Recently, my family attended church in a relative’s ward in another state. Two families doubling up in the same townhouse can make for cramped quarters when getting ready on Sunday morning; so, it was no surprise to me that we ended up being about five minutes late to sacrament meeting. (Rather, I was surprised we didn’t get there even later.)

Anyway, we arrived to find the chapel full and the overflow partition closed. What, you say? No problem? Just open the partition and set up some chairs? Not so fast…

Their ward had recently instituted a no tolerance policy on tardiness: The overflow partition remains locked; if there is no room left in the chapel, it is the foyer for you.

Now, I am sure that many of you will agree that the foyer does have its advantages. However, I think most of them are negated when it fills up beyond capacity, as was the case this particular Sunday. Instead of a quiet place with some comfy seats for those stepping out of the meeting for a moment (legitimately or otherwise), it soon becomes a crowded, chaotic mess of a scene with a bunch of people standing around, leaning against walls, and chasing children down the corridors. (The same thing happened in the foyer on the other side – yes, I checked.)

In my opinion, there is no doubt that the chapel is a nicer place to attend a meeting when the partition is closed. In addition, I will concede that – in theory – it would be great if such a tough-love solution were effective in getting meetings started on time or minimizing disturbances caused by latecomers. Nevertheless, it seems fairly obvious to me that this approach’s costs more than outweigh the benefits.

Here are just a few problems (in no particular order) that I can think of right off the top of my head:

  • I am fairly sure that a certain percentage of the ward will actually feel encouraged to show up after the meeting starts if they know that it means they can dink around in the foyer the whole time.
  • It could discourage others from bothering to come to sacrament meeting at all on those days that they know they will arrive late.
  • Anyone getting to church late will get next to nothing out of the program (unless paper airplanes, boats, or those folded fortune-telling things count).
  • Practically speaking, does anyone really believe that a policy like this can cure anyone’s tardiness as long as children are still permitted at church? I mean, we can all aspire to perfection, but I don’t see how the church will ever achieve this particular goal in mortality.

What other drawbacks do you see in the “Ten Virgins Approach,” as I call it, to sacrament meeting? Do you have any compelling arguments in its favor? Do you know of any other units where something similar has been tried? Leave your witty observations below.