How Do Mormons Worship?
Have you ever wondered what goes on in a Mormon worship service? Are you curious about the form their worship takes after the worship service? Mormon worship services are open to the public, so you are welcome to visit, but of course, you want to know what you would experience in advance. If you’re wondering what time to show up, you can find that information online, but there is almost always a meeting starting at 9:00 AM at any meetinghouse.
Mormons worship on Sundays in meetinghouses, which they sometimes call chapels. If you’re trying to find the chapel, you won’t find it by searching for a sign that says, “Mormon Church.” The sign will say, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visitors welcome.” This is the correct and complete name of the church. (Visitors welcome, is, of course, not part of the name.) Mormon is just a nickname some people use to describe the members of the Church, but should never be used as the name of the church. “Mormon Church” is incorrect because it is not Mormon’s church—it is Jesus’ church.
There are usually several doors, but most Mormons will enter from one that leads into the building from a parking lot, which is usually not the formal entrance at the front of the building. This will lead you into either a foyer or a hallway. If you find yourself in a hallway, continue walking until you encounter a foyer. From there, you will find an entrance to the chapel. Most Mormon meetings have the worship service first. Some have classes first, however, particularly if the building houses several congregations whose meetings overlap. Anyone you meet will be happy to tell you where to find the first meeting and even to accompany you through your day. Look for someone with a name tag. That person is probably a missionary and will be the best choice for your personal guide.
When you enter the chapel, you will find a rather plain room with pews and a “stand,” which is a raised area with seats, a piano, and an organ. There are no pictures or statues and the only decoration is the occasional flower arrangement left over from a funeral or other meeting. This prevents distraction during the meeting. You may have noticed, however, there are pictures of the Savior in the halls and foyer.
The meeting is conducted by a member of the bishopric. The bishopric consists of a bishop and two counselors. They are the unpaid lay leadership of the congregation. The congregation is known as a ward. Since they hold regular employment if they aren’t retired, the work is divided among many volunteers. In fact, nearly every Mormon has something to do and so before the meeting, you will usually see busy people trying to accomplish a little church work before the meeting starts.
The bishop or his counselor will welcome everyone and make announcements. There will be an opening hymn—look for the green hymnbook on the back of the pew in front of you. The number of the hymn is usually on the wall at the front of the chapel. Following the hymn, a member of the congregation who was invited before the meeting to do so will give the prayer. This can be any man or woman who is a member in good standing. Following this, if there are changes in the callings—the volunteer positions, these are announced. Members are asked to sustain the person being given a calling, which means they agree to support and assist this person in his or her work.
When this is complete, the worship service begins. There will be a hymn while the priesthood holders prepare the sacrament (communion.) These priesthood holders are most often older teenage boys. When the hymn ends, the first sacrament prayer is given by one of the boys and then other priesthood holders, most often twelve-and-thirteen year old boys, will bring the bread to members of the congregation. While this is happening, everyone is expected to sit quietly and think about the atonement of Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are represented by the bread and water. (Mormons use water instead of wine.) If you are on the end of an aisle and Mormons are further inside, you may be offered the bread. If you are not a member, simply take the tray in your right hand and hold it for the next person while he takes the bread. He will then take it from you and hold it for the next person. If you are the last person, take it from the person who offers it to you and hand it to the waiting priesthood holder.
When everyone who wants the bread has received it, the entire process (except for the hymn) will be repeated for the water. During this time, people are asked not to enter or leave the chapel unless a small child needs to be taken out. Mormons attend this service with their entire family, even babies and toddlers.
Following the Sacrament, the sermons will begin. The bishop does not give the weekly sermon. Members of the church, ages twelve and older, are invited to give what they call talks—mini-sermons on an assigned theme. Most members speak about once a year. If the congregation has enough teenagers, they will speak first. One or two will give a five-minute talk. Most are already experienced speakers, since they begin speaking in the children’s Primary at age three.
If there are not enough teenagers, they will speak once a year, but otherwise, there will be additional adult speakers. Generally, two adults will speak for ten to fifteen minutes. Both men and women are invited to preach in the church.
After the speakers, there is another hymn and a closing prayer given by a member of the congregation. Members will then be dismissed to classes.
Altogether, Mormons spend three hours each Sunday in worship. Many also have leadership meetings or choir practice as well. The remainder of the meeting time after the Sacrament Meeting is taken in classes. Everyone age twelve and older attends Sunday School. There are special classes for non-Mormon visitors and new members to introduce them to the basics of the religion. Teens study the same material as their parents but in their own classes. Children attend a Primary program for ages eighteen months to age 11. Everyone else attends Gospel Doctrine, a scripture-based Sunday School. The classes for everyone ages eight and up are on a four year rotation, with two years spent on the Bible. The Book of Mormon receives one year and a book of modern revelation and church history receives the final year.
Mormons also worship in the home. You can learn more about this process in other articles.