Sacrament Prayers

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One of my counsellors and his wife were asked by the executive secretary to say the opening and closing prayers in Sacrament on Sunday. Afterward, they were discussing since his wife may be out with their infant at the end of the meeting, she may not be able to say the closing prayer. I suggested to him that they switch it around: she to give the opening prayer, and he to give the closing. I know we’ve had to do that in the past.

He discussed this with the executive secretary and the executive secretary told him that wouldn’t work because only a priesthood holder can open a sacrament meeting. It turned out instead that my counsellor gave the opening prayer and the executive secretary gave the closing prayer.

I had never heard of this until then. Is it like this in other wards? I know of at least two wards where this wasn’t the case.

40 thoughts on “Sacrament Prayers

  1. Until 1974, I believe, Sacrament was considered a priesthood meeting… and women weren’t allowed to offer either prayer.

    I’ve never heard of the prohibition against the opening prayer.


    Handbook, anyone?

  2. In the Ward I belonged to previously, this was the rule. It wasn’t followed for a long time, until a new stake presidency was called who believed in adhering to the handbook at all times. We weren’t even aware that this was in the handbook when they issued a letter asking that only M.P. holders give the invocations at sacrament meeting. I’m not quite sure why the handbook requires this though. Does anyone know?
    Now I belong to a tiny branch and anything goes.

  3. I could not find anything in the CHI section for sacrament meeting, but the Church Policies section said the following:

    “Men and women may offer prayers in Church meetings. Prayers should be brief and simple and should be spoken as directed by the Spirit. Members should use the pronouns Thee, Thy, Thine, and Thou when addressing Heavenly Father. All members should say an audible amen at the end of the prayer.” (p. 151, Book 1)

  4. I think this may be one of those “unwritten order” things. When I was in a bishopric long ago, it was the custom in our ward for men to say the closing prayer. I used to ask women to do it just to shake things up. Then a Stake President tells me I was doing it right all along. What a disappointment.

  5. It’s my understanding that there was an official ban from the late sixties until the late seventies when women were not allowed to pray in Sacrament meeting at all. After the ban was lifted it seems a lot of people still had/have the idea that either you have to “open” or “close” a meeting with the priesthood. I’ll try to find a citation to back this up. (Unless someone else pipes in . . .)

    A related thing I’ve observed is the idea that a man (as a priesthood holder) must be the closing speaker. This is, I believe, another thing that may have become custom in some places but is not policy.

  6. Definitely not the rule in my last few wards. Often there are women who pray for both the opening and closing.

    Like others have said, I’ve read where that used to be the rule, though.

  7. Well I gave the opening prayer just the other week and have been the closing speaker on many an occasion. They gave up making me one of the earlier speakers as I tend to not give the other speakers enough time. Something I picked up from one of my sons I guess… talking :)

  8. My husband is a Nazi about only men giving the opening prayer. I am plotting. If they call me and ask us to give the prayer, I’m going to find a way to keep him home and then I’m just going to get up and give the opening prayer.

    I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.

  9. Heather P. is right — this was done away with in the late 70s. But most of today’s bishops and stake presidents weren’t around to get the letter then, so it persists as one of those “proper order of things” beliefs, even though the manual doesn’t require it.

    We practiced this in my ward until recently. The ward executive secretary is my home teacher, and I mentioned it to him when he visited a few months ago. He said he’d look into it. Two weeks later, women were giving the opening prayers in sacrament meeting.

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Bring it up gently with the powers that be in your ward and you may get the local policy reversed.

  10. My wife did it just this last week. I think you can file that one with the need to take the sacrament with your right hand–maybe has some doctrinal support, but is carried more by tradition than policy.

  11. I too believe it falls under one of the “unwritten order” of things. When my father was a Stake President in Southern California in the 1990’s they received this instruction from the Area President who had in received it from President Packer.

    Prior to that it had not been a hard and fast rule in the Stake and following the changes in who supervised the area it was no longer enforced.

    I would think enforcement of this “rule” probably occurs in a “checkboard” fashion, e.g. required in one area not required in a neighboring area.

  12. What I’m shocked about is that your executive secretary was the one finding someone to pray. Not fair. Our bishopric has to do that AND ask people to speak.

    FWIW, we always ask sisters to pray first and speak last, I don’t think anyone even notices.

  13. It’s hard when a ‘policy’ is not in the handbook but is pronounced by a leader. I was in an RS training meeting this week done by a member of the General Board when someone had the nerve to ask if the RS presidency should sit at the front of the room during RS. I really wish I hadn’t been there to hear her say “Yes, Sister Parkin feels very strongly about that” because now I feel ethically wierd about not doing it, although it’s not in the RS handbook and feels like a ‘man’ thing to me.

  14. In my ward, the women generally say the opening prayer and the men the closing. I just said opening prayer a few weeks ago.

    I think Silus is right, though. My mother remembers when she couldn’t say the opening prayer (that was in the 70s).

  15. This may be the most liberal thing I’ve ever said on any board: if President Packer wants an order that everyone understands, perhaps it’s time to start writting it down. I hate the idea that I’m being governed by rumor.

  16. This is definitely NOT in the handbook, and since the new handbook was published there has NOT been any letter stating that it is a policy to be followed. Thus, it is incorrect to follow this policy. It’s a relic of past practices — a tradition of our fathers that is not necessary or correct to follow.

    Incidentally, there WAS a letter encouraging bishoprics to not ask husband-wife to say the prayers in the same sacrament meeting as it results in the exclusion of single adults.

  17. Stu, the instruction from the GAs wasn’t NOT to ask husband-wife pairs to pray, but not to set a pattern of always doing so. It’s OK to have a couple do the prayers, but they want wards not to do it all the time so others are included.

  18. A former Area Authority who now serves in a ward in our stake quoted President Benson as saying the opening prayer must be a priesthood holder, since this is a priesthood meeting. I will try to find the quote.

  19. our ward usually has the women speak first and i really like that since i don’t particularly enjoy giving talks. this way the men have to fill up the time left over after all the other speakers. some sundays we have only one youth speaker and no ward business so that leaves lots of time for the speakers to fill and i’d just as soon it not be me!!!!!

  20. I remember a time when the opening or closing prayer would last over 5 minuutes. I was a youth then and it seemed to me like some of the older men had a talk prepared since they gave the same prayer every time. I used to time the prayers with my watch.

    As a deacon, we would try to pass the bread and water real slow so the speakers would not have as much time to speak. The Bishop told the deacons one week to speed it up, it was taking too much time away from the speakers.

  21. Any ward I have been in since the change has had prayers offered by women for both the opening and closing, and sometimes both in the same service.
    Common sense and a little understanding of the scriptures would eliminate some of these strange traditions.
    This seems to fall into the category of personal opinions expressed by the Brethern that Harold B. Lee called personal opinions and not doctrine.

  22. Where is the inspiration for these things? How is the lay member supposed to know when the leadership is making things up and when they are not?

  23. This has happened to me personally. I am very disturbed by this “unwritten order” of things. I was asked to say the prayer a few months ago. I had to leave early so I told the Exec. Secty that I would be happy to give the closing. He said, “no. a priesthood holder has to give the closing prayer.” Well, then. I was asked twice after that to give the prayer and I declined. This past week, the 2nd counselor came up to me and advised that the Bishop has specifically asked for me to give the prayer. I told him that I would only do it if I could say the opening. He said sure. He turned to the brother behind me and told him that he would say the closing. No problem – right? WRONG… 2nd counselor went back up the stand and came right back down advising Bishop said no. I have to give closing because Priesthood holder has to give opening. I only agreed because the meeting was about to start. This is a bunch of crap!!!!

  24. …or it was either (a) a well-meant but misinformed move by a Priesthood leader who was doing his best, or (b) a decision by a Priesthood leader who was deciding for reasons other than a universal Church policy.

  25. ltbugaf

    And what reasons might those be? I honestly can’t think of a valid reason why it MUST be a priesthood holder who gives an opening prayers. It just kind of smacks of chauvinism and nothing to do with the priesthood at all, but rather to do with a man/woman thing.

    And besides, it isn’t church policy anywhere.

  26. I can’t think of what the reasons would be either, but I don’t pretend to be able to read the mind of the bishop. Therefore, I don’t automatically assume that he doesn’t have any valid reasons.

  27. I don’t think it is a matter of reading minds. In a case such as this, there aren’t any valid reasons, except for maybe the man could not do the closing prayer and so the other person asked would need to do the opening. But then, I have had times when I couldn’t guarantee I could do the closing prayer (because of a nursing baby and the high likelihood I wouldn’t be there at the close of the meeting). I will assume there aren’t any valid reasons, because there cannot be, other than this scenario. This plays out regularly all over the church (at least from what I hear) and the reason given is “the priesthood are supposed to open the meeting”. By using that logic, a priesthood holder would always need to open any meeting. The sacrament meeting itself is not a priesthood ordinance. The sacrament is, and thus, the priesthood officiate over it and say the prayers.

    Just because the bishopric are the bishopric doesn’t mean they sometimes make wrong decisions or misunderstand things.

    And to clarify, I am not casting aspersions on the authority of any Bishop. I do know they are called of God, but Heavenly Father in His infinite wisdom still does not take free choice or personal opinions and character away from them, when they are called, but let’s them learn and grow and make many decisions out of their own heads. I highly doubt that asking a certain person to offer a prayer is always a matter of inspiration and therefore that decision is the choice of a fallible human. Usually the choice is fine, but there can’t be anything reasonable about a priesthood holder always opening the sacrament meeting with prayer, just because he is a priesthood holder.

    D&C 121:37

  28. Just because the bishopric are the bishopric doesn’t mean they sometimes make wrong decisions or misunderstand things.

    Mary, do you think you’re disagreeing with me when you say this? If so, I recommend re-reading my comment.

    I highly doubt that asking a certain person to offer a prayer is always a matter of inspiration and therefore that decision is the choice of a fallible human.

    But it could be a matter of inspiration in a particular case. I’m not saying it was; I’m saying it could have been. I don’t know whether it was or not. For that reason, I give the bishop the benefit of the doubt and don’t get in a snit about the order in which people offer prayers.

    By the way, I just thought I’d throw in a little historical info that might be interesting to some. September 29, 1978 was the date the First Presidency announced a Church-wide policy authorizing women to give prayers in sacrament meetings.

  29. There seem to be a lot of particular cases. If it was inspiration they would know ahead of time if the person was allowed to offer a prayer or not.

    I am not getting in a snit. And honestly, what a thing to say. I have never heard of a man accused of getting into a snit, only a woman.

  30. If it was inspiration they would know ahead of time if the person was allowed to offer a prayer or not.

    I don’t think I understand you. We’re talking about a bishop deciding that a Priesthood holder should or should not be the one to offer the opening prayers in a particular ward during a particular period of time. What does it have to do with knowing ahead of time?

    I am not getting in a snit.

    If you’d like to argue about that, then I suggest you find someone who has said you are getting in a snit.

    And honestly, what a thing to say. I have never heard of a man accused of getting into a snit, only a woman.

    I have heard it used with regard to both sexes. However, I can’t see what relevance that has to this discussion, because I know of no instance of anyone ever accusing you of getting in a snit.

  31. If he or she is allowed to pray publicly (whether they are under probation or not). That’s what it has to do with knowing ahead of time if they can or not.

    I have heard the term snit used in reference to children, not adults.

  32. I think I understand what you’re saying but I don’t see what it has to do with what’s been discussed above.

    All I’ve said is this:

    There are two possibilities:

    1. Maybe the bishop has a valid reason to want a Priesthood holder to open the meeting.

    2. On the other hand, maybe he just thinks he’s supposed to do it that way–in other words, maybe he’s slightly misinformed about the rules and procedures he’s supposed to follow and is making the kind of mistake that is typical of human beings (which, as far as I know, all bishops are).

    I think both are possible. I don’t see why you think the first option isn’t. You can’t think of what the reason might be; that doesn’t mean there can’t be one.

  33. I too have had this same experience with prayers in our ward. Bishop said it was only priesthood who gave opening and sisters gave closing. Our stake president confirmed this as he had been told by an area authority that Sacrament was a prisethood meeting and needed to be opened by a priesthood..
    In many areas across the US and canada this is not followed and is not in the general handbook.No one seems to be able to say where it comes from a tradition from the pioneer days??

  34. It does require a priesthood holder to open a sacrament meeting. He who PRESIDES must be MP if one is available. He who CONDUCTS (can be same man) is the one who OPENS the meeting and must be a priesthood holder – MP if available. The member who prays is not opening the meeeting, but is inviting the Spirit. The requirement is for membership in good standing, and a sister can qualify. The Lord will hardly deny one of his daughters inviting the Spirit to the Sunday service they are commanded to attend.

    Reason for priesthood holder? Simple You cna’t bless and pass the SACRAMENT without at least a priest. If you cannot have the sacrament, then it is not a sacrament meeting.

  35. This is from the new handbook

    18.5 Prayers in Church Meetings
    Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings.

    Prayers should be brief, simple, and spoken as directed by the Spirit. All members are encouraged to respond with an audible amen at the end of a prayer.

    Members should express respect for Heavenly Father by using the special language of prayer that is appropriate for the language they are speaking. The language of prayer has different forms in different languages. In some languages, the intimate or familiar words are used only in addressing family and very close friends. Other languages have forms of address that express great respect. The principle, however, is the same: members should pray in words that speakers of the language associate with love, respect, reverence, and closeness. In English, for example, members should use the pronouns Thee, Thy, Thine, and Thou when addressing Heavenly Father.

    Members of the bishopric should avoid the pattern of having a husband and wife pray in the same meeting. Such a pattern might convey an unintentional message of exclusion to those who are single. Members who are not often called upon should be included among those who are invited to pray. As needed, a member of the bishopric may caution those who pray not to sermonize or pray at great length.

    The person who offers a prayer should not be asked to read a scripture aloud before the prayer.

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