Meetings for Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Sunday ServicesSunday services for members of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes casually called Mormons) consist of a two-hour block of time divided into two segments. Until January 2019, the meeting block was three hours divided into three segments.
- As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of “church” as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens at home. We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings.
- As the Church continues to expand throughout the world, many members live where we have no chapels—and may not for the foreseeable future. . . .
- The long-standing objective of the Church is to assist all members to increase their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, to assist them in making and keeping their covenants with God, and to strengthen and seal their families. In this complex world today, this is not easy. The adversary is increasing his attacks on faith and upon us and our families at an exponential rate. To survive spiritually, we need counterstrategies and proactive plans. Accordingly, we now want to put in place organizational adjustments that will further fortify our members and their families.
- For many years, Church leaders have been working on an integrated curriculum to strengthen families and individuals through a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship. Our efforts over these recent years to hallow the Sabbath—to make it a delight and a personal sign to God of our love for Him—will be augmented by the adjustments we will now introduce.
Elder Quentin L. Cook then spoke of the adjustments, which included a shortened Sunday meeting schedule of two hours: sacrament meeting for 60 minutes, and a 50-minute class that will alternate each Sunday for adults and youth. Sunday School is held the first and third Sundays of each month; Priesthood quorums, Relief Society, and Young Women meeting are held the second and fourth Sundays. When a fifth Sunday occurs during the moth, those meetings is under the direction of the bishop. Primary for the children is held each week.
- With respect to the Sunday meeting schedule, the senior leaders of the Church have been aware for many years that for some of our precious members, a three-hour Sunday schedule at church can be difficult. This is particularly true for parents with small children, Primary children, elderly members, new converts, and others.
- But there is so much more to this adjustment than just shortening the Sunday meetinghouse schedule. President Nelson has acknowledged with gratitude how much is being accomplished as a result of your faithfulness to previous invitations. He and the entire leadership of the Church desire to bring greater gospel joy—to parents, children, youth, singles, the elderly, new converts, and those people the missionaries are teaching—through a home-centered, Church-supported, balanced effort. The purposes and blessings associated with this adjustment and other recent changes include the following:
- Deepening conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthening faith in Them.
- Strengthening individuals and families through home-centered, Church-supported curriculum that contributes to joyful gospel living.
- Honoring the Sabbath day, with a focus on the ordinance of the sacrament.
- Helping all of Heavenly Father’s children on both sides of the veil through missionary work and receiving ordinances and covenants and blessings of the temple.
The primary Sunday service is Sacrament Meeting and is attended by the combined congregation. Sacrament Meeting services consist of the Aaronic Priesthood blessing and passing the sacrament—consecrated bread and water in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ—to members of the Church. The service usually also consists of "talks" or lay sermons prepared and delivered by members of the congregation. There is also hymn singing and other forms of worship through music. During the other segment, the congregation divides into smaller groups based on age and/or sex. The curriculum for these classes is provided by the Church and is consistent worldwide.
Prior to January 2019, Sunday School classes were grouped by age and sometimes by background. The most common adult Sunday School class was "Gospel Doctrine," which met each week and consisted of a teacher presenting a gospel message drawn from the scriptures, with participation from class members. A second adult class that met most weeks was "Gospel Essentials" which was designed for new members and nonmembers who were interested in learning more about the Church (the latter are often referred to as investigators). Additional adult classes were held at various times, depending on the specific needs of each congregation. These classes included topics such as "Family Relations," "Family History," "Teacher Preparation," "Mission Preparation," and "Temple Preparation." Youth Sunday School classes were divided by age (12-13, 14-15, 16-18). These classes were sometimes combined if class sizes were small.
In addition to Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School, a third block of meetings was held where attendance was based on age and sex. Men and boys 12 years and older attended priesthood classes, women attended Relief Society, and girls ages 12-18 attended Young Women. The Young Women group was further divided into Beehive (ages 12–13), Mia Maid (ages 14–15), and Laurel (ages 16–18) classes. All men and boys met together briefly at the beginning of the hour for a prayer, hymn, and announcements, they then separated into classes. The men separated by priesthood office to attend elder's quorum or high priest's quorum, the latter usually being older men and/or those who have held leadership positions in the Church. Youth are likewise divided into priesthood quorums: Deacons (ages 12-13), Teachers (ages 14-15), and Priests (ages 16-18). Classes may be combined if the class sizes are small.
Children younger than 12 attended Primary, which spanned the latter two time blocks described above. Young children from 18 months to 3 years of age attended a nursery class. Primary classes generally consisted of all the children who were born in the same year. Usually one half of the Primary met in separate classes while the other half met together in sharing and singing time, and at the end of the hour, the two were reversed.
Other Sunday Meetings
In place of, or in addition to, the typical Sunday meetings are special meetings of three sorts: Testimony meeting, conferences, and firesides.
Testimony meetings typically occur the first Sunday of every month (local leaders may switch Sundays to fit in conferences). The meeting itself is actually a variation of the sacrament meeting. After the sacrament has been blessed and passed, instead of the standard lay sermons, members are given an opportunity to bear their testimonies. During a testimony, members often publicly testify of Jesus Christ, his mission, and his atonement. They thank Heavenly Father for his blessings. They bear witness to the truthfulness of the gospel and the scriptures or specifically certain aspects of it. They testify of the prophets and revelation. They may share brief inspirational stories. Because a testimony is such a special and personal thing, it is not unusual for people to cry while sharing their testimonies. Testimony meetings are also referred to as Fast and Testimony meetings because on those Sundays, members of the congregation will be fasting (giving up two meals and donating the money they would have spent to the ward to help those in need).
The Church of Jesus Christ holds numerous conferences each year. The main conferences are general conference, stake conference, and ward conference. Conferences in general are times for members to come together to sustain Church leadership and hear the words of either the local leaders or the general officers and General Authorities, including the First Presidency, the Apostles and the General Authority Seventies of the Church.
Ward conferences are held under the direction of stake leadership and are otherwise similar to the usual Sunday meetings.
During stake conferences, all of the wards in that particular stake (see Church Organization) come together. These may or may not be presided over by General Authorities. Stake conferences actually consist of two or three two-hour meetings held at different times during the weekend. There is a main session for all members of the stake, a session for just the adults in the stake, and a leadership session for those with particular assignments within the stake.
The Church holds annual and semiannual general conferences in Salt Lake City. These are for the entire Church and consist of five sessions—four general and one priesthood semiannually and one women's—held on the first Saturdays and Sundays of April and October. During the meetings, members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Seventy, and the Relief Society, Young Women, Young Men, Sunday School, and Primary Presidencies give prepared sermons on an approved topic of their choice. These meetings take place in the Church's Conference Center in Salt Lake City(although historically they met in the Tabernacle on Temple Square) and are broadcast worldwide in a number of languages via television, radio, satellite, and the internet. After the meetings, the messages are published on the internet and in the Church magazines, the Ensign and Liahona (the Church's international magazine which has been published in almost 50 languages). They are also available in the Church library app. They can also be purchased in CD or DVD form.
The last type of Sunday meetings that can be held are firesides (though they need not always be held on Sunday). Firesides are generally held in the evenings, are for a particular group (Young Men, Young Women, Single Adults, etc.), and have a guest speaker.
Other activities and programs are held on weekdays. Young Men and Young Women meet together or individually for service projects, activities, special speakers, or to go to the temple. They often attend Seminary, either in the early morning before school or, through special arrangements with their schools, they can devote one of their class periods to go off campus and attend Seminary in a nearby building. No school credit is given; however, graduating from Seminary is encouraged for entrance into one of the Church schools, such as Brigham Young University and BYU-Idaho. Until January 2020, Young Men also participate in Scouting.
Sports activities for youth and/or adults are also held during the week. Young Women and Young Men often attend camp as part of their yearly events. Each ward or branch can plan periodic activities for the entire congregation, including dinners.
Women meet together four times a year for a Relief Society weekday meeting, where they participate in a service project, attend a social event, or are learn new skills. These activities are selected and planned by their ward Relief Society presidencies. They also attend one stake Relief Society event each year.
The Primary holds activity days for children ages 8 through 11. Boys participate in Cub Scouting activities. Activities for this children will change in January 2020 when the Church will replace these activities.