Start­ing next year, Mor­mons to spend one less hour at church each Sun­day

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - LIFE TRIBUTES - By Brady McCombs AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

SALT LAKE CITY — Mor­mons will spend less time at church each Sun­day af­ter a change an­nounced Sat­ur­day aimed at mak­ing wor­ship more man­age­able for mem­bers around the globe.

Start­ing in Jan­uary, mem­bers will spend two hours at church each Sun­day rather than three hours, lead­ers of The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints an­nounced at a con­fer­ence.

The an­nounce­ment marks a sig­nif­i­cant change for Mor­mons, who were ex­pected to at­tend all three hours each Sun­day to be con­sid­ered ac­tive mem­bers of the faith — a guide­line in place since 1980.

The news set off a flurry of re­ac­tions among Mor­mons on so­cial me­dia, with some post­ing cel­e­bra­tory memes.

“The se­nior lead­ers of the church have been aware for many years that for some of our pre­cious mem­bers, a three-hour Sun­day sched­ule at church can be dif­fi­cult,” said Quentin L. Cook, a mem­ber of a lead­er­ship group called the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles that helps run the faith. “This is par­tic­u­larly true for par­ents with small chil­dren, pri­mary chil­dren, el­derly mem­bers, new con­verts and oth­ers.”

Church Pres­i­dent Rus­sell M. Nel­son called the ad­just­ment a new “home-cen­tered church” strat­egy that comes as the faith ex­pands through­out the world. More than half of its 16 mil­lion mem­bers live out­side the U.S. and Canada.

“The long-stand­ing ob­jec­tive of the church is to as­sist all mem­bers to in­crease their faith in our Lord Je­sus Christ and in his atone­ment,” Nel­son said. “In this com­plex world to­day, this is not easy. The ad­ver­sary is in­creas­ing his at­tack on faith and on fam­i­lies at an ex­po­nen­tial rate. To sur­vive spir­i­tu­ally, we need counter-strate­gies and proac­tive plans.”

Paulina Por­ras, a mother of 1-year-old twins, was ec­static with the news. Her daugh­ters aren’t old enough to go to chil­dren’s pro­grams alone, so she and her hus­band have to care for them through­out Sun­day church time.

“Stay­ing three hours is im­pos­si­ble,” said Por­ras, 29, of Lo­gan, Utah. “Two hours we can do.”

In­stead of at­tend­ing two meet­ings each Sun­day be­yond the one-hour wor­ship — such as Sun­day school, men’s and women’s groups — mem­bers will at­tend one each Sun­day, with the meet­ings ro­tat­ing through­out the month, Cook said.

A wel­come change

Sun­day ser­vices vary in length among other re­li­gions that have them. They of­ten run from about an hour to an hour and a half at many U.S. Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist churches, which also of­fer vol­un­tary classes and other gath­er­ings through­out the week.

Marc Fish, an in­sur­ance com­pany owner from Las Ve­gas, said he loves the change. Three hours each Sun­day can be in­tim­i­dat­ing for po­ten­tial con­verts and way­ward mem­bers, and the change gives fam­i­lies the flex­i­bil­ity to weave in gospel ac­tiv­i­ties at home when it works for them. Fisher, 38, has seven chil­dren rang­ing in age from 7 to 25 who are busy with pi­ano, vol­ley­ball and home­work, he said. He plans to have more one-onone talks with his chil­dren.

“Sched­ules are crazy for a lot of fam­i­lies,” Fisher said. “Some­times you hear in the church we’re caught up with check­lists, the pres­sure and the stress of just meet­ing ev­ery­thing.”

U.S. mem­bers likely will wel­come a change to wor­ship prac­tices that are more de­mand­ing than some other faiths, said Mor­mon scholar Matthew Bow­man, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Hen­der­son State Univer­sity in Arkadel­phia, Ark. How­ever, the new sched­ule seems to mainly re­flect the church shift­ing its fo­cus away from be­ing heav­ily West­ern Amer­i­can, where most mem­bers live near chapels and can han­dle the three-hour Sun­day time com­mit­ment, or wor­ship block, he said.

“This change is geared to­ward mak­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in the church more flex­i­ble and in­creas­ingly tar­geted to­ward smaller con­gre­ga­tions: A shorter wor­ship block means less vol­un­teer de­mands upon the con­gre­ga­tion, fewer jobs which need to be filled, and gen­er­ally eas­ier ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Bow­man said in an email.

Rick Bowmer / As­so­ci­ated Press

The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints Pres­i­dent Rus­sell M. Nel­son, cen­ter, greets the semi­an­nual gen­eral con­fer­ence of The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sat­ur­day.

Quentin L. Cook, a mem­ber of the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles, ad­dresses the con­fer­ence.

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