Saturday, October 20, 2007

Quiet, Or Reverent?

It was a usual Sunday at church as DSSH and I took turns trying to get the kids to be quiet and taking Sweet terror out to the hall whenever she started screaming. I sat through Primary scowling at my son because he wouldn’t sit still and he kept pretending to shoot the kids around him with his hand “guns”. I came home tired, grumpy, and ready for a nap. Then Brother M calls me and asks if DSSH and I would be willing to talk in Sacrament meeting. I say, “Sure, we would love to. What would you like us to speak about?” I couldn’t help it, I had to laugh when he told me they wanted us to talk about reverence. He quickly assured me that they weren’t trying to single us out, but that they thought we could give good talks. Luckily for him, I couldn’t take offense because Bro. M’s kids can be just as loud as mine. I got excited because I love giving talks in church. I love it because I always learn SO much from them. I started early, I studied, I prayed, I wrote. I wrote about 4 different talks but none of them seemed to be right. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. What was it that my Father in Heaven wanted me to say? It wasn’t until the Friday before the Sunday we were to talk that it finally came to me. It wasn’t until I was babysitting for a dear friend, stuck in small area with eight very active, rather bored, and extremely loud children that I was given the answer to my many prayers. My big problem was that I was treating the topic of reverence as if it was all about being quiet. At that moment my talk fell completely into place and I can’t tell you how humbling an experience it was for me because it was a talk that I’ve needed to hear for some time now. Here it is.

All to often when we talk about reverence we really mean, “Be quiet.” But this is like saying that a rectangle is a square. When you are feeling reverence, which means a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe and even love, it is natural that there is an accompanying quiet, a calmness that enables us to feel the Holy Spirit and be focused. But, you can be extremely quiet without ever feeling reverence. I witnessed two separate acts in the same situation that show this all too clearly. In my old Ward there was a lovely young girl named Mary. Mary was 9 years old and, due to a birth defect, is confined to a wheel chair and is without speech abilities. When we would sing hymns in Sacrament meeting Mary would join in and sing at the top of her lungs and it sounded like wailing and screaming. One Sunday Mary was especially enthusiastic about the song and sang especially loud. During her singing there was a rather irate older gentleman sitting in front of the family who would turn around often and scowl to let them know that Mary was bothering him. After the meeting was over, a woman approached the family and, touching the mother’s arm, said, with tears in her eyes, “I just wanted to let you know that I could hear Mary singing from across the room and it always touches my heart to hear how much she loves the sacred hymns.” Obviously one of these people was being quiet, but the other had been practicing reverence.

Ways We Can Find Reverence in Our Sunday Meetings:
1. Adults need to be focused. When I first started writing this talk I kept writing about all sorts of great ideas for keeping kids quiet in church. If you want to hear those tips come talk to me later. They are great tips, but I know that what a good friend of mine told me is true. The only way to guarantee that children under the age of 6 don’t make noise in church is to not bring them. Sadly, my friend decided to do just that. She decided that she would come back to church when her kids were older, but now they are older and she has yet to return. I noticed something very interesting today as the Sacrament was being passed. It was hushed, peaceful, and full of the spirit, but I could still hear kids. There were still babies crying, little kids talking, and a few papers rustling. It was the attitude of the adults that made that moment peaceful as we all bowed our heads and contemplated the meaning of the sacrament, or at least tried to look like we were. It is us, the adults that really determine the level of reverence in our chapels. Consider the difference it would make if, instead of looking at our kids and saying, ‘Shhh, be quiet!” we were to say, “Can you quiet down so I can hear the speaker? This is a really good talk.” Or instead of letting children see us writing grocery lists or finishing up the lesson we are teaching that day after sacrament, letting them see us watch the speaker with rapt attention? So, what if the speaker is boring?

Henry B. Eyring told a story about his father from when he was a youth. He said they were sitting in church listening to what he thought was the worst talk he had ever heard; but every time he looked over at his father he saw him fully entranced by the speaker. He kept watching his father and never once did his father loose focus. After the meeting Eyring asked his father, “Dad, wasn’t that the worst talk you’ve ever heard? Why were you so interested in it?” His father responded, “When a speaker doesn’t give me what I want from a talk, I give myself the talk for him. Son, if you listen to the Holy Spirit, you will never hear a bad talk.”

I am ashamed to say that it was just a few weeks ago that I actually rolled my eyes while listening to a speaker thinking, “Oh, come on. It is like you are reading from one of the brochures out in the hallway, give me something good.” I cringe now as I think, “What if I had listened to the Holy Spirit, what could I have learned?”

2. Keep a Sunday journal. Think about it, if you have to write something down for each talk you will pay attention so as to hear something pen worthy. You don’t have to write exactly what the speaker is saying, you can record promptings you get from the Holy Spirit from the talks. This is also a great example for your kids and will help them pay attention as well.

3. Have reverent moments every day. If I were to hand you some knitting needles and yarn and say, “Make me a sweater,” or give you a pile of wood and say, “Build me a house,” can you imagine the mess you would make and the frustration you would feel? It is just as problematic to come from a week full of rushing around, easy entertainments, and self gratification and suddenly be expected to suddenly know how to commune with and show reverence for our Holy Father. Everyday we should find time to sit quietly, pray, study our scriptures, and invite the presence of the Holy Spirit, and we need to make sure that our children get this daily experience as well. You don’t need to make them sit on a bench for an hour, but you could turn off the TV, the computer, the radio, and pull out some scripture stories for them to read and some paper for them to write on while you have your quiet moment.

4. Prepare yourselves for the Holy Sabbath Day. In John chapter 4 it talks about the gospel being a living water. In verse 14 it says, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing into everlasting life."
Imagine if you were told that the all water was no longer usable, that it was tainted, but that once a week you could come to a certain place and receive as much water as you could carry to see you through the week for you and your family. Do you think that you would just show up and hold out your hand and try to keep it from trickling out? Would you just bring a cup? Or do you think you would spend time, all week long, cleaning and repairing every vessel you owned to be able to bring home enough water to see you through the week? We should be preparing ourselves throughout the week, not just in a mad rush on Saturday, but all week long, to be ready to receive the living water that we are given each Sabbath day.

I have to admit that it has been far too long since I have been reverent in church, and I need to apologize to my children for that. I hope that I can show them that I dearly love coming to church and that I honestly believe this gospel is living water and worth all the work it takes to obtain it. These things I humbly say, in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.


Jen said...

I remember hearing a general authority say once that small children & babies should not be shushed from making "happy noises" during sacrament meeting because they are closer to the Savior than anyone else in the room.

Cocoa said...

Great talk! There is a huge difference between reverence and being quiet. I need to be a better example of this to my own children. Thanks for the reminder before church tomorrow!

Sea Star said...

Wow. That was a great reminder. I have 3 small kids that always seem to go crazy at church. I needed to read this today before church. I love the idea of a Sunday journal or notebook for taking notes. I have focused on the quiet part and not the reverence part Sundays too much.

You have inspired me to do better.

mom huebert said...

That was beautifully said. I appreciate you defining the difference between truly being reverent and just being quiet. I have learned in recent years that if children are allowed to be children (within the confines of courtesy) they can learn to be as worshipful as adults; just, perhaps, not always as quiet.

cellista said...

I love that story about which one was being reverent vs. quiet. I need to work on my own reverence more. Thanks for sharing this, it's a great talk! (Mind if I borrow it for next Sunday? Oh, too bad, it's the wrong topic and I volunteered to speak anyway so I can't complain.)

Me and Them said...

ooh...I needed this. Thank you for listening to the spirit! :D

Me and Them said...

I added a link to your SMART habits post to my blog. You are an inspiration!

Misty said...

I have been a member for, Oh, 9 years now. And I have NOT ONCE been asked to give a talk. NOT once, NEVER, nada, zip! And, if I ever do give a talk, I am insisting it is on reverence, and I'm stealing all your ideas............... Mmmmwwwwaaaahhhhhahahahahah!!!

An Ordinary Mom said...

I think you nailed the hammer on the hand. Reverence is an attitude, which can involve being quiet.

I love the story you shared about Elder Eyring. Elder Bednar has an article in the September Ensign kind of similar to this topic. It really struck a chord with me. Have you read it?

Julie Q. said...

This is wonderful. I wish I could have heard you deliver it. But I would have left my kids at home because they are too noisy. Just kidding.

I love the line about the only way to have quiet children is to not come to church. I've been sorely tempted to take that approach, but I am always glad when I press onward and do my best, even if it means wrestling them for an hour or bringing half the house with me to help keep them entertained so I can be more reverent and focus on the talks.