Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Sacred Emblems of the Sacrament

Sacrament Meeting Talk
Michelle Cox
Sunday, January 11, 2015

Today, like each regular Sunday, we are gathered for a memorial service.  But, the body of the deceased is not here.  “He is not here, for he is risen” (Matt. 28:6).   The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, triumphed over death; his resurrection being joyfully announced by angelic messengers of God.  His body had been wrapped in clean linen and lovingly, sorrowfully placed in a sepulcher, but when his devoted disciples went to the tomb at the end of the Sabbath to complete the burial preparations, they found the cloth folded neatly and set to one side.  The Savior's body was not there because he had been resurrected.  Without his body to cover at our memorial service, we have been instructed to cover emblems, or symbols, of Jesus’ death; bread and water. 

During the Last Supper, Jesus blessed bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples.  The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew 26:26 records the Lord saying, “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I gave a ransom for you.”

Only a few hours later, that body would bow down in agony under the crushing pain of the atonement for the sins, sorrows, and troubles of all mankind.  As Jesus described, “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink – Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:18).

 The escape route from sin being accomplished (which is our own repentance and perfect, Christ-like submission to the will of the Father), Jesus Christ then allowed himself to be arrested, unjustly tried and convicted, his body beaten and whipped, then nailed to a cross and crucified.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows … he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

At our memorial service today, young priests reverently broke bread, just as Jesus demonstrated 2000 years ago, and deacons passed it to us.  The broken bread reminds us of the torn body of the Savior; the stripes from the whip, the piercings of his hands and feet by nails, and his side by a sword.

The water, Jesus taught, we drink in “remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of sins” (JST-Matt 26:24-25).

When Christ prayed the great Intercessory Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, he pleaded to Heavenly Father, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.  And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44).  It struck me that in the Savior's final lessons to prepare to completely fill his role as Savior, he had to experience what it is like to suffer alone, and then to suffer with the strengthening power of God.  He would then know exactly what we experience when he comes to our aid; how much we need his help and how it makes us better able to bear our burdens.

The young men in our ward who have been ordained to the office of teacher, pour water into cups that will then be blessed by priests, and sanctified “to the souls of all those who drink of it” (D&C 20:79).

Thus, the sacrament, a holy and solemn act of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our personal benefit and progress, moves us to “witness unto … God, the Eternal Father, that [we] do always remember him,” even outside of church, even on a Tuesday morning or a Saturday night.

The great prophet Moroni, near the end of the Book of Mormon, exhorts all to “be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God.  See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out” (Mormon 9:28-29).

With the same solemnity and honesty that Jesus made the atonement for us, we are to solemnly and honestly partake of the sacrament and renew our baptismal covenant to keep God’s commandments.  With this being the intent of our heart, we will find the act of taking the sacrament a renewing, humbling and joy-producing experience.

Throughout the week, we will find ourselves evaluating our thoughts and actions, asking ourselves if they will help us or hinder us in being honestly prepared and worthy to partake of the sacrament, and repenting when necessary during the week in preparation for the sacrament.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “One of the invitations inherent in the sacramental ordinance is that it be a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for the soul.”

Elder Melvin J. Ballard testified, “I am a witness that there is a spirit attending the administration of the sacrament that warms the soul from head to foot; you feel the wounds of the spirit being healed, and the load being lifted. Comfort and happiness come to the soul that is worthy and truly desirous of partaking of this spiritual food.”

As Cheryl A. Esplin taught last General Conference, “Our wounded souls can be healed and renewed not only because the bread and water remind us of the Savior’s sacrifice of His flesh and blood but because the emblems also remind us that He will always be our “bread of life” (John 6:48) and “living water” (John 4:10). 

His is a kind of loyalty that never faileth. “Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand” (D&C  27:15).

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