Passing Up Passing the Sacrament

No one else knew he was speaking to me when the bishop said, “I hope all of our young men will be willing to fulfill any priesthood assignment given them, even if it seems small or unimportant.”

It was my first Sunday as a member of the teachers quorum. I had served as a deacon for two years, and now I was ready for new challenges.

My first assignment was to stand by the doors during the sacrament. Our building had an entry at the rear of the chapel with a set of glass-paned double doors. As the sacrament was being passed, two of the teachers would stand at the doors to discourage unnecessary traffic that would disturb the reverence of the ordinance.

To me, this assignment was a sign of acceptance. Such a visible responsibility showed that I had the trust of the teachers quorum. I eagerly took my place at the back of the chapel. As our ward members began filing into the chapel, several of the other teachers stopped to shake my hand and offer words of welcome. It was a thrilling time for me. I was now one of the “big” boys. I felt much more grown up than I had just the week before when I had been only a deacon.

Shortly before the sacrament meeting began, someone in the deacons quorum realized there were only five of them. They needed six to pass the sacrament. The deacons quorum president came to the back of the chapel and asked if one of us could help. It really only took one teacher to watch the doors. In fact, as a deacon I had often asked the teachers to help pass the sacrament.

This time, however, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to perform my new role on my first Sunday as a teacher. I told the deacons quorum president to buzz off and find someone else. He gave me a disappointed look and returned to his seat by the sacrament table.

During the opening hymn he returned and asked for help again. This time I was ready. I looked at him with a triumphant smile and said, “You are the president of the quorum. I think you should get busy and activate some of those who don’t come every Sunday. Then you wouldn’t have to come back here begging for help.” I felt pretty smug. I was glad no one mentioned that I had been the deacons quorum president only one week before.

Finally it came time for the sacrament. How would the deacons pull this off? There would be confusion because there weren’t enough of them to fill all the assignments. The deacons lined up in front of the sacrament table. Sure enough, there was a vacant space. The priests finished breaking the bread. It was almost time for the sacrament prayer.

I was shocked when my bishop stood up and filled the vacant space. My bishop! A man I admired and wanted to please. He led the tiny band of deacons as they passed the sacrament to the congregation. In full view of the ward he passed the bread to everyone seated on the stand. Then he stepped off the stand and began serving those in the middle part of the chapel, in the same pattern any deacon would have done. He reverently walked back to the sacrament table and repeated the assignment with a tray of water.

At the end of the sacrament service, Bishop Cook stepped to the pulpit and spoke of the sacred ordinance of the sacrament and the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood. No one else knew he was speaking to me when he said, “I hope all of our young men will be willing to fulfill any priesthood assignment given them, even if it seems small or unimportant.”

Many times since then I have been grateful for a powerful lesson taught by a loving bishop. I am humbled that those who hold the priesthood are given the privilege of participating in the holy ordinance that reminds us of the atoning sacrifice of the Savior and allows us to renew our sacred baptismal covenants.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus