Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I recall when a woman asked me, "When did the sacrament start having real significance for you?" While I was thinking, trying to isolate a time, she continued, "I'll bet it was when you started passing the sacrament at twelve; I think that would really compound the significance."

My true answer was, "I don't know," but I think that is when something started to change. I remember feeling something special when the sacrament was seen from the other side of the tray, if you will. I can also still remember the very day—even right where I was—as a missionary when I made the connection between something I was teaching and the sacrament. I understood that the bread and water could, respectively, represent the two barriers that separate us from God: death and sin. This realization, which may seem juvenile, had real power in adding yet another connection between me, Christ, and the sacrament.

Of course, I think I'm still learning and growing in understanding, appreciation, and gratitude for the sacrament and all it represents. That's one reason why I really liked Elder Oaks' talk: it was directed to me. He said,

The things I feel impressed to teach here are addressed to those who are not yet understanding and practicing these important principles and not yet enjoying the promised spiritual blessings of always having His guiding Spirit to be with them.

While I do have some understanding and I do enjoy spiritual blessings, I'm willing to have more of both.

The instruction and teaching on preparation and practice in and for sacrament meetings were meaningful and beautiful, but there was a certain word that caught my particular attention. As I listened to the message, and also when I read it, that word seemed to ring louder / jump off the page. He said it four times. [Are you curious what the word is?]


Some time ago, a man at church explained that when people talk of earning blessings, opportunities, or privileges, he would much prefer the use of the word "qualify" over "earn." You may argue that qualify and earn are synonyms, but there seems a higher connotation, at least in my mind, with "qualify." To me, the difference is related to the difference between "eligible" and "deserve." I'm more comfortable saying that I'm eligible for spiritual blessings than I deserve them—can you feel a difference, too?

Enough semantics.

Perhaps the message of the talk is encapsulated in the context of the four occurrences of "qualify." Let's see (I'll highlight the word in the following):

By participating weekly and appropriately in the ordinance of the sacrament we qualify for the promise that we will “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:77).

Note the use of "appropriately" as well as the magnificent promise.

When we join in the solemnity that should always accompany the ordinance of the sacrament and the worship of this meeting—we are qualified for the companionship and revelation of the Spirit.

Here, conditions that qualify us are set forth.

We need to qualify for the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We do this by keeping His commandment to come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and in that wonderful weekly meeting partake of the emblems of the sacrament and make the covenants that qualify us for the precious promise that we will always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77).

In a lesson last Sunday, I realized that one recurring problem I struggle with is the temptation to try to use the Atonement on credit. By this I mean that I will actually catch myself thinking, "Well, I can always repent later." Luckily, I [usually] change course and desist when I think those words, but this attitude represents a cheapening of the Infinite Atonement. The final quote (with a double measure of qualify) reminds that the cleansing power of the Atonement is not something that is cheaply given away without conditions or terms; I need to qualify for it.

I'm grateful for the cleansing power of the Atonement. I'm grateful for covenants. I'm grateful for Christ who makes both possible. I'm grateful for the trust I've been given, that I can qualify for remarkable blessings. I'm grateful that I'm reminded of all of these things weekly through the sacrament.

0 thoughts