In his opening remarks at the October 2018 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson said:
“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, to assist them in making and keeping their covenants with God, and to strengthen and seal their families. In this complex world today, this is not easy. The adversary is increasing his attacks on faith and upon us and our families at an exponential rate. To survive spiritually, we need counterstrategies and proactive plans. Accordingly, we now want to put in place organizational adjustments that will further fortify our members and their families.
For many years, Church leaders have been working on an integrated curriculum to strengthen families and individuals through a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship. Our efforts over these recent years to hallow the Sabbath—to make it a delight and a personal sign to God of our love for Him—will be augmented by the adjustments we will now introduce.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then presented the new two- hour Sunday meeting schedule.
Most of the initial comments and reactions seemed to focus on the reduction from 3 to 2 hours spent in Sunday meetings—comments such as:
“More family time.”
“Less stress trying to keep the baby quiet in meetings.”
“Yay! Lunch at a civilised hour!” (where 3 wards shared the same meetinghouse)
“It’s easier to get friends to come to church for 2 hours than 3!”
But, as we experienced this inspired change over the past months, most people have grown to understand that the spare hour is NOT the issue or main benefit…
A Johannesburg family shared their thoughts:
Dad: “The Prophet’s words have made me more aware of the responsibility I have to teach my family. The onus is on us— not on the Church—to take our families back to Heaven Father. It is the same as with ministering, we need to look for opportunities, it is not about statistics. With this new awareness, I’m finding more ‘Sabbath’ to teach my children than the extra one hour could ever make.”
Mom: “Maybe it’s psychological—but spending less time at church in the morning makes it easier to have a purposeful family home evening on a Sunday. With all the children’s sporting commitments just having supper together on a Monday was a nightmare! At first, I missed the extra classes and the opportunity to chat to people in between. But now I am aware of the need to fellowship more and to connect better with other members.”
Teenage daughter: “I love that we now have ‘Church’ every day at home instead of just once a week! It is also quite nice to have Young Women every 2 weeks – makes it more special to be together. I am definitely studying the scriptures a lot more than I did last year.”
Another family with 2 Young Single Adults living at home meet on a Sunday to review and discuss the readings done individually during the week. Here are their thoughts:
“This is really working for our family. Our discussions are meaningful, and we all learn from each other. Each week we take an aspect or teaching that we want to develop in our lives and we are seeing results. I am keeping a record of these so that we can review our progress on a quarterly basis.
It is also lovely to chat to friends after Church for a few minutes and catch up instead of all rushing off home as we used to.”
A retired couple reported:
“The change has been very good for us. The Come, Follow Me manual provides a study routine that we can work on together. We have always read our scriptures together, but this is more structured. We also enjoy the extra time to spend with family. We serve as family history consultants in the ward and we have seen an increase in families wanting help as they spend time searching their ancestors’ records.”
Here are some other reported experiences:
Sister Lerato Pholo spoke to members of the Mdantsane stake who welcomed this revelation with open arms and are excited to spend more time as a family discussing the gospel.
Sandiswa Mahlangabeza says that she is happy because this programme now allows the family to have more time together and everyone has a role to play. “I sustain this revelation because now we get to have meaningful discussions during Sunday School. When we get home, we get to talk about what we learnt at church and we spend more time as a family.”
Luvuyo Mafundityala says that this two-hour block has made it easier for him to carry out his ministering duties. “I totally sustain the Prophet’s revelation because now it is easier for me to catch up with my fellow brothers and sisters. I get to use the time to minister and check in with those that are sick and afflicted. Since we sometimes walk quite long distances home, we walk after church without fear of getting mugged because we get out of Church an hour earlier. I cannot wait for the day when I have my own family and instil all the values and principles I am learning from the Come, Follow Me manual.”
Siphuxolo Slotile says that he was a bit worried when the First Presidency introduced the two-hour block because he felt like there would not be enough time to worship. “When President Nelson introduced the two-hour block I was astonished, because I did not see myself getting enough time to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and having enough time to learn of Him, even though I knew that the Brethren received this revelation from the Most High. As time goes by, the two-hour Sabbath service is helping me to pay full attention to those that are assigned to address the congregation each and every Sabbath Day. Even in the Sunday school class, I'm getting enough time to learn without feeling drowsy, because the lessons are not taking too much time; and that has made the teachers go straight to the point, even myself I always look forward for Sundays and I get enough time to ponder about the Sunday school lessons.”
The Yosi family sustains the President’s revelation because they get to visit with family, minister, and grow close as a family. “This revelation has come at the right time because we see Satan attacking the family unit and our family has grown a lot from spending that extra hour together pondering and reflecting on what we learnt at Church. We also get to use the time to minister and visit family and friends. This revelation was inspired, and the Lord wants us to grow as families and individuals….”
There is no handbook on what members of the Church should or shouldn’t do on the Sabbath, but as we follow this Church supported program to make our lives and homes Christ-centred, we can enjoy extraordinary blessings as mentioned by Elder Cook, when he said: “We are confident that members will be blessed in extraordinary ways. Sunday can be a day of gospel learning and teaching at church and in the home. As individuals and families engage in family councils, family history, ministering, service, personal worship, and joyful family time, the Sabbath day will truly be a delight.”
Editor’s Note: As you adapt your Sabbath day programme to the new two-hour Sunday meeting schedule and renewed individual study, family gatherings, and ministering to one another, we wish to learn how you, your family, and those around you are changing. Like many quoted in this article, we invite you to share your feelings and experiences for future publication. Those wishing to do so should email your comments to the Africa Southeast Office of Area Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.