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I Have a Question, 1891

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 09, 2009

These questions and answers are from the Juvenile Instructor of 1891. Some of them appear in columns headed “Editorial Thoughts,” some of which are explicitly signed The Editor, marking them as the work of George Q. Cannon.

One of our correspondents informs us that an Elder, preaching to the people in the place where he lived, stated that the cause of so much sickness and death among the little ones of that settlement last fall and spring was the non-observance by the people of the Word of Wisdom. Our correspondent states that he had been called upon to part with three of his children, and he asks if the doctrine which the elder taught is correct, as it causes him to feel very badly, because he has not been a strict observer, he admits, of the Word of Wisdom.

It is a simple but correct answer to this enquiry to say, that parents who have not been strict in observing the Word of Wisdom are not the only ones who have had to part with their children, but parents who have observed that Word with some degree of strictness have also been compelled to follow their children to the tomb.

It is not wise to generalize in the way this Elder is reported to have done, because, as we all know, children do get sick and die in families where the Word of Wisdom is observed with some care.

We trust our views respecting the benefits of observing the Word of Wisdom are known; at least, we have endeavored to make them known through these columns. We firmly believe that where parents observe the Word of Wisdom, they have a stronger claim on the promises of the Lord and can exercise more faith than they can who neglect the counsel given in that Word. But it is entirely too sweeping to say that the cause of sickness and death in a settlement where the little ones are taken off is due to the non-observance of the Word of Wisdom.

In some wards when a person presents himself for baptism, whether a first baptism or a re-baptism, immediately before being baptized he is required to raise his right arm to the square and covenant before God, angels and witnesses present, that he will keep the commandments of the Lord as they are made known to him. In other wards there is no such covenant required. Which is proper?

We should say that the proper course to be taken with candidates for baptism is to ask them to covenant that they will keep the commandments of the Lord. This is a custom that has prevailed in the Church always, and it is in accordance with the requirements of the Lord in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.

All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

Of course, if candidates for baptism have witnessed before the Church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ and to serve Him to the end, etc., before they come to the water to be baptized, there would be no necessity to ask them to do so then; but if not, they should do so there.

Is it proper to use the words ‘for remission of sins’ in baptizing either in a first baptism or a rebaptism?

It is safe, in first baptisms, to follow the language given to the Church in the revelations. In the form which is there given, the words “for the remission of sins” are not used. As we have explained before in these columns, the man holding the keys has the right to instruct the Elders to modify or change that form, according to circumstances which may arise from time to time in the Church; but where no such modification is given, the safe and proper course for the Elders and priests in baptizing is to follow the words which the Lord has given.

What is the proper attitude to be assumed by the person asking a blessing upon the bread or water in administering the sacrament?

If convenient, it is proper for the person asking a blessing upon the bread and the water to kneel with the Church. But it is not always convenient to do this.

Should the person passing the sacrament single out the Priesthood in the stand, administering to those highest in authority first, when they are not so seated as to take it in proper order?

There is no rule requiring those who are passing the sacrament to hand it to any one person before another. As an act of courtesy, however, when convenient, we notice that it is a general practice throughout the Stakes to present the bread or cup to the President of the Stake first, or if any of the First Presidency or Twelve are there, to pass it to them first. But we have thought that this might be carried too far; for we are all brethren and sisters alike in partaking of the sacrament; and one man is not to be preferred before another, though the natural disposition among the Saints is to honor age or men presiding in the priesthood. At some Stake conferences we have noticed that in passing the sacrament the brethren carry it first to the man holding the highest office in the Priesthood; in others they offer the bread and cup to the first person they come to. So that there is no fixed rule in the Church concerning this.

If a man should be ordained to an office of the Melchisedek Priesthood by an apostle who is corrupt and deep in sin, but who has never been convicted of this sin, will this ordination hold good after the apostle has been convicted and cut off from the Church, or will the one whom he ordained have to receive a second ordination?

A man holding the Priesthood and in good standing in the Church may nevertheless be a sinner and a violator of the laws of God. there have been such cases in the Church; yet while they held the Priesthood and performed acts such as the ordination of men under proper circumstances, those ordinations have not been void. A man properly ordained by another who is in this condition would receive the Priesthood conferred upon him, although it might be subsequently discovered that he who did the ordaining was in transgression at the time. that would not invalidate that ordination, neither would it be necessary for the person thus ordained to be ordained a second time.

To deprive a man legally of his Priesthood, there must be action on the part of proper authority. There have been apostles who have fallen into sin, but they held their apostleship until they were legally deprived of it by action of their own council, or the action of the Church. when they were excommunicated by the council, they lost all the authority which had been conferred upon them; and so also, when excommunicated by the Church, they lost the fellowship of the Saints and all the promises which had been made unto them as members of the Church.



50 Comments »

  1. The only instances of re-baptism with which I am familiar occur after excommunication, a period of repentance, and re-admission to the church. However, being that the concept was mentioned here in the Juvenile Instructor, was there another, more common, context for re-baptism at that time?

    Comment by Palad — April 9, 2009 @ 7:12 am

  2. Oh, the joys of the Word of Wisdom, and the enforcement thereof!

    There are, of course, other benefits to living the Word of Wisdom, not mentioned by the Elder whom Brother Cannon corrected. For example, there’s the Mormon girl who was recently crowned Hawaii’s “Miss Hawaii Teen USA.” Struggling with the requirement that she wear a two-piece bathing suit in the swimsuit competition, she consulted with the appropriate authorities (Brother Cannon being, unfortunately, unavailable, she had to settle for Sharlene Wells Hawkes), she finally settled on this:

    “reasoned that competing in the swimsuit segment could help show the benefits of keeping the Word of Wisdom.”

    (I didn’t make that up. See the whole story here.)

    That, I’m sorry to admit, suggests to my mind all sorts of ways we could enliven our church activities while touting the benefits of living the Word of Wisdom. And we wouldn’t have to tell sad stories to scare people into obedience.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 9, 2009 @ 7:16 am

  3. Palad, yes, up to the earliest years of the 20th century, church members could be baptized multiple times, for various purposes:

    Baptisms for health were performed for the same purposes as administering with oil and the laying on of hands. Baptisms as a form of recommitment to the gospel, even without an excommunication, were often done. Baptisms also often marked a major step in someone’s life: for many years, everyone was baptized again when they reached the Salt Lake Valley; during the 1856 Reformation of the church; when someone entered the United Order; and before receiving the temple endowment. This kind of second (or third or fourth) baptism was so common that church membership records often included columns to record both original and later baptisms.

    With the regularization of church practices in the early 20th century, all those kinds of multiple baptisms were dispensed with. Priesthood administrations for health — which had been going on simultaneously with baptisms for health from the church’s earliest days — became the sole ritual for health; an emphasis was placed on personal repentance rather than the outward sign of rebaptism; and a recognition that regular partaking of the Sacrament was an ongoing recommital to the purposes of baptism has taken the place of baptism as a form of recommital to the gospel.

    Our past is more complex and colorful than we often imagine, isn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 7:24 am

  4. Mark, I remember when Sharlene Wells was crowned Miss America. Her father referred to the bathing suit competition then as the “physical fitness” competition. Your link is the first I’ve heard of this additional development. Ha!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 7:25 am

  5. What a gold mine! I was unaware of the baptism answers and would have loved to have added them to the Baptism for Health article. The changing of baptismal prayers was debated for several years after this answer in the governing quorums until 1896, when GQC wrote a letter to all temple presidents instructing them to no longer change the words, except for baptism for health where the purpose could be mentioned in the prayer.

    I also liked having the bit about making covenants. Elder George F. Richards recounted his baptismal account in an 1945 General Conference address:

    When I was baptized, and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was required to raise my arm to the square, and covenant before God, angels, and witnesses present, that I would henceforth keep the commandments of God, as fast as they should be made known unto me.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2009 @ 8:36 am

  6. Woohoo! Something new for J.! That isn’t easy! :) I think your journal articles are the dress rehearsal for an eventual book, J., and having made some of your issues common discussion topics around the worlds of the journals and the Bloggernacle, you alert people like me to materials we might otherwise have passed by. So bits like this are both the result of your past work and a contribution to your future work. Feels pretty good, from where I sit.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 8:50 am

  7. You are so kind, Ardis. I really enjoy this. Thanks.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2009 @ 8:54 am

  8. Regarding the practice of serving the sacrament to the presiding priesthood authority, I was surprised to read GQC’s characterization of it as more of a “courtesy,” and less a doctrinal requirement. Huh. (Anyone know what the Church Handbook of Instruction says about it now? Still just a “courtesy”?)

    And I was especially impressed that GQC considers the “downside” of this practice: “But we have thought that this might be carried too far; for we are all brethren and sisters alike in partaking of the sacrament.” Great stuff, thanks!

    Comment by Hunter — April 9, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  9. Hunter, the 1999 handbook (the latest I have access to) says only, “The presiding officer receives the sacrament first.” This line appears comparable to and in context with all the instructions for breaking the bread into “bite-sized” pieces and “those officiating at the sacrament table replace the cloth over the bread trays and uncover the water trays” — procedural instructions, not doctrinal issues with theologicaly import. This is in contrast to the instructions for the wording of the prayers and the importance of the ordinance itself, which are backed up with scriptural references.

    IMO.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  10. Ardis, this is awesome!

    Comment by Matt W. — April 9, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  11. Ah the great Who Gets the Sacrament First enigma. One of the great struggles we have (right up there with keeping the deacons from holding their left hands behind their backs) is stopping deacons from acting as if there were some unwritten hierarchy of things, where the sacrament goes first to the presiding officer, and then to the next in line until the whole hierarchy has been served. Things get really complicated if there is a member of the stake presidency on the stand, and what if there’s a stray clerk or high councilor around?

    I just wonder who got the sacrament first at the Last Supper. Is it one of the plain and precious things that was lost? Or is it in the sealed part of the Book of Mormon?

    Comment by Mark B. — April 9, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  12. I find the last question often comes up still, about ordinances performed by those who are either not upholding their covenants, or are subsequently excommunicated or disfellowshipped. I liked GQC’s direct answer:

    It might be subsequently discovered that he who did the ordaining was in transgression at the time. that would not invalidate that ordination, neither would it be necessary for the person thus ordained to be ordained a second time.

    It also had never occurred to me that the wording of the baptismal prayers were ever subject to change. Cool stuff, Ardis.

    Comment by kevinf — April 9, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  13. Thanks, Matt!

    Mark, I’m envisioning the dilemma when the deacons get to the women in the ward. Does the wife of the bishop outrank the Relief Society president? Are members of the Compassionate Service committee served before or after members of the Activities Committee?

    And Kevin, his directness is one of the things I really like about GQC, too.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  14. question: why do deacons walk with their left hands behind their backs, like they have a kidney infection or equivalent discomfort?

    I asked my son once, who said it was just ‘what they did’ but I suspect it was more of a tradition than anything else, as once I mentioned it, he never did it again.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — April 9, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  15. Kidney infection! That’s a new and inspired interpretation … See The Old Written Order of Things, including some of the comments, for ideas of why this contortion started, and some efforts to stamp it out.

    Your son seems more reasonable than some.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  16. As Mark pointed out, there are a bunch of “traditions” about the administration and passing of the sacrament that are really unnecessary. I think Ardis did a post once before where it mentioned that at one time, they were to line up in descending height, wear white shirts and black pants with bow ties (IIRC), and at another time, to avoid any impressions of uniformity or holding your hand behind your back.

    I’m sure we could make up a matrix of hierarchy for receiving the sacrament, and even computerize it, and send it to the deacons via text messages while they are getting ready to pass. Some of the key factors in determining the sequence could be if there home/visiting teaching were done and recorded in the membership database, amount of tithing paid to date, and number of children currently married in the temple. Also, you could factor in the number of polygamous ancestors, and names submitted via FamilySearch. The possibilities are endless.

    (In the interest of good taste, I deleted a reference to having the whole process overseen by the Physical Facilities group. I thought better of it after I saw how it looked on the screen.)

    Comment by kevinf — April 9, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  17. Ardis, you linked while I was editing myself. Good call!

    Comment by kevinf — April 9, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  18. about the left hand behind the back…
    i have heard that years ago so many young men didnt know their left hand from the right that the old “hayfoot,strawfoot” saying was used.
    i may be wrong as i often am.

    Comment by tjk — April 9, 2009 @ 11:46 am

  19. Wow, I don’t know where to begin on these.

    Re: the WOW question – is this a general blessing v. cursing question about being obedient to this commandment, or are there particular health-related concerns here that aren’t being articulated? Meat vs. wheat in an era before refrigeration? I’m assuming that it wasn’t common practice to give children, say, coffee, tobacco, or alcohol. What do you think the questioner is asking about specifically?

    >it is proper for the person asking a blessing upon the bread and the water to kneel with the Church

    I.e. the congregation is all kneeling??

    >by an apostle who is corrupt and deep in sin

    Is this also some kind of coded question for a specific person, or referencing a recent excommunication. The tone is rather accusatory for a casual procedural question.

    Comment by jeans — April 9, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  20. I know some of this conversation has been light-hearted, so I’m a bit reluctant to address the first question about whether non-observance of the Word of Wisdom would have caused the death of three of the children of the person asking the question, and many others in the community. I would say, thank heavens for George Q. Cannon, or whoever wrote the answer.

    Looking at the book Of Medicine, Hospitals and Doctors (Richards, 1953), the children would have died of either infantile diarrhea, which was overwhelmingly caused by unpasteurized milk (Salt Lake had 2715 infantile diahrrea-related deaths of children under two between 1848 and 1894) or they would have died of diphtheria. Diphtheria was a serious and horrible disease and often peaked in the spring and fall, and was most often seen in children. Diphtheria cases spiked in 1891. Diphtheria has largely been eradicated today due to childhood immunizations, and infantile diarrhea has largely been eradicated by public health measures which have cleaned up the milk supply.

    So in response to the first question, I would say to the theory propounded by the missionary: No! A resounding no! Do not make suffering, grieving parents mourn any more than they already are by assigning them the blame. It wasn’t true, nor was it charitable, even if it had been true.

    Comment by Researcher — April 9, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

  21. Funny, kevin! Maybe we could also arrange a system of chutes and ladders, so as congregation members are reranked, they could climb to the top of the chapel, or slide back to the overflow. That would make life a little easier for the deacons.

    tjk, your memory is one that has been suggested as a reason for the odd position of the left arm. It seems reasonable!

    jeans, my take on the first question is that the original speaker was doing what so many of us do today: Impose a blanket “rule” that doesn’t in fact exist. You know, like when speakers assume that everybody who leaves the church does so because they have committed some terrible sin, or that if you aren’t married it must be because you’re gay, or that wealth is a sign of righteousness or that if your daughter doesn’t marry in the temple it’s because you were a bad mother. I think the questioner was reporting a speaker who said something like “The destroying angel will pass you by if you obey the Word of Wisdom. The destroying angel didn’t pass you by, as shown by the deaths of your children in last winter’s diphtheria epidemic. Ergo, this is proof that you are not obeying the Word of Wisdom.” GQC assures the questioner that such is not the case.

    I’m going to leave the question about kneeling to someone else. I have a half-way understanding but don’t trust that I’m fully informed.

    As for the third question, I know of no current event that might have sparked it. As Kevin mentioned, this identical question is still raised in some places today. I’m guessing that it (today, and in 1891) comes up because some local priesthood holder has been excommunicated, and people start calculating backward to realize that the man was doing whatever he was doing at the time he baptized little Freddy or ordained Johnny to the office of priest. As far as I can tell, GQC wasn’t referring to any particular event, but was taking the worst-case scenario to make a point: “If this is true even when an apostle falls, it is true when your stake high councillor falls, too.”

    Input from anyone else?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

  22. Thanks, Researcher, we were writing at the same moment.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

  23. Ardis, you mentioned (in #3) “a recognition that regular par[ta]king of the Sacrament was an ongoing recommital to the purposes of baptism”.

    I’ve been taught that principle my whole life (it was even taught again in conference this past weekend), but it’s always seemed to be a kind of forced linkage. Neither the sacrament prayer nor the baptismal prayer refers to the other. Do you know if church members have always considered the sacrament as a renewal of baptism (complete with baptism’s attendant blessings) or if this view of sacrament arose later in church history?

    Comment by Dane — April 9, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  24. Whether or not congregants knelt or whether those pronouncing the blessing knelt or stood or rose their hand/s to the square was answered various ways by various leaders. The liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, like the rest of Mormon liturgy existed in two modes: one folk and the other formal (this is part of a paper I am working on). Eventually the liturgy was completely formalized in the early 20th century.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  25. Dane, I’m still working on this, so may yet find material that changes this; but it appears that the renewal of baptismal covenant language as applied to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper appears after rebaptism is phased out. Note that in the ordinance registers of the nineteenth century, lists the ritual as “Baptism for the renewal of covenants.”

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  26. Ardis:

    Another great post. And, yes, it is fascinating to see how practices in the Church have evolved over the decades.

    For those wondering about the ‘presiding authority getting the sacrament first’ issue, Ardis had a post a few months back where someone — I think it was George Q. Cannon again — talked about instituting this practice as a way of making the deacons more conscious of priesthood authority and organization, not out of some particular deference to the presiding authority. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — April 9, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

  27. I’d forgotten that, Bruce — when I can remember which post it was, or when someone else finds it through the Topical Guide, we’ll link to it.

    Dane, I’m glad J. answered, because he’s the one who knows. This has been a subject of discussion around the blogs lately, and I was surprised to learn that it was a modern (if not quite recent) development in doctrine. Even so, it seems to be a fuller understanding of existing doctrine, not a revolutionary change or addition. When we present ourselves for baptism because we repent, intend to keep the commandments, and want to take upon us his name, and intend to maintain our commitment, meshes very well with the sacrament prayers to “keep His commandments which He has given them” and to “take His name upon them” and to “always remember Him.” At least, *I* think so.

    (And I fixed my typo, thanks. ;) )

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  28. Thank you both, Ardis and J. I am grateful for the doctrine of sacrament renewing baptismal covenants. When I finally got that connection (which didn’t really happen until my mission) it made so much sense to me. So my question isn’t about the doctrine’s validity as much as its history.

    Comment by Dane — April 9, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  29. Ardis, I think that you make a good point. I think changes in how we talk about certain things don’t necessarily mean that that meanings changed proportionally. One of the reasons that I was somewhat equivocal in my comment was that I haven’t processed all the materials (or found them for that matter) and I have some evidence that even though the language wasn’t explicit, at least some people viewed the Lord’s Supper as renewal.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

  30. Wow, this is awesome, Ardis.

    I don’t have much to add, since the comments are great, but I want to reiterate what Ardis said in #9. There is a HUGE difference between administrative policy and doctrine, but unfortunately we tend to want doctrinal explanations for policy – to “canonize” policy, if you will.

    I wrote the following short post last month, if anyone is interested:

    When Culture Is Seen As Command

    Comment by Ray — April 9, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  31. If a man should be ordained to an office of the Melchisedek Priesthood by an apostle who is corrupt and deep in sin, but who has never been convicted of this sin, will this ordination hold good after the apostle has been convicted and cut off from the Church, or will the one whom he ordained have to receive a second ordination?

    I suppose this question could be alluding to a somewhat contemporaneous case.

    Comment by Justin — April 9, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  32. Moses Thatcher’s case didn’t come to a head until 1896 — is there another case just before 1891 that I’m not recalling, or are you meaning that Thatcher’s case was troublesome although it hadn’t reached the critical stage yet?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

  33. Albert Carrington’s case is what I had in mind.

    Comment by Justin — April 9, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  34. Oh, duh! Of course! Yes, certainly that must have been in just about everybody’s mind when they read that question.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  35. it is proper for the person asking a blessing upon the bread and the water to kneel with the Church

    I.e. the congregation is all kneeling??

    Others will have to answer as to historical practice–unless my half-century of personal experience counts as history (and I’ve never seen the congregation all kneel). But Brother Cannon takes his language “kneel with the church” from an authoritative source: Moroni 4:2 (although he drops the word “down”).

    I’ve considered at times having the congregation all kneel (when I’ve been in a position to ask them) but I’ve always chickened out. Somebody would be sure to mention it to his brother-in-law etc., and before long it would be reported that we had candles on the sacrament table, choirs in robes singing the Credo from Bach’s B-minor Mass (not a bad idea, actually, except for the robes), and ritual sacrifices at Mutual.

    Besides, none of our pews come with kneelers.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 9, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  36. One further note about kneeling: Brother Cannon says the priest should kneel “when convenient.” I have seen or heard recently instructions that make it clear that kneeling is not just for the times when it’s convenient. (Query, though, why is it important to insist on the priest’s conforming with the scriptural instruction when we ignore what appears to be an equally clear instruction to the congregation?)

    Comment by Mark B. — April 9, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  37. (Query, though, why is it important to insist on the priest’s conforming with the scriptural instruction when we ignore what appears to be an equally clear instruction to the congregation?)

    It doesn’t do violence to the grammar or sense to read “And they did kneel down with the church …” (Moroni) or “He shall kneel with the church …” (D&C) as instructing the priest to kneel in the presence of the congregation, not an instruction to the people to kneel along with the priest. Both verses are sets of instructions specifically directed to priests, not to the people.

    Somebody authoritative must have written about this — who and where?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 9, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  38. I have enjoyed the post and questions. I find it interesting that in the early days they added lines to the baptismal prayers. I would guess that if people were getting re-baptized for different reasons (recommitment, health, etc.) then it would stand to reason that the one doing the baptism would state the purpose of that particular baptism. Hmmm.

    Regarding the issue of beauty contestants in bathing suits showing physical fitness and the benefits of the WofW–I wonder what my wife would think if I brought home the annual Sports Illustrated “Physical Fitness and Benefits of the Word of Wisdom” issue. :-)

    Comment by Steve C. — April 9, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

  39. Steve C. you should totally ask SI to start calling it that. =)

    Comment by Tatiana — April 9, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

  40. Here is JFS in 1893:

    In passing, I desire to make mention of one little matter that has been a subject of some discussion by some individual members of the Church, and it has been reported to me that the matter has been discussed in meetings of the quorums of the priesthood, and that is, the mode of administering the sacrament. The contention on the part of some has been very strong indeed, that the whole congregation should kneel when the prayer is offered for the consecration of the bread, and also when the prayer is offered for the consecration of the water—for we use water in place of wine. Now, if you notice the first time that Jesus administered the bread and wine to the disciples and to the multitude, He commanded that they should sit down upon the ground, and the next time He administered the bread and wine, He commanded that they should stand upon their feet. I presume both of these positions of the body were acceptable to the Lord, and I imagine that it is not so much the position of the body as it is the worthiness of the individual to partake of the ordinance. But we have a great many brethren in the Church who are very technical on certain points, and who harp upon these technicalities to the disturbance of many individuals who are perfectly willing to remain satisfied with the examples that have been set in the Church by the highest authorities. I recollect the question being once asked in a priesthood meeting if anybody knew a time when Joseph, the Prophet, desired the people to kneel before partaking of the sacrament. There were many persons in the audience who were well acquainted with Joseph—well acquainted with the Church from its earliest organization, but there was not one individual that remembered that during the days of Joseph, when he presided over the meetings of the congregations of the Saints, the people were asked to kneel. The question was then asked if any person recollected during the presidency of President Young that he commanded or desired the people to kneel when the sacrament was being administered; no response; nobody could recollect, and yet we find in the revelations of the Lord to us that the party administering the sacrament shall “kneel with the Church and call upon the Father in solemn prayer.” I want my young brethren and sisters to notice this phraseology, “in solemn prayer, saying”—then follows the prayer that has been revealed by the revelation of God for us to offer for the consecration of the bread and the water. If I am not mistaken, the rule has now been established, and the word has been given through the highest authority, that the individuals who shall administer, or, in other words, the individuals who shall break the bread and bless it, and the individuals who shall pour out the water and bless it, shall kneel at the time they offer the prayer. I will make one remark on this occasion tonight, by way of suggestion, that when there are two, which is generally the case, to administer the bread and water, or, in other words, to prepare the bread and water for the sacrament, no matter whether they carry them or not, let these two kneel conjointly together—the one that is not mouth kneeling with his brother who asks the blessing upon either the bread or the water. I think this is proper seeing that they are acting conjointly.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

  41. #38 – Go ahead and try that. I’m too scared.

    Comment by Ray — April 9, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

  42. Ardis,

    You (and Joseph F. Smith) are right, of course. To say “kneel with the church” carries the sense you describe–that they are “with the church” when they kneel. (And that understanding certainly has carried the day, hasn’t it?)

    On the other hand, where else would they kneel if it weren’t “with the church”? Would any be concerned that the priests might be off in a closet somewhere, offering the prayer, and not allowing them to participate in that prayer?

    Which, if we were lawyers parsing the sentence as if it were a statute, would lead us to conclude that the phrase is superfluous as you and Pres. Smith have read it. And that it is only necessary if it is read to mean the whole church kneels with the priests administering the sacrament.

    The appeals to authority from the time of Brothers Joseph and Brigham are less than completely convincing in light of other changes in practice since those days.

    But, you won’t see me marching on 47 East South Temple, demanding a change in the practice. (It would help, I think, emphasize the solemnity of the occasion if we did it sometimes–say, on Easter Sunday.)

    Steve C: I’m sure that a few minutes work with Photoshop on an image downloaded from the Sports Illustrated website would give you a pretty good page that you could run past your wife for her approval.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 9, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  43. For an interesting pragmatic interpretation, Joseph E. Taylor related the following in 1894:

    Some years ago in one of the wards of this stake, though remote from this city, we were holding a ward conference. The meeting house was packed. It was rather small to begin with, although perhaps large enough for ordinary occasions. The bishop had inaugurated the system—he was technical upon the point—of having the people kneel at the time the bread and water was blessed, and I noticed a terrible confusion during the blessing of the bread. The people were packed in the house almost like sardines in a box, and to get down on their knees, and to relieve themselves from that position, created, as I have said, a vast amount of confusion. I suggested to the bishop to have the congregation seated while the blessing was being asked on the water, and have the brethren who were administering the sacrament kneel. I am satisfied in my own mind that this was correct under the circumstances. And by the way, there was another thing very distasteful to me. The floor was very dirty, and consequently a great deal of dust attached to the dresses of the people. If we must kneel we certainly ought to have a floor that is sufficiently clean upon which to kneel with some degree of satisfaction, and not have our minds charged with the thought that in kneeling we are injuring our dresses.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 9, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

  44. RE: The WofW and sickness, Zera Pulsipher recounts in his autobiography a demonic possession exorcism which he performed. However, the demons continued to return to afflict the same young man. Zera appealed to Joseph Smith Sr. for an explanation. JS, Sr. replied that it was a consequence of the boy’s parents not living the WofW. The story was reprinted in the JI twice, if I recall. The full story and references are in the Gadianton Robber article in JMH, which of course is at the office. Not hard to see Mormon folk attempting to make sense of what must have been devastating losses, making a leap of logic from there.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — April 9, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

  45. There are so many interesting comments on these questions that I don’t have anything new to add. But, I do have a question regarding JFS comments on blessing the sacrament: I will make one remark on this occasion tonight, by way of suggestion, that when there are two, which is generally the case, to administer the bread and water, or, in other words, to prepare the bread and water for the sacrament, no matter whether they carry them or not, let these two kneel conjointly together—the one that is not mouth kneeling with his brother who asks the blessing upon either the bread or the water. I think this is proper seeing that they are acting conjointly.

    Has anyone actually seen this done, both persons kneeling together? I have only seen one person at a time kneel and say the prayer while the others remain standing.

    Comment by Maurine — April 9, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

  46. On the other hand, where else would they kneel if it weren’t “with the church”? Would any be concerned that the priests might be off in a closet somewhere, offering the prayer, and not allowing them to participate in that prayer?

    I think the alternative would be to do it before the meeting so that the bread and water come “pre blessed” instead of the blessing being done “with the church”

    It is sort of like my father syaing we should bless the food when we get it home from the grocery store so we don’t have to bless it for each meal.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — April 9, 2009 @ 10:51 pm

  47. Re ##40, 43, the April 1902 Improvement Era featured this item:

    QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.

    On Administering the Sacrament.

    Is it proper, according to Church laws, in administering the sacrament when two or more are officiating, for two to kneel together; or should only one kneel at a time?

    The reader is referred to the Doctrine and Covenants, sec. 20:75-79 and to the Book of Mormon, Moroni 4:1, 3; 5:1, 2. It is customary and proper for the two who officiate in the administration of the sacrament to kneel together while the prayer is being said. In the early part of the history of the Church, when the congregrations were not so large as they are now, it was not unusual for the congregation also to kneel, but it is now both customary and proper for those two who administer the holy sacrament to kneel with the congregation; and it is also in conformity with what would seem to have been the custom of the ancient inhabitants of this continent, as declared in Moroni 4:2: “And they did kneel down with the Church, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ saying,” etc. This matter, however, may be regulated by the presiding anthority, according to local surroundings, circumstances, and conditions, though a uniform method conformable to the above is desirable.

    Thirty years ago, James Allen addressed this issue in the Ensign.

    Comment by Justin — April 10, 2009 @ 7:30 am

  48. As an elaboration on #44,the JI published three versions of the demonic possession experience and its link to the WofW, according to two versions the possessed boy’s mother “smoked tobacco and drank tea.” One account reports that the entire family eventually “became indifferent to their holy religion and apostatized, and the man who had been so miraculously healed, died a raving maniac.” (Tea anyone?) Two of these printings predate the 1891 questions that Ardis features here (two in 1884 and then another in 1894, three years after GQC attempts to dispel the notion of a connection between sickness/death and WofW). I point this out only to suggest that the question did not necessarily come from left field and that the JI was somewhat at odds with itself on the issue.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — April 10, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

  49. In response to Maureen’s question in #45, yes, both of the priests kneel in our ward. Sometimes there are two priests; sometimes three. I don’t know much about how these things work. There are a number of recent converts in my ward whose first language is Spanish, and they’ve given the sacrament prayers in Spanish a few times recently.

    Comment by Researcher — April 10, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

  50. “an Elder, preaching to the people in the place where he lived, stated that the cause of so much sickness and death among the little ones of that settlement last fall and spring was the non-observance by the people of the Word of Wisdom.”

    Let’s not adlib doctrine.

    Comment by Ed Britton — April 10, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

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