We’ve been babbling on about babbling babies for a few weeks now, so today’s letters mark the end of the discussion. But to start off today’s question of babbling babies, one of our readers has this to say:

Why not? Isn’t that what adults (pretty much) do?

Bradley R. Jardine, Esq.

Being a babbler myself, Bradley, I can’t say that I disagree with you on that one. Let’s see what the other readers have to say:

I personally don’t feel a babbling baby is a distraction in my case (but, I’m not hard of hearing and do enjoy sitting in the back row of the chapel).  Babies who babble are usually happy babies just finding something to do.  

I do have a problem with babies or toddlers who cry or scream while prayers are being said and talks are given.  Meanwhile the parents look for toys, bottle or treats to give them as they continue to scream. Or worse, they do absolutely nothing. In the meantime, no one can hear or concentrate on the prayer or talk.

I remember President Kimball giving this advice when my children were babies and toddlers: Crying children are like good intentions; they should be carried out” and that was 40+ years ago.  So, when my children started to cry or make noise, I quickly got up and left so others around me could listen.  Today, I would like to see that happen as well.  It’s not only a courtesy for those around these children, but to the speakers trying to give a talk while everyone is looking at the noisy child instead of paying attention to the talk.  When my grandchildren start to fuss or cry, my children take them out immediately, and they return when the child has calmed down.

Considerate Granny

I agree with President Kimball, Grannynot just about crying babies, but about good intentions as well. We need more of each!

Active, noisy children could be taken to another area where there is a sound system, since the parents, the child or the people seated nearby are getting nothing of what is being taught.  If the child is crying, perhaps that could be stopped and the parent return, but if it just playful it is not going to stop. 

Over time the child can be trained to be quiet.  One friend practices at home to teach her children.  In Relief Society there are children walking around or crawling around on the floor and this is no distraction if they are quiet.  Be polite, and remove your child from the teaching area.  The teacher or speaker has worked hard to prepare. Give them a break.


That’s true, observant. It’s hard enough to prepare a lesson without then having to vie with a baby for the attention of the people in the room. This is an area where the Golden Rule comes into play.

The next two letters concern a practice that has had me wondering.

Babbling babies? Tough one!  Why? Because babies turn into those children who fold their arms, plant a knowing smile on their faces, and walk in and out and in and out and in and out.  Nobody has that much liquid in them.  And it is annoying.  Sacrament meeting is only one hour and ten minutes long.  With preparation, children can be fed and watered and pottied before the meeting begins. 

Playing with them is fine except when it begins to cause the chuckling by the child, the parent (who is so pleased that the little ones are cute enough to draw attention from others) and the well-meaning entertainer.  I had five children and don’t remember all that took place, but as an older member of the ward now, I appreciate being able to concentrate on my eternal salvation.  I truly believe that when we enter the chapel with children, they need to understand that their feet have hit the ground for the last time until the “amen” is uttered.  If they need to be taken out, the parent should do it and make sure they are not allowed to run, toddle or roll around in the hall.

Sorry that I couldn’t answer about babies babbling, because babies just become larger and move on to texting, playing games, crawling under the benches and up to the front where the grinning parent must then walk to retrieve the child in question, thus, causing everyone to watch the incident instead of paying attention to someone who has worked hard to prepare a talk.  Remember babies only qualify for this position from between three months and a year.  After that they are small children needing disciplinegentle, but consistent.  My final comment: if a parent with several children and not enough arms needs help, slip into their bench and hold someone, but don’t encourage extra noise.

Pottied Out

You’ve brought up a major question I’ve had, Pottied. I don’t even wonder about it with young children, but I’m not sure why teenagers need to get up a couple of times during sacrament meeting or even in the middle of a Young Women lesson and get a drink of water or go to the bathroom. This is one of the mysteries of the ages as far as I’m concerned, and it’s not just the two of us who wonder about it. The next writer has the same concern:

I always sit at the farthest back in church. I’m 60 and can hear ok, but my husband is almost 65 and has always had trouble hearing because of working on equipment in the Air Force (B-52 bombers during Vietnam). Well, we joined the Church while in the military back in 1977. When we joined it was in Biloxi, Mississippi, and the bishop there placed a great deal of emphasis on reverence.

I know that it’s hard to teach reverence to babies, but reverence is more than just younger children acting right in church and/or the noise in church being kept down. I remembered the bishop in one of our wards in those early days stood and gave a talk on reverence and made it about smaller children and babies and that really reverence is taught by parents first and by the teachers in their classrooms. We were told that when our babies would make noise (whether they were newborn to whatever age), we needed to leave the room in which that noise was being created.

We were also told not to stay outside that room for too long and that we would have to be patient and diligent in doing this and that one day our kids would get the point.

We were also told not to go out of sacrament meeting and allow our children to play in the foyer and then start talking to others out there, missing the entire meeting.

So reverence not only refers to kids, but to parents keeping themselves reverent. It was suggested that when bringing our kids out into the foyer or in the hall to hold our children until they got quiet or take them to the bathroom and take care of their needs. Then bring them back in.

Many parents send their children to the bathroom by themselves when they are young, but that isn’t good. Older children are ok in going to the bathroom by themselves, but younger children need to be accompanied by a parent so they are taught to go and then come right back. Also parents need to pay attention to how many times children want to go, which shouldn’t be allowed unless the child has a problem.

While in church we shouldn’t play with children while the meeting was going on. Children are smarter than we think, and they do pay attention to what adults are doing. If we play with them and smile too often or constantly, then they learn that this is play time and they do want attention. It’s ok to smile once, but if we keep it up like anything we learn by repetition the child will get used to it being a baby or older and not be reverent because the adult around the child isn’t reverent.

Also, older children shouldn’t be allowed to play with the younger ones to entertain them. Instead they need to set an example to the younger children of being quiet and paying attention. So, babies who don’t understand and make noise should be taken out for a short time and held and then brought back in. It might have to be done over and over till the baby gets the point (and they do eventually).

It helps to teach reverence at home by practicing being quiet at certain times. I saw on TV that babies can understand our speech more than we realize, so maybe even talking about it might help the baby to understand what quiet means. I use to do this sshh sound or whisper the word quiet in my babies’ ears, and they would quiet down. Hope this helps.

Vickie Cloud,

San Angelo, Texas

You’re right, Vickie, that reverence doesn’t just apply to children. Children are watching us, so we adults have the responsibility of setting the example. I admit this is hard for me to do!

I am a mid-40’s mother of 10.  My baby is far older than the babbling stage, but I have lived through many years in that stage.  For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the questions raised in your column.

I was very adamant that my children not cause a disturbance in sacrament meeting.  I worked with them constantly to ensure that they knew from an extremely young age that they sat quietly on my lap during that 70-minute meeting.  When they did need other attention, I would take them out to change diapers or nurse or  whatever was needed, but we did not play in the hallways or anything else entertaining when we left the chapel.  They learned very early that it was more fun to stay in the chapel than to leave it.  So they were and still are, for the most part, reverent during sacrament meeting. 

However, 70 minutes is extremely long to expect reverence from someone so young.  I figured that by the time we got to Sunday School, such strict demands were no longer feasible.  I would put my baby on the floor with quiet toys.  Sometimes they wandered and would play with those close to them.  I tried very hard not to sit on the front row, where they felt the enticement of the Relief Society tablecloth or the piano keys, but to sit in the middle rows where they could be trapped between me and another person several seats down the row from me. 

Occasionally when they got too loud, I would take them out to the halls, and at this time I would let them down to crawl or toddle up and down the halls.  But those six months, from one year to 18 months old, was an extremely difficult time for me as a young mother.  I would feel like I was getting no spiritual uplift whatsoever from church.  I only continued to come to teach my children the importance of coming, because I found myself wandering the halls more often than listening to a lesson. 

As a stay-at-home mom there is always a tendency to feel isolated, only having adult conversation for 
a very short while every day, and I would need the interaction that Sundays would offer.  Feeling unwelcome with my small babbler would have been devastating for me at that point in my life.

I watched this past Sunday in my own ward as a 50’s something, empty-nester reached over and took a young fussy baby from the harassed mother sitting beside her.  The mother made a small protest that the baby would only fuss more and she would just take her out.  The empty-nester told her she would walk the halls with the baby, and come get the mother if she got fussier.  The very grateful mother then sat through Relief Society, noiselessly crying while touched by the Spirit of the lesson.  The empty-nester got the baby to sleep, then remained in the halls so the mother could get some much-needed spiritual nourishment.  What a Christ-like manifestation of bearing one another’s burdens!

I’m wondering where in the classroom HOH sits.  It seems to me that the hard-of-hearing ladies in our ward tend to sit on the back row.   It would make more sense to me for them to sit on the front row where they have a better chance of hearing the lesson and not the children, and for mothers of small children to be allowed the back row for their use. 

I also notice that I am more distracted during the lesson by the HOH older sisters “whispering” to each other than by the babbling babies.  Perhaps that is simply a product of the fact that I have lived through one life stage and not the other.  Perhaps in a church that encourages and values both young families and mature congregants, we all, myself included, need to be a bit more sensitive to others’ circumstances.

Charlotte Hyde
Vernal, Utah

Charlotte, I particularly appreciated what you wrote about all of us trying to be more sensitive to others’ circumstances. Most of us are trying hard to do our best. If we give one another the benefit of the doubt, all of us will be happier in the long run.

I don’t think that the Lord feels any less for his youngest spirits.  To constantly parade in and out because a baby cannot be silent for well over an hour is not only disruptive, but also quickly teaches the child that the best entertainment is to make enough noise to win a scenic tour of the hallway.


One of the praises I’ve heard over and over about the Church is that we do not banish our children to “children’s church” or “cry rooms,” and that our services are so family-oriented.  I sympathize with HOH’s dilemma, but to disrupt the masses to suit the one generally isn’t appropriate.  I feel that HOH should address her individual need with her leaders instead of asking the whole ward to change their behavior.  Sitting at the very front and wearing an assistive listening device are two possibilities.

As for when a child should be taken out, I’ve never known of a parent who didn’t know exactly when that breaking point was.  Babies and toddlers who are wailing loudly without stop need to go, as do children who are running or playing wildly.  It isn’t the same for everyone though; my two-year-old can be stopped mid-screech with a stern reminder of what awaits him once he is taken to the hall, and an exit is very rarely required.

Please remember what it was like to be a young parent. Some Sundays it can really seem more difficult than it’s worth!  My mother-in-law attends church with us faithfully every week, even though she understands nothing due to a language barrier.  She says that she partakes of the Spirit even though she cannot understand the words, and it is enough.


Thanks for your thoughts, Mary – especially for the reminder for us to put ourselves in others’ shoes. We need to empathize with the parents of small children, but we also need to empathize with those who may be hard of hearing or have other needs. In a ward community, we should all be looking out for one another.

Have you ever noticed if the speaker is really good, I mean really good, at painting pictures with words and involving everyone’s imaginations, you could have a three-year-old pulling on your leg for crayons and an eight-year-old fighting with her ten-year-old sister right next to you, and you will ignore them to hear what the speaker says next?

And then when the speaker bears a powerful testimony, the room and kids go quiet?

Too bad we can’t always have that quality of speakers. Then this issue would less likely come up.

Jamie Shipley

Spring Hill, Tennessee

Speakers who are that good are few and far between, Jamie. Most of us are still learning how to speak in public. Even once we’ve mastered the art of public speaking, some of those assigned topics would put anyone to sleep!

Please, mommas and daddies, take ’em out!

There is the cry room, and there is the foyer.  Let them learn when they are young that they need to be quiet in the chapel.  I spent years wondering if I would ever get to enjoy a quiet sacrament meeting again once I had kids, but when you have them you need to teach them to be quiet and you need to provide a bit of an out for them when they just can’t be quiet.

It is respect for God’s house and respect for the others there.

Now if you can entertain a little one with fun faces and the child keeps quiet, bless you for giving the momma a break.

I always bring along a little child’s book about Jesus and offer it when a parent is having a hard time.  Sometimes all it takes is something “new” to quiet the child down.  The parents always look so grateful.  I have tucked away bookmarks with Jesus on them and things like that to just give kids also.


Rupert, Idaho

What a neat idea, Debrah, to keep things on hand to give to other people’s kids. You’re right in that children are fascinated by new things. If you have those things to give to them, they and you may get a lot more out of sacrament meeting.

I am a senior citizen with hearing aids. Noises behind me are magnified.

What are we teaching the children? Is it okay to eat and talk in sacrament? Is it okay to run up and down the aisle? I once read a book where the author wrote about how she taught her children from a very early age how to keep quiet by sitting in a chair and holding the child, reading from the scriptures and singing from a hymnbook. She was teaching them while in their own home so they knew how to behave at church.

I also believe that there is a time and place for making faces and trying to make children smile, and church time is not one of them. Let’s be adults and set an example for others. I also wonder how the speaker feels when they spend so much time and effort to give meaningful talks and see very few people actually listening to them.


Senior, your letter reminded me of a bishop’s family we had once when we were in a singles’ ward. The bishop had six or seven little kids, and his wife sat with them on the pew. Even though they were all quite young, none of them ever made a peep. I always wondered how the mother managed that!

Babies and toddlers make noise.  It’s part of their beings (more so for some than others).  But it’s part of our job as parents to teach and train them.  A little bit of baby noise, if not very loud, I find acceptable.  If you’re in a ward with many children I know it can add up, but for the most part I think a little bit of happy baby noise is just part of life.  However, there are things that parents can do to redirect their babies into a quieter focus, with a little soft lovey toy, or quiet book, or something else that calms babies rather than excites them. 

When the noise causes heads to turn or people to flinch, it’s definitely time to take that baby/child out.

  I have six children, so I know it’s not easy to spend a good portion of your sacrament meetings sitting in the foyer or mother’s room.  But a little training now goes a long way toward years of reverent meetings with those children. 

Letting them run/crawl around and play in the foyer is not the answer.  All you’re teaching your child is that being loud in church gets them play time in the hall (but while that’s one of my pet peeves, maybe that’s a topic for another day).

I believe that the Lord blesses us and our family for our commitment to be at church and teach our children reverence, even if it feels like we’re seeing more of the hallway than the inside of the chapel.  It’s really a short time in our lives and I believe that in addition to teaching/training our children, there’s certainly something to be said for being mindful of others who are trying to hear, pay attention and feel the spirit.

Diannalynn Claridge

Diannalynn, I really liked what you wrote about this being a short time in the lives of parents (even though they may not believe that when they’re in the midst of childraising). Teaching children to be civilized requires a huge sacrifice on the part of the parents, on many different fronts. I’m grateful to all of you parents who are so valiantly doing the best you can do to raise the next generation.

I believe sacrament meeting is meant for deep reflection on our own lives and loving reverence for our Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. When our children were little, we practiced reverent behavior in Family Home Evenings.  They understood the gentle but firm look in my eyes, the slight turn of my head to the side, and also the finger over my lips or theirs.  These were gentle reminders of the present time of love and adoration of our Savior.

As they got older, they knew not to talk while the sacramental bread and water were being blessed and passed, and to whisper when needed throughout out the rest of the meeting.  They were also taught that it is rude to talk when someone else is speaking, in a meeting or a classroom. In our ward, we hear children talking in an outside voice during this sacred time.  Even very young children can be taught reverence due to the Jesus they once resided with, and not very long ago at that.

Only in Texas

You’re right, Texas. It really helps to teach them at home. If children learn at home how to behave in sacrament meeting, and why they are expected to do so, it will go a long way on Sundays.

I think parents should take babies out when the noise that they make stops others from enjoying the lesson, or feeling inspiration in sacrament meeting.

We love babies in our ward, but the bishop has instructed parents to take noisy children outside of sacrament meeting because we have had a spate of investigators saying they would never return because of the noise. The talks are piped outside to both the foyer and the nursing room so that parents need not miss out. The sacrament is taken out to the foyer.

In classes, parents should keep the little ones at the rear of the classroom so that the children have a bit more floor space to play in, and they can make a quick getaway if a baby gets fractious.

Being a parent of a new child can be very isolating and sometimes parents may wonder why they even bother going to church, but this phase doesn’t last forever. In our ward relatives or childless women often offer to help care for little ones so that mum can do her calling or have a rest and join in a lesson and relax.

You wouldn’t stay in a cinema or a theatre if a baby was gurgling loudly, so why do parents think that it is OK to let their children disrupt church meetings? 

But neither do I think it is nice for members to give icy stares, or to make catty remarks, we’ve mostly all gone through the new parent stage ourselves. If someone annoys you by not taking their kids out, offer to help.

Vim, UK

Vim, maybe I should start going to the cinema in the UK. Here in the USA, it’s almost impossible to hear in a movie theater because so much talking is going on (from adults as well as from the gurgling babies).

By the way, I really liked what you wrote about trying to help out rather than giving dirty looks. That’s so much nicer, don’t you think?

I read this article and knew that I had to respond.  I’m a mom of six, ranging in age from 14 to 2, so I’ve been around the block a few times with babies and young toddlers in church.  Both of the questions you pose are great, but don’t necessarily have easy cut and dried answers.  Still, here are my thoughts:

First, when to remove babies?  This is a tough call to make.  The best-case scenario is a happy baby that plays quietly and doesn’t distract anyone other than mom or dad as they keep a watchful eye.  I’m still waiting for that miraculous day.  Maybe by the time my 2-year-old reaches his teen years. 

I tend to have the “happy screamers,” so we spend a lot of time in the hallways.  I judge when to take them out by the death glares of those around me.  About the second or third glare and I know we’d better move to the hall. 

I tend to allow a bit more noise during a Relief Society or Sunday School class than during sacrament meeting.  Typically during sacrament meeting I will let one squeal go since it may be a singular instance and/or we can redirect without any more outbursts.  However, if the happy squeals continue, then one of us will carry our child to the back of the chapel to calm him or take him into the hall, if he continues to be noisy. 

Overall, I try to put myself into others’ shoes and think about how much I could pay attention to the talk/lesson with my child’s noise.  I have been told that I’ve taken my children out when others didn’t think they were a problem, so maybe I look for too much quiet?  We’ve tried to help our older children realize that sacrament meeting is not the time and place to play with their siblings.

  They are responsible for their own reverence and should let us try to work with the younger children.

Second, the well-meaning neighbors.  This question is a yes and no kind of answer, and a lot depends on the age of the child and his personality.  For a very young baby/child that is easily distracted and doesn’t squeal with glee at every interaction, I don’t mind a well-intentioned distraction.  However, I do get annoyed when my older children spend more time playing with the person in front or behind them than they do sitting reverently in our pew.  I feel like I have to spend my time constantly redirecting my child and silently wishing I could redirect the neighbor, neither of which keeps me in a very reverent state of mind. 

If I had to give a standard, I would say up to about age two it is okay to interact with children, but older than that and I would appreciate if you saved your interactions for before or after the meeting.  That is, unless you can see that I am without my husband for whatever reason that day and I have three kids climbing all over me, I’m constantly breaking up arguments between two kids and shushing another, one is gleefully running up the aisle and I am about to cry.  Then, shoo me out to find a deserted classroom for a good cry.  I’ll probably thank you later when you find me with my smiling children in tow!

Amy Bateman

Thanks for your instruction about both issues, Amy. As a parent of six, you are an authority on the subject!

Our last letter brings up an issue that most of us haven’t thought about, but that needs to be addressed. It concerns the way crying babies affect not just the ward members, but visitors to the ward and potential converts to the Church:

I’ve had several important experiences with loud children and movement in the chapel breaking the reverence in sacrament meeting. I’ve brought a number of friends to church in the past, and none of them returned because the noise was so disruptive they couldn’t concentrate. They ceased further investigation and I was embarrassed beyond words. I’ve given talks in meetings where the noise level was so rude I couldn’t be heard over it. I felt like walking off the stand.

After I joined the Church as a 30-year-old two decades ago, my mom and dad desired to understand the new church I had chosen and came to sacrament with me one Sunday. There were a lot of very difficult changes in our lives. I had gone through a divorce and was in school and working full-time. I was also an only child, with no nearby extended family, and both my parents were dying from cancer. It was critical we spent our time together.

Mom had mild hearing problems, and Dad was partially deaf all his life. We’d come from a background where quiet reverence was practiced in our former church. Sitting up front wouldn’t have helped, as the speaker’s voice and fussy babies amplified equally in Dad’s hearing aids. Afterward, Mom asked me, “What did the speaker say? I didn’t hear a thing!” My heart was breaking because I knew this was their only chance to be with me in church, as Mom was getting weaker. It was so frustrating that I went home and cried at the obliviousness of others. A short time later, both my parents died, and this is the memory I have of us sharing our only sacrament meeting together.

A few years later, I was visiting in Salt Lake City and went to the same ward of Presidents Faust and Hinckley, who were in attendance.  There were young families there, but the fathers immediately took the children entirely out of the room when their noise went above a loud whisper.  Shouldn’t the prophet’s ward set the standard for the rest of us? Why should the solution for this topic be so complicated?

To those who initially may take offense at my comments, please remember your lack of teaching children reverence could be affecting someone’s first or last impression of this church. It might be the only time they “feel” something that they’ve never experienced before in the outside world. They may have various “hearing problems” elsewhere, but their ears could be opened in sacrament meeting, if it is quiet enough for them to hear. Please don’t selfishly assume your child’s right or need to cry and play is greater than someone else’s right or need to listen.

Cindy in Oklahoma

Thanks so much for your letter, Cindy. I’ve seen the same situation in our own ward, where at least one new convert stopped going to our ward and went back to her old church. She said she still had a testimony of the truth of the restored gospel, but she couldn’t hear anything in our meetings so she decided to return to the church where she could at least hear what the priest had to say. That’s something to think about. Sometimes it isn’t all about us.

Okay, readers, that’s it for this topic. Join us next time for a new topic. It should be an interesting discussion.

Until next week – Kathy

 “It is the nature of babies to be in bliss.”

Deepak Chopra


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