Superheros and the Sacrament

This evening, my wife (aka She Who Must Be Obeyed) and I were having an interesting discussion about the topic of her forthcoming Relief Society lesson. I thought that I would improve the average quality of the posts here by passing on her thoughts and questions. She writes:

I have recently been called as a Relief Society teacher to teach the David O. McKay lessons. Next week’s lesson is on worship, and starts out with a single sermon (a rare thing in these manuals—most of the paragraphs are chopped up bits and pieces from a variety of sources) on reverence. Pres. McKay states “…irreverence is the lowest state in which a man can live in the world.” He goes on the exhort parents to teach their children well in regards to reverence. “Parents, Reverence (sic), as charity, begins at home. In early childhood children should be trained to be respectful, deferential — respectful to one another, to strangers and visitors — deferential to the aged and infirm — reverential to things sacred, to parents and parental love.”

So I’m thinking about this lesson as I was sitting in Sacrament meeting today. And I started looking around at what I saw, at the Mormons worshiping together. Since we were late (a bad, bad habit), we were sitting in the overflow with many other families. The family next to us had three children, all of whom were drawing with elaborate craft supplies: markers, colored pencils, activity books, etc. The family on the other side had an older child who, as far as I could tell, was creating Valentines using either a secret language he shared with his friends, or some other bizarre made-up language that he used just to entertain himself. The child behind us, a younger child I would peg at about 15 months, was busy ferrying books from one seat to another. At one point, I heard a low buzz like angry bees growing next to us. I realized that the older children sitting there were bickering in low hisses, at which point their mother hissed loud enough for at least three rows to hear, “Don’t you dare fight at church!” In the words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up.

So, is this how we teach our children to be reverent? Is this worshiping the Lord? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exactly in a position to judge those I just described. As I was observing this scene, my own not-yet-three-year-old was under our chair, dive bombing Aquaman into Wonder Woman, making Mr. Incredible give Batman a high five, and grinding the crackers we had brought as a snack into the carpet.

Ok, so everybody is going to agree that no kid can be expected to sit through something as long and potentially boring as Sacrament meeting, and the question of whether or not one should even bring children to church is answered by saying that if you DON’T bring them to church, then they will really never learn how to be reverent, or worship. So I guess my question is to the Bloggernacle at large (and my Relief Society next week) is how do we teach our children to be reverent? And if reverence is so vital to worship and living a higher law, as David O. McKay implies in his teachings, how do Mormons worship? What is it, exactly, that we do to worship our God? And as much as my son would like to think so, I’m pretty sure Superheros are not exactly part of the equation.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

48 comments for “Superheros and the Sacrament

  1. Julie in Austin
    February 13, 2005 at 9:31 pm

    Taking a page from the downward spiral on the p’y thread, I’m going to wax nostalgic:

    Do you really think 19th century toddlers drowned out Brigham Young? I bet they were quiet. Why are our children so disobedient today?

    (Actually, I always used to think this. I’m starting to doubt. I was recently reading one of the accounts of the ‘transfiguration’ of BY, and the person was looking at the floor when it happened, and therefore heard JS before ‘seeing’ him. Why? Because her baby had just thrown down the tin cup she was playing with, and the mom had to find it. Moral: nothing changes.)

  2. annegb
    February 13, 2005 at 9:40 pm

    I feel for the teachers who have to teach these lessons and make them interesting, following the topic without reading it. It’s quite a challenge. I always read the lessons while I’m planning the music for the next month and I often wonder how they can do it. Some do it better than others.

    My feeling is that it’s better to be permissive than strict. I was strict. Didn’t work. Our meetings are long and often boring to us, imagine if you can’t understand most of what’s being said, or if your feet don’t touch the floor. There has to be found a middle ground, because if parents are too punitive with their misbehaving kids, it just drives the kids away faster.

    I heard a story once about Brigham Young: One of his wives wanted to alter the garments so her daughters could wear more fashionable clothes. She just did it and Brigham complained that even his own family wouldn’t mind him.

    The older I get, the less it bothers me when little kids make noise in church. I just think they’re entertaining and delightful. If I take my grandkids and they have trouble sitting still, we just go out in the foyer. When I was young, my kids were getting spanked and yelled at and grounded and none of them go to church. The one I “spoiled” knows that God loves her and she is still faithful. I opt for leniency.

  3. February 13, 2005 at 10:04 pm

    I have to say that I doubt very much that any person under 35, at least that I know, is expected (even in theory) to sit quietly for an hour and listen to adults talking to adults about pretty much anything more complicated than sugar — except in church.

    The kids in my Primary class have a hard time paying attention for 20 minutes to a lesson designed to keep their attention, specifically. And I give them 5 minutes of wiggle time first (I always get the best attention in the first five minutes, before they stop sweating.)

    No matter how reverent they want to be, as long as that hour in church is the longest amount of time they have to remain quiet and still (and awake), then their behavior while at church is likely to be the absolute worst (compared with other, shorter “please be quiet and sit still” times.)

    I mean, I’m 24, and I’m still hardly even “there” for the entire hour — and judging by what I see in the rest of the congregation, only about 10-15% of the other adults and youth are “there” at any given moment (the percentage descends rapidly from the moment the bishop thanks the Aaronic priesthood for their reverence — and I note that he thanks them early, before they start getting wiggly themselves.) Usually the speaker enjoying the highest degree of congregational awareness is the guy who comes right after the rest hymn — and again, only for the first five minutes or so. It can get quite ugly if there’s a special musical number instead of that rest hymn.

    Anyway, it seems to me that the only real difference between how I deal with things and how the 3-to-9-year-old contingent does is that I try my best to not disrupt other people during those times I’m having trouble paying attention. That was a learned skill, though I will admit that as a very young girl (in a Unitarian Universalist congregation), when my dad and grandmother were both in the choir and I sat in the pew alone until the children were dismissed, I practiced the difficult yet rewarding art of falling asleep with one’s eyes partially open and one’s head directed towards the pulpit. My grandmother would have died seeing me with toys (or a book, which I would have preferred) in church…

    As to the actual questions presented: my goal with my CTR-7s, during Sharing Time, is to get them to sit on their rear ends and not wave whatever toys and jewelry and books they’ve still got on them, in the faces of their classmates — oh, and I’m also working on getting them to not tip their chairs over, or play with the flexible wall-thing behind us. The only thing that’s worked so far has been telling them that ALL the rest of the Junior Primary looks to them to see how to behave (we’re the oldest class in that group), and that I’ll have our spot along the back wall (highly desirable, as no one can poke you in the back or pull your hair) given to the CTR-7A class, and move us up a row, if they don’t quit goofing off with their chairs and the wall. Nothing has worked on the jewelry/toy/book thing, and to be honest I really wish their parents would just confiscate such items before sending them to me.

    My sister also has me exploring an idea she got, based on some experiments with rats, related to giving them rewards for good deeds, but only on a random basis. My kids know that I only bring a snack every once in a while, and that I won’t tell them until the end of the day if I’ve brought snacks or not. If they’ve been really unruly, they also know that I’m willing to show them the snack in question and then send them away without getting any. This is mostly an instrument to preserve my own sanity, as it was the only thing that got them to sit still and not get into actual fights over the “comfy chair” in our classroom (which is where my bag sits, to prevent whining.) [*]

    As to the actual worship thing… I’m not sure I know. I never feel like we’re much “worshipping” anything except during prayers, hymns, and the Sacrament itself… the Primary (Sharing and Singing Time, anyway) always feels more like worship than Sacrament meetings, Sunday School, Relief Society, Young Women, etc., probably because of the songs. Everything else, including the talks in Sacrament, feels more like “lessons” than “worship” — with a lesson, I tend to feel like I’m at best watching someone else recite something they produced worshipfully, or perhaps (on a really great day) listening to someone else worshipping something. If I’m paying attention, I’ll be able to incorporate what I’ve learned in these lessons in my own worshipping efforts. My own private worship is more, well, private — prayers and music and scripture study. And I can’t place my finger on why. Sacrament and the other church meetings feel more like we’re worshipping on a technicality; it’s worship on the grounds that we’re all there, all listening to the same truths, etc. It’s like a salute — a formal observance. Maybe I should just force myself to listen to the talks, even when I’m finding it absolutely impossible and frustrating; there’s nothing to say that worship has to be fun. Or is there?

    I must mention here that Dictionary.Com is of no help in sorting out this matter.

    [*] On a random note, I should say that a stint teaching in Primary might be good medicine for Young Men and Young Women who seem likely to get into the sort of trouble that produces unwed mothers — it’s more effective than having lots of siblings, I think. Today I’m not sure I ever want to have children (I’m usually like that Sunday evenings.)

  4. RG
    February 13, 2005 at 10:08 pm

    Some years ago I heard that babies and small children were not usually taken to Church in earlier times. Remember how Primary used to be held during the week? The real crunch with this earlier approach of leaving babies and small children home from Sacrament Meeting is, “Who watches these kids?” This usually removes a parent (usually mom) or an older child (who could actually understand Sacrament Meeting) from the Sacrament Meeting.

    But once again a different schedule was at work. When my mother was in a R.S. presidency, R.S. was held during the week. Priesthood Meeting was also frequently held during the week in earlier times. Even Fast and Testimony Meeting was usually held on a Thursday evening. The entire family attending the block is actually a more recent practice.

    One of the things that has driven this is the expansion of the Church from the Mormon Corridor of settlements into the broader world. Going two blocks to the village meeting house when most people could set their own schedules on the farm, is quite different than going many miles to a chapel in a non-L.D.S. urban area. This becomes particularly problematic in developing countries (where most L.D.S. growth happens) with inadaquate and expensive public transportation systems could very quickly gobble up the families’ disposable income.

    The early approaches refered to above, did have consiquences though. In the 1920’s, for example, the average Sacrament Meeting attendance in the Church was in the mid 20’s%. Temple attendance was also very low. Percentage of young men going on missions was very low. Almost no young women went on missions in those earlier days.

    I think that parents (especially moms) that take their young children to Church today deserve lots of gold stars on their foreheads. Better yet, perhaps those without small children could actually help an overstretched parent in Sacrament Meeting.

  5. Ann
    February 13, 2005 at 10:09 pm

    I grew up Catholic, and Mass lasted about an hour. When I was very little (up until about age 4?) it was in Latin! I remember very clearly that one Sunday I went to Mass and actually understood what was being said. I thought Et cum spiritu tuo was God’s phone number.

    We sat still. We looked to the front, because that was where the Host was. We did not speak except during the responses. Children should be seen and not heard.

    Forty years later, our more child-centered society does not enforce decorum among children. I don’t know if that’s bad or good. I think probably good for the children, but not good for decorum.

  6. February 13, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    It depends a great deal on the child. Culture and training can make a lot of difference, but genetics are terribly powerful (and the variations within a single family can be amazing).

  7. Wilfried
    February 13, 2005 at 10:42 pm

    Ann mentioned her Catholic memories, which I share. Why were we, as small children, so reverent during Mass (at least overall)? I guess because there was a transcendent sphere of mystery, the hush as we entered, and because adults would exude reverence, and because the whole spectacle in front of us had something fascinating in its strangeness, perhaps also because we feared that irreverence would attract damnation. I do not mean to say that the Mass is an example to follow, but if we move to the other extreme – adults chatting before the service starts, people running back and forth, leaders welcoming the audience with a casual joke, an overall laxness – it is not conducive for reverence by our children.

    Next, and now I will attract anathema and censure, am I mistaken that I may have noticed that American children do not have the same sense of reverence as in some non-American environments? I’ve said too much. I go into hiding.

  8. XON
    February 13, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    Like so many of the best lessons, parents teach their children the important things about reverence long before reverence takes on an importance in the child’s own lives. The powerful beauty of this methodology only blooms when, in later years, when the young person is leaving childhood, and is at one of those true crossroads of life, where there can be only one decision, and no going back. They find themselves, for the first times, ‘outside of themselves’, in places they have never been before, and needing precisely the tools of confidence, comfort, and faith that are only accessible by reverent pursuit. At that point, each one reaches out frantically, grasping, and suddenly finds their feet resting comfortably, familiarly, on a structure that they had never noticed before, nor indeed understood was being built, stone by stone. At that point, they begin to inhabit a broader, more hopeful world. . . unless they don’t find it, and drown right there, or are swept out beyond where people can safely go.

  9. annegb
    February 13, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    Brother Decoo, I think you’re absolutely right, what is it with us noisy Americans? :) I used to attend Mass, also, and yup, a lot more reverent.

    But I would still go to being a marshmallow rather than a disciplinarian. I think, my perception is, that Europeans are more disciplined as a people, and that is reflected in their meetings?

    I know I’m as bad a little kid half the time myself. And if a two year old is acting up, I’m there with him. I think they’re funny. Their mother doesn’t, but I do. I made God a promise last year for Christmas that I wouldn’t read in church anymore and I kept that promise, and I think I’m getting a little more out of the meeting. I have also stopped putting my Marian D. Hanks Bread Upon the Waters cover on the novels I’m reading (for boring Relief Societies, not all of them). Because I made a promise, but I forgot, then my friend found it. I was bummed out. I only read the ones in Relief Society with no cuss words. I think I’m digging a hole for myself. Come out of hiding, Brother Decoo. We need ya.

    Maybe we need to start with the grownups.

  10. Heather Oman
    February 13, 2005 at 11:02 pm

    Wilifried–

    I doubt anybody would argue with you when you say that American children do not have the same sense of reverence. I would go so far as to extend that to include Americans at large. After I did a semester abroad in Germany in college,I remember sitting at the airport in Phoenix on my way back to Salt Lake City, generally amazed at the loudness of the people around me. I thought, “They are all so…so…AMERICAN!”

    Sarah–

    I agree with you that the Sunday schedule we keep while we are at church feels more like “lessons”, and certainly I haven’t felt very worshipful in Sacrament meeting since my son was born. In the lesson I cited above, Pres. McKay talks about how the actual taking of the Sacrament is a way of worship, and that we should do all we can to preserve the sanctity of the ordinance by being reverent during its administration. Today my son grabbed four pieces of bread when they passed the tray his way, and I had to make the not-so-easy decision of whether I should take all four pieces away and put them back into the tray, 3 year old germs and all, let him have all four, or eat the extra three myself. I decided to eat the remaining three myself to spare some unsuspecting soul from getting ill from whatever cooties my child was carrying. I hurriedly stuffed the small pieces of bread into my mouth and acted natural, hoping that the puzzled deacon standing before me wouldn’t notice. I’d have to say it was not the most spiritual moment I’ve ever had, and it in no way resembled anything reverent.

  11. Ann
    February 13, 2005 at 11:41 pm

    Wilfried hit on an excellent point when he pointed to the poor behavior of the grownups. A couple of weeks ago, I got to church on time (!) and even arrived before the organist. The chapel was pretty full, and mostly silent. Then, the music started, and the rumble began. People chatting, walking around…the music was their “cover.”

    How can the kids be expected to maintain any sense of “respect of place,” when the adults so rarely do? Adults may respect the process, but there’s no sense of sanctuary about LDS chapels, and (IMO) thus no respect for the location. I think the low church/utilitarian designs of our meetinghouses does very, very little to instill any sense of reverence of place.

  12. Ann
    February 13, 2005 at 11:42 pm

    Ack!. Subject/noun disagreement in the last paragraph of my #11. Ack!

  13. Bryce I
    February 13, 2005 at 11:56 pm

    There’s a bit of a prisoner’s dilemma involved when deciding whether to bring snacks, superheroes, coloring books, etc. to church. For a while, we brought nothing to church to distract our kids, and they did surprisingly well for about a month. Then they started to realize that if we sat near another family with kids their age (which is pretty much impossible not to do in our ward), they could borrow and beg from them, since there seems to be an understanding among parents that we all do whatever is necessary to keep ours and everyone else’s kids quiet and happy during sacrament meeting.

    If everyone refused to bring distracting toys and whatnot to church, I’d bet it wouldn’t be so bad on the kids. Once one person brings the bag o’ fun, however, it’s pretty much ruined for the rest of us. So we pack paper and pencils and let the girls draw after the administration of the sacrament. I feel like a failure. On the bright side, Jaymie has become quite good at drawing (picture of her cat drawing from today here).

  14. Linda Lee
    February 14, 2005 at 12:05 am

    My 8 children have never had toys, books, or snacks at Church. While they may have looked enviously at the Tupperware containers of Cheerios and the libraries carried by their friends, they did survive the experience. They learned to listen or to entertain themselves because there were no other options. While it may be difficult to teach reverence, it is possible. But like many other things in the Gospel, this teaching can only occur in the absence of the colorful, enticing distractions of the world.

  15. Wilfried
    February 14, 2005 at 12:17 am

    I tip my hat to Jamie’s cat!

  16. Trenden
    February 14, 2005 at 1:08 am

    We in the US may be irreverent in sacrament meetings but I saw things in South America as a missionary that were unbelievable. Children were allowed to run all around the pulpit throughout the meeting. I found it entertaining except when we had investigators with us. Once a family brought a porta-potty to sacrament meeting and set it in the isle at the end of their row. Their little boy happened to use it while the sacrament was being passed and the noises the process created certainly didn’t bring in the spirit. It became a favorite mission story however…

  17. Ann
    February 14, 2005 at 6:22 am

    oooh! I must have been a strict Primary President. All toys and distractions were deposited in a box in the Primary room to be reclaimed at the end of Primary time. I found positive reinforcement worked for reverence. “Thank you for sitting quietly Peter” to a child who was behaving soon had the others sitting quickly and quiety, waiting for their moment of praise. Really bad behaviour had me looking at the perpetrator with a (mock) shock horror look on my face and a “I can’t really believe you’re doing that in Primary!” which led the person plus the rest of the kids to believe they had done something really bad – and they had better not do it again. I don’t know what I would have done had they called my bluff.

    The most reverent Sacrament meetings I attended where when my husband was Bishop. Five minutes before the start of Sacrament meeting he would move to the mike, ask gently for everyone to take their seats, and listen reverently to the prelude music. It worked! We had five minutes of genuine silence (except for the music) – time for us all to compose our thoughts and enjoy the spirit the music would bring. Anyone coming last five minutes would just take their seats and listen to the music – no visiting. Five years later – new bishop – policy dropped – we reverted back.

    I brought up 4 children though had the same problem as all mums – noise, toys, books – though the highlight of my Sacrament meeting attendance had to be when I took my misbehaving 3 yr old out and she shouted (or should that be screamed) out at the top of her voice all the way up the aisle “Don’t smack me mummy, please don’t smack me”. This was in my early disciplinarian days – I’ve become a lot softer now!

    (View from an English saint)

  18. kris
    February 14, 2005 at 9:39 am

    Good questions Heather, this is something that I have been thinking about for awhile now. Blu Greenberg relates this story of growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home:

    “… it was communicated to me as a very young chid that being an Orthodox Jew was a great gift. It was not a burden as some would think, but rather a joy or a treasure. My earliest experiences were grounded in the rich culture of Sabbath and holday observance, kashrut (dietary laws), the special values of Torah study and my parents deep involvement in communal institutions … one example to illustrate how privilege and joy were communicated: On Friday afternoons, an hour or two before the onset of Sabbath, my father would call out to his three young daughters, “Girls, who wants a mitzvah?” A mitzvah is a good deed, the fulfillment of a commnadment; in this case, the fifth one, “Honor thy father and mother.” My two sisters and I knew this was a call for us to polish father’s shoes for the Sabbath, a chore reserved for children in those days. Of course, we immediately jumped to the task, for would not want a mitzvah? His call was not simply a Tom Sawyer ploy of Orthodox Judaism; it was his way of transmitting to us the deep love he had for Torah and mitzvot. We absorbed this into our bones.”

    I am extremely guilty of inwardly carrying the idea that sacrament meeting was a burden. When my husband was the bishop, we had 4 children 6 years and younger. It was very hard and yes, I resorted to toys, crayons and crackers. I’m not sure that as a people we convey to our children that being LDS is a joy and a treasure and you are right I don’t think it comes from superheroes. I don’t have a lot of solutions yet, but I’m trying to work on myself and my own preparation for the sacrament. I have blogged on this further here:

    http://www.thesaltmarch.blogspot.com/

  19. Heather Oman
    February 14, 2005 at 10:59 am

    Bryce-

    You bring up an important point. Half of the sacrament meeting last week, my son was entertained by the toys of the children next to us, and the child’s mother even supplied Jacob with Valentine’s treats. If there is even one coloring book in the room, the reverence is almost impossible to maintain as the children (or maybe if would be just my kid) hollering, “I NEED THAT!”

    But I really like the idea of teaching our children that being an Latter Day Saint is a joy. Maybe if we started out to church each Sunday with the joyful phrase, “We are going to learn about Jesus today–hooray!” instead of “Ok, Ok, we’ll bring that toy too, just get in the car!” our day would last longer on a spiritual note.

  20. February 14, 2005 at 11:03 am

    I have no children yet so I cannot comment on how to keep children reverent, but as a convert both my wife and I have firm memories of our parents’ churches. Mine were Presbyterian and hers were Lutheran. Our worship services were usually 45 minutes to an hour and 15. As we remember, everyone, EVERYONE, sat quiet and reverent. Maybe there were things going on we didn’t notice, but talking (by people of any age), goofing off, fighting and the like were all discouraged.

    Maybe standing up for hymns helped to keep the peace. Maybe it was the children’s sermon the pastor gave, having all the kids run up and sit on the floor by his stand as he kneeled and talked to them directly. But mostly it was the knowlege that our parents wouldn’t let us get away with it. I think its harder in the LDS wards because as soon as one family lets their children go, all the kids want to follow. Maybe the fact that families in our ward are bigger and harder to control so many young ones at the same time is harder, I don’t know, but I do know that we should do our very best to encourage everyone to be as reverent during the talks as we are during the actual sacrament.

  21. Kevin Barney
    February 14, 2005 at 11:48 am

    I remember we used to have a counselor in the SP (he is long since dead) who couldn’t seem to remember what it was like to have young children to wrestle with in the pews. If he happened to be sitting on the stand, and heaven forbid your child started to act up, he would glare at you with laser beam eyes and flip a quick thumb gesture indicating to take the miscreant out. I found his antics far more distracting and irreverent than the noise made by a child.

    Our sacrament meetings are never going to be like Catholic mass (except for special circumstances, like singles wards that have no children). Sure, we should do what we can to train our children. But our meetings are going to be on the noisy side, no matter what we do. We had better learn to live with it.

  22. john fowles
    February 14, 2005 at 11:59 am

    Heather, try traveling on the trains through Europe. You’ll notice that the loudest of the bunch are German tourists.

  23. Heather Oman
    February 14, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    Sorry, John, even then I’d have to disagree with you. I have traveled on the trains through Europe, and the loudest are still the Americans, unless, of course, the Germans are really drunk. Then again, in Germany my fellow students put on a display on July Fourth that would put any German beer drinker to shame.

  24. john fowles
    February 14, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    Heather, if you are, for example, on a beach in Spain, you will have no trouble knowing where the Germans are.

    I am not trying to get Americans off the hook for being loud and obnoxious. I have observed this just as much as you. But I think that it is inaccurate to single out Americans as being the worst at this. If you’re in France and a group of Germans happens by, they seem loud and obnoxious. If you’re in Germany and a group of Brits happens by, they seem loud and obnoxious. Don’t they know they need to be silent when on the S-Bahn? After all, they are speaking a different language with different sounds and mannerisms, so they seem so loud and obnoxioius. Better to just be quiet. And ditto for when you are in America and a group of Germans happens by. They seem so loud and obnoxious. I think this has to do with the fact that they are speaking a different language and so, whether they really are loud and obnoxious or not, they seem so and stand out really if they do anything except whisper to each other.

  25. February 14, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    I go back and forth on the whole issue of reverence.

    On the one (call the “High Church”) hand: I think our lay church organization, lack of vestments and ritual, minimal level of infrastructure and training, and general sense of ad hoc-ness and impermanence to our church meetings and callings, all make it very easy for us adults to slack off when it comes to enforcing discipline or–heaven forbid–being an example ourselves. We leave the meeting halfway through, to talk and joke in the hallway; we don’t sing, because we don’t know the hymn or are busy reading or are turned off by how bad everyone else sounds, so why contribute?; we show up late; we treat it like a burden or obligation, not a time of worship and joy. After all, it’s just that dork Bill up there on the stand; why should I pay attention to him? That, combined with that fact that I assume practically everyone reading this is well-off enough to be able to easily purchase all sorts of cheap, small, disposable, crappy snacks, toys and distractions that we fill our kids’ lives with and therefore can’t effectively prevent from being brought to church along with them….it adds up to a deeply irreverent situation, one likely to frequently drive the Spirit away.

    On the other (call it the “Charismatic”) hand: I also think that as long as the sacrament gets served, nothing else matters. The sacrament is when we worship; everything else is just meetings and talks, and doing the best you can is more than good enough.

  26. Jonathan Green
    February 14, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    John, while it’s true that Germans are proud of their title as biggest boors on the vacation beaches of Europe, Heather was originally talking about people in their own countries. How do Americans in the US compare to Germans in Germany? That’s the question, and one where people often find Americans the world champions in exuberance.

  27. Heather Oman
    February 14, 2005 at 2:39 pm

    Sorry, John, I still don’t agree. Just the other day, I was in one of the Smithsonian museums, and I noticed a small group of people who looked German to me (It was the knapsacks and the brown socks with white shoes that tipped me off). In order to confirm my suspicions, I sidled over to where they were standing, pretending to look at the same exhibit, and they were talking so quiety, so reverently, even, that I had to strain to catch any of their conversation and make sure it was German. You can bet that some of the Americans in the museum weren’t as hard to hear.

    But regardless of which culture is more boorish, you have to admit that on the whole, our Sacrament meetings are not all that reverent, and I just think it’s an interesting question to discuss the various possible reasons as well as any possible solutions some people have found to keep their kids under control. There have been many possible causes put forth here, and cultural differences and tendencies is just another interesting one to consider.

  28. Wilfried
    February 14, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    Oh oh, I should have kept my mouth when I threw in that little intercultural hint (comment 7). Of course there is no way to identify a particular nationality as louder or more irreverent. The differences between groups and families are basically socially related: a group of vacationers on a cheap group voyage with only beach and nightlife entertainment on the agenda will behave somewhat differently than the art-minded Germans in the Smithsonian…

    And so, as to reverence in sacrament meeting (to come back to the thread), it seems the way children behave has more to do with educational principles, norms of behavior in the home, reinforcement of rules etc. than anything else. Certainly not due to a “national” identity. In a small branch in Belgium I also saw occasionally situations as Trenden (16) describes. But then one look at the parents explained it all and we were left wondering how to help the parents rather than the children… Overall Belgian parents, and mostly parents in Europe, will keep their children pretty strict and pay a lot of attention to their behavior.

  29. john fowles
    February 14, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    Heather, while a missionary in Germany, I was struck with how much louder sacrament meeting was over there than in the wards where I grew up in TX. In the German wards with which I am familiar, there is absolutely no discipline of children whatsoever during sacrament meeting. The children literally run and play in the aisles.

    Also, my point was not to show which culture is more boorish, it was to show that context is often what makes people seem loud and obnoxious. I understand that you saw a group of quiet Germans in the Smithsonian. My anecdotes go in the other direction: loud Germans in French or Hungarian trains; loud Germans on Spanish beaches or Dutch restaurants; loud Germans in English pubs and graduate seminars. The one place where Germans didn’t seem to stand out or be loud was . . . in Germany. This led me to believe that something similar is happening with Americans. It is true that Americans are loud and stand out when abroad. But when an American just seems unbearably loud and obnoxious on a German subway, for example, it might not only have to do with that American’s culturally ingrained openness (and thus loudness) but also with the fact that it sounds so out of place to hear a conversation between two Americans on a German subway that whether they really are talking abnormally loud or not, it seem like they are.

    That said, I do agree that Americans abroad seem unduly loud and, perhaps, incognizant or inconsiderate of the people and/or culture around them. One of my favorite anecdotes about loud Americans actually took place in England, not Germany. My wife and I were in a pub in London having dinner on the day before Thanksgiving. To our embarassment for our country, we heard a loud, obnoxious American woman with a New York accent blurt out rather loudly, “Oh, what are you going to do for Thanksgiving?” We looked over to see that she was seated a few tables away from us and was addressing an older English couple at another table near us. The English gentleman said very politely, “We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here.” The woman replied loudly, “But I overheard you say that you were from Jersey,” to which the man answered, “Yes, we are from Jersey, not New Jersey.” My wife and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this display of cultural and geographical ignorance from this New Yorker. One thing for sure, my wife and I always speak very softly to each other when travelling abroad since we are both aware that the rest of the world considers us loud and rude and we also realize that much of that merely stems from the fact that we are out of place and thus stand out already when we are abroad.

  30. john fowles
    February 14, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    Jonathan, I am not aware that Americans seem loud and obnoxious to other Americans while in America. As for sacrament meeting, I seem to have observed something different than many others on this thread: that children in the wards I’ve attended in the US are better behaved during sacrament meeting than the wards I know in Germany and England. I will admit that the ward I attended in Holland was very quiet, but there were so few children there. The ward in Lithuania was similar–quiet but also very few children in the first place. I now live in a ward on the East Bench of Salt Lake City. I admit that in this ward, the younger children are very noisy and could be described as irreverent since they are playing with toys on their benches and crying loudly and yelling at their parents. (I confess that my own children are a part of this problem, which provides me no small amount of anxiety, but I just can’t take them out to an empty classroom and spank them, which is how I was raised, since some ward member might call social services on me for doing so. Plus, I have no particular desire to spank my children, even if I am convinced that such discipline is what has contributed in the past to quiet sacrament meetings.) In that sense, this ward is the closest I’ve had to an East German ward.

  31. Wilfried
    February 14, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    Just a little comment in connection with John’s interesting remarks. The behavior of children in branches and wards is usually much related to the social/educational level of the parents. You see the next aspect: if in the mission field missionaries tend to bring in more families from lowel social/educational levels (and I mean this strictly objectively, without judgment), you will have more problems with reverence. Over the years I have seen slow but certain progress in this area, as we got a better mix of social levels among converts. The better-behaving children (thanks to their parents) have a positive impact on others. Sometimes, alas, the contrary too. It’s a long process with many facets. We do not want any parents to feel unwelcome in the Church, so it requires much love and patience to improve the overall situation.

  32. February 14, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Nate, you are a Rumpole fan?

  33. john fowles
    February 14, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    I was wondering the same thing.

    I love Rumpole of the Bailey.

  34. MDS
    February 14, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    I do remember some very irreverent German kids (which is not to say I find the kids in my American wards have been much better.
    Two andecdotes, both from the same branch, stick in my mind.

    The Nametag thieves: In this branch, the running entertainment for the kids from about age three to 12 was to steal the Elders’ nametags and then play keepaway with them. In summer, this could involve running around outside on the church grounds, but in cold winter months, they would run around inside the building. This particular building had tile floors throughout, and the sounds of kids running from Elders and screaming to their comrades to let them know of an incoming nametag lateral caused quite a hubbub. Then, as fate would have it, I got a new companion, who was large, strong and no-nonsense. The first little twerp to attempt to steal his nametag had his arm twisted behind his back until quite a bit of pain was inflicted; the same method was used on the second, and soon he was free of pests. I told him I found this a little bit extreme, but he pointed out that it had put a stop to any attempts to steal his nametag. I preferred to simply remove my nametag and hide it in my backpack.

    The crotch-cruncher: One little guy, probably no more than three or four years old, had learned that one of the most effective ways to incapacitate the older members of his gender was a well-aimed jab to the testes. Even better, from his viewpoint, were groups of brethren standing in close proximity, offering a herd of easily accessible victims. One Sunday, the sacrament meeting had closed uneventfully, and the members of the branch presidency stood from their seats on the stand. While these good brethren surveyed their faithful congregation for a moment, the tiny terror zipped, incognito, across the chapel and up the stairs to the stand. Whap, Whap, Whap, went the little fist, as each of the unsuspecting three doubled over in pain in a writhing sort of human domino chain. Beware the irreverent German child. He’ll harm more than your spiritual sensitivities.

  35. Sheri Lynn
    February 14, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    It does somehow change the sacramental prayer when a toddler keeps trying to throw a big green ball up into the bread being blessed, and nobody stops him.

    We’re trying to set a good example without seeming judgmental, and it’s a fine line to walk. We are the strangers, the newcomers, the white family attending a Spanish-speaking branch. I think we are up against a cultural norm of permissiveness with young children. I see nothing to be gained by fighting it. I respect annegb’s experience with strictness versus permissiveness, but I also note that the Sacrament in my branch is being blessed and passed by men in their thirties and older. Where are the young men? Did the-chapel-as-a-playground fail to inspire them to stay active as they became teenagers and lost their interest in cheerios and quiet books?

    A counterpoint:

    3 hours is too long for me. It’s not that it’s too long to give to the Lord. It’s just too long to sit STILL.

  36. john fowles
    February 14, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    ditto Sheri Lynn, on all points.

  37. Wilfried
    February 14, 2005 at 6:41 pm

    So much depends on the norms the local branch presidency or bishopric sets and the way they exemplify it themselves. In Antwerp Ward 2 (Belgium) I have experienced, when I was there last summer, the most reverent atmosphere one could imagine. At the entrance, a brother would remind us, whispering, that we were not supposed to talk in the chapel. Music would be very soft, the bishopric on the stand sat like smiling statues… And the kids were quiet, immensely quiet…

  38. Ana
    February 14, 2005 at 6:47 pm

    I had an interesting experience this weekend attending services at a non-denominational community church where a friend of mine was in a skit as part of the services. The meeting opened with three loud but sincere and touching rock songs about Jesus, followed by a prayer offered by the pastor, who paced the stage with closed eyes as he prayed (I was scared he’d fall, but his sincerity was not to be questioned). Then came a movie, then the skit, then the sermon, a good message about families. There were no children under 8 in the meeting; they were all in the nursery. Every adult got to hear every word of the meeting. They have services 4 times every weekend, so nursery leaders can take turns going to meetings if they choose.

    I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. How easy that church experience was compared with the one I had in my ward the following day, starting with picking up the dropped Lego space ship in the parking lot and ending with tears as my son was forced to sit down in Primary without his Yu-Gi-Oh book. How much more stirring was the professional band proclaiming, “Beautiful One, I adore you,” than the lackluster hymn-singing of a distracted LDS congregation or the overblown piano solo on “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

    And honestly, there was more worship going on in the community church than in the LDS one this weekend. The people were at that community church Saturday night to praise God, and they sang it and prayed it and mentioned it frequently. If you’d asked me previously why I was planning to go to church this weekend, I probably would have told you that it was to teach my children that it’s important to to to church, to fulfill my calling, and maybe to learn something for myself. I honestly would not have told you that I was going to church to worship my Heavenly Father. But I think that’s a question of the intent of my heart, not a question of how nifty my meetings are or how my children behave or whether they are there.

    As for practical suggestions on teaching reverence: we use carrots and sticks and lots and lots of practice. There are treats for making it through the sacrament with your bottom on your chair (yeah, yeah, criticize the treats in church if you want; I’m a total bribery mom and not ashamed of it. Doesn’t God reward desired behavior, too?) There’s time out in the car for egregious misbehavior. There’s sacrament practice (passing broken bread on a plate and water in baby-bottle lids) and reverence practice (being silent and thinking about Jesus for ten whole seconds) at home. There’s scripture study every night, and if you’re not quiet for ten verses of the Book of Mormon there will be no Harry Potter.

    But most of all we go to church every week, no matter how hard it is, and we try to make it a positive experience for our kids. They’re little now. Of course they won’t be reverent all the time. One of the many things I appreciate about Mormon culture is the tolerance for children during what is often overlooked as our most important ordinance, the sacrament. A toddler grabs a handful of bread, and we know she’s just learning, and we don’t freak out about it. A child loudly proclaims that he’s still thirsty after taking the water, and we smile, and if we’re smart we even think about how our spiritual thirst shouldn’t actually be quenched by a teaspoon of symbolic water in a plastic cup.

    Heather, I guess my suggestion for teaching this material in Relief Society would be to teach the moms in the ward to try their best, offer them some specific suggestions, and let them discuss what’s been successful. Then remind them that it doesn’t have to be perfect right now. Jesus loves his more enthusiastic little ones, too. And remind them that if they don’t feel like they’re getting anything out of church for now, that might be okay. We can choose attend for the Lord, not for ourselves.

    And it sounds like your son would get along famously with my two. They are completely superhero crazy. I think my three-year-old has his Batman pajamas on under his clothes today.

  39. john fowles
    February 14, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    Ana wrote A toddler grabs a handful of bread, and we know she’s just learning, and we don’t freak out about it. A child loudly proclaims that he’s still thirsty after taking the water, and we smile, and if we’re smart we even think about how our spiritual thirst shouldn’t actually be quenched by a teaspoon of symbolic water in a plastic cup.

    I agree with your perspective on this despite my earlier words. Of course we don’t come down hard on children for doing these things when they don’t know any better. My difficulties as a parent are with the obligatory bag full of toys and fruitsnacks that are an essential part of surviving sacrament meeting today. I am complying with this societal must, but I worry about the types of things that Sheri Lynn mentioned that might result from such indulgence rather than insistence on discipline and reverence.

  40. Samuel Jerrods
    February 14, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    I found the article “Does Civilization Begin in Sacrament Meeting?” by Orson Scott Card as a helpful resource on effective sacrament meeting discipline. The link is http://www.nauvoo.com/vigor/issues/14.html#five. My wife and I have used similar methods of discipline in sacrament meeting with our three children and we have found a level of reverence that works for us.

    My favorite reason for not disciplining children in sacrament meeting came from a mother in our branch who said because we don’t meet in a dedicated chapel, it doesn’t matter how loud her children are. She said when she goes to visit her parents in their ward with a dedicated chapel her children behave because of the spirit there. I pray for a dedicated chapel soon, because then maybe her seven year old will turn down his Game Boy. I mean, who wouldn’t rather play Pokemon during the High Councilman’s talk, but…

  41. A. Greenwood
    February 14, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    Sure. I always feel that you should turn the volume off on your game boy during sacrament meeting. Or at least during the sacrament.

  42. Heather Oman
    February 14, 2005 at 9:47 pm

    Ana, thanks for your suggestions. I am certainly not a fan of layering on more guilt on an already guiltridden group of woman.

    As I was reading Jacob his bedtime stories tonight and thinking about this thread, I began thinking about why my 3 year old can not sit through Sacrament meeting, but he can sit through easily 45 minutes of story time (if his mother allows the stories to go on that long.) I realized it’s because I have always expected and demanded that he sit for these stories, and we have gradually built his attention span up so that he can handle the time span, as well as the increasing complexity of the stories that we read to him. There is a gradual line-upon-line precept going on here, as well as a certain level of expectation–i.e., he does not play superheros while we read stories. And he has pushed for that, believe me. We’ve compromised by letting Batman sit with him in the rocking chair, but making sure that everyone understands that Batman is here for the story, too, and his play time is over.

    I don’t think I have ever had the expectation for Jacob to sit quietly for Sacrament meeting. From his first Sacrament meeting on, I have brought things to entertain him. No wonder he doesn’t sit still, that he whines a lot, and that he is constantly demanding more toys, different toys, more treats. Have I taught him to expect anything else? I seriously doubt that anything in my behavior towards him has conveyed the idea that this is serious worhip time, and that he needs to calm down, be quiet, and sit still. It’s not my own son’s attitude that needs adjusting–it’s his mother’s.

  43. Sheri Lynn
    February 14, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    We weren’t as effective as Orson Scott Card, and went through more angst as a result–especially with our piano-magnet third child. There was some new physical force involved, attracting her to the piano. We weren’t effective early enough, so it was harder later.

    However, we insisted our children behave from about age 3 on and I think we managed it. When we had to leave a meeting because of them, it was NOT to have fun. They behave even when they cannot yet understand much of the talks. They are appalled at the bad behavior of other children.

    I think another thing we did right was sit in the front when our kids were little. All the unruly children were in the back, presumably so they could be removed more easily. All the unruly teenagers, also, were in the back. By sitting in the very front, we minimized the distractions available to our kids. No other families sat near the front. The grandmas and grandpas who did sit up there knew how to behave, and that helped us set the precedences.

    Being converts, we ourselves don’t always understand what’s going on or what is expected of us. I haven’t attended a fireside since the first time we showed up for one–in sweats, and with a toddler in tow, and it was being held in a house full of Steuben crystal. Nobody had communicated to us what would be expected of us when we were invited. The humiliation and frustration of trying to keep a toddler from breaking all those sparkly things was way too much for me! And because my first six years of my membership in the church involved small children, I haven’t attended a stake or general conference, and my ignorance of what will happen and what is expected of me and my family makes me loathe to start now. I get massive anxiety attacks facing new things. When we moved to Germany and Turkey we were provided with guides to the local culture and tradition, but converts have to fumble into the traditions as well as ordinances of our Church.

    We do not get cable, so we just listen to Conference on the internet as much as we can, and read the talks when they come in Ensign. What happens in Stake Conference is even more a mystery. I suspect it’s more of the same, but I do not know.

    There must be some secret code in the hymnbooks or given during announcements to signal when people are going to stand for hymns. It always takes me by surprise. (I don’t like surprises.) Maybe someone will let me in on the secret?

  44. Heather Oman
    February 14, 2005 at 11:22 pm

    Sheri Lyn–

    We only stand for rest hymns, the hymns that occasionally come not at the end or the beginning of the meeting, but in the middle of the meeting. When and what we will sing is determined by the person conducting the hymns.

    I took my Catholic roommate to Sacrament meeting once, and as the opening hymn began, she immediately stood up, then just as quickly sat down as she realized no one else was standing. She whispered to me, “You don’t stand for hymns? What kind of people are you?”

  45. A Edwards
    February 16, 2005 at 1:47 am

    My wife and I have served as primary teachers for a number of years — and through three Primary Presidencies. The first of these Primary Presidencies, the one from which we took our methodological ques, believed that the most important function of the Church vis-a-vis the children was to teach them to love the Lord. The notion was that, through the course of years, the children would grow to learn and appreciate the various aspects of the Gospel, but the process was long term and that the adoption of Gospel principles should occur in an enjoyable (if slow moving) atmosphere to ensure that the kids remain close to the faith. This primary was a raucus good time; great skits, parties and games, though admittedly reverence in the traditional sense was not a priority.

    The next Primary Presidency was rather split in that the counsellors focused on “fun” whereas the President was very concerned with reverence and decorum. Lots of shushing, but still an interesting amount of crazy stuff. My personal teaching method leaned more to the fun & entertaining, rather than the reverent, but it still fit in well within the overall organization.

    With the current Primary Presidency, the whole presidency is in complete accord that reverence and obedience are the core values that should be taught at Primary. (All of these sisters are relatively new to the Ward and likely come from more orthadox destinations; we live in a blue state on the East Coast.) At any rate, no more skits and games; lessons very strictly on message, which is to teach what the manual says to teach. Here’s where things get interesting. As a “fun” teacher (their label, not mine), I find it very difficult to teach reverently. When I do attempt to teach in a reverence promoting, strict format, the kids who had me as their teacher two years ago (about half the class) can’t take it — they misbehave badly and disrupt the class continually. Newer teachers and those veterans inclined toward disciplined classrooms had no problems with the direction of new Presidency.

    The lesson I draw from this is that the Gospel can be faithfully approached by following varying degrees of reverence. However, beware to those who attempt to switch tactics midstream. Though the Gospel is true, it doesn’t prevent trainwrecks from happening in CTR 7.

  46. Elaine
    February 20, 2005 at 2:30 pm

    This is painfully longer than a blog should be, but since the discussion is pretty much dead at this point, I thought I would post my thoughts in case anyone “just looking” for different insight on the issue was interested.

    The main problem that I see with the responses to this observation/inquiry is that they deal almost exclusively with the actions of children in church, and further digress from there. But what is the real question here?

    Being reverent is not simply being quite, behaving, or restraining one’s natural desires. It is acceptable to suppose that there would be situations or moments in life when not doing these very things would still be in keeping with the highest reverence. Reverence is an attitude before an act. It is literally the feeling of such respect, honor, esteem… that being true to others (and ourself) is reflected in our daily lives. It is a gesture of love mindfully made to show regard for another’s wishes… in the case of sacrament meeting, it is a show of our regard for the gospel, most importantly for our Savior and our God. It is not about us, or the people around us, although a type of reverence shared between us could certainly not hurt.

    It would be easy to conclude from the perspectives mentioned by others here, that a noisy congregation is lacking in reverence to our Heavenly Father; but this only because it shows that ESSENTIALLY, the attitude and hearts of the people involved are not focused on honoring, loving, and showing deference to their God…

    When Pres. McKay exhorted parents to teach their children reverence, he made the distinction himself, clarifying what we need to do: “…to be respectful, deferential – respectful to one another, to strangers and visitors – deferential to the aged and infirm – reverential to things sacred, to parents and parental love.” This is terribly pertinent to teaching our children! The exhortation to teach these values was placed directly with a lesson on reverence for the most important reason. It is why this lesson belongs in the Relief Society discussion at all! Beyond a naturally beguiling disposition, a child’s simplistic honesty will reveal itself when, expected to act without reference to personal commitment and belief, they will inevitably fail to make the sacred connection, and will act accordingly, no matter how much you may wish to shush them.

    It is not completely noisy children (and adults!) that are the problem; it is also the attitudes and teachings of the parents that are instilled in them. If we do not teach our children to love fully, to have empathy, concern and responsibility for others as well as a higher power, how can we expect them to act accordingly? If all we teach is that being reverent is not playing with toys or shushing them, what have we truly taught? If we ourselves do not treat all beings, human, non-human, and divine, with equal love, understanding and empathy, how can we expect in several short hours a week for our children to model behaviors that can only result from the reflected study and mindful practice of such attitudes? If we as adults partially lack these attitudes and depths to our beings, how can we desire the resulting ACT of reverence to manifest? We must remember of our actions to others that respect is not merely omission of the negative. It is also an active attempt to do right by others. Our sitting attentively and quietly is a good start, but it is not in itself reverence, nor will it lead to this end. Reverence is ultimately about honoring; if a child feels no inherent need to honor something sacred, we might find it needful to turn reflectively upon examination of our own lives and 1) determine how we might have failed to model the same desire, and even more deeply, 2) how we have essentially failed to communicate the SACRED nature itself.

    As Pres. McKay stated “…irreverence is the lowest state in which a man can live in the world.” Irreverence is more than merely being “disruptive” at church. Reverence or irreverence is manifested by how we treat our neighbors, our friends, family, loved ones, enemies, animals, plants, the earth; how we treat our ideas, words, attitudes and those of others… Disregard or misunderstanding of another’s suffering, of the consequence of our own actions against the defenseless or meek, being impatient when love would suffice… all of these are examples of our irreverence against the very gifts of love and life that God has bestowed us with. Acting without respect, without loving intention, without desire to do good and honor whatever or whoever we are dealing with, is irreverence. As McKay simply stated, it is the lowest state to which we can stoop. How often do we stoop (probably unknowingly) within a week before we try to prop ourselves up with largely empty actions for a day, an hour or two? Can we blame our children for not caring, for seeing through our own attempts (no matter how immediately intentful?), for behaving honestly about what they encounter and perceive?

    We, children especially, naturally desire to behave in accordance with our own sincerely held beliefs. If we felt overwhelming awe, appreciation, and privilege in something, we would be compelled to act accordingly. If God presented himself suddenly before us, we would be filled with these very sentiments, our own nature would force ourselves into incredible reverence, humility and deference. We visit a house of the Lord weekly. If we do not feel a similar strong desire in these privileged moments of sacred communion and sacrament, we should be forced to inquire more deeply into what we are truly doing there and what our purpose is, lest we forget. Reverence is first and foremost an attitude. Without the necessary development of this attitude, resulting attempts at action must fall short of the desired end.

    To answer the practical questions of other parents, I’m not saying that simply instilling “knowledge” within children will reap the desired results. Children will be children, but in so doing they will also be honest and true. If we give them the skills and desires, they will, at a very young age, be able to perform the tasks of acting with reverence on special occasions. It is up to parents to explain and model this for them, so they have resources to draw on when necessary. For those of you struggling with kids the lesson noted 3 influences in home life that awaken reverence in children and “contribute to its development in their souls”. The first is firm but gentle guidance. The second is “courtesy shown by parents to each other and children”. The third is simply prayer-in which children participate. Reverence, as charity, does indeed begin at home; indeed reverence IS spirituality. As succinctly said in Psalms 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” He is not asking you to sit quietly on a hard pew, biting your lip. He is asking you to quite your soul, to reflectively meditate and open up your inner, sacred self to His. The result of such action may just be a few moments of sitting quietly on a pew you no longer notice, because you are filled with the knowledge and love of your God. Not that every child can be expected to experience this perfectly every time, but that should be the goal, and children should be aware of that fact. How exciting would it be if God issued you a personal invitation to meet with Him this week, and all you had to do was show up and LISTEN for Him-would you do it? How hard would it be? How easy would it be to make an object lesson of this, issuing a written invite to our children, and encouraging them to try? (Week after week, child after child, if necessary?!) ;) Speaking from my own experiences, I know that many of us could try harder at living our lives so that if they took the invitation on, they would know what and how to love, listen, and meditate.

    I wrote all this before I attended my own RS meeting on it today. I was further impressed with the same ideas after listening there. The four main things that were covered, dealt with the heart of the matter I so long-windedly attempted. They are:
    1) REVERENCE is profound respect mingled with love.
    2) MEDITATION leads to spiritual communion with God through the Holy Spirit.
    3) We go to the Lord’s house to COMMUNE with Him in spirit.
    4) SACRAMENT provides an opportunity to commune with the Lord.

    Feeling reverence for the sacred, meditating and living with awareness of our actions of love and charity, going to church for the purpose of communing with Him, and respectfully (reverently) participating in the sacrament is what we SHOULD be doing to worship our God in the highest manner. Even children can do this successfully, but it starts with our imparting a sense of sacredness and reverence toward God, our finding time to model modes of meditation in our home and personal lives, our teaching love, charity and compassion to the best of our abilities at any moment before we can expect to have any true success in having our children commune during sacrament, or even be respectful of our desire to do so.

    McKay bore testimony: “I pray we may have the strength so to live that we may merit divine guidance and inspiration; that through worship, mediation, communion, and reverence we may sense the reality of being able to have a close relationship with our Father in Heaven. I bear you my testimony that it is real; that we can commune with our Heavenly Father.” Amen!

  47. RoAnn
    February 20, 2005 at 5:51 pm

    Elaine –
    Thank you for your profoundly uplifting and encouraging post! May I have your permission to quote from your comments when I teach a lesson on reverence in a place where they use the more basic manual rather than the David O. McKay manual? I have been struggling as I tried to develop a presentation that would communicate more than “how to” suggestions for teachers and leaders, and parents. And although I planned to mention several of the same things you touched on, your way of describing the attitudes toward God and men that underlie and foster true reverence truly invites the presence of the Spirit, and infuses the entire discussion with joy.

  48. Elaine
    February 21, 2005 at 1:04 am

    RoAnn-
    Feel free. I immediately regretted making such a long “soapy” preach, so I’m glad that something useful came of it. :)

    If you are interested I have a handout based on David O. McKay’s “Elements of Worship”: extremely USEFUL quotes (not just feel-good fluff!), under the 4 main subjects I listed in my blog; compiled (I think) by the sister who gave this talk in RS. I would be happy to e-send/fax, other or even blog it down here if you were at all interested (assuming her permission of course-I will have to double check it’s original source!). You could feel free to use it in it’s entirety or just pick more juicy stuff out for your effect. The quotes caused a lot of comment during our discussion-they were just so *good*! (Most importantly, I felt it provided the sisters w/ immediate opportunity to “guide” and further encourage any personal reflection they may have wandered home with after this lesson, and palpable fodder to share with husbands/kids…)

    Good luck with your presentation!

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