Every faith and every person has an idea of what it means to be reverent. Mormons are expected to sit quietly, with our attention focused on the speaker or the music.
When I was a kid, the Old Man had a much broader interpretation of what it meant to be reverent, at least for me. Anything was permissible so long as it didn’t distract or injure nearby congregants, or cause physical damage to the chapel.
Paying attention didn’t matter. I was expected to be quiet, even if it meant reading a nonchurch book. During a particularly rough patch in 1964, I read the entire Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan series — just in sacrament meetings.
I was halfway through the John Carter of Mars series when I was ordained a deacon and started having to pass the sacrament.
It’s much easier to stay reverent (by that, I mean silent) in church today. Unless yours is a semi-hysterical faith involving violent contortions, snakes or actual bloodletting, odds are that you can be tempted to peer into the mesmerizing eye of the Great Deceiver: your cellphone.
The entire world is at your fingertips. If a church meeting is dragging long and tedious — as they so often do, God help us — it’s possible to surreptitiously evoke the spirit of sports scores, solitaire, gambling, porn and email into the meeting.
You can even work during church, although I fail to see the point of exchanging one form of tedium for another.
Texting is my favorite. If someone at the lectern is waxing long and criminally boring, I break out my Android and text Trapper, sitting a mere 15 feet away. We help speakers bring their talks and testimonies to an end.
Speaker • “And then, brothers and sisters, the spirit of the Holy Ghost…”
Me • “Forced a cow out of a passing military aircraft, causing it to smash through the roof of the chapel and kill me. Amen.”
Trapper • “Or caused me to be struck deaf and dumb.”
Me • “The cow is better. Even the stake patriarch wouldn’t see that coming.”
Trapper’s Wife • “You two, stop it.”
I suppose it’s possible that some people use their cellphones to search the scriptures or even keep up with the lesson. I’ve heard of this happening, but never actually seen it. I’ve certainly never done it myself.
Still, a cellphone can be an important reverence tool (as long as you keep the sound down). I have three ring tones on my cellphone, none of which is appreciated if it goes off in church.
All of them involve Homer Simpson yelling either, “Ah, crap,” “The hell with this,” or “Oh, save me, Jebus.”
Properly managed, cellphones are the adult version of those cloth quiet books the Relief Society used to make on craft nights.
You remember them — the floppy books with buttons, shoelaces, pocket activities and anything else that would keep a child quietly preoccupied, while at the same time not being sturdy enough to injure someone.
Cellphones also provide the perfect tool for use in that position men adopt in church, the one I refer to as the “priesthood crouch.”
Bent forward at the waist, elbows on knees, fingers interlocked, head down. It has the look of reverence, only now it’s the perfect cover for machine-gunning aliens on a cellphone during fast and testimony meeting.
Like everything else in religion, cellphones are to be used conscientiously and within the spirit of worship.
Right now, I’m using mine to finish the John Carter on Mars series. Say what you will about it, this much is sure: It’s better than what I used to conjure to appear reverent — impure thoughts.