Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Attention Sisters! This Document Intended for Male Eyes Only!

Attention Sisters! This Document Intended for Male Eyes Only!

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 17, 2014

I spotted this document left on a bench where the elders who pass the sacrament in our ward (we have no Aaronic Priesthood) had been sitting. Although I have suspected for decades that such documents exist and circulate within the quorums, this is the first time I have beheld such a thing with my natural eyes. Gaze upon it if you dare, sisters — this is a rare opportunity to peek behind the veil.

(Okay, I’m being silly. But brethren, can you understand why so many women have little understanding of the oath and covenant of the priesthood, or the nature of priesthood itself, when our only exposure to either doctrine or practice is as passive observers? when discussion of priesthood is generally limited to persuading us that we-do-but-we-don’t have a priesthood role? This document illustrates something you don’t give a second thought to, but which fascinated me by its novelty and practicality.)





  1. What a tease!

    Comment by ErinAnn — August 17, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

  2. Looks like the Danites will be riding tonight.

    Comment by STW — August 17, 2014 @ 6:12 pm

  3. I’ve got two sons, so I know about these. In my previous ward, the outline was complicated by one deacon in a wheelchair, needing to be pushed by another deacon (he has since been ordained a teacher) and the need to get the piece of rice wafer to the person with celiac disease. Sometimes you could see the boys pouring over the diagram before taking their seats at the beginning of the meeting.

    Comment by LauraN — August 17, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

  4. I see you use the configuration for a medium sized ward (8 passers), though the number 8 on the stand surprises me. Usually it only takes 1 person to do the stand unless you have the ward choir up there or something.

    In my ward growing up we used the large ward model with 12 passers (yes we always had enough deacons, we even had to rotate which deacons would pass). At one point the young men’s president changed the way we passed the sacrament and I remember thinking, “You can’t do that! It’s a church law or something.” It took me about a week to get over it and like the new method. We had 3 deacons per each side of the aisle (and sometimes more!) because we had 500+ people each week in my ward.

    My current ward only uses 6 passers, but their instructions are in color!

    Comment by quantumleap42 — August 17, 2014 @ 6:54 pm

  5. Over the course of several decades, a custom arose (throughout the church, in my experience) of having the deacons wait at the sacrament table until the bishop took the sacrament. I never liked that. It’s one thing to serve the bishop first, it’s another to draw attention it. We didn’t used to wait at the table when I was a deacon in the early ’70s.

    Thankfully, I don’t see that much any more. The current handbook explicitly says it’s not necessary.

    Comment by Left Field — August 17, 2014 @ 7:30 pm

  6. So much for the “unwritten” order of things . . .

    Comment by JimD — August 17, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

  7. Having #8 go to the stand makes practical sense, so #1 doesn’t have to cross back in front of the Bishopric to get those he skipped on the first pass directly to the Bishop.

    I recently got drafted into passing and could have used a document like this to study beforehand. Instead we resorted to whispers and hand waving when I lined up on the wrong side at the back of the chapel. It was a close call…

    Comment by Steve G. — August 17, 2014 @ 8:03 pm

  8. Oh the stress this brings back!!! I remember, as a young deacon, desperately trying to memorize the diagram and being terrified I would mess it up somehow.

    Comment by Braden — August 17, 2014 @ 8:12 pm

  9. That was fun. I knew there had to be something behind the magic.

    Comment by Tatum — August 17, 2014 @ 9:22 pm

  10. The south Provo ward we moved into a few months ago has a current paucity of young men, so I’ve helped passed the sacrament at least a few times so far. What impresses me the most is how confident and unintimidated the deacons are in patiently explaining to us older types just where we’re supposed to go. I have great respect for them. :-)

    Comment by bfwebster — August 17, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

  11. Twelve passers?!! Most Sundays we have four, sometimes five when there are a lot of people. I guess we are small. And yes we have that sheet too. But whatever you do, don’t look behind the curtain (door, alcove, or whatever) It is an ongoing fight to keep it clean enough to keep away the pests. First thing I did as Young Mens President was to insist they clean the trays every week.

    Novelty and practicality are two words I would freely associate with Mormonism.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — August 17, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

  12. There is no diagram in our ward in California. The six deacons and teachers (with the possibility of a father tossed in for good measure–especially during the summer vacation months) keep the diagram in their heads and know where 1 through 6 should be at all times. We have an even smaller priests quorum (2) at the moment, so my oldest son constantly asks me to join him at the sacrament table. What I find funny, as was mentioned by bfwebster, is to watch the 12-year-olds give directions to the “old guys.” With looks of concentration and hand signals, I can see the occasional father (or missionary) trying to get and keep the verbal diagram straight in his head. :)

    Comment by Chris M — August 17, 2014 @ 11:06 pm

  13. My son is teachers quorum president of a ward with only 2 deacons. If the deacon president is gone,and that is often the case, the other deacon, (no calling) is then in charge of giving my son the directions for the teachers who are assisting the deacons.

    Comment by Juliathepoet — August 18, 2014 @ 12:04 am

  14. This whole thing makes me smile.

    It also makes me wish we could find some way to finagle some sort of “tell your elders how it’s done” experience for the Young Women. I got called as my mom’s Visiting Teaching companion when I was sixteen, but that’s about as close as it got (and yes, it isn’t close at all).

    Comment by S — August 18, 2014 @ 8:00 am

  15. In my mind, there is a direct connection between my old quorum’s version of this map and my paper route map. I can draw them both pretty well today. Or at least my mind thinks so.

    Comment by Grant — August 18, 2014 @ 8:33 am

  16. Yeah, ours also has notes about celiac. The family that has been involved for years has sat directly behind the deacons so that their server can easily return for a new tray with wheat on it.

    But a while back, a new convert joined who also needs the GF version. That person is too shy to sit near the front, so the deacon have to take the tray back to that person and then return to the front to swap out the tray. Which mot people don’t notice but my husband was training the deacons for a while.

    Comment by Naismith — August 18, 2014 @ 8:38 am

  17. I must admit that we elders got this idea from a very old cross stitching pattern that some Relief Society sister left on a church bench a few generations ago. Prior to that time, passing the Sacrament was a very confusing event that often led to fisticuffs in the aisles.

    This just shows yet again that the priesthood holders never have any original ideas, but get them all from the sisters….

    Comment by rameumptom — August 18, 2014 @ 9:42 am

  18. Genius headline, Ardis. Also, wonderful artifact-y content. This was a fun read.

    Comment by MDearest — August 18, 2014 @ 3:11 pm

  19. First thing I did as Young Mens President was to insist they clean the trays every week.

    And make sure they empty the trash. First building cleaning assignment I had, I went back there and the trash can was a total science project.

    In my current ward, we have rice cake on every tray.

    Comment by Last Lemming — August 18, 2014 @ 3:11 pm

  20. This makes me think of a question I’ve had since Junior Primary. Hannah took Samuel to the temple to serve there. The picture they showed us was a little boy standing there with his arms out in front of some pottery and stuff. I always wondered what he actually did there. Maybe he cleaned the trays and took out the garbage for the first 12 years. It’s always been in the back of my mind and I think of things he could do once in a while.

    Comment by Carol — August 18, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

  21. I had only son’s so this diagram was not new to me. I have just finished a mission with my husband and watched often as the missionaries augmented the deacons in various wards. Being so shortly removed from their own “deaconhood” the missionaries never seemed to get flustered by the hand/head signals from the 12-13 year olds.
    I do think that if more women realized that the duties of the priesthood are probably 60% practicality/organizational and 40% spiritual, they would be much less inclined to desire the extra work. Also we women have been organizing for centuries and helping the priesthood continue to function. The Lord knew that, that is why he gave the commandment in 1 Corinthians 11;11.
    I have always loved the statement by Gordon B. Hinckley, “What do we do for our women? We get out of their way and look with wonder at what they are accomplishing.” (8 March 2000, Address to Press in Washington DC)

    Comment by Kathleen — August 18, 2014 @ 8:32 pm

  22. Left Field- My ward still has the deacons (or missionaries or whoever, since our ward has shrunk by >50% in the last 18 months) waiting at the sacrament table.

    Comment by Ben S — August 19, 2014 @ 6:40 am

  23. Love this, Ardis!

    One complication I recall from my time as a deacon is that the assignments got shuffled between the bread and the water. The order for the water was determined by the order deacons lined up after finishing with the bread, so you could be #1 for the bread and end up #5 for the water, or whatever. Figuring that out stressed me out for a while. I haven’t watched carefully, but I think all the wards I’ve lived in since have just stuck with having the same person do the same assignment for both, which makes a lot more sense.

    Comment by Ziff — August 19, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

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