Mormons in Las Vegas Valley embrace less church, more home study

What to do with an extra hour of Sunday free time? Take a nap? Watch one-third of a football game? Go for a quick jog in the park?

Or if you’re a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Spend it teaching your kids, and yourself, more about your faith.

Beginning in January , church members will see the length of their weekly Sunday meetings reduced from three hours to two. But the extra hour won’t be a freebie because members will be encouraged to spend that extra time in home-based, family-centered instruction in their faith.

The new Sunday meeting schedule — which alters a three-hour-block schedule in use since 1980 — was announced last weekend during the church’s 188th Semiannual General Conference. According to the church, the goal is to more closely balance Gospel instruction at home and at church.

Southern Nevada church members say the revised Sunday meeting schedule is receiving strong support here. While it wasn’t the hottest topic on campus Monday, students seem to like the change, said Bruce Hansen, director of the Las Vegas Institute of Religion, which is sponsored by the church and located adjacent to the UNLV campus.

Students also seemed to realize that, in exchange for one less hour spent in church, “they’ll have more responsibility” to keep the Sabbath holy through family or individual study, Hansen said.

“I think we’re pretty excited about it,” said Tyler Cross, a senior and president of UNLV’s Latter-day Saint Student Association, although “we’re trying not to get too giddy about it because it’s not just about having less time in church. It’s about what we are supposed to be doing with that time.”

Vivian McKay, Relief Society president in the Harmony Hills Ward in the North Las Vegas stake, said that when she learned of the schedule change, “it really made me start to think about my own faith and my children’s faith.”

Sometimes, she said, “it’s so easy to attend church without any spiritual preparation and make someone else accountable for teaching my children about Jesus.”

The new schedule, in contrast, emphasizes that “I need to take a more active role in teaching my children,” McKay said.

Under the revised Sunday schedule, the weekly sacrament meeting will account for about one hour, slightly less than now. Jason Morris, president of the McCullough Hills stake in Henderson, said the sacrament meeting is “the essence of the Sabbath day” during which “we bring ourselves before the Lord and make a promise with him to live his Gospel.”

Then, the second hour of the new schedule will consist of classes and instruction for children, youths and adult men and women.

In association with the revised Sunday meeting schedule, the church is to release a new home-centered Gospel study curriculum keyed to the instruction members receive at church.

Kevin Beck, bishop of the Pinnacle Ward in the Spring Mountains stake, said he hopes church members use “that extra hour of time to study the Gospel in the home, which is really where it should be. Learning and education should be taking place in the home, and church … reinforces what you learn.”

Morris said he’s already hearing from church members who welcome taking on that challenge. “They’re excited about the opportunities before them and making that time worthwhile and uplifting and meaningful.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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