Why Are We All Raising Our Hands?
“Why are we all raising our hands?”
The question came from my eight year old daughter. For the past few years, we have lived in a mission where there was no church branch or building for us to attend, so we were given permission to share the sacrament at home. Being in a ward was a real treat—not to mention being in a ward with a primary. Her question came as a name was announced as being put forth for a calling, and in supplement, the congregation is asked to sustain or oppose. Even though we were visiting the ward, so perhaps had no need of participating, I did as I routinely did when asked to sustain someone—I absently raised my hand. My daughter’s query jolted me into attentiveness.
“It’s kind of like we are voting,” my explanation whispered, newly awake. “They’ve asked someone to do a job, and we are voting if we feel good about it and if we’ll help the person do the job. If we do, we raise our hands to sustain. If we don’t, then they’ll ask us if anyone is ‘opposed.’ Then we can ‘oppose,’ or raise our hand against them doing the calling.”
The answer satisfied her, and I was pleased to share a church culture tidbit that my husband and I– having not been regularly in a ward or branch for some years– had not taught to our daughters. In pace, the congregation moved onto the sacrament portion of the meeting.
“When I am old enough, do I get to bring the bread like the boys?” Now she was watching the young teen boys pass the sacrament. “I want to do that,” she said earnestly. “Serve people the sacrament.”
“Uh…” I paused, disheartened. Did I have to tell her now that she was never going to be allowed to pass the sacrament? At home with just the four of us, she knew that just Daddy blessed the bread and water. But we did not have a need for someone specifically to “pass” the bread or water- the plate with the bread was in reach for all of us, as was the water- no passing required.
And was I sure of that she would never pass the sacrament anyway? Maybe one day, women could pass sacrament. Did I have to tell her the deceptive stories I had been told as a girl about motherhood being an insincere partner to priesthood? That only boys were allowed to even share the bread and water in the plastic tray for reasons that even I could not understand? My questions proved I did not have the answers. I paused. My thoughts steadied, then I whispered calmly with love. “Perhaps one day you will. Right now, it’s just the boys.”
We sat in silence, sharing the broken bread, then water, in turn.
Then she spoke. “Why don’t we just do that…” she said, then raised her hand slightly. “Sustain? We just ask the people in the church to sustain or oppose. Then I can be sustained and can pass the sacrament.”
I sat silent. Perhaps dumbfounded. Her unfamiliarity with the rote drone of synchronized sustaining had not yet become a numbed part of her sacrament meeting routine, so she saw it as a democratic, universal, promising experience. Sure, any ol’ bishop can’t just announce he has decided to give a girl child the Aaronic priesthood, or permission to pass the sacrament, and call for a congregational sustaining. But perhaps in general assembly…much like sustaining a prophet…..
“We can vote on it,” said my precious daughter’s pristine voice, interrupting my thoughts. “Then I can pass the bread and water.”
“I like that,” I said. “I hope so. I do and always will sustain you in everything good.”
She smiled, and we shared a sideways hug in the pew. It was a beautiful moment, one that I have held.
Perhaps the idea is too democratic. After all, the church is a patriarchy, thinly veiled as a semi-democratic drill so that when people’s duties are amended, we participate in judicial sustaining. Yes, the hint of democracy is there, allowing both men and women to raise hands as if we shared equal voice. This alone suggests that the church might hold my membership in as much regard as it holds a man’s. At least I’d like to think my membership means as much as a man’s, though in my heart, I believe not. I also very much like the idea of putting the priesthood ban to a vote. Or at least voting to see if girls can at least pas the sacrament. It is a simple, yet effective idea. Once that my precious eight year old suggested.
Dare I ask– “All in favour”?