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“…And Please Bless”

By Carina Hoskisson

My preschooler’s foot kicked my leg in protest and I stifled a yelp. I tried to maintain the pretense of my eyes being closed by squinting from the bottom of my lids while wrestling El Guille to be quiet. From the pulpit Brother Soandso droned on and on while the clock in my head continued to tick. “How much longer do I have to do this?” I thought, growing ever more exasperated. All around me, I could hear the decibel level rising as other mothers struggled with their children to remain quiet. The culprit? The thirty minute prayer.

Look, I appreciate heartfelt prayers. I love to listen in complete communion with the supplicant. But someone has to tell our brothers and sisters that the closing prayer is not the fourth talk on the program. Every prayer sets off an internal timer: how long can I keep my children quiet? Then I have to divide that ever increasing time with the number of goldfish crackers I have left. I’m dishing them out as fast as I can to the baby while my husband and I are trying to keep our older son from exploding out of the pew like a rocket. The longer the prayer, the worse it gets, for every mother in the congregation. Admit it: there have been a few prayers offered where you’ve thought, “COME ON! Throw me a bone! My children are tired, hungry, and restless. I cannot control them much longer!”

So, to my brothers and sisters, all of whom are probably too old to be reading a blog post on the Internet, I beeseech you, please, for the love of reverence, keep your prayer devout but blessedly brief.

About Carina Hoskisson

Emerita

45 thoughts on ““…And Please Bless””

  1. When I was growing up, there was an older gentleman in our ward who was famous for his lengthy prayers.
    As soon as he would start praying, I liked to look around the chapel at all of the people setting the timers on their watches.

    I think his record was around 8 minutes.

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  2. When prayers go on longer than they need to I'm always tempted to just shout "AMEN!" and start packing up my stuff.

    I'm pretty sure they'd get the hint.

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  3. I really like when they abandon all pretense of praying and start to recite doctrine and exhort members of the congregation to live more righteously.

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  4. I have heard the mormon legend that some GA somewhere suggested that opening prayers could be 2 minutes in length but closing prayers should be no longer 30 seconds. I tend to vibe that thought to the lengthy prayer givers as I wrestle with my children and cover their mouths. Since we have a VERY large age-restricted community in our ward, we have a never ending supply of lengthy elderly possibilities for the bishopric to choose from. My favorite though, is the brother who was being pesky, didn't like to pray in public and wanted to make sure he was never asked again. He prayed for everything and everyone, including the members of the primary presidency who were doing sharing time that they would have success, that the primary teachers would have sufficient stamina for 2 hours, for the people who would comment during their subsequent meetings that their answers might be speedy. You can imagine how he continued. And I have heard children shout amen in the midst of these prayers to no avail.

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  5. I was at our stake conference last year with my daughter (hubby and son home sick) and sat next to a friend who has a daughter my girl's age. They were happily sharing a coloring book during the opening song and then dutifully folded their arms for the opening prayer… which proceeded to go on for a full 5 minutes! The girls were getting fidgety but were apparently keeping a close timer on how long the prayer was going, because the minute the brother said amen, our friend issued a loud, "WHEW!"

    Amen, little sister.

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  6. I haven't had that happen in any of my wards yet, but if it did…

    Holding kids down during the closing prayer is like shaking a bottle of pepsi (caffiene free, of course), the longer you do it, the louder and faster the kids shoot out of the chapel at the end….

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  7. AMEN!

    I hate long closing prayers. It's almost as bad as people getting up to bear their testimonies (10 at once?) 2 minutes before the meeting closes. ARGH!

    I'm glad I'm not the only mother who struggles with this, too!

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  8. Our daughter was around 1 to 2 years old–the age where we frequently tried to get her to "perform" for others by saying, "Can you say … (fill in the blank)?" One week, there was a particularly long talk at the end of Sacrament Meeting. She looked up at us and said, "Can he say, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, amen?'"

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  9. Sometimes people remind me of Ben Stiller's blessing on the food in "Meet the Parents" when they try to use big words and use too many stretching synonyms to sound creative. As sacrilegious as that scene was, it still makes me laugh because it's so real.

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  10. You know what, if people are going to give long prayers at the close of sacrament meeting, which incidentally is NOT encouraged, I see no point in restraining my children. I've done my best to keep them reverent and if the member hasn't the sensitivity to keep it short, then I'm not going to worry about it.

    But then I guess I'm kind of controversial.

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  11. I'm usually out in the "foyer ward" by that time. The toddler has had it with the stroller, the boy is done with sitting properly and the baby is in the chapel with a friend. Making it on Sundays is hard enough let alone listening to Brother Geezer belt out a sermon disguised as prayer. I'd wager that's why some folks are called to offer them…their talks would be much more painful.

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  12. On second thought, I will chime in that some of these lovely older people really are so sincere in their prayers. I would hate to see them all disparaged unilaterally. Even the long winded ones are probably only acting out of the sincere and earnest desires of their hearts. For that, we've got to applaud them. As to the lengthy speaking issue, well, brevity is indeed the friend of young children. Maybe these kind hearted grandparents have just forgotten how it was to have little munchkins around.

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  13. I think the solution is right in front of you, wriggling uncomfortably. Let your kiddos sound the alarm loud and clear when the mega-prayers won't step away from the mike.

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  14. Oh goodness…that reminds me of a stake conference about 4 years ago. The closing prayer went on for 20 MINUTES. Yes, 20 minutes. The entire congregation lost the spirit about 10 minutes into the prayer, and everyone was trying not to giggle. The woman praying was quite sincere, but apparenty didn't realize that a 20 minute prayer (at the conclusion of a meeting that was already 5 minutes over) wasn't appropriate….

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  15. I'm already in Primary setting things up so it's been a long time since I've heard anything but the closing song in the distance. If I understand everyone correctly though I should be able to tell how long the last Prayer was by how quickly the children arrive in the room? And here I thought they were just happy to be there!

    On a different but related note – PLEASE don't shorten your talks on a regular basis by too much. The next thing you know Sacrament meeting will end early and while you will be ever so grateful to send your children to Primary (and we love having them) at least give us time to set up the room (the Primary before us needs to at least say their closing prayer before I go rushing in to change things around to get ready for our Primary 🙂 – yeah – I get a little panicked 😉

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  16. In the middle of a particularly long closing prayer a few years ago, my 18 month old boy hopped off the bench and announced–loudly–"DONE!" and then ran away and out the door.

    I guess that's one way to say it.

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  17. Sacrament end EARLY??? BWMAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Nope. Even when it's the last meeting ont e schedule the bishopric pops in with a last minute speach to fill the time… cause HEAVEN FORBID!! Church CAN'T end EARLY!!! Sacraledge!

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  18. I do understand boredom, and I do understand wriggly children. But I respectfully disagree with you on this one. I guess this is because I am a person for which Church is a very healing, and thus emotional, experience; because of this, I tend to cry easily and maybe talk too much in prayer or ask too many questions in Gospel Essentials (yes, I am that new of a member.) I know that this may annoy some, or even more than I know, but I also would ask for understanding because this is all so new and the Spirit speaks rather strongly to me at Church (I think this is His way of cementing in my head and heart that the Church is true.) I was reading on an LDS blog the other day about this very topic actually and while most agreed that droning talks are nearly unbearable, one lady commented whom I agree wholeheartedly with. She said that the person giving the long talk or prayer is first and foremost a son or daughter of God and that she believes God is delighted that one of His children is drawing nearer to him and is in His Church, regardless of their eloquence or ability to convey their message nicely.

    I don't know if I am conveying my feelings and thoughts clearly on this, but the long and short of how I feel is that maybe it would be helpful to think that this person is doing his or her best to live the Gospel, and that most likely with time, they will learn to hone their thoughts and emotions better.

    (I just want to reiterate that I am not trying to be snooty or go against the grain for the sake of it, I only commented because I think I have an insider's perspective on this! :))

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  19. The husband does it when he is blessing the food. I am so hungry and he gets carried away with blessing of all sort of things as well as the dinner.

    What is wrong with the old rub-a-dub-dub thanks for the grub? It never hurt anyone.

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  20. I was in a sacrament meeting once where people spoke several different languages. The person giving the prayer spoke a language I've hadn't heard of before. It was very long, I didn't time it but after what seemed like forever, the girl sitting next to me shouted AMEN! and everyone around us echoed because the didn't know what the guy was saying anyway. Well needless to say the prayer was over at that point! I couldn't help but laugh because I was listening so intently for the amen just so I would know when it was over and my friend mistakenly ended it early for everyone. She was a little embarrassed when she realized the guy wasn't done but then shurgged it off when everyone sighed relief.

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  21. Maddison, I appreciate your insight about Sacrament meeting. It was very thoughtful and kind.

    I guess most of us are mainly concerned about our children here. For many of us, we are so busy trying to maintain reverence or at least a semblance of silence with our own children that we ourselves rarely get to listen with as much intent as you evidently have. What a gift to be able to feel so much at church. That is wonderful.

    We are just asking that the speakers might think of the youngest members of the congregation who have extremely short attention spans. When you are trying to teach your children to be reverent for prayers and a prayer becomes far too long, it becomes an exercise in torture trying to maintain that reverence.

    Sacrament meeting is a meeting for all, and the needs of each attending member, small children included, need to be considered by speakers and prayers as well. On the other hand, I consider it very appropriate if prayers are little longer in Sunday School or Relief Society or even at home.

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  22. Ugh. This is right up there with the "I know there are only a few minutes left in testimony meeting but here I go. . ." This last testimony in our ward is always the man my husband and I say has "Turtleitis." He sounds like that cartoon turtle guy in the race with the hare. Matt and I automatically check our watches when he stands up, and begin taking bets.

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  23. My favorite pray-er was a gentleman in our ward who would use the prayer to insult everyone in the congregation. It was AWESOME.
    "And even though we had to listen to young Brother SoandSo play the piano because the organist was sick we are grateful for…"
    "And even though we do not deserve your compassion because we elected SoandSo to the city council…"
    "And please bless SoandSo even though they are not a member of our ward, and have heathen ways…"

    I would sit through HOURS of those prayers, if I could. I haven't laughed so hard in years.

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  24. I see what you're saying; considering all members of the ward is what should be done. And point well taken that longer prayers may be more appropriate and/or appreciated in meetings w/o children or at home. Thanks for your perspective and for the opportunity to share! 🙂
    I do know that keeping my girls entertained or at least quiet until Sacrament meeting is over is probably easier now that they're 9 and 11, perhaps I've blocked it from my memory how much harder it was even two years ago when I first started going to Church. ;D

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  25. Ha, acctually a member of our stake High council gave a talk on that very subject. It was about the appropriate places, subjects and lengths of various prayers and talks. He also threw in a bit about how testimony meetings were just that, and not thankamony meetings. Oddly enough, we haven't had a really long closing (or opening) prayer yet, except during really exceptional meetings that is.

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  26. As wonderful as those extemporaneous prayers can be, don't forget D&C 109. It's a prayer. The dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple that Joseph Smith gave. Think of trying to sit reverently with kids all through 5 pages!
    On the flip side, I've seen classified ads run by other churches looking for people to run the child care room while the ADULTs go to the service. Paid Nursery leaders? So the adults can listen to the sermon? Without their children? I have the same trouble with my kids during long prayers as everyone else, but I prefer my kids to be with me in church. I'll deal with the fidgetiness during prayers and hope the prayers will be eloquently brief. Although paying nursery leaders is an idea….might not be so hard to fill the callings hmm?

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  27. Hahaha! We were visiting a meeting in Italy with one of those 30-minute closing prayers, when a disgruntled elderly brother next to us blurted out in a stern, husky voice, "Un discurso!" (He's giving a sermon!) My hubby and I cracked up!

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  28. Uh Oh April – I think our ward must be sacraligous then 'cause we have ended early more than a handful of times this year. Now granted we have now changed Bishops so who knows. But NOW you know why I panicked – they wouldn't have done extra closing remarks and never did, no matter when the last talk ended – and we actually ended almost 15 minutes early once, before I could even get in to set up.

    So you laugh – but it happens…. 🙂 [Back to the regular topic]

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  29. Late Spring of 2002, we were living in the Midwest, and my husband and I spent our first two overnights away from our then 2-year-old daughter volunteering at the open house for the Nauvoo temple. It was an amazing experience for DH and me, but as much as little H loved the friends she stayed with, it was a tough couple of days for her. We got home Saturday night, and Sunday she was very clingy, but seemed to be doing better until it came time for the closing hymn and prayer. I was conducting the music, and after Sacrament sat with my family in the first pew. When I went up to conduct the closing hymn, she made it clear she was not happy sitting with Daddy while Mom was up there waving her hands around. The bishop's mother said the closing prayer, and went on and on oblivious to the two year old on the front row who was literally screaming at the top of her lungs.

    DH and I were grateful for the noise, however, when we both almost burst out laughing at what happened next: Sister M asked the Lord to bless the prophet "President Spencer W. …. I mean President…. (long pause)… Lord, though knowest his name."

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  30. ha ha this was great. I found your blog from mormom mommy blogs. We cant stand those long prayers! Even before we had baby. She's better behaved than we are!

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  31. Which is why they should only ask mothers to say the closing prayers–they would be about 12 words long and the heartfelt hallilujia (sp) chorus that would rise unabashed from the throats of every other mom in the congregation would make any baptist proud. I mean, really, do the women ever go on that long? Well, okay, every ward has one or two females that would do it just to tick off the rest of us, but generally?

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