When I was growing up, I often went to two churches. We would go to my Mom’s church – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then, we’d also attend a Mass with my dad at the local Catholic Parish.
While both services had plenty in common; I always noticed two major differences: Dad’s church wasn’t long. And you didn’t have to wear a dress. (Just so you know, my Mom always made us wear a dress or dressy clothes to my Dad’s church because we were going there to worship God. We were expected to worship God in our Sunday best – the girls wearing dresses, the boys in suits and tied, and all of us with hair and teeth brushed.)
As I got older, and the topic of church came up with my friends, they would often act horrified to learn that our church lasted for three hours. They couldn’t imagine sitting for that long…and in a skirt, or suit and tie! Usually, when this reaction came up, I’d try to explain a little bit about our services…
The Ordinance of the Sacrament (similar to communion) is the most important part of our Sunday worship. It is what Sunday Worship is all about. We are commanded to keep the Sabbath Day holy, worshiping God is an integral part in keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn
“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-12
We have been commanded to prayerfully and humbly pay our devotions to God. We do so through commemorating the Lord’s Last Supper: we partake of these holy emblems in remembrance of the Body and Blood of Christ. Through this ordinance, we recognize our need for Him – that The Atonement He performed will pay for our sins and enable us to be reunited with our God. Through Christ’s atonement, we can overcome both physical and spiritual death. The Sacrament is a token of our commitment to Him. It is a sign of the covenant that we have made with Him at baptism: that He will cleanse and sanctify us from our sins – and we will keep His Commandments and Always Remember Him.
As you can see, this is a very personal and intimate experience. Sacrament is a reverent meeting – revolving around the actual ordinance of the Sacrament: where bread and water is blessed by those with authority and then passed to the congregation – who may partake of it if they wish.
All are invited to attend Sacrament Meeting. You do not have to be a member of the Church. We do not have an age restriction. Everyone is welcome.
Entire families attend Sacrament together – which means children are there. This can seem a little distracting. Often, Mormon Sacrament Meetings (where there is a large amount of families with children) can have the lively buzz of children. We try to teach our children to be reverent, but we understand what Christ taught about the Children “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 19:14).
If you attend a Mormon Sacrament meeting, you can expect to find a meeting that may be lively, but that is also filled with the love of those who come to worship their God.
At Mormon Sunday Services, we are encouraged to wear our “Sunday Best.” This means different things to different people. But, just as the ordinance of sacrament is deeply personal, so is the concept of “Sunday Best.” Typically, in churches in the U.S., you will see men wearing suits and ties, and women wearing skirts or dresses. There is no limitation, though. I have seen men in jeans, tee-shirts, shorts. I have seen women in slacks. I honestly don’t have much of an opinion about what people wear. For myself, I dress modestly and in a fashion that promotes and denotes my worshipful and loving attitude for the Savior. The meeting is about Him – about His sacrifice for me and all of human-kind.
I also encourage my children to dress modestly – in a way that doesn’t draw attention and in a way that helps them to act a little more reverently. I have found that the way I dress can influence the way I act. I want my children to act reverent and to respect the sacredness of the Ordinance of the Sacrament. Two of my children have been baptized. They are under an obligation to the Lord. They need to renew their covenants as much as I do. It is up to me to teach them how to do that in a way that is loving and respectful. Dress is a part of it. Of course, it isn’t the most important thing – Above all, I want my children to turn their hearts to the Lord, and it is crucial that I do the same.
The Sacrament Meeting/Program
Sacrament meeting consists of
- announcements (usually made by a member of the Bishopbric – local leaders)
- prelude music
- opening hymn (all of the congregation sings)
- We will then be welcomed, again, to the meeting by a member of the bishopbric. If there is some kind of business that needs attending (perhaps the blessing of a child or welcoming of a new member to the congregation) then it will be attended to after the opening prayer
- the rest of the program is announced
- The ordinance of the sacrament is performed
- Speakers – typically there are two to three assigned speakers. They are usually members – men and women – of the congregation. Often, they have been asked in advance to prepare a talk to give for the meeting.
- There may also be a special musical number at some point after the ordinance of the Sacrament itself.
- Closing Hymn
- Closing Prayer
Sacrament usually lasts about 1 hour 10 minutes.
Other Sunday Meetings
After Sacrament meeting, most Mormons attend other meetings including:
- Sunday School – 60 minutes – organized by age group from ages 12 to adult
- Primary – for children ages 3-11
- Nursery – for children ages 18 months to 3
- Young Women – for girls ages 12-17
- Relief Society – For women over 18 years
- Priesthood – for men ages 12-adult
I have to admit, I love my Sunday services. It is nice to see my church friends. Each week, when I attend church, I feel refreshment and renewal. It helps me to strive and stay determined on the course back to my Heavenly Father. But, above all, I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to partake of the Sacrament and renew my covenants with the Lord. I love Him. I want to please Him.
You can find out more about Mormon Sunday Services here.