When I was a little girl I remember feeling mortally afraid to so much as open the door to the chapel if I wasn't dressed appropriately. I was certain a bolt of lightening would dissolve me into a pillar of salt if I dared desecrate that sacred ground. The idea of running, eating, screaming, playing in the chapel was unthinkable. It wasn't just my parents who invoked this deep reverence for that room. Primary teachers and songs, Bishoprics and other ward members supported this sense of sacredness.
I remember those rare moments when I peaked into the empty chapel, the only light a faint illumination from the small stained-glass windows in the front. There was a feeling of holiness in that room. It seemed as if God himself was there, resting quietly, awaiting supplication from his children. There was always a tremendous feeling of peace.
Sundays could be difficult. Sacrament meeting was long and boring. I entertained myself by watching the deacons make their way through the chapel with the sacrament trays. I remember being impressed by their precision. It was impressive to my young mind that they could somehow communicate without making a sound. I always felt deep respect for those young priesthood holders.
I also found pleasure in imagining that the large speaker in the ceiling was a TV. If the person speaking told a story, I imagined that I was watching it on that "TV" screen. I still smile at that sight of that speaker when I visit there.
Many churches do not allow children into their services at all. They provide some kind of "children's church" or nursery for all the children while their parents "worship in peace". You might ask why we don't do the same. Why allow the children to become bored and distracting to the rest of the members? Doesn't that conflict with the quest for reverence?
There are a number of reasons. The first that comes to mind is from the New Testament.
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. (Mark10:13-16)Why would we dismiss the children when Christ himself welcomed them?
Another reason to include the children in Sacrament meeting is for their own good. It establishes habits that will hopefully last a lifetime. The children will feel the Spirit and soak in tiny bits of knowledge. My children surprise me sometimes. I will go home thinking they have spent another Sunday fidgeting and fighting, feeling like a failure as a parent. One of them will ask a question about something the speaker said. Sometimes another child will answer. We end up having a great discussion about the subject. Those moments are as surprising to me as any. They humble me and show me that I am only one player in my children's spiritual welfare.
Nephi supports this reason for bring the rowdy bunch to Sacrament meeting. "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." (2 Nephi 25: 26)
We all sin. We know our children will sin. We must prepare them for repentance. I recently read of a Christian home-school curriculum that suggested repentance was too difficult for children to understand and should be reserved for high school students. That is the kind of thinking that leads to...well... the kind of world we have now... or worse!
There is one final reason for why children are part of our Sunday services. To test the adults. Seriously. I am not talking about the parents, although that happens on a regular basis. I mean those who don't have children. Maybe they are single. Maybe their children are grown. Maybe they just haven't been given that challenge...I mean blessing. :)
When we are baptized, we become a part of the kingdom of God. We covenant with him to bear the burden of our fellow citizens in that kingdom. That doesn't mean giving dirty looks to the parents or choosing a seat far from the babies who might be screaming any minute.
That also applies to the parents who need to remember that Sacrament meeting is a time of worshiping the Saviour, not beating the high score on Tetris or eating an entire meal. Our examples and expectations will make lasting impressions on our children's young minds. If they see us sleeping through church and joking about the "Dry Council" what will they do when they grow up?
The issue of revernce is a tricky one. The Primary children sing
Rev’rence is more than just quietly sitting:Reverence is the way we think. It is a feeling of gratitude and respect. It is a feeling that brings about changes. We can be reverent while playing or sleeping or laughing. We can also be irreverent when we are completely silent. Reverence is not weakness. It is a kind of maturity. If reverence is love, it is charity. Paul said
It’s thinking of Father above,
A feeling I get when I think of his blessings.
I’m rev’rent, for rev’rence is love.
When I’m rev’rent, it shows in my words and my deeds.
The pathway to follow is clear.
And when I am rev’rent, I know in my heart
Heav’nly Father and Jesus are near.("Reverence is Love")
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)Ultimately, we all have lapses in our reverence. We all have days when we are just not on our spiritual game. And that's okay. It is a process. We must be gentle in our finger-pointing.
Think of applying Paul's description in Sacrement meeting or Primary or even Famil Home Evening. What would the meetings be like, what would our homes be like, if we all had a little more reverence?