Here are some basic terms that a new member or visitor will encounter when attending Sunday meetings at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Ward: a congregation. Wards are organized according to the number of active members within a specific geographical location.
Branch: a very small congregation. Branches are also organized according to the number of active members within a specific geographical location, but they are much smaller congregations.
Stake: a group of congregations. Stakes are organized according to the number of wards or branches within a specific geographical location.
Meeting house: the church building where a group of wards and branches meet for Sunday meetings and other activities during the week. It is usually shared by 2-4 wards and branches. Also sometimes called a Ward building.
Stake Center: a larger meeting house or church. It usually has a gym with a stage for performances and other activities, the chapel is larger to accommodate more people, and a viewing screen for watching televised programs. The Stake President’s office is located in the Stake Center.
Bishop: a lay pastor for a ward. Bishops usually serve for a period of about five years, sometimes more.
First/Second Counselor: all Bishops and Presidents of all the auxiliaries in the LDS Church have two assistants called Counselors. Not only do they assist the Bishop, but they have specific responsibilities dependent on whether they are the First Counselor or the Second.
Primary: the children’s program for ages 18 months to 12 years. Primary meets during the 2nd and 3rd hours in the 3-hour block on Sundays. The classes are arranged according to birth year and each class moves on in January of each year. The Primary is divided into Nursery (18 months to 3 years), Junior Primary (3 to 7 years), and Senior Primary (8 to 11 years).
The Nursery is a self-contained classroom where the children play, have a short lesson and a snack. The older children meet in their classrooms for a lesson time, then divide into Junior and Senior primary for group activities, lessons and singing. During opening and/or closing exercises, a few children are assigned talks (speeches), scripture recitation and prayer to do in front of the entire Primary.
Young Men/Women: the program for youth ages 12 to 17 years. They meet during the 3rd hour and have weekly activities. They divide up according to age and gender and then move on to their next class on their birthday. The girls are divided into Beehives (12-13), Mia Maids (14-15), and Laurels (16-17). The boys are divided into Deacons (12-13), Teachers (14-15) and Priests (16-18).
Mutual: When speaking of Young Men and Young Women programs collectively, they are often called Mutual.
Gospel Doctrine: the main adult Sunday School class.
Gospel Essentials: a Sunday School class for those who are new to the Church, whether they are newly baptized or visiting.
Relief Society: the women’s program. On Sundays, they meet for lesson time during the 3rd hour in the 3-hour block. Once a quarter, they have an activity night called Enrichment Night. During Enrichment Night, they have a short lesson then divide into workshops on a variety of topics of interest to women. They also have various satellite groups that meet weekly or monthly. The groups vary widely by each ward are designed to meet the individual needs of the ward and women.
Priesthood: the men’s program. On Sundays, they meet for lesson time during the 3rd hour in the 3-hour block. They have quarterly family activities.
Calling: a position or responsibility in the Church, such as Primary teacher or Bishop. Members are invited to serve in the Church through their Bishops and/or his Counselors by inviting them into his office and extending the request that they serve in a specific capacity. The member can accept, decline or request time to think and pray about it before accepting or declining.
Sustain: to pledge support for someone in their calling.
Setting Apart: when a member receives, accepts and is sustained for a calling, they are then “set apart” for the calling. This is done with the Bishop and/or his Counselors laying their hands on the head of the person to bless the newly called member and offer guidance specific to the member and his calling.
Sacrament: often called communion in other faiths. The sacrament is offered each week except during Stake and General Conferences. It is bread and water.
Sacrament Meeting: the worship service. Often the 1st hour of the 3-hour block, Sacrament Meeting is the time when the sacrament is blessed and offered to the members of the congregation. Announcements are made and callings sustained during these meetings. The sermon is given by the members themselves. The Bishop and his Counselors call on members of the Church in advance to prepare talks (sermons or speeches) on a specific topic. There are usually 2-3 talks each week, one of which is given by a youth over the age of 12 years old.