First time visitors to a worship service of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will most likely see and hear things that are familiar to them, but they may have some new experiences as well.
Mormon worship services — called sacrament services — are similar in many ways to services in other Christian churches. For example, many of the hymns that are sung by the congregation are also sung in other faiths. Prayers are offered, and sermons are delivered. The sacrament ordinance will be familiar to those who have taken communion in other religions.
There will be families in attendance in the meeting as well as singles, the elderly and the very young.
Numbers in Latter-day Saint Church services vary, but because of the way Mormon congregations — called wards or branches — are set up to cover a geographical area, you can expect to be worshipping alongside around 150 to 200 others.
The leader of the meeting is the bishop or one of his two counselors. The bishop is an unpaid volunteer called to lead and oversee the Church group for around five years. He will also have a full-time job such as a school teacher, lawyer, electrician or mechanic so he can provide for his family. The 20-40 hours per week Mormon bishops put in as lay ministers is on top of their occupation and family commitments.
Sometimes the bishop will speak to the congregation but most weeks the gospel sermons are provided by the members of the ward. There is often a youth speaker and one or more adult speakers. Sermons in Latter-day Saint worship services focus on the example and teachings of Jesus Christ and how these can be applied to individuals and families today.
The whole Sunday service lasts for three hours. The sacrament service is about an hour, followed by Sunday school classes which are available for scripture study. In the last hour, separate classes are held for adult women and men. Youth and children have their own classes as well.
When Jenelyn first went to church she said, “I was amazed that the church was so clean; it’s beautiful, especially inside. All members were so nice to me and to my family. We felt that we were welcomed and felt like were one of them. When the service started, I was curious and wondered what this was all about. But when they started with an opening hymn and opening prayer, I felt the presence of God and the Holy Ghost inside the church.”
The first Sunday sacrament service of the month is called ‘Fast and Testimony Meeting.’ Members are invited to skip two meals and then donate what they would have spent on food to a fund that is used by the bishop to help the poor and the needy. On these Sundays, anyone in the ward who wishes to, may stand up and share what Latter-day Saints call their ‘testimonies.’ These expressions are often very personal and are centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ and restoration of His Church.
Victor, a visitor, attended a small branch with a friend last Sunday. He said, “I felt something different when I walked in the door." It happened to be a Fast Sunday where the congregation had the opportunity to share their testimonies. Victor continued, “I liked that people could stand and express their feelings. When one lady cried, I was touched. I think this is the path God wants me to take.”
Read more about Mormon worship services.
Take a virtual tour of a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse.