A Primary lesson on the priesthood

I was asked to substitute teach my nine-year-old daughter’s Primary class last Sunday. Coincidentally, my 9-year-old was also supposed to give a talk in Primary that day. Saturday evening, I remembered that I had still not prepared my lesson, which was supposed to be “Jesus Christ Used His Priesthood Power to Bless Others.” I had been putting it off, mainly because I am lazy, but also because I don’t like giving lessons on the priesthood, as it is a topic fraught with…problems, I guess–for me, not necessarily for anyone else. And probably especially not for children. I never worry about how the children are going to react to a particular lesson, at least not since I realized they forget everything that happened in class as soon as they leave the room. I only worry about my ability to not be completely uncomfortable for 45 minutes while I attempt to teach things I don’t understand or believe. That sounds a bit dramatic. It’s probably less provocative to say that I have a great deal of ambivalence about the priesthood. Anyway, that’s what was on my brain while I was procrastinating. Also procrastinating was my daughter, who does not like giving talks or preparing them. I don’t like giving talks or preparing them either, but what I like even less is helping children prepare talks.

The theme for April is “Jesus Christ restored the fulness of his gospel through Joseph Smith.” My daughter thought about this and remembered that she had just read an article in the Friend about the restoration of the priesthood. (Yes, my daughter does like to read the Friend. Mainly because it’s one of the few pieces of mail that comes to her. But don’t worry; the situation is under control.) She decided she could give her talk on that. “Great idea,” I said. “If you need any help ask Daddy.” Because I still needed to prepare my own lesson, you see.

While I was getting my daughter ready for bed, we started talking about how her brother, a newly-minted deacon, would be passing the sacrament for the first time the next day. I don’t remember how the conversation started. But at one point she said, “I’ll never get to pass the sacrament. Boys do everything. We do nothing.”

“Well, we don’t do nothing,” I said. “You can help in other ways.”

“Like what?” she asked.

“Well, we all have jobs to do. You don’t have to have the priesthood to help at church.”

“But what will I do?”

“Well, I’ve had lots of different jobs at church. I’ve taught Primary, played piano, worked in the library–”

“But what will I do when I turn twelve?”

At this point I think I changed the subject. You see why I don’t like teaching lessons about the priesthood? This was a casual conversation in the privacy of my own home, with an audience of one, and I was dying. The thing you need to understand about my nine-year-old is that she’s entirely without guile. She’s not political, like her older sister (or her mother). It’s true that (also unlike her older sister) she never went through a princess phase and she’s still indifferent to the typical “girly” stuff. But it’s not because she’s a “tomboy”–a word I hate–or because she eschews “girly” things. She’s not “gender transgressive” or whatever. She just likes what she likes. When she was younger, she liked Thomas the Tank Engine and playing with cars. (Of course, when she played with cars, it meant the mommy and daddy cars would feed the baby cars breakfast and take them to the park, where they would swing on the swings, after which they would go home and have dinner, followed by a bath and a story and tucking in to bed–read into that what you will.) Now she likes Scooby-Doo and Spider-Man. Once she was playing football with her brothers and their friends and came inside crying because they wouldn’t let her be quarterback. “I want to be like Marcus Mariota,” she sniffled. “When I’m bigger.”

The other day she went to a birthday party, where they played a darts game and gave out prizes to the winners; the boys got a Spider-Man game and the girls got some kind of puzzle. I don’t know if Laura had been one of the winners or not, but she coveted that Spider-Man game. “I like puzzles, but I like Spider-Man better,” she said. “Why can’t boys and girls just get the same thing?”

545When I talk to my older, more bitter and jaded daughter about gender issues in the church, I’m candid about my own feelings and opinions, but I try to put a positive spin on things and encourage her to take a charitable view of church leaders and other people who don’t share her concerns, if only to counteract her tendency to think the world sucks and she’s a victim. Contrary to what some readers of this blog have asserted, I have not “infected” my daughters with my feminism. Or if I have, it was genetic and not on purpose. With my older daughter, I’ve been honest and I’ve validated her feelings, but I’ve also done all I can to paint the church in a positive light, to the point where she thinks I have Stockholm Syndrome. With my younger daughter, I am afraid to acknowledge any gender inequity at church–not because I want to protect the church, but because I want to protect her. I don’t want her to have the same issues I have.

At church on Sunday, my son the newly-minted deacon was anxious about passing the sacrament for the first time. He has autism, and while he’s been looking forward to his new responsibilities, he’s also felt somewhat overwhelmed by them. The week before, his quorum took the last few minutes of class to do a dry-run of the sacrament-passing route for the benefit of him and the other two new deacons. (Personally, I’ve always thought passing the sacrament looked pretty complicated, but I admit I’ve never studied it carefully. How do they know where to go? One of the many mysteries of manliness!) He came home saying, “Passing the sacrament is hard.” We assured him that he’d do fine, and the other boys would help him. His older brother, now a teacher, agreed to pass the sacrament with him so he’d feel more comfortable.

I don’t want to say that I felt proud watching my two sons passing the sacrament, because “pride” does not adequately or accurately describe my feelings. What I felt was, I think, joy–joy that my son was experiencing another rite of passage and joy that my other son was helping him through it. I heard someone say once that when you’re younger, you cry over evil, but as you get older, you cry over goodness–because you understand how much less common it is. My sons’ participation in the priesthood is good. It makes me happy.

During Primary class the following hour, we talked about Jesus calming the storm, feeding the five thousand, healing people, and walking on the water. We talked about the priesthood being the same power that Jesus used to perform these miracles.

“But that doesn’t make sense,” one boy said. “The priesthood isn’t magic. It’s an opportunity–to help people.”

That sounded like an awfully PC answer that his parents probably taught him–and good for them. It certainly wasn’t false. “The priesthood isn’t magic,” I said, “but it is the power of God.” And I pointed out that he was absolutely right–the priesthood can only be used for things that are needful to serve others; you can’t baptize yourself or give yourself a blessing–that’s not how it works.

My plan was to cut out entirely the section of the lesson that talked about boys getting the priesthood when they turned twelve because I figured we’d have plenty to talk about besides that, but throughout the lesson, the girls kept reminding me that “we,” i.e. girls and women, don’t have the priesthood. Only boys and men have the priesthood. And then I ran out of material with fifteen minutes of class time to spare. So I thought, what the heck, and I said, “So only boys get the priesthood. Does that make them better or more important than girls or boys who don’t have the priesthood?”

And everyone said, “NOOOOOOOO!” because they’ve been taught well.

One boy said, “Girls can have babies.”

“Yes,” I said, “but so what?” Because I’m heartless and cruel. I pointed out that twelve-year-old girls don’t have babies (at least as far as these nine-year-olds are concerned), and neither do all women. They all recognized this was true.

“Some women don’t get married.”

“Some women can’t have babies.”

“Some women don’t want to.”

However, I pointed out, women who have callings in the church are set apart by their bishops (or stake presidents, in some cases) and given priesthood authority to act in those callings. (See Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” April 2014 General Conference.) I kept it as simple as possible because a) they’re children, and b) I don’t fully understand the whole keys-and-authority thing myself, but we talked about what callings their mothers had or have had and the Primary president and other female leaders, and I reiterated that in those callings, those women have priesthood authority to serve a priesthood function.

I believe their collective response was, “Huh.” And then they went to Sharing Time and, I’m sure, forgot all about it.

Afterward, I felt that I’d handled it fairly clumsily, as I do most things, but I felt good about it.

Today over lunch my husband told me that on Sunday my older son had been preparing the sacrament table by himself; my nine-year-old daughter decided to help him, and the bishop had to remind her–kindly–that that was her brother’s job. My husband said she had seemed a little embarrassed, and I felt sad again–but grateful that my husband had been there at the time to handle it better than I would have. It obviously didn’t devastate her. She gave her talk on the restoration of the priesthood, and she was poised and articulate. I had joy in her that day.

Comments

  1. This is just something that is not going away. I feel like a big part of why all of the hullabaloo has happened in, say, the last five years, is that people of my age suddenly have daughters and sons in late primary years, and we just don’t know what to say about this to our own children. We are willing to have our proverbial shelf and have things not make a lot of sense to us personally, and quietly sit at church and wonder privately. But that doesn’t work when our daughters and sons are 11. We can’t be quiet and we don’t know what to say. And 11 year olds are bright eyed and earnest, and they have no idea what is going on because they have never before experienced anything like separate but equal. We just really, really need to figure out what to tell them. Preferably something true. And soon.

  2. Mary Lythgoe Bradford says:

    I thought Jesus was against priestcraft

  3. You’re not teaching folk doctrine: brava! you can sub my 9 yo’s class any day.

  4. Mike Harris says:

    Thank you. Well written. Any active LDS, female or male, eventually will have to learn how to learn to be submissive to those that have priesthood authority. It’s a tough lesson. But the day we learn it, Heavenly Father will have joy in us.

  5. Jason K. says:

    Nicely done, Rebecca. Like you, I’m faking my way through these conversations with my own daughter, trying to balance telling it like it is with not piling on a bunch of angst. No easy task, and I applaud your efforts.

    Part of the issue here is “priesthood creep,” like the bishop shooing your daughter away from the sacrament table. Preparing the sacrament isn’t among the priesthood duties listed in in the D&C (and neither, for instance, is passing it). Hartley’s article “From Men to Boys” notes that these duties arose out of a need to figure out things for young Aaronic Priesthood holders to do. Which is well and good, except that something with origins as policy now has acquired all kinds of doctrinal encrustation. Women prepared the sacrament regularly at least through the 1950s (all the ironing of linens, baking of bread, and polishing of silver fell within conceptions of the feminine sphere), so there’s no need to treat your daughter as though she were transgressing some sacred boundary.

  6. Thank you for this Rebecca. Many points strike close to home for me. I have two boys who are old enough to participate in the sacrament. Watching them serve together is one of my great joys. They really do become more Christ-like through performing priesthood ordinances. And Gina is correct about parents changing when they have daughters. Having two myself opened my eyes such that I proudly call myself a mormon feminist today.

    My oldest daughter is only 8, but already she has a keen interest in the sacrament ordinance. She reads the sacrament prayers along with the priest each week, knows where the prayers are in both the d/c and BOM, and insists on passing the sacrament to those around her on her row. Quite often she sits at the end of the row so that she can receive first. I know a discussion will take place about why she is excluded. I doubt church policy will change soon enough for her, but I also have hope that her generation will show desires for greater blessings -desires that are necessary for new revelation to pour down from heaven as it has in the past.

  7. Oregon Mum says:

    I want my kids to be like Marcus Mariota too. :)

  8. Right on. Passing the sacrament is not inherently a priesthood duty, but one that has been assigned.
    I don’t have kids, but it doesn’t stop me from having hypothetical conversations that never seem to go quite right.

  9. Clark Goble says:

    I think the real issue isn’t the Deacons passing the sacrament but not having jobs for young women so that they feel a responsibility and duty as aiding the church. While I don’t think there’s any doctrinal reason they couldn’t pass the sacrament I do think a revelation would be necessary to start that. But even independent of any such hypothetical revelation, there are a lot of tasks that could be assigned to young women so they feel and important part of things.

  10. Marivene says:

    Years ago when I was a young single woman at BYU, new convert to the Church, they passed around a sign up sheet to make the bread for the Sacrament. I was surprised at how few of the sisters signed up, & I did. It was a wonderful experience to make two loaves of bread that would be used for the Sacrament. Since then, I have been in wards where this is done from time to time, & I think it is a great way to involve young women. They may not be able to bless, break or pass the bread, but not one of the bishops had any objection to the young women producing the very emblem of the Sacrament. When my oldest daughter had the chance to bake the bread in a singles ward at USU, she jumped at the chance. For what it’s worth, she bakes the Sacrament bread all the time for their small branch now, because she has been diagnosed with celiac, as has one of her daughters, so unless they provide the bread, neither of them can partake of the Sacrament…& most ready made gluten free bread is nasty, so either she or her daughter just make homemade GF bread for the entire branch.

  11. ugh, I doubt a revelation is needed to change a tradition. we just have to stop being stupid.

    I’m not down with girls only participating by being in the kitchen, but that’s because I despise being in the kitchen. It’s not a skill or talent or anything I enjoy and I avoid it if at all possible. But for those for whom it work – more power to ya. I just don’t want to be in that box – or any other person girl who is only given that way to participate.

    It still comes down to us deciding to stop being so stupid about our traditions. If the riffraff aaronic priesthood holders needed extra assignments to give them ways to serve there’s no reason the same assignments couldn’t be offered to girls in the same way. pffft.

  12. I have mixed feelings about girls and women being asked to provide the bread. On the one hand, I think it’s a wonderful way to be involved–if you like baking bread. Personally, I hate baking bread. I wouldn’t mind buying the sacrament bread, but then, I already do that–when it’s my son’s turn to bring the bread. On the other hand–how many hands am I up to?–homemade bread is awesome. Also, it’s nice when the sacrament tastes good. (But wait–is it supposed to taste good? Maybe only when women are in charge of it?)

    Oregon Mum – Go Ducks!

  13. Angela C says:

    If I were baking bread for the sacrament, it would not be good. I have zero bread-making skill and even less interest. I relate to your conversation with your 9-YO daughter because it is nearly word-for-word the conversation I had with my daughter when she was 9 and her brother was passing (and her oldest brother was blessing). She just wanted to be involved, to have a responsibility in the meeting. And there was nothing for her.

  14. I was in a training the other day, focusing on needs of students with behavior issues. The psychologist explained to us that we have three fundamental needs: to be powerful, significant, and competent. When we are given choice in our lives (as long as it is not the choice between a punishment and a reward…but real choice) we feel like we have some power. When we feel significant, that we are needed and wanted, then that need is met. Finally, we must feel competent in something…like we know how to do something well. When these needs aren’t met, often behavior issues arise. I have 5 children, 3 of whom are teens. My son is a priesthood holder and my daughters are not. He is very active in the church, attends seminary, and the like. My daughters tend to doubt. They question many things in the church. I am proud that they question because it means they are thinking. But I also wonder, if their doubt isn’t a natural reaction to not having their needs met in this church. Do they feel significant? Nope. Does my son feel significant? Sure does. He is needed. His needs are being met…and my daughters get a pat on the head and told that motherhood is their “calling”. How nice. I’m going to keep focusing on Jesus Christ…and less on the practices of this church…they are not one in the same.

  15. This is so well expressed. I hope you find joy with all your children.

  16. I liked the OP so my comment isn’t a reflection on that. But it seems, in the comments, people too often categorize something as a tradition or policy without much basis. The sacrament is tied to the Aaronic Priesthood key of the gospel of baptism and remission of sins. See D&C 84:26-27. Apostles are on record discussing the passing of the sacrament as a priesthood duty.

    So I don’t know why anyone would be confident in claiming that it is merely a tradition or policy. It seems to be another way to call something uninspired.

  17. Jason K do you have a link to that Hartley article you mentioned? I just searched “Hartley From Men to Boys” at work and the results were such that you’d be disciplined for clicking on them! Thanks very much.

  18. Marc, You really need to read “From Men to Boys.” Administering the sacrament is a priesthood duty, but deacons and teachers are scripturally prohibited from administering the sacrament. It is clear that preparing and passing the sacrament are assigned to teachers and deacons by Church policy and/or tradition, not doctrine.

    wm and Marc, you can find the article in the Journal of Mormon History, Volume 22, No. 1 (1996).

  19. What is so sad to me when thinking about the history of the Aaronic priesthood and the sacrament and how passing it was designed to solve the problem of involvement for young men, is that, even today, there is little evidence that the central church sees the need to solve the problem of involvement for our young women. Some bishops are trying to meet this challenge in creative ways and that is great. But why has their been no thought given to our young women and their involvement in our services for the last 50 years? Is it because they take their involvement for granted? Because they just don’t “see” our girls? Because they don’t realize just how hard and widespread these parental concerns are? Even now as this problem has been raised by more and more parents who are having more and more hard discussions with their pre-teen and teen daughters I can’t think of a single thing that has been done on a churchwide scale to help. It will be nice when we see any leadership on this issue from one of our general leaders. Sigh…

  20. Hi AM:

    I read “From Men to Boys” last night when it was mentioned in the comments. It seems like the main basis to call deacons passing the sacrament a “policy” comes from a 1920’s letter from Heber J. Grant to a mission president. However, you would have to ignore subsequent teaching in general conference and in our manuals to stick with the view that it is just a policy.

    It may very well be that the impetus of deacons passing the sacrament came from a concern that they need more to do, but that doesn’t mean it is uninspired. We could just as easily say that the reason we have the word of wisdom is because Emma Smith was tired of cleaning up tobacco juice. That doesn’t mean the word of wisdom is just a policy or tradition that we can change by vote.

  21. Rebecca:
    The passing assignments are more simple than they look. Each deacon sits on the bench in a position numbered 1 through 6 (or 8). 1 sits closest to the pulpit, gets the tray first, and heads up to the stand to pass to the presiding authority. 2 goes down the far side of the chapel, 3 and 4 take alternate sides of the center. 5 takes the closer side of the chapel. 6 can take the back row and work forward to meet #1. 7 and 8, if needed, take the overflow. If it wasn’t simple, the twelve-year old boys couldn’t handle it.

    I’m the executive secretary for our ward. I also have a daughter who firmly believes that girls are people too (classic definition of a feminist). It’s been amazing how just having one voice in Bishopric meetings can help the young women in the ward. We had a linger-longer on Sunday after church – I asked a handful of the young women to help me with the setup during third hour, “cause if we have the boys do it, they will just play basketball”. It was somewhat amazing how they reacted to being asked – very pleased, happy to serve, and a little uncertain if they were actually allowed to do such a thing. I’ve taken young women on demolition projects with the young men, and each of the girls I took outworked any three of the boys present. (One boy started whining that he broke a fingernail, one of the girls asked him to turn in his “man card” on the spot.) Girls can split firewood, hang siding, mow lawns, set up tables, and any number of things (though not all will, preferring “friendship and fashion”). Likewise, boys can provide nursery services, cook, wash dishes, and do laundry (though not all will, preferring “eat, sleep, sports, and drool”). Most importantly, all the youth can serve, they should be thanked for their service, and they should all be provided opportunities to serve in a variety of ways.

  22. Women and girls already “pass” the sacrament when the tray comes down the row. Sometimes if there’s a wide enough gap between people on the row, they even stand up to pass the tray along to the next person. It doesn’t seem that big a leap to have them standing in the aisles passing the trays. Since it’s obviously not an act that requires ordination to the priesthood–else we would start prohibiting women and girls from touching the trays as they make their way down the rows.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    To Mark B.’s point, see this old blog post of mine:
    https://bycommonconsent.com/2008/07/13/stephanie-passing-the-sacrament/

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    The Bill Hartley article “From Men to Boys,” which is terrific, can be read in this issue of the JMH:

    http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1026&context=mormonhistory

  25. Marc,

    I never said it was uninspired. Just that it is not doctrine. It is a policy that solved a problem 60 years ago. It may not solve the problems of today. In my uninspired opinion, it causes problems today. (I know that some object to distinguishing between doctrine and policy. I am using the words to distinguish between something that, as Elder Oaks would say, our leaders do not have the keys to change and something that our leaders do have the keys to change. That line is probably not all that clear either. I don’t think it matters for my point.)

  26. Naismith says:

    “The priesthood isn’t magic. It’s an opportunity–to help people.”

    They wouldn’t have to be taught this by their parents. It is a persistent theme throughout the Valiant manuals. I think it is good and true, so that they understand that having the priesthood doesn’t make them better than anyone else, just gives them a particular way to serve others.

    We also talk about how everyone’s life is blessed by priesthood, and I remind them that I could not teach them if I was not set apart to do so.

    I also tell them about my daughter who served a mission that was extended because they needed her to stay and serve at the question booth for a temple open house. Research back in the 1990s showed that female missionaries are less threatening, so starting with the San Diego temple, only sisters could staff those booths. An example of how we have different assignments.

    In my ward, the 12-year-old girls see their Laurel president conducting Relief Society once a month. Also, while the male scouts go to Scout camps where everything is handed to them, our YW camps have a great deal of involvement and input and assignments to the Young Women. They choose the theme, design the T-shirt logo, help plan classes, and take their counselor stewardship over the younger girls very seriously.

    So far this year teaching Valiants, my problem has been running out of time, not filling it, thanks to The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos which can be downloaded or purchased on DVD. I love these so much. Would be interested in hearing as to how doctrinal they are, but the humanity shines through: When pre-teen Jesus wanders off to the temple to teach, his parents come looking bringing their other children, and the little sister takes His hand. When Christ tells a formerly lame man to take up his bed and walk, the man hugs Jesus. It is so natural.

  27. Elsie Kleeman says:

    I always get to church early and I notice how little the young women of the ward do to participate in needful activities. When we are the first ward in the building, the boys and their fathers set up chairs in the gym and then go to the RS, Primary, and YW room to set up. The young men prepare the sacrament. They bless and pass it. Young men are stationed at the doors handing out programs and later they sit there throughout the meeting to open and shut the doors. When we are the last ward in the building, again the young men help the adult men take down all the chairs, set up for seminary, and take out the garbage. All of this happens while I watch the young women do nothing.

    Priesthood aside, there are a lot of things our young women could do to help them become meaningfully involved at church, and I am just not seeing it done. I’ve stepped in and helped on Sundays where I can, but I am a lone woman in a crowd of priesthood holders. In RS presidency meetings we constantly discussed why YW did not want to come to RS, why they felt the older women were different from them and why they didn’t want to participate. I pointed this out – the YM spend time in meaningful service with older priesthood holders from the age of 12 ( on Sundays, collecting fast offerings, home teaching, going out with missionaries, etc). We inadvertently teach YW that church is no place for them, that they are unnecessary until they are adults, and by then they don’t really have a lot of interest.

  28. Elsie Kleeman says:

    When we asked the primary girls turning 12 what their favorite Activity Days activity was, they always answered making bread for the sacrament. I think this was because they were involved in the meeting. It was their bread being passed and it made them a part of the meeting, not passive participants.

  29. Lew Scannon says:

    Excellent and touching post. Priesthood is a confusing matter, and the issues are not going to go away. Fortunately, priesthood doctrine may be a lot less set in stone than we think. The inconsistencies are numerous, and sooner or later we’re going to have to face them and deal with them. Sooner would be wise.

  30. Wonderful post — you did a really great job, both in your discussion with your 9 year old daughter and in the lesson, as reported!

    Very sad that a bishop thought he had to officiously tell a 9 year old girl that she couldn’t touch the sacrament table. A reasonable inference she could make (and she sounds astute enough to do so) is that the concern is that she, as a girl, would defile it.

    Great comments Elsie Kleeman and others. This is such an important topic for the present moment. Our daughters are all asking why girls do nothing in the church whereas boys are pressed into fully visible, essential service starting at age 12. This problem isn’t going away. Practical solutions are needed, not just circuitous reasoning about women exercising priesthood authority in their callings but not holding the priesthood, etc.

  31. MagpieLovely says:

    I have sons but no daughters and I have long wondered if this was God’s way of keeping me Mormon. I wonder if I could stay while confronting these issues with my daughters.

    That said, Elsie’s comment reminded me that *I* am the one who sets up the Primary room with chairs and tables, and *I* am the one who brings the bread every week for the sacrament (since I have a deacon and a priest and my husband is Young Men’s president). Without me, a woman without the priesthood, many of the weekly “priesthood” functions would simply not be accomplished. My service minimizes these issues for me, because it’s so obvious that priesthood ordination has so little to do with getting the work done at church.

  32. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Your article made me cry. As a mother of a 12 year old daughter, who also loved Thomas the Tank engine and Spiderman and still has no interest in anything pink or lacy. Her 15 year old brother is responsible for preparing the sacrament table each week. His sister wants to help so much that she insists he leave the bread in my primary bag so she can walk it up to the sacrament table to give it to him. She’s even hung around the table and filled a cup or two when no one was looking. This truly breaks my heart. I wish the leaders of the church would find a way to recognize the talents and contributions of our daughters who so desperately want to contribute as their brothers do.

  33. Paul Brown says:

    AM, Priests are also scripturally enjoined from administering the sacrament, if an elder is present. See D&C 20.

  34. Paul Brown,

    Can you please provide the verse you are referring to? Verse 46 says it is the duty of the priest to administer the sacrament. Verse 49 says he can take the lead of a meeting if no elder is present, but that does not seem to refer to administering the sacrament. I was referring to verse 58 which prohibits deacons and teachers from administering the sacrament, thus showing that passing and preparing are not part of the scriptural duties of the priesthood.

    I hope this discussion is not detracting from the excellent points made in the post. I apologize for the threadjack.

  35. Young boys and girls are very observant. My 6 year old daughter has asked us why only boys and not girls pass the sacrament and that it’s not fair her older brother will get to do this and she will not. How do you explain this to a 6 year old??? However, I make sure she has the opportunity weekly to handle the sacrament trays as we pass it down the aisle.

    On another note, when my wife was YW Pres, up until 6 months ago, she tried to get the YW involved by adding various duties they could do during the 3 hour block. These repeated attempts went nowhere with our Bishopric… My wife noticed complete apathy amongst the YW when it came to helping out for things on Sunday and was looking for ways to change this attitude. A very different attitude exists amongst the YM. I believe we’re doing our YW a huge disservice by not involving them and giving them visible responsibilities.

  36. I have a few thoughts, that may be of benefit in this discussion.

    I do think that a lot of this comes down to local leadership & customs. Bishops et al are imperfect people and there will not be consistency in behaviour and experience, across the world. In my limited exposure, I do think more can be done to involve young women in Sunday meetings. Whether through formal assignments or simply being more open/encouraging. They need to feel valued and just as important as their young men counterparts.

    I do think we can do a better job of focusing on what matters most, as well. Pres Uchtdorf (Potemkin talk) asked us the rhetorical question, “what is my/our/your ministry?” This was after he spoke about the stake president and the number goals. I do believe the sacrament is important for us and our gospel involvement. It is a visible sign of worship in our weekly gospel experience. The sacrament, like other ordinances, is an outward reflection of something inward. A commitment, a belief, a faith, a hope.

    But there is far more to our gospel experience (whether or not we hold the priesthood) than this ordinance. Ordinances are a starting point, a platform, not an ending. For example, as an EQ President, my (current) ministry is to serve (temporal & spiritual needs) those in the quorum, as well as their families. To help them be better fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, people etc. For the most part, this is not visible service. No one “sees” me meeting with members of the quorum. I believe these are the weightier matters. Also, I have only daughters – no sons. Occasionally, I will take my daughters with me when I meet with the brethren and their families. Not for times when there are sensitive discussions, but for them to see service in action, and to understand that our value in the church/gospel is not about our calling/responsibility but our willingness to serve. Also, I enjoy serving with them!

    The Saviour is the Master and the master example. From that same Elder Oaks talks, we read, “Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. That is a principle needed in society at large. The famous Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, “It is time … to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities”.

    I would be more than happy to not be the EQ President. Less meetings! I love being a father, husband, home teacher and (hopefully) a friend. I believe the work of Home & Visiting is essentially the same – to minister. We do this side-by-side and everyone’s contributions are needed and should be valued. As Paul said “we are the body of Christ…the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12)

    I hope my opinions have come across in a positive way. I appreciate that many of us in the church, particularly women, are not valued as much as we should and more needs to be done in our classes, quorums, groups etc to make all feel loved of God and needed.

  37. Paul Brown says:

    Compare vv. 46 and 50. Administering the sacrament is missing from v. 50.

  38. Rebecca–I love the way your write. Thanks for keeping it real and reminding me that I’m not alone in these same struggles.

  39. Thanks Kevin and AM

  40. it's a series of tubes says:

    Kevin, thank you for the linked article. A great reminder that many practices are not “the gospel” and can be revised. How cool would it be to see the YW making the bread for the sacrament and then setting up the table each week!

  41. Reading some of the options in the article Kevin linked I was struck by how…feminine passing the sacrament is. breaking bread, feeding people, spreading out a table cloth(recognizing that is a cultural part of the sacrament to be done by boys)…those are all traditionally feminine roles. Many of the ordinances and priesthood blessings are…somewhat feminine: dressing people, washing them, holding a baby, healing people, even baptizing and other temple ordinances are rather feminine slanted.

    I have had those thoughts as I take care of my little people…I wonder if how I do some of those daily things (feeding, clothing…) affects how they receive the ordinance version.

    I don’t know exactly how to define the priesthood simply. We all have access to the power of God.Perhaps the power to perform ordinances and administer…with a caveat for all of the times women administer at some level or in the temple perform parts or all of some ordinances…then what do we do with priestesses and prophetesses from the scriptures? ya. I think Rebecca did an awesome job with the lesson. primary lessons are tougher than they look.

  42. I know I’m in the minority here, but if all this has happened in the last five years, as Gina says—and I think she’s right—then I have to wonder if perhaps we’re not having a manufactured crisis. Speaking of 11-year-olds, Gina goes on to say:

    “. . .they have no idea what is going on because they have never before experienced anything like separate but equal. We just really, really need to figure out what to tell them. Preferably something true.”

    Maybe it’s because I am older than some of you, but I never questioned “what is going on” when I was younger—and not because I wasn’t a curious child. I was. Very. But I also experienced “separate but equal.” And maybe that’s why I did not have trouble with the idea of priesthood authority. My parents were a team in every way, and while my father was definitely the patriarch of our large family, my mother was very much the matriarch, and neither tried to usurp the other’s influence or lord it over them in any way. My brothers learned how to treat women and my sisters and I learned how to be women (and I don’t just mean baby-making machines). And all of us were taught that we were sons and daughters of God—as equal in His eyes as we were in our parents’ eyes.

    When you consider that my parents were born in 1912 and 1913, you might expect to see more sexism. In fact, my father’s brothers didn’t want him to marry my mother because she was a nurse, had been living on her own, and made more money than he did (at the time)—definitely not the stereotypical woman of the day—but my father had a strong a sense of self, just as my mother did, and they worked it out because they loved and trusted one another and they had the gospel to guide them. Their’s was a love story for the ages and I am so grateful that I got to witness it.

    I would suggest, then, that we do tell our children the truth. No one ever lied to me when they told me how valuable I was in my Heavenly Father’s (and Mother’s) eyes. But I fear we are getting hung up on the details and it is overshadowing the real message. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” My own daughters were never envious that their brother could pass the sacrament and they couldn’t. Maybe it would have come up if it had been talked about as much as it is being talked about today, but it never came up. And if it had, I would have told them the truth—that the priesthood didn’t make their brother any better than they were. It’s a commission to serve and there are many ways to serve.

    I can honestly tell you that the only people who ever tried to make me feel inferior were the feminists of the 70s (my childbearing years), who were so derisive of a woman’s decision to be a stay-at-home mother, which is what I REALLY wanted to do, that even my husband began to wonder if I should be “more” than I was. If I hadn’t had a strong sense of self, it might have gotten to me, but their choice wasn’t MY choice, so I carried on. My self-esteem suffered for awhile, I have to admit, but I have never regretted my decision. I think teamwork is the key.

    I normally avoid commenting, but I wanted to add my voice—one that I feel is missing here.

  43. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Irina-
    Your experience is not uncommon. To be sure, my daughter does not feel inferior. She’s much too confident and secure for that. However, the message our YW receive is that their Church feels they are inferior. As parents, we can do all sorts of mental gymnastics to counter that impression, and can help our daughters do the same, but that’s the message. We listen to our leaders spend so much time praising women, to counter the message sent by the Church’s actions. It shouldn’t be necessary. It’s not the message our YM receive from their Church.

  44. Neither I nor my daughters have ever gotten the message that the Church regarded us as inferior—quite the opposite. To me, that’s the beauty of our church—that the Lord does in fact regard us as equals. I truly do not understand all this dissatisfaction.

  45. May I clarify by quoting from someone who is far more eloquent than I? In Anne Osborn Poelman’s book, “The Simeon Solution”—highly recommended—she recounts a conversation she had with an accomplished professional woman who is not of our faith, who wanted to know how Mormon women felt about not holding the priesthood. This is what she told her:

    “I think it’s important to look at things from an eternal perspective. One of the things that’s very meaningful to me is what I’ve learned in the temple from the covenants we make there. I think no religion holding as one of its fundamental tenets that the seed of godhood is in every man and every woman and that neither can achieve it without the other could by any reasonable, fair definition be called sexist.

    “I’m not sure exactly how to put this. You may think my view is rather simplistic. But to tell you the truth, the whole issue of women and the priesthood isn’t very high on my spiritual ‘worry list.’ I don’t know precisely why modern-day women in the Church don’t hold priesthood offices. Quite frankly, it doesn’t bother me. I’m not even sure it’s relevant.

    “I know the gospel is true. I also know the restored Church is the Lord’s church. And I really believe that if and when it’s appropriate, any changes will be made by revelation through the prophet. In the meantime, I’m content. I can put issues like women and the priesthood on my spiritual back burner.”

    I was really moved when I read that, which is to say that it really resonated with me—put into words what I feel in my heart, but had not been able to express. I can’t think of a better way to explain it to our daughters. Dr. Osborn is one of the most accomplished women in our church and I think she is a fine role-model for our young women. If your daughters are having trouble with this issue, I would find a copy and put it in their hands. It’s a short read, but it makes quite an impression.

  46. Irina,
    I get the feeling from your posts that there is absolutely nothing anyone could say that would help you understand the dissatisfaction. You don’t seem to want to understand. No one is saying that you should feel dissatisfaction, but in an effort to sincerely try to help you understand why others may have it, I will share a few experiences growing up that made me feel as though the Church regards me as inferior.

    The first year that our stake did a “trek” I was 17. It was my last year as a Young Woman and I was wildly excited for Girl’s Camp which was my favorite part of the program. The stake decided to cancel all Girl’s Camps that year. When our YW president pushed back she was told that trek would replace all Girl’s Camps and that they didn’t want to put a burden on families by having the teenage girls gone twice in one summer. The YM had 3 week long camps scheduled for that summer and none of them were cancelled. When the YW president brought this up, the stake’s response was that those Scout Camps were necessary for the priesthood to develop leadership skills. This sent the message to me that the skills YW develop at camp are unimportant, but the skills YM develop are essential.

    Also when I was a teenager, my best friend was sexually assaulted by a YM in our ward. After telling her parents she was encouraged to go the bishop and the police. She went to both. There was an investigation by police and a trial that took more than two years. The end result was that he had a restraining order put on him that required his family to move to the other side of the state. The “world” told her that her body was hers and that it was not ok for her to be violated. During that two year trial that YM was called as president of his quorum and continued to pass the sacrament weekly. Even after the trial judge found him guilty, many members of the ward continued to claim that my fried had made the whole thing up to get attention. The Church told her that she was not to be trusted and that priesthood is more important than the truth.

    To contrast that experience, around the same time there someone started a rumor that I was on drugs. I had never even seen drugs, and wouldn’t have known how to get them if I wanted them. I was a straight A student and active member of the ward. For over a year I wasn’t given a calling in my YW class presidency (there were only 4 of us in the class so that meant that we had a vacancy in the presidency and I was not given a calling) and I had no idea why. During a semi annual worthiness interview the Bishop asked my if I was doing drugs. I honestly answered no. He said, “are you sure?” I said, “yes.” He said, “well, am I sure?” I said, “I don’t know, are you?” He said, “No, I’m not so sure.” I was devastated that the Bishop didn’t believe me. I had a YW activity after the meeting and cried about it to my best friend. The YW president overheard, claimed I was “bad mouthing the Lord’s anointed” and called a meeting with my parents, the Bishopric and the YW presidency. After my dad who is an attorney gave them the once over, they defended their position to not call my to any callings while my worthiness was unsure (keep in mind that they had issued me temple recommends to do baptisms for the dead during this time.) This communicated the message to me that as a girl, my word could not be trusted. It didn’t matter if I thought I was worthy.

    When I was preparing to go on a mission I went through the temple. That was a shocking experience for me. All my life I had been told at home and at church that I should listen to my conscience, and the spirit when making decisions. In the temple I was told that it was husband I needed to listen to to make my decisions. This communicated to me that my ability to make decisions was hindered by the fact that I am a woman. If I were a man, I would not have this problem.

    While I was in the MTC a general authority came to speak at a devotional. He asked all the missionaries who had a boyfriend or girlfriend at home to stand up. More than half of the missionaries stood (I was not one of them). He said that he wanted to address the Elders first. He told them that they needed to write a letter that day to their girlfriend to break up with them. They were on an errand from the Lord and nothing was more important than focusing on preaching the gospel. Then he spoke to the sisters. He told them they should all go home and marry their boyfriends. Nothing was more important than marriage. He did not know any of their individual circumstances. A large number of sisters, who up until that day felt like they had received revelation from God to go on a mission, went home. That sent the message to me that only men are important to spreading the gospel. Women are needed to create more men (and of course more women who can in turn create more men).

    I could easily list 20 more experiences, but this post has already become massively long. I realize that a lot of these experiences are due to local leadership. That is part of the problem. The inequity in the temple and the general authority at the MTC are not local problems however. There is both a local and church wide problem in my opinion. I’m not asking you to agree with me, just to be empathetic to those who have felt most of their lives that the Church does not value them as much as their male counterparts.

  47. Irina,
    I was writing my incredibly long post while you posted yours. While I definitely applaud those who can put women’s issues in the church on their spiritual back burner, not all of us can. It affects me everyday of my life. For me, taking the eternal perspective is more troublesome than ignoring it. If I really study what we know about women in the eternities, it is possible I will be a co equal God with my husband, but it fits just as well with our revealed doctrine that I will be an eternally pregnant sister wife to my husband who will become a God and who does not allow his children access to their mother. Sometimes taking an eternal perspective is what causes many women so much pain.

  48. Irina, your many comments all recount your own experiences. You expect us to accept them as your experiences — and more, you seem to expect us to accept your experiences for ourselves as you discount, time and time again, the experiences some of the rest of us have.

    You haven’t gotten the messages that some of the rest of us have. That you haven’t heard them does not mean that we haven’t heard them. Stop trying to tell us that your life is real and our lives are figments of our imagination. Jeepers.

  49. Ardis, if my most recent comment gets past the “awaiting moderation” status, you will see that I do not expect you to accept anything. I certainly don’t believe that your lives are a figment of your imaginations. I am merely offering another voice, which I had hoped would be helpful. If not, I am truly sorry. My voice doesn’t appear to be one you want to hear.

  50. Irina,

    I was writing a longer comment, but then saw that Ardis expressed the same sentiment. Merely saying that “my experience is different” rarely advances the discussion. Imagine if this post was about recent police brutality and someone commented, “in my experience the police have always been very professional and polite; they have a tough job so we should give them the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.” I would agree with those statements, but they would do nothing to address the hurt feelings that are the purpose of that discussion.

    That said, there are some things you could offer to advance the discussion. Specifically, while you and your daughters are content with the status quo, it would be helpful to know if you would also be content with some/all of the changes that others are proposing: e.g., YW passing sacrament, YW as VTs, female ordination. If your real concern is just that changes come through the proper means, that information would open up a large middle ground, and you might find that you’re not that different from others on this board.

  51. Dave, I responded to EBK at 11:19 and tried again (with the same comment) at 11:41. As of right now, both of them are still “awaiting moderation.” I am not a regular here so I don’t know how this works, but it would appear that any opinion or suggestion that does not feed into that of the regulars does not get posted. My comment was sympathetic and expressed the fact that I, too, have had less than optimal experiences with priesthood leaders. I do not live in a bubble, after all, and my eyes are open. People wanted to know what we should say to our young people. I offered a suggestion. If you don’t like it, don’t take it, but don’t shoot the messenger. And please don’t judge me based on information you don’t have. If there is some other reason why my post doesn’t appear, I would like to know what it is.

  52. Irina, I’m not a moderator so I have no idea about your comment. I have had comments delayed if they included a link so maybe that’s what happened with yours. Try positing without the link and it should go through. I’ll look forward to your comment eventually coming through. I promise not to judge you, but I may judge the comment itself. :)

  53. It did not contain a link— just expressions of sympathy and an experience of my own.

  54. anonforthis says:

    A coincidence of pseudonyms caused me to reflect on my sisters, and then my mother and wife and daughter and granddaughters. I think I’ve heard most or all of the views and even experiences described, from one or another. Including Irina and EBK. However, in the end I have no suggestion and nothing useful to say. What keeps coming to mind in this whole discussion is that my daughter and granddaughters are in a different church on Sunday morning, with a woman minister as it happens.

  55. Irina,
    I haven’t seen your post that was directed to me yet, must still be in moderation. I do want to let you know that personally I am glad there are people with a variety of opinions on this issue. That’s the way it should be. I don’t intend to sow dissatisfaction with those who, like you, don’t have any problems with the status quo. I also think that people can be dissatisfied with how something is running in the Church without giving up on the whole gospel and church. I’ve often thought that a lot of the reason that people tend to talk past each other on these issues is because of one main difference of belief. Some people believe that there are things that can change in the Church if enough attention is brought to them that they become a high enough priority for those who are in a position to receive revelation for the church (they have a lot on their plate and they can’t get to everything – they have to prioritize.) Others believe that if God wants a change to be made, he will send down the revelation when it is the appropriate time. I feel like that is the biggest difference between how I see things and how many of my friends who are satisfied with the status quo see things.

  56. One underlying problem with the whole women and the priesthood argument is a fundamental disagreement about the understanding of gender. According to the family proc and what we typically hear in church, men and women have separate spheres of influence, with different talents and different interests. This is why women whose talents and interests fit the traditional divisions find no dissonance within our teachings. What our secular culture has come to accept, though, is that the traditional gender divisions aren’t always consistent, or even accurate. My youngest daughter is into superheroes, legos, and hates the color pink. One of her good friends is a little boy who loves putting on nail polish, make up, and sparkly clothes. My daughter has no problem being accepted by our secular culture, but she will run into resistance as she grows up in the church. Her lack of femininity will be viewed as a defect (speaking with painful experience on this). I’m not looking forward to explaining the priesthood thing when she gets older.

  57. “A common criticism of feminists is that people don’t understand why we feel less than men. We do know we are equal, we just don’t feel our policies, structure, practices, culture, and traditions reflect that inherent equal value that God places on both his sons and daughters.” – me

    People feel “equal” in different ways. Some people feel equal than they are made to feel “special, cherished, and valued.” Other women do not feel like that is “equal.” Equal doesn’t have to mean same, it can mean equitable.

  58. Joshua B says:

    If we viewed the Priesthood as just in the light of something that helps boys and men become better, do people think there is some room for such a program? The ‘demise of guys’ and boys general struggle to thrive these days make the Priesthood office an interesting one that can help this gender in a unique way. Feminine equality is wonderful, but I would hate for out boys to struggle even more in service activities that are protected such that they are forced to be responsible.

    I recognize the playing field is changing, but I’d like to see our boys’ unique struggles addressed as well.

    The viewpoint of the Priesthood as something that helps boys become responsible men is still valuable. Perhaps we could eschew power tripping Priesthood rhetoric and redefine the Priesthood into something that works well with today’s challenges. Rather than take away something our boys need, let’s make responsibilities that everyone can benefit from.

  59. Why is priesthood what we use to make boys men? other churches successfully have their boys become men without mass ordination. And what makes a girl a woman? babies? that’s what we teach now and it is the wrong damn answer.

    Men don’t have to hurt when girls gain. But de facto expanding opportunities for girls doesn’t harm boys. “I think we should limit the opportunities of women and girls to make sure boys and men feel good about themselves” is not a good answer.

  60. Joshua B says:

    I am proposing something more similar than what you think.

  61. Naismith says:

    “Why is priesthood what we use to make boys men? other churches successfully have their boys become men without mass ordination.”

    I am not sure that is entirely true. There is a whole body of literature out there about the “disappearing male” in other churches, the quest to find a way for men to be involved, and the rise of men’s ministries of which Promise Keepers is perhaps most well known.

    My attitude towards male priesthood was significantly impacted by a fellow graduate student whose day job–um actually his weekend job at the time–was as a youth minister for a Baptist congregation. His graduate school was funded by his church, to help with media outreach.

    He was very intrigued with the idea of our lay priesthood and home teaching, and asked questions about the nuts and bolts of how it all worked. Apparently our system works well compared to other churches. Mind you, he had a lot of opinions about the evils of our doctrine…but many other faiths are looking for a system that works as well as ours.

    So for it to be abandoned, one wants to be very sure that what replaces it is truly better for all.

    I don’t see our church as pushing “babies” as the only way for a girl to become a woman; we have so many great examples of women who do not become mothers but serve as missionaries or in leadership callings. I do see our church teaching that choosing to have babies and focusing one’s efforts on raising a righteous posterity (for those who have that opportunity) is a legitimate way of building the Kingdom, and as valuable a contribution as other forms of service.

  62. Shawn Goetz says:

    The Priesthood is both a gift and a responsibility given to worthy males at 12 years old or when they join the church at a later age if they are a convert. The purpose of the priesthood is to “hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church.” (D&C 107:18) it is the power of God on earth used with authority from the same. The question has come up quite a bit as to why women do not receive the priesthood, I can tell you for a fact that it is not because they are unworthy or somehow inferior spiritually to men. Women have the light of Christ, the Holy Ghost and authority to act in certain situations through the power of the priesthood as long as they are worthy to. They can have revelations concerning themselves and their families, what they cannot have is priesthood keys in the church. The keys are required for sacred ordinances both in church (such as sacrament or baptism) and for the temple as well (such as sealings). Without the sacred keys of the priesthood we could not “have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” (D&C 107:19)

  63. I couldn’t read all the comments here, cause of time. But, I have never felt left out of church service. I’ve worked my head off most of my life in service to the church, to my fellowmen, my famiiy. I had a church calling as a very young girl, playing piano in Primary when it was a Wednesday Primary. and haven’t stopped serving since. Raising my children, however, has far far outranked anything I ever did as a calling, or assignment in The Church per se. I guess there’s room for some to squeak about why things aren’t balanced or fair, but sometimes we should just get busy and help where we can. There’s more than enough for all/each of us to do in service to the Lord’s children.