In their rapid flight from Egypt the Israelites stopped eating leaven bread because of the time it took to make it. Bread without yeast doesn’t rise the same way bread does whose dough is leavened. In order to annually remember their liberation from captivity, the Israelites instituted the Feast of the Passover. On the first day of Passover, a white lamb without blemish is sacrificed by each family and eaten in its entirety. They then eat unleavened bread for seven days to remind them of their rapid flight from Egypt. The hardship of their days in Egypt is emphasized by eating bitter herbs along with the bread. Jesus Christ celebrated the Feast of the Passover with his disciples in a place prepared for them in Jerusalem, which happened to be His last supper as a mortal man on earth. He had already announced His death and resurrection.
During this traditional Passover celebration, our Savior, Jesus Christ, instituted the sacrament so that His people would remember His sacrifice and the covenants that allow us to be forgiven of our sins and progress spiritually towards perfection.1 It also reminds us that with His resurrection He overcame death. His tomb was empty on the third day when the women went to finish the traditional Jewish burial preparations. Jesus Christ overcame death and opened the way so that we too can overcome both spiritual and physical death.
Today we reverence the sacrament every Sunday in order to remember the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He said, “This do in remembrance of me.”2 In this way we renew and remember, on a weekly basis, the covenants we made with Jesus Christ when we were baptized. We are reminded of the covenant we made to take His name upon us, and to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. The promise He gives us is that we will always have His Spirit to be with us.3
In Preach My Gospel, it says, “When new converts are baptized and confirmed, they make sacred promises to obey and serve God the rest of their lives, as well as to serve others. They become candidates for salvation in the celestial kingdom.”4 It’s very important to remember these covenants made with Jesus Christ and act with diligence. In Preach My Gospel, it continues by saying, “To receive the promised blessings they must persevere to the end with faith in Jesus Christ.”5
Throughout the world, the most sacred meeting held on Sundays in our houses of worship is sacrament meeting. We’ve been taught that in addition to renewing our baptismal covenants by taking the sacrament, “…other purposes of sacrament meeting are to worship, provide gospel instruction, perform ordinances, conduct ward business, and strengthen faith and testimony.”6 The preparation of our leaders and members to help in the planning and execution of this meeting should be done with utmost devotion and diligence. The full participation of all those in attendance invites the Holy Ghost, which allows for the designated purposes to be accomplished.
When I served as bishop of the Arecibo, Puerto Rico Ward, my wife, Nuria, and I had five young children; three girls and two boys. They were very active, and during sacrament meeting I would watch from the stand with concern as my wife had to manage two or three at a time with their complaints, goofing around, cries, and trips to the bathroom. My heart went out to her as I watched the constant task she had of trying to manage all of them. President Thomas S. Monson said on one occasion, with his fabulous sense of humor, that children are restless because they are “adult spirits in small bodies.”7 Jesus Christ said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”8 I’m so thankful for mothers and fathers who bring their children to church. They are making sure their children are in the best place possible, [even if] sometimes they have to go to the hall to quiet them.
Lastly, I want to share eight aspects of sacrament meeting that I feel are important to make sure these meetings are successful.
- The bishop plans the meeting in advance.
- The speakers should be given assistance in preparing and practicing their talks prior to the meeting. The speakers should respect the time they’ve been allotted. The bishop should let them know if any changes to the time have been made, prior to them getting up in front of the congregation.
- The right music invites the Spirit. There should be prelude and postlude music.
- The congregation should participate in singing hymns. These hymns should be chosen prior to the meeting and should be relevant to the topics being addressed.
- There should be a ward choir that sings at least once a month in sacrament meeting. Special musical selections invite the presence of the Holy Ghost in meetings.
- There should be musical accompaniment when singing the hymns, either with the piano, preferably live, or a CD recording.
- Reverence should be active, not passive.
- We should dress conservatively, modestly, and appropriately, as instructed by priesthood leaders.
Successful sacrament meetings will give us the chance to please and worship our Lord, Jesus Christ, in a way that will pour out the fullness of promised blessings upon those who worthily participate. Our lives will be better when we [hold these meetings] in His remembrance and in His way, making it possible for us to never forget Him and be full of His light.
1. Matthew 26:26—28
2. Luke 22:19
3. D&C 20:77
4. Preach My Gospel, page 231
6. Manual 2, 18.2.2
7. Said in a talk at the first Caribbean Stake conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, January 2004
8. Matthew 19:14