Seeing the glass cup flooded my mind with pleasant memories. Glass sacrament cups were being used at the time I reached my 12th birthday, a very significant milestone in my life. My 12th birthday happened to fall on Sunday. For years I had watched the deacons pass the sacrament, anticipating the day that I would be blessed to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and have that privilege.
When that day finally arrived, I was asked to come to church early and meet with Brother Ambrose Call, second counselor in our ward bishopric. Brother Call invited me into a classroom and asked me to offer a prayer. He then opened the scriptures and read section 13 of the Doctrine and Covenants to me:
"Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness."
Brother Call then asked me to comment on this section. My explanation was surely not complete enough, so Brother Call took some time to explain to me what it meant to be a bearer of the holy priesthood. Being worthy to hold the priesthood entitled me to use the power God delegates to man. One who worthily holds the priesthood can legitimately perform the ordinances God has prescribed for the salvation of the human family. This authority comes directly from the Savior Himself through a continuing line of priesthood holders.
My interview with Brother Call must have been somewhat satisfactory, for I was taken into the deacons quorum meeting. There, the members of the bishopric laid their hands upon my head, and the bishop, who happened at the time to be my father, conferred upon me the Aaronic Priesthood and ordained me to the office of a deacon. I was also sustained by the other deacons to become a member with them in a quorum of the priesthood.
In sacrament meeting that evening, I had my first opportunity to exercise the priesthood by passing the sacrament to the membership of our ward. The sacrament took on new meaning to me that day. As I watched the tray go up and down the rows of the members of the Church, I noticed that not everyone approached the sacrament with the same attitude. There were those who seemed to partake of the sacrament just as a matter of routine, but there were many, many who accepted the sacrament with great reverence.
Over the years, I have participated, as all of us have, in many sacrament meetings, and to me they really are more than just another meeting. Partaking of the sacrament provides us with a sacred moment in a holy place. We do it in accordance with the commandment the Lord gave us in section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
"And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day" (D&C 59:9).
From the very beginning, before the world was organized, God laid out a plan whereby He would offer blessings to His children based on their obedience to His commandments. He understood, however, that we would be distracted at times by the things of the world and would need to be reminded regularly of our covenants and His promises.
One of the first commandments given to Adam was that he should worship the Lord and offer the firstlings of his flocks as an offering to Him. This ordinance was given to remind the people that Jesus Christ would come into the world and would ultimately offer Himself as a sacrifice.
"And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
"And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
"And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth" (Moses 5:5-7).
From that day down until the time of our Savior, Heavenly Father's children were commanded to offer sacrifices. It was discontinued with the Savior's atoning sacrifice. Then, the night before He completed that sacrifice, the Savior instituted the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to help us remember Him and the Atonement He made for all mankind. Thus, in the ancient law of sacrifice and in the sacrament, the Lord has helped us be certain that we do not forget His promises and the requirement that we follow Him and obey His will.
In the New Testament we have an account of the Lord administering the sacrament to His disciples. This is found in Matthew, the 26th chapter:
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
"For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:26-28).
The Book of Mormon, in 3 Nephi, chapter 18, gives us a detailed account of the Savior's administration of the sacrament to the Nephites:
"And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
"And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
"And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.
"And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
"And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.
"And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
"And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
"And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
"And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
"And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you" (3 Ne. 18:1-10).
His instructions are very clear that we should be willing to do what He has commanded us to do. It would surely be expected that in our day we would again be commanded to partake of the sacrament. As the Doctrine and Covenants tells us:
"It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus" (D&C 20:75).
The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is, of course, to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord.
Elder Delbert L. Stapley instructed us in this when he said about covenants:
"The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a covenant between God and his people. ... When baptized by an authorized servant of God, we covenant to do God's will and to obey his commandments. ... By partaking of the Sacrament we renew all covenants entered into with the Lord and pledge ourselves to take upon us the name of his Son, to always remember him and keep his commandments" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 14).
The sacrament is one of the most sacred ordinances in the Church. Partaking of the sacrament worthily gives us an opportunity for spiritual growth.
I remember that when I was a child, beautiful music was played during the passing of the sacrament. The Brethren soon asked us to stop that practice because our minds were centered on the music rather than on the atoning sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. During the administration of the sacrament, we set aside the world. It is a period of spiritual renewal as we recognize the deep spiritual significance of the ordinance offered to each of us personally. If we were to become casual in partaking of the sacrament, we would lose the opportunity for spiritual growth.
Elder Melvin J. Ballard once said:
"I am a witness that there is a spirit attending the administration of the sacrament that warms the soul from head to foot; you feel the wounds of the spirit being healed, and the load is lifted. Comfort and happiness come to the soul that is worthy and truly desirous of partaking of this spiritual food" ("The Sacramental Covenant," Improvement Era, Oct. 1919, 1027).
When we partake of the sacrament worthily, we remember the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, that He gave up His life and took upon Himself the sins of the world that we may have the blessing of immortality. We take upon ourselves the name of our Savior and promise to always remember Him and to keep His commandments--that is, to "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God" (D&C 84:44).
Parents, you have the responsibility of teaching your families the importance of attending sacrament meeting weekly. It should be a regular family practice. Every family needs that time of renewing and committing to live the gospel in accordance with the teachings of the Savior. Families, properly prepared, will attend sacrament meeting with a spirit of reverence and with gratitude for the opportunity of partaking of the sacred emblems.
I remember an experience our family had while on vacation at a resort area. Because the period of our stay included a Sunday, we made arrangements to attend a sacrament meeting at a nearby chapel. So did hundreds of others staying at the resort. The chapel was filled to overflowing. Before the meeting started, the bishop invited any attending deacons who were worthy and properly dressed to participate in the passing of the sacrament. An adequate number, dressed in white shirts and ties, came forward to receive instructions on how to handle such a large congregation. The ordinance was administered reverently and efficiently. As I observed the congregation, I saw that many were deeply moved by the spirit of the meeting.
After we returned to the resort, there was an obvious difference in the Sabbath-day activities compared to that of the weekdays. Boats remained tied at the dock; the lake was almost free of swimmers; and the dress for the Sabbath day was very appropriate. Those families saw the fulfillment of the Lord's promise: by going to the house of prayer on His holy day and renewing their covenants to obey the commandments, they were able to keep themselves more fully unspotted from the world (see D&C 59:9).
May there be instilled in each of us an increased reverence for the Sabbath. May we more fully realize the special blessing of being able to partake of the sacrament and its significance in our lives. May we always remember Him and keep His commandments, which He has given us to fulfill the purpose of life and the hope of the eternities that are to come. This is the Lord's work in which we are engaged. God lives. Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. We're permitted to be part of this great gospel plan, of which the sacrament is such a vital part. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.