Sunday, January 29, 2012

Teaching our Children to be Reverent

A must read talk from Elder Dallin H. Oaks: {Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament}

Teaching our children to be reverent at church is one of the most important lessons we can teach.
Our example is paramount.

What is reverence?  Reverence is about respect and is a form of worship.  Elder Hales has taught, "Reverence invites revelation." We know it is important.  We were taught to fold our arms and be quiet at church since we were born. 

We go to extremes to keep our children quiet during Sacrament Meeting.  We make quiet books, bring Cheerios, their favorite small quiet toy, colors, papers, gum, fruit snacks, and anything we can scrounge up in our bags that might be entertaining,  etc.  Of coarse this didn't exist when we were starting out, but i-pads.  What ever it takes that is quiet we let them do.  Just get through sacrament meeting as reverently as possible. 

Of coarse there are the un-planned noises or out bursts that always seem to happen during the most quiet noticeable times of the meeting.  My newborns would always loudly fill their diaper during the sacrament which would always bring snickers from those sitting around us.  I remember as a small child screaming as my mom took me out, "Don't spank me mommy!"

If we can teach them the principles of reverence to our children when they are young, we are saving ourselves a lot of work in the future.  It feels like and IS a lot of work at first when they are young, but once they are taught and know about being reverent we are essentially opening up their minds and hearts to feel and hear the Spirit through out their lives.  This is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. 

 The 1st Principle of Reverence:  WHY?

When we are at church we are in Heavenly Father's literal house. We should dress, act, and speak reverently.  As a child my favorite song was The Chapel Doors [seem to say to me shhhhhh  be still, for this is a reverent place to be....shhhhhhhhh be still] I loved that song as it taught me the importance of reverence.   As a little girl of 6 or 7 going to church in my tights that had a hole in the knee, I remember my mother telling me we are in Heavenly Father's house and we should wear our best clothes.Although I wasn't capable of buying my own clothes at that age, my mother taught me that the clothes we wear to church matter.  They should be our very best.  My mother instilled within me strong feelings of special-ness and respect for Heavenly Father's house.

The Sacrament is the most important part of our Sacrament meeting.  It is WHY we meet. To renew our covenants we made at baptism and to make new ones.  We can teach this to our children when they are very young. Before they are baptized and are old enough to make covenants, they are taught.  And reverence is a big part of that worship.

The 2nd Principle of Reverence: HOW?

Years ago on  a particularly bad week at church, I had 2 rambunctious toddlers, and two new-born twins.  I am sure we were the circus show of church.  An elderly lady came up to us after church and said, "I think your quiver is full"  Ya, I was feeling that same thought too... right about then.  I was determined to not only survive that period of my life, but to become the champion of it. 

The thought of not coming to church, or coming late, or leaving early...was never an option.  We went to church every week, second row, on time,  and we came equipped with plans to accomplish the impossible: have reverent children at church.  This is what WE did:

  • We prepared for Sunday on Saturday, so Sunday morning was not chaotic (or was less so : )
  • We taught reverence at home in Family Home Evening a lot.  I made a picture of eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet, etc. and we taught them how to each part of our body can be reverent.
  • I practiced church at home sometimes where we would set the timer and sit on the couch together like we were in church.  They learned how to be reverent at home first.
  • When they were noisy at church, they got taken out by their dad.  This wasn't a run and play in the church foyer time.  Their dad made it an uncomfortable for them. He would find an empty class room and set them in a hard metal chair with their arms folded for a designated period of time.  They learned that church was a better place to be than out with dad.
  • If it was a "bad" week of reverence in church, they got to practice being reverent AFTER church on the couch at home.  Little by little, they learned how to be reverent and that Mom and Dad meant business!
  • I had my Sacrament Meeting survival bag of books [touchy-feely, texture books are great, or cloth or felt books], treats [make sure the wrappers are not noisy-or put them in a Ziploc bag before church], and tricks to make it through each week when they were very small.  If they were extra noisy with a certain toy, that toy didn't come back the next week.   There were many times  I felt I deserved a T-shirt that said, "I survived church this week"
  • We taught them they had to wait to get drinks or go to the bathroom.  We weren't making a million trips to the bathroom or drinking fountain during the meeting. Going in and out, up and down, back and forth is not reverent for you or those sitting around you. [ Sometimes you cannot help it with young babies and toddlers.  You get points for showing up! ]  When they are really bored, by girls like to "fake" thirst or bathroom needs.  Now they have to wait until after the meeting,  unless it is a real need or emergency. 
  • As the children grow, so do the expectations.  Make sure they are age appropriate. 

 This might sound a little rough, but we only had to teach it this strongly at the beginning.  They learned what the expectations were and learned to be reverent in church.  We are not perfect by a long shot,  but we are always striving to teach these principles to our children. 

We know that teaching our children reverence is one of the most important principles they can be taught.