Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 14: Punctuality

Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 14: Punctuality

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 10, 2012

Ethics for Young Girls

Young Woman’s Journal, 1900-1901

Lesson 14: Punctuality

There is no qualification that recommends one person to another more strongly than that of punctuality. An appointment has been made for a definite time. Miss King is on time and waits and waits for Mrs. Late. the first person has nothing to do but to occupy her mind with her friend whom she expects. One can scarcely think sweet things of the person who is late, and Miss King thinks of the numerous occasions where much of her precious time has been wasted waiting for Mrs. Late. In the course of a half hour or an hour, Mrs. Late arrives, finding Miss King somewhat impatient. The same old excuses are given. Baby had an accident just as she was ready to start, or a visitor called and took so much of her time that she was behind time. Was it just for Mrs. Late to steal an hour of her friend’s time?

A young girl who had acquired the habit of being punctual moved to a new ward where the Young Ladies’ Association should begin at seven o’clock. She was on time but the door was locked, and no light was within. Thinking there must be a change of time, or that there was to be no meeting that evening, she called upon a friend. “I just went to the meeting house. Is there no meeting tonight?” “Oh, yes, but they never begin until nearly eight.” Think of it! A Young Ladies’ meeting programmed for seven and not beginning until eight!

A speaker once said that angels of the Lord are sent to bear record of the meetings. They go at the appointed time but are so busy they cannot waste their time waiting, so they leave to attend to other meetings; and the first meeting loses the presence of angels it might have had, if it had begun on time.

It is not uncommon to hear the remark, “Well, they never begin on time, so we needn’t go for another half-hour.” The few who are on time probably have neglected work that pressed on them, in order to be punctual. They must sit and wish they had stayed home another half hour to sew or cook. The next time they also are late and the ward is almost hopelessly unpunctual.

In another ward the presiding officers and a few others are on time and begin meeting. The congregation begin to file in, disturbing the speaker so much that the Spirit of God does not return to him to help him speak.

You, dear girls, little know the numbers of Celestial beings that have fled from places of worship; you little know the glorious truths and manifestations they had come to give, but you were too late to receive them. they must needs be about their Father’s business.

Punctuality is a habit. After a river has plowed its channel it is very easy for water to run through it. It is the same with the mind. Each act erodes its channel. in the mind, making the repeated act easier each time. At length the act is completed without any friction, and habit of acting in that direction is formed. A bad habit is more easily formed than a good one, for it is less hard to run down a hill than it is to climb slowly but steadily to the top. Sot he habit of unpunctuality is more easily formed than that of being punctual.

Punctuality means more than being on time; it also means being regular in attendance. Going to our meetings each time is also a worthy habit. Some girls go to meeting only on fair days; some when they have new clothes, some when something unusual is scheduled. If the Lord wished us to attend meetings only on special occasions, He would have meetings on such occasions only. But He commands the Saints to hold meetings regularly. We should try to form the habit of serving the Lord on Sunday, and of attending our other meetings regularly.

When the Savior comes in His might and power, the time of which coming we are told is not far distant, how many of us will be ready to meet Him? We must prepare ourselves now in good season, so that the last minute we shall not have to run about frantically trying to make right the wrongs that attend us.


1. Read and explain the 25th chapter of St. Matthew.
2. How is the whole chapter related to punctuality?
3. When should we use the talents God has given us?
4. Whose fault is it when Young Ladies’ meetings begin late?
5. Why is it that people are late far more frequently at religious services than at places of entertainment 9concerts, theaters, etc.)?
6. Why is punctuality necessary?
7. Why cannot tardy people be depended upon?
8. How may the young girls encourage punctuality at meetings in their wards?
9. How may our work be systematized at home?
10. Why is it advisable to have a definite time for washing, ironing, sweeping, etc.?



  1. This article is fantastic. Our ward activities have severe problems with punctuality, both beginning and ending on time. It frustrates me when people just laugh off their inconsiderateness as “Mormon standard time”.

    Comment by HokieKate — December 10, 2012 @ 7:40 am

  2. You, dear girls, little know the numbers of Celestial beings that have fled from places of worship; you little know the glorious truths and manifestations they had come to give, but you were too late to receive them.

    But the author evidently does know the numbers and the messages. Oh my.

    Anyway, back to the topic. Punctuality. The pride of princes. (To quote Thoroughly Modern Millie.)

    I do agree that punctuality is one of the necessary virtues in a polite society. Regular tardiness is (so I’ve been told by a good authority) a form of passive aggression, a way of protesting the lack of control one has over one’s schedule.

    Comment by Amy T — December 10, 2012 @ 8:58 am

  3. Hard to know what might have been–how many angels you might have seen–if you’d only managed to get to church on time.

    But another good authority would often cite the example of Abraham and Isaac on the mountain. What if the angel had been late?

    Comment by Mark B. — December 10, 2012 @ 9:18 am

  4. A lesson to rant against, and a Thoroughly Modern Millie quote? My cup runeth over. 😉 My mom loves the movie, and although it is firmly fixed in my mind as part of having mono (my mom had gotten a VHS of the movie about two weeks before I got it) I still enjoy “Shoo Show”ing my kids when I don’t want them to argue about something that just has to be done now, without time for arguing.

    Which brings me to punctuality. I think that this lesson actually does a disservice in how it presents the problem. Certainly being on time and prepared are important and I try to always be early, since things do come up. I have had great luck in many callings by letting people know that I will start on time without them, and that only people who are on time will get the cookies or dessert I bring, since I will be putting them away as soon as it is time to start.

    (I have only had to strictly implement that part when I have had scout committee callings, and that was actually only aimed at having the bishopric member, in four different wards, come to more than the last 15 minutes of the meeting. My policy was that if he only had 15 minutes on a day because he was busy, I would fit the first 15 minutes on the things we needed his approval for.)

    I also made sure to have the agreed upon ending times adhered to. If we were having a meeting from 7-8:00, then I would start opening prayer at 7:00 and we would be saying the closing prayer at 8:00. If we didn’t get through everything because the person responsible wasn’t there and hadn’t sent a report, it either got put off until the next meeting or that person was responsible for tracking everyone down later.

    All of that said, I wouldn’t ever want someone to feel that if they are running late that they shouldn’t come, whether it is to a leadership meeting, church or an activity. I don’t believe that “angels leave” because the baby really was sick and your clothes and the child’s needed to be changed. There are times that something comes up and I would much rather someone came an hour late to church, mutual, a RS meeting, etc., rather than stay home because they are afraid that they will be part of:

    The congregation begin to file in, disturbing the speaker so much that the Spirit of God does not return to him to help him speak.

    I don’t believe that the Spirit flees when noise is made, either from one of God’s children being late, a baby crying in the meeting, or anything else that may happen in the normal course of life. I also think that there are not enough angels to go around, and if angels, (instead of the Holy Ghost) are what is bringing the power of God to a meeting, then having more people show up would most likely bring more of them in. I believe that the Holy Ghost, and the spirit of revelation and testimony accompany each of us, wherever we go, as long as we are living worthy of His presence.

    I guess what makes me most uncomfortable is the assertion, with the specific examples given, is that there is no charity or tolerance/acceptance for those who are struggling in some part of their lives. If someone is already struggling with loneliness, feelings of unworthiness, depression, or physical difficulties, it would seem that this lesson would make them even less likely to feel loved and accepted, and more likely to completely stay away from meetings where they can feel the strength and peace that comes from the sharing of testimonies and friendship of Saints who are not struggling as much. It all seems so judgmental to me.

    Even though MST (Mormon Standard Time) it is one of my pet peeves, I wouldn’t be able to teach this lesson as it is written.

    Comment by Julia — December 10, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  5. Julia, then your response is pretty typical. From the first lesson in this series, readers have noted that the basic idea is fine (as HokieKate notes, punctuality is *still* a difficult problem, and she’d have no problem getting behind a lesson to promote punctuality. I wouldn’t either.

    However, most of the specific lessons, others far more than this one, include reasoning and examples that are a bit, um, “off,” shall we say. I think it’s that “offness” that you’re responding to.

    It’s probably understood by all that I don’t post lessons like this as doctrinally correct or as a blueprint for something anybody should do in a ward today. But I think it’s fun to see both how we are like our great-grandparents (we’re late!) and how we are different (kicking back against the specifics in some lessons). I just like to see how things worked in the past.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 10, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  6. Amy’s comment about tardiness being a form of passive-aggressiveness has opened up a whole new understanding for me about people I have known who have come late to church their entire lives. Thanks Amy, and Ardis for the OP. Most illuminating!

    Comment by Alison — December 10, 2012 @ 10:53 am

  7. Ardis, I am sorry if it seemed like I was saying you agreed with them. For me, this has been such a pet peeve, and I have endeavored on a number of occasions to use behavior modification techniques thinking that I was “perfecting the saints,” in doing so. I was of course focused on their sliver and missing my eye’s beam.

    I still think that for leadership meetings and administrative purposes it is important, but after a conversation with a sister who I had been very judgmental of (thank goodness only in my own mind) who was constantly coming to sacrament meeting just as the sacrament hymn was being sung, I look at how and when people get to meetings much differently. The details don’t matter, but the ordeal it was for her to come to any activity, made me pretty humble about how easy it was for me to get to activities and meetings. Now that I can’t be there, that lesson is even more poignant.

    Comment by Julia — December 10, 2012 @ 11:17 am

  8. I just wanted to be sure it was clear why I was posting them — casual visitors might not understand.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 10, 2012 @ 11:23 am

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