Recently I sat in church with my daughter on my lap and my husband by my side. I live just a few miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Homes in Utah are going up wherever there is land to spare. Families are designing beautiful homes and moving into them at a rapid pace. With so many new homes, family wards are starting to see a major influx in members. On an average Sunday our ward is packed with members all the way into the very back of the cultural hall. There is no tiny overflow where the latecomers sneak in to sit; it feels like stake conference attendance level on a weekly basis. With that many people the noise level will obviously be more than usual.As the sacrament was being passed a little girl took advantage of her mothers focus being elsewhere and ran down the aisle, up to the pulpit, and back down the other aisle. A few moments later another child raced behind the last pew laughing and screaming with delight. When the administration of the sacrament was over the noise level raised about 10 notches louder than it already was.
It has become such an issue in our ward that our bishop has taken to asking primary children to stand up by the pulpit with their arms folded to show reverence in the chapel before sacrament meeting starts. The first time I saw children standing up on the stand with the bishopric it quickly dawned on me what our bishop was trying to accomplish. However, as I settled into a pew with my family, I glanced around to see if the children had an effect on our ward family’s behavior in the chapel. I was surprised that everyone was still treating the chapel as a social escapade. Those children on the stand were barely noticed and seemed to just fade into the background.
Recently, my father in law was ordained a Bishop over his ward. I had some time to talk with him and asked him what he wanted to accomplish in his new calling. He humbly spoke about several ideas he had to continue strengthening his ward family. One of which left me reevaluating my dedication to the sacrament.
He said that he would like to see the chapel treated with more respect. He said that the chapel is treated like it’s the cultural hall instead of the sacred ordinance room that it is. Ordinance room? I thought. Then suddenly it struck me that the chapel is a sacred room in which we participate in an ordinance.
Do we treat the ordinance of partaking of the sacrament with the same sacred nature we do baptismal and temple ordinances? Do we enter the chapel to socialize or to quietly prepare our hearts for the ordinance we are about to partake?
My father in law continued to speak about the symbolism of the sacrament. He reiterated that we are symbolically partaking of the body and blood of the Savior each Sunday. The broken bread represents His body, broken on the cross. The water is a representation of the blood He shed for a remission of our sins.
By partaking of the sacrament we renew our baptismal covenants. When we were baptized we covenanted to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that need comfort, and stand as a witness of God wherever we go (Mosisah 18:9).
Knowing the sacred nature of the sacrament how should we act in a room that prepares the symbolic body and blood of Christ each week? The answer seems obvious doesn’t it?
When we enter the temple we speak in hushed voices and take time to ponder and pray. What would happen to our sacrament meetings if we acted in a similar nature? I’m sure several of you are reading this and rolling your eyes thinking, she must not have children.
First off, I do. I have a beautiful baby girl who has recently found her voice and loves to use it, loudly. Secondly, I have been a teacher of 1st graders for four years. I have extensive experience attempting to wrangle 25 first graders to teach them academic skills for seven hours a day, five days a week. So, I know first hand how exhausting it can be to expect children to sit quietly and learn. I also know it is different when it is your own children to wrangle; they tend to know just how to push your buttons and test your limits.
However, it is possible to have peace while sitting in sacrament meeting with children. Even if you don’t have children it can be easy to become distracted by our electronic devices. A quick glance down and your attention is draw to something less important.
Here are five ideas of how to achieve peace while in sacrament meeting.
- Be an example of the believers. Creating peace in sacrament can start with our own example. What example do we set for our peers and our children during church? Are we sitting on our phones throughout the entire meeting? Do we enter the chapel reverently or by loudly greeting our friends?
1 Timothy 4:12 states, “[…] but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” So what does a believer look like? When I picture someone who is a believer I see several different people in my head. Some are singing loudly, others are quietly studying the hymn. Some believers sneak in the back, while others like to sit up front. There isn’t one right way to be someone who believes in the gospel. Think about what you see for yourself and become the believer you want to be!
When you picture yourself as a believer what do you look like? How does a believer act in a sacrament meeting? Referencing the scripture above is good food for thought if you are having trouble painting a picture of a believer in your mind.
- Prepare during the week. Do the little things throughout the week to bring the spirit into your life each day. Kneel when you pray, study scriptures about the sacrament, the Atonement, and the Savior. I know everyone has a different relationship with Heavenly Father, and everyone brings the spirit into his or her home in different ways. How you prepare for the sacrament is a personal choice. Just determine ways that you feel the spirit and set aside time each day to invite the spirit to reside with you in preparation for Sunday.
- Teach the children. The sacrament can be talked and taught about in our homes throughout the week leading up to sacrament meeting. Children are incredible at understanding concepts we often think they are incapable of grasping.
Take the time to teach them about our Savior Jesus Christ and how the sacrament is a time to think about Him and remember Him. It is good to have expectations and boundaries for children when entering a new place. When you take your children to someone’s home usually they have expectations of how they should act. Would you allow your children to run screaming through a friend’s home? You can approach entering the church building with expectations as well. Teach your children that the church building is one of Heavenly Father’s homes for His children to come and talk to Him and to learn about Him. Teach them about the Holy Ghost and that the Holy Ghost needs a quiet and reverent place to teach us.
Children often are told certain commands, “Quiet!”, or “Listen!”. Do they actually know what it looks like to sit quietly? Do they know what it looks like to listen? We must teach them how to do these things and why it is important to act a certain way in the chapel. You can teach them by example, and by having a family discussion about it. You could act out what it looks like doing it the right way and what it looks like doing it the wrong way. Supply them with quiet activities that will bring the spirit into their sweet little souls. Spend a family home evening brainstorming activities they can do and then make sacrament activity kits together as a family.
Above all, remember you are doing wonderful, and sometimes despite your best efforts, children struggle with expectations.
- Put away electronics. I have a horrible habit of having my phone out while in church. I bring it out with the intention to get on my electronic scriptures. All too soon my nervous habit of needing to look at a tiny screen and stalk other people’s lives tends to take over and I find myself on social media. I rationalize it and think: I’m still listening. Then I look up and realize another speaker has started and I haven’t even heard what their topic was about.
Try to bring your actual scriptures to church with you one week. Look things up, highlight, take notes, or just hold them in your lap and feel the weight of the words seep through the pages. Those scriptures were written, transcribed, and prepared for our use. I know mine have started to accumulate a lot of dust recently because I have only been reading my scriptures on my phone. While it is a modern technology wonder to have thousands of pages on our little phones to access in an instant, it would be worth a shot to have the real ones with us for church. Find a spot for your phone during church where you won’t be tempted to look at it.
- Arrive early. I know, I groan thinking about this one too. We already spend 3 hours at church, so what’s a few more going to hurt? This does not mean you need to arrive 30 minutes early by any means. Even five minutes early will do wonders. It eliminates the need to rush in frantically looking for seats.
The time you choose to arrive will be different for each family based on their own needs and circumstances. By arriving early you set the stage for inviting the spirit by listening to the prelude music and enjoying the quiet reverence the chapel can provide. Think of the chapel as a saving grace, a shelter from the storms of the outside world. By arriving early you grant yourself a few extra moments of spiritual peace.
I am right there with you, I have a loud child, electronics distract me, and I love to socialize! However, when we come to church to partake of the sacrament we enter an ordinance room that prepares the body and blood of Christ for us to partake of so we can repent and come closer to Christ. A room like that deserves reverence and respect by all who enter through its doors.