Excluding Our Fellow Saints From the Sacrament

In Illinois, we’re now halfway through our sixth week under a stay-at-home order (and my family’s seventh week at home). And the stay-at-home order looks like it’s going to last at least another month here. That means at least 12 Sundays in Illinois without meeting together at church (and, even when the stay-at-home order ends, some people may make the eminently responsible and defensible decision to continue social distancing, and delay their return to church).

Ultimately, I don’t think putting church meetings on hold is optimal. (To be clear, it’s both necessary and good. It’s just not ideal.) We need human contact, and we need the spiritual benefits that come from gathering together. That said, it’s necessary, and on net, saving the lives and the health of our fellow Saints is both beneficial and will bless us and them.

Still, this extended time away from church means that some people—single women and families without priesthood holders in the home, for example—won’t have the ability to take the sacrament for three months or more.

The church has made a tentative stab at recognizing the position these women and families are in. On April 16, the church provided instructions for administering the church during the pandemic. The instructions provide that “In unusual circumstances when the sacrament is not available, members can be comforted by studying the sacrament prayers and recommitting to live the covenants members have made and praying for the day they will receive it in person, properly administered by the priesthood.”

Now, the church is wrong in its assumption that the unavailability of sacrament is an unusual circumstance; more than half of the women older than 18 in the church are unmarried. Some of those women are likely divorced, and may have sons living with them who can administer the sacrament. But a significant portion have no priesthood holders in their households and no access to the sacrament for the duration of the lockdown.

There are possible solutions to this, of course. The easiest would be to allow the remote blessing of the sacrament, an option that Jared has demonstrated is both doctrinally and historically plausible. But the church has explicitly decided not to go down the remote-blessing path. In its instructions for administering the church, it directed that “[t]he priesthood holder(s) administering the sacrament must be in the same location as those who receive it when they break the bread, say the prayers, and pass the emblems.”

Another option would be to ordain women to the priesthood. That would require a much larger policy change than simply allowing remote blessing, however, and it wouldn’t solve the current problem. In the same letter, the church says that ordination to the priesthood “require the physical laying on of hands by an authorized priesthood holder.” If women don’t have a priesthood holder who can bless the sacrament in their home, they also don’t have a priesthood holder who can physically ordain them.

Another option occurred to me this morning, though: what if we stopped requiring priesthood to bless the sacrament? It’s not entirely far-fetched. After all, less than a year ago President Nelson changed the church’s policy on witnessing baptisms and sealings. Before October 2019, witnesses had to be ordained to the priesthood. Now they just have to be baptized themselves to witness a baptism, have a current temple recommend to witness a proxy baptism, or be endowed to witness a sealing.

Of course, the priesthood requirement in those cases wasn’t scriptural; the only hurdle that had to be cleared was a historical one. (And, as J. Stapley points out, women served as witnesses of some ordinances well into the twentieth century, though, as Ardis Parshall points out, it’s not clear how widespread women as witnesses was.) Allowing non-priesthood holders to bless the sacrament would run into two hurdles: it faces the same historical hurdle, but it also runs into a scriptural hurdle: D&C 20:46 says the priest’s duty is to administer the sacrament, while verse 58 says neither deacons nor teachers have authority to administer it.

Even D&C 20 doesn’t represent an insuperable obstacle to nonpriesthood holders blessing the sacrament, though. I’m currently reading (slowly!) Ben Park’s excellent Kingdom of Nauvoo. And reading it serves as a reminder that Joseph Smith dictated what became D&C 132 to convince his wife Emma that his polygamy was divinely-mandated. Ben also underscores that Joseph and Hyrum used the revelation to convert others in Nauvoo (including the High Council, which under Hyrum had been devoted to rooting out sexual impropriety in Nauvoo) to polygamy.

Critically, while D&C 132:37-65 (or so) is all about polygamy, we’ve read those verses out of our doctrine and theology. We now read the “new and everlasting covenant” to mean specifically temple sealings, not polygamous marriage. (That’s the right thing to do, btw.)

I don’t know exactly how we read the priesthood requirement out of D&C 20:58. But it’s not harder than reading the central purpose of D&C 132 out of that chapter. And it’s critical that the church make some move to allow that vast number of women and families in the church who don’t have a priesthood holder in their homes to access the blessings of taking the sacrament while our chapels remain empty.

Image from page 64 of “The Relief Society magazine : organ of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” (1922). No known copyright restrictions.

Comments

  1. One reason blessing the sacrament seems to be different is that it is essentially a prayer directed to God, which you can’t say about the other ordinances. Priesthood holders act on behalf of God when baptizing, confirming, giving priesthood blessings of any kind, etc. In these situations, priesthood holders are acting as a conduit. When it comes to the sacrament, God is blessing the emblems as a separate, distinct entity. I’m not sure why priesthood is required, because God is the one blessing and sanctifying the sacrament.

    I don’t see any reason not to ordain women outright, but if we want to be nitpicky, this seems like a potential discrepancy we could take advantage of.

  2. waynefrank says:

    I see no reason at all why the sacrament can’t be blessed remotely and received locally. It is done all the time in most every ward. In our ward we regularly have a couple of young single adults missed their own ward meeting and show up at our chapel, sit in the foyer long enough to receive the sacrament, also in the foyer, and then go on their way. Some wards broadcast the service to the Relief Society room or in the old days the “cry room” and deliver the sacrament there. I guess the question is, how far away does one have to be to be considered “remote”? And Deacons only participate in the actual passing about 20% of the time. The sacrament gets passed down the rows from person to person regardless of gender or age. By excluding single sisters and families without the priesthood we are splitting hairs and dealing more with what some would call the letter of the law instead of the spirit, even though the letter of the law in the case is really kind of fuzzy. And preparation of the sacrament can be just as fuzzy in practice if you think about it a bit.

  3. Michiganmom says:

    Perhaps the sacrament just isn’t as important as I always thought it was. That’s my takeaway from current events.

  4. For anyone looking for authority and permission, D&C 20:46 and 58 is a serious hurdle, and the official statements foreclose the creative solutions that occur to me.

    But the predicate is important–“looking for authority and permission.” Many people do. Many will forever. But for anybody willing to loosen up a little, consider these two quotes:

    “The principle that priesthood authority can be exercised only under the direction of the one who holds the keys for that function . . . does not apply in the family. For example, a father . . . has no need to have the direction or approval of one holding priesthood keys in order to perform his various family functions. . . . The same principle applies when a father is absent and a mother is the family leader. She presides in her home . . .”
    –President Dallin Oaks, in “the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Keys” (April 2020 General Conference)

    “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.”
    –D&C 58:26, 27, 28

  5. Michiganmom, that strikes me as an eminently sensible reaction (and, in fact, one I suggested more than a month ago). But the church’s letter seems to reemphasize the importance of priesthood. And if it’s really that important, then it’s critical that we figure out how we can get it to everybody, irrespective of their living situation.

  6. And Chris, you’re absolutely right that D&C 20 represents a huge hurdle. But the church has foreclosed the other formal avenues that I can think of, and, like I said, the existence of scripture that conflicts with current practices is a problem we’ve dealt with before.

  7. Sam, the Section 132 “precedent” is troublesome in many ways, including that I resist the idea of making plural marriage a model for *anything*. The shadow is already too long.

    Perhaps more important is that re-interpreting scripture is usually thought of as the territory of prophets, seers, and revelators. Not common folk. While BCC is not shy about telling the Church what it should do (I am complicit in this), in this instance I see no signal of interest in the subject. Therefore I think we should also explore self-help.

  8. jinnyruth says:

    It might not be that hard of a leap. Does administer mean bless or does it mean authorize and manage the blessing of, like under the keys of the president of the priest quorum, the bishop? It is a different use of the word, but also an accurate one.

  9. Chris, I totally get where you’re coming from, though I think I’m suggesting the opposite: it’s not the plural marriage precedent, it’s the precedent of ignoring the plain language of scripture and rather use it selectively in a more just manner. And, of course, that use isn’t limited to our (mis)reading of 132, but that’s a particularly salient example.

    jinnyruth, that’s an absolutely fascinating direction to go for (mis)reading scripture. It provides a much stronger textual hook than my suggestion, while, at the same time, recognizing the exigencies of the current moment.

  10. We disregard the Doctrine and Covenants 101/1835 Statement on Marriage in favor of Doctrine and Covenants 132. If such a substantial change can be made in regards to marriage, why not a change to who can administer ordinances? Particularly in light of all the recent discourse by Oaks on women, priesthood and authority in the church, temple and home.

  11. I found the Church’s statement on this issue totally insulting. Insulting and small-minded to ask women to “pray[] for the day they will receive it in person” when it is 100% within the power of institution asking for those prayers (the Church) to make it possible by any of the means you have suggested here — making it available remotely, ordaining women, or disaggregating blessing the sacrament with priesthood office.

    Personally I’m for the whole hog (ordaining women) — if anything this crisis has shown us the limits of a gender-exclusive model — but totally agree that it’s reasonable to suggest that administering the sacrament is not a duty that requires a priesthood office. This — and really all of the priesthood hierarchy — seems more about control (not wanting people to feel empowered to do this on their own unless expressly authorized so that people are compelled to attend Church) than any rational explanation. Certainly it can’t be said here to be about “service.”

  12. Nice try, Sam. If we can’t change doctrine by protests (Ordain Women) and the large numbers having one’s name removed from church membership, then “reading out of the scriptures” the essential meaning is a very creative approach. Good luck on that one.

  13. Just so we are thinking about this clearly – there is a very high probability that Illinois wards will not congregate again for a year or more (probably until we have a vaccine). Even if/when the stay at home order is lifted a month from now, there will probably still be a rule not to congregate in groups of more than 10. And then perhaps later in groups of up to 50. There is no way that cramming 200 people of different ages into an indoor space will happen again until we get a vaccine.
    All of this is to say that the church definitely needs to think about sacrament options (although it is very likely that the sacrament can be taken to people’s homes in 1-2 months).

  14. Hey Rigo, welcome. Like I said in the OP, reading meaning out of scriptures is one exegetical strategy we (meaning the institutional church) have used in the not-so-distant past to overcome problems without cutting scripture. If you’re not a fan of the strategy, I welcome your careful and creative thinking in figuring out how we can get sacrament to that substantial portion of the church who can’t currently access it, and likely won’t be able to in at least some places in the near future.

  15. SingledOut says:

    I agree with Elisa’s position that the church’s statement on this issue is insulting. If it’s important to have the sacrament in our homes, it should be in EVERYONE’s home. If pondering on our covenants and praying for the day when we can have the sacrament in person is good enough for single women, it should be good enough for EVERYONE.

    Single adults, especially single women, are so often marginalized in the church (at least in my experience – I could provide many examples) and this just seems like one more slap. Isn’t this the church that cares so much for the widows and fatherless? Doesn’t seem that way right now.

  16. Women perform some of our highest ordinances in the temple that normally require Melchizedek priesthood ordination. They can do this because they are set apart by someone with a priesthood office and keys. There is no reason women can’t perform the sacrament ordinance with the bishop’s permission. Sure, there is a scripture stating priests should do this, but there is also a scripture stating women should be silent in church. We completely disregard that scripture as a cultural construct. Why can’t we say that the priest requirement no longer applies during exceptional circumstances, like a pandemic?

    It seems like keeping the status quo is more important than ministering to all of God’s children. It was President Monson who said, “never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” Clearly the problem of maintaining a patriarchal authority structure is more important than loving the sisters without the sacrament. But of course if we let women bless the sacrament in their homes, what reason would we have to deny them that blessing and privilege once church resumes in our buildings? None. And if women can now perform ordinances outside the temple, what does holding a priesthood office really do for you, if we can all do the same things? What chaos would ensue without our enforced gender complementarianism? The horror.

  17. I’m with Flannery O’Connor.

  18. Sam, Thanks for the response that didn’t involve shaming me for having a unpopular (by BCC standards) opinion. Since this isolation and social distancing policy the Church has adopted, each time I call/text families that I minister to (some of whom are single sisters), I offer to bring the sacrament into their homes, if they would like me to. Our Bishop has authorized all temple-recommend holding Mel. PH holders permission to administer the sacrament at will. The only week I have not administered the sacrament in my home, was General Conf. weekend. Granted, this may not work for the single sisters who are fearful of exposure to Covid-19 from me, but not a single female in my Stake doesn’t have the sacrament available to her.

  19. We should all know that it doesn’t matter at all what the scriptures say; and I totally mean that. The scriptures don’t mean a thing. Why? Because in this church we have that magical thing the prophet calls revelation, or inspiration, and he can simply issue a policy that contradicts or reverses any scripture and everyone will go along with it. It is pointless to parse scripture verses or specific words when the president of the church ultimately has the authority to do whatever he wants, regardless of any scripture.

  20. Rigo, I’m glad that it’s working for you. (It’s odd to me that your bishop has only authorized temple recommend holding Melchizedek priesthood holders to administer the sacrament, since neither the Melchizedek priesthood nor temple recommends are required to bless the sacrament, but that’s outside the scope of what we’re discussing.)

    It’s worth noting a couple things, though. One is, your experience isn’t a universal experience. Our stake has explicitly forbidden people from taking the sacrament to others, a move that seems consonant both with our stay-at-home order and best practices. Moreover, given the church’s instructions (that the sacrament be broken, blessed, and passed in the same location as the recipient), it’s hard to imagine a way it could be passed that meets the requirements of the pandemic. I’m not sure if that forecloses blessing it outside, but even that may not be an option if members live in apartments.

    And while technically all of the women in your stake might have access to the sacrament, technical access is different from practical access. As an example: I know people who are going through chemo. One of the consequences of chemo is a drastically reduced immune system, a situation in which you don’t want someone potentially carrying a potentially deadly disease to come into your home. In fact, I have a relative who felt pressured into letting someone come into her home to bring her the sacrament, against her better judgment. She said no, and shortly thereafter, her bishop told the ward they weren’t to take it around.

    So even technical access doesn’t mean actual access. Like I said, the easiest way to deal with the problem (aside from saying that the sacrament isn’t terribly important) would be to allow remote blessing. Giving women the priesthood would help if it had happened three months ago, but isn’t super helpful now. Removing the priesthood requirement to administer the sacrament would also work. There are doubtless other potential solutions, too, but this is a real problem that merits a real solution.

  21. Coastgirl says:

    If ordinances for the dead are valid, why must the blessing of the sacrament be related to physical proximity to be valid?

  22. Coming back to say this “priests administer the sacrament” problem is neither new, nor tied to D&C 20 alone, nor unique to the LDS tradition or the Restoration traditions.
    >>”By the end of the third century people all over were using the title ‘priest’ (hierus in Greek and sacerdos in Latin) for whoever presided at the Eucharist.” (Catholic Customs and Traditions, by Greg Dues, but true credit to Wikipedia).
    >>And a quick search suggests even Protestant-precursor-to-Mormonism traditions like Methodism do not permit laity to preside at Communion.
    It stands to reason that the concern of the OP is all over the Christian-affected-by-COVID-19 world right now. And without the degrees of freedom that a modern-day prophet affords. The long history and widespread practice does suggest (to me) that careful parsing of words in a single verse scripture is not the most likely way to solve the problem, but rather that the level of institutional change required is at the level of new revelation.

  23. Aussie Mormon says:

    I think comparing it to ordinances for the dead is the wrong track to take, as they have the proxy actually doing the stuff, with the principal (i.e. the dead) either accepting or rejecting the option to accept the covenant. So a proxy sacrament would have other people consuming the bread and the water on behalf of those that can’t receive it at the moment, so they would still miss out on physically taking it.

  24. lastlemming says:

    My reaction is kind of a mashup of Dylan, michiganmom and christiankimball. The sacrament is fundamentally different from other ordinances in several ways:

    1. It is not recorded. There is nothing on your membership record to show when you received the sacrament. Baptisms and ordinations are recorded.

    2. It is not salvific. If you die between your baptism and the next sacrament meeting, nobody will go to the temple to act as a proxy sacrament recipient for you. Both of these first two differences lend weight to michganmom’s suggestion that the sacrament isn’t as important as she thought (assuming she thought it was as important as baptism and ordination.)

    3. As Dylan pointed out, the blessing of the sacrament is not actually a blessing of the sacrament–it is a request that God bless the sacrament. When President Nelson called priesthood holders out for saying prayers and calling them blessings instead of actually blessing people, he was affirming that those are two different things. Baptism and ordinations are blessings; the sacrament is a prayer that we call a blessing.

    So let’s consider why it is that the sacrament is important at all. I suspect that many people are anxious about not taking the sacrament because they have been taught that it is a renewal of the baptismal covenant and that they will not be forgiven of their weekly sins if they don’t partake of it. I think this is wrong. The sacrament prayers themselves make no claims about forgiveness of sins–only abut having his spirit to be with us. If it were true that our post-baptismal sins are only forgiven as we partake of the sacrament, it would be irresponsible of us not to engage in proxy sacrament taking in the temple.

    I can’t speak for everybody, but to me the sacrament is a regular call to remembrance. The renewal of covenants is strictly internal. The words of the prayers and partaking of the emblems help us remember Christ and our covenants. Perhaps for some people, the fact that a priesthood holder is reading the prayer and distributing the emblems helps them remember better. But for others, it doesn’t. So those people whose experience is not enhanced by the presence of priesthood should just do whatever helps them remember. If that involves reading the prayers out loud and eating a piece of bread and drinking a bit of water, that’s fine (keeping in mind that reading the prayers does not constitute a direct blessing of the emblems). Nobody is keeping track. Even if an unwise bishop chastizes you later, it doesn’t change the fact that you remembered Christ when you needed to remember him. Unlike an unauthorized baptism, a bishop cannot retroactively undo your remembrance. So I think christiankimball has the right idea.

  25. D&C 132 is about much more than plural marriage. I believe 132 is the only place the concept of sealing is linked directly with the marriage covenant. There are also other vital and sacred teachings in 132. I really think Sam overstated his case a bit. We have certainly not read plural marriage completely out of our theology. How many wives will President Oaks or President Nelson be sealed to in the eternities?

    We should also remember that our current view of 132 is through the lens of revelations changing the practice of plural marriage. Simply claiming one can reinterpret D&C 20 to extend the opportunity to bless the sacrament would, in my opinion, entail as great of a revelatory change as those revelations which affected plural marriage.

  26. Another option is to stop doing the traditional sacrament ordinance outside of church buildings and replace it with a different, formal option when we can’t meet together. I watched a livestream of a Episcopalian Maundy Thursday service, arguably the day when people would most want to receive communion, but physical communion was replaced with a ritual spiritual communion that could be shared online. I would love to meet online with my branch and share in a renewal of covenants that doesn’t involve the complications of the traditional sacrament and that is available to everyone, either as a group online or individually.

    I’d add exceptions though – my family homechurched for years in a country with no official church organization, and there are always people homechurching. I think everyone should have access to the traditional sacrament ordinance at home in isolated or long-term situations (even though the access has never been equal). But when we’re homechurching on a mass scale, I think we need an alternative that includes everyone.

  27. Now, the church is wrong in its assumption that the unavailability of sacrament is an unusual circumstance; more than half of the women older than 18 in the church are unmarried.

    I love you, Sam, and your desire to be sure that women like me are remembered … but you’re misreading the Church statement. The “unusual circumstance” isn’t that women like me don’t have home access to the Sacrament; it’s that nobody has access to the Sacrament in the communal setting directed by scripture — I mean, there’s an obvious reason why it’s called sacrament meeting. It’s an unusual circumstance when anyone has home access (and I mean that even in normal times when a bishop authorizes taking it to shut-ins, or when geographically remote members have permission for home administration; those circumstances are always exceptional and therefore “unusual”).

    Rather than this grassroots campaign to dictate to those whose calling it is to determine doctrine and practice, rather than providing this (repeated) opportunity for readers to express and increase alienation because the Church hasn’t adopted their pet solution, I would rather you and other thoughtful bloggers reflect on the meaning of the Sacrament and not on what seems to me to be proposals to warp the ordinance out of all recognition and meaning just for the sake of providing access to … something, whether that something is recognizably the Sacrament or not; the ordinance is more than bread and water and some words mumbled by somebody, it doesn’t matter who or at what distance or by what means. I would like some reflections on times in the past when the Sacrament was unavailable on a more limited scale — how have POWs coped without Sacrament and community? How do people stay faithful and feel connected when the rest of the family has left the Church so their own faith has needed to go underground? Those are experiences I could relate to far more readily than robotic tech sacraments, or exercises in sneaking around scripture and well-grounded practice.

    In other words, I’m not interested in adapting ordinances seemingly to suit temporary circumstances, and then potentially warping them yet again to suit the next change in the way the wind blows. I’m more interested in adapting myself to cope with changing times. I think I have some standing to say this since I’m one of those most directly affected: Don’t change ordinances. Change me — help me grow and adapt and feel connected and learn to appreciate the Sacrament and anticipate its return.

  28. This change in worship practice over the last several weeks has caused us all to think deeper about the sacrament. One thing that keeps coming back to me: I can think of no other ordinance (baptism, receiving the holy ghost, ordinations, even baby blessings) where we claim the Priesthood must be used to perform, yet the ordinance never mentions this is being done with Priesthood authority. Am I wrong?

  29. lastlemming: Thank you! As a woman who has not taken the sacrament in 2 months, you have offered me comfort. And courage. I do read the sacrament prayers each Sunday and consider their meaning to me. What has been most striking to me is the preamble in Moroni 4:2, “…kneel down with the church and pray…” I look forward to the time we can do that again.

  30. Couldn’t the same justification for changing the temple ordinances (January 2019) be applied to ‘adjustments’ to sacrament administration?

    “Over these many centuries, details associated with temple work have been adjusted periodically, including language, methods of construction, communication, and record-keeping. Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants.”

    If, indeed, we are a church of perpetual revelation and restoration, who’s to say that expanding/restoring women’s roles in administrative priestly functions (again, Oaks’ discourse about women and priesthood) is not a reasonable thing to consider or hope for? I hope there’s a church-wide hosanna shout when women’s authority in the priesthood is expanded/restored.

  31. I was authorized by my bishop as an Elder to administer the sacrament in my home, and in my mother-in-law‘s home to her, by her bishop. So when I said the sacrament prayers, of course adhering to the wording of “we,” were my wife and mother-in-law also involved in the prayer and therefore the administering of the ordinance? But for the second and third priest at the table who are in proximity to the priest offering the prayer, and then actually breaking the bread, is the congregation also part of the administering?

  32. Addis makes a very strong argument, and my response is that if we all don’t have access outside the traditional congregational ordinance (except for chronic shut-ins etc.) then none of us should.

  33. I’m not a very articulate person, and though I am an avid reader of By Common Consent, rarely comment. I want to say thank you to Ardis for her comments above.

    Just a couple of years ago I was finishing up 3 years in senior primary. I felt that it was not uncommon for the idea that the sacrament ordinance was an ordinance of forgiveness. While I think the contemplative time during the administration and passing of the sacrament is an appropriate time for individuals to communicate with God and ask for forgiveness, that type of personal repentance is not part of the sacrament ordinance per se. Since I can personally repent through my regularly communication with God, I do not find the less frequent participation in the sacrament ordinance as a huge burden (knowing that it will again be present on a frequent basis soon enough).

  34. •Ardis

  35. Ardis, thanks for your comments! Your voice and experience is critical in this discussion.

    Confession: while I do want to make sure your experience is top of mind, with this series of posts, I’m thinking less of you and more of a relative in a similar situation. This relative had someone pressure her to let him bring her sacrament. (She ultimately said no, in large part because her daughter put tremendous pressure on her to be safe, and she has since converted to the seriousness of the pandemic.) I’m not as worried about you, because I know you’re smart and won’t take unnecessary risks with your health.

    But as long as the church maintains that it’s important to take the sacrament at least monthly, and simultaneously doesn’t provide a practical way for woman-headed households and part-member families to access it other than by allowing other people into their homes, there could be pressure (internal or external) to allow others in, even if the individual or family would prefer not to.

    I’m perfectly comfortable with the church saying, It’s not critical. In fact, I think that’s probably the best approach. My grassroots goal isn’t to get the church to bend the sacrament into something unrecognizable; rather, it’s to remind church leaders that if a church practice is important for some members, it’s important for all of us, and if it’s inaccessible to some members of the body of saints, it’s critical that the church think about how to make it accessible.

  36. SingledOut says:

    Ardis, I was very touched by your words and have a lot to ponder and learn from them. However, Brother B summed up my feelings well. This current situation sets up a system of “haves” and “have nots.” In my stake, the instructions are that the sacrament can be held weekly in homes where the priesthood is available, and that ministering brothers should make it available to others once a month (if both parties are ok with the in-person contact). Thus, even under the best of conditions, the sacrament is four times more available to a married woman than to her single sister down the block.

    Ardis’ message “change me” is stirring — but shouldn’t it be so for everyone? Why does it have to be so different for those who do not have a worthy priesthood holder in residence? We’re not a small “unusual circumstance.” We’re a large percentage of every ward and stake.

    I’m not sure why I’m even writing this since Sam said it all: if a church practice is important for some members, it’s important for all of us, and if it’s inaccessible to some members of the body of saints, it’s critical that the church think about how to make it accessible.

  37. if the Church says it’s important to take the sacrament weekly under normal circumstances and monthly under these unusual circumstances, members who take their signals from the Church should find a way to do that. But those same members (you know, the ones who take all the direction from the Church) should not be stressed out if they are unable to take the sacrament because the Church prohibits its distribution to them. In other words, either you care what the Church says or you don’t. If you do, you’re off the hook if it’s out of your control.

    other people like me don’t take every word uttered by the Church as Gospel. I’ll handle the renewal of my covenants in a way that I see fit. I think you have to have a Pharisee-like mentality to worry about this issue (the sacrament). Instead, turn your thoughts to the Lord as often as possible. I doubt he’s keeping track of who is and who is not taking sacrament during Corona.

    likewise, if your child needs a priesthood blessing and you can’t get one set up, just pray to the Lord to bless your child. Do you really think the Lord listens to your hometeachers’ (ministers’) priesthood blessing more than your prayer as a parent? Come on

  38. For me and my house (only–not speaking for anybody else) we have enjoyed strong warm feelings that in this shelter-at-home period the “we” for purposes of the sacrament prayers is my wife and I. That’s our congregation for the time being. That’s our “two or three gathered” for now. I know this doesn’t answer the individual alone situation. I know this doesn’t answer Sam’s general puzzlement. It isn’t meant to satisfy or answer anybody. Just reporting.

  39. Ryan Mullen says:

    Cam, that the sacrament prayers don’t mention priesthood authority is an astute insight. I wonder if it stems from the sacrament prayers being codified (1829) before the priesthood was restored (1829-1835).

  40. I have an observation to offer about christiankimball’s 8:20 comment:
    “>>And a quick search suggests even Protestant-precursor-to-Mormonism traditions like Methodism do not permit laity to preside at Communion.
    It stands to reason that the concern of the OP is all over the Christian-affected-by-COVID-19 world right now. And without the degrees of freedom that a modern-day prophet affords.

    About four months ago, I started attending a First United Methodist church, after more than four decades in this Church. Our reverend (a woman) has been broadcasting church meetings over Facebook live here in northern Utah. For the sacrament (given monthly), she instructed us to find something at home that we could use for the bread and grape juice, even if it wasn’t bread or grape juice. She offered the prayer/blessing in the empty church and we all listened to the prayer/blessing through the Facebook broadcast and then took the sacrament. She didn’t say anything about whether or not that procedure had been dictated by anyone else in authority or if that’s just the way she decided to handle it for her congregation. So there’s at least one church that is handling the sacrament by remote blessing.

  41. Well said joshua h.

  42. DavidC says:

    To Ardis: this is my reflection on the meaning of the sacrament

    According to the scriptures the Sacrament is an offering, but what is being offered to whom? According to the Sacrament prayers, it is our remembrance of Jesus Christ that is being offered to God, the Eternal Father. Partaking of the sacrament is a divinely appointed way that we witness before God that we are offering our remembrance, and we pray that our partaking might be a sanctified and sanctifying experience, that God might accept our remembrance and cause that we may always have his spirit to be with us.

    It is significant that this witness takes the form of accepting nourishment, by which we acknowledge our need for divine nourishment, praying that that nourishment might come by always having his spirit to be with us.

    It is significant that this is a priesthood ordinance. I always think of priesthood in connection with the temple which represents our journey back to God. I accept the parallel between priesthood and motherhood, with baptism being parallel to physical birth and the sacrament being parallel to maternal nourishment. That parallel has nothing to do with the sisters providing spiritual nourishment in other contexts, it just represents the journey back to God in terms of being born and growing up.

    We spiritually grow up by gathering to the priesthood, at the sacrament table as a substitute for being at the temple, where we acknowledge God as the source of our nourishment and and as a community partake of the deeply individual experience of the sacrament. I think of this as being the individual offering of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, which as a community the sons of Levi do offer unto the Lord in righteousness. (Except when I uncharitably want to smack the whispering people sitting next to me, which trashes my sense of community.)

    By the Sons of Levi I mean the sons of Moses and Aaron, meaning the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood. I consider the sacrament to be an offering by the Aaronic priesthood which can only be done acceptably in righteousness by the priesthood. (See D&C 84:31. The first thing that occurred after the acceptance of the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland temple was the administration of the sacrament) I tend to think of our modern sacrament as being related to the shewbred of the ancient temple and tabernacle, so I reject any notion that the power of the sacrament comes from the community rather than from the priesthood.

    Still, it’s no fun to be alone. But if the brethren want to encourage isolated single sisters to witness their remembrance by meditating on the sacrament I think the priesthood of those giving the direction would validate the remembrance of those sisters such that no blessings would be lost.

  43. Well said. Thank you David C. No blessings will be lost to the faithful.

  44. Ryan Mullen says:

    DavidC, “I tend to think of our modern sacrament as being related to the shewbred of the ancient temple and tabernacle” The shewbread was food offered to God. After God had ample time to eat it, it was instead eaten by the priests. So, no, the shewbread ritual does not have the same communal aspect that the LDS sacrament does, which is a ritualized communal meal (1 Cor 11). Hence, while I can certainly appreciate that you find deep, individual meaning in the sacrament, that the sacrament is to me primarily a communal ritual also has a strong, scriptural foundation.

  45. DavidC says:

    Ryan,

    I recognize that the connection between the sacrament and the bread of the presence is a controversial minority opinion which is why I suggested it cautiously.

    My source for the connection is Margaret Barker, who wrote: “… the bread had acquired holiness whilst it was in the temple, and could no longer be placed on the marble table. The bread which had been in the temple was classed as ‘most holy’ (Lev.24.9), and would have imparted holiness to the men who consumed it .”

    Click to access TempleRootsofChristianLiturgy.pdf

    See page 8, and yes, this is controversial. But it sounds to me like there is more meaning here than just priests cleaning up after a God who wasn’t hungry. In an obvious case of presentism, I presently can’t think of a reason why God would need us to offer him food. There are scriptural instances where God offers food to his people, so it’s not hard for me to think that the interpretation of the bread of the presence belongs with those instances.

    I believe that Jesus as the Great High Priest could have ritualized the communal meal to represent that the bread of the presence, previously only consumed by the priests, was now available to all. I think the sacrament ritual has sources of power in both an individual connection with God and a connection with the community, but I think the connection with God and his priesthood has to come first.

  46. I am the RS president in a YSA ward. This all rings too true. Single women are not unusual. The talks at conference about women and the Priesthood gave me more questions than answers, tbh.
    However, I’ve been comforted by the knowledge that this, too, shall pass, and when the Lord can’t bless us for obedience, He blesses us for intent.

  47. Paul Christensen says:

    Interesting thought but just wanted to clarify the new and everlasting covenant. It is not a temple sealing.

    “This covenant, often referred to by the Lord as the “new and everlasting covenant,” encompasses the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including all ordinances and covenants necessary for the salvation of mankind.”

  48. All suggested solutions merely continue to identify deficiencies in equality and slightly favor bias towards those holding authority to offer the prayer or even make change to have authority given to women; but none offer the simplest of solutions to it all that create equality and would have no cause to make any changes at all; that would be to suggest that if any are made to wait then all should be compelled to wait, causing those with a priesthood holder within the household to even pause, pray the same prayer yet exercise restraint and consideration of any whom don’t have privilege the same to wait with them.

    If others are counseled to believe if they simply pray for the day when they can partake, that the Lord will blessed all for their intent, then let all of us wait together as the lord will surely bless those who resist for compassion and solidarity for others that they aren’t left to feel disparity of exposed insufficient resources to partake why when it’s within the power of any holding the keys to afford this change, being able to yet choose not what should cause any to not consider waiting themselves whereas they have exercised their power outside of the normal confines of the place where none can visit in numbers greater than 10, 20, even 50 still not allowable to offer up Sacrament then none should exercise the power absent another who for no fault of their cannot do the same.

  49. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I’m not sure BUBBA’s suggestion will set well with everyone, but I find that this resonates with me. I have the priesthood, and have been authorized to bless the sacrament for those in my household. But I’m wondering if I should, out of consideration and solidarity for those without access to that privilege, not invoke that authority and simply pray as everyone else has been instructed. I would feel less guilt about providing the sacrament for my family, while some of my “neighbors” are not able to do so. And yes, I have felt some guilt about that.

  50. I like BUBBA’s suggestion and it has been suggested elsewhere. Giving those with privilege a taste of life for those without privilege is always an exercise in compassion. It is compassion that is most missing in this situation. The higher authorities have kind of brushed aside those who …..well are usually brushed aside in this church. It is so inconsiderate as to be insulting and seeing as there are many solutions is so unnecessary.

    They are already violating one “rule” of sacrament according to my husband. And that is that he says it takes two priesthood holders, not just one, so all these fathers doing it by themselves in their own homes are not even doing it *right*. He says, so if they can violate that rule why not have the priesthood holders stand on the porch and bless a sacrament sister-head-of-her-own-household has prepared, or why not let her prepare something and they bless it over the phone? People with glucose intolerance have long been preparing their own sacrament “bread” so obviously it does not take priesthood to break the bread. Just exactly what rule says the priesthood has to break the bread for the single sister if someone who is glucose intolerant can break their own rice cake? And if it has to be *seen* by the brethren blessing it, why not have her show it to them through a window? My husband thinks it is disgustingly asinine that rules can be bent all over the place for different situations, but we can’t get the sacrament to members who have no priesthood in the household.

    There are so many solutions for this that Not finding one is like the church is trying to punish them for not having a “traditional” family with a priesthood holder as the head of household

  51. The length of the COVID-19 Pandemic only further offers to continue in exposing deficiencies in the nature of our truest compassion to care for, serve or give fullest consideration of not what others can’t access, but instead what’s in the power of those holding the keys to do to otherwise, exercise that authority that are quick to realize their power and exercise such as it is convenient to them, while expressing that those without be compelled to pray for what may not come to them readily or at all and rely simply on the grace of Heavenly Father to view their intent as the same, when it is made to be insufficient by those in power to access the same but for lack of priesthood holder in the household; yet the same of authority can’t consider to remove any barrier that would isolate, prevent, or foster exclusion from the riches of the Plan of Salvation, by acts in remembering and of knowing we are all equal at the point of that prayer as all being baptized and confirmed, that we all should take it in rememberance …; yet find an alternate course to exclude for the souls of those who for no fault of their own cannot be within the immediate reach for social distancing, afforded the same access and privileges’ of those holding authority.

    Is it good to take all that is afforded us, merely because it is there for your taking and interpretation of authority to do so? Are you better or more blessed and therefore closer to following the Lord, for taking what others can’t access, when you hold the keys to cause to lock out, others from access to the same that you partake of, when their access is controlled by you?

    As various populations re-open economies and lessen the constraints of numbers allowed in places of worship, will that effort also further expose our separate-thinking nature of expressed and conveyed power of authority in access, will all the same that have cheerfully partaken of the Sacrament, be first at the door of the Temple advising others to wait while they contemplate our schedule to manage in what order, progression or consideration.

    Should those not having access be allowed to be the first to receive the Sacrament, should there be any thought or consideration of thinking of those marginalized for these months or forbid the likelihood of a year, death being a prevailing factor for some aged or ill, to enter the Temple even?

    How those in authority act, view and decide these things will again expose their true nature, example and intent on being in this together or continue to consider that we others, without a priesthood holder, should just wait, pray and envision that the Lord will see our intent as sufficient, does the same Lord see the true intent of those that hold the authority of deciding when others can be allowed back and by what authority is exercise to make the same accessible for all to enter, partake and Follow Thee?

  52. SisterStacey says:

    Two comments here. 1) You can personalize the sacrament prayers. In the Addiction Recovery Manual, it encourages this as a way to come closer to Jesus Christ! I did it sometimes too, silently, because I recite the prayers in my head along with the blessing.

    2), I caused a big kerfuffle a couple weeks ago when I posted on Facebook about feeling forgotten by the Church. I hadn’t been able to take the sacrament in over a month. I’m single. I live alone. And for a while my ministering brother would bring me the sacrament or I would go to his house. But I don’t feel comfortable with this, because we aren’t properly social distancing (think four feet instead of six) and it’s kinda hard to take the sacrament through a mask. I’d decided to attend a local mass via livestream. This got me many condescending comments about how I’m not forgotten… blah blah blah. I got a visit from the RS president too, which was nice, and my ministering brother is inviting me to his house again. But I tried it last week and while I liked it, I was also a nervous wreck. I have anxiety and I don’t want to get sick or give it to someone, but I am having to go out because cats are rubbish at grocery shopping. So I’d decided, in this Facebook post, to attend the local mass. I live in SLC and I found it humorous that the LDS Church, which claims to have the true priesthood power, was all “Nope, can’t bless the sacrament over the phone, or have Zoom church meetings,” while Catholic churches all over the world are like “Yep, communion in your own home is fine!” Which act shows greater faith?

    As for this “physically present” issue… so why does a Solemn Assembly count for everyone participating? Also, the prayers at Gen Conf are not going to just those in the room, right? Those prophetic or apostolic blessings given out over pulpits don’t just apply to those in the Conference Center! So how is that different than blessing the sacrament over the phone?

    Then, last week, I realized I was preparing the sacrament. I have to bring my own bread and water to the house. I tear off a piece of bread and pour the water into the cup to take over to be blessed. How is that not me preparing the sacrament?

    Today I felt anxious about going over to their house, so I’m watching the livestream of Cathedral of the Madelene’s Sixth Sunday of Easter mass and taking communion. I feel good about it, because I want to renew my covenants with the Lord and I want to partake of some religious practice on Sunday that makes it feel like a different day. A day set apart as a day of rest. I only want to feel closer to Heavenly Father and to feel that religious community. To be able to partake of the sacrament because it is important to me. That is literally all I’m asking.

  53. Wondering says:

    Sisterstacey, I’m wondering where to find anything from the Cathedral of the Madeleine about taking communion at home – whether in concert with a livestreamed mass or otherwise. What I gather from your comment is absolutely inconsistent with the strict pre-pandemic rules of another archdiocese about what is to be done to allow those who must stay at home to receive the eucharist. Where do you get the idea that “Catholic churches all over the world are like ‘Yep, communion in your own home is fine!’” ? A reference or citation would be appreciated. Thanks.
    p.s. I don’t much care for our Church’s current approach either.