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