That's why I was pretty amused by the topic of my lesson this week - making the sacrament a more spiritual experience.
"Really?" I thought. Most weeks my goal is a) actually make it in time to take the sacrament and b) keep the kid from having a meltdown and disturbing everyone around her. But a spiritual experience? That's asking a lot.
Yes. Yes it's asking a lot. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. This was an extremely humbling (and timely) lesson and caused much introspection and re-evaluation for me. I'm grateful for the amazing comments we had that gave me ideas for how to adjust and strive to fully experience and appreciate the sacrament each week.
(The comments were so inspiring and helpful this week that I am including as many as I can remember in my outline. They are indicated in italics)
The Sacrament and the Atonement By Elder James J. Hamula
The Sacrament—a Renewal for the Soul By Cheryl A. Esplin
Obviously, we are talking about the sacrament today. I read both these talks several times, trying to decide what direction this lesson should go in. I kept coming back to one quote from Elder Hamula: “The ordinance of the sacrament has been called 'one of the most holy and sacred ordinances in the Church.' It needs to become more holy and sacred to each of us.”
So I will use that quote as a bit of an outline for today’s discussion. First, we will talk about the ordinance of the sacrament - break down what it is and why we do it. Then we will discuss how to observe it more fully.
First, let’s talk about the wording of the prayers.
In the sacrament prayers, what are we asked to do?
Take upon us his name
Quote #1: “Speaking of this promise, President Henry B. Eyring taught: “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.””
How do YOU take upon you his name?
- Do not be afraid to call yourself a follower of Christ.
- "With his name, you are a representative of Him."
- This is our declaration that we BELIEVE Jesus is the Christ: Elder Hamula gives, in his talk, some background about the first institution of the sacrament ordinance. It was done at Passover, a meal that has previously symbolized the salvation of the Jews from slavery and death. Christ gave his disciples instructions on how the sacrament should be observed from that point forward. Elder Hamula says: In this simple yet profound manner, Jesus instituted a new ordinance for God’s covenant people. No longer would animal blood be spilled or animal flesh be consumed in anticipation of a redeeming sacrifice of a Christ who was yet to come. Instead, emblems of the broken flesh and spilled blood of the Christ who had already come would be taken and eaten in remembrance of His redeeming sacrifice. Participation in this new ordinance would signify to all a solemn acceptance of Jesus as the promised Christ and wholehearted willingness to follow Him and keep His commandments. To those who would so signify and conduct their life, spiritual death would “pass over” them, and eternal life would be assured.”
Always remember him
Quote #2: “As we partake of the sacrament, we witness to God that we will remember His Son always, not just during the brief sacrament ordinance. This means that we will constantly look to the Savior’s example and teachings to guide our thoughts, our choices, and our acts.” - Esplin
Keep his commandments
Quote #3: “Obedience to the commandments brings the power of the gospel into our lives and greater peace and spirituality.” - Esplin
- "This is the ACTION we are require to do, the part that continues after we leave the church and go about our daily lives."
- "This is the way in which we are able to earn blessings. It's an opportunity"
And what are we promised in return?
Quote #4: “Elder Melvin J. Ballard taught how the sacrament can be a healing and cleansing experience. He said: “Who is there among us that does not wound his spirit by word, thought, or deed, from Sabbath to Sabbath? We do things for which we are sorry and desire to be forgiven. … The method to obtain forgiveness is … to repent of our sins, to go to those against whom we have sinned or transgressed and obtain their forgiveness and then repair to the sacrament table where, if we have sincerely repented and put ourselves in proper condition, we shall be forgiven, and spiritual healing will come to our souls…”
Who has strong memories of their baptism, and could tell us about how you felt?
- "it was just an awesome feeling"
- "the water was cold. I remember that and then it brings to mind the rest of the baptism"
- "I remember the interview and feeling like such a grown up. This was my choice, something i had chosen to do"
- "just felt happy."
- "i wanted to jump up and down with extreme joy"
- "calm and peaceful"
Now I would ask, do you feel that same way after partaking of the sacrament? Why or why not?
Sister Esplin tells the story of a young woman’s leader who was doing a value project about taking the sacrament with more purpose. Her self-evaluation was actually making her feel gloomy because her introspection showed she kept making the same errors over and over again.
Quote #5: “But then she had a distinct impression that she was neglecting a big part of the Atonement—Christ’s enabling power. She was forgetting all the times the Savior helped her be who she needed to be and serve beyond her own capacity. With this in mind, she reflected again on the previous week. She said: “A feeling of joy broke through my melancholy as I noted that He had given me many opportunities and abilities… As I thanked God for the Savior’s enabling power in my life, I felt so much more optimistic toward the repentance process I was working through and I looked to the next week with renewed hope.””
Have his spirit with us
Quote #6: “After administering the sacrament to the Nephites, Jesus said:
“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.”
With these words, Christ teaches us that the Spirit heals and renews our souls.”
How has having the Spirit with you been a blessing in your life?
- "it guides us"
- "it helps us to overcome temptation"
- "it brings us peace and comfort"
- it's a method of communication. You can't receive the answers to your prayers without the conduit of the Spirit
Sister Esplin’s talk seemed a very straight-forward look at the sacrament. Elder Hamula’s seemed, to me, to take it to a more symbolic level. He looked less at the actual words of the prayer, and more at what they mean.
Quote #7: “With torn and broken bread, we signify that we remember the physical body of Jesus Christ—a body that was buffeted with pains, afflictions, and temptations of every kind, a body that bore a burden of anguish sufficient to bleed at every pore, a body whose flesh was torn and whose heart was broken in crucifixion. We signify our belief that while that same body was laid to rest in death, it was raised again to life from the grave, never again to know disease, decay, or death. And in taking the bread to ourselves, we acknowledge that, like Christ’s mortal body, our bodies will be released from the bonds of death, rise triumphantly from the grave, and be restored to our eternal spirits.”
Quote #8: “With a small cup of water, we signify that we remember the blood Jesus spilled and the spiritual suffering He endured for all mankind. We remember the agony that caused great drops of blood to fall in Gethsemane. We remember the bruising and scourging He endured at the hands of His captors. We remember the blood He spilled from His hands, feet, and side while at Calvary. And we remember His personal reflection on His suffering: “How sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.” In taking the water to ourselves, we acknowledge that His blood and suffering atoned for our sins and that He will remit our sins as we embrace and accept the principles and ordinances of His gospel.”
Quote #9: “Thus, with bread and water, we are reminded of Christ’s Redemption of us from death and sin. The sequence of bread first and water second is not inconsequential. In partaking of the bread, we are reminded of our own inevitable personal resurrection, which consists of more than just the restoration of body and spirit. By the power of the Resurrection, all of us will be restored to the presence of God. That reality presents to us the fundamental question of our lives. The fundamental question facing all of us is not whether we will live but with whom we will live after we die. While every one of us will return to the presence of God, not every one of us will remain with Him.”
- One thing we did not get to talk about because of time, but I wished that we had: The bread prayer asks us to do all three things: take on name, remember him, keep commandments. The water prayer just says remember. Why? Is it related to this distinction of one representing death and the other representing sin?
Let’s talk about this part of the quote: “The fundamental Question facing all of us is not whether we will leave but with whom we will live after we die.” What are your thoughts and impressions about this?
- "It makes me want to try harder. I don't want to be left out. I don't want all my family members to get there and I'm not."
- "It puts the responsibility on us. It is truly up to us based on our actions and the choices we make."
We have talked about why its so important and broken down the actual WHAT of what we’re talking about. Now the hard part: How do we make the sacrament more significant? Please share your tips and tricks.
- "Come early/don't be rushed"
- "Participate in the sacrament hymn."
- "Pray while the bread/water is being passed."
- "Read scriptures while the bread/water is being passed."
- "Young mom tip: come prepared with things for your children to do during the sacrament - scripture books or pictures of Christ. Quiet things that focus on the Savior."
- "Young mom tip: explain to your little one what is going on, step by step. Explain why we are doing it and what everything means. Repetition is good for them and good for you."
- "Mentally prepare yourself: throughout the week, do the primary answer-type things like reading scriptures, saying prayers, etc to keep yourself in tune with the Spirit before you come to church."
- "Focus your mind. Don't just let it wander but really reflect on what you did that week and what you want to do differently in the upcoming week."
- "You get out of it what you put into it. If you're not thinking about what you're doing, infusing the ritual with purpose and meaning, then you're just eating a piece of bread."
- One sister shared an amazing story from her mission. She was supposed to be meeting an investigator for church that week, but had a prompting to go sit with a woman she noticed sitting alone in the middle of a pew. During the sacrament, the woman shook her head that she would not be taking it, tears streaming down her face. This sister shared how the woman desperately wanted to be worthy to take the sacrament again. She pointed out that too many of us take for granted that we can partake of it and what it means.
Elder Hamula closed by saying: “Brothers and sisters, the most important event in time and eternity is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He who accomplished the Atonement has given us the ordinance of the sacrament to help us not only remember but also claim the blessings of this supreme act of grace. Regular and earnest participation in this sacred ordinance helps us continue to embrace and live the doctrine of Christ after baptism and thereby pursue and complete the process of sanctification. Indeed, the ordinance of the sacrament helps us faithfully endure to the end and receive the fulness of the Father in the same way Jesus did, grace for grace.”