My oldest son turned sixteen a couple of weeks ago.  This is the age that young men can be ordained as Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood.  This carries with it the authority to baptize, but more frequently the opportunity to bless the sacrament in our weekly worship services.  I was pleased to be able to ordain him to that office.

We live in a small and spread out ward in southern Michigan.  And we frequently will need to scramble to find people to help with the sacrament.  Sometimes we have enough young men, sometimes we don’t.  My son thought that the chances of him being asked to bless the sacrament were pretty high.  Because of this, he read over the sacrament prayers several times during the week.

Sure enough, on his first Sunday as a priest, there were no other priests on time for church.  And he was asked if he would handle the blessing of the sacrament.  He looked as white as a ghost and said that he was not ready.  I offered to go up with him, and we could bless the sacrament as father and son.  He cautiously agreed.

While we were sitting behind the sacrament table, and the announcements were being given, I began explaining how things were usually done in the blessing of the sacrament.  And I pointed out where the cards were that contained the sacrament prayers.  I explained that these prayers need to be word-for-word.  I suggested that he read really slow, and to read every word.  He then asked me what I found a profound question.  He asked, “How am I supposed to read it with my eyes shut?”

This explains why he was so nervous.  He thought that he had to have these prayers memorized perfectly, and that if he didn’t get it right he would have to try it over and over again in front of everybody.

This also explains my oldest boy.  He is a blindly obedient young man.  He has been told that you close your eyes during the prayer, and he does that, every time, without exception.

I am not sure how ‘heroic’ this all is, but when I consider his mindset going into this experience, and his willingness to go up there in spite of this, I am quite proud of him.  Well done, son.

11 Responses to “One..Brave..Priest..”

  1. 1 Ardis Parshall February 18, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Great story, Eric. That he would be willing to serve, despite being unready (even though his unreadiness was the result of a misunderstanding) is bravery. I’m glad you noticed.

  2. 2 m&m February 18, 2009 at 3:22 am

    This is tender, too, to read how you had that opportunity…how you were at his side to tutor him. What a tender mercy for him…imagine if it had been a peer by his side. Would he have felt comfortable asking the question?

    I think for a young man of that age, “blindly obedient” is a great start. He’ll learn through experience about nuance and tension and all of that. A young man with a heart like that is a young man the Lord can mold and teach. Especially if he has a mortal dad by his side along the way.

    Hats off to you both.

  3. 3 Eric Nielson February 18, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Thanks Ardis. I think the whole ward noticed.


    Yes, it was nice to be able to have the both of us together.

  4. 4 Doug & Laurel March 2, 2009 at 10:46 pm

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  5. 5 Soraya March 3, 2009 at 2:33 am

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  6. 6 helaman March 19, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    That is awesome, I love blessing the sacrament when I get a chance. Of course we end up using our scriptures, and no matter how often I do it, I still mess up with the wine bit…lol

    Good on your son!

  7. 8 Bookslinger April 13, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    As a 20-something convert, I too was under the impression they were reciting the sacrament prayers by memory. You can’t see that they’re reading something when they’re kneeling behind the sacrament table.

    After being ordained a priest about 8 weeks after baptism, then when asked if I could bless the sacrament the following week, I tried real hard to memorize the prayers. I only got one memorized. A long time member of the elders’ quorum was beside me at the table. I told him he’d have to do the bread prayer, since I only memorized the water prayer. It was THEN that I was informed that the prayers were read off cards, as he pulled one out of where it was kept. DOHT!

    One suggestion I’d like to make for sacrament coordinators everywhere, is to not ask new converts to do it with only a moment’s notice. If it’s the elders quorum’s turn, and a new “prospective elder” is to bless, give him at least a week’s notice. And, even better, go through a dry run when the chapel is empty. It’s simple when you’ve seen it a million times, but the procedure/ritual of the table-cloths, the hand-offs of the trays, etc, can look daunting to a newbie.

    Also be aware of reading disabilities. Nervousness gives all of us a reading disability, in the sense we make mistakes when we know hundreds of people are watching as we do something for the first time.

    But some people do have a problem reading. I remember one poor brother who got the same word wrong 3 times in a row before the bishopric realized he was just reading it wrong.

    And remember, the bishop doesn’t tell you _which_ word you missed, just that you have to do it again. That leaves the guy even more nervous if he doesn’t know which word he’s getting wrong, or whether it’s a pronunciation thing, a reading thing, or just left out the word, or added a word.

    Some people slur their speech or say certain words too fast for someone to understand, so even if you _think_ you said a word right, if you slur it to the point the bishop can’t understand it, he’ll give you the “no” signal.

    I remember a 16 year old with a stuttering problem who had that communication problem with the bishop. The kid honestly didn’t know which word he messed up on, and kept making the same mistake, until someone (either the other guy at the table, or one of the counselors) went over and told him which word he had to ‘slow down on’.

    That’s why I think a “dry run”, where the sacrament coordinator actually listens to the new guy reciting the prayer in private is a good idea, so he can tell if he’s reading the word wrong, pronouncing it wrong, sluring it, or speeding over it too fast for it to be understood.

    With the “look say” method of teaching reading, there are many people who don’t know how to read some words out loud, because they don’t know how to ‘sound them out’. So unless they’ve actually been specifically taught a word, they don’t know how to say it.

    Words in the sacrament prayers that many people don’t use in normal speech are: sanctify, remembrance, unto.

  8. 9 Matt W. August 4, 2009 at 11:38 am

    This is something beautiful

  9. 10 Eric Nielson August 4, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Good advice Bookslinger.

    Thanks Matt.

  1. 1 One Frozen Deacon, One Scared Priest. « LDS Young Men Trackback on February 18, 2009 at 7:20 pm

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