RELIGION LIBRARY

Mormonism

Rituals and Worship

Sacred Time

Mormons, from the earliest days of the group, have maintained a relatively simple approach to sacred time and the liturgical calendar. Mormons celebrate Christmas and Easter, but they do not mark any of the other days of the liturgical calendars of Catholic and many Protestant Christian groups.

Like most other Christians, however, Mormons set aside Sunday as the "Sabbath." On this holy day, Mormons attend a series of meetings that typically last three hours. During these meetings, they participate in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper and attend classes that focus on scripture study and gospel principles.  The Sacrament meeting forms the core of the worship services and is attended by all members of the congregation. During this meeting, two or three members of the congregation share 10-15 minute talks prepared in advance on a topic often chosen by the bishop of the congregation.  Other classes are divided by age and gender. Mormons avoid shopping or attending recreational events on Sunday, and instead focus on attending meetings and spending time with family members.  In addition, Mormons set aside Monday evenings as a period of family togetherness. 

One Sunday a month, usually the first Sunday, is set aside for fasting. The Sacrament meeting on Fast Sunday consists of the sharing of testimonies by any members of the congregation who choose to participate. The Sabbath thus functions for Mormons as a sacred period designed to renew and refresh religious commitments and teachings before they re-engage with their regular lives of work during the week. Twice a year, in April and October, members of the LDS Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) gather for General Conference. During this two-day series of meetings, members of the Church are instructed on theology and doctrine via sermons delivered by members of the Church's governing bodies.  

Within LDS temples, the most liturgically sophisticated enactment of sacred time occurs.  During the ceremonies performed in the temples, Mormons ritually step out of time and into eternity, a change symbolized by the absence of clocks within the ordinance rooms of the temples. Some scholars of Mormonism have also suggested that the LDS emphasis on the heroic past of the earliest members of the Church, particularly as these stories and monuments relate to sacrifice and suffering, introduce a form of sacred time into the present in the form of a continually present and heroic past.

In addition to the lived experience of weekly sacred time, General Conference, family home evening, and the temple, Mormons also engage the idea of sacred time on a theological level.  Mormons believe that they are living in the final period of human history, which will end with the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, and that it is their duty to prepare the earth for Christ's second coming (the parousia).  

After the parousia, Mormons believe that Christ will reign on the earth and Satan will be bound for 1,000 years. During this period, Mormons will live and work on the earth, but will be able to do so without the temptations of Satan and without the interference of wicked persons. Mormons expect Christ to stand at the head of a world government during this period.  

LDS scripture also deals with God's conception of time, although conflicting scriptural passages complicate the subject. The Book of Abraham, a text that Smith claims to have translated from ancient papyrus scrolls that he found among some mummies he purchased in 1835, teaches that God does not exist beyond time, but that he experiences time differently than human beings, with one of God's days equaling 1,000 earth years. While technically part of LDS theology, the specific ratio of God's day to human years is considered by modern Mormons to be somewhat esoteric, and many Mormons probably are not aware of it. The majority of Mormons are more familiar with yet another formulation, drawn from the more widely-read The Book of Mormon, which holds that "all is as one day with God, and time is only measured unto men."


Study Questions:
1.     What holidays do Mormons share with Christians?
2.     Describe the Mormon understanding of the Sabbath.
3.     How do the temples transform understandings of time and space?
4.     What is the parousia? What will happen following it?

Back to Religion Library