Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why don't we kneel during the sacrament?

I remember when I was a child, sitting in Sacrament Meeting.  We worshiped in another church's building, rented by our ward, because we were not large enough in size to have our own building.  I remember kneeling in between the pews, sitting on the floor with my sister, playing dolls or coloring or something.

There was one Sunday that keeps sticking in my memory, where I asked my mom, "Why don't we kneel to say the prayers?"  She answered that it was ok for me to kneel.  But she didn't kneel, and I never understood why.  I just presumed it was ... just an arbitrary rule?  I don't know.  But I didn't think too much of it or make any waves.

In the last few years, I've had lots of questions called to mind, in the sense that there were many that I just "presumed" (there's that word again) had no answers.  We hear this from investigators, who presumed there were not answers to their questions given by their preachers, so they just roll with the status quo.

The difference for me now is that there are some people suggesting that it is ok to ask questions.  For one, James 1:5 directs us to ask of God, who giveth liberally, and upbraideth not.  Joseph Smith repeats this test, putting it in action and illustrating that it works.  As missionaries we teach this to investigators - it is one of the first things we encourage.  But it seems to stop upon entering the waters of baptism.  If there are questions about why we do something, the answers typically are found in the Church Handbook of Instructions.

In returning to the question I asked my mother, "Why don't we kneel to say the prayers?"  After all, this was how we prayed nightly at home.  But in church we sit in our seats, unmoved.

The Church handbook describes that those blessing the sacrament kneel.  It is a solemn occasion.  But what about the rest of us?  Is there a scriptural precedent?

When I began my scripture study this morning, I asked, "Where should I study?"  The answer came to me: "Moroni 4:10".  Ok.  But there is no Moroni 4:10!  When I opened the page, my eyes landed on Moroni 4:2, which reads this:

And they did kneel down with the church, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ, saying:
Ok.  So the Nephites blessing the bread knelt down, and it appears that the church members were kneeling too, as those blessing the bread did "kneel down with" (emphasis added).  So what about the modern day church?  D&C 20:76 reads:

And the elder or priest shall administer it; and after this manner shall he administer it—he shall kneel with the church and call upon the Father in solemn prayer, saying:   
It appears that the wording is the same in both Moroni's time and Joseph Smith's.  So when did the change occur?  When did we stop kneeling for the blessing of the holy sacrament, and why?  A few thoughts.

Maybe it was for the breastfeeding moms, who didn't want to disturb their babies to kneel up and down.
Maybe it was for the elderly.  Surely their knees hurt.  I know my parents struggle to sit and stand, not to mention kneeling down.
Maybe it was noisy and disheveling?
Maybe it was impractical, when there might have been mud on the ground, before buildings were made?
Maybe it soiled the women's dresses and the men's tailored pants, causing more work for the women to get dirt out of the clothes?

Does this matter?  Would it make the sacrament more spiritual if we knelt?  Some would say not.  I would say there is definitely a powerful element added to prayer when I have experienced it in a group of leaders praying together on their knees.  There is added humility.  After all, who else do you kneel to?

Follow-up question - what would it hurt to begin kneeling for the sacramental prayers?  Would it be disruptive?  Considered inappropriate?  If so, why?  Would it be against the Handbook of Instructions?  If so, where and why?  Who is stopping us from enhancing the power of this sacred ordinance?  


  1. The scriptures could not be more clear, and yet the correlated church rejects the authority of scripture in the administration of the sacrament. D&C 20:76 also mandates that priests are to bless the sacrament only in the absence of elders. Mormons have so literally watered down this sacred ordinance as to make it meaningless. No wonder sacrament meetings have become so dull and boring to most members. As a former Mormon and a revert to the Catholic Church, I hunger for the Eucharsist, and love kneeling for the consecration of the emblems of the paschal sacrifice because its true meaning has become more clear to me.


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