Thursday, January 1, 2015

How to Hold a Mormon Meeting in 5 Easy Steps

"Find happiness in ordinary things, and keep your sense of humor."
- President Boyd K. Packer1

Are you in a position of leadership in your ward? Been newly called to the bishopric and now need to learn how to conduct a meeting? Or maybe you're just a member of a congregation and you want to know how to play your part better at church functions? Never fear. If you are new to putting on an LDS meeting there are many resources available to you. You can look up the exact procedures of conducting in the Church handbooks. These are valuable resources and if you follow their guidelines you'll do fairly well. But there's more to conducting a Mormon meeting than what you'll find in the book. Lucky for you, I am here to help. Here are some insider tips and pointers to make your next Mormon meeting a success. 

#1: Conducting Music

No Mormon meeting is complete without music, and every song must have a conductor. It doesn't matter if it's a well-rehearsed choir number or a song in junior primary, you must have someone up front directing the singers. Those in the congregation may mistakenly believe that they can sing the song without direction because they have sung it two hundred times before. But such a belief is false doctrine. All songs require a conductor, always, all the time.

When selecting your conductor for smaller meetings like Sunday school, don't worry about whether the candidate actually knows how to lead music. Odds are the pianist will be facing the opposite direction anyway, happily plunking away, heedless of the "conducting" going on behind him. That's okay. Just make sure someone is up front waving their hand and mouthing words and everything will go fine.

#2: The Two-Handed Hymnal Approach

There are important things to know about singing time for those in the congregation, as well. When you've got a full chapel, odds are there won't be enough hymnbooks to go around. That means some folks will have to share. Mormons have a very specific form of hymnal-sharing etiquette that must be observed to make the meeting run smoothly. Taking into account Alma's charge to "bear one another's burdens," all good Mormons know that if you are sharing a hymnbook with someone next to you, it is your job to hold the half of the hymnbook closest to you with one hand. 

No one knows why this is observed so strictly. The green songbooks tucked behind our pews are rarely so heavy that one needs help from a neighbor to lift it. Perhaps it just gives a feeling of closeness to the two people holding the hymnal. Regardless of the reason, this is a rule essential to any Mormon meeting.

#3: The Lingo

If it is your job to conduct the business of the meeting, you must not do so until you have learned the proper jargon. Church vernacular is complex and it takes a lifetime to really get a good grasp of it all, but here are a few rules of thumb to follow as a beginner. 

First of all, never refer to things by their obvious names. For instance, while everyone knows the room in the back of the chapel is a basketball court, it must always be referred to as a "cultural hall." Yes, I know there has never been a single "cultural" experience had in that room besides the occasional pack meeting (and those, too, often devolve into impromptu basketball games). This, however, is unimportant. The room's a "cultural hall." That's the story and it's your job to stick to it. 

Secondly, every Mormon meeting needs announcements. In the event that you find yourself with no upcoming activities to announce, simply make one or two up. Rest assured you will likely never find yourself in this situation, but just in case, be prepared to announce a ward social of some kind. (If anyone is awake enough to notice this and take it seriously, don't worry. It's the activities committee's problem now!)

Thirdly, every beginner is likely to forget to announce something to the congregation. The most common mistake is forgetting to acknowledge the presence of a visiting high council member. This is perfectly normal, but if you do make this mistake be sure to acknowledge it in these exact words: "I failed to recognize Brother so-and-so, who is seated on the stand with us today." Now you may want to say something like "I forgot to mention that so-and-so is with us," but this response is unacceptable. In a Mormon meeting, failing to recognize a visitor on the stand is just that: a failure, and it should be treated as such. (No one really knows why this is such a serious offense, but it is, and you should acknowledge your mistake as the failure it is in front of the congregation.)

#4: Giving a Talk

If you are assigned to give a talk in Church, yours is a very important part to play. To make your talk acceptable for a Mormon meeting, be sure to start off by saying how much you hate public speaking. It's helpful to include some anecdote about how devastated you were when the bishop called you and asked you to speak. Even if you end up taking forty minutes on what was supposed to be a ten-minute message, never forget to mention up front how much it bothers you to be at the pulpit in front of everyone.

Also, if you're unsure how to start your talk, an appeal to the dictionary is always a good bet. Define your word and then move on, completely forgetting about why you shared the definition in the first place. Mormons love that. 

#5: Refreshments

So you're meeting is over. Well done! But your job isn't quite done yet. Every Mormon meeting can be made that much better with refreshments. Because most of their sustenance is tied up in food storage, Mormons are always starving and a little post-meeting snack is always appreciated. Care should be taken that no healthy or nutritious foods are administered as refreshments. Rather, all refreshments should be cheap sugary confections. After all, the Word of Wisdom says nothing about doughnuts, so this is one earthly pleasure Mormons can celebrate together without shame. (Don't worry about the extra calories. All refreshments are usually 'blessed' beforehand and therefore magically reconstituted so as to nourish and strengthen everyone's bodies.) 

If you are a primary teacher, giving your students candy in high doses is recommended. Kids should always leave church on a sugar high. Not only does this reinforce the importance of quiet, reverent behavior, but it also forces parents to tend to their hyper children for the rest of the day rather than ignoring them to do such selfish activities as taking a nap.

So there you have it! You are now ready to put on your own Mormon meeting. Good luck. (Oh, and one last tip: when it comes to Mormon meetings, the longer the better.) 

1. Packer, Boyd K. "Do Not Fear." Ensign, May 2004.


  1. #1 is insulting to trained choristers. Most choristers don't stand where the pianist can see him/her & most pianists don't follow the chorister's beat. The chorister is supposed to set the beat & stand visible to the pianist, & the pianist is supposed to follow the chorister.

    1. This post is written in a spirit of sarcasm for the sake of humor, so I hope that came across. I agree with you about the chorister thing 100%! That's why I put it in here. When the pianist's back is turned then there's pretty much no point of having a chorister.