When I served as a Bishop, I had the typical experiences that brought stress and growth. On one occasion I was asked to perform a wedding ceremony for two young people; the bride was a ward member and her fiancé was from up North somewhere (that is Millard County talk for anywhere north of Scipio). I take assignments like that seriously. An event such as this is somewhat complicated, so I felt a little stress. I conducted the wedding in the Ward meeting house where the traditional wedding march is not appropriate, so ahead of time I had asked for that not be part of their plans. At the wedding, the marriage license had to be signed by both spouses and the witnesses. My advice and comments to the bride and groom before the formal ceremony had to be memorable and nice. Everyone attending wanted or expected that everything be beautiful and run smoothly.
I made a few mistakes. I should have asked my wife to handle all the logistics so I could focus on the ceremony. I should have carefully went over the documents with the bride and groom before the service. These omissions caused the big mistake, I pronounced the last name wrong through the whole wedding ceremony. Afterward, when everyone was congratulating the bride and groom prior to beginning the wedding reception, the groom’s parents informed me of the mistake and stated they thought that I should re-marry them! I said, “That is not necessary, I married the people not the name.” The marriage was legal and binding and I realized that to redo the ceremony at that moment would have caused more damage than good to the evening. Luckily, they accepted the decision, but still, it was a bit of a flaw.
Conducting meetings can be tricky. You will all be called on to do it sometime in your church career, either in stake or ward auxiliaries, priesthood meetings or Sacrament Meetings. The following outlines some basic protocol for Bishoprics but is applicable to all:
Watch General Conference and follow the examples set by the First Presidency. Have the agenda written with sufficient detail to remind you of all details that need to be said.
· Say hymn not song
· Say hymn number not page number
· You are talking to a Congregation not an audience
· It is a Service not a meeting
· You are in the Chapel not the room
· Say Invocation- not opening prayer, Benediction- not closing prayer (except in Dutch)
Announce who is presiding.
· State full names and full titles, no abbreviations or nick names. Make it formal.
· If they are seated in the congregation, they are not presiding
· The High Councilman does not preside
Never speak after the presiding authority has spoken. Announce the closing hymn and benediction in advance of the presiding authority’s remarks.
Offer the presiding authority time to speak when he walks into any service or meeting.
Always assign a theme.
You are responsible for the whole service including the music. Always know what the hymns will be and approve them in advance. Plan or approve even prelude and postlude music, especially if by the choir.
Invite all speakers. You are responsible for the whole service, never turn planning over to someone else or one of the speakers.
Assign a clear time segment for each participant. It is disrespectful to the speakers who follow if their time is no longer available.
Stay on time; start on time, stop on time, do your best to keep speakers on time. It is a good idea to agree in advance how you will give the signal to quit if necessary.
Be on the stand 10 minutes before beginning. Use this time for meditation.
Before the service, always personally welcome participants and express gratitude for their effort to prepare and be there.
After the service, always congratulate and thank participants for their effort.
There are many do’s and do not’s but these are a few basic formalities. The Handbooks are full of protocols but these formalities will greatly assist you to conduct your meetings with more spirituality, respect for others and less distractions. Simply do your best. Be a humble and kind servant of the Lord and follow the spirit.
9 And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done. (Moroni 6:9)