THE RELIEF SOCIETY, PRIESTHOOD QUORUMS, AND YOUNG WOMEN
STERLING PARK WARD
ASHBURN, VA STAKE
About six weeks ago my son, Ryan, and I had a disagreement over whether he should take the car out into the snow or not. For most of the discussion I remained calm. Toward the end I got angry, but was able to keep my cool. At the very end of the discussion, however, I lost my temper and spoke a few words in anger. When I was able to calm down, after a little while, I apologized to my son. That was not the end of it, however. In losing my temper, I also lost a significant measure of the Spirit. I could tell. Not only was there an emptiness and an edginess in my life, but I my thoughts were not as lucid and quick as they were before. I could sense a darkness creeping in at the edges of my soul.
The argument was on a Tuesday. I prayed for forgiveness over the next several days, but the portion of the Spirit that had left me did not return. As I wondered why, I was reminded that my repentance would not be complete until I took the Sacrament. With this realization, I became anxious for Sunday to come and to take the Sacrament. This was a Sunday, however, when I had to leave town for a business trip. I went to the Algonkian Ward Sacrament meeting in the morning--rather than ours in the afternoon--before departing. When the the Sacrament service finally came, I wanted very much to feel the Spirit. I wanted to be forgiven. I was grateful for the reverence that prevailed in the meeting that allowed me to examine my life and commune with Our Father without distractions.
Guess what? It worked! No sooner had I completed taking the Sacrament and finished my silent prayer, than the Spirit returned. It was as evident to me as when It had departed 5 days earlier. I was able to leave town with a peaceful heart and a clear mind. The Sacrament is a significant blessing in my life and I am grateful for it.
Brothers and sisters, thank you all for coming today--including the Deacons. I am speaking to you by assignment today. During the Bishop's Session of our recent Stake Conference, the visiting General Authority, Elder Lance B. Wickman, assigned each bishop to use the next fifth Sunday lesson to discuss the subject of Sacrament Meeting. Fifth Sunday lessons do not normally include the young men and young women, but I have invited them, because the material I will present today is relevant to them.
I have divided this lesson into three parts: 1) preparing for Sacrament Meeting; 2) the ordinance of the Sacrament; and 3) talking in Sacrament Meeting.
III. THE PREPARATION
The older members of the class will remember this Primary song, which is not sung much anymore.
Saturday is a special day.
It's the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store,
So we won't have to work until Monday.
We brush our clothes and we shine our shoes,
And we call it our get-the-work-done day.
The we trim our nails and we shampoo our hair,
So we can be ready for Sunday.
Words by Rita S. Robinson
Children's Songbook, page 196.
This song focuses on the physical preparation for coming to Sunday Services. I believe we need to prepare ourselves to feel the Spirit during Sacrament Meeting. One important facet of this preparation is getting our stuff done on Saturday. I have seen many of you at the grocery store on Saturday night. You know what I am talking about. We invite the Spirit into our lives by letting Sunday be a peaceful day--by getting our chores done on Saturday or leaving them until Monday. My first invitation to you is to get prepared physically for Sacrament meeting.
The second thing I invite us to consider is our spiritual preparation for Sacrament meeting. This will take conscious effort on our parts.
The third thing I invite you to consider as you prepare for Sacrament meeting combines both the spiritual preparation and physical preparation. Elder Wickman asked me to ask you to please arrive about 10 minutes early for Sacrament Meeting. You will be able to do this because of your physical preparation. You will want to do this because of your spiritual preparation. It will allow you to come in, listen to the prelude music, examine your life, and ponder the solemnities of eternity. Best of all, if you are five minutes late, you will still be five minutes early!
In this regard, let me make a special plea. Parents of Aaronic Priesthood brethren, please, please be sure your sons are here at least 15 minutes early--at least. We delay the beginning of Sacrament meeting far too often because the Sacrament isn't finished being prepared. Also, it is a significant Spirit-buster when the young men come in late and jockey to get their favorite passing position. Another Spirit-buster is when the Deacon's Quorum President is hunting for brothers to fill-in during the Sacrament song. In view of these Spirit-busters, I am now going to give two assignments: one to the Aaronic Priesthood brethren and one to the Melchizedek Priesthood brethren.
Finally, an administrative note. The handbook indicates that what Priesthood holders should wear while blessing, preparing, and passing the Sacrament is up to the Bishop, who should be guided by what local custom considers to be dignified. For the Sterling Park Ward, a white shirt and a tie are what I consider to be dignified.
IV. THE SACRAMENT
The Sacrament is the most important part of our Sunday services. Our focus should be on the role the Savior's Atonement plays in our lives. I want to address three items: the doctrine of the Sacrament, the ordinance of the Sacrament, and some mechanics of the Sacrament.
First, let us consider the doctrine of the Sacrament for a minute. Let's go over this handout. We can also read Matt 26:26-29, 3 Ne 18:4-7. The sacrament is an integral part of the plan of salvation and is directly tied to the Atonement. There are few things that are more central to the core of the Gospel than the Sacrament.
Second, let's focus on what is happening during the Sacrament. Inasmuch as the Savior introduced the Sacrament on the eve of the Atonement, the Deacons, the Teachers, and the Priests all represent the Savior as they prepare, bless, and pass Sacrament. I would like to focus our attention on the Priests for a moment. The Priest represents the Savior at the table. In this ordinance of the Aaronic Priesthood, he puts the congregation under covenant
Further, the Priest, acting by the power of the Holy Aaronic Priesthood--which he holds--gives the congregation two blessings:
The congregation accepts these covenants and receives these blessings through the tokens of bread and water given to them by the Deacons. Remember what I was hoping for after I lost my temper with my son? I was hoping that the bread and water--the tokens of the atonement--would be sanctified to my soul. That is, that through the Atonement, I would be forgiven of my sin. I was also hoping to have the Spirit to be with me. Those priests in the Algonkian Ward blessed me--by the power of the Aaronic Priesthood--to have those two things happen. And they did!
Take a look at this painting of Christ's burial by Carl Heinrich Bloch, located in the National Historic Museum at the Friederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, Denmark. It helps remind us of the meaning of the of the bread and water under the white sacrament cloth.
Print © 1992 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
V. THE TALKS
OK, let's talk for a few minutes about the talks we give in Sacrament meeting. You may have noticed that we have discontinued the tradition of having couples speak in sacrament meeting the same day. We have done this for several reasons, one of which is to have the speakers sit on the stand for the duration of the meeting. We invite all speakers to sit on the stand through the entire meeting.
Sacrament meeting is not Sunday School and a Sacrament meeting talk is not a Sunday School lesson. I have been one of the worst offenders. I have recently come to appreciate that because a Sacrament meeting talk is an act of worship designed to bring the Spirit into the lives of the congregation, it should be delivered as an act of worship. What do I mean by this? A Sacrament meeting talk should be more reverent and the humor more reserved than a Sunday School lesson. We encourage personal stories of inspiration rather than faith promoting rumors. We must rigorously adhere to established principles and doctrines and not stray into personal opinion. We should do less preaching and more inspired lifting. Our object should be to lead the congregation in worshipping the Father and the Son by bringing the Holy Ghost into the meeting.
We should not pause our Sacrament meeting talk to let the congregation find the scriptures we are citing. If a member wants to look up a scripture--either the one we are citing, or a different one that our talk inspires--that is fine. But there should be no expectation on the speaker's part that a member of the congregation will look up a scripture. For example, rather than say,
. . . would you now please turn with me to Psalms 23:3 on page 727 of the Old Testament <pause>. Read along with me, if you will, the Lord's promise: 'He restoreth my soul.' . . .
we should say,
. . . how wonderful the Lord's promise, expressed so eloquently by the Psalmist, "He restoreth my soul." . . .
Now, let me finish with just a few words about bearing testimonies. The First Presidency issued a letter on 2 May 2002 entitled, "Bearing of Testimonies in Fast and Testimony Meeting." It reads:
We are concerned that in some instances, members who desire to bear their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting do not have the opportunity to do so. Bishoprics are encouraged to help all people learn to express a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration, so that more members may have the opportunity to participate.
Parents and teachers should help children learn what a testimony is and when it is appropriate for the to express it. it may be best to have younger children learn to share their testimonies at such times as family home evening or when giving talks in Primary until they are old enough to do so in a fast and testimony meeting.
We encourage bishoprics to teach these important principles to priesthood and auxiliary leaders and to all ward members.
Brothers and sisters, the gospel is true. The sacrament is sacred and will change our lives. We will feel the Holy Ghost in our Sacrament meetings as we concentrate on worshipping the Father and the Son. Thank you for all you do and especially for your prayers on my behalf. As the Bishop, I bless you and call upon the powers of heaven to strengthen you as you struggle with the burdens in your lives. Bring these burdens to Sacrament meeting and lay them at the feet of the Savior as you take the Sacrament. May our Sacrament meetings be a important blessing to all of us.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.