Standing, or Something

Rumor has it that BYU-Idaho students are having a hard time with the unwritten order of things—particular the unwritten rules about when to stand and when to stay seated.  At last week’s devotional  the entire student body stood up when Sheri L. Dew—CEO of Deseret Book and a former second counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency—entered the room. This week Clark Gilbert, BYU-I President and recognized expert in Unwritten Orderology, gave the students a friendly reminder that only members of the First Presidency should be greeted by standing.  The students, fortunately, learned their lesson and remained seated.

But this is the sort of thing that could keep coming up in different ways. Unwritten orders of things are tough to remember, especially with all of the possible kinds of people who might address the college community. But do not despair. Always eager to be part of the solution, we offer the students and faculty of BYU Idaho the following guidelines for greeting dignitaries, famous people, and other muckety-mucks, both ecclesiastical and worldly:

  • BYU-I Faculty Members (Male): Applaud politely for no more than 20 seconds. Members of the business faculty may be applauded for an extra five seconds.
  • BYU-I Faculty Members (Female): The same as for male faculty members, except that the applause should only last for 78% as long, or 15.6 seconds. Clap the full 20 seconds only for stay-at-home moms or women past childbearing age.
  • Faculty members from worldly universities: Clap slowly, with just a hint of irony. Like this. Say something about pulling taffy.
  • Male Osmonds: Clap enthusiastically. Women are not required to throw undergarments on the stage, but, if thrown, they should be modest undergarments in their original wrapping, purchased especially for this purpose. Under no circumstances should male students throw underwear.
  • Tyler Glenn: Stand in unity and turn your back to stage. Produce a bell, a book, and a candle and say, fiat, fiat, fiat while ringing the bell and closing the book. Seek the guidance of the spirit about the candle.
  • Transparent Beings: Offer to shake hands. If they refuse, they are angels. But if they agree and your hand passes through theirs, that means they are minions of Satan. Bear polite testimony and leave.
  • Transgendered Guests: Do nothing. Let them speak quickly and get off the stage before they have to go to the bathroom.
  • Local or national politicians (R): Clap enthusiastically while rising up in your chair to be as tall as possible without actually standing. Chant “Clinton-Gore-Gone-In-Four” or something about a Tippecanoe, with or without Tyler.
  • Local or national politicians (D): Yeah, right, like that’d happen.
  • Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, and Area Authorities: Stand on one foot (left) and hold left arm akimbo while playing “You’re the Top” on a hornpipe. When it gets to the part about “Napoleon Brandy,” think about Kool-Aid.
  • Members of the First Quorum of the 70: Stand on one foot (right) and recite “The Standard of Truth” from D&C 4.
  • Members of the Quorum of the 12: Enthusiastically rise to your feet and shout their full name (with middle initial) in repetitive cycles, adding the preposition “yo” for emphasis when appropriate. When seated, begin doing “the wave” after 30 seconds of introduction.
  • Members of the First Presidency: Genuflect. Incense optional; kazoos discouraged, but if used, must play “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.”
  • High-Profile Female Guests, Including Current and Past Members of General Auxiliary Presidencies: Sit politely and contemplate how much the Church loves and respects women.

This should take care of 99.9% of current and future devotionals, and can be adapted to meet special cases (i.e., treat Lindsay Stirling the same way as Tyler Glenn, but only say fiat twice because she is a woman). And remember, the point is not to follow a set of written rules that cover every possible life contingency. The point is to follow a set of UNWRITTEN rules that cover every possible life contingency. In that, we are always glad to be your guide.


  1. What about the subset of “Local or national politicians (D)” who happen to also be Mormon? Harry Reid spoke at BYU in Provo a number of years ago. Not BYU-I, but are they really that different?

  2. Morthodox says:

    “…and always let (someone else’s) conscience be your guide!”


  3. Angela C says:

    I’ll need to dust off my hornpipe.

  4. I love you, Mr. Austin.

  5. Villate says:

    When did the thing about the First Presidency only become a thing? Is this only at BYU-I or is it at all the BYUs? I didn’t go to any of those, but when I was in the MTC, we were supposed to stand for any member of the Quorum of the Twelve who came to speak. And I think last time we had an Apostle at a Stake Conference, we were supposed to stand too. That was a few years ago, though, so I don’t remember for sure.

  6. andrew h says:

    22 years ago I was at a fireside at the LDS Institute at what was then Utah Valley Community College. The speaker was one of the 70. When he entered the chapel everyone stood up. The person sitting next to me quipped, “Well, its a junior college so I guess that we can stand for a junior general authority.”

  7. Also, if it’s hot you cannot remove your suit coat unless the presiding authority says you can.

  8. I will remove any article of clothing that Sheri Dew tells me to.

  9. “[A]re they really that different?”
    BYU and BYU-I? Yes. They really are that different. Last I heard, BYU-I was so disturbed by the existence of a Democrats club on campus that they got rid of political clubs altogether. Salon calls Madison County (Rexburg and surrounding tiny towns) “The reddest place in America.” Kids on school buses chant things about President Obama that get the attention of the Secret Service.

    BYU, on the other hand, was, at least a few months ago, very excited about a Bernie presidency.

  10. hahahahahahaha “You’re the Top.” That’s a great song.

    Tim: let be known that I have seen with my very eyes young BYU–I students walking about with Bernie-face stickers on their longboards and backpacks. They are a rare breed, but they exist!

  11. Poor kids. I wonder how long they’ll last.

  12. Kristine A says:

    According to my husband in attendance, Pres. Gilbert said to stand only for members of the Q12, and my husband thought he misspoke because my husband’s understanding is that it should only be for the FP. A friend said she thought they wanted everyone to stop standing at all, and on my own I decided not to stand when Elder Cook walked in for convocation. I leaned over an messed around in my purse so everyone didn’t think I was being a jerk face. I still maybe a jerk face. To be determined.

    Whatever the unwritten order is, the decider of the unwritten order sure sucks at enforcing consistency.

  13. I am delighted that everyone stood for Sheri Dew. She is quite intimidating in person, but besides that, to show such honor for a woman? I have hope for the future.

  14. Sandpiper says:

    As a youngster, I had it explained to me that it is a testimony of the prophets that when a one walks in the room, even though we are all sitting around gabbing loudly in accordance with Mormon tradition, everyone somehow notices, clams up, and stands. Without anyone telling them to. Because of the spirit. Or something. See, it’s only special if it is an unwritten order. I am forced to conclude that the spirit moving upon those BYU-I students to stand for Sis. Dew was some sort of sign.

  15. Kristine A says:

    You see how without the presence of Elder Packer the Unwritten Order just goes out the window? It was his superpower….. He leaves and people start standing for women?? Madness.

  16. Could this be formatted in such a way for me to print it in pass-along card form? So helpful.

    In other news, a local stake president who shall remain nameless was making the lower-ranking stake officers stand for him each and every time he came into a room, which was sometimes multiple times an hour. This has now been rectified.

  17. Kristine (3:08 PM): Bingo!

  18. Play “You’re the Top” on a hornpipe? Hold left arm akimbo? Methinks you’re dating yourself Brother Austin.

  19. Times were, you would always stand when a woman entered the room. I was visiting in a Stake meeting once in the high council room and all the high councilors stood up all of a sudden. I couldn’t figure out why, and it was because a Sister missionary had entered the room.

  20. Angela C says:

    Sandpiper, the same thing happens when Ryan Gosling walks into a room, although it might not be the same reason.

  21. Angela C says:

    “Also, if it’s hot you cannot remove your suit coat unless the presiding authority says you can.” Little known equivalent rule: women may remove their hosiery if the presiding authority removes his suit jacket.

  22. Aussie Mormon says:

    So if the 1st Presidency and the RS Gen. Presidency walk into a room together, do we stand, sit, or do some kind of half squat?
    What about if Lindsey Stirling came in with them? If we have to turn around and squat it’ll look like we’re trying to moon them all.
    Ok, how about if there was a 12, a 70, a 1st pres, a rsgp, tyler glen… would it be kind of like a gangnam style horse dance?

  23. I just discovered this blog, and my life will never be the same. I freaking love you guys.

  24. Terry H says:

    I was a counselor in a bishopric when we were “instructed” to listen to the “unwritten rules of the church” from Elder Packer. It made me more rebellious than ever. In my opinion, they were unwritten for a reason. I also learned that when you’re a few cents over in counting your tithing receipts, you can’t open an “Other” account and call it “Pennies From Heaven”. SLC was NOT amused. Our poor Bishop got blistered on the following Tuesday. I guess that rule was unwritten too.

  25. A few years ago I went with a group of Young Women to the conference center for the general YW meeting. Along with all the crowd we stood up when the speakers came into the room. Later we asked them what they liked about going and being there in person. Their most common answer was that moment when we stood up. There was something about standing in reverence that touched them, more than the music or the messages.
    Last year I was in a regional RS training meeting and Sister Linda Burton was coming to speak. I asked my co-leaders if we could stand up when she came in. They looked at me like I was crazy. So I am so proud of BYUI students for standing for Sister Dew. I hope they keep it up for other female speakers!

  26. MDearest says:

    In writing “You’re the Top” Cole Porter also included the lyric “You’re the pants …” which surely must violate an unwritten rule in Rexburg.

  27. Not a Cougar says:

    I still remember near the end of my mission that the mission president’s wife instructed us to start standing when the mission president entered the room at zone conference as a sign of respect (there may have been some additional pseudo doctrine added on, but I don’t recall exactly what else she said – she was known for throwing in pseudo doctrine into her talks at zone conference). We ended up doing it, but we could all tell it made the mission president feel awkward, and the next mission president apparently killed the practice immediately.

  28. I love this, Michael! Hilarious!

    To build on Aussie Mormon’s questions, perhaps if there are visiting authorities of different ranks/positions/genders, they could enter the room at particular intervals, allowing audience members to perform each appropriate action in turn. We will know that a series of visitors has been properly arranged when the audience members end up doing the actions to “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in the correct order.

  29. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Ziff! FTW!

  30. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I’m trying to imagine what this would look like at General Conference. Differing levels of General Authority-ship, often accompanied by spouses (is there a special greeting for such people?), female leaders, visiting dignitaries, and even LDS sports personalities (they MUST be offered a special greeting!). Rocky Horror Picture Show!
    …(cue the Choir, singing The Time Warp).

  31. Perhaps we should sing while standing for Primary presidents. Oh How We Love to Stand.

  32. Angela C says:

    When the wives enter, you throw toast.

  33. What about when the chorister tells everyone to lat and for select intermediate hymns in Sacrament meeting?

  34. Standing for Sheri Dew is a bit ridiculous to me. But not because she is a woman, but because she holds no position of authority/respect IMO. I wouldn’t stand for the President/CEO of Zion’s Bank, Deseret News, Zion’s Security, or Bonneville Communications either. Sheri is no more or less special than any of them as the leaders of for-profit organizations, and other than my showing up to here her message there is no special respect owed her. A close relative of mine was the Des. Book president before her, and I never felt he deserved the same level of awe/genuflection/reverence that I might show one of the ‘Lord’s anointed.’

    Now, if you DO think she deserves that respect for some reason I don’t think it is wrong for you to stand or to show extra respect. I don’t think its contrary to some unwritten rule. But IMO taking the same method of showing deep respect that we use for Apostles and using it to honor Sheri Dew is more than she deserves.

  35. But IMO taking the same method of showing deep respect that we use for Apostles and using it to honor Sheri Dew is more than she deserves.

    I suspect she’d agree. I wonder whether she didn’t find the whole thing deeply embarrassing.

  36. On my mission, the mission president gave a little talk about standing for women when they enter a room as a courtesy when we are invited into people’s homes. Shortly after that we had a meeting with about 20 missionaries, and when the mission president and his wife walked in, we all stood up for his wife. The mission president thought it was for him and began to tell us that while he appreciated it, he told us to sit down and that standing was only appropriate for apostles (or first presidency, or whatever it is). The elder standing closest to him politely told him that we weren’t standing for him, but for his wife. It was very funny. He got embarrased and started pulling a few elders back to their feet. No point to this story. I just think it’s entertaining.

  37. Heather Arnita says:

    Jax – was your relative a former member of the relief society general presidency? Because I am sure that is why people know and love her not because she is the ceo of a company. I am sure the audience felt she did deserve extra respect for her years of service. I think it is beautiful that they stood for her. I think people should stand up when they feel so moved upon to do so.

  38. No point to this story.

    I don’t know, I think it aptly illustrates the unintended consequences of half-baked ideas promulgated under the mantle of authority.

  39. Heather, did you catch the part where I said I don’t mind people standing for her if they feel it appropriate? I don’t think it is and so I wouldn’t single her out for special treatment, but I have no problem with people doing it who do feel that way. And I know there are a lot of them. The praise for her is almost worshipful.

    All of you who think that you stand because she is a woman… when you attend large events like that, do you keep standing until the meeting start to show support for every woman who is entering with the crowd? Their womanhood is just as deserving of honor/respect as Sheri Dew’s isn’t it?

    Sheri is a nice person. She has great spiritual insights; she is especially helpful and supportive of women who don’t fit the ideal Mormon life. She is worthy of respect, there is no doubt. But there is very little we can do as a large crowd to signify special respect for the Apostles of the Lord, and standing when they enter is one of them. I’d reserve it for them. Not because our other leaders (70, Pres. Bishop, Sheri, Gen Rel Soc Pres) aren’t worthy of respect, but because if we do it for them as well, then what else can we do to show the Apostles that they hold a special place to us?

  40. Jax (6:02 am)- “what else can we do to show the Apostles that they hold a special place to us?” By shouting their names and playing kazoos. Did you read the article?

  41. Old Man says:

    If we stood up for those of great spiritual standing, we should all probably rise when the Primary kids climb up on the stand on Mother’s Day. There is an old, retired farmer I know, who with his now deceased wife (he cared for her every need as she died of cancer) raised eight children and they are all now college grads and returned missionaries and still active in the Church, I’ll rise for him also. And then there is that widow down the street who raised two children alone and they are both RM’s and pharmacists, and now in her mid-fifties she serves as Primary President. She has reactivated several young families…

    If we stood up for the people who actually deserved it regardless of office, Church meetings would probably become a form of aerobic exercise. And we would probably be less hierarchical and more appreciative of the extraordinary men and women among us.

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