My shopping cart
Your cart is currently empty.Continue Shopping
Change is constant. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is no side-stepping change. It’s the way the world rolls these days. Chad M. Orton and William W. Slaughter, in their book Joseph Smith’s America, stated, “One modern think tank has estimated that prior to the birth of Jesus Christ, new ideas, including scientific inventions and improved ways of doing things, were produced annually at the rate of 39 a year. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, that number exploded to 3, 840 a year—a nearly 1,000% increase. Today an estimated 110,000 changes occur each year—a 280% increase over the nineteenth century.”
Some changes are natural and painless to implement, while others are more difficult to embrace. We don’t always have to accept change. We can fight if we so choose. However, in some cases, we don’t always have the freedom of choice. For instance, in the mid- 1970s, during my high school years, Canada was in the process of adopting change whether we wanted it or not. The Canadian government at the time opted to switch from the imperial system of measuring to the metric system. Similar to the citizens of the United States, Canadians were accustomed to speaking in terms of measuring in inches, feet, yards, miles, pounds, miles per hour, Fahrenheit, and acres.
My world was quickly turned upside down when I was now required to answer math questions in millimeters, centimeters, and meters. I now weighed myself in kilograms (the fastest weight lost program out there). On the road, I was now required to convert from miles and miles per hour, something I understood and was comfortable with, into something completely foreign to me, kilometers and kilometers per hour.
The Church is no different. The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is replete with examples from a plethora of change. Similar to Canada, and the renovation of the old system of measuring, some transformations in the Church came hard. Polygamy comes to mind, both at its inception and cessation of the practice.
On the flip side, other change in the Church was viewed by many optimistically, with compliance to the change easy and automatic. A two-hour meeting block, the switch to nineteen-year-old sister missionaries, and the option of eighteen-year-old elders was positively regarded by the Saints. An encouraging alteration from my youth was bishops were no longer required to plead for money from the pulpit to replenish a draining ward budget; Church funds would now come to the rescue. Other change arrived with mixed reviews, such as members now acting as weekend warriors, also known as Saturday-morning janitors.
In midst of the number of revisions over time, there will be those who embrace it and those who find it hard to acclimate. For instance, as mentioned above, as exciting as it was for young people permitted full-time missionary status at a younger age, there were some that didn’t experience the same enthusiasm. This is part of the mystery of change. Because we are individuals, what might be new and exciting to one may be viewed by another as a turn in the wrong direction.
But this isn’t what this book is about—the common, more talked and taught about changes, that is. To be honest, there’s enough revision during the course of history in the Church to fill volumes. If this isn’t enough, much has been written on the history of these modifications. Why should I write something you already know? Because there’s not much interest in that. This book looks at the more unique changes to practices in the Church. So, when I previously indicated there has been a plethora of change, what I actually meant is plethora to the max (I share sixty-six unique changes in the coming pages). For instance, did you know at one time (1920s) that Primary children, eight to twelve years of age, could attend the temple and do baptisms for the dead? Did you also realize, prior to the Saints leaving Nauvoo, that very young individuals were married for time and eternity? You ask how young (after all, I was twenty-two, my wife was twenty when we were sealed, and that’s young, but not unusual).
How does twelve years old sound to you? Also, the sacrament in the early Utah Church was not performed the way we take the sacrament today. During the pioneer years, talks were given and hymns sung while the sacrament was administered and passed to those who were either standing, sitting, or kneeling. In addition, the wine goblet and tray of bread were passed from person to person, row by row, together. Believe it or not, the Saints established a new alphabet, having gone so far as to print portions of the Book of Mormon using the characters from the new writing system. We have numerous choices of missions today—I’m sure a wider array than the early Church—but to be honest, the mission calls during early Utah Territory were definitely exceptionally unique. For instance, what in the world was the Rag Mission?
The above examples serve as teasers with the hope that you will dive into the following pages. As you read this book you will discover that change in the early Church was alive and well, the way it is today, and that we have always evolved. Some of the practices I bring to light were Church-wide, while others were the result of the discretion of a particular bishop or stake president. Regardless, whether at the ward level, or globally, it was a practice that no longer exists today. In a sense, we do the same thing today. The Church has standardized the way the sacrament is presently passed. However, the sacrament isn’t so structured that there isn’t room for differences from ward to ward. Think about it. How many different configurations, or the way the deacons line up during the passing of the sacrament, have you seen?
I think most members can count maybe half a dozen various ways that can vary from congregation to congregation. Where I’m able to determine why the practice was done away, I will share this too since the cessation of the rituals are just as interesting as the change itself.
At the conclusion of this book you might be of the same belief as I am that our daily routines are very different from that of the pioneer Saints. However, when it comes to the Church and change, we are like peas in a pod. There isn’t a Saint out there today who doesn’t sit down to view general conference and wonder what the prophet will announce that will be the hot topic of conversations the next day. The same was true of the pioneer Church. There wasn’t a family who entered the Tabernacle for general conference during the 1800s who didn’t wonder if the father, or the entire family, would be called over the pulpit to serve a mission to a far-off corner of the world, or to strengthen an established ward, or pioneer a new colony along the “Mormon Corridor.”
To some, these changes may be disconcerting. However, when you realize we believe in modern revelation, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Church has evolved and will continue to do so. As great as this is, what’s more satisfying is knowing that we will continue to be part of historic change in the Church. It was exciting for me to read various early members’ journals and autobiography accounts who experienced these changes, and to discover what life was like for those who lived in Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, and Utah Territory. You, too, will find excitement as you record the changes we are experiencing currently.
You will excite future generations as they read your journal of the modifications you experienced, your role in the change, and your thoughts and feelings on the alterations. Because of the Church’s history, what is taking place today, and understanding that this will continue into the future, we are led to say, “We thank thee, O God, for a prophet” and are ever so grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who knows us and exemplifies this love through continued revelation.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!