Worship services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Worship services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) include weekly services, held on Sundays (or Friday or Saturday when local custom or law prohibits Sunday worship), in neighborhood based religious units (called wards or branches). Twice each year the LDS Church holds a worldwide general conference.
In the LDS Church, congregations for Sunday services are grouped geographically, with larger (~200 to ~400 people) groups known as wards, and smaller (2 through ~200 people) ones known as branches. These neighborhood congregations gather in meetinghouses, also referred to as "chapels" or "stake centers", on property typically owned by the church. In some geographic areas, rental property may be used as a meetinghouse. Although the building may sometimes be referred to as a "chapel", the room used as a chapel for religious services is actually only one component of the standard meetinghouse.
All people, regardless of belief or standing in the church are allowed to attend. The sacrament (similar to Communion, the Lord's Supper, or the Eucharist in other churches) is offered weekly. Latter-day Saints come together in meetinghouses for various activities throughout the week (except Mondays, which are reserved for Family Home Evening). The church maintains a meetinghouse locator to help members and visitors find meetinghouses and meeting times in their area.
Women usually attend wearing skirts or dresses, while men wear suits or dress shirts and ties. People in different attire are also welcomed.
Weekly services consist of a three-hour block of time divided into three segments.
|Sacrament meeting||70 min|
|Sunday School||Youth Sunday School||Primary||40 min|
|Melchizedek Priesthood||Aaronic Priesthood||Young
In some congregations, this 'block' schedule of meetings may be held in reverse order of the table shown, with the Sacrament service conducted at the end of the block, with the other sections preceding it.
The main Sunday service is sacrament meeting, which is slightly more than an hour in length, and attended by the combined congregation. The foremost purpose of sacrament meeting is the blessing and passing of the sacrament — consecrated bread and water in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ — to members of the church. After the sacrament, the service usually consists of two or three lay sermons called "talks" prepared and delivered by members of the congregation. Hymns, accompanied by piano or organ, are sung throughout the service, as a form of worship through music. Once a month, usually on the first Sunday, instead of prepared talks, members are invited to bear their testimonies about gospel principles. These testimonies are generally impromptu statements of personal faith. (This is called Fast and Testimony Meeting and is addressed below.)
Sunday School classes are grouped by age, with new members and visitors sometimes attending introductory classes. The most common adult Sunday School class is Gospel Doctrine, which meets each week and consists of a teacher presenting gospel messages drawn from the scriptures, with participation from class members. Another adult class is called the Gospel Essentials class, designed for new members and those of other faiths who are interested in learning more about the church (often referred to as "investigators"). In congregations with a diverse membership, special language classes might be organized, where classes are taught in a variety of languages; other times wireless headphones are made available and the discussion can be translated into these other languages. Additional adult classes are held at various times, depending on the specific needs of each congregation. These classes include topics such as Family Relations, Family History, Teacher Preparation, and Temple Preparation. Youth Sunday School classes are for those aged 12 to 18 and may be divided or combined by ages, depending on local needs, including the number of youth. In 2013, the church instituted a new curriculum with the same doctrinal themes across the ages, but with some flexibility for leaders and teachers to address the needs of specific classes.
Men and boys age 12 and up attend priesthood classes. Although all men and boys meet together briefly at the beginning of the session for a prayer, hymn, and announcements, they then separate into classes. The men separate by priesthood office to attend Elders Quorum or High Priests Group, the latter usually being older men and/or those who have held leadership positions in the church. Youth are likewise divided into priesthood quorums: Deacons (ages 12–13), Teachers (ages 14–15), and Priests (ages 16–18). Classes may be combined if class sizes are small.
Relief Society and Young Women meetings
Women attend Relief Society, and girls ages 12–18 attend Young Women. In some areas of the world the Relief Society and Young Women meet together briefly at the beginning of the session for a prayer, hymn, and announcements, then separate into classes, as the men do. Some areas do not meet together but have separate opening exercises. The stake or mission president who presides over the area gives direction in that regard. The Young Women are divided into Beehive (ages 12–13), Mia Maid (ages 14–15), and Laurel (ages 16–18) classes.
Children younger than 12 attend Primary, which spans the two time blocks described above. Primary is generally divided into two large groups: Senior Primary (ages 8–11) and Junior Primary (ages 4–7); young children from 18 months to 3 years of age attend nursery class. Primary classes generally consist of all the children who were born in the same year. Usually one half of the Primary, such as Senior Primary, meets in separate classes while the other half, Junior Primary, meet together in sharing and singing time, and at the end of the hour, the two are reversed. In smaller congregations, the entire Primary meets together for sharing and singing time.
Fast and testimony meeting
Fast and testimony meeting is a sacrament meeting usually held on the monthly on Fast Sunday during which those members who feel prompted, share (or "bear") their testimony with the other members of their congregation (ward). Most healthy members choose to fast on this weekend for two meals and donate the money they would have spent from those meals to the church's welfare program. As with all other donations, these are privately paid through donation slips. Often, a congregation will fast in unity for one purpose; such as an ill member. Families can also choose to fast for a united purpose. i.e. health, social, temporal and emotional needs.
The church definition of a testimony is "a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves His children; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior's true Church on the earth; and that the Church is led by a living prophet today. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel."  Individuals bearing testimony are directed by the feelings of their heart or by the spirit (Holy Ghost) as to what to share, testimonies often include personal stories of overcoming trials or other faith-promoting experiences. Members are expected to be brief so that all may have the opportunity that wish to do so.
There is sometimes the problem in testimony meetings of too much emotionalism, which has led to such statements such as the following from church leaders:
- "Howard W. Hunter offered this counsel: 'Let me offer a word of caution.... I think if we are not careful..., we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings,including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself' The Spirit of the Lord always edifies. Revelation and spiritual experiences are sacred. They should be kept private and discussed only in appropriate situations."
- David A. Bednar stated: "Sometimes in a sacrament meeting talk or testimony, we hear a statement like this: 'I know I do not tell my spouse often enough how much I love her. Today I want her, my children, and all of you to know that I love her.' Such an expression of love may be appropriate. But when I hear a statement like this, I squirm and silently exclaim that the spouse and children should not be hearing this apparently rare and private communication in public at church! Hopefully the children hear love expressed and see love demonstrated between their parents in the regular routine of daily living. If, however, the public statement of love at church is a bit surprising to the spouse or the children, then indeed there is a need to be more diligent and concerned at home."
Twice a year (the first Sunday in April and October, and the preceding Saturday), the church holds General Conference, in which the church's president and other leaders speak. These talks, given in several sessions over two days, are carried worldwide by radio, television, satellite and Internet broadcasts. They are translated into over 80 languages and are later made available on DVD (complete with translations), on LDS.org, and in printed church publications such as the Ensign and Liahona. Attendees come from around the world.
Conference talks address doctrinal topics drawn from scriptures and personal experiences, messages of faith and hope, church history, and information on the church as it expands throughout the world.
Throughout the 20th century, conference talks were given from the Salt Lake Tabernacle. With a maximum capacity of about 8,000 per session, the Tabernacle consistently filled to capacity, leaving thousands of attendees listening on loudspeakers outside or via broadcast in adjacent buildings. In 2000, the LDS Church dedicated a new 21,000-seat conference center, which became the home of General Conference.
Conference satellite broadcasts may be watched live in thousands of chapels worldwide. The public is invited to attend or watch General Conference either through these broadcasts, on the Internet, in the Conference Center, or other areas at Temple Square. Conference is also broadcast nationally and internationally on many satellite or cable providers through BYU TV, and on local networks in some areas.
Worship in temples
In the LDS Church, a temple is a building dedicated to be a House of The Lord, and they are considered by church members to be the most sacred structures on earth. Upon completion, temples are usually open to the public for a short period of time (an "Open House"). During the Open House, the church conducts tours of the temple with missionaries and members from the local area serving as tour guides, and all rooms of the temple are open to the public. After a temple is dedicated only members in good standing are permitted entrance; thus they are not meetinghouses, but are sacred places of worship. Most LDS temples are easily identified by a gold-colored Angel Moroni statue adorning the top of the tallest spire.
Temples have a different purpose from meetinghouses. In the LDS Church today, temples serve two main purposes: (1) temples are locations in which Latter-day Saints holding a temple recommend can perform sacred ordinances on behalf of themselves and their deceased ancestors; (2) temples are considered to be a house of holiness where members can go to commune with God and receive personal revelation.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.|
- "Mormon.org Virtual Chapel". www.mormon.org. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
- "Mormon.org - Worship with Us". www.mormon.org. Retrieved 2008-08-03.[dead link]
- What to Expect www.mormon.org
- Church Consolidates Meeting Schedules. Ensign, March 1980, pp 73–78.
- The equipment is configured so that they can transmit and receive on various frequencies, so the discussion in a single meeting can be translated into multiple languages.
- (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter,184).
- Preach my Gospel pg 99.
- All Conferences, "General Conference", LDS.org (LDS Church)
- "Of Chapels and Temples: Explaining Mormon Worship Services". Newsroom. LDS Church. 15 November 2007. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Benson, Ezra Taft (August 1985). "What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple". Ensign (LDS Church).