April 2, 2020

Texting during worship services? How rabbis inspired my new policy

A presentation that I made last week to my congregation was inspired by a common practice in many synagogues that I have visited. The most sacred Mormon meeting is the sacrament meeting, held once a week on Sundays. The 70-minute meeting features three hymns, an opening and closing prayer, the blessing of the sacrament (Communion/Eucharist), and 2-3 talks given by members of the congregation. With the help of my two counselors (assistants), Ispoke to adult and youth members of the congregation about the importance of being reverent and respectful during the meeting. Agenda item #1? Cell phones.

At the beginning of synagogue worship services or public presentations in the Jewish community, it is quite common for the rabbi or person conducting the meeting to request that all cell phones be turned off, or at least put on silent mode. While I have seen this done at a few sacrament meetings, it is a less common practice in the Mormon community. In our chapel, it is rare to hear a cell phone go off during the meetings. However, there are plentyof congregants who text, scroll, tweet, and find other ways to focus on their smart phones during our sacred time.

While my preference would be to have the members keep their phones turned off for the duration of the sacrament meeting, that is not a realistic optionright now. Instead, we decided to ask the members to commit to put down their phones during the 10 minutes that the sacrament – the bread and water symbolizing the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ – is blessed and passed to the congregation. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would object to this proposal, and was relieved when no one responded to my request for opposing views.

Will this new policy increase the level of spirituality in our sacrament meetings, at least during their most sacred ten minutes? I guess time will tell, but I know that it certainly can’t hurt. With any luck, those who notice this positive change will decide to put down their phones for the entire 70 minutes. Let us pray…

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