A typical Sunday for the average Mormon often involves going to church where we attend sacrament meeting and partake of the sacrament. Oh, there might be the auxiliary lessons and other such things, but that actual time taking the bread and water of the sacrament is something of a Must of the Sabbath. I myself have even found myself on a hectic Sunday saying “why go to church? We missed the sacrament?” or, on a Sunday involving some travel, hitting up another ward just for their sacrament. Another lesson might debate the pros and cons of those decisions, but today is another, concerned with that 10 or so minutes of the sacrament: Why is taking the Sacrament such an important part of the Sabbath?
As you consider that question, consider some others:
- How does taking the Sacrament affect you and your daily life?
- How about your life as a whole?
- What is special to you about the sacrament?
- Just why are we taking the sacrament and what should we be seeking to gain and learn from partaking of the sacrament?
(Use this time to discuss these questions as a class)
Here is what we are specifically aiming to do when we partake of the Sacrament:
- Seeking to have the Spirit with us
- Renewing our baptismal covenants
- Realizing the Atonement
Clearly, we can see why we have the sacrament and why it is so crucial to our lives in the Gospel. But, as with so much of the Gospel, how often do we fail to be the stalwart warriors of perfect faith and action? I myself have often found myself tuning out during the sacrament for one reason or another and have used during my life all sorts of tricks and tips to help me stay focused.
How can we consider what the Sacrament is about?
‘Some people have told me that they’ve heard sacrament prayers so often that they don’t even hear them when the sacrament is blessed. Perhaps this is because they don’t understand what is being said. Perhaps you might want to pull your scriptures at the proper time and study these prayers. They contain profound and significant information about our promises to the Lord, and his promises to us.’ (W Mack Lawrence, General Conference, April 1991)
My husband in the early days of his mission was still learning the Spanish language. As part of his personal language study, he would read the sacrament prayer as the prayer was being said. Eventually, he had the Spanish translation of the prayer memorized and was better with the language and no longer needed to read it, but by then had fallen into the habit of reciting the prayer in his head as it was being said. This helps him focus on the prayer, rather than it becoming background noise.
Elder Don C. Clarke tells of a story from when he was a teenager: Brother Jacob, my teacher, asked that I write down on a card what I had thought about during the sacrament. I took my card and began to write. First on the list was a basketball game we had won the night before. And then came a date after the game, and so went the list. Far removed and certainly not in bold letters was the name of Jesus Christ.
Each Sunday the card was filled out. For a young Aaronic Priesthood holder, the sacrament and sacrament meeting took on a new, expanded, and spiritual meaning. I anxiously looked forward to Sundays and to the opportunity to partake of the sacrament, as understanding the Savior’s Atonement was changing me. Every Sunday to this day, as I partake of the sacrament, I can see my card and review my list. Always on my list now, first of all, is the Savior of mankind.
What do you do to help yourself focus upon and consider the sacrament?
Cheryl A. Esplin asked in a talk the following:
How can the sacrament “be a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for the soul” each week?
What answers do you have?
Sister Esplin answers with her own thoughts:
The sacrament becomes a spiritually strengthening experience when we listen to the sacrament prayers and recommit to our covenants. To do this, we must be willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. Speaking of this promise, President Henry B. Eyring taught: “That means we must see ourselves as His. We will put Him first in our lives. We will want what He wants rather than what we want or what the world teaches us to want.”
When we take the sacrament, we also covenant to “always remember” Jesus Christ. On the night before He was crucified, Christ gathered His Apostles around Him and instituted the sacrament. He broke bread, blessed it, and said, “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you.” Next He took a cup of wine, gave thanks, gave it to His Apostles to drink, and said, “This is in remembrance of my blood … , which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name.”
Melvin J. Ballard speaks of what he calls the “wounded soul”:
“Who is there among us that does not wound his spirit by word, thought, or deed, from Sabbath to Sabbath? We do things for which we are sorry and desire to be forgiven. … The method to obtain forgiveness is … to repent of our sins, to go to those against whom we have sinned or transgressed and obtain their forgiveness and then repair to the sacrament table where, if we have sincerely repented and put ourselves in proper condition, we shall be forgiven, and spiritual healing will come to our souls. …
Consider what personal benefits you find from having the Spirit with you.
The Sacrament truly is a foundation of the Sabbath, where we have this golden opportunity of time where we are literally handed what we need. We can take of the bread and water, consider the Atonement and our covenants and make, and renew our baptismal covenants. We are opening ourselves up the to the guidance of the Spirit in a very specific way.
I challenge you to take the next few Sacrament meetings to consider further what is being said and how you can take the Spirit with you from that ordinance.