As a member of the Mormon church, I have attended hundreds of church meetings. Over the years I have learned that several aspects of Mormon meetings seem unusual to people unacquainted with my faith. Here are five of the unique features of Mormon services:
- A Different Speaker Every Week.
In most Christian denominations, a pastor (or other clergy) speaks to the congregation each week. If you are a churchgoer, you might have selected your church based on the quality of the preacher.
In the Mormon church, however, there is no paid clergy. The leader of a congregation (the bishop) is not compensated with money for his work. Like the other members of the congregation, he has a day job during the week.
Because leaders are unpaid, the various responsibilities in the church are divided among the members — including the responsibility to speak in church. In a typical Sunday service, two or more members of the congregation will speak for ten to fifteen minutes about a scriptural topic.
The speakers are typically given this assignment at least one week in advance. They are assigned a specific topic.
- Three-Hour Block.
The format of Mormon meetings has changed over time. Currently, they last for three hours, which seems long to some visitors. While some churches hold services on Sunday, and then have additional Bible study classes during the week, these meetings are all held together in the Mormon church.
This “three-hour block” consists of three separate meetings: The first is “Sacrament Meeting,” the equivalent of the Sunday meeting held by most Christian churches, in which the sacrament (aka communion, or the Lord’s Supper) is performed. The second meeting is Sunday School, in which adults meet together for scripture study while children meet in similar classes by age. The third meeting is similar to Sunday School, but women and men meet separately (although they study from the same lesson manual).
- First-Sunday Testimony Meeting.
Once a month, on the first Sunday, the weekly Sacrament Meeting is called Testimony Meeting. On that Sunday, no speakers are assigned in advance. Instead, members are given an opportunity to walk up to the pulpit and testify of their faith in Jesus Christ. Some participants simply state their beliefs. Others share personal experiences that have brought them closer to the Savior.
- Focus Exclusively on Mormon Doctrine.
Some Christian denominations use church meetings as a time to study what other religions believe. For example, a pastor might give a presentation on “What Muslims Believe.”
In Mormon services, it is not considered appropriate to editorialize about other faiths in that way. Instead, speakers discuss the scriptures, teachings of Mormon leaders, and their personal experiences and beliefs.
- No Politics.
During this Presidential election cycle, the news has reported various religious congregations supporting specific Presidential candidates.
In the Mormon church, all leaders and speakers are directed to be politically neutral. It is not appropriate to take a political position in church meetings; nor is it appropriate to allow campaigning of any sort in a Mormon church building, even on days other than Sunday.
Members of the church are encouraged to vote in elections, and to prayerfully decide which candidates to favor. No further direction is given.