Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reverence is more than just quietly sitting

Last week the bishop got up at the end of sacrament meeting and talked about reverence. Upon hearing the words "we have a greater need for reverence in our meetings," Benjamin, who had been perfectly fine (ie. hadn't been terrible) up until that point, had a complete kicking-and-screaming meltdown over something and had to be carried out of the chapel still kicking and screaming. Naturally.

I had been the one to carry Benjamin out, which meant that I missed a lot of what was said about reverence, which is probably fine. Andrew, meanwhile was feeling embarrassed because he was sure the bishop was going to mention something about how fathers should be the ones to take kicking and screaming children out into the halls, allowing the mothers to sit and enjoy the rest of the meeting (or wrangle the children left behind, one or the other) because that was something the bishop of our previous ward liked to say.

Our current bishop said something about how when he and his wife were a young married couple they noticed that one family in particular had a passel of very well behaved children so they invited them over for dinner to ask them for the tricks of their trade. Apparently this family didn't allow children's feet to touch the carpet of the chapel until they were able to conduct themselves reverently, so basically the advice was just that the children had to sit there. And those kids were fine doing that, so good for that family.

I noticed that the bishop's son was nearly sleeping with his head in his mother's lap at this point, so I didn't feel too bad for taking the reverence advice with a grain of salt.

After all, we once had a stake president who was known for harping about snacks during sacrament meeting. His policy was that there should be no snacking during sacrament meeting for anyone. No cheerios for toddlers, no sandwiches for starving preschoolers, no soda crackers for pregnant mothers. He believed that people could sit for an hour without having to snack.

He has a point. And while I personally don't bring snacks to church—because I have more than enough to worry about without dishing out fruit snacks in the chapel—lots of people do bring snacks for their kids.

Reverence isn't always black and white. But though it's a bit of an uncomfortable subject, I think it's good to have reminders to be striving for greater reverence because it really does help bring the spirit.

We haven't enacted the no-fee-on-the-carpet rule at our house, but we did talk about how we could behave more reverently on the way to church this morning. We challenged Rachel to try to listen to at least one talk before getting into whatever activity she wanted to keep herself from dying of boredom.

Unfortunately for her, the first talk was a long one since the youth speaker didn't show up. The man who spoke droned on and on about...stuff. I was completely lost his entire talk. He introduced his topic but then rambled from this to that without connecting any of his ideas and though I'm sure his talk was meaningful to him as he prepared it, I had a difficult time getting much out of it. In a word, it was incoherent.

At dinner we were talking about what we'd learned at church. We asked Rachel about the challenge we'd given her and she said that she listened the best she could but that she didn't really understand very much.

"Yes, well," I said. "If you listened to the first talk, that's probably alright because I didn't understand very much either."

Rachel nodded. "The topic he was supposed to talk about was temples—he said that at the beginning—but he didn't really do that. At school we learned that you're supposed to pick a topic and just write about it without saying any random stuff. Like, Mr. A. showed us a story he wrote all about his pet rat and at the end he wrote, 'Vanilla ice cream is my favourite,' and that didn't really make sense because it didn't have anything to do with his rat."

This prompted a long conversation about tangents and writing styles and literary criticism.

Rachel surprised us by giving a glowing review of the second speaker, who was able to stay on topic. She learned quite a lot about the importance of family history work, even though she was colouring through the entire talk.

Miriam was surprisingly reverent during sacrament meeting as well. I don't think she paid attention to a single thing, but she did colour a few masterpieces and even presented a picture she drew to the bishop after the meeting.

Benjamin, on the other hand, was a bit of a pill. He squawked. He threw everything he could get his hands on. He tried to pick fights with his sisters. He nursed once and then tried to convince me to nurse him again. He knocked someone's cane off a bench. He made faces at the people behind us. He pulled my hair.

In short, he made me quite thankful (as he does every week) for the calling that I have (I'm in primary), which gives me reason to run out of the chapel during the closing song (to go set up chairs in the primary room) because sometimes I feel like those last five minutes of baby-wrangling might very well be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Should I ever have to sit with him through the entirety of sacrament meeting and also through the closing song and prayer I might very well break down and weep!*

*Alright; I'm sure we'd manage somehow. But it's nice to run my crazy toddler out of there, anyway.


  1. Sometimes people listen BETTER if their hands are occupied doing something like coloring or doodling. Sitting perfectly still does not necessarily mean that someone is paying attention, they can be off in dreamland miles away; while a person who is busy coloring can be listening carefully.

    1. So true! I've often been amazed at my nephews and what they remember when I think they haven't been paying attention because they were doing something else at the time.

      And I am one who can be lost in dreamland miles away while it appears I'm quietly listening. :)

    2. Me, too, Susanne! That's how I know!

      Josie's learning disabilities weren't diagnosed until high school, but her teachers were very good about her bringing a coloring book to class. How cool is that--to be able to do that in high school? That would NEVER have happened in my day! :o)