And God Saw that It Was Good

Our Sacrament Meeting was especially, egregiously, exuberantly noisy today. I was on the stand to lead the singing, and it was so noisy that I started looking around to see if the grownups or teenagers were being excessively chatty. They weren’t. It was all good, wholesome, inevitable baby and toddler noise, punctuated by the barely controlled pandemonium of the Primary children’s musical offering for Father’s Day. I had a squirmy moment of worrying about visitors being shocked by our irreverence, and then just settled in to enjoy it.

In lots of ways, I think it’s dumb to have little kids in Sacrament Meeting. It’s setting kids and parents up for frustration and failure, which we compound by nagging them about reverence instead of thinking seriously about the needs of children, their parents, and other worshipers, and implementing any of a number of humane strategies that could be deployed to meet more of those needs. I tend to side with Brigham Young:

One thing which strikes me here this morning, and which is a source of considerable annoyance to the congregation, appears to me might be avoided, and that is bringing children here who are not capable of understanding the preaching. If we were to set them on the stand, where they could hear every word, it would convey to them no knowledge or instruction, and would not be the least benefit to them. I will ask my sisters: Cannot we avoid this? Have you not daughters, sisters, or friends, or some one who can take care of these children while you attend meeting? When meetings are over, the mothers can go home and bestow all the care and attention upon their children which may be necessary. I cannot understand the utility of bringing children into such a congregation as we shall have here through the Conference…when the noise made by them disturbs all around them. I therefore request that the sisters will leave their babies at home in the care of good nurses.  (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 343)

“Reverence,” in its current usage and application to children, is a relatively recent innovation in the Church, and I think its persistence and centrality in our teaching of children is, in part, a historical accident having to do with anxiety about respect for authority that arose in the 1960s, and, in part, also a sheer practical necessity imposed by the 3-hour block format of meetings for adults. But as “foolish traditions of our fathers” go, it seems relatively benign. In fact, I think one could make a pretty strong case for LaVern Parmley’s invention of reverence being prophetic–our kids, with their information-overloaded, graphics-saturated, multi-tasking, attention-defective screen zombie lives need an hour of quiet in their week more than she could possibly have anticipated a half-century ago. So I guess I’m really only lukewarmly on Brigham Young’s side.

I am thankful for the gracious haze of amnesia that allows me to dimly remember the years of pew-wrestling with my children without reliving the emotional trauma of that time. And today, I was thankful for the squalling. It seemed like a good test of our community–can the parents balance compassion for their children’s heroic efforts to achieve the impossible and unnatural against their own embarrassment at not being in perfect control? Can the parents of relatively docile or slow-moving or quiet children avoid judging the parenting skills of parents with, um, the other kind of kids? Can the non-parents balance their annoyance and need for quiet worship with patient (!) appreciation of a church that values children and tries to teach them respect by letting them practice (and fail)? Can those of us whose children have achieved the remarkable teenage capacity to check out and/or sleep whenever the opportunity arises find ways to help and encourage our comrades in the struggle? Can we just be together for an hour and those last $#@!! ten minutes?

I felt the wobbly effort toward that precarious balance today, all of us in the same little leaky boatful of sinners who would be Saints, trying to figure out if we should row, bail, steer, or start handing out lifejackets. I thought about the Jaredites in their dish-tight barges, Lehi’s family with all those Freibergian biceps and triceps competing for space on a small ship, and Noah, with every kind of braying, squealing, buzzing, crowing, screeching, trumpeting, howling creature on earth. All of us always looking for Zion, learning to build it as we go.

I’ve always been a little incredulous about the repetitive certainty of the proclamation in Genesis that “God saw that it was good.” Really? Wasn’t there one day–like maybe the day with the mosquitoes and the cockroaches–when God just thought it was adequate? I mean, c’mon–giraffes?? But maybe the scriptures say over and over again that ALL of it was good because that would be the hardest thing for us to believe. We need our longing for improvement, for perfection–it’s the wind that pushes us towards “an heavenly city.” We’re supposed to keep trying to do impossibly lovely things. But we are supposed to also learn to see imperfection, oddity, failure and messiness as part of His work and His glory.

Sometimes I think I might be starting to understand.

Comments

  1. If asked, most people would say that children are closer to God than us adults. lds.org writes about reverence being a profound respect and love, which pretty much sums up my one, two and five year old’s world lens of discovery and exploration.

    But then we get to church and I feel this cultural pressure (mostly self-inflicted, I admit) to hammer into my children that they are naughty troublemakers who drive the spirit away with their irreverent behavior. I wish we could have more teaching about the difference between helping our children learn to be quiet and helping our children learn to be reverent. Because they are very, very different.

    My small children’s laughter and exuberant and boisterous interactions with the world are reverent in a way I can only pray to experience. Their ability to be quiet is developmentally appropriate in a way that usually makes a 70+ minute Sacrament meeting very stressful and demoralizing for all involved.

    This post was like balm to my soul. If we’re going to keep inviting children to Sacrament meeting I see no other way to make it through without embracing those last three paragraphs of your piece.

    Please don’t ever quit writing or die, Kristine-whom-I’ve-never-met. I would miss you too much. :)

  2. Oh…. not only do you understand, but your eloquent words and compassionate view helps the rest of us to understand. Grace indeed.

  3. I have to admit that as a child I looked forward to Stake Conference because we had two hours of Primary, and I got to hang out with others kids my age who weren’t in my ward. My mother, who was in the Stake Primary Presidency was more stressed by it, I’m sure, but one of my most clear memories from when I was 7, was the lesson on baptism that was given during the Primary session of Stake Conference. That was (I am almost positive) the first time I heard Heavenly Mother included in the people who had once been our age, and started making all of the *right* choices that led Her to be our Heavenly Mother, when she was baptized.

    I doubt the lesson would be taught that way today, but it was a moment of divine clarity for me, the first time I had one that I can truly claim as my own. I can’t remember having a moment like that in adult/all inclusive Stake Conference, until I was in my twenties.

    I do think that it is great that as a family church we encourage the entire family to attend sacrament meeting, but I wish we had a few more alternatives for families, especially with kids under 8. When I had 3 kids under 3, I was often nursing one, or both of the twins for most of sacrament meeting. Since the mother’s room isn’t supposed to have men in it, trying to go back and forth with switching babies, keeping a not-yet-potty trained 2year-old, and pretending that we needed a bench in the chapel seemed silly. We might make it through sacrament, but beyond that, we never had all 5 of us sitting on the bench. I would have loved the option of a room where we could watch the speakers in the chapel, and take care of the needs of our kids, without constantly going up and down the aisles with a constant rotation of kids, bags and toys.

    I also think that we need to remember that an inspiring talk to the youth and adults, is just another boring *blah, blah,blah* for younger children. Either having alternative places for them to be, (like the way Stake Conference primary used to work) or more of the content of the meeting being communicated in a way that is interesting and/or comprehendable to the under 14 crowd (who numbers wise usually make up the majority of any particular sacrament meeting) seems to be a completely overlooked option.

    Since my children go to church with my ex-husband every Sunday right now, I have made it part of our Sunday calls to ask them about what the learned in Sacrament Meeting and in Primary. Sometimes they remembered things from Primary, but never Sacrament Meeting. So, I gave them notebooks, in the hopes that taking notes would help. In a recent conversation with one of my 11 year-old daughters, I asked her what she had learned in Sacrament meeting that week, and she said;

    “One person said they were talking about Presidenting and the other said they were talking about Priesthood, but honestly mom, nothing they said made any sense. I wrote down some things they said, but he kept saying that Presidenting meant being equal and in charge, and that women can’t be Presidenting. I know they haven’t yet, but the Constitution doesn’t say a women couldn’t be president if she got elected. The priesthood talk was just as stupid. He said women hold the priesthood in the temple but don’t need to because men hold the priesthood. He never even told us what the priesthood looks like, so I don’t know what it is that Josh and dad are holding when they have the priesthood. I’ll try writing in the notebook for another month like I promised, but then I think I will just draw pictures.”

    Why do we have kids in sacrament meeting? Can someone review it for me again, or maybe just for my 11 year-old? ;-)

  4. Anybody who reads my cranky liveblogging of sacrament meeting on Facebook knows I’m hard to please … or at least that’s the public persona I cultivate, for whatever reason. But honestly, kid noise in Church doesn’t bother me, not in the slightest. I often turn to look when I hear a fussy child just because I so seldom get to see or hear children, and I want to enjoy them. I’m always afraid the parents will think I’m turning out of displeasure, so I smile and try to train myself not to react in the first place. But really, parents, your kids make my day. Bring them, please! For every irritated person who pulls a face at any disturbance, there’s somebody else (maybe me) who is enjoying the sounds that only a baby can make, or the sound of crunching Cheerios, or even the occasional thrown toy. Really.

  5. JennyP1969 says:

    Perhaps the quote says more about Brigham Young? I’ve read where he didn’t know one of his children he came across on the street, and didn’t know the name of another. He had a lot on his plate, but I’m not sure how involved he was with his young (no pun intended) children, perhaps dealing with grown ones better? Ardis? — any info on that? However, I yield to the memories of weekly struggles to have reverent children. I often wondered why I went as my husband sat comfortably on the stand. But now the kids have kids and when they wonder about it, I tell them they’re teaching the little ones that we go to church, no matter what, and reverence is a worthy, if unrealistic goal. I love the sounds of little ones — I’m sure they will be the first to come to the Savior, wiggles, giggles, tears and all.

  6. This was a great post. I haven’t been to a family ward in a while, as I’m in a YSA ward, but, I think it’s a good thing to take children to sacrament because it teaches them how to sit still, how to be quiet, and how to conduct themselves in a situation that calls for respect and reverence. The only way you do that is actually putting them in the situation to be taught. So, annoying as it can be at times, it’s to the good.
    BTW: Giraffes are um…AWESOME. What have you got against giraffes?
    Now, armadillos? Creepy.

  7. Beautiful post, Kristine. If we forbid the least among us to attend our worship service . . .

    I always have been soothed by the statement, “Suffer the children to come unto me.”

    When I lived in the Deep South, I was struck by how casually so many of my Protestant friends dismissed things like football practice on Sunday – since the teenagers attended youth services on Wednesday night. I can’t remember how many times I asked one of them and was told, essentially, “They go to church each week. What’s the big deal?”

    Sabbath worship really is a big deal – for adults, teenagers and children, even if I don’t approach it nearly as zealously as many people do. I think if our Sacrament Meetings were more consistently and truly worship services, much of the angst over the noise of the little ones would lessen automatically – but that’s a topic for another post.

  8. “I think if our Sacrament Meetings were more consistently and truly worship services” – sounds like a good post topic to me.

    And I’m enjoying the thoughts here. Reminds me of things I enjoy.

  9. Eric Facer says:

    In a 1990 address to Regional Representatives, Brother Packer said: “[W]e have reason to be seriously concerned about the lack of reverence in the Church. Perhaps this one thing, general across the world, is as much an interference with and a short-circuiting of inspiration as anything that could be pointed to.”

    Irreverence is pandemic in our church, and has alienated more than one potential convert. And the principal source of this problem is … the parents, not the kids.

    The cacophony in the chapel both immediately before and after sacrament meeting reminds me of intermission at a Redskins game. Frankly, why we bother with prelude and postlude music is beyond me since no one can hear it—assuming there is anyone who actually has a desire to. From whom do you think the children learn their irreverence?

    But when small children make noise, their parents should show a modicum of courtesy to the speakers by taking them to the foyer. It is irrational to expect a small child to sit quietly through a one-hour religious service that is devoid of content of interest to the child. But it is not unreasonable to expect the parents of that child to be sensitive to the spiritual needs of other members of the congregation. The child doesn’t need to be punished or disciplined or instructed—just removed.

    Alas, I have reached the point in my life where I have stopped tilting at this windmill. I have given up. We do nothing more than pay “lip service” (for give the pun) to the principle of reverence. Indeed, I am now convinced that my preoccupation with this subject is completely wrong and that the Lord must be delighted—”All is good”—with the way we behave in church and the example we provide our children. Hail to the Redskins!!!!!

  10. I think the key aspect to encouraging reverent behavior is encouraging feelings of reverence – and that’s a daily thing not just a Sunday thing. If an adult (talking here of an adult not a child, a child’s psychology is different) is chatty and rude or just distracting in church service, not only is the behavior poor but likely the person doesn’t feel reverent in the first place.

    That’s where the problem I think can be addressed. Not so much “how can we make these chatty people understand” because they do understand, but many just don’t care. The real issue is reverence itself not just reverent behavior. And like Ray said my last statement could also be another post altogether.

  11. “Alas, I have reached the point in my life where I have stopped tilting at this windmill. I have given up”

    Alas, you haven’t given up. ’twere it so! We would have been spared your lecture.

  12. Ardis, my love note to Kristine in the very first comment is to you too. I hope you are both writing memoirs. I would read them so happily and then be even more motivated to find a way to hang out with you in person.

  13. JennyP, the stories about Brigham Young not recognizing his own children are totally bogus, manufactured for humor in the Eastern press. He knew his children and was intimately involved in their lives. One of my favorite BY letters is written to an adult son away on a mission, where BY reports his delight in the company of his small grandson. (Hmm … another “Why I Like Brigham Young” post?)

    Thanks, Rachel. I look forward to meeting you at some conference or snacker or something!

  14. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I really want to hate the noise children make in Sacrament Mtg. The best I can do is redirect that hostility toward the many parents who have no problem with the distraction their own children present. Of course, this is not ALL parents. Unfortunately, I have come to realize that, without the noisy children, I would be forced to pay full attention to the speakers – and that would result in even greater frustration. God bless those little darlings.

  15. Kristine says:

    Y’know what? I just don’t believe that the parents don’t care. Maybe there are a few who don’t, but I don’t know any who don’t agonize over what an acceptable level of disturbance is. That they draw the line differently than you would or did is not evidence of apathy.

    (And no, don’t start with the horror stories–I’m content to acknowledge that there may be some few parents who are more resistant to the regime of reverence shaming than any I know, but I believe it is a very small number.)

  16. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I don’t disagree, Kristine. I see the tortured look on parents’ faces, and am hopeful that I had that same look on my own face on more than one occasion. It’s just that the ‘few’ who have an unreasonably high tolerance for the behavior of their own children is often all it takes to distract the entire congregation. I would not call them apathetic, or uncaring. Clueless, maybe?

  17. I’ve thought for many years that one of the best benefits of having an inactive husband was the ability to leave the kids home until they were nursery age. At 18+ months, church was then a new thing that I could set the expectations/rules for, they’d get cues from their older siblings on behavior, and just were able to do a better job and I knew they were capable of going without food for that long and didn’t need anything more than a book or a notebook to write in. When babies go to church, you have to feed them and juggle them, and entertain them and give them toys, etc. But then somehow you’re supposed to take it all away and expect them to magically behave? It makes it much harder to teach quiet and respect for others when habits are already set, but I doubt that the answer involves one parent going inactive for the child-raising years.
    Lest you think I got off easy, though, I still recall the Sac Mtg when my 2 1/2 year old was creeping out of the pew and I decided to ignore it, thinking he’d only go a few feet away. That was a poor decision, as I ended up waddling my 8 1/2 month pregnant body down the hall as he ran out of the church building.

  18. Eric Facer, If I was a missionary I think when preparing them to come to Sacrament I’d say something like, “We welcome children and sinners to our worship services, and usually that makes for a pretty noisy service. We hope you can see the beauty in everyone striving together, and don’t worry, you’ll be able to *hear* the beauty more during sunday school, priesthood/relief society/meetings with the missionaries/fhe/temple service/etc.”

  19. Our last bishop “solved” the problem by cancelling all the kids songs in Sacrament Meeting on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. He said all the noisy movement drove the Spirit out of the meeting. He really said that. I heard it with my own ears as I sat in Primary and heard him tell the children to their faces. I kid you not.

    Thanks for a good discussion starter, Kristine.

  20. Eric Facer says:

    Rachel, I appreciate your sentiment, but for many reared in other faiths, the bedlam they encounter in our Sacrament meetings is difficult to reconcile with what they ordinarily associate with a Sunday service: reverential worship and an atmosphere conducive to contemplating the benevolence of our Father in Heaven. Frankly, I can’t blame them when they walk away.

    As I noted, my principal complaint is with the adults, not the kids. The parents, by and large, set a bad example for the children. And I think this is due in part to the fact that church leaders assign a low priority to reverence. You used to hear frequent talks in General Conference about reverence; today, not so much. And when people like me suggest that perhaps we can and should do better, our concerns are dismissed with the same feeble explanation: “That’s just the way Mormons are.” But is that the way God wants us to be? I have my doubts.

    As to the kids, I was raised in a family where if you made any significant amount of noise, you were removed from the chapel until you stopped. The reason you made the noise and the kind of noises you made (happy, sad, etc.) were irrelevant. Once you were quiet, you were brought back in. That’s a pretty simple decision tree, and it worked. For those who are uplifted by babies crying, toddlers roaming the aisles, and siblings wrestling with each other, perhaps they can find fulfillment in the nursery, which, after all, lasts for two full hours.

    When I was growing up in Illinois, we always had a speaker (usually a sister, because they were so good at it) who gave a five minute talk geared towards the children, utilizing Bible and Book of Mormon pictures and other illustrations. The kids were always enraptured by these short discourses—you could a hear a pin drop—and the parents liked them too. Today, however, such talks and the use of visual aids are verboten (though I guess it is still okay to use pictures and slides during a General Conference talk, if you’re a General Authority). If we want to improve the behavior of small children in Sacrament Meeting, perhaps we should give them a reason to pay attention, at least for five minutes of the 65 minute meeting.

    You can add all of the foregoing to my ever-growing list of heresies.

  21. “all the noisy movement drove the Spirit out of the meeting.”

    Wow. I have a BIG problem with that. Especially saying it to the children, that’s really bad.

    Yes children can be noisy, and distracting, of course. But there’s more to having the spirit in a church service than just being quiet. And the comments demonstrate that everyone on the board knows it. If that bishop is focused on noisy children as a reason for a lack of spirit in a church service I propose there might be other issues he may be overlooking for why spirit is lacking. I’m not there of course so I can only guess.

  22. I believe neither extreme (forced, complete silence, through the removal of children, if necessary and bedlam) is charitable, desirable, uplifting, enlightening, etc.

    I also believe that we do a grave disservice to the principle of reverence when we tie it strictly to and define it simply as silence. It’s just like the simplification of modesty to a dress code. Neither aspect is the entire principle – and our over-simplification of them is more of a problem than anything else, in practical terms.

    It’s not that we fail to enforce silence; it’s that we fail to teach and value reverence fully. That failure is just as much in the laps of the silence Nazis as it is in the laps of parents who struggle with non-silent children. In fact, I would argue that many of those parents are struggling explicitly because they understand the fuller meaning of reverence better than many of the silence Nazis – and that they are trying to teach their children reverence, not just silence.

  23. Wow Ray, that was awesome. My husband is an adolescent therapist and in reference to getting our children to be silent in church he has said before that the only way he can *control* our children is through fear, and since he is their model for God he is uncomfortable capitalizing on that fear. And that someday even control by fear will run out and all he will have left to influence his children is the quality of his relationship with them. And that’s not something he’s willing to sacrifice for a silent child.

  24. Ray and Rachel – You both brought a smile to my face with your comments. I appreciate what you just said.

  25. Allan West says:

    In and era of increasingly many members with ADHD, asperger’s, etc., it sure would be nice to see a gradual move from the, ‘sit down and shut up’ form of LDS worship. Perhaps those charismatic christians have the right idea with their hand waving…?

  26. The LDS Church clearly is not about to take on the spirit of another type of church. But I know what you mean. I keep coming back to Ray’s point about the nature of reverence and the importance of a reverent spirit itself going beyond stressing silence. Perhaps any bishop or member of a bishopric could ask questions such as “what does it mean to have a reverent spirit? How can we as a church foster a reverent spirit?” That to me is far more important than enforcing silence and hushing children.

    I’ve attended many churches, not just LDS, for reasons that would make for a long story. But I think it would likely be a mistake for me to compare the approach of LDS to any other. I’d never dream of asking a Mormon bishop to conduct a church service more like a pastor or priest from a different type of church with a different theology and sociocultural history.

    But in all churches including LDS the speaker (Bishop or other speakers) can make a big difference. If the speaker is using a monotonous way of talking and boring people in the audience, it fosters a lack of engaged listening, and likely a lack of reverence. You don’t want to bore people in church then focus on hushing people. There’s a lot to be said for speaking in a manner that is reverent but perhaps at times passionate too and that moves people to feel reverent, maybe even passionate.

  27. Rarely do children distract me from paying attention to the speakers and feeling the spirit in a meeting. I remember sitting in an area conference in a huge gymnasium type building with upper balconies and just packed with people on hard metal chairs. The place just echoed. President Faust told the parents not to worry about their children and any noise they might make because children made our meetings exciting. He said it with such a grin that it cracked everyone up. Since then I’ve worked to focus myself and let the children be.

    Adults I struggle with. I sit with a group of adults who all attend singly. We sit together to leave more pews for families. The whispering that sometimes goes on among them and the nearest other adults in front and behind amazes me. Usually conversations are about where someone is this week, who that new person is, etc. Nothing that really needs to be discussed in the middle of the meeting. They should know better by now. It sometimes amazes me how strict a parent is with their child, chiding them for putting away a hymn book too noisily, but then will turn around and ask me where I think someone got the dress they’re wearing. Really? It’s bizarre.

  28. Loren Thomas says:

    I recently transitioned from a YSA ward to a family ward, and one of the greatest blessings has been the opportunity to regularly interact with children. I certainly recognize that bringing kids to sacrament meeting and getting them to sit still must be exhausting, stressful and frustrating for parents, but I am grateful to see all of those children and parents at church together.
    I think reverance has more to do with love and respect than silence, and I don’t believe that children making a little noise are demonstrating a lack of either of those qualities, and I don’t believe that noise from children necessarily distracts from the spirit of the meeting for others. One of the greatest experiences I have had in a sacrament meeting in the last couple of months was when five kids (ages 6 and under), from several different families came to sit with me and some of my single friends during sacrament meeting. We were all crammed into a single pew with kids on laps drawing pictures, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and community that helped me glimpse again what I think the gospel is all about, and helped me understand a little better why attending church meetings helps us all to better live the gospel. And I hope that all of the parents whose kids we took were able to snatch a moment of quiet contemplation.
    As a single person, being in sacrament meeting with all of the joyous noise is an opportunity to feel a part of Zion, and as a community we might even have a shot at accomplishing those “impossibly lovely things” that Kristine mentions. Maybe even a reverant sacrament meeting for all.

  29. Kristine, I so wish you were right about Mormon “reverence” as antidote to “screen zombie lives”, but I have to confess that “screen zombie” is pretty much our way of getting the kids through Sacrament Meeting. Thank the Lord for tablets and smartphones.

  30. Haha, RJH, good point. And not to mention that now iPads are being made ever more into a “priesthood accessory”. Screen zombie will soon be equated with reverence. So, sorry Kristine, there is no refuge from that to be gained by virtue of our way of defining and implementing “reverence.”

    To Eric Facer, I would only say that my observation about the way “reverence” is understood in all other faiths whose services I’ve being privileged to attend does not reflect his comments in the least. From “free church” evangelical environments where full-on rock bands provide the hymn accompaniment to mid-level American WASP Episcopelian or Presbyterian services to the highest of high church Anglican or Catholic services in Europe where kids are either placed in a separate pray area for the liturgical part of the service or are just as noisy as in any LDS service (noisier since their noises echo more in glorious old stone churches and cathedrals), “reverence” is not a concept that means kids can’t be kids. I have a hard time believing that investigators walked away from the Church because the congregational meeting (sacrament meeting) was noisier and more kid-infested than the congregational meeting in their particular denomination.

  31. (oops, separate “play” area, not “pray” area)

  32. John F – I can relate to what you say. I’ve been fortunate to have similar experiences. In particular given that my career takes me into various communities I’ve also had the opportunity to become “part of the family” in African Methodist Episcopal and Black Baptist churches. The idea of reverence being equated with silence would be foreign in these churches. But clearly as I also said earlier the LDS Church has its own theology and traditions. I’m not about to encourage a Bishop to talk more in the style of Martin Luther King or an audience to engage in “call-and-response.” But this does illustrate a deeper point that is relevant to the discussion. I don’t think we should equate reverence merely with silence. Reverence is of a deeper quality than that.

  33. 8th Grade Reading Level says:

    We have a 3.5 year old boy & a one year old girl. Sacrament Meeting is the single most stressful/exhausting hour of my week. Our ward meets in reverse order and we have the last block this year. It’s a horrible idea. By the time we hit Sacrament, our relatively decently-behaved kids are tired and have little interest in following rules/instructions/pleadings. My wife and I scramble to keep them entertained, and mostly quiet. I appreciate the re-framing of the situation you all have provided here. I think there are some commonsense solutions that could be implemented (I see no value to the reverse-schedule), but short of those, I’ll try to see it as a ward team building activity. Heaven knows I’m already immensely grateful for the former nursery leader who helps give a little break about half-way through. Maybe my increased love for a ward member like him is enough of a positive result to not throw in the towel completely.

  34. JennyP1969 says:

    Ardis, thanks for the heads up on Brigham Young and the eastern newspapers. I remain a bit skeptical of how well or how much he interacted with and knew his kids as we had only three, and between work and church, my husband had limited interaction them (which he regrets to this day). And he certainly wasn’t a prophet, or governor, and has had only one wife! I honestly felt like a single parent, to say nothing of how lonely I was. So God bless the good prophet who had so much more to do, and so many more to love!!

  35. Knowing each of your kids individually was actually a topic of great importance to Brigham Young. He even preached sermons about learning each child’s “disposition” in order to be better able to instruct them individually in the Gospel.

  36. littletinymouse says:

    My first thought on reading, especially the quote from Brigham Young, was Joseph’s statement, “Let the boys alone, they may hear something that they will never forget”. Looking up the reference, there was some good stuff –

    “The early Saints repeatedly reveal that one component of the Prophet’s power was his plainness. Daniel Tyler remembered the specifics of one sermon after almost sixty years because Joseph Smith made it “so plain that a child could not help understanding it.” The Prophet, like the Savior, used illustrations and examples to teach truth in simplicity. He wanted the children to learn the gospel. When he taught about prayer, he said, “Be plain and simple and ask for what you want, just like you would go to a neighbor.” When he sent out missionaries, he told them, “Make short prayers and short sermons.” The simplicity and the illustrations worked. One little girl, Henrietta Cox, was deeply impressed by such a lesson, even though she was only six at the time. A brother chided Joseph for “being bowed in spirit” and told him to “hold [his] head up.” Joseph replied that “many heads of grain in that field [bend] low with their weight of valuable store, while others there [are] which, containing no grain to be garnered, [stand] very straight.” It was a short sermon, but a child never forgot it.

    “To him,” Mercy Thompson observed, “all things seemed simple and easy to be understood, and thus he could make them plain to others as no other man could that I ever heard.” Like the Master, Joseph Smith wanted “the most unlearned member . . . [to] know and understand the truth.”[13] And because of this simplicity and purity, his teachings, like the Master’s, were ratified by the Spirit. Daniel Tyler said the power of the Spirit “filled the house where we were sitting,” listening to a sermon…

    Joseph Smith wanted the children around, wanted them to know what he was doing, and wanted to work and play alongside them…Truman Madsen relates an experience that Harvey Cluff had with the Prophet. When the ushers at a meeting, like well-meaning disciples, got too severe with young people who were moving to the side of the makeshift pulpit in one of Nauvoo’s groves, Joseph Smith said, “Let the boys alone, they may hear something that they will never forget.” More likely, by being close to him, they would see and feel something they would never forget.”

    -J.B. Haws – The Loving Friend of Children, the Prophet Joseph – http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/Volume%203%20Number%202,%202002/“-loving-friend-children-prophet-joseph”

    Elder Bednar came to our Stake a couple of years back and did his questions and answers, he emphasised repeatedly the ability of very young children to feel the Spirit, and even encouraged the reading of the Book of Mormon to pre-natal infants saying when they hear it again post-natally they wont’t remember the words, but they’ll remember the feelings. It was interesting. I’m sure we’ve all been there (for an all too infrequent moment) when a particularly inspired speaker brings the Spirit, and the reverence that Ray mentioned, brought about by the influence of Spirit, settles upon the congregation, and everyone’s attention is rapt on the speaker and it’s clear everyone can feel it. There is a definite silence, but one it seems to me, that comes without compulsory means, and one that is maintained by kindness, gentleness, meekness and love. It brings great knowledge and it does enlarge the soul. Those moments, I think, are snippets of real reverence.

    My boy’s only just turned 1 so I’ve got plenty to come, the last couple of months he has been getting rowdier, but the statement of Joseph, and moments like those I described are why I wouldn’t have him anywhere else. He may not understand in the way we do, but if he feels the Spirit it might save him when he can because the feeling is familiar.

    -first time commenter, frequent lurker, apologies for the length of my debut!

  37. I am, as always, dismayed at Brigham’s dismissive attitude toward the women in the congregation. Yes, certainly there were sisters and daughters and friends–who presumably would also like the opportunity to go and worship!

    But yes, Sunday was wonderful.

  38. Looking at the BY link, it looks like he was talking about conference (as opposed to a sacrament meeting — he may have felt the same about both). Looking at lds.org, you need to be 8 years old to attend a session of general conference in person.

    Later BY goes on to complain about the floor smeared with tobacco juice. He didn’t say anything about Cheerios.

  39. “I am, as always, dismayed at Brigham’s dismissive attitude toward the women in the congregation.”

    I am, as always, dismayed by people’s incorrect assumptions about Brigham Young’s attitude toward women.

  40. Ray, it’s not that incorrect an assumption, depending on the mood of Bro. Brigham.

  41. Kristine says:

    Ray–it’s a fairly steep uphill climb to make BY seem particularly appreciative of women. Charity is called for, of course, and there are some exceptions to the general rule, but Libby is not wrong about the rule.

  42. I’m pretty familiar with at least one mainline Protestant congregation, and in my opinion it’s a reasonably representative one. They, as is common, dismiss the kids about a quarter way through the service to go do their own thing. Long term result: almost no teenagers come to church. Almost no young adults come to church. They didn’t grow up sitting through worship services, and I think that is definitely a factor in all the attrition.

    I think the LDS church’s tolerance of kids in worship is one of the best things it has going for it’s future existence.

  43. Kristine and Steve,

    I certainly wouldn’t classify Brigham Young as a liberal feminist, especially compared to our current societal norms, but “dismissive attitude”, with no disclaimers, would be grossly incorrect, as well – especially, as you point out, Steve, depending on his mood.

    Brigham was complex in this regard, just as he was in many others, and painting with the broadest, most negative brush possible is no more accurate than doing so with the broadest, most positive brush possible. It’s the extreme dismissiveness, ironically, and caricaturing that dismays me.

  44. To be fair to Brigham Young, he was talking about conference and not a sacrament meeting. I don’t believe small children are allowed to attend General Conference and similar meetings at the Conference Center today either.

    Regarding those pesky kids, a few thoughts:

    1) If anyone thinks sacrament meetings are crazy, they should attend FHE at my house — and we only have two children!
    3) I’m convinced that parents of young children are rarely bothered by the noise of other people’s children (at church, in restaurants, on airplanes) , partly because they’re used to the noise, but mostly because they’re just glad it’s not their own children. That’s true of me anyway.
    2) The other day, while teaching my kids about Jesus and “suffer the children to come unto me” verses, it dawned on me that the kids were running up to the stand right in the middle of the talk! how embarrassing for the parents and how disruptive for the attentive listeners.

    (Another fun topic for another time — my son talks all the time: from the moment he wakes up in the morning to the moment he falls asleep (and he might also talk in his sleep, I’m not sure). He’s a brilliant, creative boy (just like his old man). In Primary, he volunteers every chance he gets. He’s the one yelling “me! me! pick me!” And he never gets picked, because, you know, the leaders have to reward the shy kids for being shy, er, reverent.)

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