There is quite the debate going on in our ward at BYU Hawaii concerning people showing up late for church (if at all). I heard once of a General Authority that likened the Sacrament room unto Noah’s ark. Should the doors be shut or opened during sacrament? Many think that it is too offensive or alienating to others, especially since we already have a problem with people not wanting to come to church. I couldn’t find anything in the church handbook. What are your thoughts?
This is a local matter and best left to those who hold keys. Your bishop holds keys over this matter, he should turn them. If he has delegated the matter to you, then my counsel would be to focus on reverence. The Church Handbook of Instruction (2:20.4.3) reminds us: “Everyone who attends the meeting should be reverent during the entire ordinance of blessing and passing the sacrament.” If the atmosphere is still reverent, then I see no need to close the doors. If there’s a din coming from the hallway, then you may wish to close the door, but station an usher there to welcome those that are coming in late (and help them find a seat if needed). I don’t see any reason why people cannot feel welcomed while reverence is maintained during the presentation of the sacrament.
Reverence for the sustaining ordinance of the sacrament is an important principle. So also is the invitation for all to gather among the saints. When important principles collide, it is an opportunity to hear the Lord’s voice. The 12 disciples among the Nephites met to decide what they should call the new church. They, like your ward, experienced “quite the debate” (“disputations”, they called it (3 Nephi 27:3)) over such an important matter. When they finally received a revelation on the matter their concern was validated, because the church’s name called into play such weighty matters as salvation and discipleship (3 Nephi 27:5-7). Similar disputations had arisen in the past over the manner of baptism. Even though the issue was tremendously important, the Lord took them to task for their method of resolving the issue.
“[T]here shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Nephi 11:28-30).
Learning from this experience, when the disputation over the church name arose, the disciples tried a new approach rather than resolving it through contention and great debates. They “gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting.” (3 Nephi 27:1). They chose unity over contention. The disputation still existed, since they had not yet resolved what to call the church, but they were united in seeking the Lord’s will rather than their own. This is the pattern our ward counsels, quorums, classes, and families are to follow. Differences and disputations will arise, but contention must cease among the saints and make way for revelation.