Some time ago one of the Relief Society teachers arrived for a board meeting at my house at exactly seven o’clock.
I opened the door. “You’re right on time,” I said.
“Oh I know,” she deadpanned. “I wasn’t raised in the church.”
Has “Mormon Standard Time” become a fact, rather than an exception? Are we really known for being that inconsiderate of other people’s time? I know lots of punctual members, and strain to have patience with those who aren’t. But how do we come across to those outside our faith? Do they really think it’s okay to be disorganized and unreliable?
Perpetually late arrivers usually don’t see their bad habit as falling into the “poor manners” category, but that’s exactly where it is. Running through life with no apparent definition of “rude” puts you squarely in it much of the time.
I recently served refreshments after an early stake fireside for families. And, while I was pouring water and handing it to the youngsters who were first to swarm the area like a pack of piranhas, only one little girl out of the dozens there thanked me. Others were piling their plates high with as many cookies and brownies as they could stack into a tower, grabbing their drinks from me, and no parents were in sight to correct this behavior. My worst fear was that a non-member would witness this uncivilized stampede and conclude that LDS parents are negligent, uncouth, lazy, or all three.
At the Sacramento Temple Open House, it wasn’t the nonmember kids who were out of control, jumping on the furniture and pulling buttons off the upholstery; it was our own. And their parents ignored it.
Ask any elderly person if they’ve noticed a decline in etiquette over the years and they’ll tell you about the appalling disappearance of “please” and “thank you” in today’s young people. Children with no phone manners who are allowed to answer the phone, and then scream into the receiver for their parents. Kids who sass their parents openly. Teens who reach way across the table to grab the butter. The list goes on and on. Each generation seems sloppier than the last.
But as Latter-day Saints, we should be head and shoulders above that behavior, not blending into the worldly carelessness around us. Our children should be the models of refinement, setting the bar for manners and consideration in all their classrooms. At Parent-Teacher conferences, their teachers should rave about what a good upbringing they demonstrate.
At ward events, and certainly at church, children shouldn’t run wild through the hallways, crashing into elderly widows and then taking off again without so much as an apology. They shouldn’t interrupt, they shouldn’t demand, and they shouldn’t grab.
If we want these youngsters to serve successful missions one day, and indeed be community leaders and good examples, we cannot allow them to chew with their mouths full, cough into people’s faces, yell across a room instead of going to the person they’re addressing, or grab handfuls of refreshments. How will an investigator react if they serve dinner to a pair of missionaries who act as if they’re at a feeding trough?
My hope is that “Mormon Manners” will become a term understood worldwide, by members and others alike. We should be known for the great respect we give others, which is what having manners is really all about. Ours should be the standard of good behavior, the definition of conduct expected in restaurants, businesses, the military--- everywhere.
Herewith is a list of just 20 ways to ensure that your children will gather sheep, not lose them: