(NOTE: THE STORY YOU ABOUT TO READ IS TRUE. NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THEIR BLESSINGS)
Say what? Start Sacrament Meeting late? Little Laman (not his real name, thank heavens!) was raised in the church, in a large traditional LDS family where the law was you always attended your meetings always on time. As he matured into adulthood, in countless subsequent leadership training sessions, church authorities at all levels taught him that starting sacrament meetings on time was a sign of respect and reverence for the Lord and his teachings. When his own kids were mere rugrats Sunday mornings were dedicated solely towards ensuring every diaper was changed and every nose wiped and blown long before meetings started so that every imaginable minor emergency was built into their transit schedule to arrive on time.
Now big Laman (still not his real name) was on a long business trip in a strange, unknown land, on a Sunday morning, and he was desperate to find a sacrament meeting, any sacrament meeting. He had to renew his baptismal covenants. He had become spiritually addicted to partaking of the bread and water every Sunday, reviewing the weaknesses of the week and making earnest promises to do better with the Lord’s help.
He did his homework. He looked up the local ward meeting times and locations on LDS.org. As he raced hurriedly through the downtown maze of foreign streets with strange names and twists and turns in a foreign car, he kept glancing at his watch and just knew he would be late, and he panicked. What if he couldn’t find the chapel? He was already struggling with identifying his own location. What if he never found it at all? What if he arrived AFTER the sacrament had been passed?
The night before, in the guarded solitude of his high-rise hotel room, he had been deeply moved reading Brigham Young’s sermon reminding the saints that just as the twelve disciples did not recognize that resurrected Christ was in their midst until he broke bread with them, they too could truly feel His presence in their lives only after partaking of the sacrament. He found himself scanning the dirty windshield horizon for the next left-hand turn he would miss, silently pleading with the Lord that the sacrament meeting he ended up attending would start late.
His prayers were answered. He quietly slipped into the back of the small chapel 15 minutes late and settled into somebody else’s pew. The bishopric and their Aaronic Priesthood hurried to complete their preparations. The awkward second counselor apologized for starting so late, but Laman grinned a deep thankful smile.