I have not taken the sacrament over the last few weeks. Each Sunday I was out of town visiting my dad who is in the hospital. I missed taking the sacrament and felt the difference during the week. No, the sacrament isn’t some magic potion that cures all ills, but it is a powerful way to pull down the blessings of heaven upon us.
This morning in bishopric meeting I was asked to share the spiritual thought so I pulled out my file of papers I have collected over the years on the subject of the sacrament. It has always been one of my favorite subjects to address and often came up over the years while I served on the High Council. It is a sacred subject.
An intensely personal experience
I read, and we discussed just one of my favorite quotes on the sacrament. It is from a church news article on the subject dated 25 May 1991. The title is, “An intensely personal experience,” and it is taken from a General Conference address by Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy delivered in April of 1989 to all church members.
Perhaps a few additional excerpts and teachings from the article will be helpful before I present the one quote that I would like to focus on as the subject of this essay. The question I would like to address is “What does it mean to be worthy to partake of the sacrament?” We teach that we should not partake of it unworthily.
The sacrament in scripture
“The Lord instituted the sacrament, as we know it today, during what we commonly call the Last Supper. In one sense, it was the last supper, but in another, it was the first supper – the beginning of many spiritual feasts,” said Elder Groberg. We can read of the Last Supper in Matt 26:20-29, Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:14-23.
In those recorded accounts the Savior instructed His apostles that the broken bread symbolized His body and the wine His blood. The Book of Mormon gives further information pertaining to the sacrament, which the resurrected Lord then instituted among the Nephites. Jesus clearly taught how the sacrament is to be administered.
The bread and the water
“Behold, there shall be one ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it…and this shall ye do in remembrance of my body…and if ye do always remember me ye shall have my spirit to be with you. This can be found in 3 Nephi 18:5-7. You can also read more in D&C 20:75-77.
The Savior then instructed His disciples to take of the wine (we use water today) “in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness 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. Read more in 3 Nephi 18:11 or D&C 20:78-79.
The doctrine of Christ
The blessings of this ordinance are available to us again today. But we must do as they did and follow the doctrine of Christ, which is to believe in Jesus, to rely on Him, repent of our sins, take his name upon us by being baptized in His Church, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and faithfully follow Christ all of our lives.”
The Savior knows how much we need help to follow Him. He knows that we will make mistakes, even repeated mistakes. He knows about people who struggle with addiction. That’s why he instituted the ordinance of the sacrament to be repeated each week. That is a key part of this ordinance that is easy to gloss over lightly.
Take the sacrament regularly
This invitation of the Savior to come unto Him is issued regularly and is universal. Everyone is included – men, women and children. Young and old alike participate. None are barred except by themselves. And that is the point I would like to address. Elder Groberg answered that question in a manner that has helped me immensely.
He said, “If we desire to improve (which is to repent) and are not under priesthood restriction, then, in my opinion, we are worthy…the very purpose of the sacrament is to act as a catalyst for personal repentance and improvement.” I am of the same opinion as Elder Groberg and believe that we should partake of the sacrament often.
Be in church each Sunday
In fact, we should partake of it as often as possible – every week if we can. That has been my policy over the years. Obviously there are times when we are unable to do so because of General Conference, Stake Conference or other occasions in which we cannot be where the sacrament is administered regularly to members of the church.
It is a sad fact that many members of the church do not understand the purpose of the sacrament and do not feel the need to be in church each Sunday to renew their covenants with the Lord by partaking of the sacrament. To take the sacrament is the primary purpose of our sacrament meetings. Everything else is secondary to that.
Even for recovering addicts
That is why I counsel people struggling with addictions to make every effort to take the sacrament regularly. Some ask if it isn’t mockery to partake of the sacrament by those with addictions who still have not mastered them. I submit to you that we are all addicts to some sort of sin that keeps us from perfection each and every week.
Recovering addicts that I know do not intend to fall prey to their particular sin each time they partake of the sacrament. It is their intention to be free of the addiction and to do all within their power to leave it behind forever. They need the sacrament to witness this to the Lord. I believe the sacrament is definitely meant for addicts.
The desires of our hearts
If we have no desire to improve, if we have no intention of following the guidance of the Spirit, if we refuse to repent and have no plans to remember the Savior during the week or to keep His commandments, then yes, it would be making a mockery of the sacrament to take it under those conditions and with that spirit within our souls.
For most sincere followers of Jesus Christ, addicts included, the exact opposite is true. The desire to improve is strong, as is the intention to follow the promptings of the Spirit of the Lord. We want to keep the commandments and to remember the Savior always. Taking the sacrament is essential to making that commitment solid.
Summary and conclusion
The sacrament is an intensely personal experience, and we and the Lord are the only ones who know if we are worthy to partake or not. Unless the Bishop has instructed you not to partake of the sacrament until he deems you ready, I see no reason not to partake of the sacrament each week. This especially applies to recovering addicts.
There is a real power in the sacrament. It is not magic. It is not a positive thinking sort of thing. It is the power of Jesus Christ – the power of the atonement. Coupled with our repentance and desire to change, we can be strengthened in our resolve and determination to live the gospel and overcome the flesh, in spite of mortal weakness.