Monday, October 18, 2010

Chapter 23: The Sacrament

Christ Introduced the Sacrament

Very good resources for this lesson can be found in some of the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). Especially helpful will be the manuals for Brigham Young, chapter 21 (pp. 150-151), John Taylor, Chapter 12 (pp. 111-3), David O. McKay, Chapter 4 (pp. 34-37). These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are found at the bottom of this page.

This section mentions, “The sacrament is a holy priesthood ordinance…” (p. 133). In regards to this, President McKay declared:

No more sacred ordinance is administered in the Church of Christ than the administration of the sacrament (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 34).

In the second paragraph of this section is written, “During the sacrament, we partake of bread and water (p. 133).” Here it may be important to discuss the two Additional Scriptures (p. 137) of John 4:5-14 (water) and John 6:30-35 (bread) and their wonderful symbolism as explained by Jesus Christ Himself.

How the Sacrament is Administered

Early in this section it states, “Members of the Church meet each Sabbath day to worship and partake of the sacrament (see D&C 20:75) p. 135).” President Kimball explained further:

A man of my acquaintance remained home each Sabbath and justified himself by saying that he could benefit more by reading a good book at home than by attending the sacrament meeting and listening to a poor sermon. But the home, sacred as it should be, is not the house of prayer. In it no sacrament is administered; in it is not found the fellowship with members, nor the confession of sins to the brethren. The mountains may be termed the temples of God and the forests and streams his handiwork, but only in the meetinghouse, or house of prayer, can be fulfilled all the requirements of the Lord. And so he has impressed upon us that: [then quoted D&C 20:75] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 173).

In the last of this section, the prayers to the sacrament are printed. It may be worth knowing that these prayers are also found in the Book of Mormon. Moroni included them in Moroni 4:3 and 5:2, among the first things included when he took over as scribe from his father.

The Covenants We Renew during the Sacrament

The first question in this section is, “What covenants do we renew during the sacrament?” (p. 136)

This is a great question. While the section discusses “covenants” (plural), covenants other than baptism (fifth paragraph) are not mentioned. The answer to this question is found in an article for the Ensign entitled “What covenants do we renew when we partake of the sacrament?” (Does this sound familiar?) John E. MacKay states:

According to our latter-day prophets and leaders, when you partake of the sacrament you renew whatever covenants you have made with the Lord... In other words, when you partake of the sacrament, you renew all the covenants you have made with the Lord (Ensign, Mar 1995, 66).

Brother MacKay also quotes President Kimball as proclaiming:

Remembering covenants prevents apostasy. That is the real purpose of the sacrament, to keep us from forgetting, to help us to remember … [that which we have] covenanted at the water’s edge or at the sacrament table and in the temple (ibid.).

The following from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism helps us understand how sacrament really means “covenant”:

The English word “sacrament”…is based on the Latin sacrementum, which denotes a sum deposited by the two parties to a suit (so named probably from being deposited in a sacred place) binding an agreement, oath of allegiance, or obligation (p. 1243).

Russell M. Nelson, before he became an apostle, add the following insight:

The word sacrament comes from two Latin stems: sacr meaning “sacred,” and ment meaning “mind.” It implies sacred thoughts of the mind. Even more compelling is the Latin word sacramentum, which literally means “oath or solemn obligation” (Ensign, Mar. 1983, 68).

It is possible someone might ask, “Is it necessary to take the sacrament with one’s right hand? Does it really make any difference which hand is used?” Actually, that is the title of the above article by Brother Nelson. He explains:

It [partaking of the sacrament] is a sacred mental moment, including (1) a silent oath manifested by the use of one’s hand, symbolic of the individual’s covenant, and (2) the use of bread and water, symbolic of the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior of the world.
The hand used in partaking of the sacrament would logically be the same hand used in making any other sacred oath. For most of us, that would be the right hand. However, sacramental covenants—and other eternal covenants as well—can be and are made by those who have lost the use of the right hand, or who have no hands at all.
Much more important than concern over which hand is used in partaking of the sacrament is that the sacrament be partaken with a deep realization of the atoning sacrifice that the sacrament represents (Ensign, Mar. 1983, 68).

Following is how this section discusses the major ideas found in the sacrament prayers:

OUR PROMISES TO THE LORD:

FIRST - - “…that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ (p. 136).

Elder Mervyn B. Arnold gave a great talk “What Have You Done with My Name?” in October General Conference, 2010. It is well worth reading. He taught:

When President George Albert Smith was young, his deceased grandfather George A. Smith appeared to him in a dream and asked, “I would like to know what you have done with my name.” President Smith responded, “I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.”
Each week as we partake of the sacrament, we covenant and promise that we are willing to take upon us the name of Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. If we are willing to do so, we are promised that most wonderful blessing—that His Spirit will always be with us.
Just as President George Albert Smith had to account to his grandfather for what he had done with his name, someday each one of us will have to account to our Savior, Jesus Christ, for what we have done with His name (now on “lds.org” - - soon in Ensign, Nov. 2010).

President Eyring clarified for us:

…we promise to take His name upon us. 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 (Ensign, May 1998, 66).

It may be well to review this blog, Chapter 20, “Baptism” (September). In the last section, “Baptism Gives Us a New Beginning” is found explanation for the doctrine that Christ becomes our Father at baptism. If this has not been taught, or if a review is helpful, this material fits in nicely with the promise to “take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.”

Helping all of us to remember that this doctrine of “taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ is a process, Elder Dallin H. Oaks instructed us in conference:

It is significant that when we partake of the sacrament we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We witness that we are willing to do so. (See D&C 20:77.) The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the most important sense.
What future event or events could this covenant contemplate? The scriptures suggest two sacred possibilities, one concerning the authority of God, especially as exercised in the temples, and the other—closely related—concerning exaltation in the celestial kingdom (Ensign, May 1985, 80).

SECOND - - “…to always remember Jesus Christ” (p. 136).

Concerning this, as well as the other promises, Brigham Young instructed:

In the ordinance [sacrament] we here attend to…we show to the Father that we remember Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother; we testify to him that we are willing to take upon us his name. When we are doing this, I want the minds here as well as the bodies. I want the whole man here when you come to meeting
It is one of the greatest blessings we could enjoy, to come before the Lord, and before the angels, and before each other, to witness that we remember that the Lord Jesus Christ has died for us. This proves to the Father that we remember our covenants, that we love his Gospel, that we love to keep his commandments, and to honor the name of the Lord Jesus upon the earth (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 150-1).

President Kimball declared:

When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be “remember.” Because all of (us) have made covenants ... our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day — to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that (we) “may always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given (us).” ... “Remember” is the word (Address to Seminary and Institute Personnel, BYU, June 28, 1968).

Simple count reveals that the verb occurring most often in the prayers is “remember or remembrance” (4 times). If anyone is interested, the most common nouns are “Son” (5 times) and “God” (4 times). The most common adverb is “always” (3 times).

Elder Russell M. Nelson likewise edified:

I like to give myself a little spiritual examination each time I take the sacrament. I ask, “Brother Nelson, what are you really thinking about while partaking of the sacrament?” Since I have asked myself that question, I don’t read or anything else during the sacrament, I just think about the atonement (Oakland Stake Conference, Oct. 2006).

President Marion G. Romney in a First Presidency Message stated:

It is said of President Wilford Woodruff that while the sacrament was being passed, his lips could be observed in silent motion as he repeated to himself over and over again, “I do remember thee, I do remember thee” (Ensign, Oct 1976, 2).

THIRD - - “…to keep His commandments” (p. 136).

From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism we learn:

The sacrament in LDS belief does not serve primarily as a means of securing remission of sins. It does, however, focus attention on the sacrifice for sin wrought by the Savior and on the need for all those who have been baptized to maintain their lives constantly in harmony with his teachings and commandments (p. 1244).

THE LORD’S PROMISE TO US:

“…that they may always have his Spirit to be with them…”

Concerning this most powerful promise, President McKay proclaimed:

The greatest comfort in this life is the assurance of having close relationship with God. … The sacrament period should be a factor in awakening this sense of relationship…
Let us make that sacrament hour one of the most impressive means of coming in contact with God’s spirit. Let the Holy Ghost, to which we are entitled, lead us into his presence, and may we sense that nearness, and have a prayer offered in our hearts which he will hear (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 34, 36-7).

Brigham Young also plead:

I would exhort my brethren and sisters to receive this ordinance every Sabbath, when [you] meet together. … I do pray you, my brethren and sisters, to contemplate this ordinance thoroughly, and seek unto the Lord with all your hearts that you may obtain the promised blessings by obedience to it. Teach its observance to your children; impress upon them its necessity. Its observance is as necessary to our salvation as any other of the ordinances and commandments that have been instituted in order that the people may be sanctified, that Jesus may bless them and give unto them his spirit, and guide and direct them that they may secure unto themselves life eternal. Impress the sacredness of this important ordinance upon the minds of your children (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 151).

At the end of this section, the question is asked, “What can we do to remember these promises during the week?”

That we should is implied in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

Hyrum Smith spoke of the sacramental process as bestowing spiritual sustenance enough to “last a whole week” (p. 1246).

Judge Thomas B. Griffeth shared an idea that might help us to remember during the week:

Several years ago I heard Elder Gerald N. Lund of the Quorum of the Seventy describe a magazine article about a school that taught people how to rock climb. The article discussed the concept of belaying—the fail-safe system that protects climbers. One climber gets into a safe position, fastens the rope securely in a fixed position, then calls to his companion, “You’re on belay”—meaning, “I’ve got you.” The director of the school, Alan Czenkusch, described his experience with belaying to the author of the article:
Belaying has brought Czenkusch his best and worst moments in climbing. Czenkusch once fell from a high precipice, yanking out three mechanical supports and pulling his belayer off a ledge. He was stopped, upside down, 10 feet from the ground when his spread-eagled belayer arrested the fall with the strength of his outstretched arms.
“Don saved my life,” says Czenkusch. “How do you respond to a guy like that? Give him a used climbing rope for a Christmas present? No, you remember him. You always remember him.” [In Eric G. Anderson, “The Vertical Wilderness,” Private Practice, November 1979, 21] (BYU Speeches, 14 March, 2006)

President Joseph Fielding Smith also warned what will happen if we stop:

No member of the Church can fail to make this [sacrament] covenant and renew it week by week, and retain the Spirit of the Lord… Those who persist in their absence from this service will eventually lose the spirit and if they do not repent will eventually find themselves denying the faith (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:123).

Our Attitude When Partaking of the Sacrament

In the first paragraph of this section it states, “The Lord emphasizes that no one should partake of the sacrament unworthily. That means we must repent of our sins before taking the sacrament” (p. 137). It may be important to point out two prerequisites prior to repentance which validate the sacrament, the Atonement and faith in Jesus Christ. This is also a good review of two powerful chapters previously taught. Concerning the Atonement, we find In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

The sacrament in LDS belief does not serve primarily as a means of securing remission of sins. It does, however, focus attention on the sacrifice for sin wrought by the Savior and on the need for all those who have been baptized to maintain their lives constantly in harmony with his teachings and commandments (p. 1244).

Concerning faith, President John Taylor taught:

Faith in this ordinance would necessarily imply that we have faith in Jesus Christ, that he is the Only Begotten of the Father, that he came from the heavens to the earth to accomplish a certain purpose which God had designed—even to secure the salvation and exaltation of the human family. All this has a great deal to do with our welfare and happiness here and hereafter. The death of Jesus Christ would not have taken place had it not been necessary. That this ceremony should be instituted to keep that circumstance before the minds of his people, bespeaks its importance (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 111).

To further emphasize how important repentance is, Joseph Smith instructed:

The sacrament was administered to the Church [on March 1, 1835]. Previous to the administration, I spoke of the propriety of this institution in the Church, and urged the importance of doing it with acceptance before the Lord, and asked, How long do you suppose a man may partake of this ordinance unworthily, and the Lord not withdraw His Spirit from him? How long will he thus trifle with sacred things, and the Lord not give him over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption! … Therefore our hearts ought to be humble, and we to repent of our sins, and put away evil from among us.
Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 73)

To continue, what is further necessary after worthily partaking of the sacrament, President Joseph F. Smith clarified:

…it is well, in my judgment, for the Latter-day Saints to continue to bear in mind that the inestimable blessings of the gospel have been bestowed upon them through their faith, that a remission of sins has been obtained by baptism and repentance, and that it is only through continuing faithful that they can retain the gifts and blessings which pertain to eternal life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 64).

This section discusses the importance of taking the sacrament worthily. Here is what President John Taylor said about that:

We ought to be careful that we do not partake of these emblems [of the sacrament] to our condemnation. Do you ever quarrel with your brethren, or act in such a way as to get up feelings, and perhaps speak harsh words one about another, and in other ways do that which is wrong, and then meet together in solemn mockery before God and eat condemnation to your souls? We want to be careful about these things; and hence we should understand that when we bring our gift to the altar, and there remember that we have ought against our brother, we should first go and be reconciled to him and then come and offer our gift [see Matthew 5:23-24]. Not come in any kind of hypocrisy, but come with clean hands and pure hearts, and feel to say “O God search me and try me and prove me, and if there is any way of wickedness in me, let it depart, and let me be thy true representative upon the earth, and let me partake of the spirit that dwelleth in Christ, and live in the enjoyment of that upon the earth; that when he comes again I, with my brethren, may meet him with clean hands and pure hearts (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 113).

President McKay also gave wonderful counsel on how to partake of the sacrament:

There are three things fundamentally important associated with the administration of the sacrament. The first is self-discernment. It is introspection. “This do in remembrance of me,” but we should partake worthily, each one examining himself with respect to his worthiness.
Secondly, there is a covenant made; a covenant even more than a promise. … There is nothing more important in life than that. … A covenant, a promise, should be as sacred as life. That principle is involved every Sunday when we partake of the sacrament.
Thirdly, there is another blessing, and that is a sense of close relationship with the Lord. There is an opportunity to commune with oneself and to commune with the Lord. We meet in the house that is dedicated to him; we have turned it over to him; we call it his house. Well, you may rest assured that he will be there to inspire us if we come in proper attune to meet him. We are not prepared to meet him if we bring into that room our thoughts regarding our business affairs, and especially if we bring into the house of worship feelings of hatred toward our neighbor, or enmity and jealousy towards the Authorities of the Church. Most certainly no individual can hope to come into communion with the Father if that individual entertain any such feelings. They are so foreign to worship, and so foreign, particularly, to the partaking of the sacrament. …
I believe the short period of administering the sacrament is one of the best opportunities we have for … meditation, and there should be nothing during that sacred period to distract our attention from the purpose of that ordinance. …
… We [must] surround this sacred ordinance with more reverence, with perfect order, that each one who comes to the house of God may meditate upon his goodness and silently and prayerfully express appreciation for God’s goodness. Let the sacrament hour be one experience of the day in which the worshiper tries at least to realize within himself that it is possible for him to commune with his God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 34-6).

In a wonderful conference talk on the sacrament, Elder Howard W. Hunter shared:

The solemn moments of thought while the sacrament is being served have great significance. They are moments of self-examination, introspection, self-discernment—a time to reflect and to resolve (Ensign, May 1977, 24).

Elder M. Russell Ballard’s grandfather is quoted in Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

“I am a witness,” said Elder Melvin J. Ballard, “that there is a spirit attending the administration of the sacrament that warms the soul from head to foot; you feel the wounds of the spirit being healed” (p. 1246).

Elder Ballard’s grandfather also shared this in a great talk:

We must come, however, to the sacrament table hungry. If we should repair to a banquet where the finest of earth’s providing may be had, without hunger, without appetite, the food would not be tempting, nor do us any good. If we repair to the sacrament table, we must come hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for spiritual growth (New Era, Jan 1976, 7).

President Jedediah M. Grant explained:

A great many people partake of the Sacrament, and at the same time are thinking, “How many teams can I get tomorrow to haul stone? I wonder if that sister has a bonnet like mine, or if I can get one like hers? I wonder if it is going to be a good day tomorrow, or whether it will rain or snow?” …You can sit in this stand an read such thoughts in their faces (Journal of Discourses, 2:277).

The objective of the sacrament is recounted in Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

The ordinance was given, as President Brigham Young taught, “in order that the people may be sanctified” (p. 1246)

I really like how Sister Julie B. Beck explained this process:

I was with an eight-year-old girl on the day of her baptism. At the end of the day she said with all confidence, ‘I have been baptized for a whole day, and I haven’t sinned once!’ But her perfect day did not last forever, and I am sure she is learning by now, like we all learn, that as hard as we try, we do not always avoid every bad situation, every wrong choice …
… It is not possible to make real change all by ourselves. Our own willpower and our own good intentions are not enough. When we make mistakes or choose poorly, we must have the help of our Savior to get back on track. We partake of the sacrament week after week to show our faith in His power to change us. We confess our sins and promise to forsake them (Ensign, June 2010, 7).

President John Taylor summed up many ideas contained in this lesson:

I take pleasure in meeting with the Saints. I like to break bread with them in commemoration of the broken body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and also to partake of the cup in remembrance of his shed blood. And then to reflect upon the associations connected therewith. Our relationship to God through our Lord Jesus Christ; our relationship to each other as members of the body of Christ, and our hopes concerning the future; the second appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, when, we are given to understand, he will gird himself and wait upon us, and we shall eat bread and drink wine with him in his Father’s kingdom. I like to reflect upon all these and a thousand other things connected with the salvation, happiness and exaltation of the Saints of God in this world, and in the world to come (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 39).

4 comments:

  1. thank you for this great help, I appreciate your time and efforts.....

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  2. Thanks again for helping me prepare my lesson, President & Sister Bair.

    (Elder) Nick (Johnson)

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  3. Thank you for this great insight! I learned so much and can't wait to share it!

    ReplyDelete