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Home-centered church? Shorter meeting schedule? Members outside Conference Center react

SALT LAKE CITY — Less time in church meetings, more time for family and personal gospel study? Absolutely.

That was the sentiment of several Latter-day Saints streaming out of the Conference Center after the Saturday morning session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when a new plan for a home-centered, church-supported, shortened meeting schedule was announced.

Arleen and Vaughn Hawkes, of Orem, said the news is exciting and will be a blessing to the church.

"I think that it will bless families," Arleen Hawkes said. "We'll learn the gospel deeper, it will get down inside of us. And I think it will help us to retain our young people better."

"We recognize that there's a big worldwide church out there, and it's not all in Utah," Vaughn Hawkes said. "There are a lot of changes that are going to take place that will improve the opportunities of Saints across the world to teach and train each other and their children."

Carlos Anugulo, who serves in a bishopric in Venezuela, said it was nice to know that President Russell M. Nelson is thinking about families and homes as holy places.

"Having more time to be with our families and strengthen each other will be nice," said Anugulo, a husband and father of two children. "I think it's inspired and I'm really thankful."

Royce Rhead, the father of a family of six from Boise, Idaho, said that while he won't miss afternoon church meetings, he plans to make a new effort in holding family home evening.

"I think this will give everyone more of an opportunity to fit family home evening in," Rhead said. "With everyone's busy schedule, it's been (a) hard time fitting that in."

Christopher Schuman and his wife, Rebecca Schuman, have been married for 10 years. They are unable to have children, but believe the change is inspired because "it works for all families."

"For me it's been a struggle because I was trying to find my place and if I'm not able to have children, what does that look like?" Rebecca Schuman said. "Just because my husband and I can't (have children) doesn't mean we can't have a family and help inspire those around us that have children and be an example."

She appreciated the words of Elder Ronald A. Rasband, who counseled members not to fear.

"I think that says it all. We need not fear because of what our foundation is built upon," she said. "Maybe when I die, the Lord will give me 100 spirit children and I'm going to have to remember all their names."

Christopher Schuman, her husband, had a more nonchalant reaction to the new meeting schedule.

"To be honest, who is going to complain about two-hour church?" he said.

Austin Smart, 18, and Carter Lloyd, 17, both from Boise, Idaho, and their friend, Megan Baugh, 17, from California, all rejoiced at the news. They agreed that at times church meetings have felt long, but they acknowledged the need to use their Sabbath day to grow spiritually.

"It's not for naps, even though we might want it to be for naps," Smart said with a smile. "It's time to grow closer to family and learn more about the gospel."