From what one hears on the media, it would sound as though what goes on inside an LDS church is quite odd. And, compared to other religions, it actually is. While Catholics have the ceremony of Sunday Mass and Jews feel the spirit at the synagogue, Mormons have meetings.
Yes, meetings. In jest, many members complain about the length and, oftentimes, pure and utter boredom caused by these meetings. I can attest that, as a previous member of the Mormon church, this was typically the case.
Let's take a look at how the church is organized to get these invigorating meetings established!
Mormon wards and branches
Although some areas less dense with Mormonism likely only have one ward, I have grown up in one of the most LDS counties in the nation. Since not everyone can be in the church at the same time, different wards or branches are established to use the church house at different times. Our three-ward church had staggered schedules that went as follows:
- Ward A from 9:00a-12:00p
- Ward B from 11:00a-2:00p
- Ward C from 1:00p-4:00p
From my personal experience, having the 9:00 AM start was a true blessing -- you got to be home by noon to enjoy the rest of your Sunday at your own leisure! However, the outcries of tired, angry babies throughout the day typically made the experience seemingly longer than usual.
Each ward has a bishop and two counselors. Together, they are the bishopric, as the directors of the church and are in charge of getting committees made and leadership positions assigned to the rest of the church members to make each Sunday work smoothly. All leadership positions are voluntary and "guided by the Spirit." To qualify for any leadership position outside of your own three-part day, you have to be 18.
You know, I don't think anyone had a worse job than the clerk. He's basically required to stay at the church until all funds that are received that day are accounted for. In addition, he is essentially in charge of making sure the sacrament ceremony is supplied. This is the guy we, as the preparers of the sacrament, had to go to for mini cups, bread, questions about the route, and broken trays. Although I'm sure a real-life position of "teenage consultant/accountant/mechanic" would be earning six figures, the ward clerk of an LDS church does his work voluntarily.
If you were a "worthy" (synonymous with "breathing") male of age 12, you received the priesthood. This was basically your license to become the caterer to anyone aged 35 or over. You became the servant of the ward at age 12 as a deacon, delivering bread and water in the sacrament and conducting various service projects.
As you turned 14, you were promoted to teacher. Your name was obtained from the fact that you were to go home teaching once a month with an elder, but that never happens, so I think the name waterboy is much more appropriate. Waterboys (fine, teachers) would go in a little room that was way too small to fill trays with miniature cups of water, and then put water in them using the sink for the sacrament ceremony.
Upon age 16, you became a priest, who had to give the sacrament blessing perfectly, perhaps a job second only in agony to the clerk himself.
Three-part day... sort of
Unless you were under 5, your day had three components. Getting to various meetings was a very odd thing, since no one ever told you where your meeting was being held. Groupthink was the driving force that led us to our correct classrooms, which were only labeled with numbers and shuffled around yearly. Everyone would attend sacrament meeting (which, as you can see from my article on it, was always a hoot). Then, they would go to their various classes:
- Children under age 5 would go to nursery. Unfortunate women and occasionally men would be in charge of this place, doing nothing but cleaning diapers and settling fights for two whole hours.
- Everyone else would go to their classes about LDS doctrine. The class you were assigned was based entirely on your age. These classes each focused on a different gospel each year, and cycled, since it was commonly stated that they believe repetition is how you learn (the four gospels were the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. The Pearl of Great Price was typically added as supplementary information).
- Children under age 5 would proceed to enslave the nursery leaders.
- Children ages 6 to 12 would go to primary.
- Young men 12-13 would go to deacons' quorum meeting.
- Young women 12-13 would go to beehives' meeting.
- Young men 14-15 would go to teachers' quorum meeting.
- Young women 14-15 would go to myamaids' meeting.
- Young men 16-17 would go to priests' quorum meeting.
- Young woman 16-17 would go to laurels' meeting.
- Men would go to elders' quorum meeting.
- Women would go to relief society.
- Old men would sleep for an hour in what is known as high priests' meeting.