GLEN JEAN, W.Va.
Picture this setting of an outdoor sacrament meeting: 60 priests blessing the sacrament on a long row of cloth-covered folding tables, with 180 deacons passing the bread and water to an estimated 2,100 teens, adult leaders and guests sitting quietly on a grassy hillside.
Two Church leaders speaking at the service — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Brother Stephen W. Owen, the Young Men general president — both commented on how they saw those before them as being similar to Book of Mormon scenes. For Elder Holland, he recalled the resurrected Savior instituting the sacrament after appearing and ministering to 2,500 Nephites, while Brother Owen made mention of Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors.
But by the end of the hour-long worship meeting — held Sunday in conjunction with the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, as LDS youth and leaders from across the country gathered together — both Elder Holland and Brother Owen set the focus of their messages not on the past but rather placed present opportunities and responsibilities firmly on the shoulders of the young Aaronic Priesthood holders.
Elder Holland set his tone by saying he can’t remember as a youth receiving a serious message — delivered “nose to nose, face to face, eyeball to eyeball” by an adult mentor — on the Atonement and the important roles of the sacrament ordinance performed by deacons, teachers and priests.
Uncertain if such a lesson was ever delivered or merely forgotten, Elder Holland took such an opportunity with those gathered. “Have you ever thought of what it means to administer the Lord’s emblems?” he asked.
He began first with a brief recap of the Savior’s New World introduction of the sacrament as written in 3 Nephi. Then he recounted an earlier sacramental introduction from the New Testament, when Christ gave broken bread and wine to His disciples at the Last Supper in an upper room of Jerusalem.
He explained that the bread and wine then — as with the bread and water today — represent the Savior’s giving of His body and blood through the Atonement and Crucifixion that soon followed the Last Supper. He noted the emblems also are tied to a significant Old Testament event 1,500 years before Christ’s mortal ministry.
Elder Holland detailed how Moses sought to free the children of Israel from Egypt’s four centuries of bondage, using various plagues to witness Jehovah’s wishes and power to Pharaoh. It wasn’t until the ultimatum and execution of a promised death to Egypt’s first-born that Pharaoh relented and released Israel.
Israel’s first-born were protected by those who spread the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their doorposts and doorway lintels, with the destroying angels passing by, hence the term “Passover.” And Pharaoh’s release was so sudden — as was the hurried flight of Israel from Egypt — that the yeast of the Israelites’ bread had not yet risen, hence the symbolism of unleavened bread.
Just as blood and bread are tied to the ancient Israel’s Passover and the freedom of the children of Israel from Egypt, so do today’s sacramental emblems represent the Savior’s sacrifice and redeeming power as well as the freedom we gain from death and hell; sin and sorrow; and disease, depression and discouragement, he explained.
“God has sent redemption. He has sent someone to make you free,” said Elder Holland, adding he wants the sacrament to mean more to the youth now than it meant to him then.
And as for him now, “I’ll never forget the blood of the Lamb, and I’ll never forget the Bread of Life,” he said.
Elder Holland emphasized the importance of the ordinance by noting it is repeated every seven days, to every congregation of any size and to every man, woman and child, and that the sacrament invokes all other covenants made in the Church, including those of the temple.
“And we put it on the backs of teenagers,” he said of the Aaronic Priesthood’s involvement in the sacrament, asking the youth to “consider that God thinks enough of you to have 12-year-olds pass it, 14-year-olds prepare it and 16-year-olds bless it.”
He challenged his listeners: “What does that say about God’s confidence in you? You need step up and stiffen your backs.”
The youth are the primary concern of the Brethren and other leaders of the Church, Elder Holland said, with too many young men not finishing their Aaronic Priesthood progress, not going to the temple and not serving missions.
He estimates the leaders’ worry about the youth, their discussion of the youth and their prayers for the youth account for about 40 percent of all such efforts. “That’s a lot of time and a lot of prayers from the best men and women in the Church.”
Brother Owen called on the youth to be valiant and courageous as were the stripling warriors. While their Book of Mormon peers had just one leader in Helaman, he told his listeners they were blessed to have numerous leaders in parents, advisers and teachers “to help you and strengthen you in what we call the preparatory priesthood.”
He challenged those attending to later go write down their feelings from the meeting, to ponder both then and thereafter. “ ‘What did I feel?’ Write it down in these times of reflection, when you need to be prayerful,” Brother Owen said, reminding them of Joseph Smith’s experiences of prayerful reflection.
“The world is a loud place,” he said, “but the still, small voice is the most powerful, and I bear testimony of that.”
Brother Douglas D. Holmes, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency, conducted Sunday’s service. A pair of young Jamboree participants — Jacob Hyatt of Highland, Utah, and Baden Erb of Edmond, Oklahoma — were asked to share a brief testimony.