Poll: Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Sacrament Meeting

reverent family

Clearly, this ain’t my family.

During the past several years, I have rarely had a spiritually enriching experience at sacrament meeting.  I am too distracted because I share a pew with the rowdiest people in my congregation.  I sit with this irreverent lot because I am their mother.  As I wrestle with my naughty children, I frequently fantasize about dropping my kids off at a nursery/primary/daycare/something-else-age-appropriate instead.

On the other hand, I know there are reasons for including the children in sacrament meeting:

  • There is a certain inclusiveness about convening the whole congregation in one room.
  • If childcare were offered, some adults would have to miss the meeting to provide the care.
  • Some people have said that children bring a special spirit to the meeting.  (I do not think these people were referring to my children, specifically.)

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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57 Responses

  1. Starfoxy says:

    I voted no, but with a caveat. Rather than extracting children from a meeting that is inappropriate (and therefore difficult) for them, I would alter Sacrament meeting to be more child friendly. Cut the length in half (at least), have just one 15 minute or two 5 minute speakers, and maintain most everything else (hymns, announcements, musical numbers & so on).
    I would also want to physically rearrange the chapel. When kids can’t see what’s going on they lose interest fast. Kids should- at the minimum- be able to see the preparation and blessing the sacrament, and any other ordinances (baby blessings etc) that may be performed in sacrament meeting. The way the chapel is arranged you’d think what happened at the podium (the speakers and announcements) was the most important part of the meeting since that is the only thing that everyone in the pews can see. I would put the sacrament table in the middle of the front and put the podium off to the side, (stadium seating wouldn’t go amiss either). Physically centering the ordinance of the sacrament would go a long way towards communicating its importance.
    I also don’t think it would hurt to let primary meetings be a little more child friendly as well. If the meetings after sacrament meeting are significantly different and not just more of the same (sit still, be quiet and listen) then lots of kids would find it far more tolerable to sit still for that first meeting.

    • CatherineWO says:

      Starfoxy, these are great ideas. I sat in a stake conference meeting last week with my seven-year-old grandson next to me. He was actually very interested in the stories that one speaker was telling, but he spent that whole talk squirming around trying to see the speaker. And Primary, too. So many things are not age appropriate.

    • nat kelly says:

      I really like some of these ideas, Starfoxy. But I wouldn’t want to see SM cut down so much. I really love the idea that all members (theoretically) get a chance to stand before the congregation and preach. I would love to see the potential behind it vitalized, and members encouraged to really teach and preach and expound doctrine. But I do think it is one of the more democratic aspects of our church practice, and I’d hate to lose it.

    • April says:

      I could imagine Sacrament meeting being infinitely more tolerable to my children if it weren’t so darn long and if they could see what was going on. Stadium seating in a Mormon chapel would be cool.

      • Zach says:

        I believe the way we have it is inspired by god. Just as temples, Heavenly father gives divine direction to create these buildings. That is why I said no.

      • I’ve visited chapels with stadium seating. I think the trouble with it gets to be the enjoyment of children (and others) of watching objects roll to the pulpit.

  2. EM says:

    The length of the Sacrament meeting isn’t that bad, but most speakers are -first, they should be taught how to speak in public and second stick to their allotted time; just because you’re a member doesn’t automatically make you a speaker. And “Dry” Council Sundays must go. I think at least one talk with visual aids should be geared to children. Three hour block can be cut down to 2 hours. Church meetings are not playtime hours for children; they need to learn reverence. Those years we spent in Sacrament meetings where we didn’t get anything out of it, were spent teaching our children to be reverent; now I enjoy those meetings sans children. IMO children learn to be irreverent when parents play with their “cute” little ones during Sacrament meetings and then silence them when they start giggling is just weird – no one else thinks your child is cute. I had fidgeting, noisy children but never brought “snacks” to feast on, no toys, only 1 book each and pencil and paper. And when they misbehaved I gave them the evil eye and if that didn’t work, took them out, spoke to them in no uncertain terms and brought them right back in again. It was by no means an easy time, really frustrating, but a necessary teaching time. We would also teach them at home how they should behave in the chapel. In my branch when kids get noisy and clearly the parents are not doing anything about it, then a member of the presidency has a chat with them later. And having said all that, I think there are some adults that lack reverence more than children. I’ve seen in many a ward Sacrament meeting where adults behave like cackling hens prior to the start of the meeting and the children are sitting quietly. Maybe it’s not the children that are at fault but rather the adults!

    • Clara says:

      Different things work for different families. Your ways wouldn’t have worked for my son and me. I think the thing is that the kids are in Sacrament meeting and are able to participate in taking the sacrament and can hear the talks.

      At my age, somewhere near 40, I still have to sit and do something during Sacrament meeting, as does my mother. I cross stitch and my mother either crochets or works on her latest quilt or other project. It doesn’t bother anyone, and it allows us to be able to sit and be reverent and listen to the talks, and the teachers in class.

    • April says:

      EM, I agree completely that talks with visual aids geared toward children would be great for Sacrament meeting. Unfortunately, the Church Handbook of Instructions currently forbids visual aids in Sacrament meeting. In my ward, they don’t allow them even for the annual Primary program. (Who wrote the CHI anyway? It needs a big makeover in so many ways. A Handbook should facilitate spiritual, local meetings, not create another obstacle.)

      However, I am skeptical about the idea that enduring Sacrament meeting is necessary for young children to learn reverence. Some things just seem to come more naturally when children get older, and making them endure when they are too young does not seem to yield any advantages, in my experience. I have a toddler with whom I attended a library story time who fidgeted the whole time, so I did not take him again until he was six months older and then he behaved beautifully. He didn’t need practice–he just needed to grow up some more.

      • LovelyLauren says:

        Like small children, I have a hard time sitting with nothing to do. I listen more and pay more attention when I have something to do with my hands or draw or doodle. Some are blessed with the ability to sit still, but by RS, I am positively antsy. Kids who are the same way shouldn’t be punished for it.

  3. nat kelly says:

    I voted yes, but I think a rotating system would be best. All the parents could take turns watching each other’s kids. So one Sunday, you and DH watch your kids and the kids of two other families. The next week, one of those couples takes all of them. And so on.

    This way everybody gets to enjoy it as an adult, no one has to miss it all the time, and the kids don’t disrupt the meeting. And when they reach an appropriate age (7 or 8?), it can be considered a big honor for them to come join the Sacrament Meeting proceedings.

    I don’t think the church has to organize this. Different sets of parents could probably just coordinate it amongst themselves.

  4. Diane says:

    First, I want to preface what I’m about to say by stating that I was a Nanny for my first 10 years of being a Member of the Church. I do not support this because as it was I was always stuck in Primary. I really did not want this, at the end of the week I was ready for adult conversation. If parents at church really want this than they should share the responsibilities and not automatically place this on Sisters who really don’t want the responsibility, but, for some reason don’t feel that they can say no.

    I generally try to sit in the front so that I can hear what’s going on, so often when I got stuck sitting in the back its’ been highly distracting. One Sunday, I almost got nailed in the eye, by someones son using the pew as a jungle gym

  5. Alisa says:

    I just came from worship services in a church that offers childcare for the very young, and a family-friendly format for everyone else: children’s chat for 7-10 minutes of service, standing up for hymns and songs, audience participation during the services (where there are parts for all the congregation to read out loud), a PowerPoint deck with stunning visuals, and a corner of the chapel/sanctuary with quiet books and little chairs for the more restless to visit. Not to mention that the sermon didn’t take more than 10 minutes, and that was the longest activity. I had my 19-month old is the nursery, where he was watched over by people who were neither parents nor people stuck there as these women (one grandmother age and one in her early 20’s who is unmarried) were able to choose for themselves and volunteer their time in the children’s ministry.

    By contrast, I spent last week’s sacrament meeting chasing my son down every aisle in the chapel while he screeched, followed him down the church hallways, chased him in the cultural hall, spent some time with him in an empty classroom to quiety him down, etc. He has sensory processing disorder and other developmental disabilities that make him seek out sensations, be hyperactive, etc., so his physical abilities exceed his self-regulating abilities. Having him in a worship service like Starfoxy described isn’t even a possibility. But, in the other church today, he was able to be held and attended to by someone who doesn’t live with children and wanted to spend that time with him.

    Our ward’s previous bishop yelled at a mother over the pulpit in ward conference once for not keeping her 2-year-old quiet. The bishop was nervous because of the stake presidency’s presence, so I think that is why he yelled at the mother during his talk. But from that moment, I realized that we really do very little to make sacrament meeting time meaningful or even tolerable for toddlers.

    • Alisa says:

      errors by iPad. Sorry.

    • CatherineWO says:

      Alisa, I sometimes attend a local Methodist church which has a similar format as the one you described attending today. It’s a wonderful place for children, parents and everyone else. I don’t think it would be that diffucult for the LDS Church to adopt some of the same procedures and it would go a long way toward making our services more comfortable for everyone. I think it is important to teach children reference and respect, but in an age-appropriate way. Sitting a two-year-old on a bench or folding chair and expecting her/him to sit there for over an hour in silence, even if you provide quiet entertainment in the form of books and toys, seems to me to be a form of torture. I also have a sensory disorder, and even at the age of 60, I struggle with sitting that long without something to do. My sympathy is with your little boy (and you too).

  6. Bro. Jones says:

    I serve in the Primary. I also have a toddler of my own and as a result frequently come late to church. I’m already practically cut off from the ward. Give me a cultural hall full of soft toys and one or two other teachers, and I’ll happily take the kids during sacrament meeting.

  7. marie says:

    When I talk to other parents about this issue, there seems to be a general feeling that this is something young parents need to suffer through in order to receive some later blessing. I don’t see how being stressed and struggling with my little ones to sit and stay quiet for longer than they are physically capable of doing so blesses my life or theirs. It leaves me depleted.

    Surely God wants me to be able to feel the spirit when I’m at church. Surely God wants my children to be able to feel the spirit at church, not feel like they are bored to death and naughty. If it is a priority for us to worship together as a family while we take the sacrament, surely we could make adjustments to Sacrament meeting to make it a better experience for families. If the real priority is to sit through a 75+ minute meeting, we should offer a more appropriate place for young children. Of course, if the priority is for young families to feel frazzled and frustrated, then mission accomplished!

    • spunky says:

      I don’t have children, so don’t feel like I am allowed to vote, but i like having children in sacrament meeting. I think they are fun and make the meeting more interesting, but it definitely depends on the leadership.

      Yelling at a young mother for not quieting a child is just plan wrong- I would question that bishop’s ability and his integrity for that situation that Alisa mentioned.

      I have been a sacrament meetings when children have climbed onto the stand to sit with their fathers who welcomed them– and I love those meetings… they really make the whole place just feel family-friendly. When I was about 12, my 3 year old sister went and sat on the stand in a chair next to a visiting area authority. He was just so polite to her, and smiled and made sure she was seated safely. While my mother was embarrassed, she realised there was nothing she could do, so just smiled and enjoyed it. That kind of stuff ADDS to the atmosphere of the meeting, and I enjoy it. And I kind of love the little 2 year olds running a muck in the back. But again, that is probably because I don’t have children, so I like seeing them just run around and making everything less… heavy. Leave the heavy for sunday school, IMHO.

      • April says:

        Your vote is welcome, Spunky! I don’t think it is necessary to have your own children to have an opinion about this issue. Many people without children (usually older, grumpy people) have expressed their opinion to me about how they feel about sharing worship services with my kids…and it is usually not terribly friendly, so it is nice to hear the opinion of someone who actually likes sharing the room with wiggly children. I find it comforting.

        I have one rare, beloved memory of a time someone shared in his testimony how touched he was when my daughter escaped from our pew and ran across the room to hug her nursery leader. That one, wee bit of positive feedback keeps me going sometimes when I am feeling I can’t bear another 75 minute meeting with my little children.

      • spunky says:

        I think old, grumpy, judgemental people should have a seperate room for sacrament meeting, they detract from the spirit more that cute kiddies do, IMHO 🙂

  8. Steve says:

    One of the big mistakes we’ve made is eliminating the quiet rooms in chapels. When I was growing up, it was on the second floor overlooking the chapel. My mom could take her wiggly kids, let them do something that was interesting to them, and she could hear and see the meeting.

    There are rooms like this in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

    Time to put them back in buildings . . .

  9. CatherineWO says:

    Steve, there are still some older buildings with functions “quiet rooms.” I agree; they can be a very good place for young children (and their parents).
    I also have to add that I am old (and sometimes grumpy), but my favorite Sacrament Meeting pasttime is watching all the children. I spent most of the years my children were young sitting with them by myself, and I appreciate what it takes to make it through a meeting. If there is a child sitting close to me now who is willing to sit on my lap, I am more than happy to entertain them (the contents of an old woman’s purse are alway fascinating to young children) to give their parents a few moments of peace or take them out for a drink or bathroom break or just for a walk around the hallways. I know there are old people who disaprove of noisy children, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only grandma who is happy to assist where possible.

  10. Mary says:

    Sometimes the kids aren’t the rowdy ones. We have a bi-polar non-member grandmother on meth who frequently disciplines her grandson with a hard slap and screaming words. This is in a small branch in northern Oklahoma where everyone is ready to leave town or the church because of her. I grew up in a large ward in Florida and never encountered anything like this even with the diverse cultures from Europe, the Islands, and Latin America. . I feel sorry for these kids because I can only imagine that their pre-mortal training didn’t prepare them for this kind of family interaction in the mortal sphere. Their spirits are screaming for help and solace and as a result their mental and physical behavior changes for the worse. We need help beyond a sacrament meeting for children – medication and mental help for their extended family.

  11. Janell says:

    Like Spunky, I don’t have kids of my own and find watching other people’s children during sacrament meeting very enjoyable. A five year old that’s mostly spice with a dash of sugar has almost mastered the knack of balancing the hymnal on her head for five minutes. The little curly-headed infant loves cooing, smiling, waving, and throwing things at everyone around him. The Chen children practice from their Chinese character workbooks during the talks. The little blond girl always makes certain her pony-doll receives the sacrament. Two, rambunctious boys are constantly mastering new jungle-gym tricks on and around the pews and their parents. (Their poor, harried parents.) These are kids being kids and their parents doing their best to teach them reverence and respect for the Sacrament itself even if the entire meeting is an nearly impossible feat.

    And, I suppose, I add in a lot of forgiveness in the hope that I’ll someday be in the same place. I get a smile right now from the kids – which is much appreciated when the High Councilman finished is talk 10 minutes ago, yet, for some reason, is _still_ talking.

    I second the motion that grumpy complainers can sit in their own room.

  12. Janna says:

    A few thoughts:

    1) I find it interesting that several commenters mentioned that watching the cute kids helps them in Sacrament Meeting. I wonder if this reaction is more of a reflection of low quality Sacrament meetings and the need to be distracted from them, rather than the issue at hand about the appropriateness of children in the meetings.
    2) I vote no kids in Sacrament Meeting under the age of 8.
    3) I vote that no kids take the Sacrament before the age of 8 so that when they finally do after baptism, it’s a special moment.
    4) Somewhat unrelated: I vote no children at all at the Exponent II retreats. It’s the primary reason that I no longer attend.

    • Maureen says:

      “I wonder if this reaction is more of a reflection of low quality Sacrament meetings…”

      Not in my experience. Before I joined the Church as a young adult I started investigating at a family ward. Coming from a broken home I loved the spirit of family having kids in SM brought. I did want to hear the messages of the speakers, and never felt like the children detracted from them. After I joined I was saddened when they shepherded me off to the local student/singles ward, because I missed that feeling of family. I was upset by the comments from visitors saying how lovely the silence (due to no kids) was, because it felt like it disrespected the spirit kids can bring.

      Since having my own kids it’s become a different matter. If I could expect others to have a similar attitude to Spunky and Janell’s then it probably wouldn’t be. But since I know there are others just ready to misjudge and condemn me (and let me know about it) for the choices my children make (when motherhood is already hard enough for me considering my background) I can’t handle SM. I feel like I have to spend every moment making sure my kids aren’t detracting from others’ experiences, so I can’t spare any attention to the talks and messages themselves.

      My bad I know, for letting what others think affect me so much. But not just my bad.

    • Janell says:

      “I wonder if this reaction is more of a reflection of low quality Sacrament meetings and the need to be distracted from them…”

      When that’s the case, you’ll find me reading my scriptures, writing in my journal, and tuning out the meting entirely. What I would give for a Speaker Improvement class to be taught!

      …”rather than the issue at hand about the appropriateness of children in the meetings”

      I believe it entirely appropriate for children to attend Sacrament Meeting; it does not make for ideal circumstances, but I believe their presence contributes more benefit than a detriment. Any need for possible childcare during the meeting is entirely in consideration of the parent rather than trying to alleviate a child’s potential boredom or confinement.

  13. Alisa says:

    I am so glad to hear that my son may not be disturbing everyone around him after hearing such positive comments from Spunky and Janell. But is it really fair to expect the parents to sit through this? Up until a month or so ago, my son was too young for nursery, so I was expected to chase him around like this for 3 hours straight, while away from the comforts of home, nap schedule, and regular routine. Yet I face a ton of judgment for not attending the entire block every week (and I haven’t since my son was born). Not giving a childcare option and then judging parents who skip most of or all of church some weeks seems to be setting up a no-win situation.

    While I am glad some people are tolerably entertained by antics like my son’s, it still makes it especially hard on me the whole day. And yes, Sundays are *my* days to care for my son because DH is in the bishopbric and is also the full-time SAHD the rest of the week. But I wish I could keep my son home and on routine without the judgment, since attending SM just really isn’t going to be an option for our family. There’s not enough Klonopin in the world.

    • spunky says:

      I hear ya. So don’t fight the routine for me.

      I have low blood sugar issues, so the block for me is hard, especially if I need the energy to teach- I simply have to eat or drink (even on fast Sundays) in order to make it through the block. But the change of schedule for me and medication and eating times can make Sundays hard, so I understand that it would be even harder for a child to adjust.

      When I was a YSA years ago, the Institute building was the same as the chapel… which meant that there was a soda machine in the building. Because I was in the choir and had a number of callings, some days, I needed a sugar soda. Even if I brought food and drinks with me, sometimes a sugar soda from the machine saved me a trip to the emergency room so I could participate in everything I wanted to. Sometimes people would giggle and call me “soda girl”. One Sunday, it had been turned off. I queried why and was told that it was to keep people from “spending money on Sundays”. I went to the Institute director that Monday morning and argued that it was hurting me by having the machine turned off. I went into a diatribe about how spending money on a machine that was filled and emptied on non-Sundays was not forcing someone to work, which was the basis of the whole not shopping on Sundays thing (because if you shop, then you force someone to break the Sabbath by working), and that they had a choice of me buying a soda from the machine or needing an ambulance to resuscitate me at church. The machine was NEVER again turned off for the entire time I was in that ward. Score one for the imperfect!

      So I will be the first to support you in not staying for the block, and doing what suits your body and your child’s body best. Maybe it is because I had no qualms about slugging a sugar soda on the sidelines of sacrament meeting that I enjoy kiddies running around… it makes my imperfections seem more human and normal.

    • Janell says:

      “But is it really fair to expect the parents to sit through this?”

      I don’t know. I disagree and agree all at the same time… so it neutrals out into a simple lack of understanding. It’s a very valid question – why can’t the adults (parents in particular) have a peaceful hour of worship? I don’t think shrugging and responding, “see also the temple,” is the correct response. Nor do I think sequestering the children into Primary Part 3 is quite the right answer either. So I don’t know.

    • E says:

      When my children were that age, I would take them home after SM because that was best for them. They need their naps and routines. And they are more important than the people judging you.

  14. Keri Brooks says:

    I think children should be welcome in sacrament meeting if they can avoid disrupting the worship experience of others. However, I also don’t think that parents should feel required to bring them. In buildings that have multiple wards, it would be nice to have someone from the other ward watch the children during sacrament meeting. (i.e. the 1st Ward staffs a children’s room for the 2nd Ward’s sacrament meeting, and the 2nd Ward does it for the 1st Ward.)

    • spunky says:

      “if they can avoid disrupting the worship experience of others” Ouch. Than again, maybe I should do to church anymore because my imperfections are probably disturbing others.

      The 1st and 2nd ward switching babysitting is a nice idea, but only works if parents are comfortable in leaving children with people they might not know, and if you are in a place that has more than one ward to a buidling. I haven’t been in a ward like that in a very, very long time, so it is not an applicable idea for the majority of church membership, which according to Uchdorft, is outside of the US.

      • Keri Brooks says:

        I realized after I typed that that it sounded harsher than I meant. Really what I was getting at is that there are some parents who won’t take out a wailing child (I’m talking like screaming for 5 minutes) and let their children run through the chapel. I find that remarkably rude to the speakers and the other worshipers.

  15. Danielle says:

    I don’t know anyone who would like to be responsible for running a program for children during sacrament meeting beyond the two hours that programs already run for them in Primary. Do you? In our ward it takes a vast multitude of workers to do just one hour of Primary. You’d need to generate a whole new arm of Primary to pull it off. Do you have enough people in your ward or branch willing to do that?

    Or are you thinking of sending all the kidlets under 8 to one or two rooms with a couple of workers in each room? We have easily 50 children in our ward between the ages of 1 and 8. You’d put them all together in large groups? Such a scenario could easily be just chaos. And I don’t think I’d feel like my children were getting much out of such a program

    Many Protestant churches have “children’s church” with a good sized staff of volunteers during their regular religious services. That’s their equivalent of “Primary”. It’s just that they do it during their main service. We do ours during Sunday School and Priesthood, twice as long as a conventional one-hour service. We’re already doing what people are suggesting, we’re just not providing it for all three hours of church, just two.

    As for me, I liked having my kids with me during sacrament meeting, even when my interaction with them prevented me from focusing on the talks or catching what was being said. And yes, I did take them out to the foyer when they disturbed the meeting. And I fellowshipped with many other parents walking the halls during those years. And there were many, many weeks when I didn’t get much out of Sacrament meeting which meant I had to get my spiritual boost somewhere else. And there are ways to do that. And in the process of all of this my children became familiar and comfortable with a more adult form of worship.

    Now that my children are older and behave quietly during church services, I find the busy little children seated (or standing or wiggling or fussing) near us neither distracting nor engaging. They are just part of us.

    When I was a kid we attended church in a building that had a quiet room. I will agree that it was a handy thing. It’s easier to hear the service from a quiet room than it is from a foyer.

  16. TopHat says:

    These sorts of conversations really irk me because they tend to turn into an us vs. them. Those “other” parents over there aren’t being attentive enough, proactive enough, etc.

    The thing is, though, I don’t know a single parent who actually wants their child to disrupt a meeting and annoy every one. I don’t think that person exists.

    I work with a lot of newly postpartum women and I guess when I see a parent who isn’t responding to a “rowdy” child (a description that varies person to person- how is a parent supposed to know what everyone’s definition of a “good” child is and meet that kind of standard?) I wonder what the extra circumstances are. Maybe the mom put clothes on for the first time in a week that morning in order to come to church and is just trying to make it 20 more minutes because it’s the first time she got to hear an adult talk to her in days. Maybe the father is alone with 5 children, one who needs a diaper change, but can’t leave to do that because the other 4 won’t have someone to watch them. Maybe a child just has really loud happy screams and isn’t upset at all.

    As a parent, the attitude that you just have to deal with not being able to be in sacrament meeting for the decade or so of having small children is a punishment. “Sorry, we don’t want you to participate in our Zion. Zion isn’t for children or parents with small children.” Or it’s a “well, we had to deal with it, so now you have to” vengeance.

    If there is a parent who truly is ignoring an upset child, it seems to me it wouldn’t be by choice but by physically being unable to: whether there are other children needing attention or the parent has mentally “checked out” due to not having the extra patience in their own emotional cup or a mental panic attack or other. Whatever the reason, that parent needs help, not eyes of judgment and people telling them they and their family aren’t wanted there. Church is about making the tent bigger, not throwing people out into a foyer.

    • Janell says:

      Very well said. Thank you.

    • Hillary says:

      I appreciate your compassionate approach, I really do. But I can’t help but feel differently, if only because of my own biases and experiences. For me, sacrament meeting is painful enough in that I desperately want children but have not been blessed with them. Sacrament meeting is the one time at church where parents are together with their children, but I’m not. I try my best to get something out of the meeting, but frankly, it’s really hard when a kid is screaming and his/her parents either do not notice or choose to ignore it. I’ve heard from many moms who are actually unaware of their child’s disruptive screams because they’ve learned to tune it out.

      Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I would love it if my biggest problem in a day were having the opportunity to talk to an adult or some time to myself. I would love to chase my child around for hours, even if it meant I missed out on the meeting. And I would love the opportunity to try to teach my child reverence, and if the child was too young or the lesson was failing on that particular day, I’d like to think I’d have the courtesy to not ruin the spirit for others in the meeting by letting my child continue to be disruptive. The fact is, children can be disruptive. But are we really saying that the 100 other people should just deal with the noise so one or two people (parents) aren’t inconvenienced?

      Bottom line, it’s (almost always) a choice to have children. It’s (usually) a choice to have a lot of children. So I guess to me it seems like managing children during sacrament meeting should be the responsibility and concern of the parents. If you cannot manage your children in sacrament meeting, for whatever reason (they’re just happy screams, you’re tired, etc.), isn’t it just the polite thing to do to step out?

      • TopHat says:

        I promise that parents aren’t bringing their kids to sacrament meeting to show off that they have children and you don’t.

        And my point is that I don’t know if parents “choose to ignore” their children. I think it’s a last resort defense mechanism to get through a day. Even a parent who desperately wanted a child, can feel side-blinded by postpartum depression and feel guilty for suddenly not wanting their child or not feeling those beautiful feelings you hear about: love at first sight, etc. On some levels, having children is a choice (excluding many things such as rape- which happens even in marriages), but no one can really see the future. Things like special needs, depression and other mental illness in the family, sudden job changes, deaths in the family, etc., can not be foreseen and when you’re trying to get through 70 minutes of talks and reverence with a child whose body needs to move around, well, as much as you may have wanted that child, it’s hard. It’s not about being inconvenienced, it’s about being physically, mentally, emotionally, at the end of your rope and having nothing else to hold on to.

      • Hillary says:

        I don’t think that parents bring their children to church in order to show off or offend anyone. I think they bring their children either because they think it’s the best place for their children to be, or they feel obligated to bring their kids, or they feel they have no choice but to bring their kids. None of these has anything to do with me. But I do believe there is some value in respecting the environment of sacrament meeting for the sake of courtesy to other members there to worship.

        I do sympathize with people being at the end of their ropes, I really do. But do you think the majority of disruptive (and I mean truly, unabashedly, continuously disruptive) children have parents at the end of their ropes? Do you think all these parents at church are that far gone, or do you think the majority are “choosing to ignore”?

  17. LovelyLauren says:

    I don’t have children, but I think it’s important for kids to be in sacrament meeting, not only because they’re a part of the congregation as well, but because I worry about the over-entertainment trend of late. I think it’s important for kids to learn that not everything they do is about entertaining them. And being able to sit at least somewhat quietly is also a pretty important skill. I know at a friend’s church where they have a “children’s ministry” during their meetings, a lot of them grow too old and then find the adult meeting boring anyway. There isn’t a graceful transition. I don’t usually find kids too distracting anyway and I don’t have a problem with cheerios or books supplementing the meeting.

    (I also think that primary should have less sitting to make up for sacrament meeting though.)

  18. sar says:

    “During the past several years, I have rarely had a spiritually enriching experience at sacrament meeting.”

    I’ve got this problem, and I don’t have kids.

  19. Jessica says:

    I’ve had to take my kids out. I once had to ask someone to take their kids out- after listening to them wail through two minutes of a duet being performed by two young men as a special musical number, I realized that it was unkind to the performers to have to compete with it, and that the mother may not have realized that fact. I tried to be as nice about it as possible. Since then I have realized that, now that my children are old enough to behave through an hour of tedium, I need to offer to sit with/chase other people’s children once in awhile, so they can hear the meeting (which I find boring, but they may really need). I’ve made the offer to three families, and have not yet been taken up on it. But I will keep offering (hopefully with increasing tact), and someday I will find someone who is at the end of their rope and really needs the help.

    If folks want a kid-free meeting, they can go to the temple. Plenty of peace and quiet there. Otherwise, they get to suffer the children along with everybody else.

  20. hyde says:

    I said no. I was not an active church attender as a young mother when my son was small. He was very energetic and hard and it wasn’t a priority to me. I started to attend SM when he was 3 and he was a monster. I hated every minute. The gym was for basketball not sacrament according to him. Through patience and time he got a little better when his siblings we born I was a dedicated saint and continued to attend all of my church meetings. They are now grown. I truly can say that I wish I would have given my oldest the opportunity to learn from birth the way sacrament is. And to help him learn how to be reverent from the very beginning. Children need consistentcy to learn just like us adults do. Older generations need to recognize a mother who is to the end of her rope and offer to sit with her it take a child for her. I do this often because that is one thing I wish someone would have done for me.

  21. Thomasina says:

    I didn’t read all replies in full but it seems that the most obvious point has not been stressed:

    There is provision for parents with children already. When a child begins to fuss the service is already piped to the foyer and other rooms expressly for the convenience of parents who wish to participate to the full extent possible in the service. Sacrament has always been passed to those parents and very little children in this situation in the foyer in every ward we have ever been in.

    Children can still participate to the full extent possible given age and ability of individual children. It is not necessary to have children playing with toys, crying or speaking loudly, or eating cheerios or other snacks. Parents can often train the child to some extent and have appropriate activity books etc.

    Part of the training of children who are old enough to understand is to teach them to respect the rights of others. It is impossible often for others to hear the talks and ponder during the passing of the sacrament without a generally peaceful and prayerful chapel.

    I have heard a bishop who got up when a child was being disruptive and simply said “Brother Price, please take your child out of the chapel” The parent had been allowing the child to act out and didn’t have the respect for fellow members to take him outside to calm him down. He was offended of course, but he got over it and he learned he was responsible for his little boy (about three years old at the time) and it never happened again. He continued to grow and mature in the Gospel as we must all do.

    • TopHat says:

      As a nursing mom, I know that sacrament is almost never brought to the mother’s lounge (or that there is even a mother’s lounge at all like in one stake building I was in), so no, there aren’t always provisions for everyone to participate in the meeting fully.

      I feel so sorry for that brother in your story. No one seemed to want to help him. Perhaps the kid has special needs. Does having a special needs child automatically mean you have to segregate yourself from society? I hope not. We are all trying our best, I promise.

  22. Candace says:

    I concur with some of your respondents that children learn from being in the Chapel during SM since birth.
    As a mother of ten children, I have been through every permutation of experience, I think( with the exception of a behavior-handicapped) child. My husband has sat on the stand in a Bishopric, as a Bishop, and been completely gone from the building as a High Councilman. I’m an “empty-nester”now, whose calling is to run the nursery (12-15 children) with my husband. So I assume that I “know whereof I speak”.
    Our children teach our grandchildren the same way THEY were taught as children (and yes, children in the Chapel ARE being taught). We have always brought alternative (hopefully church-themed) books, perhaps an un-messy snack, depending on the time of the meeting, and ,small,quiet toys. They KNOW what is required of them (silence and thoughtfulness aka REVERENCE) and do their best to not disturb others around them.
    Sacrament is the most important meeting of ANYONE’S week, and I would hate to deprive anyone of this rich experience.
    PLEASE look long-term at what you are saying! You are teaching with your facial expressions, words spoken during/after the meeting, and rest-of-the week complaints. ENJOY and love the Gospel and your children will too!
    Compliment your children as they grow in their ability to listen and learn from the speakers (who may not be polished and riveting, but who usually possess the Spirit which should speak to you).
    I remember hearing a talk many years ago by a General Authority speaking of a talk given in his home ward. The speaker was slow and repetitive, and the GA was having a hard time staying interested. He decided to repeat, in his mind everything the speaker said, in the interval when the speaker struggled. The “GA” discovered that within the talks awkward phrases, was a theme that he had NEVER thought of before! If he had “tuned him out” he would have missed it, and missed a valuable learning experience!
    What are we here FOR? To learn! Why do we have children? To help them return to their Heavenly Father…
    Incredibly, when my children all left the nest, I hear ALL of the talks, not just a few phrases, and my heart BURNS with the beauty of all the talks and lessons now available on Sunday for ME, ME ME!…however, when I see my children and grandchildren LOVING the Gospel, I am glad I sacrificed the “then experience” for the “now”experience. (And I can’t even HEAR other people’s children, I’m so used to tuning them out;) Lighten up,sisters! This won’t last long..I only went through it for 40 years…a SPECK in Eternity.

  23. Jennifer says:

    I, too, have had many sacrament meetings that I didn’t get much out of because of my pew mates. When our kids were young, my husband was rarely seated with the congregation. Being outnumbered 4 to 1, I would be exhausted when Sacrament meeting was over. I would sometimes go to my car during Sunday School and cry once all the kids were in their classes! I finally realized that sitting in Sacrament meeting with young kids is one of the many sacrifices we, as moms, make to raise our children. I have seen other less active sisters skip Sacrament meeting until their kids are older. This never seems to work. When is the age that kids will sit through and enjoy Sacrament meeting? There never seems to be a good age to start bringing kids where there wouldn’t be any adjustment period. As you stick it out, the kids get older and learn the drill. They are better able to sit still. It all works out but can be an exhausting process, especially when you are outnumbered. Going to Sacrament meeting consistently with little children teaches them the importance of it. I never get the question “are we going to church today?” because we’ve gone every Sunday and our kids know this Sunday will be no different. My kids are older now and my husband sits on the pew with me. I’m amazed that my four kids aged 15 to 8 will still act up on occassion but I am able to feel the Spirit and they can too.

  24. Alisa says:

    TopHat, I really appreciate the perspective you’ve brought to this discussion. Some of the people you’ve engaged here have inadvertantly had responses that made me feel like it is my duty to be inactive and receive all the judgment for it because of my special needs boy. I would read their comment, feel the lack of community and the full force of judgment, and then read your understanding approach. Seriously, why can’t we be in a ward together? X

  25. Lisa C says:

    I don’t understand why we would change anything about the Sacrament meeting (except that I would love to stand up during hymns to get my own “wiggles” out). Sacrament is a family worship service. Children belong there. It’s one of the things that I love about our church. By bringing them with us, we are doing something more important than being able to hear all the words of the talks…we are teaching our children to attend Sacrament. We are also keeping up a good habit of attending it ourselves, and one day we will again be able to pay attention. We are also renewing our baptismal covenants every time we go. Whether we think we have got much out of it or not, we have most definitely garnered spiritual strength to help us throughout the week–even if we don’t even notice it. Try missing Sacrament meeting for a month, and you will notice a difference.

    Our church leaders and God want us to be there, and they want our children to be there as well. It’s perfectly acceptable, even desirable, to take rowdy children out, lest they disrupt the entire congregation. This is why there are speakers in the foyer and mothers room. Families with young children often sit near the back so they can come in and out several times if they need to, without much distraction to others. No, it’s not a perfect system–that is part of the beauty of it, I think. If it were easy, it wouldn’t mean as much that we are trying.

    Sometimes parents don’t take noisy children out. I think the parents judge whether or not it is best to do so. It’s not our place to judge them. Hopefully they are doing what they think is best and not just ignoring everyone else’s comfort.

    We adults have Sunday School, Relief Society/Priesthood meetings, Know Your Religion Classes, and other things we can attend for spiritual edification without the disruption of children (although there may still be little babies around, and that’s okay!). Family is central to God’s plan. I think we would be wise to keep that in mind.

    • Lisa C says:

      I should clarify that I don’t expect parents to take their children out several times. I was mostly thinking of parents with large families and various little kids needing potty breaks, getting drinks of water, or just needing to walk around for a bit. I feel there should be a feeling of acceptance of children, but also that parents of disruptive children should be considerate of others. I personally like to teach my son that we are reverent in the chapel. And if I feel he has too much pent up energy, we go for a little walk. I have never felt forced to go in the hall; it’s always been about being considerate and paying attention to my child’s needs.

  26. Nina says:

    I am now 70 years old. I spent 8 years in the hall when my children were growing up, and not one of them is active in the Church today. So, I am not certain that taking the kids out is the answer to the problem. So I voted NO.

    But – the issue of noise in the chapel is serious. Many older people refuse to come to Church any more because, as they lose their hearing, the noise from the kids makes it impossible for them to hear and understand what the speakers are saying. Another part of the problem is that the missionaries work very, very hard to get people to come to Church. And then, when they do, especially if they have been attending an adult-friendly congregation, they are appalled by the racket and never come back.

    I have been privileged to speak at Sacrament Meeting occasionally, and when I have done so, I (almost) always tell the congregation that my talk is for the kids, and that their parents can listen if they want to. And then, I tell stories with a message, but which the kids can understand. I speak clearly and with inflection, so as to capture the attention of the young ones. And it (almost) always works! We can’t have 100% of the talks presented in this way, but we surely could have a lot more of them! After all, Jesus rarely gave General Conference talks! Mostly He taught in stories, too.

    Anyway – I think it would be marvelous to have an open dialog about ways which seem to have been effective in various families to lower the noise level. I guess this is really of interest to me because I’ll be going on a mission myself and therefore am more in tune, so to speak, with the amount of effort it takes to bring an investigator to baptism, and I want to do everything I can to help make that missionary work more effective.

    Will check back in this forum from time to time to see what kinds of suggestions people offer! Thanks so much!

  27. Rachel J says:

    Nina (and other readers!),

    I’ve been thinking about it and I’m wondering if the best way to introduce people to the church is to just OWN it. Just say, “We welcome children and sinners to our worship services, and usually that makes for a pretty noisy service. We hope you can see the beauty in everyone striving together, and don’t worry, you’ll be able to hear the beauty more during sunday school, priesthood/relief society/meetings with the missionaries/fhe/temple service/etc.”

    Whattya think??

  1. October 23, 2011

    […] wondered if other readers would like to see daycare offered during Sacrament meeting; About two-thirds wanted to keep kids in the chapel for the meeting. (Although, the poll was […]

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