Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Elder Robbins, Ad Orientem

October 07th, 2014 by G.

Janus

Catholic traditionalists don’t like the newfangled approach where the priest faces the congregation while he undergoes the rite of the mass. (It used to be the priest faced away from the congregation, to the east, ad orientem.) The mass, they say, is a rite of worship. The congregation isn’t worshipping the priest and the priest isn’t worshipping the congregation, ergo, they shouldn’t be gawking at each other. They also say that the mass is a sacrifice. To whom is the priest sacrificing? Not to the congregation, surely. Thus Catholic traditionalists.

There has never been anything Mormon parallel to the ad orientem issue. Until this General Conference.

Though he was speaking more metaphorically than of our rites, Elder Robbins was firm about the direction we face. We face the people as spokesmen for God. We do not face God as spokesmen for the people. Acting as advocates for the crowd, he said, is apostasy.

I was moved by his image of Christ facing us as a representative of God the Father so well that he became one with God.

Elder Robbins’ talk illuminates the nature of Mormonism. Trivially, it shows Mormonism’s roots in the radical Protestant milieu where the sermon was the center of church services. Less trivially, it shows that for Mormons the Real Presence in our services isn’t in the sacrament but in the sacrament-performers. It is God acting through the priesthood. The prophet’s voice is our mass.

Comments (10)
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October 07th, 2014 08:10:22
10 comments

Vader
October 7, 2014

“Less trivially, it shows that for Mormons the Real Presence in our services isn’t in the sacrament but in the sacrament-performers”

Who are typically 16-year-old kids. Which is wonderful.


Agellius
October 7, 2014

“We face the people as spokesmen for God. We do not face God as spokesmen for the people. Acting as advocates for the crowd, he said, is apostasy.”

I had to ponder that for a minute, but I like it. In other words, the job of the leaders of the Church is not to go to God and say “The people demand such-and-such!” Is that right?


G.
October 7, 2014

Exactly. But he extended it to all of us, not just the formal leadership. We are with the Lord looking out at the world, representing the Lord to the world, and not the other way around.


Bookslinger
October 7, 2014

I might have this slightly skewed (too lazy to google it at the moment), but the gist is… His remarks harken back to a talk by Elder Packer that he gave to CES. Elder Packer asked CES people which way they faced, and said the question originally came to him from Pres (or perhaps then Elder) Harold B. Lee: “Which way so you face?” I recognized the reference/quote immediately, though I may have the details/provenance wrong. If it wasn’t Elder/Pres. Lee, then it may have been Canadian apostle Elder Hugh B. Brown. It may have been Elder Packer relating the story from a talk by Elder Lee or Elder Brown given to CES employees/teachers when Elder Packer taught in CES.

I would expect a footnote in the Ensign edition Elder Robbins’ talk.


John Mansfield
October 7, 2014

This principle sounds hard to apply well, too easy to turn into “You shut up because I’m the bishop/home teacher/father/missionary/teachers’ quorum president, and you’re not, so it doesn’t matter what you think about anything. We’re going to play volleyball this Wednesday, not basketball, so you can either fall in line or dwindle in apostasy, you backtalking murmurer.”

I trust I can safely raise this concern at this website due to the lower quotient of ongoing backtalking murmuring.


G.
October 7, 2014

No arguments there, JM.

Books is absolutely right about the story that frames Elder Robbins talk, so I’m guessing the strictest application of the talk isn’t “I, ahem, I mean the Lord, aren’t backing down on this,” its “the brethren aren’t backing down on this, and I support the brethren”


Bookslinger
October 7, 2014

I saw that part of his talk as addressing the progressive wing of Mormonism that defies the Brethren on such things as SSM, and priesthood.

There was a recurring meme in this GC: times when the Brethren speak in a _unified_ voice. I recall hearing that from several speakers. It was not that they always speak in a unified voice, just that there are times/topics when they do. _That_ is when we must pay attention, and “face with the brethren”.

Several of the speakers, specifically elder Robbins and Elder Oaks, seemed to be addressing members who openly oppose the Brethren on issues on which the brethren are unified.

I thought it was clear that Elder Robbins was speaking specifically of facing with the Brethren, not every priesthood leader.

….

Elder Nelson spoke of succession in the first Presidency, and I’m sad to say that it sounded like he knew that Pres Monson was in ill health, as if he wasn’t going to be around much longer.


Vader
October 7, 2014

I noticed the part about how the Church can still function with an incapacitated President.

I also noticed that President Monson still seemed like he had a reasonably clear mind and at least a little physical energy. Getting older, of course.


Bruce Charlton
October 8, 2014

I have not yet worked through all of the talks – and the ones I have seen or listed to are dotted around the conference – but I seemed to notice a theme about The Prophet, his essential meaning, role and function; proper attitudes wrt sustaining, praying etc – and, deriving from that, the Priesthood – and its absolute necessity for the church. This seemed like a very strong clarification, endorsement and reminder: the effect on me was exhilarating and encouraging.


John Mansfield
October 8, 2014

Elder Nelson may have had more than Thomas Monson’s health and vitality in mind. The next three senior apostles are 90 (Packer), 92 (Perry), and 90 (Nelson, himself). The next four are 82, 86, 85, and 82. The President of the Church has usually become a very old man, but I doubt the senior half of the Quorum of the Twelve has ever been close to as old as it is now. Eight years ago, Gordon Hinckley read to us from his journal about a time of turnover in church leadership from 1950 to 1953. Over a span of eight General Conferences, the church sustained six new members of the Quorum of the Twelve. I thought President Hinckley was preparing the church for a similar turnover to come, but it didn’t happen. Only three apostles have been called since Hinckley’s talk, the most recent one five years ago. There has been a lot of age building up, so the chances of periods over the next decade with an incapacitated church president, like we experienced with the last portions of Kimball and Benson’s service, are high. So far the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve has never been incapacitated at the time of the church president’s death.

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