What was your first thought when you read the topic of this essay? We do many things "in remembrance" of someone dear to us or an important event. I believe it would be natural for you to immediately think that this post is about Memorial Day observance or something similar; however, you would be in error. This essay is about the sacrament, which we partake of "in remembrance" of the suffering and Atonement of Jesus Christ in our behalf.
The sacrament is one of the most important and sacred ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In partaking of the sacrament, we remember our Savior and recommit ourselves to the promises we made at our baptism. We take the sacrament so often that sometimes we may forget its significance. We can guard against this possibility by preparing always to be worthy to partake of the sacrament and to receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: "With so very much at stake, [the sacrament] should be taken more seriously than it sometimes is. It should be a powerful, reverent, reflective moment. It should encourage spiritual feelings and impressions. As such it should not be rushed. It is not something to `get over' so that the real purpose of a sacrament meeting can be pursued. This is the real purpose of the meeting. And everything that is said or sung or prayed in those services should be consistent with the grandeur of this sacred ordinance" (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 68).
The sacrament is more important than the announcements, talks, and hymns at sacrament meeting because it is the purpose for the meeting itself. We are commanded to meet together often to partake of the sacrament. The sacrament portion of our sacrament meetings always begins with a special sacrament hymn to remind us of the purpose of the sacrament. With the words of the hymn freshly in our minds, it is easier to keep our minds on the Savior and His mission. I like to read the words of several sacrament hymns in order to keep my mind focused on the purpose of the sacrament and remember the Savior. Other people read scriptures about Him. Still others concentrate their thoughts and ponder about Him.
The sacrament usually consists of bread and water. We partake of the bread "in remembrance of the body of thy Son [Jesus Christ]" and to "witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that [we] are willing to take upon [us] the name of thy Son, and always remember and keep his commandments" that we may "always have his Spirit to be with [us]" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).
We partake of the water "in remembrance of the blood of thy Son [Jesus Christ], which was shed for [us]" that we "may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that [we] do always remember him, that [we] may have his Spirit to be with [us]" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:79).
If there is no bread or water available to use for the sacrament, appropriate substitutions can be made. The important thing is to remember the purposes of the sacrament. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, "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).
We know that Heavenly Father loves us very much because He sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to atone for our sins. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Elder Melvin J. Ballard, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained how the sacrament reminds us of the love of our Heavenly Father and why we should remember the Savior's Atonement when we partake of the sacrament.
"It is written in the scriptures that God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son to die for the world, that whosoever believeth on him … and keepeth his commandments, shall be saved. But this [sacrifice] did not cost us very much - freely given are all these glorious privileges….
"… While we give nothing, perhaps, for this atonement and this sacrifice, nevertheless, it has cost someone something, and I love to contemplate what it cost our Father in heaven to give us the gift of his beloved Son, … who so loved the world that he laid his life down to redeem the world, to save us and to feed us spiritually while we walk in this life, and prepare us to go and dwell with him in the eternal worlds….
"Our Father in heaven … loved his Son Jesus Christ, … for [he] had with him his Son, our Redeemer, in the eternal worlds, faithful and true for ages…. God heard the cry of his Son in that moment of great grief and agony, in the garden when … he cried out: `Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.' …
"… He saw that Son condemned, he saw him drag the cross through the streets of
and faint under its load…. He saw
[Jesus'] body stretched out upon the wooden cross, he saw the cruel nails
driven through hands and feet, and the blows that broke the skin, tore the
flesh … and let out the life's blood of his Son…. Jerusalem
"In that hour I think I can see our dear Father, … his great heart almost breaking for the love that he had for his Son. Oh, in that moment when he might have saved his Son, I thank him and praise him that he did not fail us, for he had not only the love of his Son in mind, but he had love for us, and I rejoice that he did not interfere, and that his love for us made it possible for him to endure to look upon the suffering of his Son and give him finally to us, our Savior and Redeemer….
"… My brethren and sisters, … if I only knew how essential it was … that I should receive the spiritual life that comes form that Son, I am sure I would always be present at the sacrament table to do honor to the gift that has come unto us" ("The Sacramental Covenant," Improvement Era, Oct. 1919, 1028-31).
We partake of the sacrament to renew the covenants we made with Heavenly Father when we were baptized. Each time we partake of the sacrament worthily, the covenant or promises between us and our Heavenly Father becomes new again. We promise to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. In return, we receive the promise that we will always have the Holy Ghost to be with us. (See Doctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79).
When Jesus Christ visited the Nephites after His Resurrection, He taught them about the sacrament. He broke bread, blessed it, and gave it to the multitude - and they were "filled." He blessed the "wine" and gave it to the multitude - and they were "filled" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 18:1-11).
Again, the Savior blessed bread and "wine" and gave it to the multitude. "And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.
"Now, when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus, whom they both saw and heard" (3 Nephi 20:8-9).
The Apostle Paul also wrote about the importance of partaking of the sacrament worthily. Being worthy to partake of the sacrament does not mean being perfect. To partake of the sacrament worthily, we must be doing our very best to keep the covenants we have made - to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, always remember him, and keep the commandments.
"But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body
"For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Corinthians 11:28-30).
What did Paul mean that should "examine ourselves" to make sure we partake of the sacrament worthily? How can we determine if we are "weak," "sickly," or "sleep."
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told the youth of the Church: "My dear young friends, I encourage you to take time each week to be by yourself, away from television and the crowd. Have your scriptures with you, and as you read, ponder, and pray, take an honest look at your life. Evaluate where you stand with the promises you have made with Heavenly Father. If you have a problem, talk it over with the Lord in earnest and humble prayer. Counsel with your parents; they will help you. Your bishop and your Young Men and Young Women adult leaders will help. They love you and want you to be at peace with yourself so you can partake of the sacrament worthily each week. When all is said and done, however, only you know if you are living true to your covenants made with God" (Ensign, May 1993, 8).
Some people think that sacrament meeting is boring and unimportant. Those people may be interested in the following story. "While very young … I recall telling a dear Sunday School teacher that I was not going to sacrament meeting any more because it was boring and dry. [The teacher] looked at me and said, `Don't you ever let me hear you say that again! God has invited you to that meeting to partake of the emblems of Jesus Christ's suffering of his gift to you. You are very privileged to be invited. If you take the right spirit with you to meeting, you will always bring something good away with you'" (LaRue C. Longden, "God Has Invited You," in Leon R. Harshorn, comp., Remarkable Stories from the Lives of Latter-day Saint Women, 2 vols. [1973-75], 1:97-98).
I had never thought - until I read this story - that God had invited me to sacrament meeting. I knew the importance of the meeting, and I tried to be in tune with the Holy Ghost - but I had never thought about it as receiving an invitation. Thinking of sacrament meetings as an invitation from Heavenly Father brings the whole experience to an even higher level in my thinking!
Partaking of the sacrament gives us the chance to review and remake the covenants we made at baptism. I am very grateful for my many opportunities to participate in sacrament meetings and to regularly renew my baptismal covenants with my Heavenly Father. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He atoned for my sins if I repent of them. I love Him and I am grateful for Him. I encourage you to join me in striving to always be worthy to partake of the sacrament and to think about the Savior while doing so. I know that the sacrament experience is a blessing in our lives.