Orbital Sacrament

April 23, 2008 | 7 comments

Kathleen Maughan Lind, Don Lind, Mormon Astronaut, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985. 171-172:

“Since our flight lasted a full week, we were in orbit on the Sabbath. The experiments went on around-the-clock and did not observe a day of rest. Nevertheless, I was able to shift the schedule enough to have a short time for my own private sacrament meeting on Sunday, May 5 [1985]. My bishop, Melvin DeSpain, had given me permission to hold a sacrament service on the last Sunday before liftoff when I was in quarantine as well as the Sunday that I would be on orbit.

“The orbital sacrament service presented some problems. The first was the sacrament prayers. I had taken a complete set of the standard works aboard Challenger with me. They had been sent to me by the Church News and the First Presidency, and were to be presented to the Museum of Church History and Art. However, they were stored where they were not accessible, so I could not use them for the sacrament prayers. Since we are counseled not to recite the prayers from memory, I had to find some way to include a copy of the prayers in the official Flight Data File — the library of procedures we have on board. That was really rather easy. One Flight Data File volume is my personal reference notebook, so I copied the prayers into the section used for diagrams of auroral forms and communication procedures arranged at the last minute.

“The second technical problem concerning the sacrament was how to follow the scriptural direction, “After this manner shall he administer it — he shall kneel.” (D&C 20:76.) In weightlessness, kneeling is not easily accomplished. However, I managed to solve that problem. For privacy, I had planned to hold my sacrament meeting in my sleep station, a compartment much like a spartan Pullman berth. By kneeling on what might be thought of as the ceiling, and resting my shoulders against my sleeping bag, I could maintain the standard reverent “kneeling” position — if I didn’t worry about up and down. In a way, this orientation had a special meaning for me. I know that looking upward toward heaven is only symbolic of looking toward our Father in heaven, since I don’t know where Kolob is located on the celestial sphere. However, I was strangely taken by the thought that never before had I been able to kneel to show reverence and at the same instant face heavenward toward my Eternal Father.

“The whole experience was extremely moving and very spiritual, filled with that special closeness to the Lord that I normally can feel only in the temples and a few other very special places. I suspect that this will always be the most memorable and special sacrament service of my life.”

Pp. 172-173:

“Besides preparing for the sacrament, there was one other special arrangement that I had to make for the flight because I am a Mormon. That was to be able to wear my temple garments while in orbit. Normally that could not be done. All clothing from the skin out is furnished and controlled by NASA. The discussions for me to be able to do this had gone on for several years. About a year before the flight, my bosses finally agreed that I could act as my own purchasing agent and furnish to NASA some Church-approved garments. A special NASA part number would be assigned so the stowage and quality-control. system could handle this deviation from normal procedures. President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency had approved the whole plan, and to my great satisfaction, I was able to wear my temple garments into space.”

Thanks to John Taber and Ardis Parshall.


7 Responses to Orbital Sacrament

  1. Left Field on April 23, 2008 at 9:21 am

    We’re counseled not to give the sacrament prayers from memory? Who knew?

    I remember Lind talking about this in general conference, but this seems to be a more detailed account.

  2. Peter LLC on April 23, 2008 at 10:55 am

    He sounds like one who takes his religion seriously.

  3. JT on April 23, 2008 at 11:43 am

    As I was a child when this took place, this is all pretty novel to me. Thanks Adam – very interesting post. God’s creation always becomes a little more real for me whenever I look up at the sky on a clear night away from the city, or when I look at some of the galaxy photos taken from the Hubble telescope. /goosebumps

    As an aside, and to follow up on Left Field’s question (1), I had never heard that we are not supposed to recite sacrament prayers from memory. I don’t recall ever seeing this in the current CHI, but it’s possible I could have missed it, despite having read every page. Since his trip took place when I was a child, does anyone know if reciting the sacrament prayer from memory used to be discouraged (or still is)?

    PS – I don’t know why this reminds me of it, but I was in what I believe is the only LDS bookstore in Minnesota a year ago and found a random volume entitled “The Kolob Theory,” which postulates that the Milky Way is (our) God’s creation, with Kolob near the center, and that the other galaxies are the creation of others, and went on to state many other interesting ideas no doubt developed in the author’s high-priest group. I guess its not too far-fetched (about how I imagined things), but its interesting what random books you can find in isolated LDS bookstores. Makes me want to hie there again sometime soon.

  4. Ray on April 23, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Fascinating. Thanks, Adam, John and Ardis.

    [Editor-- All I did was cut and paste information that John Taber and Ardis Parshall found and sent to me. No thanks necessary.]

  5. Martin Willey on April 23, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Interesting post. Makes me wonder about my commitment. I would have likely thought: “I can skip the sacrament for a week. After all, I do it every time there is a general or stake conference.” But then I would missed out on a very significant experience. Performing our usual routine under unusual circumstances often provides new insights.

  6. m&m on April 23, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Awesome. Thank you.

  7. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 23, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Having the sacrament in a challenging environment, such as in a military combat zone, or with just my missionary companion and myself when we were starting a new branch of the Church in a new city, is a way of sanctifying those places and experiences, and ourselves in them. Doing it in spite of challenges is to emphatically renew the promise that we will always remember Him.

    When I bless the sacrament, I read the prayers as a precaution because if it is done improperly, it needs to be done over, and everyone in the congregation is relying on me. But when I am sitting in the congregation, I remember that my great-grandmother, who was converted with her parents in Denmark, would recite the sacrament prayers to herself as she held the bread and the cup. I silently recite the prayers in the Japanese version I learned (it has since been simplified, a bit inelegantly according to Professor Van Gessel at BYU). It helps me focus on their meaning, and the fact that I am making a covenant.

    The Church some time back adapted the garments so they could be used by military members in combat uniform. It is really the origin of the two piece garments now common. The military version, which one has to show military ID to purchase, are also died a darker, neutral color to match the standard issue undershirts, and have a higher collar to match those as well, since the BDUs (battle dress uniform) are worn with an open collar that shows the front of the undershirt.


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