What if Beehives Passed the Sacrament Too?

I can still remember turning 12. At least the church parts of it. After I turned 12, my dad ordained me to the Aaronic priesthood, and then I got to pass the sacrament.

And I continued to pass it for the next two years.[fn1]

Passing the sacrament was an important part of my development as a Mormon. It provided me with a tangible connection to the church. My participation in the church stopped being passive, the receipt of knowledge and culture, and started being, well, participatory. I felt a certain amount of pride, a certain amount of responsibility, and even a certain amount of ownership over my church experience. I remember intricately figuring out who would go where, negotiating the pews to make sure that everybody got the sacrament, watching the priests, waiting for them to stand up so I could return my tray.

And lately I’ve been thinking, what if Beehives passed the sacrament, too?

Over the last several years (and almost certainly much longer), there’s been a lot of discussion of women’s and girls’ places in the church. It’s been reflected in everything from calls for priesthood to calls for pants.

Now, pants is easy (albeit culturally disapproved). Priesthood is probably a lot harder (requiring a revelatory change).

And girls (and women) passing the sacrament? It’s not as far-fetched as it might appear.

Yes, administering the sacrament is a priesthood responsibility. D&C 20 lays the responsibility for administering the sacrament squarely at the feet of the apostles and priests. Importantly, D&C 20 also explicitly provides that teachers and deacons do not have authority to “administer” the sacrament.[fn2] Thus, it must be that preparing and passing the sacrament are something other than administering the sacrament.

That makes sense, of course: we don’t require priesthood to hand the trays of bread and water down the pew to our family members, friends, and coreligionists.[fn3] In fact, modern prophets have recognized this. In a 1928 letter to a mission president, President Grant wrote that it was only “custom” that priesthood holders pass the sacrament, and that he’d have no objection to “worthy young brethren” who didn’t have the priesthood passing the sacrament if there weren’t boys who were ordained.[fn4]

And until the early part of the 20th century, women often prepared the sacrament table. It wasn’t until 1950 that the Presiding Bishopric shifted that responsibility to teachers.[fn5]

The requirement that those who pass (and, for that matter, prepare) the sacrament, then, is purely a matter of policy. It’s long-standing policy, of course, but policy nonetheless. And policies can, and do, change. In fact, in the mid-80s, Elder Packer explained that

Procedures, programs, the administrative policies, even some patterns of organization are subject to change. We are quite free, indeed, quite obliged to alter them from time to time. But the principles, the doctrines, never change.

Let me reiterate that: administrative policies not only can change, but sometimes should change. And the requirement that those who prepare and pass the sacrament is a policy, one subject to change, one that doesn’t need some type of revelatory impetus for that change.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that a ward or stake can abandon it, sua sponte. The policy is clearly laid out in the Handbook.[fn6] But it doesn’t have the weight of scripture, or even of doctrine. It is purely the result of policy decisions that have been made in the last century or so, and have been carried forward to the present.

So should the church let girls and women pass the sacrament alongside boys and men? I think it’s worth very serious consideration. It is an easy way to include some of those who currently feel excluded,  a way to validate their membership and their participation.[fn7]

So allowing Beehives[fn8] to pass the sacrament would represent a significant administrative change to the church. But the status quo is purely a cultural policy. And sometimes, policies feel permanent by virtue of being the way we’ve always done things. But it’s worth reexamining what we’ve always done, especially where, like here, the policy is one that is not required by scripture or prophetic utterance, and one that can easily and costlessly be changed.


[fn1] My Southern California ward had enough young men that I suspect I rarely passed anymore after I turned 14. I’m not sure about that, of course, but it’s at least really likely.

[fn2] To be completely clear, D&C 20:58 says, “But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands” (emphasis added).

[fn3] In fact, in 1899, Apostle Francis Marion Lyman addressed the First Sunday School Convention, and gave a Q-and-A-style address. In it, he said,

Question: Have members not holding the Priesthood the right to pass the sacrament?

Answer: You pass it to one another, do you not, all the time, all you sisters and all you brethren? Then why ask the question? The administering of the sacrament is not passing it to the people. The administering of the sacrament is when the brethren offer the prayer in blessing the bread or water. That is the administration of the sacrament. That cannot be done by Deacons, nor by members of the Church who do not bear the Priesthood.

Francis M. Lyman, “The Administration of the Sacrament in the Sunday School,” Proceedings of the Sunday School Convention 74, 77 (1899) (emphasis added).

[fn4] William G. Hartley, From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829-1996, 22 J. Mormon History 80, 130 (1996).

[fn5] Id. at 130-31. For more on women preparing the sacrament, see Kristine Wright, “‘We Baked a Lot of Bread’: Reconceptualizing Mormon Women and Ritual Objects,” in Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives at 82 (Kate Holbrook & Matthew Bowman, eds. 2016). For even more discussion on how the church started centering its liturgy in the priesthood bureaucracy in the twentieth century, you’ll have to check out J. Stapley’s forthcoming The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology.

[fn6] For the record, though, even the Handbook recognizes the artificiality and disconnect of requiring priesthood to take the sacrament from pew to pew, but not to pass it within the pew: “After a priesthood holder hands a sacrament tray to a member, others may pass the tray from one to another for convenience.”

[fn7] I already know what two objections to this will be. One is, I (or my wife/daughters/sisters/mother/etc.) don’t feel excluded and, in fact, don’t actually want to pass the sacrament. And that’s fair. There’s no reason you or your loved one would have to pass the sacrament. But that the issue doesn’t resonate with some people doesn’t somehow invalidate those who would feel this as both an explicit inclusion and a blessing.

The second is, It will make the boys feel less special, and the boys need this to form an attachment to the church. That makes zero sense to me. My pride in passing the sacrament was based on what I was doing, not on the exclusion of others. It was an honor to pass the sacrament, an honor that didn’t diminish when the next boy turned 12 and was ordained.

[fn8] Technically, by “Beehives,” mean girls and women who are at least 12 years old. Why 12? It’s what we already do for boys, and it marks an important age in the life of Mormon boys and girls—it’s the age at which they graduate from Primary, and the age at which they can do baptisms for the dead.

Comments

  1. Yes, yes, and yes!

  2. Two thumbs up!

  3. Amen. My almost-8-year-old daughter has expressed a few times that it’s weird only boys do that, and makes special effort to be the one to pass the Sacrament tray down the aisle.

  4. Somewhere, I recall, seeing a discussion of how young women were recruited to pass the sacrament during the 1940s or 50s. I thought it was in Hartley’s article but his discusses fast offerings (see below). It might have been in an article written by Kristine but I distinctly remember there was precedent for young women passing the sacrament and not just preparing and cleaning up after.

    Hartley cites that Beehives were recruited to collect fast offerings in the Salt Lake 24th Ward between 1943 and 1945 and the Church News included an article describing their excellent efforts.

    Two years ago the man-power shortage reached down even into the deacon’s quorum of the Aaronic Priesthood of the Twenty-Fourth (Salt Lake City) Ward and left them without enough boys to collect fast offerings.
    Bishop Oscar M. Olson turned to a group of Bee-Hive Girls for assistance, and under the leadership of their Bee-Keeper, Naoma Sorenson, they have collected fast offerings in a district comprising one half of the ward. During the past two years they did not once fail to cover
    their entire district. Now with an increase of boys in the deacon’s quorum the girls are, rather reluctantly, turning this job back to the priesthood.

    Which demonstrates precedent for this kind of effort that has been established by traditional policy as an “Aaronic Priesthood” responsibility.

  5. Thank you for this article Sam. It’s a very good resource, even for those of us who already knew much of this.

    I am curious whether you think this policy change could seriously be considered in today’s church. First, let me make clear that I support women’s ordination and pray for the day we will have female priests, bishops, apostles, and so forth. And I would love to see Beehives (and all yw) pass the sacrament. However, if this policy changed, it would necessarily lead to new significant challenges.

    First, this change would force the church to either (i) extend priesthood ordination to all worthy members (something most members are not ready for) or (ii) confront and defend other ways in which women continue to be excluded. What happens when the Beehives become Mia Maids? Do we let them prepare the sacrament? That’s just a policy decision too. If not, why not? We’re back in the same predicament of arbitrarily limiting our young women. If so, then the focal point moves to Laurels. Can they bless the sacrament? Not without becoming Priests (per D/C 20). Is the church (globally and locally) ready to draw a new line at the Laurels? I personally do not see that happening. We’re too scared to have real discussions about women’s ordination.

    Second, as with any situation in which women are allowed to participate in spheres that previously were deemed priesthood spheres, the change would serve to limit the importance of priesthood unless it came about through women being ordained. For a church that places a high emphasis on priesthood, it is no small matter to narrow the roles for which priesthood is required. That’s a central challenge with removing most all of the current barriers to women’s inclusion. If women are not ordained, but they are allowed to do things that previously required priesthood office (e.g. pray in GC, serve in mission leadership, serve as SS president, serve as ward clerk, etc.) then the importance of priesthood slowly erodes away.

    Finally, the change would undermine some of the importance of ordination for young men. If Beehives can pass the sacrament without ordination, then so can young men. What happens when a group of young men decide they don’t want to be ordained (which now leads to fast offering collection and home teaching assignments) but are happy to pass and prepare the sacrament without ordination like their sisters do? I know many members – in particular mothers – who would be loathe to reduce priesthood work from its current “duty” status to something more or a choice. They would oppose this change because they know that many ym (and men) will not rise to work if it is presented as a choice rather than a duty. That catch-22 exists for women’s ordination as a whole. I know many women who are receptive to the idea of ordination, but want it to be something that women can choose rather than a duty. Yet at the same time they don’t want men to be given the same choice because they see how the duty works to make their sons and husbands better than they would otherwise choose to be.

  6. Dave K, I’m avoiding questions of priesthood entirely here. Whatever the future of women’s ordination, that strikes me as something that would require revelatory change.

    But it’s clear from both scripture and prophetic statement that passing (and preparing, though I mostly ignored for the sake of an already-too-long post) the sacrament don’t require priesthood. The church made a decision decades ago that it would require priesthood, for whatever reason. (I’ve read accounts that it was to shore up the participation of boys during the Progressive Era, but the footnotes that back that up seemed a little attenuated to me, and I don’t have time to run that down entirely.)

    To your points: first, I don’t see this as a step toward women’s ordination (again, whatever the merits of that). This would merely remove administratively-imposed blocks on girls and women doing things that there’s no reason the couldn’t do. Moreover, for that reason, it doesn’t limit the importance of priesthood. Maybe it makes us rethink and reconfigure what the purpose of the offices of deacon and teacher are; maybe it makes us read scripture carefully. But just because we say, Deacons pass the sacrament, doesn’t mean that extending that to girls devalues the priesthood that deacons hold, because they’re not passing the sacrament by virtue of priesthood. They’re passing the sacrament by virtue of long-standing church policy.

  7. I’m a bit iffy on the connection between church service and retention. I personally hated having to do the sacrament each week, as there weren’t enough of us in the YM quorums to fully staff what was needed in our branch. I’ve been glad to help when asked, but that’s not happened in many years.

    Do you think it possible for any Bishops to get this through, as they are the authority point in the ward for who does what for the sacrament? Even home Sacrament has to be approved by the Bishop. I wonder if it’d be a ticket to an early release, or would it just be chalked up to trusting the authority given the Bishop?

  8. Frank, that’s a good question, and I also don’t know the correlation (though Pres. Hinckley believed that retention required a friend, a job, and nourishment with the word of God). I’m less interested here in retention than in feeling responsibility, ownership, and in feeling valued.

    We’re good at duty-creep. I don’t think that we should make girls feel obligated to pass the sacrament, but I also don’t think we should make boys feel obligated. But the cultural obligation would probably come, without additional cultural change.

    As for bishops going rogue on this: the Handbook is pretty clear. While the priesthood requirement isn’t a scriptural or revelatory one, it’s certainly an administratively-established one. I guess that pushes the question of how much authority the Handbook has, but here, I think the handbook plus history weighs against a sua sponte change at the local level.

  9. This: “Maybe it makes us rethink and reconfigure what the purpose of the offices of deacon and teacher are; maybe it makes us read scripture carefully.”

    It doesn’t take a close reading of D&C 20 to see that preparing the sacrament table and passing the sacrament are not listed as duties of teachers or deacons. But, sadly, we seem to default to those duties rather than carefully engaging in the more challenging responsibilities described there–to “watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;” to “see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;” to “see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty, and to warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.”

  10. I’m going to jump right past the whole “passing the sacrament does not require priesthood ordination” — I’ve already come to grips with that, when I came across the carbon copy of the very letter HJG wrote to that mission president in 1928 and realized that there is no difference in ecclesiastical status between unordained men and unordained women — and jump right to this:

    “So should the church let girls and women pass the sacrament alongside boys and men? I think it’s worth very serious consideration. It is an easy way to include some of those who currently feel excluded, a way to validate their membership and their participation.”

    True, perhaps, but as unsatisfying as all other recent proposals for increasing the opportunities for participatory service by the other half of the ecclesiastical sky: Extend this privilege to Beehive girls, and what happens when they turn 14? Or extend it to all Young Women, and what happens when they turn 18? That participation ends. Or extend it to all women, regardless of age, and the participation still ends, for all practical purposes — with such a large pool of potential sacrament-passers, how often would any given individual have the opportunity to participate? Yes, little girls would see older girls and women doing something for a change, but on an individual level participating two or three times a year doesn’t really seem to be participation. (The obvious counterpoint to that is that most boys and men hardly perform baptisms or healing administrations that many times a year — but each of those possibilities is only one item on a long list of possibilities to participate; when boys age out of passing the sacrament, they are presented with more and greater, if less frequent, opportunities.)

    Don’t mistake me as being in the camp calling for women’s ordination; I would gladly accept it if offered, but find it very wrong to demand it. But I am selfishly always looking for ways “to validate [my] membership and [my] participation in a ward/stake that has no use for me beyond sitting in the pews and paying my tithing. Proposals that might benefit young girls are nice, but wholly inadequate, and might, in the end, create a greater sense of invalidation and superfluity among the girls the proposal is intended to help when they age to the point of being cut off from that participation.

  11. There is precedent here with breaking with tradition and scripture and sending out sister missionaries. And we did that way early in the church development. Now it’s just normal and important.

    Oh, and women need to be able to witness ordinances as well. :)

  12. This was a lot of very interesting information. And presents the idea that a unification of sorts could be obtained through a relatively simple change. Myself? I find the idea a bit disturbing, not because I think the girls wouldn’t do a great job, and why not have equality for a generation that expects it? HOWEVER. The women I’ve seen and read about in the past few years who have gone around demanding that they should be priesthood holders for the sake of equality or their own reasons are the problem as I see it. Some women seem to think EVERYTHING should be shared, even priesthood power (and yes I know women do hold priesthood power in some instances already – in the temple). I’m a reactivated member, back to the church after many years away. I relish the fact that I came back to things that are familiar and the tenets my father taught me to cherish. I certainly do not want the priesthood though. I’m content with being a woman in a patriarchal church. I do not feel diminished nor that equality isn’t present. I know God loves me and Jesus is my Savior and those things revealed from them to our church leaders aren’t subject to my human questioning. And I pity those women who think differently. Maybe that’s blind naivety on my part, maybe it’s faith that God knows better. And it’s only my opinion. If a change to include Beehives in the passing of sacrament bread and water is instituted from the Prophet, you won’t see me grousing about it. I will just feel a little sorry for those girls. Because the Relief Society has plenty enough for young women to do without additional duties. That’s where the line becomes fuzzy. Why aren’t we as church members content with what we’ve been instructed and taught? Why do we have to push those boundaries and try to change things? As a church (in my human opinion) we need to stop and listen to God more and less to the dictates of human trends. It’s a good way to lose cohesiveness all together.

  13. Ardis, thanks for your comment. FWIW, where I live, this would be huge, and not limited to girls. Our ward currently has 3 young men (1 or 2 deacons, and 1 or 2 teachers) and ~4 young women (2 or 3 of whom are seniors in high school). (I’m not 100% sure about the number of young women, because we’ve had a couple families move in and move out over the last couple months, and I’ve been in primary.)

    That is to say, in my Chicago ward, there tend to be at least 5 adult men who pass the sacrament every week. If we added the girls, their passing wouldn’t end at 14. It wouldn’t end at 16, or even at 18.

    I get that we need more participation for women, too, and I’m certain there are places that fall into a similar place where priesthood isn’t required, but we’ve had some amount of priesthood creep (I’m thinking Sunday School presidencies and various ward clerk positions, at least), and those are also discussions worth having. I’m not putting this forward as a sop to fix all gender inequities in the church; I mostly drafted it because it was on my mind, and I decided to look at D&C 20.

  14. Embeecee, I’m sincerely glad you’ve found a home you’re comfortable with in the church; I understand that not every woman wants to pass the sacrament, and said as much in the OP. But I also suggested (in fn 7) that those who don’t feel excluded should recognize and be empathetic toward those who do. It strikes me as condescending to “feel a little sorry for” girls who feel like they’re not valued as highly as boys because the church doesn’t have formal outlets that allow them to participate fully in the ritual parts of our meetings. They don’t need us to feel sorry for them; they need us to love and value them, to recognize their needs, and to reexamine our beliefs and practices to see if those things that hurt them are necessary, are helpful, or are just tradition.

  15. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks Sam. This really gets at the concept of “Tradition” in the church. We have typically sneered at Roman Catholics for their theology surrounding Tradition, but it is the most immediate and relevant parallel for what we are doing. I also think that the details about passing and preparing the Sacrament not being priesthood duties is shocking to most folks.

  16. When my husband is in charge of coordinating the sacrament every few months, I always offer to bake the sacrament bread instead of buying it. I love the experience of preparing bread the day before, mindful of the members of my ward and thinking more about the Savior and how much the sacrament will mean to me the next day. That small sacrifice for the members of our ward helps me connect with them and the Savior. I truly cherish the times when I’m able to help prepare the sacrament. I can imagine it would have a similar effect on many women of the church if participation in the sacrament became an active rather than passive experience.

  17. Thanks, Sam. As noted, this is a very nice compilation (which is to say not new–to me anyway). Two notes:
    1. In the role of a bishop I could parse the several handbook statements (1 and 2) to make room for girls and women to pass the sacrament right now. It would be controversial and I would probably be told to stop, but it could be done. (And there is an argument that with regard to the administration of the sacrament in the ward, there is no higher authority than the bishop of that ward.)
    2. The fact that current practice is policy and tradition, and has not been changed, is a (strong?) indication that there is no genuine interest in further engaging women in the work (could be + is not –> not wanted). Or that your footnote 7 (“It will make the boys feel less special, and the boys need this to form an attachment to the church.”) is the prevailing ethic in the modern Church. Which is my leading hypothesis.

  18. Thanks, Brittany.

    Chris, on your number 2, that could certainly be the case. I suspect, though, that it’s more a matter of inertia than actively deciding that priesthood is necessary to pass the sacrament. I mean, when I was 12, I assumed it was. My priesthood leaders taught me it was, probably in large part because, when they were 12, they learned it was, too, probably from their priesthood leaders, who learned the same thing when they were 12. It doesn’t take a lot of critical engagement to realize that nothing in scripture requires the priesthood to pass the sacrament, but that requires reading the section, rather than reading what we’ve learned about the section, and reading it with a particular question in mind. I suspect that most people haven’t read closely or critically, because frankly, that’s not how we generally approach our scripture study. Plus, section 20 is really, really long, and we really, really suck at reading the non-narrative D&C.

    As to your number 1, interesting, thanks.

  19. This makes total sense, Sam. And that’s why it will never happen!

  20. I remember this from a few years ago. There is definitely some interesting stuff here to look at:

    https://letwomenpreparesacrament.wordpress.com/

  21. Sam, in most cases I would find the inertia argument persuasive. However, whatever one thinks of Ordain Women (and others advocating in similar directions), they have brought these matters to the table. In current context, it is hard to believe that inertia alone is a sufficient explanation. Especially when we’re talking about the proverbial “low hanging fruit.” (Witnessing would be another.)
    On the other hand, inertia (which can be seen as slowing but not blocking change) + the demands of consensus building + concerns about unintended consequences (for example, as pointed out above, what about the Laurels, at age 16?), might add up to a satisfactory explanation.
    I consider your OP and the ensuing discussion a real contribution in the direction of change.

  22. Thank you, Sam. The creeping tendency to exclude women from service in rituals and administrative positions is entirely real. It hurts the church. Reversing this tendency should not require a revelation imposing wholesale changes in the church’s doctrines about priesthood. This is an area where we should recognize the ways that inertia has led to policies that we can change using good common sense. It’s extremely helpful to point out the low-hanging fruit, as Christian says.

  23. My initial response was similar to Ardis’s. What happens to the 13 year old girls passing the sacrament when they turn 14? I suppose they could keep passing the sacrament while the same-age boys move up into additional responsibility appropriate for the age change. That seems as unsatisfying as the current situation though. The message continues to be that boys are meant for leadership and responsibility and authority, while women are meant to be lead and cared for and followers.

    From my perspective, pitying me as a feminist is a way to show me to the door of the church building. It’s condescending. It says there is no room in the church for someone who sees God the way I do. I’m left wondering if that is really what those who look down on feminism want (not MBC specifically of course), if that isn’t the actual goal. I don’t know how to address this chasm other than to call it out when I see it.

  24. Once when I was a little girl between 8 and 10, I was the last person on my row to get the sacrament tray, and stood up and handed it to the brother sitting on the row behind me. He chuckled a little, and so did my dad, but no one was struck down with ligtening. Seems like it would be just fine. And the girls would love it!

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    I agree with J. that your average member would be utterly shocked by the notion that preparing and passing the sacrament are not actually priesthood duties. This would include, I suspect, the GAs themselves.

    It’s not shocking here to readers of this thread because most of us have read Hartley’s “From Men to Boys” and understand the development (i.e., in 19th century adult men would be deacons, teachers and priests throughout their lives; toward the end of the century this changes with the increasing ubiquity of the temple endowment, as all adult men now need to receive the MP as part of that ordinance. So now what do we do about deacons, teachers and priests? Solution was to ordain young men [who are too young for the temple endowment and so that is not a hindrance in their case]. But now we’ve got to give them stuff to do tailored to their rather limited abilities. And thus we get preparing, and passing the sacrament, collecting fast offerings and the like. Not inherently priesthood duties, just a sort of “busywork” geared to the limited abilities of very young people.)

    I suspect general leaders would be very reticent to sign off on this for fear it would encourage those in the Church who would like to see female ordination. But the only way to even get it that far for leaders to ponder it meaningfully would be for them to learn the history of why we ordain young men and why we gave them those particular responsibilities.

  26. Our ward is such that if a certain family goes on vacation, we don’t have enough young men to bless/pass the sacrament. (We have even fewer young women, ha.) So adults often get asked to help. It’s often the YM leaders, but sometimes just a favorite adult of whichever kid is asking. When he taught Sunday school, my husband got asked all the time. He didn’t want to! It leaves me wrestling kids alone for like, half an hour. I think a policy change to increase flexibility and inclusion would be great.

  27. The changing practices surrounding the sacrament confused a man who was gathering family history from a granddaughter of Green Flake, an African American Mormon pioneer. The record of the interview noted that Flake prepared the sacrament in his ward from time to time, and the interviewer must have concluded that meant that Flake had been ordained a deacon, and the interviewer was then surprised or disappointed that the Flake granddaughter could not produce an ordination certificate.

    Unfortunately the interview was only summarized and then interwoven with editorial comments and unreliable secondary information, so this is my understanding of a confusing short paragraph on the topic of Green Flake and sacrament preparation and priesthood, and the granddaughter actually might have told the interviewer that her grandfather participated in the deacons quorum, rather than that he had prepared the sacrament. (It’s really not clear.)

    The second scenario is actually more likely since it has a documented parallel in nineteenth-century church history: another early African American member named Samuel Chambers lived in the Salt Lake City Eighth Ward. Bill Hartley, who wrote about Chambers back in 1974, noted that, “Deacons of that day had no part in the sacrament service. Instead they were responsible for the care and cleaning of the ward meetinghouses.” Hartley noted that although Chambers was not ordained to the priesthood, he faithfully performed the duties of a deacon and was sometimes the only man to show up to stake deacons’ quorum meetings, or to volunteer to usher at the Tabernacle. Later he attended high priests group meetings.

  28. nobody, really says:

    Our current branch has had 1 young man attend 1 time since July. The sacrament is blessed and passed by the former Bishop, the EQ President, the full-time missionaries, and a temple sealer. It would be great to have the YW more involved. For now, some Primary-age young ladies take care of the doors, just like the 14-15 year old young men might do elsewhere.

    In a former ward, the Bishopric and YM leaders decided to ask certain families to stop donating fast offerings online so the young men could collect the envelopes on Sunday. I supported the policy because it came from the ward priesthood leadership, but I really detest the creation of “busy work”, especially when it comes at the expense of having Mom or Dad drive the boy around the county for an hour at the expense of spending time with the rest of the family.

    If I was more cynical, I might suggest that we put the YM in charge of the Sacrament to give them the idea that if they don’t show up or aren’t worthy, poor Sister Smith on the third row will miss out on the entire reason for Sunday. We claim white shirts and ties as part of the “unwritten order of things” to force conformity. Truth is, the Lord doesn’t need any one of us. There’s always somebody else who can do the job. Everyone is expendable. If little Hyrum there can’t get out of bed to bless the Sacrament, somebody else will step up. The lesson is that if you can’t do it, we can easily find someone else who can, and that’s a lesson that applies in the workplace as well as in Church service.

  29. Having a necessary job can make a difference to a young person. I don’t remember wanting to pass the sacrament, but I was involved with ward music throughout my youth (ward organist at 14), so I never had a chance to feel too superfluous.

  30. My first thought in reading your post was yes, absolutely, make the change. On reflection and after reading the comments, I think it is better to keep the current system. Right now girls learn by age 12 that their gender will prevent them from full participation in the church. If they press the issue they quickly realize – I did – that there is no satisfactory explanation for this. It prepares them for every fresh disappointment to follow – not preparing the sacrement, not collecting fast offerings, waiting longer to go on missions, not giving blessings, not acting as witnesses, being restricted in what callings they may serve in, etc. What kindnesses is it to paper over this fact until girls turn 14? The only true kindness is real structural change, and this is not it.

  31. It’s interesting to me to read comments dismissing this because it is something short of [x]. Because on the one hand, yes it is. On the other, though, it’s something better than the status quo. In tax law, we often talk about second-best solutions. And I think there’s a lot to be said for that, at least for the pragmatic.

    Like I’ve said, this isn’t priesthood. It’s not a step toward priesthood. It would be, however, a more inclusive way to treat girls and women in the church, one which is foreclosed by nothing more than administrative policy.

  32. I attended a “Priesthood Preview” the other day, where the 11-year-olds were regaled with a preview of their upcoming priesthood duties, none of which were actually priesthood duties.

  33. Geoff - Aus says:

    Sam, As the father of 4 daughters, and 6 granddaughters I am all for it. When I was younger, and in leadership, I looked through the handbook, to see what women could do, that tradition excluded. Witnesses, clerks etc have been mentioned above.
    The one that I thought would make a big difference was conducting sacrament meeting. Do those of you more backgrounded in the church, know of any reason the RS presidency should not rotate the conducting of sacrament meeting with the Bishopric? Imagine a woman conducting sac meeting (they can do conference session), and yw passing the sac too?

    Change of atmosphere? My daughters when young would announce each week how many suits it took to conduct sac meeting.

  34. Sam, I had that better-than-nothing thought. But is it really better? How does it help the underlying problem? It doesn’t to me. It reinforces the underlying problem (of men having institutional authority while women do not).

  35. Sam, point taken. But I agree with ReTx. Sometimes I am in a mental and emotional place where I can celebrate and anticipate small steps of progress. But other times those baby steps feel like asking for bread and being given a stone.

    Steve, I’m curious about what was included in that preview night – I don’t think I’ve heard of that before.

  36. “Is it really better?”

    Yes, it really is better. It is through small changes that larger changes will become possible. We have developed a whole range of institutional practices that people have come to assume are based on doctrinal necessity, even though they are not. The first step in response to that problem is to chip away at a small piece of the dam, not to blow the whole thing up. First, attack one or two wrong assumptions about our practices that prejudice the treatment of women, then let the process continue.

    The key point to remember is that Mormon doctrines usually follow Mormon practices—not the other way around. Improve the way we do things, and our understanding of truth will eventually catch up. Conversely, when we indulge our base prejudices, our poor practices tend to harden into doctrine.

    I know that’s cold comfort for many people. It’s not easy being a Mormon.

  37. Thanks, Loursat.

    ReTx and Marian, I’m sympathetic to your reactions. I’d probably reframe the question slightly differently. If “the problem” is that women don’t hold the priesthood, then allowing girls and women to pass the sacrament does basically nothing to solve the problem.

    If, on the other hand, the problem is that we institutionally prevent girls and women from doing things that don’t require priesthood, then this still doesn’t fully solve the problem. But it does fix a part of the problem.

    And if we actually have two problems, this partially fixes one, while it doesn’t appear to hurt the second. I mean, it’s not a magic want that fixes everything, but it is at least a smaller magic wand that fixes something.

  38. Sam, for what it’s worth I definitely wouldn’t complain if this change were made. It would be a good thing. But to me there is a more fundamental issue: we do not invest in the growth of girls because on some level we do not value women as much as we value men. To me allowing girls to pass the sacrament for a couple of years before we tell them to sit down for most everything else does not do much to fix it.

    But like I said, I’m just not in a good place to appreciate small steps. This would absolutely be a good thing regardless of how we think about the underlying problem.

  39. Thanks for your comments, Marian. I do appreciate them, and I’m sorry that the church has put you in a bad place; I totally understand that, and appreciate the sacrifice it takes to engage with the church; sometimes it can be completely exhausting.

  40. Thanks Sam. I appreciate your comments too.

  41. If the Beehives pass the sacrament, then the Deacons will do it less often. And if the Deacons do it less often we’ll lose out on an important right of passage for mothers of young men. Namely: missing the night when their son grew 4 inches in one night, and is passing the sacrament showing off his shins, because his church pants are now way too short for him, and his mom is only noticing now in public.

  42. Cody Hatch says:

    Nice post and a hearty “amen” from me; however, I suspect that such a change would be seen by many as a type of slippery slope event. Yes, I know slippery slope arguments are pretty lame, but they are nevertheless frequently used.

  43. As a conservative lurker here, in more practical terms all of this is DOA if there’s any hint that it’s seen through the prism of “line upon line” towards female ordination. I know some people think they’re being sneaky, but liberal baby step strategies about these kinds of things are about as transparent as air, the brethren are generally smart people, and they understand how moves like this can encourage a movement that they would rather not encourage (or cause people to drastically misread tea leaves about future church policy). For it to have any chance it has to be definitively divorced from the ordination question in say, the same way that the women praying in GC movement was.

  44. Tiberius, thanks for your comment. I’m not trying to lead a revolution here; I’m too much of a pragmatist for that. And this frankly isn’t about that. It’s looking critically at what we do and how it relates to our history and scripture. And, as I’ve said repeatedly, neither the history nor the scripture requires priesthood to pass and prepare the sacrament. There is certainly a question of women and girls being ordained, and I suspect that question is not going away.

    But that’s not the question I’m interested in in this post. Because there’s also the question of how current practice fits into our doctrinal background. And treating priesthood as necessary for preparing and passing the sacrament is clearly an overreading of the necessity of priesthood, Allowing girls and women to pass the sacrament would fix that overreading, without saying anything one way or the other about priesthood ordination.

    FWIW, I don’t think this is a terribly liberal position; rather, it’s a careful reading position.

  45. Tiberius, I don’t know whether you’re referring to anything I’ve written here, but if you are, I think you’re misunderstanding me. This is not about sneaking anything past anyone. It’s about using common sense to achieve this simple agenda: listen to people, understand their needs, and respond appropriately. I’m convinced that when we do that, God will guide us to the right place. On the problem of how we treat women and girls, we have a lot of work to do. I believe that God expects us to be creative and proactive in responding to problems, and Sam’s ideas fit the bill. If this kind of process leads to the ordination of women, then so be it, but I’m certainly not hoping for any particular result other than a much better way of doing things in the church. The process of fulfilling the Restoration really only requires one thing of us: the courageous humility to bow to the demands of love.

  46. Loursat, your argument makes sense. You are right that baby steps are the best chance for lasting change. And to what Sam then said, I don’t know that I want the male priesthood for women as much as I want a narrowing of the purview of male priesthood and recognition of female priestesshood. In that sense, the change also works in a way agree with.

    I still have this hopeless sense of ‘why bother’ as it all feels like tokenism.

  47. Thanks, ReTx.

  48. “I know some people think they’re being sneaky… liberal baby step strategies … are about as transparent as air…”

    With a rhetorical framing that generous, how could we possibly fail to have an openhearted, good-faith discussion!

  49. My “being sneaky” phrase wasn’t directed towards anyone in particular here, but was rather a generic statement about a rhetorical approach often taken by people trying to get the Church to move left on some big social issue like female ordination or heteronormativity. They’re afraid that coming out and arguing for it directly will scare people off, so they dance around the core of the issue and dog whistle a bit, when it’s patently obvious to most what the end goal is. Sam’s approach has the best chance of winning precisely because it’s arguing the case on its own independent merits, and doesn’t tie it to a fundamental zeitgeist change that has a very low chance of happening.

  50. My teen son has never passed the Sacrament bread and water, which represent the body and blood and sacrifice of Christ.

    He has yet to understand what it means or value the practice.

    When he became old enough to participate, I didn’t tell him I expected him to do it. In fact, I didn’t want him to do it if all it was to him was a custom in which he was expected of engage.

    I am not saying that it’s bad to expect your son to rise to the opportunity.

    I just couldn’t stand the thought of my son passing the Sacrament if he didn’t actually give a damn about it.

    I wonder if my son is an outlier.

    I wonder if he is not.

    And if he is not, it makes sense to allow young women who care.

    But this topic reminds me of the missionaries prior to 1978 who were told not to invite certain people to teach…since those people would not be invited to accept Gospel responsibilities.

    I guess the rationale was don’t extend an opportunity that will not grow.

    Fortunately, church leaders today don’t perpetuate racist dogma.

    But we still do a lot of “better not go there cause most of the members can’t see nuances…we need sky-high boundaries, so the rank and file don’t get confused.”

  51. I’m with several of the commenters here that small, cosmetic-only changes for young women only set them up for further hurt and disenfranchisement as they become adults. The current practice of the Bishop recognizing YW from the pulpit as they move from class to class mirrors the pattern of YM priesthood advancement. I realize the intention is to make them more visible to the ward. Yet it only reinforces that there are no corresponding duties or authority for the YW; they’ve simply had a birthday. I’ve yet to see a woman welcomed into Relief Society from the pulpit the way men’s ordinations are recognized, but Relief Society is supposed to be the corresponding order or quorum or ‘auxiliary’ for women. The church’s approach to women and priesthood authority is schizophrenic.

  52. your food allergy is fake says:

    I am in favor because it would be a step in the direction of clarifying the confusion surrounding what priesthood is and is not. More specifically, Aaronic Priesthood. The majority of the church seems to think Aaronic Priesthood = young men’s leadership development program. Hence the extremely unfortunate formulation promoted by recent Young Men’s General Presidency that “Boy Scouts is the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood.” So many things wrong with that.

  53. To the baby steps argument, I have a slightly different view.

    First, I make no pretense about arguing for ordination for women. Although my version has little to do with “priesthood” authority or doctrine and more to do with roles. My bottom line is that I want to sustain an African-Amercan woman as my bishop (I do have a particular person in mind), and whatever it takes to make that happen is what I’m for. That’s my ‘outside the system’ stance.

    At the same time–in parallel and not inconsistent but not the same–I want women to have the maximum participation, involvement, visibility, and responsibility possible within whatever the current rules are. As the OP says, the necessary role of priesthood *within* the current system is actually quite limited. The way of justice and right thinking is to find every way possible for women (who want to be) to be engaged. That’s my “inside the system’ stance.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to maintain both outside the system and inside the system positions, simultaneously. My motives feel to me all of a piece, but the arguments and negotiations are really quite different.

  54. Thanks, Chris. I like that idea of parallel, and not-inconsistent, tracks of desires, desires that aren’t incompatible, but that are independent.

  55. Off topic: “Yes, I know slippery slope arguments are pretty lame, but they are nevertheless frequently used.”

    By everyone. All the time. Everywhere. Regardless of political persuasion. Because it’s an effective rhetorical tool to take decisioning rationales to their ultimate logical conclusion to show absurdity.

  56. An Honest Dude says:

    Very interesting topic.

    I don’t see this change as different from Christ’s efforts to remove the “hedges” surrounding about Mosaic law that the Pharisees supported? These “hedges” were initially created for positive purposes – to create an extra barrier to help from actually committing a sin… but some un-positive consequences followed so that Christ had to help refocus on what is the important consideration.

  57. Given that the Aaronic Priesthood is meant to be a prepatory priesthood, query whether passing and preparing the sacrament are helping to prepare the deacons and teachers to be ready to “administer” the sacrament, even those aren’t explicitly priesthood functions. If so, is that a sufficient basis for a policy excluding those functions to deacons and priests?

  58. Thank you, Sam, for this putting forward this question, along with the support for this rational argument. I yearn that little by little, we can honestly evaluate our policies to determine if their underpinnings are based on tradition and fear, or pure doctrine. In the mean time, perhaps we can start with looking at every Beehive, MiaMaid, and Laurel with new eyes. Imagine them with trays of bread and water in their hands. See their hands pass the bread and water to you. Imagine the Primary girls watching them, thinking, someday, that will be me. Does it change how you feel about them? Does it change how you feel about the sacrament?

  59. Loursat wrote: “listen to people, understand their needs, and respond appropriately.”

    Who could disagree with that? However, it begs the question of what is the appropriate response. In any event, it sounds very congregational, where the government of the church is determined by the congregation. Strange to tell, however, the UCC, one of the largest and most prominent congregational churches, is in steep decline, a decline so steep it could almost disappear in a generation or two if current trends continue.

    Loursat also wrote: “It’s not easy being a Mormon.” Maybe so, I suppose it depends on individual circumstances and inclinations. I should think it might be hard being an contemporary Episcopalian. The Episcopal Church (TEC) began its history in America as the largest and most prestigious denomination in the colonies. It has been the church of presidents. It has built amazing buildings with great organs and has a sonorous liturgy. It has also, like the UCC, embraced women’s ordination in including its top positions and is fully affirming, welcoming, and inclusive regarding their LGBT platform. Like the UCC, the Episcopal Church is in steep numerical decline, exacerbated by schism. Along with the UCC, the TEC could almost disappear in a generation or two at current rates. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) and the Anglican Churches in the UK are following similar patterns of decline and schism, all with the best intentions and unending polite conversations.

    One wonders if the UCC, TEC, and these other denominations have been responding appropriately. They have been “fixing” things large and small for some time now.

  60. Leo, we’re not talking women’s ordination here, and I’m not interested in disparaging other religions. So please don’t.

  61. I don’t know that Aaronic has been/will be always viewed as “preparatory”. We used to have Priests/Teachers/Deacons who had no goal to be Elders/HP/70, as they were called to their specific quorums. The only reason it was important for John the Baptist to confer the Aaronic Priesthood is because that’s the Priesthood he held. You’d think he’d get a promotion by now.

    It’s preparatory now, but I think that’s to put it into the whole “climb the ladder” mentality, while stressing that one should never vie for a position.

  62. There are so far two comments on this post that bring up the issue of what deacons are expected to wear and how they are supposed to look. If we were to have Beehives pass the sacrament, how long would it take before a man tells one of them that her skirt is too short or her neckline too low? (yuck) If there’s a uniform for priesthood service, what would the YW uniform for sacrament passing be? Missionary dress code? I’m in favor of the suggestion to have YW do this, but we have some issues to think through. And yeah, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon; there’s not a lot of social pressure from inside or outside the church to cause a change.

  63. Beth, notwithstanding the ethos of white-shirt-and-a-tie, there is no uniform for passing the sacrament. When I was 12 (decades ago, and half a continent away), I rarely wore white shirts. Here in Chicago, we have boys and men passing the sacrament in shirts of ever color of the rainbow, with and without ties, with and without beards. Maybe once we start allowing girls and women to pass the sacrament, we can root out this lousy white-shirt thing, too.

  64. megelaineconley says:

    I’m on my way to pick up my daughters from school and so haven’t much time to comment. But just wanted to say that my eight year old would nearly weep with relief over this change. She is already questioning the lack of female representation in sacrament meeting and during the passing of the sacrament. Her questions – perhaps because she is so young – rarely have anything to do with the priesthood, and have everything to do with the fact that the Atonement as represented by the sacrament is something that belongs to everyone. If, when she turned 12, she was trusted to be a steward ushering the Atonement to the brothers and sisters in her ward, I believe that would be instructive and illuminating to her and others about the relationship she has with Christ and the relationship THEY have with Christ. I understand that this is difficult to divorce from other issues within in the church. I do. But the sacrament is one of the ordinances that has kept me in the church and acknowledging that she is as much a bearer of the light, burdens, joys, responsibilities of being a follower Christ as her 12 year old male peers (if not more so, ha), is something I am desperate to see accomplished. I suppose I feel this way because I hold the sacrament in a higher place, apart, from many other church practices. It belongs to every single one of us and we are all burdened and made whole by it. She is entrusted with it, too. Rambling and typed on my phone while flying out the door, but there it is. (Sam, I loved this.)

  65. Beautiful thoughts meg, thank you for sharing.

  66. Thank you meg. That’s a really important observation.

  67. This reminds me of when my daughter at age 9 expressed her wish to participate in passing the sacrament like the deacons do (or even being an usher or some other active role in the meetings). I tried to underplay it by saying it was kind of lame, but that’s just the standard Mormon response kicking in.
    Mormon Party Line: The Priesthood is so so important.
    Woman: Then why don’t women have it too?
    Mormon Party Line: Oh, it’s dumb and just a lot of work. You wouldn’t want it.

    She wasn’t buying it. She said she just wished she could do something active in the meeting like the boys. And we don’t have a good reason why not.

  68. Kevin Barney says:

    We sometimes have young girls act as greeters, pass out programs and shake hands before sacrament meeting. I can tell how honored and into it they are.

  69. Once upon a time we had fully grown adult women giving priesthood healing blessings too. It was Joseph Smith’s idea, and was protected and allowed to further develop by Brigham Young. It was the norm for at least 50 years and was allowed for nearly 100 years. Remember? Oh yeah, it’s been excised from our history. So no one knows about it. But I think many of these uncomfortable questions have been asked before, and the answers were even more uncomfortable, so much so that it’s necessary to not celebrate a significant milestone of Relief Society history, lest we remember too much of it.

    Sam Brunson’s post is so reasonable and so mild in its scope, it’s encouraging to see a measured discussion of this in our little corner here, but I have a deja-vu sensation that sinks my hopeful heart.

  70. Recently a video was posted by the Mormon Channel titled “How to Help Young Women Feel Valued and Needed in the Church”. YW President Oscarson introduces the topic by bringing up a time she was in a meeting with Senior Brethren and one was talking about all the ways YM contribute at church which helps them feel needed and valued. Then he turned to President Oscarson and asked her, “What do the Young Women of the church have that let’s them know that they’re important, too?” President Oscarson says that “it really got her thinking, [she] didn’t have an immediate answer for him”. This is because the answer is nothing. We have nothing for them to do to contribute but dress modestly and don’t have sex. We can make up additional extra things for them to do but kids know busy work when they get it. We need to do better for our girls.

  71. “Given that the Aaronic Priesthood is meant to be a prepatory priesthood, query whether passing and preparing the sacrament are helping to prepare the deacons and teachers to be ready to “administer” the sacrament, even those aren’t explicitly priesthood functions. If so, is that a sufficient basis for a policy excluding those functions to deacons and priests?”

    The Aaronic Priesthood, I believe, is not preparatory is the sense of preparing the priesthood holders. It is not preparatory for the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is preparatory for the greater rites of salvation and exaltation. The Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys of the first steps to the salvation. The misunderstanding that it is preparatory for the boys who hold it is somewhat myopic, I think.

    So that is not a barrier. And it would only exclude deacons and teachers (not priests so much, since the women already couldn’t bless the sacrament) in wards where there were many of them. As several people have mentioned, it would help out a lot of wards/branches where there just aren’t the priesthood holders to support it (I think of the branches where I served a mission, for instance).

    Personally, I wish we would also make more of Elder Oaks talk from a few years back in which he said that women use priesthood authority. That *should* change how we teach priesthood lessons immensely, but I have not heard much made of it, although I use it in all the lessons I can.

    I think this could be a very helpful thing for a lot of girls and women, even if it is a baby step. We could use a bunch more baby steps–to wherever the Lord will lead us.

  72. It seems many (most?) members of the church don’t really think about whether specific church procedures/policies/programs have a strong scriptural basis or whether they are based on tradition. The beauty of the OP is laying out a clear case why this particular policy fits in the latter category.

    Related, it seems that collectively church membership is overly resistant to any change. If many great and important things have yet to be revealed, it stands to reason that there will be drastic changes in church policy when such revelations come. Maybe we have to get over the idea that changes in procedures/policies/programs mean that the prior way of doing things was somehow wrong or not inspired, especially as it relates to significant changes.

  73. Aussie Mormon says:

    “This is because the answer is nothing. We have nothing for them to do to contribute but dress modestly and don’t have sex.”
    Strange. That’s not what the video said.

  74. One takeaway: people (including the brethren) don’t know much about the priesthood. Heck, we’ve even just learned that endowed women “have” (meaning are capable of exercising) the priesthood.

    When my son recently got baptized, he asked if his “mom” could do it. My response was NOT “she doesn’t have the priesthood,” but, “Though she has the priesthood, she isn’t ordained.”

    Conversations like this OP at least help everyone understand we’re only beginning here and it’s a mess.

  75. Steve, I ran several priesthood preview meetings as a deacon’s quorum adviser. Everybody loves to talk about “the keys of ministering of angels” but nobody seems to actually know what that means or how Aaronic priesthood holders can actually do anything practical with that. My take was to read section 13, and focus on “the keys of…the gospel of repentance.” The idea was to explain that they had a special duty to share with all people the good news that Jesus’ atonement makes repentance possible. From there we would talk about becoming converted themselves, experiencing true repentance, and then brainstorm all the ways they can share the good news that aren’t the standard “invite a friend to church/to hear the discussions.” At the very end I would explain that one of their assignments as deacons is to assist the bishop in his responsibilities, and that therefore they pass sacrament, care for the church building and grounds, and might occasionally collect fast offerings. But those deliberately took a back seat.

  76. megelaineconley says:

    Sam, there is a lady very upset with me on my FB post about this. So, you must’ve done a great job here. ;)

  77. On the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, what they mean and how the work of the young bearers of the priesthood is related to those keys, see Elder Oaks “The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament,” given at the Priesthood Session of conference, October 1998.

  78. Sorry for the threadjack. You can delete my comment, Sam.

  79. “One takeaway: people (including the brethren) don’t know much about the priesthood. Heck, we’ve even just learned that endowed women “have” (meaning are capable of exercising) the priesthood.

    When my son recently got baptized, he asked if his “mom” could do it. My response was NOT “she doesn’t have the priesthood,” but, “Though she has the priesthood, she isn’t ordained.”

    Conversations like this OP at least help everyone understand we’re only beginning here and it’s a mess.”

    Thank you. I think this is the sort of thing we should be doing.

  80. 7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
    8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?…
    12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
    13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

    Bill Reel’s most recent podcast talked about women taking care of the body of Christ before his burial and after. Thanks so much for pointing out that women prepared the sacrament some decades ago. Wouldn’t it be so beautiful if they at least could do that again. In accordance with scripture no less! I would love to see the day with woman gaining some participation in priesthood actions. My daughter is 8. Would if the powers that be might make it happen?

  81. I may be cynical, but I think some of the commenters have hit on the reason why this change will not happen. This will make 12 and 13 year old girls feel more included at church. Those who are 14 and 15 can continue participating either by continuing to pass or possibly preparing the sacrament. But then they turn 16 and the difference between male and female will not be able to be denied. Rather than dealing with the disappointment of being excluded at an age where kids are more malleable, the girls will face disappointment at the very age when they are more likely to look outside the Church for opportunity, anyway. Making this change without confronting women’s participation more generally will probably lead to less activity among the older teenage and 20-something women.

  82. This post by Fr. Lawrence Farley, an Orthodox pastor and scholar

    https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/nootherfoundation/altar-girls/

    explains how, in contrast to the Orthodox, the Anglicans moved from the analogous innovation of altar girls to female deacons, priests, and finally bishops, in relatively short order with assurances at each stage that it would only be this one step and nothing further. Other than to uphold Orthodox views, I don’t view Father Farley was disparaging Anglicans. I would note that Catholics now have altar girls, but the Vatican has said no to women’s ordination.

    Father Farley also makes the cogent point that “Creating a new category of ‘altar girl’ or finding things for them to do so that they will ‘feel special and valued’ (as I have heard it phrased) is exactly the wrong thing to do. For our value does not depend upon jobs that are special, but upon our common membership in the holy Body of Christ.” To put this in LDS terms, if baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and receiving the sacrament and other blessings don’t make you feel valued, then adding an assignment isn’t going to change that.

    Luther correctly pointed out the difference between Amt (office) and Stand (standing). Lutherans believe in the priesthood of all believers based on a common standing, not on offices, which are not conferred on everyone.

    The Anglicans, UCC, TEC, and other churches are well within their rights to do whatever that decide to do. They are wonderful churches that do numerous charitable works and whose choirs I have joined with and whose organs and services I have listened to. I am partial to evensong services. I have actually done a fair amount of interfaith work and belonged to interfaith associations. I would not and do not disparage them as churches (Sam’s surprisingly hostile accusation notwithstanding), but to refuse to notice their astonishing numerical decline (which they themselves admit and are concerned about-as am I) and in some cases outright schism (also openly discussed) is simply to bury one’s head in the sand as to the possible consequences of such changes. I truly do not want to see our neighboring church collapse.

  83. Leo, beware correlation and causation.

  84. Leo, that’s the thing: I’m not suggesting creating a new category to make anybody feel special. Instead, I’m saying that there’s no foundation other than tradition to leaving girls and women out of preparing and passing the sacrament, and leaving them out of preparing the sacrament doesn’t have as long a history as we think it does.

    In fact, making it the exclusive province of boys may be exactly what you’re concerned about: creating a special category solely to make boys feel important.

  85. One of our YM leaders was helping the few YM we have set up the sacrament table before Sacrament meeting. His young daughter was helping. One of those “involved” women in our ward got up and had a conversation with the leader. He told his daughter to have a seat in the choir seats. The woman came and sat next to me and told me how she reminded that leader that girls cannot help with the sacrament. She was very proud of herself. I said that was interesting, as it’s tradition not priesthood authority that allows the YM to set up the table and there was nothing wrong with that little girl helping out. It got me a huff in return. I wondered if the leader knew that but didn’t want to get into it with her or if he didn’t and believed her.

    We do so much blind following in our Church it seems. Our lessons don’t address the every day acts and they whys behind them. It’s just “obey” and “do things like they’ve always been done”. I am finding it all increasingly frustrating and find myself only attending Sacrament more and more and then ducking out.

  86. Jenny Harrison says:

    Some of these comments have been unbelievable…having the girls pass the sacrament would be “limiting the importance of the priesthood”, would “slowly erode it away”, and we would need a “revelatory change”. Next time you are at church and they are passing the sacrament, watch and see who is actually doing the passing. The deacon gives the tray to the first person in the row, who then passes it to the next and so on. Old ladies, unordained men, children and yes, even nonmembers pass the tray to their neighbors in the pews. GET OVER YOURSELVES. Too many men love the idea of being able to have power and authority and do not want women to be their equals. Let’s see what the Savior has to say about all this –

    Galations 3:23-29
    But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed .Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

    -So Jesus sees us as equals already.

    Matthew 20:25-28
    But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

    -To be the greatest doesn’t mean you need power or authority. The greatest is the servant of all.

    Mark 7:5-9 and 20-23
    Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
    And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

    -Most of what we do is simply tradition and much of what we do as a people needs to be changed. We have hungry, homeless, sick and dying people right in our own backyard, but all we can seem to worry about is our own authority. We all need to grow up.

  87. Jenny Harrison says:

    Forgot to say that Zelophehads’s Daughters had a wonderful blog recently on this very thing, called, The Cost of Making Women Ecclesiastically Superfluous, http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/

  88. My general response to people saying things like “it’ll hurt the church” or “it’ll make the church Diminish” is that if it’s true then we shouldn’t need to fear. The Church has survived far, far worse.

    Have some faith it’s God’s Church, for goodness sake.

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