Digital prayer roll

Today the church newsroom announced that members are now able to submit names online to be included on the temple prayer rolls. Next week functionality will be added to the Member Tools app to allow members to submit names from it. I remember coming across examples of nineteenth century Saints submitting names to temple prayer rolls by letter and telegram, and it appears that this was in place from the first temple of the Utah era.

In 1894, John T. D. McCallister summarized the events leading up to and through the dedication of the St. George temple in 1877. He related how many people came to the temple to be baptized for their health, or anointed, and that many miraculous healings occurred. He also wrote how “Quite a number have sent letters and telegrams to us from all parts of the country, to be prayed for, and some who have been healed have so informed us by letter” [n1]

No longer do we set apart men and women to bless the sick and anoint them in our temples, nor do we baptize them for their health. Temple prayer circles (and the parallel gatherings outside of the temple that endured into the late 1970s), have always been a place for healing. Ever since Joseph Smith gathered his small group together in Nauvoo, Saints have sought to assuage the painful manifestations of our broken mortality. The sick and afflicted will ever be with us, and we should never cease to reach toward heaven on their behalf, whether by telegram, paper scrap, or mobile app.

_____________________

  1. This was reprinted in “Temple Manifestations,” Millennial Star 57 (January 24, 1895): 59-60.

Comments

  1. This is great news. I’m so happy to hear we can submit names again.

  2. I think this is a lovely idea. But is anyone else worried about spam?

  3. Aussie Mormon says:

    Just did a test run with a valid usage.

    Click link on temple page
    Sign in to Church Account
    Type in name
    Click add
    Type in next name (if any) and click add (for up to 5 people)
    Click submit

    I think the account requirement and the need to manually add one at a time should stop most spam.
    It won’t stop people intentionally being jerks, but presumably random checks could be used to block people who abuse it.

  4. This will make checking off my ministering assignment a lot easier.

  5. There is no confidentiality. If you call- you don’t have to leave your name. If you write an name in a piece of paper- you slip it in the box- you don’t have to sign it.

    Throw priest-penitent confidentiality out the window because there is no promise that this information is perceived by SLC as being confidential, stored securely, won’t be looked up by anyone in the future, etc.

    Why did it need to be linked to our accounts? Seems so big brother-ish. They could have simply posted a anonymous form online, and yes- they could have required a captcha (to protect against spam) and programmed some protections (flagging hate speech/swearing, non-names, etc.).

    Sigh.

  6. Geoff-Aus says:

    In our local temple we had quite a few put in the local football team, at finals time. Will that be vetted?

  7. Coffinberry says:

    Having formerly been clerical lead at a temple, and been on the receiving end of the former emails and phone calls, I can say this will save the office staff hours and hours of work. Having been in on conversations about how to help the office staff be able to focus more on the important things (helping patrons, scheduling ordinances, recording ordinances), I know that this change is desperately needed. So I say hurrah.

  8. “The sick and afflicted will ever be with us, and we should never cease to reach toward heaven on their behalf, whether by telegram, paper scrap, or mobile app.”

    Thanks, J. I don’t know why, but I didn’t see that particular ending coming. Thanks for making me ponder a little.

  9. Mortimer,

    I don’t think the old slips of paper are going away. I think this is like online tithing: it’s just a new way to do things for those that find it more convenient.

  10. Dac,
    Agreed, but the anonymous options aren’t very accessible now- this is. And as it is, why is the data set up to be collected? Why no confidentiality notice/considerations? This is the way change creeps in, we pick it up and it becomes typical, we forget how it used to be. (I can imagine touch-screen terminals or a future technology replacing pen and paper in the temples over time, and calls potentially being automated. “The system” will only grow. I appreciate the convenience (greatly), but feel the price is High- oh so very high.

  11. Wondering says:

    Coffinberry’s comment seems to suggest that putting names on the prayer roll is not one of “the important things.” Perhaps that implication arises merely from diction and is not intentional. It runs counter to J.’s conclusion. I wonder, whether some may wish to do away with the prayer roll entirely if it is not “important.”
    Important-to-whom may also be a legitimate question. I’ve known some for whom the prayer roll has a great deal more positive significance than other proceedings in the temple.
    Incidentally, the newsroom announcement says the new system “allows” entering names for the prayer roll through a temple’s on-line information page or through Member Tools. It does not say that phone call entries will no longer be accepted. Perhaps it will reduce the phone-call burden to the temple staff without eliminating phone calls, at least from those who don’t/can’t use the technology or have confidentiality concerns.

  12. This is really such a minor thing, but it hits all the right buttons to get me excited. The prayer roll is one of my favorite of our practices. I love the intercessionary and community-based nature of it. I love that it is one of the few places in our liturgy where faith is spoken of explicitly as something we exercise on behalf of others rather than just as a part of our individual salvation.

    I love that it’s a concrete thing we can do at times when we can’t do much else. I have always loved the physicality of writing the names and placing them on the altar. That isn’t going away, of course, and I’m glad that we’re finding ways to make submission easier and more convenient when you’re not physically at the temple.

    I also get excited when church leaders think deeply and carefully and creatively about our liturgical practices and and adapt them to changing needs and circumstances.

    And I also get excited when we use tech in the way we adapt our liturgy.

  13. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments, and cheers, Hunter.

    Jared, I agree, it is such a minor thing, but one that is doing is at the intersection of so much that is important.

  14. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    This is a small enough thing that I almost always forget about it until I’m actually in the temple and see the slips of paper and the drop box. It always causes me to stop and think of anyone who could use a little extra help. There have also been times when someone would ask that I write their name down when I go, as they were unable to attend, and it was meaningful to them that I would do so. It was such a small thing, that really would mean something to them. I guess they can now just go on and submit their own names, but that would remove the involvement of a third party, which was sort of cool (of course, they could have done that over the phone, all along). However, I’ve never been able to bring myself to write down my own name when I felt like I was in need. Can’t really give a great explanation for why that is.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I am 500 air miles/18 hours drive time from the nearest temple, calling people gives me anxiety, and my assigned temple didn’t take email requests, so I was sending emails to the nearest temple that did accept emails. This is so much better! I had similar issues with tithing and online tithing has been so much better for me.

  16. I’m going to say what many of you are thinking but don’t want to say: If we can submit names to the temple electronically without going to the temple, can we do Sunday Church stuff without going to the meetinghouse? Thanks to Covid-19, many of us are already doing that more weeks than not. What about every week?

  17. east of the mississippi says:

    josh h… From your mouth to His ears.

  18. Coffinberry says:

    It was a poor choice of words, and I profoundly apologize. Prayer roll is massively important and real, but distant-submission of names is automatable. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many people that can be in the office space (especially under COVID conditions).

  19. Josh h,
    Yes you can. And once you become converted, go and strengthen thy brethren. Incidentally, if church consisted of people who were not yet converted and seeking, combined with people who were converted and doing their best to strengthen their brothers and sisters it would be better than the place that too often has some people who don’t want to be there, “don’t get anything out of it,” but show up grudgingly anyway.

  20. John Mansfield says:

    The thing I wondered about is printing the submitted names to take to the prayer circle instead of carrying a flash drive, or transmitting to a wireless device that stays in place. It feels like these names that we don’t see but care about ought to be human readable. But never read.

  21. J. Stapley says:

    That is an interesting thing, John. This is really an area where theologians could do a lot of interesting work. There is pretty good evidence that they used to read the names back in the day, and human readability seems important to me. But I could make a counter argument pretty easily.

  22. So grateful for this change. One of my dearest family members just became seriously ill.
    When I saw the story announcing this, I immediately put her name on our temple roll. And am truly grateful for all the faith and prayers that include her.

  23. For heaven’s sake, why don’t we just light candles and have done with it?

  24. J. Stapley says:

    In one of the darkest periods of my life, when someone I loved was suffering, I can’t express how comforted and moved I was when a close friend indicated how his family had been to church and did precisely that-lit candles.

  25. As I am humored by reading some of the comments such as a sports team being on the prayer rolls. I think this does more for the person putting the name on the roll then it does for the person on the roll. It means I am thinking about the person in need, and I pray for ways to assist them. I will give you my reasoning. I imagine some people are prayed for by local leaders all the time, and if you happen to be the one in crisis, can you tell me which week or which friend prayed for you? Of course you can’t, but you do know when that person helped you in some way through the tough situation. Remembering our friends and family in crisis and outwardly reaching out does much more than a name on a piece of paper sitting on a laced covered alter.

  26. I have been taught to inform the person who has been placed on the prayer roll. It helps them know you have asked for heaven’s help on their behalf. This way it benefits both involved in the service.

  27. I like what the Bible dictionary says about prayer- The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.

    Maybe the prayer roll is a place to petition God for blessings He is willing to grant if we are willing to ask.

  28. I would like to consider something that is done in protestant churches.

    They have a congregational level prayer roll that sounds to my Mormon ears a lot like our temple prayer roll.. There is a specific prayer in the meeting before the sermon where one of the leaders prays for the each of the people on the roll individually. Sometimes it is elaborate and specific and other times it is vague, just bless Bill Jones. The people being prayed for are consulted to get the level right of how much information is too much. Most of the people in the room know personally most of the people being prayed upon. This is extremely adaptable to church meetings online with zoom, etc. If fools can have phone sex and cyber sex while miles apart, certainly there is room for cyber prayer.

    What we have done for years in the temple rings hollow to me in comparison, pranks and humor aside. Praying for names and stuff in a box and saying little else is a cop out. Going digital and nobody (on earth) listening to the prayer seems to be a shadow of real people praying with real people for real people. I would go so far as to suggest is shows a lack of understanding of the very nature of prayer.

    The image that comes to my mind is from Tibet, where they hang flags to be blown by the wind into all of the universe for the benefit of everyone.Sounds like they already have it covered, so why bother?

  29. J. Stapley says:

    Bill there are all sorts of prayer practices in the church. I know for a fact that many wards fast and pray for their congregants. The temple prayer roll is complimentary not exclusory.

  30. keepapitchinin says:

    I had a hard time as a missionary. One of the few things that kept me going was remembering that almost every day, in every temple, thousands of good people were praying for me in those prayer circles — not by name, even to the extent of having my name written on a slip of paper, and not for particular circumstances, but still praying for me as one of the missionaries. I had a claim on their prayers, whether anybody but God knew who I was or not. Occasionally since then, friends have told me that they “put my name in the temple,” and again I knew those good people everywhere were praying for me — not because they knew my circumstances, and not because my name was actually said aloud, but only because they knew somebody somewhere needed their faith for some reason and they were exercising it in my behalf.

    It turned their hearts outward; it brought me into the temple.

    My voice can’t erase the cynicism expressed by so many commenters, but it is the voice of someone who is grateful for those prayer rolls and those prayers and those pray-ers.

  31. Susan Adams says:

    This thread reminded me of this quote in The Church News by by Holly Richardson, dated August 22, 2020. “One day in August, when I was wishing I could just put my friend’s name on the temple prayer roll, God gave me an uncomfortable insight. I had been using the temple prayer roll as a crutch, as the easy way out.
    I had gotten into the habit of putting names on the prayer roll of those who I felt needed additional prayers and support. I told myself I had done my part and thought about how great it was that so many people were praying for my friends. I forgot about my part.
    That day in my garden, I realized that I had not actually been exercising my faith on behalf of my friends and family in specific and personal ways. I had generally not been praying for them by name, or asking specifically for the blessings they needed in their lives. I had been leaving that to the temple and its patrons.”

    https://www.thechurchnews.com/living-faith/2020-08-22/covid-19-power-of-the-temple-holly-richardson-191061

  32. I question a lot of things and live full of doubt, but when I first went to the temple I started putting my Dads name on the rolls and continued until he passed away. I hadn’t spoken to him since I was 12 and had a lot of hate. I didn’t know where he lived or what was going on in his life. I can’t say there was a miracle in his life because of this. He somehow ended up in Hawaii where he left the church and joined the Baha’i. We got back in touch just a few times. But It made a difference, those times writing his name, but maybe mostly to me. Quiet changes of heart.

  33. Bill, We were in Tibet a couple of years ago, and bought a solar powered prayer wheel. It works even when the temple is closed.

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