It was one of the first warm days of early spring. The windows of our church were open for the first time that year, and bright, warm sunlight spilled in long rays into the chapel. A small, spring wind came through the windows carrying the fragrances of unseen blossoms. My grandparents and several aunts and uncles were sitting proudly with my parents. I was sitting on the front row of the chapel with the deacons. It was my first time passing the sacrament.
The sacrament hymn ended.
The bishop nodded to us, and in a single motion we stood and walked to the table. The white cloth was removed and carefully folded, and then the prayer was spoken. I felt the importance of the words and the ordinance as I never had before. With my relatives and what seemed like the entire congregation watching me, I tried to move with as much reverence and dignity as I could. I felt a strong feeling of pride to be able to pass the sacrament. It was a great honor. When the meeting was over, nearly everyone in my ward congratulated me.
Several months passed, and in that time, along with the other members of my quorum, I began to forget, a little, the honor of holding the priesthood and of passing the sacrament. We began not to remember what the ordinance stood for. It became a chore. Something we had to do. A job we were given because no one else wanted to do it.
This attitude began to affect the way we performed the ordinance. They were small differences. We were sometimes late for sacrament meeting. Occasionally we didn’t dress as appropriately as we should have. And we talked during the meeting, not loudly and not during the sacrament service, but enough that it was noticed. They were small things, but they took away from the sacredness of the ordinance we were charged with.
The bishop asked our adviser to talk to us about it. Every Sunday morning for weeks he tried to explain to us the importance of what we were doing, of the priesthood of God, and of the ordinance of the sacrament. He told us of the sons of Aaron, of Gethsemane, and Calvary. He was an older man, and we could tell he felt strongly about the things he was telling us. We would straighten up a little. Then a few Sundays would pass, and we would slip back again.
One Sunday after our priesthood class had ended, our adviser stopped us.
“You don’t have to worry about the sacrament today,” he said. “It’s been taken care of.”
We were surprised and curious, but we were also glad to get out of the job, even if it was just for one day. We came into the meeting late as usual, during the hymn, and sat on a middle row. Sitting on the deacons bench with our adviser were the high priests of our ward. They were the oldest and most respected men in our ward. Two of them had been bishops, one a stake president. All held or had held positions of honor and leadership. The hymn ended. They rose, and the prayer was said.
By their bearing and by their reverence it was easy to see they felt great respect and honor for what they were doing. It was no menial task for them. They were all dressed in dark suits, white shirts, and ties. But it was more than the way they were dressed or even the way they carried themselves in performing the ordinance. The congregation was silent. The sacrament became something deeply felt and sacred. There was something deeper, something much more significant. There was a spirit to it. A feeling deeper than words.
The windows in the chapel were open that Sunday. It was late fall, and the fragrance of fall came in through the windows. I could see patches of a blue sky. Leaves were falling from the trees. I was humbled. Passing the sacrament wasn’t a job no one else wanted. It was a job I had been given as a sacred trust. It was the greatest of honors.