If you are unfamiliar with the LDS faith and what a church service is like, here is a detailed description of what to expect.
A friend or a missionary may invite you to a service, or, you can come on your own. There is a misunderstanding out there that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints only allows members to its churches. This is very untrue. Mormons very much want everyone to come and partake of Sunday morning services and to partake of the Sacrament.
The Sacrament is a symbolic ceremony of Jesus’s last supper, where we all have the opportunity to remember him and to renew our covenants with him. This is the most holy of ordinances that we partake of outside of the temple.
Here’s what to expect.
Somewhere close to you, probably at 9:00 am on a Sunday morning, there is a Mormon ( Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, LDS….) Sacrament meeting. The service that takes place in the church chapel, where everyone sits facing the front in the pews is called the Sacrament Meeting. Come about 5-10 minutes early. This gives you time to find your seat and to get a program. This also allows other members to introduce themselves. Don’t feel bad if they don’t introduce themselves. They may be like me where I have a calling ( church duty ) that keeps them with the children for most of the day so they don’t get to meet everyone. I have introduced myself to someone I thought was new only to find out they’d been coming for years. There are no reserved seats, or named pews. Other than the front left few rows where the boys who pass the bread and water sit, you can sit anywhere you like.
There will be prelude music before it starts which is there for your enjoyment. The schedule of speakers is in the bulletin/program that you were handed when you walked in. When it is time to start, the Bishop or one of his counselors will stand and make announcements. There will be a hymn and then a prayer said by a member who will go to the front to say it into a microphone. Then the Bishop will speak again and make more announcements. Then we all sing a Sacrament hymn, a hymn focused on the “Sacrament”.
The passing of the Sacrament consists of a prayer, then the passing of trays with pieces of bread. Take one piece of bread and eat it and pass the tray down the aisle. After everyone has had their bread, there will be another prayer and trays of water representing the blood of Christ will be passed. Take one cup, drink the water and put the cup in the receptacle on the tray. Pass the tray. We all try to be very reverent during this time. Some folks close their eyes to contemplate and pray. After everyone is served, the Bishop will rise to the podium again and thank the Aaronic Priesthood for the reverent manner in which they pass the Sacrament.
Depending on whether it is the 1st Sunday of the month or not determines the program. If it is the first Sunday of a month, then it is a testimony meeting where, for the remainder of the hour, folks can go up to the podium and bear their testimonies. If it is a normal Sunday, then members will have been asked to give talks on specific subjects such as faith, love, tithing, forgiveness. I love hearing from my friends in the church what they think about different subjects. Occasionally, a member of the Stake (area) will come and talk. This is a treat as well. At the end of the talks, there will be a closing hymn and then a closing prayer.Then everyone gets up to go off to their next classes, either the woman’s group or to Sunday School.
What you won’t find in an LDS/Mormon service is a pastor giving a sermon. There is no paid clergy in the church, nor is the Bishop the only one allowed to speak. Only occasionally will the Bishop or one of his counselors speak. Remember, its a people’s church. Some speakers are loaded down with scriptural references and some folks give more anecdotal talks.
You also won’t find a donation plate. Tithing is done privately. You will never be asked for money. If announcements are made concerning donations to the Red Cross, refugee relief, or the like, they will ask you to submit it to a member of the Bishopric, with your tithing, in a special envelope. Once again, tithing and money is handled privately.
Concerning dress standards, I can tell you they vary. Wear your best, is the order of the day. If you live rural, then clean jeans and a shirt with a collar and a bolo tie might be what the men wear. Women usually wear modest skirts or dresses. Modest meaning your cleavage isn’t on display and your skirt hits your knee The fanciness of dress will vary among neighborhoods and even vary within the same ward. There is no dress police and you are welcome to wear whatever. But, longtime members tend to dress nicely for church. Even rural members who live in cow poop encrusted jeans and boots during the week, change into a suit and tie and dress shoes on Sunday. Most folks will not notice your clothing, though.Children sit with the parents during the Sacrament Meeting and take the bread and water. Children will go to their own classes after the Sacrament Meeting. Depending on how old your church building is, there may be a glassed room where parents can take loud children and still be able to hear and watch the service. Sometimes, at the very beginning during announcements, the Bishop will announce callings (positions given to people in the church) and ask folks to raise their hand in approval or disapproval. If you are a visitor, you don’t have to participate in that.
The Mormon Church services are pretty much the same around the world. I love going to services when we travel because we know what to expect. It’s also comforting to know that the church doctrine is the same no matter where we go. There you go, what you need to know to go to an LDS church. There is nothing weird or strange. In fact it may be one of the most traditional type services you will encounter nowadays.