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Children in Sacrament Meeting, 1953

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 21, 2014

This 1953 Church News article has been kicking around in my “to post” file for a couple of years now, without my knowing quite what to say about it. Time to pass it over to you for your evaluation:

SACRAMENT MEETING

Parents Told to Bring the Children

During the last General Conference, a new objective in attendance at sacrament meeting was announced by the Presiding Bishopric. it was suggested that plans be made to have 60 per cent of the ward membership in attendance at sacrament meeting each week. In making these plans, one of the factors to be kept in mind by bishops is that 18 per cent of the Church population are under eight years of age.

Plans for increased attendance at sacrament meeting, therefore, should include consideration of this important segment of the ward population. Each bishop, for his own information, should learn how many children there are in the ward who are under eight years of age, and then compare this number with the number who are ordinarily present at sacrament meeting. If we are to reach our goal, this group must be brought into our sacrament meetings.

An appeal should be made to parents to bring their children to sacrament meeting. While some parents are obsessed with the idea that children need not attend this meeting, the Lord made no exception for anyone who is physically able. The foundation of a substantial character is laid early in life. The training and habits formed in childhood by attending sacrament meeting are invaluable to our children. There should be no delay in bringing this group into our sacrament meetings regularly.

What say ye about children in sacrament meeting? Does it surprise you that as recently as 1953 this was considered a novel idea? How does the emphasis on numbers strike you? What about the reported “obsession” that children need not (should not?) attend?

How do you feel about bringing your children to meetings? about meeting with other people’s children? Any suggestions for improving the experience for everybody?



16 Comments »

  1. I have a 14-year-old high-functioning autistic son. He attends Sacrament Meeting by listening to the service over the speakers in the primary room. The deacons have instructions to bring the sacrament to us there.

    I think this predisposes me towards wanting to see little children in Sacrament Meeting. It probably also predisposes me towards wanting to see parents take their children out when they get out of control.

    I don’t really have any deeper thoughts on the matter.

    Comment by Kent G. Budge — August 21, 2014 @ 8:13 am

  2. My wife remembers her parents sometimes hiring a babysitter so they could go to sacrament meeting alone, up to 1974. Her parents have always been diligent in church and parental duties, so it is notable to her that that was once an accepted way of doing things. It is rare that sacrament meeting ever really embraces children as part of the congregation. I’ve seen about one speaker every year or two focus on the children as his audience; I’m not sure I could do so well. The main benefit of the sacrament meeting for my small children has been experience dealing quietly with being bored, which really is good experience to have. Being bored is almost like being contemplative. Sacrament meeting attendance is also part of their concept of our family, and things they hear in the meeting (more like overhear) are sometimes brought up by them later.

    Comment by John Mansfield — August 21, 2014 @ 8:53 am

  3. I thought the “obsession” was interesting, and I think I understand what the writer was getting at. There are things that are not required, and it can bug some people that others act like they are required. Things like wearing white shirts or leaving on a mission as young as possible. The counter reaction sometimes does seem a bit obsessed.

    Comment by John Mansfield — August 21, 2014 @ 9:03 am

  4. Goodness. The emphasis on numbers seems so post-war, so bureaucratic, so cold-blooded.

    Family stories suggest that it was common practice to leave children at home with the mother, or with an older daughter. For example:

    W— was always active in the ward, he being the secretary of the –th Quorum of Seventy for many, many years. He would get up on Sunday morning and attend his quorum or priesthood meeting, taking his boys with him as they were old enough to attend. A— would stay home and get the rest of the family off to Sunday School and then prepare dinner for the family. Her family will always remember the rump roasts of beef, or the legs of lamb she would cook, along with the riced potatoes and vegetables and lemon pie for Sunday dinner. She sacrificed her attendance at Sunday School for her family, and would not take her children to Sacrament Meeting until she was sure that they would behave themselves.

    So, having the women stranded at home, sometimes perhaps for decades? Not so nice, but it would have kept the meetings more reverent.

    As to the early training to attend the meeting and suffer through until the child can sit still, I am looking at A–‘s family. She had twelve children. Except for one who died as a young child, they were all active in the Church their entire lives.

    Comment by Amy T — August 21, 2014 @ 9:08 am

  5. I wasn’t a member until 1983, but I recall seeing a sacrament table in the Primary room of the chapel I sometimes went to. I assume that somewhere along the way Sacrament was blessed and passed to the Primary separately from the adult members. It seems that this could have been part of the move to the three hour block schedule, but I don’t really know much about innovations in church practices other than what I read here.

    Comment by Eric B — August 21, 2014 @ 9:10 am

  6. Eric, for decades before the block program, there was a Junior Sunday School program (Primary was on a weekday afternoon). They did indeed bless and pass the Sacrament to children in Junior Sunday School, just as they administered it to older children and adults in the Senior Sunday School.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 21, 2014 @ 9:33 am

  7. My brood includes a baby, toddler, and a very active young ‘un, so we are frequently the entertainment part of Sacrament Meeting for those behind us and those on the stand. I’m sure there are some who wish that my tolerance for “too loud/active for Sacrament Meeting” were a little lower, but overall we have a very understanding ward.

    Comment by Matt — August 21, 2014 @ 9:56 am

  8. My father was a non-member so the littlest kid(s) always stayed home from church. Since I married a member that option was not available.

    Our kids learned early on that out of Sacrament meeting was worse than being in Sacrament meeting. Outside you had to sit still in a chair or a lap, no movement, no fun. Inside there was something to do, books, wiggling, what have you. Once they figured out there was no reward in acting up the problems (almost) ceased. Retrieving one from the stand during another ward’s Sacrament meeting probably doesn’t count.

    Checking a classroom once I found a mother sitting stiff in a chair with a little boy firmly in her lap. He was not having a good time. I knew immediately that he was learning that outside is worse than inside.

    Comment by STW — August 21, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

  9. My mother remembers a ward council meeting in which the bishop asked why the attendance numbers for Sunday meetings were so much higher for men than for women. Someone gently pointed out that whenever children were sick, it was typically the mother who stayed home with them. The bishop thought about that and then decided that the most he could do was encourage fathers to take their rightful turn sometimes.

    Since my husband plays the organ, I have spent many years trying to control my kids in church without his help. On one memorable occasion, my middle child did a double flip off the back of the pew–and landed it. The whole congregation gasped, and when I looked back, someone was holding up a program on which they had written ’10.’

    Now that my kids are all grown, I still carry and springy telephone cord and some finger puppets in case any child near me needs distraction. I do not want to become an old lady who glares at babies for making noise.

    Comment by LauraN — August 21, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

  10. I think that some of the comments have already hinted at this. I am under the impression (mostly from General Conference talks) that the most important part and main reason for Sacrament Meeting is to take the sacrament. When the church used to have the sacrament in Junior Sunday School, children then were participating in that ordinance. Understanding this, you then could more easily see how, especially as a mother, you would have your children attend Sunday School, your husband/older sons attend priesthood and Sunday School, and then you and your husband (and maybe some of your older children) would go to the “adult” meeting of Sacrament meeting. So, everyone participated in the sacrament ordinance by the end of the day. Nowadays, without these other options for participating in the sacrament, Sacrament Meeting has become a family event, with all the benefits and challenges that entails. And with four little kids, I’m reminded of this every week.

    Comment by ElizaTH — August 21, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

  11. Both my mother and my husband’s mother stayed home from Sunday School and tended the little kids and cooked the pot roast and potatoes, etc. But both of my parents and both of his parents sang in the choir, so the whole family was in Sacrament Meeting.

    Comment by Maurine — August 22, 2014 @ 12:06 am

  12. coming from a confused -but happily so- religious background, my assumption is that some of the traditions followed in more traditional mainstream churches had been carried forward into LDS Church attendance. Traditionally, children did not attend most worship services in the Church of England or our local RC Church- they toddled off to Sunday School instead in the afternoon (again, traditionally for children only, it threw me completely to find I would be expected to attend Sunday School as an adult upon conversion) – and even today locally, both Churches have designated “Family Services” at which children are welcome. Otherwise, children attend for a small part of the worship service and are then taken to a quiet room where they can play (usually anything but quietly) under the supervision of “Church Aunties”. Am due to attend a family RC baptism next weekend, so will check out the current situation then, but I expect that’s where the mentality or thought process comes from. I do remember being utterly gobsmacked at the sheer volume of noise generated in Sacrament Meeting by whole families of children attending a worship service though; not from an irreverence point of view, just the fact that children were present and, shock horror, people walked in and out during the service. It was a very different experience.

    I have occasionally wondered how I would have coped with small children and Sacrament Meeting back in pre- consolidated schedule days. Our meeting didn’t finish until 6.30pm, which imho would have been far too late for babies and children to be out, especially as few members had cars and had to walk home. I think it quite possible I would have taken the “the children took the Sacrament during Junior Sunday School therefore it’s not necessary to drag them through the wind and the rain another time” line.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — August 22, 2014 @ 2:38 am

  13. I had a bishop who was a convert with his family when he was a child. A few times he recounted his previous church experience, much as Anne (UK) describes above, and he said that it was very meaningful for him then that as a Latter-day Saint he got to stay with his family for sacrament meeting.

    Comment by John Mansfield — August 22, 2014 @ 6:04 am

  14. There was a cry room in the Provo 5th-8th Ward chapel, on the second floor at the back of chapel, complete with windows to allow those inside to watch the proceedings in the meeting, which were closed to keep the noise from bothering the rest of us. I don’t remember any of us ever being taken there–my younger brother did most of crying out in the foyer where my dad had taken him when he misbehaved, and he’d be sniffling and drying his tears when he came back in. I did think for years that one of the principal responsibilities of the 1st counselor in the bishopric was to go up and drag the deacons out of there. Maybe that explains why such rooms are not part of the current building plans.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 22, 2014 @ 10:35 am

  15. That’s interesting Anne, and could explain the family I mention in comment 4. Will’s parents were from Devon and Wales and Annie was born in Glasgow.

    There was certainly a high enough population of English and Scottish and Welsh immigrants in Utah to make the practice common.

    Comment by Amy T — August 22, 2014 @ 10:56 am

  16. As difficult as Sacrament meeting is with my little kids, I appreciate that this is an ordinance that our entire family can participate in together, and on a weekly basis.

    Comment by Marcelaine — August 22, 2014 @ 11:04 am

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