Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Administering" vs. "Passing" the Sacrament

I was struck by something years ago about women actually "passing" the sacrament. I have a wife and four daughters, I am gone many Sundays, my oldest son has been in college for the past two years and my second boy often is administering the sacrament, so on our pew each Sunday the sacrament is passed by women more than by men - and often exclusively.

There are two aspects that get melded together because of our imprecise terminology. It requires the Priesthood to "administer" the ordinance of the sacrament; it does not require the Priesthood to "pass" the sacrament. We use "pass" to describe what the deacons do, but, in reality, they are assisting the Priests in the "administration" of the sacrament. The Priesthood "hallows" or "sanctifies" and oversees the ordinance (grounds the practice in divine authority), but all are allowed to participate in the process of receiving AND giving - even young children, who are the only one's inherently "worthy" to represent the sinless one.

The key, in my opinion, is not who "passes" the sacrament to each and every member, but rather who "administers" the ordinance - who "oversees" the distribution to the body of believers. That administration can take any number of forms, including our current method of involving the women, girls and children in passing the sacrament.

8 comments:

BHodges said...

I've wondered how the Deacon's role has evolved, becoming the official "distributors" for lack of a better term. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but William G. Hartley's “From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829-1996,” Journal of Mormon History 22/1 (Spring 1996) goes over the development of our current structure. I also note that in the Book of Mormon the duty of distributing the sacrament appears to invariably fall on men directly. Interesting that as the sacrament is passed today it is actually passed by the members along the benches, etc.

Papa D said...

BHodges, I've had that on a list of things to read for a while. I just need to do it. Thanks for reminding me.

Ardis E. parshall said...

Thinking of the difference between the sacerdotal administering of the sacrament and the practicalities of passing the trays along the benches makes it even more terrible to remember the lengths that some -- some, not all -- quorums went to pre-1978 to prevent certain ward members from even touching the tray as it passed along the benches.

Papa D said...

AMEN, Ardis. Amen, and amen.

That is one of the absolute worst manifestations of how deeply the misguided jusifications were internalized by many members.

I think it's interesting to think of the "passing" of the sacrament as it occurs now and contemplate how many different iterations could exist without affecting the "administering" of the sacrament in any way. I really like BHodges' use of the word "distributing" in this case, since that simply denotes getting it from the Priests to the congregation - without any specific, standardized format. As long as it gets from Point A to Point B (has been distributed in a maner overseen by the Priesthood), how it then is "passed" among those at Point B becomes almost irrelavent (as long as it is not irreverent).

Anonymous said...

Especially interesting when juxtaposed with your earlier comment regarding the duality of ordinances. The communal and the individual symbolism. Along a pew the sacrament is passed from daughter to father to neighbor to child . . .

Papa D said...

Great tie-in, Anonymous. I hadn't made that connection.

Thanks!

adam said...

Interesting, Ray. Thanks.

newellista said...

I remembering serving in a District in Argentina many years ago, where they had a different "take". One of the counselors in the District Presidency was convinced that the priesthood should be the only ones to handle the sacrament trays. As a result, the Deacons would inch their way up and down the rows, allowing each member to take the sacrament directly from their hand.

No amount of discussion could change this good brothers mind. His authoritative claim what that he had lived in Houston for a while, and that is how it was done there, so it must be right. Nevermind that my companion and I had both grown up in the midst of the "center stakes of Zion" and had very different experiences.

This was just one more experience that helped me understand that while the Gospel is true, the Church and its members often fall short.