I've been observing a particular phenomenon for some years now. I've observed it across the country in Utah, Kansas, Indiana, Virginia, Michigan and every other place I've lived or visited.

Relief Society is raucous.

Raucous is a terrific word. Essentially it means disorderly and rowdy to the point where it is harsh or grating. I hate to attach such a label to a Church meeting, but I think it applies.

Relief Society ceased to be reverent a long time ago. I first noticed it when we had guest presenters at weekly meetings and such. I was embarrassed that women kept chatting amongst themselves and making comments to near neighbors about a variety of things instead of giving the presenter the courtesy of their attention. I try not to encourage these conversations, but I'm often the unwilling object of them.

I may have noticed it on those occasions because I was more concerned about treating non-Mormon guests appropriately and what impression they would have of us and our meetings.  Anyway, raucousness is pretty widespread now, so much so that no Sunday Relief Society teacher can depend on being able to command attention during a lesson.

I leave Relief Society meetings feeling jangled and on edge because of the constant chatter going on. I have some theories as to why this condition currently exists in Mormondom. I don't think the fact that it DOES exist is in dispute.

Here are my theories, not necessarily in order:

- Leadership is disorganized and/or unprepared. All leadership guidance suggests opening exercises should be well-organized and brief. Usually, it is neither. This sets a tone of raucousness.

- Teachers are often disorganized and/or unprepared. This also sets a tone where raucousness thrives. If other people make comments, then the teacher doesn't have to present as much. It is easy for the teacher to hand control of the meeting over to commenters. This aura of inclusiveness and participation is only that, an aura. The participation is usually pretty off-topic and irrelevant.

- People are selfish and self-absorbed. Most of their comments are simply telling others how the discussion relates to them or trying to be funny or entertaining. Few examine their comments within the framework of "Will this be a valuable comment that can help others understand or apply the concepts being taught?" Having taught as a career I can often tell if something could derail a discussion, despite the best of my intentions. I've kept silent on occasion in Relief Society, and other meetings, because I know my comment won't be taken in the proper light or it will spur tangents that may be detrimental. Very little self-disciple of this sort is evident in raucous Relief Society meetings.

- Humor and entertainment are being inordinately emphasized. Why does no one seem to wonder if something qualifies as excess laughter or lightmindedness? There is certainly nothing wrong with appropriate humor, but I think raucous Relief Society crosses the line. Entertainment pervades our society. It is pervasive at church as well.

If Satan were to try and short-circuit or disrupt Relief Society, raucousness would probably be the tool of choice. Any other tool people would probably reject.

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