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Kirby: An iPhone to an adult is like a Crayon to a child in church

Published August 24, 2013 11:21 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I forgot to turn off my cellphone in sacrament meeting last week. Unfortunately, the "new message" alert is Homer Simpson yelling "Whoo Hoo!"

So right in the middle of a High Council talk on the importance of eternal marriage, I (and everyone else) heard what sounded like an enthusiastic confirmation of the Holy Spirit — if it were an inebriated cartoon character.

It's not the first time my phone has gone off in church. The last time it fired up was during the reverent setting of a fast and testimony meeting.

Because the phone was in my bag that time, it took almost a full frantic minute for me to find it and kill the ring tone. Meanwhile, the soundtrack for some woman's testimony was ZZ Top's "Tush."

I couldn't just leave my cellphone home when I go to church. It's an important gospel tool. Not only do I have various books of Scripture downloaded onto it, but also games, videos, music, etc.

You might argue that those last three are technically not gospel tools. I disagree. They provide much-needed reverence distractions at opportune moments.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks like this. Look around just about any church service (in any church) and you'll see people with their heads reverently bowed over an iPod, smartphone, Kindle or tablet.

This distraction for the sake of reverence is an important part of LDS life. Many of our church meetings involve sitting together as families for long periods.

If you don't find some way of distracting kids from something they don't understand and is shaping up to last forever, they'll start acting out. When that happens, reverence (and sometimes the actual kid) goes out the window.

Parents bring Crayons, books, light snacks and anything else that will keep their kids quietly occupied until the meeting is over and they can be dumped off in a nursery or Primary.

Growing up, I believed this distraction was a kid problem. It never occurred to me that adults were bored by what was going on. I thought they were reverent when in fact they had merely learned how to self-hypnotize.

My first clue came when the old man told me a trick he used to quietly entertain himself during long church meetings. The occasion was my being dragged out of a meeting for trying to force chewing gum into the ear of a smaller sibling during the sacrament.

The old man's solution was to flip through a hymnal and attach "underneath the bed covers" to the end of every song title.

For example: "I Need Thee Every Hour — Underneath the Bed Covers" or "Now Let Us Rejoice — Underneath the Bedcovers."

It sounded lame at the time but it worked. Soon my friends and I were substituting our own end phrases to hymns, all of which we found hilarious and none of which bears repeating here.

Funnier still was the time Duncan was asked by our Sunday school teacher which of all the hymns was his favorite, and without thinking he said, "Praise to the Man With a Purple Butt."

I try to be a bit more circumspect in coping with interminable church meetings now. As long as I remember to turn the sound off, playing "Shark Attack" on my phone keeps my favorite form of worship from intruding onto that of others.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.