It happened again today. The prayer on the bread was repeated a total of three times before the shaken priest got the go-ahead from the presiding authority to proceed with the ordinance.
The last discussion of this issue we’ve had that I could find easily was from 2-1/2 years ago, so I thought it would be worth revisiting again.
I have a number of thoughts and questions about this practice:
1. I have never in my life had to repeat a sacrament prayer. This is not because I’m such a great reader, but more because even as a young priest I was absolutely mortified at the prospect of having to repeat the prayer. It seemed to me to be such a public failure (even if I shouldn’t have perceived it that way, that’s the way I saw it). So I’ve always been very careful, tracing each word with my finger as I go. When I’ve had the option, I’ve always opted to pray over the bread so as to get it over with as soon as possible. As a consequence, when I see a frustrated young priest trying again and again to get the words of the prayer to bend to his will, without success, I feel a deep sense of empathy for him. The awkwardness of the experience is almost unbearable for me.
2. When this happens, should the conducting authority comment briefly and explain what just happened? I have only very rarely seen this done, but it was done today. I thought it was very well done. We have a lot of recent converts in our ward, and if someone doesn’t explain to them why the priest keeps saying the prayer over and over again, how are they supposed to know what’s happening? And the person conducting explained this in a very low key way. I think if I were the priest who had butchered the prayer repeatedly, I would actually appreciate such an explanation coming over the pulpit.
3. What is the doctrinal foundation for the requirement that the baptism and sacrament prayers must be absolutely verbatim? Is there any room for a judgment call that the errant word or omission does not at all affect the doctrinal substance of the prayer and to let such minor transgressions go?
4. My impression is that if the priest self corrects within a word or two of the mistake, usually the presiding authority lets it go. But a lot of times the priest won’t even try to self correct and will just start the prayer over again.
5. Should there be a slaughter rule, as in youth baseball? Once you get to six attempts, the poor kid is probably so shaken that it’s just not going to happen. In fact, I think if this had ever happened to me as a young man, when I left the building that day I might not have ever come back. It would have been that traumatizing to me.
Please share with us your stories and thoughts on this issue.