Guest Post: “Do You Hear and Answer *Every* Child’s Prayer?”

By Kaylee

I have the privilege of living with a priesthood holder who is authorized to administer the sacrament at home during quarantine. My three-year-old has been the most enthusiastic of my Primary-aged daughters about taking the sacrament at home. She loves to pass the bread and water to each family member. She often wants to “be the bishop” and conduct from her ottoman podium. (She recently got her own spot on the FHE board, and conducting is her favorite.) This week, she was helping my husband get the sacrament dishes ready, scampering back and forth between the kitchen and our living-room-turned-chapel, excited feet pattering on the floor. My husband handed her a piece of bread to put on the plate. She saw an opportunity and took it. I saw her big solemn eyes concentrating as she broke the bread, feet up on tippy-toes so she could see better over the top of the credenza that has served as our sacrament table. I heard her sweet happy voice: “I am a good helper!”

I remember being ten, almost eleven. The boys in my friend group were starting to be ordained as deacons. I remember sitting on a metal folding chair, first row in the gym, and taking the sacrament from one of those boys. I remember saying to myself, “I’m not going to let it bother me that girls don’t get to be deacons too.” That worked, for a couple of decades. My feelings have been changing the last few years, but having sacrament in my home has put a focus on how much our tradition of excluding girls from serving in rituals is not a requirement from God. I’ve studied the scriptures: passing the sacrament is not mentioned as part of the deacon’s duties; besides, women and children pass the trays down the rows. Preparing and cleaning up are not mentioned in the scriptures as teacher’s duties; women used to do this too. Breaking the bread is symbolic, but not a required part of the ordinance: My gluten-free friends partake of a piece of Rice Chex, not Rice Chex crumbles. Women can certainly read the scriptures out loud, even the ones containing the sacrament prayers. A woman can do every single piece of the ordinance, but not the whole thing put together. Our regional seventy has specifically mentioned that members who are not living with an authorized priesthood holder are *not* to partake of bread and water after meditating on the sacrament prayers.

After sacrament our family has been singing church songs, whatever the children request. This week the three-year-old wanted “A Child’s Prayer.” These words hit my heart:

Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?

The sacrament prayer is just that: a prayer. No priesthood power or authority is invoked in the words of the prayer. The sacrament prayer is a prayer that God is capable of hearing from my female voice. Women could be granted authority to bless the sacrament, particularly when it would not be safe or appropriate for a man to visit her. We already do this in the temple: women are granted authority to perform ordinances in places where it would not be appropriate for a man to be.

My heart breaks for those who want to partake of the sacrament but do not, not because they are not physically capable of performing the ordinance for themselves, but because they have not been granted the authority to perform the ordinance. It hurts to feel excluded. It’s impossible to be “at one” when people are feeling left out. Last Sunday, I witnessed my young daughter do everything she possibly could to make the sacrament a joyous and reverent occasion. It was a pure and holy offering. I also want to help make the sacrament a joyous and reverent occasion. For now though, it hurts to think about going back to church, where neither my girls nor I will ever check the sacrament prayer for accuracy, where we will never work together to pour water into little cups, where we will never help create this holy experience, except by sitting still and staying quiet.

 

Kaylee only wears sensible shoes (if she has to wear shoes at all) and is passionate about pants with functional pockets (even her Sunday slacks).

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13 Responses

  1. Abby Hansen says:

    I like how you break down that a woman can do every single individual piece of preparing and blessing the sacrament- she’s just wrong if she does them all in a row without pausing. It’s just silly. Great post!

  2. Wendy says:

    i agree with Abby; you make a very cogent argument. Well done!

  3. J. Stephen Sill says:

    Women leaders are now on the committee that assigns Elders and Sisters to their missions. And sister missionaries can now wear pants, I would assume that they are sensible and have pockets. Los tiempos cambian, pero lentamente en la vida.

    • Kaylee says:

      I agree that times are changing, little by little. But I don’t think change just magically happens without women telling their stories and experiences.

      Assuming that women’s clothing has usable pockets is usually a pretty bad assumption, although things have been getting better since smart phones…but since you handed me a soap box: All women should insist on only purchasing clothing with functional pockets. The market will see the demand and adjust the supply! (And I will love you all for making it easier to find rational clothing.)

      • Di says:

        I don’t see myself returning to church for some time but when I do I plan to wear more pants. My daughter serves in a RS presidency and wears pants 95% of the time – she’s my hero!
        Great post – thank you

  4. PBJ says:

    So if you can’t partake of it after you meditate, what are you supposed to do? Bronze them? Discard them? Why? I HAVE QUESTIONS!

    I really enjoyed your post.

    • Kaylee says:

      No bread and water necessary. Simply have a weekly scripture study where you think about the sacrament and re-commit to following Jesus.

  5. Miriam says:

    This “authorized priesthood holder” thing gets to me. First of all, priesthood is not something you can hold. It’s not a group. It’s not a man. Priesthood is level of relationship with God and you receive that authority directly from heaven. Why we think we need middlemen is beyond me.

    • Anna says:

      Although “priesthood“ is a group of priests, just as a “brotherhood“ is a group of brothers, I hear what you are saying about authorized priesthood. If at its essence, priesthood is the power of God, then only God authorizes its use. If God honors what you are doing then He/She/it authorizes your priesthood. This idea that a group of men can authorize priesthood is silly. It is God’s priesthood and only he/she/it can authorize it.

      So, if you as a single woman say a prayer over your sacrament, and God honors that prayer by granting his spirit to be with you, who are church leaders to say that is not valid? God said it was valid by answering your prayer.

      Women used to be “authorized” by the men of the church to give healing blessings. But they started doubting they were “good enough” because they had not been ordained by men, or instead of “good enough, you could say “proper” to do it and they asked the men for permission and the men said no to what earlier prophets had authorized. So, how to we get that authorization back? We just take it back. It is not men’s to grant or deny. We start using the priesthood God gives us and forget about the false priesthood that men grant to other men.

      • Miriam says:

        I wholeheartedly agree, Anna.The way the church uses the word priesthood is incorrect, imo. While the term has traditionally and culturally been used to denote a collective group of priests, as in, “we need ‘the priesthood’ to shovel snow,” priesthood is really power and authority from God based upon your relationship and available in righteousness. One does not “hold” anything, nor is that power automatically transferred from one person to another by hands, nor it it automatic with a title. That power has to be sought out and is given to those who ask for it, regardless if you are male or female.

    • Kaylee says:

      Well, the whole idea of the restoration was that the other churches did not have the authority of God, so Joseph Smith wasn’t supposed to join them. Our concept of authority is kind of a big part of what sets Mormons apart from other Christian religions. I certainly haven’t had angelic visitations directly from God authorizing me to perform baptisms and such.

      On the other hand, a brief overview of church history even at the level of something like the church-published “Daughters in my Kingdom” is enough to show that the church has not been free of heartbreaking priestcraft resulting in the diminished influence of women in the church. We don’t have priesthood organization right yet, and things like the prohibition of women partaking of bread and water after meditating on the sacrament prayers smell like priestcraft to me.

      I see two possible outcomes if a woman chooses to disobey the prohibition:
      1) She has a ho-hum experience, maybe feels the need to confess her disobedience, and the status quo is maintained
      or
      2) She has an amazing, empowering spiritual experience that brings her closer to God. And instead of rejoicing with her, the men in charge would want to shame her experience because it undermines the authority of their power structure.
      Why would it be so terrible if a woman had an experience that brought her closer to God? Why are the High Priests prioritizing their authority over potential spiritual growth of church members? I thought priesthood power is not supposed to be maintained by dictates and prohibitions, but by persuasion, gentleness, and love unfeigned. Exclusion does not feel like love.

      • Kaylee says:

        I’ve been thinking a lot about the above comment. I hadn’t thought of the prohibition in that way before, and I’m still processing it. I want to extend grace–there are so many things that the pandemic has changed in such a short time–and I don’t expect leaders to be able to get all the necessary changes right the first time.

        At the same time, the prohibition has shifted in my mind from being something rather ridiculous to being something spiritually limiting. I cannot un-see it, and I want those in charge to learn to see it too. I am planning on discussing this with my local leaders, because it feels awful that women are not permitted to *pretend* to prepare the *symbols* of Christ’s body, when in the New Testament it was women’s hands that were ready to prepare the actual body of Christ.

  6. Em says:

    Great post. And I also loved your comment about assuming women’s pants have pockets. It is a classic example of male privilege — assuming that because men’s clothing is designed to be functional and comfortable if women wear uncomfortable clothing with no pockets it is entirely by choice. There is a reason that women get excited and show off any item of clothing that has functional pockets

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