Cry baby

Wandering through our new ward building today as I took my shift on the cleaning crew, I found it hard not be impressed by how well the new building caters to the needs of families.  The cutest part of the building is in the nursery–there is a tot-sized bathroom, filled with a miniature toilet and sink.   There are diaper changing tables in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms (a change, my husband tells me, from the old days), a beautiful mother’s room, storage areas for toys, and a slew of energy saving devices.  In many ways, this building gives physical expression to the desirability of incorporating family life into our public interactions.

Most days, I’m a strong supporter of highlighting and catering to family needs. But recently I have found myself wondering if our success in making the family such a central part of our public gatherings has not also come with costs.  The ward building where I grew up had a cry room attached to the chapel.  Parents were expected to remove disruptive children from meetings and to listen behind the cry room glass.  But in my experience, cry rooms are now rare, and letting children remain in the chapel is far more common.  I had the chance to speak at a church function recently–and I couldn’t hear myself talk due to the noise.

As a feminist, I want to see a society where children and family needs are made central.  But as an adult, I also know that children–with all their joy, energy, and grumpiness–can be an exhausting distraction from worship.  Is there a way that we can fulfill our desires to incorporate children and families while also not losing sight of the need to create environments conducive for adult fellowship and worship?  To what extent can a Mormon ward, given our focus on the family and the child-rearing assistance we expect from church, cater more to adults?


  1. ummquestion says:

    Mormon wards cater to adults in Sunday School classes and in RS and Priesthood meetings. They cater to adults by having activities where children are not necessarily involved, and by encouraging ward Temple Nights etc.

    Our local stake and ward leaders have spoken several times on reverence during Sacrament meeting and have made it clear that parents are to remove disruptive children from meetings. Most modern chapels have speakers and volume dials in the lobbies and mother’s rooms so that those sitting outside of the chapel with their kids can listen just like they used to in “cry rooms”.

    Some LDS parents take reverence very casually and allow their children to make noise beyond what other parents will. That is something that my local leaders have no problem addressing very bluntly. Last week the entire body of Primary children (130+) sat on the stand for the yearly Program and it was more reverent than usual…

    It is our job as parents to teach our children how to respect the Chapel and how to properly behave during combined meetings, and to remove them when they aren’t in a cooperative mood.

  2. Great Question, I’d add that can the family really be central in a congregation where the intellectual and spiritual needs of the parents are not met? Are we really making our children central if we do not teach them to shut up and pay attention in a reverent spirit?

  3. Many of the difficulties of adults who want to worship could also be solved by greater attention to what is good for children. Sitting through an hour-long church service, especially a service designed without thought for children’s needs and interests, in a dull chapel that doesn’t even have art on the walls or glimpses of nature, is beyond the capacity of most young children. I think it’s frankly cruel to set them up for failure, and then read that failure as evidence of wickedness on the part of the child or the parent or both.

  4. and have made it clear that parents are to remove disruptive children from meetings.

    There has actually been specific counsel for DAD to remove the children from the meetings (where possible, of course). :)

    “The reverence we speak of does not equate with absolute silence. We must be tolerant of little babies, even an occasional outburst from a toddler being ushered out to keep him from disturbing the peace. Unless the father is on the stand, he should do the ushering.” Pres. Packer

    As to the question, I look at my children now and wonder if they could enjoy church as much as they do if somehow we had separated them from the process when they were younger. For all that it is difficult, I think that, as the saying goes, ‘children learn what they live.’

    I also sort of wonder in my mind what we would expect the option to be…like someone said, the foyers and mothers’ rooms have sound piped in. Is that much different than a cry room? I also think cry rooms add more chaos for the parents trying to still get something out of it all. They could easily turn into play rooms, imo, and that sort of takes away from the meeting and the learning about what the meeting is about. I actually think I prefer the sit in the foyer option. Soft seats are nice, too. :)

  5. Molly Bennion says:

    Kristine, “glimpses of nature?” Surely you were thinking of the rose window?
    And here’s a vote for the old cry room of that chapel. Children played quietly with the quiet toys and parents heard the meeting. In fact, it was quieter in that room than in our chapel today. It worked because it met the needs of young children as you wisely advise.

  6. As the mother of an autistic son, I would give my left arm for one of the old cry-rooms. I’ve missed out on years of talks because I’m walking the halls in order not to disrupt other with my child who really, truly does not have the capability to sit for an hour, let alone quietly. And that doesn’t even touch on my other kids!

  7. Thomas Parkin says:

    “cater more to adults?”

    Let the wild rumpus start!!! ~

  8. Natalie,
    Cry rooms are ancient, relative to the Mormon timetable; my grandparents’ ward, built in the 1950s, had one, but the building I grew up with, built in the late 1970s, did not.

    I think, though, that the inclusion of children, and not taking them out as quickly, is very much a cultural thing. I can’t imagine my grandparents’ taking a baby to a restaurant, for example (that would have still roughly been the seen-and-not-heard era), but my daughters have brunched at some very nice restaurants. And they weren’t the only babies/small children there. (And we’re talking New York, not Utah.)

    That is, children are now much more part of the fabric of adult life, both within and without the church. Is it a good or bad social trend? Probably not, but it certainly carries over into church. If I take my girls to the New Leaf Cafe, why would I make them unheard in Sacrament meeting?

  9. I’ll add, I’m horrified (okay, I exaggerate, but only a little) by the equation of reverence equalling quiet. Yes, our social norms are that there should be some degree of quiet in Sacrament meeting, and I do work to keep my girls within that tolerance level, but by no means does the fact that they are quiet mean they’re being reverent. And by no means does the fact that they are being noisy mean they’re not being reverent. Noise level is maybe one aspect of reverence, but it’s one of the least important aspects, and an exclusive focus on quiet doesn’t do anybody much good.

  10. When we talk about catering more to the needs of adults, let’s not forget that the parents of those noisy kids are perhaps the adults most in need of peaceful worship. In that respect, removing those adults along with the children is not a solution.

    I vote for nursery for sacrament meeting.

  11. Sister Soper–I’d like to extend a calling to you to be the Sacrament nursery leader. Enjoy.

  12. Kathryn, that was also Brigham Young’s preferred solution.

  13. I love the idea of a nursery. I’d even take a shift staffing it. And, I fully agree that part of the problem is that Sacrament is just too long for children to sit still through.

  14. I was glad to see that someone quoted Pres. Packer in his admonition that fathers should normally do the escorting. I still don’t think that this happens as often as it should.

    I agree with the statement that reverence does not mean silence. But I think that the key is to let the kids know that they are expected to sit in the pew and do something quietly even if they are not taking in every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the speaker. Also, make it clear to them that life is much better in the pew then it is in the lobby or any cry room. I am currently excused by Elder Packer from removing my kids, however, it has been my practice when I have taken them out due to irreverence, to sit them on the couch, and sit right next to them with my hand around their knee to inflict any pain needed until they understand what it means to sit reverently. We then proceed back into the chapel, usually in under 5 minutes.

  15. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    esodhiambo, at this point I’d gladly take it.

    And I don’t see why there couldn’t be a cooperative effort between the wards in a given building so that all adults can attend their ward’s sacrament meeting sans toddlers.

  16. #9: Quiet is the first step in reverence.
    Cry rooms, as I recall them, were for sleeping or feeding babies, not nurseries for kid’s to play.

  17. “t has been my practice when I have taken them out due to irreverence, to sit them on the couch, and sit right next to them with my hand around their knee to inflict any pain needed until they understand what it means to sit reverently”

    And this is EXACTLY why we should reconsider our practice of requiring small children to attend Sacrament Meeting.

  18. What an timely post. I don’t know what the best solution is–but I can tell you that I didn’t hear a single word of the speakers’ sermons today as I wrangled my children. I felt pretty glum by the time I left the building. I’m curious to know why cry-rooms were phased out.

  19. I recently started attending a UU congregation, and while normally the kids are in Sunday School while the adults are in the main service, for the first service of the new school year everyone was in the sanctuary.

    The thing that blew me away was this: An effort was made to make the service appropriate and interesting for all ages. There were different kinds of music and a story was told and acted out with props. My kids paid attention. They were interested. I can’t tell you how astonishing this was.

    Maybe, just maybe, Sacrament Meetings would be more reverent if a few elements of the meeting took into account the needs of the younger members of the congregation.

  20. invisibleman says:

    IMHO let the children attend and cry…I remember in a past ward there used to be a severly handicapped boy that would wail occasionally during the meetings…Eventually when he was past High School age, he moved to a separate care facility, and out of the ward. Now when I am in Sacrament Meetings sometimes darned if that is not one of the sounds I miss! I have a 12 year-old autistic daughter who occasionally does something inappropriate in Sacrament Meeting, or makes a loud noise. I would hope that others understand and empathize, and recognize that she is there to feel the spirit as well. I get enough disapproving looks and glances in worldly situations, and it is nice not to have to worry about it in Sacrament Meeting. Christ said let the children come unto me, when his disciples wanted to user them out…Perhaps there is something to this?

  21. The arguments for having a SM-time nursery are persuasive, but since this is unlikely to happen, they don’t seem very useful.

    A huge amount of latitude should be given to children and parents as they try to work this out. Different kids have different needs, so let everyone do what they need to do. Our kids do OK, but this is because of their temperaments, because we have loads for them to do and because we often take a toilet break walk-around during the last speaker’s talk. But our office-block meeting hall has a cry room and speakers in several of the classrooms, so you can take kids out or even feed them in the kitchen and still follow the meeting. We have ward members that come in for the sacrament and leave, listening while kids play in other rooms, or even going out for a walk with small kids or sleeping babies. It’s all good.

    I strongly believe that anyone who has small children has no business sitting on the stand for the entire meeting, but that is a pet rant of mine and deserves its own post.

  22. The Anglican church I sometimes frequent has a child’s play area in the corner. Kids can colour and play even while the service is being held. Only works if there are one or two kids, though.

  23. “The arguments for having a SM-time nursery are persuasive, but since this is unlikely to happen, they don’t seem very useful.” (21)

    It is such a sensible solution. Why is it unlikely?

    I wish something besides banishment could be instituted. I have seen so many worn-out parents go inactive over this issue. It’s heart-breaking.

  24. I spent years wrestling with my children when they were young and didn’t get to hear a word from speakers. Now that they are somewhat grown and I can hear the content of the talks, I wish I could go back and wrestle with the kids.

  25. This was not an issue when I was a child. I know that was a different world.
    There was not a 3hr block. PH was at 9AM. (no kids). SS 11Am (kids in JSS or class). SS 5PM. (Babies in the cry room as needed.) For young kids, disorder was not an option. No toys, coloring books, or food. You were to sit there period. If you got bored or tired, you put your head on mom’s lap and went to sleep.

  26. Bob (#16): So, “cry rooms” were for sleeping and feeding (that is, silent) babies? No crying allowed in the sound-proof “cry rooms” that we used to build?

  27. #16 Faith in God is the beginning of reverence. Being quiet is the first step in being quiet.

  28. Jami, if you can show me a correlation between how sensible an idea is and how likely it is to be implemented, I’ll be glad to see it. :)

    I just think with the family focus and the stress on the traditions within the church, it is hard to imagine.

  29. #26: You are right, they should be called ‘stop the crying room’. They were not sound-proof.
    #27; Do you limit reverence only to God? Yes, reverence and quiet usually go together. ( Noise goes well with fun or joy).

  30. Norbert, point taken.

  31. Bob (29),
    Mark B. is absolutely correct. Quiet may be a good quality on its own, but it is absolutely tangential to reverence. There is nothing antithetical about reverencing God through song, through dance, or through meditation. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with encouraging quiet during meetings. But stop pretending that quiet has anything to do with reverence. If it is a virtue, it is a separate virtue from reverence, and one that should stand (or not) on its own.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    There used to be a campaign every year by the older folk for an adults-only Xmas party. The bishop always nixed any such idea, and we’ve always had the stereotyped family party, the highlight being a visit by Santa Claus.

    But the best church Xmas party I’ve ever been to was the one I planned at a previous ward, which was adults only (the theme was an Englisc Chrystmasse: sit down roast beast dinner, madrigals choir from the local high school, various old English Christmas traditions, singing of traditional English carols, Christmas crackers, the works. Everyone loved my party!)

    It can be a tough balancing act.

  33. reverence and joy also go together

    I guess I stopped thinking church was for me to be spiritually fed. I go to church to take the sacrament, for my children to be there and to do my calling…Sometimes I luckily get a part of a talk or a lesson-not every week

    This attitude is most successful when I’ve actually pondered on the scriptures during the week-I’m fed already.

    My favorite sacrament meetings are primary programs

  34. I’m revisiting this post after my three hour block meeting. Rathering than requesting more quiet, I’m going to have to agree with comments that suggest that the best way to promote reverence for both kids and adults would be to find ways of making us more engaged by including more variety and interaction within the meetings. How can I possibly expect kids to be quiet when I can’t even stand sitting for three hours in a row? Equating reverence with quiet probably does stifle our spiritual worship at times.

  35. #31: Quiet and reverence: See raising and lowering of flags, see “a moment of silence” in respect for the dead, see how they are taught in church SS, see how they are used in hymns.
    I have no reason to “pretend”. I think history and tradition is on my side.

  36. When I was a kid, I went to a Congregational church in Connecticut. The littlest kids (3 and under) went directly to nursery. The older kids (up to age 10 or 11) sat through an opening hymn and prayer, and then we had “children’s time,” where the minister spoke directly to the kids. On the first Sunday of the month, he gave out oreos and grapes as our “communion.” Then we filed out to Sunday School and the adults spent the next 45 minutes in peace.

    With four kids ages 9-2, instead of being an hour of peace and respite and recommitment, Sacrament Meeting feels like the most stressful hour of the week– trying to keep the kids occupied and quiet, and always, no matter what I pack or how I threaten, failing again and again. Someone told me earlier this week that if sacrament mtg is my hardest hour of the week, I must have a pretty good life, which I guess is true, but during the hours of 9-10:10 on Sunday morning, sometimes I can’t see how good my life is or feel anything resembling the Spirit.

  37. Christ said let the children come unto me, when his disciples wanted to user them out…Perhaps there is something to this?

    I love this.

  38. Speaking of children coming to Christ scriptures…I have always snarkily laughed that when Christ was with the Nephite children…there were angels there…even He is smart enough to call in reinforcements when dealing with young children.

    On the other hand I have wondered about the behavior of the children during the long prayers during the Nephite visit. I have lost the ability to pray with my eyes closed so I can keep the baby alive. How did the children do it then? Did they? Maybe they weren’t there?

  39. I have very active kids, so I can totally sympathize with those who want nursery during Sacrament meeting, but I wonder if it would really solve problems in the long run. Some of my kids were upset enough to have to go to Primary instead of nursery (no more toys), so making a transition from playtime to Sacrament meeting seems almost impossible to me.

  40. “It has been my practice when I have taken them out due to irreverence, to sit them on the couch, and sit right next to them with my hand around their knee to inflict any pain needed until they understand what it means to sit reverently”

    Because there is nothing I want more than for my children to associate the worphip of Christ with physical manipulation and pain. What does “reverent” mean again? Oh yeah.

  41. Earlier today I was contemplating the story about the time when women brought little children so that Jesus could touch them and the disciples rebuked them. I’m sure you remember…

    “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

    Usually when we talk about that scripture we talk about how we must become childlike in order to enter the kingdom of God. But I think there’s another piece here. The disciples were feeling annoyed at the interruption by unpredictable and intrinsically distracting, inattentive and wiggly children. Little children are not the most sober, quiet, cooperative or reasonable people to have around. (I understand that. We have about 40 of them, under the age of 4, in our sacrament meeting each Sunday and it’s hard to focus or hear sometimes.) But Jesus is saying that they, like every other distracting or difficult person who seeks God, are part of the kingdom of God. To be true members in the kingdom of God we must learn to live peaceably and charitably, and at peace with the people in the group that we are more likely to find annoying. He is telling his disciples that he is requiring that they (and we) see and love and be patient with people in our congregations who are difficult for us to spend time with due to their youth, their senility, their illness, their disabilities, their troubles or their oddities. That’s not always easy. Fortunately, as you know, Moroni pointed out that charity is a gift we can pray to receive. We can actually ask to be given the gift to respond wisely with charity towards and actually love those we find are difficult to be patient with. The gift may come slowly as we go through a learning process and may take time but it does come. It’s quite remarkable.
    I certainly took my children out to listen elsewhere when they were small and squawky and remember years of not hearing much due to their wiggles in the chapel. But it was worth the time spent, and it behooves me to school myself to allow other young families the blessings we received because of those years of attendance.

  42. mb, I like your point.

  43. mb–the problem is that in our Sacrament Meetings, in the model you propose, children are _instruments_ for the improvement of adults, rather than ends in themselves. That is a marked contrast to the episode with the Savior, where the children’s needs were clearly foremost.

  44. I have served in Primary for most of my adult life, and I believe it is the most holy place in the church. It is not always quiet, but it is reverent. I feel the spirit so strongly there, I feel sorry for the adults in GD class. Primary allows children to worship and learn of Christ in an age appropriate and engergetic manner.

    Sadly, our Sacrament meetings have become dry and somewhat pinched in spirit. Speakers are no longer allowed to use visual aids. Music has become less and less a part of our worship. Speakers never address the children, as they would occaisionaly do when my children were young. For a church that professes to be pro-family, we really don’t do much to support family worship.

    If the church wants SM to be more reverent, then they need to support families. How about some talks that address children? How about more music, LOTS more music?It calms everyone, including children. How about some primary songs, so the children can sing along? This church is full of creative people who love children. Give them the call to make SM more family friendly, and watch what they come up with.

    One more thing to keep in mind, CHILDREN ARE NOT ADULTS. In case some folks have forgotten that.

  45. ummquestion says:

    Well said mb.

    I wonder sometimes why it seems so easy to forget what it means to worship God.

    Sacrament meeting is one hour out of the 168 hours of my week that I get to GIVE my sins, my gratitude and my love to God in exchange for the opportunity to be cleansed and renewed by Him. We have six children (3 with ADHD) so I don’t get to hear every word of every talk, but I get to renew my covenants. I don’t yet get to sit in silence, but someday I will not get to pull one or two of my children close to me and whisper gospel principles in their ears.

    When I greet Sunday mornings tired and crabby and spiritually hungry-it indicates that my family/home life is out of balance, not Church meetings. It means that I’ve got too many things on my plate that suck the life and spirit out of me because I can’t say no or haven’t prioritized well. It’s a sure sign that I’ve neglected my own daily personal prayers and the feasting of scripture study that connects me to God and His vital energy and power.

    When my Sunday thoughts have become more about “what is in it for me” than they are about “what is in me FOR Him”, I know that I have lost sight of its purpose and the sacred gifts God has given to me AND my children.

  46. Kristine,
    I think that each person’s needs are foremost in the Savior’s mind: the children’s need to be blessed, the disciples need to learn patience and lovingkindness, the mothers’ needs to bring their children, etc. etc. etc. I merely focused on the second one (the disciples’ needs) because that is the one that struck me, as I am one who, if not careful, easily bristles a bit at the amount of noise in our sacrament meeting.

    I am sorry if the post implied that children are “instruments” for the improvement of adults as that was not at all what I believe. What I do believe is that all of us are easily annoyed by (and in our turn annoy) some person or other in our various congregations, and that Jesus taught that rebuffing or expelling those who make our quiet communion with Christ a little more difficult is totally contrary to what he taught us that our response to them should be.

  47. Now, that said, if someone wants to start changing money at exorbitant rates in the chapel during sacrament meeting, I’m fine with you insisting that they go do that somewhere else.

  48. You know, nursery during SM doesn’t have to be devoid of spiritual training or reverence. It doesn’t have to be all play and cookies. And it doesn’t have to be hard to staff.

    Parents (or people who want to give parents a break) could easily sign up to join their youngest ones during the meeting on a rotating basis, the kids could sing some Primary songs, the deacons could bring the Sacrament in, and there could be time to practice both quietness and reverence in segments of time more fit to the developmental ages of the kids involved.

    Lessons in SM nursery could coordinate with whatever the assigned topic is for the day’s speakers is, a member of the bishopric could come in and greet the little kids occasionally. When the weather’s nice, the kids could go outside and learn to revere the wonder of God’s creations. When the weather’s icky, the kids could go for a walk around the building and learn to show respect for God’s house and talk about the pictures adorning the foyers.

    There could be several Sundays a year where there is no SM nursery (Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Primary program day, etc.) On these special Sundays, speakers could be encouraged to address the children in particular and hymns used could be those more familiar to the kids (or even Primary songs).

    The needs of the kids could be met. The needs of those wanting a bit more peace and quiet in SM would be met. The needs of parents (particularly single parents) to have an hour of communal worship and meditation would be met.

    And since it would be a voluntary thing, those who felt the kids absolutely had to be in SM the whole time could keep their status quo; those with growing kids could do some transitioning by attending SM until a certain point (after Sacrament, after the first speaker, after the rest song, etc.); those feeling totally and completely overwhelmed by the thought of trying to corral rambunctious toddlers for an hour would have the option of attending without kids (instead of skipping meetings altogether).

  49. Sacrament Meeting would be a lot easier if it were 50 minutes long instead of 70 minutes long. Seriously, why 70 minutes? It’s on my list of things to ask God on the Other Side. The balance of the meeting is hard enough, but those last 15-20 minutes are just murder. I might could do it, though, if it was all just singing or something. Even in wards with no musical talent and close-to-zero music participation, 20 minutes of singing time would beat 20 minutes of EVER MORE TALKING time any day of the week.

  50. Seriously, does anybody know why it’s 70 minutes long? Is it like some subtle shout out to the Quorum of the Seventy? It just seems so random. And overlong. I always spend the last 20 minutes of the meeting puzzling over it. It’s a personal problem.

  51. #50: It could be an extra mile thing, or a compromise between 50 and 90…..
    I believe it is also the time length of Beethoven’s 9th.

  52. Having just left Single’s ward, I love the sound of children. Not screaming, of course, but the reminder that there are kids …

  53. I don’t mind the idea of a SM nursery, and would volunteer even though my children are all older than 12. However, I don’t know where that nursery would go. Most buildings are shared between 3 wards. Makes it hard.

  54. LRC,

    Make it so!!


  55. “Make it so!!”

    I’ve long thought that this would make so much more sense than the way we currently do thing, but have always just assumed that any change would need to come from the top down. But I don’t think that’s the case.

    All it would take in an individual ward is for someone with small kids to start taking their kids to a small room each week (preferably the nursery room if it’s available) on their own initiative each week. Once things got in the groove, you could invite other people from the hallways to join. It could build slowly and gradually, spreading by word of mouth. It is entirely possible that there would be a conversation to be had with the bishop at some point, but I think if the person were tactful and respectful, there would be (or at least should be) no problem.

    In short, if you’ve got small kids and like this idea, just do it.

  56. My ward has 100+ active kids in Primary. 3 of those kids are mine and sacrament meeting can be quite loud sometimes. I don’t mind it though. Adults who can’t hear can arrive a bit early and sit in the front. The rest of the horde sits further back anyway. We take our kids out when they get disruptive, but it is a balancing act when they are 3-4 years old. Getting taken out is fun for them as its a change of scenery and one on one time with mom or dad and kids quickly learn how to get taken out every single week. When I take them out I try to make it not fun. I don’t inflict pain, but usually take them into an unoccupied room and sit in silence with them on a hard metal chair. Usually that’s far more boring than sacrament meeting and they want to go back in within minutes. The foyer is no place to take kids, because it may as well be nursery time from all the kids playing out there.

    My kids rarely need to be taken out anymore, though occasionally we have a meltdown from the 9 or 6 yr old which requires a quick exit. The 3 yr old knows he gets to play with his cars or color in the chapel and no where else, so he’s content to stay and play.

    I don’t like the idea of seperating kids from scarmanet meeting, because the transition back into sacrament meeting with older kids would be horrible. Its hard enough going from nursery to sunbeams. While my kids aren’t listening to the talks at a young age I have witnessed them gradually be more attuned to the meeting as they get older. I think it works well and wouldn’t wish another system on any child or adult.

  57. I like the idea of shortening sacrament meeting. Madhousewife, regarding 70 minutes, I have no idea, but didn’t it used to be 90 before the 3-hour block? I wonder if the architects of the 3-hour block felt like they couldn’t cut it too far or we would seem like wimpy Protestants or something. Maybe in the next iteration, we’ll get the Celestial 2 hour block with 50-minute sacrament meeting.

    I also like the idea of directing more of the meeting at children. The last time I spoke in sacrament meeting, I read out of a picture book. Not much, but every little bit helps.

    Also, Kristine, if you’re still reading, do you remember the comment that you made on this topic last year at T&S? Spot on, and made me laugh too:

    One hopes that in another few decades we’ll evolve to the level of most Protestant churches and have a humane system with a brief children’s sermon and then excuse the kids to age-appropriate forms of (religious-flavored, if we must) childcare.

    Or we could just continue teaching children emotionally manipulative songs about how their wiggling makes baby Jesus cry, haranguing parents from the pulpit for not being able to force their children into wildly precocious quietness, and indulging in public smugness if we happen to have the kinds of children who have an easier time with this kind of self-control…

  58. John Mansfield says:

    Elder Holland supports Kristine regarding chapel walls (and ceilings):

    As a young man of Primary and Aaronic Priesthood age, I attended church in the grand old St. George Tabernacle, construction for which had begun in 1863. During very lengthy sermons I would amuse myself by gazing about the building, admiring the marvelous pioneer craftsmanship that had built that striking facility. Did you know, by the way, that there are 184 clusters of grapes carved into the ceiling cornice of that building? (Some of those sermons were really long!)

  59. Ziff,

    Heh. I guess this is a bit of a pet topic for me. One more thing, and then I’ll quit, I promise.

    Several people have talked about how much harder it would be if you had to have kids make the transition into Sacrament Mtg. when they were older. This ignores a crucial point: 7-year-olds are different creatures than 3-year-olds. They have substantially more cognitive ability and can understand the “go-along-to-get-along” routine much better than 3-year-olds. I think Sacrament Meeting Training is a little like potty training–it’s much, MUCH easier if you do it at a developmentally appropriate stage of a child’s life. You can potty-train a 1-year-old, but mostly it just means you do a lot more laundry and spend a lot more time being angry (or at least annoyed) at your child. I’m very much in favor of potty training, and I’m very much in favor including children in Sacrament Meeting and challenging them to develop the skills involved in worship. But I suspect that this is a sort of training that is undertaken better late than early.

  60. Great comparison, Kristine.

  61. We complain that three hours is too long and we complain that the church doesn’t teach us more deep doctrine/detailed history/tolerance and cooperation/other pet peeve. We complain about having to go back to church in the middle of the week because family time is family time and we complain that the church doesn’t get us involved in community service and take more of our family time. We complain that young children have *two*whole*hours* of singing and stories and complain that the same kind of activity isn’t offered to them during the third hour. I’m complaining that everybody complains.

    Ahh, it’s good to be home!

  62. We may collectively complain about all those things, Ardis, but I’ll try to individually keep my complaining consistent. I’ll do my best to not complain that we don’t delve into historically tricky issues in Sunday School. Or at least I’ll try not to complain about that within a week of having complained that the 3-hour block is too long. :)

  63. Ardis, are you suggesting that this post is in need of a cry room? ;)

  64. And I’ll try not to complain about the church’s fixation on numbers in the same week I’m cheering about yours. :)

  65. Sure, Scott!

    One unmentioned benefit of cry rooms: In older buildings in Utah, the balcony in the chapel was often converted to a cry room by walling the balcony off with glass. In buildings where they didn’t so construct cry rooms, the balconies were sometimes taken down, either because they became unfashionable or structurally unsafe (or maybe because too many goofy Scouts went head-first into the congregation, I don’t know). Now they’ve generally taken out the glass and restored the balconies.

    Three cheers for balconies that preserved the architectural integrity of Mormon chapels!

  66. er, … three cheers for cry rooms that preserved the architectural integrity … (Three cheers for balconies, too.)

  67. I for one don’t want more deep doctrine, nor do I want more family time. I just want a shorter sacrament meeting. For myself. My kids will be miserable no matter what.

  68. That’s why you shouldn’t poke them.

  69. “Architectural integrity of Mormon chapels!”. Any that still have basketball courts should have them turned into classrooms, play/craft rooms, cry rooms, and holding tanks.
    ( And maybe something for the kids).

  70. Don’t quit Kristine. Reading what you have written on this thread and thinking about what church could be like is as good a fantasy as I have had in at least two days.

    On only a slightly related note, I know a woman who claims she used to pinch her children so she could the excuse herself from the chapel. If Elder Packer had directed fathers to do the ushering out a decade or so earlier, those poor kids may have turned out much better.

  71. Glassed-in balconies present their own problems.

  72. The utility of having a separate area for parents with crying babies is so obvious that there should be little argument over it. Frankly I’m surprised at those who say otherwise. Take a look at your church foyers today — they are already de facto crying rooms, albeit ghettoized ones. Much better to take away from parents the stigma of a crying child, and give everyone a place to worship.

  73. Thanks everyone for your comments. I’m closing the thread.

  74. John Mansfield says:

    Maybe the whole chapel could be subdivided into glass-enclosed isolation cells. Sort of a cross between the curtains in the Kirtland Temple and Get Smart’s cone of silence.

  75. We had a bishop in Magna, Utah, who would get down off the stand during Sacrament Meeting and remove any or all of his five children who were acting up. My wife has often said she’s never had more respect for any priesthood leader. I thought it was a great example myself.

    When my daughter was little, if she started acting up, I’d take her out to the foyer, sit down with her, and hold her (without causing pain) so she couldn’t move more than an inch in any direction. When she settled down, we’d head back in. It only took two or three rounds before she learned she had a lot more freedom inside the meeting than out. As she got older, we’d sometimes discuss the bad behavior of other kids and how that wasn’t appropriate. I’d even make a point of thanking her for being good when she deserved it. Once in a while, I’d ask if I could jump up and run around, yell and scream, or do a naked butt dance in the aisles. There is no child quite as good as one who thinks he/she is enforcing the rules on their parents.

    The ones that bother us now are when we see children cry, get picked up, and leave the chapel with a big grin on their faces. They just earned a reward for bad behavior – they get to play in the foyer for the rest of the meeting.

    I’d guess that 20% of the families cause 80% of the problems.

  76. “The utility of having a separate area for parents with crying babies is so obvious that there should be little argument over it.”

    By separate area I assume you mean my living room? Evans, I always said you were a genius.

  77. Steve Evans says:

    Mat, I was thinking more like the trapdoor chairs from Dr. Evil’s lair.

  78. So can we just drop off our crying kids in your living room or do you expect us to stay in there with them?

  79. The ones that bother us now are when we see children cry, get picked up, and leave the chapel with a big grin on their faces. They just earned a reward for bad behavior – they get to play in the foyer for the rest of the meeting.

    If the parents are taking the kids out for reasons other than to keep the whipping from disturbing their dozing co-religionists, something is amiss. Spare the rod, spoil the child!

  80. I don’t have problem with a cry room for parents to take their kids to; I’ve spent my fair share of time in the hall during Sacrament meeting (and Sunday school and Relief Society for that matter). I guess I have a problem with a staffed nursery for that one hour of church. Maybe that’s because I’m one of the people who tends to get called to the “unwanted” callings (sunbeams, cub scouts, nursery, etc.).
    In my ideal world, Sacrament meetings would be more kid-friendly (more music, some talks directed to kids, shorter, maybe?), people would be more tolerant of the “reverent noise” that accompanies children who are trying to play quietly, and there would be a nice set of grandparents to sit with each family with children in case things start getting really out of hand.
    Let’s also not ignore the crucial point that those 7-year-olds with greater cognitive development can also be a lot more willful in their own ways than 3-year-olds. It really depends upon the temperament of the child. Maybe my kids are just exceptionally stubborn.

  81. “Who sinned, this child or his parents, that he should be so ornery in sacrament meeting?”

  82. Rebecca J, that’s hilarious!

    I’m glad the kids are with us. Because of them, I’ve had countless experiences where I saw the Savior in someone else because they were kind to my children (and therefore me) in sacrament mtg. An older couple used to bring snacks for my kids. Teenagers have played with them. The bishopric has held one on their lap while my husband or I bore a testimony.

    Even if they learn nothing from the speakers (which I think they actually do, noisy or not), my kids see that sacrament meeting is important to us. They see me making an effort to go and pay attention. They see that I want to listen, even if they make that impossible for that day. They know that I want them to be there, that I want them to benefit from it too.

    I’m sure we’ve annoyed plenty of people. Before I know it, the day will come when I don’t have to struggle with them over reverence. I even get a little teary-eyed now thinking of how someday, there won’t be a little red-headed 4 yr old with chubby cheeks falling asleep on my lap (having been made to sit there because he wouldn’t leave his brothers alone, saying in not the most reverent tone, “Mommy, wemme down!”). Someday, there won’t be the little almost 2 yr old girl folding her arms and bowing her head next to me saying, “Heaben-y Fodder,” over and over again during the sacrament prayer. Someday soon, these wiggly little ones will be the youth who are capturing the attention of the restless toddler in the pew in front of them-filling that toddler’s mother’s heart with gratitude. These experiences have given me some of the sweetest moments of my life, where I was so grateful to be a mother, in Zion.

  83. HeidiAnn, That’s the reason I should be happy we don’t have nursery during sacrament meeting. Thanks for the reminder.

  84. 81: “Who sinned, this child or his parents, that he should be so ornery in sacrament meeting?”

    I should confess that I once decided the clerk’s office would make an ideal Father’s Room. After all if the mothers get a room, we fathers should get one too right? Besides, nobody uses the clerk’s office during sacrament meeting.

    So one sunday I took my crying son in there, because I felt bad for all the people in the hall who had to listen to the crying and the clerk’s office had sound-proof doors and white-noise speakers for good measure. My logic was perfectly sound except for the fact that the chapel’s microphone sound wasn’t being piped into me and I had to turn on the computer in order to keep myself somewhat entertained while listening to the crying. After a while my wife came looking for me and was shocked to find me in the clerk’s office playing solitaire on the computer with my son (finally) asleep in my arms. No more Father’s Room after that little experiment I’m afraid.

  85. I just asked my dad why we no longer have cry rooms in our chapels. He said, “These days, we are made of sterner stuff. We are stout-hearted men, no longer in need of cry rooms.”

  86. Just take babies out to the foyer when they start to cry.

  87. It’s true that if the kids weren’t there, we’d miss a lot of great moments. My favorite: one time in that hushed moment right before the sacrament prayer starts, our primary president’s 2-year-old dropped his bottle on the floor and said (loudly), “damn it!”

  88. Kristine, that’s awesome.

  89. children are the substitute entertainment provided while us unprofessionals give talks. They are also our opportunity to practice what the speaker is saying.

  90. Kevin Barney says:

    I must say that as an empty nester, I love having kids in SM. Great entertainment. But I realize that’s easy for me to say.

    When our kids were small, there was a counselor in the SP who was a real Nazi on kids making any noise at all. He would scan the congregation, and if your kid acted up in the least way he would give you a very public evil eye from the pulpit, point to the child in question and give a quick thumb motion meant to instruct you in no uncertain terms to drag the kid outta there. I found *his* antics annoyingly offensive.

  91. britt,

    I also have an “opportunity” to practice the Savior’s teachings if I get pistol-whipped in a dark alley. This is still not a compelling reason to hang around in dark alleys. Sometimes, instead of practicing the Saviors teachings, we can just adopt a better way.

    Anyone experienced in Mormon rhetoric knows “opportunity” is code for “an bad attempt to justify something unpleasant by connecting it with God”, cf. trial.

  92. I found myself wishing we had cry rooms just this Sunday during fast & testimony meeting – the noise level was ridiculous.

  93. If sacrament meeting is for renewing our covenants.. then it really doesn’t need to take an hour and ten minutes. If folks can move swiftly, the ward business, songs, sacrament, and a brief talk could all be done in 30 minutes…

    If we do the same to RS/PP and Sunday School – we could be outta there each Sunday is 2 hours.

    Do I hear an “amen” for shrinking the high council talk down to 5 minutes and adding a primary song medley?

    It’s a great day sisters and brothers.

  94. John Mansfield says:

    The only time I was in a cry room (older building somewhere around San Jose) it was full of noisy teenagers and latecomers. Not much different from hanging out in the foyer.

    And more music for the sake of the children? I guess some children enjoy music in church more than mine do, but most of mine won’t open the hymnal nor sing along without explicit prompting each time, and are as oblivious to musical performances in sacrament meeting as they are to the speakers. (Primary can be quite a chore for children who don’t like singing all that much.) Perhaps it is some fault in my children’s upbringing that they don’t love singing and listening to hymns.

  95. My oldest daughter didn’t like church music when she was younger. (She liked real music just fine, but some of the hymns and most of the Primary songs caused her to run screaming from the room.) The reason I think more music would be an improvement is that the organ and the singing drown out the noisy kids more effectively than just talking does. At least it did with mine.

    As a Primary child, I hated to sing. (And yes, Primary was thus a chore for me–at least it was if anyone hassled me about singing.) I didn’t mind just listening to it, though.

  96. At least once a month, my last bishopric called someone to give a talk aimed directly at the Primary children during Sacrament meeting. They made a point to ask the most vivacious and entertaining speakers and they were definitely my favorite talks of the month (solid doctrine, entertaining stories, great energy). I would totally vote for having a children’s talk every week.