My family often sits near the back row during sacrament meeting, leaving me a wonderful view of my congregation. These are some observations I had last Sunday.
Before the services begin I see:
Smiling faces engaged in animated conversations.
Our Bishop walks in and shakes the hands of those seated near the ends of the rows on his way up to the stand.
A seven year old walks up with a tithing envelope and hands it happily to the Bishop, he smiles and pats her back, quickly placing those sacred funds into the inner pocket of his suit. [Tithing funds are counted, recorded, and deposited after the block of meetings.]
The organist swinging her 80 year old legs over the foot pedals so as not to inadvertedly send a loud note through the chapel.
The bishopric counselor standing at the podium, is nervously going over his notes, waiting for the congregation’s attention to start services.
Young men in white shirts head dutifully up to the front rows, talking to each other about their sacramental responsibilities as well as the fun things they did that weekend.
During our sacrament meeting I see:
The organist smile after missing a note during the opening hymn.
A sixteen-year-old Priest repeat the sacramental prayer over the bread three times, to make sure he gets the words exactly right.
Hundreds of heads bow as the sacramental prayers are read. Many heads remained bowed during the duration of the passing of the sacrament. I see wetness near the edges of eyes and brows knit together in pleading as personal prayers for forgiveness and gratitude accompany those prayers given over the bread and water. The congregation is quiet until a toddler bumps her head on the hard pew and is rushed to the foyer to be comforted by her father.
A two-year-old (mine) grabs a handful of bread and shoves her fist in her mouth, causing a stifled giggle to erupt on our row.
After the sacrament, the first speaker, a 12-year-old boy teaches us about integrity. The second, a 14-year-old young man speaks on maintaining his standards in high school.
A single sister in our congregation is making faces at a 9-month-old a few rows ahead.
Parents are rationing snacks and crayons.
An eight-year-old whines about how hungry she is for lunch.
A seventeen-year-old brother happily whispers the words of board books to his two-year-old sister who holds his face lovingly as he reads to her.
A mother has her arm around two of her older children who have been arguing, intently instructing them to be better examples to their younger siblings.
As one of the two high councilmen speak, I see a bishopric member sitting on the stand struggle to keep his eyes open. He eventually succumbs to the warm temperature and calm speaking voice of the high councilman and drifts off to sleep.
The young men stand and some come forward from the congregation to sing A poor wayfaring man of grief – all seven verses. I anticipate being bored, but end up moved and feel tears well in my eyes.
I watch a woman pass forward some Kleenex to her friend a few rows up, knowing that this is her favorite hymn.
I see fingers comfortably entwining over the edge of the pew ahead of me and smile lines emerge as eyes lock. After 30 years of marriage those fingers and those smile lines fit together so well……
Small children shuttle in and out to use the restroom and to make a pit stop at the drinking fountain. A six-year-old notices her friend leaving and promptly asks her unsuspecting mother if she can use the restroom as well. I notice a happy reunion in the hall as the doors close to the foyer. The girls take their time returning to the meeting and come back in with big smiles and folded arms.
The second high council member bears his testimony of the Holy Ghost that is so palpable and moving that electricity passes through the congregation. Children’s heads pop up from coloring books to see why the atmosphere in the room has changed so quickly and to listen closer to what is being said.
The chorister is wiping away tears while she leads us in the closing song.
We bow our heads and heartily speak “AMEN” after the closing prayer.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we have three meetings on Sunday all in a row. The most sacred meeting of the three is our Sacrament meeting, where we partake of the symbols of the Lord’s flesh and blood in a renewal of our baptismal promise to always remember Him. After partaking of the Sacrament members of the congregation are called upon to instruct each other in 5- to 10-minute talks. We also sing hymns and pray during this meeting. Sometimes when visitors come to our sacrament meetings for the first time they might think they are noisy because we worship with our children, or boring because we teach each other instead of hiring a dynamic clergyman. But from my back row perspective, everything falls together like a symphony of sincere worship. I never leave my meetings without feeling uplifted and happy having been filled with a communion with my Lord and His people.
**Please note that although all of the speakers on this particular Sunday were male, both men and women are called upon to speak during sacrament meetings. Both men and women are instructors in the Mormon faith.