The warm, yeasty smell of bread rising and baking percolates the kitchen and permeates the whole home. As the bread bakes, the scent somehow feels warmer. Indeed, baking bread is a defining experience. And it’s one that Latter-day Saint women have a rich history and influence on.
The iconic Lion House rolls have deep Latter-day Saint roots. And now they are available in select stores in Utah.
But Latter-day Saint women’s history with bread goes deeper than those iconic rolls or other bread recipes that are found scattered across cookbooks that Relief Societies like the Salt Lake 8th Ward would use to make treats for their bakery.
Bread at temple dedications
Scholar Kris Wright has pointed out that because of women’s influence, sacrament bread holds a deeper meaning. She recalled rushing in the rain to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers museum where she observed 120-year-old bread. This bread, older than any of us, was “bread blessed for sacramental purposes at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple.”
Wright quoted Nancy Naomi Alexander Tracy, who wrote this at the time of the Kirtland Temple dedication: “Blessings were poured out. Solemn assemblies were called. Endowments were given. The elders went from house to house, blessing the Saints and administering the sacrament. Feasts were given. Three families joined together and held one at our house. We baked a lot of bread.”
After seeing the bread present at the Salt Lake Temple dedication and reading about the bread baked for the Kirtland Temple dedication, Wright determined that bread had a special meaning — it was “a physical reminder of the of sacramental meals which facilitated the forgiveness of sin, salvation through community and the Pentecostal possibilities of temple dedications.”
Baking bread for the sacrament
The Deseret News interviewed a 13-year-old Latter-day Saint girl who asked to go by Emma who volunteered to bake sacrament bread each week for a month. Emma told the Deseret News, “I wanted to bake this bread to spend time with my mum each week.”
Emma said that her grandmother baked sacrament bread from time to time and that when she bakes bread, she is reminded of her grandmother and “feels good about helping everyone get the sacrament each week.”
In a 2011 article, Kris Wright quoted Julina Lambson Smith, who recorded in her diary on Jan. 3, 1886, “Fast day. No breakfast to get. Prepared bread for sacrament. Cooked a good dinner. Did not go to meeting. Can hardly get up and down I am so lame. Jos. brought Kahanna home with home to dinner. I got supper with the help of our girls. Feel some little better this evening.”
After this quote, Wright mused on whether Smith saw baking bread as part of her normal, everyday food preparation or as sacred. Kitchens are transformed into sacred spaces, Wright concluded, by women who made bread that was laid on the altar.
Then, Wright described her own bread baking experience for the sacrament, concluding, “I approach my God through bread — the morsel of bread that I eat now, the bread that I have fed His sheep today, the bread I have baked.”