Which Church Activities Do You Miss?

Jeff Spectorgeneral, LDS, Mormon, Mormons 61 Comments

Over the years, the church has cut back and eliminated activities that, in some cases, were long-standing traditions. Which ones do you miss the most?

  • Speech Contests
  • Stake Dramas and plays
  • Talent shows
  • Concerts
  • Roadshow
  • Dance Festivals
  • Monthly ward activities
  • Ward fund raisers
  • Inter-church sports tournaments
  • Know Your Religion
  • Gold & Green Ball (Laurels coming out party?)
  • Others

I am sure that there are other activities that I have not mentioned. I also think that some wards and stakes may still do things that are on the list.

What were your favorites?

Comments 61

  1. I miss the Oakland Temple Pageant. I had fond memories of participating in it in my youth and young adulthood.

    I never went to Know Your Religion, but I was always meaning to. By the time I had gotten around to it, it had been discontinued.

  2. Man, I’ve never been to any of these. I’m 27 years old. Am I too young to remember any of these or am I just oblivious? I remember hearing about Know Your Religion as a kid, but I don’t have any idea what it was…

  3. How about the Gold and Green Ball? When I look down that list, I see a lot I remember fondly, but if I really think about it, I wouldn’t want to do the work involved for the adults who put them on. I also miss the strong sense of community that used to exist when most of our social life revolved around our ward. I also miss the slower pace of life that allowed for such activities.

  4. Keri, they still do the Oakland Temple Pageant. Or else I have a good friend who will soon be having a rather interesting conversation with his wife about where she *really* was during all those “rehearsals” last year.

    I never saw the speech contests, but I think their resurrection couldn’t help but have positive repercussions for Sacrament Meeting.

  5. Oh, boy, what great memories. I still have my bright orange shirt my mother sewed for me. I wore it in the dance festival held in, I believe, the stadium at the U of U during the summer of ’71. I can still hear the song “Hitching a ride” which was played for one of the combined numbers…

    Wow, roadshows… another set of great memories. Trundling from chapel to chapel, great singing and dancing mixed in with skits and skirmishes…

    Thanks for reminding me of those great times. Ouch, am I that old???

  6. I was in a stake production of “Saturday’s Warrior” when I was a teenager. We held it at the Promised Valley Playhouse in Salt Lake. I was a gang member/angel, and my older brother played Jimmy. It was a great experience, regardless of any erroneous themes that might have been contained therein. It practically jumpstarted my brother’s acting career.

    I was also in a roadshow in which we did a reenactment of the Monster Mash! Those were the days…

    My parents also once directed a dance festival in the Salt Palace. Sad to see those go.

  7. Dance Festivals – Man, I LOVED those. My favorites were when a bunch of us learned to swing dance and put on a show for everyone else.

    Roadshows were a blast, but I like the way my current stake did it last year. It was a Super Saturday event at one of our buildings. The kids met at 9:00AM, were given their props, created the plays throughout the day on their own with very minimal adult supervision and presented them that evening at 7:00PM. The quality was incredible, including songs that the kids wrote themselves to hymns and popular tunes. Truly amazing activity.

  8. I forgot about Dance Festivals, but those were pretty fun; we did a Greek one where we wore togas. Also there was some sort of Daddy/Daughter coming-of-age dance, but I don’t quite remember what it was called; it was pretty lame as I remember. I have pictures of my mom & dad going to the Gold & Green Ball (my mom in her fashionable cat’s eye glasses).

    Roadshows were pretty fun, too. We did a roadshow when I was 14 featuring an AC/DC song! I remember attending a roadshow in TX (I was too young to participate) in the 70s in which there were 3 sexy YW in short shorts doing a very provocative version of Three Little Pigs. There was also a number featuring A Fifth of Beethoven (this was the era of disco).

  9. Post

    “Keri, they still do the Oakland Temple Pageant.”

    No, Temple Pageant was suspended indefinitely as of this year. Something about time away from family and gas prices. I played in the Orchestra for more than 10 years prior to moving. it was a great time.

    Also, Paula, I had to add the Gold and Green Ball. How could I have forgotten?

  10. In the Monta Vista singles ward in Cupertino California in the summer of 1994, we put on a full fledged musical, with $1000 budget, choreographed dance numbers and singing. The musical was “The Boyfriend.” It was the most wonderful summer of my life.

  11. We had a regional dance festival in Eastern Washington State in the mid-90s. I’m not sure what year exactly but it was great fun. Probably 94 or 95. We also had a talent show in my ward around that time. In my current ward we probably have semi-monthly ward activities.

  12. This is one of the legacies of dear old Gordon B Hinkley, he deleted many activities as well as missionaries home commings sacrament meeting.

    Not many people want to recongnize this since he was the prophet afterall -but didn’t like activities much.

  13. #12 – Carlos, can’t you honor a fun post about culture by not ridiculing a prophet even on a thread like this?

    Come on, man, this is about activities.

  14. Actually, the no farewells/homecomings had already been Church policy for many years – the relevant instructions in the handbook were pretty much exactly the same as they are now. Pres. Hinckley just had to come down on it pretty hard since so many Bishops were just ignoring the existing instructions. That said, I really miss the roadshows. My sisters were in a few, but they were discontinued while I was still in Primary. Like a previous poster, I too miss the slower pace of life that allowed more time for so many activities.

  15. When I was a kid we used to have ‘dime-a-dips’, sometimes with a Haley Mills film showed the same evening.

    It was just a big pot luck. You filled your plate, and at the end of the tables you paid a dime for every food item you’d taken. I beleive this is one way the RS made money.

    Seems like when I was a kid we were at the church all the time, and that it was usually really fun. It didn’t stop being fun till I was 14-15, something like that.


  16. My favorite was the annual ward bazaar. I remember standing next to a quilt for what seemed like hours holding on to one corner and telling everyone who walked by, “My dad is coming back in a minute. He went home to ask my mom if I could have this quilt.” I was probably five or six.

    Fond memories, but I definitely wouldn’t want to put in the work now to pull together some of these.

  17. The Young Artist’s Festival. I don’t know whether this was just our ward, or if it was church-wide, but it was a talent show of sorts, but one where everybody dressed up and the whole ward came.

    I’m so glad they no longer have ward bazaars. In the 80’s, my student ward held one, and everybody was required to donate something. I donated ugly crochet scarfs they couldn’t give away and gingerbread houses that finally sold in the last hour for less than what the ingredients cost. The bazaar was great for the crafty types, but humiliating for those of us, ahem, whose talents lie in other arenas.

  18. Stake Track Meet – Was awesome as a kid.. our stake brought it back for couple of years, but it seems to have gone away again.

    We still do 4th of July Breakfast

    They have not all gone away, we still have some great activities, including:
    Trunk or treat – Halloween party at the church
    Girls Camp/Scout camp
    Older Scouts High Adventure
    Youth Conferences
    Pioneer Trek (every 4 years)
    (as mentioned) 4th of July Breakfast
    Ward Christmas Party currently a “Bethleham Nights” which is great.
    Stake 5k Race/walk
    Stake Basketball, both YM & Men

  19. I do love Trunk or Treat. Our ward’s 4th of July Breakfast is for our whole town, of 50,000, sponsored along with several other wards, and it’s not much fun for those who are stuck with the work. I think it’s led to a lot of us scheduling vacations that week. Not that very many folks come, but still feeding several hundred folks besides the ward, and planning the entertainment is a lot of work and time.

  20. Post

    San Jose California Stake held two most unusual fund raisers for their Stake building in the 1950’s.

    One was a Rose Marie Reid (she was a Church member) swimsuit fashion show (can you imagine that today?) And, a prize fight exhibition (boxing) between Gene Fullmer (he was also a church member) and another guy.

  21. We must not be in tune in our stake. We still have one big activity each year and last year it was road shows, the year before a stake play.

  22. I do miss Know Your Religion, but I think what I miss most is the Cultural Refinement lessons in Relief Society. Also the Relief Society Magazine. I wonder if there could be andonline RS Zine.

  23. I’ll get in on this question. I just miss the fun that church used to be. It’s not anymore. There used to be things to do..as already stated. It was always enjoyable to go. Now everything is serious. There’s no time to visit with anybody…We have to hurry up and get done with the three hour block and then hurry up and wait for the next week’s three hour block to hurry up and get over with. There used to be things for adults to do. Even Relief Society. Today it is nothing more than boring with all the lessons the same. There are no activities for RS. I can remember bazaars that were exciting to be involved with. But they are gone. Church now is one long lesson of the same … same … same. I’m not saying they should change the doctrine or curriculum.. and I do know that the gospel is right and true. But now…..it is boring.

  24. So are some of these activities gone for mere budgetary reasons? Or does it more reflect a shift in what socializing/entertainment options are desirable to the membership base, what time people are willing (or feasibly able) to volunteer, or even what social construct the church is asked or needed to provide anymore?

    I’ve still seen some of these kinds of things happen or not depending on the local situation. And where they die out I wonder if it isn’t more of it dying out locally than top down elimination. It seems in more rural places where there is enough of a membership mass and history of local LDS socializing/entertainment traditions that I still hear of things like stake theatre plays, road shows, daddy-daughter nights, etc., happening. Our neighbor’s daughter is headed out to walk a pioneer trek next week. That seems like a Utah tradition that’s still going strong.

  25. Of the activities listed above that we don’t have any more, I ‘d say I miss the roadshows, because I have good memories of those as a kid. However, I know how much work goes into planning and executing ward activities now that I have been a ward activities chairman, and I am incredibly grateful that there weren’t Roadshows that I had to put on. I think the church leadership has realized that it is best for us to focus our energies on the few things that are best, rather than spread ourselves too thin.

    As I said, my home stake in Illinois used to do Roadshows, but now their focus has shifted in a more worthy direction — missionary work. They’ve put on plays about Christ for Easter instead which have strengthened their testimonies in the gospel AND brought in converts! And don’t tell me there isn’t any room for fun in the little day-to-day efforts for that kind of thing!

  26. There also are economic and time reasons for the lessening of “extra” activities. The consolidation to the bloc schedule was done to limit the extensive driving (or all-day church) that used to be the norm; there was a letter from the FP to all Stake Presidents and Bishops recently advising them to consider the rising cost of living, especially gas, in the scheduling of meetings and activities.

    This can be another instance of there not being one “best” solution for all.

  27. “Our neighbor’s daughter is headed out to walk a pioneer trek next week. That seems like a Utah tradition that’s still going strong.”
    I don’t think of the treks as being a tradition like the ones listed in the original post. Aren’t they a fairly recent innovation? Like maybe about the 1997 commemoration of the 1847 arrival in SLC? I don’t remember hearing about them before about that time.

  28. As a parent out in the Mission Field, I would love to see the Roadshows and other activities that bound Stakes together return. The youth in our Stake don’t even know each other and don’t seem to want to. My husband grew up in So. California and always talks about the dance festival held in the Rose Bowl. I also remember the dime a dip dinners and having to help when the chapel was remodeled. I think our kids miss out on a lot of great memories.

  29. I walked a “Pioneer Trek” experience twice when I was a youth, one of which was about 70 miles over about 5 days from the Mormon “fortifications” in Echo Canyon, Utah to This is the Place state park. This was back in the early 80s. I remember hiking up Big Mountain and seeing a couple other different wards/stakes pulling their handcarts up that route the same day. I’m not sure it was that rare of an experience even back then although perhaps it is more common since 1997.

    Thankfully we didn’t have to wear goofy pioneer clothes which seems to have become the norm for youth today. But we did have to pull handcarts. And one night we did get to strangle our own chickens (no euphemism intended *snicker*), defeather them and boil them for stew. Turned out unappetizing and was a bit traumatic for us young boys.

    Our friend’s daughter has to carry all her gear in a bucket. I told her that handcart pioneers would have jumped at the opportunity to use a comfortable backpack had they had them. She said, “Yeah, didn’t they walk it so we don’t have to?” I do admit that while a good memory, and a fun adventure for that time in my life, that the experience was intentionally contrived in its spiritual benefits and experiences we were supposed to have.

  30. Oh, I know what else I loved– weekday Primary. It was actually fun, since it wasn’t on Sunday, and was especially fun in the summer. We’d make little replicas of Bethlehem with salt-flour clay over milk cartons, and do crafts, play games, and sing songs that weren’t all religious. Kids need some bonding time with other kids, not just a total overt emphasis on religion.

  31. Michaela (32): I agree that “missionary work” is a good motive. I wish, though, that such “missionary work” activities more often became authentic outgrowth of service or genuine faith practice/enjoyment rather than contrived spiritual/emotional experiences or loaded with ulterior motives intended to create proselytizing opportunities.

    Paula (37): I loved weekday Primary, too. Singing songs, doing activities and programs that had no overt doctrinal emphasis. It was more a reflection that primary was our extended family, not a preachy nor “churchy” place. It was a place that young friends of other faiths would join me for fun, and their parents didn’t mind it at all. I agree with you that kids need time (at church) to just be kids. What changed Doctrine is so over-extracted into pearls of life-application that kids, ironically, don’t actually grow up knowing the scriptures all that well, nor do they often grow to appreciate that faith can take forms other than what makes for good testimony-bearing sound bites.

  32. I can’t say that I miss Know Your Religion since it wasn’t around by the time I joined, but based on what passes for gospel knowledge these days, I can say that many of my co-religionists are “missing” it.

    For that matter, all of these things were long gone by the time I joined the church (1999) so I can’t say I technically miss any of them.

  33. Post

    I always found Know Your religion to be “hit or miss.” One sister in our Ward called it “Know Your Psychology” since many of the topics were about ‘dealing with things’ more than Gospel Doctrine. but, it was a great time to go with a group of members and socialize either before or after sharing a meal or desert.

    Living in the SF Bay Area, we were lucky because KYR was going on about three weekends a month somewhere. You could conceivable go to 6 different ones within a 2 1/2 hour drive. I know that that allowed us to go see my favorites when they came to town. Most were CES and BYU types who are considered some of the foremost scholars of the Church. If they worked for CES, you know they needed the extra money! But a lot of them spent a lot of time away from their families, so that probably had a lot to do with the discontinuance. They tried using local speakers but they were never as popular.

  34. #19 — our ward still does the 4th of July breakfast every year. Good times.

    #36 — I just back from accompanying our Stake youth on a trek. We were rained out, and only hiked 2 miles before turning around and calling the whole thing of.

    As I’ve written other places, what I miss our annual ward fundraisers, such a ward auctions. These were always a blast as a kid.

  35. Post


    “When was Know Your Religion officially stopped?” While I don’t wish to get into a back and forth on this issue 🙂 , I think it was 2004 that it was eliminated. But i found that something has taken it’s place, so to speak…..

    http://ce.byu.edu/ed/arc.cfm if you don’t live in Utah, too bad.

  36. I have to say, though, that cutting the enrichment (formerly known as homemaking) back to once per quarter vs. monthly was truly inspired!

    Oh, and I like trunk or treat.

  37. Although roadshows were fun, it was disheartening to see the same wards (with the most experienced leadership) consistently win, while the little wards farther in the sticks put forth an equally great effort that was technically inferior and not awarded because the leadership and youth talent pool was smaller.

    We had a short but successful run of “Anything Goes” activities for the stake youth where wards competed at the lighted high school football stadium in a number of absurd events. I agree that it is good to know the other youth in the stake. I miss the stake and regional volleyball tournaments that we used to have. Our area stakes are just now trying to emphasize multi-stake young adult activities because the number of young adults sticking around the area are low in general and those who do stick around are frequently lost

    I remember my mom’s nostalgia for the days of the cultural refinement lessons where they studied ‘The Scarlet Letter’, sort of like a Relief Society book club. I also recall a description of a stake quartet contest that sounded kinda cool. My sister’s Arizona ward recently had a girls camp fundraiser that was a Mexican dinner with auction of donated items, just like the old ward budget days. She bought a computer that was auctioned off. My jaw kind of dropped when I heard about it.

    I also miss those area conferences where you got to go to your nearest University or community sports arena and hear the General Authorities and Apostles speak. It was fun to see the masses of LDS gather. (I know in Utah this is a common occurrence, but its not so in other states). I don’t think, honestly, I would miss it enough to drive 2-3 hours necessarily to attend.

  38. Back when all of this stuff used to happen…..what percentage of families do you think only had one parent working at what was probably a 9-5, M-F type of job? Did this have any impact on people’s availability to run these things?

    And BTW, while I do miss the sports stuff, I think it was a good move for the church in general to cut back on all of this. Stakes and wards are free to plan activities, and many do.

  39. I have some very fond memories of ward road shows. The one I remember best was a play about salting highways — a very Minnesotan theme. All the players were cars complaining about rust and salt was initially viewed as the villain. (Spoiler alert): Of course, the cars realize that safety trumps rust and salt is ultimately redeemed in the cars’ eyes as a hero. I drew many of the large carboard cartoons for the cars that we painted. I think my mom still has two of them saved in her basement. By the end in the 80s, I think road shows were a great creative outlet at a time when people generally weren’t doing organized community or church plays much any more.

    The next year we switched and made videos for the first time (1987). The videos were terrible, but it was my first introduction to video directing and editing — which I’ve continued to do on and off, mostly for corporate clients lately.

  40. jjackson, I think that you’re right that a lot of this could happen because there was usually one one parent working. Where I grew, frequently the dad was a farmer, so he could take time off too, if needed for a ball game or something like that. Also, usually a ward just included people whose kids attended the same schools, and that helped scheduling a lot. In my ward now, kids attend three different high school, and probably 5 or 6 elementary schools, so it’s hard to work around school activities. At my elementary school, we walked next door to Primary, and then the school bus came late that day, and picked us all up after Primary and took us home on the regular route.

  41. Gosh, how many goofs could I make in two sentences? Should be “usually only one parent working.” And “Where I grew up”.

  42. Out here where I am, we have 5 churches within 6 blocks of our house and none of them are LDS. They have concerts, chicken bbqs, bag sales, pancake breakfasts, carnivals, car shows and many other things, all as fundraisers. Even though the gospel is true and that is what matters, it is hard to keep converts who are used to a more church centered social life than we now have. And our long time members seem to be centering their social lives around kids dance recitals, baseball games and school plays, all of which may get in the way of regular seminary attendance and church sponsored mutual activities.

    What to do?

  43. “Even though the gospel is true and that is what matters, it is hard to keep converts who are used to a more church centered social life than we now have.”

    Do you realize how ironic that is, given how much we get criticized for “cultish” behavior based on how much time we spend with each other? 🙂

  44. Post

    My observation is that church members generally like associating with one another. Especially in more remote areas and where the Church is a small, small minority of the overall population. I suppose the church figures as we give more time back to the family, they can decide for themselves if they want to spend time with other families. but, i totally agree wit Nora Ray #52, new converts NEED to socialize with members to be fully integrated and to see the “regular life” of a member. I miss much of that social experience these days.

  45. I remember all the activies mentioned and loved all of them. As the recently sustained Ward acitivities chairperson I am looking to bring these back in a small way. Because our ward covers a huge about of miles it is difficult for the whole ward to have an activity so we are looking at having “pod parties” for the specific areas and then maybe a whole ward party 3 times a year or more if we can. But I agree with several comments about there isn’t enough socializing in the wards — I grew up where everyone really did a lot at church —- not just Sunday

  46. As a ward activities chairperson (yet again), I too miss planning and putting on these big events. There is just less support than when I was a kid. Our ward is very spread out (gone are the years of 4 city blocks = your ward boundaries). We have instituted a monthly “linger-longer” after church. Everyone brings a potluck item – we have done themes too — and enveryone helps pull the tables out and we have a big “ward family dinner”. SInce many of our ward members drive over an hour to get to the meeting house, this si great becasue then they (we) don’t have to listen to whiny hungry kids for the entire drive. We have been able to increase ward unity and now that the committe and I are introducing more activiites, many people are turning out and bringing their friends.
    Regardingthe comment about donig missionary work instead of ward activites — the activity can be the best missionary tool there is. My mother investigated the church based on being invited to participate in a roadshow in Ohio in 1962. Hmmmm.

  47. I have very fond memories of writing, choreographing and acting in our ward road show. Itself was a much smaller production than the one my parents were in.

    The church is more focused on growing the church in other ways: building temples, growing the church in places like South America and funding the massive humanitarian machine we’ve become known for.

    I want to see the list of things we’re doing better now that the adults aren’t spending their week nights and Saturdays putting on events and shuttling around teenagers.

  48. The last downtrend in Church activities seemed to coincide with the end of independent ward budget contributions in 1990. That lowered the financial burden on members, but also reduced the budget many wards (and especially stakes) had to spend on activities. In my stake YMYW and Primary activities continued more or less as normal, but whole-ward activities became relatively rare.

    The direction on this appears to have reversed four or five years ago, i.e. the direction to local units has been to have more rather than less activities than they were recently having. Whether this direction comes with additional ward budget allocations, I don’t know.

    The most notable activity that I miss is ward campouts like we had during the 1970s.

  49. One other thing – in my area at least wards used to be much larger, which made staffing such activities much more practical than it is now.

  50. I don’t like all these activities and generally miss many of them. Life is busy enough without feeling like there is yet one more thing you are expected to attend to “support” the person who put all the work into planning it.

  51. They’ve discontinued the Oakland Temple Pageant (based on how much time it was taking from the youth over the summer months?)… 

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