Too many of us fail to appreciate the power and importance of the sacrament that is offered to us each week in Sacrament Meeting. The sacrament makes available to each of us the cleansing power of the Lord’s redeeming sacrifice. If this were better appreciated, there would be no ocean too large, no desert too hot, no storm too intense – in short, no circumstance too difficult – to keep us from earnestly participating in the sacrament ordinance each week.
To understand the power and importance of the sacrament, we must first reflect on our Father’s Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Salvation is premised on the doctrine that God is our Father. That makes us His children. We lived with Him before we came here. We will return to Him when our time here is over. Our return to God our Father is assured by His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. All men return to the presence of God by the power of the resurrection. While resurrection includes the reuniting of body and spirit after death, it also reunites man with God. Significantly, no one is outside the reach of the resurrection. It applies to all – both old and young, male and female, wicked and righteous.
The universality of the resurrection -- wonderful a gift as it is -- presents us with a profound problem. The problem is that, after the experience of mortality, no one is clean. All have acted, thought, and said unclean things. All have been or done less than what they should have been or done. Herein lies the problem. If we return to the presence of God in an unclean condition, we cannot stay with Him. While unclean beings may return to the presence of God, no unclean being can dwell, or remain, with Him. If we return to the presence of God unclean, we will have to turn away, and will never be able to return. Knowing this, every messenger from heaven declares, with urgency and fervor, that we need to prepare to meet our God.
How do we properly prepare to meet God? On our own, we cannot. We are all unclean and therefore do not have the means, among ourselves, to clean ourselves. One “unclean” person cannot make another “unclean” person clean. Only a “clean” person can make an “unclean” person clean. This is why only Jesus Christ, the only One to walk through this world without sin, is capable of making us clean. He removes from us the stain of sin and transgression on four conditions.
First, we must come to Him with faith that He and only He can make us clean.
Second, we must repent of our sins, which means that we must turn from our own ways and make God’s ways our ways.
Third, we must publicly demonstrate our commitment to walk after the Lord Jesus Christ by being baptized in his name.
And fourth, we must receive the Holy Ghost, which sanctifies, or makes us clean.
These four steps – faith, repentance, baptism, and Holy Ghost -- constitute the “gospel” (3 Nephi 27:19-21). The gospel, or good news, is that if man has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, is baptized in His name, and receives the Holy Ghost, he will be made clean through the grace, mercy and merits of Jesus Christ and may remain with the Father at the last day.
Once we are baptized and have received the Holy Ghost, however, we must press on and keep ourselves clean (2 Nephi 31). Yet, our Father knows that we will make mistakes and commit sins after baptism. What can we do then to be made clean again? We must repent again and participate in another ordinance, which promises us sanctification through renewal of the Holy Ghost. This ordinance is the sacrament.
Think of the significance of this ordinance! A 16 or 17-year-old priest, sitting at the sacrament table, in the power of his Aaronic Priesthood office, and in the name of Jesus Christ, blesses and sanctifies, not the bread or the water, but the souls of all those who partake of the bread and water, in remembrance of Christ and with commitment again to keep His commandments (D&C 20:77, 79). To the earnest, penitent participant in the sacrament ordinance, that priest promises the return of the Holy Ghost, which is the agent that sanctifies and makes one clean again. That priest makes available to all, who receive the sacrament in the proper spirit, the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. Week after week, this sacred ordinance is offered to us, and if we receive it in the spirit in which it is offered, we are sanctified, or made clean, little by little, grace for grace, until the perfect day. Only by enduring to the end in this manner will we qualify ourselves to stand in the presence of God in the day of resurrection.
Brothers and sisters, all of us must be changed, or we cannot remain with our Father when we are returned to Him. Yea, “all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; . . . and unless they do this they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25-26). Change means conversion -- conversion from what we are now to what we need to be to remain with our Heavenly Father in the day of judgment. And such conversion, or change, occurs only as we receive the saving ordinances and keep the associated covenants, which include baptism, for men only priesthood ordination, temple endowment, temple sealing, and the sacrament.
We must understand, brothers and sisters, that in the ordinances of the priesthood there is a power to change us, if we are willing to receive such power. As the Lord told Joseph Smith, “in the ordinances [of the priesthood], the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father and live” (D&C 84:20-22). What is the power of godliness in the ordinances? Among other things, the power of godliness is the power to change us into beings that can live with, and like, God our Father and His Son. Such power is made available to us through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through the receiving of ordinances and the keeping of covenants delivered in His name – including the sacrament.
It is my prayer that we may all sing the sacrament hymns (which are prayers unto God) more earnestly and participate in the sacrament ordinance more thoughtfully and penitently, that we may come unto Christ, grace for grace, until the perfect day.