I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time with the social kiss. Kissing girlfriends as a teenager, this I figured out fairly quickly, and, besides, it was done in the dark without witnesses. The social kiss, however … I’m still awkwardly working on that one. Maybe I should practice in front of the mirror. The problem is that social kissing techniques differ widely. My favorite is when women draw their faces closely together, careful not to touch, then they both say almost in unison,”muu–waaaA!” and slowly back away so no one gets hurt. When it happens to me–I view myself as an unwilling participant here, a victim–I kind of stare at bystanders with that desperate-plea-for-help look in my eyes, but they just stand there doing nothing. And to further complicate things, I go and read in the bible that this kind of thing was an early Christian ritual. Paul keeps reprimanding people all the time to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”(see Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; and 1 Thessalonians 5:26). Which leads me to my question: How come this ordinance was never a part of the Restoration of All Things?
Naturally I turned to the JST to find the answer. Test your JST knowledge–which of the following is the correct JST version of Romans 16:16, et. al?
1. Greet one another with a holy kiss but not the holy tongue.
2. Greet one another with a holy kiss AND the holy tongue.
3. Greet one another with a holy fist pump.
4. Greet one another with a “Holy Smoke!” As for this greeting, it is to be given and taken only in a figurative sense.
5. Greet one another with a holy salutation.
If you guessed no. 5, you’d be right. It seems Joseph Smith placed the NT holy kiss in heinous acts rankings right up there with the OT genitalia grasp and changed both of them in the JST to more innocuous readings. Perhaps he foresaw some of the practical problems of such a ritual, speaking about the holy kiss that is. And we thought rampant speaking in tongues would cause problems at church? If Joseph had restored the ordinance of holy kissing, the entire church building itself would become like a giant mistletoe. Of course, vicarious holy kissing for the dead would need to be instituted sooner or later. Heck, if that caught on, you’d even have to kiss your spouse in the temple wedding ceremony. Perhaps it’s like consecration–we’re just not ready to live such a higher law.
Some other Christians apparently still use the holy kiss as a greeting in church. After the NT, several church fathers mention it as a part of the Eucharist, sometimes called the “sign of peace.” Most churches nowadays have opted for the simple hand shake, reserving a moment at the beginning of each service to encourage each other to stand and greet their neighbors.
The closest I ever came to the holy kiss ordinance in a Latter-day Saint setting was at a youth activity. Our leaders gathered us all outside the Relief Society room and a couple of guys and gals went inside with them. Curiousity filled the hallway as we wondered what they were doing in there. One by one we were admitted inside, in boy-girl order. After admission, strange periods of silence were followed by raucous laughter, and then another was allowed behind the closed door. Once inside, you saw a big line in front of you in boy–girl order. As you were placed at the end of the line, those in front of you turned around, smiling coyly, and kissed the person behind them right on the lips, each after the other, a kind of lip smacking relay, as you quickly realized that the person in front of you would eventually turn around, their lips seeking yours. A little racy, I thought, but hey, I wasn’t against it. After all, I had been raised by liberal Liahona parents. In any event, I figured it was better than that clumsy game where you tuck the orange under your chin and pass it to your neighbor. This kiss relay game skipped the pretense, got right to the point. Then my moment came and I leaned forward, lips pursed, my eyes squinting, and Kim Mitchell slapped me on the cheek, not hard, but playfully. Laughter filled the room. There was a point to all this, although I don’t remember exactly what the theme of the activity was. Dating? Marriage prep perhaps?
No doubt this youthful incident lies at the heart of my current issues with social kissing. I doubt LDS Social Services can help me. Perhaps recovery begins with forgiving the perpetrators? Kim, where ever you are, I forgive you. To the girl I slapped afterwards (whoever you were)–I’m really sorry. As a token of my attempts at reconciliation, I’m going to blow to each of you a holy kiss–perhaps that would have been a better JST alternative in the first place.