Going to church is mostly always great. I look forward to it each week. I get to see friends and family. I get to sing, teach, learn, and grow. But you’ll notice in my first sentence that I said it’s “mostly” always great. That’s because…once in a while…we sometimes do things that make it less enjoyable than it should be to go to church.
After years and years of attending various wards, I’ve noticed a few things that you really shouldn’t do in church. Here are my top 5.
I know I’ve violated some of these at some point in my life…so I too am at fault. Most of us are!
If You’re Sick…Stay Home
I understand that the church is not a “rest home for saints, but a hospital for sinners”…but if you’re sick…do everyone a favor and just stay home. It’s not that kind of hospital. We love you! We really do! If you need a blessing…give me a call! I’ll bring the oil. But don’t try and be a hero and come to church when you’re feeling “a little under the weather”. Aches, chills, sore throat, coughing, sneezing and whatever else is contagious should stay in your room until you’re good to go. If you’ve got some assignments…then make a call or send a text. It will get taken care of…I promise!
A few weeks back when everyone and their brother seemed to be sick…I went up to at least two brothers who immediately and I might add, graciously shook my hand. After they had shaken my hand…they told me that they were sick. I was like “sweet” in my head…as I tried to hold my breath for the duration of the conversation. I continued to flash a few courteous smiles…whereupon I carved a direct path to the bathroom to wash my hands.
I do have to give a quick pat on the back to all of those people that at least make me aware that they are sick before shaking my hand. Thanks for the fist pumps!
I mean no offense…but there are old people and young children that might not handle what you’ve got to well if you know what I mean. For me personally…I’ve got a busy week coming up and I really don’t want to take the flu into the work week.
Force A Rowdy Kid To Sit Through Sacrament
I know what you’re thinking. You want to be a good parent by teaching your little one year old (who can’t really comprehend much of anything) that its not ok to get up in the middle of sacrament meeting. You figure…”if I take this kid out of sacrament meeting every time he or she cries…then they’ll just think they can cry anytime they want to get out of church.”
But here’s the deal! Your one year old doesn’t think that way. But guess what? Everyone around you is wondering what you are thinking…not in a judgmental way (of course)…but from a standpoint of being courteous toward the speaker and everyone else. Everyone that has had kids must experience these years. That’s part of the process. Those years are a challenge…and it’s up to you as the parent to determine how quick those kids learn reverence. For some parents…its no problem. They understand that it is the kind and courteous thing to do by taking their child out during a tantrum or repetitive outbursts. But I’ve watched various dads throughout the years bounce their kids on their lap while their kid is crying and making a fuss. Meanwhile the mom thinks its cute and is laughing at the fussing infant on daddy’s leg. The speaker can’t hear herself think and everyone is trying not to stare at them instead of the speaker. No one dares say anything for fear of “offending” someone or the always feared “self-righteous” accusation but you just can’t help but wonder what they’re trying to accomplish by keeping the child in the meeting.
It’s really alright for you to take your kids out so that others can pay attention! There is no shame in this! In fact…it is the “charitable” thing to do. A couple years will go by in a blink and then you can threaten your kids with punishments they’ll understand.
“No treats” and “no Xbox” for the week. Stand still and behold perfectly behaved children!
Quick disclaimer and shoutout to single parents and parents of special needs kids: Parents…you are sooooo awesome! Keep doing what you’re doing. Stay in meetings all you want. No one should ever say anything to you for what you are patiently working through! Seriously. You are a hero among parents.
Quick Tip: If you see a single parent sitting in a row with multiple kids struggling to keep the kids under control…go over there and offer your help.
Disclaimer #2: If you’re thinking this paragraph sounds really judgmental…it’s not meant to be. Please don’t take it to the extreme and think I’m saying there should be no noise in any meeting from any child. I just believe it is just as much part of the gospel to be courteous to others as it is to not be “judgmental”. Why some people find this concept so easy (taking their kids out of the meeting) and others fight against it is beyond me. I’ve had to walk plenty of halls at church during those early years of raising kids and always just felt like it came with the territory. I never dreamed of trying to teach my kids a lesson at the expense of the entire congregation.
Look…no one really cares that you served as the branch president, young mens president, elders quorum president, and bishop twice. I know you’re just trying to gain some credibility with the congregation while you’re giving a talk or making an introduction. Try taking yourself out of the equation and leaving the pageantry behind. Let people see you for who you are on the inside…not for the various ecclesiastical positions you’ve held. The majority of people sitting in the congregation are never going to serve in the callings you just mentioned so they’re really not going to be able to identify with you anyway. If you’re going to drop titles…then stick to that of father, mother, home-teacher, visiting-teacher, and missionary. Let the doctrine you teach and the spirit you bring do the convincing, not your previously held callings.
Now…there is an exception to this. The day you get called to give a BYU devotional or CES address, it’s perfectly normal to have someone introduce you and give your background to the congregation. But let other people do the “introduction”…not you.
As a general rule…just act like you’re in the temple…because as you ascend the kingdoms of glory on your way back to God…you’ll be only in white and you’ll be like everyone else.
It’s also good to remember that just because your dad is a mission president in the Phillipines…doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone every time you give a talk. President Boyd K. Packer once said that “No member of the Church is esteemed by the Lord as more or less than any other. It just does not work that way! The Lord is “no respecter of persons.”
If you want people to listen to you, then gain the respect of others by your deep, abiding, and emphatic testimony of Jesus Christ. That kind of testimony is infectious.
Don’t Make Testimony Meeting Weird
I know this is a tough one because most people don’t think what they’re saying is weird or inappropriate. But…
For the sake our missionaries, our kids, our new members, and our recently returned inactive members…please do all of us a favor and carefully consider what you’re going to say when you walk up to that pulpit. Tell yourself that there are 10 investigators in the congregation and then begin to speak. I’ve been around long enough to handle it. It’s not going to bother me personally…but others that sit through some of our testimony meetings might not ever come back.
Ask a missionary how hard it is sometimes to get investigators out to church. Then ask them how they feel after they finally do get that investigator out to church only to have someone get up to the pulpit and give a travelogue, share false doctrines, or give TMI testimonies on personal details that should never be shared publicly.
One more really important thing. Please don’t bear your testimony about Joseph Smith without specifically bearing your testimony about Jesus Christ. Jesus is everything. Don’t give other people an opportunity to think otherwise.
From a remediation standpoint…if you do find yourself in one of these meetings, be the one to get up next and get the meeting back on track with a strong witness of the Savior and his ministry.
Correct People In Class, “One-Up” Them, or Criticize Lessons
We all know were not supposed to criticize our leaders…but what about the humble little guy that gets up and gives a lesson having very little gospel knowledge or experience?
I had an experience one time where I was in a class and the teacher that was giving the lesson had not been a member of the church for very long. You could tell that he had prepared the best he could and he humbly asked everyone for help in exploring the lesson topic for that day. His lesson was filled with thought-provoking and sincere questions about the topic. He said things like “can anyone help me understand this principle better…because I don’t understand it all that well.”
Many people jumped to the rescue and the class participation became unprecedented. It was truly one of the best lessons I’ve ever had in church. The synergy was great.
I wish I could have recorded it. It was a model for how I believe all church classes should be.
But as I was walking out of the class…a brother walks up to me and complains about how awful that teacher was.
In my mind…I was shocked. I thought it was the lesson of the year, and yet this guy had nothing but bad things to say about it.
Don’t be “that guy”! You know…the one that is always correcting people in front of the class, criticizing others lessons, or trying to “one up” them by diminishing what they’ve said. Unless someone is saying something egregious and erroneous that is going to lead people astray…just give them the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone is going to get it right. Not everyone knows as much as you. Not everyone is able to give an oration. And maybe they don’t need to be gospel scholars to be wildly effective in teaching the gospel.
I’m sure you could add many other items to this list…but oh how much more amazing it would be if we stopped doing these five things at church!