The (Male) Privilege of Partaking #CopingWithCOVID19

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?
The solution: Ordain Women.


Violadiva is an oxymoron, a musician, a yogi, a Suzuki violin teacher, a late-night baker of sourdough breads, proud Mormon feminist, happy wife of Pianoman and lucky mother to three.

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34 Responses

  1. Moss says:

    If “pure religion” is to care for the widows and the fatherless’, policies and procedures that leave these groups vulnerable and neglected need to be rethought.

    • Violadiva says:

      Absolutely spot on. Excellent point.

    • Simon says:

      “policies and procedures that leave these groups vulnerable and neglected need to be rethought.”

      The Sacrament is an ordinance. How it is to be administered is in the scriptures. Surely this goes beyond “policies and procedures”.

      I am quite prepared to accept that the Lord can change it, through his prophets, as we are told in Amos. But I don’t think it is just a policy or procedure change required.

      In now way am I saying there isn’t an issue, I am saying I believe it would require revelation to change it.

      D & C 20
      75 It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus;
      76 And the elder or priest shall administer it; and after this manner shall he administer it—he shall kneel with the church and call upon the Father in solemn prayer, saying:
      77 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

  2. Elisa says:

    It’s almost as if the people who made these rules also made the rule that families are the most important thing ever but gay people can’t have families … oh wait …

    This has always been a problem but this really unprecedented situation has put it into sharp relief. I wish this would lead to the ordination of women but I am not optimistic.

  3. Alys's Wonderland says:

    The current sitaution many bishops are allowing (of letting ministering brothers visit and offer the sacrament to those without a PH holder in their homes) is also a terrible workaround, as it will surely expose many members to undetected coronavirus. There is one good and obvious solution, but church leaders would rather let female members get sick that entertain the idea of extending approval for worthy sisters to perform ordinances.

  4. Anna says:

    Why can’t the woman prepare her sacrament then call up her ministering brothers and have them bless it over the phone? Why can’t a ward do an over internet sacrament meeting with allowing each family to prepare a sacrament, then bless it over internet, and allow each person to take it in their own home? With all our modern communication, I can’t believe the church can’t figure out something that will work, and not violate their male only priesthood and still allow the sisters to partake. I mean, either the sacrament is important, or it isn’t. If it is important, then the church needs to figure out what will work so that everyone who wants the sacrament has access. If it isn’t that important, then quit pretending it is. If it is important, then it is no less important for women who don’t have a man around. This is the worst I have ever seen the church treat single women like they just don’t matter. At. All.

    I have a wonderful active husband, but this just makes my blood boil.

    • Violadiva says:

      I agree that the exclusion of women and some children the opportunity to partake of the sacrament does not seem like the solution an endlessly creative and all-powerful God would inspire.

  5. Lonicera says:

    And what about families in which the husband has left the church, but the wife still believes? Temple marriages that become mixed faith marriages are difficult anyway. Imagine the hurt experienced by both parties when the wife has a husband who can’t bless the sacrament, and the husband who is made to feel less than because of it.

  6. Erin says:

    While some males might have had the privilege of partaking, today I enjoyed “The (Female) Privilege of Giving”…. “a man’s Priesthood is given to him to bless the lives of others, it’s a vehicle for him to offer service.” I am a single active sister who knows that I don’t need to be given a vehicle to offer service, I don’t need the responsibility of blessing the lives of others. I am a woman, it’s in my soul! Any person, of any faith, at any moment, in any place, can offer up their covenants to God, to remember their Savior, and to keep His commandments, and they will have the Spirit to be with them. D&C 121:36 teaches, “rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled, only upon the principles of righteousness.”
    I am taking the time to write this because the Lord was with me and my children today in our home, regardless of not partaking of the sacred ordinance of the sacrament. It takes nothing away from the sacrament for me to say that. I love partaking of the sacrament and am grateful for the priesthood power! I absolutely believe that it is a necessary ordinance…. but wether necessary for me, or for the priesthood holder who administers it, or for anyone that is humble and broken hearted before the Lord??? I look forward to returning to worship together with my fellow saints. But I know that the powers of heaven are handled by righteousness. I know that from both my sins and my strivings. The power is with me when I am faithful, and withdraws when I trust in the flesh of man.
    No man or woman has EVER made me feel less than who God tells me that I am. I can tell you for certain that I did NOT feel DEPRIVED today. My heart is full, my home is full, and my trust is in God. I bear witness of His Holy name, Jesus Christ, my Savior, and express my gratitude for the restoration of the gospel in these latter-days. I pray that you will join us in bearing record of these truths to all who are seeking for the pure love of Christ. He lives!

    • Violadiva says:

      Thank you for sharing your story of how you access the love and power of God in your home and with your children. I agree that you do not need a man in your home in order to access that power. When you’re surrounded by the love of God, it’s good that you feel abundantly blessed.

      Not all single sisters feel the same way as you, of course, and some have experienced the deprivation quite keenly. Many feel left out and forgotten.

      This post is addressing the systemic problems with the policies at large and how they affect single women globally, even though individual experiences (like yours)may vary.
      In order to make sure all the single women in the church get to experience the same blessed joy of the sabbath as you have described, we need to make changes that would benefit everyone equally.

      • Simon says:

        “we need to make changes that would benefit everyone equally.”

        And when God wishes to change His scripturally mandated process for the administration of the Sacrament we can. But we can’t do it without changing Doctrine, as unfortunate as that is for those unable to partake of the sacrament at this time.

  7. Aliza says:

    Why can’t the authority be given to women to do this in their own homes? Remember in 2014 when Oaks (and our prophet as recently as last October) so wittingly cited sister missionaries and relief society presidents as having the authority given to them under the keys of someone else? Isn’t this the solution rather than excluding an entire population of people who want to participate? Either women have the priesthood or we don’t. They can’t play both cards.

    • Simon says:

      The priesthood authority that was being spoken of was specific to the calling, and being “Set Apart”.

      • Violadiva says:

        Simon, the most interesting part of your commentary here is the following lines:
        “I am quite prepared to accept that the Lord can change it” and “when God wishes to change His scripturally mandated process for the administration of the Sacrament we can.”
        I’ve found this to be an uncommon belief among mainstream LDS men. Most men I’ve observed believe the heavens to be closed on this matter (in spite of being the church built on the notion of ongoing revelation.)
        The more men in positions of institutional power and leadership who believe this as you do, that God can reveal new changes to priesthood hierarchies and duties, the more likely they are to have hearts open enough to “ask in faith, nothing wavering” to see if God has yet more to reveal about the blessings and opportunities for their daughters on earth.
        I hope you’re sharing these perspectives of the possibilities of what God might reveal in your classes and meetings. It will be a good way to prepare the hearts of the membership for such a day as this revelation is given to the church as a whole.

      • Scalder says:

        Congratulations. Your comments have demonstrated that you are going to do what men have done for centuries…. Blame your sexism on God. Men have been the ones writing scripture through male centric perspectives and men have been the ones making the decisions on who qualifies as an “elder” or “priest”. Something the church has recently demonstrated they will change at will (such as doing away with high priests quorum and extending the priesthood to 11 year old CHILDREN. And nothing extended to women at all) . You might as well have said, “the Lord doesn’t want you as much ladies. Until he does, just deal with being excluded. God is going to limit how much you contribute but he won’t limit me at all. You should be OK with that until God feels like wanting you”. Unbelievable.

      • Simon says:

        Scalder, thanks for calling me a sexist. I don’t believe I said anything that would lead you to believe that. I never said women should not ever be able to administer the sacrament, nor do I believe that. What I do believe is that it isn’t just a matter of policy and procedure. We have doctrines to uphold, or we become an earthly organization.

        If men or women can simply change what is written in scripture because it is uncomfortable then let’s get rid of 10% tithing first. 2% seems a lot fairer. Just change the tithing policy. But it isn’t a policy, it is in the scriptures.

        But don’t blame me just because I am a man.

        Of course, the scriptures were written by men, and God may not be at all happy about any of it. In which case we probably don’t need the Sacrament anyway. But I believe it to be a saving ordinance – that binds us to Christ. And I would rather be sure it is done as God ordained.

      • Violadiva says:

        Simon, it’s almost uncanny the resemblance your comments have to someone we’ve placed in permanent moderation in our comment threads for previous comment policy violations, good old Andrew R. Any chance you two are acquainted? We haven’t approved his comments in quite some time, and then here you show up, spamming all our recent posts with your wisdom just like he used to do. You’d probably get along great, correcting Mormon feminists online for the error of their ways and all…. Even more funny that Andrew R. has already been in trouble more than once for sock-puppeting on our site. Maybe now is a good time to get a different hobby. Lots of people are learning how to knit in quarantine, have you ever considered that as an alternative?

        (p.s. Andrew R., your disguises don’t fool me. Your writing is as obvious as a fingerprint.)

  8. Steve Riz says:

    I love this article, great points and commentary !!!

  9. Chiaroscuro says:

    this is a lousy object lesson. anyone who has tried to walk with a shared umbrella knows it does not keep everyone equally dry. provide an umbrella for each person and they will have a much better ‘blessing of being dry’

    • Anna says:

      Yes, lousy object lesson. When you look at the picture of the kids, it shows some of them at the edges are going to get even wetter than if they were on their own in the rain, because their position just under where the water runs off the umbrella is going to soak them quicker than if they just got totally out from under.

      Just like real church where those on the fringes are worse off than if they just left. Maybe it is a correct object lesson after all. It just demonstrates why some of us have left.

  10. gina says:

    Priesthood men have to rely on others, too ..They cannot bless the sacrament just because they want to. They must be set apart and receive permission before any Priesthood ordinance is performed…nor can they give a blessing to the sick without the aid of another….nor can they bless themselves. God that has required even men subject to relying on each other in order to receive the blessings of the Priesthood.

  11. Deb says:

    All temple patrons have been endowed with priesthood or spiritual power.
    All baptised members of the church also have priesthood power. See pres Nelsons talk Oct 2019.

    They only thing preventing women from preparing, blessing and therefore partaking of the sacred emblems of the sacrament is that they have not been authorised to do so.
    This is easily implemented with a policy change. Ordination to a priesthood rank is not necessary.

    We are currently experiencing an unprecedented situation worldwide, where social distancing measures may continue to possibly 24 months before herd immunity or a vaccine is available. It is imperative that a policy change is made to eliminate the inequality between women and men by authorising women to perform the sacrament ordinance.

  12. Californian says:

    Thank you Violadiva. This has been bothering me for weeks. Women frequently comment about eating the crumbs that fall from the master’s table. The OP includes a letter from a Seventy authority regarding women reading the sacrament prayers from the scriptures without partaking. Really? Now there aren’t even Sacrament breadcrumbs.

    Since the shelter-in-place order, I could have had the Sacrament administered in my home each week. After serious contemplation, I determined it was wrong.

    As for me and my house, we will not grind the faces of those who have been excluded by partaking of the Sacrament in our home. We choose this day not to serve ourselves while others go without. We choose to stand with all women: single, divorced, widowed, married without a priesthood holder; men without the priesthood or men who hold the priesthood yet aren’t considered “worthy” (no TR); teens, and children in those homes.

    We refuse to take the Sacrament in our home until a way is provided remotely to allow all to participate.
    Anna, Aliza, and Deb have all made excellent points. Wheat & Tares Commenter Josiah Reckons reports blessing the sacrament over the phone in New Zealand and JD reports including MIL in weekly Sacrament service via FaceTime.

    We do vicarious work in the temples and women administer ordinances in the temple, so why is this an issue? For decades, we have readily embraced various technologies to broadcast General Conference.

    What do our Heavenly Parents think of us when the church worldwide refuses to allow the use of technology or to authorize women to use the priesthood to address this widespread problem?

  13. Mary says:

    What’s been striking me about all these dilemmas brought on by the pandemic–missionaries, sacrament for priesthood-less homes, ministering remotely–is how there really isn’t a story about a pandemic in the scriptures. There are earthquakes, floods, wars and plagues of beasts, but not a pandemic. The closest thing there is is the story of the destroying angel and the Passover. Yet, that was only one night. That was not a prolonged period of time.

    I look at this moment in history and it is an opportunity for more scriptures to be written. I was always taught the point of having a living prophet is that the Heavens are not closed and there will always be a need for continuing revelation. Even if that means previous prophets get thrown under the bus–as so many critics like to say.

    I see this time as an event where a new precedent could be put in place. Either you believe the prophet is a prophet and capable of receiving continuing revelation–even if that revelation means only having the sacrament blessed over the phone. It doesn’t need to be an earth shattering change. People keep saying this time is unprecedented. That means it’s time to lay the current scriptures reverently aside and see what Heavenly Father has to say about this. This is not going to be a little hiccup of weeks. I have family in two separate countries in Asia and they report that Asia has been on at least semi-shut down since early February and that situation still is in place and they expect it to remain in place for a few more months. This is not a short problem. These sisters are going to be shut out from the Sacrament for awhile.

    Either they matter to Heavenly Father or the don’t.

  14. CWB says:

    If I did not have Priesthood in my home I would just say the prayer myself and partake of the sacrament for me or my family. What does it matter if it is official or not? I will let the Lord sort that out. I have recommended that to other single women.

  15. David B says:

    The blessings of the atonement are available to any member with faith. It’s a physical act, nothing more. Whether or not I actually put a piece of bread in my mouth is irrelevant to my standing before the Lord. People (me personally due to my work overseas) go without the sacrament for weeks, months or even years. They are just as able to access the healing power of the atonement as someone who goes every week to church and partakes of the Sacrament, male or female. Why get hung up over this?

    The YSA Stake where I happen to work right now has suspenses all sacrament for at least two weeks. Period. Not concerned about this. It’s what’s in your heart….not bread and water. I once had saltines and Gatorade….all I had. Am I somehow less for that? Of course not. I’ve gone months and months without the Sacrament. Am I worse off? Of course not. We do what we have to do when we have to do it with the best information and resources we have. That’s all the Lord expects.

    • Violadiva says:

      I concur that God will not hold any person in condemnation for their ability to access the sacrament, or for how often they are able to partake of it.

      David, I would ask you to examine the privileged status you currently enjoy, that of being a male priesthood holder in the church. Men all over the church (perhaps not in your local ward, but elsewhere) have been encouraged to bless and administer the sacrament to the people in their homes during this time. When you minimize the important of this act as something not to “get hung up over” – you’re doing it from a position of privilege and casting condemnation at those of lower privileged states (women) who were asked to abstain from taking the sacrament. In other words, you have something special that only you get to use, and to those who don’t have it or who don’t get it, you’re telling them, “It’s no big deal anyway. just get over it.”

      The thesis of this post is to point out the structural inequity between ordained men (encouraged to administer the sacrament at home) and women (forbidden from taking the sacrament at home, unless a man is there to give it to them)

      Your comment is a good example of the attitude of privileged ingratitude – and a disinterest in ensuring that all people in God’s kingdom have the same access to the same blessings, rites, and ordinances as everyone else.

      Perhaps when women and children all over the globe are forbidden from taking the sacrament for weeks and months, it could encourage church leaders toward future revelation for how they might restore blessings to everyone who wishes to receive them.

      • Dave says:

        That is actually quite condescending, under the guise of a nice request, pleasantly phrased, of course. As a male, My opinion is automatically discounted as coming from my male privileged biases and I should be lectured and cajoled to “examine” this or “consider” that…

        Then I would would ask you to examine your motivation for posting. What do you believe? Truly….Deep down in the recesses of your heart. Do you believe in a living prophet of God? Do you answer yes to Q 4 in a temple recommend interview? We don’t know why it’s structured this way. It’s no picnic, that’s for sure. And please get off the male privilege train…it makes you and others feel better, like you’re intellectually addressing a fundamentally mortal structure put in place to address a spiritual need (priesthood on earth), but does nothing really for the conversation.

        Please seriously consider Sister Bingham’s talk yesterday. At its core, your last statement is the crux of your entire issue. You want to ‘shame’ the Leaders of the Church into giving you the priesthood out of some sense on equality (…”encourage Church leaders toward future revelation”). What does even mean? You think the Prophet and the Twelve sit around wondering what they should change in the Church under the umbrella of “new revaluation”? You think they should look at opinion polls and blogs and say…”ooh, let’s go get some new revelation that will make this group feel better, or that group feel better”. Doesn’t work that way…never has. Please refer to Sister Nelson’s comment on revelation. That’s how it happens.

        But since this is a debate that has no end, I need to finish making cinnamon rolls for my kids (Conf tradition and all). Good luck and I hope you find your answers. Last post here.

      • Violadiva says:

        Dave, your last comment has several violations to our comment policy. I encourage you to check those if you ever choose to comment again.
        To the substance of your complaint against me: It’s not condescending for someone(me) in a lower power strata to ask someone else(you) from a higher power echelon to consider their privileged biases surrounding any issue, particularly where there are structural advantages and disadvantages at play. It’s not your fault that you’re in a higher privilege strata – you were born that way, that’s why it’s called “privilege.” You did nothing to earn it, I did nothing to be deprived of it. And yet, it’s a dynamic all the same. That’s how privilege works. As the higher privilege holder in this exchange, you’re trying to dictate to me and others who do not have your same privileges how we should think and feel about it. That’s the pedagogy of hierarchy and privilege telling you that you’re entitled to tell me how to feel about my oppression, and it’s not right. It’s not empathy, it’s not charity, and it’s not Christlike, no matter how many gender-non-conforming conference traditions you have with your children.
        I believe Church leaders should be in touch with the heartfelt pleas of their people, especially the ones at the margins who hold no institutional power, especially women, especially women who are not adjacent to men as a form of soft power.
        It’s very telling that you would come into this space, as a man with institutional authority, claiming to be disregarded because of your privilege and then proceed to toss out temple recommend questions as me as a way to assess my worthiness and righteousness in your sight, and then insult the words I’ve used to explain my oppression and the oppression of my sisters. Dave, my brother, patriarchy has poisoned your mind with entitlement that you would even think to speak to another human, a woman no less, like this. You might benefit from reading another piece of mine that describes some of the effects you seem to be exhibiting. Pay particular attention the segment I’ve labeled “Unchecked Unrighteous Dominion.”

  16. SisterStacey says:

    This can’t be Church wide… unless something is announced tomorrow at Gen Conf. My ward isn’t doing Zoom or anything… probably because it’s in Utah and I’m sure no one’s thought anyone else needs church weekly. And it’s full of older people who may struggle with technology.
    My ministering brother and his wife have been having a devotional at his house on Sundays. We sit six feet apart and we have to bring our own bread. This last Sunday he came with his wife and blessed bread and water I had already as I was sick (not corona). He only touched the plate. But still, I worry now.
    I love taking the sacrament! I really wish I could have the priesthood to bless it in my own home. Or even be able to do it over the phone.
    Just give women the priesthood already.

  17. Elle says:

    Thank you for writing this post. These last few weeks have been very difficult for me in terms of considering my connection to my religion. I am married to a man who is not LDS. It is difficult for me to feel appreciated as a woman in my religion after many years of service and teaching, as the reality of my limited status has become more clear. If, as has been emphasized in conference talks, both men and women are endowed with priesthood power upon receiving the endowment in the temple, then there is no reason why I should not be able to carry out the ordinance of the sacrament at my home under these extenuating circumstances. I am placed with a dilemma: either I compromise my and others’ physical health by asking ministering brothers to bless the sacrament in my home, or I miss out on a spiritual ordinance that has been significant for most of my life–no priesthood-holding man has to make that choice. That is the crux of the inequality and male privilege. i have chosen not to compromise my health.
    I have been well aware of and have spoken out in meetings against the innate sexism encouraged by the church patriarchy; I have also publicly stated in church my opposition to the now reversed policy regarding children of LGBTQ parents. Despite the fact that there are many views in my religion with which I don’t agree, I have stayed faithful because of my own spiritual confirmations. However, during these last few weeks, I have felt cynical about my connection and sense of belonging. Apparently the sacrament is not as important as I once thought and it is pretty clear that as a woman, I am expendable to the church structure. This does not change my fundamental beliefs nor my faith, but it may change the extent to which I participate in the future. None of this is news to me–I have navigated years of a complex maze of reconciling my spiritual beliefs and experiences, confirmed by this religion, with an inequitable power structure that marginalizes many. I won’t abandon the maze, but the passage just got a whole lot twistier and even more lonely than before. So thank you for voicing concerns about the challenges regarding administering the sacrament in the home, brought to the forefront by the pandemic.

  18. Anon says:

    Talk is cheap. Women are told how important they are and how much they are loved. Yet they are left out of everything and treated with disrespect and as children. This is just another example of women not really mattering.

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