“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
The time of sacrament meeting is for the purpose of partaking of the sacrament, a priesthood ordinance. That time is for remembering and appreciating the atoning gift by and from Jesus Christ.
Sacrament meeting takes only 70 minutes each Sunday. That’s just 70 minutes out of about 10,000 minutes given to each of us every week.
The time we partake of the sacrament — when it’s administered to the congregation — should be a time of spiritual renewal, a time of pondering, a time for gratitude, even a time for answers to prayer.
As we set aside the time of the sacrament as a sacred time in our weekly routine, we make the sacrament more effective in our lives, we draw closer to Christ and renew our determination to both be and become more like him.
I was impressed, when I was a teenager, with a member of our ward who always seemed to be in deep thought and usually had tears streaming down his cheeks during the sacrament. That man eventually became our bishop and went on to serve in our stake presidency before his family moved. He had a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and was a good leader and good example to me.
The sacrament is not a time for whispering, people watching or texting. It’s not a time to be critical of those administering the sacrament, or our personal associates. Rather, it’s a time for introspection, for meditation, and for considering scripture or sacred music, like this:
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me! (Hymn 193, “I Stand All Amazed”)
Jesus Christ initiated the observance of the sacrament. Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus gathered His Apostles around Him in an upstairs room. He knew He would soon die on the cross.
The hours that lay ahead would be the crowning moment of eternity. This was the last time He would meet with His beloved apostles before His death. He wanted them and His disciples to always remember Him so they could be strong and faithful.
To help them remember, He introduced the sacrament. He broke bread into pieces and blessed it. Then He said, “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:22).
Next He took a cup of wine, blessed it, 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, for the remission of their sins” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:24).
After His resurrection, the Savior came to the Americas and taught the Nephites the same ordinance (3 Nephi 18:1–11; 20:1–9). After the Church was restored in the latter days, Jesus once again commanded His people to partake of the sacrament in remembrance of Him, saying, “It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus” (D&C 20:75).
The righteous Saints in the Book of Mormon also met together often to fast, pray, partake of the sacrament, and speak with each other about the welfare of their souls (see Moroni 6:5–6).
Sacrament meetings were held in the early days of the Latter-day Church (see D&C 46:4–5) but, interestingly, not always on Sunday. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 59, the Lord revealed, “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).
It’s no coincidence that the sacrament is administered on the sabbath. Jesus taught that the sabbath day was made for our benefit (see Mark 2:27). The purpose of the Sabbath is to give us a certain day of the week on which to direct our thoughts and actions toward God. It is not a day merely to rest from our regular work. It’s a sacred day to be spent in worship and reverence. As we rest from our usual daily activities, our minds are freed to ponder spiritual matters. On this day we should renew our covenants with the Lord and feed our souls on the things of the Spirit.
Until His Resurrection, Jesus Christ and His disciples honored the seventh day as the Sabbath. After His Resurrection, Sunday was held sacred as the Lord’s day in remembrance of His Resurrection on that day (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). From that time on, His followers observed the first day of the week as their Sabbath. In both cases there were six days of labor and one for rest and devotion.
The Lord has given us a commandment in the latter days that we too should honor Sunday, the Lord’s day, as our Sabbath (see D&C 59:12).
Members of the Church are commanded to attend sacrament meeting and partake of the sacrament. Elder L. Tom Perry testified of the importance of regular sacrament meeting attendance when he said, “Weekly we should each seek a personal experience, a closeness to our Lord and Savior, which, when remembered each week, will help us to become more like Him. …I’ve always been impressed with the renewed strength and dedication which come from weekly participating in the sacrament,” (General Conference, Oct. 1984) he said.
Remember the Savior’s words, that partaking of the sacrament would help keep us unspotted from the world (D&C 59:9-10)? Elder Cook, in 2006, taught that:
“Separating evil from our lives has become even more essential since our homes are wired to bring much of what the Lord has condemned into our own living rooms if we are not vigilant. One of the most difficult challenges in our lives is to be in the world but not of the world (see John 15:19). Gospel doctrine makes it clear that we must live in this world to achieve our eternal destination. We must be tried and tested and found worthy of a greater kingdom (see 2 Nephi 2:11; D&C 101:78). We must do as Abraham did when he pitched his tent and built “an altar unto the Lord” (Genesis 13:18) and not do as Lot did when he “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12).
“We cannot avoid the world. A cloistered existence is not the answer. In a positive sense, our contribution to the world is part of our challenge and is essential if we are to develop our talents” (Elder Cook, “Being in the World, but Not of the World”).
The ordinance of the sacrament makes sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church. The chapel becomes a sacred ordinance room during the sacrament. The sacramental priesthood ordinance becomes the most repeated ordinance in our lives.
We renew covenants as we partake of the sacrament. We covenant that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. By this we show we are willing to be identified with Him and His church. We commit to serve Him and our fellow brothers and sisters. We promise that we will not bring shame or reproach upon that name. We covenant to always remember Jesus Christ. All our thoughts, feelings, and actions will be influenced by Him and His mission.
And we promise to keep His commandments. Church leaders have taught that when we take the sacrament, we renew not only our baptismal covenants but “all covenants entered into with the Lord” (Ensign, July 2012).
We can prepare ourselves to make the sacrament meaningful and effective in our lives. Sister Cheryl A. Esplin said: “I wish I had understood the sacrament in the way that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland described. He said, ‘One of the invitations inherent in the sacramental ordinance is that it be a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for the soul’ (Esplin, 2014).”
President Nelson taught, “We commemorate His atonement in a very personal way. We bring a broken heart and a contrite spirit to sacrament meeting” (3 Nephi 9:20).
We can be seated well before sacrament meeting begins. That quiet interval, as subdued prelude music is played, allows us a period of prayerful meditation as we prepare spiritually for the sacrament. We should strive to make this time like the time we spend in the temple chapel, preparing for an endowment session.
The administration of the sacrament is preceded by a hymn which all of us should sing. It doesn’t matter what kind of musical voice we have. Sacramental hymns are more like prayers anyway — and everyone can give voice to a prayer.
These sacred hymns bring remembrance of our Savior to our minds, and feelings of deep gratitude. Our partaking of the sacrament should be a powerful, reverent, reflective moment. It should encourage spiritual feelings and impressions. As such it should not be rushed. It’s not something to “get over” or “get past” so that the rest of sacrament meeting can be pursued. The sacrament, and nothing else, is the primary purpose for sacrament meeting.
Remembering the Savior helps us to receive revelation. “The sacrament is also a time for Heavenly Father to teach us about the Atonement of His Beloved Son — our Savior, Jesus Christ — and for us to receive revelation about it. It is a time to ‘knock, and it shall be opened unto you,’ to request and to receive this knowledge. It is a time for us to reverently ask God for this knowledge. And if we do, we will receive this knowledge, which will bless our lives beyond measure” (Costa, 2015).
“This knowledge and revelation can come to us before and during the sacrament as we remember Him. We can remember His premortal life, His humble birth, His teaching as a 12-year old boy, His preparation for His ministry, His transfiguration, His instituting the sacrament at the Last Supper, His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, His betrayal, trial, humiliation and buffeting, His charity even on the cross at Golgotha, and His resurrection” (Costa, 2015).
In return, the Lord promises that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. “When we commit ourselves to these principles, we are promised in the sacramental prayers that we will ‘have his Spirit to be with [us].’ Receiving anew the Spirit is a consummate blessing because the Spirit is the agent who cleanses and purifies us from sin and transgression” (Hamula, 2014).
I’m sure there are some among us, surely all of us, who can look back on times in our lives when we have been without the companionship of the Holy Ghost. When our actions have separated us from the Spirit or when we didn’t have the blessing of the sacramental ordinance and promise that as we do our part, the Spirit will do His part and, always be with us.
Meditating on the sacrament prayers and the very special and meaningful words of the prayers reminds us how wonderful it is to receive the promise, during the blessing of the sacrament, that as we always remember Him, we will always have His Spirit with us.
As we come to sacrament meeting with a spirit of humility and repentance in our hearts, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, the power and influence of the Holy Ghost are renewed in our lives. Through the power of the Spirit, we are once again spiritually reborn as sons and daughters of Christ (Mosiah 5:7).
Elder Melvin J. Ballard said: “I am a witness 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, and the load is lifted. Comfort and happiness come to the soul that is worthy and truly desirous of partaking of this spiritual food.”
Elder John H. Groberg said: “As we worthily partake of the sacrament, we will sense those things we need to improve in and receive the help and determination to do so. No matter what our problems, the sacrament always gives hope.”
Sister Cheryl A. Esplin taught: “Our wounded souls can be healed and renewed not only because the bread and water remind us of the Savior’s sacrifice of His flesh and blood but because the emblems also remind us that He will always be our ‘bread of life’ and ‘living water’” (Esplin, 2014).
I suspect all of us could better use the ordinance of the sacrament to help purify our souls before we stand before the pleasing bar of God. President David O. McKay stated: “The partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is one of the most sacred ordinances of the Church of Jesus Christ. Associated with it are principles fundamental in character building and essential to man’s advancement and exaltation in the kingdom of God. Too few communicants attach to this simple though sublime rite the importance and significance that it merits. Unfortunately, the form of worship is frequently an outward compliance without the true soul acknowledgment of its deep spiritual significance” (Gospel Ideals, p. 71).
As the sacrament prayers say, we should always remember the Savior. So just what does it mean to always remember Him? How about:
- To remember His premortal life, when this planet was made by Him.
- Remember His humble birth in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea.
- Remember when, even as a 12-year-old boy, He taught the doctors in the temple.
- To remember when He went aside privately into a desert to prepare for His mortal ministry.
- To remember when He was transfigured before His disciples.
- Remember when He initiated the sacrament at the Last Supper.
- Remember when He went to the Garden of Gethsemane and suffered so intensely for our sins, pains, disappointments, and illnesses that He bled from every pore.
- To remember when, after so much suffering and severe pain, even yet in Gethsemane, He was betrayed with a kiss by one of the disciples whom He called a friend.
- To remember when He was taken to Pilate and to Herod for trial.
- Remember when He was humiliated, buffeted, spat upon, smitten, and scourged with a whip that tore His flesh.
- Remember when a crown of sharp thorns was pushed down upon His head.
- To remember that after his suffering in Gethsemane and torture by inhumane hands, He had to carry His own cross to Golgotha, and that He was nailed to the cross there, suffering every physical and spiritual pain.
- Remember that on the cross, amazingly, and with His bowels full of charity, He looked at those who crucified Him and raised His eyes to heaven, pleading, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
- To remember when, knowing He had fulfilled His mission, He gave up His spirit into the hands of His Father, our Heavenly Father.
- To remember His Resurrection, which ensures our own resurrection
- And finally, because of Him — because of the atonement of Jesus Christ — to remember the eternal possibilities that are ours: to live beside Him for all eternity, depending on our choices.
That they “…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” (D&C 20:77).
Claudio R. M. Costa, “That They Do Always Remember Him,” Ensign, Nov. 2015
Cheryl A. Esplin, “The Sacrament – a Renewal for the Soul,” Ensign, Nov. 2014
James J. Hamula, “The Sacrament and the Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 2014
“Understanding Our Covenants with God,” Ensign, July 2012
Wilford W. Andersen, “Receiving and Retaining a Mighty Change,” Ensign, April 2012
Dallin H. Oaks, “Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign, Nov. 2008
L. Tom Perry, “As Now We Take the Sacrament,” Ensign, May 2006
Jeffrey R. Holland, “This Do in Remembrance of Me,” Ensign, Nov. 1995