Mormon church is three hours. You read that right — THREE hours.
I know you won’t believe me, but it actually goes by pretty fast! Unless you’re hungry. Then it’s as slow as molasses.
But church is actually fun for the most part. Lessons are interactive, musical numbers are often really beautiful, and there’s an awful lot of socializing. One thing Mormons do exceptionally well is make people feel welcome.
And most Sundays, church is spiritually uplifting — unless some commenter in Sunday School decides to relate the gospel to current political issues… and then you’re like, “Whaaaaaat?” But if you go with the right attitude, you’ll get something out of church every time; you’ll feel God’s love, you’ll learn a new principle, you’ll make a resolve to improve something in your life.
But in the midst of the spiritual enlightenment and socializing, there’s this period of time in the lifespan of a Mormon parent when church is what I call The Void.
The Void takes place when a baby learns to walk, and lasts until that baby turns exactly 18 months old.
In a Mormon church, babies hang out with their parents (or in the arms of baby-obsessed friends) for the full three hours. At the age of 18 months, they get to attend Nursery, which is a magical place — if you aren’t in charge of it, that is.
In Nursery, 18-month-old to 3-year-old children play with toys, sing wiggle songs, pop bubbles, and hear an incredibly short and interactive lesson fit for their goldfish-brain attention spans. And they stay there for the last two hours of church! See? Magic!
But when a baby starts walking, and before he’s old enough to attend Nursery, it’s almost guaranteed that baby will spend church running away from his loving parents for 180 straight minutes. If the parents are hoping to get spiritual enlightenment, socializing, or even a little bit of rest during church, they’re delusional. Welcome to The Void.
You might think it makes more sense to just stop attending church during The Void, but… well, actually I have no argument — it really does make a lot of sense. But I just know that we, and most parents, muscle through that time, occasionally catching snippets of spiritual enlightenment or friendly smiles and conversation during the moments when our walking toddler sits down to eat a snack or becomes obsessed with climbing on and off the same spot on a bench somewhere. We tell ourselves those short moments are worth the long months of The Void, and ultimately — they are.
Because if we stopped going to church during that time, we may not have the resolve to get dressed and head to church on a Sunday morning once our babies turn 18 months old.
And the moment we get to hand our cute babes off to the saints in Nursery and get back to spiritual enlightenment and socializing is made all that much sweeter since we now know what it’s like to miss out.
And our kids? They have the time of their life while learning little nuggets about Jesus. Little Rex came out of his first day of Nursery yesterday smiling, grinning, and full of hugs.
He’s still in a phase of answering “No” to every question, but his “nos” are distinguished by context. If he smiles while he says “no,” he’s really saying “yes.” I worried how that would go over with teachers in Nursery who don’t know Rex language, but judging by his good mood, everyone figured each other out.
In the car after church, I asked him, “Did you play with toys?”
“NO!” Big smiles.
“Did you play with bubbles?”
“NO!” Huge grin.
“Did you learn about Jesus?”
“NO!” Hands in the air with a wide smile on his face.
In conclusion, Nursery was a success for us all.