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The Deacons’ Meeting, 1925

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 30, 2009

Ralph Olpin (1910-2002) was a 15-year-old deacon when he gave the following short talk concerning the duties of a deacon and the operation of a deacons’ quorum.

Despite the remarkable maturity of expression and organization here, the language still sounds to me like that of a young man (not an adult ghostwriter).

As I’ve tediously repeated, I have little to no contact with young people – our ward has no Aaronic priesthood except for a recent adult convert. Does this talk, and the activities outlined in it (updated, of course, to use contemporary activities other than cutting wood for widows), represent the level of responsibility shown by the young men in your ward?

What do your wards do to develop maturity and responsibility in young people?

What kinds of church activities did you participate in as a young person that you credit for helping to develop your own responsibility?

The Deacons’ Meeting

Ralph Olpin (Pleasant Grove LDS Seminary), a Deacon

Fellow deacons and holders of the Priesthood: I desire to discuss the quorum meeting and its purposes. In most cases the deacons meet with all the priesthood for opening exercises. After separation it is best to have a song and prayer unless you have to stay in the same room.

Who should take charge of the meeting, the class or the president? It is the duty of the president along with his counselors. After singing and prayer the secretary should call the roll. Every member’s name should be called. After this, he should read brief minutes of the previous meeting. Then those who have been assigned special duties should give report. Some may wonder what is meant by this. Each week there are certain duties of the deacons to be done. Some of these are: Passing the sacrament, taking care of the sacrament set, gathering monthly fast offerings, ushering, acting as messenger to the bishop, cleaning the meetinghouse, outside activities, and missionary work to interest absent and inactive members.

After these reports the president should assign duties for the following week. Let us mention some of these duties. The sacrament should be passed in an orderly way. The president will assign enough of the members present at the meeting to pass the sacrament the following Sunday. Each should know his place and be as quiet as possible; in dress, neat, hands and face clean, hair combed, shoes blacked. It is the duty of the deacons to deliver the sacrament set to the person who washes it and also to see that it is on hand at Sunday school. The president should appoint someone in the quorum meeting to see to this. Following each meeting two or three deacons should be appointed to visit the homes of those who did not give their fast offering in meeting. A member of the presidency should see to the fast gathering or observe any instructions that the bishop of the ward may give to the deacons. In some wards deacons are assigned to usher the people to the place where they will be most comfortable. This duty should be carried on in orderly manner by deacons appointed in the quorum meeting. A deacon should always be prepared to act as messenger for the bishop. If the bishop has an important message for the people he may ask the deacons to carry it to them, and the deacons so appointed should respond to the call promptly. In some wards it is left to the deacons to clean and heat the meetinghouse. The necessary number for this duty should be appointed in quorum meeting. On Saturday they should sweep and dust. They should respect the House of the Lord and not yell, run, or use improper language in it.

Such outside duties as cutting wood for widows should also be taken care of in quorum meeting. If there are any inactive members in the quorum, active members should be appointed to go and get them to try to attend to their duties.

Now as to other things, if any new deacon has been ordained and is to be a member of the quorum he should be accepted by a vote of the members. Any other business that the members may have should be taken up in the meeting at the proper time and place.

It is all right for deacons to have their sport, as athletic contests between quorums, as long as they attend to their duties. In each quorum meeting there should be a lesson given which should be taken from the outline for deacons’ study provided by the Church. this should be given under the direction of the class leader, and all the deacons should be given a chance to take parts of the lesson to prepare and deliver. In closing the quorum meeting there should be an appropriate song and one of the members should offer the benediction.

I wonder how many of us know the purpose of the quorum meeting? One purpose is to develop a devotional attitude, to learn how to show our respect to the most high God. We learn the sacred hymns and each member is given a chance to pray. When he has a part of the lesson to give, and he stands up before the rest of the deacons, it gives him some practice that will be of great benefit to him all his life, especially if he goes on a mission. He will be better able to teach and preach the gospel and bear his testimony with dignity and without fear. He learns his duties and how to perform them so that he may be worthy of promotion. He also learns to respect the meetinghouse because it is the duty of a deacon to maintain order. This is quite a difficult problem, because at the age of the deacons it is hard to keep quiet. In the winter the boys have a tendency to enter the building before stamping the snow off their feet. Sometimes they take their sleighs in and drop them down, making a noise. This should be stopped.

“Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” Doc. and Cov. 132:8, “Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings. Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time, and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.” Doc. and Cov. 88:121, 122.

Therefore, fellow deacons, after the Lord has given us these commandments, why should the Lord’s servants appointed to keep order, make a noise and cause confusion?

May we all be able to do our duty as deacons and keep God’s commandments and be true servants in honoring our office in the Priesthood.



13 Comments »

  1. Ardis,
    My answer is a qualified “yes,” these are still the duties and concerns of the Deacon’s quorum. The speech actually captures quite well the current assignments and expectations–and the problems (the noisy entering the building, for example). Our deacons (a small group at the moment, but they have help from the 15 member Teacher’s quorum… when my Primary 11 year olds get that old soon, there’ll be some dozen deacons or more) have regular presidency meetings, collect fast offerings, sit with the bishop and act as his messenger, pass the sacrament, clean the trash cans from the building at the end of church, especially dirtied diapers (or alternatively, if we are the first ward meeting, set up chairs for classes), plan activities, participate in sports, and do service projects of all kinds.

    The qualification I mention, however, is whether the local adult advisors catch the vision: to train up these future leaders by letting them lead themselves. The boys have to learn to teach one another, to discern how to make assignments to others and to establish the pattern of “return and report”, to reach out to missing quorum members in fellowship. Where the adults don’t clue in, and retain the reins, (or worse, turn them over only on the expectation of snatching them back again at the first sign of trouble) the boys don’t learn these things.

    Comment by Coffinberry — August 30, 2009 @ 8:18 am

  2. One more thing… as I mentioned, we have recently gone through a stretch where there has been only one or two or three deacons in the quorum. What has delighted me is to see, during the lead up to sacrament meeting, is the deference to the Deacon’s quorum president in the assigning of who shall help pass the sacrament. After finishing preparing the sacrament, the Teacher’s quorum president asks the deacon’s quorum president who he would like to have help pass the sacrament; this may include brethren from the Elders’ and High Priests’ Quorum. These brethren come to the DQP to ask which part of the chapel they should serve.

    Our ward has a remarkable tradition of having the majority of the members seated (and relatively quietly–and I mean that most seriously) listening to prelude ten minutes before sacrament meeting. Watching this respect to the DQP as the details of passing the sacrament are arranged has been something I really enjoy.

    Comment by Coffinberry — August 30, 2009 @ 8:24 am

  3. Wow! That (the deference to the DQP and his stewardship) is wonderful to hear about — I’d enjoy watching that if we had deacons in our ward. The rest of your remarks are both encouraging and cautionary; thanks for making the effort to type them out.

    I hope others will weigh in with descriptions from their own wards, as well as comments on what you’ve said.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 30, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  4. Ack! Sorry about that, Ardis. I get verbose.

    Comment by Coffinberry — August 30, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  5. At least you’re talkin’ to me. Thanks, Coffinberry — your comments are always welcome.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 30, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

  6. Thanks for this interesting piece. The writer’s tone is polite if a bit stiff — not unlike a lot of the well-meaning AP youth in the Church today!

    In our Ward, the AP youth are in charge of manning the sacrament duties each week for a rehab/nursing home that lies within our ward boundaries. They are almost all intent on doing their duty. I’m not sure they always rise to the level of “maturity,” but to do some of the service they do bespeaks a good upbringing.

    As an aside, there’s something wonderful about the fact that the writer’s first example of “outside duties” was “cutting wood for widows.” I think it suggests that he’s had some experience with that particular chore.

    Comment by Hunter — August 30, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

  7. I was interested in the comment that the deacons were to have their shoes blacked. Today in our Sacrament Meeting, one of the deacons had on a pair of bright turquoise blue high top canvas shoes. It was really a distraction, as everyone in sight of him was concentrating on his shoes and not on the Saviour.

    Comment by Maurine — August 31, 2009 @ 12:02 am

  8. I agree with Coffin berry that much of this is still relevant, except:
    In our ward, taking care of the sacrament set is relegated to the Teachers Quorum. Also, the quorum doesn’t vote on admitting new members. The bishop asks for a vote from the entire congregation in sacrament meeting, after explaining he has been interviewed and found worthy.
    Many things I did as a deacon in the ’80s (bishop’s messenger, usher, the “roving microphone” during fast and testimony meeting, etc.) have now disappeared.

    We do have a member of the presidency teach the rest of the quorum on the 1st sunday of the month (same as EQ and RS) which has yielded surprisingly good results.

    Comment by Clark — August 31, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  9. Obstensibly, the DQP is supposed to be the senior patrol leader of the ward’s troop, so the biggest area of responsibility is the scout program on Wednesday night (or another night), in conjunction with the youth leaders.

    I have argued for years with a friend about how it’s counterproductive to automatically make the DQP the senior patrol leader, if the DQP is not going to be engaged in Scouting. My friend’s retort has always been that you go in the opposite direction: You find the kid you want to be the senior patrol leader and make him the DQP.

    Comment by queuno — August 31, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

  10. As for gathering fast offerings, any active, weekly Church-attending member who doesn’t include the fast offering with the tithing check, needs to be reeducated by the deacons on the use of modern collection techniques… (i.e., INCLUDE IT WITH THE DARN CHECK AND SKIP THE VISIT).

    (Obviously, those who may not be able to attend Church and don’t have the ability to mail a check are excluded and should get a visit…)

    Comment by queuno — August 31, 2009 @ 11:26 pm

  11. queuno:

    Amen, and amen.

    Comment by Hunter — September 1, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  12. The collecting of fast offerings by the deacons no doubt is a holdover from earlier times when people’s offerings were not checks, but were produce and flour and firewood.

    If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to replace those outdated duties with some more attuned to the times. Perhaps the deacons could be assigned to help old people (in this case, 40 and over!) with programming their cell phones or hooking up new printers to their computers.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 1, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  13. Great idea, Ardis. I like the idea of helping the “olders” get a little more connected. This would be a great focus for a service project or three.

    In the context of fast offerings, there will probably always be those folks who have to be visited because they never quite make it to church and won’t bother to make a contribution unless there’s a deacon standing on the front porch. On top of that, like was mentioned, some folks can’t get out and the little visit on the front porch is probably a good thing, even if not fuel- or time-efficient.

    By the way, Clark, our ward still uses the roving microphone (two, actually). The AP boys sit at the front in chairs waiting for their cue.

    Comment by Hunter — September 1, 2009 @ 10:22 am

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