Lingering at Church


One of my earliest memories of Church is of tugging on dad’s coat or mom’s dress while they talked interminably with ward members after the meeting. “Come on, haven’t we been here long enough already?” the tugs silently said. “Why must we always be the last to leave?”

And then I’d run out to the parking lot until I tired and returned to tug again.

Though I didn’t realize it then, a lot of Church work got done by lingering—including the necessary informal visiting that knits a ward into a family. There was Sister Laurence, a single, professional woman whose major Church contact on Sunday was the twelve-year-olds whom she taught in Sunday School; she needed some adult members to inquire into her life, hear her concerns. And the Castillos, a Chicano family with big smiles and lots of kids but few close friends among the Anglo majority; mom at least had to try out a Spanish greeting and press their hands in hers to let them know they were loved and welcome and would be missed if they stayed away. And of course there were the many regulars, the ward workhorses who pulled their load and more; my folks had to get the latest on their activities—there was catching up to do, children’s and grandchildren’s achievements to hear about. Or perhaps there was a lonely face in the congregation, either among the fully involved or the fringe Saints; these must be sought out.

Of course, as a boy I couldn’t know the needs of these people; I only knew that the meetings had been long and hot and I was now tired and hungry. So I tugged at my parents’ arms. But they were wise enough to remember others who tugged at their hearts.

I confess that since those days, I have sometimes been a heart-tugger too. I know how important it can be to have another listen to my life’s trivia and in the small talk feel that they have heard my soul’s song as well.

I understand the Nephites’ feelings when, in tears, they gazed upon the Lord after his meeting with them “and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.” (3 Ne. 17:5.) And he lingered. Can you imagine that! He had just told them that he was going, he had official duties, he had to show himself to the lost tribes. And yet the Father’s Executive tarried, even with the children. What followed was one of the greatest spiritual outpourings in recorded scripture. (See 3 Ne. 17.)

Jesus also tarried briefly with two men travelling to Emmaus. Like you, I have often repeated their plea that his Spirit abide with me at the close of an evening service. (See Luke 24:29; see also Hymns, nos. 2, 51.) Happily, sometimes he has consented.

We need not always linger; but we need to be sensitive enough to know when to honor hand tugs and when to heed tugs at our hearts.

John Sears Tanner, professor of English at Florida State University, is a high councilor and Young Men president in the Tallahassee Florida Stake.