Active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tend toward a very high degree of personal participation in the affairs of the Church, including its local administration. The absence of a paid, professional clergy means that leadership is heavily decentralized throughout the world, and most members contribute through voluntary efforts such as teaching or other service of various kinds.
The local congregational leader is called a bishop and typically serves in that capacity for about five years. On completion of his service, he may be assigned more senior responsibilities in a broader geographical area or, just as likely, return to less demanding service opportunities in his own congregation.
In a December 2004 interview with television talk-show host Larry King, President Gordon B. Hinckley responded to the question, “It’s hard to be a member, isn’t it?” President Hinckley said: “No, it’s wonderful. It’s demanding, great expectations, I should say so, but it’s wonderful.”
Regarding new members who join the Church, President Hinckley said: “They are put to work. They are given responsibility. They are made to feel a part of the great onward movement of this, the work of God. … They soon discover that much is expected of them as Latter-day Saints. They do not resent it. They measure up and they like it. They expect their religion to be demanding, to require reformation in their lives. They meet the requirements. They bear testimony of the great good that has come to them. They are enthusiastic and faithful.”
In addition to their designated regular service in the congregation, members may donate their time to support the Church’s welfare and humanitarian systems. That might involve contributing several hours from time to time at a local cannery where food is produced for the needy.
Members also contribute financially at a level that is surprising to many outside the faith. A typical active member donates a tenth of his or her annual income to the Church, in addition to monthly contributions to the needy.
Active Church members typically attend church services for three hours on a Sunday, divided into three different meetings. The main worship service is just over an hour and is known as sacrament meeting. Men and women give pre-assigned talks at the pulpit, and the congregation shares in hymns, prayers and the taking of the “sacrament” — the bread and water emblems of Jesus Christ’s atonement for the sins of mankind. The rest of the time is shared between Sunday school and classes for men, women, youth and children. All Sunday meetings are open to everyone, whether or not they are members of the Church.
High-school-age students participate in seminary — a five-day-a-week class that focuses on studying the scriptures. Depending on where the youth live, they could meet during the school day, before school or after school.