Surviving Sacrament Meeting: A Young Mother’s Guide

kids and sacrament I was a young mother once. Now I’m just an old mother observing the struggling young mother sitting in front of me during Sacrament Meeting. I know your pain! (And may I add, I think this picture on the left is a fake picture. No mother in her right mind would not be watching for the sacrament when three children are first in line.)

How many times did I ask if it was even worth attending church with my children? I’m going to share with the world, right here and now, two of my most embarrassing moments:

Story #1: At this time I had five children, under the age of about 8. For Regional Conference, we were to meet in the historic Salt Lake Tabernacle. My stake was asked to participate in the choir and my husband fully supported me going, because this would be the only time I would ever have the opportunity to sit in those golden choir seats. Sadly, I watched helplessly at the horror that would unfold before the entire congregation.

Child #5 was a babe in arms, so my husband was focused mostly on him. The older children were doing relatively well. It was child #4 who found an elderly couple to make friends with. He would repeatedly sit on the man’s lap, play for a short while, then climb down and wander back to his own family. I watched as he got off the man’s lap and instead of going back to our family, wandered down the aisle toward the front. As he began to climb the stairs that would take him toward the General Authorities, the security detail moved in. Luckily, a sister from our ward claimed him for the rest of the meeting as I watched helplessly from above.

Story #2: At this time we had six children and my husband was on the stand. As the sacrament was being passed, the baby began screaming and needed to be taken out. I had to pass through children’s legs before getting to the aisle and one of the kids refused to bend his legs so I could pass. I pushed through and to my horror lost my balance and fell hard on my knees, still holding the baby. There was a collective gasp from the entire ward.

Yes, I know what Sundays can be like.

I offer some comfort, solace, and perhaps some suggestions, to young mothers who struggle with Sundays.

  1. Don’t be above help from others. Young women and ward grandmas can be great helpers. But, I guess, the real point should maybe be for others in the ward to reach out and volunteer to help more often.
  1. Husbands could volunteer to be the mom on Sundays. Kids instinctively go to the parent they spend more time with. Husbands, you might volunteer to take on that roll for any planned out part of the day. One year, for Christmas, my husband gave me the gift of doing the dishes every Sunday so I had time to relax. It was a great year, and gave me something I could actually look forward to on Sundays.

mother and child3

  1. Practice quiet time at home. While reading scriptures as a family and during other moments in the week, take the time to teach your children that sitting quietly helps you feel the spirit. Even if it’s for 1-5 minutes at a time,  children will grow up with a better understanding of expectations. And to be clear, when I say quiet time, I am not suggesting electronics or quiet toys. I mean to actually teach your little children why we are quiet. Teaching them at home and during the week allows for good practice time (and hopefully a little less frustration on Sundays!)

 

  1. If your husband is on the stand and you are stuck managing the brood on your own, ask the Stake President if a child can go sit up with dad for a short time, or even ask if dad can sit with the family occasionally. Our Stake President was the one who encouraged this, so each of my younger kids took a turn on dad’s lap (if they were being quiet). Yes, at times it looked like a parade of little people going back and forth, but I felt the support of the entire ward, which also helped me feel better about Sundays.

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  1. Just gear up and buckle in for the ride. Sometimes there’s just nothing else you can do. Going to church every Sunday is more important than having perfect children. Even though I was mortified when my children acted up, they still learned that it was important to me that I be at church, and that we be together at church as a family. Granted, I didn’t always learn something new or even feel the spirit, but the example I set for my children came through loud and clear. Besides, now that they’re older we have some great laughs over the memories … now that I can laugh about it, that is!

There were years that I wondered why going to church was worth it. I was spiritually drained and frustratingly overwhelmed. Every mother will agree with me that those years are difficult. There were times when I just wanted to know that I wasn’t alone, in spite of always being surrounded by children. I wanted to receive spiritual food, instead of feeding others all the time. I was just always too tired to do one thing more.

3 Women 2I share additional advice, not to mothers, but to their visiting teachers. We all have them. And we all need them. Visiting teachers can be a huge help through serving and simply keeping their eye out for these women they are responsible for, and can grow to cherish so completely. Another valuable service visiting teachers can do is to help mothers feel the spirit at least once every month. The warmth from a spiritually uplifting message can last for days and be the glue that holds this hard-working, faithful, loving mother together. In fact, what’s to prevent faithful friends from frequent conversations sharing scriptures and insights together?

our familyMy last word of advice is to live to make eternal covenants if you haven’t, and live your covenants if you have. As a wife and mother, you are living the very reason we chose to come down on earth and follow the Plan of Salvation. We came to earth to learn about families. Go to the temple often. Learn about the atonement then receive the atonement into your heart, even when the kids are driving you crazy. Let the overriding knowledge of the atonement carry you through your daily struggles. When Sunday comes around you’ll be stronger and more able to lean heavily on our Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

 

I testify to you that it’s worth it to hang in there. In this day, we cannot be casual about our life choices. Because we understand that faith is an action word, we understand that our faith must be deliberate as we guide and train our children, and spiritually refine ourselves each and every day. I have experienced the joy of having all of my children with me in the temple. Despite all the ups and downs, for me as their mother, there is no greater joy.

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Jan Tolman

Jan Tolman is a wife, mother of six, and grandmother of seven. She is a writer, as well as speaker, on the history of the Relief Society at www.ldswomenofgod.com. Several articles, written by her on Relief Society history, have been published in the Deseret News. She has taught Institute and served as a docent at the Church History Museum. She urges everyone to learn something new about Church History, and especially about the incredible women of LDS faith.

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About Jan Tolman

Jan Tolman is a wife, mother of six, and grandmother of seven. She is a writer, as well as speaker, on the history of the Relief Society at www.ldswomenofgod.com. Several articles, written by her on Relief Society history, have been published in the Deseret News. She has taught Institute and served as a docent at the Church History Museum. She urges everyone to learn something new about Church History, and especially about the incredible women of LDS faith.

5 thoughts on “Surviving Sacrament Meeting: A Young Mother’s Guide

  1. Kris

    I am the mother of eight and I have a secret to share. Rehearse,rehearse, rehearse! No one would dream of putting on a Broadway production without rehearsals and mothers should do the same with their children and Sacrament meeting. (Sometimes our life is a drama, sometimes a comedy!) You know how kids play “school” we played “Sacrament meeting”. That way everyone knew what to expect. They knew what would happen, both inside the meeting and outside the meeting. (They knew if we went out we would go to the “boring” room) We would play this game occasionally when the kids were very young or if we were having a particular problem. Every Sunday morning we would have a different kind of rehearsal. I would talk through what would happen. Sometimes I would be the only one talking, but mostly it would be a question and answer session. “It’s Sunday. Where are we going today? How will we behave there? What will happen? What can we do there? Who else will be there? How will you get to primary?” Or whatever your relevant circumstances require. This kind of an approach helps the average child and those with various disabilities.

    Just one thought for children with disabilities, the mums of such kids are experts in handling their child. They do it all the time. Try to limit giving them advice on what to do. They are doing the best that they can!

    1. Jan Tolman Post author

      Excellent!! My method was often getting the kids in the car and announcing “It’s lecture time,” and they knew they’d be sitting on the couch listening to me until I calmed down. 🙂

      And you are so right about families with disabilities. My daughter’s ward has several children, including her own, and the ward has gotten behind them and supports them in a most loving way, even though these kids are disruptive and running around. 🙂 The parents are indeed doing their best just to get the kids to feel comfortable to come to church. And I love that the parents are made to feel comfortable as well.

  2. Laura

    Thank you for this post! I am a mom to 5, ages 18 months to 9. My husband has been sitting on the stand for 3 years in the bishopric. Some Sundays I dread sacrament meeting! After I found out the people behind us were “plugging their ears” last Sunday (embarrassing!!) , I cried a little because it can be so challenging. And I feel frustrated and alone. It’s a relief to hear your point of view now that you have lived thru and have this great perspective to offer. I know I am doing the Lord’s work to teach my children. I’m not perfect, and it’s s struggle, but I hope to laugh one day! Thank you again!!

  3. Rozy

    My husband was a non-member, then mostly inactive for much of our children’s growing up years. I was alone a lot. It is so important to persevere to establish the habit of going to church which your teens will need. I wrote my ideas and methods for teaching reverence on my blog – http://plainandpreciousthing.blogspot.com/2012/03/teaching-reverence-begins-at-home.html
    Our youngest (of five) is now a senior in high school and I feel a sense of accomplishment. Today was a parental payday as we sat in another ward and listened to him speak as the companion to the high council speaker. Hooray for habits of righteousness! Dear mother’s of young children, in the words of Winston Churchhill, “Never give up!!” Be strong, be consistent, and never give up.

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