We know that the sacrament was established by Jesus Christ himself (see the 4 Gospels in the New Testament). When we are baptized we covenant that we will do special things like be a good example of a christian person (doing as Jesus would do) and to witness His name at all times and places. Partaking of the sacrament weekly helps us remember these covenants. I would like to share my talk with you for my blog post today. Its long, it took me about 15 mins to speak but I hope you enjoy it and can learn something from it. Feel free to ask questions or make comments; I always welcome them.
When we celebrate Easter we celebrate the most significant event for the salvation of mankind that this world has ever known and that would be the Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After all, in Moses 1:39 we learn that the whole purpose of us being here is so we can have eternal life and be like our Father in Heaven.
For behold, this is my awork and my bglory—to bring to pass the cimmortality and deternal elife of man.
I opened my mind and heart as I read this passage and found that it was a real eye opener for me because I was studying about the creation and when I read this I came to really understand its importance; that we are His work and glory, that we are His whole purpose.
But, in order for that to be successful we needed a savior; Jesus became that savior when He volunteered in the pre-existence. His unending love for us made it possible for all of us to return home to our Heavenly Father. By his coming here, on earth, He did three things to help us.
1) 1) He showed us how to live our lives so that we could be worthy,
2) 2) He paid the price for the sins of the world giving us the opportunity to repent, and
3) 3) He opened the door to heaven through resurrection, by overcoming death
These are the things that He did that will help to return home to our Heavenly Father but we have to be willing to do our part. Yes, we have a part too.
There are some things we have to do in order to return home. We have to be obedient to the commandments that have been given to us, which are actually good for us. I have heard some people say that our church is too strict, yeah, if you don’t want to return to heaven. But like a parent, Heavenly Father gives us commandments to keep us safe. So when we do them we are safe and happy.
Because we aren’t perfect we have to repent when we make bad choices. This is also a responsibility for us in order to return home. Jesus made it possible for us to repent so, in thinking about that, we really should not waste his atoning sacrifice. Everything He did was for us to have happiness while here on earth and to be able to return to Heaven if we choose. Because we are here today it means we have chosen to take that path.
Over the life span of this world God has been making covenants with His people. He started with Adam and still makes them today. The LDS people are a covenant making people. We make covenants with our Father in Heaven for many different things and He blesses us as we do our part of the covenant.
A covenant is a sacred agreement that if we do certain things our Heavenly Father will give us certain blessings. Tithing is an example of a covenant we make with Him. If we pay our tithes and offerings the windows of Heaven are open to us as it says in Malachi 3:10:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
I have a strong testimony in this. I have seen it work in my life many times.
When sacred covenants are made and we do our part, Heavenly Father has to do his part. He can’t lie or find reasons not to give us the blessings. He lives by the laws of nature. That means when certain things are done then certain things will happen; it’s just the way it works. For example, if you add 1 + 2 you will get 3; there is no way around it. If you have 1 apple and add 2 more apples there will always be 3 apples, it’s just the way it is.
So the laws of nature are the same, God tells us what to do through commandments and when we do them we will have certain blessings. Or, if we don’t do then we will have not have the blessings or there maybe consequences for not keeping the commandments. And He won‘t stop them from happening, it is our choice to obey or not.
But He won’t lead us to do anything that is harmful to us or anyone else. If we make the decision to not keep a commandment, like the word of wisdom, then we have to pay the price of making that choice. It could be something that ruins our health or something that gives us false happiness.
God wants us to be happy so He gives us commandments and He tells us in advance what they will do for us and if we don’t do them then we don’t get anything. I guess that’s like working in a job, either we work and get paid or we don’t work and don’t get paid.
Elder Robert D. Hales said, (quote) “… for the full blessings of the Atonement to take effect in our lives and allow us to return to live with our Heavenly Father, we must repent of our sins and be faithful in obeying the commandments of God. Thus, the redemptive blessings of repentance and forgiveness are an important part of the Atonement, but they are conditional upon our faithfulness in obeying the commandments and the ordinances of God.” (close quote)
We also make covenants through ordinances; like baptism, and going to the temple to receive our endowments, and to seal our families for eternity. The first covenant we make in becoming God’s people is through baptism, and then receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority.
We are also given a gift weekly that we can be a part of here in our Sunday meeting, and that is to partake of the sacred ordinance of the sacrament. In the Gospel Principles manual , Chapter 23, it says: (quote)
“Each time we partake of the sacrament, we renew covenants with the Lord. A covenant is a sacred promise between the Lord and His children. The covenants we make are clearly stated in the sacramental prayers. It is important to know what those covenants are and what they mean.
We covenant that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. By this we show we are willing to be identified with Him and His Church. We commit to serve Him and our fellowman. We promise that we will not bring shame or reproach upon that name.
We covenant to always remember Jesus Christ. All our thoughts, feelings, and actions will be influenced by Him and His mission.
We promise to keep His commandments.
We take these obligations upon ourselves when we are baptized, when we partake of the sacrament, we renew the covenants we made when we were baptized. Jesus gave us the pattern for partaking of the sacrament (See 3 Nephi 18:1-18) and said that when we follow this pattern, repenting of our sins and believing on His name, we will gain a remission of our sins.” (close quote)
So by partaking of the sacrament each week we find that it is important to us because it reminds us of who we are and our part of building His Kingdom here on the earth. It helps us to be able to return to Heaven with honor. And it helps us to know we are not alone as we experience our trials in life.
Many of you know about my youngest daughter’s condition. Some of you might not so with her permission I’d like to share her story. We found out when she was almost 2 years old that she had a vision problem. I discovered this one night when she was awake and wouldn’t go back to sleep. I put on her favorite movie, which was Pinocchio and turned off the lights so she would fall back to sleep. I sat on the floor next to her but soon realized that she couldn’t see me, I was sitting right next to her. So we took her to the eye doctor and found that she needed glasses.
After a few years we started asking questions about her night blindness and what could be done about that. We were sent to a place in Miami that diagnosed her with an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. This disease would eventually take her sight, we pray that it would take a long time to get to that point.
In 2008, she went for a physical and the Dr found a mass in her abdomen so we started the process of finding out what that was. An ultrasound discovered an enlarged spleen. She went through every blood test there was to determine its cause but nothing was found. She had surgery to remove it, it was almost the size of a football, spleens are normally around 4- 6 inches long, so use your imagination. They sent it to a lab for an autopsy and still found no cause. So we moved on with life.
Recently, my daughter was given an opportunity to go to a school in Daytona Beach where she would learn to live independently with low or no vision. She had to have a physical in order to go there. So in May we took her to a Dr for a physical, the next day we received a call to admit her to the hospital because she had only about 10% use of her kidneys. We were in shock, we had no clue that she was in a life threatening position.
They told us that she would need a kidney transplant or be on dialysis for the rest of her life. We have chosen the transplant. As I sat in the hospital I pondered all that had happened and began to see God’s hand in all of this. She was protected by all the events that led up to this discovery; participating in a program at the Light House for the Blind, then being encouraged by them to go to this school in Daytona , then the school requiring that she have the physical and finding this health issue. I prayed my gratitude for His watch over her.
In relationship to the promises of the sacrament, we received peace through the Holy Spirit in knowing that He was always there with us. We did not have to go through this alone. I say “we” because you know as parents that our children’s struggles are also ours. We received the promises of the sacrament because we were keeping the covenants we made.
One day while in the hospital they said her blood count was low and they needed to give her a blood transfusion and do a CT scan of her abdomen to be sure there was no internal bleeding from the kidney biopsy. There wasn’t but again we can see God’s hand in this because they found another issue through the CT scan, this time it was with her liver. I just felt like I couldn’t take any more news, I turned to my Heavenly Father for that comfort I needed and asked for the strength that I would need to help her through this tough time. Its believed that she has a genetic disorder of some kind that is connecting all of these issues, the spleen, kidneys, liver and even her eyes. We are still looking into that.
Before all this happened she had decided to go on a mission and do her part in building up the Kingdom of God. She was keeping the covenant she made at her baptism, to take His name upon her and share the Gospel with the people she would meet on her mission. By partaking of the sacrament weekly, she was able to keep in her mind those covenants she had made and was willing to give of herself and time to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. But there is another plan for her that she will have to find as she goes through these trials.
So I hope you can see the covenants that we make and renew each week by partaking of the sacrament plays an important part in keeping us sane through the trials and gaining more wisdom and knowledge as we experience life. But the only way we can renew those covenants is to come to church on Sundays and partake of the sacrament weekly. If you don’t come then you will miss out on the blessings of protection and peace that we so need in this wild world we live in. Remember the laws of nature? It’s just the way it works.
Elder David B. Haight said, (quote) “Our most valuable worship experience in the sacrament meeting is the sacred ordinance of the sacrament, for it provides the opportunity to focus our minds and hearts upon the Savior and His sacrifice” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1989, 75; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 61)
I love this ward and the loving relationships we show for each other. As we enter this building we start saying our hello’s and giving hugs. We come into this room and show our joy in seeing our brothers and sisters but before the meeting begins we should be taking time to prepare ourselves to partake of the sacrament long before the Bishop or his counselors stand up.
We should be prepared to focus on the sacrament before the meeting begins. Some things that we can do to prepare for the sacrament are to listen to the prelude music, or say a silent prayer so that we can receive instruction. We could focus on a pre-planned thought to gain more knowledge or prepare ourselves to receive an answer to our prayers. Then when we partake of the sacrament we are better able to concentrate on the sacrament prayers. We become more focused on the covenants we made and by being obedient to the commandments we receive, we can have the peace and protection we need in the upcoming week.
By preparing ourselves before taking the sacrament we can have a more meaningful experience. If you haven’t already you should try it, you will be surprised at how things work out and what you learn. Also, we shouldn’t forget to show gratitude for the past week.
I wish I had more time to share more things with you because I have learned a lot, but I was told to condense everything into 12 – 15 mins. So I pray that you got something out of all this and that it will help you to better prepare to gain the knowledge and special experiences that you can have from the renewal of the sacred covenant we make weekly by taking of the sacrament.
I know that God lives and He loves us so much. I know that He sent his only Begotten Son to atone for our sins and give us the opportunity to return home and become one big eternal family. I know that this gospel is true and we have His words in the Book of Mormon.
I know that we have a prophet today that leads and guides us to make the righteous choices that we need to gain entrance back into heaven. I also know that we are never alone through our joys and sorrows. He is there with us when we have to go through the trials that make us stronger and creates the kind of person we need to be in order to do His work here. I know that when we partake of the sacrament we renew our covenants with Him and God keeps his promises when we keep ours.
I am grateful for the covenants we make with Him and I am grateful that He loves us enough to offer them to us. We just need to be willing receive them and do our part to gain the blessings and happiness that we need in this world and to be able to help others to have the same.
I leave these thoughts with you in the Holy name of Jesus Christ, Amen.