Monday, January 10, 2005

Dealing with disturbances in sacrament meeting

Yesterday, in sacrament meeting, we had a brother who is in our stake, but not in our ward, attend our sacrament meeting. I don't know this brother at all, but have seen him on several occasions. He appears to have some kind of behavioral disorder, though obviously I don't know whether he does or not.

He sat a few rows behind me and, during the sacrament, spoke with his friend next to him (apparently not a member, based on their conversation) loudly enough for nearly the entire congregation to hear. It was clearly bothering quite a few people, and just as clearly had the attention of the bishopric. No one said anything, though a number of people looked his way.

My question: what is the best course of action in such a situation? Should someone have politely asked him to keep his voice to a whisper or not to talk at all during the sacrament? Or were we all right to “ignore” his loud talking and accept it as a behavioral problem? Would your answer change if I had been sitting next to him, rather than a few rows in front? Would it be different if I were a member of the bishopric asking this question?


  1. What if it were someone you know to have some sort of problem like a severe ADD child, or a severe mentally handicapped individual? You try to ignore it, right?
    I think the same goes here. Until you know differently, give them the benefit of the doubt.
    Perhaps if you were sitting nect to them, or right behind them, you could better decide if the behavior were intentional or not and make a different decision. But the fact that no one nearby did anything sort of indicates it was a disorder, rather than just disorder-ly. 

    Posted by Pink Floyd

  2. Pink Floyd,

    Whether I would ignore a severe ADD child or handicapped individual depends on the situation. If the parents or family were with them, I would, of course, leave any action to them. I have an autistic brother, and if he were disturbing others during the sacrament, I would have no problem reminding him that he needs to be quiet. If one of my children were doing the same, I would take him out. But this man was an adult without any family with him.

    And I'm not sure it's important whether the behavior was "intentional" or not. Sometimes even unintentional behavior can be corrected (especially for ADD-like conditions) simply by calling attention to it. The person may not be aware that his behavior is bothersome.

    You said, "The fact that no one nearby did anything sort of indicates it was a disorder, rather than just disorder-ly." Does this mean you believe disorders should simply be ignored? I tend to think there may be ways of mitigating undesirable behavior even when it is caused by a disorder.

    For example, let's suppose that next week I see this same brother joining us for sacrament meeting. Would it be wrong of me to seat my family directly behind him so that I could perhaps give a gentle reminder if necessary? Or is that butting in where I shouldn't be, because we should just ignore behavior caused by disorders? 

    Posted by Grasshopper

  3. Oh, I think "intent" is very important. But I agree that unintentional behavior can be corrected as well. But where you didn't know the cause of the bad behavior, and wasn't sitting nearby where you could make some better sort of determination, I think it was best to ignore it.

    Should disorders simply be ignored? Sometimes. We have a severely handicapped young adult in the ward that meets in the building with us. He often makes loud noises, groans, grunts, etc. during Sacrament meeting. I wouldn't want his parents to think they don't belong in the meeting with us. If he gets too bad, I trust them to make the proper judgement to take him out.

    If the guy shows up next week? Sure, I think it would be just fine for you and your family to take on the job of "Reverence Police." Perhaps you could scatter yourselves around the chapel with long pointy sticks...

    In the scenerio you are setting up, I think it would be fine if you sat near him to offer help. You have special skills. You have experience with your autistic brother. You perhaps know the right things to say or do. You can better recognize a physical disorder. My guess is that even though you said you didn't know him, the bishop may know him because of his attachment with the other bishops in the Stake. And as you pointed out, the bishop is now aware of him and may have done some phone calling this week to see if there is some other information he can gather on the guy. I think you are better off offering your help to the bishop and seeing how he wants to handle it. Perhaps this guy's non-member friend is an investigator. I just don't know that you had enough facts to stand up during the Sacrament, walk across the Chapel and correct the guy in the middle of the meeting.

    I always hated it when the bishop was out of town. I was conducting a missionary farewell "in the olden days." The Chapel was full almost to the stage. I got up to do the welcome to the meeting part when a family member of the missionary came in and started setting up a video camera on a tripod along the side in the back. A direct violation of the rules in the handbook. I watched him do this all the time I was welcoming and giving announcements, wondering what I should do. The family was only marginal in their testimonies, so that figured into my thinking. As I sat down next to the councilor in the Stake Presidency that was presiding, I asked him what he thought I should to. Fortunatly he was the former bishop of our ward and knew the family. We chose to ignore it and made a note to blame the bishop who was out of town. I caught flak from some of the ward members who thought it wasn't fair that this family had a video of their sons sacrament meeting when they didn't. Still, it was the best thing to just ignore it and move on. After that, the bishop made it specific that videos were not allowed when he interviewed the familiies for their farewells.

    I think it is the bishops place to decide what to do. Offering your help would be a nice jesture. 

    Posted by Pink Floyd