In Two Parts.
Part I: My perspective:
I was visiting my oldest sister in a nearby state, and we were spread out on a row of hard chairs in the gym seating. When the Sacrament tray came, my 8 year old niece accepted it, stood up, and personally walked to every single one of us, offering the bread and water. She was grinning. I thought, “This. This is what it could be like.”
It was one of the most lovely things I have experienced at church, and I started to think further about the possibility of families purposefully placing their daughters in the seat next to the aisle, so they could do what my niece did, and pass the sacred emblems to each person in their family, though admittedly the space between the pews may be a tad more limited than the space between the folding chairs.
Then on Conference Sunday, the same sister who I visited posted a curious little picture on facebook, with a careful row of tiny Ikea cups of water, and an Ikea plate with broken bread. I quickly discovered that the same niece who joyfully passed me the Sacrament the week before, woke up early, and set it out for her family on her own initiative.
My sister, Cumorah’s words: “Knowing that we wouldn’t be attending our regular church service today due to General Conference, Azure, on her own, prepared the Sacrament for us to take here. It’s still sitting on our counter, and has led to quite the interesting discussion.” I wish I wish I was there for that discussion, and even more so I could have partaken of the bread and water.
I am also reminded of the hopeful words I read last Friday regarding the recently announced change in mission leadership, with its increased “role for sister missionaries.” Elder David F. Evans, the executive director of the Missionary Department stated that it “will be a blessing to both missions and missionaries throughout the world, and better employ the remarkable faith, talents and abilities of all missionaries.”
I feel so much admiration for my niece, who at 8 already strives to serve her family and ward in genuine ways, and finds such pure happiness in doing so. I pray that the church I love will give my niece lots, and lots of opportunities to serve, and thereby employ her remarkable faith, talents and abilities. I also rejoice in whisperings I hear of wards whose Bishops have utilized Young Women to serve as ushers or messengers, as well as the one ward I know of that (at least formerly) allowed Young Women to participate in the Sacrament by bringing or making the bread.
Part II: My sister’s (fuller) perspective:
Before my daughter passed the sacrament to our family on Easter Sunday, she and I had a talk about the possibility that someday, girls might be allowed to do just that.
The Priest who was blessing the bread had to repeat the prayer several times as he didn’t get it quite right. Azure asked me why he had to repeat it, and we talked in hushed voices about the importance of the words in an ordinance, which led to a discussion about the importance of our roles in the ordinance. We watched as the 12 deacons, all lined up and ready to pass the sacrament to the masses, waited for the Priest to receive the nod from the Bishopric that the wording of that sacred prayer was just so before they began fulfilling their duty.
I know Azure’s giving, passionate, dedicated heart, and I could tell she craved further understanding. I felt inspired to ask her a question, that I wasn’t planning on. I was never asked this question, but always wondered it when I was a little girl. I took a quick breath, then asked her if she had ever thought about why only boys bless and pass the bread and water. She nodded a silent yes. I whispered to her about the priesthood, and how this is an ordinance that is governed by it, and how boys and men have the opportunity to hold the priesthood. She nodded again in understanding, and then said, “Maybe someday girls can do that too.” I squeezed her tight and replied, “Maybe. Maybe someday.” And that was that.
We sat in silence as the deacon came to our row, and handed me the sacrament tray. I passed it to Azure, and you know what happened next. I watched her as she stood, holding the tray and offered the sacrament to every individual in our row. After returning the tray to the deacon, she snuggled up next to me and smiled. And I smiled back.
That next Sunday, as soon as my husband and I got out of bed, she asked Daddy to please come bless the Sacrament that she had prepared for all of us. He answered that taking the Sacrament is an ordinance that is supposed to be approved by the Bishop, and since we hadn’t asked for that permission, probably shouldn’t do it. He did turn to me awhile later and said that he supposed it would be fine if we wanted to. But by then, I was making breakfast, and Azure was off preparing the General Conference candy jar game, and we all kind of forgot about it.
It was a missed opportunity. We could have taken her Sacrament! I am certain this would have been one of the most memorable partakings of the Sacrament that she would ever have…(well maybe besides the time back in 2010 when she accidentaly dumped an entire tray of blessed bread on the gym floor, or the sweet times the priests came and hand delivered the Sacrament to our door when Calvin was brand new and troubled and couldn’t attend church for a few months) and I didn’t push for it.
I let her offering sit on the counter until the bread got hard, and we tossed it in the trash. Did I do that because it was prepared by a little girl? And not by a young man with the Aaronic priesthood? I don’t know. Did I do that because we should follow the rules to ask for Bishop’s permission first? I don’t know. I do know that I failed to take an awesome opportunity to build my daughter up. And I am still kicking myself for it.
When I posted that pic on Facebook, I was thinking it might spur some discussion on the ‘someday’ possibility of girls/women being able to prepare the Sacrament, but I mostly got comments, like “Adorable!” and “That is so cute!” It was both those things. It was absolutely adorable and cute. But knowing Azure, it was meant to be much more than that.
She is thoughtful and eager and above all, benevolent. She is the type of girl who comes up with a lesson and activity for FHE without being asked, and without any prodding or assistance, every week. The type of girl who created her own scripture reading chart so she could mark off her personal study daily. The type of girl who made me a “Go Mom! You rock!” poster after I taught my first real Zumba class.
The type of girl who created and implemented the “secret service” program in our home after she decided the kids needed to work on being kinder to one another. The type of girl who wakes up at 6:30am on a Saturday morning to do her own Saturday chores, and her sister’s Saturday chores before anyone else even rolls out of bed so we can spend the day having fun together instead of laboring the morning away. The type of girl who got online, found the lyrics for “If the Savior Stood Beside Me”, printed them off, and memorized all three verses because: “that song just really speaks to me, Mom. It really does.”
The type of girl who would take the responsibility of preparing and passing the sacrament extremely seriously. I love that girl. With all my heart. I failed her this last Sunday, but I’ll make it up to her, I promise. I am certain there will be more opportunities to encourage and empower her, and I will take and/or create those opportunities. Oh, that girl. She is a gift, and I treasure her daily.