The Church Is True Even in the Foyer

This post is dedicated to the young mothers on the Latter-Day Saint Mothers Facebook group.

There Is A Season…

There’s a part of me that winces when I read or hear the “times and seasons” passage of scripture in Ecclesiastes. Another part of me is comforted.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace…

“…That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8,15

We are all familiar with the first part; heck, there’s a great song from the 1960s taken verbatim from the Bible! It’s that last verse I want to go a little deeper with you here. Come with me.

My “Aha!” Moment

Recently, I had an “aha!” moment related to time, investment, and that I wish I would have heard when I was wandering the halls and sitting in the foyer with an infant or toddler.

Though maybe I would have winced and tightened my jaw then, too. Because when you’re in the throes of spit-up, uncontrollable screaming (from the baby — though likely you are too inside), and back-breaking toddler puppeteering as they’re learning to walk, you don’t want to hear the patronizing words, “There, there, Little Mother. There’s a season for this, and a purpose under heaven…”

Not to mention the phrase you hear from older women with their unintended condescension as they’re watching you, “Ah… enjoy every moment. It goes by so fast…”

That woman has forgotten how her child yanked off her favorite necklace, or crawled up her skirt for the umpteenth time, scratched her face, or pooped on her during the sacrament — right after she just took the older kid to the bathroom for the second time since the meeting started.

I don’t care what you say, Grandma, this part of mothering sucks.

A Time to Break Down

“…a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep,”
Ecclesiastes 3:4

You know what other part sucks for a woman who loves the Gospel and is a mother of a miniature human? She never hears a full meeting for at least 2 years. Just add to that with every other adorable miniature human she brings into the world. Even when the small human goes to nursery, there’s always the poopy diaper right when you had an inspirational thought in Relief Society, or your toddler is the clingy one who screams so much that the nursery leaders have to deliver your child back to you anyway.

There was a day during stake conference a few years ago when I sat in a little overflow room they’d set aside for noisy children. I’m sure it was intended that the conference be broadcast over the speakers in the cry room, but the speaker was broken and crackly. It made trying to listen worse than turning the thing off altogether!

That was it; I had had it. I sat there on a dumb little plastic Sunbeams chair and cried my eyes out as my kids played with toys and books on the floor.

“This is what church looks like for a family?! WHY AM I EVEN HERE? They can play at home!” I railed at Heaven. “What about my spiritual nourishment?”

Somehow the Spirit poked through my resentment and cloudy darkness that day and said to me gently:

“Church isn’t all about you now.”

What’s the Point of Even Going to Church?!

In a July BYU Devotional, Jeffrey S. McClellan talked about his 15-year old disabled daughter and what it was like caring for her at church. He said she is often “sad and loud at church — or sometimes happy, but still loud,” so they’re frequently in the foyer.

He said:

“In the foyer, we are joined by various people coming late to the meeting, chasing small children in and out of the chapel, or just enjoying the softer seating options. I have felt a sense of community in the foyer—a kinship with these people who, like us, find their situation not measuring up to the chapel ideal. I have also felt the Spirit in the foyer as I have walked figure eights with my daughter, and I have been impressed with this simple thought: the gospel is still true in the foyer.

(You gotta listen to this one to get its full impact. His sincerity for the whole message is moving. I betcha can’t get through it without shedding a few tears. I couldn’t.)

When I heard this sweet story, I couldn’t help but think of how I felt when my kids were new, and I was a new mom in the foyer. I also thought of the moms like me who have said, “What’s the point of even coming to church when you spend 2+ hours roaming the halls with a kid who’s wide awake in the middle of nap time?!”

The first part of the answer is this:
We go because it’s still good. We go because the gospel is still true in the halls. And our kids need to know that. They need to know, even at 14 months, that our family goes to church — all the time, not just when it’s convenient.

Investing in Lamp Oil

I’ve pondered these two messages since and have found them to be applicable in a few ways.

A month or so ago I was again sitting in a foyer outside the bishop’s office during the Sunday School hour, but this time not with small children. I was sitting with one of the young women in my stewardship who was waiting to have a first interview with the bishop.

I observed the people who also weren’t in Sunday School class too. No, not the ditchers (ha ha); the ones who are walking to and fro with brisk purpose; the ones who are arranging details for so-and-so to receive the sacrament after church in their home; the ones who are attending to members’ various needs for class assignments, arranging technical details for the special combined 3rd hour meeting; the ones who are serving us behind the scenes.

The thought came to me, “They’re not in Sunday School ‘getting spiritually fed’ either. How do they keep up?”

The answer came as quickly as I asked the question: “Their lamps are full.”

Startled at the seemingly odd answer from the Spirit, my mind was drawn to the Savior’s Parable of the Ten Virgins. Half of the women in the parable previously spent the time exchanging their products or services at the marketplace to obtain enough oil for themselves to keep watch through the dark night.

What is this “oil in the lamp” they seem to possess? It is spiritual preparedness.

In the months and years prior to the current calling, they spent them at the gospel marketplace — researching, talking about, thinking about, testifying, studying, reading, pondering, and writing about the gospel. They are now in the throes of trying to be like Jesus and sacrificing time and means (and the second hour of church) to build up the kingdom of God.

You see… there’s a time to build up reserves of oil, and another time that oil gets burned. Motherhood in the Church Foyer is one of those times you’re going to be burning your reserves.

God Requires That Which Is Past

“…That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.”
Ecclesiastes 3:15

I found the above scripture communicates to me that there is a time to prepare for the dark night when your reserves are going to be tapped completely dry. So God asks us to invest in the spiritual lamp oil in the past for right now, and right now for the future.

But maybe you didn’t invest in spiritual lamp oil during your teens and twenties to ready you for motherhood. Maybe you just joined the church, or just came back to church (GO MAMA!), and you’re figuring everything out as you go! While yes, God asks everything of you — everything you are — to mother His children for this earthly journey, and you likely feel your reserves are brand new or ever so small, it’s not too late to start investing.

There is always a future need when those reserves are going to be tapped. And you’re going to keep using those reserves day to day. Because as a mother, you are following Jesus by sacrificing your very life on behalf of another. You are building His kingdom one small human at a time.

A Beginning and An End to All Things — except one.

My older sister Jenn came to see me a few years ago, and smiled knowingly at my stress and frustration with something about my small children. She said to me sweetly (not patronizingly, thank heavens!), “This has an end, Anna.”

“Really?” I said, near tears with relief.

“Yes, it ends.” She would know. Her kids are grown. And they’re awesome.

Your days in the hallways at church are numbered, Mama. Please take comfort in knowing that the Church of Jesus Christ is true and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is real no matter where you are. You are trying to be like Jesus as you mother His little ones in His kingdom. His Atonement covers all space and time — from the beginning all the way to the promised never-ending joyfully ever after.

His Atonement covers you… forever. Even, and especially in, the church foyer.


About the Author:

Anna calls herself a professional juggler – juggling a marketing graphic design business, managing an apartment complex, writing two novels, and rearing two awesome kidlets. She is a regular contributor to Added Upon, and currently works with the young women at church.