If you’ve never been to a worship service of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the first thing you’ll notice is that we lead you into a dark room, strap you to a chair and we brainwash you with bright images of green jello and The Book of Mormon.
False! That’s totally false. Hopefully, nobody stopped before the intro and was like, “Iii knew it!” That’s not what happens at Church.
In most of the world, we have Church services on Sundays, but that can vary depending on which country you’re in. If you live in Jordan, we worship on Fridays. If you’re in Israel, it’ll be Saturday, according to local customs.
Church services last for two hours. The first meeting is called sacrament meeting. It lasts for one hour. Everyone—men, women, and kiddos, all gather in the chapel area. Everyone wears their Sunday best, but we’re not going to throw you out if you don’t have a white shirt and tie. We just want you there. Anyway, we’ll sing a hymn, have a prayer, and then participate in the sacrament. During the sacrament, members each eat a small piece of bread and drink a tiny cup of water, symbolizing the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, in remembrance of His atoning sacrifice. Visitors are free to participate as well, or not. Whatever you’re comfortable with. We don’t kneel during sacrament meeting, nor do we recite pre-written prayers except when priesthood-holders bless the sacrament. We don’t have a band playing music, it’s usually just a piano or an organ. It’s all very mellow.
After the sacrament, the congregation listens to a few prepared messages. There is no official “pastor” that teaches from the pulpit every week. Instead, congregational leadership asks different members of the congregation to prepare a message to share the following week, or whenever. So, in sacrament meeting, you’ll hear a few brief spiritual messages from average members. They might talk about faith in Jesus Christ, or repentance, or the Holy Ghost, or any number of things.
The meeting closes with another hymn and a prayer. You might even recognize some of our hymns, they’re not always exclusive to our church. You might sing some of them in your congregation.
For the second hour of church, we attend a rotation of smaller, more specific classes. Children will always attend what we call “Primary.” For teenagers and adults, the class you attend depends on the week. One week, men and women will separate and attend different classes. We call the adult women’s class “Relief Society” and the men’s class “Elders Quorum.” Teenagers also attend a class—young women with the other young women, and the young men with the other young men. The following week, they’ll hold Sunday School during the second hour. Again, the youth and adults have separate classes, but Sunday School is not separated by gender. Adults will most likely have a variety of Sunday School classes to choose from. If it’s your first time attending, you’ll probably want to go to the Sunday School class called “Gospel Principles,” which teaches the basic beliefs of our faith so you don’t get lost in the other classes. But if you somehow end up being like the only person in the class and you feel weird, you can go wherever you want.
If that schedule sounded complicated, don’t freak out. Here’s a super-simple graphic the Church released for the new 2-hour meeting schedule. And if you get lost, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Ask the members there, or if you can find a couple of missionaries in the congregation, they’re going to be a great resource for you, so make sure you introduce yourself.
That’s a brief overview of what a Latter-day Saint church service looks like. But if you’re really interested in what it looks like, go check it out for yourself! If you’re going to be surprised by anything, it’ll be by just how normal we are.
If you’re wondering where a Latter-day Saint church building is, or when meeting times are, there’s a link in the description, you just pop in your zip code and it tells you everything you need to know.
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The building where Mormons meet on Sabbath is sometimes called a chapel and other times called a meetinghouse. Although Latter-day Saint meetinghouses always contain chapels, they are multipurpose in design, also containing a kitchen, a cultural hall that usually has a wood floor and basketball standards, classrooms, and offices for congregational leaders (bishops and their counselors, and clerks who handle membership records and donations). A “stake center” is a meetinghouse that a group of congregations uses for semi-annual stake meetings (a stake is comprised of a number of congregations, so it’s like a Catholic diocese). A stake center is always larger, and the cultural hall might have a stage for productions and a baptismal font.
Latter-day Saint meetinghouses are very plain. We don’t use statues or crucifixes in the design, but there will be artwork depicting the life of Christ, although not in the chapel. Since our monetary donations to the Church are made in private, there will be no collection plate, and you won’t see any plaques commemorating donors of pews or other parts of the buildings.
We don’t kneel at any time during the services, and there are no prayerbooks to recite out of, so you can settle in and listen to the speakers. If you are a visitor and not a member of the Church, you can choose to partake of the sacrament if you like. Not all members are aware of this policy, so the person next to you may not know that you are allowed.
Some congregations have a lot of small children. There is no nursery provided during sacrament meeting, so it can be noisy. Also note that Mormons are enthusiastic, neighborly people. They all hold callings in their congregations, so there are many things to talk about at church, which they tend to do right up until the moment the services start. No matter how often the bishop reminds his congregation to be reverent, Latter-day Saints tend to be boisterous and noisy as they enter the chapel. It’s something we always have to work on. After sacrament meeting, anyone will be happy to show you where the classrooms are.
In areas with few members who must travel a distance to get to meetings, pot luck lunches are sometimes arranged after the services. This is especially true if there is only one congregation meeting in a building. In Utah, where there are so many Latter-day Saints, three or four congregations (called wards) will meet in a building at different times, with one congregation meeting in the classrooms while another is enjoying a sacrament meeting in the chapel. It’s more difficult, then, to schedule the building on the Sabbath for a lunch.
LDS meetinghouses may also be used for funerals, which are held in the chapel. The congregation’s women’s group (called the Relief Society) will often prepare a lunch for the grieving family and serve it in the cultural hall. Weddings and wedding receptions may be staged in meetinghouse cultural halls, but not in chapels. We use temples for our eternal, celestial weddings.
If you want to see what kinds of hymns we sing, here is a link to our hymnbook. You may recognize many of the hymns.