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Gilding the Lily?: Adding Traditions/Customs to Gospel Observances

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Scott Lloyd recently related the following story:

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President Monson, speaking at a televised Church leadership meeting, recounted an experience he had as a bishop. A man was to be ordained to a priesthood office. The ordination was to occur during priesthood meeting in the ward. The high councilor conducting the ordinance said it was his custom to have the ordination done with the man sitting in a chair facing the temple. Bishop Monson recognized an act that was contrary to established procedure and would not approve of it. 

I would like to better understand this phenomenon, as there appear to be at least some "unwritten" customs/traditions that apparently have the imprimatur of the Church.

Here are a few that I have observed to get the ball rolling, in no particular order.  Please let me know if you have observed these in your neck of the Church woods:

  • Bishops and stake presidents, while serving in that capacity, are clean-shaven.
  • Bishopric counselors can have facial hair, as can EQ presidents/counselors, Sunday School presidents/counselors, and YM presidents/counselors.
  • Bishopric members wear a suit in church meetings.
  • Standing when a General Authority enters the room during a church meeting.
  • If a man and a woman are the two speakers in Sacrament Meeting, the man speaks last (this seems to be generally, but not absolutely, observed in my experience).
  • Various formalities pertaining to the blessing and passing of the Sacrament:
    • The person blessing the bread A) uncovers the bread, leaving the water covered by the sacramental sloth, B) kneels, C) recites the prayer while the other person stands, and D) then visually checks with the bishop after reciting the prayers to make sure they were accurately recited (this happens every single time in my ward).
    • The presiding officer receives the bread and water first (the boys/men passing the Sacrament literally wait until this happens before moving to their prescribed positions in the chapel and passing the Sacrament).
    • The boys/men passing the Sacrament line up in a prescribed way and are given a prescribed area of the chapel to go to for passing the Sacrament.
    • Those receiving the Sacrament (usually) take the bread with the right hand (this one does not seem to be enforced or anything, and instead just seems like a widely-observed custom).
    • When the boys/men complete passing the bread, they assemble in a prescribed order in two lines at the back of the chapel, so that when they walk to the front of the chapel and arrive in front of the Sacrament table, they will be in a specified order.  
    • The boys/men who are passing the Sacrament wait at the back of the chapel until the Sacrament has been passed to everyone, at which point the 2/3 boys/men at the Sacrament table stand up, thus signaling to the passers that they should come forward.
    • The same process is observed for the passing of the water.
    • Once both parts of the Sacrament have been administered, the "blessers" sit down, thus signaling to the passers that they are dismissed and can go sit with their families (or sit in the back as ushers).
    • Men/boys who pass the Sacrament wear white shirts (this one seems to be rather strongly encouraged, if not necessarily required).
  • Women wear skirts/dresses (this one does not seem to be enforced, and instead just seems like a widely-observed custom).

Any others?

Which, if any, of these are based on doctrine / scriptures?  

Which are based on tradition/custom?

Which are based on simple convenience?

Which, if any, are problematic in your view?  Why?

Are any of these "gilding the lily" (meaning "try{ing} to improve what is already beautiful or excellent")?

Thanks,

-Smac

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I saw a video recently, do not know how accurate, or if it's a preconcieved notion. In the youtube it shows that everyone sat until Elder Bednar got up following his talk at a meeting. Is this protocol? Not sure. Sister Bednar, appears to have started to stand but then immediately stay sat. Or is this just a dumb video. Also, this was spoken of in Mormon Diaglogue in 2017. But no final answer that I know of. 

 

 

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We did something similar to that, in my opinion, when Elder Holland visited my mission. We were in our chairs an hour early and were asked to be deadly quiet before hand so the spirit could be there (???) when he arrived. Then when he showed up we quietly left the building (in a rehearsed formation the day before) our the door and in a circle so we could shake his hand and sit back in our seats. Then we were told only to sit when he decided to sit down. After he was done we couldn’t get up or begin “chatting” until the APs came back and told us he had left the building.

His conversation was awesome and insightful, but the preparation seemed way over the top. Me and the mission president didn’t see eye to eye on it, but I just did what I was asked becuase it was easier. This happened twice on my mission, though it had some variance.

I think it’s odd, but others have argued for the other way. 

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Women wear skirts/dresses (this one does not seem to be enforced, and instead just seems like a widely-observed custom).

Definitely a custom as the Church came out and said it was not a rule when the Wear Pants to Church Day event took place.

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1 hour ago, SettingDogStar said:

We did something similar to that, in my opinion, when Elder Holland visited my mission. We were in our chairs an hour early and were asked to be deadly quiet before hand so the spirit could be there (???) when he arrived. Then when he showed up we quietly left the building (in a rehearsed formation the day before) our the door and in a circle so we could shake his hand and sit back in our seats. Then we were told only to sit when he decided to sit down. After he was done we couldn’t get up or begin “chatting” until the APs came back and told us he had left the building.

His conversation was awesome and insightful, but the preparation seemed way over the top. Me and the mission president didn’t see eye to eye on it, but I just did what I was asked becuase it was easier. This happened twice on my mission, though it had some variance.

I think it’s odd, but others have argued for the other way. 

i've seen that too and think it's dumb. We had President Nelson here last Aug. and we had to be in our seats an hour before but everyone was talking and no one told us to keep our yaps shut

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we got a new Bishop and he has a goatee, our SP isn't a stickler but he's from Alberta and a goatee is nothing!!!!!!!!!

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I think a number of the sacrament procedures are simply that, procedures designed to accomplish a task in an orderly way. So, to me, things like standing in line, waiting for the signal to move, assigned positions to which a person should serve the sacrament, are practical attempts to serve the sacrament in an orderly way. I do not think, in any way, that it is doctrinal, but it is often useful. White shirts and ties are cultural, and while the handbook officially states that no "uniform" is required for priesthood holders, it is strongly encouraged that they wear white shirt, slacks, tie, and often even a jacket. But yes, there are many other requirements tacked on, depending on the ward and the leadership. Whether it's the "hold the left hand behind the back" or "clasp the hands together in the front while waiting for the tray to make it back to you", or even "take the sacrament with your right hand", I think things are added by well intentioned people trying to keep things reverent or make things special.

When I was a young college student I was called to be in the Stake YM Presidency. I was told my first official duty was to purchase uniforms: a suit jacket that was to always be worn when at church meetings or performing any priesthood duty, and a scout shirt. After the first counselor was set apart he was invited to stand in the circle to set me apart. After I was set apart the 1st C and SYM Pres both stood in the circle to set apart the secretary but I wasn't invited to stand in because I wasn't wearing a jacket.

But there are LOTS of policies in the church that almost become doctrinal. Whether the policy comes from the general handbook, or the SP, or the bishop, or the YM Pres, it doesn't really matter a whole lot. People in "authority" create additional rules and qualifications according to their personal preference or how they feel the spirit has directed them.

 

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14 minutes ago, Duncan said:

we got a new Bishop and he has a goatee, our SP isn't a stickler but he's from Alberta and a goatee is nothing!!!!!!!!!

I was specifically told I needed to remain clean shaven as bishop. The bishop after me had ALWAYS had a goatee and was told to shave. But I'm certain that was only the preference of the SP because there is nothing in the handbook about it.

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4 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I was specifically told I needed to remain clean shaven as bishop. The bishop after me had ALWAYS had a goatee and was told to shave. But I'm certain that was only the preference of the SP because there is nothing in the handbook about it.

I agree that this is not in the handbook, and that it is more of a preference/expectation.  But I wonder if it goes higher than stake presidents.

Thanks,

-Smac

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9 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I think a number of the sacrament procedures are simply that, procedures designed to accomplish a task in an orderly way. So, to me, things like standing in line, waiting for the signal to move, assigned positions to which a person should serve the sacrament, are practical attempts to serve the sacrament in an orderly way. I do not think, in any way, that it is doctrinal, but it is often useful.

Agreed.

9 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

White shirts and ties are cultural, and while the handbook officially states that no "uniform" is required for priesthood holders, it is strongly encouraged that they wear white shirt, slacks, tie, and often even a jacket. But yes, there are many other requirements tacked on, depending on the ward and the leadership. Whether it's the "hold the left hand behind the back" or "clasp the hands together in the front while waiting for the tray to make it back to you", or even "take the sacrament with your right hand", I think things are added by well intentioned people trying to keep things reverent or make things special.

The white shirt is "strongly encouraged" in the Handbook?

9 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

When I was a young college student I was called to be in the Stake YM Presidency. I was told my first official duty was to purchase uniforms: a suit jacket that was to always be worn when at church meetings or performing any priesthood duty, and a scout shirt. After the first counselor was set apart he was invited to stand in the circle to set me apart. After I was set apart the 1st C and SYM Pres both stood in the circle to set apart the secretary but I wasn't invited to stand in because I wasn't wearing a jacket.

Hmm.  That seems a bit overboard.

9 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

But there are LOTS of policies in the church that almost become doctrinal. Whether the policy comes from the general handbook, or the SP, or the bishop, or the YM Pres, it doesn't really matter a whole lot. People in "authority" create additional rules and qualifications according to their personal preference or how they feel the spirit has directed them.

What policies are you referencing here?

Thanks,

-Smac

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21 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

But there are LOTS of policies in the church that almost become doctrinal. Whether the policy comes from the general handbook, or the SP, or the bishop, or the YM Pres, it doesn't really matter a whole lot. People in "authority" create additional rules and qualifications according to their personal preference or how they feel the spirit has directed them.

 

And the Brethren are going around the world, trying to eliminate many of the "traditions" we have developed. They are not rules, except in the eyes of some SP or Bishops. It's what happens when we are so diverse in our membership. It will always be there but, generally, doesn't affect the faith or righteousness of the Saints.

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I don't recall standing when a General Authority enters the conference seating area. To the contrary, I recall them stopping here and there to greet people on the way up to the rostrum. I once attended General Conference in person and I don't remember whether we stood or not when President Kimball entered, but I do remember receiving a witness of the holiness of his calling and office.

I think everything on the list are problems only if made out to be. If one feels he is above the custom or that the Lord wants him to say something to challenge or change it, he will find that opportunity. Things like this can only change for the better when done as a community (even if only a few bring it up) without the spirit of contention.

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25 minutes ago, smac97 said:

The white shirt is "strongly encouraged" in the Handbook?

From Handbook 2:

“Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. Ties and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, they should not be required as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and maturity in the Church.”

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They took Handbook 1 away from me again. Make up your mind!!!!

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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

Any others?

Unless you are Native American or come from some other culture, long hair on men is generally frowned upon - especially for those in leadership positions.

Also, there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule against bow ties. That may just be a fashion preference thing though. When my sister was serving on Temple Square she distinctly remembered Elder Scott sporting a bow tie from time to time, but he was one of the very few; and, even then, it was something of a rarity.  

And you know what isn't an unwritten rule but should be: removing mechanical watches prior to setting people apart, giving blessings, etc.

Seriously, I understand that Old Man Jacobs needs to know what time it is and, due to his age, he needs a gigantic watch to accomplish that task, but for those of us under his hands it just sounds like Big Ben is clicking away incessantly the entire time he is participating in the ordination. It's really a distraction. 

Now, this is one that may naturally resolve itself over time as Boomers start to age out of callings since they seem to be the ones most likely to wear large, mechanical watches. But, in the meantime, please remove those blasted contraptions. :) 

 

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13 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

They took Handbook 1 away from me again. Make up your mind!!!!

From the app or from the web? I sometimes have to re-download Handbook 1 in the gospel library app, but it's pretty consistently available online - except, of course, when it's not. ;) 

 

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1 minute ago, Amulek said:

From the app or from the web? I sometimes have to re-download Handbook 1 in the gospel library app, but it's pretty consistently available online - except, of course, when it's not. ;) 

 

The app. It comes and goes at random. I logged out and logged back in and it came back. I had to check to make sure I was not excommunicated or booted from my calling.

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10 minutes ago, Amulek said:

Unless you are Native American or come from some other culture, long hair on men is generally frowned upon - especially for those in leadership positions.

Yes.

10 minutes ago, Amulek said:

Also, there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule against bow ties.

For leaders?  I've seen more than a few bow ties, but not sported by bishopric members.

10 minutes ago, Amulek said:

And you know what isn't an unwritten rule but should be: removing mechanical watches prior to setting people apart, giving blessings, etc.

Hadn't heard about this one.

10 minutes ago, Amulek said:

Seriously, I understand that Old Man Jacobs needs to know what time it is and, due to his age, he needs a gigantic watch to accomplish that task, but for those of us under his hands it just sounds like Big Ben is clicking away incessantly the entire time he is participating in the ordination. It's really a distraction. 

And the strap may catch in the person's hair.  That could be painful.

Thanks,

-Smac

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Posted (edited)

Flowers on the stand. Table cloth on RS table.  Only pianos violins and flutes in sacrament- no mellow trombone or gentle guitar.  Ham and potatoes at funerals. Handshake a must when handed a tithing envelope. raising the just blessed baby in the air for all to ooh and ahh at.  The list goes on and on.  None are necessarily bad- but IMO we are pretty comfortable in our culture and change can be alarming. 

For that matter, why not have mother in the center of a baby blessing, holding the baby that she carried 9 months and gave birth to? 

Edited by MustardSeed

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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

Scott Lloyd recently related the following story:

I would like to better understand this phenomenon, as there appear to be at least some "unwritten" customs/traditions that apparently have the imprimatur of the Church.

Here are a few that I have observed to get the ball rolling, in no particular order.  Please let me know if you have observed these in your neck of the Church woods:

  • Bishops and stake presidents, while serving in that capacity, are clean-shaven.
  • Bishopric counselors can have facial hair, as can EQ presidents/counselors, Sunday School presidents/counselors, and YM presidents/counselors.
  • Bishopric members wear a suit in church meetings.
  • Standing when a General Authority enters the room during a church meeting.
  • If a man and a woman are the two speakers in Sacrament Meeting, the man speaks last (this seems to be generally, but not absolutely, observed in my experience).
  • Various formalities pertaining to the blessing and passing of the Sacrament:
    • The person blessing the bread A) uncovers the bread, leaving the water covered by the sacramental sloth, B) kneels, C) recites the prayer while the other person stands, and D) then visually checks with the bishop after reciting the prayers to make sure they were accurately recited (this happens every single time in my ward).
    • The presiding officer receives the bread and water first (the boys/men passing the Sacrament literally wait until this happens before moving to their prescribed positions in the chapel and passing the Sacrament).
    • The boys/men passing the Sacrament line up in a prescribed way and are given a prescribed area of the chapel to go to for passing the Sacrament.
    • Those receiving the Sacrament (usually) take the bread with the right hand (this one does not seem to be enforced or anything, and instead just seems like a widely-observed custom).
    • When the boys/men complete passing the bread, they assemble in a prescribed order in two lines at the back of the chapel, so that when they walk to the front of the chapel and arrive in front of the Sacrament table, they will be in a specified order.  
    • The boys/men who are passing the Sacrament wait at the back of the chapel until the Sacrament has been passed to everyone, at which point the 2/3 boys/men at the Sacrament table stand up, thus signaling to the passers that they should come forward.
    • The same process is observed for the passing of the water.
    • Once both parts of the Sacrament have been administered, the "blessers" sit down, thus signaling to the passers that they are dismissed and can go sit with their families (or sit in the back as ushers).
    • Men/boys who pass the Sacrament wear white shirts (this one seems to be rather strongly encouraged, if not necessarily required).
  • Women wear skirts/dresses (this one does not seem to be enforced, and instead just seems like a widely-observed custom).

Any others?

Which, if any, of these are based on doctrine / scriptures?  

Which are based on tradition/custom?

Which are based on simple convenience?

Which, if any, are problematic in your view?  Why?

Are any of these "gilding the lily" (meaning "try{ing} to improve what is already beautiful or excellent")?

Thanks,

-Smac

The only ones I think that are in the handbook are that the bishop gets Sacrament first, and the right hand is used.

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2 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

The only ones I think that are in the handbook are that the bishop gets Sacrament first, and the right hand is used.

These are both in the Handbook?  Are you sure?

Thanks,

-Smac

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26 minutes ago, Amulek said:

Unless you are Native American or come from some other culture, long hair on men is generally frowned upon - especially for those in leadership positions.

Also, there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule against bow ties. That may just be a fashion preference thing though. When my sister was serving on Temple Square she distinctly remembered Elder Scott sporting a bow tie from time to time, but he was one of the very few; and, even then, it was something of a rarity.  

And you know what isn't an unwritten rule but should be: removing mechanical watches prior to setting people apart, giving blessings, etc.

Seriously, I understand that Old Man Jacobs needs to know what time it is and, due to his age, he needs a gigantic watch to accomplish that task, but for those of us under his hands it just sounds like Big Ben is clicking away incessantly the entire time he is participating in the ordination. It's really a distraction. 

Now, this is one that may naturally resolve itself over time as Boomers start to age out of callings since they seem to be the ones most likely to wear large, mechanical watches. But, in the meantime, please remove those blasted contraptions. :) 

 

All boomers are deaf anyway.

It's not our fault you can actually hear a watch tick, or that it would distract you, besides all millenials have ADHD anyway. ;)

J/k :)

 

 

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3 minutes ago, smac97 said:

These are both in the Handbook?  Are you sure?

Thanks,

-Smac

Hmm think so... ?

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3 minutes ago, smac97 said:

These are both in the Handbook?  Are you sure?

Thanks,

-Smac

http://www.ldsliving.com/How-to-Evaluate-Doctrine-from-Policy-Why-There-Is-More-Than-One-Type-of-Church-Doctrine/s/91274

Here is an article about taking the Sacrament with your right hand: http://www.ldsliving.com/Why-Members-Told-to-Take-the-Sacrament-by-the-Right-Hand-and-Whether-or-Not-It-Matters/s/89029 In short Pres. Nelson acknowedges that it would be nice, but not necessary, a distinct difference from Pres. Oaks. 

The hand used in partaking of the sacrament would logically be the same hand used in making any other sacred oath. For most of us, that would be the right hand. However, sacramental covenants—and other eternal covenants as well—can be and are made by those who have lost the use of the right hand, or who have no hands at all. Much more important than concern over which hand is used in partaking of the sacrament is that the sacrament be partaken with a deep realization of the atoning sacrifice that the sacrament represents.

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8 minutes ago, smac97 said:

These are both in the Handbook?  Are you sure?

Thanks,

-Smac

“After the prayer, deacons or other priesthood holders pass the bread to the congregation in a reverent and orderly manner. The presiding officer receives the sacrament first. The bishop (or a counselor in his absence) presides at the sacrament meeting unless a member of the stake presidency, an Area Seventy, or a General Authority is sitting on the stand. A high councilor does not preside and does not receive the sacrament first.”

Passing with the right hand is not mentioned explicitly. There is an implicit suggestion that the deacons and others passing should hold the tray in the left hand:

“The passing of the sacrament should be natural and unobtrusive, not rigid or overly formal. Those who pass the sacrament should not be required to assume any special posture or action, such as holding the left hand behind the back. The process of passing the sacrament should not call attention to itself or detract from the purpose of the ordinance.”

We have a teacher in my ward who does this with his left hand when he passes. He knows it is not necessary but likes to do it.

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