The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Rituals and Worship

Rites and Ceremonies

Mormonism is generally considered to be a liturgically simple faith because it lacks complex and ornate public rituals.  This is a reasonable assessment, but the private temple rituals are considerably more sophisticated. Although Mormons do not baptize children until they are 8 years old, Mormon infants are publicly named and blessed in a ritual that is performed in front of the child's home congregation.  This ritual, as with all public rituals, is performed by a lay male member of the Church who holds the Church's priesthood.  In most cases, this means that the father or husband of the family performs the ritual.  

The priesthood in the LDS Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is divided into two parts:  the lesser, or Aaronic priesthood, and the higher, or Melchizedek priesthood.  Only males are eligible for ordination, which occurs at the age of twelve for the Aaronic and eighteen for the Melchizedek.  

The most frequently performed public Mormon ritual is the faith's version of the common Protestant and Catholic rituals of "communion."  The Mormon ritual of "sacrament" originated with a revelation recorded by Joseph Smith in April 1830, which enjoined the Mormons to "meet together often to partake of the bread and wine in remembrance of the Lord Jesus."  This revelation translated into the practice of weekly sacrament meetings.  Individuals who have been ordained to the priesthood, usually younger men and boys with the Aaronic Priesthood, consecrate bread and water through formal prayers with a set wording. After the emblems are blessed, they are distributed to the congregation by other Aaronic priesthood holders.  This ritual is designed to renew the covenants that Mormons make at baptism to obey God's commandments, to remember in daily life the sacrifice of Christ, and to ensure that God's spirit may constantly accompany the participant.

Mormons practice baptisms by immersion, which are usually performed in fonts located in LDS chapels (although in some cases baptisms are performed in natural bodies of water).  This ritual is typically performed shortly after a child of Mormon parents turns 8 years old.  Like the sacrament, the rite of baptism follows a set prayer and can be performed by one holding the Aaronic priesthood, although often the child's father or an adult friend with the Melchizedek priesthood performs the ordinance. Adults who join the Church are also baptized following the same ritual.  

Baptism is followed by an accompanying rite that involves the conferral of the Gift of the Holy Ghost upon the newly baptized member.  This ritual must be performed by one holding the Melchizedek (or higher) priesthood who places his hands on the recipient's head and confers the gift.  Other rituals include the conferral of priesthood authority and the blessing of the sick.  In both cases, the rituals are performed by an individual who holds the Melchizedek priesthood placing his hands on the head of the recipient and speaking prayers without formal wording.

The private rituals of Mormonism take place within the Church's temples and may only be performed or witnessed by members of the Church who are in good standing. Although Mormons who have participated in these rituals take solemn vows not to disclose the specifics of the ceremonies to anyone, the LDS Church has published general descriptions of the rites.  The main temple ritual is called the "endowment" and consists of a recitation of the main events of sacred history, including the creation of the earth and the events that took place in the Garden of Eden, as well as a process of covenant making in which the initiate agrees to live according the teachings of the LDS Church.  Worthy Mormons also participate in ceremonies of "sealing" in which spouses are married for eternity and in which children are bound to their parents in an eternal family unit.  In both the endowment and sealing rituals, Mormons dress in ceremonial clothing, a practice that adds to the liturgical richness and complexity of the temple rites.

LDS temples are also the sites for rituals performed on behalf of the dead.  LDS doctrine maintains that individuals who die without knowledge of the true gospel must be provided with an opportunity to accept those teachings in the afterlife.  It is the responsibility of faithful Mormons to search out the genealogical records of their ancestors and to perform by proxy all of the sacred ordinances and rituals of Mormonism. Mormons are thus baptized, endowed, and sealed during temple rituals in which they stand in for those who are deceased.  The rituals performed in temples, in contrast to the public rituals, are presided over and, in the case of sealings, performed by individuals with special responsibility for temple work.

Mormons also perform simple rituals associated with death.  Mormon funerals tend to be occasions for large family gatherings, with an emphasis on the life of the deceased and the importance of eternal family relationships.  Mormons who have been through the endowment rituals are typically buried in their ritual temple clothing.  Often, the grave is dedicated by a Melchizedek priesthood holder through an informal prayer asking God to protect the grave and its occupant until the time of resurrection.

Study Questions:
1.     Why is Mormonism considered to be a liturgically simple faith? What rituals does it celebrate?
2.     Describe the ritual of communion as practiced by Mormons.
3.     How is the ritual of baptism performed?
4.     What rituals are associated with the dead? Why are they important?

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