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LDS MEETING SCHEDULE HAS FAULTS BUT IS PREFERRED

SHARE LDS MEETING SCHEDULE HAS FAULTS BUT IS PREFERRED

Fifteen years have passed since the LDS Church began consolidating its schedule of meetings into a three-hour Sunday block.

Weekday meetings for children in the Primary organization, women in the church's Relief Society, and for the Young Men's and Young Women's organization were moved to Sunday and held back-to-back with Sunday School and sacrament meeting, the congregational worship service.The change was first implemented in the United States and Canada, where energy shortages had more than doubled the price of gasoline during the previous few years, making frequent commutes to church more costly. The change soon spread worldwide.

The consolidation was also implemented in an effort to give families more time together.

A panel of church members, mostly from outside the Utah heartland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spent an hour at Saturday's session of the Sunstone Symposium reflecting on their worship experiences both before and since the schedule was consolidated.

Ohio resident Rebecca Chandler misses the weekday Primary meetings she attended as a child that had the flexibility of offering children gospel instruction as well as activities more suited for a weekday than a Sunday. "My children won't have that same heritage."

The consolidation helped church members who live in parts of the world where they have to travel extreme distances or pay burdensome transportation costs to get to church, said J. Frederick Pingree, a three-time bishop in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a former South American missionary and mission president.

"I rarely feel like I'm asked to sacrifice, but I bet the member in Ecuador feels more comfortable because he can be more a part of the full church program," Pingree said.

Church-directed modifications in the consolidated schedule have seen a return of weekly, weekday activities for teens and less frequent weekday activities for children and meetings for the Relief Society. But the progression is not a piecemeal return to the pre-consolidation church schedule.

"No matter how nostalgic we are about how things used to be, most of us are not willing to go back to it," said M. Lou Chandler about the old schedule. She conducted an informal survey in her Philadelphia ward after being asked by Sunstone to participate on the panel. Most of those who responded like the new schedule - and even those who don't didn't want to go back to the old schedule.

But the efficiency of the consolidated schedule has taken its toll on a congregation's sense of community, said panelist Jerry Hurd.

The change in the church schedule created legends about wards that tested the new schedule before it was implemented - and that pilot programs are ongoing to further modify the church schedule.

Church spokesman Don LeFevre told the Deseret News the change to the consolidated schedule was announced in 1980 after "careful and extensive planning" by the church's governing First Presidency, but that it did not follow pilot programs, as is popularly believed in the LDS community.

"We are always looking for ways to make improvements," but the church is not using individual wards to test further changes in the meeting schedule, LeFevre said.