1914 RS Message

Below is a reproduction of a Circular letter sent to Presidents of stakes and Bishops of Wards.

Office of The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Salt Lake City, Utah, October 3rd, 1914

To the Presidents of Stakes and Bishops of Wards:

Questions are frequently asked in regard to washing and anointing our sisters preparatory to their confinement. In a circular issued by the leading sisters of the Relief Society a number of questions on this matter have been answered and correct instructions given, but notwithstanding this having been done, we judge from the contents of letters received by us that there exists some uncertainty as to the proper persons to engage in this administration; we have therefore considered it necessary to answer some of these questions, and give such explanations as will place this matter in the right light. We quote some of these questions and give our answers:

1. Is it necessary for one or more sisters to be set apart to wash and anoint the sick?

2. Should it be done under the direction of the Relief Society?

Answer: Any good sister, full of faith in God and in the efficacy of prayer, may officiate. It is therefore not necessary for anyone to be set apart for this purpose, or that it should be done exclusively under the direction of the Relief Society.

3. Must the sister officiating be a member of the Relief Society?

Answer: It is conceded that most of our sisters, qualified to perform this service and gifted with the spirit of healing and the power to inspire faith in the sick, belong to the Relief Society, but if the sick should desire to have some good sister who is not a member of the Relief Society administer to her, that sister has the right to so administer.

4. Have the sisters the right to administer to sick children?

Answer: Yes; they have the same right to administer to sick children as to adults, and may anoint and lay hands upon them in faith.

5. Should the administering and anointing be sealed?

Answer: It is proper for sisters to lay on hands, using a few simple words, avoiding the terms employed in the temple, and instead of using the word “seal” use the word “confirm.

6. Have the sisters a right to seal the washing and anointing, using no authority, but doing it in the name of Jesus Christ, or should men holding the priesthood be called in?

Answer: The sisters have the privilege of laying their hands on the head of the person for whom they are officiating, and confirming and anointing in the spirit of invocation. The Lord has heard and answered the prayers of sisters in these administrations many times. It should, however, always be remembered that the command of the Lord is to call in the elders to administer to the sick, and when they can be called in, they should be asked to anoint the sick or seal the anointing.

7. Are sisters who have not received their endowments competent to wash and anoint sisters previous to confinement?

Answer: It must always be borne in mind that this administering to the sick by the sisters is in no sense a temple ordinance, and no one is allowed to use the words learned in the temple in washing and anointing the sick. Sisters who have had their endowments have received instructions and blessings which tend to give them stronger faith and especially qualify them to officiate in this sacred work; but there are good faithful sisters, who through circumstances have not received their endowments, and yet are full of faith and have had much success in ministering to the sick, who should not be forbidden to act, if desired to do so by our sisters.

In conclusion we have to say that in all sacred functions performed by our sisters there should be perfect harmony between them and the Bishop, who has the direction of all matters pertaining to the Church in his ward. Your brethren, JOSEPH F. SMITH, ANTHON H. LUND, CHARLES W. PENROSE, First Presidency.