Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Sacrament

The Sacrament is an important ordinance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He instituted this ordinance at the "Last supper" before his crucifixion. In Luke 22:19,20 we read, "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." The Book of Mormon records that He also instituted this ordinance among the people of ancient America. The sacrament, according to LDS belief is, " ordinance in which Church members partake of bread and water in remembrance of Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice. This ordinance is an essential part of worship and spiritual development. Through this ordinance, Church members renew the covenants they made with God when they were baptized."

In additional LDS scripture, we have recorded the sacrament prayers that we today use in this ordinance. This is the prayer for the bread:

"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77

I have personally found that when taking the bread, it is a good time to focus on how the Savior gave His body for us, and then resurrected it so that we can all be resurrected after death. When preparing the sacrament, Priesthood holders cover it with a white cloth until time to administer it to the congregation. I can't help but be reminded of the burial clothes that covered the Savior's body in the tomb.

When the Savior taught his disciples about the sacrament, He used new wine. Today we use water. In modern revelation we read, "That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him. And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make." (Doctrine and Covenants 89:5,6) We also get this further direction, "For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins." (Doctrine and Covenants 27:2)

This is the prayer for the water:

"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Doctrine and Covenants 22:78)

When I take the water, I find it helpful to focus on the blood that the Savior shed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took upon Himself the sins of the world, and so great was His anguish that He bled from every pore. I think about my own sins that caused Him anguish, and I think about what I can do to overcome them. I always like to pray and ask forgiveness and also ask for help in overcoming my weaknesses. John H. Groberg taught, "What does it mean to partake of the sacrament worthily? Or how do we know if we are unworthy? "If we desire to improve (which is to repent) and are not under priesthood restriction, then, in my opinion, we are worthy. If, however, we have no desire to improve, if we have no intention of following the guidance of the Spirit, we must ask: Are we worthy to partake, or are we making a mockery of the very purpose of the sacrament, which is to act as a catalyst for personal repentance and improvement? If we remember the Savior and all he has done and will do for us, we will improve our actions and thus come closer to him, which keeps us on the road to eternal life....I testify from the depths of my soul that these principles are true. Jesus did suffer and die for us. Through him, and only through him, can we have life and the joy thereof, both in time and in eternity.
I love the Savior. I feel that as he hung upon the cross and looked out over the dark scene, he saw more than mocking soldiers and cruel taunters. He saw more than crying women and fearful friends. He remembered and saw even more than women at wells or crowds on hills or throngs by seashores. He saw more, much more. He, who knows all and has all power, saw through the stream of time. His huge, magnanimous, loving soul encompassed all eternity and took in all people and all times and all sins and all forgiveness and all everything. Yes, he saw down to you and to me and provided us an all-encompassing opportunity to escape the terrible consequences of death and sin."
(“The Beauty and Importance of the Sacrament,” Ensign, May 1989, 38)

Taking the sacrament is one of the most important reasons for our Sabbath worship. Recently I was talking to a friend who doesn't attend church. She said, "I don't think I need to go to church to learn how to be a good person." I said, "I don't just go to church to learn how to be a good person, I go to participate in the ordinances such as baptism and the sacrament." She replied, "That's true." Maybe some day I can convince her to attend church. There is great power that comes from taking the sacrament each week. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, "

We live in the perilous times prophesied by the Apostle Paul (see 2 Timothy 3:1). Those who try to walk the straight and narrow path see inviting detours on every hand. We can be distracted, degraded, downhearted, or depressed. How can we have the Spirit of the Lord to guide our choices and keep us on the path?

In modern revelation the Lord gave the answer in this commandment:

“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;

“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High” (D&C 59:9–10).

This is a commandment with a promise. By participating weekly and appropriately in the ordinance of the sacrament we qualify for the promise that we will “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:77). That Spirit is the foundation of our testimony. It testifies of the Father and the Son, brings all things to our remembrance, and leads us into truth. It is the compass to guide us on our path. This gift of the Holy Ghost, President Wilford Woodruff taught, “is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man” (Deseret Weekly, Apr. 6, 1889, 451)."

(“Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 17–20)

The ordinance of the sacrament is very pure but simple. It isn't administered in a loud or gregarious way, but in a reverent and simple manner. It is intensely personal for the one partaking. If you attend one of our meetings, you will notice that there is quiet during the sacrament. This is as it should be, to allow all to worship individually. I am thankful for the opportunity I have each week to partake of the sacrament and renew my baptismal covenants. It helps me to take inventory of where I stand with God, and to think deeply about the sacrifice of our Savior.

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