Fistfight at Church! Would Jesus Save Seats? (with poll)

by: wheatmeister

July 2, 2013

Put up yer dukes, to the square!

According to a news report, an incident of saving seats in a crowded Sacrament Meeting resulted in a fistfight at church, and then one man hitting the other with his car.  Read all about it here.  From the article:

LDS Bishop Brett Ferrin said he was saddened by the fight. He said he was counseling both families and trying to bring his ward together.  “This is a place of worship,” he said. “The bottom line is we have to come back to church next Sunday.”  Ferrin said if there is a “teaching moment” to come from all of this, it is that “split-decisions affect the way we live” and there are consequences.

I think he means split-second decisions, not that people in the ward took a vote and were not unanimous on whether the guy should hit the other one with the car.  “Any opposed?”

What's your opinion on seat saving at church? (Choose the best answer)

  • People should not be allowed to save seats. Period. (40%, 29 Votes)
  • People should only save a limited number of seats, up to two on either side of them. (22%, 16 Votes)
  • There should be no restrictions on saving seats. (15%, 11 Votes)
  • People should be allowed to save seats, but if the people they are saving for don't show up, we should beat the saver to a pulp. (11%, 8 Votes)
  • People can only save seats if they have an item to go on the seat. If they run out of items, no more saved seats. (8%, 6 Votes)
  • Converts and investigators should be able to save seats, but regular members should know better. (4%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 73

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Whose side are you on?  Discuss.


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27 Responses to Fistfight at Church! Would Jesus Save Seats? (with poll)

  1. Hedgehog on July 2, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    Can’t really pick any of those options. Sometimes we have had seats saved by, or saved seats for, extended family, for stake conference. But then there is seat-saving going on all over the place, and those hunting for seats usually ask. Also, once things are filling up and seats are becoming scarce, then if those for whom the seats were being saved haven’t shown up yet, then they do loose them. I think it is bad manners to reserve a seat for someone who hasn’t yet arrived when seats are in short supply.
    Also having a large extended family, we do tend to descend as a group on a ward for baby blessings. But, we take our chances over seats then, and are probably pushing regular members out of their usual seats, if we get there first.
    I was once a member of a ward where a regular member would get very shirty if someone was unknowingly sitting in what they regarded as *their* seat. But mostly, my experience has been that members are gracious and welcoming.

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  2. Paul on July 2, 2013 at 7:31 AM

    Wow. Imagine a sacrament meeting so good that people want so much to attend that they’ll come to blows…

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  3. allquieton on July 2, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    I think I am always opposed to seat saving. If it’s open seating, then no one has the right to “save” a seat. It may sound extreme, but I think it’s consistent, fair, and logical.

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  4. janet on July 2, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    I knew that saving seats had reached a ridiculous level at our Stake conferences when they announced at the Saturday evening session that all those leaving their coats, scriptures, etc, on the seats to save them for the following morning would find them in the lost and found.

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  5. Nick Literski on July 2, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    If you think about it, seating is a rather important issue in LDS culture. Those with high prestige (typically leadership) generally get the most prominent and/or comfortable seats. In most cases, if a random member just decided to sit up on “the stand” during a sacrament meeting, s/he would be directed otherwise. Participation in a choir, severe lack of other seating, or “lining up” for testimony bearing are about the only exceptions to this. “Know your place” seems to be an operative principle.

    In fact, I recall 10-15 years ago, a bulletin went out to bishops and stake presidents, indicating that it was “inappropriate” for full time missionaries sit on “the stand” during Sunday meetings, unless they were going to be speaking in the meeting. This directive was issued because some local leaders thought it might help promote missionary work if the elders/sisters were made prominent in that way, so they actually asked the missionaries to sit on the stand.

    In my LDS years, I saw plenty of habitual “seat saving,” and was guilty of the same myself. In one ward, we invariably sat in a particular row (3rd from the front, as I recall), and it felt odd when we arrived to find someone else in “our” spot. In some wards, I also saw families who always sat in the front center row of the chapel, based on the father’s demand. Of course, it was tempting to read all sorts of psychology into that pattern!

    LDS-ism is obviously not the “cause” of this news story. That said, I could see where imbalanced persons could get the “germ” of their malfunction.

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  6. IDIAT on July 2, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    I don’t think “know your place” is an LDS thing. One doesn’t go hang out with the judge in a court room, a junior executive doesn’t rub elbows with the company president, and in other churches, general membership doesn’t hang out up front with the pastor or preacher or priest. I generally do not save seats, to my wife’s chagrin. If you want a particular seat, in my opinion you should show up early. On those occasions where other meetings or business prevents you from doing so, then adjust accordingly and sit wherever you can with your family. I’ve seen people come to Stake Conference an hour early just so they can get a pew with a soft cushion. More power to them. I’d rather eat a decent breakfast with my family and sit in the cheap seats in the cultural hall.

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  7. Doug on July 2, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    In our ward in North Carolina we often have a packed house for Sacrement meeting. The Bishop routinely offers the members who can’t find a seat to please join him in the seats on the stand. it works well. My question about this story is what happened to the folding chairs set up in the cultural hall? We have to make use of those as overflow seating often as well.

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  8. Lorian on July 2, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    By “split decisions,” could the bishop have been referring to the split decision from SCOTUS this week, suggesting that the fist fight was not so much over the saved seat (which seems pretty ludicrous, really) but over a disagreement about sitting near someone who took a very different political position on the supreme court’s ruling? Just a guess…

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  9. Duke of Earl Grey on July 2, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Would Jesus save seats? As Emo Phillips once said, “If Aquinas reasoned that even animals have no souls, how much less chance would an inanimate object like a chair have of attaining salvation?”

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  10. Duke of Earl Grey on July 2, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    But seriously, I don’t think anyone, anywhere should get to save a seat for someone who hasn’t shown up yet. The only ethical seat saving is for people who were already in their seat, but had to get up for some temporary reason like going to the bathroom.

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  11. Nick Literski on July 2, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    “It has become the custom in the church to give the high seats in the synagogue to men who have made money.”

    (Journal of LDS Presiding Bishop Charles W. Nibley, commenting on the LDS church, as reported by his grandson, Hugh W. Nibley)

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  12. Douglas on July 2, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    I’m amazed that over seating in Sacrament that two brethren felt the need to come to blows…it do seem odd. I’d have printed a homage page to the late Rodney King (1965-2012) with his famous quote and inserted it into the next week’s program.

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  13. hawkgrrrl on July 2, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    I’ve always followed the rule of one item per saved seat, although a human being can use their arms to save the one seat immediately to either side of him or her. However, if the meeting is starting to fill up and the people haven’t arrived, I give up and just give the seats away.

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  14. Lorian on July 2, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    I suppose in a way it’s good press for the church if sacrament meeting is so popular that people are fighting for seats like tickets to see The Who… Hope no one gets trampled when they open the doors.

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  15. Jettboy on July 2, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    Whoever started hitting needs to be disfellowshipped. That is all I have to say.

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  16. PostScript on July 2, 2013 at 11:53 PM

    About 18 months ago, the two Wards in my town were split to make three. The night before the special combined Sacrament Meeting (at which there were to be around 500 attendees) was to be held, one of the Wards had its Christmas party. After the party, many members decided to save prime seats for themselves in the chapel. Several hours after the party was over, well over 50 items (i.e. sweaters, jackets, scarves, purses, books, scriptures, etc.) were removed and placed in the lost and found, and signs posted saying “Items mistakenly left in the chapel last night have been placed in the lost and found.” Surprisingly, the guilty were actually wise enough to not complain.

    P.S. With one of the Bishop’s approval, the saved seats for the missionaries were relocated from the front row of the chapel to the front row of the stage.

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  17. mollz on July 3, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    On a slightly different note . . . while I think it’s okay to save seats when they are in low demand or the rest of your party is showing up within 5 or 10 minutes, the idea of having possession of a “spot” in church is bothersome to me, particularly when the spot is regularly “reserved” and not just for a special event.

    In my ward, we have somewhat gerrymandered boundaries that include a large area of single-family homes and homeowners and a somewhat geographically separated area (in another neighborhood) of condos, apartments, and renters. I’ve noticed that most of those sitting in the pews are homeowners (who sit in the same spot every week with their larger families), while most renters fill the overflow and gym. I’m sure most of this is a self-segregation, but I’m not sure how welcome I (a renter) would be sitting up front. In general, my husband and I are a lot less welcome in the ward because we are young and we rent, and it seems like this is represented in the seating, even if it is self-determined.

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  18. Will on July 3, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    LOL on the story.

    Learned some more on a local program, the aggressive one was the ‘active’ member while the victim was less active.

    This is a less effective way of reactivating less active members. Just saying.

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  19. hawkgrrrl on July 3, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    mollz – that’s a very interesting observation. I have been in a mixed ward before and experienced what you are describing – the homeowners viewed the renters as just passing through. They even segregated the gospel doctrine into renters and homeowners and only called homeowners to teach the renters. They definitely had a view that the renters were of less worth or whatever.

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  20. Nick Literski on July 3, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    That’s why it’s unfortunate when leaders decide that the poorest part of town (mostly renters, though not all) “needs” to be in the same ward with the wealthiest part of town (all owners), “so they’ll have leadership.” When I lived in Brigham City, such was the gerrymandered makeup of the ward. Virtually all ward leadership was from the wealthy portion of the ward (and curiously, many of them were actually related to each other).

    The Relief Society had the worst effects. One “sisters” activity was to tour one another’s homes—meaning, of course, the wealthy women’s homes—so that ladies on welfare could experience “show and tell” while hostesses pointed out the dining room set, for which they’d paid $1,000.00 per chair.

    Another “Relief Society activity” was to go to lunch at the rooftop garden restaurant of the Joseph Smith Building in SLC. Several sisters knew they couldn’t afford to eat there, while a few went along and ended up ordering a side salad of greens. The next day at church, the RS president stood up and lauded their dining experience, cheerfully making note of how “those of you who didn’t go, really MISSED OUT!” Needless to say, it caused a bit of irritation in the ward.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on July 3, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    The ironic part of the renter ward I was in was that it was in a part of town we would never have even considered buying property. We rented there because it was a temporary arrangement, not because we would have bought property in such a crappy neighborhood. Yet, we were seen as the losers. We just didn’t have kids yet and didn’t mind people cooking meth on our porch. It was an interesting paradox.

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  22. Mollz on July 3, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    Yeah it’s interesting because, like in Hawkgrrrl’s example, the “owners” neighborhood isn’t particularly wealthy and has a lot of members who can only afford their house by illegally renting their basement.

    Thankfully no one is as overt as in your ward, Nick, but the segregation is still noticeable, particularly in sacrament seating. My husband and I like to joke that if we sat in a pew, someone would come up and ask to see the deed to our property.

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  23. Hedgehog on July 4, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    Gosh, Mollz, Hawkgrrrl, Nick, is this a US phenomenon? We don’t see that kind of segregation in Britain. Not in my experience anyway. (I don’t think we have any super-rich members either mind you). Some of the very best members I recall were not home-owners, and didn’t live in the best neighbourhoods. They’re wonderful, dedicated leaders, male and female.
    I think it probable our neighbourhoods are also less starkly divided, however.

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  24. Jeff Spector on July 4, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    You’d never see anyone fight over who gives the lesson in Priesthood.

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  25. Joe on July 4, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    I never saw this kind of thing in the ward I grew up in (Houston). There were sometimes other problems, of course, but we worked them out.

    I haven’t seen it in my student ward, either, but then, we are all renting.

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  26. Doug on July 9, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    Hedgehog: Thank you for your reply to the post. I was just reading these experiences and thinking that it just happens in some parts of the U.S. I live in North Carolina and it does not really happen here either. Our ward has plenty of upper middle class members who live in affluent areas, but as far as I have noticed, everyone gets along and respects those who are of more modest means, (the ward is quite large in area and covers very divirse types of nieghborhoods. I just could not see that happening here. Maybe we are the minority.

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  27. Carly Phillips on February 23, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    Ok,. I usually dont have any issue about this if you arrive early enough and you have people who are going to occupy the space you save- you should be able to save it for them. I am not for people saving but then no one else comes to sit there- just being selfish.
    I had this issue come up today. A sister and her husband who is a wheelchair- came along and wanted the seats for them. She said the back row was for wheelchairs. I had never heard of this. I am not against helping the disabled but she said it so manner a factually. not even saying please or sorry to make you move, and was moving my coat over without even asking if she could etc. My husband and I had come early and saved seats for my family who I knew were on their way. I also know that for Stk Conference in our chapel her husband was at the front row with her- another good place for him so I knew it was not the only place he could go. I had seen many other families on other Sundays and even mine sit in that row with no one telling us anything. I had no issue with the husband, but I found her a bit rude thinking she could just take over our row and claim it was for wheelchairs- there is no sign, no nothing to denote it is. I did not fight it my husband and I moved to another row with my folks but in my mind, we should not of had to, she could of been nicer about it, I was not rude to her.

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