This was the talk I gave in church last week.
Many years ago when my children were young, I remember being very upset with prayer time in our home. They were irreverent during the prayers and family prayer was getting to be an awful experience. I remember taking my concern to the Lord. “Heavenly Father how do I really teach my children to close their eyes and make prayer time a reverent experience? The Lord listened sincerely to my prayer and then quite easily gave me the simplest of answers. “Danielle, keep your own eyes shut and lead by example” I have to say that as I focused on my own reverence the experience was pleasant again.
In October conference Cheryl A Esplin shared this insight that revolutionized my world…. She said a group of young woman had asked her “What do you wish you had known when you were our age?” I wish.. I had understood the significance of the sacrament…. I wish I had understood the sacrament [could] be a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for the soul.’1”(Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)
This really did change me. When I thought of all the things I would want my children or young women to know the sacrament didn’t even make my top 10… This was a completely new idea for me.
How can the sacrament “be a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for the soul” each week?
This conference Elder Peter Meurs attempted to answer that question. He told us that the sacrament CAN help us become more holy. On Sunday morning he offered 5 practical ways to achieve this.. His thoughts were inspiring and practical but go and review them yourself and see what the spirit tells you. Instead I will share with you my thoughts and ideas about how to make sacrament truly spiritual experience, a holy communion and a renewal for my soul.
The first time I heard this talk this is what I recorded in my conference journal.
“How am I preparing for the sacrament? How am I making it holy? Sing the sacrament hymn. I could do better at teaching and showing a better example to my family. I am often mad at my kids and it’s not a nice feeling. I need to do better at the sacrament but right now my temporal circumstances are getting the best of me. As I review this talk let me listen with a more contrite spirit?”
Until I was assigned to speak on this subject I have to admit that I did not even remember the talk.
To be quite honest the sacrament has been a challenge for me. It magnifies my weakness. I have an extremely hard time focusing on anything for 15 minutes. I am ADD. I am quite codependent and if everyone else isn’t reverent around me…it’s hard for me to choose to act instead of being acted upon. I have had moments and glimpses of a good sacrament but it has never really been a worship, a communion, a renewal a being filled.
When I was studying in my scriptures a few weeks ago, the spirit taught me. When Christ first introduced the sacrament to the Nephite people their is a line that I never had noticed before… It said and they partook “until they were filled” I am not sure if they literally on that occasion ate and ate until hunger and thirst were gone… but I do know that if I apply this scripture to me that I too can eat of the sacrament and not be filled physically,(although on fast Sunday I do appreciate the extra big portions of bread and maybe sometimes look for the cup filled to overflowing) But I can partake and be filled with his Holy Ghost. But the real question remains… Am I being filled with the holy ghost weekly in partaking the sacrament? The real honest answer is no. Now I know that it is possible. But I am living way below my privilege in sacrament worship.
Isn’t it “remarkable that even through the dark periods of apostasy,… the sacrament continued to be practiced in many forms.” (L Tom Perry)
For me being renewed by the sacrament is a sin of omission. I come to church every week and feel like it is working wonderfully for me. But if I honestly reflect at the fifteen to twenty minutes it takes to pass and administer the sacrament it is not a holy communion for me. That is why I was so shocked in giving this talk.
Only greater consecration, greater sacrifice, greater preparation can correct this omission. Sins of omission have Elder Maxwell says “consequences just as real as do the sins of commission. Many of us thus have sufficient faith to avoid the major sins of commission, but not enough faith to sacrifice our distracting obsessions or to focus on our omissions.” (Neil a Maxwell, 1995)
I omit the preparation for this ordinance. Ironically enough Sunday was one of my worst days for studying the scriptures…. But I do find comfort that the first step of repentance is awareness, and as Elder Holland taught “ the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them,. “ (Holland april 2016) Besides the Lord gives us all weakness… it helps us draw near to him. It just sometimes unsettling when he asks you to talk about them in front of the ward.
Like any good thing that happens in life … it needs a plan, a preparation … If i know that i am easily distracted than I need to prepare a thought, a story, a scripture a hymn, an idea that i can ponder during the sacrament. This time it choose the words from a conference talk… He would do anything to take this from you..” Infact he already has.”
I need to come to sacrament meeting early … and like Elder Muir suggests and “arrive well before the meeting and ponder as the prelude music is played.”
President Nelson said, “This is not a time for conversation or transmission of messages but a period of prayerful meditation as [we] prepare spiritually for the sacrament.”2
Singing of the hymns is so important. What would it sound like if our congregation sang the sacrament hymn with true worship? We are promised that these words that we sing can become part of our “covenant commitment” How can they be part of my covenant commitment when sometimes I fail to even open the hymn book?
I once had a ward chorister who was loud and loved the hymns… She would stop the whole congregation and point of specifically names of those who were not singing. (often it was her husband) Then we would start again. It was beautiful as we all lifted our voices together and sang the songs of Zion. I am grateful for a sister who is done her mortal life but has left a heritage of her power and love for the hymns. Elder Nelson said, “Some members seem reluctant to sing, perhaps because of fear. We each need to forget our fears and sing as an opportunity to praise our Creator prayerfully. Music in sacrament meeting is for worship, not performance.”
The idea of spiritually participating in the sacrament was a new idea too for me. I am reminded of the judgment and scorn I often looked at Peter James and John… when just a stone’s throw away the Savior is in the act of the atonement and they could not wait one hour with him… Foolishly I judged them and vowed within my heart that I would not have abandoned my Savior in His moment of need… Ironically, every week as I watch the bread ripped bruised and broken, (bread starts off whole pieces and then is torn and broken it in front of us) as I taste of the water representing the blood that was spilt for me (Gethsamane means a oil press… and when you squeeze olives the pressure releases the oil, Christ was pressed until blood came from every pore )… I often show more often than not that I am fast asleep… the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And although every week I show up to parktake… I am there … I may not be physically asleep I am spiritually slumbering through his garden experience. Isn’t the duration of the sacrament meeting one hour… “Can ye not watch with me one hour?” I always thought that I wouldn’t have done it, I wouldn’t have fallen asleep. I could have watched and prayed with him a hour. But i have much more sympathy for Peter James and John when week in week out I look at the 15 -20 minutes I can’t even give that small sacrifice. How is your commitment? Are you also falling asleep and what could help you improve. What is the spirit telling you?
“When we focus our thoughts on the Lord, it is, in a way, accompanying Him at the moment of the agony He endured when taking upon Himself our sins. “ (By Maritza Gonzales Espejo, Jan, 2015)
Only recently did I start to be concerned about the reverence during our family prayers. I began opening my eyes and seeing people playing, looking around, eyes not closed, arms not even folded… I was back saying the same prayer… Lovingly the spirit taught me, teach them, testify to them but I’ve already given you the answer. Close your own eyes.”
At the beginning of Elder Meur’s talk he talks about an awareness that “something special was happening” at the tender age of five, he remembered his father’s voice tremble and having to pause to control his emotions. Are our children, or those seated around us feeling “our calm” as we “contemplate the Savior’s love for us”?
I have lived below my privilege of laying hold of the true restorative power that can be experienced each week as I eat the bread and drink the water and REMEMBER the loving sacrifice of a loving Friend and Redeemer. As I take time to think of him, I actually take time let him be part of me. To enter inside and work His miracle of changing me to be more like Him. Although, sacrament takes a small amount of time, the effects of preparing for and participating in this ordinance are eternal. It is my prayer that the sacrament can and will help us become more holy and that we can reflect on how we will always remember Him.