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Sacrament meetings are held in individual wards or branches in the chapel of the meetinghouse. The bishop or branch president of the ward or branch presides, unless a higher authority is present, such as the stake president or a general authority. Anyone is invited to attend, whether they are a member of the church or not. Sacrament meetings are not held during stake or district conferences, or during the church's general conference.
Those attending sacrament meeting generally wear "Sunday formal" dress. Men wear suits and ties, and women wear modest dresses or skirts. Children are encouraged to attend, but when they become unruly, the parents generally escort them into the lobby.
The first occurrence of a similar meeting to the current sacrament meeting occurred on April 6, 1830. This coincided with the organization of the Church of Christ, the forerunner of the LDS Church. This meeting included the administration of the Lord's Supper and the ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as the "First Elder" and "Second Elder" of the church.
For much of the history of the church, sacrament meeting was held separately from other church meetings, often held on weekdays or on Sunday mornings. Sacrament meeting was the last meeting of the day on Sunday. In 1980, the First presidency of the LDS Church started the current "block" schedule, in which almost all church meetings were held in the space of three hours.
In October 2018, church president Russell M. Nelson announced plans to consolidate the Sunday meeting schedule for the LDS Church. As a part of these plans, sacrament meeting was shortened from seventy to sixty minutes in length, and local church leaders were instructed to limit the announcements at the beginning of the meeting.
- Shortly before the start of the meeting, the bread and water - which constitute the sacrament - are prepared by one or more young men, generally teachers in the church's Aaronic priesthood.
- After the bread and water are readied, they are covered with a formal shroud, which resembles a tablecloth.
- Invitations to give prayers are generally extended by members of the bishopric or branch presidency.
- First, the conducting officer (usually a member of the bishopric or branch presidency) welcomes those in attendance.
- An opening hymn is sung by the congregation.
- The invocation, or opening prayer, is given by a member of the congregation.
- Church business is conducted. This includes the announcement of assignments and callings, the call for consent on various issues and assignments, and performance of ordinances, such as naming and blessing children and the confirmation of recently baptized converts. As with the announcements, this is optional and is only conducted when necessary.
- A sacrament hymn is sung by the congregation. As the song is sung, the priests of the Aaronic priesthood prepare the bread by breaking it into small (one inch or so) pieces. After this, the priests bless the bread. It is distributed to the congregation by deacons. After this, the priests bless the water, which is distributed in like manner. The prayers used are exact (see Doctrine and Covenants, Section 20:75-79). If a mistake is made in the prayer, it is repeated from the beginning. Where sufficient number of Aaronic Priesthood holders are not available, Melchizedek priesthood holders may prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament, as needed.
- Various sermons, or speeches, also known as "talks", are delivered by previously assigned members of the congregation. Occasionally, visiting officials, such as members of the stake high council or stake presidency may speak. Often, congregational hymns or special musical numbers are included before or between talks. If it is Fast Sunday, the congregation is invited to share their testimonies as they feel inclined, rather than hearing prepared talks. (See Fast and testimony meeting.)
- The meeting closes with another congregational hymn and a benediction, or closing prayer.
Sacrament meetings usually last approximately 60 minutes. Other church meetings that follow, or precede, sacrament meeting include Sunday School and Relief Society or priesthood quorum meetings for adults; Sunday School classes, Young Women and Young Men classes for the youth; and Primary classes and a nursery for children. The sum of these meetings constitute Sunday services and typically lasts two hours.
Members of the LDS Church believe that the ordinance of the sacrament allows them to renew the covenants they made when they were baptized. They generally attend seeking to be forgiven for their shortcomings during the week and to begin anew with renewed conviction.
With the approval of the bishop, priesthood holders may administer the sacrament to those who are homebound or otherwise cannot attend sacrament meeting.
A collection plate is not passed as part of sacrament meeting, or any other church service. The church operates by lay ministry, and local leaders, teachers, and speakers are not compensated. Church members make private contributions to the church, including tithing, usually using small envelopes.
- "What to Expect at Church Services". Mormon Newsroom. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
- Ludlow, Daniel (1992). Encyclopedia of Mormonism (1st ed.). Macmillan. pp. 661–662. ISBN 978-0-02-904040-9. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- Christensen, Tom. "History of the LDS three-hour Sunday block". standard.net. Standard-Examiner. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
- "How will Latter-day Saint meeting schedules change? Here's the church's list of frequently asked questions". Deseret News. Deseret News. Retrieved 31 May 2019.