When my friends find out that we go to church every week for three hours at a time, I get lots of big eyes and replies like “You’re crazy! Why would you do that?!”
I’ll be the first one to admit that some weeks, three hours does feel quite long. Thankfully the three hour block of meetings is broken up into chunks, so usually time goes by at a good pace.
The main part of our Sunday church service is when everyone in the ward (or congregation) comes together for Sacrament Meeting, a 70 minute service held in the chapel. I have three small children (5 years, 3 years and 1 year old), and it takes some work to teach our children how to sit reverently, and we by no means have it down! My 1-year- old daughter isn’t close to being able to sit still, and sometimes I’ll rock her in the back of the chapel, sometimes I’ll take her out for a short break to stretch her legs. During Sacrament meeting, we sing songs of worship, take the Sacrament, listen to talks given by members of the congregation, get to hear special musical numbers, and take care of ward business (announcements about upcoming activities, announcing changes with responsibilities at church). My ward has Sacrament Meeting as the first meeting of the three, but my parents ward has this meeting at the end. I love Sacrament meeting because it gives me a feeling of family unity within my ward when we all worship together.
After (or before) Sacrament meeting, all the children 18 months to 3 years old are provided with a nursery they can attend. In nursery each week, the children have snack and song times, story time, and a lesson about a principle of the gospel, followed with lots and lots of play time. Often there is also a little craft the children get to do that reinforces the lesson they were taught that day.
When children are 3-11 years old, they attend Primary for 2 of the hours each Sunday block. Half of Primary is spent in a large group Sharing Time, with singing and a lesson. The children get to put on part of the program each week in this meeting, presenting talks they prepared, praying, and reciting scriptures. The second half of Primary is where the children are broken up by age and have Sunday School. My 5 year old son loves Primary! His teacher is so loving and puts a lot of work into her lessons each week, and we hear him singing the church songs he learns all week long. He has given talks in Primary twice, and gets excited each time.
For youth 12-18 years old, and all the men and women in the ward, the second hour is spent in Sunday School. The adults learn together, and the teenagers are usually separated into two or three classes by age group. Each year, the lessons focus on a particular book of scripture, and are the same lessons around the world. The teachers are ward members who are called on to prepare a lesson each week and present it to the class. We have wonderful Sunday School teachers.
The last hour is possibly my favorite – if I can say I have a favorite! Girls 12-18 attend Young Women, women meet together in Relief Society, and all the males from age 12 up meet in Priesthood (another link). The men have a short opening meeting with announcements, prayer and song, and then the teenagers and adults have separate lessons. Everyone has the same lesson in each group, but I like the opportunity to have lessons and conversations as just women for those few minutes each week.
When I worked with the Young Women several years ago, I loved the chance we could take to focus on just these awesome girls for one hour each week, and the needs that teenagers have – these girls are so special and meeting their needs is so important! I’m sure the men who are in charge of the teenage boys have similar feelings.
I love the sisterhood and love I feel in Relief Society, and I’m excited to get to attend this meeting again after spending time serving in Young Women and Primary for a few years. It’s always interesting to chat with my husband after church and see what angle his Priesthood lesson took. We think it’s fun to discuss how each others Priesthood or Relief Society lessons went that day and how they were different or similar.
So yes – Mormons go to church for three hours, and it can sound like a long time! But every minute is important, used wisely, and fulfills an important purpose. And thank goodness we’re in three different classes during that time and not sitting in one seat in one room the whole block!
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