Last week a young mother, who is trying to return to Church activity, left church early because she worried her young children were being too disruptive. It caused me, and all the mothers at church, to remember our same struggles with young children. We all know her feelings. It also caused me to remember a very specific event that took place several years.
When my husband was called into the bishopric I found myself sitting on the bench alone, wrestling--sometimes literally--with three young toddlers and newborn. I remember at times having to take out the newborn and praying that my three children would sit quietly until I got back and not destroy the chapel or the Sacrament meeting.
I also remember sharing some of those foyer moments with another young mother of four who also found herself alone at church when work took her husband out of town ever other weekend. One Sunday she came out of the meeting, with two of her children in tow, exasperation written on every feature of her face. The other two children had been left behind on the bench.
“I don’t know why I even bother to come," she growled to me. "I never hear a word from the meeting!”
Having growled those exact words to my husband, I absolutely understood her frustration. It was then the Lord guided my response…a thought I had never had until I spoke to her.
“Even when you don’t feel like you are getting anything out of the meeting," I said, "you’re still doing the right thing by coming each Sunday because it is teaching your children the habit of attending. It is showing them it is important to be here every Sunday, week after week.”
My words gave me much needed strength and understanding and I realized one of my jobs, besides testifying of the gospel, is to also teach my children the habit of correct principles, including Sunday attendance. That knowledge helped me on those Sundays when the Spirit seemed very far from our chaotic pew.
Over the months, though, my friend didn't find the strength and understanding she needed and she slowly quit attending regularly, coming only on the Sunday's her husband could attend. Then, when a move took her family to another part of the state she quit going to Church altogether. It was too difficult with little children.
Since that time my friend and her husband have gone completely inactive. Over time they started to break the commandments—drinking, then smoking. Eventually infidelity on both their parts led to the dissolution of their temple marriage and then divorce. My friend is now waiting tables in a bar at night, raising the children alone. Only the oldest two had been baptized but are inactive, The younger two have never been baptized and don’t know anything about the Savior or His gospel. There are financial problems, of course; as well as problems at school and with the law—some minor, some major including drug addiction and drug dealing--some by my friend, herself.
Her situation has made me grateful for my own. Though my children are not perfect and one of my teenagers is deeply struggling with his testimony right now, we do have one son on a mission, all my children go to church each Sunday, and my teenagers attend seminary every morning—even the one who is struggling. So far none of my children have gotten in trouble at school or with the law. They truly are good people who still find comfort in the habits they formed early in life.
We cannot underestimate the importance of being there every week, even when it is hard or frustrating. How I wish my friend had kept going to church. It seems to me that the two very different paths our lives took made its first turn when my friend decided it was easier to stay home rather than wrestle her children at church. Unfortunately, that decision made years ago has made her life more difficult, not easier.
During this past week the sisters in our branch have contacted this young mother and told her repeatedly how much we love having her and her children there. How grateful I was to see her return to Church this Sunday with her children. I know she is making the right choice.