What to Expect When You Attend a Mormon Worship Service

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 meetings — 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 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 counsellors. The bishop is an unpaid volunteer called from the congregation to oversee the Church group for around five years. He will also have a full-time job such as lawyer 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 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 teachings and example of Jesus Christ, and how these can be applied to individuals and families today. 

The first Sunday 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 and drink 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 centred on the gospel of Jesus Christ and restoration of His church.

Sheri Clarke is a Latter-day Saint woman from Auckland, New Zealand. Her husband Ian and their three children moved from England to New Zealand several years ago. Recently she was a speaker in a sacrament meeting in Auckland. Some excerpts from her remarks follow:

I’m going to begin by talking about a time many moons ago when Ian and I had our first baby. We immediately fell adoringly in love with this beautiful little bundle. Our world began to revolve around this tiny infant. He became our top priority. We laughed at all the funny little expressions his tiny face would pull and he snuggled with us in our bed most nights. We tried to ensure that he was always happy.

When I fell pregnant with our second child I began to reassess our parenting of number one. How could we ever cope with devoting so much attention to two children? I quickly realized that like so many other young couples we had made some rookie mistakes! I expressed my concerns to Ian including my worry that I would never get any sleep with two little ones and was baby number two going to sleep in our bed as well? I was beginning to envisage a Clarke family version of the song ‘There were ten in the bed.’ I feared that in this version I may be the one falling out of the bed as the second little one rolled over!

I realized that we had embarked upon our parenting without a plan and that this needed to be rectified quickly.

Years ago I listened to a funny talk by John Bytheway where he likened a family to going on a bike ride. He said that the mum and dad start their journey on a tandem bicycle working together to turn the pedals and move their little family of two along. When a child comes along they need to see that they are coming into a family where two parents are already working in unison and their little wheel and pedals need to be welded onto the back of that bicycle so that they can start pedalling and do their part. I realized that we had brought our baby in and let him sit on the handlebars and steer the way!

I promptly read a baby training book and determined that the situation would change.  Before our second child arrived we needed to correct the mistakes we had made with the first. This caused stress to our little toddler who didn’t understand why his blissful life was now changing. He endured a few nights of heartache, as did we whilst we trained him to fall asleep alone and in his own room. Needless to say, baby number two was sleeping through the night and in his own bed by the time he was six weeks old!

My point is that children come into this world knowing nothing. They rely on us as parents to teach them in the ways of ALL things. Not only do we have a responsibility to teach them correct sleep and behavioural patterns, we have the sacred responsibility that Heavenly Father has placed on us to partner with Him in helping His spirits to reach their divine potential.

I read a quote recently which said, “If we don’t teach our children to Love the Lord, then the world will teach them not to.” 

Teaching our children to understand the importance of gospel principles is more than just imparting information, it is helping them to understand this doctrine within their hearts or in other words to feel the spirit.

The Lord instructs parents to teach their children to understand the doctrines of repentance, faith in Christ, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  He doesn’t just say to teach them but He says to teach them to understand.

I thought about this in relation to learning at school. I thought about some of the ways a good teacher helps you to understand a principle, when a teacher puts a principle into action or gives you an example this is what really reaches a student and helps them to understand.  

In other words our examples and our actions which our children see will speak louder than words. I like the quote attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

President Harold B. Lee taught, “Without experiencing a gospel principle in action it is more difficult to believe in that principle.”

The time we spend at home and the atmosphere in our homes will have a powerful influence on our children. In the home is where they learn and form their spiritual, emotional and moral habits.

Read more about Mormon worship services.

Take a virtual tour of a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse.


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