Last week during Sacrament meeting, as I watched the young men bless and pass the sacrament, it brought back memories of my Aaronic Priesthood rites of passage.

At 12 I became a Deacon at the hands of  my father.  With a July birthday, I was somewhat younger that my friends in the same grade, and was the last to escape from primary and join them in Deacon’s quorum.  This was all pre-three hour block (which became a thing in 1980), so I now went to church early with my dad.  I remember the first time I passed the sacrament.  It was to the Junior Sunday School [1].  We also passed the sacrament twice, once during Sunday School opening exercises, and again during Sacrament meeting later on in the day.  I still remember the order we used, 1st to the stage, 2nd to the far side edge, 3-4 down the middle, 5 on the near side edge, and 6 to the back.  Also, there was an assignment called a “Bishop’s messenger” during Sacrament meeting.  The assigned deacon would sit behind the bishop during the meeting, and be on the ready to deliver messages to members of the congregation.  This was back in the day when bishops would see that the meeting was running short, and throw out “Night at the Improve” invitations for members in the congregation to give a talk, bear testimony, or sing a song. I remember taking notes the bishop had handed me and walking to the congregation to deliver the dreadful news to some poor sap!

But as fun as being a deacon was, the next big step was being a teacher.  Now we’re talking real duties.  We got to fix the sacrament, put water in the little paper cups (plastic was for sissies), and be assigned to “usher”, which meant sitting by the back door and goofing off with a friend.  All this was a big step, the biggest being we didn’t have to pass anymore.  It was a big step down to be asked to help the deacons pass when they were short a person.

The best was yet to come, being ordained a priest!  In my chapel, which was common in the 1970’s, the sacrament table was off at the side, and the bench for the priests behind the table was at floor level, not up on the stage. So while sitting on the bench you could NOT be seen by the bishopric, or most of the congregation, only those sitting on the side of the chaple.  They also did not “excuse the priesthood to sit with their families” [2] After sacrament was over, we would take off our shoes off and just relax. Lance the football player had a little AM radio he would take up there, and run a cord up his sleeve to an earpiece.  He would then lean on his hand and listen to football during the playoffs, relaying the score to the rest of us.

Each of these steps was a rite of passage, forming a bonding experience with those other young men that holds to this day.  I looked forward to going to church to be with them, to participate in the passing, preparation and administering of the sacrament.

But what of our young women?  My three daughters didn’t have any of this. Graduating from Beehive to MiaMaids was not a big deal. they gained no new responsibility, and they were not visible during the meeting doing anything important.

What could the church do to create “rites of passage” for these girls short of letting them pass and bless the sacrament?  Could they be ushers?  Could they prepare the sacrament? What are your thoughts?

 

[1] In the pre-3 hr block days, there was a morning priesthood meeting, usually around 8 am.  Then at 10 was Sunday school, with a junior Sunday school up to age 11. Sacrament was passed in both meetings, then passed again in the afternoon at Sacrament meeting.

[2] I’m not sure when this became a thing, but it seems fairly universal as I’ve traveled around the church.