This post originally appeared as part of the Email a Believer blog at RE Online
As a Latter-day Saint I partake of the sacrament every Sunday. The sacrament is the term that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use for the eucharist, or the bread and water that we eat and drink in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The scriptures teach us the purpose of the Sabbath day.
“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)
The most important part of our Sabbath is the opportunity we have to partake of the sacrament. Joseph F. Smith taught:
“The ordinance has a tendency to draw our minds from the things of the world and to place them upon things that are spiritual, divine, and heavenly;…” (JD XII:346-7)
Why is the Sacrament so important?
First of all is the simple reason that it was instituted by the Saviour himself at the Last Supper:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt 26:26-28)
He also instituted it following his resurrection when he visited the people in the Americas:
And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat. And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude. And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name. And this shall ye always observe to ado, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you. And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it. And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled. And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you. And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. (3 Nephi 18:3-12).
It remembers his atonement for the pains, sicknesses and sins of the world. Each week we have the opportunity to remember his sacrifice and also how it applies to us individually.
The sacrament also gives us an opportunity to renew our promises to our Heavenly Father that we made when we were baptised.
The worthiness to be baptized and the worthiness to partake of the sacrament are one and the same. Recipients of each of these ordinances must meet the same identical standards. In each instance, penitent persons must “come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and [they must] truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins.” (D&C 20:37.) The preparation is the same for each ordinance; the covenant is the same; and the rewards are the same.”(Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.297)
A summary of the covenants we make at baptism and renew at baptism based on scripture are below:
|What we promise||What the Lord promises|
If we take just one of our covenants to explore a little bit: being willing to take upon us the name of Christ. King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon, spoke of having the name of Christ written in our hearts;
And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God. And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts. I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.”(Mosiah 5:8-12)
Through baptism and through the sacrament we become Christ’s- we have his name written upon our hearts. We are promising to always try to act in a way that he would, we do this as an expression of love for the grace that we receive. In some ways, this covenant summarises other aspects of our covenants in the sacrament to always remember him and to keep his commandments. Who I am should be integrally linked to my relationship to him. The sacrament is both a reminder of this, and also the place that I promise to live in a relationship with him in every aspect of my life.
The promises that are made to us by a loving Heavenly Father are also renewed in the sacrament.
One such promise is the forgiveness of sins, the sacrament prayer includes the phrase:
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,…(D&C 20:77)
This blessing is available to all. It is through the atonement of Christ that are sins are taken away, but the vehicle it uses is the Holy Spirit. This is shown in the Book of Mormon following King Benjamin’s might discourse. The people who heard him went through the sanctification process. They humbled themselves and prayed the atoning blood of Christ would take effect in their lives. The Spirit came upon them and filled them with joy; they experience a mighty change of heart and they had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). The application of the atonement takes place initially when a person is baptized, when they are born again, and receive the Holy Ghost. Through reception of the Spirit a person can receive this mighty change of heart, but the importance of keeping this going on a continual basis is taught by Alma the Younger when he asks
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?(Alma 5:26)
By the power of the Holy Ghost iniquity, carnality, sensuality, and every evil thing is burned out of the soul that repents as if by fire; the cleansed person is literally born again of the water and the Spirit.
Living close to the Spirit and partaking of the sacrament sanctifies a person’s soul and makes them prepared to meet God on judgement day with clean hands and a pure heart. We will have been washed white through the blood of the Lamb. Only through repeating this sanctification process by repenting and a regular partaking of the sacrament can I hope to live close enough to the Spirit that it will guide and help me in all our endeavours.
At baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost which gives us the companionship of the Holy Ghost. There are so many blessings that having the Holy Ghost brings to us. One is to be comforted. The Saviour taught;
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)
What great images the name ‘Comforter’ brings up to those who are alone and desperate. Again, the blood of the atonement acting through the Holy Spirit can mend the broken hearted and bring comfort to those who are seemingly comfortless. This is a scripture that I rarely fail to use when speaking to someone who has had an upset in their lives. Undoubtedly, millions of people the world over can testify to the Comforting power of the Spirit.
The Spirit can comfort us in our discouragements, but it is also the tool we use ‘to comfort those who stand in need of comfort.’ As we fulfil this part of our baptismal covenant we do more than offer consoling words; we bring the atoning blood of the Saviour into someone’s life through the Comforter (Holy Spirit). To rephrase Alma we “apply the atoning blood of the Saviour to those who stand in need of it.” We bring the person to the cup and help them to know how to drink, we can, however, not do it for them.
The Holy Ghost also guides and teaches of truth
The mission of the Holy Ghost is to lead those who are entitled to the gift, which is conferred by the laying on of hands, in all truth and righteousness… “The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.(Joseph Fielding Smith Doctrines of Salvation 1:47)
These are probably the two blessings of the Holy Ghost that are used and talked about the most throughout the Church. From a very early age children are taught that the Holy Ghost will guide them, teach them truth and help them know what direction to take. We are told in the scriptures that;
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.(Moroni 10:5)
The Holy Ghost teaches us new things, it can prompt us with insights into scriptures we study. How else do people receive impressions and guidance on how to apply the scriptures in their daily lives? What better commentary on the scriptures can we find than the Spirit by which they were given?
Rather than pouring knowledge into an empty vessel, we are able to know whether something is true through the Holy Ghost. The reason that to guide and testify have been put together, is that they work in very similar ways. If we hear or read something that is not true we are promised that we will feel it is not right, similarly if we are doing, or are tempted to do something that is not right those same feelings will come. The format for listening and heeding the promptings of the Spirit is found throughout the scriptures;
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.(D&C 8:2-3)
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong;…(D&C 8:8-9)
This promise doesn’t just apply to the teachings of the Restored Gospel. Any information purporting to be the truth can be put to the test. Thus anyone who asks if Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God will feel the promptings of the Spirit.
I have felt the Holy Ghost prompting me that something I am doing, or have done is wrong on many occasions, these feelings should lead us to stop and take advantage of the repentance process. We need to do this so that we remain close to the Spirit, as we sin the scriptures teach us that we withdraw ourselves from the Spirit (see Mosiah 2:36), and that eventually we become past feeling the promptings (1 Nephi 17:45) because we have put so much distance between ourselves and the Spirit. The Holy Ghost also prompts us the other way, that the things we are doing, or have done are right. I have also felt this sweet assurance on a number of occasions
Knowing these things should affect the way that I approach the Sabbath, but most especially our partaking of the Sacrament. Sometimes I might partake of the Sacrament automatically, without any real thought, David O. Mackay has said;
Unfortunately, the form of worship is frequently an outward compliance without the true soul acknowledgment of its deep spiritual significance. (David O. McKay, Handbook of the Restoration, p.599)
I need to prepare for the Sabbath, and be spiritually ready to take the Sacrament. We put our lives in order, repent of our sins and have a desire to live a better life in the week to come, than the week that has just passed. We remember the Saviour and our covenants as we partake of the Sacrament.
If we have the right understanding, we will live in full accord with the principles of truth and walk in righteousness before the Lord. How can we receive his Spirit otherwise? I can see the significance in the commandment the Lord has given us to assemble frequently and partake of these emblems in commemoration of his death. It is our duty to assemble and renew our covenants and take upon us fresh obligations to serve the Lord and keep his sayings.” (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.346)
From this it is evident that I should ensure that I partake of the Sacrament each week. I cannot afford not to. It is an opportunity to express my love to the Saviour, to promise to abide in him, and to receive the strength that attend the renewing of my covenants.