Coronavirus and the Sacrament

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were out of state at a climbing competition, and an old high school friend was kind enough to let us stay with her and her family. My friend is a Presbyterian pastor, so that Sunday we went to her church. She wasn’t preaching that particular day, but she still participated in the service.

Part of the services involved standing and greeting the people around you. My friend introduced this part and said that, in light of coronavirus[fn1] and flu season[2], instead of shaking hands, we could fist bump, tap elbows, or give the peace sign. Everybody laughed, then stood and gave fist bumps or the peace sign.

As the coronavirus shows signs of become a pandemic, it seems like we should start thinking about changes we need to make in our worship service. And it seems to me that the sacrament is a big place where we should seriously consider change. And I’m not talking just those who break the bread. The new handbook explicitly tells “[t]hose who prepare, bless, or pass the sacrament first wash their hands with soap or other cleanser.”

Even assuming they do it, the people preparing, administering, and passing the sacrament aren’t the only (and probably aren’t the primary) germ vector we deal with. I mean, while my kids are getting older, they were little once. Even if you’re fully awake and fully aware, there’s almost no way to prevent little fingers from touching several chunks of bread before choosing the one they take. The most careful adult fingers can still brush other chunks of bread. And there’s no concomitant requirement that those of us in the congregation wash our hands before participating in the Sacrament.

The good news: there’s precedent both to changing the form of the sacrament and to using a health scare to motivate that change. I’m not going to go deeply into our history of the sacrament, in part because of space and time constraints and in part because others (especially Justin Bray) have done an excellent job with it.[fn3] But the broad strokes of what we’ve done:

In its earliest LDS iteration, the sacrament was offered irregularly, and could often constitute an actual meal.

Even after it was no longer a meal, Mormonism followed its Christian peers in drinking the wine (then water) from a communal cup. That communal cup could lead to absolutely disgusting results (and, if you’re currently eating, maybe skip the following blockquote, from one of Bray’s articles):

the front rows of the meetinghouse were the most coveted seats in the 19th century because by the time the cup reached the back of the room and into the gallery, some reported that it contained all kinds of debris, hair, and foul smells. You can imagine the look of horror on Williams’s face when the older man next to her, in her words, “took a sip and his red mustache was floating on top of the water.” Though feeling a bit squeamish, Williams dutifully took her turn and renewed her baptismal covenants. “I have always been delicate in my stomach,” she later wrote. “That day was no exception. It rolled completely over.”

Still, many members considered drinking from a communal cup a critical part of the sacrament (and some apparently also believed that blessing the water also sterilized the cup). As we moved into the Progressive Era, though, and as we started accepting the germ theory of disease, Christian churches started moving away from a common cup. In 1912, the First Presidency told wards to move to individual cups, a mandate that was sped up six years later because of the Spanish flu.

So for the last century, we’ve used separate cups for the sacrament, in spite of New Testament precedent that indicates that when Jesus gave His disciples wine during the Last Supper, they shared a single cup.

How can we make the bread part of the sacrament more sanitary? I have a couple ideas, of varying degrees of radicalness, but in the end, I’m a tax attorney, not a public health expert. So if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

First, and absolutely not radically, we should ensure that those dealing with the sacrament bread are not sick. There’s nothing embarrassing about sitting it out when you’ve got a sniffle (or, even, staying home, both to recover and to protect your fellow Saints from your illness). Also, we should ensure that those who prepare, administer, and pass the sacrament are aware that they’re supposed to wash their hands in advance, and that they do, in fact, wash their hands with soap and water. Perhaps we even ask them to tear the bread wearing food service gloves.[fn4]

Of course, while that’s helpful, it doesn’t do anything about the grubby kid- (and adult-) fingers in the congregation. How do we solve that problem?

One way might be to emphasize that there’s no shame in not taking the sacrament every week. Again, if you’re sick, don’t go to church. But if you go to church anyway, maybe skip the sacrament that week? In the early church, after all, sacrament was administered when it was convenient, and it wasn’t convenient every week. I know there’s currently a stigma against not taking it, because you only don’t take it if you sinned or whatever, but what if we acknowledged publicly that there are other legit reasons not to take it? And being sick was a big one?

We can get more radical, of course: when I attend Catholic mass, the congregants walk to the front, where they receive the Eucharist from the priest or others who have been deputized to distribute Communion. It would be a different feel, but we could have members go to the front to receive the sacrament from young men and young women,[fn5] rather than having the young men come to the congregations. Those handing out the bread would clearly wash their hands first, and maybe would wear gloves, which would pretty much ensure the sanitary nature of it.

We can even take it a step more radical: we could shift the idea of the Lord’s Supper from being literal to being figurative. We’ve already done that to some extent—instead of an actual meal, we take a sliver of bread and a sip of water to represent the meal. We could make it even more symbolic, and participate in the sacrament without actually using bread and water.

Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of this option: there’s a critical materiality and physicality to Mormonism that I don’t entirely want to leave behind. On the other hand, though, this solution would undoubtedly be the most sanitary and the least likely to transmit coronavirus, influenza, of any other disease through the sacrament.

I don’t know precisely what the best answer is, but it’s a question that will, I suspect, become more and more critical in the upcoming weeks and months. In the meantime, [peace sign].


[fn1] She was joking about coronavirus; at the time, there were either one or two reported cases in the U.S., both in Chicago, and we weren’t in Chicago.

[fn2] She was deadly serious about the flu. The flu is no laughing matter.

[fn3] The best online treatment I ran into was this one from Bray. He also wrote about the development of the LDS sacrament here. I also enjoyed this piece from Chad Nielson.

[fn4] My kids and I volunteered at Food for Friends this last Saturday. It’s an amazing organization that prepares meals for those who need meals, and provides table service of those meals to recognize the individuals’ dignity. And when we dealt with food, served food, or brought food, we were required to wear gloves.

[fn5] Side note: on Sunday, none of the three active young men (two of whom are priests anyway) were at church. So we had adult men blessing and passing the sacrament, in spite of having three young women sitting in the congregation. So I’m honestly really not sympathetic to the argument that letting girls pass the sacrament would take something away from boys, unless somehow you believe that letting girls do something devalues that thing.

Photo: Edison kinetoscopic record of a sneeze, January 7, 1894. Public domain.

 

Comments

  1. I’m ironically reminded of those who saw the new YM/YW/Children program, 2 hr church, and Ministering, as signs that soon the government would forbid us from meeting together. What if that turns out to be true, but because of a pandemic?

  2. Frank, it apparently happened in 1918 (during the Spanish flu outbreak), per the Bray article that talks about the disgustingness of communal cups. So maybe you’re right!

  3. nobody, really says:

    We have soap and water just off to the side of the sacrament table. Just in case that isn’t obvious enough, I make sure we have individual wet-naps for each person blessing. I’ve also told them in no uncertain terms that they need to hold their hands up when washing them so all the people attending can see that they are, in fact, washing their hands prior to breaking bread.

    The wet-naps can be ordered in bulk from store.churchofjesuschrist.org along with the individual cups. If your unit isn’t using these, please insist.

  4. Some interesting possibilities here, thanks for sharing. I’d only amend that food service gloves should be latex-free for allergy safety.

  5. Thanks, GMS. I’ll change that in the OP.

  6. I’m envisioning a pez type dispenser that can dispense an allergy free cracker of some sort. But then everyone is touching the dispenser so the germs are still being passed. Tough problem to solve I think.

  7. I love the idea of a Pez-style dispenser. I was trying to figure out how some sort of cracker/wafer would work, and your ideas gets a lot closer than I could.

  8. As I noted in the previous thread, after shaking so many hands before church it’s very hard for me to want to take the sacrament with my right hand, as sympathetic as I am to the symbolism reasoning.

    We’ve got a couple folks who have started doing “flu season fist bump” instead of handshakes, but it’s true that the best prevention is everyone having clean hands and not sneezing into the tray, not always as easy as you’d think…

  9. If blessing the sacramental bread and water is like consecrating oil, why dont we bring our own? We would open our bags and water bottles, let the blessing be said, and it would then be kashered for consumption. Theres other details to be fleshed out, but this would also fulfill those with gluten or other intolerances (like my wife when someone brought a multi-grain nut loaf a few weeks ago).

  10. If blessing the sacramental bread and water is like consecrating oil, why dont we bring our own? We would open our bags and water bottles, let the blessing be said, and it would then be kashered for consumption. Theres other details to be fleshed out, but this would also fulfill those with gluten or other intolerances (like my wife when someone brought a multi-grain nut loaf a few weeks ago).

    I’m also all for fist bumping, even if it has to be the right fist all year long.

  11. Geoff - Aus says:

    Perhaps the church might be cancelling church in places where it is already a problem. Northern Italy, South Korea, China.
    By April, Conference may be cancelled.

  12. Wards could order Pez dispensers from Church Distribution with different apostle heads. The deacons would fight over who got to carry Uchtdorf up and down the aisles and who got stuck with Oaks.

  13. I was thinking of consequences for children in the nursery! I’d pass on church if things got that bad. Maybe do the sacrament at home. Likelihood of contamination when passing and handling trays between the congregation.

  14. Great topic.

    Someone on Reddit said last week that all church meetings except sacrament meetings had been cancelled in Thailand. If I find it again I might share the link. I think if we do that without doing something to keep people from sneezing on the bread we kind of miss the point.

    Like Dave, I thought a good idea was to have people bring their own bread. I imagine that someone will say priests have to break the bread, which is nonsense: the bread comes pre-sliced anyway. There is no rule that says the priests must start with an uncut, unbroken loaf of bread.

  15. Not Sayin' says:

    I’m sure the church would like nothing better than to have an excuse to cancel GC so they didn’t have to discuss the $100 billion they’ve been quietly sitting on.

  16. Great thoughts, thank you. What about putting pieces of bread into individual cups, like the water? We could use the same trays.

  17. Stephanie, that sounds like a doable idea, especially if we combine it with gloves!

  18. Aussie Mormon says:

    On the Pez dispenser idea, don’t worry about a bread version, just use actual Pez (or you local equivalent). We’re explicitly allowed to use non-bread items.

    As well as fighting over who gets to carry which dispenser, the priests could fight over who gets to bless the Pez.

  19. Aussie Mormon says:

    Or rather, say the prayer asking God to bless the Pez.

  20. I like the bring your one bread option. Just pull it out for the prayer. This also will save time passing so we can devote another 15 minutes to the High Council Speaker.

  21. *own

  22. As I have seen in some wards (and in the comments above), wet naps and such are sometimes conveniently used at the sacrament table before the blessing. It should be noted that some wet naps are simply just wet napkins and wont actually kill any microbes. They need to be antimicrobial, and even then it probably shouldn’t be a substitute for washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

  23. I just as worried by people breathing, coughing, and sneezing in the vicinity of the bread and water as it’s being passed. It’s not enough to just have people wash their hands before reaching into the trays (although that’s good, but hardly policeable).

  24. Meems, I think is right. The biggest danger is people breathing, coughing, etc on the bread or water and someone else eats it. Washing hands protects most the person who who washes their hands, although it course it is important for the priests who handle all the bread.

    Serving the bread in little cups will have very little benefit.

    * Like op, I’m not a public health expert

  25. I have little trust in the arm of the flesh and haven’t taken the sacrament since early January, and I have no plans to resume until something dramatic along the lines of Sam’s suggestions changes. I suppose the fact that we have all lived this far to tell our tales suggests that the Mormon sacrament isn’t the grim reaper’s preferred channel, but I’m going to steer clear from now on.

  26. Ignorance + a handful of facts, mingled with fear can work wonders on a populace.

    A perfect love casts out fear. If you are prepared you shall not fear.

    If there’s an outbreak in your area, yes prudent choices should be made. But for the most part worrying over church is the least of your problems.

    Consider:
    Crowded public transit
    Grocery stores (you think your the only one that actually touches the fruit and vegetables?)
    Door knobs

    In general, fear over this issue will lead to a reduction of civil liberties in the name of exaggerated personal safety worries. We already clamor for the government to require injections of our neighbors to protect ourselves from small probabilities of disease. And I’m not opposed to vaccines at all — but we should be a little bit concerned how quickly we trust governments to force medical intervention if the claim for public safety is made. Keep in mind the CIA for years made use of vaccine programs for a variety of clandestine purposes and then when discovered, they said, essentially, trust us we won’t do that anymore.

    We are after all talking about complete distrust of Trump and the people who put him on office on one hand and giving more power to the people in the other.

    It’s no small thing, but thankfully we’ve not crossed the Rubicon yet. Or have we… Marginal decay and marginal tyrant creep is likely under appreciated right up until the point you have mask wearing fascists breaking things, and we pretty much have that flaring up from time to time in the world.

    You want to ignore those plights, while simultaneously worrying about your sick neighbor in the pew contaminating you, while also likely trusting that what’s needed is more authority given to people your trust with a blind eye to the reality it includes people you don’t?

    I actually like the point about the sacrament cup bring shared, but I’d give it another twist. Do you think the Savior was making a point there with the same cup? Literally asking others in the small group to bear the burdens of those who partook? Why doesn’t it work now? Largely, because we don’t know and love one another. They were virtually family and a small group. Once the group enlarges to congregation size, in spite of our brother and sister talk, we become distrustful and fearful.

    Yes, I’m taking the other extreme end of the spectrum here to illustrate a point. I’m not saying we should let our running noses drip into the cup our neighbor drinks from, but the reality is, “they” could and are being argued they are infecting the very air we breath.

    The logical absurd end of the fearful statist impulse for control is far far worse in this issue than the absurdity of the communal loving libertarian. And the communal loving libertarian side of the issue is largely overlooked and belittled.

    The Savior took our burdens upon him, asked us to witness to do the same and drink from the same cup demonstrate our willingness. We said, thanks but how about we each use our own cup because our neighbors burdens are demonstrably icky, and now we’re at the point where some confess to refusing to do even that!

  27. Sute, I very seriously considered moderating your comment, because I have no interest in this becoming a site for anti-vaxxers.

    But I decided to leave it to say: I’m not sure you understand what “statist” means.

  28. Sam, if you can’t see a logical connection in the underlying fear, that’s fine. Keep writing and worrying about your neighbor breathing evil spirits on you while you covenant to be one with the Lord who willingly took their burdens on himself and invited you to follow in his footsteps.
    Your post is an interesting discussion. To see the fear people have over this issue to the point of not wanting to take the sacrament when they are far from immediate harm? We fear these evil spirits more than sin. We mobilize and restrict liberty more or argue for more self exile more over this than concern for the warning about the destructive impacts of sin.
    Signed, one who’s vaccinated and children are too.

  29. Sute, I’m also getting the impression you don’t understand the germ theory of disease.

    In any event, though, I don’t recall my covenants including catching a virus from those who have a virus. Or refraining from suggesting simple ways to try to protect church members. So feel free, I suppose, to continue making up covenants. In the meantime, we here will continue to try to think of ways to help the least of our brothers and sisters.

  30. Do you think the Savior was making a point there with the same cup? Literally asking others in the small group to bear the burdens of those who partook?

    No.

    But for the most part worrying over church is the least of your problems.

    Consider:
    Crowded public transit
    Grocery stores (you think your the only one that actually touches the fruit and vegetables?)
    Door knobs

    Guess what I do after riding public transit and using door knobs in high-traffic areas? I wash my hands. Guess what I do after buying fruits and vegetables. I wash them. That doesn’t eliminate the risk but is the single most effective thing you can do. With the sacrament, the risk is literally out of your hands.

  31. Our neighbors moved to Singapore and they said church services have been cancelled indefinitely there.

    Sute, I’m sorry you are scared of the government. If I may, by brother works for the Bureau of Land Management (and just got back from fighting fires in Australia). My brother in law is a retired Utah Highway Patrolman. My parents are both retired public school teachers (mom taught high school, dad taught elementary school). Another brother in law is an assistant principal for a middle school. I assure you they are quite normal people. They are not out to get you. Yes, they work for the government. WE are the government. Nothing to be afraid of here.

  32. When we had SARS in Toronto back in 2003 the temple was closed. Then in sacrament meeting those blessing the sacrament wore gloves. The congregation was only allowed to sit in alternating rows. One row at a time would go to the front to receive both the bread and the water at the same time. The bread was dropped into your hand by someone who wore gloves and then you would take the cup of water yourself. Small children were left behind in the pews so no little fingers to worry about. (If you really wanted to I suppose you could take some extra bread and water back to them.)

    Having said all that, unlike SARS, this new coronavirus is highly contagious during a long incubation period which is asymptomatic. Seems people can spread it for weeks while showing no symptoms. Without a vaccine the only way to stop the transmission is social isolation. I’m thinking we’re going to see a lot of change in the next few months.

  33. Why on earth would they cancel Conference? Is there some requirement that a certain number of people gather together for it? They could hold sessions of conference in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and have people watch it from home just like they have been doing for regional conferences. Sure MOTAB wouldn’t be there, but I think it would be okay.

    My own ward uses technology so that one remote area can participate in Sacrament meeting every week. And our stake does the same thing for each stake meeting. Yeah, the technology isn’t perfect and isn’t as nice as meeting in person, but I’ve had wonderful experiences hearing the gospel over audio conference.

  34. Billy Possum says:

    Agree that Church should (and probably will) cancel all in-person meetings (including sacrament) in areas where COVID-19 is spreading in public in the community. No amount of restructuring the ritual (including making it figurative) meaningfully reduces the risk of aerosolized body fluids, produced by a sneeze or cough, transmitting the virus. The only real containment solution (if there is one at all) is eliminating social gathering altogether.

  35. Billy Possum says:

    And a follow-up, to bolster my last: CDC still believes that COVID-19 is spread primarily through respiratory droplets from coughs, and *not* primarily through contact with surfaces like doorknobs and sacrament trays.

  36. I can’t imagine sitting through a process as long as having individuals get up to take the sacrament. Add to it the problems with being able to observe who does or doesn’t get up and issues for elderly members. I can, however, imagine some better ways to limit the amount of cross-contamination. Smaller bread trays with individualized compartments for each shred of bread might help. We could also adopt a standard wafer that fits a specific size for the compartment. There is some symbolism to breaking bread, so that might be out, but there could be a wafer that breaks apart and would require less manipulation than standard bread.

    That said, I don’t think we’re facing any pandemics that are so scary that we really need to do anything other than emphasize that priests MUST wash their hands and that people who are ill should not take the sacrament. But, much like my __ months supply of food, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    My thought is the easiest changes are the ones that have a continuity with changes we have already acclimated to. I’m thinking of the recentish HB provision dealing with gluten sensitivity, which provides for the family to give the priests a non-wheat morsel of some sort in a sealed plastic bag to prevent contamination. My thought is we could transition to individually wrapped and sealed wafers of some kind that would have a long shelf life. This would approximate the virtue of separate cups. Yes, there would be no more breaking of the bread, but the sacrament prayers don’t actually mention breaking the bread. Units would order the individually sealed wafers in bulk from Church Distribution the same way they currently order the cups now.

  38. Perma Banned says:

    My son has autism and is now old enough to be a priest. My bishop has informed me that there is and would be concern about my son’s hygiene habits in blessing the sacrament, as he is prone to wipe his nose at times. He is verbal, but not conversational. While we teach him good hygiene practices, there is only so much we can do. Him not blessing the sacrament is a win for the hygiene crowd. I just hang my head thinking about it. What can I say, that I put the needs of my son about the health concerns of the ward? But at the same time, it feels pretty crappy to be called out on this.

    Japan has canceled all meetings including sacrament meeting. If it’s too dangerous to have the sacrament in the usual way, then it’s too dangerous to meet as well.

  39. I think something like this would be perfect! I’ve had them in other denominations when I’ve visited for communion- https://www.amazon.com/Celebration-Cup-Prefilled-Communion-Juice/dp/B002TO6644

  40. Just want to add my 2-bits. Back in the early 1970s my preschoolers caught chicken pox from Junior Sunday School. We could have done without it. Now I need to remind my son to get a shingles vaccination.

    You can’t be too careful.

  41. I can’t imagine sitting through a process as long as having individuals get up to take the sacrament.

    In a relative’s Catholic parish that I visit on occasion, it (the process of getting up to take the sacrament) is actually faster than my ward’s procedure, even during the holiday season when attendance at the Catholic church outstrips our own by a wide margin.

  42. Him not blessing the sacrament is a win for the hygiene crowd. I just hang my head thinking about it.

    While the “hygiene crowd” includes the authors of the handbook—”Those who prepare, bless, or pass the sacrament first wash their hands with soap or other cleanser” (18.9.4)—I have a hard time imagining that anyone would be opposed to, say, having your son simply bless the sacrament and leave the breaking of the bread to the other(s) involved.

  43. John Mansfield says:

    Fans of John McWhorter (or of linguistics, but I only know of these things through McWhorter; did anyone else here attend his Presidents’ Day interview with Tyler Cowen in Arlington?) will remember his oft repeated descriptions of syllable erosion: A word has multiple syllables, but eventually over the generations of speakers some of the syllables drop off. The vanished syllable’s remaining trace is a difference in the tone of the preceding syllable, the plural of man, “men,” being one example. The Chinese language is another.

    Perhaps someone has done a similar study of the erosion of symbolic acts. Some large gesture, a meal together to represent communion with Christ, is replaced with a smaller gesture, receiving a chunk of bread and a sip of wine from a shared cup. The chunks eventually become small pieces, and wine becomes a tray of little cups of water. Sometime in the future, pretty much inevitable, would be the “radical” step mentioned in the post, replacing a small gesture with words. Symbols, smaller symbols, symbols of symbols, symbols of symbols of symbols, words, smaller words. Eventually a nuance of tone.

    Following McWhorter, the only way to escape linguistic or symbolic simplification would be to isolate with a language spoken by a few thousand for many generations.

  44. Jack Hughes says:

    Instead of trying to make the administration of the sacrament as sterile as possible, perhaps the most important thing we can do to stop the transmission of disease at church is to change our culture to make it more acceptable to stay home if you or your kids are ill. For better or worse, we still have a persistent culture that praises the determination of members who get their families to church despite all opposition, because blessings. Satan is often held responsible for the car problems, road construction delays or stomach bugs that would keep a less faithful person from getting to their Sunday meetings. This “come hell or high water” attitude might be valid in some circumstances, but not when it comes to communicable diseases. As a parent of a medically fragile child, I am generous with praise and admiration for the parents who choose to keep their mildly ill kids at home on Sunday. I’ve had to miss more than my share of Sundays already.

    Also, when our building custodial duties are fulfilled entirely by unskilled volunteers who only use watered down non-toxic cleaning products, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors either. But that’s a conversation for another thread.

  45. 100% agree, Jack. Weekly attendance is great, provided you’re healthy and able to make it. But there’s nothing embarrassing or evil about not going to church when you’re sick. In fact, staying home is laudable!

    And to echo Peter: when I go with friends to Christmas Eve mass—where the church is full to (sometimes) overflowing, walking up to take Communion goes at least as quickly as an average ward’s sacrament. So time shouldn’t be an impediment. (For individuals with mobility problems, it seems like we could come up with a viable way to allow them to take the sacrament, too.)

  46. The modern Mormon liturgy of sitting in a pew with family, taking bread from a tray, and listening to personal stories and theological reflections has become the Mormon cultural epitome of righteousness. How sad. We are deluding ourselves when we reinforce such impotent practices. Rote rituals do not convert a person to become as Christ. My lifetime observation has been that to be rated as a “worthy” Mormon you must hit the following Top Ten:

    1. Weekly attend all church meetings and partake of the sacrament
    2. Daily prayer (individual and family)
    3. Daily, or regular, scripture reading (primarily the Book of Mormon)
    4. Occasional temple attendance
    5. 1950s style dress and grooming (or at least conservative and conforming)
    6. Public politeness (smile, shake hands, be agreeable)
    7. Full tithe payer
    8. Serve as a volunteer in a church calling (includes full time mission service for men)
    9. Abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol
    10. No sex outside of a legal heterosexual marriage

    I am not implying that these Top Ten can’t or won’t help a purpose along the path, or motivate or support a person to fully becoming a loving, giving, caring, serving, forgiving, compassionate person. But they are neither sufficient nor necessary. If we redefine righteousness or worthiness to be: honest, forgiving, kind, humble, compassionate then we might find a better path and culture.

    What I am getting at is a proposal to stop focusing on the ritual and start focusing on the real qualities of goodness. If a person makes a covenant with God, and feels desire or compelled to renew that covenant with God, then simply eating bread and drinking water won’t do the trick. The real renewal is in the heart and mind. How do you renew a marriage covenant? Well, might I propose through daily acts of love and devotion to your spouse? How do you renew your covenant with God? Well…

    Many Christian sects receive the communion or eucharist weekly while others reserve it for a less-frequent monthly or even annual sacrament. Perhaps our frequency dilutes the meaning. Perhaps. But we have become wedded to the weekly ritual. While I recognize the value in ritual, community, and repetition, I think a higher level of worship requires us to reevaluate our motives and actions, allowing each individual person to focus on what matters most, and to free oneself from the shackles of pharisaical rites.

    In summary, you don’t have to partake of the sacrament each week. It is not required for your salvation. You should actively choose the conditions upon when you will or will not partake. Don’t give any thought to what anyone else thinks or says to you about it. Not even your bishop. You do not answer to them.

  47. east of the mississippi says:

    @Mark… priceless!

    Wards could order Pez dispensers from Church Distribution with different apostle heads. The deacons would fight over who got to carry Uchtdorf up and down the aisles and who got stuck with Oaks.

  48. I’m all in favor of people staying home when they are sick, but that is not sufficient to stop COVID-19 coronavirus, which by all indications readily spreads between people before they show symptoms.

    —-

    Maybe. I wrote that first bit based on my memory of news stories, and then did some very brief internet searching. The jury may be out in asymptomatic spread. IDK. There is a lot of conflicting information out there. Here is on information source that is a bit on both sides of the question.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/can-coronavirus-be-spread-people-who-don-t-have-symptoms-n1140106

  49. Billy Possum says:

    Since the OP, the Church has (1) postponed the leadership sessions of General Conference for 6 months and (2) discouraged Church members outside the US from traveling to Salt Lake City for Conference in April.

    Part of me can’t help but wonder if this is a predictable response from the Church’s aged leaders to a disease that is killing mostly octogenarians.

  50. Why are some people on here so nasty and condescending? What the flibbertygibbet????

  51. I completely agree with those who posted that we need to change the culture and insist that sick people stay home. I think that means stepping up to sub for people without complaining or screening calls. Additionally, we need to shift thinking about sick families. People do the math wrong. Here’s a story problem. If you have 8 kids and 2 are symptomatic with contagious bug, how many kids should stay home from church? Hint. The answer is not 0. Another hint. The answer is not 6. Wink, wink, the answer is 8. They are likely all infected and highly contagious.

    Another solution would be to break down wards to much smaller units. I have an immune compromised family member and doctors have always recommended staying away from large groups including crowded movie theaters, church buildings with 300 people, etc. If we let go of the junk and focused on the essentials, couldn’t we function in wards of 50 or less?

    Lastly, hire professional cleaners for the building. People that regularly and systematically sterilize the building with chemicals strong enough to sanitize doors, restrooms, etc. We really need a cleaning sweep in between each ward on Sunday and in between youth/activity nights.

    Lastly, I fully support BYOB&W (bring your own bread and water). Excellent solution suggested above.

  52. What about…

    Placing hand sanitizer in the foyer and at the entrance to the chapel. Everyone sanitizes their hands as they walk in.

    It won’t stop Coronavirus, but frequent hand-washing is recommended. We have the $ to do this.

  53. AHARRIS says:

    There was a recent Business Conference cancelled because of COVID19. I was looking forward to attending that event, but understand that its best to be safe and trust that next year it’ll be back. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking, its important to attend such gatherings, forcing ourselves out of bed, dragging ourselves with fevers or runny noses; all while forgetting that the health and safety of others should be more important, that our appearance.
    Sacrament is only a small part of the bigger problem with managing or preventing the spread of a virus or any illness. It seems that all gatherings of any size, will create a potential threat of contact for any person who is ill to cause a vulnerable public to be exposed to illness; from door handles, elevator buttons, restroom sinks and other fixtures and even coat hangers. There is little comfort or assurance gained from any of the mentioned attempts in cleaning hands for preparation or administering of the Sacrament more safely, other than not going to church at all, if you know you or anyone in your household is ill with symptoms, known, unknown or similar in any way to cold, flu or COVID19’ish.
    By the time one gets into the actual chapel, even by way of application of hand sanitizer, wet-nap or soap and water, the germs have already been shared all along the way, before Sacrament has made its way to your row.
    Last week I watched as a person coughed, sneezed, wiped face on clothing then reached in for the sacrament in the front row, then took hold of the tray to pass along and share the same, ever so reverently with everyone to follow. Oh Dear.

  54. AHARRIS says:

    Ultimately, it seems all would agree that any persons with slight sign of illness or exposure from sick family members, are best to consider to stay home. But that doesn’t include non-members, who might decide to visit and who therefore, wouldn’t be on a mailing list to receive notice of any precautions or likely to know of any such protocol or practices with regard to the administration of the Sacrament.
    Having a more comprehensive cleaning of buildings and all surfaces should be done more frequently in an effort to promote cleaner, shared spaces and to reduce the spread of illness.
    This is a serious matter and one that I trust Stake and Bishopric Leaders are being advised and/or use their judgement to make any decisions for the best interest of all members and general public as this is a reality that its best to take precautions and be resilient to act with sound judgement in doing the right thing.

  55. Old Man says:

    Sick people, especially people with fevers, should stay home. Period. Viruses can last for about 24-48 hours on solid surfaces. Deep cleaning doesn’t really stop the spread of viruses, especially when the major vector is walking around coughing all over everything.

    I don’t know how to get through to my fellow members that someone with a virus at church can literally kill an elderly member. Maybe if we made coming to church while sick a Word of Wisdom violation? If only a GA would say “Going to meetings while ill is akin to drinking a full bottle of whiskey.” Or perhaps “Sick leaders showing up to ward council are tools of Satan.” Then maybe people would watch themselves. And handshakes? Don’t get me started. Perhaps we should release retired persons from church attendance through the flu season? Stay home and do family history.

    With today’s technology I am puzzled why we don’t stream meetings more. My youngest son’s mission uses technology for meetings to save time and miles. Yes, the Elders wear white shirts and ties with pajama bottoms for early AM meetings, but who really cares? When will the meeting mania end for Latter-day Saints?

  56. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    “Sick leaders showing up to ward council are tools of Satan.” – Amen! And you’ve got think pretty highly of yourself to think Ward Council just can’t proceed without your presence.

  57. east of the mississippi says:

    Hey Old Man & Turtle… don’t you believe in the 14th Article of Faith?… ;););)

  58. nobody, really says:

    Old Man:
    It will never end. I was in stake level training recently where it was stated, and I quote, “We need to keep our kids so busy they don’t have time to do anything wrong.” There’s a belief, sometimes openly stated, that if we lose our lives during “service”, we score the proverbial Golden Ticket.

    We live in abject fear that someone, somewhere, might not be busy right now. Second, that which has no cost is believed to have no value. Member’s time has no financial cost, it therefore has no value, even to the member being asked to attend another meeting. Likewise, the Church won’t be liable for sickness or treatment costs because a dilute peroxide solution used in the building wasn’t nearly strong enough to clean bathroom door handles.

  59. Warning shot. Time to bring back paid janitors who are held to some level of accountability and audits. Lay members will never deal with this properly.

  60. It is the intent and essence of the sacrament that should be important – not the physicality of the bread and water.
    There was a year when bread was in short supply but the ward had cake to share, but to the disgust of some members who refused the sacrament that Sunday because it was a “sacrilege”.
    Observe the spirit of the law people; not the letter.