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Saving Seats in Church: When Is It Too Much?

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Many of us often sit in the same area each week when we attend church, sometimes just out of habit and ease, and some people like to even sit in the exact same row each week.

Finding a place for your family to sit during sacrament meeting or stake conference can be a frustrating experience—particularly if you’re a family of nine. And if you’re a family of nine who has recently moved into a new ward--or if you have a lot of family in town for a missionary farewell or baby blessing, as happened this Sunday when seat-saving led to a fight outside the church and an arrest--you run the risk of accidentally usurping someone else’s “usual” pew.

Enter the tricky world of LDS seating customs. Is it okay to have "your" pew? And is it okay to save seats for a large group of friends or family?

LDS Living Facebook friend Amy Wilson Marshall writes, “We moved to a large ward a few years ago and still struggle to find a place each week. . . . What I find most frustrating is when the ‘campers’ sit right in the middle of the chapel so a large family like mine has to squeeze into two short rows. In our ward . . . they show up fifteen minutes early, leave their scriptures on the pew, and go into the hall to socialize. Very frustrating for a mother of seven!”

Other people have been rudely forced to get up and move because they are sitting in someone else's pew--leading to tears and plenty of negative feelings. This can be especially devastating for new members, less actives, and investigators. One woman who is investigating the church explained it this way: "I am still investigating [the Church] on my own--I haven't attended church yet, but I would be extremely intimidated if I went to church for the first time and had to search for a place to sit. It sounds like maybe the missionaries have designated places for investigators to sit so they always have an easy way to find a seat? That's great, but at some point I'm going to be 'on my own,' and what then? Things are still going to be new for me, not to mention that my husband is not very happy about my interest in the church. Having a difficult time trying to find a seat, or having to explain to my husband that we have to get there 20 minutes early to find a seat, or having to move out of someone else's 'assigned' seat won't score any points with him."

But while seating preferences should never override the spiritual goals of attending church, trying to save seats for a couple family members who are running late or generally preferring to sit in one area can't be all bad, right? According to our poll on saving pews, 48% of our readers have a general area they prefer to sit in each week. One commenter explained that "We sit in the very back because we have an infant son, and we like to have the option for a hasty (and inconspicuous) exit, should the need arise." Another preferred the front: "I am hearing impaired from birth and learned early in life to read lips combined with what I could hear. Thus in order to see the speakers lips I need to sit toward the front. However, I gladly yield our spots when needed by a family group, Primary program, etc."

We want to know what you think. So tell us--what's okay and what's not when it comes to saving or "owning" pews?

You can also read our Mormon Manners article on what we think the proper etiquette of saving pews is and take our poll on pews at church.

Comments and feedback can be sent to feedback@ldsliving.com