The situation: the world is under quarantine to slow the outbreak of COVID-19, groups are not allowed to gather (including church congregations), social distancing measures prevent visitors passing between homes.
The dilemma: male members of the Church who hold the Priesthood are authorized to administer the sacrament in their homes to their families. Ministering brothers are not allowed to visit the homes of single women to offer the emblems of the sacrament.
The privilege: men are allowed to bless and pass the sacrament to themselves, to other men, and to the women and children adjacent to them.
The deprivation: single women are not allowed to bless or partake of the sacrament on their own, and ministering brothers are not allowed to bring it to them. In one letter from a Seventy authority to stake presidents sent this week, concerning single sisters or those without priesthood-holding men in their homes, he writes, “We encourage you to read and ponder carefully the sacrament prayers found in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine of Covenants, but to do so WITHOUT parking of the sacred emblems until such a time when it is safer for the brethren to either come to your homes or the ban is lifted and we are allowed to meet in our chapels.”
This modern advice hearkens back to a similar response made by Joseph F. Smith to another single woman who had missed the sacrament in 1904.
This scenario is an example of how the priesthood-as-umbrella analogy falls flat. In this case, it DOES matter who holds the priesthood, and not everyone receives equal benefits of the all-male priesthood like the metaphor claims. Unlike this Sharing time lesson prompt describes, it is pouring down rain in the world right now, and single sisters are getting soaked.
Primary Sharing time lesson plan, October 2017
It’s often explained that a man’s Priesthood is given to him to bless the lives of others, that it’s a vehicle for him to offer service.
We’ve heard, “A man can’t lay his hands on his own head and bless himself.” But he can lay hands on his own bread and bless his sacrament.
Today all over the world, married and single Latter-Day Saint men blessed and ate their own sacrament, even if they had nobody to share it with.
Latter-Day Saint women have been taught by church leaders
to learn about
the Priesthood power they hold, and to rejoice in their ability to call on the power of God in their homes and callings. But in our present circumstance, when it comes to the salvific ordinance of repentance and renewal, single women (and women who are married to unordained men) find themselves ineligible and deprived of partaking of the emblems of communion with God and harnessing that power through symbolic rite. This deprivation will presumably last as long as social-distancing precautions are in place, which may be many more weeks or months. The effects of this prohibition are amplified for single mothers who have no recourse for providing the sacramental ordinance to their children.
What other global scenarios might occur in which single women as an entire group are deprived from renewing their baptismal covenants and partaking of these emblems? How could the church prevent this from happening in the future?
If the weekly ordinance of partaking of the Sacrament is critical to all members of the Church, why isn’t the sacrament made available to all members equally? Why is the actual partaking of the emblems of the Sacrament prioritized and emphasized for some members (men and their families) but not others? And why is the deprivation of the sacramental emblems to these women (and their children) considered an acceptable solution on a global, church-wide scale? If one person needs the emblems of the Sacrament, we all need them.
To the women of the Relief Society who have a Priesthood holding man available to bless the sacrament and pass it to you, how do you feel about exercising a relational privilege that provides you access to these emblems while knowing that your single sisters are going without? The renewal of the covenants of your salvation is contingent upon your relational adjacency to a Priesthood-holding man. Are the single sisters of the church not worthy of their renewals as well? How could all the women of the Relief Society unite with common purpose to solve this dilemma for all Latter-Day Saint women?