Though the preparation, blessing, and passing of the sacrament have commonly been considered the responsibilities of men and boys ordained to the priesthood, this has not always been the case at various times in LDS history. Into the 1940s in the United States, the duties of preparing the sacrament bread, water, and table were often assigned to young women. Annette Steeneck Huntington of the Emigration Stake recalled that while she was a youth in the 1930s, “[Y]oung girls in [the Mutual Improvement Association] … filled the water cups in the kitchen and placed the bread on the trays. We then prepared the Sacrament table with the cloth and trays on it. It was a wonderful privilege I shall always remember.” In Germany, during World War II, records indicate that women even blessed and passed the sacrament, without censure, in the absence of men who were conscripted into military service.
Additionally, during the war, Mormon women and girls in both Germany and the United States took over assignments to collect tithes and fast offerings. The women in Germany held their collections until they could deliver the funds to the church following the war. During this same period, the Beehive girls of Salt Lake’s Twenty-fourth Ward canvassed their neighborhoods. Bishop Oscar M. Oleson reported, “During the past two years they did not once fail to cover their entire district.” The Church News ran a laudatory article about their honorable service.
In October 2015 Ordain Women Supporters created a living art display of these inspirational sisters just outside of temple square to both honor and represent the change in women’s roles throughout the history of the church. As part of our 2015 art series we have also photographed what this could look like today within Mormonism. As with all images, no ordinances were performed, just modeled as a way to demonstrate our faith. We look forward to more pioneering women being welcomed into new roles and responsibilities within the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Honoring our Past,
Envisioning our Future.
Cite: Nelson, David Conley. Moroni and the Swastika. University of Oklahoma Press: 2015.
Hartley, William G. “From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829-1996,” Journal of Mormon History Vol. 22, No. 1, 1996.
Photo from JMH article