Viewpoint: The Sacred Ordinance of the Sacrament
“The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church.” —Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ” are words members of the Church hear twice during each weekly Sabbath meeting.
Whether we are gathered by the hundreds in a large chapel or with just a few others in perhaps a humble setting such as a member’s home, the sacrament ordinance, accompanied by the familiar prayers (see D&C 20:77, 79), should give us cause to ponder how blessed we are.
“The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in his October 2008 general conference address.
In a convalescent center in a small northern Wyoming community, a handful of Church members gather each week to partake of the sacrament. Many of those attending are of advanced years and have spent most of their lives farming and ranching. Many arrive in wheelchairs, and others are gently assisted to seats in the small room where the meeting is held.
Several priesthood holders from a local ward are assigned to conduct and then administer the sacrament. As the bread and water are presented to the gathered members, tender moments are observed. One sister, unable to partake of the sacrament on her own, is lovingly assisted by her equally aged husband. He gently takes her hand and guides and helps her.
A priesthood holder passing the sacrament steadies and carefully guides the hand of an elderly member who is hampered by failing eyesight. Yet another member with a disability is assisted by a caring friend and neighbor. As the prayers are offered and the emblems passed, elderly faces, etched with lines of age, appear to glow. This is the spiritual highlight of their week.
“This is a commandment with a promise,” said Elder Oaks. “By participating weekly and appropriately in the ordinance of the sacrament we qualify for the promise that we will ‘always have his Spirit to be with [us]’ (D&C 20:77).”
As the members gather in the convalescent center, there is a quiet reverence. While friends and loved ones are greeted, the atmosphere is one of reflection and introspection. Voices are muted to a whisper as the prelude music is played. The sacrament table is carefully prepared and the brethren then sit reverently.
It is easy to see the importance of this event. Members had been helped before the meeting started to ensure their hair was combed, and they were in their very best Sunday attire. Glowing smiles and sparkling eyes belied the advanced years. One member pointed to others and said: “She is 95. He was hurt in a farm accident. He has served in almost every calling in the ward.” Couples held hands, hands that are frail and gnarled, but hands that are comfortable being tenderly held as husband and wife.
For this small congregation, the sacrament was an important reminder of the Savior’s love and the power of the Atonement in their lives.
Do we understand the importance of the sacrament ordinance? Is it important enough to each of us to carefully prepare, arrive on time, and be dressed in our very best, able to spend time pondering the power of the ordinance in our own lives? Do we have an attitude that “there is always next week” or “I can come late and miss part of the ordinance, and it’s OK”?
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “We commemorate His Atonement in a very personal way. We bring a broken heart and a contrite spirit to our sacrament meeting. It is the highlight of our Sabbath-day observance” (“Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting,” Ensign, Aug. 2004, 26).
In his 2008 remarks, Elder Oaks said, “I sense that some in the rising generation and even some adults have not yet come to understand the significance of this meeting and the importance of individual reverence and worship in it.”
Elder Nelson taught that we are seated well before the meeting begins. “During that quiet interval, prelude music is subdued. This is not a time for conversation or transmission of messages but a period of prayerful meditation as leaders and members prepare spiritually for the sacrament.”
Elder Oaks also admonished that our manner of dress indicates the degree “to which we understand and honor the ordinance in which we will participate.” He further taught that we “should concentrate on worship and refrain from all other activities, especially from behavior that could interfere with the worship of others. … Sacrament meeting is not a time for reading books or magazines. Young people, it is not a time for whispered conversations on cell phones or for texting persons at other locations. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a sacred covenant that we will always remember the Savior. How sad [it is] to see persons obviously violating that covenant in the very meeting where they are making it.”
The scriptures teach, “It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and [water] in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus” (D&C 20:75). The Savior taught, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
The members in the small northern Wyoming setting certainly understand the significance of the ordinance, as their actions demonstrated and the strength of the Spirit attested.
How can we achieve the same sense of understanding? Elder Nelson said, “We do this by keeping His commandment to come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and in that wonderful weekly meeting partake of the emblems of the sacrament and make the covenants that qualify us for the precious promise that we will always have His Spirit to be with us.”