Reverent to Reverence

Being reverent is a phrase we grew up knowing, but mostly as the tattle-tale outcast, not as a close friend. Being reverent, for me, meant a behavior, a set of folded arms, a quiet mouth, a bum in a pew. As I’ve grown older, and now have my own kids to teach, that definition isn’t quite cutting it. Of course I believe in teaching my children respect, and of course I don’t let them run wild during meetings, there is value in learning to sit calmly, but nothing else  I am teaching them in their lives lends itself to equating their value in the eyes of God with being silent.

It seems to be a running theme that many of our trusty go-to standard Mormon words are antiquated. They’ve expired and it’s exhilarating to think that we have the work of forming new language, evolved and better equipped to serve us. There are words, like preside for example (see recent posts), or reverent, that mean different things to different generations and the discrepancies can leave us frustrated and confused.

I would say that rather than butt heads with these words and their users, and rather than just simply replacing them, let’s go to the work of wrestling with these words (as happened a couple of posts back) so that we can really get to the bottom of what we say, then mean, then do. And if we need to, let’s retire those tired words.

Back to the word reverent then. It’s on my mind because it’s been a hot topic in my ward. Older generations wanting kids to be more ‘reverent’ and younger generations of parents saying we are doing our best, but we also want our kids to be a part and loved in all their child-like authenticity, which often doesn’t equate to silent, folded arms.

It got me to thinking then, what does reverence mean? How do I teach my children reverence beyond a behavior? I’m personally not interested in wheedling my two and four year old into silent perfection, because while it might be nice to actually sit through a meeting uninterrupted, I sorrow at the implications of showing them they are not welcome or a part, unless x, y or z. And plus, their interruptions are most often not ill-intentioned jabs into the spiritual experiences of others during a sacrament meeting, but rather the interruptions are quiet laughter, a goldfish delivery to a friend a few rows back, a half whisper in my ear.

What if instead of the emphasis resting on teaching reverence to our children, we, as adults, simply stopped and reverenced children and their wild, and curious spirits? What if we reverenced the parents who are working hard for those children? What if we reverenced the single woman who brings a bag of toys and sits with a family every week during sacrament meeting? What if we reverenced the single man who has been in nursery for three years? Three years!!! What if we taught our children to reverence the fact that we are all part of an unintentional community? What if we reverenced the fact that we all cram in a room together for an hour each week and somehow believe that we are better for it? What if we reverenced the people who find they need to step away from the church in order to better find themselves and God?  What if we spent more time reverencing the mountains and fields? What if we reverenced the things that make us different? What if we spent more time reverencing the life and mission of Christ?

It’s not a new concept, but often a forgotten one, that when our spirits reverence Christ and the things that point toward Him, our outward actions are also more reverent.  Children are capable of feeling reverence, and we can allow them the opportunity to work out their understanding and feelings before we quash it with demands to only be reverent.

I still believe in the word reverent, but I like it better when the final ‘t’ is removed and we change it to a ‘ce’. What do we reverence? And how can we teach our young people to want to practice reverencing ideas, hopes, faith and people?

What do you reverence and how do you practice it?

Comments

  1. My husband isn’t active or believing, so I take my children to church by myself. Over the past several years, this has become a very sore point for me. Our current bishop is determined that everyone in our small ward sit in the chapel, so he first closed the overflow section, urging those with small children to just “squish in” with some of the older people in the ward, who he assures us would be “happy” to help us out. Then when all of the families with young children instead moved to the foyer, he threatened to cease having the sacrament taken out to the foyer. Fortunately someone who’s actually dealt with small children in church talked him down.

    After years of struggling through church with my wild, dancing, running, flailing, screaming son, who hates church and hates Primary and who generally spends sacrament meeting egging his older sister on to wilder and wilder behavior–the term “reverent,” especially in the mouth of some older male leadership type who’s spent the last decade serenely on the stand–has started to induce teeth-gritting rage. Let’s reverence God and the small children who are our models for the kingdom of God by making church reasonably friendly to those small children, and to their caregivers, usually mothers, whom we claim to so honor.

  2. Great thoughts, Ashley. I think you nailed it with this question: “What if we spent more time reverencing the life and mission of Christ?”

    I’ve long equated our emphasis on “being reverent” with our never ending focus on outward appearances (shirt colors, hemlines, number of piercings, facial hair, etc). If you see me sitting in sacrament meeting, you might think I’m being reverent… but am I? On the outside, sure, I sit quietly. But where are my thoughts? What’s running through my mind? Some weeks I pay attention to the speakers, other weeks I mentally recite Jay-Z lyrics. Reverence is far more about my state of mind than my outward appearance.

  3. It pains me to say this, but children are ruining my church experience.
    I get what the OP is saying, and in a perfect world it could probably bring about Zion. But we are far from that ideal, and I fear that we as a Western-American Mormon culture are heading away from it at an accelerating pace.

    This is the second ward I’ve lived in which I can sometimes not hear the speakers because of crying babies & toddlers making noise. We have reached the young-couple-having-babies critical mass, which is to say that there are so many new babies in the ward that not a minute goes by that one of them is not crying. But to be fair, it’s not the baby’s fault. They don’t know any better. I’m not mad at the babies. The babies are not the problem.

    My issue is with the parents of those children who haul in the two “diaper bags” plus the bulky car seat & each of the children has their own backpack full of stuff. These are the same parents that quite literally took up the whole foyer the previous week to spread out blankets and toys all over the floor to keep their small children entertained. I would not have noticed, had I not nearly tripped over the toys & children on my way out of the building to go get some air after the raucous sacrament meeting ended. This is becoming more and more common as time goes by, and I don’t see any mechanism in place to curb its growth.

    Our sacrament meetings are NOT a time for quiet contemplation or blissful communion with any kind of deity. On all accounts they are too loud, too noisy, too distracting with all the kids (not babies) playing and making noise. It is a growing trend & only getting worse.

    And I get it. I consider myself a reasonable person. It goes both ways, and we all have to be patient with each other, walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes, etc. However, I feel like childless middle aged couples are on the outs as far as church culture goes. Heaven knows that I’ve been trying to see things from the parents-of-small children point of view, but NOBODY has EVER been willing to even attempt seeing it from mine.

    It is to the point where I sometimes wonder if the Church is the right place for me anymore.

  4. “It pains me to say this, but children are ruining my church experience.”

    Children are your church experience.

  5. Nate, points well taken. Thank you for taking the time to respond with this point of view. It is useful to me as a parent and as my own ward is really in the midst of these issues. I guess part of my interest in this subject is how we do actually come to a place that allows for meaningful worship for everyone who comes to do so. Maybe the point then is that we need to spend more time reverencing one another, asking more, ‘what can i do for you?’ and less, ‘what can you do for me.’ Part of the problem for us is that our ward literally has 150 kids, so no matter what, the room is loud. I would honestly love to hear any ideas or suggestions you have for parents of young kids. There is a group of young parents in my ward talking about this right now.

  6. Dog Pface says:

    The current emphasis on reverence/sabbath = put away the electronic devices.

  7. Let’s reverence God and the small children who are our models for the kingdom of God by making church reasonably friendly to those small children, and to their caregivers, usually mothers, whom we claim to so honor.

    That is perfectly said — thank you!

  8. ZD eve, bless you for your work. I hope things get better in your ward and they re-open the back! smaller chapels are not what we need! I love your last lines.

  9. John Mansfield says:

    Loving and serving God by loving and serving people is a well-established Christian and Mormon principle. What is it that keeps this mode of worship from collapsing into self-idolatry?

  10. John, excellent question.

  11. To start off, I do think it is important to teach children how to sit still even when they are not being entertained. There are many different areas in my life where the ability to sit still when I am bored is important (church, work, school).
    On the other hand, in our modern society, each generation has become less and less interested in church. If we want our children to love church, spending 3 hours urging them to be quiet is not going to do the trick. Rather than expecting a toddler to act like an adult, let’s try to engage children in learning. I realize this can be difficult in sacrament meeting that is focused entirely on adults. But as recently released primary teacher, it is amazing to me how much we expect children to never make noise or run around, even in primary! If kids are not enjoying their time at church (and if they spend 3 hours a week being constantly scolded, they won’t enjoy it), then when they become adults and have trying times, there is so much less to keep them there.
    Also, I think it important to realize that there are some kids who will literally never be capable of sitting still and being silent. I had an extremely difficult 4 year old in my last primary class. I never once could keep him quiet for a year and a half (I moved up from sunbeams to CTR 4 with him). I felt like my main job with this child was to make sure he went home thinking primary was a great place to be. My second job was to give his mother (who was a stay at home mother) two hours of peace each week where she didn’t have to worry about how he was acting.
    This comment is already to long, but I just want to say that I loved the OP and I think we need to shift our focus from being quiet to learning from each other as a community. Church is about more than learning from the speakers, it is about learning from those who make our lives more complicated and often difficult.

  12. EBK, i want to give you a hug. I know a lot of other people who would too.

  13. I felt like my main job with this child was to make sure he went home thinking primary was a great place to be. My second job was to give his mother (who was a stay at home mother) two hours of peace each week where she didn’t have to worry about how he was acting.

    The ideal primary teacher! Would that all had this perspective!

  14. The Other Clark says:

    Don’t make up a new word when the real one will do (see also “ponderize”). The verb you are looking for is “revere,” defined as “to show devoted honor to, or regard as worthy of great honor”

    God demands reverence, and we revere him. I do not revere wild curious children, single mothers with toys, or dads in nursery; although I respect them and their contribution.

    It’s true that “reverence is more than just quietly sitting.” It’s a feeling and attitude that is key to true worship. I think the institutional church recognizes this (e.g. the primary song quoted above) and is trying to overcome the challenge, as with most spiritual things, of how to teach the attitude without undue emphasis on related behaviors. Elder Anderson, last April conference spoke of learning to “hear the music” so that the dance (behaviour) makes sense. The average Church member, including myself, needs to do much better at this, and in many areas besides just reverence.

  15. As a mom who has been there/done that with the children in Sacrament meeting, I can say that it’s OK to TRY to teach the kids to be quiet. It doesn’t mean they will be great at it, but they will often be good. It also doesn’t mean I ever quit looking for different ways to make it work when the things I tried that week failed. My parenting style is “Experiment”. By the time we got to the the youngest, she had access to a pen and the back of the program, heh.

    The thing I don’t understand is the parents who don’t even try, or who seem to be so bent on setting up their children to fail at being quiet. (I mean, really–bringing noisy toys to church isn’t going to work.)

    Meanwhile, I don’t think that striving to have great talks will hurt the cause. Children who are old enough to listen will enjoy a good story just as I would. So someone PLEASE tell one.

  16. I home-teach a family with a few special needs kids, and one of them is off-the-charts hyperactive. He’s either sat on my lap for Sacrament meeting or right next to me for about three years now. He’s a lot better behaved now, and hasn’t made a mad dash for the pulpit for quite a while.

    I started with one goal – that he would understand that there are people at church who love me and care about me. We’ve got that down. The rule progressed to “bread, water, tablet”. No electronics until after the Sacrament. For a toddler like that, the mentality is that if I can predict it, I control it. So, he’d wait for the bread, wait for the water, watch for the big boys to sit back down, and then he could use my tablet. Now, we’re up to listening to one talk or testimony before electronics come out. Given that he’s deaf, he sits on my lap for the talk while I translate directly into his cochlear implant. He repeats things back to me, and we’re off and running.

    And amen! on hearing stories in talks. Earlier this year, I related a story about the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 (and yes, there was a big gospel point involved), and heard back from multiple families that their kids put down the goldfish, the phones, the coloring books, and GI Joes, and listened. “Is he talking about bombs, Dad?” “Yep. Listen.” We heard another talk a couple of weeks ago, from a mom, about how her husband used the movie Rocky IV to get the children to do their homework without complaining. (This in a talk about the Proclamation on the Family.)

  17. The Other Clark – “Reverence” (the verb) is a real word. It means “to regard or treat with reverence; to venerate.”

  18. I am sympathetic to those who feel that other people’s children are ruining their church experience. I know my children have certainly ruined mine.

    Three of my four children currently do fine with sitting quietly in sacrament meeting. (It is worth noting that they are 15, 12, and 9 now–although, ironically, it is my 17-year-old who still gives me trouble on a semi-regular basis.) It would be great if more of us who are in a position to do so would help out those families with young and/or rambunctious children. It’s true that most of these kids would rather have their parents’ attention and don’t respond well to strangers trying to manage them. It works better when you can cultivate a relationship with both the family and the child so the child is familiar with you (as in Michael’s case). I could stand to be more proactive in this regard myself, so consider me called to repentance.

  19. The additional challenge here is “What time is your church?” Depending on the age, stage, and callings of your family certain block times are better or worse than others. This weeks daylight savings time change also adds to the mix. If lunch time or nap time or sleep time is altered it’s tough. 3 hours is hard. Years ago they made glassed in cry rooms that were attached to the chapel. I’ve seen a couple, this is not a rumor. These were a Godsend. A parent could take an active tyke up to the glassed in room. The adults could still see and hear the service, the kids could toddle, color, wander, stretch out and not disrupt. It was a balanced answer.

    The entire topic is interesting. When I attend my non-LDS friends services, kids don’t stay in the meeting with the adults. Some times they are there for the first portion and then they are excused before the sermon, or they start in the kid area. Kind of if we had primary running during Sacrament time. This brings the quiet many adults want. The drawback I feel is that families don’t have a meeting they attend together. I don’t know which I prefer.

    Lastly, our meetings can be boring even for adults. We have removed any use of pictures or props from talks (think Chieko Okazaki), we speak in monotone or GA semblance. Our hymns are slow and non-robust. Most of us are in clothes we don’t wear any other day of the week, especially kids. I find myself twitching, grabbing a pen and paper, looking for reading material, anything to get through some weeks. We don’t even get to gab and hug in the chapel anymore because we might be interrupting someone’s pondering time. I also wish our chapels were open during the week, like other churches, so a person could sit alone quietly and have communion with the Divine, undisturbed. We don’t have that anywhere in the LDS world.

  20. Michael, I found your comment very touching — wonderful that you would serve like that. That boy is lucky to have you for a home teacher.

  21. I like that children are welcome in LDS congregations. But the LDS system of worship is not friendly to young children. We have a three-hour block of meetings. There isn’t anywhere in the day you can carve out three hours straight that won’t interfere with a child’s nap or eating schedule. You’re basically screwed until your kids get older.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m an empty nester, so of the demographic that is supposed to be annoyed by all the kid chaos. But I’m not. I thought about this this past Sunday, when all of a sudden I became aware of even more ambient noise than usual near my pew in sacrament meeting. and I remember thinking I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, at this point in my life I think I prefer it. I love kids but don’t have little ones of my own anymore, and I get a kick out of seeing all their antics. And I’ve been Mormon all my life, so having small children worship with us is pretty engrained in me. If we don’t want small children with us, then we need to do what most other churches do and staff an actual nursery during sacrament meeting. Berating the poor beleagured parents is not the way to go.

    (We used to have a SP counselor [long dead now] who would sit on the stand with eagle eyes, and if some kid made even the slightest noise he would stare laser holes into the parents and jerk his thumb in a motion meaning “get that kid outta here!” It was incredibly rude and to me did more to disrupt the spirit of the meeting than the innocent child making the noise in the first place.)

  23. As someone mentioned, yes some chapels were built with cry rooms. I grew up on one and boy have they fought Salt Lake to keep them every single time there’s any sort of renovation done. Seems Salt Lake wants families together in the chapel instead of out in other rooms. Nice idea but the rest of us live in reality land where sometimes children do better with a little more room to wiggle and make a bit of noise.

    Our buildings aren’t so friendly to families period. The building I’m in now has fewer classrooms than are required for a full ward of classes which makes the primary/Sunday school hour a pain in the neck to accommodate. The nursery room can only accommodate about 12 children and after that well, no empty rooms to split into two nursery classes because we’re already short rooms. No nursing mothers room. Someone took over a classroom (see problem above) to be a mothers room and added a changing station and comfortable chairs. Today I got an e-mail from the Relief Society that fathers are not to use the changing station in there because there are mothers who’d like to nurse in private. Reasonable, except there are no changing surfaces in any of the mens restrooms so what’s a father to do? The note ended that men should be happy they don’t have to have diaper duty during church hours. Yeah, that will help dads who attend without their wife, or when their wife is home sick, etc. None of these are problems unique to this particular building.

  24. The Other Clark says:

    I second Marcella’s complaint about non-family friendly buildings. The new building we attended in Utah county had three wards from the day it opened. Rumor has it the stake president was allowed to select which of the (approved) designs went on the lot. He chose a smaller one, apparently sensitive to being a good steward of the widow’s mite.

    But the result is that an average sacrament meeting fills the chapel and 1/2 to 2/3 of the cultural hall. After having one of our small children fall through the back of the folding chair, we began arriving 20 minutes early just to get a seat in the chapel. Every classroom was full, even the kitchen, for 2nd and third hours. No space for unruly kids during any of the meetings. Choir practice was held a member’s home because there was literally available space anywhere in the meetinghouse on Sunday. The tight quarters really affected the spirituality of the ward.

    I was so glad to be able to move away from that situation.

  25. My Sunbeam daughter approached me once during Primary (I was serving as a secretary at the time and was sitting in the back) and said, “I hate reverent. Reverent means you don’t talk, you don’t play, and you don’t have fun.”

    Your post makes my heart soar, Ashmae. I crave so much for a discussion about reverence and what it means to really reverence and revere as part of our worship.

    I want “reverence” to be something active, not the description of an absence of action.

  26. “I also wish our chapels were open during the week, like other churches, so a person could sit alone quietly and have communion with the Divine, undisturbed. We don’t have that anywhere in the LDS world.”

    If you live near a temple, and have a recommend, most temples will let you go sit in the celestial room without going through an endowment session first. It’s not exactly the same as a sanctuary that’s always open, but it’s something.

  27. Ashmae,
    Thank you for responding kindly to my point of view. My intent is never to kick the hornets’ nest or to stir the proverbial pot. Children are a tender subject with most, myself included. However, I feel as though the mainstream church has not created a safe space for those who find that middle-age has crept up on them and they are being denied a seat at the table because they do not fit within the predominantly normative Mormon model.

    The Church goes to great lengths to cater a church experience around the young-singles and the mid-singles. But then what happens when a couple finds themselves in the 0.05% no-man’s land of childless middle-age? It gives one a stark awareness of their “otherness”.

    At any rate, Ashmae, you have a sensitivity and a point of view that is much needed in this world that we live in. You can see the beauty and sublime Godly attributes in the seemingly mundane, and I take hope from you and those who can do that. I would like to be that open and receptive to what is there around me in the way that you are.

    To that end I hold out hope that somehow this will all make sense in the end. But in the meantime I think that both ends of the spectrum need to work towards meeting in the middle.
    Far too often we here in the Western United States tend to polarize things along axes of right & wrong or good & bad, and we lose insight into the subtle 3-dimensional ways that humans were meant by their Creator to interact with one another.

    ————-

    At the risk of making this reply too long & never read, I will make my last point:
    Children are raised differently today than they were 30 to 40 years ago.
    I dare say that children today are much more entitled and catered to than I was as a child. As a result our public interactions sink down to a level of slavish devotion to the whims of children, when I think that it should be the other way around.

    And here is the alienating rub: I don’t have children, so I immediately offend those who do & who know how frustrating it is to keep them in good behavior. My observations are always dismissed with a casual statement of, “well, you don’t know what it’s like.”

    And thus are sown the seeds of my current stalemate with Western Mormon culture.

  28. Natalee Maynes says:

    I love how you wrote this! So beautiful! So encouraging! Thank you for giving a kind, productive voice to what we are feeling. I am always amazed by the gift you have to express things so wonderfully!

    One thought I have (which probably doesn’t go with this kind message but I’d love to air anyway) is how it feels a bit hurtful that it is assumed that we are all oblivious to the noise or don’t care enough about other people to keep our kids quiet (in other words we are either ignorant as to how to be good parents or we are inconsiderate of others) when the fact of the matter for most of us is that we are trying to give our children a church experience that is better than what many in our generation got. Better than the experience that has led so many of our dear friends to leave. An experience that teaches our children what the Savior taught during His earthly ministry– that authenticity is priceless and that we are a “come as you are” church rather than a Church where you must “be” or at least project something different (in repressive ways) from your beautiful God-given nature in all of its strengths and weaknesses. Christ’s standard for acceptance was never perfection or anxiety or even “reverence” (if by reverence we mean silence). It was simply to “come” and to “love”. He preached about unity and about leveling the playing field and about not judging. He suffered ALL the little children to come to him–even the loud ones and the ones who can’t sit still. I imagine it was quite a raucous scene when they ALL came but He loved and relished it anyway. THIS is the church experience I am trying to give my kids and in all honesty I don’t know how and I am often flailing because growing up I never saw anyone model this. I did see parents threaten, shoot looks of animosity, or dig fingernails into the arms of children who were making too much noise, but I am not interested in this type of experience for my children. You cannot simultaneously send the message to children that they are better seen but never heard, AND that God loves them for who they are, exactly as they are, with all of their complexities and thoughts and feelings. All I know is that if my children are making noise during church it is not because I don’t care, but because I care so much–about their relationship to God and the future of their faith. And I am trying the best I know how.

  29. Natalee Maynes says:

    As a sidenote I should add, lest anyone thinks I allow my children to make extraneous noise or run up and down the aisles, that I spend an in ordinate amount of time thinking about how to help my children sit quietly during sacrament meeting in a way that doesn’t teach them to hate it or to associate it with a negative experience. I would just like people to understand that doing that takes a lot of work and a lot of trial and error and that we would value people’s patience and love as we try to work through it.

  30. “If you live near a temple, and have a recommend, most temples will let you go sit in the celestial room without going through an endowment session first. It’s not exactly the same as a sanctuary that’s always open, but it’s something.”

    And get dressed up in your full robes as if you had just done ordinances, otherwise it’s highly discouraged.

  31. Nate,
    I agree with you that the church does not do a great job of ministering to those without children. I wish that we did a better job of accepting all people regardless of their life situation. I realize that I have never been in your situation and while I sympathize with your pain, I haven’t felt it myself and so I don’t entirely understand it. I am having a hard time understanding how allowing for the noise children make in sacrament meeting is removing your ability to have a safe space. Can you elaborate?

  32. I have 4 grown children, that we raised with me sitting mostly alone with them in the pews, while their father sat on the stand. While we were still at BYU as young marrieds, with just the first child, then-President Spencer W. Kimball addressed the married BYU stakes, & told us, “When you bring toys & Cheerios to Sacrament Meeting, you are teaching your children that Church is boring & they should bring something to do.” The statement was covered MANY times in our Sacrament Meetings over the next several years, & many complained that he just didn’t understand. My husband & I decided we would not take toys. We also decided not to take food, probably more as a result of my cleaning up crushed Cheerios from the carpet where other families had left them one too many times.

    I remember my 4 year old son, handing a car back to his grandmother, who had brought it to church in her purse when I asked her specifically not to do so, & him telling her , “We don’t bring toys to church, Grandma'” very matter-of-factly, as the child in the pew behind us ran a little truck along the top of the pew. We did take one of those small sets of pictures of Jesus, which the toddlers were allowed to look at, with Mama guiding them.as the Sacrament was passed. After the Sacrament, the little packet of pictures went back into Mama’s scripture case. I remember my oldest daughter pointing out to her younger brother, about 3-4 years old, that there was a pattern to the young men standing up & sitting down at the Sacrament table, & teaching him to be able to predict when the Priests would stand up again, & how that was a signal to the deacons to come back to the table with the empty trays, etc. Yes, it was form, rather than “reverence”, but it focused his attention on the ordinance. There ARE things to point out in the meeting to young children to help them feel more reverent, but looking back, I think the expectation that Sacrament Meeting was not playtime was the most important.

  33. Nate, at the risk of being a jerk, I’m gonna say it: the world does not revolve around you, and the Church sure shouldn’t.

    But hey–there’s hope for you. Find a family ward in an affluent inner suburban area of a major American city–the kind that has experienced rapid real estate appreciation in recent decades and consequently almost never has young LDS families moving in–and you’ll have all the blessed quiet you could ever want (unless the noise of portable oxygen concentrators bothers you). As a bonus, you’ll get to experience the joy of an LDS funeral at least once a month! Wards in places like Arcadia, San Mateo, Wilmette, Chevy Chase, and White Plains are ready and waiting for you. Plenty of parking, and you’ll never have to worry about sharing a pew!

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    So all of the English cognates (revere [transitive verb], reverence [both a noun and a transitive verb], reverend [from the Latin gerundive], reverent and reverential [adjectives]) derive from the Latin verb vereri + intensive prefix re, and reflect various nuances of the following: stand in awe of, treat with respect, honor, pay pious homage to, esteem, value, respect. Hhhhmmmm…I’m not seeing folding arms and bowing head on that list…

  35. “Nate, at the risk of being a jerk, I’m gonna say it: the world does not revolve around you, and the Church sure shouldn’t.”

    But it does around young families with small children? I thought we were all in this together.

    “But hey–there’s hope for you. Find a family ward in an affluent inner suburban area of a major American city–the kind that has experienced rapid real estate appreciation in recent decades and consequently almost never has young LDS families moving in–and you’ll have all the blessed quiet you could ever want (unless the noise of portable oxygen concentrators bothers you). As a bonus, you’ll get to experience the joy of an LDS funeral at least once a month!”

    Lovely

  36. Marivene, I have a 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and 9-week-old. My husband and I try our hardest to keep our family from distracting everyone around us. I marvel that your now-grown children were such angels in sacrament meetings, but I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the last two decades have also enabled you to forget your more frustrating moments with your children. If they truly were this angelic, I hope you can understand that not all kids have the same personality as yours did. Sippy cups of milk, snacks, and books or paper to draw on is all we can do to keep our children sane in sacrament meeting. Please understand that in order to be to our 1 pm church on time, my husband and I must wake our children from naps, strip them naked only to clothe them in fussy clothes and strap them into carseats. Sacrament talks are not written with my toddler and preschooler in mind. We *do* point out the deacons to them during the passing of the sacrament, and we talk about Christ with them in those special few moments of silence and introspection, but there is very, very little to call their attentions to during the long and dry talks that follow.

    I want to teach my children to reverence the Spirit and feel wonder about the world around them. Sometimes sacrament meeting just isn’t conducive for my children to feel that kind of wonder and reverence. Please don’t judge my son when it is his little truck quietly driving along the edge of your pew. We are doing the best we can.

  37. Nate, as a mom of four small kids who attends sacrament meeting without my husband, I struggle mightily with managing them and feel extremely self-conscious about my efforts and failings every week. I try very hard to keep my kids quiet, respectful, and non-disruptive but it’s a huge challenge. I have ended many sacrament meetings by heading to the bathroom where I can shed some tears in private. The looks of annoyance by ward members does not help. I admit that I am guilty of judging other parents myself. When I’m trying to keep my kids in the chapel but we have to step out to change a diaper, for example (if I step out with one kid, they all follow along like little ducklings) and they see other kids in the foyer laying on the floor, coloring with crayons spread out all around them, and running and jumping around, I feel frustrated with those parents for allowing their kids to act like this. But then I have to remind myself that they are probably doing the best they can, just like I am. Maybe we can all have a little more compassion to each other. I’m trying my best to teach my kids to act in a respectful, appropriate manner that does not disrupt the people around us. I really appreciate the ward members who try to be helpful and supportive. Even though I know we look like a circus half the time. Right now I would be very, very happy to switch places with you for a few Sundays so I could sit and be annoyed by loud children…but not have to actually be responsible for them.

    I feel strongly that we come to church to worship with and support other imperfect members of our ward. All these imperfect people who make mistakes constantly, nevertheless they show up, they take the sacrament, they fulfill their calling (imperfectly). I could have a more fulfilling spiritual experience by staying home and listening to conference talks, reading my scriptures, and taking long walks in the woods. We come together to be a community in Christ, including loud children, harried and exhausted young parents, and slightly cranky middle-aged people.

  38. The Other Clark,
    I did not make up a new word. The word I meant to use was reverence. To reverence something or someone. I am also surprisingly aware of the word revere, but I did not use it in this case because while I do revere God and other sacred things, that was not the point I was making. If you imagine that the thing I am ‘revering’ is single mothers with toys, you have also missed the point. I’m not revering the object, I’m reverencing the fact that what these people are doing is selfless, kind and Christlike. That to me seems well worthy of reverence on my part.

  39. Kevin Barney, thank you so much for your example of kindness. Sometimes, it seems the problem is that we are taking ourselves too seriously. Almost as if our entire spiritual lives depended on sacrament meeting. I do agree that as parents we do our best to respect those around, but it’s people like you that sure make that a lot easier.

  40. Emily Grover,
    This. Yes. Please. “I want “reverence” to be something active, not the description of an absence of action.”

  41. “Kids these days are the worst they’ve ever been.” – every generation ever

  42. From the OP: “…let’s go to the work of wrestling with these words so that we can really get to the bottom of what we say, then mean, then do.”
    This is essentially what I’m trying to get at, although perhaps not as eloquently as I wish that I could.

    Ashmae is a lovely person full of wonderfully tender & beautiful sentiments. I want to respect her efforts to enrich the blogosphere with her insight, and at the same time I want to leverage her insight to give a more accurate voice to what some of us within the Body of Christ are going through.

    In looking back through my experiences with feeling alienated by the Church, it really has less to do with the noise in Sacrament meeting per se, but it has everything to do with the attitudes and priorities of the ward members with whom my wife and I interact. Were we to feel like we are actually PART of something that valued us as we are, I would likely see the noise from crying babies and rowdy kids as a blessing. I would rejoice in the feeling of family and community.

    The noise and commotion of wiggly children are an outward symptom of a deeper problem. The question to ask is, “how do we as a church enable individual members & families to achieve the spirit of meeting together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of our souls?”.

    The problem that I’ve unfortunately run into is that as soon as the train goes off the rails – i.e. we try and try to have kids, but despite our best efforts it became obvious that it will never happen – I find that the Church does not really know how to address our needs. That’s when the crisis of faith started to become a very real thing, because once the hope of fitting in with all of the other neat families goes away I’ve found myself wondering what it all means. Like salt in a fresh wound, I became more attuned to people who disparage their kids (“aren’t you glad you don’t have to put up with this?”, “if you’re bored you can borrow my kids for a day.”, etc). I cringe at those who complain openly in church meetings about their “mistake” pregnancies and now they have another kid to worry about. The list goes on. I feel like a starving beggar watching people complain about the quality of food at an expensive restaurant.

    That’s when I start to ask the question, “Are our means & methods of group worship and concept of reverence really doing for us what was originally intended.” This is why Ashmae’s hypothesis resonated with me, “let’s go to the work of wrestling with these words so that we can really get to the bottom of what we say, then mean, then do.”

    Rather than trying to preserve the status-quo & starting a civil war between those with and without children, I wish that the Church as a whole would take a good look at whether or not the method of meeting together oft is really achieving what the leaders originally set out to do. But the current method of cramming us all into a (relatively) small chapel with bad acoustics is not really cutting it for me, and is obviously causing frustration across a broad demographic.

    I am not giving up on the Church, and I welcome the challenge of figuring out how to make it a better place for all. But I am convinced more and more that something has to change.

  43. David Day says:

    My 5 year old knows the full names of each member of the First Presidency. Pretty much every Sunday she and I go take a walk during sacrament meeting and we do look at the pictures in the hallway and after having seen the pictures of the FP and repeating those names every week for a few years now, she has memorized them. Some weeks, we “practice” more than once since one “break” from sacrament meeting is not enough.

  44. I have a lot of thoughts tumbling around in my head about this topic. My 9-year-old daughter has adhd, and church is interminably boring for her. I am generally of the opinion that “less is more” in terms of snacks, toys, and objects to keep kids busy, but she is challenging that long-held belief. I am also trying to look at things through her eyes. Recently a woman was giving a talk in our branch and made reference to the fact that it is not appropriate for a speaker to use pictures or other visual aids in a talk. It hit me then–those “inappropriate” visual aids would be exactly the kind of thing that would help my daughter have a better church experience. There is nothing to look at, nothing to keep her attention at all…and the talks are generally over her head unless someone happens to share a cool story. In order to curb her own boredom (and in large part because of her poor impulse control), she often does inappropriate things like singing the sacrament hymn in a silly voice or making weird noises. I haven’t yet decided if bringing lots of things to keep her occupied is a distraction or actually helps… sometimes it depends on the week and what kind of mood she’s in. I’m sure there are people in our branch that judge her and judge our parenting because of her. Some weeks I want to crawl under the bench myself and hide. We have a few old-timers who love to give talks and wax eloquent on the importance of silence in being able to feel the spirit. The same old-timers love to tell about how easily they forced their own children to be reverent by holding them on hard chairs in darkened classrooms. These people don’t realize how nice they have it–we have relatively few children in our branch, and overall the meetings are fairly quiet. They’ve never been in large, young wards with 200 kids. I guess my point is that we are quick to judge, but we often truly don’t understand what’s going on for someone else. Something that appears totally obvious or easy to us may actually be very difficult for the person we are judging.

  45. If the sacrament was meant to take place in an environment like the temple (completely silent, adult only) I believe it would only take place in the temple. I believe there is something critical to be learned from the fact that it takes place weekly in chapels, that we take part in the ordinance as a community, that the trays are passed by 12-year-old deacons and each other. I think the sacrament is one of the few places in our religion where the sacred and the mundane overlap. I think this intersection is intentional and important and we should spend more time talking about why and how we worship in this way. And much, much less time talking about what to do with children who make noise (hint: everyone is doing the best they can).

  46. Lisa: singing hymns in silly voices is an awesome thing. I still do it.

  47. Nate,
    I feel for you. While I haven’t experienced the same kind of otherness, I have experienced my own kind. It is difficult when your lived experience is so different from the ideal and that ideal is constantly preached, rewarded, and lived by most everyone around you. I wish I had a good solution, but I don’t. Just know that there are plenty of people who value you and your wife and the contributions you can make to the body of Christ. I think there is something to Ashmae’s post about worrying less about appearances (of adults and children) and instead reverencing the community we build as we work together to find Christ.

  48. I have two toddlers, aged 1 and 2. On the weeks we make it to church, we spend most of Sacrament wandering halls with the kids, and then make our way to nursery. Because our nursery overlaps with nap time, only one of us can stay in nursery. We love being with the kids, but church, as currently conduct, does little for us spiritually. Maybe we are outlier. But if church does’t work for parents of young children, and young children ruin the experience for those without children, then something is broken.

  49. I was in a Relief Society lesson once. The teacher had brought pictures of Yoruba Orishas, Hindu deities, several marvelous depictions of the Buddha. I was all excited. Then I saw the other half of the table, which was covered in Church-approved art, you all know the kind. I knew that I was maybe in for a rough hour.

    “So,” said the teacher with a wide smile, “what is the difference between the two halves of this table?”

    I held my breath as a woman I love and admire raised her hand and pointing directly to Lord Shiva said, “That other side just isn’t reverent!”

    My father in-law is a devout Hindu, so was my late mother in-law. I’ve worshipped with them. And the reverence that images of Shiva, Krishna, Parvati, Lakshmi, etc. inspire is profound. These are sacred images, holy things. For me too.

    I tried to gently share my perspective. I don’t think I was very articulate based on people’s reactions.

    Our current collective cultural definition of reverence seems to leave us very little room for empathy, whether for the struggling child, the tired parent, or friends from different faith traditions. It’s really too bad.

    Great post!

  50. If there’s a magic formula to get kids to behave for 3 hours of church, I never accidentally landed on it as a parent. Trial and error only got me so far. Jesus said it best: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When we make church a punishment for kids, they can’t wait to become adults so they can quit going.

    Of course, I’ve had my own line crossed by other people’s kids before. I recall one time a kid had a caramel she kept putting in her mouth and then taking out with a string of saliva attached. Then she stuck her filthy hand right on my dry clean only skirt. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t feeling very reverent that day. Now that I’ve raised my own kids I’m a little more vigilant and less likely to be caught in the cross-fire.

  51. .

    At first I thought this was titled REVENANT to Reverence. Which was intriguing.

    Your post was great too.

  52. It is not the children or noise level that detracts from my”worship” in sacrament meeting so much as the lack of focus on that which I view worthy of worship.

    My ward, over the past 8 months has spent 2.23x more time speaking of the”family” than was spent speaking of Diety. I know, because in order to be outwardly”reverent” I spend my focus timing these topics. I certainly can’t blame my kids for being bored, when I myself long for something to be said that I feel they should listen to! Maybe if the meeting included actual “worship” young and old alike would be paying attention and worshipping together.

  53. jvk, excellent point.

    Theric, my husband and I just had a hearty laugh. thank you. Maybe the revenants are the children waking from naps and coming to terrorize our meetings.

    Leona, that lesson was out of control and I’m sorry it happened. Reverence is not a word specific to mormonism, though we sometimes act like it.

  54. Nate, again, thank you so much for your sincere contribution to this thread. In writing I was hoping that this type of discussion would spark, because clearly, we have so much to learn from each other. I’m sorry for the difficulty of your position, and like EBK says, that although I have not experienced the same form of being an outlier, I have at rare times faced the unsettling place when you realize you are different. For what it is worth, I do hope you know the way the younger generation looks to people like you. Some of the most influential people in my life have been several people I grew up with in my home ward who never had children. I hope this conversation continues and that we glean insight and understanding as we go so that we can ask for change, and make the changes we can on our own.

  55. damenleeturks says:

    Chris, that’s my situation as well. And it extends beyond just sacrament meeting.

    I caught a glimpse of the Priesthood meeting roll the other day and cringed when I saw that it looked like I haven’t been active at all for most of the past year.

    In reality, though, I have been nearly every week, but have spent the hours walking the halls with our toddler to either keep him quiet or to get him to nap. And even after he finally became old enough to go to nursery, he’d wail and pitch fits if we left him there alone. So, we’d sit with him and maybe help pour snacks or sing along with singing time while we were there.

    That said, attending church with the toddler (and a kindergartner and a newborn) has made Sunday into anything but a “day of rest” for my wife and me. It’s hard to teach kids to feel the spirit at church when you have a hard time feeling it yourself while you’re there.

  56. “Marivene, I have a 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and 9-week-old. My husband and I try our hardest to keep our family from distracting everyone around us. I marvel that your now-grown children were such angels in sacrament meetings, but I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the last two decades have also enabled you to forget your more frustrating moments with your children. If they truly were this angelic, I hope you can understand that not all kids have the same personality as yours did…. Please don’t judge my son when it is his little truck quietly driving along the edge of your pew. We are doing the best we can.”

    Grover, I did not mention the truck behind us to judge them, or you, but to point out that every family does the best they can. WE were doing the best we could to teach our children that “we” (our family) didn’t take toys to church & my mother in law was undermining that. I was pleased that my son followed what “we” had taught him. I never said my children were angels in Sacrament Meeting. They most certainly were not, but I do not believe taking toys would have helped. The last 2 decades have not diminished those memories, but if they had, I would only need to look at my grandchildren to see the same behaviors. I did mention some of the things we did to help cope. Some of the other things I did included learning enough sign language to say “Stop”. “Stop now”. “Stop right now”. After the 3rd sign in the set, I would look at my watch, & they knew that if they did not stop whatever (usually disruptive) behavior right then, they would practice being quiet (please note – we did not say “reverent”) sitting on the fireplace hearth with their arms folded at home, right after church, for the same amount of time they were disruptive to others.Usually this included a discussion about why it is important not to bother other people. This delayed dinner being served immediately & was one of the better training methods for not disturbing those around us trying to worship.

    When I said that I felt the expectation that Sacrament Meeting was not a place to play seemed to matter most, that is definitely a hindsight observation. One could also describe it as the difference between teaching & training. Until children are well past the toddler stage, behavior in church is more training than teaching. When I taught nursery, & we sat the kids around a low table for treats, about half of them would fold their arms. That is not reverence. It demonstrated training, not teaching. 18 month olds fold their arms when they are about to eat because someone has folded their arms before meals since they could sit & eat. Training can help children to learn to be quiet during family prayers, & how to behave quietly in church long before they can really understand the “why”, and the “reverent” in “reverence”. I believe quiet is only one component of reverence, but it is a start. You said your little boy runs his truck quietly across the back of the pew. That is far different from “Zoom, zoom, zoom” loudly, & running the truck into the backs of the people sitting in that pew – which has happened to me more times than I care to count.

  57. it's a series of tubes says:

    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 sacrament meeting, helping her read quietly from a book and draw even though she was somewhat restless. Despite his best efforts, however, at one point during the meeting, 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.

    It’s true that, as amply illustrated above in this thread, forebearance on this topic works both ways. But it seems to me that when our own “needs” and “desires” as to what WE want or expect or “deserve” to get out of a particular meeting blinds 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.

  58. I’m with Nate. My stake president went ahead with banning the sacrament outside the chapel in any of the wards. This means that parents with fussy babies, or who are trying to teach their children to sit quietly during the ordinance, have to choose between receiving the ordinance, or taking care of their children. They do not have the option to take a toddler out to the foyer and use the bread and water to teach them. So, in my ward most parents stay in the chapel even if a child is screaming. I sit in the foyer and just listen to the prayers because I find it more peaceful than the alternative.

  59. Our ward had a relief society lesson on this very topic that did not go well (so I heard, I wasn’t there, as I am not a member of the relief society). One single lady in particular no longer attends our ward because of this lesson. I think the problem is bigger than reverence. I think the problem is expectations and frustration.

    We all go to church for different reasons. Some go to set an example for their family. Some go to socialize. Some go for peace and quiet. Some go out of habit. Some go to reverence God. Some go eager to learn things. Regardless of why we come, we have to level set that some weeks will be better than others, whether that is because no one talks to us that week, the lessons and speakers don’t interest us that week, or a child is having a hard day.

    Our family loves to vacation. We fly several times a year. I used to get so nervous my children were bothering people, but most of the time things go just fine. I do remember one time an older couple told me they did not appreciate my children’s behavior, and I asked them if they had any constructive suggestions. They said “Yes, don’t fly.” I informed them that I paid for my tickets on the airplane the same as they did, and that their comment was not only insensitive, but just plain naive. I was entitled to fly the same as they were, and if they could not handle the truth, then perhaps they should not fly. Of course that didn’t go over so well, but honestly what else is there to say? We both paid the fare to fly and therefore we were both entitled to to be there. While I am sorry my children were a little more rowdy that particular trip, they did not vomit, spill anything, scream, or cause a scene. They were merely talking loudly and this couple could not cope.

    Flying a lot with children has thickened my skin. The same rules apply to church. We go every week, we sit in the chapel because in my opinion sitting in the gymnasium or foyer is a complete waste of my time. Most weeks things go fine, but sometimes they do not. This is a family church and I am entitled to attend as much as any other person. Luckily no one has ever said anything to me at church. But if they did, I would respond the same way I did on the airplane. That I am open to constructive suggestions on how to improve their church experience, but that otherwise we are all in this together and perhaps if sitting by me is a problem, they are welcome to move seats or otherwise improve their own situation without making my feel guilty for attending Sacrament meeting.

  60. Maybe the chapel should be the cry room and we could pipe the meeting into another room for those who need quiet.

    (Actually, I’ve sat out in the foyer and been unable to hear the meeting, even though the intercom was on, not because of other people’s kids but because the other ward in the building got out and all the adults were socializing. As they should, so how can I complain?)

  61. This is why I haven’t gone to Sacrament meeting in a year with my 2 and 1 year old. I just don’t see the point of wrestling with them to stay in the pew and angrily shushing them for talking above a whisper (because obviously they don’t know how to whisper and they don’t see the point). So I just let them nap at home during sacrament meeting and then go lead Primary music for the next two hours. My husband thinks I’m a bad person.

  62. The Other Clark says:

    everythingnice, My wife and I did the same thing. Let your husband take the kids to Sacrament meeting once without you there, and he’ll quickly come around to your point of view. Especially on the 11 am schedule.

    Rebecca J has a point, which is that our meetinghouses are social places, and the current block schedule allows few other times for socializing. I’ve sometimes wondered if Mormon chapels were designed more like cathedrals and less like gymnasiums, would reverence improve? If sacred art–on canvas, in stained glass, in sculpture–was visible in our worship places would reverence improve? I think so.