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Not sure what to think about during the sacrament? Here’s what this General Authority always tries to remember

[When] I was a new convert and a recently ordained priest[,] the branch president, Mike Allen, approached me at church one day. He asked me to become familiar with the sacrament prayers so I could administer the sacrament the next Sunday. I was overwhelmed and anxious. I read and reread the prayers that week, almost committing them to memory. I felt responsible, respectful, and aware that I would be praying on behalf of the whole branch.

When I knelt before the congregation to pray the next Sunday, my anxiety melted away. I felt a calm sense of worth. The words of the sacrament prayer touched my senses like an awakening dawn, enlightening and uplifting me. Joy overwhelmed me, encompassing my thoughts and enfolding my mind in peace. Never before had my comprehension of the goodness of the Savior reached such heights.

Sacrifice and Sacrament

Since those early days, the ordinance of the sacrament has continued to bring deep meaning to my life. My understanding has deepened as I have pondered the connection between sacrifice and sacrament.

Heavenly Father has always required His children to offer sacrifices as a form of worship. Beginning with Adam and Eve and extending to the time of the Savior’s mortal ministry, animal sacrifices pointed to the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God. But just before Jesus Christ carried out that atoning sacrifice, He met with His Apostles in an upper room for a Passover meal. Jesus “took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19−20). He instituted the sacrament—a priesthood ordinance to replace animal sacrifices.

Soon after the Savior carried out His atoning sacrifice, the Saints in the Western Hemisphere heard Him speak of a new sacrifice that He required of them. “Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood,” He said. “Yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19−20). That same day, He instituted the sacrament among the Nephites. He taught: “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” (3 Nephi 18:7).

This is our promise when we partake of the sacrament. Our participation in the ordinance is “a testimony unto the Father that [we] do always remember [the Son]” (3 Nephi 18:7). It represents our sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. As Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, “As you seek the blessing of conversion, you can offer the Lord the gift of your broken, or repentant, heart and your contrite, or obedient, spirit. In reality, it is the gift of yourself—what you are and what you are becoming.”1

Remembering the Savior’s Suffering

I am grateful for the way the sacrament helps me turn to my Savior and come unto Him. When I partake of the sacrament, there are a few things I always try to remember about Him.

The Savior’s Institution of the Sacrament

Each time I partake of the sacrament, I reflect on the occasion when the Savior asked Peter and John to go and prepare for the Passover (see Luke 22:7−13). I wonder how those Apostles felt. They did not understand everything Jesus was about to do, but they and their brethren in the Twelve must have sensed that this was not a typical Passover meal. I wonder how they felt “when the hour was come [and] he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him,” and when He said, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:14−15).

What would He suffer? They could not have known. Today we can look back with some knowledge of His suffering, even though we will never comprehend it.

The Garden of Gethsemane

When I partake of the sacrament, I think about the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know that soon after He instituted the sacrament, His suffering began there (see Matthew 26:36–38). Luke recorded: “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. . . . And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and he sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:41−42; Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 22:44).

Jesus Christ Himself described His experience in Gethsemane. Referring to His suffering, He said: “How sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. . . . I, God, have suffered these things for all . . . ; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15−16, 18).

Sleeping Disciples

When I partake of the sacrament, I often think about Peter, James, and John sleeping while the Savior suffered (see Matthew 26:37–45). Then I ask myself about my standing before Him. What do I refuse to give up that is keeping me from being able to “do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”? (Philippians 4:13). Why do I sometimes fail to see my potential as He sees it? When the time comes for me to stand before Him and He looks into my soul with His loving, searching eyes, will I be able to look directly back at Him? Or will He ask me, as He asked Peter, James, and John, “Why sleep ye?” (see Luke 22:46). Will He ask, “Why do you not receive my help to fulfill your divine destiny?”

The Strenuous Road to Golgotha

When I partake of the sacrament, I think about the Savior’s strenuous road to Golgotha after He left Gethsemane: “Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. . . . And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against him” (Luke 22:54, 63−65). And later: “Pilate . . . , willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him” (Luke 23:20−21).

Selflessness in the Face of Selfishness

When I partake of the sacrament, I think of the Savior’s selfless sacrifice on the cross, even when so many around Him were selfish. “And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. . . . And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:33, 39−42).

As I think about these people—the high priest and Pilate and the people who demanded that Jesus be crucified and the malefactor who railed against Jesus—I hope I will never let selfish desires blind me from knowing my Savior. I hope I will always remember His selfless sacrifice, receive His grace, and acknowledge His hand in my life. I hope I will, like the second malefactor, be humble enough to acknowledge Him and plead for Him to remember me.

With such humility comes the Lord’s assurance and promise: “Behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; . . . Glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:16, 19).

Sacrament, Self-Examination, Repentance, Forgiveness, and Personal Revelation

The sacrament is a time of self-examination and repentance. It is a time to acknowledge our weakness and our need for the Lord to cleanse us and “make [us] a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31). In our efforts to make changes in our lives and make a difference in the lives of others, we need Him. Only through Him and His Atonement can we find lasting success and joy. Only “through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of [our] sins,” can we “become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:33). He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). I am grateful for the sacrament—for the simple way it reminds me of the price Jesus Christ has paid so we can repent, receive forgiveness, and become like Him.

Our experience with the sacrament can also lead to personal revelation. The promise in the sacrament prayers is that we will always have the Spirit to be with us (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79). Sometimes when we least expect it, maybe during the administration of the sacrament or during a talk in the meeting or on our way home from church, the Holy Ghost sheds light on questions we have and difficulties we face.

Partaking of the sacrament is a privilege. As we partake worthily and thoughtfully, our weekly experience can be like my experience the first time I pronounced the blessings on the bread and water. And it can remain with us, lasting beyond the few minutes of the ordinance. We can feel a calm sense of worth. The words of the sacrament prayer can touch our senses like an awakening dawn, enlightening and uplifting us again and again. We can be encompassed about with joy and peace, and our understanding of the Savior’s goodness can continue to grow. We will surely have His Spirit to be with us, and we will see ourselves, more and more, as God sees us.

Lead image: Shutterstock
  1. D. Todd Christofferson, “When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004.

Image titleBeyond the Shade of the Mango Tree shows us how our Heavenly Father speaks to and magnifies His children who turn to Him. Elder Dube's story is in some ways the same as many of God's children's, but in other ways his experiences are vastly different. From growing up in war-torn Zimbabwe, where he discovered the gospel at age twenty-two, to his Church leadership experiences in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, and the United States, Elder Dube's stories and insights offer fresh perspectives on core gospel teachings. Through Elder Dube's own personal experiences along with teachings of latter-day prophets and the scriptures, Beyond the Shade of the Mango Tree teaches us that we can come to see ourselves as the Lord sees us—His beloved children, with the potential to become like Him. Available now at Deseret Book stores and at DeseretBook.com

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