Have you ever wondered what the inside of a Mormon church building looks like? You are invited to a virtual tour on an official Mormon website. Open it in another window so you can look around while reading my more detailed information here.
Each Mormon meetinghouse contains a large number of classrooms in various sizes. You’ve already seen the Relief Society and Primary. Today, we’ll visit a smaller classroom. On the map below the video, you’ll see a foyer. To the right of the foyer is an unlabeled silver dot inside a small room. Click the dot. This takes you to a classroom.
The classroom is very simple and undecorated, so it can be used by more than one class if needed. Teachers generally bring their own decorations each week, normally pictures or items related to the lesson, so nothing distracts from the topic. The room includes little more than a magnetized chalkboard, chairs suited to the ages of the students, a teacher’s chair, and a small table where the teacher can place her materials.
The teacher begins and ends class with a prayer. He or she teaches from a lesson manual prepared by the church, generally following a schedule. In most classes, you could show up in any church building and find the class exactly where your own class left off. This allows for continuity for travelers.
The teacher is always a volunteer. The Mormons have a lay church and there is enough work in their complex programs to keep everyone busy who wants a calling, as unpaid church jobs are known.
Read the lesson manuals taught by Mormons. The lesson manuals are available on the church website for anyone to read. This can be a good way to find out what Mormons teach members each week.
Let’s look at a sample lesson to see how a typical class might operate. We’ll use the following lesson:
This lesson was written for girls ages twelve to seventeen. They are usually taught in classes containing two age groups (12-13, 14-15, 16-17) and the lessons are adapted to the ages of the students. Each manual is taught twice, the second time at a more adult level, since the girls are now older. Two adult teachers, a member of the presidency and the class advisor, are present in each class. In the Young Women’s classes, all teachers and leaders are women. In the Young Men’s classes, all leaders and teachers are men. Sunday School is taught in mixed gender classes and the teacher may be either gender.
As you can see, the manual is designed so even an experienced teacher will be able to present an interesting and age-appropriate lesson. The teacher is encouraged to pray to determine the individual needs of her specific students as she prepares.
Each lesson offers an objective. This helps the teacher remain focused as she teaches. For this lesson, the objective is to help each young woman become a friend of Jesus Christ.
The lesson uses standard methods for quality teaching. To focus the girls’ attention on the topic, the teacher tells a story that helps them to understand knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing Him. She then gives them a moment to contemplate where they stand in this story and then guides them through a discussion. A picture of Jesus knocking at a door is shown to end the discussion and return them to the topic. If you examine the picture carefully, you discover there is no doorknob. The message is that Jesus cannot enter your life unless you let Him in.
The girls are led through a variety of scriptures to help them learn more, which teaches them to turn to the Bible and other scriptures for gospel knowledge. They are also taught stories from the lives of church leaders and read the counsel of leaders to them, including this counsel, originally given to adult men:
“He wants us to come to him as we are. We do not have to be perfect to go to him. While Jesus was on the earth he associated with publicans and sinners and his disciples asked him why he associated with them, to which question Jesus gave a beautiful and simple answer: ‘They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick.’ (Mark 2:17.) The Lord does not ask us to heal ourselves of our imperfections before we approach him, but to come to him with those imperfections and he will assist us in overcoming them. The Lord loves us and wants us to overcome our sins and he will help us as we exercise our free agency. We must initiate the process of repentance and strive with all of our might to overcome our weaknesses” (Gospel Doctrine [A Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, 1970–71], p. 57).
The teacher then guides the girls through the process of reflecting on what they’ve learned so far to create a list of things they can do to draw closer to Jesus Christ. By developing this list themselves from the materials, they learn how to apply the lessons they learn to their personal lives, a skill which will help them throughout their lives.
The lesson concludes with testimonies from the teacher and classmates about the topic of the lesson, allowing the girls to learn from each other.
This lesson is typical of those taught at any age. Naturally, lessons for children include flannel board stories, puppets, and games, and adults might read more scriptures, but generally, students are taught basic principles of truth and then guided to apply them to their lives.
Teenagers probably receive more instruction than any other group. They have two Sunday classes. In addition, they have a weekday religion class taught during the school year. Most students attend this class, called Seminary, early in the morning. It involves an in-depth study of the scriptures for four years. Two of these years focus on the Bible. Once a week, they meet in the evening for a youth group meeting, which usually involves putting the gospel into action through service projects, learning practical skills, or educational but fun activities. The boys do Boy Scouts of America some weeks, while the girls have a similar program called Personal Progress.
In addition to all of these, they have an annual youth conference over two or three days and a summer camp. The teenage years are perilous, and Mormon youth are given a great deal of support to get through them.
In an earlier article, we learned the women spent the last class session in Relief Society. The men, during the same time, are attending their priesthood quorums, learning most of the same lessons, but focused on their roles as husband, fathers, and priesthood holders. Between the basic service and these gender-specific meetings is Sunday School, held in mixed gender classes for everyone ages twelve and older. Teenagers have their own classes. People who are visiting the church and are not members, or who are new members have a class of their own called Gospel Principles. This teaches them the essential aspects of the gospel at a beginner’s level, so they are prepared to understand the regular class after one year.
The adult Sunday School class is called Gospel Doctrine. A different book of scripture is studied each year in a four year rotation, on the same schedule as the teenagers and older children. Two years are devoted to a study of the Bible. One year is given to the Book of Mormon. The final year is spent on the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern revelation, and is combined with church history.
As you can see, Mormon churches are a busy place on Sunday. Of course, gospel study is not just for church meetings. Each member continues to study at home as well, because Mormonism is not a Sunday-only religion.
Have you ever wondered what a Mormon Meetinghouse looks like? Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often informally called Mormons, and many wonder what the inside of their churches look like. The churches, unlike the temples, are open to anyone, including those who are not members of the Church, and are used for Sunday services, as well as for weekday activities. The church has filmed a virtual tour of a typical Mormon church building. The one shown in this tour is somewhat larger than most, and appears to be quite new. However, it would feel comfortingly familiar to any Mormon who walked in, since it looks much like every other Mormon church building. Read more
Filed under: Basic LDS Beliefs, Church Organization, Faith in God Program, Gospel Principles, Practices & Precepts, Scouting
Curious about what is inside a Mormon meetinghouse? Visitors are always welcome in these smaller buildings designed for regular worship and weekday activities. However, you can also tour a building virtually through a new feature on the Mormon’s official website.
Look below the tour to see the map. The Relief Society room is in the top right hand corner of the map. This room is especially for women and is therefore, usually the prettiest room. It normally has nice curtains, attractive paintings, tablecloths, flowers, and other feminine touches. They are usually the only classroom provided with padded seats.
Mormons meet for three hours each Sunday. The main worship service lasts an hour and ten minutes. Following this, the families go in various directions, with adults and teens having two classes to attend, and children attending their own program. Relief Society is normally held the last hour and is only for the women. The organization was founded in 1842, and centers around providing service to others. On Sundays, the women meet for a class that is especially tailored to the particular lives and needs of women. Some weeks they study the same topic as the men, but with a feminine focus if there is one. Other weeks, they study unique topics. Lessons are drawn from teachings of past church leaders, talks given in semi-annual conferences from current church leaders at the international level, and topics of special interest to women.
During the week, each Relief Society may choose to have special clubs, classes, or meetings to help women perform service, learn new skills, and pursue hobbies and friendships. Examples might include a mom and tots group, a blogging club, a humanitarian aid group, lessons in car and home repair, or craft programs. The choices are as diverse as the women themselves, and vary based on the interests and needs of each group.
A unique feature of the Relief Society is the visiting teaching program. Women, working with an assigned partner, are given three or four other women to visit monthly. They come to the home with a brief spiritual message to discuss, and they also work to build a friendship with these women. They are charged with watching for needs the church can fulfill and are the first person a woman calls when she needs help. A visiting teacher will then either provide the service, or help to find someone who can. For instance, a visiting teacher might bring in a meal when the sister (the Mormon form of address for adult women) is ill, watch her children when she has a doctor’s appointment, or alert leaders the family has nothing to eat. It is reassuring to women to know there is someone they can call when they need help or just a friend.
The Relief Society also operates a literacy program that is tailored to whatever needs the congregation might have. Some groups use a church program to teach reading. Others teach English to immigrants, tutor inner-city children, or help people learn to write their personal and family histories.
Now go back to the map and click on the Primary room, found in the bottom right hand corner. This room belongs to the children of the church, ages three to twelve. In most wards (congregations) the children are divided into two groups, Junior Primary and Senior Primary, with age eight being the dividing line. They will meet in the Primary room all together for opening exercises. During this time, they have a prayer, songs, a scripture and a talk given by a child. Even a three-year-old might stand at the pulpit on a step that allows him to reach the microphone, and give a two and a half minute talk on a gospel principle with the help of a parent. This allows children to learn from their peers, and also helps the children learn poise, confidence and public speaking skills, while encouraging him to share his thoughts on an aspect of his faith.
Following this, most Primaries send the older children off to age-divided classes. Their classrooms are small and usually contain a chalkboard, bulletin board, and chairs sized to the students. The teacher prepares a lesson from a manual that can be read online. Read the lesson manuals used to teach Mormon children.
These older children are called Valiants. They have been baptized and are learning to be valiant in keeping the baptismal covenants (promises) they made to God. Mormon children are baptized at age eight. The lessons are taught through the scriptures, and they follow the same four year plan as their parents and teenage siblings, allowing families to discuss together the scripture stories learned. The children spend two years learning the Bible, one learning the Book of Mormon, and one learning church history and the Doctrine and Covenants. This last book is a collection of revelations received in modern times.
After their lesson, the children return to the Primary room for Sharing Time. The younger children, who were already having sharing time, go to their own classes. The younger children are called CTRs, which stands for Choose the Right. They are preparing to be baptized and are learning enough about their religion to make a wise choice and are also learning to become like Jesus. In their lessons, they follow a two year program. When it is repeated, they are more mature and can handle the same lesson taught at a higher level. They spend one year on the Bible. The second year covers the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.
Also included in Junior Primary are the Sunbeams, who are three at the start of the year. Their lesson manual is used for only one year and contains stories from all the scriptures taught in simple ways.
In Sharing Time, the children receive a fifteen minute lesson from a member of the Primary Presidency, a group of three women who run the program. There is a theme for the entire year, such as “I Am a Child of God” or “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus.” Each month, they study an aspect of the theme during Sharing Time. They also have fifteen minutes of singing with a music leader. Much of this music is focused around the theme as well. Near the end of the year, the children do a program for the entire congregation, taking over the regular service to sing and to teach the adults what they’ve learned.
The Primary room has chairs in a variety of sizes placed in rows. Children sit with their own classes and teachers. It usually includes a piano and pictures of Jesus with children. There is a chalkboard and decorated bulletin boards.
The Primary oversees a nursery, as well. This is for children who are eighteen months old to age three. If they are three years old January 1, they graduate to the Sunbeam class. This is not just child-care. It is a true class. The children have a lesson manual with simple lessons that teach them about God and Jesus in easy to understand ways. They generally have about ten minutes of lesson time, a fifteen minute singing time, crafts, group play, stories, and a play time. At least two teachers are present at all times.
In the next article, we’ll learn about the Youth program for teenagers, and about the cultural hall.
While living on Earth, Jesus taught what has come to be known in the Christian world as the Golden Rule. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
(See Matthew 7:12.)
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, this penetrates every aspect of our lives. It is not an instruction just to be obeyed during church. While it seems easy in theory to practice this, in everyday life, it can be challenging to remember it in the heat of battle. Read more
Filed under: Doctrine & Covenants, Finding joy within the gospel, Gospel Principles, Practices & Precepts, LDS Practices, Men, Men & Priesthood, Priesthood, Priesthood, Self-Worth, Service, Uncategorized, Women
Mormon scriptures teach that every person God creates is given gifts, talents, traits, and experiences from Him, to be used to help others, as well as to bless our own lives. They are His gifts to us. What we choose to do with them is our gift to God. It does no good, for instance, to be given a gift to teach powerful spiritual messages if we refuse to learn about Jesus or turn down an opportunity to teach Sunday School.
11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.