Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Proprieties and Usages of Good Society — Lesson XII. Conduct in Places of Worship

Proprieties and Usages of Good Society — Lesson XII. Conduct in Places of Worship

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 10, 2010

XI. Picnics, Excursions, Parties and Winter and Summer Outings
I. Introduction (to be linked when posted)

XII. Conduct in Places of Worship

When we discuss proper deportment on the street, in the ball-room, at the table, shopping, etc., we have two points of consideration: the duty of the individual to himself, and his duty to society. The subject of proper deportment at places of public worship must necessarily be the most important of all, for we have not only to consider duty to the individual and duty to society, but also duty to the Creator of the universe. Subjects discussed hitherto have been purely ethical, that which is approved by the best society of the civilized world. We have now reached that dividing line between the purely ethical and the religious, for with regard to our conduct in sacred places we must say, “What is my duty to myself? To my associates? To my heavenly Father?”

When we visit the house of a friend we try to please that friend; when we visit the house of God we should try to please Him. We are not unnecessarily noisy in the house of a friend; we do not get up and leave without apology while others are talking to us; neither should these things be done in the house of the Lord. Wherever we worship that place is sacred; we have asked that his spirit shall dwell therein, we have carried our hopes, our fears, our prayers, our thanks to Him there – sometimes it is there we have said the last words over those who have gone before us. The grounds, the building, the furnishing, have all been dedicated to God, and should be approached with reverence.

We have not been as considerate of these things in the past as we hope to be in the future, for the hard conditions under which this country has been settled, made necessary the using of meeting-houses for entertainment and pleasure as well as for worship; and the sacredness of the place was sometimes forgotten. Happily, amusement halls are being built, and it will not be long before our meetinghouses will be places of worship only.

The house of God should be approached with reverence. The grounds are not appropriate for gossip, visiting, loud laughter and loud talk, either before entering or after coming out. One should enter quietly and leave quietly.

Whispering in the church should never be indulged in and even greetings should be exchanged either before or at the close of the services. No matter if the speaker cannot be heard or the sermon seems dry, a lady will not talk. Conversation during service is most annoying to those who care to listen, and shows a lack of proper devotion. In ordinary conversation we would pay at least a respectful attention even though we were not interested in the subject discussed, and this because we know it would be rude to do otherwise; then, if we take the liberty of conversing while a public speaker is talking to us, how can we expect to gain or retain the reputation of a lady? And by annoying him, we may prevent the speaker’s giving forth his best thought. If we were thus disrespectful we might possibly make it right with the speaker, or with those about us whom we have annoyed, but how shall we make it right with God?

To be late at church is to annoy a great many people, and to occasion unpleasant comment, which every lady wishes to avoid. It is a very serious thing, indeed, to interrupt sacred services. It is impolite to turn around to look at others or to appear anxious to see who is coming in or to too closely scrutinize the clothing people wear.

Perhaps the worst breach of all is to get up and leave before services are over. Except in case of sickness or for some imperative reason, this act shows a disregard for others and a shocking lack of reverence. At a theatre we have a right to leave at any time, if in doing so too much discomfort or annoyance is not given to those present. The seat is paid for; we go there to be amused; if we care to leave it is not a breach of etiquette. But church is not a place of amusement; people do not go there for pastime; it is a place to commune with God uninterruptedly, and if anyone interrupts the services it is a breach against the congregation and against Him. Church etiquette demands that we remain until the end of service.

We wish to emphasize the fact that it is now customary in our church for women to remove their hats. This has been requested by the First Presidency, and they have even promised that where we will do it we will receive an increased portion of the Holy Spirit. It is particularly desired that those who take part in singing or speaking should remove their hats. And we should not create a disturbance by commencing to don them as soon as the speaker has finished; they should be left off until after the benediction.

In visiting outside churches, conform as far as possible to the customs of the worshipers. We may kneel, rise or sit as they do and thus avoid being conspicuous. If anything is done that appears absurd or even grotesque, no smile while in the service should give indication of it. Remember that “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.”

The furnishings of a house of worship are sacred. No one would think of marring a friend’s furniture or using it improperly – God is the greatest friend of all, and we have dedicated this property to Him. The vessels for the sacrament should never be used for any other purpose – they are sacred.

To enter quietly, to leave quietly, to regard the services with respect and all pertaining to God’s House with reverence is absolutely necessary to be pleasing to Him and our associates.

To get the best good as well as conform to the best usage, we should listen carefully to what is said, follow the prayer in thought so that it may rise strengthened by our petition, and partake of the sacrament reverentially with our Savior in mind. Any breach of the rules named not only robs us of a spiritual joy we might have gained, not only makes us obnoxious to those about us, but shows, even though it be through thoughtlessness, a deplorable lack of respect and reverence for our Father in Heaven.

Questions and Review.

1. What three-fold duty regulates conduct in places of worship?
2. Show the correspondence between good manners in a church and in the home of a friend.
3. Name the things which make our places of worship sacred.
4. What improvements, by way of buildings, will increase reverence for our meeting houses? Why?
5. Mention practices which are improper in a worshiping assembly.
6. How may we assist the speaker or prevent him from giving forth his best thought?
7. Point out the difference between leaving a sacred service before its close and leaving a theatre before the play is ended.
8. What must women do with their hats to conform to good usage in our church?
9. What rule should guide us when visiting outside churches?
10. Why should we show reverence for the sacrament vessels?
11. Show how we can get from a religious service the most good and conform to the best usage.



  1. Not a hint about music. What ever shall our young ladies do when it comes time to sing?

    Comment by Mark B. — June 10, 2010 @ 9:47 am

  2. That *is* a curious oversight! Not a word about hymnbooks or sharing or caring for them, nothing about singing out lustily (or not), nothing about what solos are appropriate or not, or about applauding or not … there could have been quite a bit about music here, couldn’t there?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 10, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  3. Because of the desultory nature of the congregation’s singing in our meetings, I usually sing a little louder than do my immediate neighbors. I figure this will encourage the other poor singers to throw-in their mite and it will encourage the good singers to step-up to cover over my noise.

    Comment by manaen — June 10, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  4. So, the First Presidency asked that women remove their hats in church. And it is described as being a recent request, with a promised blessing.

    And an interesting note that we conform to the way other worship when we attend their meetings to “avoid being conspicuous.” I like that

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 10, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

  5. Current church architecture–placing a gymnasium immediately next to the chapel itself–is a cause of much irreverence, I fear.

    When young men spend formative teenage years viewing the meetinghouse as something akin to a YMCA gym, it’s tough to help them see a church as a House of God. After all, they tell me, why should they remove their hats upon entering the building if they’re wearing shorts and a tank top? I see no easy solutions…

    On another point, the rudeness of leaving meetings early would be especially heightened in the pre-three-hour-block days.

    Comment by Clark — June 10, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

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