Sunday School Schedule Change
February 1994

“Sunday School Schedule Change,” Ensign, Feb. 1994, 76–77

Sunday School Schedule Change

The First Presidency recently announced the elimination of Sunday School opening exercises, including hymn practice. To learn more about the change and the Sunday School program, the Ensign talked with Elder Merlin R. Lybbert of the Seventy, Sunday School general president, and his counselors, Elders Clinton L. Cutler and Ronald E. Poelman, also of the Seventy.

Question: Could you elaborate on the recent change in the Sunday meeting schedule?

Answer: The intent of the change is to provide additional emphasis for studying and learning the gospel, specifically through the scriptures. Sunday School now strictly teaches. It is no longer responsible for hymn practice just as it is no longer responsible for training teachers. Teacher training is done in a different context by a ward teacher development coordinator. Music, like teacher training, has not been removed from the program of the Church. Rather, it has just been put in a different context that is expected to be a better arrangement. These changes do not imply any lessened importance with regard to teaching the gospel or to the role of music in the Church. Members are still going to be encouraged to learn and to sing the hymns.

The new Church Music Handbook, for example, suggests that teachers in Sunday School and other classes might sing a hymn to enhance a particular lesson or subject. Part of the thought behind having Sunday School opening exercises, which began shortly after the new Church hymnbook came out in 1985, was to give our members an opportunity to become familiar with some of the new hymns. That’s been handled for several years, and by now we have learned many of those new hymns.

Q: What options do wards have in scheduling meetings?

A: Under the new meeting schedule, Sunday School will be preceded by either sacrament meeting or by priesthood and auxiliary meetings. Sunday School now is always the second meeting. The option of holding Sunday School first has been eliminated. After Sunday School, we go immediately to sacrament meeting or to the priesthood or auxiliary meetings, depending on which schedule wards choose.

Also, since the Church began the three-hour block meeting schedule in 1980, some of our buildings, utilized by several wards, have had to rigidly follow the three-hour block in order to get people in and out of meetings. The new schedule gives people a little more time to get to Sunday School class, where an opening and a closing prayer will be held.

Q: Tell us more of the role Sunday School is supposed to have in our lives.

A: We can’t stress the importance of Sunday School any better than the First Presidency announcement: “We reemphasize the importance of the Sunday School for teaching and learning the gospel through the study of scriptures. All members are encouraged to attend their Sunday School classes each Sunday.”

Sunday School is a fundamental teaching program of the Church. Its function is to help people learn how to study the scriptures and to help them become so familiar with the material that it becomes part of their daily life.

Q: Tell us more of how the Old Testament, which we are studying this year in Sunday School, is vital today.

A: It is significant that during his ministry the Savior referred frequently to the writings of the Old Testament. He reminded those who asked him questions that the answers to their questions were found in the writings of the ancient prophets. The Savior’s example and his knowledge of and frequent reference to the Old Testament should lend some significance to the importance of our studying it. Further, the Old Testament enables us to gain a perspective of eternal principles and to see those principles taught, lived, or disobeyed within different social and cultural contexts. Conditions and circumstances were significantly different in Old Testament times, but the principles are the same, and the consequences of obedience and disobedience are the same.

There is much in the Old Testament that applies today. It’s as Nephi said regarding the brass plates. He loved the writings of Isaiah and he taught his people to liken Isaiah’s writings unto themselves (see 1 Ne. 19:23). The Lord has done a marvelous thing in preserving the Old Testament record for us, even in its incomplete form. Human nature really hasn’t changed. Illustrations of wickedness and the results of that misbehavior are contained in the Old Testament. The reverse is also true. The Old Testament is replete with stories and events that indicate what happens when people are faithful to the gospel. It’s a wonderful text!

Elders Clinton L. Cutler, Merlin R. Lybbert, and Ronald E. Poelman of the Seventy, the Sunday School general presidency.

Sunday School is a time to learn the gospel. (Photo by Steve Bunderson.)