When I was a little girl in Whitney, Idaho, Jessie Mitton was the coordinator of the Junior Sunday School. Our Sunday School room was full of warmth and sunlight as we sat on the little white painted benches, learning to be reverent, to love Jesus and to take the sacrament.
Sister Mitton reminded us each week just how to behave - to fold our arms so that all we had to move was that one hand in taking the bread and the water, and then it could return again to its tucked place inside the left elbow, next to the heart. She watched us through her eyelashes during the prayers to be sure we were sitting quietly. Always she reminded us why we should behave so well. She taught that we were making a promise to Jesus and Heavenly Father that we would be good children and live His commandments to our very best ability, especially the one to love God, Jesus and each other.As a child, I was taught that we must learn from our own experience. Because of this, people keep the laws of heaven imperfectly. Guides are provided to help us. The Holy Ghost gives us prompts. The scriptures teach us by word and example. Yet we live somewhat by trial and error, as no person is to be forced to live perfectly. As a result we frequently make mistakes in our choices.
Sometimes, even while knowing how to obey a particular law, we will rebelliously choose to break the rule. Since each law has a penalty, we must suffer the consequences of our mistakes and rebellions. Our errant behavior separates us from where we most want to be - among those whom we love and who love us. It places a gulf between us and our Father in Heaven that cannot be crossed alone. We must have an advocate.
Jesus Christ, a pure and innocent person who kept the law of heaven without mistake or rebellion, both in the premortal existence and on earth, accepted willingly the assignment to be our proxy and advocate. His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross canceled the consequences of our mistakes and rebellions - thereby allowing us to live, to overcome death, to return again to the Father - if we repent and trust Christ.
The sacrament keeps us moving toward perfection by reminding us of the purpose of this earth, of what our true goals are. It prompts renewal of effort and a desire to endure. It reminds us we are not alone. By us partaking of the sacrament, Christ's role in our lives is brought to our current situation and problems, and we can turn to him for help in the changes we must make.
Taking the sacrament is central to our continued commitment to keep heavenly laws. Partaking worthily shows to our Father that we honor Jesus, and the act becomes a "thank you." The sacrament is a great spiritual gift, reminding us weekly that we can succeed in our goal to return to our eternal home.
It has been many years since I was in Junior Sunday School. I have taken the sacrament hundreds of times since then and in a variety of places. Sometimes it was in a deaf branch, where sacrament prayers were offered in American Sign Language. Sometimes it was in my own living room, brought to me by loving priesthood leaders while I was confined by illness. And sometimes it was in another member's home where we met because bad winter roads prevented the 35-mile trip to Church.
Regardless of the circumstance, important content is still the same. The hymn sung while the bread and water are prepared uplifts me just as the songs I sang in my youth did. The prayers make me ponder my relationship with the Savior, just as Sister Mitton encouraged. The warmth and light of that earlier room is there, even when a blizzard rages outside. And always the right hand, moving from its tucked place near my heart, focuses my mind on covenant, forgiveness and love. Each time we accept the emblems of Christ's sacrifice, let us truly renew our commitment to living this gospel, especially the part about loving God, Jesus and each other. If we do, peace can be ours with the outreaching of a hand.