Attending Mormon Sunday Meetings
You have used the Meetinghouse Finder at LDS.org to locate a Mormon meetinghouse near you, and you know what time the worship service starts. What can you expect once you venture out and try to attend a Sunday worship service of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and how should you behave?
“Sunday dress” is worn for Mormon church meetings (dresses or skirts for girls and women, and slacks and white shirts and ties, or suits, for men and boys), but no one will turn you away if you desire to attend but don’t have proper attire. Mormons are modest, so mini-skirts or low-cut tops are not appropriate for girls. If you have scriptures, bring them along.
When you enter a Mormon meetinghouse for the first time, you may notice artwork in the hallways depicting the life of Jesus Christ, but although the chapel will be pleasant, you will notice that it is devoid of statuary or artistic depictions of any sort. Mormons use no statues or artwork in their chapels, but focus on their spiritual connection to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
You may notice that church members are bustling around and don’t become reverent until the service begins. There are many reasons for this. (Please know that Mormon leaders are constantly trying to increase reverence in Sunday meetings.) First, Mormons tend to have large families, and children make noise. Second, Mormons are genuinely glad to see each other, and they tend to be joyful and ebullient about their beliefs. Third, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a lay clergy. Therefore, every member of the “ward,” or local congregation, has at least one calling to help run the congregation. Members serving in callings need to coordinate with each other, and so there are a myriad 2-minute-meetings going on before services begin. Hopefully, someone will notice that you are a stranger and warmly welcome you and help you get situated and gain some understanding of your surroundings. Fourth, there may be several local congregations meeting in one, large meetinghouse. This makes for lots of people on the move as members go from one meeting to another.
Sunday Mormon Meetings
Mormons meet in a three-hour block of meetings every Sunday (sometimes other days are used for worship in certain countries). Normally, the first meeting is “Sacrament Meeting.” A sacrament meeting is held for the entire congregation in the chapel of the meetinghouse. It lasts for about 1 hour, 15 minutes, and its main intent is passing the “sacrament,” consisting of bread and water as symbols of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, shed in atoning sacrifice for our sins. The sacrament renews the covenants made by members of the LDS Church at baptism. Since the ordinance is meant to renew covenants made to take upon themselves the name of Christ, to always remember Him, and to witness of Him, the sacrament is aimed for members. You may partake, however, if you so desire. After welcome, announcements, and an opening hymn and prayer, and sacrament hymn, the blessing and passing of the sacrament to the congregation is the first order of business in a Mormon sacrament meeting. This will be the most reverent part of the meeting, as members meditate upon the Savior. Members remain seated for this ordinance.
You will notice that the hymns are simple and straightforward, with accompaniment provided by an organ or piano. Mormon meetings are pretty staid — no guitars, drums, amplifiers, or people jumping to their feet, no spontaneous “hallelujahs” from the congregation, although members quietly say “Amen” after it is spoken in prayer or in a “talk” (what Mormons call sermons). You will not have to repeat any scriptures or stand (except, perhaps, during a “rest hymn” in the middle of the meeting.
After the sacrament has been passed to the congregation, there usually is a shuffle of sorts, as late-comers enter the chapel, and parents with fussy children lead them out. On most Sundays, speakers have been pre-chosen from the membership and assigned a theme upon which to speak. Often, there will be two youth speakers and two to three adult speakers. The exception is the first Sunday of the month, which Mormons call “Fast Sunday.” On fast Sundays, members fast for two meals and donate the cost of the meals to the poor. Instead of choosing speakers to address the congregation, members spontaneously arise and go up to the stand to individually “bear testimony” of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes children are very excited to do this, and sometimes a whole string of them will offer “memorized” and simple testimonies. This is a great way for them to become accustomed to speaking before a group. Because of its lay clergy, the LDS Church demands a lot from its members, and members become comfortable teaching and speaking. Don’t be put off when children say they “know” Christ lives, and that the “Church is true.” They do feel sure, and many have already had spiritual witnesses of their own.
After sacrament meeting, members divide into groups for Sunday School, and the children under twelve go to “Primary,” which consists of opening exercises as a group, and then classes divided by age. Youth have special classes, too, and there should be a choice between Gospel Doctrine and Gospel Principles for the adults. Ask for the class for beginners, and someone will guide you and find the right place for your children, too. The third hour also consists of classes, but with different divisions—women go to “Relief Society,” men go to “Priesthood,” children stay in “Primary,” and young women have their own classes. Again, someone will guide you.
To learn more about what to expect at Mormon meetings, watch the following videos or follow these links: