Not Letting Women Open Sacrament Meeting Redux

I realize this is an old subject; see for instance this prior discussion. For those who have been living in a cave, starting I believe in 1967, women were not allowed to give the opening prayer in sacrament meetings, apparently on the theory that such meetings were “priesthood” meetings and had to be opened by priesthood authority. I think there may have been a letter rescinding this position within about six months or so, but it was definitely done away with by 1978:

“The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve have determined that
there is no scriptural prohibition against sisters offering prayers in sacrament
meetings. It was therefore decided that it is permissible for sisters to offer
prayers in any meetings they attend, including sacrament meetings, Sunday School
meetings, and stake conferences. Relief Society visiting teachers may offer
prayers in homes that they enter in fulfilling visiting teaching assignments.”

(Marvin K. Gardner, “News of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 100)

A friend recently shared with me the following quote explaining the origins of this practice:

On November 14, 1999, Elder Brough said that a few weeks before his death, President Ezra Taft Benson made a comment about prayers that was misinterpreted by a few to mean that only men could open meetings. Unfortunately, some of those disseminated this information. Although this was officially retracted “within weeks” it had spread far enough to become “policy” to some who had heard various versions of it. Elder Brough was “adamant” that it was not policy, was not ever given as policy from the first presidency, and simply wasn’t true. He said that the church policy is that it doesn’t matter who gives prayers…just as it is written in the handbook. He then asked that the message be disseminated by the high counci throughout the stake so that no further misunderstandings would occur—which is how I came to hear the information.

Notwithstanding various official discontinuations of the practice, it has continued in various pockets of the Church (areas of California and Utah that I know of, although thankfully not here in Chicago). I had been thinking that perhaps this was a case of various leaders “not getting the memo” and the loss of institutional memory in our transitory local leadership. (Another friend confirmed that this was the case in his local area, and when he raised questions about it the practice was discontinued.) But I was skeptical that that would be enough to sustain the continuation of the practice in so many areas for such a long period of time.

Well, I just recently heard from another friend that in leadership meetings this past weekend they were specifically instructed not to let women give the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. So this idea floated by President Benson lives on today as part of the “unwritten order of things” under the sponsorship of President Packer. I had suspected as much, but it has now been confirmed to my satisfaction.

The irony is that, for all the rhetorical concern with order, this practice of trying to inculcate the practice in certain areas only by area authority seventy training, in direct contradiction of the handbook and prior GA statements, is not conducive to order in the Church at all, but rather breeds chaos and disunity.

There is a good reason why this practice is a part of the “unwritten order of things”–it is indefensible. If the Church wants to do this, they need to articulate it publicly and take the heat for promulgating such a stupid position. But this is not a “Church” position at all. If an area authority ever tries to start this practice in my local area, I pledge to raise a holy stink in the nostrils of heaven until it is stopped.

Comments

  1. DavidH says:

    We have had a change in bishoprics and stake presidencies since the unwritten policy existed in our ward, and the policy/practice is gone in our ward.

  2. Actually it is a bit more complex. It was established by a 1967 Priesthood Bulletin and was included in the 1968 General “Handbook of Instruction (no. 20, pg. 44):

    L. Prayers in Church Meetings
    Prayers in all Church meetings should be brief, simple, and given as led by the spirit by the one who is voice. Their content should pertain to the particular matter at hand.

    Brethren holding the Melchizedek or Aaronic Priesthood should offer the prayers in sacrament meetings, including fast and testimony meetings. Those praying should use the pronoun forms of Thy, Thee, Thine, Thou in addressing the Lord.

    (Anonymous, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Handbook of Instructions, no. 20 (First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, 1968), 44.)

    The 1975 Ensign also had this:

    Prayers in Sacrament and Priesthood Meetings. Attention is called to the following instruction which appeared in the July-August 1967 Priesthood Bulletin.

    The First Presidency recommends that only those who bear the Melchizedek Priesthood or Aaronic Priesthood be invited to offer the opening and closing prayers in sacrament meetings, including fast meetings. This also applies to priesthood meetings.

    The draft Kimball bio says that Kimball was the one to get rid of it (your Church News quote being cited) Now the ordering of prayers, that is an odd thing and I would love any documentation of the Benson anecdote.

  3. At a Bishopric training meeting which I attended about one year ago, I was told by my Stake President that in the most recent Stake President training session he attended, he was instructed by a general authority (not sure who)that women were not to open Sacrament meeting with prayer. This is not just a policy that eccentric local leaders promulgate–it comes straight from SLC, at least in some cases. We ignore it.

  4. I have spent most of my life in Utah and had never heard of this except in the Bloggernacle. It seems like a strange practice to exclude women from prayers. And, as you said, indefensible. Since I first read about this practice I have started paying attention to who gives the prayers in my ward, and over the past several months, every single Sacrament Meeting opening prayer has been given by a woman. I wouldn’t have noticed this on my own, but now I’m quite curious as to why it’s done this way in my ward. I think it’s too consistent to be a coincidence. There is no discernible pattern for other prayers, except that Sacrament Meeting closing prayers are usually given by the husband of whoever gave the opening prayer, if she is married.

  5. Left Field says:

    There’s no prohibition in my ward against women saying either the opening or closing prayer. However, our bishop is fighting a valiant fight against a similar nonexistent rule.

    My ward was recently transferred into a new stake, and the stake presidency seems to feel it’s very important for all wards in the stake to start their meetings at the same time. That time is nine o’clock. My bishop is dragging his heels. Not long ago, I happened to overhear a member of the stake presidency tell the bishop that the handbook specified that meetings should start at 9:00 if there was only one unit in the building. The bishop clearly didn’t believe him.

    Just for grins, I checked lds.org to see of other stakes followed this mysterious unwritten policy. They don’t. In fact, in the random stakes I checked, the most common starting time was 10:00 for units that don’t share their building.

  6. BTW, am I the only one who thinks it’s sort of hilarious that there are GA’s who seem to be locked in a power struggle over this? Rebelliously ignoring the policy and trying to get their personal preference practiced? It makes me smile. Our Father is so kind and tolerant of all of us. No one is perfect, including the “highest” church leaders. And yet Christ calls us his friends. There is even hope for me.

  7. Umm… It can not have originated with ET Benson as he died in the eighties, while it appears to have been rejected in 1978 according to your own post.

    Additionally, why do you assume it is President Packer behind this?

    I am curious as you give no reason for this assumption in your posts.

  8. This policy is alive and thriving in my ward in Mesa, Arizona. In the three years we’ve been here, a woman has never said the opening prayer. But since my ward has also passed out voter registration cards during a joint Priesthood/RS meeting and I’ve been asked to sign a petition against gay marriage at church by the RS counselor, I figure the opening prayer battle will have to sit on the back-burner for the time being.

  9. Cicero, the reference was to Pres. Packer’s “Unwritten Order of Things”. Fair or not, whenever something is held to be doctrine or policy but is not found in the CHI, it is classified as within the “Unwritten Order of Things” – and associated by extension with Pres. Packer. (“Under the sponsorship of” is just a way of saying that it has been placed under the umbrella he carried in his talk and justified by invoking that talk.)

  10. As the ward bulletin guy, when I heard about the policy preventing women from saying the opening prayer in sacrament meeting, I would always make sure the weekly program had the wife saying the opening prayer and the husband saying the closing prayer. I would do this even when they I was told that the that the husband was the one giving the opening prayer.

    This was my own way to speak out against this inequitable policy.

  11. I see Ray, although President Packer never said anything about women not being allowed to give prayers in Sacrament meetings.

    His talk does not seem out of line at all, and I think it unfair to attribute a policy to him when I don’t see anywhere that he has advocated it.

  12. Mark B. says:

    If this policy was followed in any of the wards and branches I attended from 1967 to 1978, I have no memory of it. And that included three BYU wards, my home ward in Provo, several branches in Japan, and the Hyde Park Branch in Chicago (where the branch presidency would likely have found other more pressing matters than reading obscure parts of the handbook). But it’s unbelievable that the thing has been revived by some in recent years. Maybe those are the same places where they pass the sacrament (all white Wonder Bread, no crusts, since we know God wants us to eat that kind of crap, so long as it’s all white) with their left hands shoved up into the small of their backs.

    As to the 9:00 a.m. start times: if a member of the stake presidency really said that the handbook requires a 9:00 a.m. start time if the ward or branch is not sharing a building, he’s either confused or a liar. There is absolutely nothing in the handbook about starting times for meetings.

  13. Mark B. says:

    Actually, I think that there is, in the handbook or in some other training materials that I have seen, a suggestion that husbands/wives not be asked to give the opening/closing prayers in sacrament meetings. Since there are substantial numbers of members in the congregations who have no spouse, asking married couples to give the prayers has the effect of excluding many people from offering prayers.

  14. I agree in theory, Cicero, but it is the way it is. There really are people in the Church who believe that there are unwritten rules that are just as authoritative and binding as those that are written. Honestly, that’s a bit frightening to me, since it leaves so much room for personal abuse and misinterpretation – and can leave very little room for informed and loving disagreement.

    Seriously, how would you answer someone who says, “I know it’s not written in our canon or our CHI, but it’s part of the unwritten order of things – so you just have to accept it.” I read Elder Packer’s talk differently than that, but that’s the unfortunate conclusion that too many people reach when the title of the talk becomes the entire talk to some people.

  15. RE #7 and #2:

    I don’t think Kevin is saying that the ETB statement was behind the original practice (which officially ended in 1978), but rather that the ETB statement was behind the more recent resurgence of the practice.

  16. plvmetz says:

    In my previous ward in Chicagoland, as a counselor in the bishopric, I was told to never have women offer the opening prayer by a member of the stake presidency, who gave me a copy of the “Unwritten Order of Things” talk. My bishop laughed this to scorn and says he believes that if the Lord was to send revelation to the church he would do it in a plain manner. This came up again in our current ward, where the bishop asked me to not have women open a meeting with prayer. The CHI has prevailed and my bishop is ok with the argument that things should be done in order and that the CHI is what provides the order. The CHI has been used by me several other times to put an end to unwise oral traditions.

    These kind of corrections are in my mind less important than the genuine love and service I saw both men repeatedly offer to God and their fellowmen and I would be very happy to acquire the virtues both men possess.

  17. CE (#15), right there are two sepperate policies. Women not praying at all as applied 1967-1978, and the second incarnation – women not saying opening prayers. The former was an actual policy in the handbook. The later is a word of mouth, unwritten practice. As I said, I would be very interested in knowing more about this ETB incedent. It is certain that they are related policies and the latter likely stems from the former. Remember that the 1968 handbook was the firstfruits of Lee’s correlation. And there are a few old-schoolers left.

  18. Nebraska says:

    The practice is alive and well in my Chicago ward. The instruction comes from the Stake.

  19. In the mid 90’s we were told in a Stake Bishopric mtg by our Stake President that men should open sacrament mtg. He said he was told by his area authority. After I led a lengthy argument on whether that was proper written policy, we played the dutiful leaders and followed instructions. Since then, that instruction has never been officially repeated or repealed, but is regularly followed in our ward by habit. As Bishop, I have more important fish to fry, so I don’t worry about it one way or the other. Those assigning and accepting are welcome to any order they prefer, but week after week, men open and women close, and nobody seems to care enough to worry about it. Which is as it should be.

  20. Sam Kitterman says:

    And here I thought Christ taught we are all equal before our Heavenly Father, He being no respector of persons, but views us all as His Children, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, nor gentile nor Jew…

  21. Rich (#19): but week after week, men open and women close, and nobody seems to care enough to worry about it. Which is as it should be.

    Which is how it should be?

    39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers. (D&C 93: 39, italics mine… ‘cuz that’s how I roll…)

  22. Norbert says:

    Kevin is right: this sort of over-correction should be called on the carpet, and Elder Packer’s unwritten rule talk should be put in its proper place. (I would suggest an archive rather than rubbish bin, but take your pick.)

    It’s not always obvious, however. Some months ago we were getting ready for SM and the other counselor was worried because he had 2 women and an elder who was fairly new in the country speaking, and he thought it would be weird to have the missionary speak last, but what else could he do? We realized he had been following the ‘men must speak last’ folklore for more than a year without us realizing it. That was quickly corrected.

  23. Geoff,

    I’m not sure what D&C 93 has to do with anything since people are asked to prayer in any order they please. Somebody has to open, somebody has to close. Somebody speaks first and somebody speaks last. Sometimes 2 males speakers, sometimes 2 female speakers. We actually had a woman arranging the prayers in our ward for 15 years thru 3 different Bishoprics. Believe it or not, in some places, prayer order is not important and has nothing to do with salvation. I wonder how many teeth would be gnashing if we decided tomorrow that men open on odd number sundays and women open on even numbered sundays. Unless it was leap year and then the opposite would be true.

  24. Naismith says:

    The thing I remember from the pre-1978 era is women not saying the CLOSING prayers.

    Sonia Johnson talks about this a lot in her book HOUSEWIFE TO HERETIC. I thought it was closing prayers.

  25. Naismith says:

    Those assigning and accepting are welcome to any order they prefer, but week after week, men open and women close, and nobody seems to care enough to worry about it. Which is as it should be.

    I don’t know where you get off telling people what they should worry about.

    If I was a young mother in your ward, I would want to go first. Not because of some feminist statement, but because I don’t know if I will be there for the closing prayer–I might be off nursing the baby. Unless you have made it very clear that in your ward (unlike most LDS wards north of Mexico) it is perfectly okay for a nursing mom to give a prayer with a baby at the breast?

    So the young moms of your ward are not able to accept assignments to pray, if closing is their only choice, but that’s okay with you?

  26. That’s how they do it in my ward.

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    That President Packer is the force behind this is more than just an inference from the title of his talk. Two different friends in different parts of the country have told me that President Packer was mentioned as the authority behind this rule by the AA70s conducting the training attempting to put this rule into place.

    J., thanks for the details on the old handbook. This is a topic that could really use a formal article in the JMH or something.

  28. The quote from President Kimball doesn’t specifically address opening prayers. He simply said they are not prohibited from saying prayers at all. Allowing them to say closing prayers follows the direction President Kimball outlined.

  29. Euclid says:

    Back in the days when missionary farewells were put mostly into the hands of the departing missionary’s family, I was told a MP holder was to give the opening prayer. That was a new one to me, but I didn’t think too much of it. Of course, if that happened to me today, I’d probably think a lot more of it…

    I currently assign prayers for our SM, and I usually let the couple choose when they’d prefer to say the prayers. This lets nursing mothers or those who might be less nervous giving a particular prayer have an option. I think if I were told it was to be a particular way, I would probably push back against such a silly “policy.”

  30. Mark IV says:

    Over the years, this has been the policy in about 75% of the wards we have attended.

  31. Our former stake president believed he had been trained to have women not say the opening prayer. When I asked about this practice in my branch, I was first told it was from the CHI–wrong; then that it was from Packer’s Talk (although why a talk not even archived on LDS.org or printed in any church magazine would be given such deference, I can’t understand)–wrong again, the issue is not mentioned there; finally I was told that the SP had received this in a SP training. None of the surrounding stakes seemed to have received this training, as they did not practice it, so I asked an area authority I knew and he dismissed it as the personal bugaboo of someone in authority, but absolutely not policy.

    We got a new SP about a year ago, and women are saying the opening prayer again.

    While it was in effect, I seriously considered rallying the women of my stake to boycott–if we are unworthy to open the meeting with prayer, why should we sing? Play piano? Speak?

  32. Randy B. says:

    So our ward also follows the no-opening-prayers-by-women rule in sacrament meeting, as confirmed not just empirically but also in a conversation with the ward clerk who organizes the prayers.

    At some point, I suspect I’ll gently raise the issue with the Bishop, who is fairly new. When I do, I’ll have the opening quote from the Ensign handy. I’ll also make sure to have the relevant quote from the current CHI. (By the way, does someone have that handy?)

    Is there anything else out there in print that I ought to know about?

  33. My SP gave me a sheet about a year ago that summarized some directions for organizing and conducting sacrament meeting that included the instruction that meeting should be opened with prayer by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. I don’t know who compiled or disseminated the directions but they purported to have their origin in a training meeting conducted by Elder Packer.

    About prayer in sacrament meeting, page 65 of the current edition of the CHI says merely “men and women may offer prayers in Church meetings.” There is no other direction about order or the sex of the person offering the prayer.

    I dislike the practice Kevin refers to and the folklore surrounding it so much that, contra Rich (#19), I go out of my way to ask sisters to give both prayers in our sacrament meeting.

  34. Researcher says:

    Coming to this discussion a little late, I was hoping that I could be the first to raise one of my pet peeves. Norbert beat me to it in 22, the men must speak last thingie.

    Do they think I’m going to say something heretical and if my husband talks after me he can correct whatever wacko thing I just said?

    And assigning husband and wife to speak or pray together. What’s that about?

    On one hand, I think it gives the ward a good introduction to the family. The week before conference, our ten year old son was the youth speaker, then I spoke on the historical/scriptural basis for general conference and my husband finished up on the keys of the priesthood and the restoration and the use of prophets and apostles. We worked together and didn’t overlap much if at all and knew how long we were going to take.

    On the other hand, if it’s always husband and wife assigned to pray or talk, what about the single sister or brother in the ward. Either (a) they are never invited to pray or talk or (b) they are paired with someone random and feel that they’re sticking out like a sore thumb. I know it’s easier to ask a married couple (two for the price of one) but this is one case where the “unwritten order of things” is neither wise nor charitable.

  35. My stake presidency has been specifically taught by visiting General Authorities to have MP holders offer the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. Apparently it’s part of the “unwritten order of things.”

    I’ve recently written President Packer a letter informing him that some visiting leaders are using his “unwritten order” talk is to justify the practice of having MP holders offer all the opening prayers. I suggested that he write a letter to General Authorities; Area Seventies; stake, mission, and district presidents; and bishops and branch presidents to clarify church policy in this area.

  36. Mark B. says:

    It’s all those damned generals from the war in heaven giving unwritten orders again!

  37. A fellow missionary in my mission in Eastern Europe (he was from a small town in Northern Utah) tried desperately to convince the branch presidency that women were not allowed to give the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. They showed him the handbook and gleefully kept having women open the meetings. One positive side of the unwritten order of things being virtually ignored in small branches!

  38. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks to a couple of people who corrected my misreading of the Brough statement as referring to the original practice rather than its more recent resurgence.

    And I too found the opening prayer thing a little counterintuitive when I first heard of it. I would have guessed if someone was going to make up such a rule, they would require a man to say the closing prayer, not the opening prayer, to mirror the man speaking last bugaboo. So for a long time I couldn’t keep it straight whether someone was wanting men to give the opening or closing prayer.

    I’m guessing the theory is that not just the sacrament itself, but the whole of sacrament meeting is a priesthood ordinance that must be initiated by priesthood authority. Seems quite silly to me.

    I also want to point out that there are a lot of SPs and bishops who are very sharp and have just smiled at this part of the instruction and then taken no action to enforce it in their areas, which I find very heartening. But we shouldn’t be putting these good brothers in such an awkward position in the first place.

  39. Melissa S says:

    Is there a way for someone “lowly” like me to read the CHI? Is it available online, for example?

  40. Melissa,
    In my experience, bishops tend to be pretty open about letting people read it if they ask. You may not be able to take it home for study, but they’ll usually let you look stuff up.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    Some more unwritten order of things directives from seventy training another friend attended:

    1. Relief societies and quorums (although I assume
    this is much more common with the sisters) should stop having “Good news minutes” (or whatever else they are called) where members get up and basically brag about things their children (or other ward members) have accomplished recently.

    2. Bishoprics should stop having “hymnody” sacrament meetings. This is where one member gets up, tells why they love a certain hymn, the congregation sings that hymn, and then another member gets up and talks about another hymn, etc. (I organized this kind of sacrament meeting twice when I was in the bishopric–the meetings were deeply spiritual, and everyone loved
    them, vbg.)

    3. The congregation should not be asked to stand
    during the sacrament meeting rest hymn.

  42. Melissa (39) – To some extent, yes – you can read much of what is in Book 2 of the CHI under the “Serving in the Church” section of http://www.lds.org. It’s not a .pdf copy, and I don’t believe any parts of Book 1 can be found on the website (which is primarily for stake presidencies and bishoprics). However, there is a fair amount there. For example, most of the Aaronic Priesthood section is shown in the Aaronic Priesthood portion of the website.

  43. We do not practice this unwritten rule here in my ward. If you want to read portions of the CHI simply ask your bishop for access. Tell him you have a couple of specific questions and usually they will let you look them up.

  44. Peter LLC says:

    It’s all those damned generals from the war in heaven giving unwritten orders again!

    8)

  45. Mark B. says:

    Sorry, Melissa. It’s not online (and attempts to put it online have been challenged–successfully–by the Church).

    We have never heard the instruction here in our area, and my hunch is that most branch presidents/bishops would forget it in the crush of all the important things they have to worry about. Or even if they did remember it, their counselors wouldn’t. Or they would remember it when it was too late, like just when Sister Jones stepped to the pulpit at the end of the opening hymn, and then they’d decide that any gain from following the supposed policy was less than the disruption that stopping her from praying would cause.

    I think I’m more concerned about other practices in assigning prayers, as in this comment above:

    I currently assign prayers for our SM, and I usually let the couple choose when they’d prefer to say the prayers.

    Many of the adult members in our congregations do not come to church in “couples” and if we are not careful, they’ll be excluded from one more part of church activity.

  46. Mark B. says:

    It is an unwritten but often repeated order in the church here that hymns are not called “rest hymns” whenever they’re sung. :-) (See D&C 25:12)

    If we cannot stand during hymns in sacrament meeting, I suppose we’ll have to stop standing and singing during general conference.

  47. I have to agree with Cicero in (11). I think Pres. Packer (often through his BYU devotional address “The Unwritten Order of Things”) too often gets a bad wrap and I’m not sure why he is used as a scapegoat here. I actually like the talk. I don’t really think there is anything objectionable in it; in fact, I think it teaches a lot of really good principles (eg, the order of revelation in the church, serve willingly where you are called, sustaining leaders, etc.). I think the problem is where some people take the name of the talk (not necessarily its content) and use it as an excuse to cling to unnecessary and possibly bad practices.

    As to whether he is behind this particular practice of the order in which women may give prayers or speak in sacrament meeting, all I have read so far is second, third, or fourth-hand hearsay.

    As an interesting side-note, I noticed that “The Unwritten Order of Things” was a part of my dad’s general authority’s handbook back in the late ’90s. And while a condensed version of the talk has not been given in general conference by that name, several of the stories and principles shared in the talk been given in general conference (see, eg, the story about Pres. Kimball’s unsuccessful attempt at calling a stake YM pres. and subsequent lesson).

    Anyway, I guess I thought it wasn’t necessary to throw eggs at Pres Packer about the issue at hand.

  48. Kevin Barney says:

    JT, you’re right that what I reported from two friends is hearsay, and while they’re my friends and I find their reports credible, that isn’t necessarily enough to sway anyone else. It has not been proven to a legal evidentiary standard that Elder Packer is the force behind this.

    So instead of naming Elder Packer I will now blame that unnamed authority or authorities in a sufficiently high position to impose his or their will on AA training sessions with varioius stakes and attempt to inculcate a pet practice that the general Church has rejected. Better?

  49. One last thing about “Unwritten Order” – I think it is interesting that is often “letter of the law” saints that cling to it and “spirit of the law” saints that reject it, when it is a very “spirit of the law” talk. I think the talk itself, when read carefully, would clear up many of the problems that have supposedly resulted from it.

  50. Kevin – yes, better :).

  51. An unwritten order talk by Elder Nelson:

    Honoring the Priesthood (April 1993)

  52. Kevin Barney says:

    I should be clear that I don’t have a problem with the talk itself (except I disagree about funerals), just this extrapolation from it, whoever is making it.

  53. I was in a ward in Minnesota where I think there may have been a hint of a practice to have the closing prayer be offered by a priesthood holder. But I think that has since passed.

    While serving in a bishopric later, the only rules we tried to follow were one that was unwritten and another that came from a First Presidency letter and later incorporated into the CHI. The first – the unwritten one (no reference to Packer, but rather to societal norms) – was to avoid having only males or only females too many weeks in a row (ie, we would try to avoid having only one sex give prayers in sacrament meeting for, say, 4 weeks in a row). The other – the CHI guideline – was to try and avoid assigning couples to give prayers on any consistent basis, for the reason outlined in (45) by Mark B. I haven’t heard anything different since then, but I am currently serving in the YM in a different ward now, so it may be different.

    PS – Sorry about the “Unwritten Order” digression earlier, and I really do find this to be an interesting post, Kevin.

  54. Justin, you’re awesome! Please write a post about your answer, if you get one (even if it’s just that you got an answer.)

  55. CS Eric says:

    Growing up, I remember the prohibition as being against women closing the meetings. Whenever my wife and I are asked to speak, she always says the opening prayer so she can get it over with and not have to worry about it through the whole meeting.

    When we have been asked to speak together, she has always been the first speaker, for essentially the same reason–to get it over with.

    In our ward, we have another “tradition” that is bothering the heck out of me. The schedule for speakers is this: one week, testimony meeting; one week, a new family (we have a pretty transient ward); one week, the high council; and the remaining week, a member of the bishopric. There are people in the ward I have never heard speak, and yet we have the same three people on a regular rotating basis. If I have to hear the first counselor yell at us one more time (he seems to think the rule in speaking is the louder the better), I will get up and leave the chapel. Actually, I did leave this Sunday, since he was conducting and was therefore the first to bear his testimony.

  56. Melissa,

    Do a Google search for Church Handbook of Instructions. It comes up on the first page.

  57. Please write a post about your answer, if you get one (even if it’s just that you got an answer.)

    I suspect that President Packer will respond to my letter in two ways. First, he’ll send a letter to all church leaders directing that MP holders should offer the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. Second, he’ll then send a letter to my stake president directing him to excommunicate me. Should be good times this summer.

  58. Kim (56) – I thought about mentioning that earlier, but I didn’t want to encourage the viewing of illegally posted material :).

  59. #56, Kim, check the copyright, I believe it is an old edition. The current one is copyright 2006, and I don’t think it is on the internet.

  60. #57, Justin. As an observer, who certainly doesn’t run this blog, I think your comment is out of line.

  61. Steve Evans says:

    CW, as an admin, who certainly does run this blog, I have no problem with Justin’s comment.

    But you’re right about the online CHI being the old one. Not sure it really matters much in this case, it hasn’t changed much in this respect.

  62. Justin (57) – I don’t know what you wrote exactly, but if it isn’t much more than what you mentioned in (35), I get the feeling that you may be disappointed in your lack of church discipline.

    We had a brother in our ward who wrote a letter to the First Presidency b/c our bishop and stake president asked him to refrain from political statements that he often made in tesimonies, sacrament meeting talks, and sunday school and priesthood comments. He felt he had the obligation to make these statements and preach this part of the gospel, since he was the only one who seemed to understand it, or at least the only one who would speak out about it. After all, he was mostly paraphrasing church leaders, like Pres. Benson and…Pres. Benson. The secretary to the First Presidency responded by writing a letter to the stake president, detailing the church’s position on politics and the (un)appropriateness of such comments in church meetings. While this brother’s original letter to the First Presidency sounded a little more inflammatory than yours, the end result was simply that the stake president and bishop met with him, shared some of the contents of the letter, and asked again that he not make those comments.

  63. Clarification (62) – end of first sentence should read:

    I get the feeling that you may be disappointed in the lack of church discipline you receive.

    I am sure that your personal discipline at church is exemplary.

  64. It is strange that I am writing this comment, but Kevin, your #38:

    I also want to point out that there are a lot of SPs and bishops who are very sharp and have just smiled at this part of the instruction and then taken no action to enforce it in their areas, which I find very heartening. But we shouldn’t be putting these good brothers in such an awkward position in the first place.

    makes me uncomfortable. I think all the people in this kind of position do the best they can with what they have. If a Stake President hears from a GA or even an AA70 that this is how things are to be, and he hearkens and follows the instructions, he’s not doing anything wrong or otherwise uninspired. The problem isn’t with the instructions being followed. The problem is with the instructions being given in the first place, in contravention of written general instructions to the contrary.

    I don’t hold the bishops and SPs responsible to the extent they are doing what they were told. The church has a hierarchy for a reason. That the hierarchy is being used to bypass written policies is problematic, but if a Bishop or SP chooses to follow the instructions by his superior in the chain of command, that’s not a stain on his decision-making ability.

    Furthermore, to the extent that these leaders are using BKP’s talk to support these statements, then we really do have a mess on our hands. That’s one reason why Justin’s letter is so awesome. Take it to the source and see what he has to say. Until someone who attended a meeting with BKP shows up here and says “I was in the meeting and he said MP holders only give opening prayers,” then it’s all just hearsay and I don’t believe it for a minute.

  65. Kevin Barney says:

    Ann, I didn’t mean to disparage the local leaders who do follow the AA counsel they’ve received. I agree with you about that. It’s not on them. I was simply commending those local leaders who have been able to see this for what it is and take it with a grain of salt.

  66. Julie M. Smith says:

    “It’s all those damned generals from the war in heaven giving unwritten orders again!”

    LOL!

  67. One of my previous wards was so PC that they didn’t have a husband and wife give O/C prayers on the same week. The ward leaders didn’t want single members to think that O/C prayers could only be given by married members. That was a great ward.

    BTW, they were the only ward in the building and they met at 10am.

  68. (67) – The practice of avoiding inviting couples to give the opening and closing prayers actually stems from a First Presidency Letter to the entire church and later incorporated into the CHI. Sounds like they were just following policy.

  69. I’ll echo JT’s comment about couples. I hesitate to say avoid, it just should not be the regular rule. We’ve been instructed about this in our stake in several leadership meetings, and to involve singles as often as marrieds. To our credit, I don’t think the MP first rule is a problem in our stake. In our SM Sunday, a single sister gave the opening prayer, and a married sister gave the closing prayer.

    Justin, good call. However, I suspect that your reply will be that your letter gets sent back to your SP, who will confirm the CHI information, and that will be the end of it.

  70. Darrell says:

    In response to those who constantly push their own thoughts, beliefs, desires, or traditions as the “unwritten order of things” I would offer this scripture that, I believe has application and should be printed at the end of each edition of the CHI:

    Revelation 22:

    18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
    19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    No that there are any “plagues” written in the handbook of instructions, but the same principle holds: do not take away from the instructions, but also, do not add more than was intended as an justification for your own personal beliefs.

  71. Darrell (70) – According to Bart Ehrman (biblical scholar, UNC prof), Rev 22:18-19 is an example of a primitive copyright, and similar dire warnings are found in many other ancient writings, secular and religious.

    Random facts aside, I think the best guide on how to approach the CHI is in the CHI itself:

    The Lord admonished, “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99; see also D&C 105:10).

    Church leaders should seek personal revelation to help them learn and fulfill the duties of their callings.

    Studying the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets will also help leaders learn their duties. The Lord has admonished leaders to treasure up in their minds continually the words of God so they will be receptive to the influence of the Spirit (see D&C 84:85).

    Leaders also learn their duties by studying the instructions in Church handbooks. These instructions can facilitate revelation if they are used to provide an understanding of principles, policies, and procedures to apply when seeking the guidance of the Spirit.

  72. spencer says:

    About 3 years ago DW and I were asked to give the prayers for SM. DW had to leave early, so she said she could only give the opening prayer and I could do the closing prayer. The counselor wouldn’t budge and neither of us offered a prayer that day.

    That counselor has now moved out of the ward. Since that time a man has offered the opening prayer in sacrament meeting everytime. Also since that time, it is extremely rare for a married couple to offer both prayers.

    Yesterday, the new 1st counselor asked me to offer the closing prayer because the sister he had asked had to leave early, so she gave the invocation. I don’t know how many people in the ward even noticed the change, but it was meaningful to me. The 2nd counselor in the Stake Presidency was presiding (he’s in our ward and we meet in the afternoon, so he’s there frequently), I don’t know how it went over with him.

    We’ll see if anything changes going forward.

  73. spencer says:

    Shoot, it’s Tuesday already isn’t it? So I guess this all happened on Sunday, not yesterday.

  74. Interesting thoughts, Kevin. Women in the church are like ping-pong balls, constantly being bounced in one direction or other. They can’t pray first; they can’t pray last; they sustain leaders last, or not at all; and so on.

    I don’t think that all rules on ordering are inherently sexist — sometimes an order is just an order — but the particular mix of ordering rules that we have in the church, seems to reinforce sexist ideas in a particularly problematic way.

  75. “the particular mix of ordering rules that we have in the church”

    We don’t have “them” in the Church; we have a few ordering rules “in the Church”; “they” (the extended, unwritten ones) are practiced in some (not a few) places in the Church. That might sound like a technicality, at first, but it reinforces something I have believed for a long time:

    For most people, “the Church” is much more their local ward and stake than it is the global Church. Most people believe the “rules” they see implemented, not the actual rules that are articulated in the CHI.

  76. Kevinf says:

    Good point, Ray. “When in doubt, read the manual”. We had an experience this last week in HC where we thought we understood who could call and set apart certain callings in the church, and when we went to the CHI, we found we had been following an incorrect procedure, and doing it the way we had observed over the last few years.

    That works for the things that are written there, but we still assume much where nothing is specified. Seems to be our natural fdefault position: If in doubt, do what you have seen or heard others do.

    I’m especially aware of this as I am thinking about the upcoming 30th anniversary of the ending of the PH ban. It’s hard to learn what’s true when we already “know” it from observation. The oft-borrowed comment, “In essential things, unity; in non-essential things, liberty; and in all things, charity”, seems like good advice.

  77. My own opinion is that these types of issues/policies are put into play so haphazardly by the fact that we have an unpaid lay ministry. We also have a lot of decision makers who muddle the whole process from an EQ-Bishop-SP-AA on one issue as well with their own agenda/opinions. I have seen the CHI ignored a lot in stake meetings for any number of reasons. Ranging from laziness to outright hostility to the stated policy.

  78. @19, 21, and 25

    Those assigning and accepting are welcome to any order they prefer, but week after week, men open and women close, and nobody seems to care enough to worry about it. Which is as it should be.

    When I read this, I assumed the last sentence referred to nobody seeming to care enough to worry about it. No one cares who goes first and who goes last, which is as it should be. Isn’t that was this whole discussion is about? From the assigning all the way down, no one should care whether the person praying is a man or a woman.

    I’m sorry to see Rich attacked like this when his meaning is obviously ambiguous.

  79. I am in the bishopric and I try to be inspired and don’t much pay attention to who or what sex I ask to give any prayer. The problem I have seen is that some leaders cling to the handbook when it supports their view, then ignore/downplay it at their convenience. Follow the guidelines included in the handbook as guided by the spirit with mercy and kindness and righteousness.

  80. sister blah 2 says:

    #78–You touch on what I find to be the most bizzare aspect of this particular scuffle. That is, why are AA70s wasting their time on this issue in training meetings?? Even assuming for a second that having a MP holder say the opening prayer is the “right” way to do things, does it really matter that much that they spend precious training time discussing it? If I were talking to a bunch of Stake Presidents, I’d be wondering about things like how is your missionary work? How are the singles in your area? Are we hanging onto folks as they transition from high school to college (YM/YW to Priesthood/RS)? What are the particular challenges facing teens in your stake?

    Instead our leaders are doing their darndest to prevent such a travesty as a woman giving an opening prayer?? That just seems so bizzare to me. Even if true, it just doesn’t seem that important. (And if it is true, then put it in the CHI. And–obviously–if not true, then drop it.)

  81. (80) – My experience with these training meetings are that they primarily focus on the things that you mentioned you’d be wondering about (missionary work, etc.). Individual policy changes/clarifications, like women and sacrament meeting prayers, would probably be given as much time as it takes to read this sentence and answer any questions that might be asked.

  82. In the (almost) six years of my membership, I have NEVER seen a woman open a Sacrament meeting. Frequently we close them, but never ever open. What do I do, if anything?

  83. Steve Evans says:

    Get up there and grab the microphone!!

  84. Euclid says:

    Mark B., to you #45, I assign as couples by virtue of the fact that we live in married graduate student ward…there are no singles. I suppose I do it this way because then it only takes ONE phone call instead of TWO…what can I say, I’m lazy.

    In general, though, you would be right in your assessment. Would be a misguided practice under normal circumstances to only assign as couples.

  85. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    So, this post has prompted me to revisit E. Packer’s “Unwritten Order” talk (prompted, as in “caused me to bother doing so”, not the ever-elusive “warm-fuzzy”). It had been a few years, which was intentional. In reading his thoughts about funerals, if there is to be no mention of the person who has passed, I’m not sure why we should bother to attend. It turns a death into just another excuse for a meeting. There is surely a generation that yearns for the return of the mid-week auxiliaries – incomprehensible!

  86. I suppose I do it this way because then it only takes ONE phone call instead of TWO…what can I say, I’m lazy.

    As an idea you could call couples to say the prayers on separate weeks. (ie brother a & sister b one week, sister a and brother b the next) So it’s still one phone call per week, and you’re still splitting up the couples.

  87. I have a friend who is on SM Prayer strike until the policy changes in her stake. Her husband is one of the councillors in the bishopric, so it is a fairly well publicized strike. I know the no women for opening has been in force there since at least the mid-90s. I think the prophet would need to make a phone call before they’d give up the tradition. A letter wouldn’t really pack enough authority.

    We live in a neighboring stake so I assume we have the same Area Authority as their stake and it is simply not an issue here. Not too long ago we were asked to give the prayers in SM and the executive secretary asked if I’d give the closing prayer. I said I would and my DH said mentioned that I prefer to give the opening since I might be out nursing the baby by the time sacrament meeting ends. The executive secretary swapped us without a second thought.

    I have noticed that they tend to get into patterns though. For a while it’s all sisters for opening prayer and then for no apparent reason the sisters start being assigned the closing prayer. That swapping has been going on for years now. I think we just tend to be creatures of habit sometimes.

  88. Researcher says:

    I think we just tend to be creatures of habit sometimes.

    Oh boy; that’s too simple an explanation. What would we have to grouse about if that was true!?!

  89. Kevin Barney says:

    Hey, Jami, I like your friend’s idea of a SM prayer strike!

  90. Wouldn’t a SM talk strike be more appealing to more people?

  91. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, Ray, do both.

  92. Nat Whilk says:

    Wouldn’t a SM talk strike be more appealing to more people?

    It should certainly make people who dislike listening to dissidents happy.

  93. Nah, Kevin. My direct priesthood leader wouldn’t like that very much. *grin*

  94. This practice is alive and well in my stake. It *infuriates* me. I told the powers that be that pick prayers in my ward (someone who happens to live in my household) that I will pray when this policy is discontinued.

  95. jgtown says:

    hmmm…just to get this out there…i am not a big fan of bkp’s “unwritten order of things” talk at all…

    i (as i believe others have) read the talk as an attempt to invoke some type of pseudo “spirit of the law” mentality to actually cement even more “letter of the law” mandates…

    i was surprised to read that certain posters see it as a genuine push for adherence to the “spirit of the law”…

    i especially find this puzzling as bkp specifically cites several examples that seem to be a call for a defined mode of order that should not be strayed from (even though as he memorably states that it is unwritten) – the no nick name policy being one of the more inane examples i can think of at the moment…

    perhaps someone could help me out with their analysis of how bkp’s talk can be viewed as something other than a reinforcement of specific (ie letter of the law) guidelines from which we ought not to stray?…

  96. Sometimes we strain at gnats while swallowing camels whole.

    All sorts of unwritten rules and silly traditions have become attached to the sacrament. Mark B (Comment #12) mentions the one about requiring deacons to pass the sacrament “with their left hands shoved up into the small of their backs.”

    Another tradition requires the deacons to stand at the sacrament table, trays in hand, while one of their number ascends to the podium and serves the bishop. Only then do the rest of the deacons fan out to pass the sacrament to the members. Although the presiding authority is supposed to receive the sacrament first, I know of no reason the deacons cannot be walking to their positions at the same time. (When I was bishop, I always had the odd feeling that everyone was waiting for me to test the bread and water to see if it was poisoned.)

    Then there is the requirement that the sacrament be taken with the right hand. I must admit that after shaking hands with everyone in the ward, I tend to take the bread with my left hand.

  97. Although the presiding authority is supposed to receive the sacrament first, I know of no reason the deacons cannot be walking to their positions at the same time

    This is the practice in our ward, and I like it.

  98. chimera says:

    How many angels can dance on the end of a pin? (don’t mean any disrespect here – just think the GA ought to be clear about this to the whole church – pretty easy – one short ensign article by the first presidency or one good conference talk and POOF – the issue goes away)

  99. About 4 years ago in Calgary, we had a sister give the opening prayer at Stake Conference. At our next Stake PEC meeting our Stake Pres. instructed us that from then on only MP holders could open conference or Sac. Mtg. It turned out that the visiting AA70 who was presiding at our conference and saw the sister give the prayer told our SP that MP holders are to open those meetings. I pointed out the relevant references from the CHI but the SP said no matter, he was going to do what he was told. I don’t know what the other Calgary stakes do. I now live in Mexico and it is a hard and fast rule here.

  100. Randy B. says:

    I think this idea of a SM prayer strike is great idea. Trouble is that our ward is so large that people generally get asked to prayer only every couple of years, if not longer. Nonetheless, my strike starts today.

  101. Kevin (52) and ATNM (85): If you read Elder Packer’s warm remembrances from President Hinckley’s funeral, you will see that Elder Packer may not necessarily agree with Elder Packer.

  102. Researcher says:

    Sure; and knowing how many funerals GAs have to go to*, he could have just been to a string of really awful funerals that painted the worst of dingbats as much beloved dearly departed and forgot to mention Christ our our hope of the resurrection.

    (*J Golden Kimball got to the funeral a little late and stood up to speak about the dear departed. He heaped praise after praise on the saintly brother. After awhile he noticed that people in the audience were snickering and he looked a little closer and realized that the brother he was eulogizing was sitting on the front row. In true JGK fashion he shouted, “Who-the-hells funeral am I at anyway?!?”)

  103. Researcher says:

    sigh…of course I meant “or our hope”

  104. jgtown (95) – I believe I am the “certain poster” that you are referring to, as I think I am the only one who invoked a “spirit of the law” description of the talk. Here are a few lines from the beginning of the talk that I think are key to understanding what Pres. Packer is saying:

    The things I am going to tell you about are not so rigid that the Church will fall apart if they are not strictly observed all the time. . . .

    Our meetings should be conducted in such a way that members may be refreshed spiritually and remain attuned to the Spirit as they meet the challenges of life. We are to establish conditions under which members can, through inspiration, solve their own problems. There are simple things that help in that regard, and things that hinder.

    He then goes on to list examples of things that he believes will help keep the “order” talked about in the scriptures (e.g., “My house is a house of order” D&C 132:18; “all things are to be done decently and in order” 1 Cor. 14:40) so as to help members feel of the Spirit in meetings. These examples are reflections of principles that he also mentions. There isn’t much I would disagree with in his examples.

    His example of funerals does sound a bit extreme on its face. I don’t know if he was trying to say that he didn’t think it was proper to talk about the deceased in a funeral at all, or simply that a complete focus on the life of the deceased at the expense of the atonement and resurrection should be avoided. I know when Pres. Monson spoke at my grandmother’s funeral, he definitely shared a lot of personal stories about my grandparents, but did so in a very uplifting, gospel context. I tend to like that approach.

    My understanding of Pres. Packer’s teachings is that there are rules and there are principles. Principles are more enduring, whereas rules may only fit the situation. He also seems to emphasize often to leaders the importance of teaching the rule, not the exception (for cognitive reasons – most people will remember the exception and not the rule, which, in my experience, is generally true). But to also teach that there are exceptions, and that we should seek guidance from the Lord in making such an exception.

    Anyway, that’s my understanding of it.

    As for the practice of who gives prayers in sacrament meeting, I don’t know the source or the reasons for the practice, so I don’t feel that there is much I can say about it. It’s not followed in my neck of the woods, and I don’t know if it has ever been taught to the leaders here either (it certainly wasn’t when I was in the bishopric). I’ll ask our bishopric members to see if they have received anything recently.

  105. Nat (92) – Touche.

  106. The strike sounds fun and all, but most likely the bishopric will probably just sigh and say, “Well, there’s another proud member who is willing to take but not give.”

  107. JT,

    I bet you’re lots of fun at parties. Especially ward parties.

  108. sol – Indeed – it’s not a party unless I’m there.

  109. Randy B. says:

    I would not have phrased it the way JT did, but there is some merit to his point more generally. That is, if the only people who participate in a strike are those who are less than fully engaged in their wards, the impact of their refusal to say a prayer in SM will be diminished. However, if the people who participate are those who are in the pews each week, who hold leadership and teaching positions, who have provided years of faithful service in the ward, who go to the ward service projects, who help out when people move in or out of the ward, then I suspect many (most?) bishoprics might take them more seriously. I certainly hope that is the case, anyway. We will see.

  110. I know some people think this silly policy is the tip of the iceberg, hence representing a much larger problem. But is it really worth sacrificing our unity over, by engaging in “prayer strikes”? The idea that one shouldn’t run faster than one is able to comes to mind. If we give this issue a little time, won’t it correct itself?

    I feel for the bishopric. They are human too. And prone to being offended. Imagine some poor bishopric guy who is trying to honor the SP, and do his calling and keep up with everything else in his life. Now half the ward won’t give prayers in SM anymore. I could see how the bishopric could get offended, and feel like they are not getting the support they need.

    In our ward I will support it, because I have made a commitment to support the brethren. I believe unity is important. Yes there are limits to what I will do or agree with to achieve unity, but complying with this seems pretty easy.

    Taking a stand on this minor issue, and the contention that would result would substantially decrease my ability to work on the weightier issues the SP has directed our attention to, such as doubling convert baptisms, increasing retention, getting the members to read the scriptures 20 minutes per day, giving every household the opportunity to donate fast offerings every month, etc.

    To me this issue truly is the gnat. I want to focus on the camels.

  111. Good point, Randy. (My comment in 106 was made somewhat facetiously, btw.) Though I imagine that someone with the credentials you provide would probably have a more effective experience by simply talking to the bishop about it. In addition, I think something like a strike in church might negate some of those positive credentials.

  112. Randy B. says:

    The notion that a divisive, unwritten policy imposed in ad hoc fashion must be supported because otherwise our unity might be jeopardized strikes me as rather ironic.

    Just to be clear, I’m not going to stage a protest, pass around sign up sheets in Sunday School, or accost people in the foyer. Rather, if asked to offer a prayer in SM, I’ll politely decline and explain why — namely, that I’m discouraged by the fact that the ward does not follow the CHI as to who can offer such prayers in SM and note that I’m not inclined to participate in or support this discrimantory and unsanctioned practice.

    Perhaps it won’t make a difference. But it might.

  113. re: 100

    Alan,

    I am in the stake you speak of. I’m glad I’m not the only one going to this stake president about things like this that I see. However, I have found that it makes little difference.

  114. Randy B. says:

    Also, comment #110 could be bookends with comment #80. If this issue truly is a gnat, why is it that these unnamed AA70s (and perhaps others) seem to be focusing so heavily on it?

    To be honest, I had thought that my ward was a true abberation, a unique holdover from long-forgotten days. As a result, I had just blown it off as a rare quirk. What this post has made apparent is that there are some who are actively promoting this idea throughout the church despite clear direction otherwise in the CHI. Frankly, I think that is rather problematic, if not worse.

  115. Wow! I’ve never heard of this “rule”. When I first started reading the comments I thought “Another urban legend”. I’ve never seen this in practice so maybe it’s just for really weird wards or it really is an urban legend.

  116. Randy B. says:

    JT #111, I think you’re reacting to the word “strike.” You may be right though that using that particular word carries baggage that could be counter-productive. It’s easy enough to find less-loaded words to express the same basic sentiment.

  117. 3114 Randy, I tend to agree with you more than my earlier post might indicate. I believe unity is of the utmost importance, and when people put their own idea’s into the mix and ask us to support them, it strains our relationship with those that preside over us.

    I believe our presiding officers are entitled to expect us to support what is in the scriptures and the CHI, allowing us the right to modify the rules when lead by the spirit to do so, within our own calling.

    When they add extra burdens into the mix, such as the MP only for opening prayers, white bread only, crust must be cut off, (which is really trying to emulate the catholic sacrament), eight year olds must be confirmed at waters edge, as opposed to at waters edge OR in sacrament meeting as the handbook says, all deacons must stand frozen in place until the bishop takes the sacrament, no home teaching on Sunday, no sex while fasting, home teaching done the last day of the month doesn’t count, everybody has to stand up in priesthood opening exercises and recite the “Mission of the Aaronic Priesthood”, etc, they are putting unnecessary obstacles in our spiritual path.

    However I still feel sorry for the bishopric counselor who is trying to do his best and is caught between sustaining his file leaders and earning the support of his ward members. Although I support your right to handle it exactly as you suggest, at the same time, my choice is to follow the request and pray in whatever order they ask. And keep hoping and praying that these kinds of silly policies get corrected soon.

  118. Having been the one to bring up the word strike, I’d just like to mention that I called it a strike, not my friend who is hoping for a policy change. Additionally, she and her family serve and serve and serve the ward they are in. They are amazing, faithful and kind people. I think her concern is legitimate and I’m sure that she has expressed it respectfully and forcefully. That’s the kind of woman she is.

  119. Randy B. says:

    No sex while fasting?!?

  120. Mark B. says:

    Thanks to CW for bringing up the old “no sex while fasting” rule. I only heard it once, in the high priests group in my dad’s ward in central Utah. It came then with appropriate reference to some general authority (Joseph Fielding Smith springs to mind) who had given the counsel sometime, somewhere, long ago and far away.

    I was inclined to answer then (but didn’t have the, ahem, gall) that if I were having sex as often as I ate that I would gladly forgo twice a month on fast Sunday. And, for all of you readers who are engaging in sex that often, I would recommend that you take a day off once a month. Fast Sunday would work as well as any other day, I suppose.

  121. Mark IV says:

    Honestly, some of this crapola deserves to be met with a horselaugh, not meek compliance.

  122. Randy B. says:

    Was the size of your fast offering supposed to be tied to the “no sex while fasting” rule? That could create some interesting domestic dynamics.

  123. Mark B. says:

    No, Randy, we all know that size doesn’t really matter.

  124. sister blah 2 says:

    I do *actually* get headaches while fasting. Just sayin’!

  125. Mark B. says:

    Seems I’ve heard that one before.

  126. Martin Willey says:

    So, CW, what are the camels? Inclusion and equality are some of mine; but what camels are you referring to?

  127. (116), (118) – I had understood the word “strike” in this context to mean a simple refusal to pray in sacrament meeting, with perhaps some remarks to the bishopric as to why.

    Poor bishopric.

  128. Martin Willey says:

    I heard the “no sex while fasting” thing from a middle-aged Sunday School teacher when I was about 13 or 14. Creepy.

  129. #127

    Poor bishopric

    Getting people to pray isn’t that big a deal, and if the ward is “striking” then the bishopric can pray. Or stop insisting on MP holders opening the SM.

    On the scale of things to say “poor bishopric” about, this seems pretty low. Fighting a battle for equality and against sexist, unwritten rules is the fun part of being in a bishopric, not the aggravating part.

    When I was in a bishopric, and during the months when I had to organize the prayers, I went out of my way to have women open SM and speak last. Damn the torpedoes.

    It’s the little things.

  130. I think that the idea that while fasting one should abstain from sex comes from the law of moses and is current in both Islam and Judaism.

    Never heard it in our church and it would cause a ruckus if anybody brought that up around these parts.

  131. dug (129) – You’re right – it isn’t a big deal. That’s why it sucks for the bishopric member who has to spend an additional hour or two or more each week on a little thing among a gajillion other bigger things.

  132. Betsey says:

    Why can I serve as a RS teacher, Primary teacher, YW teacher, cub scout leader, SS teacher, Activities chairperson, RS president/counselor, Auxiliary leader, visiting teacher, stake leader, missionary, a moving force in the church, but I can’t offer an opening prayer in SM. Yet a MP holder who can’t teach alone in Primary can? Some may not think it is so minor. To a mother who is teaching her children (and other church member’s children), especially her teenage daughter, that they have a “divine nature” and “individual worth” this is more than minor. Where does this place the value of a woman in the LDS church? Does this not add to the overbearing patriarchal problem the church tends to have? Who wants to explain this to new converts?

    It certainly is the little things . . .

  133. JT, I guess maybe I’m quibbling, but I’d say you’re WAY overstating the effort required here. An hour or two more each week? Not likely.

    And what I’m actually suggesting is to avoid that effort. Fight the good fight. Ask women to open the meeting. What, are they gonna fire you?

  134. You’re right – I am being somewhat facetious here. However, on nights where I made calls like these, it wasn’t unheard of for it to take that long when many weren’t home or didn’t want to speak/pray and needed to discuss concerns. If a sizeable group actually were “striking” and needed to voice their concerns, it certainly could take that long (probably much longer, actually, but admittedly it wouldn’t keep repeating each week).

    In addition, I think you and I have different views on how a bishopric member should take direction from the SP or AA70. I would bring my concern to the SP, but as an agent of the church, I would follow through with his final direction. If I couldn’t in good conscious do that, I would let the SP know, rather than just ignore his direction.

    All I’m saying here is that I would feel bad for the guy stuck in the middle: the bishopric member.

  135. Very late to the discussion, but … Naismith 25, as a matter of fact, I have offered the prayer (don’t remember whether it was opening or closing) with a baby at my breast. (I’ve also accompanied the ward choir while nursing a baby. The sling is an awesome invention.) No one batted an eye. Maybe because they all know that’s just how I roll.

    In my ward, when the executive secretary calls a couple to pray (which is maybe half the time), he asks the person who answers the phone his/her preference. I think I’ve always asked to open just so I can get it over with.

    Not completely on topic (but neither is it completely off), in our Spanish-speaking branch, children routinely pray in sacrament meeting.

  136. Kevinf says:

    Having been a bishop, and noting that several who have commented here are or have been bishop’s or bishopric members, it is really, really, hard to say no to your SP when he says to do something. I was fortunate, and never had much in the way of real disagreements with my stake president. I always felt comfortable with discussing concerns, and he generally left me to exercise my own stewardship, but until you sit in a situation like that, it’s hard to understand just how difficult it is to say no.

    I’ve always been uncomfortable with Pres. Packer’s “Unwritten Order” talk. I believe that his basic premise is correct, that we learn many things by observation and emulation. However, I struggled with how quickly it went from generalities to specifics that didn’t always ring true to me. And yet I am a big fan of some of his other talks. I just think the “Unwritten Order” mindset can be prone to misunderstandings and sometimes perpetuating activities and practices that really are not important. I think this post has documented several of those issues.

    A strike sounds like fun, but I’ll save it for something really important, and then wear bow ties to church as a protest.

  137. Randy B. says:

    Kevinf, I’ve not been a Bishop, though I’ve been in several bishoprics now. During one stretch, I had to find speakers for almost every SM for four years in an inner-city ward. I’ve also had to help find people to say prayers in SM, though it never took me anywhere close to the 2 hours to find 2 prayers that it seems to have sometimes taken JT. All of which is to say that I get what these folks have to deal with.

    Like you, I sympathize with those who are put in tough spots by their superiors. There are some things, looking back, that I wish I had done differently, but didn’t feel comfortable speaking up at the time. I understand why some would feel compelled to act as they have.

    That said, not offering prayers while my ward adheres to its current position is a narrowly-tailored and entirely proportional response. There is very little threat (in my ward anyway) of this becoming a widespread protest. At most, my refusal will result in few additional phone calls by the executive secretary every year or so. I think he can hack it. Plus I hate bow ties.

    In the meantime, perhaps someone will think twice about these sorts of things next time around. Sometimes a little nudge can go a long way.

  138. our 70 in utah said nothing on prayer but here was my shorthand an all the ‘nos’ bhe listed-
    Sacrament no postlude on the sacrament
    No singing hymns as a testimoney
    No reverence monitors from primary
    No primary instructors leaving in advance while the rest wait after the closing prayer, no instructions or hymns after the closing prayer
    No sacrament meeting that is all music – ‘music and the spoken word’ – no perfomances for performances sake
    Don’t use teaching techniques when speaking at pulpit in sacrament- pictures, flannel boards, don’t leave the pulpit, ask questions, ask members to stand, asking people to follow along in their scriptures
    Sing hymns that everybody knows- not the role of sacrament meeting to teach new hymns

  139. --I am I-- says:

    Quiet everyone! Please don’t mention the ‘no sex while fasting idea to my wife!’ She’ll think it is a real commandment still in force! Then I’ll be out of luck on yet another day!

    On a more serious note…

    This whole issue is rather strange to me. I’ve never heard of it previously (uninformed lout that I am), but I do have this to say about it–no way would I enforce if I were in a position to do so. If I were in a training meeting and a GA or AA70 mentioned this, my hand would go up and I would simply ask, very bluntly, “If this is doctrine, why haven’t we seen a letter from the FP about this? Because I know for a fact that it will be offensive to my own wife and to a number of sisters. So before you ask me to offend the sisters in a ward, I need to know that this is truly the will of the Lord. I’ll be praying about it, but I need to know that this is the will of the Lord for the entire Church, and you don’t have that authority.”

    And then I’d be released, and grateful for it. Thankfully, I’m not in a calling where I’d be in that training right now, but that’s fine with me. I LIKE teaching Elder’s Quorum, so there.

    Oh, and #138, when I’m giving a talk, I’ll leave the pulpit if I want to. I pace when I’m talking, and that’s all there is to it. I get into lecture mode, and I just can’t help it. If it weren’t for a thrice bedamned fixed microphone, I’d wander the aisles between the pews to make a point. Not that I particularly NEED a microphone, but that’s another story. If you can’t hear me when I’m talking in a normal-sized sacrament meeting room, get your hearing checked. When there’s an overflow and kids screaming and you are in the VERY back, you might have trouble, but it’s doubtful, since I speak very loudly.

    Oh, and I actually agree with one thing–unless you plan to actually make people stop and start over in sacrament, it isn’t the place to teach new hymns. But that means that the WARD doesn’t have a place (officially) to learn new hymns, and we should have one. So you either need to spend a few minutes in teaching new hymns at some other point OR you need to be willing make people stop and do it over. Personally, I’d love to see the ward music director give a talk once a month on a particular hymn, it’s significance, and then teach it to everyone–then make them sing it every Sunday for the next month until they learn it. Just because we have over 300 songs in the book, and use maybe a third of them regularly.

    But back to the topic at hand: if the Bishop wants my wife to give a prayer, he’d better be willing to let her say it at the beginning, because chances are my kids are not going to cooperate for the closing prayer (95% certainty).

  140. maybe this is too much off topic, but really, do we need SM micro-managed by the AA – these “lists” are where we begin to mistake someone’s preference for things as doctrine – like whether it’s “okay” for women to offer the opening prayer. This is an embarrassment – I would really truly be embarrassed to have to explain to a friend this or any of the other “no’s” on the list.

    I was once at a missionary training meeting where an apostle was speaking (I won’t mention his name because I really like him and I just didn’t agree with the way he handled this issue, but I don’t want to taint his image with others). We sang the Spirit of God as the closing hymn and people started standing at the last verse. The spirit was really strong, until Elder __ got up (before the closing prayer even) and said that’s not the way we do things, and in my opinion publicly embarrassed those who had stood. Funny thing, but last week in RS the teacher said at the dedication of the Kirtland temple this song was sung and the spirit was so strong it moved people to stand and speak in tongues.

    I understood his motives at the time, many times we Mormons get competitive and try to out-do each other spiritually and ritually, since we have very few rituals outside of the temple and people begin to think that the spirit isn’t there unless you stand, or have a “the spoken word” or reverence child, etc. etc.

    But really, so what if a couple of times a year or lifetime we have all songs instead of talks. Heaven forbid in an effort to make children feel included in SM we have a reverence child who stands quietly showing adults and children alike that we may want to take the few minutes before the meeting to ponder instead of chat. Has the AA ever been a primary teacher, where you can’t set up your room before class because we share a building and someone’s in your classroom – yet an integral part of your lesson (and straight from the manual) is a treasure hunt? All these “no’s” make me leery of sharing a good idea for fear it may not qualify as part of the unwritten order of things.

    What happened to governing ourselves using correct principles? And which of these principles prohibits my offering the invocation?

  141. Mark B. says:

    Sing hymns that everybody knows- not the role of sacrament meeting to teach new hymns

    Really?

    If we don’t learn new hymns in sacrament meeting, where on earth are the large mass of church members to learn them?

    I agree that sacrament meeting is not a good place for an organist to learn a hymn–but if the organist and conductor know the hymn, and if the organist knows how to play loudly enough (not the typical milquetoast version we hear in so many wards), then the congregation can “learn” enough of a hymn to do it justice. Especially if the conductor takes it at the slow end of the metronome markings and has the organist play the whole thing through as introduction.

  142. Re: SM hymns, our chorister has, to me at least, an annoying tendency to pick obscure, rarely sung hymns which the congregation, me included, proceed to butcher. (She also regularly subjects us to the morose sounding “I Believe in Christ.”) At least until last month’s F&T meeting when a recent convert stood up and shared how she was moved during the singing of one of these obscure hymns, then shared some of the words of the hymn and why they made such a spiritual impression with her in a very powerful way. So now I will gladly sing/butcher whatever hymn is selected, but still really dislike the funereal IBIC.

  143. sister blah 2 says:

    #139, 141–In RS, we have a weekly “practice hymn” in addition to the opening and closing hymns. The chorister picks a (usually lesser-known) hymn and we really work on it musically and she also gives a few comments about the words or significance or the author.

  144. #142 rbc—-When I read that you disliked IBIC I laughed out loud! I thought I was “the only one…” Everytime it is sang in SM, I cringe. Don’t know why, it just doesn’t appeal to me, and I can’t wait until the hymn is finished. Maybe because the four verses are just too long. Should be devided up into 8 verses…… The we could sing the 4 verse version and be done with it. Thanks!

  145. Our ward allows sisters to open a meeting and doesn’t call couples to pray in the same meeting.

    We have a spreadsheet that tracks the last prayer and talk date for each youth and adult, to attempt to impose some sort of “rotation”. Due to the growth in our area, I haven’t talked in SM in almost 11 years.

  146. Re #138,

    I understand there is a new FP letter that essentially repeats this counsel:

    Don’t use teaching techniques when speaking at pulpit in sacrament- pictures, flannel boards, don’t leave the pulpit, ask questions, ask members to stand, asking people to follow along in their scriptures

  147. Guy Noir, Private Eye says:

    er…When ‘might’ it occur to leaders that they’re mired in minutia, details?
    ‘they strain at a gnat yet swallow a camel’…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,475 other followers