It appears there’s just a little bit of seething resentment about ladies who jabber during Relief Society and other meetings. However, it also appears that most women admit to being guilty of doing this at some time or another. It’s hard to point a finger when the rest of your fingers are pointing back at yourself.

In any case, here’s what Meridian readers have to say about babbling adults (who should know better):

Thank you for choosing this topic because it has been one of my pet peeves for years. What has happened to manners? Are there none anymore?

This happens so much in our Relief Society. Sometimes people get so loud (not even whispering) that I can’t hear at all. Our Relief Society never uses a microphone, and many sisters are hard of hearing anyway. I was always taught not to speak when someone else was, let alone a teacher.

It is rude to talk while she is trying to teach. It is being disrespectful. How do we teach grown women about manners?

G.C. From North Carolina

I hope we’ve all been taught our manners, G.C. At least, those of us who are older have been taught them. Younger people live in a more casual age, and I’m not so sure about them. I think the question is remembering what we’ve been taught. I hope some of the letters in this column will come up with helpful ideas for all of us.

Most of my adult life, I’ve been a “church widow.”  I’ve always preferred to sit near the front, even when raising my children.  It’s a lonely place to be now, but otherwise I can’t see and hear anything.  Most of the women my age (empty-nesters) sit together in the back of the chapel, Sunday School class, and the Relief Society room.  They seem oblivious to the effect their chatter, laughter, and inattention has on others.  I already feel isolated in this ward, and can’t imagine myself asking them to be quiet.

Sitting Alone

I know what you mean, Sitting, about not being able to imagine yourself asking people to be quiet. I feel the same way. It’s hard to ask adults to mind their behavior, and I haven’t found a way to do that. Short of blowing a police whistle to get everyone’s attention, I usually hope they’ll get tired of talking on their own and start listening to the lesson. The police whistle is a tempting idea, though.

My name is Faith. I have had personal witness to ladies whispering in church. It is the nature of the beast, I am sure. Women cannot, for the most part, remain silent. We are always bursting at the seams.

I have been guilty to this whispering from time to time, but have prayed to the Savior and worked very diligently to be more reverent, especially during the sacrament hour.

As I have lessened my whispering to the barest of minimum I notice a particular pair of ladies that whisper constantly. They laugh and giggle and I know it carries throughout the chapel. They think they are being silent. Giving them “the look” does nothing to stop them. Even if they are separated, one or the other will find someone else to ‘whisper’ with.

I make it a personal thing to not sit by either sister in Relief Society or Gospel Studies. I sit with my spouse in sacrament meeting, of course.

The bishop has asked us over and over to not be noisy – even before sacrament. When we enter the chapel, we need to stop talking and take our seats and pray silently and be reverent. But, it seems that every ward I have ever attended, it is noisy, and we never seem to get started with the sacrament until ten after the hour. Along with the children being noisy and the whispering, there is little chance for the Holy Spirit to visit. Not doing what the bishop asks us is being disrespectful to him and to God.

Faith Brown

I particularly appreciated what you wrote about women “always bursting at the seams,” Faith. I think it is that enthusiasm rather than any intentional disrespect that underlies the behavior of some of us to talk when talking is inappropriate. Intentional or not, however, it is disrespectful. Thanks for the reminder.

I’ve been on both sides of this dilemma and find that “charity never faileth.”  As the whisperer, it would behoove me to think carefully of those around me and keep it to a minimum of truly needed communication. As an irritated neighbor, it would be well for me to exercise patience and charity, giving the benefit of the doubt to my sisters.

Been There

What beautiful sentiments, Been There! Thanks for writing.

I myself have been guilty of some whispering during church, when not appropriate, thank you for posing this question.

I am reminded of what they ask of us in the temple, to please refrain from talking during the ceremony, but if we have to, to do so in a quiet manner.  I’m wondering if it would be helpful to just write a short note to the sister, or brother we want to “talk” with? 

I actually have had a teacher stop and ask the person who is talking to the person next to them, if he/she would like to share with the class.  This has usually reminded the person that it’s not proper to interrupt the teacher, or if this happens during the taking of the sacrament, take away from the spirit/someone’s worship. 

I think it would be ok, with a kind look on your face, to turn around and put your finger to your lips, thus telling the person not to talk.  If this still doesn’t work, perhaps ask the teacher before the class, or phone the teacher, and give some suggestions, or ask how this can be addressed.

Formerly from Vancouver Island

What a great idea, to pass a note instead of “whispering” if conversation is needed. I’ve been trying to carry a notebook and pen to church lately, just to write down ideas that come during the meetings. Now I have an extra incentive to remember to take it with me.

I too have been bothered in Relief Society when other sisters are talking or whispering because I am a little deaf (although not elderly.)  First, I try to discern if they are talking to a visitor (we have a lot of investigators in our ward regularly), because that is understandable.  But if not, I try to smile along with giving a look that says “please stop.”  It usually works, but I use it sparingly so that others don’t think I’m too sensitive or uncaring.

Allison in Atlanta

A smile always helps the medicine go down easier, Allison.

Thanks for the reminder.

Been there.  And it was a member of the Relief Society presidency, consistently, doing all the whispering throughout opening and closing hymns! 

And so, as a Relief Society teacher I took the opportunity to include this thought in a lesson that allowed it:

“Let’s take a look at Doctrine & Covenants 25:12 which says, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” 

Here, the Lord is sharing with us how He feels about our singing!   Our songs of praise and worship, He tells us, are “like a prayer unto Him.”  Isn’t that marvelous to know?  So, consider how you think and act during prayer.  Think about your actions during the sacrament prayer.  We would never dream of, say, chatting one with another through the sacrament prayer, would we? In fact, even the thought of it is distasteful!  

So let’s remember this when we sing our opening, and our closing, and all other hymns, in our meetings. Our singing of songs is “like a prayer” unto our Savior and our God!”

These thoughts also were shared with my own family at home in FHE.

With that said, let me add that just this week I learned that a woman who was clearly whispering all the way through an Institute class I was attending was translating the instructor’s comments for a Chinese woman sitting in front of her!  So, once again, we must always consider exceptions to any rule.

What’s It All About, Alfie

Henderson, Nevada

Apparently, Alfie, life is different in Nevada than it is in Virginia. Where I live, there are plenty of people who think nothing of talking during the sacrament prayer!

Nevertheless, your thought would make a nice handout for women in any Relief Society. Perhaps Relief Society presidencies in wards where this is a problem will make it so.

I get very annoyed at the whispering women in Relief Society too, and I’m not above issuing a low “shhhhh!” with as pleasant a face as I can muster. It is distracting. And it seems that only a few sisters who often do it can ruin the spiritual preparedness of the best teachers.

One day, though, one of the whisperers sat next to me. And she started her whispering – little asides loosely related to the lesson topic, questions or good-natured joking comments about the material, and so on. She was charming. She was humorous. She was interested in what I whispered back to her. It was fun to whisper with her. I was flattered by the attention and it made the time fly by, and at the end I felt liked, appreciated and understood – I felt popular.

Afterwards, I was so annoyed with myself. How could I have gotten so sucked in? Why didn’t I show better judgment? What, in fact, was wrong with me?

I thought about it for a long time and I concluded that maybe nothing was “wrong” with me. And maybe nothing is wrong with my whispering sister, either. We’re all just very different. I truly believe that this sister isn’t the kind of person who can sit and pay attention for an entire Relief Society lesson. I think it helps her focus on the lesson when she is discussing it actively with another person. She might not even realize it, but the whispering is probably a coping tool she’s invented for herself so she won’t feel bad about letting her mind wander through her shopping list while sitting in Relief Society and completely spacing the lesson.

I know that every whisperer out there isn’t chatting about the lesson, and there are plenty of side conversations going on in Relief Society. But who knows if those conversations might have purposes that could warrant the mild disturbance?  Yes, it would be more appropriate to wait until another time to coordinate meals for a visiting teaching sister or to set a time to care for a busy friend’s children or to ask about a family illness, but we all know how precious little time there is and how the descending hoard approacheth at the end of the hour, clamoring to be taken home or fed or picked up and held.

I try to be more tolerant these days, and to concentrate on my own focus issues in Relief Society instead. When the chatty sister sits with me next time, I’ll try to be quieter, because I know it’s important not just for the teacher, and not just for me, but for the whole class. I really will try, and I really want to do that. But if I can’t, I hope you’ll try to understand, and let me off the hook a little. I’m working on it!

Jackie Mitchell

Gig Harbor, Washington 

Your letter was so fine, Jackie! And you’re right. People who whisper inappropriately aren’t trying to ruin anyone else’s life. They’re just being human. Maybe they could be human a bit more quietly, but a little compassion for both sides of the issue is always in order.

I, for one, am plagued with this problem of babbling women, especially in the temple and sacrament meeting.  We were taught in a “special” Sunday School lesson taught by a counselor in the stake presidency that when we enter into the chapel of our ward buildings, it is as sacred as the temple.  He informed us that the chapels are set apart separately than the rest of the ward building when the building is brand new or remodeled, because a sacred ordinance is performed there, thus making it a sacred place. 

The same problem exists in the temple, as we know.  Can you imagine if our temples sounded like our chapels do before and after sacrament meeting?  I have sat in the temple listening to everything from planning what’s for dinner, what’s going on with the family, gossip about other women, and so on, and so on.  I can’t begin to tell you how this distresses me – and yes, we have a back row of women that also babble through our whole Relief Society meeting! 

What is the solution?  When I was a counselor in the Relief Society presidency years ago, I wanted to have this problem addressed by informing the sisters about this problem in Relief Society, the temple and the chapel.  I wanted to ask them their opinions on how they would solve the problem.  If we involve them in the problem solving, they might get on board and become part of the solution. 

I know there will always be those sisters that are totally clueless as to their behavior and what is going on around them, and what happens if those that need to hear it the most are not there? (That happens a lot!)  We keep mentioning it in a positive way every so often as the president or counselor gets up to finalize the meeting, thanking the sisters for their reverence they showed the teacher while she gave the lesson.

  Let the Spirit guide her as to what to say at that moment.  We, as saints, need to be reminded of manners! 

As to the temple, I have addressed this problem of babbling sisters and sister workers in the temple to the matron and a counselor in the temple presidency, and the problem still exists.  Maybe they are afraid of offending the patrons, who then might not come back.  To me – hogwash!  Maybe I should have some business sized cards made up with a little poem on it I saw in the Oakland Temple once. It talked about coming to the temple to hear the Lord’s voice, and all I hear is yours!  But it was written in a celestial way, not a telestial way like that.

By the way, after suggesting my idea of involving the Relief Society sisters in finding a solution to the problem of talking in Relief Society, the president told me no, because she was afraid of offending the sisters!  OH MY HECK (as you sisters say here in Utah)!

Kathryn Fullmer

Actually, Kathryn, I like the idea of asking the ladies how for suggestions on how to obtain more reverence in meetings. Pity you weren’t able to try it out.

We had a class on manners, and in it one of the main topics was whispering during meetings. 

Basically, the polite thing to do is step out of the room to have a conversation.  If it is a teacher, she should have done her asking for help before the first hymn, and if not, she needs to use notes, not her voice, to ask.  If it someone who may need help, the best thing to do is take them out of the room and have a one-on-one heart-to-heart somewhere more private. 

If it is just two sisters (generally elderly) who like to chat, it may be more difficult for the younger women to feel they can say anything to them.  In that case, the Relief Society president needs to step in and cheerfully and politely remind the sisters (young and old) to sing, or to visit with one another before things begin.  It helps. 

At the end of your rope?  Simply tell them you can’t hear well and whispering makes it harder for you to
understand what is being said.  They will take it one of two ways, but generally, they will be quiet.

Karron Combs

You had great ideas, Karron. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to have a lesson in church manners – not a lecture, where people will feel scolded, but a discussion, where everyone could share their ideas.

Here’s another viewpoint for us to ponder:

It is the teacher’s place to keep the women interested.  I taught in Relief Society for years, and, if I could hold their interest, they would listen and participate.  Many of the sisters had great ideas to contribute. 

Experienced Teacher

You have a point, Experienced. There are some teaching methods, too, that are guaranteed to cause an uproar. Whenever a teacher divides the class into little discussion groups, I can guarantee you that what is being discussed is not the question that was assigned to the group. At least, that’s true in our ward. Dividing the class into discussion groups equals “party time!” where I come from.

Here are my thoughts.  Most of the whispering might be caused by the teacher using her “soft voice” and not projecting to the back of the room, and not using the board.  So, in order to politely know what’s happening, one asks a close neighbor.  The neighbor being so focused trying to hear the soft voice, or perhaps slightly hard of hearing, says, “What?”  And so it goes. 

Perhaps, in addition to toys for the happy toddler, we need a pen and paper?   But then, the noise issue becomes scratching pen against crinkly paper.   Perhaps, the teacher could stop talking and when everything settles down, without comment, continue with the lesson.  A big respect sign near the teacher? Lip glue at the door?   This issue seems so complicated.  Maybe next week we could have a simpler topic to think about!

Active in Richmond

Lip glue at the door? Where can I buy that! I need that for Young Women – not to glue the lips of the Young Women, but to glue the lips of the leaders and teachers like me who are visiting in the back of the room.

Okay, people, that’s it for this time. We’ll continue (conclude?) this discussion next Monday.

Until next week – Kathy

“There is nothing so annoying as to have two people talking when you’re busy interrupting.”

Mark Twain

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