geography makes weeknight activities challenging. (Note: geography also functionally adds an hour to church in my area, which perhaps explains some of the challenges.) Closest thing to study groups has been the inexplicable scheduling of Temple Prep at 6pm on Sunday evening.
I see through dark-colored glasses of cynicism, but I see a potential future where my family comes home from Sunday services either 1) not exhausted and/or 2) with an hour of fellowship lifting our spirits. It’s a nice future that could happen more often than our monthly potluck/linger-longer permits.
* Stake callings will be consolidated to the Stake presidency and High Council only, freeing up the other individuals to serve at the ward level.
I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that “High Council” should actually be “Stake Council” (which has women in it). Replacing the Stake Relief Society President with a male high councilor makes no sense. Or they could call female high councilors.
I don’t have much confidence that a 2-hour bloc will do much to improve our spirituality, nor our ability to coordinate activities outside of church. It’s hard enough getting consistent follow-through with plans for an elder’s quorum when they meet once a week. Once a fortnight or once a month will make that all the more difficult. Perhaps time for talks in sacrament meeting could be reduced without much loss (depending on the speakers, of course), but eliminating them entirely seems a bit extreme, especially from a leadership that instructs us in general conference almost exclusively by giving talks.
I think about my sister, now disaffected from the Church, who was talking to my wife and me about 12 years ago regarding her recent release from a nursery position. She made a comment about how amazed she was after going back to gospel doctrine and being reminded of how much she had forgotten during her time in the nursery. We grew up in the same house and learned most of the same things from our parents, so I always assumed she was just as knowledgeable about the gospel as I was. If she can forget so easily, I fear for the general membership of the Church.
A priesthood lesson isn’t the same as a Sunday School lesson. I know. I’ve taught both. Someone who thinks a Sunday School class is interchangeable with a priesthood or Relief Society class either isn’t paying very close attention, or their instructors are doing it wrong.
I hear about these stakes that are piloting such modified meeting schedules, but what stakes are they? If we can’t firmly identify the sources of such rumors, they sound just like urban legends.
One upside would be that more wards could share the same building, but that would introduce longer drive times for all the wards whose building isn’t in their boundaries. I’m very much of a wait-and-see mindset here.
Here is my information from totally unreliable sources that are occasionally right (like broken clocks, only less often): a 2 hour block, twice a day. Two hours for Sacrament, then “go home and read through the lesson materials so you are prepared and come back in four hours for Sunday School and RS/Priesthood” (with some accommodations for areas of the church where travel time is too much to allow for that).
“* The frequency of youth activities (Activity Days, cub scouts, YM and YW) will be determined at a stake level (rather than mandated weekly)”
This is already the case per the Handbook.
“* Stake callings will be consolidated to the Stake presidency and High Council only, freeing up the other individuals to serve at the ward level.”
I’ve been pondering this for a while in my own personal case, and it would make quite a bit of sense. While Clark’s reasoning above for the necessity of the callings makes sense, I think if you took inventory of the actual activities of most Stake Officers, you would be very underwhelmed. I think you would also find that very rarely do these leaders “move the needle.” One only needs to think back 15-20 years ago when we had full Stake Mission Presidencies and now it is just a single High Councilor.
The only exception might be Stake Relief Society President which is the one role I would hope would be unchanged.
Eric, there was a Stake in Tremonton that did the two hour block for a while at least 10 years ago. There apparently were some wards in Arizona doing it too although that may primarily have been due to having too many wards for the meeting house. If there’s something driving the move to a 2 hour meeting it’s using meeting houses more effectively in dense Mormon areas I suspect.
Last Lemming– Yes. I should have said “stake council” rather than “high council.” I don’t see the church moving women AWAY from decision making bodies anytime soon.
On the two-hour block, several Utah State University student stakes met on a two-hour block in the late 1990s when the Institute building was being remodeled. I think Clark Goble is right in speculating that the primary driver may be using the same number of churches to house more congregations. That’s what’s forced a two-hour block in the past.
There are so many rumors I wish were true. I didn’t give much credit to the 2 hour rumor until I made an official request to the brethren in recent months to approve a modified schedule to Sunday meetings for our stake until new buildings are constructed (all our buildings are beyond capacity with 4 or 4+ units in them, which requires some poor families to have church into dinner time). I was told to wait until after conference and then we could talk about it. But they were also very clear that they were not confirming any rumors and even explicitly stated that they were not confirming the 2 hour rumor. So I am anxiously waiting to see.
I have a list of 20+ radical changes I want to make to the stake and ward structure in our stake. I’ve made about 3 of them so far. I have a real burning to get moving on the others. Might get me released!
Regarding frequency of youth activities, specifically “Mutual” for YM / YW, from the Handbook:
“Mutual is generally held weekly. If travel or other restrictions make this impractical, Mutual may be held less frequently, but it should be held at least monthly. Mutual should be 1 to 1½ hours long and should take place on a day or evening other than Sunday or Monday.”
other than Sunday or Monday
Which reminds me of another rumor–that the Church will abandon all pretense that Monday is for family home evening.
My prediction: there will surely be some type of administrative change (like changing home teaching to ministering) that will be billed as revelation or inspiration, but that will inevitably leave some of us wondering how the bar for divine communication was ever set so low.
Wow. I’m finding myself suddenly against the 2 hour block. Because I’m not able to imagine how this version of it doesn’t kill the ward choir. I know we don’t do music perfectly in the church but done well I have seen the ward choir offer a wonderful haven for people who don’t always feel like they have a place in the larger ward. A place for people in the ward to get to know one another where they might otherwise stay siloed in their family pews or auxiliaries. And for those of us who find our spiritual experiences most reliably in music the reduction of communal singing would be a deep loss.
Then again, being released from my stake music calling just before stake conference and the big stake Christmas Music activity following shortly afterward would lessen my stress levels immensely. So there is that.
I must be really out of the rumor loop. This is the first I’ve ever heard of eliminating sacrament meeting talks. Though I’d be fine with cutting off about 15 minutes and strictly outlawing talks on talks.
What about doing away with the need to wait one year from your marriage date if it’s a civil marriage before you can be sealed. Possibly bring the US more into alignment with many other countries where you get married civilly and then are sealed shortly thereafter.
I think it would be nice if further light and knowledge came forth concerning the transitioning away from Boy Scouts and a bit more finite detail as to it’s replacement. Also, I’m not sure I understand exactly where the highly-neglected Duty to God program fits in.
The word of wisdom will be modified to state that coffee and tea are actually healthy drinks, especially when compared to monster drinks and other sugar filled diabetic bombs. Or perhaps it will revert back to just advice like it was in the early days vs mandated.
Larry, that’s an interesting question about whether they’ll introduce the new replacements for the 8-16 year olds. I’m guessing that won’t be this fall but next year. I could be wrong. It’s interesting I’ve not heard any chatter about it though.
Adam, that’s possible and I’ve heard that temple changes may be coming since I wrote the above. I’m hearing some rumors along these lines that appear to have some grounding in discussions with GAs (although nearly all rumors claim they heard it from some GA). The claim is that while Church will go to 2 hours, temples will be open on Sundays to allow more people to go. Which, if true, is actually a fantastic idea. It’s almost impossible for people with kids to go during the week and Saturdays are the day where all the house chores get done and if you’re lucky a small family activity. I’ve found particularly the last few years as my family has grown that it’s near impossible to get to the temple. Part of this rumor is the shortening of the endowment others have mentioned. Again, if true, that’d be amazingly helpful. Right now you have to block aside 3 – 4 hours which is ridiculously hard to do when your kids aren’t independent. It’d be easier if temples stayed open later, but Sunday openings would be most welcome if true.
Given they’d already be changing the temple in this scenario (Sunday times, shortened endowment) it’d make sense that making US practice more in line with many other countries relative to the sealing/marriage issue. Again exactly how that’d shake out isn’t clear.
BCarson, both Primary presentations and choir works are the big question with a 2 hour schedule. It sounds like the solution to the Primary objections is to cut Sacrament instead of Primary. But what then? I suspect it’d depend upon the building schedules. If most meetinghouses only have to house 1 – 3 wards then you could just cut Sunday School one Sunday for a presentation and meet in the chapel. If you are housing 3 – 5 wards then that’d be much more difficult.
At least 1 mission announcement will be made in a place that is not expected by the general membership, you can take that to the bank.
“New Scripture – Unlikely. This would include major doctrinal revelations, such as what some want on feminist or LGBT issues.”
In the last general conference, Elder Anderson made this interesting remark: “The prophet’s voice, while spoken kindly, will often be a voice asking us to change, to repent, and to return to the Lord. When correction is needed, let’s not delay. And don’t be alarmed when the prophet’s warning voice counters popular opinions of the day. The mocking fireballs of annoyed disbelievers are always hurled the moment the prophet begins to speak. As you are humble in following the counsel of the Lord’s prophet, I promise you an added blessing of safety and peace.
Don’t be surprised if at times your personal views are not initially in harmony with the teachings of the Lord’s prophet.”
It is much more likely that new scripture (and general conference becomes, in essence, new scripture) would reveal the opposite of what some want on feminist or LGBT issues.
I heard the one about coffee and tea too. While I think its unlikely, its possible since it became a “commandment” later. A couple of things in its favor are simply avoiding “addictions”, but the most likely reason is President Nelson’s affiliation with China and how big tea is in Asia, where the Church is experiencing growth.
I personally would be immensely saddened to see music cut from our Sunday experiences if the block is shortened. Cut talks if need be, but leave the choir, musical selections, and primary music alone. They are the best part of church, and if anything, we need more music, not less. Primary singing time is most kid’s favorite part of church.
Lisa, the rumors are that music remains although not necessarily extended musical presentations. It’s the talks that get cut.
Cutting out talks would be my last choice. Shortened meeting is good, maybe one talk. But speaking forces people to think deeply about their talk and I usually enjoy hearing their thoughts. With the emphasis on discussion in classes, they often seem to lack much depth.
I agree, Sarah. I am all for a shortened sacrament meeting, but keep one talk, all three hymns, and a musical selection. I saw one model showing a 30-minute sacrament meeting. In many wards I’ve lived in, you are barely getting done with the sacrament ordinance at the 30-minute mark. I think a 45 minute service would be just about right, and that’s about the length of most Sunday services in other churches that I’ve visited–you get all the “liturgical” elements plus time for one sermon. I think with a 30 minute sacrament meeting, you’d just be getting into the mood if it, and it would be over, with no time to steep in that mood. The main worship service should *feel* like the main worship service, and I’m not sure how that would happen if it was so short.
I think a 2-hour block would be very challenging to do well, but 2.5 hours might be just about right.
I’ve long felt that the last 20 minutes of sacrament meeting are the most difficult, especially for families with kids. A 50-minute sacrament meeting, with one youth speaker and one adult speaker, would be just right for me.
By all means, don’t cut Sunday School! That’s the only time that many people read, discuss, and think about the scriptures, the core of our doctrine. If anything, cut EQ/RS/YW/YM by 10 minutes. Then we’re down to a more reasonable, manageable 2.5-hr schedule.
Having young women help with the sacrament would surely speed things up. More servers, fewer minutes, more time for the speakers and music in a shortened schedule. Win-win.
I think sacrament needs a certain minimum time window for silent supplication and worship. It’s not a snack.
Agreed. Why cut worship time?
I few years ago I attended a ward that shared a building with three wards. But there was only enough parking for one ward at a time. The solution was a 2 1/2 hour block with each of the three meetings shaved either 5 or 10 minutes, and only 5 minutes were allotted between each meeting. IMHO there was no degrading of the worshiping experience with the shorter time period.
So one rumor true although Sacrament loses only 15 minutes.