The Rocky Shore

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

To Shave Or Not To Shave... Pt. 2

Ok, so I am going to rant about my parents stake again… I really don’t have a problem with the church hierarchy in general, it’s just that my parents stake is so weird…

The first gripe I have I’ve been planning on posting about for a while (FHM is going to love this one): the women in the stake are not allowed to say the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. My mother had a real problem with this so she asked the bishop where this policy originated. She pursued him for a while, and finally he called Salt Lake, and they said that such policies were up to the Stake President. She talked to the Stake President about it, and he basically said tough, that is just the way it is in their stake; they like a priesthood holder to open sacrament meeting.

The second gripe I have is based upon a new policy they came out with. This one wouldn’t really bother me if they weren’t weird already, but… they have decided that they will no longer serve the sacrament to those in the foyer. The reasoning is that the bishop needs to see who is taking the sacrament, because he is their respective judge in Israel. Since he cannot see who is in the foyer, they can’t partake of the sacrament. At least this one has some logic behind it (albeit strained in my opinion). I don't know how many times I've been stuck out in the foyer due to the antics of my daughter. Now I have to miss the sacrament because my wife gave birth to Rosemary’s Baby?

My question is this: what the heck is going on up there? How much latitude is the State Presidency given? They’ve also said that from now on, visiting in the chapel is a no-no. It seems like the soup nazi has taken control! What is a member to do when faced with such silliness?


  • There used to be a policy about women not praying at all in Sacrament Meeting. The shift is detailed in the SWK biography by his son.

    As a bishopric member we were given the same directive about the Sacrament. The feeling behind it was not the "judge in Israel" issues, but the fact that so many members were arriving late and were hanging out in the foyer throughout the meeting time - by limiting sacramentm to those in the chapel, it encouraged all the stargglers to get into their seats and participate in the meeting. Those going out with children were the unfortunate casualties, though the bishop was very tolerant of the screaming while families waited to get sacrament befor exiting the chapel.

    By Blogger Gilgamesh, at Tuesday, August 22, 2006 4:38:00 PM  

  • Gilgamesh,
    Each thing, taken by itself, doesn't really bother me (except women not being allowed to pray, that does bother me). Your explanation actually makes sense. It is the totality of it all that is bothersome. I mean, there are just so many other things to worry about instead of the silly things they’re fixating on.

    By Blogger Jared E., at Tuesday, August 22, 2006 4:46:00 PM  

  • Ok, it's official. I will make every attempt to stay away from your parent's stake. Over our pulpit it was explained that you should be in your seats for the sacrament not arriving late. They still pass to the foyer for anybody who is out there. Next thing you know they will be saying you can only take the sacrament with your RIGHT hand. (I've actually heard this before believe it or not)

    By Blogger jared, at Tuesday, August 22, 2006 8:33:00 PM  

  • I think I must live in your parents' stake. Totally nutty--don't we have bigger problems to deal with?

    A friend of the family is an area authority and my dad (lives in a neighboring stake) delights in telling him about my stake and branch craziness. The authority, unfortunatly, can generally trump these examples with more troubling happenings in other stakes. Maybe we shoulden't trust our SPs so much.

    By Blogger a spectator, at Wednesday, August 23, 2006 11:23:00 AM  

  • A search on under the html section of the Gospel Library sheds some light ... key words: sacrament "right hand"

    Q. Is it necessary to take the sacrament with one’s right hand? Does it really make any difference which hand is used?
    Russell M. Nelson, “Questions and Answers,” Tambuli, July 1983, 22
    Russell M. Nelson, Regional Representative, former general president of the Sunday School.

    As Rachel lay dying in the pain of childbirth, she named her new son Ben-oni, which in Hebrew means “son of my sorrow” or “distress.” But her bereaved husband, Jacob (Israel), changed the name of their newborn son, perhaps to avoid a repeated reference to her travail and death each time his son’s name might be spoken. The name he chose instead was Benjamin, which in Hebrew means “son at the right (hand).” (See Gen. 35:16–19.) Israel’s great love for his beloved Rachel was signified by this special designation given to Benjamin, his twelfth son.

    That the right hand suggests symbolic preference or favor is suggested again in the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus said:

    “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

    “And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

    “And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

    “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:31–34.)

    Scriptural accounts give some background and insight into the symbolic significance of the right hand—a symbolism that appears in the language and other cultural features of the Jewish and Christian world. In Latin, for example, dexter (right) and sinister (left) not only indicated right and left but became the roots for adjectives carrying favorable and unfavorable connotations. The use of the right hand as a symbolic gesture was in time extended to the administration of government oaths, and to the courtroom, as witnesses were called to testify under oath.

    With this background understood, we may now focus on the question of which hand we might prefer to use when partaking of the sacrament.

    The word sacrament comes from two Latin stems: sacr meaning “sacred,” and ment meaning “mind.” It implies sacred thoughts of the mind. Even more compelling is the Latin word sacrament, which literally means “oath or solemn obligation.” Partaking of the sacrament might therefore be thought of as a renewal by oath of the covenant previously made in the waters of baptism. It is a sacred mental moment, including (1) a silent oath manifested by the use of one’s hand, symbolic of the individual’s covenant, and (2) the use of bread and water, symbolic of the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior of the world.

    Parents are sometimes concerned about which hand their children use to partake of the sacrament. As a means of education, preparation, and training, unbaptized children in the Church are offered the sacrament “to prefigure the covenant they will take upon themselves when they arrive at the years of accountability.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 660.) Therefore, it is very important that they develop a good feeling and a sacred mental attitude about the symbolism and significance of the sacrament. Parents who wish to teach the importance of this sacred experience might make the topic a part of family home evening instruction. Then, if a reminder becomes necessary in a meeting, it may be given quietly, in patience and love.

    Partaking of the sacrament is a sacred mental process, and as such it becomes a very personal one for me. I think of the covenants being made between me and Deity as the prayers are pronounced. I think of God offering his Only Begotten Son. I think of the atoning sacrifice of my Savior, Jesus Christ. The sacrament was instituted by him. For all mankind, even me, he offered his flesh and blood and designated the bread and the water as symbolic emblems. Because I have a right hand, I offer it in partaking of the sacrament as an oath, that I will always remember his atoning sacrifice, take his name upon me and remember him, and keep the commandments of God.

    This is a sacred privilege for all faithful Saints each Sabbath day.

    Gospel topic: sacrament

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, August 23, 2006 1:55:00 PM  

  • So here’s the running list as it stands now: No men should have any facial hair, women should not be allowed to say the opening prayer, no serving of the sacrament to those in the foyer area, no visiting in the chapel, only take the sacrament with your right hand.
    Cleary there are indeed other more important things to worry about and, if you wanted to, I’m sure you could make for quite an entertaining mental exercise in just imagining any further way you could undermine the doctrine of free-agency however, it is the fact that these inane fiat’s ACTUALLY HAVE been sent down somewhere (assuming this is for real) that ought to give one cause for worry. I’m not sure such flagrant trespasses against a central tenant of a religion (to have the freedom to choose for oneself) and the actual actions of its founder-yes that man with the full beard who lines the hallways if this institution is a representation of Christ himself-are in any way benign.
    And what about the way such incongruity might get perceived by a prospective church member? A lot of this I’m sure would just be seen by many as downright creepy. Did the architects of such creepiness give any thought to that? One has to wonder what the real origins of some of this stuff is. Perhaps no more complicated than simply an opportunity to assert one’s power, much like an overzealous boss who spends much of his time only looking for such opportunities rather than working to advance the essential objectives of the organization he is assigned with overseeing. Or perhaps it is just simple incompetence we’re dealing with here-that is the explanation I would prefer to believe, but something tells me it probably isn’t so; something tells me we wouldn’t see such ‘silliness’ if it were a woman, unburdened by ego, who was entrusted with making these decisions.
    So is the simple idea of requiring all men to be clean shaven and barring woman the privilege of saying the opening prayer silly? Without a doubt. Is actually incorporating it as a matter of policy to the point of addressing it as a part of the temple recommend interview silly? I’m not laughing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, August 23, 2006 3:45:00 PM  

  • I have been in a stake where only men opened the sacrament meeting with a prayer. This same stake also said you should take the sacrament with your right hand. They also said you shouldn't open your scriptures during sacrament meeting because the page shuffling was a distraction to the Spirit. I was at Ricks College at the time.
    The truth is, it doesn't matter. Perhaps at one point it did matter, (like the number of steps you could take on the sabbath.) Now, it does not matter. These rules or suggestions detract from the main missions of the church. Do these rules perfect the saints, redeem the dead, or preach the Gospel? NO, in fact, they all create a more judgmental, cult-like atmosphere that deters investigators.
    For heaven's sake, take the sacrament with your left hand, grow a beard, and let women say the opening prayer. Or at least, don't push your agenda on others.

    By Blogger Jilopa, at Wednesday, August 23, 2006 9:51:00 PM  

  • In response to the 3:45:42 pm comment.

    I'm sorry, but as an avid supporter of the Free Agency doctrine, I cannot agree with you here. Free Agency gives us the right to choose what we are going to do, not the right to decide for ourselves which way is "correct". For example, if I were seeking baptism, and decided to just get sprinkled and thus become a Mormon, I would certainly be exercising agency but I would also have corrupted the ordinance of God. (I suppose we should all stop using that example now, as is starting to become a bit embarassing, however.) The fact is, there are certain ways and customs prescribed by God. Others are indeed superfluous, optional things, niceties that have been added on. But, if a Stake President or Bishop requires it to participate in their meeting fully, and if it is in their authority to make such a requirement, which I believe it is, then it must be respected or you're welcome to not attend the meeting, understanding the consequences that go along with that concerning Temple recommends, or to report them to one of their superiors.

    On the other hand, as soon as I heard the notion of required shaving coming out a few years back, I stopped shaving each Sunday morning, so that I always look scruffy for Church, and sometimes I grow out a beard. :)

    By Blogger Jeff, at Thursday, August 24, 2006 11:48:00 AM  

  • Thanks everyone for your great comments. I really can see both sides of the coin. Jeff makes a decent point that it is within the power of the stake presidency to require such things (whether or not they are rediculous), and that it is our choice whether or not to follow them.

    I also really enjoyed A Spectator's comments, I'd like to hear some of those examples that "...generally trump these examples...:

    As far as taking the sacrement with our right hand, you're on your own with that one. Whether or not Russell Nelson said it, I still think it is silly.

    Ultimately I think I'll side with Jared who said "I will make every attempt to stay away from your parent's stake". If you can't beat 'em, avoid 'em like the plague!

    By Blogger Jared E., at Thursday, August 24, 2006 12:17:00 PM  

  • Jeff,
    As it relates to the notion of free-agency I think the issue has been a little muddled with your attempting to conflate an obvious ordinance of God (baptism) with an obvious absurdity (shaving your facial hair) in a manner implying some kind of equivalency, as far as the compulsion to comply is concerned. Free-agency begins to lose all of its meaning when the arbiters of moral prudence begin too obsessively identify any possibility for transgression and then, in some kind of George Bushian fashion, preempt even the chance that one might be faced with a situation which would require them to exercise their God-given autonomy to freely choose what is right or wrong. If you’re a believer in the danger of the ‘slippery slope’ then you can imagine the situation one might be faced with if such arbitrary requisites were allowed to be taken to their logical extremes in all other aspects of our lives. You can rest assured such a scenario would not bode well for anyone’s “free-agency”.

    Perhaps the concept of free-agency isn’t so concrete after all; perhaps, sometimes, sovereign choice itself is the crucial determinant in deciphering between good and bad, right and wrong. When it comes to these superfluous things, the outcomes of these choices might not always be the same from person to person and (everyone hold your breath), that may not necessarily imply that someone must be right and someone must be wrong. I realize we’re delving into a fundamental philosophical question of absolute vs. relative meaning, but I believe the question of free-agency is intimately related. When it comes to what we know to be required for salvation as laid out by God ie. proper baptism, keeping commandments ect., these bare the quality of absolute meaning; black and white prevail. But when it comes to the superfluous, the full spectrum of color regulates this domain of existence, where answers to what’s right and wrong become more contextual and relational. Incidentally this is where free-agency actually comes in quite handy, and, confronting the dictates of a steak president who has an over-active imagination is no exception. Is it "within their authority to make such requirements”? Absolutely. Is it within their capacity to require things bordering on the asinine? Apparently so.

    As you say, the decision whether or not to comply is yours alone. I suppose the decision would require one such as me to weigh the personal importance of having a temple recommend over the amplitude of the internal pull to do what’s “right” about a particular issue which has only relative meaning.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, August 24, 2006 4:04:00 PM  

  • Israel’s great love for his beloved Rachel was signified by this special designation given to Benjamin, his twelfth son.

    Just being picky here...

    We really do not know if after marriage, Rachel was still Isarael's one and only beloved. Her lamentations and comparisons to the other wives indicate that she was pretty self-absorbant.

    In death Rachel was buried in a shallow grave by the side of the road to Nazareth whereas Leah was buried in the tomb of the patriarchs. Rachel's contribution was her beauty and that she added to the lineage of Christ. Important yes, but Leah, through faithfulness, became the better wife.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, August 28, 2006 10:50:00 AM  

  • As far as taking the sacrement with our right hand, you're on your own with that one. Whether or not Russell Nelson said it, I still think it is silly.

    Yes, but it is firmly rooted in many culture that you eat with one hand and do your wiping in erm...other places...with the other.

    It's a major faux pax to eat with the wrong hand in many places today.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, August 28, 2006 10:53:00 AM  

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