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Girls and the Sacrament Table: The View from 1950

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 10, 2012

Before anyone is offended or goes into attack mode about my straining at a gnat, please remember that “The View from …” posts are documents from the Mormon past that speak to some point – sometimes a very narrow point – of the Church’s teachings about or practices concerning women, especially our roles in the institutional Church. This 1950 article speaks to that question and so is included in the series.  It is a data point. Period.


Teachers to Prepare Sacrament Table

It is recommended that ordained Teachers be given the responsibility of preparing the sacrament table. This would include filling the cups in the water trays and the placing of the unbroken bread in the bread trays, placing these on the sacrament table after clean linens have been placed, seeing that the trays are also covered after they have been placed on the table.

It is preferred that this particular responsibility not be delegated either to LDS girls or their mothers. Custodians should not be required to perform this service. Bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood should be assigned to look after this detail of the administration of the sacrament in both Sunday School and sacrament meeting.

When the trays have been placed on the table and properly covered before the meeting begins, only Priests, or those with higher authority, are authorized to perform at the sacrament table when once the meeting is under way.



18 Comments »

  1. I see nothing offensive.

    Comment by HokieKate — February 10, 2012 @ 7:11 am

  2. I’m intrigued by the phrasing: “It is preferred that this particular responsibility not be delegated either to LDS girls or their mothers,” as if that were a possibility.

    I became a teacher in 1972 and from that time on, I was taught that preparation of the sacrament was part of the ordinance itself and therefore part of the priesthood duty.

    Interesting item, Ardis.

    Comment by Paul — February 10, 2012 @ 7:28 am

  3. I was expecting someone to complain that I was misrepresenting the item by focusing on a single line in it, HokieKate, as if that was the Church’s purpose in publishing it. Perhaps I needn’t have been so defensive, but I do want it clear that I understand the purpose of this announcement was to involve the teachers, not to restrict the girls.

    Yeah, that’s the money quote, Paul. I’ve heard unverified reports that in some places the girls were baking the bread and setting the table as a means of being as involved in the service as their deacon/priest brothers were. I think this announcement confirms that, else there would have been no more reason to mention it than to say something like “and don’t put gold candlesticks on the table, either.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 10, 2012 @ 7:49 am

  4. Technically, table preparation can’t be part of the administration of the Lord’s Supper because the Doctrine and Covenants forbids teaches and deacons from doing so. Heber J. Grant once wrote a letter affirming that. However, once preparation and passing became associated with priesthood quorums they grew to be de facto priesthood duties.

    Great find, Ardis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 10, 2012 @ 7:49 am

  5. Hartley’s “From Men to Boys” has some examples of women preparing the table.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 10, 2012 @ 7:51 am

  6. Does Hartley discuss when Priests began to routinely administer the sacrament? D&C 20:50 forbids it.

    Comment by Senile Old Fart — February 10, 2012 @ 8:45 am

  7. No, it doesn’t, SOF. If you wish to continue in such a vein, find another blog.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 10, 2012 @ 8:59 am

  8. Does “it is recommended” imply that Teachers did not necessarily have this duty before 1950?

    Comment by reed russell — February 10, 2012 @ 11:09 am

  9. That’s how I read it, reed. I think there may have been no universal practice before then, that perhaps the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood handled in some cases, girls and women in other cases, custodians in other cases, according to the accidental circumstances in individual wards. (I haven’t read the Hartley article — it’s possible that directives similar to this one had been issued earlier but had not quite taken hold. That was the case with the dress and posture of deacons, for instance; those instructions had to be repeated several times. So I can’t be sure that this is absolutely the earliest formal policy on this matter, but it appears not to have been standard before this time, at least.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 10, 2012 @ 11:28 am

  10. 1950 is a lot later than I would have guessed. Were the sacrament table linens routinely purchased, or was there a time that they were specifically made for the purpose by LDS women?

    Comment by Mina — February 10, 2012 @ 11:50 am

  11. I also recall being deathly afraid as a deacon (late 1960s) to touch a sacrament tray before it was handed to me by a priest lest I got struck down by lightning (having been threatened with such by some Teacher). At some point I realized that I would not get struck down by a bolt from heaven but that I would be violating the principle of priesthood order to follow instructions by those who were called of God by authority, etc. It’s a simple but important distinction.

    And we could probably say a justified “amen” to the priesthood of that Teacher who told me about the lightning under the principles of D&C 121.

    Comment by Grant — February 10, 2012 @ 11:54 am

  12. Daymon Smith has just posted some 1950 artifacts. Nice little trend here.

    Comment by reed russell — February 10, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

  13. Wasn’t it about this time that the offices and ages of the Aaronic Priesthood were standardized (12=Deacon; 14=Teacher; 16=Priest). Would it be possible that this was part of the same standardization–i.e. standardizing ages and duties?

    Comment by Steve C. — February 10, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

  14. 12-14-16 began in 1954, as opposed to 12-15-18 in 1908. See Hartley – http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1026&context=mormonhistory

    Comment by reed russell — February 10, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  15. Yes, the entire point was that you were not supposed to dump this duty off on the nearest woman so as to get out of work you were supposed to be doing.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — February 10, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

  16. I have always thought that if “preparing the sacrament” was per se a priesthood ordinance, then it ought to be the teachers who bake the bread. Since we allow others to bake the bread (and even slice it), then why does it require the priesthood to place it in trays?

    Comment by Left Field — February 10, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

  17. Contrary to some expressions here, I don’t think this statement, or anything else I have heard or read in an official writing (contra a folk understanding) suggests that it requires priesthood authority to spread the altar cloths or set the trays in order or put the bread on the plates — I think that it has been and is intended as a “responsibility” (as stated in this piece), an assignment, a way of giving Aaronic Priesthood boys tasks that they can assume to put an action behind the instruction “to watch over the church.”

    A generation earlier the deacons were made responsible for building fires in chapel boilers, and sweeping the chapel, and trimming the lamps, and adjusting the ventilation — those were assignments, and certainly nobody thought that they were priesthood ordinances simply because Aaronic Priesthood holders performed them. I don’t think setting the sacrament table is any different — but because it is associated with an ordinance, the lines between ordinance and assignment have been blurred in many minds.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 10, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

  18. Thank you for posting this article, Ardis. Can you verify the date and publication?

    Is this from, “Teachers to Prepare Sacrament Table,” Church News, April 2, 1950 p.11 or is it April 12, 1950 p. 11?

    It’s from the Presiding Bishopric’s Page, correct?

    Also, is this the entire article or just a portion of it?

    I appreciate any information you can provide.

    [Matthew, your citation of “Teachers to Prepare Sacrament Table,” Church News, April 2, 1950 p.11 is correct — I pulled the paper to verify it. I quote the entire article in my post. — AEP]
    Thank you.

    Comment by Matthew R. Lee — January 30, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

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