Manifest it

LDS South Meadows Ward

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints South Meadows Ward on Neil Road.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints South Meadows Ward on Neil Road.

Photo By David Robert

My visit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints South Meadows Ward provides yet another opportunity for me to express my ignorance while attempting, in my most well-intentioned manner, to give an idea what a particular religious service was like. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past several months writing this column, it’s that the deeper parts of our community’s religious traditions happen outside of the Sunday service.

In many ways, the chapel is set up similarly to other religious meeting places. There’s a high ceiling with simple hanging lights of black chrome, brass and frosted glass. There are wooden padded pews facing a sort of stage. In the Mormon case, the stage, which has several rows of seats for leaders, is called a rostrum. That’s where the organ sits. There’s a lectern in the center, called a pulpit. On the wall to the right, there’s a song list. On the left, a lace cloth covers a table, where the bread and water communion is prepared. In general, the décor is very simple: a combination of painted and unpainted bricks, varnished wood and windows with translucent draperies. I didn’t see any religious symbolism that I recognized, like crucifixes, although I did see a few portraits of Jesus, and it was plainly a Christian gospel.

In this Sacrament Meeting, my son, Hunter, and I were lucky enough to make the new ward’s first ever ward conference. All members voted for leadership positions with a show of hands: “Those in favor, manifest it. … Any opposed, manifest it.”

There were two primary speakers: Bishop Brent Farr and Reno Stake President Clair Earl. Bishop Farr talked about the importance of forgiveness, drawing from the Mormon Book of Moses and Matthew (Chapter 6: 9-15), the Sermon on the Mount from the New Testament. He related some personal anecdotes and went on to say that forgiveness is demanded by God of his faithful. President Earl continued in the same vein, talking—emotionally at times—of how he needed to forgive people, and he mentioned recent vandalism of LDS properties. He also went on to describe how members can discuss the Godhead with nonmembers—God exists as three distinct individuals: God, the Eternal Father, in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. As I understood it, it’s more of a partnership than a unified being.

This was, bar none, the most outgoing congregation I’ve met in my travels. People saw a stranger and his son sitting in the chapel, and they came over and introduced themselves. That included the Bishop and the President and several other people I later saw sitting on the rostrum. In fact, until the service started, the chapel was a bustling place. Another thing: Men, women and children were all dressed up for the service. I think I was the only man not wearing a tie.

The music was nice, the slightly old-fashioned hymns many people would expect to hear in a church. Communion was small pieces of bread loaves and individually portioned glasses of water. Trays were passed down the pews. I didn’t know whether visitors or non-members were expected to partake, so we didn’t.

The LDS service is essentially divided into three sections: the Sacrament Meeting (primary Sunday worship service), 9-10 a.m.; Sunday School and Primary (children from ages 3 to 12), 10:20 a.m.-11 a.m.; and the Priesthood and Relief Society (separate men’s and women’s classes), 11:10-noon. Anyone who decides to check out an LDS service should come prepared for three hours of participation, and for goodness sakes, wear your Sunday best.