“Sunday Meeting Schedule Modified,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 108–9
Sunday meeting schedules have been modified to include a ten-minute opening exercise period for Sunday School. This period includes time for learning and singing hymns.
The change was announced by the First Presidency in the following letter, dated 3 October 1988, sent to priesthood leaders.
Sunday Consolidated Meeting Schedule
The Sunday consolidated meeting schedule has been in effect for the past eight years. It has blessed our members and also made time available for families to be together on Sunday in spiritual and family activities. It has also helped in economizing travel and energy costs for families and the Church and has made it possible to better utilize our chapels.
We now announce minor modifications in order to have these meeting schedules serve our members even better. Sunday School opening exercises for ten minutes, which includes a hymn-singing period, will be conducted by the Sunday School presidency. Time for class periods will remain the same; only the break periods will be shortened. These changes should permit most of our members to begin and end Sunday services together.
Under separate cover, you will be receiving several Sunday meeting schedule plans for use by units of the Church. Stake presidents will need to confer with bishoprics to determine which of the alternative schedules is appropriate for local circumstances. Also included will be some guidelines for the hymn-singing period to be used in the Sunday School opening exercises. [These guidelines appear below.]
We are confident that these changes will enhance our worship services and the spirit in our meetings and bless our members.
Guidelines for Sunday School Opening Exercises
Leadership. Both the bishopric and the Sunday School presidency sit on the stand. The bishopric presides; the Sunday School presidency conducts.
Agenda. The ten-minute opening exercises consist of a welcome from a member of the Sunday School presidency, an opening hymn, a prayer, and a hymn-singing period. Dismissal to classes follows. Although the exact timing of sessions and breaks is flexible according to local needs, care should be taken to stay within the time allotted by the bishopric so that teachers will have the time that is reserved for classes.
Announcements. The member of the Sunday School presidency who is conducting may make brief announcements about Sunday School classes. However, general ward announcements should be printed in a ward program or bulletin, or made by the bishopric in sacrament meeting.
Sunday School music personnel. A ward Sunday School chorister and organist should be called to prepare and present music for the Sunday School opening exercises. A stake Sunday School music leader may be called to serve as a resource to ward Sunday School music personnel and to present a music session in the semiannual stake teaching workshops.
Guidelines for the Hymn-Singing Period
The purpose of the hymn-singing period is to teach the gospel through hymns—to help members learn the hymns, ponder their messages, and partake of the spirit they bring.
How to prepare. The bishopric may outline topics to suit local programs and needs. (There will be no list of recommendations from Church headquarters.) With a prayer for inspiration and guidance, the Sunday School chorister should select the hymns, study their messages, study scripture references, note the mood and tempo markings, and think of ways to present the hymns effectively. Be well prepared.
Some ideas for a hymn-singing presentation:
Learn new and less well-known hymns, as well as favorites.
Spend most of the time singing. The best way to learn a hymn is to sing it over and over. Do not constantly stop and start.
Focus on the hymn’s spirit and message rather than on technical aspects. Read the scripture references, paraphrase the message in simple terms, and explain unclear words and phrases.
Encourage all to sing, especially those who normally do not. Remind the congregation that the song of the righteous is a prayer. (See D&C 25:12.)
Encourage memorization. Try singing the hymn with the books closed.
Tell a story of how a hymn has blessed someone’s life. Ask ward members to share experiences.
Give brief background information on the hymn or its author or composer.
Involve children and youth. Ask a teenager in advance to conduct or play the hymn. Or invite groups of children or youth to sing it or to help present it by holding up visual aids from the meetinghouse library.
Ask a group to present the hymn—such as the ward choir, a quartet, a family, a soloist, etc.
Ask a member to choose a favorite hymn and tell why it is special to him.
Be creative. Ask questions, use humor, be cheerful, do something different. Make the hymn-singing period one of the most exciting and rewarding moments of the meeting schedule.
The hymnbook. In addition to information provided with the hymn itself, see the First Presidency Preface, “Using the Hymnbook,” and the indexes.
The standard works. There are many additional scripture references and a wealth of information available through the Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, and Index.
Church magazines. Articles frequently appear in which Church members express how the hymns have blessed their lives. See also “The New Hymnbook: The Saints Are Singing!” (Ensign, Sept. 1985, p. 7); “Celebrating the New Hymnbook” (Ensign, Nov. 1985, p. 105); and “Policies and Announcements” (Ensign, Nov. 1985, p. 108).