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Monday, September 21, 2009

The Need for Reverence: One Hour of Chaos Is Worth a Thousand Anti-Mormon Books

In the great battle for human souls, one hour of chaos in Sacrament meeting is worth a thousand anti-Mormon books.

One of the interesting insights one obtains in talking with non-LDS folks who have looked into our faith is just how difficult we members can make it for others to have any interest in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. The people who walk through our chapel doors for the first time to attend sacrament meeting may come with heightened expectations about the joys of worshiping with "the real" Church of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, for at least a few, what they find may disappoint or upset them - especially if they've been to a "real" church before, one like the Lutheran Church or the Roman Catholic Church where meetings are generally conducted professionally and where the congregation tends to be quiet and reverent.

Yes, of course, we Latter-day Saints are proud that we emphasize families and that we encourage whole families to attend our main worship service, Sacrament meeting, where children are welcome (for the most part). Many of our congregations and perhaps a majority of parents do a great job when it comes to reverence. But there are far too many problems. I would encourage all of us to step back and look at what's happening. Chances are we could do much better in many of our wards and branches. Apathy about reverence is not just making it hard for our fellow members to enjoy the meeting. It's keeping people away who could accept the blessings of the Gospel if only we weren't so inconsiderate. It's not just kids, of course, but adults as well who can talk and be sources of distraction in meetings. We need to be more sensitive to those around us and make sure we aren't creating barriers to the workings of the Spirit.

Here's email I received yesterday which reminded me that it's time to raise this issue again:
In our ward in [an East Coast city] it could only be described as somewhere between a picnic and chaotic event. Most families with children dump out their "activity bag" as soon as they claim a bench (which usually happens between when the Bishop starts and the Sacrament ends) and the snack fest ensues. It is becoming the trend for some children to wander from family to family to see what everybody else has. The loud voices, wandering, crunching and talking is killing me. The leaderships families are counted with the offenders, so approaching them, I fear, would be a direct offense.
First, let me say that we all need to be compassionate and tolerant of families with kids and especially the challenges of being a parent of young children. We want our families to feel welcome and our young mothers and fathers to be part of our worship. Kids will make noise, and we need to recognize that. Newcomers should be warned that it may be noisier than they are used to because we encourage whole families to attend and often have a lot of small children. But welcoming families and being understanding of parents with young children is not the same as embracing systematic chaos. We can do much better. Not only must we be understanding toward parents with energetic kids, but toward those who have come to sacrament meeting to learn and to worship.

Brothers and sisters, all the efforts our missionaries go through to get someone to walk through the door can be wasted if we neglect reverence. They can be wasted if you keep your screaming child in the chapel instead of immediately retreating elsewhere to be considerate to the rest of the congregation. They can be wasted if your idea of worship is to have a bench of children playing with electronic games and munching from three bags of snacks throughout the meeting, never attempting to pay attention to the messages from the pulpit. Yes, kids will be kids, but kids can be trained and might not always need a massive bag of toys and vast collection of snacks to sit quietly for an hour (but I know from experience that they can really help at times - but there are some poor choices to avoid here). One thing that helped with our four boys was preparing them during the week, teaching them how to sit quietly and providing instructions on what is appropriate and not in the chapel.

I suggest we all step back and consider what impact our family's behavior and our personal actions are having on people, including those who might be visiting for the first time.

Bishops, your own families face the special disadvantage of not having a father. At least not one there on the bench to help kids be reverent. As a result, your young family (if this fits) may well be one of the most challenging examples of poor reverence, even if your wife is a true supermom. You may need to get some help for your family or take special steps to prepare (I think most already do this). The example of reverence or chaos that your family sets will have an effect on the whole ward. You must be the driver for enhanced reverence. Your example, your instructions, and your inspired direction to the ward can help tame the chaos and create an atmosphere more conducive to the Spirit, one that will give visitors a chance at becoming members. How to improve reverence is worth prayerful consideration and periodic discussion in your ward council meetings. It affects some of the most fundamental aspects of the Church: our ability to worship meaningfully, and our ability to attract and retain members.

One hour of reverent worship, where members and visitors can feel the Spirit of the Lord, can be more influential than a thousand books and websites. Let's give people a chance!

76 comments:

Jared said...

Good post. I have to admit that mine is one of the offending families. I'm not sharing this to be defensive or looking for justification, I'm just offering my perspective. We have two young girls - 4 and not quite 2. The eldest sits quite well through sacrament meeting. The younger, however, is rambunctious and always has been. We have given her the [fake] Indian name "dances-in-the-aisle" for a reason.

She also eats throughout sacrament meeting. We do not want her to but she rarely eats breakfast before church because she is not hungry when she wakes up (we have early church and have to leave not too long after she wakes up). Thus, our problem is that if she does not eat in sacrament meeting she does not eat at all (other than a couple little snacks in nursery, which don't count). We try feeding her before church and/or in the car on the way but that only works some of the time. So she eats in (and sometimes throughout) sacrament meeting.

I grew up vowing my kids would not eat in sacrament meeting - I even imagined they'd sit still - that wish didn't make it very far. It is a struggle when you have high energy kids (ok, our oldest never had problems sitting through sacrament meeting so it's really just one high-energy kid). I think that as long as the goal is reverence, we are on the right track. I really think most wards are quite reverent even with the occasional screaming child or ones who sometimes flutter about like dancing butterflies.

I guess what I'm just saying is thanks to those who are understanding of our active child; some children just learn reverence very slowly. In church as our child starts eying the aisle, I often think of the experience Elder Ballard shared recently:

"The ward’s singing mothers’ chorus was providing the music, and I found myself sitting alone with our six children. I have never been so busy in my whole life. I had the hand puppets going on both hands, and that wasn’t working too well. The Cheerios got away from me, and that was embarrassing. The coloring books didn’t seem to entertain as well as they should. As I struggled with the children through the meeting, I looked up at Barbara, and she was watching me and smiling. I learned for myself to more fully appreciate what all of you dear mothers do so well and so faithfully!"

We try and work hard at reverence but sometimes it just takes time.

esodhiambo said...

I find it interesting how this message, almost without fail, comes from people who have not sat through Sacrament with young kids in a long time, or ever.

I agree it is an issue. I agree that we can do better. I just think we ought to place more emphasis on changing the behaviors of people who are actually in control of their behavior: adults who are perpetually late, people who sleep or read through the meeting rather than listening, adults and youth who leave to go visit in the hall, etc.

Anonymous said...

esodhiambo said:
"I find it interesting how this message, almost without fail, comes from people who have not sat through Sacrament with young kids in a long time, or ever.

I agree it is an issue. I agree that we can do better. I just think we ought to place more emphasis on changing the behaviors of people who are actually in control of their behavior: adults who are perpetually late, people who sleep or read through the meeting rather than listening, adults and youth who leave to go visit in the hall, etc."

Amen 1000x over!

Tony said...

Brother Lindsay, thanks for sharing. It isn't always easy to offer such advice or suggestions when it can strike a nerve with people. I agree with you, we can always do better. And I also agree that it takes time, and it's important to remember that no one is perfect. We should try our best, for the benefit of all.

Aelysium said...

@esodhiambo - Okay. I'm an opinionated person, so forgive me for the mile long post.
I am currently struggling with the task of corralling two young children (4 and 1) during Sacrament meeting, and I agree with the OP. With my first child we tried the toy and snack route for about a month before deciding that it was too messy, too noisy, and too distracting. Instead, we decided to buckle down and teach her from a young age that sacrament meeting was not a time for snacks or toys, but for sitting with mom and dad. I would give her a bottle,when she was young enough for one, but nothing else. Yes, sometimes she got rambunctious and bored. At that time either my husband or I would take her out and hold her in the hall, so as not to distract other people. Note that I say 'hold' her in the hall. Not 'let her run rampant in the hall'. I think that if you let them run around in the hall, then you're just teaching them that it's more fun out there, and they will never want to sit through sacrament meeting. I'm not going to say that it's easy to do things this way, because it's not. You won't be able to sit through an entire sacrament meeting for a while. But for us it has been a blessing, because since my oldest turned 2 she has been able to easily sit through sacrament meeting. We're still working on this with the youngest, who is more energetic than his sister, but we're not going to change our tactic. So. I know that it's a hard thing to do, and is easier to attempt when you start out with just one or two children, but I think that it CAN be done.

As for the wives of the bishopric, don't members without young children offer to help them? If a mother has 4 or 5 kids to look after, it makes it a bit difficult for her to take the rambunctious one out of the room.

Tom Rod said...

I agree with the sentiments.

But I wonder what of the Spirit? Missionaries are taught and stand by the fact that the Spirit is what teaches people. If people are turned away from the truths they have learned because of chaos in sacrament meeting, doesn't that beg the question of whether their hearts are soft?

The expectation that sacrament meeting should be a somber place is also fairly cultural. I was quite embarrassed during my mission as to the reverence of sacrament meetings until a mission program had us visiting congregations of other faiths. I saw that, in general, those that seek truth will do so despite the rambunctiousness of children.

This being said, I don't allow this to be an excuse for misbehavior in my own family.

I guess my point is that I see where you're coming from, and agree such a state would be nice, but is not a necessary or sufficient condition for conversion.

LDS Parent said...

Esodhiambo said: "I find it interesting how this message, almost without fail, comes from people who have not sat through Sacrament with young kids in a long time, or ever."

Sorry, but comes across as a bit condescending, in my opinion. Doesn't raising four boys count for something, or does one have to have kids in diapers at the moment to have an opinion that counts?

Some of the people who could do much better tend to discount the views and concerns of those who are trying to enjoy sacrament meeting without screaming kids of their own. Those people count, too, and their concerns should not be ignored or belittled.

Whiplash said...

Reverence is not a necessary or sufficient condition for conversion - absolutely - but irreverence is a sufficient cause for walking away from the LDS faith forever. That's the point.

Don said...

Simple solution: affix consequences to irreverance.

Case in point: each of our four kids (aged 9 to 3) starts off with 3 scoops of ice cream before we enter the church. If they violate any of the handful of rules, they lose one scoop. This is communicated to them by me simply holding up 1, 2 or 3 fingers.

The rules: no talking, unless something really needs to be said and if so, then it is a whisper. No getting up during the meeting to go to the bathroom or to get a drink. No whining or crying.

Since my wife is in primary, she can enforce the rules in hours 2 and 3.

During Sacrament Meeting, the kids are to sing the hymns and to sit reverently until the sacrament is over. Once the sacrament has been admisistered, they can quietly doodle in a note-books. There are no toys and no snacks at church.

They struggled the first 3 weeks, but have since done superbly. To give them extra incentive, if all them earn all three scoops, then everyone gets a 4th scoop.

It's a wonderful feeling being able to listen to the talks again!

Virginia Brown said...

Orson Scott Card wrote an excellent article about helping children learn to be reverent in Church, and, incidentally, how to be respectful of other people's rights. It is archived on the Meridian website at meridianmagazine.com/ideas/070926story.html
I highly recommend the method he explains.

Cub said...

This whole discussion is disgusting. Quit manipulating your kids and just love them. Can you imagine Jesus worrying about the reverence of children? The Jesus I know would not belittle children by making them the objects of our control in the way you all are.

dans said...

I have finally been able to convince the Family ( 5 kids) no snacks in church. Toys are also gone, They have some paper they can doodle on after the sacrament is passed. My problem now is dealing with all the snacks my Kids teachers are giving, which are brought into Sacrament( Brownies, fudge, cookies, bags of candy. Each week it is something new.

When I started teaching Sunday school- I asked the class what they expect in the class, and the first Response was Good treats.

Fun Stuff.

dans said...

Cub.

In regards to manipulating your kids, just love them. Isn’t the role of a parent to teach your Children how to interact with themselves and others in appropriate ways?

Parents teach many things over the course of their Childs life. From Birth you start to train Your Child on how to eat, walk etc. As they grow older you teach them Hygiene, Interpersonal skills, rules relating to social Situation.

How is teaching them to be reverent for a 1 hour time period (to respect those around you in the service) any different from all the other time you spend teaching your Children?

When Christ said Love the little Children, he was not giving them Carte Blanche to do whatever they want. Love does not equal being a permissive parent. You can Love your Child and Still set rules and make them responsible for living up to the rules.

Anonymous said...

LDS Parent said "Some of the people who could do much better tend to discount the views and concerns of those who are trying to enjoy sacrament meeting without screaming kids of their own. Those people count, too, and their concerns should not be ignored or belittled."

Allow me to share a brief story which took place in my parent's ward in UT a few years ago (FYI, a longtime and current member of the ward is now in the Q of the 12).
A woman in the ward was a member, but her husband and young child were not. After many years of trying, she was successful in convincing her husband to finally attend a sacrament meeting for the very first time. At this meeting, they sat in the row in front of my parents, who thus had a front-row seat as to what transpired. The nonmember husband lovingly assisted his young daughter through the meeting, helping her read quietly from a book and draw even though she was somewhat restless. Despite his best efforts, however, at one point, a woman in the row in front of them turned around and said, simply and brusquely: "You're ruining it for me!" Stunned, the father soon left the meeting and took his daughter to the foyer. Although my father followed him immediately and attempted to reassure him that the comment was out of line and that he and his family were welcome, the damage done could not be undone. Unsurprisingly, they have never returned.

To paraphrase the original post, perhaps one hour of forbearance on the part of certain members, particularly those who are inclined to censure and destroy the fragile "little ones" just starting out in the Gospel because they are not up to their expectations, is worth a thousand anti-mormon books, or a thousand doors knocked by a missionary, or whatever...

Yes, reverence in sacrament meeting is desirable and is a goal to always be striving towards. But when pursuit of the goal (and/or our own "needs" and "desires" as to what WE want or expect or "deserve" to get out of a particular meeting) blind us to the needs and concerns of others, particularly those in more difficult or trying circumstances than ourselves, perhaps it's time for us to reevaluate the relative locations of the mote and the beam.

bubbatis said...

I attend a ward with many small children and babies. Amazingly,there is little chaos going on. Of course they the wee ones are not ever completely silent. Usually there is just a low hum of small noises with some occasional crying. I don't think we could do any better with so many children under 4. Where the chaos happens is just before and just as Sacrament meeting is starting. This has been the problem in every ward I have ever attended.

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids, so forgive me if I come across as insensitive. I know that it is a very challenging thing for parents to control their kids during sacrament meeting, but......It really is a problem for people like me, and investigators. It is so distracting. For goodness sakes please have a babysitting exchange with parents from wards that are at a different hour. Find a way to get someone to watch your kids during that time. I am seriously so sick of the constant noise when I am desperately trying to feel the spirit, trying to take the sacrament in a way that is meaningful to me. My friend who I recently have brought to church with me has mentioned that he has a hard time listening to the talks because there is so much background noise, so much distraction from the children. Although he sincerely is trying to get something out of church, he is not able to because of the children. I am increasingly losing respect for parents who refuse to take their noisy kids out in the hall (where they could still hear the talks). Or sometimes they do it after their child has already made plenty of noise, at which point in my opinion, they did not act soon enough. I know I don't know what it's like, but I swear that if I ever have kids some day, I will not have them come to sacrament meeting until they are old enough to understand and respect the way they are supposed to behave. I will find a way for someone to watch over them for one hour - if there is a will there is a way. I am so sick and tired of the kids. I know I should be more Christ-like, but they grate on my nerves increasingly. Taking the sacrament is the most important part of going to church, and the spirit of it is lost with all the kids and parents with no respect for what other people are there for. Sacrament meeting is really not meant for children. Sacrament meeting is not meant to be a test to our reaction to noisy children either. It is for adults. Parents, have some respect please. Shut up your kids. Get a babysitter. Please, whatever it takes, keep your noisy kids out of sacrament meeting, I am begging you. You just have no idea the negative impact your children have on those who really need the spirit, who need PEACE who are sincerely trying to be spiritually uplifted. Noisy children completely distract from that, and every non-mormon friend I have ever brought to church has noticed it, and did not like it, and found it very very distracting. I find it a waste to bring anyone to church anymore, because of your noisy children. Please find another way. Please keep your noisy children OUT of sacrament meeting altogether - they do not belong there, they really don't. They are not getting anything out of it, and I'm sure it's hard for their parents to get anything out of it either, having to constantly try (and fail) at keeping them quiet.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anon @ 3:52, for illustrating the mindset of A)those willing to speak conclusively, though in total ignorance and inexperience and B) those on whom the Savior's instructions to the disciples in Matthew 19:14 are clearly lost.

Anonymous said...

There are two hours of church where the children can be free and loud, without taking away from the experience of sincere investigators or actual members of the church (those who are 8 and above). Yes, I am totally ignorant and inexperienced when it comes to being a parent because I am not one. But that doesn't excuse bad behavior during a meeting when a sacred ordinance is being administered and should be treated with reverence.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should give each child a tablespoon of Nyquil before leaving home. Problem solved.

L-D Sus said...

If my spouse would let me, I'd gladly sit outside in the lobby with my crazy young children. Damned if you do...damned if you don't.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering - is there a rule about bringing young children to general conference? If young children are not allowed, why aren't they?

Señor Dangriga said...

Snacks, etc. are a minor point point of contention between my wife and I. For my part, the kids can go two or three hours at home without a snack, so why not at church? (they are 9, 6, 4 and 2). Our "activity bag" consists of a few diapers, some "Friends" and as few snacks as I can get away with, usually a single baggy of goldfish. I think kind of undermines the purpose of sacrament when the kids start to identify it as "snakament" becasue we enable such thinking by making it snacktime anyway. Encouraging irreverance in our kids by enabling it is a bad habit we all can break.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 4:19: I also was wondering - are tickets necessary to attend an LDS sacrament meeting? If tickets are not required, why aren't they?

Mormanity said...

Anonymous @3:21, that's a wonderful comment, and I think that's the perspective we need. Respect and understanding for each other - including awareness of how excessive noise may distract others, but also respect for the need for parents to bring their children and partake with us of the blessings of the Gospel. Those who are irritated have the opportunity to seek Christlike patience for the children or adults who annoy them -- may we never be so rude and selfish as to express anger toward another in the midst of a worship service, though the temptation may be great.

Personally, having raised kids and really enjoying the presence of kids, the noise rarely bothers me. It's in talking with others, especially visitors, less active members, and even former formers, where I have learned to be more sensitive to the importance of reverence. I think some folks have over-reacted, but it's still useful for us to know of the concerns they may have and to go the extra mile to help them out.

But please, don't expect the meeting to be a shrine devoid of noise, until we get that Cone of Silence to finally work. Asking parents to use babysitters (Anon@3:52) would be great for some, but completely foreign to the purposes of the Church of of Jesus Christ, the Church of Him who said "Suffer the children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of God." It wasn't "Suffer the sleeping and highly medicated children who don't wiggle to come unto me." Children. They are supposed to come to church with their families, and they are going to make some noise.

BUT I HAVE GOOD NEWS! For those looking for a truly quiet and reverent place to draw close to the Lord in worship and prayer, we have just the place for you in the LDS Temple. As you go through an Endowment session or sit in the Celestial room, you will notice that it is remarkably quiet and reverent, and that there aren't small children there. That's the ticket!

Meanwhile, some wards are doing a great job. It is doable. There's no need for a sense of chaos in the meeting. If we work together as a community to enhance the worship experience, we'll be inclined to be more tolerant and maybe even helpful toward families with small children who otherwise might annoy us, and if we have a busy bustling family, we'll understand that our efforts to keep noise at a normal level or better can help reduce problems for others.

Mutual respect, patience, charity, and reasonable expectations are needed.

Anonymous said...

I asked if there was a rule about young children being allowed to attend general conference. I am not aware of any rule, but it seems that in general, it is discouraged. I think the reason is because young children are noisy and distracting. If discouragement of their attendance is a reality, then why isn't the same rule applied to sacrament meeting?
Tickets are required to attend general conference because so many members want to go, and there is not enough room for all the people who want to go. Tickets are NOT required to attend sacrament meeting. I don't know why, but maybe one reason is because people are deterred from going there in the first place because of all the noisy children

Sedleys+1 said...

There needs to be a special room in every ward building for mothers and fathers to go to with there young children. A place where children can be children and the adults can listen to the meeting via a sound system. This place should not be the foyer or halls and also not the sacrament room. This would allow for adults without young ones to have a revrent meeting and also it allows parents of young children to not feel ashamed for bringing an exuberant one year old to church. This of course is just my opinion.
I remember countless times when I have felt guilty for coming to church with my baby. Even walking the hall with him while he cried made me feel uncomfortable. I wanted to be at church but i felt I was being disruptive. The halls or outside was the only place I could go. Our Mother's room was a closet in the bathroom. Now that my child is a few months older it brings about new complications. Where do we belong? Shouldn't we be able to partake of sacrament and have our family with us?
By the way I have heard of room like this in ward building in Utah.

Silver Spork said...

To Anon @3:52 - I'm in 95% agreement with you. I don't think removing the kids would be productive (or possible), but parents really do have to make an honest effort. I grew up in a small branch - food and toys during sacrament meeting were not allowed and it was quiet.

In my current ward, I have a difficult time hearing the speaker and see very few parents making an effort. I got so angry with the lack of respect for other members that I had to stop attending church for most of the summer. The urge to interrupt the meeting or make a comment during testimony meeting was too strong and I didn't want to speak in anger. I nearly went to the local Quaker Meeting to get some peace and quiet.

I am trying again this fall, and am considering going to the bishop with my concerns. My other option would be to sit in the foyer until the sacrament is passed, and then go home.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to add (I am the one that suggested that parents get a babysitter for that hour) that when I go to sacrament meeting, I truly do try to be understanding, I try my very best to get what I can out of the meeting, and I do often ask myself the question, "What would Jesus do?" And I try to have good feelings in my heart towards those who take away from the spirit and purpose of sacrament meeting. I just really had to vent here, because sacrament meeting yesterday was so loud. And sometimes I feel like some parents just don't care what other people (non-parents) are going through, and thus allow their children to take over sacrament meeting. I know that I am being a little unkind, but this is an issue I have been wrestling with. There must be a better way so that those who are trying to get something out of sacrament meeting (aside from learning how to have nice warm feelings about children who are distracting from the ordinances and talks) can be uplifted. I don't believe that the purpose of sacrament meeting should be revolved around learning how to deal with children (or their parents) in the best most Christ-like way. Though that is important, I don't believe it is the ultimate purpose of sacrament meeting. Sometimes I feel like parents with small children just don't care about what some non-parents are going through, or what their needs are. I understand that a parent has a lot on their plate, and I am sorry that they have to deal with difficulties associated with having children. But that does not mean that non-parents don't have difficulties or less important problems. Sacrament meeting should be a place of peace and reverence. It should be a place where investigators are given a good chance to feel the spirit. I know parents are very sensitive about this issue when people like me vent about this, and I am sorry if I have offended anyone. There are so many countless opportunities in the church for children to be noisy without it taking away from things that are sacred and important. I love the temple because of the peace it brings. But sacrament meeting should also be a peaceful, reverent meeting. That of course is just my opinion. I wish the church would come up with some policy about this. Maybe recruit a committee of a rotating group of adults and young women who could overlook the children during sacrament meeting. I am just very frustrated because week after week after week, sacrament meeting in my ward has been so incredibly noisy. I do my very best to follow the teachings of Christ, I really truly do. I know that Christ has open arms to the little children, but cant those arms be opened to them in a different room during sacrament meeting? There are three hours of church. The one where there are investigators, where ordinances take place should be reverent, conducive to the spirit. I don't want to sound like I hate children. But there is a time and a place for certain things, and in the church, sacrament is not the time or the place for children to be noisy and irreverent.

Anonymous said...

I have kids and you know what? They just do NOT belong in Sacrament. When they act up, it is pure hell for me and everyone else. I loathe Sacrament meeting and I would sell my soul to have a jr Sacrament mtg or nursery to take them to so for an hour, I could worship in reverance and silence and they could act like kids are supposed to act. Before I had kids, I loathed kids in Sacrament, too. I was in a ward in DC and it was the most embarassing thing to see investigators try and sit through that chaos. I've been to Superbowl parties that are more reverant and dignified than those Sacrament meetings. There was one kid in that ward who was so poorly behaved it was mindblowing and mom and dad thought it was funny and cute to take him in and out of Sacrament, on average 9 times (I counted) per meeting. One time he chucked a truck across the pews and hit someone in the back of the head. hahaha, isn't that funny? And another time, I girl ran up to the door in the front of the chapel and pounded on them screaming "let me out of here" in the middle of the Sacrament being passed. I took my boyfriend with me one Sun and after about 15 minutes he said "I'm leaving. I can't hear anything and this is a waste of time." And he walked out and that was that. I couldn't even blame him. I was horrified. Those uncomfy pews, boring speakers (usually boring for us big people, let alone little people), they can't see over anyone's heads, they have no idea what anyone is talking about... Sorry, but kids don't belong, our Sacrament meetings can sometimes be intolerable for anyone. Sure, kids need to learn of the Savior and the Savior loved children but really there is a time and place for kids and while you might think your screaming little ones are cute, let me tell you you're about the only one who feels that way. Snacks are the least of the problem. I take some gummy bears for my kids and it keeps them quiet for about 10 mins and if that keeps them quiet, then it's worth it. Please, a parents' room that is comfy and soundproofed is DESPERATELY needed. This church is swimming in dollars and swimming in children. Surely it would be worth the investment.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 5:35 said: "I know that I am being a little unkind".

Perhaps such an admission should serve as your clue that your attitude is not in harmony with the standard set for you by the Savior, who was never unkind nor condones it in us.

Thus, it appears that with respect to the current conversation, we have clearly established the location of the beam.

I wonder if the children you are so eager to condemn would speak unkindly of you? I'd wager not. Interesting to see that they would judge you with such a forgiving standard, yet you appear to be unable to apply such to them in return.

Remember, the Savior has promised that the standard which you mete will be meted to you in turn...

Anonymous said...

anon @ 5:48
I am so grateful for the atonement. The Lord knows I do my best and that is all I can do. He will make up for where I fall short. Interesting that you seem to zero in on one statement that I made, which I was willing to admit about myself. Forget anything else I said.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 5:53 said "I am so grateful for the atonement. The Lord knows I do my best and that is all I can do. He will make up for where I fall short."

As he will for the parents of the children that so annoy you. The children themselves, meanwhile, are pure and need no such assistance.

If you believe your statement regarding the Atonement, why do you then feel the need to fill the role of Satan as the "accuser"? Perhaps you feel entitled to criticize those who fall short in different ways than you do. Or perhaps you feel that the the parents require your assistance bacause the Savior is not "making up" for their shortcomings in a manner acceptable to you?

The double standard you have elucidated here is stunning.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 6pm
I know that the Atonement will make up the difference for everyone in one way or another. The Lord is just and merciful. I am expressing my honest feelings that have an impact on me - and many others. I don't care if children are noisy. I do care when parents don't do anything about it during a meeting that should be reverent. I have no desire to contend with you. You don't know me. Like I said before, I am sorry if I offended anyone. It is not my desire to offend anyone. This is a real issue. People are negatively affected by it. Investigators are negatively affected by it. I believe there are solutions. I am saying how I feel, not to put anyone down, but to let it be known that sacrament meeting is not always what it should be because parents don't control their children. Some parents seem to think it's ok for their kids to be noisy during this time. Many do their best and that is all they can do and the Lord will bless them. I have no desire to fight with you or anyone. I do desire for people to feel the spirit. I desire for investigators to have a positive experience at church, and not be turned off because of the chaos that is happening in what is supposed to be a reverent meeting.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 6:08 PM said "I do desire for people to feel the spirit."

These and other desires you indicated are good things.

However, as you are aware, the Lord has indicated that we can tell our true desires through our actions.

Have you acted in any way to assist those whose children are unruly, particularly those who may be single parents or otherwise in particular need? Have you offered to assist in calming a child? Have you spoken to your bishop regarding the issue of reverence in sacrament meeting, in love, and offered your assistance to your fellow ward members out of a desire to improve the spirituality of your meetings?

Or rather, have you merely posted on a blog regarding your dissatisfaction, with statements like "Sacrament meeting is really not meant for children" and "I am so sick and tired of the kids"?

If the latter is the case, I'd submit that your actions indicate that what you in fact desire is not to be bothered or distracted by children during "your" meeting, all your positive protestations to the contrary. Talk is cheap, and actions show the truth.

Anonymous said...

to anon @ 6:21
Like I said, you don't know me. You don't know all I have tried to do. I am only one person and every ounce of my help is still not enough to solve this problem. I suggested a new church policy, which I believe is the ONLY answer to this problem. It can be done, and it sure would make a difference for a lot of people, both parents and non-parents alike. I also have investigators in mind. That is a big issue for me because they have nothing to gain by going to church if they can't feel the spirit. I am not here to defend myself, or to talk about the things I do to help others. I am not here to talk about how only "my" meeting is so affected. I just had to vent about how not only me, but many people, including investigators are affected by this. People can try to help others as much as they can, but the reality is that nothing short of a new church policy will solve this problem.

Anonymous said...

I would like to say one more thing to 6:21.
Talk is not cheap. And actions don't always reflect what a person is really thinking or what is in their heart. You could be doing everything by the book, but in your heart and in your mind you could be nothing but a judgmental self-righteous fool. It is not for me or for you to make that judgement about another person. The Lord looks at our hearts. We could be doing all the expected things but just because our actions say one thing does not mean that our minds or our hearts are in the same place. We will be judged just as much by what is in our thoughts and in our hearts, perhaps even more so, than by what our outward actions are.

Anonymous said...

Anon @6:21: Seriously, you sound more judgemental and self righteous than than than... anyone complaining of kids, in my opinion. Good grief-- this is about showing reverance and respect in CHURCH of all places. Is there NO WHERE where silence and stillness and peace away from noise is appropriate? If kids screaming in any church service is OK, why not let them in General Conference? Seriously, WHY NOT? Because it would be distracting and inappropriate? Why not bring them to temple worship? I mean, an infant wouldn't hear/understand/remember anything, so why NOT??

Mormanity said...

Whew, calm down folks. This is a chance to learn from other perspectives, not get all judgmental on others who have complaints or views we disagree with. I really object to the anonymous condemnations going back and forth.

Most LDS families are probably doing their best. Some have no clue about the challenges they pose for others. Learn from this discussion. But we've got to pull together as a community, and that means putting up with the challenges of age diversity from the low-end of the spectrum, while trying to respect the needs of those of others regardless of where we are in the age and family spectrum. Pointing to the beams in each other's eyes or identifying one another's character flaws is not the path forward.

Maybe I shouldn't have said anything, eh? But I am hoping that those who are willing to learn and listen might get something from the diversity of perspectives shared here. Maybe we can make some improvements in a few wards that need it.

lrhgenes said...

I am a parent of two rambunctious preschool boys. I loved meeting in our old-style building which had a glassed-in cry room where I could sit and watch/hear the speakers/music and the boys could wiggle a bit after they'd done their best to sit still and quietly as long as they could.

Unfortunately, the new ward building doesn't have a cry room AND our ward meets in the middle of the day (Sacrament meeting time encompasses lunch and naps; Primary and admin meetings replace snacktime). While one son has learned to sit through Sacrament meeting quite well (except for the occasional urgently needed bathroom break) the other can't do it.

We try to be sensitive to the folks around us and have tried sitting several different places - up front where the kids can see/hear; near the doors where we can make a quick escape; on the folding overflow chairs where there's some room to stretch legs. No particular place seemed better than any other, and since nobody was getting anything out of the meetings (if we stayed, the kids disrupted the meetings and we felt bad; if we took the kids to the halls they'd either scream in joy or in anger, and we felt bad).

So now we skip Sacrament Meeting altogether. We're not exhausted and stressed from dealing with the kids and the rest of you don't have to put up with us. Enjoy your spiritually uplifting, quiet meetings without us interfering with your needs.

But if you'd like to wrangle the kids so I could have a chance to be child-free for an hour and feed my soul, stop on by the house and I'll take up your babysitting offer. I'm with them 24/7 and I'd love a spiritual break. Unfortunately, it ain't happenin' any time soon, as far as I can tell.

Oh, and if you're feeling particularly adventurous, try this: For 70 minutes, go sit on a bench where your feet don't reach the ground while someone you cannot see speaks in a language you don't really understand about something that you cannot comprehend (how do you explain "eternity" to someone who doesn't understand "tomorrow"). (This is easy to do at home with all the foreign-language TV/radio stations. Just remember, you're not allowed to watch the screen.) Be sure to do this when you're tired and hungry.

Then come back and tell us what a wonderful experience it was and how willing you'd be to try that once a week for the next year.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 7:13 - another commenter here. I know this is only tangentially related to the topic that has been discussed, but I felt I had to jump into the discussion for the first time. You stated We will be judged just as much by what is in our thoughts and in our hearts, perhaps even more so, than by what our outward actions are.

I disagree. See Alma 5:15, 36:15, 42:27, D&C 64:10-11, 1 Nephi 15:32-33, Mormon 3:20, and many, many others - check the topical guide under "Deed", "Judge", and other related entries. Remember the parable of the two sons.

bunker said...

I have an idea. I feel for you anon. You could go to a singles ward sacrament meeting then return to your ward for the rest of the block

Anonymous said...

I think that singles wards should be abolished. I also think that a person could be doing all the right actions but have a black heart inside. A person could be doing all the right things outwardly, but thinking and judging in ways that are not how Christ would think or judge. We are all guilty of various things. Our thoughts and our hearts absolutely do matter, and they will be taken into account when we are judged. I am not saying that we will not be judged by our actions. What I am saying is that it is not just what we do, but what we think, what we say, and what is in our hearts. Obviously I have touched some nerves by my forceful posts on how I am so sick of hearing noisy children during a meeting that is supposed to be reverent. I have my opinions, and am not trying to put anyone down. I know parents struggle with this. But parents aren't the only ones who are struggling. I think some people here have cherry picked some of the things I have said without looking at the whole context of what I have been trying to say. Some comments that have been made here are the type of comments that give mormons a very bad name. I know I have my faults and am willing to admit to them. I am willing to apologize, and to mean it in my heart. I have done that. I am continually sorry for everything that I do and say that is wrong. I am doing my best, but sometimes I feel very discouraged and tired of it all. The first comment I made here I was just raging inside because I have been trying so hard to get through church, to just get through life. I have been trying to bring someone very important to me to church that he may be uplifted, and it's not happening because there is a lot of chaos and distraction. I want to be forgiving and understanding, but I can't help but feel ticked off when a noisy child is allowed to sit in front of me and my investigator, while we are trying the best we can against our own struggles that we are dealing with, and the parents are doing absolutely nothing about it. They are just allowing it to continue. I see this happen over and over and over, and yes, I am so sick of it that it makes it even harder for me to be the kind of person I want to be. It doesn't help members of the church. It is very bad for investigators. It is self-centered and selfish. I am not saying all parents are like this. Of course they are not. But some are, and I am sick of it.

Anonymous said...

And I am sorry if what I say is offensive to anyone. I am sorry if I come across as a servant of Satan. That is not what I want to be, that is not what I am trying to be. We should be trying to support each other. I am sorry how mad I was for telling parents to keep their noisy kids out of sacrament meeting altogether. But I also have to be honest that sometimes, that really is how I feel. I smile and am nice and I am doing my best to be a good person. And maybe that's why some parents think it's ok to just let sacrament meeting turn into a nursery. Maybe they think that everyone is happy and unaffected by their children, that there aren't struggling people who really need to hear and feel the things that are being spoken. Maybe they just feel that because Christ loves the children that children should be allowed to do whatever they want. I don't have the answers to this. I respect the parents who take their children out at the appropriate time. But the ones who just sit there and do nothing about it, or who bring noisy toys for their children to play with, it is hard for me to respect that. I want to respect it but I can't. I am not trying to stir up anything negative but I just feel like I don't even matter. Just like how someone suggested that maybe I should just go to a singles ward. That doesn't help anything. Not every single person is meant to go to a singles ward. I think that singles wards shouldn't even exist. We should all be in the same ward, single or not. We should be supporting each other, and thinking about how our actions or lack of action could be affecting others. I feel very bad for what some parents have to go through, especially after reading some of their comments. I don't ever want a parent to feel bad or embarrassed because their child is being disruptive. I have compassion for those who have multiple children who cannot handle them all. I am in awe of anyone who has children, because I don't believe I could do it and maintain my sanity. And maybe some people cannot understand why a person might need to have a reverent sacrament meeting. But I am here to say that I need it. And I know others do to.

Mormanity said...

Lrhgenes tells us that their family doesn't come to sacrament anymore to avoid disrupting the meeting with the inevitable noise from their kids. Ouch. That's a worst case scenario, and an example of why we need to make sure that families know they are welcome - and in this case, missed - kids and all.

One thing I did a few times at the especially noisy stages was to go sit in a room elsewhere in the building that had a speaker connected to the chapel - these rooms usually have a black dial on the wall for setting the sound level - and listen in for a while until I felt I could return, then try to return between talks or during a song to be less disruptive. Hopefully you can find a way to still have at least one of you present for much of the meeting - how sad that you're missing out completely now.

catholic defender said...

Good Morning All,

Something I'd point out as an outsider, sitting through many of your meetings. The lack of reverence does show to your visitors. I don't mean that to be offensive; what I mean is that someone coming into your chapel, sees and hears everything that you do and say; they're there to investigate what you're telling them. Consider what you are telling people when you are out prosyletizing. You're saying to those folks, come to our church because we have the truth and God dwells there. I realize that isn't exactly the words used, but that is the message conveyed. So those folks when they come to your chapels, are coming with the idea that God is present. If they arrive and find chaos, then it will be very difficult to change that impression, and the question will arise of how can God possibly be present here?

What does seperate mainstream Christian Churches from LDS is the reverence shown. As a Catholic, I learned from a very early age that one showed reverence in Church because Christ was present. As Catholics we kneel at just about everything as a sign of reverence. Catholics unlike every other denomination actually believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist, we don't celebrate communion as a rememberence of Christ, we celebrate with Christ actualy there, so from that perspective, its easy to expect reverence because there is a clear reason to be reverent. That clear unambiguous reason isn't present in an LDS Chapel. I can't say that I always was reverent though, but it was expected of me from my parents.

I think the expectation of the parents is key here. My father believed very strongly that children needed to be allowed to be in church. In fact, he walked out of mass once when he found out that there was a crying room for children. Didn't leave the church over it, just didn't go back to that church. His expectation from his children was that they'd attend mass, and behave in church. If that's what's expected by the parents, and the expectation is conveyed clearly to the children, then children generally like to please, and will respond.

If on the other hand, parents bring toys and snacks to church, then you are conveying the message to your child that church is a place to eat and play. Your expectation from your children then becomes one of not expecting reverence from your child. That's problematic if you want your child to be reverent and respectful in service. Children test limits though, and they are not going to be perfect, and they are not always going to be reverent. They are going to wander down the aisles from time to time. My wife and my solution for that was to have our child stand in the corner, in the back of the sacrament meeting, in front of everyone who could see. He didn't wander down the aisle a second time. Saying no to your children is okay, disciplining them is okay, and its good for them.

The point is, God welcomes even the noisy little children into his presence. I rather think he prefers the noisy little children to us enlightened, know it all adults. Children are a joy to be around, adults just share their problems. We as parents just have to do our best to teach our kids the right times to be noisy and play, and when to be reverent. Sometimes we will fail miserably, sometimes we'll succeed. John Denver once wrote, some day are diamond, some days are stone. That's very true. Just remember though, that your visitors are watching everything that happens in your chapels, they are forming thier impressions based on those observations, and first impressions are the ones that stay with us the most.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

John Mansfield said...

If the bishopric refrains from going up to those in the chapel before sacrament meeting to discuss the affairs of the ward, and instructs the other leaders they meet with in ward council to also refrain in that place, then most of the distractions from reverence will be eliminated without talking to parents about noisy children.

Anonymous said...

When I was a first-time mother, Sacrament Meeting became a constant battle with a very active 2 year old--I stopped going when the time was during his nap time and I KNEW it was not going to go well. Then I had a prompting that reminded me that during those times, maybe sacrament meeting was not for ME, but for HIM to learn early that it was important. It helps when the bishopric is on the same page. Each Sunday it was announced that the Relief Society Room was the "Reverence Training Room" during Sacrament Meeting. We stopped the snacks and only brought quiet toys, such as books and crayons and paper. As long as our kids were being reverent, they could have the toys. But as soon as they weren't, we took them to the "Reverence Training Room", where they would not have anything to play with, and they had to sit quietly all alone in a chair next to mom or dad. And since the RS Room was far away from the chapel, crying or throwing a temper tantrum was a non-issue for the other ward members. It worked like a charm--and my teens now have a great appreciation and love for the Sacrament.

lrhgenes said...

Mormanity - We have rooms where the messages from the chapel can be piped in, but our building is a full one and those rooms are used by other wards and an overlapping foreign-language branch that has our same schedule, so rooms are not available now (well, except for the mother's lounge which is full of tiny babies trying to sleep).

And truly, if we were attending at a time that didn't interrupt lunch and nap time, we'd stay. But for our kids, right now, the schedule disruption from 3-4 hours of church meetings results in two days of unhappy kids by the time their missed sleep is made up on Tuesday. The reason they are too noisy to sit in Sacrament meeting is that they are tired, and the only thing that will solve the tiredness problem is sleep, so why prolong the pain?

When the year turns over and our meeting time changes, and the flu season is past, and the kids are a few months older and can draw with the crayons instead of eat them, we'll be back. That's not an option for all families, though.

If church were just Sacrament Meeting (one hour instead of three - reverence is important in Primary, too) and if that one hour involved something other than just sitting still (even standing for hymns helps), it would make church easier for our family.

The other thing that makes a HUGE difference for us is when someone else in the ward - another parent, a grandparent, a single friend - sits on the pew with us and helps the kids. When we spend all of our time keeping them quiet, we miss out on much of what the speakers say and it just adds to the reasons to skip SM altogether. When there's somebody else willing to step in and provide a break, even for a short time, it makes a huge difference.

nhoj said...

Thank You Jeff for your tact in presenting this topic. As a whole, your article covers many needed areas, including the forbidden topic. And thank you CD for your kindly worded observations.

In a nutshell, it is the parents who are inconsiderate, not the children. I feel for the nursery leaders who recieve the sugar laden angels. I sat with my four children, not perfect but behaved. If you wait for your child to out grow such phases at their own pace, your child would be wearing diapers to school.

Thinking outside the box, If there were a reverence room for me to retreat to instead of children, I would use it myself. I now sit on the second pew so I do not have to witness the stream of devoted latecomers, or the sea of crumbed faces bobbing.

If there are some current or former bishops amongst us who might offer suggestions, do's/dont's, how to raise this topic, please offer them to me. I do not require silence, but a LOT can be done nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 7:17PM of yesterday: This is Anon @6:21 of yesterday. Lest any of my prior postings be misinterpreted, let me make clear that I fully support reverence and respect in church. Screaming children, throwing objects, running in the aisles, and all other other items mentioned by various posters detract from the spirit of the meeting, and I completely agree that parents should make earnest efforts to help their children be reverent and prevent behavior which disturbs the Spirit. Nowhere have I approved of these activities, and if my prior posts were not clear on this point, hopefully I am being quite clear now.

Rather, my comments have been directed at those who are quick to condemn in harsh language those who fall short, rather than assisting those in need of assistance. In particular, I fundamentally agree with the defensive premise/excuse presented by another poster that "nothing I can do will make a difference, so I don't have any responsibility to assist" (the excuse) and "it's the Brethren's fault, and ONLY them implementing a change in policy will have any affect" (the justification).

Anonymous said...

Oops, make that "disagree", not "agree".

Anonymous said...

621, It is not making an excuse to say that every ounce of one's help still doesn't solve the problem. That is just a fact. It might help those that I am helping, but it is not enough. It does not really solve the problem. Furthermore, in many situations, it would be very inappropriate for a person to just step in and try to quiet down another person's children. It is obvious when a parent needs help. But not all parents want help and some would be offended if I tried to step in and do something about their noisy child - especially when they themselves are doing nothing. And, whoever said that it was the brethren's fault? I only said that I believe a formal church policy is the only way that real impact could be made. That is not justification for anything. I like the idea of a reverence room. Or what about there being a policy where children are not allowed to attend sacrament meeting until they reach a certain age? Any child under a certain age would go to a nursery, which would be chapperoned by a rotating group of people. The room would have a speaker system so the talks could be heard. That is a great idea, in my opinion. You also have made a false assumption that just because I have complained about parents who don't do anything about controlling their children, that I therefore do nothing to assist parents in need. What do you know about the efforts I make to help others? You know nothing about it. You are upset because I have used harsh words, but I have been honest and have tried not to make any false judgements or assumptions about you. You have assumed that I "feel the need to fill the role of Satan as an accuser" and seem to think that if I really have a testimony of the atonement that that somehow makes it wrong for me to have a genuine complaint about parents who are being irresponsible with their children during sacrament meeting, or that it makes my testimony of the atonement less true to reality. It almost seems like you believe that in order to have a testimony of the atonement or to be genuinely grateful for the atonement, that one must be perfect, which I obviously am not. You assume that just because I am complaining about someone, that it means I don't believe the atonement works in their lives. You couldn't be more wrong. I apologize for the harsh manner in which I have expressed my thoughts and feelings. I hope you and others can forgive me for that. I apologize if I have said anything about you that is not true, or if my perception of your comments is incorrect. I forgive you for your false assumptions and judgemental words. It is not a hard thing for me to do. All I want is for there to be peace and understanding and perhaps my quick and harsh words have had the opposite effect. I truly apologize for that and hope that you can forgive me.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2 3:55 PM said "You also have made a false assumption that just because I have complained about parents who don't do anything about controlling their children, that I therefore do nothing to assist parents in need. What do you know about the efforts I make to help others? You know nothing about it."

Agreed - we know nothing about it, because you have not stated that you have actually done anything. Have you actually done something to assist in improving the reverence in your ward, particularly reverence related to the behavior of children? If so, what have you done?

Anonymous said...

I have loads of young nieces and nephews that have constantly needed help being quieted down. I have sat with them and tried to do what I can. I openly admit that I am not very good with children. That is one reason why I don't have children of my own. It doesn't mean I don't love or care about them, and I would happily take any mother's screaming baby out of the meeting if she would let me. But I also would feel very strange and awkward to walk across to the other side of the room to suggest I take a person's child out of the meeting when she doesn't have any other children and her husband is right there and could do it as well. I do not want to be like the child police. I would love to take away some of the noisy toys that some parents bring to church, but I don't feel that would be appropriate and it is not my place to do that. I am now in another ward where I haven't gotten a chance to know anyone very well yet, and as much as I would love to step in and quiet down other people's children, from what I have been able to tell so far it would be very inappropriate for me to do that. If I saw a single mother sitting nearby who was really struggling and obviously needed help, I would help her out in a heartbeat. The reality in my ward is that the parents with noisy children could help out with their reverence far better than I could, and truly that is their responsibility. If they are not going to be responsible about it, then it really is not my place to step in and take over.

Mary said...

I haven't read all the comments, so if any of what I am about to say is redundant I apologize. Still, I would like to say something about this post.

Yes, we can always do better. And I think it would be smart for the leadership in the church to consider this issue as well. How could we restructure sacrament meeting so it better meets the needs of the families and individuals attending? We should also question what worship is. Is it the outward manifestation of being "obedient" and "reverent" by folding hands and counting the minutes until sacrament meeting ends? Or does true worship happen in the heart by being inspired, edified and lifted by what is shared during talks and through testimonies? I think many adults in this church could do some work on the second part.

An understanding of child development is also necessary I think. As the current church service stands it is constructed to meet the needs of adults and not children. I don't argue that children need to still learn to obey rules and learn reverence...but true reverence is more than being quiet or having folded arms. Reverence and awe have much in common.

Why is it, do you think, other churches place their children in a child's worship service while they attend their own? I don't think it is because these churches don't value the family...in fact I think it is exactly the opposite. The church is trying to reach out to each individual in the congregation..especially the "least of these".

I am not saying children should be allowed to run around the chapel or obnoxiously cry or what not. But I am saying that it is unfair for us to expect children to be mini-adults or be inspired by talks that begin: "I started preparing this talk last night..."

Right now I have 6 children under the age of 9 (including toddler twins) and my husband has duties during sacrament meeting. I am often left alone with them. Although I never bring food or toys I do let them draw AFTER the sacrament has been passed. This has worked quite well. They are respectful and quiet during sacrament and when the "boring" talks begin (imagine the consciousness of a child...most of these talks are like listening to Greek) they are allowed to draw.

Oh, I have gotten some of "the looks" from those who don't think that what I choose to do with my family is right. But it turns out my children get more out of the meeting this way: it keeps them quiet, it keeps them focused, and often they actually listen to what is being said from the pulpit.

My 7 year old daughter likes to draw pictures of Jesus, a girl with folded arms, the temple...the list goes on. A few weeks ago she looked up at me after a woman finished her talk and this same daughter expressed wonderment about what the lady had said. "Oh, mama, that was a WONDERFUL story wasn't it? God is so great! I love God!" To me that is true reverence. At the same age I did the outward manifestations (because I knew I would get a spanking if I didn't) but the talks droned on and I never really listened to what was said.

As for sugared up kids. That comment irked me. In the ward I've been in in Utah invariably it is the PRIMARY WORKERS who sugar up my kids. Every Sunday my oldest comes home with treats from her Sunday School teacher. This, of course, causes consternation with the other children. One lady told me she does this because this is the only way she can get her class to behave. Again I will say: Can't we do better than this? Rewarding children and punishing children for "good" and "bad" behavior never works. Being reverent ourselves...truly embracing these little sprouts of humanity will make a difference in the tenor of all of our meetings and dealings as a church.

Mary said...

For Anonymous who doesn't have children:

Yes, it is regrettable that it can be chaotic in certain wards. It is also unfortunate that you cannot get your needs met because of all the racket (but I would submit that you do have sufficient time to worship privately and at the temple if the need arises)...but I do think one point should be made here:

The church grows because of families. We are growing not because of lots of single converts but because of families who are already members who continue to have children who remain members.

When I was a missionary it was stressed that our goal wasn't a baptism but the family...to get the family sealed in the temple. Why? Because the family brings stability.

In many ways your point of view could be construed as selfish as well. You seem to talk a lot about your needs instead of looking at the church as a body. Paul's parable of the body of Christ comes to mind. The toe is not more important than the heart. Both are necessary.

I was saddened and shocked to read a few of the stories shared here about insensitive people and how they berated parents and their children which ended in these families never coming back. How sad! There is really no defense of such unchristian behavior.

Anonymous said...

Mary, While I agree with some of the statements you have made, I also must say that people like you make a lot of singles feel totally unwelcome at church, as if we matter less because we aren't married or have children of our own. Yes, families are important and that's what it's all about. Singles are part of the human family that we are all a part of. I feel like some who are married with children have a superiority complex in the church, as if their problems matter more. I don't believe that most with families are that way, but all it takes is a few to leave a really rotten taste in the mouth of others. Of course any missionary would much rather baptize a whole family instead of a single person, but that shouldn't mean that a single person is somehow less important. Singles have a place and should be made to feel no less important. Your last statement makes singles look like an afterthought.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 4:49 PM said "The reality in my ward is that the parents with noisy children could help out with their reverence far better than I could, and truly that is their responsibility. If they are not going to be responsible about it, then it really is not my place to step in and take over."

Ah, so it's not your place to step in and take over. But by your initial posting and various follow-up ones, you feel it's your place to come on a blog and badmouth these same parents, noting that you are "seriously so sick of" it?

If you truly view it as their responsibility, on what basis do you think you are justified in the "venting" and ranting you have engaged in against them here? Not responsible to help, but only responsible to criticise... as I've mentioned before, we know well whose pattern that ultimately is.

I recognize that I'm holding a firm line with you on this, and you may perhaps feel that I am doing so unfairly. Keep in mind, however, that the strong and/or attacking language on this topic was presented initially by you.

Also, Mary - great comments. Thanks for reminding us all that the family is what is central, and the other items are at best ancillary.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to say to Mary that you may think that I am not looking at the church as a body. But the thing is, my whole gripe about reverence in sacrament meeting and parents being more responsible with their children has everything to do with being sensitive toward the church as a body. Sometimes it comes across that certain people with children only care about their own families and children with no thought to anyone else or how anyone else is affected. If a parent came over to me and said I have a serious need, could you please watch my child and give me a break? I would gladly do everything in my power to take that child and help that parent. But when I as a single person talk about a need that I have, or that potential converts may have, it doesn't matter. It's not as important. It is viewed as selfish and not looking at the body of the church as a whole. It is hypocrisy to me. We are supposed to support eachother. If I were to ask a parent to stop bringing noisy toys to church or to take their child out, I wonder how that person would feel. I am afraid to ask a parent such a thing out of fear that I would be criticized for not being supportive of them. I feel like basically it is the needs of families that matter. Forget the singles. They don't have real needs, they are selfish, they are not important.

Anonymous said...

I have made so many comments here, and I feel like it has been a complete waste of mine and everyone's time. I have nothing to offer, and I don't even feel like going to church anymore. The Lord knows how I have tried so hard. I love the Lord, but I really can't take this anymore. Good bye to all of you. Have a nice life.

Dr. J said...

To Anon @ 6:37---I've read much of this discussion, and appreciate that you are frustrated by the reverence situation in your ward. I also appreciate the frustration felt by parents who struggle to teach their little ones the principles of reverence that we all ought to be practicing. As Jeff has said on several occasions, this is a challenging issue that is going to require a lot more love and patience, and a lot less finger pointing on everyone's part.

(Hopefully) without getting too far off topic, I want to say that I hope you won't give up on Church. There are times when our challenges and frustrations threaten to overwhelm us, and we feel like we've given all we can give and don't have anything left in us. I think when we reach that point, if we have ears to hear, we might hear the Spirit whisper "Pay attention! You're about to learn something important!" Those frustrating, stretching times are exactly the times when we have to hold on, to keep doing all we can do, and then stand still and watch for the Lord's arm to be revealed and for his tender mercies to be poured out upon us. In the end, each of us needs those kinds of experiences so that the Lord can teach us and change us from who we are into who he needs us to be. Don't give up on Him or His Church---he'll never give up on you.

Theresa said...

I tried to see all the comments, to see if anyone else have mentioned the following observation: In all wards I have attended in my home country Sweden, the meeting times are reversed to those I attend in Canada (and those in US etc). I love it the "Swedish" way. It builds up the Spirit during the meetings, to be the strongest during sacrament meeting in the end. My old ward in Sweden has more kids and people than my current Canadian one. Yet, the Swedish one is much more reverent. Can i be that the kids have used up their energy and are content spending the last hour close to their parents? It is a content feeling all around. Additionally, afterwards, noone is in a hurry, but sit through the postludium in reverence. It's simply awesome. Does anyone else have similar or opposite observations?

Mary said...

First to the second Anonymous (6:17): You don't know me or "people like me". I have never made a single adult feel unwelcome but you wouldn't know that because you don't, in fact, know me. I am actually an advocate for the marginalized and the underdog in our church. And it is true...the family is very important and key to this church. I wrote this not to make Anonymous feel bad but to show that these families are also important and have every right to worship and partake of the sacrament.

It is not me who has underscored the importance of family but the church itself. And these families, full of loud children, are the core of the future church. Of course single converts are important but the posts by the other Anonymous were very strident and dismissive of all the rude parents and their spirit destroying children. Instead of viewing children as a burden all of us should be taking a role in providing nurture and support for these tender beings. But I shouldn't have used toe heart thing. I was rushed for time and didn't gather my thoughts like I wanted. Sorry about that. I didn't mean it that way. It was a poor choice and example.

Still I stand by what I say about the body of Christ. Every person is integral and important. That is why I am not opposed to children going somewhere else during sacrament. I would welcome this turn of events. I find sacrament meeting...well most of church really...stressful. And as it stands now it appears, from reading these posts, that the way things are is not the most effective of meeting individuals where they are at. Sacrament meeting is boring for children, stressful for parents and frustrating for singles and older people for various reasons. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a better way to meet people where they are at so our meetings could be more pleasant? I am all in favor of separating the parents and children for sacrament. Perhaps children ages 1-7 could go to a children’s worship service. Why can’t we try something different churches are successfully using?

Mary said...

Anonymous without kids: I do infer that you are not considering the body of Christ. Your ranting came across as very callous and self-centered. Every child in the chapel (including us...are we not all children?) is worthy of respect, love and kindness. Yes, some families are terrible but some singles are too. So how do we fix the problem?

I can empathize with your frustration. I really can. I have lived in Utah and "mission field" wards in foreign countries. I have been a missionary and taken many investigators to church (including my husband who later joined and also commented on the noise level when he first attended). And even worse than the noise I have sat with investigators when blatant false doctrine was preached from our pulpits...when someone called the Catholic church the great and abomindable church and said how evil cathedrals are (and the person
investigating grew up in the Catholic church...talk about a cringe worthy moment). I know how it feels to agonize over whether or not someone can feel the spirit. And what I found was it was important to leave it in God's hands and have faith that it would work out. And it always did.

With all this talk of responsibility lets talk about the truth of your earlier comments-they were quite incendiary. How could you not expect people to give you a rebuttal? And I am amazed that your are offended that we have. You vented and wondered why all of those thoughtless parents didn't get a babysitter. Quote:

"Sacrament meeting is not meant to be a test to our reaction to noisy children either. It is for adults. Parents, have some respect please. Shut up your kids. Get a babysitter."

What is implied by your statement later in the post is that those who have noisy children are not seeking peace (like you are) and that children are inherently distracting and troublesome. A toddler who cries in the middle of sacrament is not trying to ruin your worship service or make you lose the spirit. They also have needs, like you, but are not at the developmental stage to learn how to sublimate them. Maybe the parent doesn't take the child out right away (which angers you) because they think they can quiet the child and also want to be able to share in the ordinance. Maybe the child wants to be taken out so they are starting a tantrum but the parent doesn't take the child out because they know this. Who knows. The point is you don't know the situation or if the child has issues...you really don't know what is going on. Maybe the parents ARE thoughtless or maybe there is an issue you are not aware of.

You follow-up your initial rant with several posts where you express irritation and frustration with said children and parents. You "shout" by using all caps and the tone of the post was in a scolding style. And apologizing beforehand for making such comments does not erase their intent. You are RIGHT (see...I'm shouting too) and everyone else is wrong and victimizing you by not respecting your need to worship in silence.

Can you see the problem with this line of thinking? There was very little compassion in your post (except for yourself).

What I find interesting about your comment is that you are searching for something outside of yourself to give you PEACE. Peace can only be found from within. An ordinance will not give it to you. I submit that you will not find it at church no matter how quiet it is in the chapel. Noisy children or no...no one makes you angry or frustrated...you choose that all on your own.

I wasn't saying that singles aren't important or not welcome. Quite the contrary...I believe they are a very important part of the church. Even as married people we are on our own solitary spiritual journeys. And though I wasn't single I might as well have been when my husband wasn't a member. I know what it feels like to be alone.
(continued)

Mary said...

But as a church we need to work with everybody and learn true charity. These noisy children are also potential converts and will respond and learn more about the true Gospel of Christ by adults exercising examples of love, patience and kindness instead of examples of irritation, entitlement and frustration.

I no longer view church as a place to get my spiritual needs met. Going into church with expectation always led to disappointment. Instead I look at church as an opportunity, a laboratory if you will, for me to practice Christ like behavior and thought. This has proven to be a much better route to truly communing with God and letting His spirit work in my life.

I agree with Dr. J. Sometimes the point of our greatest struggle and frustration is when the light dawns and we get closer, truly closer, to the Lord. I am sorry your hurting and not at peace and I sincerely hope that you find solace.

Anonymous said...

I was not going to make anymore posts here, but I just read the last post and I felt that a couple of things needed to be clarified. First of all, there are some anonymous posts that have been made here that have been attributed to me but that I did not post. For example, the comment about giving your kids some nyquil and also the comment with all of those capital letters. My rudest comment was the first one I made - which I repeatedly said I was sorry about and even sought forgiveness for, and meant it every time I apologized. I still feel that some people have cherry picked my statements, completely focusing on the initial, most negative things and ignoring a lot of anything else I have said. I could go through a lot of the things I have written and give myself a good defense. But like I said, I am not here to defend myself, eventhough I feel like that is all I have been doing. I also feel I need to make it perfectly clear that I am fully aware that this is a real struggle for parents, and that I truly do have compassion in my heart for what they have to deal with. Like I said before, I am in awe of anyone who has children. Those are not things that I am just saying, but things that I truly feel in my heart. I also feel like it should be understood that it is not my intention to put all parents in the same category. I recognize when a parent is doing what they can. But sometimes it is obvious when a parent could be doing more - such as not bring a noisy toy for their child to play with, or not just sit there and do absolutely nothing and allow their child to be noisy throughout the entire meeting - those things happend regularly, and those are the parents I take issue with. I also take issue with church policy on this matter. As I said before, I feel like I have just wasted my time, but I did need to clarify those points. I rarely comment on any blog or article. The only reason why I did here was because this is something that is a real struggle for me. Just making it to sacrament meeting is very hard, and I am barely hanging on. I have a testimony, and that is the only thing that gets me to church at all. I do not fit in at church and there are many cultural aspects of it that make it even more difficult. I put in my best effort, but it is always a failure. That is why I am so grateful for the Atonement, because it is the one thing in life that keeps me alive and lets me know that the Lord really does make up for where I fall short. Taking the sacrament is something that is very important to me for a lot of reasons that I will not go into here. Again, I am sorry for things I have said or any unfair judgement I have made. It is not my intention or desire to be or come off as self-centered or selfish. Now I really am done here.

Adam said...

People need to stop posting as 'anonymous.' At least make up a name. There needs to be some kind of unique identifier. No more of this, "Anon @ 3:45, this is Anon @ 3:51, well the second Anon @ 3:51, because the I think you were Anon @ 3:51 yesterday, anyway, I agree that Anon @ 8:45 is in fact Anon @ 7:32 and that I agree with him. Or her. Sincerely, formerly Anon @ 3:51, now known as Anon @ 4:59

Mormanity said...

Theresa, thanks for sharing the Swedish perspective. I wonder if other areas doing the "reverse" schedule get the same results - anyone else have experience with that? There are also other cultural factors that could contribute, such as the typical sleeping and eating schedule of children. What time of day do you hold your meetings?

Theresa said...

Meeting time hours would have an impact, I agree. Meeting times in Sweden are at 11, since no buildings need to be shared. This means sacrament meeting starts at 1. I remember as an investigator I was thoroughly impressed with how calm and happy, and rarely crying the kids in the ward was. I would be interested in knowing who decides the order of the meetings, and where else they are reversed? Is it mainly European countries? Whenever I mention it here (in Canada), people claim that noone would come to the other meetings if it were reversed. I wonder about that though - I've never seen that to be the case back home.

Anonymous said...

The "sacrament last" approach was done for a time in my ward in Sandy, UT in the 1980s. I was fairly young, but I remember liking it quite a bit.

new converts said...

I try to look at it the way I've been taught Jesus would. Didn't Jesus love children unconditionally so he knew what children? Our children sometimes talk and ask lots of questions during sacrament. I would think that is exactly what Jesus would want most from them. Jesus probably hopes the adults would be more fun-loving and accepting like the children. It's the parents need for control during the service that causes the most issues.

kim-the-girl said...

Wow. I don't know if anyone is even reading the comments on this one anymore, but I wanted to share a few thoughts...

My in-laws have the reverse schedule with Sacrament meeting last and it is a nightmare! It seems to me that the kids are exhausted beyond reason at this point and throw all caution to the wind in their "demands" if you will.

As a mother of young children (6,4,3,1) we are obviously struggling with keeping reverence on our bench, but we are trying. I think the problem here is the judging that is happening. Like one parent said, he holds up a finger to say if a child has lost an ice cream scoop, this may not be noticed or recognized by those around him, but that does not mean he is doing nothing. Its not our place to judge their efforts or what may appear to be their lack thereof.

I am very sensitive to what others may be thinking or feeling about me (to a fault, really) so I have cried several times when reading this post and the comments that have followed. I hope and pray that no one has suffered due to my inability to keep my kids quiet during Sacrament. But the fact remains that Sacrament meeting is where I belong and it is where my children belong. They need to learn to be obedient to all of God's commands just as much as you, and I, and the investigators. I really like the point that someone made that these children are little investigators. They might not be getting a lot out of the meeting, but sometimes they amaze me with what they do get out of it.

The thought of separating meetings for adults and children just makes me sad. I need to be there to see the light go on in their eyes when the speaker mentions Lazarus or Nephi or some other character they recognize and love. I need to hear what they are being taught, so I can reinforce it at home. Besides, who would maintain order in children's meeting? As the Primary President, I can tell you it is hard enough to maintain some essence of order with a handful of teachers and leaders corralling them, but it is hard to keep staffed because everyone wants and needs to have some time in the adult classes. Having all separate meetings would mean I was "cut-off" from all of the adults in the ward.

That being said, I am a firm believer that you can be spiritually fed no matter where you are in the church, it just takes work and effort. I don't get to hear the Relief Society and Sunday School lessons any more, but I am able to have the spirit testify to me of Jesus Christ's Atonement and love, when I put forth the effort.

Christ wants us ALL to return to live with Him. You're absolutely right, it isn't easy. Not even a little bit. But it is possible. We can't give up on these children and we can't give up on ourselves. Because like one commenter said, Christ will never give up on us!

Cordelia said...

I don't think anyone is even reading this post anymore, but I just wanted to respond to Jeff's question about holding sacrament meeting last, and at what time. I served in four different congregations while on a mission in Brazil--one branch met from 8am-11am and the others met from 9am-12pm. Two of them had sacrament meeting last.

I liked the idea of sacrament being last, but I did notice that, because of the seemingly general consensus in the Church that sacrament meeting is the "most important" meeting of the three hours, many people would come just for sacrament meeting and skip out on the other two hours--so they could sleep in, maybe, or for some other reason. So I'm not sure that's a very good solution, either, sadly...

Hillary said...

I don’t have any kids yet, and I realize that they are often irreverent and distracting, but I know that most often they and their parents are doing their best. Sacrament meeting is just as important for the children as it is for the adults. True, they don’t need to take the sacrament yet, but the lessons they will learn between squirming and occasional fussing are invaluable. It is the only hour at church that they will be able to spend learning about gospel principles with their parents and is also (for many of them) their first experience with having to be still for a long period of time. As members of wards with children, we must understand that these children are often not used to the schedule, missing meals and nap times one day a week. But as they get older, they will learn how to sit still.
I remember one poster suggesting that those looking for perfect peace and quiet visit the temple, and I can’t agree more. True, sacrament is an ordinance and we should strive for reverence, but it’s just not always possible.
How are asking people not to bring children to sacrament meeting, or asking that others work on the Sabbath to watch the children of others (especially when they would be missing sacrament meeting) conducive to the teachings of the church? They aren’t.
I think kim-the-girl and a few others were right on in saying that the spirit is what you should be looking for at church, and you can feel that in any class and even if there is a bit of a rumble from the kids.

If you want silence, join a singles ward, visit the temple or set aside personal time at home. Don’t take your frustrations out on those who are at a different point in their life.

In reality, I think the biggest problem in sacrament meeting is not the children. It’s everyone playing with their cell phones and PDAs, texting, reading news and checking their email. Now that’s a problem that can be solved.

Hillary said...

I'd also like to point out that most church buildings are set up so that the sacrament meeting can be heard in young women’s and relief society rooms, so people complaining about not having a place to go...there usually are plenty. No need for the church the spend any more money on already built chapels when there are members around the world who need it so much more.

Mormanity said...

Yes, there are a variety of options, some creative, in dealing with these challenges. Patience and charity, though, are always welcome.