Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A man amongst boys...

As a convert, one of the mysteries of the Mormon church that I had to understand is the priesthood. Males in the church, starting at the age of 12, can be ordained to the priesthood. The lower or lesser priesthood is called Aaronic. Generally and usually, Aaronic priesthood holders in the LDS church are boys from 12 to 18 years old. Not long after I was baptized and confirmed a member of the church, I was ordained to the Aaronic priesthood. Bear in mind, I was 47 years old, which made me three to four times older not to mention a foot or more taller and a bunch of pounds heavier than all the other Aaronic priesthood holders in my ward.

One of the responsibilities of the Aaronic priesthood is to administer the bread and water for sacrament meetings on Sunday. Partaking of the bread and water (sacrament) is the main event of an LDS Sunday service, and the young men of our ward, as in most wards in the church, were given this responsibility or calling. Being in the Aaronic priesthood, I, far from young and of hulking presence, had to take my place among the young men as part of my priesthood duty.

One of the things I had to do was say the sacrament prayer. To do so, I had to kneel and pray aloud into a microphone built in to the stand where the bread and water were administered. For this particular ordinance, the priestholder saying the prayer has to recite the words exactly right. If a word is missed or repeated, the whole prayer has to be redone. The bishop of the ward, or whoever else is presiding, has the responsibility of listening carefully to the wording to make sure the prayer sayer gets the words right. And if the prayer is mispoken, the bishop will indicate with a hand gesture to the praysayer to redo it. Fortunately, the words of the prayer were made available in large-sized, easy-to-read words on a sheet of plastic-covered paper.

I can't tell you how relieved I was that first time I prayed the prayer to see the bishop give me a nod of approval that I had gotten the words right.

A couple Sundays later, I repeated an "it" in the prayer without even realizing that I did so. So when I looked at the bishop for the sign of approval that I had gotten the prayer right, instead of seeing his nodding head, I saw him shaking his head and twirling the index finger of his right hand in a circular manner, meaning, "Do the prayer all over again."

Of course, I was embarrassed at my miscue. After all, I am an English teacher, and I should have been able to read and recite the words of the prayer without error. But I suppose Heavenly Father was testing my pride.

Thankfully, I said the prayer the second time flawlessly. And no one started a petition to kick me out of the church.

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