Friday, December 18, 2009

The Sabbath

I gave this talk in my home ward on April 26, 2009. It had been 16 months since I had given a talk.

What is the Sabbath? What do we do on the Sabbath? We honour the Sabbath day as a way of commemorating God's seventh day of rest, as well as the redemption from Egyptian bondage. Even more, it's a weekly commemoration of Christ's resurrection. Although the actual day is insignificant (that is, whether it's on Saturday, Thursday, or Monday), in our world, our Sabbath day - our holy day - is Sunday. And what are we supposed to do on days like today? What is the purpose of today?

Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-10
"And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up they sacraments upon my holy day. For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labours, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;"

The scripture goes on to say that, "Nevertheless, they vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times." In other words, just attending sacrament meeting and our classes today is the very least that we're to do. This isn't to say that us going home, switching on the TV to watch a popular program or going out to play sports, is condoned. Rather, our minimal requirement on worship is that we simply protect our Sundays and use them to think about spiritual things, about our Saviour, and our Heavenly Father.

The purpose of today, the reason that we're all here, is to partake of the sacrament. And why do we partake of the sacrament?

Doctrine and Covenants 59:9
"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."

The answer to my question then is that we may "more fully keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world." We're all aware of what the sacrament is a symbol of. It says exactly what the bread and water represent in the prayer: the flesh and blood of Christ.

Jesus instituted the sacrament during the First Supper, when we walked on this earth, and he did so again on the American continent after he was resurrected.
3 Nephi 18:5-7
"...[Ye] 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. ...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."

So we partake of the sacrament to remember of Saviour's sacrifice. This isn't the only reason we take the sacrament though.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, quoted by Elder Jay E. Jensen:
"The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is a renewal of the covenants and blessings of baptism. We are commanded to repent of our sins and come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and partake of the sacrament. In the partaking of the bread, we witness that we are willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and always remember Him and keep His commandments. When we comply with this covenant, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism. We are made clean and can always have His Spirit to be with us."

The invitation to be baptized and receive the sacrament is one that is open to all.

3 Nephi 18:25
"And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me..."

There can be restrictions on those who can partake of the sacrament though, but these restrictions are only put in place by ourselves; when we commit certain sins, the blessing of partaking of the sacrament can be taken from us.

I know how it is to go into a temple recommend interview, answer all of the questions in the best way possible, and yet feel unworthy, to answer that last question something along the lines of, "No, I don't feel worthy to enter such a holy place, though I know that I answered those other questions 'right," for lack of a better word.

There have been times when the sacrament tray has been passed to me and I've wondered if I'm really worthy. I read a scripture before one of these times:
3 Nephi 18:29
"For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul..."

Scary, huh? I found comfort in the words of Elder John Groberg:
"If we desire to improve (which is to repent) and are not under priesthood restriction, then, in my opinion, we are worthy. If, however, we have no desire to improve, if we have no intention of following the guidance of the Spirit, we must ask: Are we worthy to partake, or are we making a mockery of the very purpose of the sacrament, which is to act as a catalyst for personal repentance and improvement? If we remember the Saviour and all he has done and will do for us, we will improve our actions and thus come closer to him, which keeps us on the road to eternal life."

An important part of prayer is that we not only have faith that our prayers will be answered, but that we are willing to act on whatever guidance we are given. Like prayer, we must be willing to listen to the Spirit when he tells us what we need to do to improve in our lives.

I am a professional procrastinator, I'm great at it. There is not a soul I have ever met that can procrastinate like I can, but I have only recently realized how destructive this habit has been in my life, and after having this realization, I've been working hard at eradicating it. It's been difficult, especially since I've gotten so used to preparing for exams last minute, and writing papers the night before they're due, but change does not come easily.

The sacrament enables us to change, to make ourselves better. We have a wonderful and amazing opportunity each week when we come here to commit ourselves to be something more than what we are: to be better. I am grateful that the Lord extends this opportunity to each of us, especially when sometimes we may feel inclined to think, or to say about someone: "They can't change, there's no way, they've been doing it wrong for so long that there's no chance they'll be able to figure it out." When we do this, we're denying that person the opportunity to change. We're saying, in essence, that the Saviour's Atonement isn't good enough, that it can't reach that person. I am grateful to know that the Atonement stretches out to everyone, despite our judgments.

It is so vital in a world like ours that each of us feel the power and strength of the Holy Ghost. There are some weeks where I lament, and wonder why we can't have two sacrament meetings - which is sad, but which is a reality that each and every single one of us has to face.

It is essential that we do everything in our power to be worthy, and then to stay worthy to partake of the sacrament.

After the Prophet Joseph Smith helped administer the sacrament in the Kirtland Temple, he and Oliver Cowdery received a vision in which the Saviour appeared to them. It's recorded in:
Doctrine and Covenants 110:5
The Saviour said, "Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice."

As we partake of the sacrament, knowing that we are worthy to do so, we should imagine the Lord saying those same words to each of us and we can say, "I am clean, and I WILL lift up my head and rejoice."

I've heard many times in my life that we can't really appreciate something until it's gone, and I can testify that although it applies to many other things, it doesn't have to apply to the sacrament.

I hope that we can learn to appreciate the sacrament while we have it - that hopefully it won't take a priesthood restriction on us partaking of it, that makes us realize how marvelous it truly is.

Elder L. Tom Perry:
"Partaking of the sacrament provides us with a sacred moment in a holy place."

This is true, whether we hear babies screaming or youth snoring. As Zion is the pure in heart, if our hearts are pure, then we will feel the holiness of those sacred moments during our sacrament meetings.

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