“Preparation = Peace,” Ensign, Sept. 1992, 61–62
Sacrament meeting had become a dreaded three-ring circus for me now that we had six children, ages one to thirteen, and my husband, Jeff, had a calling in a college stake that took him away most of the day. Then I heard Michaelene P. Grassli, general president of the Primary, speak in general conference in October 1988. She spoke of “children at peace.” I don’t remember her exact words, but I still recall my overwhelming desire to change my feelings about sacrament meeting. I knew it needed to begin with me.
I turned to the family home evening manual (1976, p. 87) for help with planning. I found a Sabbath preparation chart and made one for our family. During the day on Saturday, we all helped with the preparations. We laid out the Sunday clothes—including the socks and hair ribbons—cleaned the house, packed the diaper bag, set the dining room table, and prepared most of the Sunday dinner. Our reward for the day’s work was a family swimming night on Saturday evening. We played games and had races in the pool. Then Jeff supervised the boys’ showers while I helped the girls. We returned home happy, clean, and tired. Already Sunday morning looked better because I knew there would be no last minute ironing, cooking, hair drying, or shoe hunting.
Next I worked on making Sunday mornings more peaceful. I got up earlier, prepared breakfast, and got dressed before I woke the children. Quiet music played as we gathered for morning prayer. I assigned the older children to help the younger children eat, get dressed, and comb their hair. After each child was ready for church, I made sure there were books for them to read or color. We left for church a few minutes early.
Once we had made these changes in our weekly preparation, I began to think about our biggest challenge: sacrament meeting. By now our sixth child had arrived, and Jeff was in the bishopric. Our children were getting used to sitting quietly as a result of family home evening and scripture study. We had even practiced at home with a watch to see how long we could sit still. But I knew that “reverence [was] more than just quietly sitting.” (Children’s Songbook, 1989, p. 31.)
I made some changes that helped the children be more reverent. I left distractions and sources of conflict, such as toys and dry cereal, at home. I allowed pencils and paper at church for note-taking. Sometimes after our Sunday meetings I gave a pop quiz during dinner. Other times I gave the children several words or phrases, such as scriptures or mission, before sacrament meeting and asked them to keep track of how many times they heard these words. I learned in advance what hymns we would be singing in sacrament meeting, and we practiced singing these hymns during the week before they were to be sung at church.
Of course, this preparation has taken a long time to incorporate into our family. We still have bad days, and sometimes I am impatient. But the feelings of peace, love, and joy continue to increase. Sacrament meeting is now becoming the spiritual highlight that it should be.—Sheila Flamm Favero, Ogden, Utah