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Do Not Raise the Sacred Strain, Gently or Otherwise

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 12, 2013

May 2, 1946

Dear Brethren:

Inquiries received at the office of the First Presidency disclose the fact that there is a divergence of opinion and varied practices among ward officers with respect to the kind of music, if any, that should be rendered during the administration of the Sacrament.

Recently, this question came before the First Presidency and the Twelve who unanimously approved the recommendation that the ideal condition is to have absolute quiet during the passing of the Sacrament, and that we look with disfavor upon vocal solos, duets, group singing, or instrumental music during the administration of this sacred ordinance.

There is no objection to having appropriate music during the preparation of the emblems, but after the prayer is offered, perfect silence should prevail until the bread and the water have been partaken of by the full congregation.

It was further suggested, and unitedly agreed upon, that the Sacrament should be first given to the presiding authority in the meeting. This may be the bishop, perhaps one of the stake presidency, or one of the visiting General Authorities. It is the duty of the priest officiating to determine who is the presiding authority present; thus, whenever the Sacrament is administered, members of the Aaronic Priesthood officiating will have a lesson in Church government.

When the Sacrament is given first to the presiding authority, those officiating may pass the Sacrament consecutively to members of the Church who are sitting on the rostrum and in the audience.

It was also the conclusion of the Council to recommend to the Superintendency and General Board of the Deseret Sunday School Union that local Sunday Schools be advised that the significance of partaking of the Sacrament will be enhanced if no music be given at that period. Undoubtedly, there will be those who will claim that soft, appropriate music contributes to better order; but careful consideration of the institution and purpose of the Sacrament will lead to the conclusion that anything which detracts the partaker’s thought from the covenants he or she is making is not in accordance with the ideal condition that should exist whenever this sacred, commemorative ordinance is administered to the members of the Church.

Reverence for God and for sacred things is fundamental in pure religion. Let every boy and girl, every man and woman in the Church, manifest this principle by maintaining perfect order by self-communion whenever and wherever the Sacrament is administered.

Sincerely yours,

Geo. Albert Smith
J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
David O. McKay

The First Presidency



12 Comments »

  1. The letter makes it sound as if the idea of serving the presiding officer first had not previously occurred to anybody. Is that the case?

    Comment by Last Lemming — April 12, 2013 @ 7:51 am

  2. I don’t know, LL, although I agree with you that it does sound like a first-time announcement, with a lot more detail than you would expect from a reminder of an established practice.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 12, 2013 @ 8:32 am

  3. Great title!

    There’s a glaring lack of reference to white shirts and ties. I know we’ve discussed that before (I think!) — was that a later practice?

    Comment by Amy T — April 12, 2013 @ 9:07 am

  4. Hear, hear! Or not as the case may be (not quit as clever as Ardis but I’m working on it)

    Comment by Grant — April 12, 2013 @ 9:22 am

  5. Amy, earlier than this they had talked about not expecting the deacons to dress in any kind of a uniform; by 1954 they were talking much, much closer to our current white-shirt-and-tie practice. (I didn’t grab the link when I looked it up and I’m too lazy to go back, but a search for “Dressing the Deacons” in the Topical Guide will locate all the earlier posts related to deacons/priests and the sacrament.

    Once in a Sunday School lesson I referred to the past practice of music during the sacrament, and however I said it, it sounded like the practice was way, way back in dinosaur days. Several older ward members almost indignantly told me that they remembered this practice, so it wasn’t so long ago. I was pleased to come across this letter in order to know exactly when the practice changed.

    Once in a while the great Title Muse strikes. I’m happy to know you enjoy the corniness when it does strike. :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 12, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  6. The most interesting part of this letter is the fact that the instruction to the Sunday School was styled as a recommendation. I don’t think the Council “recommends” anything to the auxiliary organizations anymore.

    About Amy T’s comment, I wonder how available non-white dress shirts were in 1946. It may be that the only pink shirts available back then were those mistakenly washed with the gents’ red woolen winter underwear.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 12, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  7. And that’s a decidedly unsacred stain.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 12, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  8. I’m trying to nail down the date of the presider getting tihe Sacrament first. This is about the right time, though I’ve heard some evidence for earlier. This is really cool. Thanks Ardis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 12, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  9. I don’t know whether to send you to the penalty box, Mark, or put a crown on your head after that one …

    I am reading the missionary letters of an American elder in Texas in 1925-26. His working wardrobe apparently contains both a green shirt and a light orange shirt.

    And thanks for pointing out the “recommendation.” Fascinating.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 12, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  10. So many gems. I was always taught that deacons administered to the presider first in case the prayers were wrong. Who knew this was simply a teaching opportunity?

    Also, my parents indicate that that some sunday school sacraments kept the music going for at least another 10 years in some areas.

    I guess the last vestige of this tradition is the organist who continues the sacrament hymn accompaniment after the congregation runs out of verses before the priests run out of bread to break.

    Comment by The Other Clark — April 12, 2013 @ 10:35 am

  11. Tell you what, Ardis. Both. I’ll wear the crown in the penalty box.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 12, 2013 @ 11:28 am

  12. Well, this answers one of the questions raised in my post of a couple of months ago:

    Sacrament Meeting, Brooklyn, 1873

    Comment by Kent Larsen — April 17, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

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