As has been stated a number of times recently by General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the weekly sacrament meeting is considered to be one of the most sacred, important and potentially life-changing meetings conducted in the Church. On my mission, I still did not appreciate how this was so until studying 3 Nephi 18. I still probably don’t fully understand but I have some more thoughts now…
The first thing I noticed is the use of the phrase ‘filled’ in 3 Nephi 18. For example: “And it came to pass that they did…drink of it and were filled…” (3 Nephi 18:9). Of course, this isn’t referring to a physical filling – the Nephites were being filled with the Spirit of the Lord, something we can feel if we partake of the sacrament in the way it’s meant to be. This sheds some light on what Christ meant when He told the Samaritan woman “…whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst…” (John 4:14). Christ was speaking of a spiritual fulfillment – a filling of the Spirit which, if we stay worthy of it, will never leave us. As we prepare for the sacrament each Sunday, we can receive this filling. But do we?
President David O. Mckay taught there are “…three things fundamentally important associated with the administration of the sacrament.” He continued by saying ” The first is self-discernment…we should partake worthily, each one examining himself…” We should not be surprised if when partaking of the sacrament we do not feel a spiritual filling or satisfaction if we have not fully repented or confessed to the Lord our recognition of our faults in the week. This applies to all transgressions, even ones we may consider ‘smaller’ or less significant; sin is sin. If we pray to the Lord consistently through the week to ask for forgiveness then it should be no surprise that when the culmination of this repentance process happens (the sacrament – the renewal) then we will feel the Spirit more strongly.
“Secondly, there is a covenant made…” – remember how important that statement is. We are make a two way promise (or rather, renewing all our promises ever made with God) when we partake of the sacrament. That is not something to be taken lightly. Of course, we will fail to fully live up to all our covenants, but that is why the sacrament is a weekly event. And this is when we start to see how vital to our spiritual strength the sacrament should be.
However, the third fundamental principle of the sacrament stood out most to me. “Thirdly…a sense of close relationship with the Lord. There is an opportunity to commune with oneself and to commune with the Lord.” What an experience that could be – to commune with the Lord! “Let us make that sacrament hour one of the most impressive means of coming in contact with God’s spirit. Let the Holy Ghost…lead us into his presence, and may we sense that nearness…” In Catholicism, there is an event in a Catholic’s regular worship called The Holy Communion. I have attended a Communion and it is similar in principle to our sacrament – both of course based on the Lord’s Last Supper. Whilst we have a number of differences in belief and practice, I do like the name that Catholicism has chosen for this event. Through the sacrament, we can (we should) come closest to communing with God in those precious moments. Picture the sacrament ordinance for a moment (remembering as well it is a sacred ordinance, officiated by priesthood authority). The emblems carried in the trays are symbolic – emblems, even – of Christ’s body and blood. When we partake of the sacrament, we are mirroring the Nephites who came forward in 3 Nephi 11 and felt the prints of the nails in His hand. Whilst in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we don’t believe these emblems metamorphisise into Christ’s actual flesh and blood, we do believe they are partaken as a representation of His body and blood.
I have occasionally wondered what it would have been like to be present when the Nephites had the opportunity to go (one-by-one) and partake in feeling Christ’s sacrifice. Now I realise I don’t have to. I should know what spiritual filling they received IF I partake of the sacrament worthily, recognising the covenants I am renewing and trying to break to the veil to commune with my Father in Heaven. Will this happen every week? Probably not (particularly with my 3 year old son and 1 year old daughter). However, it CAN happen and how complete would our life be if we could sense that presence and renewal to it’s fullest extent each and every Sabbath? That, is why the sacrament is so important!