By Linda Turley-Hansen
It’s about dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about our Heavenly Father and Savior and responsibility to one another. It’s about who we choose to be. Forgive me revisiting the issue of church back rubs one more time in this space, but if anything, the problem seems to be worse since I referenced the impropriety of the odd public behavior several years ago. For various reasons, my family and I have visited a number of Sacrament Services in various states and wards over the past few years. Back rubs are everywhere. Should we assume the intimate practice in church is all about our familial culture? There seems to be the need for loved ones (oh, I hope they are loved ones) to be handling one another throughout out Sacrament Services, a gathering Elder Dallin Oaks tells us is the most “sacred and important” in our church due to receiving the sacrament. (Gen. Conf. 2008)
I’ve seen every form of massage. The deep neck rub, getting down into the muscle tissue, up into the hairline. Then on to the full back massage; caressing, scratching as the receiver goes into some kind of trance.
Not to leave another group out of the culture are the women who play with their hair, or their companion’s hair (some play with young children’s hair) throughout the service. Some braid, others just pet and paw – either their own or someone else’s. Then there are the “game players.” In one ward, we were told the bishop specifically requested his members to put cell phones on “airplane mode” and put them away. Some simply ignored the request. Why does it matter? Elder Boyd K. Packer issues serious advice in regards to our personal responsibility in our worship services.
He says: “When we step into the chapel, we must!—each of us must—watch ourselves lest we be guilty of intruding when someone is struggling to feel delicate spiritual communications.
“Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit. “Our sacrament and other meetings need renewed attention to assure that they are truly worship services in which members may be spiritually nourished and have their testimonies replenished and in which investigators may feel the inspiration essential to spiritual conversion.” (Conf. 1991) Give me fussy children, parents busy quieting their little ones – none of that disturbs the spirit for long, but brothers and sisters …. petting and pawing one another?
What are we thinking? As for cell phones and game machines. Who owns our hearts? Our gizmos or the Lord? It’s wonderful we love one another. Family and friend affection is precious and God given, but “appropriate” is the guideline. There is a discreet option: Touchers could settle for holding hands in church and squeeze that hand as speaker’s messages prompt sparks of sacred affection. Or how about a “quiet” arm around shoulders? Dignity. Reverence. Respect for our fellow church goers? Who are we? It’s an important question to ask when we seek to worship.