New Directive: No More Independent Sacraments

I’ve managed to patch things up a bit recently with my family. Recently I went on holiday with the family and Mr. Molly. One of the things we were both concerned about was Sunday, when the family would have their own brief church meeting. I do not know if any of my family members know that I am no longer a member of the LDS church and so in their view should not take the sacrament. Mr. Molly is a Nevermo, so he excused himself to take a walk whilst the rest of the family met. I stayed because it was the politically appropriate thing to do.

I was asked to lead the music, which I felt comfortable doing. After the ranking male priesthood member started the meeting several younger family members were asked to bear their testimonies. This is something that’s always bothered me because assigning someone to bear a testimony violates the idea that testimonies should be voluntary and impromptu, given if and when the person feels it is appropriate. One family member still living with her parents is a closeted mentally ex-Mormon. I struggled with two conflicting emotions as I listened to her testimony sharing her gratitude for the men in her life who had the priesthood. On one hand, she was saying all the right words and the older family members were genuinely moved. On the other, she was talking absolute rubbish. I told her later that if it didn’t sound too cynical, I was very impressed by her acting ability. She thanked me heartily and reiterated her wish to move out as soon as she was old enough so she could stop pretending to believe.

A moment of great relief came when the bishop leading our family meeting informed us that Salt Lake has recently decreed that it is no longer permissible for the sacrament to be administered at private gatherings of family or friends. Sacrament may now only be administered during a regulation LDS Sacrament meeting. Until now, it was the norm for families to administer their own sacrament if they were away on holiday or somehow unable to be at church on a Sunday. I watched the faces of my family very carefully when this information was conveyed. The look on each face was a mixture of surprise, sadness, and submission.

I have a few questions for members, former members and non-members:

Do you feel that this change is doctrinal?
Do you feel that this change is appropriate?
Do you feel that this change was necessary?
Why do you think this change was made?
Do you think this change was made to discourage LDS people from being away from chapels on Sundays?

If anyone has more detailed information on this policy, such as whether or not it applies to Sacrament administered privately to those who are infirm and unable to come to church, I would be interested to know that as well.

12 thoughts on “New Directive: No More Independent Sacraments

  1. The blog The Millenial Star just posted a story of a missionary who administered the sacrament to a homebound member, and it was very touching. Growing up Catholic, it just seemed right that even if you couldn’t physically get to church, there would be people who would do what they could to include you in the ritual. Coming from that perspective, it seems like a hierarchical power grab, trying to emphasize the importance of institutional power over individual/personal devotion and having to physically be at an official church building to really fill your obligations. Reminds me of the rise in emphasis on the Eucharist and official sacraments that happened during the Devotional Revolution, which solidified clerical/ecclesiastical power over lay Catholics.

  2. It’s all about control- members cannot be controlled if they gather outside the confines of a meeting house.
    Vacation? remember the general conference address where taking vacations is deemed selfish and non-supportive?
    The stranglehold on thought is weakening with the Internet- can’t have the TBM’s broadening their world perspective by meeting non-mormons and being exposed to new ideas while on vacation!
    The message- stay at home and be guaranteed your weekly portion of white bread and water. And “milk”; don’t forget the mormon gospel pablum.

  3. Molly, I think you have to consider the possibility that what changed is your parents’ awareness of long standing policies. There’s never been any such thing as “independent” sacrament meetings, they all take place under the authorization of the presiding bishop or branch president. It sometimes happens that a youth group is traveling and the bishop will have them do the sacrament, and it’s common that the sacrament will be brought to people – elderly, ill, etc. – who can’t easily make it to the church for services, but it’s always as authorized by the bishop or branch president. There may be a bishop in the family, but he doesn’t have authority outside his own boundaries.

    What may be new (I don’t have a copy of the old handbook near to verify) is that family reunions are mentioned by name as an example of NOT a sacrament meeting. I look on this favorably — turning family gatherings into a denominational event is manipulative if not outright emotional blackmail.

    For it to be included in the handbook it must have irritated a critical mass of people, at least the the question coming up.

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  5. Maybe I just led a sheltered life when I was in the church, but this is honestly the first time I have ever heard of anyone having and “independent” sacrament meeting, although for the church to issue a directive against them, they must have been going on somewhere.

    I agree with St.ain’t that the directive as all about control. On the other hand, I’ve felt for a long time that just about everythning that comes out of the COB is all about controlling the membership.

  6. Let me preface this by saying that I regularly attend Church, have a temple recommend, and don’t cause a ruckus unless I feel like I should. That being said….

    Who the hell was the one that said we have to worship God (which is an individual thing) the way that the Corporation tells us to? If I want to express my devotion to the Savior and sup with Him (which I have done before, btw, using wine, not water), why should the Brethrenites care? It’s between me and my God. The same goes for baptism. They may claim authority, and let them do it. I won’t conduct a meeting stating any any connection with the Church. But they aren’t the only ones who have “authority” (as they might suppose).

    • I think you are completely correct. Mormonism began as a wildly experimental grassroots community. It’s an absolute shame that the leadership feels the need to get so bloody imperial about the way they run things. If you believe in this faith then it should be yours on a very personal level. Without a genuine, obvious reason for restricting personal acts such as baptism it’s about sustaining control, not nurturing faith.

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  8. I’ve now left the church… but I would say the most beautiful and moving experience with the sacrament was
    In a treatment center for women with eating disorders. Fifteen women who have been through hell. No talks. A bit of discussion or sharing of short thoughts. A hymn. And the sacrament. Even now, I tear up thinking about that experience. It was the closest to God I have ever felt. If church was even sort of close to that, I might have stayed… Unfortunately, church felt like a place I was controlled; a place I was unacceptable and unloved.

    I wish the leaders and the members and the people would stop trying to control how people find God, and just let them find God. (Whatever God is, or whatever that means…)

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  10. I have been a member of the lds church since 1978. I am now 80 years old, I have been widowed twice and am sealed to both wives, I still pay my tithes & offerings,& I currently posess a valid temple recommend. I thank my Heavenly Father daily that it’s the Lord’s church & it’s members are not even part of the equation. I just simply tell my dysfunctional brethren That I use “Mind over Matter”… I don’t mind ’cause they don’t matter… One thing that they do not like about me is that I refer to “The burning in the bosom” as “Mormon Heartburn” and they should take an antacid. Blaise Pascal nailed it in one of his pensees when he said: “We must keep our thoughts secret, & judge everything by them… while talking like the masses”. It’s tragic, but they have turned the Pure Gospel of Jesus Christ into a “Proper”, “Sophisticated”, “Couth”, “Cultured, “Refined” (& all the other good nouns & verbs) religion.

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