Is it sacrilegious to eat in Sacrament meeting?

There was a decent scene in the otherwise forgettable movie “Singles 2nd Ward” in which a mother gives her kids an increasing amount of food during Sacrament meeting. I can’t remember all of the details (see how forgettable the movie is?), but I seem to recall at some point she pulls out milk and cereal, bowls and spoons, etc, and begins serving her kids. And then the irreverent non-Mormon visitor gets hungry and offers one of the kids some money for his sandwich. Anyway, I got a smile out of it (but please don’t write outraged comments telling me how much you hated this movie, because you’ll get no argument from me).

I was thinking about this the other day as my wife pulled out a Clif bar for my two-year-old.

I want you all to imagine the most difficult boy you have ever seen in Sacrament meeting. Then I want you to multiply that by about 10 million. And then you’ll get an idea of what it’s like dealing with my lovable, wonderful, extremely energetic and curious little toddler every Sunday morning. Please don’t get me wrong: I love my little boy and I am certain he will be a dream to deal with in a few years, but right now he is impossible. There is no reason for Abu Graib and Guantanamo — if you want to torture terrorists just force them to spend more than a hour trying to keep my little boy quiet every Sunday morning.

Anyway, one of the few things that will keep him quiet is something to eat. And of course I’ve seen parents giving their kids cheerios and carrots and other things on the sly during Sacrament meeting. I’ve always wondered: is that sacrilegious?

I don’t have access to the bishop’s handbook, and I’m pretty sure it deals with this issue, so there may be some official doctrine on this question. But let’s look at it from a common sense standpoint: where do you draw the line? If you can give Cheerios to kids, what about adults who are hungry? Should they pull out a sandwich and start munching away? How about pork rinds? I see no problem with feeding a sleepy, hungry baby some milk or formula (or even, ahem, breast-feeding), but at a certain point, you should be able to train your kids to wait an hour to eat.

The point is that the Sacrament is meant to edify, instruct and honor the Savior. Children are there partly so they learn reverence (let’s face it: very few small children are getting anything out of Sacrament other than learning about reverence and developing a habit that will hopefully last them a lifetime). At what point does food detract from the lesson the children are meant to be learning? Should all hungry children simply be taken out into the hall if they have to eat?

What say ye, Sacrament-takers?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

20 thoughts on “Is it sacrilegious to eat in Sacrament meeting?

  1. When I last had an illness that resulted in dehydration, I got a scandalized look from the entire bishopric for my water bottle. I think the rule is that adults have to suffer. But I figure that as long as your children a) don’t throw their food at their neighbors and b) keep the pew clean, crackers and the like are fine.

    Though to be frank, I don’t see how the under-3 set gets much of anything out of Sacrament except the lesson of “just how much I can push Daddy before he’ll give in and take me somewhere more pleasant.” Bearing in mind that I hate the lecture format of Sacrament meetings in general — and, I sit in the heathen “drawing and note-passing and at least one person is reading a novel” row in the chapel. I also believe, after having had matchbox cars thrown at my head from the row ahead of me and having had to grab escapees from three rows back (who like to scuttle under my bench and make their break for the stand right at my feet) that giving the children food is better than many of the alternatives.

  2. The thing is – the kids aren’t hungry. They’re bored. And you are enabling by stuffing their face. They’ll come to expect it, and they’ll up the ante.

    Once they’re old enough to understand, you shut off the snacks – especially if they’re whiney. Why reward it?

    And if they go out into the foyer, they sit with mom or dad. They don’t run around, they don’t play on the floor. They sit. I had to sit through a couple sacrament meetings with each of my daughters at some point with them screaming bloody murder. But, you know, after that, they stopped. And now they sit in Sacrament meeting. They get to color, read books, and play with mom and dad (yes, we do pay more attention to our kids than to the speaker – so sue us). If they go out – they sit. Or they get their diaper changed – there’s that too…

  3. Regarding the church handbook, there is nothing specific about eating in sacrament. The guideline is, members should be reverent.

    And an amen to, if you take your child out of sacrament, you should be more strict with them out there.

  4. My stake president bans food from the chapel. Not all parents follow the rule, but it was put in place because of the mess the food creates in the chapels. I have cleaned-up pews on Sunday where food is ground into the fabric. Nasty!

  5. Seth R. – Hear, hear! My daughter isn’t yet two, and she understands that if she misbehaves, she will find herself in as empty of a room as I can find, sitting on my lap, arms folded under mine. I just sit and hold her until she stops crying and screaming. Eventually, she realizes the tantrum isn’t getting her what she wants, and she could be coloring or reading in the room with everyone else.

    Works like a charm.

  6. Somedood is correct, the handbook does not address the topic of food in sacrament meeting.

    My attitude about this changed once I moved into a ward which had several adults who were cognitively impaired and diabetic. The were aware of themselves enough to know when their blood sugar was about to go haywire, and now and then somebody would reach into a bag and retrieve a tuna sandwich. It wasn’t as distracting as I thought it would be, and we all got used to it. However, in deference to the principle of reverence, I think it is usually good to not have food in the chapel. (With the exception of breath mints. I think they should pass out Altoids with the program as you enter.)

    I had lunch yesterday with a friend who is Roman Catholic. He told me that at mass lat week, as the believers lined up to take communion, a woman’s cell phone rang. SHE ANSWERED IT! and carried on a conversation as the line moved forward to the rail, then said into the phone “just a sec” as she received the host. Just another sign of the apocalypse.

  7. “Works like a charm.”

    Sure, if you’re not in the middle of another ward’s block. Last year we were on the late schedule, so I would take my toddler into the relief society room, turn on the speaker, and have him fold his arms. That worked well (probably too well, actually- I didn’t want to go back).

    But now that we’re on the 9:00 schedule, the only empty room during sacrament meeting is the janitor’s closet. So now it’s about 20 dads in the foyer wrestling their kids and talking sports because it’s too noisy to hear the chapel speakers.

    An old chapel one of my friends attended growing up in SLC actually had a ‘Cry Room’, which had glass windows and overlooked the chapel. I’d love to have a cry room. What happened?

  8. Ah! For some reason I just recalled one of the funniest (and most sacrilegious) temple experiences I’ve ever had.

    We’re sitting in the telestial room in the SL Temple and I start smelling fried chicken. The aroma even woke up all the old guys in there. So we all perk up, trying to figure out where the smell is coming from, but couldn’t find it.

    A few minutes later we started smelling it again, and I caught a glimpse of a woman- maybe mid-40’s- taking a chicken leg out of her purse (why did she have her purse?), take a quick bite, then put it back. A few minutes later, another quick bite. I guess she thought nobody would notice.

    And where did my wife and I stop for dinner afterward? Oh yeah, KFC, baby.

  9. Tossman, that triggered another memory for me.

    Again, the setting was a room at the S.L. temple. The room was full, and I think I was the only man ther under the age of 75. As soon as things got underway, one of the sweet old men on the front row reaches into his back pocket and starts fumbling around loudly with a cellophane wrapper. He finally gets it open, takes something out, and puts it into his mouth. Then, he nudged his neighbor, held the bag out to him, and said in the loud whisper characteristic of older folks whose hearing is almost gone: “Do you want some of this? It’s beef jerky.” The jerky bag made its way up and down 2 rows. Unfortunately, I was on the third row.

  10. Ah, food at church. I remember a fast Sunday morning in the old Brooklyn 1st Ward chapel, we’re all sitting in priesthood meeting watching the clock, when we all start thinking about bacon and eggs. Easy to do on a fast Sunday, especially when a professional investigator who calls himself Kenya Helaman is down in the church kitchen, frying up a whole pound of bacon to go with the dozen eggs he’s scrambling.

    Since it was fast Sunday, we couldn’t even beg for a bite. He ate it all, anyway.

  11. I’m diabetic and so often carry something to eat. I remember when I worked in the Temple, many guys often carried hard candy or breath mints. I never had to bring any of my own: someone always gave me some. Sure, it seemed like eternity whilst I opened up the wrapper, trying to be as quiet as possible, but better than than passing out in front of all the patrons.

    Same in the chapel. I often carry a water bottle with me. I sometimes forget that drinking water is frowned upon in the chapel — but if my blood sugar is high, I want my water! No one has ever said anything or even given me a dirty look.

    I think it all depends on why it is done. If out of boredom or convenience, rather than necessity, then perhaps it should be reviewed. On that note: keeping a kid quiet benefits everyone.

    I have never minded people eating (although fried chicken or something like it might be taking it too far), and I try not to judge.

  12. You guys crack me up with those “eating in the temple” stories. That fried chicken is heavenly! (Telestial, not Celestial).

  13. Tossman,

    I once ate my lunch in the Celestial room of the Mesa Arizona Temple, complete with a 32 oz soda! The temple was being renovated, of course. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ll have to remind my wife to bring her purse to the temple the next time we go. KFC sounds finger licking good!

  14. We have this problem too. Our family IS the problem. Our old rule was once before the child reaches nursery age cherrios, goldfish,fruit snacks, etc was ok because that sort of food is easy to clean up. We do a good job of cleaning up after ourselves.

    I will try anything to get my kids to behave in church. Lets face it, church for little kids is boring. Dr Alvin Price at BYU said that all adults should sit on their kitchen table with their legs dangling facing a blank wall. If a foreign language speaker is available have them talk. After 10 minutes most adults can’t handle it anymore. We expect these little kids to do the same thing every week.

    The rule for the past several years is no food in the Chapel. Normally we would just follow the rules, but now we have 4 year old Hong Mei. We got her almost a year ago and she has pretty severe starvation issues still. This translates into she has to eat all the time, especially when she is away from home.

    So even though she is well over the age of eating might be ok in church we do it anyway. I want Hong Mei to like church and for her food is the key. So anyway breaking the rule for a good cause is what we have chosen to do.

  15. Once I got past the in-jokes and the weak casting of the bride’s parents, I really enjoyed Singles 2nd Ward. A major improvement from Halestorm. I bought the DVD from

    I liked “The Dance” even more.

    P.S. I’m not affiliated or related to the producers or distributors of those movies. I can honestly recommend those movies, especially “The Dance”. It’s almost a chick-flick, but I think guys will like it.

  16. re: lady eating fried chicken from purse in temple.

    Fried chicken, along with chocolate, is a “comfort food”. When people eat comfort food at very inappropriate times and places, it’s a strong sign of an eating disorder, ie, it’s a mental/emotional thing, and likely won’t get cured by someone saying “just stop it.”

    Someone who is diabetic or even hypo-glycemic wouldn’t have needed to eat fried-chicken, as they have other more convenient and appropriate options.

  17. I completely agree that Sacrament Meeting is boring. Especially when one has a learning disability that makes it difficult to concentrate, and the speaker is monotone and staring at his paper.

    My children have learned that during Sacrament Meeting, everywhere else in the building is more boring.

    I’ve cleaned chapels dozens of times (if not 100). That alone has been responsible for our refusing to bring snacks for our children to eat.

  18. I used to take small snacks to Sacrament Meeting for my two young sons until a younger mother in my new branch taught me that children do not need to eat every hour and it is not reverent to have food. I had joined the Church a few years before and had been sealed. I saw many parents taking food for their children in the few wards we lived in. I stopped taking food for my sons after my new friend spoke to me about it, except during stake or general conferences when I would go out during the intermediate hymn and let my sons have half a sandwich and get a drink. Then we’d go back in. They had special books about Jesus to read or color after the Sacrament that were just for Sunday at Church.

    I have often seen or sat next to children who are eating picnics–full course meals. It is very distracting. Other snacks or drinks are often dropped or spilled creating a mess on the pews or floor. If a child (or adult) needs to eat for any reason, they can quietly leave the chapel, eat, and return quietly a few minutes later. The Savior asked His apostles, “Can ye not watch with me one hour?” Surely we love our Savior enough to focus on Him for the one hour (and ten minutes) we are in Sacrament Meeting. ๐Ÿ™‚

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