I read an interesting article recently about where we sit in Church. I found it especially interesting because the topic came up briefly one Sunday last month in Relief Society. When the Relief Society meeting was ready to start, absolutely no one was sitting in the first two rows – all the way across the room. I had been sitting in the second row but was sitting all alone; therefore, I moved back to the next row in order to sit by someone. Our president – Donna P. - asked some simple questions about why the first two rows were empty, and a few sisters moved into them. We had a good laugh about the situation.
A sister behind me asked our president why her family always sat in the second row of the center section of the chapel – on the right side facing the front. They have sat there from the time they moved into our ward approximately twenty-five years ago. Sister P. explained that a college professor made the statement that if Jesus Christ were to visit our sacrament meeting, He would be on the stand near the person conducting the meeting, not on the back row. She wants to be close to the front just in case He shows up!
I have spent some time since then thinking about her reasoning, and I like it! My family has always sat in the front half of the chapel as often as possible because I wanted to be where I could hear the messages and my family followed me; I also wanted to be where my children could easily see the people on the stand. We sat on the left side simply because that is the side where we entered the building. Now my husband and I usually sit in the third row of the center section on the left side of the podium and on the second row in Sunday School. My husband has some difficulty hearing and likes to be near the front. His hearing difficulty puts us near the front, but maybe we should switch sides of the chapel in order to be closer to the presiding authorities!
The article was entitled “Wright Words: Why do we sit on the back pew when there are plenty of open seats at the front?” http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865604156/Is-it-time-to-get-off-the-back-pew.html and was published in the Deseret News. It included some excellent questions we should ask ourselves.
“There may, of course, be perfectly good reasons to sit near the back: a fidgety baby, a legitimate need to slip out early before the meeting ends, wheelchair access, the highly contagious Ebola virus, etc. I wonder about my own motives. Had the desire to sit near the back become an outward reflection of an inward commitment? Did it demonstrate an unwillingness to be called on? A disinterest in the topic or speaker? Apathy about attending in the first place?”
Mr. Wright continued with his questions, “If my habit of sitting near the back sent a message, what does the practice of sitting up front suggest? An excitement to learn? A willingness to be called on? A public demonstration of faith that the speaker and the presentation will have value to my life?
The author concluded with even more questions: “If you’ve also been a physical or spiritual back-row regular, moving from the last pew to the front can be a daunting jump. So what’s the best way to take a few steps to move up a row or two at a time? Could it be those `small and simple’ things, as Alma taught (see Alma 37:6)? Being on time, even early? Always having scriptures in hand? Engaging in the lessons or talks from start to finish?”
I believe that most of us are creatures of habit; I know I am. When we form good habits, we do not have to waste time making the same decisions over and over. If we form the habit of sitting near the front of the chapel, then we need make that decision only once and can free our minds for other important tasks. Of course, there is not enough room for everyone to sit near the front. If this choice becomes more popular, we may all need to be in our seats before the meeting starts!