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TALLAHASSEE – Like many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Spencer and Sarah Youngberg and their three children had their family routine dramatically altered by the March 12 announcement that all church meetings were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Spencer is a doctoral student in marriage and family therapy at Florida State and Sarah is an ophthalmic technician at Eye Associates of Tallahassee.
The Youngbergs are members of the Tallahassee Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is comprised of congregations in Tallahassee (7), Thomasville, Cairo, Quincy, Perry, Crawfordville, and Madison.
Spencer Youngberg said his family has adapted well to worshipping at home.
“Our family’s Sabbath worship at home has been wonderful. While it has been difficult not being able to see other church members and friends, it has given our family a chance to study the teachings of Jesus Christ in a more focused and family-centered way. Our family has adapted to Sabbath worship at home in stages. The first few weeks were an adjustment to what routines and activities we wanted: to keep making the Sabbath day similar to what we would do at church,” he said.
He said keeping the children engaged in services at home has at times been a challenge.
“A challenge for our family has been engaging all of our children, who are at different developmental stages, in activities that will help them to understand the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy – to be isolated all week long without being able to get out in the community and interact with other friends, family, and congregation members,” he said.
Sarah said “home church” has given new meaning to the administration of the sacrament (the LDS term for Holy Communion or Eucharist).
“The highlight of ‘home church’ for our family is the privilege of having the ordinance of the sacrament in our home. A sweet spirit that fills our home and is felt by all of us that completely changes the tone of our home,” she said. “Having church in this way has given our children additional opportunities to teach and lead in ways they wouldn’t in a traditional worship setting,” she added.
The Youngbergs credit a church study program, “Come Follow Me,” for helping them prepare to worship at home.
The “Come Follow Me” curriculum launched in 2013 and was adapted for more general use in 2018 when the church moved from a three-hour to a two-hour Sunday meeting schedule.
“The new home-centered and church-supported curriculum needs to influence more powerfully family religious observance and behavior and personal religious observance and behavior,” said Elder Quentin Cook, a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a governing body. “We know the spiritual impact and the deep and lasting conversion that can be achieved in the home setting. Years ago, a study established that for young men and women the influence of the Holy Ghost most often accompanies individual scripture study and prayer in the home. Our purpose is to balance the church and the home experience in a way that will greatly increase faith, spirituality and deepen conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” he added.
“While the new ‘Come, Follow Me’ program was quite an adjustment for our family when it was first implemented over a year ago, because we have had so much time to become familiar with the resources and refine our gospel study at home, our family feels very prepared for this time,” said Sarah Youngberg. “It gives us weekly structure on what scripture chapters we will study and allows all family members from the youngest child to the parents to adjust the lesson to that level,” she added.
“What do these adjustments mean for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” Elder Cook 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,” he added.
A return to regular worship services in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will involve a phased approach, with shortened meetings and attendance limits (less than 100), based on local government regulations. The second phase will expand to congregation attendance of more than 100 people.
Local and regional church leaders will determine the phased implementation timetable.