Going to church while on vacation

I am on vacation in the Rocky Mountains with the family. We went to church today and there was an announced crowd at Sacrament meeting of more than 400 people. The reason they announced the crowd was that this was apparently a record. The chapel was filled, as well as the two overflow rooms, Primary and Relief Society. It took nine members of the Aaronic Priesthood 40 minutes to administer the Sacrament.

It was Fast Sunday, so we also heard some nice testimonies. During the testimonies, we learned that normally there are fewer than 100 people in the chapel for Sacrament meeting. The year-round residents were astounded but impressed to see so many people there for church.

When you go to Church on vacation you have to do a bit of planning. You need to bring something resembling Sunday clothes. When you have children, this adds a bit of stress because something is always forgotten. In our case, I forgot to bring a tie and a belt for my slacks. My wife forgot to bring a skirt. The kids forgot their Sunday shoes. So we were a motley crew sitting in the back today. But we were happy to be there among the Saints, and I don’t think anybody cared that we weren’t in our Sunday best.

I have been to Church literally around the world while on vacation or traveling for work. I regularly go to church near Waikiki in Hawaii. I have been to a small chapel in Puerto Montt, Chile where the members all kept their down jackets on throughout the service, even though the building was heated. I have been to chapels in London and Hong Kong. Sometimes I just stay for Sacrament — more often I stay all three hours.

I am happy to report that Church services in southern Chile are almost exactly the same as services in the U.S., Hong Kong and London. And I am also happy to report that people have been friendly and welcoming in nearly every chapel I have attended. So, the Church is true, even on vacation.

Feel free to share some of your stories about church services while traveling.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

12 thoughts on “Going to church while on vacation

  1. Thank you for the reminder about attending church even while on vacation. Our family will be vacationing at the Oregon Coast this coming week, and we plan to attend the ward there. Your comment about the services being the same in many parts of the world reminded me of a comment a returned missionary made to me some years ago after she had served in Spain. She said something to the effect that the church is like McDonald’s; you know what’s on the menu wherever you attend, and the same hymns are sung and the same sacrament prepared and passed, and the same doctrines taught. We’d all do well to remember that sometimes!

  2. I have a testimony of this. I’ve been to different places and the church has always been the same. It’s such a blessing.

  3. I remember attending services in Malta. I had taken a bus to services expecting to need to take a cab to catch my plane. But when I left, it turned out there was no cab running mid-day on Sunday. I ended up talking a local into giving me a ride to the airport and gave him all the coins I had (mostly Pounds and some Euros) – it was a big pile of golden coins, in any case.

    Some are dismayed at the standardization, but I like to think of Mormon congregations as similar to wines. Wines are fundamentally fruit juice, often grape juice. Yet each (I’m told) has a different bouquet that can change over time.

    In similar fashion, the sameness of Mormon congregational worship around the globe allows one to hone in on the true cultural differences between locations.

    One of my favorite memories of attending Mormon services on vacation was when we were in a primary sharing time that focused on the temple. This was in Columbus, Ohio, where the Church is located right next to the temple. So they were able to simply gesture towards the window where we could all see the bright beauty of the temple.

    This past month I attended the services held at Snowbird specifically for folks vacationing. They had relocated and altered the time to accommodate those attending the Mormon History Association Conference. Most MHA attendees only stayed long enough to partake of the sacrament, but a few remained for the Sunday School lesson that followed the Sacrament Service. I will remember that as a particularly moving experience, not hampered by the view of the mountains through the glass windows extending up two stories on all sides facing east.

  4. One of my favorite memories of attending church away from home was created in Ho Chi Minh City. One of the Gospel Doctrine classes was taught in English by an Austrian convert and his wife. We were discussing Nephi’s account of the Tree of Life vision, and the question arose: “Why should we keep our hands CONSTANTLY on the rod of iron?” Our teacher’s reply: “Because you don’t know when the mists of darkness will arise.” One of many wonderful Church experiences away from home.

  5. We were on a BYU Alumni trip and so there were many travelers who attended services in a ward in Italy. The Bishop stood and reminded the members of this poor ward that the ward members needed to come up with funds to help build a new building. After the services we travelers stood in line to give cash to the Bishop after the meeting. It was very touching and sacred to us.

  6. Once while at a ward of mostly first generation converts, outside of the USA, some ‘enlightened’ traveler from the USA informed gospel doctrine during a lesson on the law of Moses that “I don’t know what you hear out here, but big things are changing in Salt Lake with regards to gay marriage, much like Peter and his vision about bringing the gospel to the gentiles without the law of Moses. It’s only a matter of time.”

    The intended effect to clearly plant some are about the church shifting it’s stance on marriage doctrine as it were a law of Moses to be moved away from.

    Naturally, I didn’t let the comment go unanswered and simply pointed out it was Peter who announced the change not a class commenter, and we should know where to look for direction.

    So occasionally the vacationers sadly bring the wrong spirit to the wards they visit… not saying anything about that with the content here, but it’s interesting to think of the potential impact for good bad church tourists can have.

  7. We have always attended different wards when on vacation, usually just for sacrament meeting. We live in a small ward in a small stake on the other side of the world from Utah. We are often in a larger city to attend the temple and stay the whole weekend and enjoy different wards there. The chance to visit larger wards is always appreciated. The last few times we took the opportunity to visit a smaller ward but was all spoken in mandarin. That was a great experience, how much is still the same and you can follow even in a different language.

    In our usual stake we have a lot of Embassy staff from America. We enjoy them and welcome them, but find after a few months they like to start pointing out the things we do different than in the US. It is hard with some of these people to make them realise the differences are cultural not doctrinal. Just because it was done that way back home in the US does not mean it has to be done that way here, different not wrong (example the way the deacons stand when passing the sacrament, different callings that don’t exist in small wards).

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