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Sacrament Postlude Music Prohibited?

MCQ - February 22, 2011

For as long as I can remember, our sacrament service has included organ music that is played at the conclusion of the sacrament, during the time that the deacons and priests are returning to their seats.  I don’t know how wide-spread this practice has been, and I never even knew what it was called, until this past Sunday when the practice was abruptly discontinued, apparently due to a change in the CHI, which now prohibits it. 

The bishop announced the change, calling the music “sacrament postlude music.”  He professed a certain lack of understanding about the reason for the prohibition, but said that the ward was discontinuing the practice anyway, out of obedience to the clear requirements of the CHI.  He speculated that possibly the music was seen as an interruption of congregants’ ability to continue to feel the spirit of the sacrament, by unnecessarily marking a conclusion to the ordinance where none was necessary or intended.  But that was only speculation as no reason for the change has been announced or is likely to be forthcoming. 

Is this a big deal?  No, not really.  You would have to be a pretty observant participant in our worship services to really notice the change, but it’s significant to me and, more importantly, I don’t like it.  I don’t know if my dissatisfaction is based on the fact that I will miss the little musical interlude or because I really don’t like mandated changes that are unexplained, but whatever the reason, I find myself irritated by this.

What are your thoughts?  Did your wards have this practice and, if so, has it been eliminated?  Have you heard, or do you have any additional explanation beyond what I have stated above?  What’s going on here?


  1. Don’t think I’ve ever experienced “sacrament postlude” music. I don’t understand how it would fit in. It only takes about 15 seconds for the Aaronic priesthood to return to their seats and the person conducting (who stood up to excuse them) usually goes right on introducing the speakers during this period.

    Comment by DCL — February 22, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  2. I’ve never felt comfortable with the Sacrament postlude music (and I’m a substitute ward organist). It feels a bit like “gilding the lily” to me, something completely unnecessary, and something that detracts from the spirit of the meeting rather than being something that adds to it. I’m glad that little piece of “show business” is gone.

    Even now, I’m not sure I’ve adequately explained my dislike for it; I’m having a hard time coming up with the perfect metaphor for why it feels so awful to me, but I just can’t seem to put my finger on the right words.

    Your mileage, however, may vary.

    Comment by Mark N. — February 22, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  3. One more try:

    “Sacramental postlude” music to me feels about as appropriate to the ordinance as imagining one of the priests offering one of the sacrament prayers leaping to his feet after the “amen” and going “Ta-daaaaaaah!”

    Comment by Mark N. — February 22, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

  4. DKL, yes, it is only about 15-30 seconds of music, and often the person conducting is standing at the pulpit while it is playing.

    Mark, as an organist, do you know the origin of this practice, or how widespread it is? Based on DKL’s comment, it sounds like this is not done in the east, so maybe it’s just a western thing, or even a Utah thing.

    I can’t remember if I heard it in California on my mission or not, but I think I did.

    To me, rather than a “ta-daaaaah!” it seems more like a nice transition. It’s usually a part of the sacrament hymn that gets played during this time, so it’s a way of marking the end of the ordinance and transitioning to the “speaker” portion of the meeting. Like a closing hymn to the ordinance of the saxcrament, if you will.

    Comment by MCQ — February 22, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

  5. When I was a missionary in England and Wales from 2000-2002 most of the wards did the postlude music thing. I hadn’t ever seen it before then or since (grew up in Cleveland, went to BYU after). I kinda liked it.

    Comment by Bryan H. — February 22, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

  6. Although I’m honored to be mistaken, comment #1 is from me, DCL. I have mostly been in the church around southern California and don’t remember any postlude music.

    Comment by DCL — February 22, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

  7. I liked it too. Maybe it can still be done, just relabeled “intermediate organ music” in between the completion of the Sacrament and the first talk!

    Comment by DavidH — February 22, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

  8. I think it’s a vestige of the early-to-mid-20th century practice of playing soft organ music throughout the sacrament (other than the prayers, I mean). That was discontinued with the explanation that it was an unnecessary embroidery of a simple ritual — if we were Protestants, we might have called it “popish” to express the same thought.

    Sacrament postludes have been discouraged for a long time, with occasional brief mentions in the Ensign and Church News. I’m surprised it has hung on (or perhaps was revived?) anywhere.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 22, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

  9. We had it here in our Philly area ward, until I somehow spied the change almost as soon as I got a copy of the CHI and told our organist, who hated playing it and was happy to not have to do it anymore.

    Comment by Rob — February 22, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

  10. It’s interesting how many practices like this we try to reverse engineer a principle for. The what is often more plainly stated than the why, and we would like to know the why. I guess it goes back to Adam and offering sacrifice, though likely few of our practices have an unstated purpose quite so meaningful as that one.

    Comment by John Mansfield — February 22, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

  11. Ah, DCL, so you were impersonating DKL, then! I should have known by your lack of Boston accent.

    Maybe it wasn’t done when I was a missionary, but I thought it was. I was in OC during the mid-80s, mostly around Newport Beach. Seems like i remember this being done there, but I could be wrong.

    Ardis, that’s interesting. So you’re saying it has been discouraged but apparently it was never banned outright. apparently it now has been, with this new change in the CHI. Maybe they thought it didn’t need explanation because they had been talking about it elsewhere before. Shows how well we read the Ensign I guess.

    Rob, apparently, organists are against it. I guess if you’re an organist, you don’t want to play unless you get to play the whole hymn.

    Comment by MCQ — February 22, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

  12. John, I think it’s the same. Sacrament postlude music is a perfect symbol of the atonement. I mean, anyone can see that, right?

    Comment by MCQ — February 22, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

  13. I don’t recall hearing sacrament postlude music in wards along the Wasatch Front for maybe twenty or thirty years now. I think it is strange, although not too strange.

    In my current ward, the person conducting gets up and excuses the Aaronic priesthood members to go back to their seats, which I also find strange.

    Better to just introduce the first speaker get as soon as the priests have replaced the sacrament covering, while the passer/administrators are quietly returning to their seats, in my opinion.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 22, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

  14. I’ve only seen the postlude from UT-grown organists (could well be a coincidence). And I have seen waves of discouragement, which I had pegged on some local leader not liking it.

    Here is the exact wording from the current CHI:
    No music should be played during the sacrament prayer, while the sacrament is being passed, or as a postlude after the sacrament is passed.

    Right here:

    Comment by ESO — February 22, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

  15. I think you are asking the wrong question. Why should they explain why not to have something.
    They are saying don’t do this thing because there is no reason to do it. There is not a perceived benefit. Very few wards ever did it (it the many, many wards I attended I only heard it once).
    It is like telling the YW that they are not supposed to say some sort of saying before reciting the theme. Otherwise people just keep saying the same thing and it becomes part of the ritual when there is no reason to have extra ritual added to it (it is already long enough).

    Comment by jks — February 22, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

  16. fwiw, here’s what people said when I asked about how widespread the practice is: http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/11/29/an-unscientific-poll/

    Comment by Kristine — February 22, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

  17. Does the new CHI instruction mean that your comment 66 in that thread was prophetic, Kristine? :-)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 22, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

  18. Yeah, Ardis–maybe this is the time to confess that I actually wrote the new handbook. bwhahahahaha!


    Comment by Kristine — February 22, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

  19. I knew it! All those additional responsibilities for women and the creation of the Quorum of the Twelve Musicians gave it away!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 22, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

  20. Funny. I didn’t notice that poll before Kristine, or I just forgot you did it. Based on those responses, did you get a feel for how widespread the practice was? From what I could tell it was pretty spotty.

    Comment by MCQ — February 22, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

  21. I thought it was nice of those presiding to listen to a woman before making their decision.

    Comment by Steve Evans — February 22, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  22. I’m from Northern California, and I’ve never experienced the sacrament postlude. Hmm.

    Comment by meems — February 23, 2011 @ 1:49 am

  23. Since this affects a small portion of wards out there, IMHO the underlying idea is to prevent diverse traditions from taking hold or developing in different parts of the church. That is the reason for the difference between discouraging a practice and making it against a rule. We have been getting strict instructions from our area authority on sacrament meeting procedures, so this makes sense.

    Comment by Paul 2 — February 23, 2011 @ 2:39 am

  24. I’ve been the ward organist for 40 years now. I remember playing “sacrament postlude” in some wards, and I also remember it being discouraged quite a while ago. However, I can’t remember a specific “when,” “how,” or “why.”

    I think one of the main reasons organists dislike playing the sacrament postlude is because it means you have to sit on the hard organ bench for the whole sacrament passing!

    I wonder if the sacrament postlude is a remnant of the old “sacrament gem” in Sunday School – brief music prelude, someone read a scripture/quote, another brief music postlude, followed by the blessing and passing of the sacrament. The Church even published music that was appropriate to play. I still have mine!

    Comment by Mel — February 23, 2011 @ 7:15 am

  25. The ward I grew up in did this and one ward in that stake still did it when I visited in November. But no ward that I’ve lived in since I left home 35 years ago has done it.

    Comment by KLC — February 23, 2011 @ 8:16 am

  26. I’ve been an organist off and on (mostly on) for nearly 40 years now, all in the West. I don’t remember playing a Sacrament Postlude, but I have a distant memory of hearing other organists doing so.

    Comment by CS Eric — February 23, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  27. We continue to have it here in our ward in Florida. I have always found it a wonderful way to end the blessing and passing of the Sacrament. I don’t understand the reason for disliking it so much.

    But then again, as a convert from Catholicism, I enjoy the “Popish” flourishes to our normally bland and puritanical practices. Why do we always assume the low-church approach is the only way for us to conduct communal worship?

    Comment by Michael — February 23, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  28. “I don’t understand the reason for disliking it so much.”

    Yeah, me neither. Then again, if it were up to me, we’d have a full-on Fraction Anthem and two or three hymns associated with the sacrament and a processional, so I’m hardly the best judge :)

    Comment by Kristine — February 23, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  29. I like where you’re head’s at, Kristine.

    Comment by MCQ — February 23, 2011 @ 11:32 am

  30. Now that that’s been disposed of, I suppose we can only pray that version 2011.1.2 of the handbook will make it an excommunicable offense for anyone conducting a meeting to announce that Brother or Sister So-and-so will “give us a closing prayer.”

    Comment by Mark B. — February 23, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  31. My experience is that the practice of sacramental postlude was something established on a ward-by-ward basis, depending on what the bishop of any given ward thought about the practice at the time. Hooray for blessed silence.

    Comment by Mark N. — February 23, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  32. MCQ #4: “… it seems more like a nice transition…”.

    A local morning radio talk team here in Sacramento has its own version of transition music that they play (to comic effect) whenever they feel that the jump from one topic of discussion to another is just too jarring. They either use a cheesy Walter Wonderly kind of organ thing, or some YouTube Russian guy who vocalizes to some happy song that has no lyrics. I can just imagine the effect of using either in Sacrament meeting.

    Or, we could do the opposite of the opening bit of the old Art Fleming/Don Pardo “Jeopardy!” game show, with tension-building organ music in the background which the bishop intones something similar to the following: “Now leaving the Sacrament table: Dave Smith, a junior at William McKinley High School, who plays trumpet in the marching band, and who played the lead in last semester’s drama department’s production of ‘Finian’s Rainbow’; Richard Johnson, …”.

    Comment by Mark N. — February 23, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  33. Player introductions like that would be awesome! The priests would be competing to get a spot at the table.

    Comment by MCQ — February 23, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

  34. I have never been in a ward that did Sacrament postlude music, and having served my mission in Utah, I have attended a lot of Sacrament meetings.

    Comment by Kim Siever — February 23, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

  35. I have been involved in ward and stake music ever since I can remember and I have lived in various stakes and wards within the SL Valley and I have never even heard of Sacrament Postlude until I read this post. Interesting how traditions pop up in various areas and not others.

    Comment by Jason — February 24, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  36. I’m 53 and I have never attended a Sacrament Meeting that had a sacrament postlude.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — March 9, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  37. You guys have soooo missed out.

    Comment by MCQ — March 9, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

  38. I have never noticed it…but much of sacrament is fuzzy in my memory. The thing that I find interesting, if not annoying, is that somebody felt a need to ban it. This is correlation silliness.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 10, 2011 @ 9:03 am

  39. I agree. It’s a very small thing, and I don’t see how it hurts the sacrament or the meeting. It probably improves it a tiny bit. From the comments, it sounds like organists dislike it, so maybe an oganist had some connections and got the ban instituted.

    We’re going to have to get another revelation at some point to get this ban reversed.

    Comment by MCQ — March 10, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  40. Many years ago my ward was torn apart when salt lake sent the message out to bishops that cry rooms with windows would be ended.Our obedient bishop had the window covered and the members took sides.Scouting,sports program,and other sacred cows can tear a ward apart.There is a need for conformity in a church that grows as fast as ours.What would it be like if we allowed local policy or practice to guide the church instead of a prophet.

    Comment by marv thompson — March 14, 2011 @ 7:51 am

  41. I’m not sure why a window would be the point of controversy in a cry room. As far as I am aware, windows are supposed to be in all doors at ward houses (other than bishops offices and restrooms). I don’t know why any ward would be covering one up.

    In any case, I’m certainly not saying that local tradition should hold sway on sacrament postludes, and as I said, this particular tradition doesn’t seem that important one way or the other. So the question is why the Church would feel it necessary to end the practice, small and insignificant as it is.

    Some of the comments above have answered that question pretty well. I think it’s likely that, after discouraging the practice for some time as unnecessary guilding of the lilly, they just decided to mandate it in the CHI.

    Comment by MCQ — March 14, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

  42. the window ,was a bay window .The room was next to the chapel and moms would take all their kids into the cry room and watch the meeting through the window. I think salt lake thought ,that moms should train their kids and not take them to the cry room to avoid such training.I am 68 years old and these rooms were most likely not around when you were young.The room was not the point,the point is wards have personalities ,just as people do. Some times wards can act petulant and childish .

    Comment by marv thompson — March 17, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

  43. Huh. I’ve never seen a room like that, but it seems like a good idea. Better than just taking the kids into the foyer, which is what they do at most wards.

    Comment by MCQ — March 17, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

  44. AS two older sisters sat in church trying to hear the speaker,they were distracted by three moms who had unruly children. The first mom took her children out of the meeting and missed a message that was just for her. The second mom pulled out some materials she had prepared for the kids and they settled down. The third mom became very upset and was reaching the end of her rope.One of the older sisters moved over to the third mom and offered her help.Wards have traditions and practices ,what is important is we practice the tradition of love.

    Comment by marv thompson — March 18, 2011 @ 6:40 am

  45. I could go for lovely flute music during the sacrament…playing “You’re Not Alone” or “God is Love” seriously…

    Comment by annegb — March 23, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

  46. [...] Ardis E. Parshall, responding to Kristine’s assertion that she had written the new CHI, commenting on MCQ’s post “Sacrament Postlude Music Prohibited?” at Nine Moons: I knew it! All those additional responsibilities for women and the creation of the Quorum of the Twelve Musicians gave it away! [...]

    Pingback by Zelophehad’s Daughters | Nacle Notebook 2011: Funny Comments — January 9, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

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