I remember when Amy, our oldest child, turned 8 and was baptized. We had been preparing her for this significant event in her life and had taught her that when she was baptized she was making a covenant with her Heavenly Father that she would always keep His commandments. A few days after her baptism, she looked up at her father with sweet sincerity and asked, “How am I doing, Dad? Have I made any mistakes yet?” I have remembered that question for 35 years and the desire of a sweet 8-year-old to be true to her covenants.
When we are baptized we make sacred promises to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). Baptism is the gate by which we enter the kingdom of God and by entering that gate we agree to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and keep all of God’s commandments. This ordinance is so significant and important that we are asked to think about it, review our actions and then renew that promise each Sunday in our sacrament meetings as we partake of the sacrament. Essentially, each and every week we have the opportunity to ask ourselves, “How am I doing?” It is the only ordinance I can think of where we are asked to formally recommit to living up to our promises on a regular basis.
Because partaking of the sacrament is a weekly event, it is easy to take it for granted and not give it the focus and attention it deserves. Sundays are busy days with many things going on and it is easy to get “caught up in the thick of thin things” and miss the main event. It takes great self-discipline to keep our minds focused on the sacred symbols of the sacrament and remember what they represent.
The broken bread and small cup of water should take our minds to the physical and spiritual suffering of the Savior Jesus Christ and remind us of the great gifts of the Atonement and of the Resurrection in our lives. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said of the sacrament, “It should be a powerful, reverent, reflective moment. It should encourage spiritual feelings and impressions. As such it should not be rushed. It is not something to ‘get over’ so that the real purpose of a sacrament meeting can be pursued. This is the real purpose of the meeting. And everything that is said or sung or prayed in those services should be consistent with the grandeur of this sacred ordinance” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “This Do in Remembrance of Me,” Ensign, November 1995).
How can we as individuals and families make the sacred ordinance of the sacrament central to our Sabbath worship and keep it in the place it deserves to be? We can begin preparing ourselves before sacrament meeting begins by listening to the prelude music and putting all other business aside. We sometimes forget that the prelude music is an invitation for quiet reflection and preparation. It can be a temptation to use that time before the meeting starts as an opportunity to chat with our friends, take care of business or even text others on our cell phones. If we turn off our phones, sit quietly and take advantage of this quiet moment before the meeting begins to ponder the significance of the ordinance of the sacrament, then how much more meaning it will have for us.
During the meeting, as we listen to the prayers and sing the hymns with understanding, it will also begin to focus our minds on what we are about to do. The words to the sacrament hymns are among the most beautiful and meaningful in our hymnal. Each one is a sermon set to music whose purpose is to direct our thoughts to the great Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and what that means to us.
Family home evening time can be used to review the prayers that are offered on the bread and water. As we read each sentence in those prayers and better understand their meaning, we will better understand the covenants we all made when we were baptized, as well as the promises our Heavenly Father makes “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (Moroni 4:3). When those prayers are spoken aloud before the sacrament is passed, we will be more likely to listen carefully and then to eat and to drink in remembrance of the body and blood of the Savior which were offered for us. We will be prompted to review our actions and evaluate where we stand with our fellowmen and with God. We will be reminded that we have this unique opportunity each week to ask ourselves the question, “How am I doing?”