At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
While on vacation one year in Heber valley, Utah, I attended a special Sacrament meeting with my family. It was Fourth of July weekend; and as a result, the meeting hall was completely filled all the way up to the stage. Jeffrey R. Holland happened to be in attendance since he was also on a family vacation.
You can only guess how noisy it might be with so many people there with all of their children. The ordinance of the Sacrament itself took quite a long time and my toddler soon tired of staying in one place. I finally gave up and went out to the hall with him. This meant missing the bread and water. I hate to not have the bread and water but I guess at that moment I was more worried about distracting people.
When the Sacrament was finally completed, Elder Holland stood and thanked the parents of little children for persevering through the longer than usual ordinance. He reminded us of how important it is that they are there and that they are taught the importance of the Sacrament no matter their age. Every one of those words pierced my heart. It is rare that I miss the Sacrament. I was immediately ashamed that I had shut myself out of the ordinance. I felt like I had given up too easily that day.
I never forgot that simple but important lesson given in just a few sentences by an Apostle of the Lord. Since then, I can’t recall having to leave during the ordinance of the Sacrament. (I have to admit to quickly exiting directly after though!) With five children to manage on my bench, keeping my mind centered on the Savior and even just remaining in the chapel can be a challenge.
This last Fast Sunday I was once again reminded of the lesson I learned that day. I was wrestling with another toddler (daddy was on the stand as usual). She had found the crayons in my primary lesson bag. I don’t usually allow coloring during the Sacrament but I knew what would happen now if I pulled them away from her (weeping, whaling, and gnashing of teeth) so I offered her my notebook and she drew this:
It would be easy to dismiss the scribblings of an 18 month old but I asked the Lord to teach me. He reminded me that we come to the Sacrament with “scribbles” all over us. But if we keep our covenants we can leave the Sacrament like this:
A new clean page. As I have wrestled six different toddlers over the last thirteen and a half years I have learned some of my most tender lessons during the Sacrament. I have learned I can either be distracted by my children or focused on the Savior because of them. It is my choice. Each time one of them sits on my lap, I think of their innocence and how the Savior asked us to become as little children. As they act up or giggle, I think of how forgiving the Lord is with me for my weakness and sins. I think of how tenderly he loves the children. I whisper a few words about Jesus to my children and then all is right in the world again. I have learned to begin each sacrament ordinance with a sincere prayer to my Heavenly Father that He will help me and my children fully participate in the ordinance and not miss out on its blessings. And He has answered them. He wants me to be there. He wants my children there. Not just physically but to spiritually be there as well.
There was a time when I thought I would just have to endure the years of having little children to manage during Sacrament meeting. Now I realize how much I can learn from it. It is a little treasure of its own to have your arms and bench full. God is ever so mindful of us and desires to place before us His tender mercies. But we do have to reach out and gather them in our arms to feel their joy.
What spiritual experience have you had while caring for your children during the Sacrament?
What tips would you give new and young mothers?