Sacrament at Home: Allowances That Could Be Made for Women #CopingwithCOVID19
The church released directions last week for how to administer the sacrament at home. They specify that a worthy priesthood holder must break the bread, say the prayers, and pass the emblems in person.
I am, by turns, incensed and grieved when I think how easy it would be for the church to make room for women, particularly in times of disaster, particularly in our own homes. Let’s examine some of the low-hanging fruit the Brethren could have implemented for home sacrament during COVID-19 and other “exceptional circumstances” but intentionally chose not to.
When a large area is affected by “exceptional circumstances,” permission to administer sacrament in homes shouldn’t be left to individual bishops.
We’ve seen time and time and time and time again how bishops are inconsistent when implementing policy. Some bishops are even abusive to the vulnerable (often women) in their congregations. In times of catastrophe, oversight should be given to ensure rogue leaders aren’t wilfully denying members the sacrament.
Especially during times when contagions are a concern (or when distance is insurmountable), the sacrament could be administered over video or audio call.
If it’s really that important to have a priesthood holder read the sacrament prayer, doing it over Skype to prevent the spread of sickness is a logical and convenient alternative that would protect the vulnerable and increase access.
There is no scriptural mandate that the sacrament must be passed by a priesthood holder.
The Church is fine with women passing the tray down the pew or young women carrying the sacrament tray into the mothers’ lounge. In light of this, especially while in the home, anyone should be able to pass the emblems. The formality of insisting a priesthood holder pass to a small family group is unnecessary and not doctrinal.
Allow those without a priesthood holder in their home to prepare their own sacrament.
The Church’s newsroom release stated, “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.”
It could just as easily have said: “In unusual circumstances when the sacrament is not available, members can be comforted by reading the sacrament prayers and partaking of bread and water in remembrance of the savior and their covenants.” They could even include a disclaimer about how this isn’t an official authorized “real” sacrament ordinance, though it wouldn’t be necessary: I have never once in my life thought or assumed that I held the priesthood, and yet my leaders and the Church itself feel the need to constantly remind me that I don’t have it. Since women exercise delegated priesthood keys to perform an ordinance in the temple, bishops could also be authorized to delegate priesthood keys so women could perform this ordinance in their homes.
I’ve heard a lot of apologetic explanations over the years for why men hold priesthood and women don’t, and one of the big ones is the assertion that men can’t use the priesthood to bless themselves; they can only use it to serve others. While it’s true that a man can’t baptize himself or lay his hands on his own head in blessing, in this instance, he can absolutely prepare and bless the sacrament for himself. LDS men have easy and instant access to the sacrament during these weeks of #stayathome; women without a priesthood holder in the house do not.
I have a priesthood-holding husband, and yet a couple weeks ago, our whole family participated in this ordinance in our home: my young children carefully broke the bread with their small hands as I talked about Jesus’s body, his life and his death and what it means for us. Then I knelt and blessed it with my woman’s voice, the sound of the prayer in my treble tones both foreign and right. My daughter, the one who asked me three years ago if girls could pass the sacrament, carried the bread plate to each of us, somber and reverent. My husband knelt and blessed the water, and my daughter and small son passed out the cups.
There was no lightning bolt from heaven. There was no withdrawal of spirit. The emblems were just as meaningful as they’d ever been, and more. My children were fully present and attentive in a way they’ve never been during the sacrament at church.
I’ve been pondering what the sacrament is and what it is not. Do we believe that the Lord’s supper literally cleanses us of our sins each week, the Mormon spin on transsubstantiation? Is taking the sacrament a necessary part of repentance? Or is the sacrament mostly meant to remind us of our covenants to follow Jesus? The first two possibilities imbue the sacrament with mystical properties, while the third is reminiscent of the first sacrament during the Last Supper. Take. Eat. Remember.
The more I pull on the thread called Authority, the more I realize that without it, the garment is still whole. Rituals like ordinances are powerful because they are meaningful, but the Church seems to believe that ordinances are meaningful because they are inherently powerful. Because of this mindset, they erect barriers and hierarchies to keep the power and access to it tightly controlled. But God’s power and unconditional (yes, unconditional) love is freely available to everyone.