I figured what with a Mormon on his way to the White House and all, it might be an interesting and hopefully insightful experience to visit a worship service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So I did what I usually do when I have a Mormon-y question, and asked Justin to take me.
So last Sunday we set out for an LDS sacrament meeting. That’s apparently what it’s called – not worship service. No big, just vernacular so far.
Mormons are nice, y’all. I know we’re not supposed to lump groups of people together and label them, but I’ve never come across a not-nice Mormon. Like most religions, there’s a good mix of young, old, white, black (and everything in between), tall, short, fat, thin, smart and not so smart … but they’re all freaking nice.
Oh, and they have a lot of kids, too. You have heard about the five Romney boys and the 18 Romney grandkids, right? It’s a stereotype for a reason, people.
Since Mormons are so nice, I met several people before the service meeting even started. A lot of college and grad students at the Cambridge ward (I think that’s the word for congregation?) in Massachusetts.
Before I forget, I’ll add a side note: While we walking to church, we passed a Starbucks and decided we were hungry. Neither of us had coffee. Justin had apple cider or something because Mormons don’t drink coffee, and I had my usual chai tea latte – no wait – I had a skinny salted caramel mocha. Never mind. I was going to say I was well on my way to the full Mormon experience of no coffee, but no. Move along, nothing to see here …
Back to the church part – I met lots of nice people. The sanctuary (meeting room?) had pews a lot like ours. There was a big indoor basketball court in the middle of the building. Justin told me every ward (stake? Which one is the building and which one is the congregation?) has one.
The meeting was called to order, there was a prayer, and we sang a song out of the hymnal. I was pleased to discover it was just as abysmal as some of the ones in our Psalter. Loooong and in a key no one but Justin and a couple others could hit. Dude can sing. I mouthed the words. Everyone there silently thanked me without knowing it.
Then there was communion. I had asked ahead on the procedure for that, because at my church, you have to get permission from the elders before service if you’re not a member. In the United Reformed Church, you may only take communion if you’re a member of a gospel-preaching church and under the spiritual care of church leadership. Some churches leave this up to the individual’s conscience, but our particular congregation asks you to talk to someone first.
Anyway, Justin had said it was fine, but I felt weird about it because it’s such a sacred thing at our church, so I passed. But I’ll tell you about it anyway, because if you’ve read this far, you’re probably as fascinated by the LDS church as I am and are dying to know more.
First- the kids take communion. Justin says it doesn’t mean anything until they’re eight and baptized. All Mormons get baptized at eight in the way that babies are baptized in Calvinism and Baptists when they make a profession of faith. I got to go to a Mormon baptism once when one of Thing 1’s friends invited us to attend hers, and it was super cool. Maybe I’ll tell you about it some time.
Second- they passed it around and everyone sat in their seats and partook immediately rather than waiting and doing it together as a congregation.
Third- most, if not all reformed churches I’ve been to offer grape juice as an alternative to the wine. I figured that would be the case. Nope! It was water. Jesus turned the water to wine and the Mormons turned it back again. Go figure.
After communion, there were three “talks” that definitely weren’t sermons. And two of them were given by WOMEN. Soooooo weird for me to see women up at the podium, addressing the congregation at a Sunday worship service sacrament meeting. That does not happen in the URC. Not even a little bit.
Now let’s discuss these talks, mmmkay? They were really great. Super motivational, well thought out, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Totally not sermons. “When do you do exegesis??” I whispered to Justin.
“Exegesis! When the pastor takes a section of scripture and interprets it…”
Totally forgot that Mormons don’t have pastors in the way that evangelicals think of pastors. We only stayed for the first hour, and apparently Sunday School is where scripture study comes in, so I may have to go back sometime just to see what it’s like.
The other thing about the talks: I felt kinda like I was at a motivational conference. I wanted to clap for the speakers when they were finished, and I half expected them to take a bow. Like I said, they were definitely not sermons in the sense that I think of them.
Overall, I’m glad I went. Justin likes to tease me that he’ll make a Mormon out of me yet. That’s usually right before I punch him in the neck and tell him I’d get kicked out so fast it would be the shortest-lived Mormon membership in LDS history. I don’t know if y’all know this, but I really enjoy wine. Plus that whole continuing revelation thing that I don’t believe in.
might will never be a Mormon. But they’re not scary. They don’t worship weird things, they don’t judge others (as a group, at least … I can’t account for every individual church member), and they are welcoming and friendly. They’re family oriented, but don’t disallow divorce. They honor mothers that stay home with the kids and the ones that work outside the home with equal regard.
They’re good people, y’all.
I gotta say one more thing before I leave this subject alone for the moment: MORMONISM IS NOT A CULT. I’d encourage anyone considering not voting for Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith to go check out an LDS service meeting.
And try not to be as ginormous a dork as me telling everyone, “This is my first time!”
Oh, and if you ever want to check out a reformed church to see what my typical Sunday morning consists of, drop me a line and I’ll find you one in your area. We serve wine for communion. Just saying.