How to behave “reverently” in a Mormon Sacrament Meeting
I can clearly remember the Sunday Morning I walked into the Christian church that would become my church family for the next two years of my life. It was the middle of February, my family and I had officially left the Mormon religion and we were looking for a new church to call home. As we walked into the sanctuary we could hear the happy chatter of people talking and visiting with one another which was quite a shock to me.
As I witnessed what was going on around me my mind flashed back to the Mormon Sunday meetings were everyone was expected to take their seats and sit quietly, without whispering to each other as we waited for the meeting to begin. We were told by our Bishop to do this to “keep the reverence” of the meetings so that everyone could “feel” the spirit as they mentally prepare themselves to partaking of the sacrament.
However the voices of people talking didn’t distract, or drown out the spirit of worship I found in this church meeting. As the music began playing everyone quieted down, the worship leader asked all of us to rise as we began with our opening song. After we sang a couple of songs we had a chance to greet each other with a hug or hand shake, followed by more singing as we praised God in song. I think at this point you probably could’ve knocked my over with a feather. What I was experiencing was so foreign to me, and yet so wonderful at the same time. I was amazed at how every song we sang was about Jesus. The songs gave me the feeling of coming home, and I thought to myself “so this is what it’s all about”.
For the first time in my life I witnessed people raising their hands in praise and worship to God, which was something that never happens in the Mormon Church. Not only did these people clap during a song, but they clapped after the organist was finished playing their solo during the offering. Clapping in any Mormon meeting is a huge no-no. If you’re the only one clapping in a meeting they know you’re new, and need to be educated as to how to behave.
As I sat in the worship service I looked at the faces around me, everyone seemed so happy to be there, which was such a contrast to what I witnessed in the Mormon Church. As I looked more closely at those around me I noticed not only were the expressions on their faces different, but their manner of dress was as well. Of course there were a few ladies, and men dressed in their “Sunday best”, but many were dressed in jeans, pull over shirts, or dress pants.
As a Mormon it would have never crossed my mind to wear jeans to church, or even dare to wear dress pants for that matter. This way of thinking came from the countless lessons in Relief Society I had on the proper way to dress for church. Dressing for a Mormon Church service didn’t include anything less than a dress, or a skirt & blouse, and dress shoes (jean skirts, flip-flops, or sandals were definitely out). Males young and old were expected to dress in a suit, or a white shirt, and tie. I was told dressing this way helped keep everyone “reverent”.
While it was nice having only one person give the message, it was different experience for me as well. In the Mormon Church I was used to at least three people giving a message on Sunday. The subject topics varied, but were usually about food storage, temple work, keeping the Sabbath day holy, obeying the Word of Wisdom, and tithing to name a few. When I explained this to a family member who’s a born-again Christian he told me it sounded like there were one too many chefs in the kitchen. J I had never heard a message from a Mormon pulpit that was about the biblical Jesus, so you can imagine my surprise when the message the pastor gave was all about Jesus and the grace He offers everyone.
At the end of the meeting an altar call was given to those who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior, or for those who just wanted to pray. This is another Christian practice unknown to me until that day. By the end of the meeting I knew I belonged; it’s something I never experienced in all my years as a Mormon. It made me reflect on what I used to think about Christians before coming to know Jesus. I hated the way I used to look down my nose at the way they worshipped, believing they were mocking God. I learned that day it wasn’t mockery, but a total surrendering of one’s self to God in complete worship.
It was such a joyful yet unbelievable surprise to me to attend a church meeting where everything was about Jesus. This is a joy you don’t see within Mormonism. Most Mormons are dreading teaching or speaking that day. Moms of young children aren’t looking forward to dealing with their young children during sacrament meeting. This is especially worse for those who have husbands in the Bishopric; the mothers are left to tend to the kids by themselves while their husbands sit on the stand with the rest of the Church leadership.
A few years ago Mormon Church leaders came out with a statement telling members not to ask the congregation to turn with them in their scriptures to a specific verse while they were giving their talks. The reason for this they said, was to maintain the spirit of reverence in their meetings. I just have to wonder what “spirit” they are trying to maintain in their meetings if they can’t clap, raise their hands in praise to God, or even turn in their Bible while the word of God is being read.
Melissa Grimes (firstname.lastname@example.org)